In their “Pledge to America,” Republicans are promising to repeal Obamacare, which has imposed taxpayer-funded abortion on the nation. A Quinnipiac University poll found that 67% of the American people do not want their tax dollars to pay for abortion. A poll of likely voters put the number at 72%.
Liberal counter-attacks are resorting to the old slur that Republicans are anti-science. The current issue of Nature bemoans the “anti-science streak on the American right.”
Now is the time to turn the tables and make the case that it’s the pro-abortion stance that is actually anti-science.
In the past, abortion supporters simply denied that the fetus is human: “It’s just a blob of tissue.” Today, however, due to advances in genetics and DNA, virtually no ethicist denies that the fetus is human—biologically, genetically, physiologically human. Even the arch-radical Peter Singer acknowledges that “the life of a human organism begins at conception.”
How do liberals get around that scientific fact? By denying the relevance of science.
Liberals argue that the sheer fact of being human does not confer any moral worth. Nor does it warrant legal protection. The turning point is said to be when an individual becomes a “person,” generally defined in terms of self-awareness, autonomy, or other cognitive capabilities.
This is called personhood theory, and it implies a dangerously divided view of the human being. On one hand, the physical body, knowable by science, is trivialized as a form of raw material that can be tinkered with, manipulated, experimented on, or destroyed with no moral significance. Human life is reduced to a utilitarian calculus subject only to a cost-benefit analysis.
On the other hand, the concept of personhood has been disconnected from the biological fact of being human, which renders it ultimately arbitrary. Ethicists disagree even on the point when personhood begins: Is it when the fetus starts to exhibit neural activity, or feels pain, or achieves a certain level of consciousness?
Or even after the child is born? According to British bioethicist John Harris, “Nine months of development leaves the human embryo far short of the emergence of anything that can be called a person.”
James Watson of DNA fame recommended giving a newborn baby three days of genetic testing before deciding whether the child should be allowed to live. Singer considers personhood a “gray” area even at three years of age. (After all, how much cognitive functioning does a toddler have?)
Each ethicist draws the line at a different place, according to his or her own personal vision and private values.
Pro-lifers have long been castigated for bringing private values into the public square. But actually it is the pro-abortion position that is based on merely personal views and values.
In First Things, law professor Stanley Fish sets the record straight: “It is pro-lifers who make the scientific question of when the beginning of life occurs the key one.” By contrast, “pro-choicers want to transform the question into a ‘metaphysical’ or ‘religious’ one”—using those terms to mean disconnected from any scientifically knowable reality.
Of course, people are much more than biological organisms. Yet biology gives an objective, empirically detectable marker of human status.
What this means is that pro-choicers have lost the argument on the scientific level—and so they are repudiating science. In the New York Times, Yale professor Paul Bloom informs us that abortion “is not really about life in any biological sense.”
Likewise Jennie Bristow, editor of Abortion Review, dismisses science as irrelevant: “With anti-abortionists pushing ‘scientific evidence’ on fetal viability, it is time to restate the moral case for a woman’s right to choose.” Her article is titled, “Abortion: Stop Hiding behind the Science.”
Liberals bring the same anti-scientific stance to other life issues, such as euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and genetic engineering. According to personhood theory, just being part of the human race is not morally relevant. Individuals must earn the status of personhood by meeting an additional set of criteria—the ability to make decisions, exercise self-awareness, and so on, depending on the ethicist setting the criteria.
Those who do not make the grade are demoted to non-persons, even though they are still biologically human.
The concept of personhood is so malleable that anyone at any stage of life could be demoted to the status of non-person and denied the right to live. Especially if their healthcare is determined by Obamacare boards whose members are committed to a liberal ideology. Sarah Palin’s phrase “death panels” is not misapplied.
If pro-abortionists want to commit intellectual suicide and deny scientific facts, that‘s their problem. But there’s no reason a civilized society should fund their anti-scientific outlook—or accept its inhumane consequences.
This is the third in a series based on Mrs. Pearcey’s just-published book, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning.