A moral schizophrenia afflicts our culture on the issue of abortion. There are inconsistencies both in our nation’s laws and in people’s attitudes about the moral status of the unborn. Nevertheless, too many people still seem unable to see the contradictions. A case in point appears in today’s New York Times.
Pam Belluck reports on a new study appearing in the The New England Journal of Medicine. A rigorous clinical trial has shown that fetal surgery can help babies with spina bifida to walk and experience fewer neurological problems if operated on before being born rather than afterward. Here’s a summary of the study’s findings:
“In the study, about 80 babies were randomly selected for surgery after birth; another 80 had the spinal opening surgically closed in utero, between 19 and 26 weeks of pregnancy. Two in each group died. Before surgery, babies in the prenatal group had more severe spinal lesions than the postnatal group, but more in the prenatal group had better results. … Those who received prenatal surgery were half as likely to have a shunt, and eight times as likely to have a normally positioned brainstem.”
The success of this procedure is truly amazing. Equally amazing is the fact that unborn babies are being treated as patients in these procedures. The unborn can have spinal surgery just as their born counterparts can and with greater success.
How does it make any moral or legal sense, therefore, to take heroic measures to do surgery on a 19 week old fetus while at the same time allowing the abortion of a perfectly normal 19 week old fetus? The only difference between the one and the other is that one has a mother that wants him and the other doesn’t. This inconsistency doesn’t even bear the lightest scrutiny, yet it is one that is plain to anyone who has eyes to see.
Pam Belluck, “Success of Spina Bifida Study Opens Fetal Surgery Door,” New York Times (February 9, 2011): section A; column 0; pg. 1 [www.nytimes.com]
Steve Calvin, “Abortion and the Practice of Medicine: 25 Years of Increasing Schizophrenia,” National Right to Life News (1998). [www.nrlc.org]
John Piper, “Father, Forgive, For We Know What We Are Doing,” Sermon at DesiringGod.org (January 22, 2002). [www.desiringgod.org]
N. Scott Adzick et al., “A Randomized Trial of Prenatal versus Postnatal Repair of Myelomeningocele,” The New England Journal of Medicine (February 9, 2011). [www.nejm.org]