In abortion debate, Washington Post wants to talk science. Good. Let’s.

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 18, 2019

The Washington Post (which publishes an awful lot of op-ed pieces in the “News” section) today features this interesting headline:

Thousands flock to March for Life that bills its anti-abortion stance as ‘pro-science’

The thrust of the story is that while pro-lifers claim that an unborn child is an unborn child, abortion activists disagree. You see, “the largest medical organizations that treat pregnant women and their babies disagree, very vocally advocating access to abortion.” Well, it’s no surprise that people who think it’s appropriate to “treat” babies by destroying them would deny that the babies are babies.

The Post would have us believe that there are deep, nearly unfathomable questions (rather than crass material interests) “at the heart of the abortion debate—questions of when life begins and how to define it…” Those are scientific questions, and by ordinary scientific standards they have been answered long ago. But the Post continues the sentence: “…and how to weigh the needs and rights of women in a variety of ethically challenging circumstances.” Okay, now we have arrived at a moral question. But notice: we’ve left the scientific “debate” behind. Let’s get back to the question of when human life begins. Scientists—and pro-lifers—know the answer.

The medical organizations that support legal access to abortion argue that the procedure is safer for women than childbirth. (Not counting the unborn women, obviously.) That, too, is a question that allows for objective scientific analysis. But let’s keep the statistics straight. Obviously a woman is not likely to suffer complications in childbirth if she terminates the pregnancy earlier. So is abortion itself safer for mothers, in the long run, than childbirth? Let’s do a serious study and find out. To do that, of course, we’ll need honest statistics about complications from abortion: statistics that are not currently available.

The Post article is predictably slanted toward the pro-abortion side of the debate. But the facts slant steeply in the other direction. “Facts are stubborn things,” as John Adams remarked. So by all means, let’s keep talking about science.

By the way, let’s give credit to the Post for this much: this year the paper did actually notice the existence of the March for Life. That’s progress, too.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Jan. 24, 2019 4:40 PM ET USA

    Back in the time of Roe, abortion advocates conceded that if the fetus could be proven to be a person, *of course* abortion would have to continue to be illegal. But over the years, as scientific evidence for personhood became nearly overwhelming, they slyly changed their tune: a woman in "ethically challenging circumstances" might *still* have the right to kill her unborn child. Despicable, but effective.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jan. 19, 2019 12:55 AM ET USA

    First identify the moral object, then bring in science. Is the moral object life or convenience? If life, then whose life? The principle of "double effect" covers the very rare situation of a mother's life being at stake. The life that is threatened in the overwhelming number of cases is that of the unborn child. Science has fully understood for many years the origin of a given human life: a fertilized human egg. Since science knows not when the soul joins the body, we must assume at conception.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jan. 19, 2019 12:22 AM ET USA

    One inevitable complication from abortion is a deep, life-long, emotionally devastating regret by any woman with any moral compass; and that's majority of women.