About Those Masturbating Fetuses

Sister Toldjah has an amusing reaction to the laughter that greeted Rep. Michael Burgess’s declaration on the House floor that abortion should be banned earlier than 20 weeks because, in his words:

“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”

Sister Toldjah is, of course, incensed that “militant pro-choice liberals” are making fun of Burgess for what he said. But what’s amusing is that she thinks Burgess is being laughed at because he said something “dirty”:

Just when you thought militant pro-choice liberals couldn’t be any more reprehensible comes a story today on how Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), a pro-life Republican, described the humanity of an unborn boy in the most delicate way possible, and how childish left wing abortion advocates turned it into something dirty and, quite frankly, beneath the bounds of dignified discussion.

Dear Sister, that is not it at all. We (which means everyone who doesn’t live on the far edge of the right) don’t think Burgess was talking dirty. We think Burgess is scientifically illiterate — which is to say, he’s a member in good standing of the contemporary Republican Party.

Fifteen-week-old fetuses do not masturbate. They do not feel pain, either. Neither, in overwhelming probability, do 20-week-old fetuses — despite ST’s faith in Life News‘s medical and scientific expertise,

As Elizabeth Flock of U.S. News & World Report points out, Burgess’s assertion of fact on this matter is based almost entirely on ONE almost 20-year-old source that was dubious even then:

Burgess’s argument isn’t based in science, doctors say.

“We certainly can see a movement of a fetus during that time, but in terms of any knowledge about pleasure or pain – there are no data to assess,” says Jeanne Conry, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a professional association for OB/GYNs. “We don’t know enough about the biology and the science.”

Any media reports on masturbation by fetuses can almost exclusively be traced back to a single letter written by two OB/GYNs in Italy in 1996 and published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The letter related an anecdote in which the two doctors had “recently observed a female fetus at 32 weeks gestation touching the vulva with the fingers of the right hand” before the female fetus experienced prolonged spasms, and “finally…relaxed and rested.”

Conry said it was wrong to “base science on single observations.”

“For whatever reason in our country when it comes to abortion we make statements based not on the science but based on observations and on emotion,” she said.

Yes, and for whatever reason in our country right now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, we have a Republican Party that is stuck in a mid-twentieth century time warp, in a way that that party was not stuck when it actually was the mid-twentieth century. In the 1950s, the Republican Party did not act as though the year was 1900. But today’s Republican Party is led by men and a few women (because there are only a few women in the leadership of the Republican Party) who for some inexplicable reason, truly believe that most Americans still believe that women do not want equal pay for equal work; that it’s “unnatural” and a reversal of biologically determined gender roles for women to make as much or more money than men; that children should be taught that “this is what a father does” and “this is what a mom does” and that what a father does is “different”and “better” than what a “mom” does — and that telling Americans these things is a winning formula for getting Americans to vote for them in 2013.

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