Bill Nye gives pro-lifers a scientific run for their money in a new video for the website Big Think. In the video, he explains why anti-abortion legislation is sexist, based on bad science, and a waste of time, money, and energy.
This video came just four days after the House of Representatives approved a bill to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood. If the Senate passes the bill — which is unlikely, given that President Obama said he’d veto any bill that would defund the group — millions of women, men, and children will be without affordable, often life-saving medical care.
“You have a lot of men of European descent passing these extraordinary laws based on ignorance,” Nye said in the video.
He argues that women, and women alone, should decide what to do with their bodies — not old, white men who are mostly out of touch with the psychological and physical trauma that could come with being forced to carry an unwanted child.
But the most notable ignorance, arguably, is the presumption that life begins at conception.
During the House debate last week, the bill’s co-sponsor, Florida Representative Gus Bilirakis, said, “I will continue to give a voice to our most fragile Americans who cannot speak for themselves.”
But embryos and fetuses aren’t people. They don’t have rights. They aren’t Americans yet. They’re just balls of DNA and protein.
In fact, many scientists agree that human life doesn’t actually begin until about 24 weeks after fertilization, when our brains start producing wave patterns specific to humans, Scott Gilbert, a developmental biologist at Swarthmore College who wrote the quintessential textbook for undergraduate biology majors, “Developmental Biology,” told Tech Insider.
Because of this, the large majority of abortions are performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — far before fetuses start showing signs of life. In fact, about 90% of abortions are performed within the first trimester.
Gilbert argues that “if we are willing to call flatlining (the loss of this pattern) death, then the emergence of this pattern is when we become humanly alive.”
Then there’s the argument that each and every fertilised egg is precious, and that each must be preserved or else its expulsion is considered a heinous murder. But the fact is that far more eggs are fertilised than go on to become people.
“Many, many, many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilised than become humans,” Nye says in the video. “But that’s not all you need, you have to attach to the uterine wall. If you’re going to hold that as a standard … then whom are you going to sue … everyone who’s had a fertilised egg pass through her?”
And Gilbert agrees:
DNA is not our soul. Most fertilised eggs do not survive to be born. The usual fate of most fertilised eggs is to die before birth. If embryos are to be considered humans, then normal human fetal demise is a far greater moral danger than abortion.
Scientific studies trying to parse the physical and psychological toll following an abortion have been limited, short-term, and specific to certain clinics.
But preliminary results of a nation-wide, ongoing longitudinal study out of UC San Francisco suggests that women who want abortions but cannot receive them — whether that be due to a late-stage pregnancy, cost, or health complications — are more likely to be poor and to stay in abusive relationships. Analysis of women who were able to receive an abortion indicate that they were not likely to experience negative lingering psychological effects, such as depression.
“Despite the fact that women feel a range of emotions about their abortion experience, predominately relief, although some regret and sadness as well, almost all women, including those who have mostly negative emotions believe that abortion was the right decision for them over the long-term,” Rana Barar, project director of the study said in a blog post.
For this reason, Nye and others argue, women should be able to decide what they do with their bodies. End of story. Any arguments otherwise are a waste of time and resources, and point to a significant lack of scientific understanding.
“Nobody likes abortion, but you can’t tell somebody what to do,” Nye says in the video. “She has rights over this, especially if she doesn’t like the guy that got her pregnant … she doesn’t want anything to do with your genes. Get over it.”
Check out the entire video here:
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