Letters to the editor reveal need for facts in the abortion debate

Emotions have their place, but we need to know the indisputable facts, too.

Photo credit: NS Newsflash on Flickr

This morning, I was browsing through several news stories when I came across a couple letters to the editor. These letters were printed on Sunday in The Pueblo Chieftain. Two of the letters – one from an abortion supporter and the other from a pro-life woman – made me think about the need for real facts in the abortion debate. It’s easy to use rhetoric, catchphrases, and “feel-good” arguments, but what are the facts? What is the truth?

Granted, no matter how often we speak the truth, some people will continue to deny it. There will always be people who choose to be blinded to the facts. But let them never be blinded to the facts on account of our failing to put them out there. There is absolutely a place for emotional arguments, key phrases, and campaign slogans in the fight for life. Different people are reached by different ways of speaking the truth. However, as pro-lifers, we need to keep facts in the forefront of our minds as we work to save lives.

Below are the two small portions of the letters that made me think. Interestingly, the pro-choice letter is written by a man, and the pro-life letter is written by a woman.

Letter One, by an abortion supporter 

Having looked upon my dead son’s face in a casket I can understand the agony at the loss of a real child. Whether it is by famine, disaster or genocide, intense anguish follows the sight of actual suffering or dead children.

The beliefs that abortion and even contraception represent the destruction of human life are widely accepted, despite the lack of indisputable medical, historical or moral evidence to support that position.

Letter Two, by a pro-life woman

The “pro-life” movement and the Catholic Church have agreed that life begins at conception and therefore is sacred.

First, I am sorry for anyone who has lost a child, and I cannot imagine the devastation that would cause. However, note that, in letter one, the man writes that it is agonizing to lose a “real child.” As you read the rest of his letter, you get the idea that he does not consider unborn children “real children.” He never says what they are, but apparently they are not real children. As a side note, what does his claim communicate to women who suffer miscarriages? Were their children “fake” and his son “real”? In my mind, someone is either a child or not – there is no such thing as a “fake” child or a “half”-child. We should never act like women who have miscarriages or abortions do not have the right to mourn their children.

Secondly, this man demonstrates his lack of factual knowledge when he claims that there is no indisputable proof that abortion destroys a human life. I know of no one – not even an abortion supporter – who would deny that abortion takes what science calls a human life out of the mother’s womb and, in so doing, destroys any further chance at life. Abortion supporters either admit that the unborn baby is a human being or they consider the baby “potential life,” at least. Either way, some form of life is being destroyed, and it’s ignorant to claim anything different.

I suppose that the man’s main contention is that the unborn child is not human life. However, this statement fails to recognize the facts of science and medicine. I have never seen an embryology textbook that defines the beginning of human life at any point besides fertilization. When you look at science, it is indeed indisputable that an unborn child is a human life. The baby is growing and developing – indisputably – so he or she is clearly alive. In addition, he or she has human DNA – another indisputable fact – so the baby is human. A living human can be nothing other than a human life.

The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote. [Sadler, T.W. Langman’s Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]

Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception). [Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2]

The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual. [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

I’ve already written an article about the incredible scientific facts of unborn human life. If you want to brush up on the facts, you can read it here. The best paper I’ve ever found for pro-lifers to gather facts from is the Report of the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion. Pages 22-30 give amazing details about science, medicine, and unborn life from real experts. If you have never checked out this report, do it today. You will also find research about the societal, economic, and ethical impacts of legalized abortion. I cannot express how amazing this paper is.

One final point – and this is why I’m encouraging pro-lifers to get their facts straight. While the pro-life woman in letter two had good intentions and expressed good thoughts, her sentence that I quoted above also demonstrates a lack of factual knowledge. Yes, the pro-life movement agrees that life begins at conception (i.e., fertilization). Yes, the Catholic Church agrees with that. But neither the pro-life movement nor the Catholic Church is a source that will convince most abortion supporters. We need to reach people with facts that they cannot dispute instead of giving them excuses to believe lies – excuses like not being Catholic or not caring what a bunch of “radical” pro-lifers happen to “agree” on.

Instead, as pro-lifers, we need to be familiar with the scientific, moral, historical, philosophical, and medical arguments against abortion. We need to be prepared to give the best answer possible to anyone who asks us. If you want to brush up on your facts, here are several resources for you:

South Dakota Report

Philosophical Basis for Defending Life

SLED: Defending the Unborn

A Reasoned, Scientific, Pro-Life Argument

Experts on When Human Life Begins

Science for Unborn Human Life

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