Abortion is not the killing of a human being. It is only in the most simplistic and fanciful fairy-tale of human life and fully formed pre-existing souls that such a view is tenable. The harm that might be done by an abortion is to the pregnant woman. This can only be made worse by hatred and condemnation.
An article in The Observer (08/05/22) reported a scientist, Giandomenico Iannetti, claiming anti-abortion lawyers had misused his research in claiming that a cerebral cortex isn’t necessary to feel pain. In any case, it is very unclear how, who or what could be “feeling pain” without a cerebral cortex to register it or to apply it to a personality. As the Observer article states, “John Wood, professor of neurobiology at UCL, said, ‘all serious scientists’ agreed a foetus cannot feel pain until 24 weeks, ‘and perhaps not even then.’”
It is extremely worrying (and dangerous) that a majority of Supreme court justices, women and men who are supposed to have dedicated their lives to reasoned thought and making wise and studied judicial choices, should be incapable of rising above such sentimentality. Are these the best and wisest legal minds that the whole, great American nation, all 330 million of them, could come up with?
But, of course, they aren’t, because supreme court justices are appointed by the president. So, if a popularist candidate, pedalling the simplest, emotive narratives of us and them, good and evil, appealing to the lowest common denominators of voter motivation, becomes president (God forbid!), he is able to appoint supreme court justices in his own image. They will be equally prejudiced, irrationally emotional, thoughtless and intolerant, while far greater legal minds languish lower down the hierarchy, having their far wiser decisions over-ruled by these angry bigots.
For this reason, the judiciary must, must, remain independent from the legislature. This is the case in Britain, but the conservative party, and its right-wing media attack dogs, have been threatening it. We must stand firm.
The “pro-life” movement is pioneered by the religious right, and religion’s great appeal is ability to reduce the distressing complexity of life, both scientifically and philosophically, to nice, simple narratives. In this case, the problem is explaining how what appears to be disgusting, insensate human effluvia: spunk and menstrual matter, could combine to produce the miracle of human sentience. Christianity’s answer? Humans must pre-exist, lined up in heaven by God’s angels, in neat rows, like cherubic paratroopers, waiting for the signal to be injected into a fertilized egg.
Possibly, this is no more plausible than the agnostic scientist’s belief that life is incredibly complex, whether or not there is a god, and is beyond the paltry human’s brain, so that parts of its procedures extend far beyond the limits of our comprehension, into the apparently incomprehensible and inexplicable, the miraculous and transcendent.
Of course, a fertilised egg, a zygote, even a young foetus, are not yet human, as we would understand it, although they have the capacity to be, because they are not yet conscious or sentient. As Jon Ronson explores in his excellent BBC Radio 4 series Things Fell Apart, most Christian fundamentalists saw no problem with abortion until the 1970s, anyway, seeing it as a Roman Catholic issue, until an influential pair of Christian documentaries kick-started the movement.
So Christian anti-abortion thought is a fashion. What has given it such a boost in recent times? So we arrive back at the same question I am always asking: what has made the Far-right so resurgent?