A column by William Saletan who covers science for Slate, appeared in Thursday’s Chicago Tribune as an attack on the U. S. House vote to outlaw abortion at 20 weeks.
His effort is to show that pro-lifers are subtly attempting to push back the cut-off date until we reach the very beginning of fetal life.
But in the attempt he does pro-life and the unborn a great service by trotting out the facts of fetal development that we are always trying to explain to the public.
He says while pain is felt before 20 weeks, this isn’t the point. It’s just a line drawn for the time being, and if pro-lifers can push it back closer to conception they will.
He quotes Rep. Marsha Blackburn saying the babies feel pain at eight weeks. Then he quotes Maureen Condic’s “Milestones in pain development” that the basic structures of the nervous system are formed at four weeks.
Saletan then points out that a baby has a sense of touch at eight weeks, has a heart-beat at three weeks, can kick and has fingerprints at seven weeks, can frown and turn her head at ten weeks.
He concludes that while fetal development moves forward the pro-life political agenda moves backward. “First you draw the line at viability. Then you draw it at pain capacity. Then you draw it at thumb sucking.”
What the column does in fact do is disclose fact after fact of fetal development while intending only to reveal pro-lifers intent to restrict abortion as early as possible.
“Look around the country and you’ll see what is in store,” Saletan complains as he lists restrictive laws in state after state.
“Ultimately,” the column concludes, “pro-lifers plan to outlaw abortion at conception,” and he quotes Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican: “If it’s ‘killing’ one minute before birth, how about one week? How about one month? How about two months? We can go all the way back.”
Saletan’s conclusion: “And they will.” But in reaching that conclusion Saletan does all pro-lifers a favor by pointing out the humanity of the child from conception.
Thanks, Bill, we needed that.