Presumably, media fact-checkers will jump all over this mind-bending conspiracy theory claim from Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. After all, aren’t they and the social media platforms on a mission to stamp out health-related misinformation?
We’ll get a jump start on the avalanche of Pinocchios to come. Abrams opposes a heartbeat bill for abortion restrictions at six weeks, which certainly falls within the mainstream of Democratic politics. The claim that a fetal heartbeat at six weeks is a “manufactured sound” to protect the patriarchy is, um … not.
That will be news to millions of mothers who treasure that first experience with their child. Meghan McCain recalls her own experience, and declares Abrams to be “very sick” for this claim:
What about the science? Our friend and reader Dr. Pradheep Shanker ripped Abrams on Twitter earlier on that basis as well (via Twitchy):
A Live Science essay that opposed such fetal-heartbeat bills noted that this is more of a proto-heartbeat in the embryonic stage. Stethoscopes can’t pick it up, but even this essay notes that the “flutter” is in fact organic and able to be picked up by more modern technology:
Rather, at six weeks of pregnancy, an ultrasound can detect “a little flutter in the area that will become the future heart of the baby,” said Dr. Saima Aftab, medical director of the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. This flutter happens because the group of cells that will become the future “pacemaker” of the heart gain the capacity to fire electrical signals, she said.
But the heart is far from fully formed at this stage, and the “beat” isn’t audible; if doctors put a stethoscope up to a woman’s belly this early on in her pregnancy, they would not hear a heartbeat, Aftab told Live Science. (What’s more, it isn’t until the eighth week of pregnancy that the baby is called a fetus; prior to that, it’s still considered an embryo, according to the Cleveland Clinic.)
It’s been only in the last few decades that doctors have even been able to detect this flutter at six weeks, thanks to the use of more-sophisticated ultrasound technologies, Aftab said. Previously, the technology wasn’t advanced enough to detect the flutter that early on in pregnancy.
Although a lot of weight seems to be put on the detection of this flutter, “by no means does it translate to viability of the heart” or viability of the pregnancy, Aftab said.
Well, no one claims that it equates to viability either, or that the presence of a beat (or “flutter”) means the heart or anything else is “fully formed.” The argument behind so-called heartbeat bills is that the presence of that beat or flutter shows a firm signal of human life, and that human life should be protected once determined. It’s a scientific and observational marker that makes it clear that the embryo is far from an undifferentiated “clump of cells” indistinguishable from the mother that abortion advocates claim, and a demonstration of differentiation into clearly human organs.
This is a big reason why some pro-life activists don’t enthusiastically support heartbeat bills. The only scientific distinction worth making in human developments is the point of conception, where human life begins. Heartbeat bills and 15-week limits are concessions to political realities, not principled positions on the protection of human life. From their point of view — and from the actual biology involved — human life begins at conception, period, and most pro-life activists believe that is where it should be recognized and protected.
Instead of debating on the actual science, however, Abrams descends into a near-parody of conspiracy theorizing. Do all ultrasounds “manufacture” this sound for the patriarchy, or is that only from certain manufacturers? Is “patriarchy mode” an upgrade feature, or does it come standard? What about the undercoating?
Now we can stand by for the deluge of fact-checking from mainstream media and social-media platforms. I’ll be sure to update this post copiously when it arrives. I’m also waiting for that check in the mail, too ….