The linguistic worlds of pregnancy and abortion are radically different. When someone is experiencing a wanted pregnancy, everyone from doctors to popular websites such as The Bump refer to “your baby” and discuss milestones, like hearing a heartbeat during an early ultrasound. In the political debate over abortion, language is a battlefield. Pro-abortion-rights activists are on high alert for what they describe as efforts to “humanize fetuses,” from policing the line between early “cardiac activity” and “heartbeats,” to calling out a Doritos Super Bowl ad which they saw as portraying a fetus as unrealistically animated, while anti-abortion groups lobby for “the right to life” from the earliest days of pregnancy.
Sometimes, however, these two worlds collide. Lila Rose, who founded and leads the anti-abortion group Live Action, has been an activist on this issue since she was 15. Now, at age 30, she is pregnant for the first time. Although she is still in the early weeks of her second trimester, her pregnancy has quickly become part of her advocacy work.
“Our first ultrasound at 7 weeks, hearing our baby’s heartbeat for the first time,” Rose tweeted in mid-May, along with a video of a monitor screen showing her womb. “How can any abortion supporter in good conscience hear this heartbeat and imagine ending it, not by a hired hitman, but by their own hands?” The tweet was liked 14,000 times, and the replies unspooled into a full-fledged battle over the ethics of abortion; a significant portion of Rose’s 207,000 Twitter followers regularly spar with her over her views. A week later, Rose tweeted about all the disability-detection tests she was offered during her first doctor’s appointment. When Rose asked what would happen if any of the tests were positive, she said, the doctor told her they would consider “our options.” “Our medical system is on a search & destroy hunt for babies w/ disability,” she tweeted. “I’m finding a new doc.”