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.
Likewise, NARAL Pro-Choice America abandons this important question as quickly as possible. The totality of its statement on a page dedicated to the question: “That’s a question each person must decide for him- or herself. These issues involve matters of personal, moral, religious, and scientific beliefs. This is an area where politicians should have no role.”
In other words, NARAL is saying that should not be part of public policy.
Philip Bump at The Washington Post Wonk Blog recently asked the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) when life begins. After ACOG avoided the question, Bump gave the group a pass, writing, “‘Life’ is something of a philosophical question…”
Finally, ACOG itself helps contribute to the unscientific consensus. The College bills itself as “the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women.” In fact it is a well established Democratic ally. As even the liberal Slate.com reported, ACOG let its scientific statements be taken out of context to help the Clinton administration avoid banning partial-birth abortions.
Furthermore, polls published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine show that a plurality of U.S. obstetrician-gynecologists define pregnancy as beginning at conception.
In other words, ACOG is willing to avoid the question of “when life begins” when convenient. It is also willing to pretend that the opinion of its leadership represents that of its membership and OB-GYNs as a whole, even when reality says differently.
The scientific reality of when life begins is clear. However, this is not merely a discussion for the dinner table or politicians. It is a question that is critical to the Supreme Court’s looming decision on the Obama administration’s abortifacient/sterilization mandate. This case involves two lawsuits that argue some alleged contraceptives are actually abortion drugs. The science says those lawsuits are correct; will the Supreme Court once again follow leftist ideology, or will the court finally stop denying the science?
– Dustin Siggins is the D.C. Correspondent for LifeSiteNews, a former blogger with Tea Party Patriots, and co-author of the forthcoming book Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation.