Lysiane Gagnon is a well-known and well-respected journalist in Québec. She has written articles for Montréal’s largest newspaper, La Presse, for 30 years. She’s also been writing for the Globe and Mail for 20 years. She’s an avid feminist and supporter of abortion, but clearly she doesn’t have a clue of what she’s talking about. Her ignorance was on display in a recent column, illustrating so well why we desperately need a public debate on abortion.
In the heat of the firestorm surrounding Cardinal Ouellet’s statements against abortion in May, Ms. Gagnon wrote an article in the Globe in which she re-affirmed her support for abortion, but also dismissed the need to attack the Cardinal so viciously, not because she supports his right to free speech, but simply because he’s a harmless loner, marginalized within his own Church (other Québec bishops never broach abortion) and because he presents no threat whatsoever to the pro-choice movement. All very condescending.
But she made a startling statement for someone of her intelligence and stature, which should have been caught by the editors. In an apparent attempt to make the Catholic position on abortion look irrational, she wrote the following:
Indeed, it’s hardly surprising that a Catholic bishop would condemn abortion. If someone thinks human life starts at conception, then of course he will see abortion as murder whatever the circumstances. (Source)
Did you get that? Read it again to make sure you got it. Then give me a hand to help me remove her foot stuck in the depths of her larynx.
She makes two monumental blunders here.
- First, she flaunts her ignorance about biology and medicine by implying, as if it were common knowledge, that human life doesn’t begin at conception and that only a nutcase like a Catholic bishop would believe such nonsense. Well, Ms. Gagnon, at the bottom of this post I’ve quoted a bunch of medical books and journals that clearly state the basic medical fact that life does indeed begin at conception. These are not pro-life sources. They are common medical textbooks and journals, mostly from the field of Embryology. It’s Biology 101. Look it up.
- She admits that if life begins at conception, then the only logical position on abortion is the pro-life position. Read carefully: “If someone thinks human life starts at conception, then of course he will see abortion as murder whatever the circumstances.” Give her credit for her honesty and her logic. That’s what pro-lifers have been saying since forever.
What an incoherent message. This is very strange. The pro-choice movement has largely given up on trying to argue that life doesn’t begin at conception. They realized it was a scientifically false statement that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Looks like Ms. Gagnon hasn’t brushed up on her pro-choice speaking points since the 1970s. I mean, listen to what Naomi Wolf, a pro-choice feminist said about this matter:
“Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life” (Our Bodies, Our Souls, The New Republic, 1995). (Source)
The problem with radicals like Ms. Gagnon is that even if you were to convince her that life begins at conception, she would likely still support abortion, despite her statement above. She would just fall back on other typical pro-choice arguments, such as the fetus not having any value unless the mother wants it, the woman’s emotional state is more important, yada yada yada.
This incident does indeed demonstrate that even intelligent people in this country don’t have their basic facts straight. That’s why we need an abortion debate. A lot of hearts could be changed if we started talking about it. Let each side present their arguments and let the best side win. I have no doubt that we have the stronger case. It’s hard to reach people when the leftist media filters your message and when the politicians avoid abortion like the pest. But I’m sure we can make inroads.
We’ll never convince everybody. Some people fully understand that abortion kills a baby and yet they support it anyways. For example, read this astounding statement byDavid Boonin in his book entitled A Defense of Abortion:
“In the top drawer of my desk, I keep [a picture of my son]. This picture was taken on September 7, 1993, 24 weeks before he was born. The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clear enough a small head tilted back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows [my son] at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point.” (p. xiv)
Yes, there are people that think this way. That’s reality. We can’t pretend that everybody would convert if they had all the right information. To think so would be to deny the existence of evil and mortal sin. Some people will refuse the truth until the day they die and beyond, with eternal consequences.
But this should not discourage us. Most people can be convinced. I’m sure we can gradually turn the cultural tide on abortion if a public debate is engaged.
This list is not exhaustive; it is merely a sample. These are not pro-life sources. They are common medical textbooks and journals. Bibliographical references are in green.
“Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoo development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”
“A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).”
[Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. pp. 16, 2.]
“The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.”
[Sadler, T.W. Langman’s Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]
“Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The common expression ‘fertilized ovum’ refers to the zygote.”
[Moore, Keith L. and Persaud, T.V.N. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993, p. 1]
“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.”
[O’Rahilly, Ronan and Müller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29.]
“Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
[Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]
“In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual. … Fertilization takes place in the oviduct … resulting in the formation of a zygote containing a single diploid nucleus. Embryonic development is considered to begin at this point… This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development.”
[Essentials of Human Embryology, William J. Larsen, (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998), 1-17.]
“At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun”…. “The term embryo covers the several stages of early development from conception to the ninth or tenth week of life.”
[Considine, Douglas (ed.). Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia. 5th edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943]