Fact-Checking 5 Biden Claims on Dobbs Ruling

Fact-Checking 5 Biden Claims on Dobbs Ruling

Joshua Arnold  / June 24, 2022

President Joe Biden addresses the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24 at the White House. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden spoke Friday in response to the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, in which the court overruled Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The speech was heavy on outrage, but light on truthfulness. Here are a few of Biden’s worst whoppers.

Claim 1: “Today the Supreme Court of the United States expressly took away a constitutional right from the American people that it had already recognized.”

Biden went on to explain the constitutional right he meant was “women’s right to choose,” which “reinforced a fundamental right of privacy.”

Biden also commented on the history of abortion in America. In the 1800s, it was widely prohibited. “The court laid out state laws criminalizing abortion that go back to the 1800s as their rationale.” But abortion has been legal for the last 50 years. “Fifty years ago, Roe v. Wade was decided and has been the law of the land since then.”

A constitutional right is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court wrote in Roe v. Wade that “the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy.” However, the court proceeded to infer a “right of personal privacy” from various prior rulings and various constitutional provisions. Without definitely establishing where the right of privacy was found, they declared that it was “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” The court did not use the phrase “woman’s right to choose” in Roe; that phrase comes from the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). In Casey, a plurality of the court partly overturned and partly upheld Roe.

Biden correctly identified that what he called a “constitutional right” was not endorsed by the court or the law of the land until long after the Constitution and all relevant amendments were ratified. In fact, the “right to privacy” and a “woman’s right to choose” are only recognized in U.S. law because of two Supreme Court cases, which the Supreme Court in Dobbs overturned. 

Whatever authority the Supreme Court had to establish such a right, the court has now used that same authority to strike it down. Biden’s characterization of abortion as a “constitutional right,” as opposed to one arbitrarily created by the Court, is: FALSE.

Claim 2: “This decision … made the United States an outlier among developed nations in the world.”

According to Family Research Council, national law in “only six nations” allows “abortion at any point through the entirety of pregnancy.” Those six nations were Canada, China, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, and Vietnam. 

Most nations in Europe protect unborn life after 14 weeks. Most nations in South America, Africa, and southern Asia protect unborn life from conception, with varying degrees of exceptions.

>>> Facing an Unexpected Pregnancy? Here’s Help

By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court in Dobbs imposed no national rules prohibiting abortion. Rather, they struck down federal protections for abortion, thus giving the states greater latitude to legislate on this issue. In Dobbs, the Supreme Court made the United States less of an outlier from the rest of the world. Therefore, this claim is: FALSE.

Claim 3: “The court has done what it’s never done before, expressly taken away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans, that it had already been recognized.”

Biden repeatedly employed the phrase “had already (been) recognized,” as if the recognition of rights inherently worked as a one-way ratchet; once recognized, they never could be unrecognized. This is the textbook progressive understanding of rights, in which justice advances into the future in an ever-expanding cone of rights.

The closest parallel to abortion in American history is slavery and segregation. Abortion, like slavery in America, required legally denying the personhood — and the natural rights that come with that — of a certain group of people, for the benefit of another group of people. Unlike abortion, the right to property in slaves was protected, or at least permitted, by several provisions in the Constitution. The court formerly recognized that right (Dred Scott v. Sanford, 1857), but has not recognized it since the 13th Amendment was ratified. But slavery was replaced by racially-motivated segregation, which still denied a group of people full equality. The Supreme Court approved this injustice in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), and it stood for half a century until Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Likewise, the injustice of Roe v. Wade endured for half a century before the court ended it.

Biden’s statement was filled with vague qualifiers — “so fundamental,” “so many Americans” — so that it’s possible for his defenders to argue that it was technically true. However, his statement’s purpose is to argue that there is no prior precedent for the Supreme Court striking down a case like Roe v. Wade. That characterization, fortunately, is: FALSE.

Claim 4: “I believe Roe v. Wade was the correct decision … a decision with broad national consensus, that most Americans of faiths and backgrounds found acceptable.”

Biden meant to say, “Americans of most faiths and backgrounds” (most Americans … of backgrounds?). However, he later admitted that the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade has been in motion for a long time. “Make no mistake, this decision is a culmination of a deliberate effort over decades,” he said. In fact, the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade began almost immediately. On January 22, 1974, a year after Roe was decided, 20,000 people participated in the first March for Life, which has mobilized millions of Americans against abortion over the past five decades.

The Supreme Court explained in Dobbs, “At the time of Roe, 30 states still prohibited abortion at all stages. In the years prior to that decision, about a third of the states had liberalized their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process.”

Nor does the substance of Roe (less popular than the demagogued talking point) enjoy a broad consensus, even after it has been the law of the land for nearly 50 years. According to a Marist poll released in January, 71% of Americans, including 49% of Democrats, oppose abortion after the first three months of pregnancy.

There has never been a “broad national consensus” in favor of abortion. Therefore, this claim is: FALSE.

Claim 5: “[State laws are] so extreme that women and girls are forced to bear their rapist’s child. … Imagine having a young woman having to carry a child as a consequence of incest with no option.”

Most pro-abortion rhetoric for decades has relied on the fiction that overturning Roe v. Wade would prohibit all abortions anywhere (hence the polling that shows higher support for Roe v. Wade than for the extreme provisions it contained). But this is not true. Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, abortion policy returns to the governments of 50 states, which can each enact the laws they see fit.

Biden himself admitted this. “Many states in this country still recognize a woman’s right to choose,” he said. “So, if a woman lives in a state that restricts abortion, the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t prevent her from traveling from her home state to the state that allows it. It doesn’t prevent a doctor in that state from treating her.”

Pro-abortion rhetoric also emphasizes cases of rape and incest, the cases where the woman’s plight is likely to attract the most widespread sympathy (but, since the baby didn’t get to choose his or her parents, such an abortion is just as unjust as any other). Such emphasis is misplaced, as cases of rape and incest account for less than 2% of abortions. Additionally, instead of helping abused women, abortion businesses have sometimes covered up for abusers.

Regardless of the emotionally charged questions of rape and incest, the fact remains that Biden contradicted his own claim by explaining how women can obtain an abortion. Anyone who wants to obtain an abortion can travel to a state where it remains legal and obtain one. Therefore, this statement is: FALSE.

To get a more accurate picture of what abortion policy in America will look like going forward, check out Family Research Council’s interactive maps showing the landscape of state policy in the post-Roe era.

Originally published by The Washington Stand.

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.

June 24, 2022 will go down as the day the Supreme Court returned to recognizing INFANT HUMAN LIFE AGAIN!!!! I have been blogging about these great events all day long as I have been attending the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN LAWMAKERS CONFERENCE in Missouri! It has been a great day and it is the greatest day in the history of the pro-life movement primarily because the Francis Schaeffer and Dr. C. Everett Koop film WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE? energized the evangelicals in 1979 to rise up against the abortion movement!
(Francis Schaeffer seen below)

Francis Schaeffer.jpg

Actually I just attended the retirement party held for my high school Bible teacher Mark Brink of EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN SCHOOL of Cordova, Tennessee on May 19th and he introduced me to the works of Francis Schaeffer and it was Schaeffer’s works that eventually help topple ROE v WADE!!! Ironically Mr Brink had a 49 year career that spanned 1973 to 2022 which was the same period that ROE v WADE survived!!! 

Secondly, Ronald Reagan took the leadership of the pro-life movement in the 1980’s to a new level and then President Trump put us over the top with his 3 Supreme Court picks! The NEVER-TRUMPERS teamed up the Clinton supporters and did not support Trump in 2016, but he got the job done!!!

My pastor growing up in Memphis was the late Adrian Rogers and I benefitted greatly from his ministry and I quoted in my first post this morning (link below):

The Supreme Court has overturned ROE v WADE today on June 24, 2022 and that reminds me of a story Adrian Rogers used to tell: “They took that grocery sack and Maria home and two hours passed and that baby was still crying. They called an obstetrician and he called a pediatrician and they called nurses and they began to work on that little baby. Today that baby is alive and well and healthy. I want to tell you they spent $150,000 to save the life of that baby. NOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO ME HOW THEY CAN SPEND $150,000 TO SAVE THE LIFE OF SOMETHING THAT SOMEBODY WAS PAYING ANOTHER DOCTOR TO TAKE THE LIFE OF?” Now the Court has returned us to sanity!

After being elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979, Adrian Rogers met with President Ronald Reagan.


Let me quote from an article a couple of years ago:

40th Anniversary of the Historic National Affairs Briefing

By AL PERROTTAAugust 21, 2020 • 

In 1980, America chose freedom by electing Ronald Reagan. But Reagan likely would not have been elected had it not been for a history-changing prayer meeting called by Billy Graham and a miraculous night in Dallas 40 years ago this weekend: The National Affairs Briefing.

Graham called a prayer meeting with 8 to 10 faith leaders. Among them: Robison, Pat Robertson, Charles Stanley, Adrian Rogers, Jimmy Draper and Bill Bright. Two days of fervent prayer. Bright shared a startling message. He, too, had been in Red Square. And he, too, had been given the exact same message from God that America had 1,000 days of freedom left, unless it changed course. America, according to both Graham and Bright, needed strong, principled leadership that could communicate effectively necessary changes and direction.

Sparked by the prayer, and led by God, Robison received from the Lord the vision for the “National Affairs Briefing.”

National Affairs Briefing

On the second day of the two-day event, August 22, 1980, some 17,000 people gathered at the Dallas Reunion Arena. 17,000 people of faith who understood the importance of protecting freedom’s matchless blessings. Robison had invited all three presidential candidates to appear: President Jimmy Carter, the Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher; Independent John Anderson; and a once-divorced Hollywood actor from California named Ronald Reagan. Only Reagan accepted the invitation.

Photo credit: Life Outreach

Photo credit: Life Outreach, Intl.

Ronald Reagan joined the 17,000 in standing to their feet as Robison finished. Then he spoke, offering a now-historic opening line suggested to him by Robison.

“I know this is a non-partisan gathering, and so I know you cannot endorse me. But I only brought that up because I want you to know, I endorse you, and what you are doing.” That opening line was front-page headlines nationwide the next day. The pendulum swung toward Reagan almost immediately.

Come November, Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter in large part because evangelical voters had been ignited by the National Affairs Briefing. They turned away from the Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher for the candidate willing to fight for our freedoms. Willing to stand up to the Soviet threat. The candidate who understood, as Robison said that momentous night, that “government is not our provider. It is a protector, not a producer.” Reagan’s victory ensured freedom in the United States of America would last far beyond 1,000 days.

Reagan Speech at the National Affairs Briefing, Dallas, TX, August 21, 1980

(at the 13:01 mark you can see Adrian Rogers clapping behind Reagan)

Whatever Happened To The Human Race? | Episode 1 | Abortion of the Human…

Goodbye Roe v. Wade: Pro-Life Evangelicals Celebrate the Ruling They’ve Waited For

Supreme Court: The landmark abortion-rights case was “egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.” 


JUNE 24, 2022 09:00 AM

Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that mobilized generations of pro-life activists and shaped evangelicals’ political engagement for half a century—has been overturned.

Millions have marched, protested, lobbied, and prayed for the end of the landmark abortion rights ruling. After 49 years, and more than 63 million abortions, the time has come.

Christian leaders called the ruling “once unthinkable” and marked today as “the day we have all been waiting for” and “one of the most important days in American history.”

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overturned,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito for the majority. “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decisionwas 6 to 3, with Chief Justice John Roberts concurring with the majority. The opinion of the court closely resembled an Alito draft leaked last month.

The decision is the result of a trio of conservative justices appointed during Donald Trump’s presidency: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Evangelicals have been the religious group most opposed to abortion and most eager to see Roe overturned. While abortion was never evangelicals’ only issue, in the voting booth it often outweighed all other concerns. Some supported Trump despite moral misgivings in hopes he would deliver on his promise to appoint justices that would finally overturn Roe and the subsequent Supreme Court decision that affirmed abortion rights, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The political calculation appears to have paid off. The three new justices joined Alito and Clarence Thomas in a bold decision saying the Court got it wrong.

“This day belongs to the many people who have labored long and hard to make it happen—and to President Trump, who deserves our thanks for keeping a promise I did not think he would keep,” said Matthew Lee Anderson, a Christian ethicist and Baylor University religion professor.

Ed Whelan, an EPPC senior fellow, referred to the ruling as the “crowning achievement of the conservative legal movement.”

The majority opinion reflected the arguments of evangelical and Catholic pro-life groups who filed friend-of-the-court briefs. Strategically, many focused less on arguments for fetuses’ humanity and right to life, and more on the problems with the legal reasoning behind Roe.

Roe was wrongly decided and poorly reasoned,” wrote the attorneys for Americans United for Life. “Numerous adjudicative errors during the original deliberations—especially the absence of any evidentiary record—have contributed to making Roe unworkable. … There is a constant search for a constitutional rationale for Roe, and the Court has yet to give a reasoned justification for the viability rule.”

The attorneys for the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) made the same point: “As a matter of the Constitution’s text and history, it is no secret that Roe is not just wrong but grievously so. Roe was roundly criticized as wrong the day it was decided, it has been robustly opposed both within and outside the Court ever since, and no sitting Justice has defended the merits of its actual reasoning.”

The Dobbs case considered the constitutionality of a 2015 Mississippi law barring abortions after 15 weeks, a more restrictive ban than allowed under Roe. The state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health, sued officials with the state health department including Thomas Dobbs. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) served on the state’s legal defense team.

“Mississippi asked the court to overturn Roe because that case was egregiously wrong and had no basis in constitutional text, structure, or history. Additionally, Roe’s changing standards have long been unworkable, which is why so many pro-life laws ended up in court,” said Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for ADF. “It also failed to account for changing science, which demonstrates that life begins at conception.”

How Roe was decided

The Court’s decision in 1973 was based on the argument that fetal life does not have constitutional protection. Lawyers in the case pointed out that traditionally, rights are understood to begin at birth. The 14th Amendment, for example, extended citizenshipto all those “born … in the United States,” not those conceived within the nation’s borders. A fetus, similarly, is not allowed to own property.

The judges said, however, that the state did have a compelling interest in protecting fetal life. But that compelling interest had to be balanced with a woman’s right to privacy.

“Privacy” is never mentioned in the Constitution, but the Ninth Amendment says that rights not mentioned in the Constitution are not to be denied by default. And the 14th Amendment guarantees legal due process, which the Court said indicated a right to privacy, including the right to make decisions about abortion without state interference—at least up to a certain point.

The justices debated that point. After some internal back and forth, they settled on fetal viability.

The author of the landmark decision, Justice Harry Blackmun, viewed Roe v. Wade as a careful compromise.

“The Court does not today hold that the Constitution compels abortion on demand,” he wrote. “It does not today pronounce that a pregnant woman has an absolute right to an abortion. It does, for the first trimester of pregnancy, cast the abortion decision and the responsibility for it upon the attending physician.”

As historian Daniel K. Williams has noted, however, Blackmun was wrong. Roe accepted none of the arguments of the pro-life movement and delivered a decisive win to abortion rights advocates. The decision forced 46 state legislatures to rewrite their abortion laws, bringing them into line with what had been, until then, the most liberal abortion laws in the nation.

Most evangelical Christians at the time saw it as an appalling decision, disregarding the unalienable right of life.“This decision runs counter not merely to the moral teachings of Christianity through the ages but also to the moral sense of the American people,” CT arguedin 1973.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Presbyterian Church in America, and other denominations all passed pro-life resolutions in the decade after Roe.

In their influential book Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, evangelist Francis Schaeffer and pediatric surgeon C. Everett Koop calledabortion the “first and crucial issue,” the “keystone” to protecting the dignity of human life.

“We implore those of you who are Christian to exert all your influence to fight against the increasing loss of humanness—through legislation, social action, and other means at your disposal,” they wrote in 1979. “If we do not take a stand here and now, we certainly cannot lay any claim to being the salt of the earth in our generation.”

The movement almost achieved victory in 1992. Five abortion clinics and one independent doctor sued Pennsylvania for its restrictions on abortion, including a mandatory waiting period and notification of a spouse or parent. At the time, eight of the nine justices had been appointed by Republicans, though at least three of them were known to support abortion rights.

On the eve of the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist drafted a 5-to-4 majority opinion overturning Roe.

Then at the last minute, Justice Anthony Kennedy switched sides. He joined Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter to craft a compromise that would allow states to regulate abortion to some extent—but also uphold the validity of Roe. They got the two more liberal justices, Blackmun and John Paul Stevens, to sign on.

Though it may have been conceived as a “compromise,” the 5-to-4 decision in Casey was in fact a reaffirmation of the core claim of Roe—while almost entirely abandoning the legal reasoning. The court decided that it was crucial to recognize the precedent set by Roe, adhering the legal doctrine of stare decisis.

Questioning the authority of precedent

Each of the three newest justices raised questions about this standard in the oral arguments in Dobbs in December.

“In thinking about stare decisis, which is obviously the core of this case, how should we be thinking about it?” Barrett asked.

The Catholic justice acknowledged the benefits of a system that builds on precedents but argued that “part of our stare decisis doctrine [is] that it’s not an inexorable command and that there are some circumstances in which overruling is possible.” She rattled off multiple examples, including one civil rights case and one LGBT rights case.

Roberts seemed to search for a way to modify the previous rulings and perhaps set a different standard for how much abortion could be regulated without actually rejecting a constitutional right to abortion. The attorneys on both sides, however, indicated they thought the case was all or nothing.

“I read your briefs,” Alito said to the attorney defending Roe and Casey. “Your briefs [say] that the only real options we have are to reaffirm Roeand Casey as they stand or to overrule them in their entirety. You say that ‘there are no half-measures here.’ Is that a correct understanding of your brief?”

She agreed it was. And Alito, soon after the hearing, started drafting a bold decision overturning Roe and Casey completely.

“Overruling a precedent is a serious matter. It is not a step that should be taken lightly,” he wrote. “In this case, five factors weigh strongly in favor of overruling Roe and Casey: the nature of their error, the quality of their reasoning, the ‘workability’ of the rules they imposed on the country, their disruptive effect on other areas of the law, and the absence of concrete reliance.”

The decision does not criminalize abortion, but sends the question of regulation back to the states, where voters and legislatures will decide when a woman can and can’t choose to terminate a pregnancy. Some states have passed “trigger laws” putting restrictions into effect immediately.

“For too long, the Roe and Casey decisions have allowed our nation to turn a blind eye to the plight of those who have no voice—to view these lives as a burden instead of a blessing. While this ruling is a significant step toward establishing a true culture of life, the issue of abortion will now be sent back to the states,” said Chelsea Sobolik, director of public policy for the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

“We must continue to use our time, talent and treasure to protect the preborn, care for their mothers, and advocate for state laws that protect them both.”

As the decision released Friday morning, evangelical leaders referred to it as one of the most significant days in the country’s history.

“I’m thankful to God for this historic day…a day to celebrate life,” said Doug Clay, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. “Not to gloat, but to rejoice and give thanks to the Lord of life. To continue our efforts in creating a culture of life in the communities we serve.”

Focus on the Family said, “After 50 years of fighting for the unborn, our prayers have been answered.” The Christian Medical and Dental Associations called it a “much-needed victory for life and for healthcare.” And the head of the ERLC declared, “a new chapter in the pro-life movement begins.”

Experts indicate the ruling will immediately result in a 10 to 15 percent reduction in the number of abortions. Long term, the impact is less clear.

“We do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today’s decision,” Alito wrote. “We can only do our job …. We therefore hold the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.”

Whatever Happened To The Human Race? | Episode 2 | Slaughter of the Inno…

Whatever Happened To The Human Race? | Episode 3 | Death by Someone’s Ch…

Whatever Happened To The Human Race? | Episode 4 | The Basis for Human D…

Whatever Happened To The Human Race? | Episode 5 | Truth and History (20…

Bill Maher said RBG should have taken Obama’s hint to retire in 2013, and the Democrats paid the price for that misstep. I think that is absurd, and that the Republicans had missteps when Nixon and Ford appointed liberals like Powell and Blackburn and now they are getting it right with ACB! Sadly Biden will win and change the trend!

BILL MAHERRBG DIDN’T TAKE THE HINT …Obama Wanted Her to Retire!!!

The “Real Time” host said there was a reason Obama invited RGB to The White House, because he says Obama didn’t just invite people over to shoot the breeze … he invited her, he said, to nudge her into retirement, but she didn’t take the bait.

Bill skewered the Dems for not pressing more, and when Jimmy said her death came as a shock, Maher scoffed and said she had a long history of cancer and she was very old, so it should not have been shocking that she finally passed. It turned into a bonanza for Trump, who secured Amy Coney Barrett‘s elevation to the High Court … the Justice Maher calls it “Nutso.”


Trump is the greatest president in the modern era when it comes to shaping the judiciary

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee in D.C. on Oct. 12.
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee in D.C. on Oct. 12. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Opinion by Marc A. ThiessenColumnistOctober 27, 2020 at 1:33 PM EDT

With the Senate’s confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, President Trump has cemented his legacy as the most important president in the modern era when it comes to shaping the judiciary. Whatever happens on Election Day, that legacy will remain — and it validates the votes of every conservative who, despite other misgivings, decided to support him.Follow the latest on Election 2020

The last president to appoint three justices in his first term was Richard M. Nixon, but his picks included Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe v. Wade who became one of the most liberal justices on the court. Trump’s picks, by contrast, have been outstanding. With his appointment of Neil M. Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia, Trump saved the court’s conservative majority. With his appointment of Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace Anthony M. Kennedy — a swing vote — he inched the court to the right. And now by appointing Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s liberal icon, Trump has secured a decisive 6-to-3 conservative majority. This will affect the court’s jurisprudence for a generation, with far-reaching consequences for life, religious liberty, free speech, Second Amendment rights, the separation of powers and limited government.

Imagine how different the court would look today if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election. She probably would have nominated a judicial activist to replace Scalia, creating a 5-to-4 liberal majority. She would have replaced Ginsburg with another liberal, securing that seat for decades. She might have had a third pick if Justice Stephen G. Breyer made the same decision as Kennedy and retired when a president he trusted was in office. The damage done by the activist liberal court Clinton ushered in would have been breathtaking.

The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett

Simply stopping this is an accomplishment. But Trump has made better judicial choices than any modern Republican president. Of Ronald Reagan’s three appointees (Sandra Day O’Connor, Scalia and Kennedy), only Scalia was a consistent conservative. George H.W. Bush appointed one solid conservative (Clarence Thomas) and one solid liberal (David H. Souter). George W. Bush picked one reliable conservative (Samuel A. Alito Jr.) and one wavering justice (John G. Roberts Jr.). By contrast, the four liberal justices appointed over the past quarter century — Ginsburg, Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — almost never defect on close 5-to-4 cases. So, Democrats have a perfect record on recent Supreme Court appointments, while Republicans were not even batting .500 — until Trump came along.

Perhaps Trump’s greatest accomplishment will be neutralizing the influence of Roberts. After promising to be an impartial umpire, Roberts has taken the field and legislated from the bench in a string of cases — voting with the court’s liberals to rewrite Obamacare, preservethe Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, block a citizenship question on the census, strike down state laws that required admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions and allow the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to rewrite the state’s election laws. And those are just his defections on cases the court took up. According to CNN, “Roberts also sent enough signals during internal deliberations on firearms restrictions, sources said, to convince fellow conservatives he would not provide a critical fifth vote anytime soon to overturn gun control regulations. As a result, the justices in June denied several petitions regarding Second Amendment rights.”

Thanks to Trump, Roberts is no longer the swing vote. If Barrett agrees with the legal reasoning of her conservative colleagues, they have the five votes they need without him.

Trump’s appointment of Barrett also complicates Democrats’ plans to reverse this progress via court-packing if they win back the White House and the Senate next week. Before her appointment, Democrats would have had to expand the court by two justices to flip the 5-to-4 conservative majority into a 6-to-5 liberal majority. But now with Barrett on the court, they would have to add four justices in order to achieve a 7-to-6 liberal majority. Given that Americans support Barrett’s confirmation 51 to 28 percent, oppose court-packing 58 to 31 percent and approve of the high court’s performance 53 to 47 percent, for Democrats to add any new seats — much less the four needed to flip the court — would be widely seen as a raw power grab.

That doesn’t mean they won’t try. Voters have a chance to stop them by preserving a Republican majority in the Senate. If history is our guide, Trump may have more Supreme Court appointments in a second term — and with them the opportunity to further preserve or even expand the court’s conservative majority. As for the 26 percent of Trump voters who backed him because of the Supreme Court, their decision has produced a court that will protect our freedoms for decades to come. Any other flaws in the Trump presidency pale by comparison.



How Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, changed his mind about abortion and endorses now the pro-life view. Paul is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. This article below is from April 11, 2011.

The Doctor Who Saw What He Did

The good doctor could have stepped out of a Louis Auchincloss short story. A fashionable but conscientious professional on the Upper West Side, his ideas, like his Brooks Brothers suits, were tailored to fit in. His ideals were those of the enlightened, modern urban America of his time, which was the mid- to late 20th century. And he was always doing what he could to further them.

The doctor’s political, medical and social convictions were much what one would have expected of a New York liberal, as clear as his curriculum vitae. The son of a secular Jewish ob/gyn, he would follow his prominent father’s footsteps, graduate from McGill Medical College in Montreal, and start his practice in Manhattan. He was a quick study, whether absorbing the latest medical knowledge or political trend. Especially when it came to abortion.

Having no convictions about the sacredness of human life, he was defenseless against its growing and increasingly legal appeal. Indeed, he was soon a leader in Pro-Choice ranks.

By his own count, Bernard Nathanson, M.D., was responsible for some 75,000 abortions — without a twinge of conscience intervening. Not back then. Not when he picketed a New York City hospital in his campaign for the legalization of abortion in New York state. Preaching what he practiced, Dr. Nathanson became a tireless spokesman for NARAL, the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.

As director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health in Manhattan, where he routinely performed abortions and taught others to do the same, Dr. Nathanson knew of what he spoke. And never grew tired of rationalizing it. He wasn’t destroying human life but just “an undifferentiated mass of cells.” He was performing a social service, really. He was on a humanitarian mission.

Then something happened. The something was quite specific — the newest EKG and ultrasound imagery. Always a follower of the latest scientific evidence, he couldn’t deny what he was seeing. Political theory is one thing, but facts are facts.

By 1974, soon after Roe v. Wade had opened the way to his dream of abortion-on-demand, his eyes were opened. Literally. As he put it, “There is no longer any serious doubt in my mind that human life exists within the womb from the very onset of pregnancy.” He changed his beliefs and his ways — and sides.

I can identify. When Roe v. Wade was first pronounced, I welcomed it. As a young editorial writer in Pine Bluff, Ark., I believed the court’s assurances that its ruling was not blanket permission for abortion, but a carefully crafted, limited decision applicable only in some exceptional cases. Which was all a lot of hooey, but I swallowed it, and regurgitated it in editorials.

The right to life need not be fully respected from conception on, I explained, but grew with each stage of fetal development until a full human being was formed. I went into all this in an extended debate in the columns of the Pine Bluff Commercial with a young Baptist minister in town named Mike Huckabee.

Yes, I’d been taught by Mary Warters in her biology and genetics courses at Centenary that human life was one unbroken cycle from life to death, and the code to its development was present from its microscopic origins. But I wanted to believe human rights developed differently, especially the right to life. My reasons were compassionate. Who would not want to spare mothers carrying the deformed? Why not just allow physicians to eliminate the deformity? I hadn’t yet come across Flannery O’Connor’s warning that tenderness leads to the gas chambers.

Then something happened. I noticed that the number of abortions in the country had begun to mount year by year — into the millions. Perfectly healthy babies were being aborted for socio-economic reasons. Among ethnic groups, the highest proportions of abortions were being performed on black women. (Last I checked, 37 percent of American abortions were being done on African-American women, though they make up less than 13 percent of the U.S. population.)

Eugenics was showing its true face again. And it wasn’t pretty.


Abortion was even being touted as a preventative for poverty. All you had to do, after all, was eliminate the poor. They were, in the phrase of the advanced, Darwinian thinkers of the last century, surplus population.

With a little verbal manipulation, any crime can be rationalized, even promoted. Verbicide precedes homicide. The trick is to speak of fetuses, not unborn children. So long as the victims are a faceless abstraction, anything can be done to them. Just don’t look too closely at those sonograms. We are indeed strangely and wondrously made.

By now the toll has reached some 50 million aborted babies in America since 1973. That is not an abstract theory. It is fact, and facts are stubborn things. Some carry their own imperatives with them. And so, like Dr. Nathanson, I changed my mind, and changed sides.

There is something about simple human dignity, whether the issue is civil rights in the 1960s or abortion and euthanasia today, that in the end will not be denied. And it keeps asking: Whose side are you on? Life or death?

Long before he died the other day at 84, Bernard Nathanson had chosen life. He became as ardent an advocate for life as he had once been for death. He wrote books and produced a film, “The Silent Scream,” laying out the case for the unborn, and for humanity. He would join the Catholic Church in 1996 and continue to practice medicine as chief of obstetrical services at Saint Luke’s-Roosevelt hospital in Manhattan.

“I have such heavy moral baggage to drag into the next world,” he told the Washington Times in 1996. But he also had sought to redeem himself. He could not have been expected to do other than he did in his younger years, given his appetite for fashionable ideas. He was, after all, only human. Which is no small or simple thing.


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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 


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Carl Sagan with his wife Ann in the 1990’s
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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.
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