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A fetus doesn’t try to “move away” during an abortion. Busting the myth.

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.



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.

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


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.

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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.


14 thoughts on “A fetus doesn’t try to “move away” during an abortion. Busting the myth.

  1. I hope zdogg learns from this. I’m sure he’s seen her post

    Posted by Patti Reynolds | May 28, 2019, 6:48 pm
  2. 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.

    Posted by Candice North | May 28, 2019, 6:51 pm
  3. Thank you! As always, truthful and beautifully written.

    Posted by Katie McBrine | May 28, 2019, 7:18 pm
  4. 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.

    Posted by Marie A Whaley | May 28, 2019, 9:47 pm
  5. thank you thank you thank you thank you

    Posted by Susan Twining | May 29, 2019, 1:21 pm
  6. 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?

    Posted by Emily | May 29, 2019, 1:53 pm
  7. 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.

    Posted by LNS | May 29, 2019, 3:42 pm
  8. 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.

    Posted by shokee ahmed | May 30, 2019, 9:20 am
  9. Dr. Gunter,
    Why aren’t nonprofit organizations available to promote vasectomy? Why isn’t anybody talking about it?
    Thank you for permanently enlightening us!

    Posted by Rebecca Bracamontes | June 1, 2019, 3:45 pm
  10. I’m very surprised that ZDogg went that route. He’s supposed to be a bullshit buster, not a perpetuator of it.

    Posted by Lori B | June 1, 2019, 5:18 pm
  11. 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.

    Posted by shokee ahmed | June 3, 2019, 3:47 am

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