Roe v. Wade is the essence of science denial, and it has been for nearly 50 years. Yet the 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidates share a vision of America that centers around Roe and its long-debunked scientific notions about human biology.
Ever since the first Democratic presidential debates, the candidates have increasingly asserted their fervent belief in Roe v. Wade — a fallacious decision that is based upon and perpetuates erroneous and obsolete ideas that contradict the fundamental, objective scientific facts of the biological science of human embryology. The most egregious, blatant, and disingenuous of all Roe‘s distortions is its central tenet that it remains a mystery when human life begins.
More, in order to completely obscure the biological truth and redefine human reproduction to satisfy their political point of view, the politicians have announced numerous policies to augment Roe, including the promise to codify this toxic source of misinformation about human development.
Roe v. Wade declares: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”
Since when should those in “medicine, philosophy, and theology” be consulted for such a specifically biological issue when they have no such academic expertise? Most philosophers and theologians have never had a graduate course in biology, much less in human embryology, and most physicians briefly learn about human embryology as part of a broader anatomy course and are not properly considered “scientists.” Human embryology is the study of development of the new individual from beginning to end and is the only science that specializes in when a human life starts; solely the testimonies of those biologists with doctoral degrees in human embryology should, in theory, be consulted. Yet not one human embryologist was allowed to testify during the Roe litigation.
In addition, to help rationalize the decision to reject the concept of “personhood” of the human embryo and fetus until “viability,” cited at the time to be between 24 and 28 weeks, Roe refers to ancient scientific ideas about human reproduction when it claims: “There has always been strong support for the view that life does not begin until live birth. This was the belief of the Stoics.”
The Stoics were a group of Greek philosophers, existing around 300 B.C.E. Are the Democratic presidential candidates endorsing the suggestion that human biology has not advanced for more than 2000 years — and that it will never do so?
Among the scientific experts, there is and has long been an international consensus regarding the beginning of a human life. When a human being — an individual, living member of the human species — begins to exist has been known and documented for more than 100 years and was instituted in 1942 in the Carnegie Stages of Human Embryonic Development. The Carnegie Stages continue to be refined and advanced as the global standard of human embryological research, and Carnegie Stage 1 still documents human sexual reproduction.
Carnegie Stage 1 states that all sexually reproduced human beings begin to exist at the start of the process of fertilization (Carnegie Stage 1a). Human embryologists know that fertilization also initiates the continuum of human life — in other words, after fertilization, the new human being does not become a different kind of thing. He or she continues to grow and develop as the same human organism throughout the rest of the embryonic period, the fetal period, and then after birth, during the subsequent stages of life.
Thus, the term “human embryo” or “human fetus” is simply the scientific name for an already-existing human being during the embryonic or fetal period of human development. Thus, for sexually reproduced human beings, “personhood” begins at fertilization, not at “viability,” “first breath,” or some later point that conveniently fits a popular political, social, or economic narrative.
Under the Supreme Court’s current abortion jurisprudence precedent, as established in Roe v. Wade and modified/upheld in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, states are still prohibited from applying the objective scientific facts and banning abortion prior to “viability.” However, as medical technology has improved, Roe’s fetal “viability” threshold has moved back from 28 weeks — not forward to 40 weeks as imagined by the Democratic presidential hopefuls. In the U.S., infants born at 22 weeks gestation have a nearly 25% survival rate and in Japan, the survival rate is over 30%. In Sweden, for infants younger than 22 weeks gestation, the survival rate has improved from 3.6% to 20% over the last decade.
Rather than pledging allegiance to, expanding upon, and imposing their misconceptions and Roe v. Wade’s absurd “scientific” myths on the American people, the Democratic presidential candidates should acknowledge that the immediate product of human sexual reproduction is both a human being and a human person — and renounce public policies and laws that do not reflect this scientific reality.
Brooke Stanton is the CEO of Contend Projects, a registered 501(c)(3) education organization spreading the basic, accurate scientific facts about when a human life starts and the biological science of human embryology.