This weekend, millions of American pro-life advocates gathered to mourn the anniversary of two of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in American history: Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.
On the weekend before the court decisions, millions of American pro-life activists gather in cities nationwide to honor the lives lost, most notably in Washington D.C. This weekend, the theme for the March for Life was based on the scientific basis for the pro-life movement. Naturally, this drew criticism from many defenders of abortion.
A recent article published on Rewire.News illustrates many of the complaints that some defenders of abortion have about the March. Writing in Rewire.News, author Laura Huss makes six claims about abortion that she claims are refutations of “anti-choice lies.”
It should be noted, first off, whenever someone throws around terms like “junk science” or “anti-choice lies” in response to an argument being presented, just remember you probably are not in the presence of an extraordinary mind. Unfortunately, the article is a great exercise in emotional rhetoric, and is short on any real interaction with arguments made by pro-lifers.
Huss then proceeds to list six facts which allegedly refute many of the positions held by pro-lifers. Amusingly, her piece does not get close to any sort of rebuttal of the essential pro-life argument, and instead becomes another example of question-begging and ad hominem attacks.
Let’s review the essential pro-life argument:
- It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
- Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
- Therefore, abortion is wrong.
If it can be shown that either of the two premises are false, or the conclusion does not logically follow from the premises, then the pro-life position on abortion collapses.
Writes Huss in her introduction:
“The 46th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., has adopted ‘Unique from Day One’ as its theme, an apparent declaration of the extreme anti-choice position that life begins at conception. The event not only asserts this view as a moral position but also claims that ‘being pro-life is not in opposition to science.’
This co-opting of science is in line with a strategy and infrastructure that the anti-choice movement has been building for some time.”
Reading through the piece, I kept looking for Huss to rebut the essential argument presented above. Instead, she engaged in a number of logical errors throughout the piece, many of which should be embarrassing to anyone who passed a basic undergraduate logic class.
For instance, she immediately attempts to poison the well by criticizing the Charlotte Lozier Institute and the American College of Pediatricians, accusing them of propulgating “myths” and accusing the ACPeds of being a “hate group” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, because of its stance regarding same sex adoption or transgender transitions for children. Amusingly, she never provides any rebuttal to any of the research or arguments published by either organization, instead resorting to painting them with the broad brush of “false witnesses” and “hate groups.” This leads to a question: if we can reject the conclusions of an organization because it is labeled a “hate group” by someone we already agree with, then she can also be accused of relying on the resources of a “hate group,” as the SPLC has received a multitude of criticism for its labeling of conservative organizations.
Apparently, according to the writers of Rewire.News, a source or a person’s argument is only valid if it agrees with my already held beliefs. Never mind the actual reasons someone has for drawing a particular conclusion. This is just old-fashioned prejudice and closed-mindedness.
Huss also goes on to beg the question multiple times throughout the piece. Take her claim that second trimester abortions are among the safest medical procedures. Safe for whom exactly? Is it safe for the preborn being it is targeting? Huss is simply assuming the preborn are not human enough to matter, which is precisely the argument pro-lifers are making: The preborn don’t differ in any way from the born which justifies killing them. As Scott Klusendorf points out, a similar mistake was once made on the issue of racial equality. Consider the following excerpt from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where Huck is explaining to Aunt Sally why he was late for supper:
“We blowed out a cylinder head.”
“Good gracious! Anybody hurt?”
“No’m. Killed a negro.”
“Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt.”
As Scott notes, in the above case, racial minorities like black Americans were simply assumed to not be human beings like white Americans were. Today, our society makes a similar mistake regarding children before birth, and Laura Huss is no exception.
The question Laura brushes past the question that must be resolved before the ethics of abortion are addressed, “do the preborn count as one of us?” In her piece, Huss completely ignores the actual science of embryology and the conclusion that yes, a new human being begins to exist at conception. That is not a mere “anti-choice” sentiment contrived to turn women into incubators. While that view may be a great plotline for a hit TV show, it is not a reflection of the scientific literature on the topic of human reproduction.
Furthermore, Huss, like many abortion advocates, ignores what other defenders of abortion have said on the topic, admitting that abortion does in fact kill a human being. To cite a few examples:
- Naomi Wolf: “Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life… we need to contextualize the fight to defend abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus is a real death.” (“Our Bodies, Our Souls,” The New Republic. October 16, 1995, 26.)
- Peter Singer: “It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo sapiens.’ Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.” (Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2008, 85-86.
- Charlotte Taft: “We’re in a culture where two of the most frightening things for Americans are sexuality and death. And here’s abortion. It combines the two…I think we should put it on the table and say, ‘OK, this is what we’re talking about: When is it OK to end these lives? When is it not? Who’s in charge? How do we do it?’ These are hard questions, and yet if we don’t face them in that kind of a responsible way, then we’re still having, the same conversations we were having 20 years ago.” ( “American Medical Association News,” American Medical Association. March 3, 1997; 40:9, 3)
These reflect just a few of the remarks made by advocates of abortion. Huss also ignores the procedural realities of second trimester abortions, claiming that they are “safe.” Assume for the sake of argument that medically, they are safe for mothers; but that misses the point. The pro-life argument is not dependent on the safety of abortion procedures for mothers (though pro-lifers are right to be deeply concerned) The argument is instead asking if it is acceptable to intentionally kill an innocent human being in the womb.
Dr. Warren Hern graphically describes how to perform a second trimester abortion procedure in his textbook Abortion Practice:
“[at 18 weeks post fertilization age] it can be a significantly more difficult procedure accompanied by unnerving hemorrhage. Forceps use must be sure and relatively rapid. There is frequently not much time for exploring the nuances of different tissue sensations. Grasping and collapsing the calvaria [upper domelike portion of the skull] are often difficult. Stripping the calvaria of soft tissue is sometimes the first step in successful delivery of this part, followed by dislocation of parietal bones… [From 19 to 22 weeks post fertilization age] A long curved Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the fetus, since it may be impossible to apply forceps or to do so while avoiding the thinned out cervix.”
Hern also describes how to ensure the decapitated head of the fetal human being (called the “Calvaria” by Hern) is safely removed, by grasping it and “crushing it like a grape,” and watching the brain matter be sucked into the machine used to collected fetal body parts. (Abortion Practice. Alpenglo Graphics, 1990. 101-122)
Likewise, in their textbook on abortion procedures, abortionists Maureen Paul and Steve Lichtenberg, along with their colleagues, describe in their chapter on second trimester abortions how to use a Digoxin injection to induce cardiac arrest in the fetal human being. No doubt about intentional killing there, so why does Huss simply blow past this? (Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy: Comprehensive Abortion Care. Wiley-Blackwell, 1st Ed., 2009, 157-193)
Huss also asserts the language and descriptions of the procedures in D&E and “partial birth abortion” were crafted by “anti-choice activists” in order to enact greater abortion restrictions. She appears to have ignored the actual reports on the topic by the American Medical Association.
Likewise, the notion the terminology was “made up by anti-choicers” may fly in a feminist ethical theory class, but it is deeply dishonest and betrays a lack of proper research. Huss actually provides a source of abortion procedures in the second trimester that is very similar to the descriptions she accuses “anti-choicers” of fabricating.
Consider also the following text, presented by abortionist Dr. Martin Haskill, in a paper presented to the National Abortion Federation’s Risk Management Seminar in 1992:
“At this point, the right-handed surgeon slides the finger of the left hand along the back at the fetus and “hooks” the shoulders of the fetus with the index and ring fingers (palm down).
Next he slides the tip or the middle finger along the spine towards the skull while applying traction to the shoulders and lower extremities…
The middle finger lifts and pushes the anterior cervical lip out of the way…
The surgeon takes a pair of blunt curved
Metzenbaum scissors in the right hand. He carefully advances the tip, curve down along the spine and under his middle finger until he feels it contact the base of the skull under his middle finger. Reassessing proper placement of the scissors tip and safe elevation of the cervix, the surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull…Having safely entered the skull, he spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening.
The surgeon removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter into this hole and evacuates the skull contents. With the catheter still in place, he applies traction to the fetus, removing it completely from the patient.” (Haskill, Martin M.D. “Dilation and Extraction for Late Second Trimester Abortions” Second Trimester Abortion: From Every Angle. National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar; September 1992)
It is fairly amusing when she goes on to cast “Fetal Heartbeat Laws” as arbitrary, when the very difference between the fetal human being killed in abortion and a newborn baby is even more arbitrary. In a way, Huss’s claims undermine themselves.
Likewise, her claims about abortion regret are just as specious. Many people, like those affiliated with groups such as Silent No More, Rachel’s Vineyard, Surrendering the Secret, and others, tell their stories of post-abortion guilt over and over. It is pretty outrageous their stories are somehow not considered to be valid merely because they contradict the notion of abortion being somehow good for women. Again, this is just plain closed-minded epistemology; only assuming concepts which fit with a particular viewpoint are worthy of consideration.
Lastly, she makes the claim that tissue from aborted preborn human beings is widely used in medical research (a stunning admission, for anyone following the “Planned Parenthood baby parts” scandal over the past four years).
Let’s suppose this is true: so what? Are we justified in intentionally killing one group of innocent human beings to benefit another group? Why stop with using aborted fetal remains for research? Why not let parents kill their newborns and toddlers as well, so we can have body parts for research?
Far from being a mere hypothetical, this very idea of using those whom society has deemed “less than fully human” for lethal research has been played out before, both in the American Eugenics movement and in Nazi Germany. Let’s consider: should we accept that Nazi scientists were justified in their human experimentation on their captives because it gave us valuable information on hypothermia? Were Tuskegee Institute researchers justified in intentionally exposing African American men to Syphilis in order to gain knowledge about the disease?
The victims may have changed in these cases, but the concept is no less ghastly and monstrous. How do we get a free pass to experiment on preborn human beings, merely because they have yet to be born?
Aside from the article, multiple protestors at the March for Life carried signs which attributed hypocrisy to the pro-lifers present in D.C. Claiming none of the pro-lifers had spent any time at any other protest or march, the signs gained much attention on social media.
The problem with the signs is that they also fail to refute our essential pro-life argument. Let’s suppose pro-lifers did not care about any issue except for abortion.
How does our alleged unwillingness to take on a whole host of other issues discredit our claim that the preborn should be protected from harm just like the born? Suppose pro-life advocates did everything the protesters demanded: they attended every social justice march for the rest of 2019. They fixed the dirty water in Flint Michigan. They ended police brutality. They fed every poor child in the world. They ended bullying, and fixed a dozen more issues.
Setting aside for the moment no one can possibly accomplish all of these tasks, and many pro-life groups do also focus on other issues, would this be enough to satisfy our critics? Of course not. So why bring it up? It is merely a red herring. Raising these other issues is a dishonest distraction from the issue at hand.
In conclusion, the objections from pro-choice critics of the March for Life simply fail to give a good reason to reject the pro-life position as “unscientific” and immoral. It is not pro-lifers that owe society an explanation, it is the critics of the pro-life view who do, and pro-life groups would be wise to demand explanations from critics in the coming months and years.
Nathan is a staff apologist for the Life Training Institute, equipping pro-life advocates to make the case for life. Also a contributing writer at The Millenial Review and CampusReform