Baby picture looks too real, magazine writer complains of digitally enhanced unborn child

by Michael Foust |

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – A writer for the fashion and lifestyle website Elle.com says the latest Newsweek magazine spotlighting abortion should not have featured an unborn baby on the cover, because the image likely was digitally improved and could rile up "anti-abortion sentiment."

The Dec. 25 Newsweek cover story carried the headline "America's Abortion Wars" with the image of the unborn child, and although the magazine didn't say how old the baby was, the child's head, arms and feet already were formed.

Elle writer Sady Doyle said she was "flabbergasted" by the image because it focused on "a well-developed, relatively late-term fetus with no sign of the actual person in whose uterus it is presumably housed."

"At a guess, it looks to be between twelve and fourteen weeks along – just at the upper limit of the fetal age for most abortions, or a bit older – although given the nature of its digital, um, 'improvements,' it's hard to tell," Doyle wrote. "For one thing, if the Newsweekfetus is twelve weeks along, it looks about five times bigger than the translucent, two-inch-long fetuses you normally find at that stage; this image looks less like an actual pregnancy, and more like an adorable computer-generated alien. Or to be blunt: More like a baby."

By comparing the Newsweek image to ones at WebMd.com, the baby could have been as young as nine or 10 weeks.

Doyle's column used the word "fetus" or "fetuses" 17 times and the word "baby" or "babies" four times, and she said the cover "sums up what's wrong with how we talk about abortion: Everything is about the fetus, which is humanized, and the actual pregnant person is erased."

"There's a long history of fetal images being used to scare people and rile up anti-abortion sentiment," Doyle wrote. "It's why mandatory ultrasound laws exist. It's why anti-abortion protesters hold up gory, bloody images of fetuses at protests, and why 'crisis pregnancy centers' (anti-abortion organizations that market themselves as abortion and pre-natal care clinics) show unsuspecting pregnant people movies like 'The Silent Scream,' which purports to show an ultrasound of an abortion in progress. Supposedly, you can see the fetus screaming in pain.

"Doctors have been forced, time and time again, to issue public statements about the inaccuracy of these images."

But even if the unborn baby does look like the Newsweek cover picture, Doyle said, the choice should remain with the woman. She even put the word "babies" in quotes to emphasize her belief it is not a person.

"Talking about the fetus, and what it looks like, is beside the point. All of these scenarios involve a decision made by one person: a woman. (Or non-binary person, or transgender man.)," Doyle wrote. "Deciding whether to stay pregnant is not about the fetus. It's about them: their lives, safety, and futures. By focusing exclusively on fetuses, and promoting the imagery of endangered, persecuted 'babies' in the womb, people who oppose abortion are able to totally avoid talking about the ways in which their positions endanger and persecute the actual people carrying those fetuses around."

According to WebMd.com – not a pro-life website – a baby's heart begins beating by the sixth week of pregnancy. By the eighth week, a face has started to form --"two eyes, a nose, ears, and an upper lip" – along with hands, arms, feet and legs. By week 11, the baby is even growing fingernails.