Photo by Brian Stansberry (CC-By-3.0)

The Des Moines Register continued its pro bono support of the abortion industry via an op/ed by columnist Rekha Basu. Basu addressed the oral arguments on Friday in the lawsuit over Iowa’s fetal heartbeat abortion ban which bans abortions at six weeks, the time an unborn child’s heartbeat is detected. 

Martin Cannon, an attorney for the Thomas More Society, argued in favor of the law on behalf of the state. Thomas More Society represents the state pro bono since our attorney general, Tom Miller, believes he can pick and choose which laws he will defend. 

Basu focused her piece on Cannon’s personhood argument. She wrote:

For all the defenses of Iowa’s new fetal heartbeat law offered in court Friday by the attorney representing the state, his central argument hinged on a premise that has never been recognized as fact: That a fetus becomes a baby once it has a heartbeat.

Had that been established, the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t have recognized women’s constitutional right to abortions in its 1973 landmark ruling on Roe v. Wade. Nor would so many states have rejected abortion bans, even as they have imposed limits on the practice. They wouldn’t sanction legal murder.

The personhood claim is rhetorical, not factual. The beauty of a pluralistic society is that we get to live by our own belief systems, within reason. We are not free to impose them on others.

But that is exactly what Iowa’s legislative majority and governor did in passing and signing the nation’s most restrictive abortion law. They thumbed their noses at rulings and constitutions and established science. They imposed their religious positions on a secular state where at least half of people polled think it goes too far. They made abortion illegal after a fetal heartbeat is detectable.

There are several obvious problems with Basu’s argument.

1. If a fetus is not a baby, what is it?

“Fetus” is a Latin for “little one” and the pro-abortion industry and those who love them like hiding behind the semantics of this word, as well as, the word embryo. The simple fact is this: human mothers carry human babies. 

“Embryo” and “fetus” refer to a human being at a particular stage of development just like the words “toddler” and “adolescent.” They never refer to nonhumans, though sometimes we may think that about our adolescents.

Basu claims to embrace science, but it is not scientifically accurate to imply that a fetus is something other than a human being, a pre-born baby. 

The pro-abortion industry and those who advocate for them go out of their way to call the preborn babies because it reminds people about the reality of abortion – it kills an unborn child.

A fetus is not a subhuman condition anymore than a toddler is. 

If this fetus is not a human baby, what is it? I would love for Basu to answer that question. 

2. Science backs the pro-life position, not the pro-abortion position

Basu claims that the pro-life position is just a religious one. Yes, many of us are motivated to protect the unborn because of our religious beliefs (not all). Just consider the development of an unborn child.

  • Eighteen days after conception a baby’s heart is forming.
  • At 21 days, the baby’s heart is pumping blood throughout his or her body, and it is often a different type than the mother’s. 
  • By the end of the third week, the child’s backbone spinal column and nervous system are forming.  The liver, kidneys, and intestines begin to take shape.
  • By the end of week four or 30 days the child is ten thousand times larger than the fertilized egg. He or she has a brain and blood flows the baby’s veins.
  • During week five, eyes, legs and hands begin to develop.
  • During week six, brain waves are detectable. A mouth and lips are present and fingernails are forming. 
  • During week seven, eyelids and toes form. The baby’s nose is distinct. This is when the baby starts to kick. 
  • During week eight, every organ is in place, bones begin to replace cartilage, and fingerprints begin to form.  The baby can begin to hear.
  • During weeks nine and ten, teeth begin to form, fingernails develop.  The baby can turn his head, and frown.  The baby can hiccup. 
  • During weeks 11 and 12, the baby can “breathe” amniotic fluid and urinate.  In week 11, the baby can grasp objects placed in its hand; all organ systems are functioning.  The baby has a skeletal structure, nerves, and circulation.
  • In week 12, the baby has all of the parts necessary to experience pain, including nerves, spinal cord, and thalamus.  Vocal cords are complete.  The baby can suck its thumb. 
  • By week 14, the baby’s heart pumps several quarts of blood through the body every day.
  • By week 15, the baby has an adult’s taste buds. 

I could go on, but prior to the fetal heartbeat bill, babies could legally be killed up to 20 weeks, even after a heartbeat and brain waves are detected. We determine the death of a person by the lack of a heartbeat and brain waves.

Even before the earliest abortion, an unborn baby has every part he or she will ever have. That is not rhetoric, that is a fact.

If all of this information was known in 1973, would the Supreme Court have ruled the same way? I have my doubts. We have learned much through the advancement of ultrasounds and neonatal medicine.

 3. Beliefs are imposed on us all of the time.

Basu says that we are not free to impose our beliefs on others, but isn’t that what any legislation is? An imposition of a belief? The Des Moines Register editorial board and Basu argue for their beliefs to be imposed on us all of the time when they argue for or against different pieces of legislation. 

For instance, they were fine with imposing their beliefs on homeschooling families when they want to eliminate independent private instruction. Basu is also fine with imposing her view of marriage on Christian florists, baker, and others who perform wedding services.

What she means is religious belief, but since we have the First Amendment with a freedom of religion which means we can act on our faith including lobbying for specific legislation. What we can’t do is force her to believe what we believe. That we can not do, but what she advocates is for religious persons to be treated as second-class citizens in the public sphere. That is nonsense.


Basu says that rhetoric is not fact, and she is correct. It’s not, and that also applies to her argument as well. Just because she claims a fetus is not a person does not make it so. In this case, however, the science fall on the side of life. All Basu and pro-abortion advocates are left with is semantics and weak arguments. 

Photo by Brian Stansberry (CC-By-3.0)

Update: This article has been corrected. I had incorrectly stated the state of Iowa was represented by the Thomas More Law Center instead of the Thomas More Society. 

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