We heard a good deal of blathering from Justin Trudeau and his Liberals during last fall’s election campaign as well as during the many government photo ops that have followed (Trudeau averages one photo op a day) about the need for “science-based public policy.” I’m sure it would irritate them to find out that I happen to agree with this sentiment entirely.
Especially in a multicultural society like Canada’s, it is important to have a scientifically agreed-upon benchmark for when human life begins. If human beings have human rights, after all, those human rights should begin when the human being begins. And while Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and atheists may all feel differently—or not—about abortion, there is no scientific debate about when a human being begins his or her life, and that human being’s life should not depend on how some religious or non-religious group happens to feel about his or her existence.
Even the term “pro-choice” is essentially meaningless—every pro-choice person I talk to has a different point of view about abortion. Some think it’s always okay, some think it’s only okay in the first trimester, and so on. When someone tells you they are pro-choice, they have told you very little about what they believe. It’s time we began respecting the human rights of all human beings based on the scientific evidence of when human life begins, and stopped relying on the subjective, fickle, and inconsistent “philosophies”—to play it fast and loose with the word—of pro-choice advocates.
The National Post recently published an interesting article examining how the increasingly obvious facts about the pre-born child in the womb are likely, in the future, to blow the abortion debate wide open:
When it comes to debating the rights of the unborn, history may show our current quiet phase to have been the calm before the storm: the transition period when science, not ideology, became the driving force for a bill of rights for the fetus.
One factor driving the change: advancements in neonatal medicine are pushing the envelope of fetal viability well beyond what anyone ever imagined.
In May 2015, Time magazine responded to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine on premature infants by asking the question that’s on many people’s minds: “How low can preemies go?” The landmark study pointed to fetal viability at 22 weeks, versus the currently accepted 24 weeks. According to Time, this raised new ethical dilemmas about “how much care is too much — and how much is suddenly not enough” and, by extension, “how an even slightly lower age of viability affects the fraught debate over abortion.”
In particular, the study calls into question the controversial practice of late-term abortions, performed after the 20th week of gestation. According to partial data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2014 there were 605 abortions performed at 21-plus weeks. In the decade to come, as saving the lives of premature infants in that grey zone of viability becomes commonplace, it will make the dividing line between the wanted and the unwanted so much more intolerable, especially for the many Canadians who self-identify as “reluctantly pro-choice.”
Neonatology isn’t the only stream of medicine that will eventually force the government’s hand in establishing the rights of the unborn — fetal medicine is making equally course-altering strides. After a $54.5-million gift to its Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, the University of Alberta recently joined other hospitals and universities worldwide who will, in the decades to come, establish a new normal in fetal care, including life-saving surgeries and diagnostics that can be performed in utero as early as 13 weeks.
These scientific leaps won’t just expand our notion of duty of care for the fetus, they will blow it wide open.
Considering the Liberal government’s obsession with genuflecting towards Science at every opportunity, the last paragraphs of the Post’s analysis could make them nervous:
These scientific advancements will drag us, kicking and screaming, in all likelihood, into the public square for a good old-fashioned barn-burner of a debate.
Head-in-sand will no longer be an option for any government or its electorate. Medicine is advancing too quickly. How remarkable it will be when science forces us to have a debate that politics had apparently put to rest.
Many people will ignore the scientific evidence, of course—they already do. But my colleagues and I have found that time and time again, the presentation of that scientific evidence in conjunction with the evidence of what the abortion procedure inflicts on the fragile body of the developing pre-born child causes people to change their minds. The pro-choice crowd might be clinging to their aging ideology, but they’re all out of evidence.