Scientific evidence supports a moral opposition to abortion and contraceptives, anti-abortion activists said at the third annual Lives Worthy of Respect Panel on Oct. 18.
The Lives Worthy of Respect Panel was hosted in Dahlgren Chapel by Georgetown University Right to Life and co-sponsored by the Edmund D. Pellegrino Center For Clinical Bioethics, Catholic Ministry, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women at Georgetown and the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life. The event occurred during Respect Life Month, a month dedicated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to celebrating life from conception to natural death.
Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., delivered the event’s opening remarks and previewed this year’s panel theme: “To be Pro-Life is to be Pro-Science.”
“At the heart of this evening, the world of science is not opposed to the world of faith, nor is the world of faith opposed to the world of science,” Gregory said.
The main event featured three Catholic panelists including Sister Grace Miriam Usala (MED ’16), RSM; Dr. Marguerite Duane, adjunct associate professor of family medicine at Georgetown and board-certified family physician; and Maureen Condic, an associate professor of human embryology at the University of Utah who was appointed to the National Science Board, a scientific advisory body, by President Donald Trump in November 2018. Director of the Pellegrino Center Dr. G. Kevin Donovan, a professor of pediatrics at Georgetown, moderated the event.
Science does not acknowledge a fetus’s humanity, allowing proponents of abortion rights to justify the practice, according to Donovan.
“The discussion of a baby in a mother’s womb being aborted, once considered unthinkable, is now tolerable as long as the embryo is not thought of as a human person,” Donovan said. “This perspective sought justification in both a philosophy of personhood and a science of biology that did not recognize the embryo or fetus as a fully human person.”
Society has conditioned women to think pregnancy is a problem they should prevent through contraceptives instead of embracing life created during pregnancy, according to Duane.
Abortion can be compared to racial discrimination, Usala said. Fetuses are considered inhuman on the basis of age in the same way black Americans were considered inhuman for their race, she said.
“What makes someone less human? So we used to think that black people were less human because of their skin color,” Usala said. “So now do we think embryos as not being human because they’re younger? That’s the same logic that a man and a woman can both express, and I’m sorry you’re offended by that, but I’m using logic.”
Several anti-abortion activists and politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), believe in exceptions in the case of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. However, fetuses resulting from cases of rape are innocent and therefore should not be aborted, according to Duane.
“The victim is the woman and the criminal is the rapist, and if a child should result from the act, the unborn child is innocent,” Duane said. “Is killing her child undoing the rape? No — it is another form of physical violence that will only hurt her further.”
The panelists agreed the scientific community unfairly criticizes their credibility because of their commitment to their anti-abortion beliefs. While Condic did not expect much support from professional colleagues, she wasn’t prepared for the pushback she received when she shared her anti-abortion views, she said.
“I was astonished at how unsupportive they were, how blatantly antagonistic and hostile they were.” Condic said. “At no point was it ever a religious argument. It was simply a factual argument, and yet, because the facts only support a conclusion that is consistent with the teachings of the Church, it was interpreted as religious proselytizing, that somehow I was bending facts.”