‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ and few examples show this better than medical professionals discussing abortion. I entered medical research because I wanted to use my love of science to help people, and I believe many in the field share this motivation. However, their good intentions can become ideologically driven and their blind spots let them to support the destruction of unborn children in the face of scientific evidence.
The Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2013 (No. 2), which aimed to provide legal protection to unborn children >20 weeks old, has been vigorously opposed by commentary from the medical journal Women and Birth, the Australian Medical Association and politicians on the grounds of implications for the law, midwifes and pregnant women. Yet in each case opponents of Zoe’s Law avoid giving a definitive answer of when a foetus becomes a person, and instead claim that granting personhood to an unborn child would challenge abortion legislation.
The irony is that far from treating people with dignity and respect, this attitude demeans humanity to be beneath animals. Zoe’s law was criticised for making the rights of a woman equal to those of a foetus >20 weeks old, or more than half way through gestation. However, the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes states that “it must be assumed that fetuses have comparable requirements for [pain relief] as adult animals” and specifically spells out that “when [offspring] have progressed beyond half the gestation or incubation period… the potential for them to experience pain and distress should be taken into account”.
While this code is not law, it is specifically mentioned as part of NSW legislation concerning animal research and is a requirement for all government funding. So scientific, medical and legislative standards tell us that animal foetuses past half their gestational age must be treated as adults, but human foetuses should not be treated even as a separate living being. How little worth we place on human life!
Pro-abortion advocates may raise objections – “That code governs ALL animal research, so treating the foetus like the mother is just an extension of treating the mother’s body.” But if the common refrain of “my body, my choice” is true, someone has forgotten to tell science!
From the earliest stages of development, a foetus meets all the requirements for a scientific definition of ‘life’, and has a unique genetic code, its own blood supply, and is recognised as a foreign body by the maternal immune system. By 6 weeks of gestation, a foetus has a heartbeat, and by 9-12 weeks key parts of the brain are formed and the ability to control movement develops.
Even simple logic testifies to the unique life of a child — if you ask how many fingers a pregnant woman has, no-one would say “twenty, but ten are in her uterus”. We implicitly acknowledge that the life within her is not a part of her body but a new individual. Every piece of knowledge we have about foetal development screams that this is a unique human life from well before the 20 weeks, and arguably from conception (or at least early development).
Yet still medical professionals champion abortion as a woman deciding what to do with her own body. How can science and those who practice it justify support for abortion when all the evidence stands in opposition? I place a tremendous value on scientific research but even when the methods of science are well applied, medical professionals can justify their hypocrisy and bias surrounding abortion by subtly changing definitions.
For example, a single bacterial cell is considered ‘life’, but a single cell in the womb is not. As this life develops and grows, pro-abortion advocates may admit it is life but say “it is just a foetus”. But this word describes a stage of human development, not a separate species. There are no other lifeforms in nature which change species just by growing, and in the same way a human adult, teenager, child, infant or foetus is just an extra description of an individual human life.
So the definitions must be changed again – “it might be human, but it is not a person”. No matter how much people claim this is a scientific fact, it is very clearly outside the realm of science, because the same pro-abortion advocates who say this also claim there is no objective standard of personhood.
In contrast, I would claim that any standard that disconnects personhood from being human is inherently flawed and creates even more legal difficulties. For example, if the standard is “must be self-sufficient”, a newborn baby is not a person. If the standard is consciousness, a sleeping adult is not a person. And if the standard is sentience, a human in a coma is not a person. Every human is a person, including the unborn.
People who claim science supports abortion can only do so by redefining terms to suit their agenda. Supporters of abortion may claim to use the scientific method, but in reality they use arbitrary terms with shifting definitions like ‘personhood’ or ignore the established definitions of ‘life’ to suit their ideological agenda.
Support for abortion has become a type of cult where questioning of the agenda is dismissed as religious, anti-science bigotry so that they do not need to confront the fact that pro-abortion advocates are the ones who have rejected any semblance of evidence and reason. If we are to challenge this agenda, we need to stop letting pro-abortion advocates shift their definitions, define precisely what we mean, and call abortion what it really is – destruction of an innocent human life.
KB is a science undergraduate in the final months of his Doctorate in Immunology and Microbiology. He cannot disclose his full name due to contractual obligations.