Although claiming to show the living fetus, Nilsson actually photographed abortus material obtained from women who terminated their pregnancies under the liberal Swedish law. Working with dead embryos allowed Nilsson to experiment with lighting, background and positions, such as placing the thumb into the fetus’ mouth. But the origin of the pictures was rarely mentioned, even by ‘pro-life’ activists, who in the 1970s appropriated these icons.
It’s also nice to be reminded that fetal life only became precious to right wingers when women started to have more of a right to control their fertility and therefore choose our own paths in life. Prior to the legalization of abortion, and to this day, there isn’t a whole lot of fussing over spontaneous abortions, which are referred to by the euphemism “miscarriage”.