Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Abortion III, The Scientific Status of a Fetus, Personhood

Political scientist Jule Boykoff and geographer Maxwell Boykoff recently conducted a study concerning the media’s presentation of global warming [5]. According to this study journalists and media outlets give off the impression that scientists are “embroiled in a rip-roaring debate on whether or not humans [are] contributing to global warming.”

Actually, the scientific community is hosting no such debate. Journalists try too hard to provide equitable coverage. People approach this issue under the mindset that there is no definite answer. Unfortunately this puts us out of sync with science. While we look at the world in shades of grey, science provides black and white answers. This is also true concerning the definition of life and humanity.

So, how do we identify an organism as a member of its respective species? It’s not actually that hard. There are 1.8 million known species on the face of this planet [6]. Each one is identified by a genetic signature unique to and universal among its members throughout their lifespan [7]. Human beings are not an exception.

At what point in the reproductive process does this unique genetic signature occur? Upon conception whenever the male's gamete fertilizes the female's oocyte and creates a zygote [8]. This instant marks our beginning as a unique member of the human species.

Blackmun claimed that “There has always been great evidence that life does not begin until live birth.” This is not true. Within the medical and scientific community there is no debate. According to the United States Senate judiciary subcommittee:

“Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being - a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.” [9]

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, an internationally known obstetrician and gynecologist, is famous for his film, "The Silent Scream." His video can be easily viewed over the internet and on youtube.

What many people may not know is that he also cofounded the NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League). Bernard Nathanson even owned and operated what was at that time the largest abortion clinic in the western hemisphere. After studying the science fetology he resigned from his position. Dr. Bernard Nathanson said that he knew with an "increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths." [10]

Nathanson later stated, "Modern technologies have convinced us that beyond question the unborn child is simply another human being, another member of the human community, indistinguishable in every way from any of us." He went on to publish the 'realities' of abortion in his "Aborting America."[11]

Dr. Landrum Shettles served for nearly thirty years as an attending obstetrician-gynecologist at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. He is best known for his discovery of female producing sperm. Dr. Shettles also stated:

"...I accept what is biologically manifest—that human life commences at the time of conception." [12]

Dr. Jerome LeJeune, professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, is most famous for discovering the chromosome pattern of Down syndrome. Dr. Jerome Lejune testified before the Judiciary Subcommittee:

“After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. [It] is no longer a matter of taste or is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception." [13]

Professor Hymie Gordon, Mayo Clinic:

“By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”

Ashley Montague, pro-choice geneticist and professor at Harvard and Rutgers:

"The basic fact is simple: life begins not at birth, but conception."

There is no argument. Scientifically speaking a fetus is a living human being. At the Senate hearings, "Pro-abortionists, though invited to do so, failed to produce even a single expert witness who would specifically testify that life begins at any point other than conception or implantation." [14] (One expert DID testify that "no one can tell when life begins.")

However, Robert Flowers, arguing for the appellant in Roe v. Wade, felt that the status of a fetus should not be demonstrated by scientific fact. Instead he insisted that it should be ‘a legislative decision,’ and Blackmun agreed.

This being said, President Barrack Obama promised to ‘restore science to its rightful place’ in his inaugural address [15]. He also swears to ‘crack down on fathers avoiding child support,’ because he believes we are obliged to support our dependents [16]. So then why isn’t he having Roe v. Wade re-addressed?

Maybe he feels that science’s rightful place is second to the constitution and he may very well be right. The problem is that our constitution does not provide a definition of personhood or human life. Now, scientifically we know that a zygote is a person by definition [17].

Constitutionally the only thing we know is that a fetus does not classify as a citizen of the Unite States. This means that there is no constitutional protection of a fetus’ rights, but does this justify abortion? I shall address this in my next segment.

[5] Vivian, John. The Media of Mass Communication. 8th ed. Pearson Education, 2008.
[6] Heilprin, John. "Genetic 'Barcodes' Used to Identify Species." MSNBC. 14 Sept. 2007. Associated Press. 2 Jan. 20
[7] Stoeckle, Mark. "A reliable, consistent, and democratic tool for species discrimination." Consortium for the Barcode of Life. 18 Jan. 2009. CBOL. 13 Mar. 2009
[8] Keith L. Moore, Ph.D. & T.V.N. Persaud, Md., (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998), 2-18.
[9] Report, Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th Congress, 1st Session 1981, 7.
[10]Bernard N. Nathanson, "Deeper into Abortion," New England Journal of Medicine 291 (1974): 1189Ð90.
[11]Bernard Nathanson, Aborting America (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979).
[12] Shettles and Rorvik, Rites of Life, 103.
[13] Alcorn, Randy. "Scientists Attest To Life Beginning At Conception." EPM. 2008. EPM. 16 Apr. 2009
[14] Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik, Rites of Life: The Scientific Evidence of Life Before Birth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 113
[15] Transcript- Barack OBama Inaugural Address." New York Times. 20 Jan. 2009. New York Times. 3 Apr. 2009
[16]"Family." Barack Obama. Obama for America. 4 Apr. 2009
[17] Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation.