(VIDEO) Look Who’s “Talking” Now: A Fetus Is Scheduled to Testify in Front of Lawmakers in Ohio

A fetus is scheduled to testify in front of the Ohio legislature.  I kid you not. Though I suppose I should rephrase that to say that an “unborn human individual” is scheduled to testify as that is the term that the bill, originally introduced by Representative Lynn Wachtman, prefers.  The legislation, nicknamed the “Heartbeat Bill,” is being piloted in Ohio by a group called Faith 2 Action and seeks to make illegal all abortions that take place after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.  It defines “unborn human individual” as “an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth.”  And one of these organisms is apparently going to address the Ohio House of Representatives.

How exactly its handlers are going to arrange this is not quite clear, though it appears that a woman who is nine weeks pregnant is going to have an ultrasound on the spot. ( It seems worth noting that at nine weeks fetuses tend to be too small to be detected by the classic over-the-belly ultrasounds of TV and movies, so in order for the audience to see this “witness,” it will be necessary to use an intra-vaginal probe.) It seems obvious to me that the witness, described by Faith 2 Action as “the youngest witness to ever come before the House Health Committee,” will not actually be speaking.  While the pregnant woman may have something to say, my guess is that the bill’s supporters are hoping that a picture really is worth a thousand words. 

It’s not the first time that those opposed to abortion have tried to use the images of ultrasounds to manipulate.  Crisis pregnancy centers have been using these early pictures for years to sway women facing unintended pregnancies on the theory that once they see a heartbeat, they won’t be able to choose abortion.  Last year, the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill requiring pregnant women to have an ultrasound before they could opt to terminate a pregnancy. It’s a strategy that makes sense; these are powerful images especially when combined with the unmistakable swooshing sound of a fetal heartbeat.  I’m guessing I’m not the only person to tear up upon seeing and hearing this for the first time.  For women who want to be pregnant and have a baby, these are reassuring signs that everything is okay (at least for now).   For women who don’t, they may very well be upsetting or confusing.  It remains to be seen how they will impact lawmakers.

Clearly, the promoters of this bill hope that the vaguely human images on the screen will convince lawmakers that this organism in its earliest stages of development is, in fact, a person.  Faith 2 Action makes this clear in its new music video supporting the bill.  Set to the tune of “99 Red Balloons,” the video intersperses in-utero images of fetuses with those of adorable dancing babies and includes lyrics such as “some time ago, we don’t know why, a court ruled to make babies cry.  Now we can stop their decree and protect children like me.”   It continues:  “when they hear our hearts they’ll care, send a message someone’s in there.” 

As a society, we often attribute grown up thoughts and feelings to babies. It can be funny like that talking, milk-swigging baby in the ads for the on-line trading service. I personally cringe when I get thank you notes for baby gifts written in the first person (the three-week old did not think my choice of flato-frog was especially cute or generous, it’s not yet capable of that kind of thinking) but judging by how many of these I get, lots of people think it’s really cute to speak for their baby. This latest legislative tug at our heart strings, however, is anything but cute.  It’s a ploy for fetal personhood and a direct attack on the protection set up by Roe v. Wade.  This proposed law would push the date at which abortion is no longer legal back pretty much to the date the stick turns pink. A heartbeat can be detected as early as five weeks gestational age (and remember the first two of those weeks are counted even though they occurred before ovulation).

What may be most important to remember, however, is that while the detection of a heartbeat is a good sign of a viable pregnancy it is by no means a final indication that the pregnancy will end in the live birth of a healthy baby.  The ultrasound that the Committee on Health is about to witness is the first of many that most women have during pregnancy.  There’s one at 11 weeks that checks for Downs Syndrome and Trisomy 18 among other possible chromosomal anomalies.  Another at 20 weeks looks at the fetal anatomy checking the development of each organ, including the heart, to make sure there are no structural problems that will lead to birth defects.

Unfortunately, for the women of Ohio (and whatever other states are targeted by this group next), this bill makes no exceptions for any anomalies that may be found later in the pregnancy, the only exception is if the pregnancy is life-threatening to the mother. A heartbeat at 9 weeks is no guarantee of a healthy heart or a healthy baby.  There are a myriad of conditions and disorders that could cause pain and suffering after birth.  It seems paradoxical to me that the authors of this bill would be so focused on the personification of an unborn child that they complete ignore what might happen later.  To force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term knowing that her child will face a lifetime of pain seems like the ultimate definition of heartlessness to me. 

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  • purplemistydez

    A fetus is not a person or a baby, no matter how many videos with babies with balloons anti-choice people make. 

  • saltyc

     It’s a strategy that makes sense; these are powerful images especially when combined with the unmistakable swooshing sound of a fetal heartbeat. 

    I don’t know about that. When I had an abortion, they did an ultrasound and I craned my neck to see what looked exactly like a little bubble. Did not affect me in the slightest.


    The idea of an ultrasound providing “testimony” is a debaucherous sign of how far the pro-lifers are taking our country away from sanity.

  • forced-birth-rape

    Women, little girls, pregnant raped women, and pregnant raped little girls have a right to say “NO” this will not be in my body against my will, this will not use my body against my will, this will not terrorize me for nine months with dread of unwanted genital pain against my will, this will not cause me genital pain against my will.

    I as a person with actual physical and emotional feelings I cannot use another persons body to save my life or cause another person emotional and physical trauma to save my life, but forced birth is only something women and their genitals have to physically and emotionally fear and live through so it is very easy (as it has always been) to sign women and girls up to have unwanted genital pain against their will.

  • ahunt

    Will the fetus be under oath?

  • ldan

    Given that the cells that are working on becoming a brain aren’t even close to the task of cognition? I’d really hope not.


    Then again, given that the ‘heartbeat’ is coming from something that is only beginning to resemble an actual heart, I wouldn’t put it past them. “If you agree to this oath…just lay there and don’t do anything. “


    This stunt is just another sickening way to elevate the status and wellbeing of embryoes over that of women.

  • crowepps

    This stunt is just another sickening way to elevate the status and wellbeing of embryoes over that of women.

    I think it would be more accurate to say another way to lower the status of women down to that of zygotes.  The fetus is apparently going to ‘testify’ by existing, and the manly men in the legislature will then make all of its decisions for it, just like they think is proper for pregnant women, who they’re not interested in hearing speak.

  • plume-assassine

    This is just laughable. It is a move that assumes the general public is totally ignorant of developmental biology. “GEE I HAD NO IDEA IT LOOKED LIKE THAT! AND IT’S ALIVE?” Nah, really? The presence of a heartbeat shows a living organism, but it does not show us a person. Birth is the celebration of entrance into personhood! Of course, even THEY know that this tactic alone of showing an ultrasound is erroneous and unconvincing, which is why in their “music video” they had to juxtapose actual persons (babies & toddlers) with ultrasound images. Everyone knows that those babies in the video are not comparable to a 9-week-old fetus, nor even to a 23-week fetus, but they are hoping that you will connect them emotionally.


    My other qualm is with the pregnant woman, whose fetus is scheduled to “testify.” It is safe to assume that she is volunteering to do this because she is elated about her pregnancy, and looking forward to bringing a child into the world (and woe unto any woman who does not want this for herself.) But imagine if they had a pregnant woman or girl who felt sickened and terrified at the thought of being pregnant and giving birth and they brought her into court. Her crying and her anger would tell a different story, ultrasound image or not.


    If I ever needed an abortion, and a technician wanted me to look at the ultrasound, it would only solidify my decision to go ahead with the procedure. Because I would know what’s inside of me, and I would not be emotionally compromised by an image that is clearly not a happy baby or a dancing toddler.

  • saltyc

    But imagine if they had a pregnant woman or girl who felt sickened and terrified at the thought of being pregnant and giving birth and they brought her into court. Her crying and her anger would tell a different story, ultrasound image or not.

    Wow I did imagine that very scene, and it was played by Mila Kunis in my mind. It was powerful, all she did was say “I. don’t. want. this.” And all the old men wrote in their notes.

  • beenthere72

    I want those 3 minutes and 48 seconds back.  That was awful.  

  • nonsequiteuse

    The Mayo Clinic says that what is growing inside a woman when she is pregnant isn’t officially even a fetus until 11 weeks. WebMD says the fetal stage starts at 10 weeks. I think that means we’ll have an embryo testifying.

    Semantics aside, this is horribly upsetting. When will I wake up from this nightmare? What is wrong with our country? Why do these people fear and hate women so much?

    So discouraging. Next thing you know, someone will make the argument that pregnant women should be counted twice in the census. Or 3 times if they are pregnant with twins.


  • freetobe

    because they are jealous and they know we women do not need them.

    I read in an article a while back that the Taliban hated the US because when women started to take on jobs and become active contributing citizens during WW1 and 2 we actually advanced the status of this country. We made it better.

    Women carried on for the men. We helped men and the US advance.  The Taliban does not like that and they are actually jealous of us US women!

    This is why they have a need to “control” us and this is what all this is about. keep women out of the workforce by forcing them into poverty and or forced marriages and be unemployed and or a wife. Happy or not.

    Many of them are brainwashed by the Bible and are answering to the religious right and according to NOW the Vatican (grrrrrrr) Which has always placed women as second class or not even human as I see it. masny of the GOP bills against women are based on Vatican (Catholic) rules and beliefs.

    They are only hypocrites like all of these religious groups. I have yet to find one religion that has a female leader and that one is Dianaca Wiccan. Only 1 !!

    It is also beleived that many of the women in the Bible were removed.  the Bible has been written many times. i see a similarity between this and Texas rewriting the history books for the rights beliefs and NOT the truth.

    How many actually know that the Native Americans worshiped women? yes it was the white male immigrants and christianity that taught natives to treat women like they did -second class. All the stories about so called “savages” that indians kidnapped and raped the white mans women are LIES. The white women found peace and comfort with the Indians and went to them for this very reason.

    The GOP and others have a long history of lying to get what they want. It is time to end this for good!

  • equalist

    First, I didn’t watch the whole thing, I couldn’t stand it long enough, but am I wrong that they only used ultrasounds of late second and third trimester fetii?  None of the alien or blob looking first trimester embryos that would be a true example of what is actually involved in most abortions. It’s pretty clear they were trying their hardest to pull on the heartstrings with this one.

    Secondly, I don’t usually harp on this kind of thing, but couldn’t they at least find someone who could sing?

  • mechashiva

    You know who they should bring to the witness stand?


    Every single representative, representative’s mother, representative’s wife, and representative’s daughter who has had an abortion. No filtering to pick ones who had health complications or who were raped… just get ALL of them down there to talk about how they got pregnant, why they chose abortion, and how they feel about it now. It would be a hell of a lot of women that they wouldn’t be able to “other.”

  • osumann

    Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio is live-tweeting the fetus testimony.

    Twitter @PPAOhio

  • princess-rot

    PZ Myers explains why a fetus “testifying” is stupid from a biological standpoint as well as a legal one. The comments are good, too: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/03/nutjobs_in_ohio_plan_to_ask_in.php


    An excerpt which pretty much covers my opinion on this:


    The heart is beating, which is neat, but then you have to keep in mind that you can tease a heart apart into individual cells in a dish and the cells will throb, so it’s not exactly a magical indicator of sentience.


    Quite. It is cells reacting to electrical impulses, it can’t pump blood because the vascular system is way underdeveloped. It can’t support itself and it isn’t even close to any semblance of sentience, unless you’re entirely in favor of erasing all the gestational work – and later, parenting work – that goes into making a sentient being capable of testimony. This nonsense is the equivalent of dragging in a braindead person on life support, pointing to the  machine and declaring the person “alive” because an external source is keeping the body from dying and the stenograph is going “bip”.

  • wolfwytch

    At nine weeks it sorta looks like a frog-ish chicken thing… so I’m really not sure what this testimony will accomplish, other than to showcase that an embryo has a heartbeat (which if I recall it’s not even a true heart, more like a proto-heart). *shrug* I looked at the ultrasound myself, when I had an abortion. I needed to. I don’t think the heartbeat would have affected me, either.


    Science has shown how the zygote turns into a real, living person– and the long-term parasitic nature of pregnancy (which I can tell you about, I’ve got kids). Physically the host (the women) sacrifices a great deal to bring that parasite to a separate, healthy existence.


    I truly don’t know what these people want to accomplish, other than to see a woman go through the humiliation of being vaginally probed in public; but let’s never let science get in the way of titillating sexy, subordinated women, I suppose…

  • ack

    You’re not actually sworn in when you testify in state governments. (At least, not to my knowledge; it would take waaaay too long.) You’re expected to tell the truth, but people lie, stretch the truth, manipulate statistics, etc ALL THE TIME in front of committees. No one can “object” or hold you in contempt. You just get asked questions by committee members. The questions can be really tough if a member disagrees with you, and sometimes they go on looooong rants.


    Which, in this case, could be freaking hilarous to watch. “So… I see you look sort of like a tadpole with a big head and some tiny limb things. How do you feel about abortion?”


    Not to mention that you usually have to do things like state your name for the record. This whole gimmick is setting someone up to speak for the fetus, which is essentially what the antis claim to do every day.

  • mea

    When I was in HS Biology we dissected fertilized chicken eggs with living, beating hearts. The object was to get the top of the shell off so that you could see the beating heart. I was an overachiever. I got a petri dish and managed to separate the film covering the yolk that contained the heart and the blood vessels and transfer it to the petri dish and kept the heart beating. It beat all day without the yolk. There was a really stong heartbeat and there was nothing in there but a heart and some blood vessels. It was NOT a chicken anymore than some fetal cells with a heartbeat is a baby!

  • plume-assassine

    Returned to comment on this again because I was reading an old article from The New York Times about El Salvador’s extreme position against abortion.


    It describes an El Salvadorian conservative extremist – Julia Regina de Cardenal – who used the same political theater tactic in 1999 that Janet Porter of “Faith 2 Action” employed in 2011 in the US. De Cardenal also had ultrasounds performed on 2 women in front of a public assembly:


    De Cardenal says that the pope’s visit re-energized supporters of the constitutional ban. As the vote neared, her group rolled out a series of radio ads in favor of the amendment and presented legislators with a petition of more than 500,000 signatures. At one demonstration, members of the group sprinkled the National Assembly with holy water. To punctuate her campaign, de Cardenal arranged to have two pregnant women come to the Assembly and have ultrasounds publicly performed on their fetuses.



    Very unsettling similarities. And a very unsettling article about what a “pro-life” nation really looks like.