A new technology, 4-D scanning, is changing pre-natal medicine and bolstering the argument against abortion.

Years ago, 2-D scanning showed us a flat, black-and-white picture of the baby in the womb. Then, 3-D scanning was developed, revealing a more realistic, but motionless, picture of a baby. Now 4-D, the fourth dimension being time, is showing an unborn child’s movements in the womb. At 12 weeks, the baby is leaping, kicking and stretching, long before the mother feels these movements. At 18 weeks, the eyes are opening, something previously thought not to occur until at least 24 weeks. At 26 weeks, just past six months, the baby is scratching, smiling, hiccupping, crying and sucking.

The positioning of the baby within the womb is also clearer in 4-D movement, giving the doctors a head start in delivery.

Some have accused 4D imaging of being unnecessary, mere entertainment. But Stuart Campbell, a British doctor, says otherwise. “The term ‘scanning for entertainment’ surely is an insulting one with which to describe the natural desire of parents to see and know and love their baby before birth.” He gives the parents five minutes alone to be with each other and their child as seen on the screen.

The show of emotion on the part of the unborn is not only heartwarming for the couple, but also sobering. The baby is clearly having fun and enjoying life. Normally, babies do not smile for six weeks after birth, so the smile on their faces inside the womb is indicative of how comforting that place must be. Therefore, one can imagine the distress an unborn child goes through in the abortion process. Natalie Hudson of Toronto Right to Life says, “It’s unfortunate that even in the face of this incredible technology, pro-aborts still champion a woman’s ‘right to choose.’ Now, there is no denying the humanity of the unborn, so the only leg left to stand on is the ‘rights’ rhetoric of the woman to do whatever she wants ‘with her body.'”

Hudson notes that, “The pro-woman approach that has been adopted by the pro-life movement of late has become the focus, because the debate has shifted from proving the humanity of the unborn to debunking the rights rhetoric.”

Though this technology has been around since late 2001, because of its expense and limited accessibility, its value was not understood. Now, pro-life clinics in the U.S. that can hardly afford 2-D ultrasound equipment are going into debt for the 4-D ultrasound, which costs more than $100,000 (US), because it is convincing women in ways a brochure cannot. And, since most abortions are committed in the first 13 weeks, six-week ultrasounds are now being given. Usually, a mother starts bonding with her baby at 15 weeks when her child starts to kick, but because this activity is taking place at six weeks, when it can be seen before it is felt, pro-life choices are being made by women (who would have had an abortion) once they have been exposed to 4-D pictures of their children.

National Institute of Family and Life Advocates president Tom Glessner, in a spring 2002 article in At the Centre, writes of clinics that have success rates of 70 to 98 per cent in convincing woman to choose life. He also writes that ultrasound and other medical services attract many more abortion-minded women.

In the same article, Glessner says, “Imagine the impact if 1,000 pregnancy help centres convert to medical clinic status by the year 2010 and if each medical clinic sees an average 1,500 abortion-minded women a year. If we achieve this goal, 1.5 million abortion-minded women each year will receive life-affirming medical services, such as ultrasound.”

Hudson says that the majority of pro-life activity in Canada is in the area of counselling, not in pro-life medical clinics. One of our problems is the system of state-run universal healthcare, which includes pre-natal services. To have a private clinic would raise cries of a two-tiered system and to have an exclusively pro-life public baby clinic would be tricky, Hudson concedes.

Nonetheless, the technology will change the debate in Canada, too. Hudson says, “To attack the (pro-abortion) ideology, you need visuals” – especially those of one’s own child.