Knock me over: Not just one, but two beating hearts!

By Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher, Clarion Herald

At 24 weeks, a baby is the size of a cantaloupe and weighs just over one pound. The baby’s face is almost fully formed, and your baby can hear your voice. That’s right. At 24 weeks, your baby can distinguish between different voices and sounds. 

The baby’s brain is growing rapidly at this point, and, if a baby needed to be born at 24 weeks, that baby is considered viable. At 24 weeks, a baby’s lungs are so far developed that, if necessary, the baby has a good chance of survival after care in the neonatal unit.

And yet, even after at 24 weeks – while the baby continues to develop and increase his or her chance of survival – the state of New York has deemed that late-term abortions are legal. 

Monstrous. I’ve heard the excuses: the law emphasizes that this form of murder is legal only when necessary to protect the life of the mother.

But what of the life of the child? 

And, in fact, if this law is about protecting life, then why does the law also stipulate that medical professionals other than doctors can perform the abortion?

Perhaps other professionals need to be called in because doctors take an oath to protect life, and there are fewer doctors willing to perform the procedure. This law is seen as contradictory to the doctor’s oath because, in fact, abortion is not about protecting lives; it’s about killing them.

When I heard of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing of the new law, my initial reaction was to think of the throngs of marchers who just last week had marched on Washington to raise awareness of the need for protecting life. 

But then, I thought more personally.

My mind traced itself to the ultrasound that I had undergone just a few weeks ago – the ultrasound that was searching for the heartbeat; the catch of my husband’s hand – and subsequent crushing of his hand – as we waited in anticipation.

And then, the sudden relief and exhale (when I hadn’t even known that I had been holding my breath) when my doctor turned to us and said he had picked up the signal of something so incredible.

The strong, oh-so-fast beat that sounded like gushing water to my untrained ears.

And to think – we had two! Yes, gentle reader (as Charlotte Bronte would say), we’re having twins!

When the ultrasound glowed red as color showed two mighty, yet, small hearts pounding away in two tiny “Teddy Graham”-sized bodies, I was truly amazed. Patting my other hand, my doctor, smiled, leaned back and said: “We have life.”

At just over six weeks. Life. 

I’m lucky that my doctor is a Catholic, who staunchly believes in upholding life. From the beginning of our journey into fertility – and it’s been a long one – he has upheld and shared our own doctrines. 

Few are that lucky.

But in the face of New York’s horrific decisions, we can still find solace. 

In my current state of Missouri, I hold out hope for a changing tide. Down to just one abortion clinic due to its stringent requirements on physician privileges, the state is now considering a “fetal heartbeat” restriction, prohibiting abortions after a heartbeat has been detected. 

And so, despite the darkness that hangs, I’m still hopeful. Because we can still fight for change that upholds the dignity of all life, as witnessed in those marching last week. And, also  because, of those pro-lifers who couldn’t march – our voices must continue to be heard. 

Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at

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