Is Performing an Abortion Like Killing a Chicken on Facebook?
Abortion rights advocates often tire of metaphors from men about what abortion really is. Here’s a new one: is it like killing a chicken on Facebook?
Last month, Representative Mike Moon (R-MO), a Missouri State representative, conducted a Facebook Live video in which he cut off a live chicken’s head, and then gutted the bird, on camera. In the video, he said: “So today, I’m filing a bill that will lead to the stopping of abortion in the state of Missouri, and I hope you’ll support it.”
The analogy — that killing a chicken is like having an abortion — raised eyebrows, and caused debate — and certainly sparks criticism among many women who support abortion rights.
Rep. Moon broadcast this video as a way to promote a bill he had proposed in February of 2017: HB 1014, or the “Never Again Act.” This bill requires the addition of an exhibit in the Missouri State Museum, that demonstrates the history of abortion. The bill specifies that the exhibit must be placed near the already existing exhibit in that museum, on the history of slavery.
Rep. Moon, it appears, believes that the deaths caused by abortions, should be treated socially the same way we should deplore the deaths of victims of the Holocaust, and also the deaths brought about by slavery. Rep. Moon specifies in the bill that the abortion exhibit he proposes at the museum “would display tools used and the effects those same tools have on the aborted victims.” His bill also makes the case, that some might call tendentious, that “the number of lives lost by abortion is more than we lost during slavery and during the Holocaust. We need to start looking at abortion in the same light as we do both of those tragic events.”
Rep. Moon is not a newcomer to this fight over how abortion is treated and portrayed. He has also introduced other Acts in efforts to abolish abortion in Missouri, none of which has yet passed. His bill HB-709, the Missouri Right To Life Act, for instance, states that “personhood” begins at conception. As the website ABC 17 sums it up, that bill would treat women seeking abortions as murderers, in effect: “the bill would require all law enforcement, court officers and state regulated entities to enforce Article 1, Section 10 of the state Constitution that specifies no person be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.”
Everyone talks about abortion, but few people actually know how exactly an abortion is executed. Ignorance about the actual procedure is rife on both sides of the debate.
Among the ignorant is President Trump. Forbes Magazine reports on Pres. Trump’s argument against abortion: “‘You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day.’” In fact, only the tiniest per cent of abortions in the US take place in the third trimester at all, and these are overwhelmingly medically necessary.
What does an actual typical abortion look like? Not like gutting a chicken, that’s for sure. And also not like a third trimester abortion.
There are different types of abortion procedures. There are both in-clinic practices, and medical ones, that are administered through an “abortion pill.” This pill is made up of the drugs Mifepristone and Misoprostol.
In-clinic abortion procedures are surgical procedures that are relatively quick and effective. Aspiration, or suction abortion, is the most common method of surgical abortion. Aspiration can legally be performed during the first six to sixteen weeks of pregnancy. Other terms include suction aspiration, suction curettage, or vacuum aspiration. The procedure begins with the numbing of the woman’s cervix. Next, the medical professional holds the cervix in place with a surgical instrument with long handles and a clamp at the end called a “tenaculum”. Sometimes, a couple of days or a couple of hours before the procedure, absorbent rods called “laminaria” are inserted in order to dilate the area. The laminaria absorb the body’s fluid and expand, which then stretches the cervix open further. The fetus is removed thus.
Rep. Moon’s gruesome video made the implicit case that an abortion causes pain to the fetus. Are any of these procedures in fact painful for a fetus? This is a legitimate question.
What is pain, and how does a human body feel it? A combination of factors is responsible for the potential experience of sensation. The receptors in the skin that sense injury, the neurons in the spinal cord that transmit that signal up to the brain, and the neurons that extend from the spinal cord into the brain, all need to reach all the way to the area of the brain that perceives pain. These must all be developed is order for a fetus to “feel pain.”
Yet the mere existence of these physical capacities, is not sufficient to prove that pain occurs in the course of an abortion; the brain also has to be active in ways that suggest the fetus is “awake.” That doesn’t happens until very late in gestation.
The medical journal Live Science presents comprehensive research finding that the fetus’ ability to feel pain is only possible during the third trimester of pregnancy at the earliest – much later than the point at which most US abortions are conducted. According to the organization Abort 73, “89-92% of all abortions happen during the first trimester.”
So not only is measuring fetal pain difficult and subjective, but fetuses develop at different rates. In other words — scientifically, it is all very murky territory.
Nonetheless, some government officials have gotten behind the issue of fetal pain as a way to score political points about abortion: Utah governor Gary Herbert, in 2016, signed a bill that requires “doctors to give anesthesia to women having an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later,” as CBS News reported, as a way to also anesthetize the fetus. However, this carries risks. “Many doctors in Utah and across the country are concerned that the requirement could increase the health risks to women by giving them unnecessary heavy sedation in order to protect a fetus from pain that it may or may not feel.” Such a bill, critics say, interferes with the Hippocratic oath that doctors take and their ethical obligations, to treat their patients as their medical needs require, as opposed to imposing treatment that is not medically mandated for the patients.
So what do you think? Should legislators pass anti-abortion bills predicated on the idea of stopping fetal pain, and of showing the most minute processes involved in a termination? Or do these bills do a good job of raising the issue of fetal pain and fetal demise in abortion, and even of preventing fetal pain in the abortion process? Is the science about fetal pain clear enough to legislate on its basis?
Can abortion reasonably be compared to killing a chicken, or are they very different things?