The Atlantic Called Fetal Heartbeats ‘Imaginary.’ Twitter Responded.

The Washington, D.C.-based magazine is receiving backlash after publishing a story about ultrasounds Tuesday morning.

By Liberty McArtor Published on January 24, 2017

The Atlantic is receiving backlash on Twitter after publishing a story about ultrasounds Tuesday morning.

The story went up at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time with the title “How Ultrasound Pushed the Idea That a Fetus is a Person.”

The article’s author, Moira Weigel, writes in the subtitle that “the technology has been used to create sped-up videos that falsely depict a response to stimulus.”

After several paragraphs of explaining the history behind ultrasound technology, Weigel goes on to claim that ultrasound images have been wrongly used for political ends by pro-life advocates:

New “informed consent” laws and the Congressional “heartbeat bill” follow the same logic that The Silent Scream did. Their sponsors act as if ultrasound images “prove” that a fetus is equivalent to a “baby,” and that pregnant women only have to be shown ultrasound images in order to draw the same conclusion. But the “heartbeat” made visible via ultrasound does not actually demonstrate any decisive change of state in the cell mass that might become a fetus.

Almost immediately, critics on Twitter slammed the article.

New York Post columnist John Podhoretz called it “disgusting” and “repellent.”

Others mocked the article’s title for indicating that ultrasounds, rather than science, are to blame for the notion that a fetus is human.

This user pointed to potential scientific inconsistencies.

Weigel originally wrote that it was “dubious” to state that a six-week-old fetus had a heartbeat, and an earlier version of the subtitle called the fetal heartbeat “imaginary.” Bill McMorris of the Washington Free Beacon tweeted a screenshot of the “dubious” sentence alongside a screenshot from, which claims that a four-week-old fetus’s heart is “pumping blood.”

As the Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday afternoon, The Atlantic deleted the sentence claiming that a six-week fetal heartbeat was “dubious,” deleted the word “imaginary” from its subtitle, and changed the title of the article to “How Ultrasound Became Political.”

But a public correction didn’t come until later, McMorris wrote, and when it did appear, neglected to address other errors within the original article.

At the time of the writing of this Stream post, a version of the original title still appears when shared on Twitter, though “imaginary” no longer appears in the subtitle.

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