NRL News

No longer hidden, the Supreme Court must recognize the undeniable humanity of the unborn child

by | Nov 2, 2021

By Dave Andrusko

“These are the patients I encounter daily in my work as a radiologist. Clearly human, clearly alive, no longer mysteriously hidden from the eyes and knowledge of man, they ask us to consider them not disposable nonhumans but valuable members of our human family.” — Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie

Listening to the oral arguments before the Supreme Court yesterday was riveting, an inside look (listen) at the way best-of-the-best lawyers frame their arguments —in this case—in the Texas Heartbeat Law.

We heard about standing, about who has the right to sue, and about separation of powers. All important, all essential to whether S.B. 8 will win approval from at least five of the nine Supreme Court justices.

But not a word about the millions of little ones whose fate ultimately rests in the hands of the High Court.

I understand that this case was essentially about procedural matters, not about the humanity of the littlest Americans. That will be more directly addressed in December 1 oral arguments about the Mississippi law that, with very few exceptions, forbids abortion after the 15th week. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the justices will decide whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.

That is why “The Obsolete Science Behind Roe v. Wade,” by Grazie Pozo Christie, is such an important reminder.

Dr. Christie, a diagnostic radiologist “whose youngest patients are fetuses, who are very much alive,” takes us through the history of ultrasound technology.

To be fair, Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe v. Wade, was not the beneficiary of today’s technology whose “New three-dimensional images have put a human face on the person once dehumanized as a mere clump of cells.” He could have said then, with a more or less straight face, that we don’t know when life begins.

But now? Read Christie’s nuanced description of a baby at 15 weeks in its “liveliness and humanity”:

Nestled within their mothers, these fetuses on average are 6.4 inches long and weigh 4.1 ounces. They have the proportions of a newborn — seemingly all head and rounded belly. The major organs are formed and functioning, and although the child receives nutrients and oxygen through the mother’s umbilical cord, the fetal digestive, urinary and respiratory systems are practicing for life outside the womb. The sex of the child is easy to discern by this point. The baby swallows and even breathes, filling the lungs with amniotic fluid and expelling it. The heart is fully formed, its four chambers working hard, with the delicate valves opening and closing.

A healthy baby at 15 weeks is an active baby. Unless the child is asleep, kicking and arm-waving are commonly seen during ultrasound evaluations. The fetal spine is a marvel of intricacy, and it is most often gently curved as the fetus rests against the mother’s uterine wall. Often, I watch as babies plant their feet against the uterine wall and stretch vigorously. Sometimes a delicate hand — with all five fingers — approaches the face and appears to scratch an itch. Fingernails aren’t visible, but they are present. We can see how the bones of the leg meet the tiny ankles and the many-boned feet.

At 15 weeks, the brain’s frontal lobes, ventricles, and thalamus fill the oval-shaped skull. The baby’s profile is endearing in its petite perfection: gently sloping nose, distinct upper and lower lips, eyes that open and close. With the advent of 3D ultrasound, we can now see the fetal face in all its detail.

We know so much more about life in the womb. We know so much more about the beauty and marvelous complexity of the little one’s development journey.

Christie ends her Wall Street Journal piece with this recognition that while “Yes, our understanding was different in 1973” that

But in Roe’s own terms, we have arrived at a much different “point in the development of man’s knowledge” about life in utero. The Supreme Court’s judgement should reflect that advancement and put an end to the casual cruelty of unfettered abortion.

Categories: Supreme Court