Human anatomy, life’s origins, and the abortion question

By Steve Rupp

Editor’s note. Mr. Rupp is the president of Missouri Right to Life. This op-ed appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Missouri Right to Life worked hard to help pass Missouri House Bill 126 this past legislative session. The legislation is designed to save the lives of innocent children in the safety of their mother’s wombs and save their parents from the physical, emotional and spiritual pain associated with abortion. Several aspects of the bill have gone into law. Other aspects are currently being reviewed in court.

One would think that the goals of this bill — saving lives and saving parents pain — would be universally applauded. But in today’s increasingly divisive culture, that is not always the case. An example of that divisiveness was featured in a Post-Dispatch op-ed, “Why are lawmakers inserting themselves into private matters?” (June 4).

Two medical students from Washington University wrote in this paper of “human anatomy,” “patient autonomy” and “evidence-based care” as it relates to abortion. Unfortunately, they left out explanations of human anatomy, patient autonomy and evidence-based care in abortion. They concentrated exclusively on the mother’s rights while completely ignoring the object of the abortion — the child in her womb. Let me fill in the blanks.

The students wrote, “In medical school we first learn about human anatomy.” And human anatomy starts with conception. Medical students build their knowledge of the human body from there. They learn that the human heart starts to beat at approximately 21 days, the brain begins to function at about six weeks, and that quickening occurs around 20 weeks. I’m sure these medical students learned that the child going through these various stages of life is also the doctor’s patient.

An obstetrician-gynecologist is responsible for both the mother and her child. Doctors today are performing surgery on children in the womb to correct a number of conditions. When the medical students stated that they are taught “to respect patient autonomy,” they forgot to mention the autonomy of their other patient — the child in the womb. Why did they exclude this patient? Could it be that they are afraid to confront the reality of what abortion is?

That brings us to “evidence-based care.” The evidence in an abortion is clear. The very intent of an abortion is to kill a living human being in his or her mother’s womb and then remove that dead child from the womb — usually in pieces. That’s a hard sentence to write. Maybe that’s why the medical students avoided it. Instead, the students used euphemisms like “women’s health care,” “reproductive health care” and “compassionate care.” Those abortion euphemisms may salve the conscience, but they certainly don’t address the brutality of abortion.

The students wrote in their piece, “A solution to this conflict is to treat abortion no differently than any other procedure in medicine.” Except that no other procedure in medicine takes the life of an innocent, living human being. No other procedure in medicine requires that all the pieces of a dismembered child have to be accounted for to ensure none of the child’s body parts are left inside the mother. Another ghastly sentence to write.

Another fact conveniently absent from the student’s defense of abortion: A failed abortion generally means some baby body parts were left inside the mother, which can threaten the mother’s health and even her life. Abortion is not like any other procedure in medicine. For these students to insinuate that it is, is either incredibly naive or incredibly disingenuous.

Coincidentally, according to the Post-Dispatch on June 11, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services withheld Planned Parenthood’s yearly license because the department allegedly found instances of multiple failed abortions.

If the students were honest in their reporting on abortion, they would forgo the euphemisms and disingenuous comparisons to “every other procedure in medicine.” An honest reporting would rewrite their statement to read: A solution to this conflict is to treat poisoning and dismembering children in the womb no differently than any other procedure in medicine.

If that honesty were reported in every news story on this issue, abortion might become unthinkable again. We can only pray.