Groundbreaking In-the-Womb Photos Now Improved and Republished
By Peter J. Smith
LONDON, October 15, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for more than fifty years Lennart Nilsson has taken photographs that the pro-life movement has found priceless: the earliest and most compelling visual images that give intimate detail and clarity to the humanity of unborn children in the womb.
The Swedish photographer is eighty-seven years old, and was the first to open up the secret world of the unborn – from conception up to birth – by way of macro-lenses and endoscopes (tiny instruments – including camera lens and case – that measure less than eight-tenths of a millimeter in diameter).
Nilsson’s photographic explorations of the unborn child’s life in the womb were revealed to the world first in 1965 as the cover-story for the April 30, 1965 edition of LIFE magazine, entitled “The Drama of Life before Birth.” But his photographs made their chief debut in that same year in a book called, “A Child is Born.”
The stunning images published in 1965 have now been remastered with the help of the latest photographic technology and “A Child is Born” has been republished in a fifth and final edition. Nilsson says this final edition of his book is meant for the reader of the 21st century to enjoy, so that they might appreciate the mystery of a human being’s beginnings. Nilsson has cut away most of the scientific text of previous versions, and largely lets the photos speak for themselves.
In a question-and-answer session with fellow Swedish photographer Hasse Persson, Nilsson remarked that although he has not photographed God directly through his microscopic cameras, “I’ve seen what He does.”
The photographs taken by Nilsson are credited with benefitting science in myriad ways, including helping pave the way to 4-D ultrasound technology; but they have also been of invaluable assistance to the pro-life movement, helping to make its case for the humanity of the unborn.
“In the case of Lennart Nilsson’s photographs, a picture is worth lives, untold numbers of lives, because those pictures humanize the child in utero,” said Judie Brown, President of American Life League.
Brown told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that Nilsson’s work must be placed in the context of the 45 intervening years and the development of ultrasound technologies that image the child in the womb.
“I think we would have been far behind where we are today,” without Nilsson’s photographs, said Brown, “because he is the inspiration for all the scientists who wanted to do what he had done, but through a realistic way, allowing the mother to see her child living and breathing in her womb.”
“If it had not been for him, the whole science of ultrasonography might have been set back as well.”
“Images such as those created by Lennart Nilsson absolutely reaffirm the humanity of unborn persons, which is why they are so unpopular with pro-abortion forces,” Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, told LSN. “It is worthwhile to note that it is pro-lifers who call attention to the latest scientific and technological advances in fetal development research, not pro-abortionists, who seek to deny the obvious humanity of the unborn.”
Nilsson himself withholds his opinion on abortion, saying that individuals must come to their own opinion. But service to truth also means service to life, and for that, Euteneuer told LSN, the pro-life movement is grateful for the contributions made by scientists and photographers like Nilsson.
“The facts are themselves on the side of life,” said Euteneuer. “In utero photos, 3-D ultrasounds, more accurate knowledge of the stages of fetal development – all these glimpses of the truth just demolish the view that the unborn child is just tissue.”
Nilsson’s photographs have undeniably helped those on the front lines of the pro-life movement. These images have figured prominently on pro-life billboards and signs that say “Choose Life!” They are especially critical for those who reach out to teenage girls and women in front of abortion clinics and give them the chance to think of their baby as a real human person – not an abstract thing or ball of tissue.
Chris Slattery, the director of Expectant Mother Care (EMC) FrontLine Pregnancy Centers in New York City, the “abortion capital of America,” says photos that depict the humanity of the unborn child in the womb have been “invaluable” in changing hearts and minds on abortion and “bringing to life the humanity of the unborn.”
Slattery told LSN that EMC volunteers work with pregnant women in need of help and offer counseling outside abortion facilities. The photographs of the unborn child really help get the message across, he said.
Images of the unborn have advanced rapidly since Nilsson took his first photographs of life in the womb. Although Nilsson’s endoscope allowed him to take intra-uterine photographs of a developing child, constraints on the technology in 1965 meant that in the early embryonic stages he had to photograph the unborn who had miscarried due to extra-uterine or ectopic pregnancies.
Now, Slattery says the pro-life arsenal has rapidly increased through images from 3D/4D ultrasound technology, which gives images of the baby in three dimensions and allows the mother to see real-time movement of her baby in the womb. These capture the facial expressions of the unborn, revealing personality.
“Photographs are a stock in trade tool,” said Slattery. “We have used these successfully on the streets and in crisis pregnancy centers for decades.”
Slattery said that he was looking forward to “A Child Is Born” making its way to the United States in the fifth version. “I’m always looking for new tools,” he said.
The fifth edition of “A Child Is Born” made its European debut in autumn, and an English language version is published in the United Kingdom through Jonathan Cape. Susanne BergstrÃ¶m Larsson, agent for Bonnier Group Agency, which handles the rights to Nilsson’s work, told LSN in an e-mail that they hope to see the book published in the United States next year.
A photo-gallery of Nilsson’s work is available for viewing at the UK Telegraph here.
Readers can also check out Lennart Nilsson’s website, which has more images, interviews, and news related to his work.
Read a special LSN report on surgical abortion that features the photography of Lennart Nilsson chronicling the different stages of fetal development.