Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams created a stir earlier this month with her claim that fetal heartbeats, which pro-life advocates frequently cite as a threshold beyond which abortions should not be performed, do not actually exist.
“There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks,” she claimed during a panel discussion in Atlanta. “It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body.”
Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams: "There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks. It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman's body."
REMINDER: Abrams supports NO LIMITS on abortion. pic.twitter.com/f7XxeqzfF6
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 22, 2022
A number of doctors sounded off on her claim, insisting that a baby’s developing heart can indeed be heard in the womb.
Dr. Donna Harrison, who heads the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that by six weeks, “the embryonic heart rhythmically contracts to pump blood through its arteries, which flows to the placenta to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen.”
Any attempt to disassociate this process from a heartbeat, she added, “is dishonest and serves only to dehumanize preborn people.”
Nevertheless, many pro-abortion activists and mainstream media figures rushed to explain why they believe Abrams was actually correct in her assessment. Washington Post “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler, for example, insisted that it is a “misnomer” to describe the cardiovascular sound at six weeks of gestation as a fetal heartbeat.
“The ultrasound picks up electrical activity generated by an embryo,” he wrote. “The so-called ‘heartbeat’ sound you hear is created by the ultrasound. Not until 10 weeks can the opening and closing of cardiac valves be detected by a Doppler machine.”
For its part, Planned Parenthood made a conspicuous edit to its own website to more closely reflect Abrams’ assertion.
“A part of the embryo starts to show cardiac activity,” the new entry reads. “It sounds like a heartbeat on an ultrasound, but it’s not a fully-formed heart — it’s the earliest stage of the heart developing.”
The website change drew some backlash from the right as well, including during a Fox News Channel discussion on the topic.
Pediatrician Kathleen Berchelmann appeared on “Fox & Friends First” and called the abortion provider’s move “the oldest trick in the book,” adding: “Years ago, they redefined a pregnancy from conception to implantation in the uterus, and now they’re redefining heartbeat versus cardiac activity.”