From the Editor—Friday Reflections

March 8, 2019

Startled Reflections

The Shock of Abortion in a State of Complacency

Many Illinois citizens were startled, alarmed, by our legislature's recent pursuit of radical abortion legislation, e.g., HB2495. Online "witness slips" against it outnumber those for it 22-1. The bill seems to have been tabled—for the moment. A critique warns about it and a related bill in detail, including that it:

• Allows medical staff to let a newborn die if the baby is born after a failed abortion.

• Allows abortion on a post-viability fetus which is the developmental equivalent of a newborn.

Autonomous is a key word in HB2495, used twice in the official synopsis:

Every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about one's own reproductive health. Provides that every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise that right. (my emphasis)

An autonomous decision may be fine for a situation in which a person is really autonomous. But the woman wishing to abort her child is considered autonomous only because, thanks to the fictions of Roe v. Wade, the human life in the womb has been denied legal standing.

Such autonomy is a fiction. For starters, the child was not conceived autonomously. The child's very existence comes from and is sustained by its mother. Neither are autonomous.

Once a child has been conceived, the woman's body changes in multiple ways in response to the presence of the growing child; her body also prepares for birth, feeding, and nurturing the child after birth for an extended period. But the child in the womb also changes in startling ways in response to the mother. This is just one example, from Science Magazine:

As a fetus grows inside a mother's belly, it can hear sounds from the outside world and can understand them well enough to retain memories of them after birth, according to new research.

"This leads us to believe that the fetus can learn much more detailed information than we previously thought," [cognitive neuroscientist Eino] Partanen says, and that the memory traces are detectable after birth.

"This is a well-respected group and the effects are really convincing," says Patricia Kuhl, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington in Seattle. Combined with previous work, she says, these results suggest "that language learning begins in the womb."

The child is learning language in the womb! So, may a human language-learner in utero be killed just because his mother wants him dead? Is the mother's desire the only desire that counts? Does not the baby desire to live? 

The life-force of the child in the womb is something few pro-abortion advocates wish consider. Back in November 2000, Touchstone published this article on abortion. An excerpt:

Young Americans growing into adulthood no longer need wonder what the secular mantra of "choice" signifies. They will know what exactly it is that mothers are allowed to choose. They will understand the testimony of registered nurse Brenda Pratt Shafer, testifying in 1996 before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

On the ultrasound screen, I could see the heart beating . . . the baby's little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby's arms jerked out, like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall.

As things stand now, there is no acceptable restriction on the freedom of a pregnant woman to kill the unborn child in her womb, and it does not matter how or when it is done, if a complaisant doctor is at hand to sanction it. The question remains whether such a proposition is tenable in a civilized society. 

—by John E. Dunsford, Chester A. Myers Professor of Law, Saint Louis University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri.

In 2019 in Illinois it may get worse. It need not be a complaisant doctor. It could be just anyone, unregulated, even in some "back alley." Because it's not really about "health"; it's about a dead baby, no matter what.

Autonomous thinking can be deadly. We must not be silent. Abortion affects everyone and may prove to be the death knell of a civilized society. Startling, isn't it?

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James


James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.