Since you asked for it…


I copied Prolife Across America and made a picture for you.

heartbeat

I guess all the anti-choicers are going to become vegan now.

Comments

  1. brettvk says

    I see at least two of the PAA billboards on my commute every work day. I always wonder how many poor women and children could benefit from the money spent on such smug assholery.

  2. jehk says

    What do the embryo’s look like at these stages? Those pictures might be more effective to drive home the point especially if they all look very similar.

  3. says

    Prolife Across America doesn’t use stage-appropriate pictures of fetuses — they always show cute little babies, rather than slimy pink worms.

  4. komarov says

    Jehk, accurate pictures of some cell clumps would be far too honest. To properly copy standard issue propaganda the pictures above should have been of baby animals, ideally with huge eyes and Cute Infant Smiles (TM)*. Maximise cuteness, minimise reality and sod accuracy.

    *and possibly diapers.

  5. woozy says

    Um. I kind of don’t understand how this counter-argument is supposed to work. If anti-choicers truly believe their “my heart started beating in 28 days” (and therefore I’m a baby) argument then it’s perfectly reasonable they’d believe a “my heart started beating in 18 days” (and therefore I’m a pig).

    Actually a better counter-argument argument would be a cooked 18-day pig fetus an a plate and the slogan “Pork begins at conception”.

  6. cicely says

    I guess all the anti-choicers are going to become vegan now.

    But, y’see, Zod specifically gave those critters to Adam and Eve to eat! It’s their entire reason for being!

  7. footface says

    Count me among the confused: the anti-choicers don’t think “if it has a heart beat it’s a human.” They think, “if a human embryo (or whatever) has a heart beat, it’s a human.” They already know cows, pigs, and chickens have heart beats.

  8. woozy says

    It’s a pet peeve of mine but, I think ridiculing an opponent’s argument by showing it is stupid is one thing but to ridicule the argument by deliberately pretending to misinterpret it is disingenuous and beneath us.

    The “it has a heartbeat” doesn’t mean “it’s human”. Hell, *adult* vertebrates have heartbeats and aren’t human. “it has a heartbeat” means “it’s alive; and well formed and danged near developed”. They’ll frequently also argue “it has fingernails; and eyelashes; and toes; and what have you” (and therefore it is formed and “ready to go”). Which is a stupid argument and should be easy to refute. To interpret it as “Anti-choicers think humans are the only animals whose hearts beat before birth and such a phenomena defines them as human” is just plain weird.

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    RE #7 and #8: Yes, the question is about personhood not humanness. But you appear to be in the wrong thread. The picture and captions do not mention the word human, so stop the strawmanning.

    Not all “pro-life” advocates are geniuses, but quite a few of them should be able to distinguish between an egg and a chicken, between caviar and a fish.

  10. footface says

    So you think pro-lifers are saying that anything (human embryo, cow, pig) with a heart beat is a person? I don’t think that’s what they think. So I’m not seeing how this (“Aha! Cow and pig embryos also have heart beats!”) refutes anything they would say. I guess this one is just over my head.

  11. bcwebb says

    I think its more useful to remember that Terry Shiavo was dead for 15 years with a heartbeat.

  12. martha says

    Woozy, Footface, this isn’t so much a fully developed argument as an embryonic joke connected to the previous post. In so far as it has a point, the point is to make people who feel an emotional jolt when they see anti-abortion beating heart billboards think twice. What does that beating heart actually mean? It doesn’t, for example, mean that the inner life of the embryo or its capacity to feel distress is anything like yours or mine.

    If the real point of the anti-abortion people is that this is a developing human being, why the insistence on heart beats?

  13. komarov says

    You may be giving the original pro-life billboard too much credit. It’s a billboard you drive by at some speed, not an elaborate philosophical argument. In my mind the original can be interpreted in two ways:
    1) The heart is beating therefore this is a living creature therefore it has the right to live and abortion is murder
    2) The heartbeat is associated with being alive*, it starts very early, so life begins at conception, abortion is murder, etc.

    Either way it’s not about something like personhood, which is probably just a convenient term for pro-lifers (esp. lawmakers) rather than something they take seriously. If they were concerned about actual factual people they’d take a different approach and would / should be looking at a bigger picture than the womb. They aren’t.

    As far as pro-lifers are concerned, abortion is murder and everything else including personhood is just thrown in so they can update their repertoire and have some new language for legislation. (Cf. creationsm and intelligent design).

    For billboards like this one, however, personhood is too subtle a concept to be useful. Which is why instead they just try to hammer you with the babykiller-memes. Hence the above is a fair parody (and rather a throwaway joke), since pigs and cows and all the animals have heartbeats too (therefore they’re alive etc.) Personhood is not involved, no matter the species. If PZs knock-off falls short it’s only because pro-lifers don’t seem to give a sod about life after it has left its host.

    *As something that’s easy to see. Arguing with people that ‘alive’ means various biochemical pathways are operating inside cells would be more likely result in puzzled looks than in you getting your point across. “Heartbeat = life” is a lot snappier.

  14. woozy says

    @9

    The picture and captions do not mention the word human, so stop the strawmanning.

    So why should anti-choicers become vegan if “heartbeat” = “animalhood” but not “human”? Why would an anti-choicer care when a pigs heart starts to beat? The just means he thinks an 18 day pig embryo is a pig. So what?

    Well, it does mean he thinks an 18 day pig embryo is a pig which is pretty ridiculous.

    From the previous post:

    Every one of those signs plastered all over my region that declares “My heart started beating at 28 days!” is fundamentally dishonest, relying on a false association between a heart beat and humanity. My zebrafish embryos’ hearts start beating at about 22 hours, does that make them human?

    No, but by Profile Across America logic it makes them fish.
    =====
    @11

    I think its more useful to remember that Terry Shiavo was dead for 15 years with a heartbeat.

    Except the *exact* same anti-choicers *did* argue Terry Shiavo was alive.

  15. Anri says

    woozy @5:

    Um. I kind of don’t understand how this counter-argument is supposed to work.

    It’s a demonstration that a heartbeat isn’t anything special.

  16. chris61 says

    @11 bcwebb

    I think its more useful to remember that Terry Shiavo was dead for 15 years with a heartbeat.

    No, Terry Shiavo was alive for 15 years. She was in an irreversible persistent vegetative state which medically and legally speaking is not dead.

  17. dianne says

    The heart is beating therefore this is a living creature

    Except that that’s not true. A person in ventricular fibrillation from a heart attack, lightening strike, or even open heart surgery is alive (though gravely ill and likely to die) but has no heartbeat. Conversely, a person with a heartbeat but no brain activity is dead except in some extremely specific poisoning situations. Brain activity, not heartbeat, is the legal determinant of life versus death in modern medicine. Even the simplest brain activity can’t possibly start until at least week 9, after the majority of abortions occur. A larger percentage of abortions would occur in that time frame if “pro-lifers” didn’t put up roadblocks that prevent women from getting abortions in a timely manner. So, if you consider every abortion on a fetus whose condition is such that it would be considered a living human to be a murder then the “pro-life” movement increases the number of abortions and the pro-choice movement reduces them.

  18. chris61 says

    @16 Anri

    It’s a demonstration that a heartbeat isn’t anything special.

    A heartbeat is special in the sense that when a heart that was previously beating (within a body, not in a petrie dish) irreversibly stops, the organism is dead. Which is no doubt the point of the billboard.

  19. dianne says

    How about a picture of a 6 week or so embryo (with notation of how many times magnified it was) and an “anchor baby” toddler with the caption “I have no feelings, brain waves, or stationary neurons” on the embryo and “I do” on the toddler? Think it would get the point across?

  20. chris61 says

    @18 dianne

    Except that that’s not true. A person in ventricular fibrillation from a heart attack, lightening strike, or even open heart surgery is alive (though gravely ill and likely to die) but has no heartbeat. Conversely, a person with a heartbeat but no brain activity is dead except in some extremely specific poisoning situations. Brain activity, not heartbeat, is the legal determinant of life versus death in modern medicine.

    It’s not brain activity (or heart activity) per se that define death but the irreversible cessation of those activities. A fetus has no significant brain activity but in the absence of medical intervention that is not generally an irreversible condition.

  21. woozy says

    It’s a demonstration that a heartbeat isn’t anything special.

    How so? Did anti-choicers ever say only humans have heartbeats? Did they say only humans are alive? Does fetal animals having heartbeats mean they aren’t alive or have less “animalhood”[*]? How does animals sharing traits with humans have any effect whatsoever on any argument by any party on any subject[**]?

    And why the heck would animals having fetal (or adult) heartbeats require anti-choicers to be vegans? That comment only makes sense if you deliberately misinterpret the argument to mean “heartbeat” = “human”[***]. And that is a disingenuous strawman and we are better than that.

    Okay, it makes sense and is funny in a “pffft… idiots” sort of way, much as “when marriages are outlawed only outlaws will have in-laws” ridicules gun fondlers (pfft… idiots) but neither are actual counter arguments. And it’s back-pedaling to pretend that was the intent of the picture all along.
    ===
    [*] Heartbeats aren’t enough to prove or support “It’s alive! It’s a baby animal!”. But they do nothing to disprove or weaken it.
    [**] Except vegetarianism. But that argument assumes animal human similarities (including heartbeats)are special. For the animals.
    [***] Is this interpretation of their argument really any more honest than than the “Of course it’s human life; it’s not a cat! Or a donkey!” interpretation of ours?
    ===

    Not all “pro-life” advocates are geniuses, but quite a few of them should be able to distinguish between an egg and a chicken, between caviar and a fish.

    Why? It’s not in any way contrary to their philosophy.

    If the real point of the anti-abortion people is that this is a developing human being, why the insistence on heart beats?

    Um, if you wanted to argue that an embryo is alive and a developing individual being wouldn’t you think a heart beat would be the most dramatic and emotional way to imply it? What could be more dramatic and emotional and imply “OMG it’s a real individual!” than a heartbeat?

    Basicaly it is an emotional and dramatic argument to argue that it is a human being rather than, say, a tumor which wouldn’t have a heartbeat. It doesn’t work to imply it’s not an animal because, duh, animals have heartbeats too.

    The heart is beating therefore this is a living creature therefore it has the right to live and abortion is murder

    But a basic premise that will never be overlooked or misinterpreted is that we are talking about humans. Wheat is alive. Fish are alive. But the emotional impact is we are talking about people. The fact that it isn’t explicitly stated simply means it will be assumed. It’s utterly impossible to trick someone into thinking we might be talking about wheat or fish simply because we never explicitly *said* we were talking about people.

    Hence the above is a fair parody (and rather a throwaway joke), since pigs and cows and all the animals have heartbeats too (therefore they’re alive etc.)

    So the fact that adult humans have heart beats, are alive, breath air, etc. is subject to parody because adult cows have heart beats, are alive, breath air, etc.?

    Yes, if someone had said “fetuses are human because they have heartbeats” or if someone had said “fetuses are alive because they have heartbeats” and we could show that fetal cows had heartbeats and were *dead* OR if we could show *human* children have brains and can think and move and have legs and have automated development so they are *different* (not the same) as other animals while embryos, human *or* animal are none of these things… Those would all be subject to parody. But to show animals and human embryos are similar when no-one ever claimed they’d be different isn’t parody. It’s just stating the obvious.

  22. woozy says

    It’s not brain activity (or heart activity) per se that define death but the irreversible cessation of those activities. A fetus has no significant brain activity but in the absence of medical intervention that is not generally an irreversible condition.

    And it’s not potential to begin those activities that define life but the initial enactment of those activity. A fetus has the potential for eventual significant brain activity but in the absence of actual development it isn’t a process that has begun.

    Not alive.
    @18 dianne

    The heart is beating therefore this is a living creature

    Except that that’s not true

    I don’t think komarkov was arguing from any actual position but from the emotional and invalid position of the pro-life sound-bites which he knows to be invalid.

    My only argument was that addressing animal vs. human doesn’t in any way effect or counter these arguments, though other observations will.

  23. dianne says

    A heartbeat is special in the sense that when a heart that was previously beating (within a body, not in a petrie dish) irreversibly stops, the organism is dead.

    Not really. Heart transplant: the original heart has irreversibly stopped and the person is still alive. OTOH, the donor is dead, despite their heart continuing to beat. Also, ECMO keeps people alive more or less indefinitely without a heartbeat. Currently, it is assumed that everyone on ECMO will eventually get a donor heart, but who knows when ECMO will simply become the permanent pumping system.

    A fetus has no significant brain activity but in the absence of medical intervention that is not generally an irreversible condition.

    Not true. A fetus may (usually will, by the time it’s a fetus, i.e. 8 weeks GA) develop brain activity if it receives intensive life support for long enough. If it is removed from its life support system, aka the uterus, it will never develop brain activity and certainly not cortical activity.

  24. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    chris61

    No, Terry Shiavo was alive for 15 years. She was in an irreversible persistent vegetative state which medically and legally speaking is not dead.

    Terry Schiavo’s body was alive. Terry Schiavo the person was gone.

    Medically, and legally, we equate a fully formed self-sustaining human body (or what would normally be self-sustaining were it not for other reasons, excluding existing inside a life-support system which happens to be another living person) with an individual with rights and deserving protection. Without supposing that it is a tautology of human being as an individual human body, we would be helpless to prosecute, render aid, or otherwise endow that person we know to exist with rights.

    Declaring Terry alive simply because her body was there while her mind was gone is abusing the necessary tautology to conclude something which is counterfactual to a reasonable analysis of her actual status.

  25. says

    You’re all trying too hard.

    The heartbeat argument makes no sense, whether it’s a human or a cow. You should be baffled by this picture, just as you should be baffled by Prolife Across America’s non sequiturs posing as billboards.

  26. says

    Aww, I remember when the doctor told me “there is a heartbeat”. It was such a sweet moment.
    I remember how she told me ” there is nothing there anymore ” two weeks later.
    I don’t remember anybody acting as if a person had died, not even us, the people who wanted to be parents

  27. chris61 says

    @ 24 dianne

    Not really. Heart transplant: the original heart has irreversibly stopped and the person is still alive. OTOH, the donor is dead, despite their heart continuing to beat.

    You’re right. I should have modified my statement to include the phrase “without medical intervention”.

    @25 throwaway

    Terry Schiavo’s body was alive. Terry Schiavo the person was gone.

    No argument from me.

  28. Anri says

    chris61 @ 19:

    A heartbeat is special in the sense that when a heart that was previously beating (within a body, not in a petrie dish) irreversibly stops, the organism is dead. Which is no doubt the point of the billboard.

    Apologies, I didn’t express myself clearly.
    “Not special” in the sense of it being a very mundane, common, certainly-not-human-being-specific sort of thing.

    woozy @22:

    How so? Did anti-choicers ever say only humans have heartbeats? Did they say only humans are alive? Does fetal animals having heartbeats mean they aren’t alive or have less “animalhood”[*]? How does animals sharing traits with humans have any effect whatsoever on any argument by any party on any subject[**]?

    You’d have to ask the folks who wrote the billboards as to why they consider heartbeats so special, I can’t really say why they prize it so. To quote a famous humbug “That’s a very mediocre commodity.”
    As far as animals and humans sharing traits, the entire point of most types of religion is to separate humans and other animals. Pointing out that people are animals just like fish or chickens strikes at the very root of this. If having a heartbeat has anything to do with having a soul, these other animals show that distinction as well. If not, they’ve undermined their own initial message about having a heartbeat.

    I didn’t make the arguments in your next two paragraphs, so I assume they were directed at someone else.

    PZ @ 26:

    You’re all trying too hard.

    The heartbeat argument makes no sense, whether it’s a human or a cow. You should be baffled by this picture, just as you should be baffled by Prolife Across America’s non sequiturs posing as billboards.

    I find their billboard silly, but not at all baffling. I live in the US. If I was baffled by everything I found silly, I’d be unable to function.

  29. dianne says

    @28: That’s more or less why brain death is the definition of death: it’s the only one that’s still totally irreversible. Heart death became a silly definition the first time someone was successfully revived from v fib and it’s been getting “worse” from there…fortunately.

  30. Jason Nishiyama says

    I doubt it would sway the anti-choice crowd since they don’t seem to care what happens to a human child once it is out of the womb in any event.

  31. irene says

    I’d be tempted to put up a billboard showing Savita Halappanavar and saying “My heart stopped beating approximately 11,500 days after conception.”

  32. woozy says

    If having a heartbeat has anything to do with having a soul, these other animals show that distinction as well. If not, they’ve undermined their own initial message about having a heartbeat.

    Right. But you and PZ are both assuming that *is* the gist of their argument. As such the argument makes absolutely no sense because it’s simply not true. Not even anti-choicers are dumb enough to not know this.
    I think their argument is simply that a heart beat simply means that the fetus has developed to a very advanced stage and is “on its way” to being an actual genoowine human being, by golly. And it’s an emotional one. (Relive the ultrasound scene of any sentimetal movie “It has a heartbeat! It’s alive! There really is a baby in there!”)
    With that interpretation the counter-argument that animals have heartbeats makes no sense. So what? Animals have heartbeats. And they breath. Does that mean they should go to school and be given the right to vote?
    Although I’ll grant you an *image* of a two day old egg yolk with a pulsating throbbing skein of veins and no discernable body would. That surely is *not* a very advanced stage “on its way” to being a genoowine chicken.