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)
Thanks to advances in medical technology, we are able to gaze through a virtual window to the womb so as to see the marvels of new life as a baby matures through the nine months of pregnancy. Thus far in this series of articles, we’ve witnessed the magical moment of Baby’s conception; we’ve stood awestruck as his heart first began beating at 22 days; we’ve seen his legs stretch, his arms reach, and his body turn. In the most recent article, we celebrated the extraordinary moment (around 18 weeks) when mothers first feel their baby kick. This time we enter the baby’s third trimester and continue the preparations for birth.
By week 25, the baby’s sense of hearing is better developed than all other senses, which allows Baby to hear a variety of sounds from beyond the womb such as voices, noises, and music. Due to the insulating womb, however, most high pitches are filtered out, leaving primarily low tones. Ultrasound technology has shown Baby’s reaction to sound. While ultrasounds emit sound frequencies too high for the human ear to hear, the secondary waves produced in the amniotic fluid can be detected by Baby. If the ultrasound is pointed directly at the ear (it typically isn’t), it may sound as loud as a subway train to Baby. Scans have shown babies grimacing and frowning in response to such sounds, indicating that Baby has well-developed senses that can experience pain and pleasure.
The sounds closest to Baby are the voice and heartbeat of his mother, which many believe affect the baby in significant ways. Some believe the mother’s voice helps strengthen the unique relationship the baby will have with her. A mother’s heartbeat, more than being a constant reminder of her presence, can also affect baby through its pace (for good or ill). Some think a consistently elevated heartbeat (along with chronic high blood pressure) has the potential to leave the baby susceptible to heart disease and diabetes later in life.
By week 26, Baby is swallowing a pint of amniotic fluid per day. This process helps Baby’s digestive system to develop properly. In addition to perfecting the digestive system, Baby hones his sucking reflex, which he will need to nurse when born. Amazingly, Baby even shows a preference for his left or right hand, indicating that handedness is determined well before birth. At this point, Baby is approximately 10 inches long. In the next 14–15 weeks he will double and length and triple in weight!
The last of the major organs to develop, the lungs, will mature in the third trimester. Despite receiving his oxygen from his mother’s blood, Baby practices breathing movements through the expansion and contraction of the lungs and diaphragm. This “breathing” strengthens Baby’s chest muscles to ensure he is ready to fill his lungs with air upon the moment of birth.
Sadly, many still believe unwanted babies shouldn’t be allowed to make that first breath. The last few months have exposed many of the horrors that are happening routinely behind closed doors in our country. Although difficult to discuss, we need to know how desperately unborn children—and women—need us to protect them.
In May 2013, the Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three murder charges (out of eight), 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortion (out of 24), and 211 counts of violating the 24-hour informed consent law (out of 227). Andrée Seu Peterson, writing for World magazine, reminds us, “Let’s remember what Gosnell was accused and convicted of: murdering a baby that survived the abortion process. Let that sink in.” If the baby hadn’t survived the abortion, Mr. Gosnell would not have been charged with murder, but because Mr. Gosnell cut the baby’s spinal cord with the baby outside the womb, he was charged with murder. Killing the baby inside the womb = legal. Killing the baby outside the womb = illegal. Peterson writes:
Gosnell thought he was just killing babies like everybody else was. He thought he was being constitutional and carrying out Roe v. Wade, and playing the role of the women’s health hero. He thought he was serving the underserved. He thought he was doing a thorough job of it: When a baby stubbornly refused to die from an injection of Digoxin, he simply administered the finishing touch. In the Bronx abortion center whose operations Lila Rose’s Live Action captured in undercover video, they routinely place moving babies into jars of poison liquid. The common goal of all abortionists is effective solutions to live births.
In other words, Gosnell, like many abortionists across the country, was simply finishing outside the womb what he started inside it.
Since the Gosnell case, more horrific stories have come to light across the country. In the wake of the Gosnell case, two former employees at Wilmington, Delaware’s Planned Parenthood clinic have come forward to describe “meat market–style assembly-line abortions” with “unsterilized instruments, faulty oxygen masks, untrained staff, disregard for patients, breaking privacy laws, and failure to report patient complications.” One reported a repeated failure to administer an important post-abortion drug that could prevent complications in future pregnancies. In her words:
It is likely that many women in Delaware may have to deal with future babies who have severe anemia, jaundice, brain damage, heart failure or even death. … These women may not even realize the fact that Planned Parenthood could be at fault for these medical tragedies even years after they had their abortions.
An abortion center in Asheville, North Carolina, was recently closed by state DHHS due to over 24 serious health and safety violations. In Houston, former employees are speaking out against abortionist Douglas Karpen for committing horrific acts similar to Gosnell. Their testimony included photos too graphic to describe here. Like Gosnell, though, he is in legal trouble only because he cut babies’ spinal cords outside the womb.
In the face of such murderous realities, predicated on legal fictions, we, as a nation, need to ask, “If it’s wrong and illegal to kill babies outside the womb, how can anyone defend the rightness and legality of killing them in the womb?” Sadly, many individuals and groups are making that claim. Unfortunately, even groups like the National Educators Association (NEA) have joined the anti-life voices. A group of pro-life advocates at the 2013 NEA convention in Atlanta attempted to approve a motion to “prohibit the use of dues money to support abortions.” The motion was killed and the NEA decided to maintain its support for “school-based family planning clinics” and abortion upon demand. We praise God for the pro-life voices speaking up for the unborn and for the many pro-life teachers in the classroom that bravely defend the unborn and we pray that they would be increasingly emboldened to turn the tide in favor of life.
In the face of such bad news, Iowa recently celebrated the good news of the banning of telemedicine. In an 8–2 vote, the Iowa Board of Medicine banned the practice of prescribing abortion drugs via video conference. But the unborn (and mothers and fathers) still need defenders. Now that we’ve peered through the window to the womb and seen the marvelous child cradled therein, will we open our mouths to defend him?
Pastor Jonathan Conner of Zion Lutheran Church in Manning, Iowa, is a former board member for the Hausvater Project.