The lie or myth or mistaken belief (depending on intentions, I suppose) that the fetus tries to “escape” or “move away” during an abortion is common.

It was in the recent forced birth propaganda movie, Unplanned. (Yes, there’s a shocker).

Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 10.54.01 AM

It also made an appearance in a recent video by ZDoggMD (Dr. Zubin Damania). ZDoggMD, who is not an OB/GYN, claims that as a medical student he witnessed an abortion and saw the fetus move away from “the probe on the ultrasound” used to guide an abortion.

Actually, he used more emotional language than move, he said “get away.”

This experience contributed to his distaste for abortion. I am not linking to he video, but here’s a relevant screenshot. There are many other serious issues with the video, but this mistaken belief about fetal movement in response to pain is so pervasive I felt it deserved to be addressed individually.

zdoggMD.JPG

 

One doesn’t really need to be a doctor to know that a fetus doesn’t move away from an ultrasound probe, otherwise no fetal ultrasound could ever be performed.

But I digress.

My guess as an expert would that ZDoggMedStudent confused the ultrasound probe with the suction catheter or forceps. The ultrasound is applied abdominally and the suction catheter and forceps are used vaginally. A med student might not know that fact. Also, a medical student can’t interpret an ultrasound on the fly during a procedure. Sorry.

So does a fetus try to move from a suction catheter or forceps?

A fetus before 24 weeks (when the procedures in Unplanned and ZDoggMD’s video apparently happened) is certainly not capable of pain as the structures required to turn sensation into something noxious do not exist. A noxious signal is required to trigger movement, reflexive or otherwise.

The whole idea of a fetus fleeing a procedure to those of us who are experts is simply ridiculous. The science and biology of pain and coordinated movement aside, the fact that fetuses don’t move from needles is a big reason why we use ultrasound in real time for an amniocentesis. We don’t want to stick the fetus. Fetal injury by amniocentesis is actually well described. Skin dimpling from the needle piercing the skin is the most common, but a serious eye injury and other injuries have been reported.

One study tells us about the rate of accidental fetal injury from the needle during amniocentesis. In this study an ultrasound was performed and an area on the maternal abdomen marked for the point of needle insertion. The ultrasound was removed and the needle was inserted through the maternal abdomen into the uterus. If fluid came back the assumption was the needle was in amniotic fluid and hence positioned correctly. If no fluid came back, an ultrasound was done to see where the needle was. Overall, 27 times out of 460 procedures in total the needle was sticking in the fetus for an overall 6% rate of fetal injury.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 6.16.25 PM

Surely that rate should be zero if a fetus could move in response to pain?

Sigh.

Anyone who suggests a fetus “flees” or “fights” or tries to “get away” in response to pain or the fear of pain has not actually understood an abortion if they have seen one, doesn’t understand a thing about fetal development, and is wildly unaware of what happens during invasive diagnostic procedures. So they are either not informed — so not an expert –or are producing forced-birth propaganda. Those are the only two logical answers.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.49.59 PM

 

This is a photo from an amniocentesis. If a fetus moved from a needle it would be further away from the needle, hey? Like down bottom in that big pocket of amniotic fluid on the right.

So please, let’s leave medical “Ask me anythings” to the experts who actually understand the “anythings.”

Because facts matter, you know? Even more so that lies are becoming legislation.

Join the Conversation

18 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. It is much too common in today’s society and media, to give airtime and therefore credibility to those who are not experts on a topic. Just bc one is a doc, does not mean they can adequately discuss topics outside their trained field. I as a FM Hospitalist, would not try to post videos about surgical topics, etc and neither should Zdogg.

  2. The description of a fetus attempting to “escape” or avoid an abortion was a major feature in the anti-abortion film “The Silent Scream” produced by Bernard Nathanson in the early 1980’s. Its fundamental argument that the fetus was capable of “knowing” it was in danger.

  3. So if we were to extend the benefit of the doubt to those who have purportedly seen this happen, what could explain their observation? Unrelated or random movements?

  4. Very informative article. It completely refutes the emotional claims of the video’s creator. He was misguidedly presenting his incorrect opinions as scientific fact, which is a disservice to the public.

  5. Jen, you are doing a good job for busting incorrect information on many different medical issues. As you are an expert so your opinion in presenting correct information to your readers in commendable!! Love and hugs as
    a renumeration for your nice efforts.

  6. Dr. Gunter,
    Why aren’t nonprofit organizations available to promote vasectomy? Why isn’t anybody talking about it?
    Thank you for permanently enlightening us!

  7. I’m very surprised that ZDogg went that route. He’s supposed to be a bullshit buster, not a perpetuator of it.

    1. He ended saying he thought maybe their should be some restrictions on abortion so I guess he is not for evidence based medicine on reproductive health or autonomy.

  8. As Jen is doing a very nice job in educating his readers on ticklish medical issues so well, hence, I send love hugs
    and kisses to her in recognition of nice efforts and services from the core of my heart!! Kudos.

  9. Can anyone explain to menn why US doctors insist om doing surgical abortions, when medical abortions are easier, cheaper and safer? I don’t get it. I work in Norway, we hardly ever do D&A, we use drugs (mifepristone and misopristol). Before 9 weeks the women can even do it at home, if they’re okay with ut. .

  10. I’m not a medical student, but I did have to get 3 vaginal ultrasounds and an external (abdominal) ultrasound when I had a miscarriage. I find it very disturbing that a medical student wouldn’t know the difference between the two.

    However, reading the provided quote, it sounds like this doctor saw on the ultrasound screen that the fetus moved away from the probe, so maybe he’s not that stupid? Though, him not knowing what the specific probe was is equally disturbing since he was a med student who should have been taught the ins and outs of the procedure! Calling it a generic probe means he wasn’t paying close enough attention to learn the procedure (his actual purpose of being there).

    Thank you for another fantastic debunking Dr. Gunter!

    1. He most likely was recalling this abortion from memory, which is not always 100%. As well as the fact your memory is shaped by your views, beliefs and education. Seeing his stance would mean any random movement, would have been perceived by him as the fetus having a conscious/unconscious response to pain stimuli, and fear/desire of life thought process. Which is not realistic or unbias, at this time, we need more then ever for our doctors to be advocating for proper, effective and real health care for people in the U.S.. Not, for them to wear blinders, because right now not only do we need support against the ludicrous anti-abortion laws, but also the ridiculous system within our over priced medications, the dang near bankruptcy of an e.r. visit or hospitalization.

      1. Dear   jen, I appeciate your efforts for spreading your medical knowledge to your countless readers all over globe!! Much love and hugs all around your body. Shokee

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