BREAKING DOWN CARL SAGAN’S LOGIC ON ABORTION Part 36 “Should we permit the state to intrude into the most intimate and personal aspects of our lives?” (My 1995 correspondence with Sagan)

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Carl Sagan was upset that many states were adding stipulations onto the ability to get an abortion, but when ladies take time to look at Ultrasound then they change their mind!!!

78% of Pregnant Women Seeing an Ultrasound Reject Abortions

by Sarah Terzo | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/7/13 11:44 AM

Ultrasounds before abortions are routine in some abortion clinics. In others, they are performed only under certain circumstances.

Former Planned Parenthood worker Catherine Anthony Adair said the following in an interview:

At the time I worked for Planned Parenthood ultrasounds were only done if the woman was unsure of the dates of her last menstrual period, or if the doctor ordered one.

Women were not given the option of viewing the ultrasound.

In reality, ultrasounds before abortions are good medical practice. Besides verifying the length of the pregnancy, which determines what technique of abortion and what instruments are used, an ultrasound is one way to verify that a woman does not have a tubal or ectopic pregnancy. A woman may test positive for pregnancy, but really have a situation where the unborn baby is developing in the fallopian tubes and not in the womb. If this is not discovered, the tube can rupture, which is a major medical complication that can end in death. There have been a number of instances over the past several decades of women who have gone to abortion clinics, left thinking they were no longer pregnant, and then later died from a burst ectopic pregnancy. Some victims of this type of tragedy include Gladyss Delanoche Estanislao, 28; Sherry Emry and Yvette Poteat, both 26, and Angela Satterfield, 23. These women all died when abortion providers failed to diagnose their ectopic pregnancies.

In most cases, when ultrasounds are performed, women are not shown the images unless they specifically ask to see them, and sometimes not even then. Numerous former abortion providers have attested to this, including Dr. Joseph Randall, who was quoted saying:

They [the women] are never allowed to look at the ultrasound because we knew that if they so much as heard the heart beat, they wouldn’t want to have an abortion. (1)

The fact that Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups oppose any legislation that would allow a woman the option of seeing the ultrasound screen further attests to this pattern. Even in cases where the law states that the woman does not need to look at the ultrasound but must merely be given the option, Planned Parenthood has been contentious.

One pro-choice author, commenting on a proposed law in Louisiana which required a woman to see an ultrasound image of her baby before aborting it, called the ultrasound a “torture weapon” (2).

Referring to a bill supported by Rick Perry that would allow women who choose a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn baby before going through with an abortion, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said the following:

Why is Rick Perry so cruel to women? … Rick Perry is running for president, and if he wins, you can bet he’ll force this dangerous agenda on every woman in every state. If we don’t stand up to him now, women may suffer the consequences for years to come. (3)

In Planned Parenthood’s world, allowing a woman to see an image of her baby on the ultrasound screen is a “dangerous agenda.” Many women who have abortions do not know the truth about fetal development. To quote Catherine Anthony Adair again:

We never discussed fetal development. The baby was referred to as the ”contents of the uterus” or a “clump of cells.” on the rare occasion a woman asked about the size of the baby, I would tell her it was about the size of the tip of my pencil, regardless of how many weeks into her pregnancy she was.

Jewels Green, another former clinic worker, said:

When explaining the abortion, the word ‘baby’ was never used, rather ‘contents of the uterus’, ‘the pregnancy’, or “products of conception” were the preferred terms to refer to the fetus.

The language of abortion counselors is often crafted carefully to avoid any reference to the baby. Even the term “fetus” is not always used. A 2012 NPR radio program interviewed abortion workers at a facility in England. In the interviews, the clinic workers never mention the word “abortion.” Rather, abortions were referred to as “treatments” – e.g., “the treatment room,” “treatment counseling,” etc.

Ultrasounds cut through all this evasive rhetoric. They show the reality of the unborn baby. As for abortion providers’ statements that ultrasounds are “cruel” and “torture weapons,” anyone who has listened to women who regret their abortions has heard, over and over again, “I wish I’d had more information.” “If I’d known what abortion would really do to my baby, I wouldn’t have had one.”

Sometimes a woman who has had a past abortion gets pregnant again and is confronted with a picture of her new baby on an ultrasound screen. Then the lies are exposed, and she has to bear the full brunt of the knowledge of what she has consented to. Abortion providers may be able to avoid the truth when counseling women, but they will not be there to shield the woman from the truth for the rest of her life. Eventually, many of the women who are lied to in abortion clinics will learn the facts about fetal development, and the abortion providers will not be there to help them when this happens. Many times, the experience leads to depression and self-loathing.

So why do abortion providers avoid showing ultrasound images to women? Perhaps this is because up to 78% of women to see an ultrasound of their babies choose not to have abortions (4).

When abortion-minded women see ultrasounds of their babies at crisis pregnancy centers, amazing things happen. Here’s a story from one crisis pregnancy center worker in New Jersey. A woman (we’ll call her Gina) had been in the waiting room of the crisis pregnancy center while several of her friends encouraged her to keep the baby. When she came in for the appointment, however, she said:

No one can change my mind about getting an abortion! Not my friends in the waiting room and not that girl who just came in, and definitely not you.

The worker relates:

“I let Gina know that was not my intention to force her not to abort but rather to present her with her options so she could make the best, most well-informed decision.”

Gina and I met for about an hour and it was such a pleasant time. I got to know her and her family dynamics, life objectives, and relationship with the father of her baby. I reviewed information on abortion with her and invited her to listen as I discussed the options of parenting and adoption so that she could truly make the best decision for herself. She welcomed the opportunity and afterwards thanked me for helping her to think about the pregnancy from other perspectives. But even after our time together, Gina was firm in decision to abort.

Then Gina had an ultrasound, and it was life changing!

Immediately after looking at the monitor, Gina looked at our nurse and me and said, “Yo, that’s it! That’s my baby!” (This was the first time she identified “it” as a baby.) “I can do this!” It was such a turn of events…” (5)

Gina carried the pregnancy to term and kept her child.

The Woman’s Choice Network is a pro-life organization that helps women who are facing unplanned pregnancies and encourages them to choose life.

In 2011, the network assisted more than 1,500 women. Of the 172 who saw their sonogram when considering abortion, 123 continued the pregnancy.

“The sonogram is just the first step. It’s day one of a two-year journey. Most of the work we will do comes after the sonogram,” Ms. Scheuring said, citing baby supplies, mentoring, assistance finding child care and other help.”

“We really leave it up to them, and we do have an occasional woman who doesn’t want to look,” she said. “But almost every woman, most every boyfriend and almost every weepy grandma in the room looks at that screen. They want to see. And the most common response we hear is ‘We had no idea.’” (6)

It should be noted that this pro-life facility, like most pro-life facilities, offers women ongoing help after they decide to continue their pregnancies. This is in contrast to abortion clinics, which take the woman’s money, do the abortion, and send her home.

In another article, a married woman who became pregnant at age 39 after she had already had all the children she wanted weighed abortion and decided she would probably keep the baby. But:

Unfortunately, she says, her maternal instincts did not respond to reason: when a young friend placed her baby in her arms, she found herself looking with distaste into “a little scrunched face inspiring no tenderness, only intense tedium at the thought of tending him. What was I going to do with the baby I couldn’t return to his mother?” ….she was not sure – despite her reservations – what it would cost her emotionally to have an abortion if something were wrong. When told she had as much chance of having a miscarriage from the amniocentesis as she did, at her age, of having a Down syndrome child, she hoped for the miscarriage: “That is until, lying on the table where the procedure was to take place, I saw the ultrasound scan on a television monitor above me reveal the perfectly shaped head of the child I carried. I wanted that baby!” (7)

Pro-life author Randy Alcorn recounts the following story, told to him by pregnancy center workers, in his book Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments:

Barb came to Cobb Pregnancy Services Tuesday wanting a verification of pregnancy so she could get an abortion. She was 16 weeks pregnant. Janet, her counselor, put in a video [The Eclipse of Reason] that showed the abortion procedure for a baby of this age. When Janet returned to the room, Barb was looking down and said “I can’t have no baby.”

Janet shared her regret concerning an abortion she’s lived with for more than 25 years. She then got permission to call me to do an ultrasound and show Barb her baby. The little girl was most cooperative to show even her mom’s untrained eye that she was alive, very active and doing well insider. She opened and closed her mouth, had hiccups, laid-back as if in a beach chair, stretching her little legs. She even held up hands so Barb could count her fingers

Barb was visibly touched. When the scan was over, I asked Barb what her plans were. She replied “I am going to have my baby.” I asked if the scan had made a difference, she said, “Big time. I just came in here to get a pregnancy verification so I could go have an abortion.” (8)

A woman who was considering abortion after a pregnancy resulting from rape agreed to a free ultrasound at a pregnancy center:

She was blinking. She was just hanging out, looking around, sucking on her thumb. … It was so realistic, so lifelike. It looks like you can just reach right in there and pick up the baby.

I know they have a heartbeat at 4 to 6 weeks, but it still doesn’t feel as real to you until you see a human. It amazed me.

She kept her baby.

“I never thought I could love or bond with a child [who] was conceived under such horrible circumstances, but that’s where we don’t give God enough credit,” Oliver said. “I look at her, and I don’t even see him. She’s beautiful and perfect.” (9)

Another crisis pregnancy center worker recalls a woman who came running into the pro-life center sobbing after a Planned Parenthood worker accidentally allowed her to see the ultrasound screen before her abortion. Immediately upon seeing her baby on the screen, the woman knew she could not go through with the abortion and sought refuge in the pro-life clinic (10).

On November 2, 2012 the organization 40 Days for Life, which arranges prayer campaigns and protests outside abortion clinics, told the following story:

A woman had made the long drive from another county for an abortion appointment. She was one of the first to arrive that day, walking past the vigil participants and into the building.

As she was leaving, the volunteers noted that she might have been inside long enough for the abortion. They also noted that she was crying, so one of them asked her, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“I couldn’t do it,” the woman said. “They were doing an ultrasound, so I asked if I could see it. At first they refused, telling me ‘you don’t really want to see it.’ But I insisted ‘yeah, I do want to see it, because if I can see it … maybe I won’t do it.’”

She was right. Once she saw her nine week baby on the ultrasound screen, she knew that she couldn’t go through with the abortion. (11)

Ultrasounds are a liability to abortion clinics in another way as well. Clinic staff can be disturbed by the picture of the baby on the ultrasound screen. By now, many people in the pro-life movement have heard the story of Abby Johnson, the Planned Parenthood director who became pro-life after watching the abortion of a 13-week-old unborn baby on the ultrasound. A lesser-known story is that of Joan Appleton, who had a similar experience. When talking during a conference in Chicago, Illinois sponsored by the Pro-Life Action League about the reason she left her abortion clinic, she said:

And I too had seen an ultrasound abortion. It was, we did first trimester, this was late first trimester, probably early second trimester, really we could look to 13.7 weeks. Give or take. I can’t remember offhand what the specific problem was, but we wanted to do the abortion by ultrasound, to make sure that we did indeed get the entire, all the baby. The terminology was that we wanted to make sure we had the entire pregnancy. I handled the ultrasound while the doctor performed the procedure, and I directed him while I was watching the screen. I saw the baby pull away. I saw the baby open his mouth. I had seen Silent Scream a number of times, but it didn’t affect me – to me it was just more pro-life propaganda. But I couldn’t deny what I saw on the screen. After that procedure, I was shaking, literally, but managed to pull it together, and continue on with the day.

Unlike Abby Johnson, Appleton did not leave her job immediately – but this incident was pivotal in convincing her that abortion was wrong.

Dr. Stuart Campbell performed abortions for years, but the new, vivid, 3-D ultrasound images changed his mind:

Even a fetus lying there dead doesn’t convey the horror that one experiences seeing a baby moving its arms and legs, opening its mouth, sucking its thumb, and then thinking, gosh, somebody wants to, you know… It looks so vital. It has changed my view. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. (12)

Dr. Campbell no longer performs abortions.

Dr. Randall, quoted before, testified to the following:

I think the greatest thing that got to us was the ultrasound. At that time, the ultrasound, or soundwave picture which was moving, called a “real-time ultrasound,” showed the baby on TV. The baby really came alive on TV and was moving. And that picture, that picture of the baby on ultrasound bothered me more than anything else[.] … We lost two nurses. They couldn’t take looking[.]

He said this at the “Meet the Abortion Providers” conference sponsored by the Pro-Life Action League.

The phenomenon of abortion clinic workers leaving after seeing ultrasounds has been so prevalent over the past several decades that major medical publications have addressed the problem.

According to an article in ObGyn News:

[Abortion clinic] Staff members also may be affected by sonographic images and may need opportunities for venting their feelings and reconfirming their priorities[.] (13)

Alison Herwitt, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s director of government relations, told a reporter the following while discussing a bill that would allow government grants to crisis pregnancy centers to purchase ultrasound machines:

They don’t want them to go to Planned Parenthood, where they’ll get their full range of options. They just want them to go to crisis pregnancy centers, where women will be exposed to this weapon at taxpayers’ expense. (14)

Perhaps inadvertently, Herwitt has spoken the truth. Ultrasounds are a powerful weapon against the lies and deceit of the abortion industry.

1. “Pro-Choice 1990: Skeletons in the Closet” New Dimensions October 1990
2. Janet Hadley “Abortion: between Freedom and Necessity” (Great Britain: Virago Press, 1996) 150
3. Maggie Haberman “ Richards: Perry ‘so cruel’ to women” Politico, Sept 1, 2011
4. Adam Cohen“The Next Abortion Battleground: Fetal Heartbeats” Time Ideas October 17, 2011
5. Melissa Fischer “Gina’s Decision” Heartbeat Newsletter (First Choice Women’s Resource Centers, New Jersey) Summer 2012, p2
6. Ann Rodgers “Women’s center in Pittsburgh’s North Side welcomes ultrasound machine” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 18, 2012
7. Faith Abbott “a Tale of Two Women” Human Life Review, Spring 1993 in Tamara L Roleff. Abortion: Opposing Viewpoints (San Diego, Greenhaven Press, 1997) 111 to 112
8. Audrey Stout, Marietta Georgia, e-mail to Randy Alcorn February 12, 2000 Randy Alcorn “Pro-life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments” (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2000) 199
9. Karla Dial “Bringing Good Things to Life”Citizen June 2003
10. Roderick P Murphy. Stopping Abortions at Death’s Door (Southbridge, Massachusetts: Taig Publishing 2009) P194
11. 40 Days For Life Blog http://40daysforlife.com/blog/?p=3755
12. Stuart Campbell “The Hidden Wonders of New Life” The Tablet October 7 2004
13. ObGyn News, Quoted in Rachel M MacNair, PhD. Achieving Peace in the Abortion War (New York: iUniverse, 2009) page 59
14. Karla Dial “Bringing Good Things to Life

LifeNews.com Note: Sarah Terzo is a pro-life liberal who runs ClinicQuotes.com, a web site devoted to exposing the abortion industry. This originally appeared at Live Action News

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Recently I have been revisiting my correspondence in 1995 with the famous astronomer Carl Sagan who I had the privilege to correspond with in 1994, 1995 and 1996. In 1996 I had a chance to respond to his December 5, 1995letter on January 10, 1996 and I never heard back from him again since his cancer returned and he passed away later in 1996. Below is what Carl Sagan wrote to me in his December 5, 1995 letter:

Thanks for your recent letter about evolution and abortion. The correlation is hardly one to one; there are evolutionists who are anti-abortion and anti-evolutionists who are pro-abortion.You argue that God exists because otherwise we could not understand the world in our consciousness. But if you think God is necessary to understand the world, then why do you not ask the next question of where God came from? And if you say “God was always here,” why not say that the universe was always here? On abortion, my views are contained in the enclosed article (Sagan, Carl and Ann Druyan {1990}, “The Question of Abortion,” Parade Magazine, April 22.)

I was introduced to when reading a book by Francis Schaeffer called HE IS THERE AND HE IS NOT SILENT written in 1968. 

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Francis Schaeffer when he was a young pastor in St. Louis pictured above.

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Francis Schaeffer and Adrian Rogers

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(both Adrian Rogers and Francis Schaeffer mentioned Carl Sagan in their books and that prompted me to write Sagan and expose him to their views.


Carl Sagan pictured below:

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Francis Schaeffer

I mentioned earlier that I was blessed with the opportunity to correspond with Dr. Sagan. In his December 5, 1995 letter Dr. Sagan went on to tell me that he was enclosing his article “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers”by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan. I am going to respond to several points made in that article. Here is a portion of Sagan’s article (here is a link to the whole article):

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Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan pictured above

 “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers”

by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

For the complete text, including illustrations, introductory quote, footnotes, and commentary on the reaction to the originally published article see Billions and Billions.

The issue had been decided years ago. The court had chosen the middle ground. You’d think the fight was over. Instead, there are mass rallies, bombings and intimidation, murders of workers at abortion clinics, arrests, intense lobbying, legislative drama, Congressional hearings, Supreme Court decisions, major political parties almost defining themselves on the issue, and clerics threatening politicians with perdition. Partisans fling accusations of hypocrisy and murder. The intent of the Constitution and the will of God are equally invoked. Doubtful arguments are trotted out as certitudes. The contending factions call on science to bolster their positions. Families are divided, husbands and wives agree not to discuss it, old friends are no longer speaking. Politicians check the latest polls to discover the dictates of their consciences. Amid all the shouting, it is hard for the adversaries to hear one another. Opinions are polarized. Minds are closed.

 

Is it wrong to abort a pregnancy? Always? Sometimes? Never? How do we decide? We wrote this article to understand better what the contending views are and to see if we ourselves could find a position that would satisfy us both. Is there no middle ground? We had to weigh the arguments of both sides for consistency and to pose test cases, some of which are purely hypothetical. If in some of these tests we seem to go too far, we ask the reader to be patient with us–we’re trying to stress the various positions to the breaking point to see their weaknesses and where they fail.

In contemplative moments, nearly everyone recognizes that the issue is not wholly one-sided. Many partisans of differing views, we find, feel some disquiet, some unease when confronting what’s behind the opposing arguments. (This is partly why such confrontations are avoided.) And the issue surely touches on deep questions: What are our responses to one another? Should we permit the state to intrude into the most intimate and personal aspects of our lives? Where are the boundaries of freedom? What does it mean to be human?

Of the many actual points of view, it is widely held–especially in the media, which rarely have the time or the inclination to make fine distinctions–that there are only two: “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” This is what the two principal warring camps like to call themselves, and that’s what we’ll call them here. In the simplest characterization, a pro-choicer would hold that the decision to abort a pregnancy is to be made only by the woman; the state has no right to interfere. And a pro-lifer would hold that, from the moment of conception, the embryo or fetus is alive; that this life imposes on us a moral obligation to preserve it; and that abortion is tantamount to murder. Both names–pro-choice and pro-life–were picked with an eye toward influencing those whose minds are not yet made up: Few people wish to be counted either as being against freedom of choice or as opposed to life. Indeed, freedom and life are two of our most cherished values, and here they seem to be in fundamental conflict.

Let’s consider these two absolutist positions in turn. A newborn baby is surely the same being it was just before birth. There ‘s good evidence that a late-term fetus responds to sound–including music, but especially its mother’s voice. It can suck its thumb or do a somersault. Occasionally, it generates adult brain-wave patterns. Some people claim to remember being born, or even the uterine environment. Perhaps there is thought in the womb. It’s hard to maintain that a transformation to full personhood happens abruptly at the moment of birth. Why, then, should it be murder to kill an infant the day after it was born but not the day before?

As a practical matter, this isn’t very important: Less than 1 percent of all tabulated abortions in the United States are listed in the last three months of pregnancy (and, on closer investigation, most such reports turn out to be due to miscarriage or miscalculation). But third-trimester abortions provide a test of the limits of the pro-choice point of view. Does a woman’s “innate right to control her own body” encompass the right to kill a near-term fetus who is, for all intents and purposes, identical to a newborn child?

We believe that many supporters of reproductive freedom are troubled at least occasionally by this question. But they are reluctant to raise it because it is the beginning of a slippery slope. If it is impermissible to abort a pregnancy in the ninth month, what about the eighth, seventh, sixth … ? Once we acknowledge that the state can interfere at any time in the pregnancy, doesn’t it follow that the state can interfere at all times?

Abortion and the slippery slope argument above

This conjures up the specter of predominantly male, predominantly affluent legislators telling poor women they must bear and raise alone children they cannot afford to bring up; forcing teenagers to bear children they are not emotionally prepared to deal with; saying to women who wish for a career that they must give up their dreams, stay home, and bring up babies; and, worst of all, condemning victims of rape and incest to carry and nurture the offspring of their assailants. Legislative prohibitions on abortion arouse the suspicion that their real intent is to control the independence and sexuality of women…

And yet, by consensus, all of us think it proper that there be prohibitions against, and penalties exacted for, murder. It would be a flimsy defense if the murderer pleads that this is just between him and his victim and none of the government’s business. If killing a fetus is truly killing a human being, is it not the duty of the state to prevent it? Indeed, one of the chief functions of government is to protect the weak from the strong.

If we do not oppose abortion at some stage of pregnancy, is there not a danger of dismissing an entire category of human beings as unworthy of our protection and respect? And isn’t that dismissal the hallmark of sexism, racism, nationalism, and religious fanaticism? Shouldn’t those dedicated to fighting such injustices be scrupulously careful not to embrace another?

Adrian Rogers’ sermon on animal rights refutes Sagan here

There is no right to life in any society on Earth today, nor has there been at any former time… : We raise farm animals for slaughter; destroy forests; pollute rivers and lakes until no fish can live there; kill deer and elk for sport, leopards for the pelts, and whales for fertilizer; entrap dolphins, gasping and writhing, in great tuna nets; club seal pups to death; and render a species extinct every day. All these beasts and vegetables are as alive as we. What is (allegedly) protected is not life, but human life.

Genesis 3 defines being human

And even with that protection, casual murder is an urban commonplace, and we wage “conventional” wars with tolls so terrible that we are, most of us, afraid to consider them very deeply… That protection, that right to life, eludes the 40,000 children under five who die on our planet each day from preventable starvation, dehydration, disease, and neglect.

Those who assert a “right to life” are for (at most) not just any kind of life, but for–particularly and uniquely—human life. So they too, like pro-choicers, must decide what distinguishes a human being from other animals and when, during gestation, the uniquely human qualities–whatever they are–emerge.

The Bible talks about the differences between humans and animals

Despite many claims to the contrary, life does not begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain that stretches back nearly to the origin of the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago. Nor does human life begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain dating back to the origin of our species, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Every human sperm and egg is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, alive. They are not human beings, of course. However, it could be argued that neither is a fertilized egg.

In some animals, an egg develops into a healthy adult without benefit of a sperm cell. But not, so far as we know, among humans. A sperm and an unfertilized egg jointly comprise the full genetic blueprint for a human being. Under certain circumstances, after fertilization, they can develop into a baby. But most fertilized eggs are spontaneously miscarried. Development into a baby is by no means guaranteed. Neither a sperm and egg separately, nor a fertilized egg, is more than a potential baby or a potential adult. So if a sperm and egg are as human as the fertilized egg produced by their union, and if it is murder to destroy a fertilized egg–despite the fact that it’s only potentially a baby–why isn’t it murder to destroy a sperm or an egg?

Hundreds of millions of sperm cells (top speed with tails lashing: five inches per hour) are produced in an average human ejaculation. A healthy young man can produce in a week or two enough spermatozoa to double the human population of the Earth. So is masturbation mass murder? How about nocturnal emissions or just plain sex? When the unfertilized egg is expelled each month, has someone died? Should we mourn all those spontaneous miscarriages? Many lower animals can be grown in a laboratory from a single body cell. Human cells can be cloned… In light of such cloning technology, would we be committing mass murder by destroying any potentially clonable cells? By shedding a drop of blood?

 

All human sperm and eggs are genetic halves of “potential” human beings. Should heroic efforts be made to save and preserve all of them, everywhere, because of this “potential”? Is failure to do so immoral or criminal? Of course, there’s a difference between taking a life and failing to save it. And there’s a big difference between the probability of survival of a sperm cell and that of a fertilized egg. But the absurdity of a corps of high-minded semen-preservers moves us to wonder whether a fertilized egg’s mere “potential” to become a baby really does make destroying it murder.

Opponents of abortion worry that, once abortion is permissible immediately after conception, no argument will restrict it at any later time in the pregnancy. Then, they fear, one day it will be permissible to murder a fetus that is unambiguously a human being. Both pro-choicers and pro-lifers (at least some of them) are pushed toward absolutist positions by parallel fears of the slippery slope.

 

Another slippery slope is reached by those pro-lifers who are willing to make an exception in the agonizing case of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. But why should the right to live depend on the circumstances of conception? If the same child were to result, can the state ordain life for the offspring of a lawful union but death for one conceived by force or coercion? How can this be just? And if exceptions are extended to such a fetus, why should they be withheld from any other fetus? This is part of the reason some pro-lifers adopt what many others consider the outrageous posture of opposing abortions under any and all circumstances–only excepting, perhaps, when the life of the mother is in danger.

By far the most common reason for abortion worldwide is birth control. So shouldn’t opponents of abortion be handing out contraceptives and teaching school children how to use them? That would be an effective way to reduce the number of abortions. Instead, the United States is far behind other nations in the development of safe and effective methods of birth control–and, in many cases, opposition to such research (and to sex education) has come from the same people who oppose abortions.continue on to Part 3

For the complete text, including illustrations, introductory quote, footnotes, and commentary on the reaction to the originally published article see Billions and Billions.

The attempt to find an ethically sound and unambiguous judgment on when, if ever, abortion is permissible has deep historical roots. Often, especially in Christian tradition, such attempts were connected with the question of when the soul enters the body–a matter not readily amenable to scientific investigation and an issue of controversy even among learned theologians. Ensoulment has been asserted to occur in the sperm before conception, at conception, at the time of “quickening” (when the mother is first able to feel the fetus stirring within her), and at birth. Or even later.

Different religions have different teachings. Among hunter-gatherers, there are usually no prohibitions against abortion, and it was common in ancient Greece and Rome. In contrast, the more severe Assyrians impaled women on stakes for attempting abortion. The Jewish Talmud teaches that the fetus is not a person and has no rights. The Old and New Testaments–rich in astonishingly detailed prohibitions on dress, diet, and permissible words–contain not a word specifically prohibiting abortion. The only passage that’s remotely relevant (Exodus 21:22) decrees that if there’s a fight and a woman bystander should accidentally be injured and made to miscarry, the assailant must pay a fine.

Neither St. Augustine nor St. Thomas Aquinas considered early-term abortion to be homicide (the latter on the grounds that the embryo doesn’t look human). This view was embraced by the Church in the Council of Vienne in 1312, and has never been repudiated. The Catholic Church’s first and long-standing collection of canon law (according to the leading historian of the Church’s teaching on abortion, John Connery, S.J.) held that abortion was homicide only after the fetus was already “formed”–roughly, the end of the first trimester.

But when sperm cells were examined in the seventeenth century by the first microscopes, they were thought to show a fully formed human being. An old idea of the homunculus was resuscitated–in which within each sperm cell was a fully formed tiny human, within whose testes were innumerable other homunculi, etc., ad infinitum. In part through this misinterpretation of scientific data, in 1869 abortion at any time for any reason became grounds for excommunication. It is surprising to most Catholics and others to discover that the date was not much earlier.

From colonial times to the nineteenth century, the choice in the United States was the woman’s until “quickening.” An abortion in the first or even second trimester was at worst a misdemeanor. Convictions were rarely sought and almost impossible to obtain, because they depended entirely on the woman’s own testimony of whether she had felt quickening, and because of the jury’s distaste for prosecuting a woman for exercising her right to choose. In 1800 there was not, so far as is known, a single statute in the United States concerning abortion. Advertisements for drugs to induce abortion could be found in virtually every newspaper and even in many church publications–although the language used was suitably euphemistic, if widely understood.

But by 1900, abortion had been banned at any time in pregnancy by every state in the Union, except when necessary to save the woman’s life. What happened to bring about so striking a reversal? Religion had little to do with it.Drastic economic and social conversions were turning this country from an agrarian to an urban-industrial society. America was in the process of changing from having one of the highest birthrates in the world to one of the lowest. Abortion certainly played a role and stimulated forces to suppress it.

 

One of the most significant of these forces was the medical profession. Up to the mid-nineteenth century, medicine was an uncertified, unsupervised business. Anyone could hang up a shingle and call himself (or herself) a doctor. With the rise of a new, university-educated medical elite, anxious to enhance the status and influence of physicians, the American Medical Association was formed. In its first decade, the AMA began lobbying against abortions performed by anyone except licensed physicians. New knowledge of embryology, the physicians said, had shown the fetus to be human even before quickening.

Their assault on abortion was motivated not by concern for the health of the woman but, they claimed, for the welfare of the fetus. You had to be a physician to know when abortion was morally justified, because the question depended on scientific and medical facts understood only by physicians. At the same time, women were effectively excluded from the medical schools, where such arcane knowledge could be acquired. So, as things worked out, women had almost nothing to say about terminating their own pregnancies. It was also up to the physician to decide if the pregnancy posed a threat to the woman, and it was entirely at his discretion to determine what was and was not a threat. For the rich woman, the threat might be a threat to her emotional tranquillity or even to her lifestyle. The poor woman was often forced to resort to the back alley or the coat hanger.

This was the law until the 1960s, when a coalition of individuals and organizations, the AMA now among them, sought to overturn it and to reinstate the more traditional values that were to be embodied in Roe v. Wade.continue on to Part 4

If you deliberately kill a human being, it’s called murder. If you deliberately kill a chimpanzee–biologically, our closest relative, sharing 99.6 percent of our active genes–whatever else it is, it’s not murder. To date, murder uniquely applies to killing human beings. Therefore, the question of when personhood (or, if we like, ensoulment) arises is key to the abortion debate. When does the fetus become human? When do distinct and characteristic human qualities emerge?

Section 8 Sperm journey to becoming Human 

We recognize that specifying a precise moment will overlook individual differences. Therefore, if we must draw a line, it ought to be drawn conservatively–that is, on the early side. There are people who object to having to set some numerical limit, and we share their disquiet; but if there is to be a law on this matter, and it is to effect some useful compromise between the two absolutist positions, it must specify, at least roughly, a time of transition to personhood.

Every one of us began from a dot. A fertilized egg is roughly the size of the period at the end of this sentence. The momentous meeting of sperm and egg generally occurs in one of the two fallopian tubes. One cell becomes two, two become four, and so on—an exponentiation of base-2 arithmetic. By the tenth day the fertilized egg has become a kind of hollow sphere wandering off to another realm: the womb. It destroys tissue in its path. It sucks blood from capillaries. It bathes itself in maternal blood, from which it extracts oxygen and nutrients. It establishes itself as a kind of parasite on the walls of the uterus.By the third week, around the time of the first missed menstrual period, the forming embryo is about 2 millimeters long and is developing various body parts. Only at this stage does it begin to be dependent on a rudimentary placenta. It looks a little like a segmented worm.By the end of the fourth week, it’s about 5 millimeters (about 1/5 inch) long. It’s recognizable now as a vertebrate, its tube-shaped heart is beginning to beat, something like the gill arches of a fish or an amphibian become conspicuous, and there is a pronounced tail. It looks rather like a newt or a tadpole. This is the end of the first month after conception.By the fifth week, the gross divisions of the brain can be distinguished. What will later develop into eyes are apparent, and little buds appear—on their way to becoming arms and legs.By the sixth week, the embryo is 13 millimeteres (about ½ inch) long. The eyes are still on the side of the head, as in most animals, and the reptilian face has connected slits where the mouth and nose eventually will be.By the end of the seventh week, the tail is almost gone, and sexual characteristics can be discerned (although both sexes look female). The face is mammalian but somewhat piglike.By the end of the eighth week, the face resembles that of a primate but is still not quite human. Most of the human body parts are present in their essentials. Some lower brain anatomy is well-developed. The fetus shows some reflex response to delicate stimulation.By the tenth week, the face has an unmistakably human cast. It is beginning to be possible to distinguish males from females. Nails and major bone structures are not apparent until the third month.By the fourth month, you can tell the face of one fetus from that of another. Quickening is most commonly felt in the fifth month. The bronchioles of the lungs do not begin developing until approximately the sixth month, the alveoli still later.

So, if only a person can be murdered, when does the fetus attain personhood? When its face becomes distinctly human, near the end of the first trimester? When the fetus becomes responsive to stimuli–again, at the end of the first trimester? When it becomes active enough to be felt as quickening, typically in the middle of the second trimester? When the lungs have reached a stage of development sufficient that the fetus might, just conceivably, be able to breathe on its own in the outside air?

The trouble with these particular developmental milestones is not just that they’re arbitrary. More troubling is the fact that none of them involves uniquely humancharacteristics–apart from the superficial matter of facial appearance. All animals respond to stimuli and move of their own volition. Large numbers are able to breathe. But that doesn’t stop us from slaughtering them by the billions. Reflexes and motion are not what make us human.

Sagan’s conclusion based on arbitrary choice of the presence of thought by unborn baby

Other animals have advantages over us–in speed, strength, endurance, climbing or burrowing skills, camouflage, sight or smell or hearing, mastery of the air or water. Our one great advantage, the secret of our success, is thought–characteristically human thought. We are able to think things through, imagine events yet to occur, figure things out. That’s how we invented agriculture and civilization. Thought is our blessing and our curse, and it makes us who we are.

Thinking occurs, of course, in the brain–principally in the top layers of the convoluted “gray matter” called the cerebral cortex. The roughly 100 billion neurons in the brain constitute the material basis of thought. The neurons are connected to each other, and their linkups play a major role in what we experience as thinking. But large-scale linking up of neurons doesn’t begin until the 24th to 27th week of pregnancy–the sixth month.

By placing harmless electrodes on a subject’s head, scientists can measure the electrical activity produced by the network of neurons inside the skull. Different kinds of mental activity show different kinds of brain waves. But brain waves with regular patterns typical of adult human brains do not appear in the fetus until about the 30th week of pregnancy–near the beginning of the third trimester. Fetuses younger than this–however alive and active they may be–lack the necessary brain architecture. They cannot yet think.

Acquiescing in the killing of any living creature, especially one that might later become a baby, is troublesome and painful. But we’ve rejected the extremes of “always” and “never,” and this puts us–like it or not–on the slippery slope. If we are forced to choose a developmental criterion, then this is where we draw the line: when the beginning of characteristically human thinking becomes barely possible.

It is, in fact, a very conservative definition: Regular brain waves are rarely found in fetuses. More research would help… If we wanted to make the criterion still more stringent, to allow for occasional precocious fetal brain development, we might draw the line at six months. This, it so happens, is where the Supreme Court drew it in 1973–although for completely different reasons.

Its decision in the case of Roe v. Wade changed American law on abortion. It permits abortion at the request of the woman without restriction in the first trimester and, with some restrictions intended to protect her health, in the second trimester. It allows states to forbid abortion in the third trimester, except when there’s a serious threat to the life or health of the woman. In the 1989 Webster decision, the Supreme Court declined explicitly to overturn Roe v. Wade but in effect invited the 50 state legislatures to decide for themselves.

What was the reasoning in Roe v. Wade? There was no legal weight given to what happens to the children once they are born, or to the family. Instead, a woman’s right to reproductive freedom is protected, the court ruled, by constitutional guarantees of privacy. But that right is not unqualified. The woman’s guarantee of privacy and the fetus’s right to life must be weighed–and when the court did the weighing’ priority was given to privacy in the first trimester and to life in the third. The transition was decided not from any of the considerations we have been dealing with so far…–not when “ensoulment” occurs, not when the fetus takes on sufficient human characteristics to be protected by laws against murder. Instead, the criterion adopted was whether the fetus could live outside the mother. This is called “viability” and depends in part on the ability to breathe. The lungs are simply not developed, and the fetus cannot breathe–no matter how advanced an artificial lung it might be placed in—until about the 24th week, near the start of the sixth month. This is why Roe v. Wade permits the states to prohibit abortions in the last trimester. It’s a very pragmatic criterion.

If the fetus at a certain stage of gestation would be viable outside the womb, the argument goes, then the right of the fetus to life overrides the right of the woman to privacy. But just what does “viable” mean? Even a full-term newborn is not viable without a great deal of care and love. There was a time before incubators, only a few decades ago, when babies in their seventh month were unlikely to be viable. Would aborting in the seventh month have been permissible then? After the invention of incubators, did aborting pregnancies in the seventh month suddenly become immoral? What happens if, in the future, a new technology develops so that an artificial womb can sustain a fetus even before the sixth month by delivering oxygen and nutrients through the blood–as the mother does through the placenta and into the fetal blood system? We grant that this technology is unlikely to be developed soon or become available to many. But if it were available, does it then become immoral to abort earlier than the sixth month, when previously it was moral? A morality that depends on, and changes with, technology is a fragile morality; for some, it is also an unacceptable morality.

And why, exactly, should breathing (or kidney function, or the ability to resist disease) justify legal protection? If a fetus can be shown to think and feel but not be able to breathe, would it be all right to kill it? Do we value breathing more than thinking and feeling? Viability arguments cannot, it seems to us, coherently determine when abortions are permissible. Some other criterion is needed. Again, we offer for consideration the earliest onset of human thinking as that criterion.

Since, on average, fetal thinking occurs even later than fetal lung development, we find Roe v. Wade to be a good and prudent decision addressing a complex and difficult issue. With prohibitions on abortion in the last trimester–except in cases of grave medical necessity–it strikes a fair balance between the conflicting claims of freedom and life.What do you think? What have others said about Carl Sagan’s thoughts on 

END OF SAGAN’S ARTICLE

Image result for carl sagan and ann druyan
Carl Sagan with his wife Ann in the 1990’s
Image result for adrian rogers francis schaeffer
I grew up in Memphis as a member of Bellevue Baptist Church under our pastor Adrian Rogers and attended ECS High School where the books and films of Francis Schaeffer were taught. Both men dealt with current issues in the culture such as the film series COSMOS by Carl Sagan. I personally read several of Sagan’s books.  (Francis and Edith Schaeffer pictured below in their home at L’ Abri in Switzerland where Francis  taught students for 3 decades.
Image result for francis schaeffer
630 × 414Images may be subject to copyright.

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