Mother’s Day was just a few weeks ago here in the US, and I’d like to focus on the process that results in biological motherhood: pregnancy. Stephanie Grey talked on Biola’s Think Biblically podcast back in January and mentioned the pro-abortion objection that since a mother isn’t legally obligated to give a sick child one of her kidneys, a mother shouldn’t be obligated to give the unborn child her uterus. Stephanie’s response was extremely insightful and one that I think will resonate with technical-minded people in particular. Let’s work through that today.
As we just celebrated Mother’s Day, I saw an interesting response to a pro-life Twitter thread. The pro-life tweet had pointed out that the baby had separate DNA and was not part of the mother’s body, and therefore was a separate life that needed to be respected. An abortion supporter agreed that the baby was indeed a separate body, but then proceeded to say that abortion was still acceptable because the baby’s body was dependent on the mother’s body. Did she have a valid point? Let’s work through that today.
I was recently involved in a strange Twitter debate with an abortion supporter who argued that the fetus was a part of the mother. I suppose this was based on the silly “my body, my choice” mantra, but it surprised me that someone would actually consider that slogan a serious reason, particularly in this age of increasing medical knowledge. But despite all evidence to the contrary, she insisted on believing that abortion was a matter of “healthcare” for the mother because the mother was the only individual involved since the fetus was a part of her body. Abortion supporters have even tried saying that the baby was part of the mother’s body because of the umbilical cord (which only connects the two together to provide nourishment to the baby’s separate body). Sadly, this level of scientific ignorance is rampant in our culture, so let’s see what medical experts have to say. And, as always, don’t just take my word for it; do the research for yourself. Now, let’s get to work.
If you’ve followed this blog for long, you know I am pro-life, both on religious grounds and on scientific grounds. In a recent discussion on Twitter, I made a point I have made before, that the fetus cannot be a part of the mother’s body (as many pro-abortion advocates say), partly because the fetus has different DNA from the mother. Later in the discussion, an objection was raised to this point that I hadn’t heard before, so let’s work through that today.
For those who may have been living under a rock the last 60+ years, DNA is the complex molecule Deoxyribonucleic Acid found in every living cell that stores the “blueprint” for that person. First discovered in 1869, it’s structure was finally determined in 1953, and the staggering informational content fully mapped in 2003. After that slow start, our knowledge about DNA and uses for that knowledge have increased dramatically over the years. Some of the most common uses of DNA testing include determining parentage, convicting guilty criminals (or exonerating those wrongly convicted), and identifying partial or unrecognizable remains. Essentially, these examples use DNA to verify the unique identity of individual persons. Now combine that with the well-established fact that by the time fertilization is complete (within 24 hours of the joining of sperm and oocyte), and while still only a single cell, a developing baby has DNA distinct from either parent. The obvious conclusion, biologically, is that this rapidly developing organism is not the same organism as the mother.
Now, the objection raised was that unique DNA doesn’t determine how many lives are present because of the existence of chimeras. What’s that, you ask? A chimera, outside of the mythological monster from which the name is drawn, is an organism with two (or more) distinct sets of DNA. Though not “new” in terms of existence, the first confirmation of a natural human chimera was in 1953 when a woman in England donated blood and it was found to contain two different blood types in one sample. As our knowledge of genetics has grown and DNA testing has become more commonplace, so too has observance of this phenomenon. for instance, a woman needed a kidney transplant in 1998, but when her 3 sons were tested as potential donors, 2 of them were determined, based on DNA, not to be her biological sons, even though she had given birth to them. Then in 2003, a woman in Washington filed for welfare benefits for her children and was denied, with accusations of welfare fraud pending, because her 2 children were determined not to be hers. A 3rd child was born while this was being investigated, so that birth and an immediate DNA test of both mother and child were witnessed by an officer of the state. Again, the DNA test showed different parentage for the child just born. What happened in each of these cases? Each of these 3 women had been twins. The Englishwoman in 1953 had a twin brother who had died shortly after birth. Cells had been shared between the two early in the pregnancy. The other 2 women were both the result of fused embryos, or a “vanishing twin”. Two oocytes had been fertilized by two sperm, resulting in twin zygotes. Early in the pregnancy, however, the two zygotes merged into one. Because they were separate zygotes, they each had different DNA. However, because this occurs very early in development, the zygote is still a collection of totipotent cells (meaning each cell at this stage can still become any cell in the human body, i.e. they have not differentiated into their separate lines of specialized cells for organ generation). When the twin zygotes (call them A & B) fused together, some of the cell from twin A went on to form various body parts like the skin cells inside the cheek where DNA samples are often taken. Cells from twin B went on to form other body parts such as the ovaries that would be responsible for producing children “not her own”. A third scenario, Fetal Microchimerism, or FMc, is much more common and is when cells from the blood of the fetus and/or mother get through the placental barrier to reside in the other person. Cells from their children have been found in the bodies of autopsied women many years after their pregnancies.
Based on these observed cases, we know that a person can have multiple DNA. But does the existence of chimeras refute the idea that the developing baby is a unique individual distinct from the mother? I don’t think so. After all, when a patient receives an organ transplant, the donated organ will have the donor’s DNA rather than that of the recipient; but nobody considers the donor and recipient to be part of the same body. Furthermore, even though the person may have 2 sets of DNA in their body, the transplanted organ is only one organ, and cannot become anything more. A zygote, on the other hand, is capable of developing into a mature human, and is, in fact, directing much of the pregnancy. The case of cells passing between twins in utero, as in the 1953 English case, is really no different than the case of organ donation between adults. The case of fused zygotes is more extreme in that all of the “donor” has been passed to the recipient, but the concept of a donor providing some portion of a recipient’s organs still applies. Because the transfer of genetic information occurs at such an early stage, it’s impossible to know which organs formed from donor and which from recipient without some kind of comprehensive test that is not practical at this point, but it’s important to remember that neither zygote had the same DNA as the mother, so the resulting chimera is still not part of the mother’s body no matter how you look at it. As far as fetal microchimerism, we are only talking about a few individual cells from a genetically unique human (i.e. the baby) passing through the barrier that normally separates the baby’s blood from the mother’s, and residing in the body of another genetically unique human (i.e. the mother). The fact that a few of the baby’s cells migrate into the mother’s body (and vice versa) no more make the baby part of her body than an organ donor’s cells inside a recipient’s body makes the donor part of the recipient.
Does the chimeric objection succeed? No. Even with individual persons not necessarily being limited to only one DNA in their body, the baby is at all stages of development a separate, self-contained organism temporarily residing in the mother for nourishment and protective environment, and not a “part” of her that just has different DNA. All cases of chimerism, both natural and artificially induced, come about from the involvement to one degree or another of a second, genetically distinct organism. The different DNA confirms this and actually bolsters our understanding of a baby as a genetically unique individual from conception.
Further reading: “The Human Chimera: Legal Problems Arising From Individuals with Multiple Types of DNA“, by Robert Russell Granzen, Seton Hall Law School, 2014, was a thorough and interesting read on the matter.
I attended my state’s March For Life at our State Capitol this past Sunday, mourning the last 45 years of legalized abortion here in America. Afterwards, I had an unusual conversation with a gentlemen who claimed to be pro-life. Throughout the rally, he had been holding up a sign that advocated putting women in jail who sought abortions. This was the first time I’d seen anyone at a pro-life rally who advocated that, so we had an odd, but civil, conversation afterward. From the last 2 posts this month, and previous posts on the subject of abortion, you can see for yourself that I consider abortion to be the intentional killing of a living, innocent, human person – and therefore murder. So if abortion is murder, why would I and most pro-life people disagree with the gentleman I spoke to regarding the prosecution of women seeking abortions? Let’s work through that today.
- The abortionist, as the one actually committing (and profiting from) the deed, and possessing sufficient medical training to know what it is that he is doing, will always bear the larger moral responsibility for an abortion. This is partly why pro-lifers consistently argue for punishment for the abortionist performing these procedures rather than the women seeking them. For instance, in a dismemberment abortion, the abortionist tears the arms and legs from the torso, then crushes the skull of the baby so that it may be sucked out of the womb through a vacuum hose. Because of the possibility of infection if any of the baby’s body parts are left in the womb to rot, the abortionist must examine the remains and account for all of them. While the woman may be told that her baby was just an “undifferentiated clump of cells”, the abortionist is able to visually confirm that that is simply not the case. He is without excuse.
- This brings up a 2nd point: lies women believe. Many women have fallen for the lies that the new life they carry is “just a clump of cells”, “similar to a polyp or cyst”, “not human yet”, “not alive yet”, or “a part of their body to do with as they please.” It grieves me to hear responses like those from women (and men who feel they are being supportive of “women’s rights” by parroting the abortion talking points). The case for life is robust, both philosophically and scientifically. But sadly, pro-abortion lies like “My body, my choice” can be chanted and carried on signs far easier than a discussion of the verifiable different DNA between mother and baby. But since women do believe these lies, and hence do believe that they are simply getting rid of something less than human, I don’t fault them for making a tragic decision based on the false information given them by groups like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW and others who claim to have their best interests in mind. Rather, I, and so many other pro-lifers, seek to educate women (and men) everywhere on the amazingly complex development going on largely unseen in the womb. Education dispels ignorance, and science is strongly on the side of life. In fact, some of the most outspoken pro-lifers have been former abortionists who could no longer ignore the clear scientific facts staring at them from an ultrasound machine, or the clearly human remains they were disposing of (Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Dr. Joseph Randall, Dr. Anthony Levatino, among many others over the years).
- While the baby killed is clearly a victim in an abortion, many women do not leave the abortion unscathed. While there are the pregnant women who actually die in abortions, and other who suffer from medical complications afterward, I’m actually talking about the women who have regrets for an irreversible action that can’t be undone later; the women who suffer from guilt and wonder what that child might’ve grown up to be; and the women who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts after the abortion, as found in a 1996 study in Finland .
- We have a standard in the US of “innocent until proven guilty”. While the abortionist is clearly guilty, the case of the women involved is not nearly so clear cut. The expectant mother has often been lied to and misinformed, and may be scared of the consequences of her pregnancy and unaware of life-protecting options like adoption. Therefore it is better to err on the side of giving them the benefit of the doubt.
- Some women are pressured into abortions by abusive husbands, boyfriends unwilling to man up and take responsibility for the child they helped create, parents threatening to kick their pregnant daughter out of the house unless she aborts, pimps who know how much money they will lose out on if one of the girls they prostitute is pregnant for 9 months, or the government in the case of China.
These are some reasons why pro-lifers reach out with compassion to abortive mothers. As Robert P. George so succinctly stated, “We are interested in saving babies, not punishing mothers. And we know that we don’t need to punish mothers to save babies.” So as Christians we follow Paul’s command to speak the “truth in love” [Eph 4:15], educating people who may possibly not understand the significance of what they do or advocate. And if you are considering an abortion, please call 1-800-848-LOVE to speak to a counselor or to find one of the 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers nationwide near you. They can help you make the best choice for yourself… and your baby.
 http://www.bmj.com/content/313/7070/1431.full. This result is interesting in a country that provides free abortions and isn’t noted for associating any stigma with abortion.
 https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/03/trump-is-no-pro-lifer. Regarding George’s main premise about Trump in his article, I will only say that I have been pleasantly surprised with Trump’s continued support of life and hope that Mr. Trump continues to prove us wrong who were skeptics of the genuineness of his seemingly recent pro-life views.
Last week, we looked at the first eight of sixteen statements phrased as fill-in-the-blank sentences that are showing up on billboards in Cleveland, Ohio supporting the barbaric practice of abortion. Today, I’d like to work through the remaining eight.
- “Abortion is life-saving. “ The irony of this statement would be comical if it weren’t such tragic disinformation. A successful abortion necessarily kills an innocent human. That’s not life-saving; that’s life-destroying. And while there are still cases where carrying the baby to term truly endangers the mother’s life, such as ectopic (tubal) pregnancies or uterine cancer where treatment may kill the baby and non-treatment may kill the mother, these are the exception and make up a minuscule portion of abortions. Interestingly, former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said in 1980, “In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life.” Even Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood, stated in 1967 that “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.” And genuine life-saving technology has only improved since then, thus further reducing the likelihood of actually needing an abortion.
- “Abortion is a parenting decision. “ If so, then it’s a tragic and often uninformed or misinformed parenting decision. Unfortunately, too many mothers believe the lies that their baby is simply a “clump of cells” or “a parasite”, or “only a potential human”, and make bad, irreversible “parenting” decisions. But parenting is more than just biology. A parent protects, nourishes, and loves their children, and prepares them for adulthood. To have the child killed is antithetical to the common idea of what makes a “good” parent, for it is opposed to a foundational goal of parenting: desiring the good of your children.
- “Abortion is liberty. “ I think this misunderstanding comes from the notion of liberty being unrestrained ability to do anything you desire. That is simply untrue. I am never free to murder my neighbor, nor am I free to steal his car for the fun of it. Liberty is the freedom to do what is right. Freedom of choice does not entail the freedom to choose wrong or to violate someone else’s rights, which is precisely what happens when the unborn baby is deprived of that most fundamental right – the right to one’s own life.
- “Abortion is a second chance. “ The hidden assumption of this statement is that bringing a new life into the world is a) a mistake, and b) one that can simply be erased like an Etch-a-Sketch via abortion. Even if a baby is “unplanned”, or “inconvenient”, or the result of a one-night-stand, affair, or even a rape – are any of these a good reason to kill an innocent baby? Where is the baby’s first chance to live and make a difference in this world?
- “Abortion is hope. “ Hope achieved at the expense of another’s life is not any kind of genuine hope to offer people, but is only the vice of selfishness repackaged as a virtue. Thinking the deliberate killing of a child brings hope is to assume the child is some kind of anchor holding the mother down, and that abortion can realize the hope of release from such a weighty burden. Yet this goes completely contrary to the beautiful, nurturing nature of motherhood, that routinely sacrifices self for the child. Our next generation isn’t a burden holding us down, but rather our successors that we give a step up to so that they can achieve more than we did, just as we tried to build on what our parents did for us. Abortion actually turns the advancement of civilization on its head.
- “Abortion is health care. “ Calling the ending of someone’s life without their consent “health care” is just as much Orwellian “newspeak” as calling a government propaganda department the “Ministry of Truth”. When the intent of a procedure is to take a healthy living human and make them dead, that is as far from health care as can be conceived.
- “Abortion is sacred. “ This is perhaps the most egregious of the slogans. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the intended meaning here was “entitled to reverence and respect” or “highly valued and important”, and not the religious uses of the word “sacred”. Even so, those are hardly words that should be used to describe what is at best a tragic loss of life, even in the rare cases when a mother’s life is in danger.
- “Abortion is right for me. “ Dear reader, if you are considering an abortion, I hope these previous 7 responses, and the 8 from last week, have helped you see why abortion is not right for you. All of the statements examined these two weeks try to deflect your attention away from one simple question: is the object of discussion an innocent… living… human… person? If it is (and I believe there are good reasons to say it is), then there are no good reasons that can justify killing it.
What are some alternatives to abortion that would be right for you? The times that stretch us beyond what we thought we could withstand are often the times we grow the most. If you don’t feel like you could take care of a baby, consider the generations of women before that opted to push through the trials and raise a kid amidst financial uncertainty, poverty, food scarcity, war, and a host of other struggles. How many of us were “unplanned”, and caused years of sacrifice for our parents? And yet, if that was you, aren’t you glad you got the chance to live? But if your situation really does preclude raising your child, adoption is another option. Is your pregnancy burdensome? As difficult as it may seem, it is a temporary burden, while abortion is an action with permanent consequences. Seek support during this difficult time and persevere until birth so that someone else can offer your child the opportunities you can’t. In closing, everyone comes to this decision with their own story, their own questions, and fears, and concerns. If you’re trying to decide between abortion and giving birth, let me point you to a nationwide toll-free number you can call or text anytime to talk to someone about your specific situation. There is likely a pregnancy resource center near you that may even be able to offer you services like ultrasound, but this number will get you started, wherever you are in the US: 1-800-848-LOVE (5683).
 Koop and Guttmacher quoted at http://abort73.com/end_abortion/is_abortion_ever_justified, accessed 2018-01-14. Although I prefer to set eyes on primary sources to confirm a quote is authentic and in context, I was not able to find the sources referenced online or for sale in print. If you have a copy of Guttmacher’s book Abortion–Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: The Case for Legalized Abortion Now (Berkeley, CA: Diablo Press, 1967), or the May 1980 issue of Moody Monthly that you would be willing to donate or sell me, please contact me.
 George Orwell, 1984. A good read, I might add.
We often don’t make the best decisions under stress. Salespeople often count on that impulsiveness to make a sale. That’s why, when faced with a big decision like a major purchase, the old advice is to “sleep on it.” Don’t make an impulse buy, but take some time to deliberate on it first. Sometimes, though, major life decisions are forced on you without warning. Sometimes, you’ve done everything right,
and despite your best efforts to avoid bad situations, you find your self in a tough spot, having to make a life-altering decision. Although you can’t prepare for every conceivable scenario, it’s still a good idea to work through how you would respond to a tough situation before you get in that situation. For instance, you’re less likely to cheat on an exam or steal something, regardless of the circumstances, if you’ve made the conscious decision that you won’t in advance, away from the pressure of the moment. You’re less likely to cheat on your spouse if you’ve thought through the tragic consequences of an affair before you find yourself in a tempting situation, where hormones tend to push reason out the window. But what if you’re the victim of a crime? Not just any crime, but a rape, that most invasive of crimes? What if you’re now pregnant with the child of your rapist?
Abortion is a sensitive subject that arouses strong responses on both sides of the debate. One of the most sensitive points in that debate is the case of a pregnancy resulting from rape. While this actually accounts for a very small number of abortions, it is nonetheless an emotionally powerful example. But let’s step back from the heat of the fight, and look at that case calmly and reasonably, and perhaps see a flaw in assuming abortion is a good solution for the rape victim. While a rape is, by definition, involuntary, how one responds is within one’s control. In the aftermath, it may be tempting to get rid of the most obvious effect of a rape-induced pregnancy: the baby. But here’s precisely where one needs reason to avoid a very permanent mistake. Rape is often used as an “obvious” justification for abortion, yet who is being punished here? The guilty rapist, the perpetrator of the awful crime? Unfortunately, no. The innocent baby is getting the death sentence, not the deserving rapist. While the rape is certainly a traumatic experience for the mother, aborting the baby is tragically misplaced retribution that won’t bring genuine healing to her and most likely won’t even affect the rapist. Surely, the baby should not be required to take the punishment for the rapist’s crime, and pay with her life? This only takes one wrong, and adds another to it. Yet, as they say, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” The abortion does not change the fact of the rape, and only adds to that wrong the death of one who had absolutely no say in how they were conceived. So how could one turn this wrong back to right?
The concept of redemption is a huge part of the Bible. Indeed, the Bible is the record of God’s redemption of humankind as it has played out through history and on into the future. He brings good out of the most vile situations. Likewise, the act of choosing life for the baby can redeem even that vile act and turn it to good. In fact, I saw a speaker recently, Monica Kelsey, who is a firefighter and medic. She was also the result of her mother’s rape, and almost the victim of an abortion. But because her mother chose life for her innocent baby at the last minute, that baby has grown up and is saving lives as well. As she says, “her life was saved so she can save others”. It’s easy to talk about abortion simply as an act of compassion for the mother that was attacked before you meet people like that and realize there are 2 victims in those cases, and you don’t help the first victim by killing the second.
Lastly, I want to say, if you, dear reader, are already in this situation, and considering abortion, I ask you to hit “pause” for a moment, and reconsider. Call 1-800-848-LOVE, 24/7/365 or visit http://www.nrlc.org/help/ to learn about the life-giving options available. You and your baby don’t have to be defined by what happened to you.