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Pro-Abortion Scientists, Tucson, and the Philadelphia Abattoir

Michael Egnor

Tantalus Prime and I have had a blog debate about the humanity of unborn children.
I believe that human life begins at conception and ends at natural death. I believe that all human beings at all stages of life and in all conditions of health and disability are fully human. I mean “fully human” in two ways:
1) Fully human means a member of the species Homo sapiens. Species does not change with gestational age or with disability.
2) Fully human means that each human being is a person. Each human being has the fundamental right of persons, which is the right to life. “The right to life” means the right not to be deliberately killed.
I’m not sure what Tantalus believes. He seems to accept assertion #1, I think, but he spews pages of alphabet soup about assertion #2. I honestly don’t understand his argument, except that he thinks that full humanity is only achieved by the acquisition of certain intellectual skills, and that humans who lack those skills lack the right to life. He isn’t very clear about what skills count as human, except they seem to be his own skills.
He clearly supports the “right” to abortion, and he appears to hold the view that women are denied fundamental rights if they cannot have abortions. Tantalus asserts that the rights of some human beings depend on the killing of others.
I have the sense that Tantalus begins with his support for abortion, and twists his science and ethics to justify that support. His casuistry is dense and tangential (what does the manufacture of human-animal chimeras have to do with the mundane observation that a baby in the womb is human?), but sometimes the way to draw clarity out of gibberish is to cite an example. A particularly clear one comes to mind.
A Grand Jury in Philadelphia recently indicted abortionist Kermit Gosnell for seven counts of murdering infants born after attempted abortions.
From the NY Daily News:

A doctor who ran a “house of horrors” abortion clinic has been charged in the deaths of one woman and seven babies who prosecutors say were born alive then killed with scissors.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who treated mostly poor and immigrant women, was arrested Wednesday along with nine employees from his West Philadelphia Women’s Medical Society – among them a high school student who performed medial treatments with no license.
Gosnell, 69, raked in millions over 30 years performing illegal and late-term abortions, prosecutors said.
Officials described his squalid clinic like something out of a horror movie
“There were bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses were scattered throughout the building,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose.”
Gosnell has been named in at least 10 malpractice suits, but Williams said state regulators ignored complaints about his clinic and that the office hadn’t been inspected since 1993.
Patients endured barbaric procedures at the hands of the twisted doctor, officials charged.
Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord,” Williams said.
Police stumbled into the grisly scene at Gosnell’s clinic last year after responding to a drug-related complaint.
His medical license was then suspended and the clinic shut down

Here’s the full Grand Jury Report.
I will not ask about Gosnell’s medical skills, or about the standards of hygiene in his office. We all agree that he failed to meet even minimal standards. Nor will I ask about the legal aspects of Gosnell’s actions, under Pennsylvania law. I will ask moral questions about the rights of children and about the culpability of scientists who publicly deny those rights.
Regarding another horrendous act of violence, several emphatically pro-abortion scientists — P.Z. Myers, Joshua Rosenau and Tantalus Prime — have suggested on their blogs that inflammatory political metaphors may have inspired the recent shootings in Tucson of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen other people.
Myers’, Rosenau’s, and Tantalus’ assertions that violent political metaphors may have inspired the Tucson massacre are relevant to Gosnell’s killings. If Tea Partiers had asserted that congresswoman Giffords was not fully human, had no right to life, was difficult to distinguish from cancer, may be killed in order to fully express the rights of others, may be killed because natural death is so common that murdering her would be unexceptional, did not feel pain in a fully human way, may be killed under any circumstance because that is a morally justified choice, and deserved to “flushed and incinerated”, many people would understandably draw the conclusion that there existed a hostile environment that made violence against Giffords more likely.
These are my questions for P.Z. Myers, Joshua Rosenau, and Tantalus Prime:
1) Is Gosnell’s killing of babies after birth morally acceptable?
2) If not, why not?
3) In what way is Gosnell’s killing of babies outside the womb morally different from abortion?
4) Did public assertions by scientists like P.Z. Myers, Joshua Rosenau, and Tantalus Prime that young children are not fully human contribute to the milieu in which Gosnell acted?
Myers, Rosenau, and Tantalus have denounced inflammatory political metaphors because of concerns that such metaphors may incite violence. Yet these same scientists assert as a matter of fact (not metaphor) that unborn children and young infants are not fully human and lack the right to life. If it is reasonable to suggest that inflammatory political rhetoric can inspire murder, is it not reasonable to suggest that scientists who publicly dehumanize young children can inspire infanticide?
Let’s see if Myers, Rosenau, and Tantalus reply.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.