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The abortion industry refuses to follow the science

Woman holds ultrasound images
Woman holds ultrasound images | Getty Images/Westend61

Few of us will ever have the privilege of arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court.  Fewer still will be directly involved in a case as potentially historic as Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Clinic, this fall’s case regarding Mississippi’s 15-week limit on late abortion.

So, we were more than a little surprised recently to read the abortion industry’s “response brief” in the Dobbs case, which features outdated science, flawed analysis, and a disregard for peer-reviewed, evidence-based research.  Is the abortion industry really that desperate?

Mississippi’s 15-week limit reflects the fact that unborn babies are human beings who experience pain, and by logical extension, the state has a legitimate interest in protecting these children.  The abortion industry attempts to dismiss this reasoning on pages 31-34 of their response brief, asserting that the argument that “conscious awareness, including the experience of pain, is possible before viability is even less supportable today than it was at the time of Casey.”

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As proof, the abortion industry cites a well-worn 2010 study from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Fetal Awareness: Review of Research and Recommendations for Practice, co-authored by Dr. Stuart Derbyshire, an internationally known, pro-choice neuroscientist who has argued against the existence of fetal pain since 1994.

Except that in 2020, Dr. Derbyshire changed his professional opinion about fetal pain.  In response to a growing body of evidence, Dr. Derbyshire published an article in the prestigious BMJ Journal of Medical Ethicspostulating fetal pain experience “from as early as 12 weeks.” 

How did the abortion industry miss that?

On page 27, they confidently assert that “the claim that abortion harms women’s mental health has been roundly rejected by medical consensus.”  The medical consensus of whom?  Their only citation for this “consensus” is a report by the National Academy of Sciences that was exclusively staffed by abortion advocates that failed to include a systematic review of the scientific literature on abortion and mental health.  There is a significant difference between following the science and disregarding inconvenient science.

By contrast, a review of the literature by the pro-abortion American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion concluded that “it is clear that some women do experience sadness, grief, and feelings of loss following termination of a pregnancy, and some experience clinically significant disorders, including depression and anxiety.”  Similarly, a subsequent comprehensive review of abortion and mental health published in Sage Open Medicineconcludes it is settled science that abortion contributes to mental illness; the only debate is when, if ever, it is the “sole cause” of mental illnesses. 

You might say, “Well, these are lawyers, not scientists, so it’s understandable they made a few mistakes.”  In that case, shouldn’t high-priced Washington lawyers at least be proficient in their analysis of international law?

Think again.  On page 22, the abortion industry characterizes international abortion laws as more liberal than Mississippi and references an unspecified “overwhelming” trend.  On the contrary, a recent Charlotte Lozier Institute analysis finds that 47 out of 50 European nations limit elective abortion prior to 15 weeks — which makes Mississippi’s 15-week limit mainstream by comparison.

Broadening our scope, additional CLI research shows that the United States is one of only a small handful of nations, including China and North Korea, to allow elective abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Note to the abortion industry:  the overwhelming global trend is not in favor of abortion on demand, with no regard for the age of the unborn baby.

Why is the abortion industry so desperate to ignore the science, denying that unborn babies feel pain and that abortion can harm a woman’s mental health?  Presumably to salve their conscience about dismembering fellow human beings.

This week the abortion industry asked the Supreme Court of the United States to join them in ignoring the science, reinforcing the fact that Roe and Casey are half a century out of date.  It’s time to modernize our laws.

Tara Sander Lee, Ph.D., is senior fellow and director of life sciences at Charlotte Lozier Institute.
Angelina B. Nguyen, J.D., is an associate scholar at Charlotte Lozier Institute and works in the areas of civil rights, employment law, and higher education.

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