Oh gob, the stupidity. The latest wave of anti-choice legislation is based on one trivial premise: it’s got a heartbeat! You can’t kill it if its heart is beating! So stupid bills have been flitting about in the Ohio, Mississippi, Wyoming, Arkansas, and North Dakota legislatures trying to redefine human life as beginning at the instant that a heartbeat can be detected. Here’s Wyoming’s story, for instance:
About two weeks ago, state Rep. Kendell Kroeker (R) introduced a measure to supersede the medical definition of viability. Current state law says abortions are prohibited after a fetus has “reached viability,” and Kroeker sought to replace those words with “a detectable fetal heartbeat.” The Republican lawmaker said the idea for his heartbeat bill just came to him one day because “it became clear that if a baby had a heartbeat, that seemed simple to me that it’s wrong to kill it.” On Monday, a House panel struck down Kroeker’s bill because it was too medically vague. But if Ohio and Mississippi are any indication, this likely won’t be the last time that fetal heartbeat legislation shows up in Wyoming.
It’s a step back from the inanity of declaring that life begins at conception — you can’t detect the heartbeat until 5-6 weeks of gestation — but still, it’s an arbitrary and ridiculous definition that relies entirely on folk knowledge about living things. If we’re going to do that, though, I propose that we go to the One True Source of knowledge and accept the Biblical definition of living creatures: they have breath in their nostrils. Therefore, abortion is legal right up to the instant that the baby draws its first breath.
Don’t argue with me! It’s in the Bible! Do you want to go to hell?
But the heart thing? Nonsense. Here’s what I routinely see:
Zebrafish embryos have a heartbeat one day after fertilization. That one above is a two-day embryo, and it’s even more special and sacred because it carries a heart-specific GFP, so it’s heart glows green. We don’t suddenly think of the organism as complete and inviolate because cardiac cells are twitching.
Or even better, you can dissociate the heart tissue of just about any animal, including humans, and culture single cells in a dish…and look! They beat!
If that were a human cell, does that means we could never throw that petri dish away? Speaking of human, let’s jack up the consequences. Here’s a clump of induced pluripotent stem cells, adult cells forced into an embryonic state by transfection with a few genes that reprogrammed this population into a cardiac cell state. It’s the religious right’s nightmare, transformed by the hand of scientists into living embryonic tissues, growing in a lab under a microscope…and it’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!
Is anyone seriously going to decide that that is human and deserving of all of the rights and protections we accord to adult people?
I suppose it depends on whether those cells are derived from a female or not.