For decades, pro-abortion advocates have lost ground in public opinion, in part due to medical technologies that allow women to see their babies develop and even flourish pre-birth and post-birth. However, the answer to one important question remains largely unknown to the public:
When does life begin?
Gallup Politics, which has been tracking abortion opinion since 1976, indicates two consistent and complementary trends: The percentages of Americans who believe abortion should be legal in some and all circumstances have experienced spiky but substantial declines from their highs in the mid-1990s. The percentage who believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances has nearly doubled from a low in 1990.
Young Americans in particular have come to believe unborn life should be protected. The consensus is even stronger on the question later-pregnancy abortions, but the beginning of life itself is a question that won’t go away.
The think tank Just Facts (for which I do media consulting) has recently documented, “the science of embryology has proven that the genetic composition of humans is formed during fertilization, and as the textbook Molecular Biology explains, this genetic material is ‘the very basis of life itself.’”
Hence, writes Agresti, “the embryology textbook Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects directly states: ‘The zygote and early embryo are living human organisms.’”
Why is this simple concept so hard for Americans to understand? Largely because influential groups and individuals collude to create confusion.
Planned Parenthood, NARAL, reporters, the United States Supreme Court, and prominent scientific associations regularly ignore facts about the science of life. Their abandonment of truth has caused a great deal of harm to two generations of Americans.
Start with the Supreme Court. In 1973, the high court claimed it was “not in a position to speculate” as to “when life begins.” But the court undercut that statement of neutrality by setting a legal standard on that very question.
Consider three points:
First, the majority in Roe v. Wade criticized the State of Texas for “adopting one theory of life,” namely, that life begins at conception — in spite of the court’s admission that it could not speculate on the question at all.
Similarly, the majority used the term “potentiality of human life” in reference to unborn humans who are capable of living outside the mother’s womb.
Only three years later, as cited by LifeSiteNews.com U.S. bureau chief Ben Johnson, Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia said that “a new life has begun” when “the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote) . . . ”
Finally, the Court’s decision — granting zero constitutional rights to the unborn in the Roe decision — disregarded both science and its stated intent to remain neutral on this question. Unfortunately, the decision set the stage for the last four decades of cultural ignorance about the science of unborn life.
Today, groups like Planned Parenthood regularly twist or avoid the question of when life begins. Earlier this year, for example, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said that when life begins was “a question that . . . will be debated through the centuries.” She also said that when life begins “is not something that I feel like is really part of this conversation,” adding, “I don’t know that it’s really relevant to the conversation.”
Richards also said, “For me, life began when I delivered” her three children. However, for some — like President Obama and a Planned Parenthood lobbyist in Florida — human life doesn’t begin even at birth.