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Opinion Pieces

Science is King. What Does That Mean for the Pro-Life Movement?

Today, in our science and technology-obsessed society, science has tacitly been declared king. Mainstream media loves to tout the latest scientific study on every topic under the sun, and people pride themselves in approaching issues based on what science says.

But will these faithful science-followers follow the facts right into the pro-life movement? 

As advancements in neonatal research and technology continue to point to the humanity of developing fetuses, it’s beginning to look like they may have to — if they care to maintain intellectual honesty. Well-worn arguments of “who can say when life begins” and “fetuses are just blobs of cells” become harder and harder to maintain when research into fetal development and studies on fetal pain are indicating otherwise.

Today, fetal surgery has become a state of the art medical specialty. In the U.S., there are a number of medical centers that can perform surgeries on fetuses while they are still in the womb. The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in my hometown has performed over 1,539 fetal surgical procedures since 2004. As medical techniques continue to advance, it raises the question: Why are we performing lifesaving procedures on some unborn children and ending the lives of others? 

Additionally, as scientists continue to research fetal pain, these fetal surgeries will at times include the use of anesthesia for the unborn baby. That is because we know that unborn babies can feel pain after 20 weeks of gestation. That’s why the House of Representatives passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in 2017. This legislation would prohibit abortions nationwide on unborn children after 20 weeks of gestation. As a doctor myself, this is something I feel strongly about. At this point, it is not even about being “pro-life” or “pro-choice” — it’s about common sense, compassionate humanity. 

Thanks to advances in technology, today’s parents can also learn a lot more about their unborn child at much earlier stages of the process than previous generations could. Now, the obstetric ultra-sound typically conducted at 20 weeks of gestation shows real-time video in addition to photos. Parents can watch their unborn child sucking his or her thumb, yawning, or kicking within the womb. Many also track their pregnancies with apps that visually depict the development of their child. As technology continues to normalize the concept of an unborn child as a distinct human being, it gives me hope for the passage of the Life at Conception Act, which I cosponsored and which declares that — from the moment of conception — every human being shall have the constitutional rights of a person. Already, some rights are legally recognized, but not all.

Even still, there will always be aspects of our human experience for which science cannot fully account. Science provides proven facts that bolster truth, but moral truth is also “self-evident,” to borrow a phrase from our Declaration of Independence. Science is the deeper understanding of nature’s laws. Life is an inalienable right. We can see throughout history that the recognition of this truth is so intrinsic to our human nature that a culture which devalues life is one that begins to chip away at the core of our collective humanity. When society says it’s acceptable to kill an infant in the womb, and acceptable to have physicians knowingly end the lives of people with disabilities, terminal illnesses, and the elderly through assisted suicide, it’s no wonder so many, civilians and veterans alike, feel that they are a burden and commit suicide. That's just the beginning in a culture that devalues life. The disastrous effects of even more extreme examples of disrespect for life have been written, and rewritten, across the pages of history books since the beginning of time in the form of genocides, the Holocaust, ethnic cleansings, and slavery to name a few.

I believe we should not allow that deadly and sad story of devaluing life to be written again on our watch. Ending a life too soon will always leave us wondering what might have been. It is encouraging that the case for treating unborn children as human is increasingly bolstered by advances in science and technology. Yet the core of the issue will always be a commitment to the deeply-held belief that every human life has inherent worth and value -- from the moment of conception up until the day they die. That is the idea that set our nation apart from its founding and that idea will define our future.