Little Foot

What a picture!

From Dr. Jack Wheeler’s To the Point website, where Jack is arguing that, given the seriousness of his illness, the importance of the job and the heaviness of the workload at a time of many judicial vacancies, Senator Arlen Specter should take a leave of absence as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee until he recovers from Hodgkin’s disease.

Addendum, 3/7/05: I seem to have fallen for a hoax. “Anonymous” has set me straight (he wasn’t really anonymous, but I removed his name and professional affiliation — which was impressive — at his request before publishing excerpts from two emails I received from him today). The excerpts, and the link, are instructive:

Just thought I’d drop a quick note to you about your posting from Dr. Jack Wheeler and the picture of the baby’s footprint through her mother’s abdominal wall…As a board certified Ob/Gyn physician, I have to tell you that there is absolutely no way that this picture is real. It brings home a very real point which is that there is a baby human inside of a pregnant mother. But it is not real.

There are many reasons why it cannot be real:

1) The uterus is a thick muscle. It is at least an inch thick at that point in pregnancy. Try poking a baby’s foot through a steak that’s an inch thick and see if you can get any definition from an image on the other side. There is such a thing as an abdominal pregnancy where the baby is freely floating within the abdomen in nothing but an amniotic sac protecting it (with the placenta attached to inconvenient places like over the aorta). Even then, see number two.

2) In addition to the thick muscle called the uterus, even the skinniest person has, at a very minimum, at least one to two inches of tissue between the outer layer of skin and the inside of the abdomen. There is the layer of skin and subcutaneous fat, there’s the fascial layer (that is the connective tissue that holds the internal organs in place, and then there’s the muscles (rectus abdominus, the washboard / 6-pack muscles – though they do thin considerably during pregnancy), and finally the pre-peritoneal layer with fatty tissue (less in skinny people) with its peritoneum.

3) How in the world would they time that picture and get it just right? They would have to have been photographing her stomach for whatever reason and just got lucky? I guess that part is at least plausible, but realistic?

4) I have looked up online at the urban legends website. Here’s a link to more discussion on it:

It’s my professional opinion that this cannot be real. For what it’s worth.

Thanks for the website. I really enjoy it!


…Again, I agree with the principle that this is used for (supporting a pro-life position). So in some ways I did not want to de-bunk it only because I don’t want it to lose its power. But it can’t be a real photo.

That being said, by the same token I HAVE seen and done ultrasounds on hundreds if not thousands of women who are pregnant and can tell you that as early as 8 or 9 weeks you can see movement and limb buds. There is no doubt in my mind that a “fetus” at the end of the first trimester responds to pain and light. During the mid trimester (16-24 weeks) I have done amniocentesis on patients and had the baby roll onto the amnio needle. It’s really startling to have them jump (and you feel it through the needle). Don’t let anyone tell you that they feel no pain when they are “D&E’d” in the second trimester. It’s truly barbaric.

Sorry, folks! And, to close this post, let me add that Jack Wheeler’s an old friend and great guy, so I suspect he had no idea the photo is discussed on an urban legends site. And, thanks to “Anonymous” — it is an honor to have you as a reader of this blog!

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