Is the unborn child a person?
What do the experts think?
An article in Obstetrics and Gynecology in September 2011 entitled ‘Abortion Provision Among Practicing Obstetrician–Gynecologists’ reveals some interesting trends, and encouraging for people who are pro-life.1
The authors surveyed ob-gyns from across the United States to see how many of them provided abortions to their patients. The questions were “1) in your practice, do you ever encounter patients seeking an abortion? (yes or no); and 2) do you provide abortion services? (yes or no).” The results were as follows:
|Variable||Percent who offer abortions|
|Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox||9.0|
|High religious motivation||7.8|
|Medium religious motivation||16.1|
|Low religious motivation||25.9|
In all, while 97% of ob-gyns encountered women seeking abortions, only 14.4% of them provide abortions. Furthermore, the survey did not differentiate between providing a medical procedure like removing an ectopic pregnancy or other unviable pregnancy (one where continuing the pregnancy would threaten the life of the mother with no chance of the baby’s survival2), and abortions for no medical reason. So it is reasonable to assume that many of those who do provide abortions do not provide in all circumstances.
Atheist and pro-life?
One of the more interesting numbers in the table above is that only about 1 in 4 atheist ob-gyns provides abortions (and this is any abortion). Some of this may be due to specialization—they may refer to other ob-gyns who do abortions, but still, 1 in 4 is a low number. What is not commonly known is there is a strong non-religious pro-life movement. This argument is laid out well by Nat Hentoff.3 That is, they accept the Judeo-Christian premise that murder—killing of innocent humans—is wrong, and also accept the scientific fact that the unborn baby is human. From that, it logically follows that abortion is wrong.
We would argue that this sort of argument isn’t terribly consistent, as the reason human life has more value than animal life is because of the image of God in mankind. It is acceptable to kill an animal, but not a human, because the human is in the image of God.4 However, this may be one case where we should applaud the inconsistency of the atheist! This contrasts with the more consistent atheists such as Peter Singer5 who agree that the prenatal baby is just as human as a post-natal baby, but see nothing wrong with killing either of them.
Since the Roe v. Wade6 decision, technological progress means that we can see the baby in far more detail in the womb than was possible 40 years ago. Innovations in fetal surgery and care of very premature babies means more babies can be saved than could be 40 years ago. This means that in one case, a baby may be treated as a second patient along with the mother, but in other cases, the baby is treated as a malignancy to be removed from the mother (although in this case, the abortion-defenders claim that she isn’t a mother).7
We shouldn’t be surprised that over 85% of ob-gyns do not provide abortions—more than anyone, these doctors would know that abortion is killing a baby, and few ob-gyns would go into practice with the goal of killing these babies. However, a minority still live with the gruesome inconsistency, e.g. abortionist Benjamin Kalish admitted:
So you can see a miniature person so to speak, and even now I occasionally feel a little peculiar about it because as a physician I’m trained to conserve life and here I am destroying life.8
However, the scarcity of doctors willing to perform abortions is something pro-life people can celebrate.
- Stulberg, D.B., Dude, A.M., Dahlquist, I., Farr, A.C, ‘Abortion Provision Among Practicing Obstetrician –Gynecologists’, Obstetrics and Gynecology 118(3):609–614, 2011. Return to text.
- See Sarfati, J., What about abortion to save the mother’s life? creation.com/mother-life, 22 February 2005. Return to text.
- Hentoff, N., The Indivisible Fight for Life, AUL Forum, 19 October 1986, groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/nvp/consistent/indivisible.html. Return to text.
- Cosner, L., Broken Images, Creation 34(4):46–48, 2012. Return to text.
- Cosner, L., Blurring the line between abortion and infanticide? creation.com/obama, 2 July 2008. Return to text.
- The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion at any stage for any reason. Return to text.
- See some admissions of this inconsistency in Enriquez, L., 10 surprising quotes from abortionists, liveactionnews.org, 5 January 2013. Return to text.
- Cited in Freiburger, C., Pro-Abortion Columnist Says Philadelphia’s Dr. Death Thrived Because Abortions Aren’t Available Enough, American Thinker, 9 January 2013. Return to text.