Opening Our Eyes to Life in order to Open Our Mouths for It
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)
If the womb had a widow, what would we see? In the preceding article, we marveled at Baby’s incredible development. From week 6 through 12, Baby made over 200 types of cells: muscles and nerves were set in motion; his liver, kidneys, and stomach were in place—and he was still less than three inches long!
In this article we gaze through the womb’s window to witness Baby’s second trimester. By now, Baby’s nervous system is up and running and his movements are increasingly controlled by his brain. He is able to respond to stimulus and is sensitive to touch—he’s even aware of stimuli from outside his mother’s womb! Although Baby’s eyes are still fused shut, he’s sensitive to light. If someone were to shine a flashlight at his mother’s stomach, he would likely move away from the beam.
In the second trimester, Baby can bend, twist, and flex his wrists and fingers and his legs and toes. He even has his own unique set of fingerprints! By 16 weeks, Baby begins to grow toenails and his heart, which the brain is regulating at a steady 140–150 beats per minute, is pumping approximately 25 quarts of blood per day.
By week 18, Baby’s digestive system is becoming active. Even though he doesn’t need to eat or drink yet (he receives all his nutrition from his mother through the umbilical cord), he starts ingesting the amniotic fluid and passing it through his body (some is undigested and passes shortly after birth in the form of meconium). Amazingly, the amniotic fluid carries the tastes and smells of the mother’s food. By the end of the second trimester, Baby will be able to taste his mother’s food!
By week 18, most mothers become aware of Baby’s movement (although mothers who have previously been pregnant, may detect a slight fluttering by week 15). This can be a time of great joy as mothers celebrate the active life within them.
By six months, everything in Baby is up and running and functioning as it will at birth. For Baby, the next three months are primarily about growing and fine-tuning his senses. By 24 weeks (and in some cases 22!), a baby is considered viable outside the womb. Thanks to improved technology, it is increasingly likely that such a premature baby, even though he will face several significant health challenges, will survive.
Thanks to the advances in technology, the womb’s window is increasingly revealing new and amazing realities about the unborn—and state laws are beginning to step up protections for the them. In 2011, states enacted a record-making 92 restrictions against abortion. This was followed in 2012 by another 43 restrictions. The trend has continued. As noted in a 2016 report issued by the Guttmacher Institute (a research organization that supports abortion and, therefore, is alarmed by this life-protecting trend):
- Physician and Hospital Requirements: 38 states require an abortion to be performed by a licensed physician. 19 states require an abortion to be performed in a hospital after a specified point in the pregnancy, and 18 states require the involvement of a second physician after a specified point.
- Gestational Limits: 43 states prohibit abortions, generally except when necessary to protect the woman’s life or health, after a specified point in pregnancy, most often [at about 22 weeks].
- “Partial-Birth” Abortion: 19 states have laws in effect that prohibit “partial-birth” abortion. …
- Public Funding: … 32 states and the District of Columbia [forbid or at least limit] the use of state funds. …
- Coverage by Private Insurance: 11 states restrict coverage of abortion in private insurance plans, most often limiting coverage only to when the woman’s life would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term.
- Refusal: 45 states allow individual health care providers to refuse to participate in an abortion. 42 states allow institutions to refuse to perform abortions, 16 of which limit refusal to private or religious institutions.
- State-Mandated Counseling: 17 states mandate that women be given counseling before an abortion that includes information on at least one of the following: the … link between abortion and breast cancer (5 states), the ability of a fetus to feel pain (12 states) or long-term mental health consequences for the woman (7 states).
- Waiting Periods: 28 states require a woman seeking an abortion to wait a specified period of time, usually 24 hours, between when she receives counseling and the procedure is performed. 14 of these states have laws that effectively require the woman make two separate trips to the clinic to obtain the procedure.
- Parental Involvement: 38 states require some type of parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion. 25 states require one or both parents to consent to the procedure, while 13 require that one or both parents be notified.
While falling far short of truly protecting the unborn, these laws are slowly moving in the right direction. Sadly, they are under constant attack. Pro-abortion voices continue to seek their repeal, insisting that a woman has the right to end her unborn baby’s life at any moment she should so choose.
A recent article in the liberal news website salon.com illustrates the mindset that underlies much of the pro-abortion lobby today. The author, Mary Elizabeth Williams, asks in her shockingly honest piece, “So what if abortion ends life?” And then she brashly asserts, “I believe that life starts at conception. And it’s never stopped me from being pro-choice.” She goes on:
Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.
Translation: the unborn child’s life can be terminated if the mother doesn’t want him. Period. Ms. Williams continues with the bare-faced statement: “If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your [expletive] I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion.” She confidently concludes:
I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time—even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.
Sadly, this mindset is shared by many today. In fact, a highly influential person in our country recently demonstrated this mindset in a speech delivered to Planned Parenthood’s National Conference. In his speech he spoke about “quality health care,” “important services,” women being “allowed to make their own decisions about their own health,” “more health care options for women,” and a woman’s “constitutional … right to choose.”
He never used the word “abortion,” but he euphemized about it throughout. Concealed under his words was his full endorsement of a procedure that involves the poisoning, dismembering, and suctioning of scores of unborn babies from the womb that are then sealed in plastic bags and discarded as medical waste. This is included in “quality health care,” “important services,” and a woman’s “right to choose.” It’s no wonder he spoke in euphemisms. Describing abortion as it is, exposes it as a grisly act. Who can bear the thought of unborn children being dismembered, suctioned, poisoned, and discarded as medical waste? But shouldn’t that lead us to ask, “If the process of abortion is too grisly to describe in words, why isn’t it too grisly to do?”
This individual also criticized pro-life individuals for fighting against “decades of progress” to “roll back basic rights when it comes to women’s health.” He warned that “42 states have introduced laws that would ban or severely limit access to a woman’s right to choose.” Included in these laws are the ones mentioned above requiring ultrasounds, a waiting period, outlawing telemedicine, and banning post-viability abortions, and more. These, he insisted, were anti “progress,” but how can decades of dehumanizing the unborn be considered progress? His speech was directly in line with Ms. Williams’ article in which she robbed unborn babies from their intrinsic values and rights.
This influential person went on to vow to fight against advocates for the unborn so long as he had the power to do so. These are his words:
As long as we’ve got a fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care, and as long as we’ve got to fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that you’ve also got a President right there with you fighting every step of the way. Thank you Planned Parenthood. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you.
Sadly, this highly influential person was our president, Barack Obama. Through his speech he became the first sitting U.S. president to address the Planned Parenthood National Conference. Regrettably, he, like Ms. Williams, has gazed through the window to the womb and has decided the baby therein isn’t worthy of protection. To our president, and those who think like him and Ms. Williams, the unborn is a choice. If his mother doesn’t want him, she has the “right to choose” to have him dismembered and discarded as medical waste.
If we have sat quietly on the sidelines, we need to repent. God has not called us to indifference or inaction. He has not called us to timid virtue. Mothers need encouragement. Fathers need reinforcement. The unborn need adults of good will to find their voice and sound a protective alarm with clarity. Gaze through the window to womb and see the precious child therein. Is he a choice or is he a child? If he’s a choice, he’s arbitrary and subject to becoming “a life worth sacrificing.” If he’s a child, he’s sacred, more valuable than anyone’s “choice.”
Now that your eyes have seen through the window to the womb, will your voice be heard defending the child therein?
Pastor Jonathan Conner of Zion Lutheran Church in Manning, Iowa, is a former board member for the Hausvater Project.