Finding 3: Fetal Descriptions

“Medically inaccurate” statements were disproportionately concentrated on particular body parts / systems / functions.

Experts found body systems that attribute human “intentionality” or more “baby-like” characteristics to the embryo or fetus, such as breathing, seeing, crying, or experiencing pain, were more likely to be misrepresented at earlier stages of development. Statements about limbs, fingers and toes, and nails were highly inaccurate. For example, “arm and leg buds are present” at week 2.

Inaccurate statements often focused on fetal movement or action, such as “the vocal chords are active and the fetus can cry” and “The fetus can now blink” (16 weeks).

20% of all statements about fetal viability were rated as inaccurate, such as (at 20 weeks LMP), “[the fetus has a] 21 percent chance of survival with appropriate high-risk newborn care” as compared to a statement rated as medically accurate (also pertaining to 20 weeks LMP): “survival outside the uterus at this stage is not yet possible.”

Medically Inaccurate Statements by Body System Subject

Body System Subject N of Statements N of Inaccurate Statements % of All Statements Inaccurate (Overall)
Activity 298 69 23.15%
Extremitiesa 177 53 29.94%
General Externalb 320 45 14.06%
General Internalc 555 145 26.13%
Head and Facial Featuresd 326 62 19.02%
Size and Weight 699 188 26.89%
Viability 190 39 20.53%

aLimbs, fingers and toes, nails.

bHair, skin, fat, neck, breasts, tail, sex.

cCardiovascular, respiratory, nervous system, bones, general organs, growth, muscles, kidneys, blood, immune system, digestive, hormones, liver, glands, temperature.

dEyes, face, ears, nose, mouth, head, teeth.