In the Toronto Star of Wednesday, May 27th, 1992, an article appeared under the title, “A Question of Control.” The writer is Shelagh Lynne Supeene. She is the author of a book As For the Sky, Falling: a Critical Look at Psychiatry and Suffering. The article is an attempt to find some middle ground between what the writer calls the “Pro-choice” and the “Pro-life” positions. But the attempt fails miserably for one basic reason – the writer states categorically, “But contrary to extremist claims on the pro-life side, it (the fetus) isn’t human yet.” That statement alone invalidates the entire argument. It is something like two mathematicians trying to find common ground in math while one holds that 2+2=4 and the other claims that 2+2=5.
What the scientists state
I am not a scientist and therefore cannot write with authority from a scientific point of view. But I am relatively literate and I can quote from what scientific experts say in reply to the question, “Is the fetus human?” Here are just a few. The late Dr. (Sir) William Liley of New Zealand – knighted by the Queen for his work on fetology – said, “From the moment a baby lives, it bears the indelible stamp of a separate, distinct personality, an individual different from all other individuals.”
The first International Conference on Abortion, held in Washington D.C., (October 1967), brought together authorities from around the world in the fields of medicine, legal ethics, and the social sciences. Here is an extract from the official report to the U.S. Government: “The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of the sperm and the egg and the birth of an infant at which point we could say that this is not human life.”
A proclamation opposing abortion, signed by 1300 physicians in France and written by Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Jérôme Lejeune, was circulated among doctors in Britain. The text reads, “From the moment of fertilization the conceptus is alive and it is essentially distinct from the mother, who provides nourishment and protection. From fertilization to old age it is the same living being who grows, develops, matures and dies. For these reasons, the termination of pregnancy to solve economic or eugenic problems is directly in contradiction to the role of the doctor.”
The most internationally known pro-life doctor is probably Dr. Bernard Nathanson, formerly known as “The Abortion King of America.” In the early 1970s, he headed a “clinic” where he “presided over” 60,000 abortions. He is now perhaps the greatest defender of the life of the unborn baby in the scientific world. At the Joe Borowski trial in Regina in May 1983, he told the court that he became pro-life when increased study of fetology convinced him that the fetus is a human being. Dr. Nathanson also testified that he was raised in the Jewish faith but later became an atheist. Becoming pro-life was a secular decision, he said.
Perhaps the most striking statement on the humanity of the unborn baby appeared in an editorial of the California Medical Journal, September 1970. The caption was, “A New Medical Ethic.” Here is a quote: “Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced, it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and continues – whether intra- or extra-uterine – until death. The considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but the taking of human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices.”
Doctor Herbert Ratner, an executive member of the U.S. Commission on Human Life, says, “It is now of unquestionable certainty that a human life comes into existence precisely at the moment when the sperm combines with the egg.”
These writers from whom I have quoted are not Catholic bishops or priests or Evangelical theologians. They are scientists, doctors and geneticists giving the results of their research and expertise. There is a very interesting book entitled The Secret Life of the Unborn Child by Doctor Verney. By new techniques, possibly hypnotism, he has been able to study the life and feelings of preborn babies in their mothers’ wombs. This was reported in the Globe & Mail. He gives all kinds of examples to prove that babies are very conscious of what is happening in the “outside” world. They can recognize their parents’ voices for instance. On pages 22 and 23 the author gives one very interesting example. Boris Brott, conductor of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra has said that he sometimes knew the air to a piece he had never heard before. He told this to his mother, who had been a concert violinist. She asked him for an example. He mentioned one piece and she said, “I was practicing that for a concert when I was carrying you.”
Either all the scientific experts whom I have quoted are liars or ignoramuses or the “fetus” is a human being. And if he/she is human, there can be no common ground between the pro-life and the pro-choice people. There is not grey area between human and non human; between life and non-life. To be “pro-choice” means, by very definition, to be prepared, in certain circumstances to “choose” to kill or have killed an innocent human being. If this can be morally done inside the womb, why not outside it? In principle there is no difference between abortion and infanticide and ultimately, euthanasia. We do not become more human through advancing in years!
An uninformed statement
Just one final point. Mrs. Supeene makes the extraordinary statement that “The pro-life people are not actually pro-life. They do not gather together to improve the lot of pregnant women or poor children or any other group of living beings except fetuses.” This is a most uninformed assertion. Below is a copy of a card which I have just taken from my wallet, giving the phone numbers of offices where help can be found for those who need it.
FREE AND CONFIDENTIAL
ABORTION COUNSELLING AND SERVICES
AID TO WOMEN (300 Gerrard St. E.) 921-6016
(After abortion counseling) 465-9322
CAMPAIGN LIFE COALITION 368-8479
NORTH YORK CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTRE 229-2607
THE WAY INN 920-9910
The last paragraph in the article under consideration is this: “Let’s never make light of abortion. It is always to be deeply regretted. But, having offered the pregnant woman what alternatives are available, let’s let her make her decision and leave it to her. It is between her and her Maker.” If we accept this line of argument, why not apply it to “unwanted” born babies and “unwanted” husbands? One problem is that the police and the courts might not agree!