Right now, we live in a world in which science is becoming more and more important in our daily lives. The general public knows more science now than at most other times in human history, despite the current lamentations of many scientists today about the general public’s scientific knowledge, or lack thereof. There are many scientists who are currently having conniption fits about society’s perceptions of evolution, global climate change, and vaccinations. And yet they remain strangely quiet about the issue of abortion.
Mind you, there is no doubt that the other topics mentioned above are very important issues that must be dealt with in a serious manner. But the silence from scientists regarding abortion is deafening.
Too many people pretend that human life is something that magically occurs at the moment at which a baby is extracted from her mother. But we know better than that. We know too much about the science of pregnancy and the whole process of the creation of life to pretend such a thing. To believe anything else is a lie that is based on pseudoscience and wishful thinking.
Why is the belief that a human is formed at conception such a controversial idea that we can’t speak about it? Why do the circumstances of the birth colour our belief about the baby’s value -- or their very humanity? After all, the idea that life begins at conception is such a well-known scientific principle that scientists are able to create human embryos in the lab and implant them into women so that these women might possibly conceive a child, via in vitro fertilization, or IVF. If this is the scientific reality that we live with today, then why do we shy away from talking about what makes a human alive?
Of course the fetus is human. The very nature of its DNA determines this fact. Even at the moment of conception, the fertilized egg contains all the DNA necessary to be human.
Of course the fetus is alive. The fetus moves, grows, has DNA and RNA, is able to transform energy and convert it into something useful for the organism, and is able to reproduce via cellular reproduction. Scientifically, that’s the definition of life as we know it.
Of course it’s a lump of cells — so are we.
We know all of this from basic biology. This isn’t even difficult biology. All of these shouldn’t be up for scientific debate. In fact, I would argue that the general population should be scientifically educated enough to understand these basic facts of biology, at the very least.
Mind you, I am not saying this to dismiss any of the concerns of women who are scared and are seriously considering having an abortion. Far from it. Many women who do eventually choose to procure an abortion are poorer women who have little to no support and would encounter extreme struggles – physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially – were they to have a baby. To those who can barely support themselves, supporting another life seems an overwhelming responsibility.
Nor am I saying that pregnancy is easy. On the contrary, pregnancy can be very difficult. I was just diagnosed with gestational diabetes with my current pregnancy and, frankly, I’m still reeling from that diagnosis and trying to understand what it means. And this is just a minor complication – many other women have had more extreme issues come up as they go through their pregnancy. Pregnancy can be terrifying.
To deal with these issues and more, it is necessary to develop a safety net for those who have none and to make sure that those who are undergoing difficulties in their pregnancy get the medical help that they need. After all, there will always be people struggling in some way who can barely support themselves, let alone a child. We need to support them so that they are not so overwhelmed. And pregnancy, even with all our advanced medical technology, can be difficult, making it all the more necessary to ensure that women have access to the medical care they need.
Yet, we must realize that this does not change the science of early human development.
The fetus is human. The fetus is alive.
Just because this fetus may not be wanted at this particular time by its parent or parents does not change the fact that it is human.
Just because the fetus is psychologically undeveloped does not mean she isn’t alive.
And we have to realize this before we make important policy decisions and major reforms. We just have to. We can’t blind ourselves to the scientific fact that this fetus is indeed a human just because it makes us feel uncomfortable. We can’t turn a blind eye to all the women overwhelmed with their pregnancies, hoping that perhaps if they have the choice to get rid of the the human developing as all humans do, then the problem will just solve itself. We cannot ignore our obligation to protect our fellow human beings and the scientific clarity that a fetal human is an actual human, by hiding behind the scientific term “fetus”.
After all, it’s a matter of life and death. Literally.