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How Medical Science will affect the Abortion Debate

How Medical Science will affect the Abortion Debate
July 21
14:00 2016

When it comes to the abortion debate, many governments have grown stubbornly silent – but with advancements in neonatology and fetal care, the medical world threatens to force the government’s hand.

Neonatology: a specialization within the field of pediatrics that focuses on the care of newborns, especially premature newborns.

Time magazine conducted a study in 2015 that placed “fetal viability” at 22 weeks (vs the previously accepted 24 weeks), raising serious questions about late-term abortions. With a $54 million gift, the University of Alberta Women and Children’s Health Research Institute stands poised to establish a new norm in fetal care – including diagnostics and life-savings surgeries that can be performed in utero at just 13 weeks.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.16.04 AMIf medical practice treats a 13-year-old fetus as a life worth saving, what does that mean for the law?

“Head-in-sand will no longer be an option for any government or its electorate. Medicine is advancing too quickly. How remarkable it will be when science forces us to have a debate that politics had apparently put to rest,” writes the National Post’s Michelle Hauser.

Today’s “scientific advancements will drag us, kicking and screaming, in all likelihood, into the public square for a good old-fashioned barn-burner of a debate.”


Further complicating matters is the rapidly advancing field of genomics. The Economist reported just last month that testing for diseases will one day be “so easy and cheap” it will be like “ordering books online.”

While the ability to detect and eradicate disease in utero will be a huge advancement for mankind, gene editing raises serious ethical questions and presents even more problems for abortion. “Will the blossoming of an even-bigger decision tree from which to choose encourage abortion as a tool for genetic discrimination?” asks Hauser.

The World Health Organization addressed this very potentiality in 2003:

“Disclosure of fetal characteristics that are within the realm of normal may lead some families to use abortion for purposes of cosmetic selection. This practice should be avoided because it could lead to a redefinition normalcy.”

designer-baby-840x420In other words, in a future in which designer babies are the norm, parents might simply decide to “start over” if they find out their baby will be a certain gender, a certain height, etc.

What are the long-term consequences for our species when – in the absence of law – natural babies become “first drafts” to be revised and tweaked according to personal preference? Is this what must happen for politicians to wake up and realize that the unborn fetus has the same rights to life and to legal protection that you and I have?

It will not be protestors, religious organizations, and pro-life advocates who will determine the legal rights of the unborn child in the 21st century, it will be science-fiction-turned-real technologies like ectogenesis, genetic engineering, artificial wombs, and other medical advancements – and the serious ethical and moral questions that accompany them.

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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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