April 14, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Abortion "Science" Shows Its Deathly Bias

When science reporters discuss the biggest ethical issue of our day, they show no concern for the unborn.

Recently, Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul was asked about his stance on abortion. He deflected the question back to the reporter, asking whether she would be willing to ask Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz “if she’s okay with killing a seven-pound baby that is just not born yet.” Clearly at 7 pounds, a baby is viable. According to National Review, Wasserman-Schultz didn’t have to wait for a reporter to pop the question. In response to Rand Paul, she made the following terse statement:

“I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved,” she volunteered in a statement. “Period. End of story.

To Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary, that answer more than anything else shows the worldview gap between conservatives and liberals (The Briefing, April 9).  By saying “Period. End of story,” the DNC chairwoman does not allow for a single exception, even when a 7-pound baby’s life is at stake. The concerns of the father or the government cannot enter into the equation. And what doctor? Could it not be someone like Kermit Gosnell, the convicted late-term abortionist who committed his grisly killings in filthy conditions?

That’s the nature of the political divide. What about the science? When scientific media sites report on abortion, what side do they favor, if any?

One must watch for what is said and what is not said. There are also keywords that give clues: like “fetus” instead of “baby” when late-term abortion is mentioned, or when grisly practices like D&E (dilation and extraction) are discussed (the act of cutting up a baby in the womb and extracting the dismembered parts). Another clue is how groups are identified: e.g., “pro-life” or “anti-abortion”; “abortion rights” vs. “pro-abortion.” The use of “scare quotes” can be instructive. One should observe what spokespersons are quoted, in what context, and in what order. Here’s a recent case posted by Medical Xpress by John Hanna, “Kansas governor signs nation’s first ban on abortion procedure.”

  • Kansas became the first state Tuesday to ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure that critics describe as dismembering a fetus….
  • Abortion rights supporters say the law, which bans the dilation and evacuation procedure and redefines it as “dismemberment,” could be vulnerable to a lawsuit because it bans some abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb and contains no mental health exception for the mother….
  • Anti-abortion groups are confident the new law will withstand a legal challenge, based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2007 in which it upheld a federal ban on a late-term procedure described by abortion opponents as partial-birth abortion.
  • Brownback signed the bill in a private ceremony at his official residence; his office said he would re-enact it at multiple public events later this month. A photo from Tuesday’s ceremony tweeted by the governor’s office showed Brownback flanked by anti-abortion leaders and two large photos of fetuses.
  • Abortion rights supporters said the procedure is often the safest for women seeking to terminate pregnancies during the second trimester. It accounted for about 9 percent of abortions last year in Kansas, where most pregnancies are terminated in the first trimester and the state already bans most abortions at or after the 22nd week.
  • Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley called it a horrific procedure.” But Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, said in a statement that the new law is “dangerous” and “dictates to qualified physicians how they can practice medicine and treat their patients.

Apparently, to Burkhart, the baby does not qualify as a “patient” or get any medical care, abortion is a case of “practicing medicine,” and if a woman can claim she needs to kill her “fetus” by cutting it up into pieces, for the sake of her “mental health,” then Burkhart is fine with that. By giving her the last word, Hanna gave her the emotional edge in the article. He also put scare quotes around the pro-life spokespersons’ terminology (“dismemberment” and “horrific procedure”), describing them as trying to “ban” a “medical procedure” on a “fetus”. Could a reader conclude that this science reporter agrees with Wasserman-Shultz that a 7-pound baby is of no concern, if the mother chooses to abort?

Another issue of grave concern both nationally and internationally is abortion for gender selection. Quite often, in some cultures, parents want a boy instead of a girl; elective abortions in these cases discriminate against girls. In China, where the one-child rule has been the norm for decades now, this has led to a preponderance of boys, leading to social problems when women of marriageable age become less available.

Recently, PNAS published the largest and most complete study on the “sex ratio” – the ratio between boys and girls in live births. It quantified, to more accuracy than ever before, the common finding that boys outnumber girls at birth by a slight amount. This ratio changes from conception to birth, and then throughout life. It starts at .5 (a 50-50 ratio), but by birth, males have a slight edge. Since males tend to die younger than females, it comes out even by nature. This new study took into account the actions of parents to select genders and terminate pregnancies:

Our dataset is the largest ever assembled to estimate the sex ratio at conception and is the first, to our knowledge, to include data from 3- to- 6-d-old embryos, induced abortions, chorionic villus sampling, amniocentesis, and fetal deaths and live births. Our results indicate that the sex ratio at conception is unbiased, the proportion of males increases during the first trimester, and total female mortality during pregnancy exceeds total male mortality; these are fundamental insights into early human development.

The authors discussed their numbers with clinical coldness, failing to comment on gender-selective abortion. Writing about this in a commentary piece in PNAS, evolutionary biologist Steven Austad at the University of Alabama discusses social reasons for the study’s surprising results, justifying it in evolutionary terms:

Two remarkably consistent and poorly understood features of human biology are the slightly male-biased sex ratio at birth and the female survival advantage throughout life. These patterns appear across geography and time wherever reliable birth and death records are available. The slight male bias, typically ∼51.3% of live births, is so consistent (Fig. 1A) that when birth sex ratios deviate much from it, suspicions are aroused of sex-specific abortion or infanticide. Putting together the birth sex ratio bias and the female survival advantage, we expect a monotonically declining sex ratio from birth to death, which is exactly what we find across cultures and across historical epochs (Fig. 1B). By age 100 y, there are three to four women for every surviving man, and by the extraordinary age of 110 y, 95% of the survivors are women. Note, however, that until later life the sex ratio does not stray far from 50:50, an observation that would gladden the heart of evolutionary biologist, Sir Ronald Fisher, who argued that natural selection should favor equal parental expenditure—a delightfully vague phrase—in males and females. Fisher assumed, as have many since then, that the human sex ratio at conception is even more male-biased than the sex ratio at birth, and there were some good reasons to assume this. First, males are less likely than females to survive from birth to age 5 y in all countries with reliable records. Therefore, extrapolating backward suggests a more male-biased sex ratio in utero. Second, male babies born at very low body weight are less likely to survive than females born at the same weight. Finally, up to 70% of babies spontaneously aborted early in gestation are male. Thus, given this evidence that males are more susceptible to death—that is more frail—both before and after birth, the question wasn’t so much whether the sex ratio at conception was male-biased, but exactly how dramatic that bias was. Therefore, it comes as something of a surprise when, in by far the most comprehensive analysis of prenatal sex ratios ever performed, Orzack et al. (9) report in PNAS that the sex ratio at conception is not significantly different from 50:50.

Austad says several things of note here. (1) The natural ratio is so predictable, differences can be attributed to “sex-specific abortion or infanticide.” (2) The sex ratio should be a manifestation of natural selection. (3) The facts contradict evolutionary explanations. Follow-up questions that could be asked are: (a) Is sex-specific abortion or infanticide also a manifestation of natural selection? (b) If so, is it morally acceptable? (c) If there were good reasons to assume Fisher’s evolutionary explanation for the sex ratio, why did he get it so wrong?

Listen to Albert Mohler’s Briefing about this subject. More than anything else, the subject of abortion defines the divide between right and left world views. When scientists and reporters throw their lot in with Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, it’s time to ask them Rand Paul’s question: is it OK to kill a 7-pound baby that is not born yet? Instead of letting Planned Parenthood and the DNC define the issue with “reproductive rights” and “women’s health” terminology, that question should focus attention where it needs to go. If the answer is yes, “Period. End of Sentence,” then at least we will have brought clarity to the issue. Fortunately, Carly Fiorina has also shown ability to toss the hot potato back at reporters this way. If a 7-pound baby can be put to death for any reason whatsoever, with no concern for its rights or health, then God help us. Is the beheading of Christians by ISIS any less repugnant that cutting up millions of babies in the womb? Where is the “war-on-women” crowd about gender-selective abortion? No problem, a consistent evolutionist would have to say; it’s just natural selection.

 

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Comments

  • rockyway says:

    “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved,” she volunteered in a statement. “Period. End of story.”

    – I find this remark bizarre… since ‘government’ is already involved… highly involved at many levels; including making it legal, licensing it, forcing taxpayers to pay for it, forcing doctors to do it, etc. The whole business of abortion depends upon a gov. definition of the fetus, which then goes on to declare the unborn as having no rights. (And just today I read of some judge in NY? declaring a couple of chimps to be human… and giving them human rights.)

    – End of story? There will never be an end to this story… although defenders of abortion (i.e. State legalized abortion) would like there to be.

    ‘Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, said in a statement that the new law is “dangerous” and “dictates to qualified physicians how they can practice medicine and treat their patients.”

    – Gee; the government always dictates how physicians can practice…

    – As somewhat of an aside… I wonder how many people realize that the close to term unborn child has as many, or even more, brain cells that his/her mother? (Not to mention utterly unique DNA.)

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