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Civil disobedience against Dobbs?

On June 24 the US Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade and declared that there was no right to abortion in the American Constitution. Ever since, the world’s leading scientific and medical journals have been campaigning not just against the ruling, but against the Supreme Court itself.

How have scientists and doctors suddenly become experts on ethics, law, politics, and philosophy? These are fields in which the scientific method is irrelevant. A doctor may declare that the Supreme Court’s decision is immoral. How can such a statement be proved with an experiment? How could such an experiment be replicated?

The core issue in the debate over abortion was not settled by Dobbs: it is whether the foetus in the womb of the mother is a human being or not. No scientist can settle the question one way or another.

This obvious rejoinder to the rivers of anti-Dobbs and pro-abortion sentiment flowing through these learned journals, however, is simply being ignored – that the foetus is a human being and that abortion destroys a human life. As an article in MercatorNet pointed out last week, 1,000,000,000 (one billion) human lives are aborted every 20 years or so (according to a study in The Lancet) — that’s one billion lives every generation. Marching beside Gen X and Gen Y are shadowy armies of billions of children who were never born. A doctor who does not think that this is a burning ethical issue should have his registration revoked.

The latest contribution to the flood of pro-abortion propaganda comes in The New England Journal of Medicine, which may be most influential medical journal in the world. In an opinion article yesterday, Matthew K. Wynia, of the University of Colorado, argued that doctors should engage in a campaign of civil disobedience as a protest against Dobbs.

Incredibly, Dr Wynia enlists the civil rights icon, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and the Christian philosopher and theologian, St Augustine, to support his argument. “An unjust law is no law at all,” said Augustine. True enough, but what special insight qualifies doctors to determine whether an abortion ban is unjust?

Indeed, history suggests doctors have often been on the wrong side on ethical matters – as Dr Wynia acknowledges:

“Historically, physicians have rarely been radical, and most have conformed with bad laws and policies, even horrific ones — such as those authorizing forced-sterilization programs in the United States and Nazi Germany, the use of psychiatric hospitals as political prisons in the Soviet Union, and police brutality under apartheid in South Africa. Too often, organized medicine has failed to fulfill its duty to protect patients when doing so required acting against state authority.”

Why is the opposition of the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – all of whom Dr Wynia cites – any different? If doctors have normally supported the status quo, shouldn’t we expect them to support the status quo on abortion – especially when they profit from it?

At the moment, science is experiencing a crisis of credibility. Peer review is under attack almost as much as Dobbs; so many experiments are never corroborated that talk of a “reproducibility crisis” is common in science journals. And most astonishing of all is the claim by an eminent scholar, John P. Ioannides, that “There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false.” Most! His dramatic assertion has yet to be refuted.

This is not to say that Science, with a capital S, is false. Research papers which have been were submitted to rigorous peer review and have been replicated are science. How often does that happen with “reproductive health services”? Not as often as the public thinks. And it is certainly not the case with self-interested complaints about the constitutional reasoning of Dobbs and the morality of abortion.

The arguments put forward by the best medical journals are very similar to those marshalled by every interest group which has been defeated in court – my cause is a positive good; my cause is a social good; my cause is supported by the Establishment; and Armageddon looms if my cause is ignored.

They were precisely the arguments used by the South – and Southern doctors – to justify slavery in the 19th century.

In 1836 a representative from South Carolina, James Henry Hammond, rose in Congress to defend slavery. He said:

“Slavery is said to be an evil… But it is no evil. On the contrary, I believe it to be the greatest of all the great blessings which a kind Providence has bestowed upon our glorious region… As a class, I say it boldly; there is not a happier, more contented race upon the face of the earth… Lightly tasked, well clothed, well fed—far better than the free laborers of any country in the world … their lives and persons protected by the law, all their sufferings alleviated by the kindest and most interested care…. Sir, I do firmly believe that domestic slavery regulated as ours is produces the highest toned, the purest, best organization of society that has ever existed on the face of the earth.”

Today, we can only read such words with horror. They are evidence of the moral blindness which strikes men who defend their own interests with every weapon they can lay their hands on. Two hundred years ago, the issue was defending slavery; today, it is defending abortion.

 


Michael Cook is the editor of Bioedge and his article is printed with permission

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