The battle rages on all fronts to preserve the unborn baby. Christians are lobbying and protesting across the nation to preserve the inherent right to life. However, those in the scientific and medical community have continued to depersonalize the humanity of the unborn with supposed findings based on evolutionary philosophy.
Considered simply a “fetus,” the humanity of the unborn child is often viewed today as contingent upon its full development. This concept is not governed by scientific facts, but rather by an evolutionary presupposition that assumes life is only a process, rather than the result of a special moment of creation.
This premise arose from a scientific idea that one could determine evolutionary history by studying the development of the fetus. For example, human life begins with a single cell and then multiplies in complexity. During one stage, the human fetus has so-called “gill slits” that seem to represent the “fish stage” in human development. Next, the fetus seems to have a tail segment similar to reptiles, and the yolk sac seems similar to bird evolution.
Thus, the development of the fetus has appeared to some scientists as a mere reflection of how humans supposedly developed from lower animal forms. This idea was widely taught even at the beginning of this decade. Even though this evolutionary idea of fetal development has been scientifically disproved, the notion still seems to prevail. Evolutionists argue that the fetus has not fully evolved into a baby, and thus has no need or right to life because it is not fully human.
A closer examination of this premise reveals scientific error, however. The “gill slits,” or pharyngeal pouches, actually become the thymus gland, the parathyroids, and the middle ear canals. The “tail”, or coccyx, is a point of muscle attachment at the tailbone, and the yolk sac produces the first blood cells. All of these morphological phenomena are necessary stages in normal human development.
Just a Higher Form of Animal?
The second scientific justification for abortion is that the life inside the womb has no special value since man is only a higher form of animal. The baby in the womb, when viewed in this manner, can easily be replaced by another whenever the desire arises to keep a child. The unborn baby has no individual worth or personality; it is simply regarded as another organism.
This has led some to judge the right to life as one based on “productive worth.” Abortion is simply a removal of something that does not have any perceived value. An article written by Dr. Peter Singer in Pediatrics magazine ten years after the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision expresses this ethic:
“If we compare a severely defective human infant with a dog or a pig … we will often find the nonhuman to have superior capacities … only the fact that the defective infant is a member of the species homo sapiens leads it to be treated differently from the dog or pig. But species membership alone is not relevant … If we can put aside the obsolete and erroneous notion of the sanctity of all human life, we may start to look at human life as it really is: the quality of life that each human being has or can obtain.“1
As a result of this philosophy, human life no longer seems special. We now compare our children to pigs or dogs, and whichever has the greater ability should be allowed to live. As implied by philosopher Michael L. Tooley, abortion is morally permissible since “a newborn baby does not possess the concept of a continuing self, anymore than a newborn kitten possesses such a concept.“2 Winston L. Duke, a nuclear physicist, continues along the same lines: “It should be recognized that not all men are human … It would seem to be inhumane to kill an adult chimpanzee than a newborn baby, since the chimpanzee has greater mental awareness.“3
The right to life, in the minds of these men, is based on one’s contribution to society and not simply on the inherent right of that individual to life. Nobel prize winning biologist Francis Crick has even gone so far as to propose that no newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment; if it fails, it forfeits the right to live.4
Abortion has been justified as a natural part of the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest. Evolution propagates the notion that the world is overpopulated and that one must struggle to exist and compete against others. Our main effort should be to secure our own needs, goals and pleasures.
This is reflected in the abortionists’ contention that an unwanted pregnancy hinders the mother from working and functioning in society. Why should a child be introduced to a life which would seem to consist of a constant struggle for existence and survival? Many mothers refuse to bring a child into the world because of this perception of a grim, dark future for the world. Another child would simply mean greater pressure on the human race because a population increase creates an increased competition for dwindling natural resources.
Barbara Burke wrote in Science magazine, “Among some animal species, infant killing appears to be a natural practice. Could it be natural for humans too, a trait inherited from our primate ancestors? Charles Darwin noted in The Descent of Man that infanticide has been ‘probably the most important of all checks on population growth throughout most of human history.“5 Thus, abortion has become a socially accepted means of birth control in the eyes of these “experts.”
Evolution and abortion are concerned with one’s own present state of survival; it destroys the idea of building for future generations. As a professor at Emory University summarized: “Unbridled self-indulgence on the part of one generation without regard to a future one is the modus operandi of biological evolution and may be regarded as rational behavior.“6
Joseph Sobran summarizes: “Our civilization, until recently, agreed in imagining the unborn child on the pattern of the incarnation, which maximizes his dignity; but many people now imagine him on the pattern of evolution, as popularly understood, which minimizes his dignity.“7
The Real Experts Speak Out
However, another segment of the scientific and medical community is no longer arguing about whether the fetus can be considered life. Most agree that life begins at conception, and not when a heartbeat is detected at 18 or 25 days, or when brain waves are recorded as early as 43 days. Life has a very distinct beginning and is not the result of a gradual process of change and evolution over time.
Jerome Lejeune, a professor of fundamental genetics in Paris and a pioneer in detecting chromosomal diseases, said to a Senate committee: “Life has a very, very long history but each individual has a very neat beginning, the moment of its conception.“8 When the 23 chromosomes from the father and the 23 chromosomes from the mother are combined at conception, that cell now represents an entirely new individual and is not just a part of the mother’s body.
Sixty prominent physicians recently presented a declaration of biological facts proving that an unborn child is conclusively a living human being. These doctors include Drs. Hofmeister and Schmidt, past presidents of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Dr. Joseph Faley, past president of the American Academy of Neurology; and Dr. Bernard Nathanson, formerly one of the leading abortionists in America.
These doctors stated: “The developing fetus is not a sub-human species with a different genetic composition. As clearly demonstrated by in vitro (dish) fertilization, so also in vivo (womb), the embryo is alive, human, and unique in the special environmental support required for that stage of human development.”
Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, submits from a strictly genetic position that “human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life.“9
The abortionists’ evolutionary justification for the termination of human life has been completely invalidated by scientific evidence. As pro-life leader John Wilke has stated, “In truth we did not come from a single cell. Rather, each of us once was a single cell; and all we have done since then has been to grow up.“10
1 Peter Singer, “Sanctity of Life, Quality of Life,” Pediatrics, 1983, Vol. 72, p. 18.
2 Michael Tooley, “Abortion and Infanticide,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1972, Vol. 2, p. 63.
3 Winston L. Duke, “The New Biology,” Reason, August, 1972.
4 Francis Crick, Nature, 1968,Vol. 220, p. 429-30.
5 Barbara Burke, “Infanticide,” Science, 1974, Vol. 185, p. 653.
6 W.H. Murdy, “Anthropocentrism – A Modern Version,” Science, 1975, Vol. VIII, p. 1172.
7 Joseph Sobran, “The Averted Grace,” Human Life Review, Spring, 1984, p. 6.
8 Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, printed in “The Beginning of Human Life,” Studies in Law and Medicine, (Chicago: Americans United for Life, Inc., 1981), p. 2.
9 Dr. Alfred Bongioanni, National Right to Life News, June 15, 1981.
10 John Wilke, National Right to Life News, June 29, 1981, p. 5.