Calvin Freiburger

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Academic activists hijack science to boost abortion in prestigious journal

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August 22, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – One of the most pernicious aspects of modern politics is the way the Left uses its dominance of elite, seemingly-impartial publications and organizations to make claims that are subjective at best and fraudulent at worst but wrap them in a veneer of objectivity and authority.

Today’s example comes courtesy of Scientific American, which has published an op-ed by behavioral neuroscientist Nicole Baran, environmental scientist Gretchen Goldman, and ecologist Jane Zelikova claiming that pro-life lawmakers across the country are trying to “falsely use the language and authority of science to justify denying people their basic human rights and inflict lasting harm.”

(Pro tip: If a group of scientists want to pass themselves off as “uniquely positioned to use our privilege and position in society” to speak out against the ideological exploitation of science – despite none of them being an embryologist – it might be a good idea to lay off the NARAL rhetoric about a “human right” to abort tiny humans.)

So-called heartbeat bills, which ban abortion as early as after six weeks of pregnancy, are not based on science. In fact, no heart yet exists in an embryo at six weeks. Yet six states and counting enacted such bills in 2019, in addition to Alabama’s near-total ban. 

Follow the links and you’ll find the basis for this remarkable claim is a handful of doctors who told The Cut that the “cardiac activity” tested for under heartbeat laws is actually “electrical activity, which will eventually control the heart rate” but begins before the heart itself has actually formed. Which is fascinating, but not exactly the gotcha the authors imagined.

First, pro-lifers didn’t make up the fetal heartbeat; we simply followed what we’ve learned from mainstream biology. Anatomy & Physiology, a textbook used by universities across the United States and Canada, teaches that the heart “begins beating and pumping blood around day 21 or 22, a mere three weeks after fertilization,” with the physical structure taking shape a week later and valves forming between weeks five and nine.

Second, even if the testing only picked up signals, the question would remain: signals of what? Electrical activity without an organ to receive it would still be a sign of life. Shouldn’t that sort of thing be kind of important to scientists who wrote an article invoking “human rights” four times?

Equally unscientific “abortion reversal” laws are also gaining traction (...) The idea of abortion reversal is based on a single study of six participants that was (poorly) conducted without an ethics review board. The so-called abortion reversal procedure is experimental and has neither been clinically tested nor approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Last month, pro-life OB/GYN Dr. William Lile released a video explaining that while abortion reversal itself may be fairly new, it’s based on principles that are well-understood from progesterone’s common, FDA-approved use in a variety of other pregnancy-related situations. Further, because inducing chemical abortions just to see how many can be reversed would be wildly unethical, tallying reports from real-world use is basically our only ethical way to judge the protocol’s effectiveness.

Anti-choice groups continue to invoke science in support of their cause. Case in point: this year the March for Life, a protest against the practice and legality of abortion, falsely claimed that science is on the side of the anti-choice movement.

This link goes to a STAT News article about researchers who claim pro-lifers are anti-science for opposing the use of fetal tissue derived from abortions, a claim that’s laughable on its face because it’s a stance on medical ethics, not a statement on the merits of research; and because experts such as biochemist/molecular biologist Dr. Tara Sander Lee have testified in detail about the abundance of alternative sources for equally-valuable human tissue.

But this passage is telling for another reason: the March for Life’s point, quoted but not confronted by STAT, was not about any of the peripheral issues by that science conclusively, overwhelmingly establishes that abortion’s victims are alive, human, and “unique from day one.” Yet on the central scientific question of the entire abortion debate, Baran, Goldman, and Zelikova have nothing to say. They ignore it completely, apparently hoping they’ve bamboozled readers with enough indignant rhetoric that they won’t notice.

Apparently having run out of science to distort, they devote the rest of the article to more general pro-abortion myths, including that pro-life laws are ineffective (false) and dangerous (wrong), that Georgia could lock people up for miscarriages (nonsense), and that the “modern anti-abortion agenda itself is grounded in racism” (come on). They conclude with a plea to donate time and money to Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU, and other pro-abortion groups.

Because their only concern is for “science-based decision-making.” Sure.

It’s a reminder of the challenge facing pro-lifers, and a damning indictment of Scientific American’s current stewards that a magazine with such a long and distinguished history of advancing knowledge is lending credence to such hackery. But those armed with the truth need not be intimidated; no matter how prestigious the name attached, it only takes a little scrutiny for a lie to start falling apart.

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Calvin Freiburger

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Calvin Freiburger is a Wisconsin-based conservative writer and 2011 graduate of Hillsdale College. His commentary and analysis have been featured on NewsReal Blog, Live Action, and various other conservative websites. Before joining LifeSiteNews, he spent two years in Washington, DC, working to build support for the Life at Conception Act with the National Pro-Life Alliance, then worked a year and a half as assistant editor of TheFederalistPapers.org. You can follow him on Twitter @CalFreiburger, and check out his personal website, ConservativeStandards.com.