Alex B. Berezow at Real Clear Science makes a case that science cannot really answer the abortion debate.
But conservatives are making the case that an abortion after 20 weeks should not be allowed because some embryological evidence indicates the possibility that a fetus can experience pain at that point in development. In an article for Slate, William Saletan does an excellent job explaining that the science is complicated and debatable, but he still rejects the “pain standard” offered by conservatives. Why? Because he doesn’t trust them.
Mr. Saletan believes that restricting abortion at 20 weeks is just one step on the path to banning abortion altogether. This “slippery slope” argument – like all such arguments – is completely unconvincing. Indeed, using that logic, the government should never pass any laws at all.
Perhaps unwittingly, Mr. Saletan has demonstrated that science is not in a position to solve the abortion debate. It can illuminate the discussion by answering questions such as, “When can a fetus experience pain?” or, “When does a fetus gain consciousness?” Someday, science may be in a position to answer those questions, but even then, it will not be able to cast a decisive vote. That’s because the issues at stake here are not scientific; they are moral.
Mr. Berezow then makes the case that most people accept abortion in the first trimester but reject it after that.
I appreciate Mr. Berezow’s points, but I disagree with some of his fundamental assumptions. Abortion advocates reject and ignore all science related to in utero babies because it is definitely not on their side. It is true that abortion is fundamentally a moral issue and that the real question is when does a fetus become human and become magically endowed with all the rights we used to associate with humans? Well, if you look at the science, there is only one answer. Day one.
Concepts like trimesters or even fetal pain are completely arbitrary when it comes to the humanness of the fetus. The science is clear, the fetus is a unique and developing human from day one. Abortion advocates reject all embryonic science because instinctively they know this to be the fundamental truth it reveals.
Science has already answered the abortion debate. The only issue is that many people simply don’t like the answer.