Newly-pregnant women hear the word “heartbeat” all the time
A “heartbeat” doesn’t exist early in pregnancy, abortion rights advocates and some Democrats argue as they combat a spate of abortion bans pegged to embryonic cardiac activity.
The heated debate was rekindled last week when Stacey Abrams told an audience “there is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks.”
“It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body,” said Abrams, a Democrat who is running for governor of Georgia.
Anti-abortion activists and groups quickly decried Abrams, and the furious back-and forth highlighted how in light of the Supreme Court Overturning Roe v. WadeThe debate over abortion will continue word for word, with clear definitions that are in conflict with popular understanding. Doctors say the sound heard during an early pregnancy ultrasound is a precursor to a heartbeat, not a heartbeat itself, whose sound is created by the cardiac valves opening and closing — something that can’t be heard until closer to 10 weeks.
But for women going through pregnancy, that’s not the message they get on popular pregnancy websites or even in their own doctor’s office. It’s common for OB/GYNs to check for a “heartbeat” on the first prenatal visit — and for women to experience an immense feeling of relief when a fluttering sound is heard. Take a look at this language used by leading websites for pregnancy that describes embryonic development at six weeks.
- TheBump.com: “Baby’s heart is typically beating away by six weeks.”
- Whattoexpect.com: “Your baby’s heart has started to beat sometime between week 5 and now.”
- BabyCenter.com: “Your baby’s heart isn’t fully developed, but cells in the heart tube have started beating fast, around 160 times a minute. You may hear the sound this week if you have an early ultrasound.”
- Johns Hopkins places it even earlier, saying on its website that “the heart is beating” by the end of four weeks.
Other countries’ government-backed websites also refer to a heartbeat of six weeks.
- The U.K.’s National Health Service: “The heart can sometimes be seen beating on a vaginal ultrasound scan at this stage.”
- Pregnancy, Birth and Baby, a website backed by the Australian government: “If you have an ultrasound in the sixth week, you may be able to see the baby’s heart beating.”
- Public Health Agency of Canada: “The tissues that will form the heart begin to beat. The heartbeat can be detected with ultrasound at around 6 weeks of pregnancy.”
Even Planned Parenthood’s website until recently described a six-week embryo as having “a very basic beating heart and circulatory system develop.”
As National Review’s John McCormack recently noted, the organization has since changed the language, which now reads: “A part of the embryo starts to show cardiac activity. It sounds like a heartbeat on an ultrasound, but it’s not a fully-formed heart — it’s the earliest stage of the heart developing.”
Web archives indicate the edits took place sometime after July 25 — a time of intense national focus on conservative states banning abortions, sometimes as soon as a “heartbeat” is detected.
Planned Parenthood tacitly acknowledged it made the edits, saying “fetal heartbeat” is a term being used to stigmatize abortion and justify early bans.
- “As anti-abortion lawmakers and activists seeking to control people’s health care decisions continue to peddle misinformation and even codify medical inaccuracies into law, it’s critical that people get unbiased information from actual experts, like health care providers and educators.” Julia Bennett, digital education and learning strategy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement in response to questions from The Health 202.
- Bennett also said Planned Parenthood website is regularly updated “to ensure that information is medically accurate, reflects the latest science and is accessible to learners.”
A 6-week-old embryo can have a heartbeat. Medical professionals recognize a difference between the sound heard during pregnancy and the later stages of the development of the heart.
Nisha VermaA member of the American College of Obstetricians and GynecologistsThis is how the aforementioned organization, which supports abortion rights, describes it:
The sound of the heartbeat is created by the closing and opening of the cardiac valves. But what people think of as a heartbeat in early pregnancy is actually created by electric impulses that are captured by an ultrasound machine and translated by the machine into the sound of a heartbeat — there are no cardiac valves, so there is no sound of them opening and closing.
Some journalists have also made this point, including The Post’s Fact Checker Glenn Kessler:
FWIW, the term “fetal heartbeat” is an error. An embryo’s electrical activity is picked up by the ultrasound. The ultrasound is responsible for the so-called “heartbeat sound” you hear. Doppler machines cannot detect the opening or closing of cardiac valves until after 10 weeks. … https://t.co/OODSeeFMas
— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) September 22, 2022
But the widespread dismissal of the word “heartbeat” has drawn an angry response from the antiabortion side. Writers of the original “heartbeat” bills intentionally deployed the word to evoke an emotional response and help humanize an embryo or fetus early in development, as a way of trying to persuade more Americans to oppose abortion.
They argue that the technicalities are not important to their larger point. Cardiac activity in an embryo indicates it’s on its way to becoming a fully formed baby. They want to force abortion rights advocates to admit that an abortion, even one performed very early in pregnancy means that there is no more fluttering evidence that life has been.
And, as some noted, doctors don’t use such technical language when they’re talking to patients — when the word “heartbeat” is used in the context of early pregnancy, most women understand what it’s referring to.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of SBA Pro-Life America
“A baby’s heart is actively beating at 6 weeks gestation and will have already beat nearly 16 million times by 15 weeks. In fact, at 6 weeks, when Stacey Abrams says a heartbeat doesn’t exist, that baby’s heart is actually beating at about 110 beats/min.” https://t.co/1ALBEe5yvO
— MarjorieDannenfelser (@marjoriesba) September 22, 2022
Alexandra DeSanctis Marr (fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center):
Heartbeat bills don’t assert that the embryo has a fully formed heart or that a heartbeat makes a human being. They show that the womb is occupied by someone, who, if left in peace, will continue developing to thrive outside the womb when the time is right https://t.co/7ydq7nIAZB
— Alexandra DeSanctis Marr (@xan_desanctis) September 23, 2022
ACOG’s Verma acknowledged that she and other physicians use the word “heartbeat” with their newly pregnant patients — and believes it’s perfectly fine to do so. She compared it to using the word “stomach bug” to refer to what is medically known as gastroenteritis.
“That is language they connect with, they understand,” Verma said. “It doesn’t have to be medically precise.”
Verma said even if abortion bans used more medically precise language — perhaps if they said “cardiac activity” instead of “heartbeat” — that wouldn’t change ACOG’s opposition to such bans. But she takes umbrage with how abortion foes have used the term “heartbeat” in the heated debate.
“Politicians are using this language to elicit an emotional response in people,” she said.
We would love to hear your thoughts on aging. The Post is working on a special section next month on “aging well,” but how do you define that phrase? What is the difference between aging well and aging badly? Let us know your thoughts here.
Poll results: Voters split in intense fight to control Congress
Our colleagues are currently in an even shorter time frame to the midterm elections. Republicans and Democrats are locked in a neck-and–neck race to control Congress in November. Dan Balz, Emily Guskin And Scott Clement report.
This election is seen by two-thirds more voters than previous midterm campaigns. As the nation is divided, it continues to struggle with sky-high consumer prices and sky-high interest rate. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the law has also contributed to the rising costs. Roe v. WadeA new Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed that.
They are where they are: Americans consider the economy, inflation, as well as abortion to be the most important issues that they vote for. Voters voted for Republicans when asked about their trust in Republicans to address specific issues. 17-point And 18-point Lead on managing the economy, and inflating respectively. This gave Democrats an opportunity to be a leader and give them a chance to be a part of the solution. 17-point advantage How to handle abortion.
Speaking of abortion … After the issues are decided, the positions of each party will be weighed. 50 percent A majority of Americans think Republicans favor too many restrictions. 29 percent said the GOP’s posture is about right and 10 percent Republicans support too much access to abortion. About 3 out of 10 Democrats favored too much access, however 45 percent said Democrats’ positions are about right and 13 percent Democrats favored too many restrictions.
Learn more about the importance of November elections for voters:
Democrats weigh in on the future patient’s rights case
First in The Health202: On Friday, more than 12 House and Senate leaders filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of plaintiffs. Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County, v. Talevski.
The brief argues that federal spending program beneficiaries like Medicaid should have the right to use a private enforcement mechanism under Section 1983 of U.S. Code to sue government-funded facilities for violating their civil rights.
Should that mechanism be eliminated, the lawmakers contend that federal-state programs would be left with “limited oversight” due to insufficient resources and individuals without recourse should states neglect their care.
Get up to speed: This case involves Gorgi TalevskiA family claims that a dementia patient, now deceased, was abused in a nursing home run by the Health and Hospital Corp. Marion County, Indiana. Because the adult care home was publicly owned, the patient’s family argued it could sue the corporation for allegedly violating Talevski’s rights under the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act — but the corporation behind the nursing home disagreed, appealing several lower court rulings that sided with the Talevskis. Oral arguments will be heard by the high court in the case in November.
This week, both the Senate and House of Representatives are present. Here’s what we’re watching over the next few days:
Tuesday: The House Rules Committee Meeting to discuss the Mental Health Matters Act, and other pieces.
Thursday: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform A hearing will be held to discuss the threat to patients of a ban on abortion in the country; House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Innovative approaches to veteran suicide prevention will be discussed.
- Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., is chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee, Emergency Preparedness and Response and Recovery. A congressional delegation was sent to Puerto Rico to supervise the inauguration. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to Hurricane Fiona.
- Friday’s Arizona Judge reinstated an abortion ban that was in place since the mid-19th Century. lifting a decades-old injunction that means the procedure is effectively illegal in the state at all times except when a pregnant woman’s life is at risk, our colleague Andrew Jeong writes.
- Moderna has asked federal regulators to assist with this request. emergency use authorization Use it as a booster shot to the omicron targeting coronavirus booster for children aged 6-11 and adolescents aged 12-17 years. Reuters reports.
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‘Other Places in the Country Didn’t Do This’: How One California Town Survived Covid Better Than the Rest (By Victoria Colliver | Politico)
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