Response to Pro-Abortion Article in Health Intelligence (12 June 2013)

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Dear Editor

Response to article: "To Abort or Not to Abort, that is the question” by Howard Snoyman, Mar/Apr 2013, Health Intelligence.

It is true that parents facing a child with possible deformities or handicaps, are in a immensely emotionally taxing predicament, with immense practical and financial consequences for their families. This Response is in no way an attempt to minimise the difficulty of these parents’ situations.

In the interest of fairness, I urge you to publish an article from a pro-life Medical Practitioner on this topic. I  highly recommend Dr Albie van Eerden, CEO of Doctors for Life ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

There were some serious flaws in the arguments Mr Snoyman gave in justifying abortion.

When Does Life Begin?

The fact that one embryo can becomes two (identical twins) or two can become one (chimera) , does not change the fact of the humanity of the original embryo or embryos.

Viability

Secondly, I want to respond to the arguments you put forward on viability as a justification for abortion.

Bioethicist Andrew Varga points out a number of problems with the viability criterion.

First, "How does viability transform the nature of the fetus so that the non-human being then turns into a human being?" That is to say, viability is a measure of the sophistication of our neonatal life-support systems. Humanity remains the same, but viability changes. Viability measures medical technology, not one's humanity.

Second, "Is viability not just an extrinsic criterion imposed upon the fetus by some members of society who simply declare that the fetus will be accepted at that moment as a human being?" [1]

The viability criterion seems to be arbitrary and not applicable to the question of whether the unborn is fully human, since it relates more to the location and dependency of the pre-born than to any essential change in her state of being. This criterion only tells us when certain members of our society want to accept the humanity of the pre-born.

And third, "the time of viability cannot be determined precisely, and this fact would create great practical problems for those who hold this opinion." [2]

For example, in 1973, when the US Supreme Court legalized abortion, viability was at about twenty-four weeks. But now babies have survived birth 20 weeks after conception. This, of course, puts the pro-abortionist in a morally difficult situation. Some hospitals, including in South Africa, are killing viable babies by abortion in one room, while in another room heroically trying to save premature infants (preemies). It seems only logical that if the 21-week-old preemie is fully human, then so is the 28-week-old unborn who can be legally killed by abortion (in case of severe deformity or risk to the mother’s life in SA).

If viability makes us human, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not viable and we may kill them.  Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems would also then have no right to life.

A sick, elderly, or disabled person who reaches a level of dependency roughly analogous to that of a pre-viability fetus would cease to be a person under this schema. Few pro-abortionists would be willing to embrace this conclusion.

True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than you and I.  But again, why is this relevant?  Four year-old girls are less developed than 14 year-old ones.  Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings?  Some people say that self-awareness makes one human.  But if that is true, newborns do not qualify as valuable human beings.  Six-week old infants lack the immediate capacity for performing human mental functions, as do the reversibly comatose, the sleeping, and those with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Philosophically, we can say that embryos are less developed than newborns (or, for that matter, toddlers) but this difference is not morally significant in the way abortion advocates need it to be.

 

Consider the claim that the immediate capacity for self-awareness bestows value on human beings.  Notice that this is not an argument, but an arbitrary assertion.  Why is some development needed?  And why is this particular degree of development (i.e., higher brain function) decisive rather than another?  These are questions that abortion advocates do not adequately address. 

How does a mere change of location from inside the womb to outside the womb change the essential nature of the pre-born?  If you say that brain development or higher consciousness makes us human, then do you agree with Joseph Fletcher that those with an IQ below 20 or perhaps 40 should be declared non-persons?  If not, why not? 

In short, it’s far more reasonable to argue that although humans differ immensely with respect to talents, accomplishments, degrees of development, and “quality of life”, they nonetheless share an equal right to life.

Pain

At a recent committee hearing, U.S. Members of Congress were informed that unborn babies have the ability to feel pain as early as 8 weeks. Maureen Condic, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah and well published scientist, presented a detailed explanation of the development of the human nervous system, beginning at four weeks gestation. "The neural circuitry responsible for the most primitive response to pain, the spinal reflex, is in place by 8 weeks of development. This is the earliest point at which the fetus experiences pain in any capacity," she explained. Condic acknowledged there is worldwide agreement that pain is experienced by the first trimester and that it is now a question of how this knowledge will be used. "Imposing pain on any pain-capable living creature is cruelty. And ignoring the pain experienced by another human individual for any reason is barbaric.... We simply have to decide whether we will choose to ignore the pain of the fetus or not," she concludes.

Post-Abortion Syndrome

What you also failed to mention, were the symptoms of Post-Abortion Syndrome which most women and men suffer as a result of having an abortion. Symptoms include: grief, nightmares, depression, suicidal tendencies, and increased risk of substance abuse. Having an abortion also dramatically increases a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. These have been well documented in peer-reviewed research. See www.elliotinstitute.org and www.afterabortion.com.

“No-one has the right to determine whether a particular emotional decision in this type of dilemma is right or wrong”

All law enforces a moral code. A murderer, or a rapist, cannot claim that the government is enforcing their “morality” on him when he is arrested.

A new person begins at conception and in God’s court abortion is murder. No-one has the right to kill an innocent, defenceless pre-born baby.

Yours Sincerely,

Taryn Hodgson

International Co-ordinator

Africa Christian Action

PO Box 23632

Claremont 7735

Cape Town

South Africa

Tel: 021 – 689 4480

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Website: www.christianaction.org.za

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