It’s Time To Demand Intellectual Honesty About Abortion


Though the media blackout on Kermit Gosnell was well-maintained until the verdict was announced, the dam finally broke at the end. Bit by bit, an increasing percentage of the population became aware. By necessity, once the horror of the Gosnell’s atrocities were in plain view, it was time for damage control. Forced to cover his crimes, the pro-abortion members of the media dutifully informed us that Gosnell was an anomaly, not representative of the fine, upstanding abortion doctors serving American women for decades in their need for “health services”. In perhaps the most glaringly obvious attempt to discredit the connection between Gosnell and the larger abortion industry, William Saletan at Slate wrote a piece entitled, “Kermit the Rogue“. Says Saletan:

Kermit Gosnell, the notorious Philadelphia late-term abortionist, has been convicted. A jury found him guilty of murder for killing three babies after failed abortions, and of involuntary manslaughter for causing a woman’s death.

Now comes the smear campaign. “Gosnell is not alone,” says Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. “Gosnell is not an outlier,” says Lila Rose, president of Live Action. Gosnell is “not the aberration,” says Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. Yoest points to investigations of other clinics for “dangerous and unsanitary practices that exposed women to injuries and infections, and infants born alive following attempted abortions.”

The bad news for pro-lifers—and the good news for everybody else—is that Gosnell really is an outlier. Other abortion clinics don’t do what he did to patients or live-born babies. Few have even come close. Late-term abortions and patient deaths are relatively rare. Part of the exonerating evidence comes from government data. The rest comes, inadvertently, from pro-lifers themselves.

Saletan goes on to attempt to discredit the “myth” that there are over 1,000 live-births after failed abortions in America every year. He ignores entirely the fact that what Gosnell did to babies outside the womb, abortion doctors across the nation are doing to babies inside the womb every day. The cognitive dissonance displayed here is staggering.

So instead of focusing on the simple truth of what abortion is, many of its proponents sidetrack us instead with the arguments about whether or not a fetus is, in fact, human at all. This is a distraction from the debate we should be having, and it is waged under a banner of false language, of euphemisms like “choice” and “reproductive rights” but never the specificity of scientific fact.

I’ve had enough. I propose that in the wake of Gosnell (and in light of the other butchers like him whose crimes are now coming to light) that we dispense with excessive diplomacy and go on the offensive. We must stop giving cover to those who would obfuscate and confuse the issue and challenge them instead. The simple fact is this: no honest, informed person can possibly believe that an abortion does not take a human life.

Science makes no provision for this idea. From the startlingly clear imagery provided by ultrasound technology to the detailed information provided by genetic testing to the continued advances in embryology, science is on our side. It always has been, but the evidence is mounting. We should not be afraid to stand on its findings.

In 1989, world-renowned French geneticist Dr. Jerome Lejeune was called to testify as an expert witness at a trial in Blount County, Tennessee. A divorced couple was fighting over what at the time must have seemed like a scenario out of a science fiction novel: custody of their seven cryogenically frozen embryos. After establishing his remarkable credentials, Dr. Lejeune provided the court with a lengthy explanation of embryonic development and genetic makeup. When it came time to ask his opinion on the central issue — the humanity of the embryos — his response left no room for doubt about his scientific opinion.

Q.: … I will ask you directly, Dr. Lejeune: You have referred to the zygote and the embryo as quote early human beings.’

A.: Yeah.

Q.: Do you regard an early human being as having the same moral rights as a later human being such as myself?

A.: You have to excuse me, I’m very, very direct. As far as your nature is concerned, I cannot see any difference between the early human being you were and the late human being you are, because in both case, you were and you are a member of our species. What defines a human being is: He belongs to our species. So an early one or a late one has not changed from its species to another species. It belongs to our kin. That is a definition. And I would say very precisely that I have the same respect, no matter the amount of kilograms and no matter the amount of differentiation of tissues.

Q.: Dr. Lejeune, let me make sure I understand what you are telling us, that the zygote should be treated with the same respect as an adult human being?

A.: I’m not telling you that because I’m not in a position of knowing that. I’m telling you, he is a human being, and then it is a Justice who will tell whether this human being has the same rights as the others. If you make difference between human beings, that is, on your own to prove the reasons why you make that difference. But as a geneticist you ask me whether this human being is a human, and I would tell you that because he is a being and being human, he is a human being.

He is not alone in his certitude. A 1981 Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing solicited testimony from a number of doctors and experts. Their statements were unequivocal:

“It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”

Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth
Harvard University Medical School

“I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”

Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni
Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania

“After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. [It] is no longer a matter of taste or opinion…it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”

Dr. Jerome LeJeune
Professor of Genetics, University of Descartes

“By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”

Professor Hymie Gordon
Mayo Clinic

“The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter – the beginning is conception.”

Dr. Watson A. Bowes
University of Colorado Medical School

The official Senate report reached this conclusion:

Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being – a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.

The physicians are not alone.  Faye Wattleton, Planned Parenthood’s longest-serving president, told Ms. Magazine in 1997:

I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.

Other pro-abortion voices have similarly expressed this belief. It is too obviously true to credibly deny.

This should empower us. Many who are supportive of abortion do not, for obvious reasons, share our religious views. And far too often, those who are pro-life make the mistake of basing their arguments on faith or scripture, thus entangling ourselves in debates over metaphysical things in which the larger point we are making is lost. We do not need to make a religious argument about personhood or the existence of human life in the womb. We have the facts on our side, and we can fight like empiricists. We have the benefit of logic and reason, and we are opposed by little more than emotion and misdirection.

We need to be the ones framing this debate. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be sidetracked by spurious arguments anymore.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


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