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When does life begin?

Dr. Kermit Gosnell has been convicted of three counts of first-degree murder; now what? Some may ask: So what? Our cavalier attitude towards infanticide is disturbing, but not surprising. It was given a modicum of intellectual credibility when most of the contributing scholars could not entirely condemn it in a symposium published in the Journal of Medical Ethics (May 2013, Volume 39, Issue 5).

Thank God for Robert P. George’s contribution. After Gosnell, take what the intelligentsia has to say with a handful of salt. Officials in Texas are now investigating a facility run by another doctor where workers coming forward reported that the heads of infants born alive were twisted off. After Gosnell, we can be certain that he is not the only one.

After Gosnell, we should revisit three questions: When does life begin? What are the unborn? If they are human, should they be granted full protection under law? Pennsylvania, where Gosnell operated, places a 24-week limit on the matter. Most European countries place it at 12 weeks — Denmark, Bulgaria and Germany, to name a few. The Swedes are the highest at 18.

One is left to wonder in this so-called “scientific” age how it can come down to geographic location (jurisdiction, call it what you wish) to determine whether it is legal to take the life of a “fetus”. What is criminal in Denmark after 12 weeks is acceptable in Sweden up to 18 weeks.

Clearly we should not be guided by the current “nuances” (read, inconsistencies) in law for a matter as delicate as life; especially when science speaks so clearly.

Dr. Jerome LeJeune Professor of Genetics, University of Descartes notes: “After fertilisation has taken place a new human being has come into being. [It] is no longer a matter of taste or opinion…, it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”

John Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy, notes that outside of the medical world the other “F-word”, fetus, is “offensive, dehumanising, prejudicial, manipulative”.

Many of the reports on Gosnell’s case supported the professor’s point when they referred to the victims as “fetuses”, not to inform the audience of their stage of development, but to imply that the victims were some how less than human and therefore undeserving of full protection under law. After Gosnell, language will matter even more because we will continue to ignore the science.

The most important thing after Gosnell is healing. The unborn are the obvious victims but so are the women. The statistics on suicide after abortion tell the flip side of the “empowerment”, “choice” and “reproductive rights” narrative. An article in the British Medical Journal states that suicides were more common after induced abortion.

Another survey found that 60 per cent of women with “post-abortion trauma” had experienced suicidal thoughts, 28 per cent attempted suicide and 18 per cent attempted it more than once. Suicide in this context is apparently part of a larger story that is emerging in this culture of death.

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, in 2010 suicide became the leading cause of death in people between the ages of 15 and 49 in the developed world; more than AIDS and drug abuse combined.

After Gosnell, how much longer can the developed world sustain itself by siding with the thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy”? How much longer can she carry on this facade of progress whilst ignoring the One who offers abundant life and healing?

— Adrian Sobers

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