The heartbeat

Many things can be said about fetuses, but there is no doubt that their heart beats. And, although I am not a doctor, I would wager that this miniscule palpitation accelerates when some stress disturbs its threatened existence.

January 20, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

The fact that elections are to be held in a few months' time has given rise to a whole media coven that astonishes me. I am one of those who, out of sheer inertia, still watch the news at three in the afternoon or at nine at night, despite the indoctrination to which the small screen has been subjecting us lately.

In times like these, one would expect them to report on winter storms, the never-ending Ukrainian war, the prospects for overcoming inflation and the economic crisis... what do I know!

However, for the past week, day after day, the first quarter of an hour has been devoted to the terrible news: an autonomous community has decided that women who wish to have an abortion at public expense are obliged - or recommended or perhaps simply advised (versions vary) - to listen for one minute to the heartbeat of the little being they carry inside them before eliminating it!

Oh, scandal! The parties have taken a stand; some of their representatives have torn their garments again and again (I suppose they use velcro tunics for this purpose; otherwise it would cost them dearly). Even the government has gone on the warpath, ready to apply the legislation in force (tightening it if necessary) to proceed against the autonomy that has had such a pretense, whose councilors do not seem to be in complete agreement on the terms of the initiative either.

Since at this point in the movie we citizens have become quite skeptical about the motivations of the political class, it does not seem rash to suspect that in this dispute very few are guided by any other principle than mere electoral profitability. If so, the indignant proclamations in one direction or the lukewarm pronouncements in another would only obey the hope of winning a few thousand votes, or losing as few as possible.

It is true that pollsters seem to be wrong lately with disconcerting frequency. In such a context, I must confess my satisfaction that some have made their bet by turning their backs on such miserable accounting.

Calculations and strategies aside, what is the point, after all, to listen? What's wrong with that? Tyrians and Trojans are urging us every day to listen to the voice of the least favored sectors of society: minorities, the marginalized, the oppressed, those who do not know how to express themselves nor have lawyers to stand up for them?

Well, from birth until they learn to speak, children express themselves by crying and smiling; before that, only with little kicks and heartbeats. The little kicks are somewhat later, so that the heartbeat is an obligatory procedure to announce: "Here I am!" Everyone is free to understand the gesture as they wish.

It used to be thought that cardiac pumping only started at one and a half months of gestation, then it was found to begin as early as 21 days and lately it seems that even shortly after two weeks after conception.

"Bang, bang, bang, bang!" It is not a complicated message, but it is certainly a repeated and insistent one: it is estimated that we all do it 100,000 times a day, 35 million times a year and more than 2.5 billion times in the course of an octogenarian lifetime. Unless, of course, something - for example, an accident or illness - or someone - a murderer or a feticide - interrupts the speech before its natural end. Some people think that it is not so bad after all. It all depends.

Charles Aznavour, for example, composed a beautiful song in which he only asked his lover "to hear your young heart beat in love". Nor do millions of couples who excitedly go to their first appointment with the sonographer require more circumstantial messages.

Of course, it was not so simple before: the phonendoscope had to be applied to the pregnant womb and I suppose that the interested party would not know very well how to distinguish her own heartbeat from that of the baby.

But times change, and not always for the worse: now it is more difficult to silence the voice of the voiceless. That reminds me that I met a Jesuit who worked in Caracas, in the slums. He told me that the shantytowns climbed up the slopes of the mountains surrounding the capital. "Better this way," he added, "there is no way to disguise them..." Something not very different happens with what I am commenting on.

Many things can be said about fetuses, such as affirming their alleged "subhuman" condition, their insufficient biological autonomy, their lack of consolidated rights, etc. It fills me with admiration that there are people capable of dusting off the writings of ancient authors to document that the insertion of the "immortal soul" in the fetus is a "subhuman" condition. nasciturus (a soul in which, by the way, most of those who forge such arguments do not believe either) occurs with as much or as much delay.

In short, they are very careful to deny that they are "persons", taking advantage of the fact that the only thing the poor little ones know how to do inside the uterus is to make a gesture as if they were sucking their thumb. They may or may not have a soul; they may or may not be persons; they may or may not suck their thumb; but there is no doubt that their heart beats. And, although I am not a doctor, I would wager that this miniscule palpitation accelerates when some stress disturbs their threatened existence.

I have only been a father once. My daughter weighed 850 grams at birth: there was no way to keep her in her natural place until term. She knocked on the doors of the planet when, according to today's guidelines, she was still "abortable". I had the opportunity to observe her many times in the incubator, where the lamp lit to control the bilirubin level made her little body semi-transparent: I could see her veins and also (but not hear) her heartbeat. I can testify that she clung to life like a limpet, even though I was told when she was admitted to the hospital that she could do so under her mother's name: she had not yet earned the right to have one of her own.

I don't know if you have seen a television series in which several professional blacksmiths get together to forge and test the bladed weapons that the jury proposes to them. At the end, the sword, cutlass or scimitar is wielded against a hanging quarter of beef until it splits in two, after which the craftsman is congratulated and told: "Congratulations: your weapon is ready. kills".

The example is gruesome and surely in bad taste, but it serves me to add that we can argue ad nauseam about the presence or absence of rights in the unborn. But we still have the opportunity to congratulate the mother-to-be - and by extension the father - by telling them: "Congratulations: your 'thing late." Let us take the opportunity to repeat it to them as long as there is no law forbidding us to do so.

The authorJuan Arana

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