Formless Fetuses and Other Fairy Tales

fetal models

originally published at Live Action News, 2/18/21

Last week, New Mexico’s Senate debated SB 10, which would repeal a 1969 law that made abortion a felony. During the debates, Right to Life of New Mexico distributed models of 12-week-old fetuses to the senators, some of whom had rather extreme reactions: “I got that same prop from Right to Life of wherever. I threw it away. Threw it right in the trash, right in the trash,” said Senator Jacob Candelaria (D). “Why? It’s offensive!”

Other politicians have called the models “repulsive,” “shocking,” and “unsettling.” Still others have called the distribution of such models “obscene,” “disgusting,” and even “terrifying.”


Many may have scratched their heads and wondered how a simple, scientifically accurate plastic model of something that actually exists and harms no one could possibly be “offensive,” or “repulsive,” or even “terrifying.” After all, similar yet more detailed models are often used during childbirth education classes and are even present in the offices of obstetrician/gynecologists. 

But I know the real reason why Senator Candelaria and others are offended by fetal models … because 27 years ago, I had a similar reaction.

I had my first abortion when I was 16. A friend drove my boyfriend and me three hours to a bordering state. We’d been advised to go there by Planned Parenthood in order to circumvent my state’s parental notification laws. When we arrived at the facility, it was surrounded by protestors, and as we pulled into the parking lot, two of them approached our car.

I still don’t know how the man who spoke to me knew that I, and not my female friend, was the “patient,” but he pegged me right away. “This is what your baby looks like right now,” he said, placing something small and made of hard plastic into my right hand.

Everything was moving so quickly — my friend and boyfriend had surrounded me and were herding me as quickly as possible through the crowd toward the front door of the abortion facility — and I was completely dazed. I had spent the previous night talking to the growing baby inside of me, begging for forgiveness for what I was about to do, and trying to explain my reasons for doing it — which was really more of an attempt to justify things to myself and quiet my nagging, numerous doubts. 

In the end, the only way I had been able to get some peace and quiet in my own mind and conscience was by repeatedly reminding myself of what I had been told over and over by the trusted adults in my life: it wasn’t a baby yet, it was just a clump of cells, it wasn’t like I was killing a human being or anything like that. 

And then I looked down at what the man had placed in my hand. It was a small fetal model.

fetal model 12 weeks

I was like a demon that had been splashed with holy water. 

I was enraged. I threw the model on the ground and had to be restrained from punching the man who had put it into my hand. I believe I spat some choice profane words at him while my friends essentially dragged me away. It was ugly. I was ugly.

It wasn’t until many years later that I understood why.

How do many children feel when they discover Santa Claus doesn’t exist? Some of them are confused, or perhaps extremely disappointed. But others are angry — angry that people they trusted have lied to them, and angry that a comforting belief, upon which they built so many hopes and dreams, has been false. Some children are so shaken by this confrontation with reality that they cling to the false belief in spite of the evidence against it; a friend’s son, for example, attempted to prove to his parents that they, in fact, were the deluded ones by showing them the NORAD Santa tracker website. 

Fetal models can produce a similar effect. The only way many people can sleep at night with their pro-“choice” beliefs is by telling themselves that preborn children are just formless blobs — not recognizably human. Fetal models confront them with the reality of the preborn child’s humanity, and this, for them, is the equivalent of being told that Santa does not exist — it forces them to acknowledge that they have been living a lie. 

That is what happened to me that day. I had only gotten to a place where I was able to live with my “choice” by allowing myself to believe fairy tales about what a preborn baby is. But when I saw that tiny fetal model in my palm, it was like having a bucket of ice water dumped all over my delusions — and I didn’t like it one little bit. You probably wouldn’t, either.

So Senator Candelaria and others may not consciously understand why they are offended by fetal models. But I do. And I think it’s a good sign that they are offended by them. It shows that they recognize something in those models that contradicts the lies they have been telling themselves. It shows that Right to Life of New Mexico successfully planted a seed in Senator Candelaria’s mind. And I, for one, will be praying for that seed to grow in him the same way it did in me.

Did I make you think? Smile? Cry? Sick? Do tell.

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