Why Ultrasounds Magnify Women

In her latest article, “How the Ultrasound Became PoliticalThe Atlantic writer Moira Weigel laments that arrival of Ultrasound technology. The technology that  was once used to hunt down and sink German subs is now being used to hunt down and dehumanize women. She writes,

The framing of the ultrasound image was notable for what it excluded: the woman. In order to make the fetus visible, it made her disappear.

Before the ultrasound, the woman was the primary focus of the doctor and society. She was the sole proprietor and mediator of her body. She alone was the voice for her child. The woman was first. But the ultrasound redirected the authorial control of the birthing narrative to people other than the woman. Wiegel writes again,

“Before ultrasound, medical care received by pregnant women had depended on their testimony, or how they described their own sensations. Ultrasound made it possible for the male doctor to evaluate the fetus without female interference.”

ultra-soundThe woman no longer controlled the narrative of her body. Now doctors, politicians, social media platforms, and even the fetus can and do shape the dialogue. The little pictures of an alien like creature swimming in the womb have obscured the very woman carrying it. And so, Weigel mourns the arrival of the ultrasound.

But having seen the ultrasounds of all four of my children, I think Weigels argument is deeply flawed. Ultrasounds do not obscure the woman. They highlight and celebrate her very being and essence. They highlight the triumph of motherhood. They highlight several of the very things that make a woman unique and valuable. For this reason, I am proud to have all four of my children’s ultrasound photos in my office. The do not obscure my view of my wife. They praise her.

The first and most memorable ultrasounds I ever saw involved our first-born son. When he was just 19 weeks and 4 days, my wife saw his perfect little silhouette on the screen for the first time. Instead of obscuring my bride, the ultrasound helped me see how amazing she was. The ultrasound validated her cravings, need for sleep, and ever changing shape.

And for the first time, we were both able to share an experience with our child simultaneously.  Our eyes locked; we smiled; and I began to gain a fuller understanding of what it meant for my wife to carry a child. I went home that morning with a far greater respect for my beautiful bride.

A little less than two weeks later, I saw another ultrasound of my son. As the doctors rushed to stop my wife’s premature labor, I saw my little boy on the ultrasound monitor again. This time the screen was smaller and the situation was dire. I relayed the images of my tiny sons outstretched arm to my moaning wife, they did not minimize her pain. It did not make her seem invisible. Rather it revealed that she was suffering and risking her own health for a precious little person. It validated her struggles,  her concerns, and her love for her child, and;  it helped me and the medical staff fully understand what my bride was experiencing inside her body. The ultrasound was a blessing.

Admittedly, Weigel acknowledges that, “ultrasound technology has been a crucial component of prenatal care, too.” I think Weigel would fully support the doctors’ decision to use the ultrasound to help their diagnosis my wife’s condition that terrible day. However, I do not think this concession is enough. The beauty of the ultrasound is not purely by its medical utility.

The machine does more. Those tiny black pictures circulating on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, validate the very life of the woman from which they came.

The second most memorable ultrasound image for my wife and me was the one taken of our third child. Unfortunately shortly after that picture was handed to us, my wife miscarried. Because of that ultrasound photo, we know my wife had a baby. We were able to grieve and honor that child’s existence because of this fabulous invention.nd8movhpdly-daiga-ellaby

Before the ultrasound, my wife would have bled. She would have not known the cause. While she might have suspected that she lost a baby, she would not have been able to celebrate her motherhood and the little life with credibility. She would have been left with an incomplete picture.

Because of science, she knows about that precious life she lost. The ultrasound enabled her to share her heart with me, with our families, and with the world in a demonstrative and very real way. Instead of obscuring her, the ultrasound helped others to understand my wife and her story. The ultrasound enriched her narrative.

And my amazing bride is not alone. All over the world, women know that they are mothers precisely because they have an ultrasound picture. If we were to take those images away from them, we would marginalize these women and their experiences. We would denigrate their very nature.

At the end of the day, I believe Weigel dislikes the ultrasound machine not because it hurts women but because it damages her worldview. In the midst of attacking the machine Wiegel notes, “These images produced a new and unprecedented vision of human development.” These machines reveal aspects of humanity to us that were previously unsee. Though she hates the machines, Weigel cannot even fully escape the reality that ultrasounds reveal. She cannot escape the face that babies are more than tissue. And so, Wiegel laments that arrival of ultrasound images. She laments that her view does not mesh with science.

Now, I do fully agree with one of Weigel’s conclusions: “What the appearance of the flicker on the ultrasound shows is not a change of state but a threshold of the imaging technology.” The little beating heart images that many have seen via the ultrasound machine do not change the reality of when a fetus becomes a human. Those pictures merely reveal when we can see the human heart. Our ability to physically see a baby does not carry moral authority with it.The thing in the mother’s womb is what it is from conception irrespective of our prying eyes.

Technology does not make a baby any more a baby any more than the lack of technology makes a baby a fetus.  Changing the threshold of technology does not mean that a baby becomes human at an earlier age. God has already declared all babies to be human from conception. The ultrasound machine helps humanity to understand the scientific and moral reality that God has declared.

The question facing us all is this week as we prepare for the March For Life this Sunday is this, “Are willing to accept science and advocate for life or will we lament science and press on for death?”

Have Baptists Embraced China’s One-Child-Mindset?

China one child policyLast week, the people’s republic of China announced that it will end its “One-Child-Policy. The days of government agents forcible pulling babies out of the womb while are over. Very soon, Chinese couples can start having two kids!

A One-Child-Future

And though the news is welcome by demographers and many in China, the policy is probably too little too late.  The policy change will not resurrect the 336 million children that were aborted nor will it return fertility to the 196 million people that have been sterilized since 1971. The Chinese population bubble is still on track to burst within the next few years. By 2050, China’s million-man army will be a million-man nursing home. Roughly a quarter of its population will be over 65 and the nation’s average age will be 67. China’s days as an economic and political juggernaut are numbered.

To prevent this nightmare from coming true, China needs its families to start having more kids. To maintain its population, a nation needs to have a birth rate 2.1 kids per couple. China’s current birth rate sits at 1.7 kids per couple. To thrive as a nation, China needs its birth rate to climb by at least half a kid per couple. Hence, families are now permitted to have two babies.

But the fertility jump is stil not coming anytime soon. As one Chinese woman told the Wall Street Journal, “For a second child, my answer is no, no, no. Doesn’t matter what the policy is…I can’t imagine who would have the energy to raise another child.” When the China tested the Two-Child-Policy in the Jiangsu province, a majority of those women still preferred a one child home. Today, most women aren’t avoiding birth because of the government policy. They are avoiding birth because they don’t want to expend the social, physical, emotional, and financial capital to needed to raise children. Chen Feng told the New York times, “Before I had my first child, I was hoping for the relaxation of the one-child policy…I changed my mind after I gave birth to my daughter…It takes a lot of energy to take care of a child.” Simply put, Chinese women no longer want two kids.
This is the biggest news story of the day is that China has successfully transformed its culture. And Chinese women have bought into the anti-kid philosophy. The One-Child-Policy is gone, but its residue remains.  The way Chinese families think about kids has been radically altered.


Americans can relate. The average American couple has 1.8 kids. And the average Southern Baptist couple has around 1.9 kids per couple. Even though we never had a One-Child-Policy, Baptist families had their thinking transformed during the sexual revolution. And now, no one wants kids.

Americans, Chinese, and Baptist share similar birth rates because we all share a similar worldview. No, we are not all communists. twins-775495_640But we all have adopted an anti-kid worldview. We all have decided to live for the pleasure of now. We want nice cars, clothes, and houses. We want to be able to experience the best that life has to over via vacations, parties, and good health. Kids threaten all those things.

And there is no amount of financial incentives or government programs that can convince us otherwise. Both Japan and Singapore have been trying for years to increase their birth rates.  When the Singapore government offered women $18,000 to have two kids, the women said, “No, thanks.” Today, their nation’s birth rate sits at dismal 1.1 kids per couple. There is no monetary benefit that can truly compensate a woman for all the things she sacrifices for her children.

Kids drastically interrupt the life, especially the one lived for pleasure. This morning, my toddler woke up me up an hour early. Our morning routine ended with him trying to bite my big toe. I’m not alone.

Instead of designer clothes, parents spend thousands on miniature plastic tubes for ear aches. Instead of vacations, parents get sleepless nights. And instead of healthy bodies, parents become worn and tired. As one author rightfully said,

“Children won’t change your life. They will utterly and completely destroy it.”

This is hardly the life most couples envisioned on their honeymoon. And so, we pleasure seeking Baptists start avoiding kids. We tell our young couples to enjoy life. Avoid pain and sorrow. Above all don’t have kids.

And little by little our tiny, country churches evaporate away as their nurseries sit empty. We Baptists wonder were all the people went. But we never stop and ask, “where did all the babies go?”

If our Baptist churches are going to end their defacto One-Child-Policy, we have to return to a biblical view of pleasure. Happiness for the Christian is not defined by personal peace and affluence. The Christian’s pleasure comes from glorifying God through worship and obedience. As John Piper often says, “We are most satisfied when God is most glorified.” Happiness comes from focusing on Christ. Because joy is not defined by our stuff or our physical health, Christians can and should do the hard things God commands. We should love our neighbors, travel for far away countries and  have kids. We should stop living for earthly treasure and lay up treasure in heaven by having, raising, and evangelizing the next generation. The vitality of our churches depends in part on our birth rates. The vitality of our personal faith depends upon it.

Now having children doesn’t save us. We don’t have to abandon breast feeding to ensure our Baptist gals have the most babies humanly possible. But we do need to reattach procreation to sex. We need to realize that God has called us to live lives for heavenly pleasure instead of earthly gain. We need to re-embrace God’s first command to be fruitful and multiply. We need to see children as a blessing and start having some more.