October 21, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The biological beginning of human life has never been as controversial as the political battle over abortion would suggest, with research released this summer finding that even biologists who vote for and support legal abortion admit the procedure’s victims were alive at the moment of fertilizaiton.
Steve Jacobs is a recent Ph.D graduate from the University of Chicago’s Department of Comparative Human Development. For his dissertation, he chose to attempt a “Mixed Methods Mediation of the U.S. Abortion Debate,” which sought to obtain a comprehensive understanding of both sides’ answers to numerous factual and legal aspects of the issue.
Jacobs detailed his findings this month with an article in Quillette. He found that 82 percent of Americans recognize “when life begins” as important to understanding an issue, that 93 percent agree human life should be legally protected once it begins, and that 80 percent believe biologists were most qualified to answer when it begins. So he designed a survey and sent it to the biology departments of more than a thousand academic institutions worldwide.
“As the usable responses began to come in, I found that 5,337 biologists (96 percent) affirmed that a human’s life begins at fertilization, with 240 (4 percent) rejecting that view,” Jacobs wrote. “The majority of the sample identified as liberal (89 percent), pro-choice (85 percent) and non-religious (63 percent). In the case of Americans who expressed party preference, the majority identified as Democrats (92 percent).”
He added that, despite taking pains to phrase his questions technically and neutrally, he received a number of hostile responses from academics who dismissed the survey as “some stupid right to life thing,” a “religious survey,” and even a “studied fund (sic) by Trump and ku klux klan,” with one respondent noting that he or she would “do my best to disseminate this info to make sure that none of my naïve colleagues fall into this trap.”
Jacobs added that such views could be attributed to respondents experiencing “cognitive dissonance when they recognize that their view of a fetus as a human complicates their political convictions,” fear that a straight answer “could lead to other people supporting abortion restrictions,” and fear that acknowledging the science “may serve to estrange them from pro-choice liberals, on whom they might rely for social, emotional, or financial support.”
Despite the hostility of abortion defenders, Jacobs’ findings are consistent with long-settled biological criteria, reflected in numerous mainstream scientific and medical textbooks, which establishes that a living human being is created upon fertilization and is present throughout the entirety of pregnancy.
Many abortionists and pro-abortion activists and philosophers admit as much, granting preborn babies’ humanity while either claiming a mother’s “bodily autonomy” trumps a baby’s rights or drawing a philosophical distinction between humans and persons (subjective value claims which pro-life philosophers have extensively challenged).
Jacobs also found that a majority of both “pro-life” and “pro-choice” Americans said they could accept a “comprehensive policy compromise that provides entitlements to pregnant women, improves the adoption process for parents, permits abortion in extreme circumstances, and restricts elective abortion after the first trimester,” akin to the abortion regimes of various European countries.
Jacobs’ work first garnered national attention this summer over an intermediary paper released ahead of the dissertation itself, which highlighted his findings related to when life begins. In July, he told the Daily Wire that he had to wade through intense opposition – not just from fellow students and survey respondents but from faculty, including his own thesis adviser – to conduct his research, including repeated halts to his work and accusations of ethics violations.
“Academics’ fear of balanced research on the U.S. abortion debate cost me five years of my life,” he said. “I spent those five years in anguish at the realization that representatives of one of the finest academic institutions were willing to sacrifice their principles of academic freedom to protect their ideology; that they were willing to jeopardize their reputation of open inquiry to kill research that explored the dogma surrounding abortion rights. Despite those bad actors, stewards of the UChicago tradition displayed courage in putting aside their biases, upholding their academic principles, and helping me conduct my research.”