Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post
House Republicans, led by Rep. Trent Franks (Ariz.) promoted legislation last week known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. HR 1797, as the legislation is formally known, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion is not a comfortable subject for either the religious or nonreligious among us and two respected people, looking at identical information, often reach opposite opinions on the matter. But with the debate over abortion rights again getting national attention after the trial and conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell for the killing of three babies who had already been born in his clinic, it is worth asking: Why is it that some people of faith are in favor of abortion rights, while other people of faith are against them? Similarly, why can two scientists who both agree about the same genetic information concerning a fetus come to two completely different conclusions regarding the ethics of abortion?
During the hearing of HR1797, Dr. Anthony Levatino, who claims to have completed 1,200 abortions before leaving the industry, testified in support of the legislation. Levatino, who has served on the faculty at the Albany Medical College, described performing a second trimester D&E abortion. He testified:
Dr. Curtis Boyd, a leading advocate for reproductive rights for women, claims to have provided thousands of abortions before the practice was legalized. He is credited with being the first physician to open a legal abortion clinic in Texas after the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade and was involved in establishing the National Abortion Federation.
But Boyd sees not only a moral, but perhaps a spiritual mission to his work. Texas station KVUE interviewed Boyd in 2009. Boyd said to the interviewer: “Am I killing? Yes, I am. I know that .I’m an ordained Baptist minister And then I’ll ask that the spirit of this pregnancy be returned to God with love and with understanding.”
Another former abortion doctor now agrees with Levatino on the morality of abortion. Dr. Haywood Robinson, who serves on the admissions board of Texas A&M College of Medicine, claims that an experience at a Christian concert convinced him to eventually get out of the abortion industry. Robinson reported to Shawn Carney that early in medical school, abortion bothered him. Then he did one. Then he did another, then three, then four. Eventually Robinson admitted that his “conscience had been deadened.” Robinson said that abortions provided a lot of money that he and his wife could use for vacations and “have a good time. It was blood money.” At a 40 Days for Life campaign in Madison, Wis., Robinson stepped up to a microphone and talked about leaving the industry of abortion. “I stand a sinner saved by grace.”
I believe that some well intentioned people, perhaps believing that they are doing good, are embracing abortion rights. But the science is on the side of those who recognize that there is a distinct life growing inside of the mother.
Scientifically, most scholarly defenders of abortion recognize that, from the very moment of conception, all of the genetic information is present: The sex of the individual child is determined at the time of fertilization and no new genetic information will be added during the pregnancy.
Dr. David Boonin, professor at the University of Colorado, in his book, “A Defense of Abortion writes: “In the top drawer of my desk, I keep another picture of Eli (his son). The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clearly enough a small head tilted back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture too shows the same little boy at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life.”
Sociologist Mike Adams, of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, agrees with Boonin about the science: “Not only is there unique DNA, but also in 100 percent of surgical abortions, the baby already has a detectable heartbeat. Doctors will not even perform abortions until six or seven weeks into the pregnancy in order to protect the mother. The doctor wants to be able to account for and remove all of the baby’s body parts because if some small portion of the baby remains in the mother’s body, it could cause a deadly infection.” While both scholars Boonin and Adams agree with the scientific data, they reach completely opposite conclusions about the morality of abortion. In light of the scientific evidence, Adams concludes, “So the woman who says, ‘my body, my choice’ is in the absurd position of arguing that she has two noses, four legs, two brains and two skeleton systems.”
Here we have an example of two scientific scholars who fully agree on the same scientific information but have obvious disagreement on the moral responsibility.
So why is there such sharp disagreement? It is one’s worldview about reality that shapes one’s moral decisions. In other words, if a scholar embraces a philosophy like utilitarianism or cultural moral relativism, then he might argue in favor of abortion rights. However, if a person affirms transcendent realities including all human beings having a “soul,” “conscience” and “dignity” then that person may likely conclude that some ethical actions are objectively right or wrong. Dr. Peter Kreeft, professor of ethics at Boston College states, “Rights depend on reality, and our knowledge of rights depends on our knowledge of reality.”
What about you? What has influenced your thinking about abortion rights?
Dave Sterrett is the author or co-author of six books, including “I Am Second” (Thomas Nelson, 2012), and “Why Trust Jesus?” (Moody, 2010). He teaches philosophy and theology at San Diego Christian College’s liberal arts program, Rivendell Sanctuary in Minnesota. Follow Sterrett on Twitter @davesterrett