December 15, 2011

Calling a miscarried baby a "fetus" or "fetal corpse."

At a memorial service for their lost child, the Duggar family distributed photographs showing a closeup of a parent's hand holding the tiny feet — "There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world" — and holding the tiny hand. Someone at the service tweeted the photographs. Noted. I have nothing to say about whether any of that is a good idea. I'm only making a blog post to show you  the way 2 prominent websites talked about it. I'm adding boldface. First, TMZ:
The family from TLC's "19 Kids & Counting" chose a unique way to commemorate the life of their 20th child, who passed away this week in a miscarriage -- they took an artsy picture of the fetal corpse ... and distributed it at the memorial.
And Jezebel:
Few among us have never made a judgey comment about the Duggars, however everyone's trying to be sensitive in light of the sad news that Michelle Duggar suffered a miscarriage. But now there's this bit of holy shit: TMZ is running dead fetus photos that the Duggars distributed at Jubilee Shalom Duggar's memorial service today.
They had to say "fetus" (or "fetal corpse"), didn't they? Why? It seems like a strange migration of abortion-rights ideology into a place where it doesn't belong.

I would think that even strong proponents of access to abortion would reject the use of the word "fetus" in the context of a family holding a memorial service and declaring that the deceased being left its mark on the world. Strong supporters of abortion rights accord a woman maximum control over the question of what that entity inside her womb is.

That's why Obama said "That's above my pay grade" and why the Supreme Court said "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Mrs. Duggar obviously believed this was a baby.

68 comments:

Psychedelic George said...

Ah, Jezebel....one of the internet's sleazier destinations for young female readers.

Here is a sampling of headlines there now:

Guys Aren't Always Thinking with Their Dicks

Our Favorite Mortician Explains How You Can Have Her Job

Naval Officer Jailed After Creepy Spanking Incident

Wonder Woman and She-Hulk Give Themselves Breast Exams in Mozambique

and my favorite

Dirt Bag: Selena Gomez Plans to Give Justin Bieber an Engagement Ring for Christmas

Pogo said...

That mere clump of parasitic cells made something that look a lot like feet. Weird!

MadisonMan said...

Not what I would do, but I'm not them.

Every person will deal with grief in a different way. If this helps them, what is the harm?

I certainly would not have tweeted a photo of it, though. Are you there to support the family, or not? Tweeting from a funeral seems very Look at me!!.

Rumpletweezer said...

It's not complicated. If you want it, it's a baby. If you don't want it, it's a fetus. If you don't really care, then it's still a fetus.

Pogo said...

Tiny steps almost real
Tiny fingers you almost feel

Almost human beneath that Cuban heel.

Scott M said...

Mrs. Duggar obviously believed this was a baby.

The crux of the matter. The law is entirely based upon the whim of the pregnant woman, is it not?

We had a case locally a while back where a drunk driver hit a pregnant woman and killed both of them. The defense attorney caught wind that the deceased mother had planned on aborting and had told some of her friends this. The father maintained that she had changed her mind and was going to keep the baby.

How is law supposed to operate on such a gimbled plane?

pm317 said...

That's why Obama said "That's above my pay grade"

While you appreciate Obama's profundity, I say he thinks most everything to be above his pay grade. Calling 'present' is easy.

the quietist said...

You missed the real giveaway here: by calling it a "corpse," they are implying that it is dead. And something can't be dead if it wasn't first alive.

Like you, I am technically pro-choice but am turned off by those who, like Jezebel, pretend for political reasons that the issue isn't fraught with moral complexities. It's moments like these that expose the hollowness and willful blindness of their rhetoric.

traditionalguy said...

In traditional families, back when children were loved as real God created persons, it was customary to see small tombstones in many family's plots next to the parents graves naming the miscarried child with its DOB and DOD the same date.

The death of a child was a moment that evoked sad memories for the rest of the family members for the rest of their lives.

People were a far cry from existentialists back then. They lived their human emotions in full.

Scott M said...

That mere clump of parasitic cells made something that look a lot like feet. Weird!

I never bought the "clump of cells" argument. If you take a strand of hair or inner-cheek scrapings and shove it all up in there, it won't make a baby. More than likely, you'll get an infection...which is sort of the opposite.

Meade said...

Every child, a wanted child; every unwanted child, a fetal corpse.

caplight45 said...

Anybody know how far along she was in the pregnancy?

caplight45 said...

Sad fact is that the Planned Parenthood/NARAL crowd have always had to lie to sell their agenda and now they are stuck with it. Their greatest enemy is 4D ultrasound imaging.

Christopher in MA said...

They should have just followed the SCOAMF's lead and called it a "punishment."

rcommal said...

I miscarried earlier than Duggar did, and while there was no service, we did plant a tree, my "XXXXXX tree" in our front yard to which I refer by the name that baby would have had if born.

Two of my neighbors, whom we didn't know as well then as we do now (this was many years ago, now) but did know how much that child was wanted and anticipated, sent cards, one with flowers. For me, these were among the kindest, most compassionate actions that took place during that time, quite surprising and certainly unexpected (from people other than family).

I don't think my neighbors' response would have been appropriate for everyone, but it absolutely was to me. And while I wouldn't personally choose a public memorial under the circumstances, much less share a picture (or appreciate someone tweeting it!), that is just me. What's right for me isn't always right for someone else, and vice versa. (By the way, if a woman referred to her own miscarriage as the death of her fetus, I wouldn't correct her, either.)

I just don't get why it's so "holy shit" to Jezebel that Michelle Duggar chose to respond to her miscarriage in the way that made sense to her and her family and is consistent with their beliefs.

Scott M said...

Their greatest enemy is 4D ultrasound imaging.

Connected to a 3D poly-printer. You can take the image from a 3D/4D scan and have it almost instantly "print" out a to-scale model of the baby that's inside you.

THAT probably has the PP crowd quite concerned.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think it's less about the abortion rights language and more about sticking it to the other tribe. They would never use that language in reference to a miscarriage experienced by one of their own. They think that because it's the Duggars, it's of great humor to treat them terribly.

Firehand said...

I once said that if someone decided to abort, that's a decision they had to make, and deal with the consequences of; but the way it's become treated simply as another birth-control method seriously creeps me out.

Thus we have this kind of language at places like Jezebel: they can't afford to treat this as anything BUT a 'fetus' that doesn't really count, because if they ever begin to see it otherwise...

rcommal said...

"Judgey": ugh!!! The word is judgmental, and "judgey" is just a mealy-mouthed way of trying not to own it while being it.

/OT

CatherineM said...

When a friend was 7 weeks pregnant, she put her sonogram pic on the refridgerator. What NARAL would call a clump of cells looked very much like a human baby.

NARAL and NOW went crazy with "Lacy's Law" too. They were upset that Lacy's baby was treated like a human being. It's ridiculous.

Fen said...

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence"

Define one's own, not another's.

Bill said...

I had a family friend who suffered a devastating miscarriage this past year. My children babysit for her first two children and they were devastated as well. The picture (like the one in the article), and the subsequent funeral mass, and graveside service, were not just an important part of the grieving process for all of us, they brought home the reality of the prolife/prochoice debate to my children in a way that I could not. It was like the cement to the foundation I was trying to lay for them.

Also, curious: blogger tags 'prolife' as being misspelled, but not 'prochoice'. I checked Merriam/Webster.com and they show both as being hyphenated. I checked dictionary.com and they show both as being not hyphenated. Google returns 'prolife' as is, but returns 'prochoice' with "did you mean 'pro choice'?"

Scott M said...

Google returns 'prolife' as is, but returns 'prochoice' with "did you mean 'pro choice'?"

Odd considering most of the last names on the abortion rights side are also hyphenated.

Curious George said...

"Freeman Hunt said...
I think it's less about the abortion rights language and more about sticking it to the other tribe. They would never use that language in reference to a miscarriage experienced by one of their own. They think that because it's the Duggars, it's of great humor to treat them terribly." Yes, much like the do with Trig Palin, who has long passed the fetus stage.

SarcastiCarrie said...

@caplight45: I would guess she was about 18-20 weeks pregnant. She was due "in April," and they are referring to this as a miscarriage and not a still birth. A still birth would be after 20 weeks (and to be due in April, she had been at least 18 weeks).

Jeff with one 'f' said...

It was common practice for over a century to take pictures of the recently deceased, and not in a coffin, either. I have a book called Sleeping Beauties that has examples of mothers holding their daed babies (dressed in baptism dresses), families posing with a seated dead parent or grandparent, etc.

The ignoramuses that find this a "holy shit" action once again demonstrate the lack of historical knowledge and disregard for their own culture. Which makes sense given their desire for unending Change.

prairie wind said...

Odd considering most of the last names on the abortion rights side are also hyphenated.

C'mon, Scott. That's a stupid generalization. My name and whether it is hyphenated or not says nothing about how I feel about abortion.

They think that because it's the Duggars, it's of great humor to treat them terribly.

Exactly right.

Scott M said...

That's a stupid generalization.

Snark usually is.

edutcher said...

Guessing here, but I think the Duggars have gotten a little too much into being on TV.

IIRC, TLC is part of the Discovery group and they're very PC. Aren't they the ones running that "All-American Moslem" thing?

rcommal said...

"Judgey": ugh!!! The word is judgmental, and "judgey" is just a mealy-mouthed way of trying not to own it while being it

I guess they figure saying, "judgmental", violates being non-judgmental.

Tim said...

"It seems like a strange migration of abortion-rights ideology into a place where it doesn't belong."

Seems like?

Can't we just call it as it is - that it is a strange, Orwellian perversion of the language to defend the willful taking of another human life for what is almost always the convenience of the mother?

Petunia said...

Maybe they used the word "fetus" because that is the correct medical term?

Mrs. Duggar was 19 weeks pregnant.

Interesting how the Duggar parents were on the phone to People magazine shortly after they told their children the bad news. I'm sure their grief is very real, but they also have a very real hunger for publicity.

prairie wind said...

Snark usually is.

Yeah, I know. This one stung because I use my maiden name with my married name, (though no hyphen)and I am adamantly against abortion.

MadisonMan said...

Guessing here, but I think the Duggars have gotten a little too much into being on TV.

Yes. You put your life out in public, and people will comment on it. I don't think the Duggars are complaining about the comments. If they are, they should look in the mirror when they complain.

Scott M said...

Maybe they used the word "fetus" because that is the correct medical term?

Mental illness was used to describe homosexuality by psychologists up until relatively recently, was it not? My point being that such definition are not absolute or immutable.

Peter said...

-- That's why Obama said "That's above my pay grade" and why the Supreme Court said "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." --
That Supreme quote is from Justice Kennedy's decision (voiding a sodomy law in Texas). All very New-Agey, do you really buy it? And Obama's comment isn't too profound either.

Scott M said...

And Obama's comment isn't too profound either.

Oh, it's profound, but not in the way POTUS intended.

David said...

No matter what the law says, it was a baby. Just take a look. Then watch how you feel.

Renee said...

Maybe in the same way I don't believe in photos at funerals/open caskets, I'm not a fan of the public viewing of a still born/miscarried fetus/child. I completely understand why parents take pictures and would do the same if it was me, but just like some instances it is better to mourn in a more personal manner and not a public one, even if they're publicly known.

tim in vermont said...

Read the comments and tell me whose side in this you would rather be on.

The only hope is that these [expletive deleted] are removing themselves from the gene pool voluntarily.

Carnifex said...

Another true story from my life.

A friend of mines wife was fooling around on him, and eventually ran off with a POS, who had 4 kids by 3 women already. She gets preggers, and surprise, the POS drops her like a hot potato. She begs to come home.

My friend, let her come back because the had a child that was 9 at the time, on the condition that she get an abortion.

Some would consider that a reasonable request, but not my wife and I. So we talked and argued, and talked to him, and he agreed to let her carry the baby to term, and keep it.

My wife and I are pro-life obviously. She didn't start that way, but I convinced her of the sanctity of life. What really turned her was when she finally learned what partial birth abortion was, and how "pro-choice" advocates endorse it as business as usual.

The child was born, a health little boy. That was 2 years ago, and he and his "DADA" are inseparable.

The best part is that my friend was my stepson, and the baby is my grandchild. I'm "Pappaw 'Teve", my wife is "Mammaw" and that child is the light in our life. It's like he knows a conscious decision was reached to keep him and love him.

Abortion is murder period. The "fetus" is not a tumor. It has a different DNA than the mother, it is a separate entity. The only innocent person in the whole affair is the baby, so why do they pay the ultimate penalty?

And yes I hold this true for rape and incest. Its not easy to be consistent in those cases but it is what it is.

rhhardin said...

Whether it's a baby or not depends on whether it has a relationship with the world, most likely with the parents; and it's in the parents' minds that you look, not the fetus/baby's.

When it's born society has a relationship with it - lots of people caring what happens to it.

That's a fairly good bright line, and workable.

What changes in the fetus/baby itself when it's born? Not much.

So these parents have set up the nursery, bought the baseball glove and bat, and so forth. It fits in plans for it. They have a loss, and the baby had a soul.

Do not look at the fetus/baby for a soul but at the parents.

A body individuates us; a soul relates us to others.

That's a matter of grammar, part of learning how to use the word.

Things start to go wrong then the word is made theoretical: it must be something in the baby itself if we talk about it as if it were, with the sentence structure as if it were.

Not so.

Geoff Matthews said...


I would think that even strong proponents of access to abortion would reject the use of the word "fetus" in the context of a family holding a memorial service and declaring that the deceased being left its mark on the world.


And yet, they so clearly did.

Bender said...

That Supreme Court quote is, more to the point, from the Casey abortion decision.

And its idea that one can choose their own truth was nonsense on stilts then, and is now, and was nonsensical the first time it was posited, when the serpent said it to the woman in the Garden.

Bender said...

"Choice" has always been a one-way street. There has always been only one "choice" -- to abort. That is why pro-abortionists go all ape-sh*t over the "choose life" license plates.

purplepenquin said...

While scripture doesn't always directly translate well into actual law, I beleive that Genesis 2:7 makes it very clear at which point a "clump of cells" becomes a living person.

That said, seeing how they are harming no others then this family should be allowed to mourn in whatever manner they wish to. I knew a guy who held a funereal for the two fingers he had lost in an accident. At first we all thought it was a joke, but the guy was serious...

Scott M said...

While scripture doesn't always directly translate well into actual law, I beleive that Genesis 2:7 makes it very clear at which point a "clump of cells" becomes a living person.

So which is it, PP? Each human is a god? Or that each new human is made out of dust? Could it possibly be that 2:7 is describing how God made Adam and Adam only? No, surely not.

The Unknown Pundit said...

As I understand it, fetus is the Latin word for offspring. Abortion rights advocates use the word because it sounds sciency and it isn't the word "baby". I can understand why they do so.

purplepenquin said...

Or that each new human is made out of dust

Keep on reading past the verse I provided for you, and you'll eventually get to Genesis 3:19.

Hopefully that'll help shed some light on your spiritual journey...

Scott M said...

So was your cite a typo or were you being purposefully inaccurate for some reason?

Kelly said...

This isn't really unique. Many hospitals even off photography services when a woman suffers a loss because it helps with the grief process. Little feet are most common, but if the 'fetus' is in good shape then sleeping style pictures are also often used.

I remember Santorum's family got some grief for doing something similar. I don't remember the circumstances exactly, but they had a stillbirth and I believe they let all of the children hold the body and took pictures of them all together.

Bart DePalma said...

Advocates of abortion can only justify the killing if the unborn are consistently reduced to subhuman status.

If the miscarried are granted the status of children for the purposes of memorial services then the rationalization is defeated and abortion becomes the mass murder of children rather than the mere "termination of a fetuses."

This is why abortion advocates so fiercely oppose criminalizing the killing of the unborn outside of the abortion context.

paul a'barge said...

Mrs. Duggar obviously believed this was a baby.

it had hands.

It had feet.

What the hell do YOU call it?

Sigivald said...

I - perhaps unlike the people who write for Jezebel - actually know a fair number of women who are or have been deliberately pregnant with the intention of producing a child (and who have indeed successfully done so).

Not one of them has, as far as I know, held that the fetus (in the medical sense, not the War Of Abortion Rights sense) was Just A Clump Of Cells Or A Parasite They Shouldn't Care About - every one of them has thought about it in the way that was completely uncontroversial only a few decades ago, as a baby.

I have no strong opinion about abortion, other than that I oppose the way people want to have it both ways; "it's a baby if I want it and just a clump of cells otherwise" strikes me as fundamentally dishonest at the philosophical level.

The essence of the being cannot depend on your opinion, especially in a way that lets you flip-flop back and forth until the 6th month, when it magically [by law, not philosophy] becomes Definitely A Baby.

If you think the mother's self-determination rights outweigh the interest of a potential person to grow to actuality, that's honest and prima facie defensible. The same goes for the same equation with the valuations reversed.

Own it and argue it, and I'll give you credit for both. Hell, I might even agree with you, or at very least I won't say you're wrong axiomatically, in either direction.

Grown-ups can admit that moral questions are questions of valuations, and that in some cases the valuations are not obviously correct at any given magnitude against other valuations and their magnitudes.

Try to tell me, however, that either set of interests/rights doesn't exist, except when you want them to (or at all!), and I'll mock you for a stance that's at best incoherent and at worst deceitful.

(Reason number 476 why I think everyone should have some philosophical training beaten into them during their education.)

andinista said...

ProffAA sez "I would think even strong proponents of access to abortion would reject the use of the word "fetus" ..."

Dey wood nottt Dat asuumz we havv a civili sociitie Dey hv a monopo on liiff n detthh, a licenss to killl, an absolu right to kill yr own babiess 4 any arbitrary reeson atall We don hv absolu rights 2 speech, 2 firearms, 2 be secur in our homess D langual bout "helthh of d mother" izz a sham, to securr n absolu right to kill

D exercisers of dat securrd right will go 2 any length 2 keep it Once uu have a right to kill, no morals can constrainn uu

Saint Croix said...

strong supporters of abortion rights accord a woman maximum control over the question of what that entity inside her womb is.

Yeah, exactly, and it's utter horseshit. The baby is a human baby or an alien fetus. We do not get to bend reality to our will and change the baby's reality to comport with our ideology. We can't do this because there is an objective reality outside of our will.

Either all these happy pregnant moms who say "baby" are delusional, or the we are lying when we say "fetus" in order to make killing a baby easier on us.

It's an Orwellian use of language. We change the name of the baby in order to change the status of the baby. Fetus is the kill word, baby is the love word.

Fuck this hypocrisy. It's one or the other. You can't have it both ways.

Rick67 said...

Freedom (to call regard/call the fetus however I determine) for me, not for thee.

If that isn't the symptomatic hypocrisy of the left.

Freeman Hunt said...

Rhhardin, unless Wittgenstein had it wrong, which I think he did.

Don said...

Another reminder about what an anachronism "maternal" has come to be. I mean, come on, Ms. Duggars, get with the 21st century program - childbearing is no more than taking a dump anymore. Wasn't expressing gratitude that his mother rejected doctors' recommendations that she abort him how Tim Tebow wound up being most hated quarterback? Its as if though for the majority of Americans failure to genuflect at the altar of "abortion is no big thing" is an unforgivable crime. Oddly, I don't believe that Althouse ever has commented on Tebow. I guess its that the law doesn't really see any connection between a "fetus" and a "baby." The latter just sort of springs into existence at some judicially determined moment and gets whatever rights the courts decide to give them.

andinista said...

Rick67: Saint Croix izz talkin moralls, not legalls

kill it = fetus
cherish it = babbyy
-----
pay it = human employee (w/ rights)
buy it = non-human slavv (w/o rights)

Mos peeps 2day consider d lattr 2 b morall repuggn, azz all peeps hv rights Jus cuz somebodd is a slavv, dey are still a full human. Wat uu must honestly sayy is, uu r denyin dat persons rights

Yr rights r gifts from God. Babbyss r gifts from God Uu wanna kill babbys, den hv d courage to sayso honestly

Scott M said...

The effort you put into purposefully misspelling in an attempt at schtick is outweighing the value of what you're misspelling.

Jason said...

Cue garage mahal to come in and refer to the unborn baby as a "seahorse."

Fuck you, Garage.

Just saying that, preemptively.

Leeatmg said...

Nicely said, Ms. Althouse. Nicely said.

This is why you are popular - if I had only one word to describe your "take" on all things, it would be "fair" or perhaps "reasonable." Thanks for that.

rhhardin said...

Rhhardin, unless Wittgenstein had it wrong, which I think he did.

It's not Wittgenstein's opinion. You can do it yourself.

Things don't necesarily take the form that the construction of sentences has them taking.

"I believed the chair would support my weight" is not a report of believing, but a report of having given the matter no thought.

It's very hard to convince a philosopher or dogmatist that there wasn't an act of believing going on, because they think language works top-down; and they then torture themselves trying to resolve what believing might be with this as a data point.

Whereas what happens is that believing plays certain roles in language, and the question is to figure out what they are.

Soul is similar. Think of when you say somebody has a soul, or lacks a soul. What else is true?

Somebody dies and you say their soul has gone away. It's also true that your relationship has disappeared, even though the body remains. A death is a grammatical problem, which is not belittling it.

You can be curious about this (Wittgenstein) or not (Russell).

Russell was a top-down guy.

andinista said...

Scott M: ur riitt, i knoww, evrybodd sezz it, mee 2; but its not shticc, its an extendd experimall When I get it riitt, uu shld b abl 2 reed it eezy

Carol_Herman said...

Nature did her a favor.

Nature, herself, stops the process when there's a defect in the fetus.

What? You can't see it? Doesn't mean it wasn't there!

Big hullabaloo over nothing.

If this moron is so hot to get pregnant, again, let her do it next month.

Job said...

Take your medicine, Carol.

No skipping doses.

Kirk Parker said...

"no skipping doses"

That's one in the morning, one midday, and one at bedtime.

And remember--this is very important--you need to stay off your computer for 12 hours after every dose.

Freeman Hunt said...

Rhhardin,

Just commenting to say that I'm not ignoring what you wrote; I'm thinking about it.

My first impulse has been to write that grammar doesn't work in ethics because the cultural grammar will not contain new insights, that a cultural grammar could be tyrannical and oppressive and that there is, I think, room for a top down approach in challenging grammar. As for the fetus/baby issue specifically, I would apply this by saying that while we have two words for these things, those words originate more in the medical sense and have been adopted readily by a culture desiring greater justification for acceptance of abortion. I am not sure, however, that the distinction can be made in the ethical sense or that the grammar of fetus/baby corresponds to objective moral reality. I think the grammar can be in error. I realize that Wittgenstein would reject that, (How? In error compared to what? By what standard?) but that's where I think he went wrong.

However, I'm going to give this more thought.