KERRY HUBARTT: Both science and justice explain when life begins

Kerry Hubartt

Two news stories this week highlight the basic difference of opinion in the great abortion debate — when does life begin?

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed a preliminary injunction issued last year by a U.S. district judge that blocked an Indiana mandate to force women to undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before having an abortion. The court said it is “an undue burden” for some women because of lengthy travel and additional expenses.

Monday, the Tippecanoe County chapter of Right to Life filed a lawsuit against Lafayette’s CityBus, which had rejected the nonprofit’s proposed ad depicting three pictures of an ultrasound and growing fetus with the words “me,” “me, again” and “still me.” CityBus claims the ad violates its policy against “political viewpoints,” while Right to Life argues that denying the ad is “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”

Ultrasound images of a developing fetus are among the most convincing proofs that within the womb is a human being. It’s no wonder that many who promote abortion don’t want expectant mothers to see them.

A piece written by a Massachusetts obstetrician/gynecologist for The Conversation (a nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts) and carried in part this week by The Associated Press, makes the case for why she concludes, “women need safe access to abortion as part of their health care.”

Luu D. Ireland, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, writes, “One important group’s voice is often absent in this heated debate: the women who choose abortion.”

She explains why women choose to have abortions and how safe the medical procedure is.

Her perspective, while not stated, is clearly that the fetus is expendable. She cites unintended pregnancies and how they would interfere with education, work or ability to care for dependents, as well as financial stress, relationship difficulties or wanting to avoid single motherhood. She even adds how another pregnancy might spoil what a mother considers an already complete family.

Such factors, however, could be the case for inconvenience in caring for humans in other periods of life, including elderly parents, for example.

Dr. Ireland discloses that she is affiliated with Physicians for Reproductive Health and in her practice “provides full spectrum reproductive health care, including abortion.” Her column never addresses the life of the baby in the womb or the ethics of ending that life but only states that “abortion is a routine part of reproductive health care.”

Dr. Horatio R. Storer, another prominent physician from Massachusetts, who died nearly a century ago, stated, “The whole question of (the ethics of abortion) turns on … the real nature of the foetus in utero.”

His statement precedes a detailed explanation of the case against abortion by the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life ( “The pro-life position isn’t based on feeling or belief,” MCCL explains. “Nor does it depend on appeals to religion. It’s grounded, rather, on a fact of science and a principle of justice.”

The textbook, “The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology,” says, “Human development begins at fertilization when a sperm fuses with an oocyte to form a single cell, a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”

Justice: If newborn children have a right to life, then unborn children do, too. “Whatever makes killing a 2-year-old child morally wrong is equally present in the killing of a human embryo or fetus,” writes philosopher Patrick Lee of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio).

The pro-life argument is that the unborn is a human being and all human beings have the right to life. Therefore, the unborn human being has the right to life.

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.