The Fetal Heartbeat “Conspiracy:” Dispelling Preferred Narratives

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Our capacity for self-delusion appears to know no bounds. Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams recently demonstrated this in an event at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia: “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.”[1] Doubling down on her absurdity, Abrams went on to assert that Georgia’s “Fetal Heartbeat Bill,” a law prohibiting abortions after the detection of an unborn child’s heartbeat that went into effect after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, is a misnomer because “that’s medically false, biologically a lie.”[2]

As if on cue, Planned Parenthood changed its website three days later, without notice, in an apparent effort to “conform to [Abram’s] political messaging against heartbeat laws.”[3] No longer does the site read, “What happens during week 5–6? … A very basic beating heart and circulatory system develop.”[4] Instead, Planned Parenthood now says that at weeks 5–6 “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.”[5]

Moreover, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted, “FWIW, ‘fetal heartbeat’ is a misnomer. The ultrasound picks up electrical activity generated by an embryo. The so-called ‘heartbeat’ sound you hear is created by the ultrasound. Not until 10 weeks can the opening and closing of cardiac valves be detected by a Doppler machine.”[6] As proof, Kessler linked to a National Public Radio report that cites abortion specialist Dr. Nisha Verma and OB-GYN and associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Jennifer Kerns.[7]

Kessler’s argument is laughable, as evidenced by a mocking “fact check” tweet: “Adult heartbeat is a misnomer. The electrocardiogram picks up electrical activity generated by an adult. That so-called heartbeat you hear is a beeping sound generated by the electrocardiogram.”[8] However, Kessler’s statement is also demonstrably false. Dr. Pradheep Shanker was quick to point out, “The NPR link you cited is WRONG. I wrote extensively about it at the time. Ultrasound only detects density and motion. It cannot detect any electrical activity at all. This is a scientific fact.” Likewise, former engineer Frank Fleming tweeted, “You don’t hear the heart in an ultrasound, you see it,” emphasizing that there is more involved in ultrasounds than audio feedback.[9]

Dr. Shanker proceeded to explain to Kessler, “However, the cardiac muscles that are located in the embryological heart are contracting. They are in fact moving inward and outward. That is how you define a beat.”[10] “[Do] the[y] beat the same as a fully grown adult beat? Of course not. We’re talking early and biological development. However, the cardiac tissue is contracting, which is literally what a beat is. To say otherwise is scientific misinformation, and cannot be treated otherwise.”[11]

Indeed, had Glenn Kessler done the least bit of investigation rather than blindly trusting an NPR report for his fact check, he would have found numerous medical articles[12][13][14][15] that affirm the existence of a developing embryonic heartbeat with “primitive heart valves that act as physical barriers that prevent the backflow of blood as it is pumped through the heart and out through the rest of the body.”[16][17][18] Indeed, according to the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine, during weeks 6 to 7, “Baby’s heart continues to grow and now beats at a regular rhythm. This can be seen by vaginal ultrasaound.”[19] The Journal of Prenatal Medicine elaborates:

Heart is a vital organ of a human. Cardiovascular development in a human embryo occurs between 3 and 6 weeks after ovulation. Cardiac function is the first sign of independent cardiac activity that can be explored with non-invasive techniques such as Doppler ultrasound.

… At the end of the 4th week of gestation, the heartbeats of the embryo begin. The heart, whose development starts at the 3rd week of gestation, has rapid and irregular contractions capable of pumping the blood inside the vessels.

At this period, the developing circulatory system allows maternal-embryonic nutritive and gaseous changes at the chorionic villi. It is well documented in the literature that, in healthy fetuses, the heart rate (HR) increases from 110 bpm [beats per minute] at the 5th week of gestation to 170 bpm at the 9th week of gestation. From then on, there is a gradual reduction in the HR that reaches a mean value of 150 bpm at the 13th week of gestation.[20]

Citing peer-reviewed research, director of Life Sciences at Charlotte Lozier Institute, Tara Sander Lee, concludes:

Most American parents have seen their baby’s beating heart during prenatal ultrasound and discussed it with their obstetrician. The mainstream media can perform Olympic-level semantics gymnastics all they want, but most Americans instinctively understand that a developing human organ which beats rhythmically and pumps blood throughout the body is, in fact, a heart.[21]

The overwhelming medical consensus is that a fetal heartbeat at 6 weeks of gestation is not a “manufactured sound” by men who are conspiring to “take control of a woman’s body,” as Stacey Abrams alleges.[22] That such an obvious truth needs to be stated in our modern culture is, itself, a sad commentary on the state of truth in America. Moreover, it is an indictment against our desire to believe our preferred narratives, despite self-evident facts that are easily verified.

Unfortunately, such tendencies toward self-delusion are not limited to political and cultural matters. We are equally as prone to self-deception in our theology as we are in our politics. Despite the self-evident and easily verified fact that God has given nations a choice between obedience that brings blessing or disobedience that brings judgment, far too many of us Americans have readily blinded ourselves to the consequences of ignoring God’s purpose for nations.

Fortunately, we have medical experts who are capable and willing to challenge Stacey Abrams’ error regarding an unborn child’s heartbeat, but where are the informed Christians who are capable and willing to challenge the church’s error regarding the inevitability of divine judgment upon a stubbornly unrepentant nation? It is this question that motivated me to write my newest book, titled, Heart of a Forerunner: How to Be a Relevant and Influential Voice in a Wayward Nation. Not only does it explore God’s redemptive purpose for nations and honestly evaluate America’s relationship with God, but it also equips Christians with practical steps to become cultural influencers.

America desperately needs relevant and influential voices who will serve as forerunners that emphasize the importance of not only individual righteousness, but also of collective righteousness. All that is necessary to become such a forerunner is a willing heart and an informed mind. Therefore, I hope you will download a free PDF copy of Heart of a Forerunner (or purchase a copy at Amazon) in order to dispel any preferred narrative and self-deception about America’s purpose, its likely future, and the choice God has given every American. Heart of a Forerunner is an easy read, brimming with Scripture and practical advice designed to equip ordinary Christians to be relevant and influential voices in our wayward nation. Together, let’s become cultural influencers who help to dispel the preferred narrative that America can continue to ignore God’s instructions and His purpose for our nation indefinitely without consequence.

Click here to download a FREE copy of Heart of a Forerunner.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. King, Ryan. “‘No Such Thing’: Stacey Abrams Claims Fetal Heartbeat at Six Weeks ‘Manufactured.’” Restoring America. Washington Examiner, September 22, 2022, 1:45 p.m. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/restoring-america/community-family/stacey-abrams-claims-fetal-heartbeat-six-weeks-manufactured.

2. King.

3. McCormack, John (@McCormackJohn). “Planned Parenthood edited its own website to conform to political messaging against heartbeat laws:” Twitter post. September 22, 2022, 8:24 a.m. https://twitter.com/McCormackJohn/status/1572924804247740418.

4. “What Happens in the Second Month of Pregnancy?” Planned Parenthood, July 25, 2022. Wayback Machine. Accessed September 27, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20220725125403/https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/pregnancy-month-by-month/what-happens-second-month-pregnancy.

5. “What Happens in the Second Month of Pregnancy?” Planned Parenthood, September 27, 2022. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/pregnancy-month-by-month/what-happens-second-month-pregnancy.

6. Kessler Glenn (@GlennKesslerWP). “FWIW, ‘fetal heartbeat’ is a misnomer. The ultrasound picks up electrical activity generated by an embryo. The so-called ‘heartbeat’ sound you hear is created by the ultrasound. Not until 10 weeks can the opening and closing of cardiac valves be detected by a Doppler machine.” Twitter post. September 22, 2022, 10:53 a.m. https://twitter.com/GlennKesslerWP/status/1572962263992000512.

7. Kessler, Glenn (@GlennKesslerWP). “This NPR report offers a detailed look at a complex subject.” Twitter post. September 22, 2022, 10:54 a.m. https://twitter.com/GlennKesslerWP/status/1572962461564764160.

8. Draw Near (@DrawNear). “Adult heartbeat is a misnomer. The electrocardiogram picks up electrical activity generated by an adult. That so-called heartbeat you hear is a beeping sound generated by the electrocardiogram.” https://twitter.com/DrawNear_/status/1573023940905259012.

9. Fleming, Frank (@IMAO_). “You don’t hear the heart in an ultrasound, you see it. I’ve seen eight-week ultrasounds many times. And if you’ve ever been a part of one where the heartbeat wasn’t there, you’d know how precious it is.” Twitter post. September 22, 2022, 2:15 p.m. https://twitter.com/IMAO_/status/1573013044971671556.

10. Shanker, Pradheep (@Neoavatara). “It is true that the valves in the heart develop later. However, the cardiac muscles that are located in the embryological heart are contracting. They are in fact moving inward and outward. That is how you define a beat.” Twitter post. September 22, 2022, 12:13 p.m. https://twitter.com/Neoavatara/status/1572982384466837507.

11. Shanker, Pradheep (@Neoavatara). “If the beat the same as a fully grown adult beat? Of course not. We’re talking early and biological development. However, the cardiac tissue is contracting, which is literally what a beat is. To say otherwise is scientific misinformation, and cannot be treated otherwise.” Twitter post. September 22, 2022, 12:15 p.m. https://twitter.com/Neoavatara/status/1572982892292177921.

12. Doubilet, P.M., Benson, C.B. “Embryonic Heart Rate in the Early First Trimester: What Rate Is Normal?” National Library of Medicine, PubMed. Journal of Ultrasound Medicine, 14, no. 6 (June, 1995): 431–434. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7658510/.

13. “Fetal Development: Stages of Growth.” Cleveland Clinic, n.d. Last updated April 16, 2020. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7247-fetal-development-stages-of-growth.

14. “You and Your Baby at 6 Weeks Pregnant.” National Health Services UK, n.d. Last updated October 12, 2021. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/week-by-week/1-to-12/6-weeks/.

15. “Pregnancy Week by Week.” Healthy Lifestyle. Mayo Clinic, June 30, 2020. https://archive.ph/AbVyx.

16. “The Science behind Embryonic Heartbeats – A Fact Sheet.” Charlotte Lozier Institute, November 3, 2021. https://lozierinstitute.org/the-science-behind-embryonic-heartbeats-a-fact-sheet/.

17. Combs, Michelle and Katherine Yutzey. “Heart Valve Development: Regulatory Networks in Development and Disease.” NIH Public Access. Circ Res. 105, no. 5 (August 28, 2009): 408–421. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.109.201566. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2777683/pdf/nihms139821.pdf.

18. Carlson, Bruce. “Development of the Heart.” Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences, Elsevier, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-801238-3.05460-X.

19. “Fetal Development.” National Library of Medicine. Medline Plus, n.d. Accessed September 27, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002398.htm.

20. Valenti, Oriana, Fosca Prima, Eliana Renda, Marianna Faraci, Entela Hyseni, Roberta De Domenico, Santo Monte and Elsa Giorgio. “Fetal Cardiac Function During the First Trimester of Pregnancy.” Journal of Prenatal Medicine, 5, no. 3 (July, 2011): 59–62. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3279166/.

21. Kamman, Samantha. “Doctors Refute Stacey Abrams’ Claim There Is ‘No Such Thing’ as Fetal Heartbeat at 6 Weeks.” Christian Post, September 24, 2022. https://www.christianpost.com/politics/doctors-refute-stacey-abrams-fetal-heartbeat-misinformation.html.

22. King, Ryan. “‘No Such Thing’: Stacey Abrams Claims Fetal Heartbeat at Six Weeks ‘Manufactured.’”

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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