We watched Baby Olivia’s viral anti-abortion video so you don’t have to. Here’s what a real doctor says – Reckon

The Baby Olivia video promises viewers a world-class glimpse of human development.

“This is the moment that life begins,” says the omniscient, faceless narrator as AI-generated sperm swims through pink body tissue, reaching and penetrating an egg cell, which is surrounded by a glowing, iridescent aura. The screen fades to white and the voice returns.

“A new human being has come into existence.”

The video proceeds to portray the journey a fetus takes in the womb, reaching milestone points through its 38 weeks of gestation. But experts say this three minute video does not accurately depict the evolution of an embryo to fetus to infant and rather, presents misleading and inaccurate information to push a pro-life agenda.

The problem: several states currently have bills moving through the legislature that would require public schools to institute the Baby Olivia video, or others similar, into school curriculum. North Dakota implemented this policy in 2023, and according to the Associated Press, five of the state’s largest school districts use Baby Olivia to teach kids about reproduction.

The video was created by Live Action, a pro-life non-profit which says it “exists today to shift public opinion on the killing of preborn children,” and has a history of presenting altered video footage against Planned Parenthood, according to Politico Pro.

Last month, the Iowa House voted to require a computer-generated video of the stages of pregnancy, like the Baby Olivia video, but just yesterday, a subcommittee advanced the bill but removed all reference to Baby Olivia, according to Siouxland Proud. This is a state that already lags in reproductive care. In 2022, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reported that Iowa had the least number of OB-GYNs per capita compared to other states in the country.

In an emailed response to Reckon, ACOG said that the Baby Olivia video is not based on medical facts.

“Like much anti-abortion misinformation, the ‘Baby Olivia’ video is designed to manipulate the emotions of viewers rather than to share evidence-based, scientific information about embryonic and fetal development,” they said in the email. “Many of the claims made in this video are not aligned with scientific fact, but rather reflect the biased and ideologic perspectives of the extremists who created the video. ACOG is strongly opposed to the spread of misinformation about reproductive health.”

How is this digital baby manipulating students, and what should sex education look like? We spoke with experts to explain exactly what’s wrong with Baby Olivia.

Misleading language pushed a pro-life agenda

The first time viewers see Olivia, she is a fully developed fetus, yawning, stretching, and sucking her thumb. Olivia is introduced by name and assigned gender pronouns. She is automatically granted personhood – the very basis of laws like the controversial Alabama law which recently blocked IVF treatment in the state. Fetal personhood laws often grant a fetus the same or more rights than the person carrying the pregnancy.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, OB-GYN and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) points out the lack of mention of a mother or pregnant person in the video.

“Obviously the video is computer-generated and aims to personify the embryo and fetus, which seems to be developing in outer space. There is very little mention of the woman in whose body the embryo is developing, including how she may feel about the pregnancy and how it may be affecting her health.”

The video moves backwards in time to show the fertilization and implantation of cells, then proceeds to progress through the weeks of gestation.

Many have called out the video’s use of divisive language. One example, throughout the  video Olivia’s changes are referred to in “weeks after fertilization,” while “weeks after the last menstrual cycle” is more typically used by doctors, according to AP. In a letter that Iowa physicians and educators sent to lawmakers in opposition of the video, they referenced this point and said that it is misleading because these milestones occur in real life two weeks later than they are depicted.

“When someone goes to see a doctor or midwife, the pregnancy is dated from the last menstrual period, and the estimated date of delivery is 40 weeks later. The numbering scheme used here dates the pregnancy from fertilization, which means everything happens 2 weeks ‘earlier.’ So delivery occurs at 38 weeks,” Grossman explained. “It also makes it sound like the fetus is more developed than people may think at, say, 11 weeks—and part of that is because the fetus is actually at 13 weeks according to the most common way of dating a pregnancy.”

Obstetricians have said that the video exaggerates the fetus’ capabilities. An Iowa OB-GYN told the Associated Press that the video enhances the type of activity science believes can happen in the womb by using language like “playing” and “exploring.”

“[It implies] a level of intention that we just can’t say is present,” said Emily Boevers, a practicing OB-GYN and co-founder of Iowans for Health Liberty.

About a minute into the video, we hear a strong and steady thumping sound.

“At three weeks and one day, just 22 days after fertilization, Olivia’s heartbeat can be detected,” says the narrator.

References to a fetal “heartbeat” is widely disputed by medical experts. As Reckon reported in October, the Ohio Policy Evaluation Network, an Ohio research collaborative that focuses on reproductive healthcare, says that even at six weeks, an embryo typically measures at one or two millimeters and does not have a developed heart or cardiovascular system.

“Regarding the ‘heart beat,’ embryologists are clear that the heart does not form fully until 9 weeks from the last menstrual period. At 5 to 6 weeks, it is possible to see rhythmic contractions of the cardiac tube on ultrasound, but it is not a fully formed heart,” said Grossman.

Grossman also told Reckon that while it is true that some babies have survived at 22 weeks, what is depicted at 20 weeks in the video, the survival rate is low, and there is a high risk of serious medical problems. Research analysis from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Iowa shows that only 10% of infants born at 22 weeks survived and were able to be discharged from the hospital.

Youth need comprehensive sex ed, not propaganda

West Virginia’s proposed “Baby Olivia” bill would require public schools to show the video to eighth and tenth graders. Kentucky’s Baby Olivia Act requires schools to adopt a curriculum starting in sixth grade, which presents a three minute ultrasound video and a “high-quality, computer-generated rendering or animation showing the process of fertilization and every stage of human development inside the uterus…” Reproductive health advocates are concerned with this type of content being pushed into schools.

“Anti-abortion extremists are exploiting people’s lack of understanding to push dangerous misinformation about pregnancy and human development. This video is inaccurate and stigmatizing,” said Brittany McBride, associate director of sex education at Advocates for Youth, an advocacy organization focused on helping young people make informed decisions on reproductive health and sexuality.

For some children, school is one of the only places where they can access medically accurate information, and that should be the standard, said Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

“We need to make sure it’s medically accurate and scientifically sound and that they can trust their teachers and their textbooks,” Wieder told WKRG.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that comprehensive sex education is important as it impacts the overall social-emotional health. Evidence supports that  comprehensive sex ed results in adolescents having a reduced rate of sexual activity, reduced frequency of unprotected sex, and increased rates of condom and contraception use.

Last month, ACOG issued a policy brief on the importance of comprehensive sexuality education, calling for it to be medically accurate, based on evidence and age-appropriate. It recommends it includes the benefit of delaying sexual intercourse, provides information about reproductive development, contraception and navigating interpersonal relationships, including consent, intimate partner violence and health relationships.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 38 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education and/or HIV education, but only 18 require the curriculum to be medically accurate, and 29 states require abstinence to be stressed.

“Time and again, research has shown that abstinence-only curriculum is ineffective. Abstinence-only curriculum withholds critical information from young people and only perpetuates stigma,” said McBride.



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