Article Sep 14, 2015

Technology and the truth about the viability of the unborn

My timeline the other day was full of rich irony. On the one hand, many people were tweeting about the #AppleEvent, the annual ritual where devotees of the tech giant wait in anticipated wonder to hear about the next new tech marvels to enter our world. On the other hand, many were tweeting about the Congressional hearings on Planned Parenthood.

The irony was rich only because one of the new apps, Airstrip, unveiled by Apple for the Apple Watch. This technology can apparently replace Non Stress Tests for women who face high-risk pregnancies. These NST’s are not only inconvenient in that they require a pregnant women to continually have to visit her doctor in the last trimester, but they also have a hard time distinguishing between the mother’s heartbeat and the baby’s.

Gizmodo has an excellent article explaining why Airstrip could really be a wonderful technology for both mothers and their doctors:

Airstrip, an integrated fetal monitoring app announced by Apple at last week’s event, can comfortably gather all the information for an NST, even at home, and transmit all its data wirelessly to your Apple Watch. More importantly, it can send all this information to your doctor. But this is not just a UX innovation: Apple’s also partnered with an important medical device to work with it. The streamlined Sense4Baby monitor, which Airstrip acquired in April, looks like a comfy battery-powered band to replace a complicated array of wands, sensors, and stickers. And thanks to the excellent heartbeat tracker in the Apple Watch, supposedly it can work with the monitor to tell mom’s and baby’s heartbeat apart.

You really should read the entire Gizmodo article to get a sense of how important this new technology could be for expectant mothers.

At the same time, in my Twitter timeline, I read unbelievable accounts from the Planned Parenthood hearings before the House Judiciary Committee, particularly the testimony of Priscilla Smith, Director of the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice at the Information Society Project at the Yale Law School. Smith was queried about the practices of Planned Parenthood, exposed by the undercover sting videos recorded by the Center for Medical Progress.

What was troubling was her testimony about the viability of the unborn in the womb. The Washington Post quotes her as saying this when pressed by Congressman Trent Franks:

Smith, the Yale law professor, was repeatedly challenged over her use of the term “pre-viable fetuses” rather than “babies,” which some of the antiabortion members preferred. In her view, she said, the term “baby” gives an incorrect and biased image.

“That makes us think about full-term gestated babies rather than fetuses in a very early stage of gestation,” she said. “When you juxtapose those images in your mind, it becomes very distasteful.”

This aligns with pro-choice ideology that assigns the unborn something less than full humanity. This is why terms like “fetus” and “tissue” are so often employed by defenders of abortion on demand.

The Guardian quotes Smith’s response to questioning about the dismembering and dilation procedure:

During a round of questions, Representative Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the judiciary committee, asked Smith whether she believed that the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure is “humane”. Smith replied that for a fetus that could not survive outside the womb, she believed the procedure is a humane way to end a pregnancy.

Smith was even unclear on the intentional dismembering of a baby post-birth, something the CMT videos about Planned Parenthood clearly exposed as a common practice. Would she call this murder or infanticide? Smith said that to answer that question, she’d “have to do some research.”

So here we have, in the culture, two competing realities. First is the legality of on-demand abortion, a practice that denies personhood to the unborn. By dehumanizing the life in the womb with terms like “fetus,” “tissue” or “clump of cells,” abortion attempts to satisfy the conscience.

And yet we have another reality: the continual emergence of technology that lets us peek inside the womb. We’re a generation raised with early 3-D images posted in celebration on Facebook. We’ve been inundated with science that tells us of early fetal viability. And now Apple is helping bring potentially lifesaving fetal monitoring technology to the masses.

These two realities are colliding. We can no longer plead ignorance of what is going on inside the womb: the development of a human being. This is an unborn life worth celebrating, worth monitoring for health and worth welcoming into life. Perhaps this is why some of very members on the House Committee charged with investigating Planned Parenthood have refused to watch the videos. I suspect they haven’t because by watching, they will see what we all have seen: legal infanticide.

How much longer can we use terms like “tissue” or “fetus” when technology is telling us something different? How much longer can we describe abortion survivors, such as those who testified on the Hill, with scare quotes, as if these people don’t really exist?

Not much longer. Either technology will force us to face the truth about abortion, or it will force us to admit we know what we are doing: taking innocent human life. Apple’s inventions, ultrasound technology and the Center for Medical Progress have made us look and see what is actually happening. It reminds me of the work of William Wilberforce, who to press his point about the inhumanity and evil of the British slave trade, forced members of Parliament to see with their own eyes the brutal conditions on a typical slave ship. He said to them, simply, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

The gospel calls all of us to be Wilberforces in our generation, to both speak prophetically into a culture of death and to stand on the side of those who cannot speak for themselves. We must press the gospel into the brokenness, offering hope to those who’ve previously believed the culture’s dehumanizing lies and welcome them, when they come to faith, into the body of Christ as brothers and sisters.

What’s more, we must beware of our own tendencies to look away from injustice, to dehumanize the human, whether it’s the unborn, the immigrant, the disabled, the marginalized. And we see every life as valuable not simply because technology confirms it, but because God has declared every human being to be created in His image for His glory.