Sufficient Scruples

Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.

July 16, 2006

You Are a Housing Project for Fetuses

by @ 12:28 PM. Filed under Autonomy, General, Reproductive Ethics, Sex, Theory, Women's Issues

“Faithmouse” is a painfully sincere cartoonist who specializes in incomprehensible images of fetuses doing cutesy things, in the apparent belief that the morality of abortion is determined by the wisdom of Little Jeffy from The Family Circle. But occasionally he makes himself clear enough that you can understand what he’s saying. Here’s an example:

If you can’t see it clearly in the reduced-size image, a cute pink fetus is lounging in a wingback chair, reading “Modern Fetus” magazine, inside a soft, red, squishy-walled apartment with the sign “Womb Sweet Womb” hanging on the wall. The fetus is plugged into the wall through an umbilical cord that terminates in an electrical outlet. Its baseball cap is hanging from a peg on the wall, a ventilator duct appears on the other wall, and – displaying a worrisome grasp of anatomy – a heart-shaped heart and other organs are visible through a huge gap in the side wall, next to a set of large, coin-operated binoculars like you find at outdoor public attractions. (?) A gloved hand is bursting through the screen door and slamming down the front door of the apartment, holding an “Eviction Notice”.

Yep. Your uterus is the home of a fetus. Your cervix is merely the front door of its “apartment”, and your bodily organs are merely the walls, floor, wiring, and ventilation ducts of its abode. Acting on your own body, or having a doctor do so on your behalf, is equivalent to bursting down the door of someone else’s home. (I admit, I have no freaking idea what the binoculars are for.) And, of course, it’s a violent invasion – tearing through the screen, ripping off the door, and dragging the little wobbly-head-doll fetus out into the cold, like a thug or a home invader, or at best a slumlord. You don’t, of course, have the right to treat your own body as your own body if someone else is living in it – that would be cruel.

Amazingly enough, also, the cartoon manages to show the inside of a woman’s body without ever implying that there’s actually a woman present. The fetus is fully characterized – it not only looks like a typical cartoon image of a fully-developed child, but it has intellectual interests, possessions, and a home with little domestic touches hanging on the walls. The woman is represented only by the grossly distorted image of the walls of her uterus, which actually belongs to the fetus as its dwelling place. (When you see someone’s apartment, you don’t think “Oh, here’s the landlord’s real estate investment” – you think “Oh, here is this person’s apartment“. Here, the woman’s entire body, including the internal organs visible through the “window” in her uterus – it’s a “womb with a view” – get it? – are the dwelling place of this fetus; they are its home, not her body.)

So, if you want to know what you are to the right wing, there you have it. You are the property of your own fetus – its home, its “castle”. Your uterus is as sacrosanct against “home invasion” – by you – as a citizen’s home is against thugs or intruders. You have no right of “trespass” on your own body. And your fetus is a fully-developed person with its own tastes in home decoration; you are nothing but some walls and tubing. Do be sure to keep the yard picked up, though; it’s your obligation as landlord.

30 Responses to “You Are a Housing Project for Fetuses”

  1. Christina Says:

    1. A lot of prolifers find the “sentient fetus” them pretty revolting, too. I’ve blogged about it.

    2. No, the woman isn’t an apartment building. She’s a mother. An abortion isn’t an eviction; it’s killing. Her own child. Which makes even the worst slumlord look like Ghandi by comparison.

  2. Kevin T. Keith Says:

    the woman isn’t an apartment building. She’s a mother.

    That’s precisely not what the cartoon above says.

    An abortion . . . [is] killing. Her own child.

    The fetus isn’t a “child”. We use the word “child” to denote an independent, fully delivered, young person usually well past birth. “Child” connotes intellectual growth and personality development, not the state of a fetus.

    Calling a fetus a “child” equates a true child with a fetus – which is insulting to the child. A child is much more than a zygote, or an embryo, or even a developing fetus with no thoughts, no interests, and no personality. A child has all those in abundance, which is what makes children so vital and engaging. If you think no more of children than that they are purely metabolic clumps of cells, that betrays a gross hostility to children. To say the same of an embryo or early fetus is no more than an accurate description.

  3. eva Says:

    hello, i like your cartoon description. cute fetus. what is the fetuses name?

  4. Peggy Archer Says:

    I am speechless.


    Asshats like this are the very reason I currently sport an I.U.D. (until it’s made illegal, because if I don’t have a penis, I’m clearly not competent to make decisions about my body), and why I’d have my tubes tied were I able to find a doctor who’d do it.

    Words cannot accurately convey how tired I am of these idiots.

  5. Nissa Annakindt Says:

    The unborn baby’s name is ‘Neverborn’.

    I just discovered ‘faithmouse’ and love his cartoons.

    I am a lesbian and used to be liberal and pro-choice but began to have concerns because it seems like the ‘pro-choice’ movement was only defending one choice— the one that gives you a dead fetus and, 90% of the time, a woman who regrets having an abortion.

    If faithmouse’s cartoons get one woman to avoid having an abortion that will make her future life miserable, he’s helping the ‘pro-choice’ cause. After all, choices other than abortion are choices too.

  6. AC-F Says:

    And, of course, it’s a violent invasion – tearing through the screen, ripping off the door, and dragging the little wobbly-head-doll fetus out into the cold, like a thug or a home invader, or at best a slumlord.

    Violent is the right word, only it’s not the door that gets ribbed off, it’s the unborn child’s arms and legs.

    Abortion is violent. Yes, it’s your womb, but it’s his/her little arms and legs that get ripped off. When it’s your arms and legs, then you’ll have cause to complain.

  7. Kevin T. Keith Says:

    When it’s your arms and legs, then you’ll have cause to complain.

    Loss of freedom, then, is not “cause to complain”? Loss of the right to control your life, your body, your future – those aren’t worth complaining about (if you’re a woman). But the loss of nothing it is actually aware of – the experience of . . . nothing at all that it can notice or comprehend – that’s enough for the least-developed embryo to override any “complaints” any mere woman might have about her own life, her body, her interests.

    What, exactly, do you mean by “yes, it’s your womb”? If you’re aware of that, what moral significance does it have to you? It obviously gives the woman whose “womb” it actually is no standing in the decisions you’re making about her body and her life, so why mention it at all? What moral equation is it that recognizes – grudgingly and in passing – that a woman’s body is her own, “but” then moves directly from that point to her complete helplessness to say what will happen to it?

    It would be fascinating to know how such a mind, and such a moral sense, comes to be the way it is.

  8. AC-F Says:

    Loss of the right to control your life, your body, your future

    Your body? Once again, are those your arms and legs that are ripped off?

    When I am pregnant, I don’t have 4 arms and 4 legs, nor will I have a penis and two testes if my child is a boy. My child has its own body and has a right to not have that body dismembered simply because I regret my decision to become pregnant based on risks I willingly took.

    I maintain the right to control my life, my body and my future. After I get pregnant, there is another life, body and future besides my own. A fetus has a right to bodily integrity.

  9. Dave Says:

    “A fetus has a right to bodily integrity.”

    Why? Why does a fetus’ body have a greater right to bodily integrity than the host?

    “simply because I regret my decision to become pregnant based on risks I willingly took.”

    Of course, it always seems to come back to controlling women’s sexuality.

  10. Cris Says:

    Nice analysis, Kevin. You do a good job of pointing out how every small detail of the cartoon reflects the cartoonist’s misguided concept of pregnancy.

    I’m glad to see (via Christina) that even some anti-abortionists reject the “sentient fetus,” because it is patently ridiculous. I would even say it undermines the argument, because if you feel that you have to depict a being as cute, intelligent, and self-aware to argue for its right to life, you’re actually not arguing in favor of the sanctity of all life.

    Now that I am actually a parent, I feel even more strongly that it’s a complete fallacy to assign fully-human status to a fetus. We don’t begin being human until well after birth. Yes, we’re homo sapiens, but our sentient mind and self-awareness take a long time to develop.

  11. Whitters Says:

    in the apparent belief that the morality of abortion is determined by the wisdom of Little Jeffy from The Family Circle
    Hee. I love this.

    Thank you for this great analysis, Keith. As a woman who has had an abortion before (and yes, I was pro-choice long before my personal experience with abortion), it sickens me to see so many in the anti-choice camp reduce women to mere ‘housing’ for fetuses.

  12. Heather C Says:

    To the anti-women’s reproductive rights Lesbian:

    Where are you getting your statistics? Stating that 90% of women regret their abortions is not accurate, nor can its accuracy be measured due to the Religious Right’s blockage of studies regarding abortions by Government funded researchers.

    Second, what this image does and what so much of the Radical Religious Right does is distort the issues. Reproductive rights are about the individual’s self-determination of medical decisions–privacy in decision making as when to become a parent. The Radical Right, and their anthromophism of embroys and fetus’ through saccharin advertisments such as above seek to dumb down the discussion to pre-adolescent understandings of human anatomy and the social/economic realities of human pregnancy. This dumbing down of the conversation is winning the Radical Right a place of legitimacy in the public forum that would hardly be considered relevent if all the factors were actually discussed on this crucial issue for WOMEN & MEN.

  13. Mordant Belle » Blog Archive » Abortion, She Wrote Says:

    […] Abortion, She Wrote I’ve been reading a lot of debate online about abortion again lately, in part because of the headlining newly implemented South Dakota ban on abortion, and in part because of an outcry in the feminist blogging world about a strange anti-abortion cartoon. It seems this particular hot-button debate never gets old. Here’s another, slightly less condemning take, no matter which side you belong on. I think the biggest problem with this issue is the extreme sides of it. Neither side has any intention of negotiating with the other – it’s an all-or-nothing war that will end only when a majority of the populace can come to s definite conclusion and beat the opposing side into submission. This is exactly what our founders DIDN’T want – the will of the majority to overpower the rights and wills of the minority, whatever that minority may be. (Obviously I’m using their ideal ideologies, not their actual ones.) Regardless of which side is “bigger”, the fact of the matter is that both sides have very valid points. This debate is neither wholly scientific or wholly moral, nor has either side kept from indulging in rhetoric and science-bending to try and prove their point. In the end, we get the whole population yelling at each other. What it comes down to is this: balancing the rights of the mother with/against the rights of the child/fetus/embryo/cellbundle/whatever. It is less a definition of when and where life begins, and more a question of what to do when two sets of rights overlap and conflict. When life begins and its inherent value is important in this debate, in order to establish when the rights of the “chembrytus” begin. I think many pro-choice advocates would have a hard time convincingly arguing that an eight and a half month stage pregnancy is NOT a human being, nay a child, without looking stupid. Likewise, it’s difficult for pro-life advocates to convincingly argue that a two week old cell-bundle is a human child, even a month old embryo. It’s very hard to make a scream of “Murder!” at that stage not sound ridiculous. The problem is more the stages in between, when humanity is tenuous. In the end, however, that argument is just another red-herring, regardless of who’s making it. The question is not when life begins, but who’s rights and life are more important, when, and why. And that is not a question for the government or for society as a whole…it is a question for each individual. And it’s something that should be discussed and decided BEFORE that crucial decision making needs to happen. Abortion is not the original issue, though many are being sidetracked into thinking it is. It’s the result of a phenomenon that should be addressed. And I think both sides should agree on that particular problem, though their solutions may differ. Simply put, the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies that result in an abortion that is NOT medically required to save the mother’s life or sanity (I’m talking in cases of rape and incest, here) is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, period. To me, that means an increase in sexual education so people (not kids, but PEOPLE…not all sexual ignoramuses are teens) know exactly what they’re getting themselves into and what the consequences are. Education is the solution to minimalizing “accidents”, including reproductive ones. Knowing the consequences will help individuals make informed decisions…isn’t that true of ALL things, sexual and not? Hell, my eighth and ninth grade Sex Ed classes had all the students chanting “ABSTINENCE!!!” at the end (Full color illustrations of STDs and a video of a live birth will do that to 13 and 14 year olds, regardless of contraceptive reassurances. Teenagers are not stupid – dumbasses, perhaps, but not stupid – and today’s batch are an inherently suspicious lot. It takes a few years and a lot of hormones for that fear to wear off, and the message itself still sticks.) That means an increase in the availability of contraception, to when couples DO make the leap they can control what results. That means encouraging both males and females to take responsibility to ensure their own protection. Above all, that means encouraging people to THINK and develop a set of standards about having sex. Be they teenagers or older, sexually active or not. Such standards will differ from person to person, and would probably evolve and grow over time, but it means the decision making happens out of the heat of the moment. It means encouraging people to ask, realistically: what would need to happen to make me comfortable having sex? What kind of person would I need my partner to be? What circumstances would it need to happen in for my first time? For any time? What will I do if these circumstances and standards are not met when the situation arises? I would theorize that early on, this would mean a lot of girls had mental images of model-style men who are devoted to their every whim and fancy, and for males a sensual woman who catered to his every sexual desire. This is speaking in stereotypes of course, but stereotypes exist for a reason, and aren’t unjust as long as a provision for exceptions is made. Over time, these highly unlikely expectations would change into more mature ones, with personality clauses as to the types of people that the individuals want and need. And I think that encouraging people to think in marriage terms is not nessessarily bad: If you wouldn’t be willing to spend the rest of your life with that person (even if it doesn’t end up that way), do you REALLY want to have sex with them? Probably not. All this boils down to is making sure that people make individual, concious, informed, healthy choices about sex. That will ultimately reduce the amount of young people having sex before their ready, make the age of devirginization later and more ready and deliberate, and most importantly, reduce the number of abortions. Because both sides know that most abortions are the result of a bad decision, a mistake (ignoring, of course, those nessessary beause contraception flat-out didn’t work). If we fight to end that mistake in the first place, the rest will follow. […]

  14. belledame222 Says:


    yeah, you know, I have been wondering about some peoples’ fixation on the beings that are, essentially, somewhere between alive and…not. The “preborn” (always makes me think of “prebaked”) and, at the other end, the likes of Terry Schiavo.

    and especially “ew” over the saccharine sweetness of the “snowflake babies” business, for instance.

    I mean, I see the argument that it’s ’cause they’re helpless and can’t speak for themselves

    …and I think, you know, taken to an extreme, that in itself, is…suggestive.

    I mean, being protective of the helpless is one thing.

    But what does it say about someone if the brunt of their passion is reserved for beings that clearly have no autonomy?

    I mean, the great thing about someone/something that can’t speak for hirself is that you never have to worry about him/her/it talking back. Sort of like a teddy bear, only…not.

  15. lala the llama Says:

    The thing I don’t get about anti-choicers: apparently in their view, life begins at conception and ends at birth. Otherwise they’d show a little more substantive compassion for post-born children… like, say, universal healthcare, abolishing “no child left behind”, or even (heaven forbid) rebuilding New Orleans…

  16. lala the llama Says:

    Oh yeah, and the binoculars totally and completely freak me out. EEEwww.

  17. Dog Lover Dee Says:

    I’m seven months pregnant and I’ve never been more pro-choice than now. Pregnancy takes a huge toll on one’s body and life, and if you aren’t up for it, you shouldn’t have to go through with it.

    If God REALLY wanted every fetus to live, he would have found a foolproof way for humanity to procreate.

  18. Sophist Says:

    I am a lesbian and used to be liberal and pro-choice but began to have concerns because it seems like the ‘pro-choice’ movement was only defending one choice— the one that gives you a dead fetus and, 90% of the time, a woman who regrets having an abortion.

    You’ve got to be kidding! The reason that the pro-choice movement only defends the choice to abort is that nobody is trying to amend the freaking constitution to remove your right to not abort! I mean, duh. Only things under attack require defending.

  19. Mom-of-two Says:

    In answer to #1 Christina “She’s a mother. An abortion isn’t an eviction; it’s killing. Her own child. Which makes even the worst slumlord look like Ghandi by comparison.”

    Most women are capable of bearing a child, BUT, many of them are NOT Mothers. Be careful of pinning
    the word “Mother” on anyone because we can point to thousands of children who are maimed, neglected
    or killed AFTER they’re born. Where’s the pro-life cartoon for that?

  20. Personalizing the Fetus for Anti-Abortion Campaigns « The Blog and the Bullet Says:

    […] Posted by Jack Stephens on June 13th, 2007 The  blogger at Unapologetically Female, Tracy, posts: Apparently, the situation is worse than I thought. Tigtog of Hoyden About Town has noticed that this anti-choice technique of personifying fetuses is not just an isolated event, but a trend.* She points us to another recent instance of this phenomenon described by Kevin T. Keith, and the comments from that post lead to one of his older posts showing yet another (maybe even creepier) fetal cartoon. […]

  21. Sufficient Scruples » Blog Archive » Newest Talking Fetus: Humorless, Nonsensical, and Insomniac Says:

    […] This week, however, Muir joined the creepy talking-fetus brigade of conservative ‘toonists. It’s been discussed before, but it’s apparently a growing meme on the right wing – fetal “personhood” taken to such a bizarrely literal extreme that they imagine fetuses as having fully-functional adult personalities, and sometimes adult bodies (and why not? – with all the retrograde scientific claptrap the right wing has latched onto, the homunculus theory is hardly out of place). This can’t be a coincidence. Literalizing the claim of fetal personhood distinctly changes the relationship between, and relative moral standing of, a woman and her fetus, to the detriment (need it be said?) of the woman. That this delusional characterization of pregnancy has become so common and so widespread of late signals another move in the ongoing assault on the effective moral personhood of women. Here is Muir’s contribution to the war: […]

  22. Nulono Says:

    Well, you’re the one who put the fetus there in the first place! However, let’s assume your landlord wants to evict you. If he does it by ripping you to shreds and dragging your lifeless bits out the door, he has murdered you, even though he owns the apartment. The intended end of an abortion is a dead fetus, not an empty womb.

    The hole in the uterus and the general misplacement baffles me. A botched abortion, perhaps?

  23. Nulono Says:

    The woman is not pictured because the view is from the inside.

    This one shows the woman:

  24. Sufficient Scruples » Blog Archive » Fetus Christmas-Tree Ornaments . . . . (Oy vey! . . .) Says:

    […] latest entry in the “creepy personified fetus” category: the “Feti” – weird/cutesy Christmas-tree […]

  25. Sufficient Scruples » Blog Archive » Using Their Weapons Against Them? – Not So Good When the Weapon is Women’s Bodies Says:

    […] That it does reflect and promotes the right-wing vision of women goes without saying: women as pregnant vessels who are not even named or acknowledged, and certainly have no interests or needs that deserve to be […]

  26. Teegs Says:

    Thanks for the cartoon- I’m using it on the invites for my baby shower!
    – Pro-Choice Mommy

  27. Women as wheelbarrows: Italian PM wants woman in coma alive as fetus container Says:

    […] There are many more examples of this flavour of woman-erasure. Pro-life propaganda often depicts an embryo or fetus floating in a black void, the woman not even existing as a uterus, but completely absent. Sufficient Scruples wrote in “You Are a Housing Project for Fetuses“: […]

  28. mandy Says:

    Because most abortion happens during second and third trimester. No! Most of it happens during the 1st trimester, and when it does happen later term it’s usually because of life threatening health reason. There’s no body to cut up or anything and all they do though is suck that little sucker out.

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