Planned Parenthood’s preferred strategy in its campaign to dehumanize its victims is to simply pretend they aren’t there by talking as if women are the sole interested party in abortion. When that fails, the abortion giant’s fallback is attempting to pretend there’s simply no consensus about when life begins. And when that fails, Planned Parenthood has to get… creative.
Enter an editorial in Kentucky’s Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper by Dr. David Nash, who has served on the boards of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky and the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, in response to an earlier pro-life editorial by Dr. A. Patrick Schneider.
It attempts to discredit pro-lifers by explaining what “science really says” about personhood, but the only question it raises is: do they really let just anyone put an MD after his name these days?
Fertilization is the process in which a spermatozoon and ovum (egg) fuse, with the resultant entity designated a zygote. Conception, which is the onset of pregnancy, begins when the zygote, which has now developed into a blastocyst, implants in the endometrium of the uterus.
Right off the bat, we’ve got a problem. Both fertilization and conception denote a new human being coming into existence. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (a body with a track record of pro-abortion bias, despite its reputation) decided to change conception’s definition to implantation in the 1960s not to clarify the science, but because it was politically convenient to legitimize abortifacient forms of contraception—as Dr. Brent Boving argued in 1959, “the social advantage of [birth control] being considered to prevent conception rather than to destroy an established pregnancy could depend upon something so simple as a prudent habit of speech.”
Even so, actual doctors still know better—multiple medical texts say pregnancy begins with fertilization, not conception, and a 2011 survey of over a thousand OB/GYNs found 57% agreeing that pregnancy begins at conception, while only 28% said implantation. Nash goes on to say:
Understanding reproductive science creates significant, actually insurmountable, problems for those, like Schneider, who want to proclaim that once fertilization occurs a “person” exists. Accepting their premise of a “person” existing at fertilization forces one to acknowledge that over half of such “persons” die, spontaneously aborted, without, ironically, anyone, (including the “mother”) ever knowing they existed.
It may be a tragedy, but it’s certainly not a problem to pro-life reasoning, much less an insurmountable or ironic one. The frequency of naturally-occurring deaths among any given group doesn’t have any bearing on what they were. To claim it somehow means they were never persons is self-evident nonsense.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of having a medical professional pen an op-ed, shouldn’t its logic or evidentiary standards be a cut above the postings of some teenager on NARAL’s Facebook wall? Nash continues:
Defining the results of fertilization as a “person” leads to a further problem. Subsequent to fertilization, the zygote can divide, forming twins, triplets, even quintuplets and sextuplets. Theoretically, the “person” claimed to have been created at fertilization has been cloned; one “person” becomes multiple “persons.”
More nonsense. If one was cloned, or one died giving rise to replacements, or some other mechanism we don’t yet understand, it still wouldn’t change what was present prior to the twinning. Just as cutting a flatworm in half and the parts becoming two flatworms doesn’t mean what you started out with wasn’t a flatworm, the nature of the zygote is determined by known biological criteria—species, growth, reproduction, metabolism, response to stimuli, etc.—all of which conclusively show they are the same thing you and I are, just at an earlier stage of development.
Nash next argues that miscarriage rates among post-implantation embryos also mean they must not be humans. One wonders why he bothered to distinguish fertilization from conception if he was just going to repeat the exact same argument anyway, but he takes the opportunity to throw in a little extra sophistry:
We do not designate the results of such spontaneous abortions as “persons” nor grant them the respect routinely given “persons,” by naming them, providing a respectful burial or including them in our population and mortality statistics.
The doctor must not get out much if he’s not aware how many families do provide burials for and mourn the loss of their miscarried children. But even if nobody did, it would still be preposterous to pretend customs that treat the preborn as non-persons somehow negate empirical facts about them. Oh, and what do the popularity of miscarriage funerals have to do with what “science really says”?
However, Schneider is correct that the development of a human begins with a fertilized egg. One can never become a living, breathing, real person, absent having at one time been a zygote.
An oak tree cannot become an oak tree absent having once been all acorn. However, looking at an acorn and calling it an oak tree is nonsensical, just as is calling a microscopic zygote a “person.”
Here’s another semantic game that relies on ignorance, not science. “Acorn” and “oak tree” are merely names denoting different developmental stages of the same thing. The correct parallel for humans would be that a zygotic person is not an adult, not that one is a person and the other isn’t.
There are multiple religious and philosophical arguments refuting the notion that a fertilized egg is a “person,” but space is limited.
Don’t worry about that, Doc. We would have been content if you used that limited space to stick to the science.
With his shoddy reasoning established, Nash’s conclusions are nothing short of horrifying:
Schneider’s argument grants “personhood” to more than 115,000 “Kentuckians” a year who were never actually alive […] In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed reproductive science by correctly ruling that life begins when a viable fetus, a child, is delivered by the mother.
I see we decided to add legal ignorance to the mix. Not only did Roe v. Wade not rule that’s when life begins, it expressly said it wasn’t answering that question—“ We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins” and “the judiciary […] is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”
That said, it should deeply terrify patients across the country that any physician could say with a straight face that some living, growing, developing humans “were never actually alive” and somehow only become alive when exiting the womb somehow magically transforms them from a dead husk to a real boy or girl.
This column should be every bit as scandalous as an astrophysicist believing in geocentrism, or a geologist claiming the Earth is flat. It ignores all the relevant concepts from modern biology and rejects the incontrovertible consensus from the mainstream medical community, throwing them out in favor of some vague, incomprehensible theory of life that would be more at home in some lost pagan religion.
If this is what we get from Planned Parenthood’s actual doctors, no wonder the rest of their healthcare is so unreliable.