Washington D.C., Feb 4, 2019 / 16:48 pm
In a radio interview last week, the embattled governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, outlined his support for a controversial state abortion bill. Speaking about the bill, he outlined a "discussion" about the fate of children who survived in-labor abortions, appearing to many to support to a measure that would offer infanticide by another name.
Northam remains in the news for other reasons. But the weight of his comments, and the unexpectedly transparent image they offer of "pro-choice" ambitions, will not disappear from the public agenda.
Scientific fact, not just consensus, has long since established that a new life begins at conception.
That children in the womb are alive is not a matter of scientific dispute. Leaving aside the bedrock argument that each new zygote possesses a unique genetic code, from the earliest weeks of pregnancy demonstrable signs of life in a developing baby are obvious: brain function, heartbeat, functioning nervous system are all detectable at early gestational ages.
Medical advances now mean that children can, and routinely do, survive outside the womb at ever earlier gestational ages. Birth at 26 weeks, less than two-thirds of the way through pregnancy, now comes with a near 80% chance of survival.
In the face of these facts, the pro-abortion argument is no longer about about whether developing unborn children are human beings - if it ever really was - but about which people are "persons," with lives deserving of legal protection.
Personhood was recognized as the essential criterion in the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, in which Justice Blackmun conceded that the argument for legal abortion collapses if the unborn child is a person under law.
Thanks to science, dividing human life from human personhood is the last philosophical refuge of the pro-abortion lobby, and one with even darker implications than denying that unborn life exists in the first place.
For sure, some rights are qualified by our ability to exercise them. Children do not attain full exercise of their rights, like voting, until a certain age, though this does not mitigate their legal personhood. The founding dogma of our nation includes certain "inalienable rights," the first of which is life.
But if the right to life is not inalienable from conception itself, when then is it acquired?
Popular sentiment, at least among media and cultural elites, now places the right to life as a consequence of birth. But in our medical age, what does that even mean?
The media has no shortage of coverage of babies "born twice" thanks to life-saving prenatal surgery outside the womb: which birth is supposed to confer personhood under law?