Matt Lewis

Fetal model too controversial for ad, but photo of real baby gets printed

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

You’ve probably seen this ad, which some newspapers deemed too controversial to print.

I was curious about the ad — why it was rejected by some major papers — and whether or not the image of a child at 20 weeks gestation is real. So I reached out to Heroic Media, the group behind the project.

“There are two versions of the ad that have run. The more widely published ad features a medically accurate fetal model at 20-24 weeks in the hand of an adult male,” says Marissa Cope, the group’s Director of Marketing.

“The second version, published in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, features a 20 week baby en utero (image courtesy of Life Issues Institute).” Here’s that image:

So why was this second image of a real baby deemed more appropriate than the model? “We were told by several publications that the image of the baby in the hand was too controversial,” says Cope. “One publication mentioned that the issue was that it was unclear if the baby was ‘alive’ or not.”

It seems unusual that a real picture of a model would be more offensive to the squeamish reader or the pro-choice subscriber than a picture of a real baby, but if changing the picture is what it takes, then so be it. (On the other hand, it is interesting that we are more worried about offending the delicate sensibilities of readers than about the unborn.)

“It strikes me as ironic that a medically accurate fetal model was too controversial, when the actual babies being aborted are living humans with blood pulsing through their veins,” Cope said.

UPDATE: A reader posits an interesting theory for why the model might be more disturbing:

“… I suggest the reason has nothing to do with abortion politics. The fake is, to my eye, *almost* perfect. That “almost” means it falls into what animators and robot designers call “the uncanny valley.” Which makes it creepy for no obvious reason. (See: Polar Express.)”