The Value of Life: Scientific and Moral Reflections on Abortion

What is life? When and how does it begin? How do we know it’s present? Can we end it? And, if so, under what circumstances?

Around the world people are debating, discussing, arguing and advocating about when human life begins and when it begins to have a moral value. At the very center of the abortion wars is a fundamental difference of opinion about the importance that people assign to life in the womb.

The Value of Life: Scientific and Moral Reflections on Abortion, the new film from Catholics for Choice, explores these critical questions for our age. We brought together experts from science, psychology, medicine and theology to wrestle with questions about the value of life in the womb.

Watch the full film above, or check out each lecture from our experts below.

Life, Abortion and Psychology
Stuart Derbyshire
Associate Professor in Psychology
National University of Singapore

Life, Abortion and Science
Sandy Starr
Deputy Director
Progress Educational Trust

Life, Abortion and Medical Care
Callie Odula-Obonyo
Kenyan Obstetrician-Gynecologist

Life, Abortion and Patient Care
Patricia Lohr
Medical Director
British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)

Life, Abortion and Religious Ethics
Sheila Briggs
Associate Professor of Religion
University of Southern California

Conscience Magazine

Abortion 2.0

The practice of abortion—the termination of a pregnancy—exists throughout recorded history. Various methods have been used to perform or attempt an abortion, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure and other techniques. The sole mention of the practice in the Bible is, in fact, an herbal recipe for inducing abortion. 

In 19th-century England, after it was found that a spike in miscarriages was the result of lead poisoning caused by the metal pipes that fed the water supply, women began using diachylon, a substance with a high concentration of lead, to induce miscarriage. Despite bans on both sides of the Atlantic, women found ways to end unwanted pregnancies. The 20th century saw technological advances, such as manual vacuum aspiration, allowing even the most modest facilities to provide safe abortion care. In this issue of Conscience, we take a look at what’s next for abortion care in the decades ahead. 

In the News

There’s a war on your birth control

Mimicking the Global Gag Rule that prevents overseas health-care providers from presenting their patients a full set of reproductive health options, the administration has enacted what amounts to a domestic gag rule that restricts free speech and freedom of choice within our own country. Clinics receiving family planning grants to provide contraception, STD tests and other much-needed services to low-income patients will have to stop providing abortion referrals or lose their funding.

Catholics in particular should be especially angered by people trampling the rights of the already downtrodden. Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, Catholics use birth control and Catholics also access Title X services.

Ninety-eight percent of sexually active Catholic women have used a form of birth control banned by the Vatican. Though our own church hierarchy has labored to prevent Catholics in the pews from using birth control and historically overridden rights, choice and conscience, they failed.

Read the full op-ed at The Hill. 

Letters & Op-Eds

Abortion ban: There’s nothing sweet about Alabama

Alabama’s HB 314 is an immoral, extremist action by anti-abortion zealot’s hell bent on taking America backwards and is a slap in the face to core American values of freedom and liberty. Having failed time and time again to persuade the majority of Americans to embrace their anti-freedom agenda, abortion opponents are using the legislative process to put safe medical care out of reach.

The grotesque irony is that the 25 men who voted for this despicable measure will never have to face the realities of unsafe abortion. Insulated by privilege and power, the rich can circumvent any restriction with their pocket books — it is the poor who suffer when choice is denied.

Of course, these legislators freely admit that their extremist bill is just a play to trigger a Supreme Court battle over Roe v Wade. Drunk on the reckless rhetoric of a president beholden to them, these anti-abortion fundamentalists are spoiling for a fight. They want to play their political game and if that means sacrificing the health, safety and freedom of women and girls in Alabama, so be it.

It is a dark day for freedom in America.

Click here to read the rest. 

Letters & Op-Eds

Re: The War of Words on Abortion

Re “The War of Words on Abortion” (Op-Ed, Jan. 10):

Charles C. Camosy is wrong in throwing up a smokescreen to pretend that the abortion debate is a struggle over language.

Pro-choice victories in Ireland, Chile and likely soon in Argentina clearly demonstrate that increasingly, on a global scale, people in Catholic-majority countries are taking a stand for the values, morals and ethics of defending a woman’s right to choose.

Those who favor women’s rights are not running away from fundamental principles like conscience; they are embracing the reality that women’s rights are human rights. They understand the challenges to women’s health and well-being when we deny their right to make free choices over their bodies.

This letter was originally published in the New York Times. 

Catholics for Choice