Roe v. Wade: Do You Really Believe What You Say You Believe?

For those who say they are "pro-life" -- are you really pro-life?

And for those who say that they are "pro-choice" -- are you really pro-choice?

Years ago, I was in a men's group, centered around a discussion of a book on marriage. At some point, the topic of abortion came up (not sure how). One of the men said, "Most people who say they are pro-life really aren't. They are just anti-abortion."

I was shocked by what he said, probably because I felt attacked. But in a sense he was probably right.

One of the complaints that pro-choicers have against pro-lifers is that the latter (who are typically social conservatives) are only focusing on the pregnancy and birth. Then, after that baby is born, the same social conservatives don't focus on helping those through social programs. We fight like crazy for the baby to be born, but afterwards we say "You're on your own!" Do we fight like crazy for life at birth, and then ignore that child's need for quality of life? Yes, too much so.

Then again, I might have the same issue against those who say they are pro-choice, and, "It's a woman's body and her choice what to do with it." If you want to casually dismiss the rights of the baby (or fetus, if you will), then are you ok if that woman regularly gets drunk and uses copious amounts of illegal drugs throughout the length of her pregnancy?

Want me to go further? A recent study determined that any level of alcohol in a woman's body disrupts the brain's circuitry. Knowing the long-lasting effects that will be done to a baby, especially through overuse of certain drugs and chemicals, do you really still think it's purely the mother's choice? And if we know that nicotine causes long-term health effects for the offspring, and that smoking can lower the child's birthweight, should a parent be held accountable for smoking or using nicotine gum?

And if you say "No" -- that we have to leave these decisions up to the mother, and help her make better choices -- then that same reasoning would lead us to reducing social and governmental services, since it must be purely up to the parent to decide what is good.

Who Does Get a Say in This?

Let's go back to the original argument against pro-lifers, that perhaps many (or most) are really just anti-abortion. I think that is true for a lot of people, especially for social-conservatives.

But what about others? What about folks who are pro-life (= anti-abortion), and who are also working to meet the needs of those in poverty? What about those who have fostered and adopted, or have supported those who do that?

Over six years, a coalition of churches in Colorado has reduced by 70% the number of children in the child welfare system. Instead of 875 children waiting to be adopted, there are 275 (as of September 2013). Since those churches have worked to provide a better quality of life for children, I think they have earned the right to be heard on the topic of being "pro-life."

Of course, we need to consider the opposite point, that adoption is not used as much as it could be in this country, because our society sees abortion as a viable option. (There are 15 infant adoptions for every 1000 abortions in the US.) John Piper argues in For Adoption or Against Abortion? that eliminating abortion would help us (as a nation) to increase support for adoption and fostering.

The Science of the Matter

For me, as one who has loved science since elementary school, I want to look at the science of the matter. After all, we have to follow the data wherever it may lead, no matter what we personally think.

It seems that so much of the public arguments about abortion have people lining up on one of two sides:
  1. It's about the woman's body, and what she wants. 
  2. It's about what the Bible (or some other religious text) says.
If that is the core of the arguments, we aren't going to get anywhere. No amount of arguing is going to get someone to switch from one camp to the other, on this isolated issue.

Therefore as a scientist, I think we need to focus on what science says. The question that we should be debating (from a scientific perspective) is "What is life?" or "When does life begin?"

It's not the point of this post to list out my arguments for my perspective. Maybe another time. I am merely proposing that we shift the framework of the conversation from Our Wants vs God's Word to Science.

The Moral of the Story

OK. I fudged a little. I am going to talk about my perspective. That's my choice, right? (Just like it's your choice to stop reading this now. But I hope you'll hear me out, or at least leave a comment before clicking away from this page.)

I do think that life (from a purely biochemistry perspective) begins at conception, when the genetic material from the sperm combines with the genetic material from the egg. Cellular metabolic processes skyrocket from that point in the cell, and that is equivalent to life.

Also, the mother's body has to react in a way to not reject the cell. That is, without a specific response, her body would treat the new cell as a foreign object and therefore she would fight against it. To me, this goes against the typical pro-choice stance that "fetus is just a part of the mother's body."

If this is true -- that we are talking about two separate lives (the mother's and the baby's) -- than that is when we can bring in morality to the discussion.

It is then that we can discuss the fact of whether abortion is black genocide, since "a Black baby is 5 times more likely to be killed in the womb than a White Baby." In view of yesterday's remembrance of Martin Luther King, this is worth mulling over:
As one Black man says in the 3801 Lancaster documentary, “Everything that was ever gained during the Civil Rights Movement is worth nothing to a dead Black child,” and as one Black woman proclaims, “Make no mistake, abortion is a civil rights issue.”
It is then that we can wonder over the fact that 50 times more American lives have been extinguished by abortion in the last 40 years than by war over the last 240 years.

So, let's move beyond what our personal wants or our faith or what judges have ruled, and let's talk about the science of the matter.

Let's Talk

Before you claim to be fully pro-life (or pro-choice), be sure you are willing to fully fight for your stance. Are you willing to follow the rabbit trail (either the path of "pro-life" or "pro-choice") all the way to the end?

Or even better than resolutely defending your perspective, let's be gracious to each other in our speech, knowing that this is a complicated, messy discussion.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments, on anything I just wrote. What do you think of the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice"? Should we focus our conversations more on science, as opposed to philosophy or religion?

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