WebMD, fetuses and babies.

The Best of the Web from the Wall Street Journal noted a very interesting bit of wording relating to how WebMD treats pre-natal infants. According to the Best of the Web from February 15, WebMD.com has . . .

A page called "Your Pregnancy Week by Week: Weeks 9-12" [which] is chock full of antichoice propaganda. "By the end of the third month," it outrageously claims, "your baby is fully formed. Your baby has arms, hands, fingers, feet and toes and can open and close its fists and mouth."

They mean the third month of pregnancy, not the third month after the kid is born. That's right, what they're talking about isn't a baby at all but a fetus. In case the antichoice fanatics have you flummoxed, the following definitions are helpful:

fetus: a clump of tissue.

baby: one of those little--sorry, vertically challenged--persons that the village raises while his or her mother pursues a fulfilling career.

But the WebMD folks are either hopelessly confused or part of a sinister plot against reproductive rights. Look what it says under Week 10:

Congratulations! Your baby is now officially called a "fetus."

This is a contradiction in terms, a nonsensical statement. It's like saying, "Congratulations! Your accountant is now officially called a 'tumor.' " But of course the radical right wants to propagate the myth that a fetus is somehow "human" so as to further its agenda of heteronormative white male supremacy.

If the WebMD pages seem confused, it is because they are. The problem isn't that the WebMD website is inaccurate. The problem is that the use of terms relating to the pre-birth humans is hopelessly confused by politics. We cannot use terms that accurately reflect reality because that may be giving ground to the other side in the political debate.

Personally, I hope that we can, at minimum, stop equivocating on terms with this very important issue. If the pro-life and pro-abortion crowds could agree on terms, it may be a step in resolving this issue. But, of course, we cannot do that because the issue is too political. Even in this post, I call the people who want to be called "pro-choice" "pro-abortion" because I think pro-choice is misleading. But, of course, they think that my phrase "pro-life" is miseleading.

If we cannot even agree on terms, I think we are a long way from coming to any real agreement. But if we cannot agree on terms, ridiculous items like this WebMD pages on fetuses that are babies will continue to pop up.


Sleep-Deprived said…
Interesting post BK.

I am prolife, but I also understand the medical community using medical terms to refer to different stages of development of the baby (i.e. Blastocyst, Embryo, Fetus). Each time I have been pregnant I have referred to my baby as a baby (regardless of the stage of development). At the same time, I have referred to the "stage of development" - (i.e. "our baby is now considered a fetus" etc.) I viewed it more as a milestone, recognizing achievements of age and development indicative of the increasing probability of a healthy birth. My thinking on that was no different with our first baby who never made it to the "fetal" stage, or our three sons who continued their development to birth (and beyond).

I think the problem is when the baby is taken out of context and referred to as a stage of development. I wouldn't want WebMD saying "your blastocyst is almost an embryo," or "your embryo is almost a fetus."

So while I agree with what you are saying about the terms being politicized, I believe there are valid reasons for the "terms" the medical community is using to describe the baby's stage of development.
BK said…
Hmmm. Let me clear up the confusion. The WebMD page says that at "the end of the third month your baby is fully formed" and "Congratulations! Your baby is now officially called a "fetus," here: http://www.webmd.com/content/article/64/72364.htm

You asked who wrote it? I assume the people at WebMD wrote it. It is published on their website. As for your statement that it "sounds like it came from a non-medical professional, or someone who is being sarcastic to mock the pro-abortion position", well, I leave that up to you to decide which.

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