[Edie Heipel is the Political Correspondent for the Washington, D.C. bureau of Catholic News Agency, where this article was published on October 21, 2022 (www.catholicnewsagency.com). It is reprinted here with permission.]
An article published this week by The Guardian that purports to show that an unborn child “is not visible” until after 10 weeks of pregnancy is “intentionally misleading,” says a board-certified OB-GYN.
The photos accompanying the article, she says, have been manipulated—because the embryo would be clearly visible at this stage of development.
Misleading images claim ‘no visible embryo’
The article, titled “What a pregnancy actually looks like before 10 weeks—in pictures,” by Poppy Noor, includes a series of photos supplied by the My Abortion Network (MYA Network) showing what it says is “what tissue in the first nine weeks of pregnancy actually looks like.“
The MYA Network, directed by Dr. Joan Fleischman, states on its website that it is a “network of clinicians who are expanding early abortion options in primary care settings.” The group offers consultations for early abortions, primarily by abortion pills that women can take at home.
The Guardian’s article states that “patients may come in for an abortion fearful [having] looked at images online,” referring to the many images showing the humanity of an unborn child, even in the earliest stages of pregnancy.
Fleischman said these images make many people “[expect] to see a little fetus with hands—a developed, miniature baby.”
The photos included in the article, however, do not appear to include the embryo at all. Instead, they depict white pieces of the gestational sac and surrounding decidual tissue.
Fleischman says patients are “stunned” when they see the images of what an abortion “actually looks like.”
“This is everything that would be removed during an abortion and includes the nascent embryo, which is not easily discernible to the naked eye. Showing this tissue can be a relief to patients,” the article reads.
Dr. Christina Francis, board member and CEO-elect of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), called Fleischman’s claims misleading.
“The ‘pregnancy tissue’ photographed by My Abortion Network in this article has clearly been significantly manipulated to the point of being intentionally misleading,” Francis told CNA.
“These pictures, combined with the commentary in the article, erroneously assert that a 6-10 week pregnancy is just a clump of cells, nothing more, or that it’s too small to be seen without a microscope,” she explained.
“This organization’s website states that they removed portions of the tissue and washed off the blood to show ‘the gestational sac alone.’ This means either they removed the embryo from the pregnancy tissue, or the embryo has been so destroyed by the abortion process that it cannot be distinguished from the rest of the tissue photographed,” she said.
“A gestational sac is all we see in early pregnancies (see photos above) as the embryo is not yet visible,” the website states. “What you see here is the gestational sac alone.”
Francis debunked MYA Network’s claims, saying that a fetus at that stage would be clearly visible.
“In fact, between 6 and 10 weeks’ gestation, the embryo grows into a fetus, from the size of a baked bean to the size of a prune. In many cases, they are, in fact, visible to the naked eye. Many women who have experienced a miscarriage or medication abortion can attest to this,” she said.
“This article is insulting to those women, and the misinformation within it does a disservice to all women. It intends to dehumanize preborn human beings, but anyone who has sat through a basic human development class or visited a pregnancy website should be able to see through it,” she said.
“The Guardian has deceitfully and strategically chosen to feature an image of the gestational sac around the preborn child, while deceptively refusing to show the humanity of the child,” Noah Brandt, vice president of communications for Live Action, told CNA.
“Lying to women by entirely removing the beating heart, developing organs, and little toes of the person in the womb, calls into question the integrity of The Guardian,” he added.
MYA Network also claims that unborn children do not have heartbeats.
“At six weeks of pregnancy the so-called ‘heartbeat’ is just electrical activity of cells, before an actual heart is formed,” their website states—even though the longstanding medical consensus is that an unborn child’s heart begins to beat by six weeks’ gestation.
The group says its goal is to “counter misinformation with facts about what pregnancy tissue looks like in an early abortion or miscarriage.”
The MYA Network did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.