Assessing Theories of Pro-Life Motivations

A saying typically attributed to former President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower goes “Never question another man’s motive. His wisdom, yes, but not his motives.”

Unfortunately, it has become commonplace for defenders of abortion to ignore this concept. With the growing toxicity influencing our political discourse every day, bad ideas are given fertile ground to take root in.

One of these bad ideas relates to the motives of pro-life advocates. A number of pro-choice activists have begun calling into question the “real” motives behind pro-life advocacy; namely, claiming that the real desire behind pro-life advocacy is to control women. A variety of accusations based on this concept are routinely made on social media: pro-lifers want to control women’s bodies, control fertility, punish women for having sex, etc.

Accusations are not arguments, and shouldn’t be treated with the same weight as arguments. Unfortunately, they are still represented broadly in mainstream discourse, whether by hashtags such as “reproductive rights” or by The Handmaid’s Tale cosplay clubs. Even more widespread is the assumption made by many pro-choice advocates that any inconsistency on the part of pro-lifers is proof of ulterior motives. For example, the alleged unwillingness of pro-life advocates to care for life after birth is touted as evidence that the real reason people oppose abortion is an underlying desire to control women, in any of the ways stated above. According to this view, defenders of abortion have “discovered” the true goals of the pro-life movement. It’s not about saving babies, it’s about controlling women. Hence the red cloaks and white bonnets.

Setting aside for the moment that this ignores nearly all pro-life discourse on the topic of abortion, the theory that all pro-life activists have wicked intent towards women is just plain silly.

And it’s also something we can test empirically.

To borrow a concept from an earlier Secular Pro-Life piece, let’s pursue a little thought experiment:

Suppose there were a bill on the table that would make it easy for women who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but who fear such a diagnosis in the future (due to family history, the BRCA gene, or any other reason), to obtain elective mastectomies on demand. Government budget authorities have confirmed that the proposal is financially sound. This is a law that would not cause a single human death, but that would undoubtedly increase a woman’s control of her own body.

Can you imagine the National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life, and so on lobbying against such a bill? I, for one, cannot. There would be no reason for them to do that. Likewise, I have a hard time picturing pro-life stalwarts in the House of Representatives voting it down multiple times and celebrating its defeat. A woman’s exercise of bodily autonomy by itself doesn’t fuel outrage; it is only when that exercise ends in the death of a human child that the pro-life movement rallies its troops. 

There’s a very good explanation for why you will never see pro-life groups protesting tattoo parlors or breast enlargement clinics. You will never see someone sidewalk counseling outside of plastic surgery facilities. The number of pro-lifers devoting any time to these establishments is zero. The reason is very simple, actually: Pro-lifers really do believe abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being, and thus should be stopped, unlike any other elective surgery.

Let’s look at it another way. Who has been leading the push against embryo destruction for bio-medical research? With few exceptions, it has been the pro-life movement. This casts further doubt on a conspiracy to control women’s sex lives or fertility; destructive embryo research takes place in a laboratory, not in the womb. A woman’s body is irrelevant here. It seems those darn pro-lifers actually do care about the prenatal being, even at that very early age.

One more example, to again borrow from my colleague’s earlier post, why exactly are those silly pro-lifers pushing for a born-alive infant protection law in the first place? (Setting aside the complaints the law isn’t necessary; for a good breakdown of the law, see this report from the Heritage foundation, as well as Hadley Arkes’ Natural Rights and the Right to Choose.)

If the “real motivation” of the pro-life movement is to punish women for having sex or to control their ovaries or uteruses, then why would pro-lifers concern themselves with the lives of children after they have left the womb? Pro-lifers fought to ensure the infanticidal tendencies of Kermit Gosnell have never faded from the public eye. The Born-Alive Bill is one way of ensuring it never happens again. Maybe we actually do care about the lives of babies after all.

To also address the similar claim that pro-lifers only care for fetuses, then stop caring at birth, ask yourself this question: If a bill legalizing infanticide up to, say, six months after birth was proposed, who would be the first to show up to oppose it? The pro-life movement. This isn’t such a stretch, given that a growing number of philosophers have argued that infanticide may not be such a bad thing as we have been led to believe: Peter Singer, Francesca Minerva, Alberto Giubilini, Michael Tooley, and others have all either defended or acknowledged infanticide as amoral or morally acceptable.

These realities highlight just a few of the hurdles one must jump over in order to “prove” that the pro-life movement is one massive conspiracy to control women. It’s an impossible task to begin with.

The notion that the pro-life movement is hiding its desires to control women is juvenile. Critics of the pro-life view need to do better than that. Pro-lifers argue that it’s wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Elective abortion does that. Therefore, elective abortion is wrong.

In other words, our critics must take the time to answer our essential argument, instead of contriving silly conspiracy theories about why people oppose abortion.


[Today’s guest post by Nathan Apodaca is part of our paid blogging program.]

Assessing Theories of Pro-Life Motivations

A saying typically attributed to former President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower goes “Never question another man’s motive. His wisdom, yes, but not his motives.”

Unfortunately, it has become commonplace for defenders of abortion to ignore this concept. With the growing toxicity influencing our political discourse every day, bad ideas are given fertile ground to take root in.

One of these bad ideas relates to the motives of pro-life advocates. A number of pro-choice activists have begun calling into question the “real” motives behind pro-life advocacy; namely, claiming that the real desire behind pro-life advocacy is to control women. A variety of accusations based on this concept are routinely made on social media: pro-lifers want to control women’s bodies, control fertility, punish women for having sex, etc.

Accusations are not arguments, and shouldn’t be treated with the same weight as arguments. Unfortunately, they are still represented broadly in mainstream discourse, whether by hashtags such as “reproductive rights” or by The Handmaid’s Tale cosplay clubs. Even more widespread is the assumption made by many pro-choice advocates that any inconsistency on the part of pro-lifers is proof of ulterior motives. For example, the alleged unwillingness of pro-life advocates to care for life after birth is touted as evidence that the real reason people oppose abortion is an underlying desire to control women, in any of the ways stated above. According to this view, defenders of abortion have “discovered” the true goals of the pro-life movement. It’s not about saving babies, it’s about controlling women. Hence the red cloaks and white bonnets.

Setting aside for the moment that this ignores nearly all pro-life discourse on the topic of abortion, the theory that all pro-life activists have wicked intent towards women is just plain silly.

And it’s also something we can test empirically.

To borrow a concept from an earlier Secular Pro-Life piece, let’s pursue a little thought experiment:

Suppose there were a bill on the table that would make it easy for women who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but who fear such a diagnosis in the future (due to family history, the BRCA gene, or any other reason), to obtain elective mastectomies on demand. Government budget authorities have confirmed that the proposal is financially sound. This is a law that would not cause a single human death, but that would undoubtedly increase a woman’s control of her own body.

Can you imagine the National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life, and so on lobbying against such a bill? I, for one, cannot. There would be no reason for them to do that. Likewise, I have a hard time picturing pro-life stalwarts in the House of Representatives voting it down multiple times and celebrating its defeat. A woman’s exercise of bodily autonomy by itself doesn’t fuel outrage; it is only when that exercise ends in the death of a human child that the pro-life movement rallies its troops. 

There’s a very good explanation for why you will never see pro-life groups protesting tattoo parlors or breast enlargement clinics. You will never see someone sidewalk counseling outside of plastic surgery facilities. The number of pro-lifers devoting any time to these establishments is zero. The reason is very simple, actually: Pro-lifers really do believe abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being, and thus should be stopped, unlike any other elective surgery.

Let’s look at it another way. Who has been leading the push against embryo destruction for bio-medical research? With few exceptions, it has been the pro-life movement. This casts further doubt on a conspiracy to control women’s sex lives or fertility; destructive embryo research takes place in a laboratory, not in the womb. A woman’s body is irrelevant here. It seems those darn pro-lifers actually do care about the prenatal being, even at that very early age.

One more example, to again borrow from my colleague’s earlier post, why exactly are those silly pro-lifers pushing for a born-alive infant protection law in the first place? (Setting aside the complaints the law isn’t necessary; for a good breakdown of the law, see this report from the Heritage foundation, as well as Hadley Arkes’ Natural Rights and the Right to Choose.)

If the “real motivation” of the pro-life movement is to punish women for having sex or to control their ovaries or uteruses, then why would pro-lifers concern themselves with the lives of children after they have left the womb? Pro-lifers fought to ensure the infanticidal tendencies of Kermit Gosnell have never faded from the public eye. The Born-Alive Bill is one way of ensuring it never happens again. Maybe we actually do care about the lives of babies after all.

To also address the similar claim that pro-lifers only care for fetuses, then stop caring at birth, ask yourself this question: If a bill legalizing infanticide up to, say, six months after birth was proposed, who would be the first to show up to oppose it? The pro-life movement. This isn’t such a stretch, given that a growing number of philosophers have argued that infanticide may not be such a bad thing as we have been led to believe: Peter Singer, Francesca Minerva, Alberto Giubilini, Michael Tooley, and others have all either defended or acknowledged infanticide as amoral or morally acceptable.

These realities highlight just a few of the hurdles one must jump over in order to “prove” that the pro-life movement is one massive conspiracy to control women. It’s an impossible task to begin with.

The notion that the pro-life movement is hiding its desires to control women is juvenile. Critics of the pro-life view need to do better than that. Pro-lifers argue that it’s wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Elective abortion does that. Therefore, elective abortion is wrong.

In other words, our critics must take the time to answer our essential argument, instead of contriving silly conspiracy theories about why people oppose abortion.


[Today’s guest post by Nathan Apodaca is part of our paid blogging program.]

Sources for SPL’s “The case against abortion” presentation

Today at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Malcolm Potts will be hosting his bi-annual point/counterpoint-style lecture on abortion for his public health class. This year, Monica Snyder of Secular Pro-Life will be presenting the antiabortion case. We hope to have video of her presentation later–EDIT: you can now watch the full presentation here–but meanwhile here are all of the sources she used to create the presentation, plus some additional reading for anyone interested.

If you’re interested in becoming a bone marrow donor, please go to BeTheMatch.org to join the national bone marrow registry. If you are between the ages of 18 and 44, it costs nothing to join.

Intro

Do bodily rights justify abortion?

The fetus is a human organism.


Biology and Embryology textbooks and relevant quotes:
  • Scott Gilbert, Developmental Biology, 11th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2016: “Fertilization accomplishes two separate ends: sex (the combining of genes derived from two parents) and reproduction (the generation of a new organism).”
  • T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006:”Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.”
  • Erich Blechschmidt, Brian Freeman, The Ontogenetic Basis of Human Anatomy: The Biodynamic Approach to Development from Conception to Adulthood, North Atlantic Books, June 2004: “We talk of human development not because a jumble of cells, which is perhaps initially atypical, gradually turns more and more into a human, but rather because the human being develops from a uniquely human cell. There is no state in human development prior to which one could claim that a being exists with not-yet-human individuality. On the basis of anatomical studies, we know today that no developmental phase exists that constitutes a transition from the not-yet-human to the human.” & “In short, a fertilized egg (conceptus) is already a human being.”
  • Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003: “Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” And “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).”
  • Scott Gilbert, Developmental Biology, 6th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2001:“When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult. But the dog is a “dog” from the moment of fertilization of a dog egg by a dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore, the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from fertilization through death.”
  • Ronan R. O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology & Teratology, 3rd Edition, New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001: “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.”
  • Ida G. Dox, B. John Melloni, Gilbert Eisner, The HarperCollins Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 2001: “An Embryo is an organism in the earliest stages of development.”
  • Human Embryology, William J Larsen, 3rd Edition, 2001: “In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual.”
  • William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998: “Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization… This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development.”
  • Bruce M. Carlson, Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996: “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
  • Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993: “Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The common expression ‘fertilized ovum’ refers to the zygote.”
  • Clark Edward Corliss, Patten’s Human Embryology: Elements of Clinical Development. New York: McGraw Hill, 1976. “It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.”
  • E.L. Potter and J.M. Craig, Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant, 3rd edition. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1975: “Every time a sperm cell and ovum unite a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live unless its death is brought about by some specific condition.”
  • J.P. Greenhill and E.A. Friedman, Biological Principles and Modern Practice of Obstetrics. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1974: “The term conception refers to the union of the male and female pronuclear elements of procreation from which a new living being develops. It is synonymous with the terms fecundation, impregnation, and fertilization.”
  • Leslie Brainerd Arey, Developmental Anatomy, 7th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1974: “The formation, maturation and meeting of a male and female sex cell are all preliminary to their actual union into a combined cell, or zygote, which definitely marks the beginning of a new individual. The penetration of the ovum by the spermatozoon, and the coming together and pooling of their respective nuclei, constitutes the process of fertilization.”

Which human organisms are morally relevant?



Abortion and infanticide.
Further Recommended Reading

Relevant Secular Pro-Life blog posts:

Sources for SPL’s “The case against abortion” presentation

Today at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Malcolm Potts will be hosting his bi-annual point/counterpoint-style lecture on abortion for his public health class. This year, Monica Snyder of Secular Pro-Life will be presenting the antiabortion case. We hope to have video of her presentation later–EDIT: you can now watch the full presentation here–but meanwhile here are all of the sources she used to create the presentation, plus some additional reading for anyone interested.

If you’re interested in becoming a bone marrow donor, please go to BeTheMatch.org to join the national bone marrow registry. If you are between the ages of 18 and 44, it costs nothing to join.

Intro

Do bodily rights justify abortion?

The fetus is a human organism.


Biology and Embryology textbooks and relevant quotes:
  • Scott Gilbert, Developmental Biology, 11th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2016: “Fertilization accomplishes two separate ends: sex (the combining of genes derived from two parents) and reproduction (the generation of a new organism).”
  • T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006:”Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.”
  • Erich Blechschmidt, Brian Freeman, The Ontogenetic Basis of Human Anatomy: The Biodynamic Approach to Development from Conception to Adulthood, North Atlantic Books, June 2004: “We talk of human development not because a jumble of cells, which is perhaps initially atypical, gradually turns more and more into a human, but rather because the human being develops from a uniquely human cell. There is no state in human development prior to which one could claim that a being exists with not-yet-human individuality. On the basis of anatomical studies, we know today that no developmental phase exists that constitutes a transition from the not-yet-human to the human.” & “In short, a fertilized egg (conceptus) is already a human being.”
  • Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003: “Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” And “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).”
  • Scott Gilbert, Developmental Biology, 6th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2001:“When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult. But the dog is a “dog” from the moment of fertilization of a dog egg by a dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore, the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from fertilization through death.”
  • Ronan R. O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology & Teratology, 3rd Edition, New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001: “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.”
  • Ida G. Dox, B. John Melloni, Gilbert Eisner, The HarperCollins Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 2001: “An Embryo is an organism in the earliest stages of development.”
  • Human Embryology, William J Larsen, 3rd Edition, 2001: “In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual.”
  • William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998: “Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization… This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development.”
  • Bruce M. Carlson, Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996: “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
  • Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993: “Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The common expression ‘fertilized ovum’ refers to the zygote.”
  • Clark Edward Corliss, Patten’s Human Embryology: Elements of Clinical Development. New York: McGraw Hill, 1976. “It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.”
  • E.L. Potter and J.M. Craig, Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant, 3rd edition. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1975: “Every time a sperm cell and ovum unite a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live unless its death is brought about by some specific condition.”
  • J.P. Greenhill and E.A. Friedman, Biological Principles and Modern Practice of Obstetrics. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1974: “The term conception refers to the union of the male and female pronuclear elements of procreation from which a new living being develops. It is synonymous with the terms fecundation, impregnation, and fertilization.”
  • Leslie Brainerd Arey, Developmental Anatomy, 7th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1974: “The formation, maturation and meeting of a male and female sex cell are all preliminary to their actual union into a combined cell, or zygote, which definitely marks the beginning of a new individual. The penetration of the ovum by the spermatozoon, and the coming together and pooling of their respective nuclei, constitutes the process of fertilization.”

Which human organisms are morally relevant?



Abortion and infanticide.
Further Recommended Reading

Relevant Secular Pro-Life blog posts:

Personhood based on human cognitive abilities.

What difference is there (if any) between a human organism and a “person”? Is there such thing as a human non-person? How do we determine which human organisms have moral worth and merit social protection?

People have given me a variety of suggestions for the factors human organisms need to be morally relevant, including connection to society, viability, the ability to feel pain, or conscious awareness. For different reasons I find these moral cutoffs pretty ad hoc and problematic (see Further Reading at the end of this post).

But some suggest you aren’t a “person” until you exhibit human-specific cognitive abilities. To my mind this definition of personhood is more intuitive, especially for secularists. What is it that we value about humans? What sets us apart from other known species? It makes sense to me that it would be our unprecedented cognitive abilities. While there are certain species that have shown impressive levels of cognition compared to most others, they still don’t come anywhere close to the level of complexity in language, social interactions, and creativity that humans achieve. So if we’re taking a step back from the abortion debate in general and asking “What do we value about the human species?” and you answer “Our cognitive abilities,” that makes sense to me.

I think if I were pro-choice, human-specific cognitive abilities would be my definition of personhood. Of course I’m not pro-choice, and in this post I’ll explain why this definition just doesn’t quite get me there.

If a human organism needs human-specific cognitive ability to have moral worth, it’s true that abortion would be justified at any stage in pregnancy. Even later term fetuses don’t have human-specific cognition yet. The problem is neither do newborns.

People who emphasize human cognition typically consider infanticide—killing human neonates or infants—horrific. But if abortion is justified and infanticide is horrific, it can’t be human-specific cognition that separates the two. There is nothing magical about birth in terms of our cognition.

“No major cognitive distinction here.” Click to enlarge.

Quite the opposite, humans are specifically underdeveloped in terms of cognition when we’re born. For our first two years functional networks in our brains swiftly gain structure. Here’s passage from a 2017 publication in NeuroImage:

Researchers exploring early childhood development believe we don’t achieve conscious awareness until, at the earliest, 9 months old:

Here’s a table summarizing their assessment strategies. You can read more about it in the publication:

Click to enlarge

The neurons and neural connections that ultimately “make us human” are still proliferating rapidly during our first few years:

Developmental Biology, 11th Edition, Gilbert & Barresi

Human neonates are comparatively useless because at that point we still have such a huge amount of brain development ahead of us. This idea is well known in evolutionary biology. Sea turtles are born and soon start hauling toward the sea. Giraffes are born and within days are walking around. Have you ever held a human newborn? We can’t even raise our heads for the first two months or so. We are remarkably helpless and dependent. Scientific American talks a bit more about why:

Human infants are especially helpless because their brains are comparatively underdeveloped. Indeed, by one estimation a human fetus would have to undergo a gestation period of 18 to 21 months instead of the usual nine to be born at a neurological and cognitive development stage comparable to that of a chimpanzee newborn.

In “Developmental Biology” (11th edition), Gilbert & Barresi reiterate the point:

Gilbert & Barresi point out that it is uniquely human for our brains to continue maturing into adulthood. Here is an illustration from the same text showing how myelination (basically coating our nerves in a way that allows nerve impulses to travel more quickly) continues to increase even up to age 20.

Anyway.

If our moral worth stems from our present human-specific cognitive abilities, it’s true the embryo and fetus don’t yet have those abilities and so wouldn’t yet have that worth. But it’s also true neonates don’t have those abilities and so also wouldn’t have that worth. When I point this out, sometimes people respond by saying the newborn is still valuable because she will have those abilities in the future. I agree, but if our moral worth stems from our future human-specific cognitive abilities, that argument applies to the fetus as well.

It isn’t only those of us against abortion who have noticed this connection. In their infamous 2012 publication “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argue that it should be permissible to practice “after-birth abortion” on healthy human newborns because the newborn and fetus are morally equivalent: both are human beings and potential persons but neither are actual persons due to their insufficient level of mental development.

I recognize that the vast majority of pro-choice people find this idea despicable. Pro-choice people love babies and frequently have their own children and don’t in any way intend to normalize infanticide. My point is not to suggest that anyone who advocates for abortion must feel cavalier about killing newborn babies. My point is that the idea that our value comes from present human-specific cognition necessarily devalues not only fetuses but also infants. That is why I can’t hold such a position.

Further Reading (or Watching):
Why viability is the least plausible definition of personhood, Equal Rights Institute, August 10, 2018
Circumventing philosophy hell, Equal Rights Institute, December 8, 2017
The Nervous System, Part 2 – Action! Potential! Crash Course A&P, March 2, 2015
The most undervalued argument in the prolife movement, Equal Rights Institute, October 1, 2013
Arguments against fetal personhood, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, February 4, 2013
Viability = Personhood? Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, August 15, 2012
Consciousness = Personhood? Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, August 7, 2012
No matter how small, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, November 13, 2011

Personhood based on human cognitive abilities.

What difference is there (if any) between a human organism and a “person”? Is there such thing as a human non-person? How do we determine which human organisms have moral worth and merit social protection?

People have given me a variety of suggestions for the factors human organisms need to be morally relevant, including connection to society, viability, the ability to feel pain, or conscious awareness. For different reasons I find these moral cutoffs pretty ad hoc and problematic (see Further Reading at the end of this post).

But some suggest you aren’t a “person” until you exhibit human-specific cognitive abilities. To my mind this definition of personhood is more intuitive, especially for secularists. What is it that we value about humans? What sets us apart from other known species? It makes sense to me that it would be our unprecedented cognitive abilities. While there are certain species that have shown impressive levels of cognition compared to most others, they still don’t come anywhere close to the level of complexity in language, social interactions, and creativity that humans achieve. So if we’re taking a step back from the abortion debate in general and asking “What do we value about the human species?” and you answer “Our cognitive abilities,” that makes sense to me.

I think if I were pro-choice, human-specific cognitive abilities would be my definition of personhood. Of course I’m not pro-choice, and in this post I’ll explain why this definition just doesn’t quite get me there.

If a human organism needs human-specific cognitive ability to have moral worth, it’s true that abortion would be justified at any stage in pregnancy. Even later term fetuses don’t have human-specific cognition yet. The problem is neither do newborns.

People who emphasize human cognition typically consider infanticide—killing human neonates or infants—horrific. But if abortion is justified and infanticide is horrific, it can’t be human-specific cognition that separates the two. There is nothing magical about birth in terms of our cognition.

“No major cognitive distinction here.” Click to enlarge.

Quite the opposite, humans are specifically underdeveloped in terms of cognition when we’re born. For our first two years functional networks in our brains swiftly gain structure. Here’s passage from a 2017 publication in NeuroImage:

Researchers exploring early childhood development believe we don’t achieve conscious awareness until, at the earliest, 9 months old:

Here’s a table summarizing their assessment strategies. You can read more about it in the publication:

Click to enlarge

The neurons and neural connections that ultimately “make us human” are still proliferating rapidly during our first few years:

Developmental Biology, 11th Edition, Gilbert & Barresi

Human neonates are comparatively useless because at that point we still have such a huge amount of brain development ahead of us. This idea is well known in evolutionary biology. Sea turtles are born and soon start hauling toward the sea. Giraffes are born and within days are walking around. Have you ever held a human newborn? We can’t even raise our heads for the first two months or so. We are remarkably helpless and dependent. Scientific American talks a bit more about why:

Human infants are especially helpless because their brains are comparatively underdeveloped. Indeed, by one estimation a human fetus would have to undergo a gestation period of 18 to 21 months instead of the usual nine to be born at a neurological and cognitive development stage comparable to that of a chimpanzee newborn.

In “Developmental Biology” (11th edition), Gilbert & Barresi reiterate the point:

Gilbert & Barresi point out that it is uniquely human for our brains to continue maturing into adulthood. Here is an illustration from the same text showing how myelination (basically coating our nerves in a way that allows nerve impulses to travel more quickly) continues to increase even up to age 20.

Anyway.

If our moral worth stems from our present human-specific cognitive abilities, it’s true the embryo and fetus don’t yet have those abilities and so wouldn’t yet have that worth. But it’s also true neonates don’t have those abilities and so also wouldn’t have that worth. When I point this out, sometimes people respond by saying the newborn is still valuable because she will have those abilities in the future. I agree, but if our moral worth stems from our future human-specific cognitive abilities, that argument applies to the fetus as well.

It isn’t only those of us against abortion who have noticed this connection. In their infamous 2012 publication “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argue that it should be permissible to practice “after-birth abortion” on healthy human newborns because the newborn and fetus are morally equivalent: both are human beings and potential persons but neither are actual persons due to their insufficient level of mental development.

I recognize that the vast majority of pro-choice people find this idea despicable. Pro-choice people love babies and frequently have their own children and don’t in any way intend to normalize infanticide. My point is not to suggest that anyone who advocates for abortion must feel cavalier about killing newborn babies. My point is that the idea that our value comes from present human-specific cognition necessarily devalues not only fetuses but also infants. That is why I can’t hold such a position.

Further Reading (or Watching):
Why viability is the least plausible definition of personhood, Equal Rights Institute, August 10, 2018
Circumventing philosophy hell, Equal Rights Institute, December 8, 2017
The Nervous System, Part 2 – Action! Potential! Crash Course A&P, March 2, 2015
The most undervalued argument in the prolife movement, Equal Rights Institute, October 1, 2013
Arguments against fetal personhood, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, February 4, 2013
Viability = Personhood? Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, August 15, 2012
Consciousness = Personhood? Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, August 7, 2012
No matter how small, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, November 13, 2011

Is Gosnell America’s “Biggest Serial Killer”?

This post contains quotes, summaries, and descriptions from the grand jury report regarding Kermit Gosnell. Much of this information is very disturbing, including graphic descriptions of violence.

NBC published a review of the Gosnell movie by Robin Marty. She didn’t like the film. In particular she took exception to the moniker “America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” saying:

In the film and in real life, Gosnell was tried on eight charges of murder and convicted on three. That’s a large number to be sure, but a small fraction in comparison to, say, Gary Ridgway (pleaded guilty to 48 counts of murder) John Wayne Gacy (convicted of 33 murders), Ted Bundy (confessed to 28 murders, and was convicted of two) or Jeffrey Dahmer (confessed to 17 murders and was convicted on 15 counts). Since Gosnell was only convicted of three counts of first degree murder, the “America’s Biggest” moniker is a bit of a stretch.

If we’re going by convictions alone, then I agree with Marty. Gosnell clearly isn’t up there (although then neither is infamous murderer Ted Bundy). But if we’re going by how many people the person is believed to have killed, almost no one can even touch Gosnell.

And I don’t mean because he performed abortions. Marty erroneously assumes people who think of Gosnell as a serial killer do so only because they think of every abortion as murder. No doubt there are plenty of people who think that, but that’s not the issue here. I suspect Marty would understand the distinction if she had read the grand jury report (warning: not for the faint of heart, includes photographs and very graphic descriptions). Even if you view abortion as an amoral action, and certainly not as murder, Gosnell still contends for the title “serial killer,” and one with an almost unprecedented death toll.

The grand jury report details Gosnell’s practice of infanticide in “Section IV: The Intentional Killing of Viable Babies.” As if anticipating how people will try to say this was just a sensationalized way to describe late-term abortion, the report explicitly describes “the untold numbers of babies–not fetuses in the womb, but live babies, born outside their mothers–whose brief lives ended in Gosnell’s filthy facility.” [Emphasis added.] The report also has the bolded subsection “Gosnell and his staff severed the spinal cords of viable, moving, breathing babies who were born alive.” Talk about redundant. It’s like they couldn’t overemphasize the point that we are not talking about late-term abortion.

(click to enlarge)

But sure, Marty, he’s a serial killer only because anti-abortion folk “aren’t really talking about the kinds of crimes most people associate with serial killers.” I guess murderers are only serial killers if they kill adults or at least big kids. Infanticide doesn’t count.

The grand jury report goes on to detail how Gosnell had to have known he would often have to kill viable babies based on his “standard procedure” for illegal late-term abortions.

(click to enlarge)

Gosnell would cut the child’s spinal cord; then he would suction out the brains after delivery, a step which serves zero medical purpose. The grand jury expected Gosnell did so to make it look like he had performed a legal abortion procedure (in some late-term abortions the fetus’ skull is collapsed to ease removal from the woman). One of Gosnell’s former employees testified that she witnessed Gosnell do this “hundreds” of times. Another employee acknowledged that late-term fetuses nearly always had their spinal cords cut after “precipitating” (Gosnell’s vocabulary for birth). A third employee testified similarly:

(click to enlarge)

The report continues:

Gosnell’s staff testified that killing large, late-term babies who had been observed breathing and moving was a regular occurrence. Massof said that Gosnell cut the spinal cord “100 percent of the time” in second-trimester (and, presumably, third-trimester) procedures, and that he did so after the baby was delivered.

Massof testified that he saw signs of life in some of these babies. He recalled seeing a heartbeat in one baby and observed a “respiratory excursion” (meaning a breath) in another. On other occasions, he observed “pulsation.” Gosnell dismissed these observations as “spontaneous movement.” “That was his answer for if we ever saw anything that was out of the ordinary, it was always a spontaneous movement.”

There’s reason to believe that babies born after 24 weeks could survive. In fact, as the report points out, a doctor is required to provide assistance to preterm born babies, and failure to provide assistance is infanticide under Pennsylvania law.

(click to enlarge)

There’s a whole lot more in Section IV of the grand jury report. Testimony about fetal parts clogging plumbing when women delivered in the toilet; one case in which a fetus looked like she was swimming before staff cut her neck; a teenager who delivered a stillborn 30-week fetus at a hospital when Gosnell’s clinic was unreachable mid-procedure; a neonatologist testifying that Gosnell’s method would cause the baby a “tremendous amount of pain”; and Gosnell describing one writhing child as “chicken with its head cut off.” If you think the film portrayal was unbelievable, you should try reading the actual testimony. It’s a real life horror story and, in my opinion, overwhelmingly heartbreaking, enraging, and exhausting. The section concludes by stating Gosnell most likely “killed the vast majority of babies” from illegal late-term abortions [emphasis added].

(click to enlarge)
This is all terrible, but where does it leave us regarding the original question? If we assume newborns should be included in serial killer body counts (crazy, I know!), what are Gosnell’s metrics compared to other serial killers?
The grand jury estimated Gosnell performed at least 4-5 illegal abortions (that is, abortions after 24 weeks) every week, and had been doing this for years. To be conservative, let’s assume (1) only 3 illegal abortions per week, (2) for only 40 weeks per year, and (3) only for 2 years. That would be 240 illegal late-term abortions. (Let me emphasize there’s no reason to make these conservative estimates except to illustrate my “yep he’s a serial killer” point. If instead we assumed 4 illegal abortions per week for say 50 weeks a year for more like 5 years, it could be as high as 1,000 illegal late-term abortions. But whatever, let’s go with only 240.)

The grand jury believes, based on the evidence and corroborating testimony, that Gosnell killed viable born children in the “vast majority” of his attempts at illegal late-term abortion. But let’s say it wasn’t the vast majority. Let’s say it was only 20% of the time. So even assuming only 240 illegal abortions and even assuming only 20% of them were actually infanticide, that still would mean Gosnell killed 48 babies. That already puts him right up there with the highest number Robin Marty quoted, which was Gary Ridgeway pleading guilty to 48 counts of murder. To be fair, though, Ridgeway is thought to have killed up to 71 people. So if we make some extremely conservative and unwarranted estimates about Gosnell’s body count, he’d only be America’s 2nd biggest serial killer. No big deal, right?
On the other hand, if we go with what the grand jury actually reported, Gosnell was performing 4-5 illegal abortions per week. Call it 4.5 per week. Even if we still say only 40 weeks and only 2 years (again, no reason to do that really), if we take “vast majority” to mean even just 51%, that puts Gosnell at 183 infanticides, easily dwarfing any other serial killer in American history and, actually, putting him in the top 3 slots for serial killers throughout the world.
Calling Gosnell “America’s Biggest Serial Killer” is only a “stretch” if Marty doesn’t think there’s any significant difference between late-term abortion and infanticide or (more likely) if she just hasn’t really looked into this case she opines on. But we can hardly blame her for that. She’s only a journalist.

Further Reading:
We’ve forgotten what belongs on Page One, Kristen Powers, USA Today, April 11, 2013
Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story, Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, April 12, 2013
Why I Didn’t Write About Gosnell’s Trial–And Why I Should Have, Megan McArdle, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2013
Gosnell and Abortion (summarizing the media silence), Nathaniel Givens, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, April 17, 2013

Post-publication edit: Wikipedia lists Gosnell as a serial killer under “Medical professionals and pseudo-medical professionals” which it categorizes separately because of “their ability to kill simply and in plain sight.” Gosnell is listed for 4 proven victims and “100+” possible victims. Interestingly one of Gosnell’s employees, Steven Massof, is listed as the third biggest medical professional serial killers in the world because he confessed to snipping the spines of more than 100 babies.

Anyway, if we count medical professionals and look at possible (not only proven) victims, using the still-conservative estimate of 183 infanticides for Gosnell would make him the 5th biggest serial killer in the world and the 2nd biggest in America after Charles Cullen (a nurse thought to have killed up to 400 people).

Is Gosnell America’s “Biggest Serial Killer”?

This post contains quotes, summaries, and descriptions from the grand jury report regarding Kermit Gosnell. Much of this information is very disturbing, including graphic descriptions of violence.

NBC published a review of the Gosnell movie by Robin Marty. She didn’t like the film. In particular she took exception to the moniker “America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” saying:

In the film and in real life, Gosnell was tried on eight charges of murder and convicted on three. That’s a large number to be sure, but a small fraction in comparison to, say, Gary Ridgway (pleaded guilty to 48 counts of murder) John Wayne Gacy (convicted of 33 murders), Ted Bundy (confessed to 28 murders, and was convicted of two) or Jeffrey Dahmer (confessed to 17 murders and was convicted on 15 counts). Since Gosnell was only convicted of three counts of first degree murder, the “America’s Biggest” moniker is a bit of a stretch.

If we’re going by convictions alone, then I agree with Marty. Gosnell clearly isn’t up there (although then neither is infamous murderer Ted Bundy). But if we’re going by how many people the person is believed to have killed, almost no one can even touch Gosnell.

And I don’t mean because he performed abortions. Marty erroneously assumes people who think of Gosnell as a serial killer do so only because they think of every abortion as murder. No doubt there are plenty of people who think that, but that’s not the issue here. I suspect Marty would understand the distinction if she had read the grand jury report (warning: not for the faint of heart, includes photographs and very graphic descriptions). Even if you view abortion as an amoral action, and certainly not as murder, Gosnell still contends for the title “serial killer,” and one with an almost unprecedented death toll.

The grand jury report details Gosnell’s practice of infanticide in “Section IV: The Intentional Killing of Viable Babies.” As if anticipating how people will try to say this was just a sensationalized way to describe late-term abortion, the report explicitly describes “the untold numbers of babies–not fetuses in the womb, but live babies, born outside their mothers–whose brief lives ended in Gosnell’s filthy facility.” [Emphasis added.] The report also has the bolded subsection “Gosnell and his staff severed the spinal cords of viable, moving, breathing babies who were born alive.” Talk about redundant. It’s like they couldn’t overemphasize the point that we are not talking about late-term abortion.

(click to enlarge)

But sure, Marty, he’s a serial killer only because anti-abortion folk “aren’t really talking about the kinds of crimes most people associate with serial killers.” I guess murderers are only serial killers if they kill adults or at least big kids. Infanticide doesn’t count.

The grand jury report goes on to detail how Gosnell had to have known he would often have to kill viable babies based on his “standard procedure” for illegal late-term abortions.

(click to enlarge)

Gosnell would cut the child’s spinal cord; then he would suction out the brains after delivery, a step which serves zero medical purpose. The grand jury expected Gosnell did so to make it look like he had performed a legal abortion procedure (in some late-term abortions the fetus’ skull is collapsed to ease removal from the woman). One of Gosnell’s former employees testified that she witnessed Gosnell do this “hundreds” of times. Another employee acknowledged that late-term fetuses nearly always had their spinal cords cut after “precipitating” (Gosnell’s vocabulary for birth). A third employee testified similarly:

(click to enlarge)

The report continues:

Gosnell’s staff testified that killing large, late-term babies who had been observed breathing and moving was a regular occurrence. Massof said that Gosnell cut the spinal cord “100 percent of the time” in second-trimester (and, presumably, third-trimester) procedures, and that he did so after the baby was delivered.

Massof testified that he saw signs of life in some of these babies. He recalled seeing a heartbeat in one baby and observed a “respiratory excursion” (meaning a breath) in another. On other occasions, he observed “pulsation.” Gosnell dismissed these observations as “spontaneous movement.” “That was his answer for if we ever saw anything that was out of the ordinary, it was always a spontaneous movement.”

There’s reason to believe that babies born after 24 weeks could survive. In fact, as the report points out, a doctor is required to provide assistance to preterm born babies, and failure to provide assistance is infanticide under Pennsylvania law.

(click to enlarge)

There’s a whole lot more in Section IV of the grand jury report. Testimony about fetal parts clogging plumbing when women delivered in the toilet; one case in which a fetus looked like she was swimming before staff cut her neck; a teenager who delivered a stillborn 30-week fetus at a hospital when Gosnell’s clinic was unreachable mid-procedure; a neonatologist testifying that Gosnell’s method would cause the baby a “tremendous amount of pain”; and Gosnell describing one writhing child as “chicken with its head cut off.” If you think the film portrayal was unbelievable, you should try reading the actual testimony. It’s a real life horror story and, in my opinion, overwhelmingly heartbreaking, enraging, and exhausting. The section concludes by stating Gosnell most likely “killed the vast majority of babies” from illegal late-term abortions [emphasis added].

(click to enlarge)
This is all terrible, but where does it leave us regarding the original question? If we assume newborns should be included in serial killer body counts (crazy, I know!), what are Gosnell’s metrics compared to other serial killers?
The grand jury estimated Gosnell performed at least 4-5 illegal abortions (that is, abortions after 24 weeks) every week, and had been doing this for years. To be conservative, let’s assume (1) only 3 illegal abortions per week, (2) for only 40 weeks per year, and (3) only for 2 years. That would be 240 illegal late-term abortions. (Let me emphasize there’s no reason to make these conservative estimates except to illustrate my “yep he’s a serial killer” point. If instead we assumed 4 illegal abortions per week for say 50 weeks a year for more like 5 years, it could be as high as 1,000 illegal late-term abortions. But whatever, let’s go with only 240.)

The grand jury believes, based on the evidence and corroborating testimony, that Gosnell killed viable born children in the “vast majority” of his attempts at illegal late-term abortion. But let’s say it wasn’t the vast majority. Let’s say it was only 20% of the time. So even assuming only 240 illegal abortions and even assuming only 20% of them were actually infanticide, that still would mean Gosnell killed 48 babies. That already puts him right up there with the highest number Robin Marty quoted, which was Gary Ridgeway pleading guilty to 48 counts of murder. To be fair, though, Ridgeway is thought to have killed up to 71 people. So if we make some extremely conservative and unwarranted estimates about Gosnell’s body count, he’d only be America’s 2nd biggest serial killer. No big deal, right?
On the other hand, if we go with what the grand jury actually reported, Gosnell was performing 4-5 illegal abortions per week. Call it 4.5 per week. Even if we still say only 40 weeks and only 2 years (again, no reason to do that really), if we take “vast majority” to mean even just 51%, that puts Gosnell at 183 infanticides, easily dwarfing any other serial killer in American history and, actually, putting him in the top 3 slots for serial killers throughout the world.
Calling Gosnell “America’s Biggest Serial Killer” is only a “stretch” if Marty doesn’t think there’s any significant difference between late-term abortion and infanticide or (more likely) if she just hasn’t really looked into this case she opines on. But we can hardly blame her for that. She’s only a journalist.

Further Reading:
We’ve forgotten what belongs on Page One, Kristen Powers, USA Today, April 11, 2013
Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story, Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, April 12, 2013
Why I Didn’t Write About Gosnell’s Trial–And Why I Should Have, Megan McArdle, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2013
Gosnell and Abortion (summarizing the media silence), Nathaniel Givens, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, April 17, 2013

Post-publication edit: Wikipedia lists Gosnell as a serial killer under “Medical professionals and pseudo-medical professionals” which it categorizes separately because of “their ability to kill simply and in plain sight.” Gosnell is listed for 4 proven victims and “100+” possible victims. Interestingly one of Gosnell’s employees, Steven Massof, is listed as the third biggest medical professional serial killers in the world because he confessed to snipping the spines of more than 100 babies.

Anyway, if we count medical professionals and look at possible (not only proven) victims, using the still-conservative estimate of 183 infanticides for Gosnell would make him the 5th biggest serial killer in the world and the 2nd biggest in America after Charles Cullen (a nurse thought to have killed up to 400 people).

MPs shine light on Canadian abortion survivors left to die

“Live-birth abortion” sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s the term being used to describe a shockingly common scenario in Canada. A National Post article headlined “Birth of a legal quandry: Live-birth abortions a perilous grey zone in Canada’s criminal code” reports: 

On Thursday, three federal Conservative backbenchers said they had asked the RCMP to initiate one of the largest homicide investigations in its history.

Involving as many as 600 victims — more than even the 1985 Air India bombing — the investigation proposed by the MPs would implicate virtually every major hospital in Canada, as well as hundreds of nurses, doctors and medical staff.

To justify such a gargantuan effort, they said, the police need look no further than the government’s own ledgers: an obscure Statistics Canada number dug up last October by an anti-abortion activist showing that, each year, about 50 fetuses are “born alive” during late-term abortions.

“These incidents appear to be homicides,” wrote MPs Maurice Vellacott, Leon Benoit and Wladyslaw Lizon, in their Jan. 23 letter to the RCMP commissioner.

The MPs are right about the fact that between 2000 and 2009, 491 aborted fetuses indeed exhibited “evidence of life” following their removal from the womb — be it a momentary heartbeat, a sudden gasp or, in rare cases, crying.

In response, abortion advocates are already claiming (before any investigation has begun, mind you) that these babies were “allowed to pass away,” as opposed to being deliberately killed after birth Gosnell-style. But of course, their deaths are quite deliberate. That is what abortion means. (Abortion advocates are also calling for a reform of the death certificate system to cover up the existence of abortion survivors.)

If the fatal injury is inflicted inside the womb, but the victim dies outside the womb, does that timing make a difference either legally or ethically? If so, shouldn’t these babies be treated with the emergency care that a prematurely born infant not targeted for destruction would receive? Or if not, why not allow infanticide outright?

The Members of Parliament are right to call for an investigation of these 491+ homicides. I hope those babies receive some justice. But those babies who died a few weeks earlier, a few inches closer to the cervix, a moment short of their first breath — those babies deserve justice too.

This homicide investigation has the potential to awaken the Canadian conscience on abortion generally.  You can bet the abortion industry will fight it tooth and nail and smear everyone involved in the investigation as a Bible-thumping misogynist.

MPs shine light on Canadian abortion survivors left to die

“Live-birth abortion” sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s the term being used to describe a shockingly common scenario in Canada. A National Post article headlined “Birth of a legal quandry: Live-birth abortions a perilous grey zone in Canada’s criminal code” reports: 

On Thursday, three federal Conservative backbenchers said they had asked the RCMP to initiate one of the largest homicide investigations in its history.

Involving as many as 600 victims — more than even the 1985 Air India bombing — the investigation proposed by the MPs would implicate virtually every major hospital in Canada, as well as hundreds of nurses, doctors and medical staff.

To justify such a gargantuan effort, they said, the police need look no further than the government’s own ledgers: an obscure Statistics Canada number dug up last October by an anti-abortion activist showing that, each year, about 50 fetuses are “born alive” during late-term abortions.

“These incidents appear to be homicides,” wrote MPs Maurice Vellacott, Leon Benoit and Wladyslaw Lizon, in their Jan. 23 letter to the RCMP commissioner.

The MPs are right about the fact that between 2000 and 2009, 491 aborted fetuses indeed exhibited “evidence of life” following their removal from the womb — be it a momentary heartbeat, a sudden gasp or, in rare cases, crying.

In response, abortion advocates are already claiming (before any investigation has begun, mind you) that these babies were “allowed to pass away,” as opposed to being deliberately killed after birth Gosnell-style. But of course, their deaths are quite deliberate. That is what abortion means. (Abortion advocates are also calling for a reform of the death certificate system to cover up the existence of abortion survivors.)

If the fatal injury is inflicted inside the womb, but the victim dies outside the womb, does that timing make a difference either legally or ethically? If so, shouldn’t these babies be treated with the emergency care that a prematurely born infant not targeted for destruction would receive? Or if not, why not allow infanticide outright?

The Members of Parliament are right to call for an investigation of these 491+ homicides. I hope those babies receive some justice. But those babies who died a few weeks earlier, a few inches closer to the cervix, a moment short of their first breath — those babies deserve justice too.

This homicide investigation has the potential to awaken the Canadian conscience on abortion generally.  You can bet the abortion industry will fight it tooth and nail and smear everyone involved in the investigation as a Bible-thumping misogynist.