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There’s No Science Argument on Whether Unborn Children Are Human

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor notes that abortion activists argue that the embryo is a different species, some unclassified thing, or part of the mother — that’s politics, not science
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The recent March for Life in Washington featured signs like “Save the baby humans” (featuring a whale), “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love” – Mother Theresa” and “One heart stops; many hearts break.”

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has a message for people who wonder whether the preborn child is a human being:

Ever ask #Why we should believe that a human embryo is a human life? There is no question about it—from the moment of conception, a unique human being exists. Pro-abortion activists will try to say that the embryo is a different species, some unclassified thing, or part of the mother, but none of these are true. The science of sexual reproduction is as much settled science as is the fact that the Earth orbits the sun and that DNA carries genetic code. There is no debate that life begins at conception. The only debate is whether people respect life at all stages. (Students for Life, July 26, 2021)

Egnor has also written some personal reflections on abortion, including the fact that he himself might have been aborted:

The world is blessed with countless people who, with God’s grace, had moms and dads who chose life instead of death. I’m one of them — my mom had severe hypertension and doctors recommended I be aborted, but she and my dad refused. I owe my life to their love for me, even before I was born.

Michael Egnor, “Political website’s Christmas gift to readers: promoting abortion” at Mind Matters News (December 28, 2021)

He also recounts that, while he always tells the truth to parents about their unborn babies’ neurological issues as he understands them, sometimes the children surprise him:

Just recently, I saw a 10 year old girl in the office for whom I’ve cared since she was in the womb. When her spina bifida was diagnosed by prenatal testing, the doctor basically insisted that she be aborted. It was relatively late in the pregnancy, and the doctor gave them the name of George Tiller, a notorious late-term abortionist in Kansas who aborted babies at an age when even the most callous of other abortionists refuse to kill. Her family declined, and sought me out as a second opinion. I told them the truth about their daughter’s prognosis — which was guarded but by no means hopeless.

As it turned out, I was wrong. She did indeed have spina bifida and I operated on her the day she was born. But she has done much better than any of us even dreamed. She walks, runs, and loves to dance. She is bright and charming, and is the love and light of her mom, dad, and her doting older brothers. I give talks to medical professionals about neurosurgical prenatal diagnoses and at the end of the talks I show a video clip of her dancing.

Michael Egnor, “Political website’s Christmas gift to readers: promoting abortion” at Mind Matters News (December 28, 2021)

There is another aspect of abortion that explicitly involves neuroscience: Do unborn children feel pain? Alas, yes:

The argument commonly used by abortion advocates, and by physicians and scientists, who argue that fetuses do not experience pain, is that the central nervous system is too immature to process pain at that age. But I think that that’s clearly a misunderstanding of the neurobiology.

Pain, as far as we know, is the only sensory modality that does not require cortical representation to be experienced. That is, it seems that we probably feel pain at deeper levels of the brain, probably at the level of the thalamus. And what the cortex does, is it actually suppresses our experience of pain and helps us interpret it. So decorticate animals seem to experience pain much, much more intensely. The thalamus in fetal life develops around the sixth or eighth week of fetal development. And the thalamic tracks that connect the thalamus to the periphery, that would allow the fetus to feel pain, are present at that stage.

Michael Egnor, “Do babies really feel pain before they are self-aware?” at Mind Matters News (February 12, 2021)
Obstetric Ultrasonography Ultrasound Echography of a fourth month fetus

A recent medical journal article confirmed that there is clear scientific evidence that pain is felt from 13 weeks gestation onward. Egnor responded:

The scientific community has for decades misrepresented the straightforward science of conception and fetal development for ideological reasons

I have cared for hundreds of premature infants and it is very clear that these very young children experience pain intensely. An innocuous needlestick in the heel to draw small amount of blood would ordinarily not be particularly painful for an adult. But a tiny infant will scream at such discomfort.

Michael Egnor, “Abortion advocate admits in a medical journal that unborn children feel pain” at Mind Matters News January 21, 2020

Many Americans do not realize that most Western countries have restrictions on abortion. The United States is one of the few where children be aborted up to the time of birth in many states and, if they survive, may legally be left to die after birth. Currently, the federal government is even working on an act that would remove all state-level protections for unborn children at any age.

You may also wish to read: Political website’s Christmas gift to readers: promoting abortion FiveThirtyEight asked readers to share their abortion stories and got something it hadn’t bargained on: Many were glad it didn’t happen. I am a pediatric neurosurgeon, and every day I treat kids (and adults) who were prime candidates for abortion, but by the grace of God escaped the abortionist. (Michael Egnor)


Do babies really feel pain before they are self-aware? Michael Egnor discusses the fact that the thalamus, deep in the brain, creates pain. The cortex moderates it. Thus, juveniles may suffer more. Jonathan Wells recalls, from when he was a lab technologist, how very premature infants would scream when he took a drop of blood for tests.

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There’s No Science Argument on Whether Unborn Children Are Human