The Elephant and the Embryo
Scenes and videos from the movie discussed below can be seen here.
December 01, 2006
The Elephant and the Embryo (Excerpts)
By Kathleen Parker, The Orlando Sentinel
When does an elephant become an elephant? That is the question.
At least it's the one that popped into my mind as I viewed images from an upcoming National Geographic documentary: "In the Womb: Animals.''
The film, scheduled to air Dec. 10, may be the best weapon yet for the pro-life movement. That wasn't the purpose of the documentary -- the first ever to record animals in the womb -- but these images of gestating life pack a powerful wallop.
The mind makes a natural leap to questions of how we consider and treat the pre-born.
Let's just say that the thought of aborting a baby elephant, even in the earliest gestational stages, is repugnant in a way that transcends intellectual arguments about constitutional rights to privacy.
The images were captured with 4-D ultrasound scans and enhanced with computer graphics. In the elephant's case, suffice it to say they took a backdoor approach. Niiiiice elephant.
Other stars of the film are a puppy and a dolphin. We watch the golden retriever fetus perform full-grown dog behaviors in the womb, a dolphin learn to swim inside its mother, and the elephant grow from a single cell to a 260-pound, well, elephant.
Seeing similar images of a human fetus -- blinking, sucking his thumb and responding to sounds -- is equally amazing, of course. But something about these animals in utero breathes fresh air into the life debate.
Why? Because they're so adorable, helpless and vulnerable. It's the puppy reflex. With the exception of the occasional mass murderer, people see a puppy and go Awwww. They want to cuddle it.
Most people have the same reflex with human babies, too, but as a society, we've managed to emotionally distance ourselves from the human fetus. To think of it as cute or human would make abortion a much tougher choice.
Within the context of abortion, ultrasounds of human fetuses are, in fact, controversial. Pro-life pregnancy counselors are considered manipulative and intimidating when they show a pregnant woman considering abortion an ultrasound of her fetus….
I've long argued that education is the best tool in reducing abortion. Show girls and women their child in utero and abortion will eliminate itself.
Now we have another tool. That is, if we're really serious about reducing abortion. Take "In the Womb'' to every classroom in America and let students do their own free-associating. When the tears are dry -- audiences reportedly weep at this film -- abortion will seem inconceivable. Who could destroy an unborn puppy?
We Americans are suckers for animals, often displaying greater empathy for them than for people. Be honest. In movie battle scenes, whose deaths bother you more -- men's or the horses'? Thought so….
We may not be able to define when a human being becomes a human being, but even children know this much: An elephant doesn't become an elephant without first being a single cell. Kathleen Parker