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This cute baby wants me to run your life

Anti-choice activists distract women with pretend babies while trying to take away their real rights.

Silicon fetus models against a wooden ruler.
“Precious One’ silicon fetus models sold by Heritage ‘76 of Snowflake, Arizona for 59 apiece, bought in bulk with coupon. For another 20 cents apiece, you can get it in a little receiving blanket.
Neil Steinberg/Chicago Sun-Times

A reader sent a pair of babies to me at the newspaper this week. One white, one brown, delivered in a padded envelope.

What should I do with these babies? Enroll them in pre-school, I suppose. Never too early.

Though pre-school is expensive. Maybe we should bond first. I pick one up and wiggle an index finger against its tummy.

”Gootchie-gootchie-goo!” I say.

Nothing.

The tummy feels rubbery. That can’t be good. Maybe I should consult a pediatrician. Though any doctor would probably icily observe that my babies seem to be made of silicon. Those darn vaccines ...

Does that mean they are not real babies? I don’t know. They look like babies, and by the standard of religious fanatics opposing abortion, something that LOOKS like a baby IS a baby.

Even if it’s not.

The babies came with an explanatory letter, from Anthony L. — I’ll shield his full name, since I don’t exhaust my entire store of kindness on the fetuses of women I’ve never met. He claims my column on May 20 about the deceptive practices of those fighting to curtail women’s reproductive rights “is FALSE NEWS and you should correct it.”

False? My goodness. In what way?

”In this article you state that a first trimester fetus (Latin for baby) is the size of a watermelon seed. Since you do not normally fact check your articles, I thought I would make it easy for you to see. I sent you a white and brown baby. The model is 10 to 12 weeks in size.”

Actually, fetus is Latin for “fetus.” (Infans is “newborn.”) But it’s too easy to go into the weeds on this topic; let’s stay focused.

”However,” he continues, “If you cannot see how large they are, first check with a science lab. Please don’t continue to be a science denier.”

OK, Mr. L. Let us not be science deniers. Your source is this model. The glossy card identifies it as a “Precious One: 10 to 12 week preborn baby.”

A product of Heritage ‘76 of Snowflake, Arizona, whose mission, they say, is to “change lives by providing tools and resources which point toward the right and Godly choice.”

Not the most impartial scientific source, perhaps.

The babies are 2 12 inches long. Which, kudos to you, is accurate for fetuses at 12 weeks, according to medical web sites. Though the 10 week-old fetus which you try to nudge under the wire is half as long and weighs a fraction of an ounce. They grow quick, the first trimester is a long time, and I stand by my watermelon seed as an average.

Besides, we’re focusing on the wrong thing. Sparking a debate on the size of a 12-week-old fetus is exactly the kind of misdirection outlined in the column that irked Mr. L. enough to spend $1.18 on two rubber dollies (assuming he bought his Precious Ones in bulk with coupon, though I wish he’d popped the extra 40 cents and gotten my babies with their own little receiving blankets. Completes the effect).

Why are we looking at this model when 90 percent of abortions occur at a much earlier stage?

Two-thirds of all abortions occur in the first 8 weeks. Heritage ‘76 doesn’t offer an 8-week-old fetus because it is the size of a raspberry and looks like a prawn. What Mr. L is doing is what anti-choice groups always do — race to the far margins and squat there, pretending the extreme is the usual. It’s not.

Among the many cruel ironies — and being anti-choice is cruelty itself — of being anti-choice is that by restricting abortions, introducing waiting periods, closing clinics and cutting funding, they delay abortions, forcing embryos and fetuses to be more developed when pregnancies are terminated, even as they use that development as an argument against the practice. They encourage the very thing they pretend horrifies them most. Because it really doesn’t. What horrifies them is people practicing a religion that isn’t theirs.

They are too dishonest to make that argument. Waving Bibles didn’t work, so now they’re waving babies. Fake rubber babies. Don’t be fooled. There are no real babies, except maybe the emotional level of the zealots doing the waving. But they aren’t babies, either. Because at least a baby has hope of growing up someday.