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Not Available for Roe: Scientific Advances Shed Light on Abortion

Science and faith agree: unborn child is human life


By Bob Ellis

Dakota Voice


*The following is the fourth in a series of features Dakota Voice will be publishing which takes a closer look at the report prepared by the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion.


A lot of things have changed since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in America by judicial fiat. 

Since 1973:

  • Multiple probes have landed on Mars, sending back detailed images of our near neighboring planet

  • A space probe has gone out to a comet and returned to earth with material from the comet

  •  Portable computers have gone from Star Trek to the palm of your hand

  •  Talking computers are no longer named HAL

  • The internet has grown into a world wide telecommunications network

  • We have mapped the human genome

  • Test tube babies have been born

  • Heart transplants have become established medicine

  • Animals have been cloned

  • Surgery on unborn children inside the womb has become almost routine

The South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion was commissioned last year by the state legislature to examine what has been learned about abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. 

The task force has just officially released its 71 page report, which found that our understanding of life sciences has profoundly increased since the court ruling. 

The task force received testimony from Dr. David Fu-Chi Mark, a renowned scientist in the field of molecular biology; Dr. Mark received the Inventor of the Year award in 1986 for his treatment of skin and kidney cancer.

According to the report, Dr. Mark stated:

"...most scientific knowledge concerning human identity and human development prior to birth was based solely upon gross morphological observations and biochemical studies. Over the past [twenty] years there have been extraordinary scientific, medical and technological advances and discoveries which expose the rather rudimentary level of knowledge and ignorance of science, errors of fact and judgment concerning past scientific understanding of the child's existence as a human being, the child's early development and ability to react to the child's environment and feel pain prior to birth. The new techniques developed through the exploding revolution over the past [twenty years] permits scientists to observe human existence and development at a molecular level, which is applicable in determining genetic uniqueness, genetic diseases and related information through the analysis of human genes well in advance of the old gross, anatomical observation."

The report also stated that DNA fingerprinting techniques developed in the late 1980s and 1990s have proven that human beings are completely unique at fertilization. This means that as soon as sperm fertilizes the egg, a unique person is created; the being is not genetically identical to the mother and is not a piece of tissue belonging to the mother's body.

The report states that "a human being at an embryonic age and that human being at an adult age are naturally the same, the biological differences are due only to the differences in maturity" and that "immediately after conception, all programming for growth of the human being is self-contained." Further, the report notes from Dr. Mark's testimony that at 7.5 days old, before implantation in the uterine wall, the child begins to produce an enzyme that prevents the mother's immune system from attacking the child and rejecting it as a foreign body; the implication of this fact is that, if the embryo were a part of the mother's body, her body would not have the reaction to reject it as something foreign.

The report also points out that research now indicates that the fetus can feel pain, perhaps as early as 8 weeks development. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most abortions (88%) do not occur until the child is at 8-12 weeks in development. According to Department of Health statistics cited by the report, in South Dakota in 2002 and 2003, 95% and 92%, respectively,  of all abortions were from 5 weeks to 12 weeks development.

Other scientific testimony to the task force stated:

  • The unborn child's heart is beating at three weeks old

  • The intestinal track is developing by the end of the fourth week

  • The brain and the body's neural system is also developing during the fourth week

  • The brain is subdivided into the five parts normal to adults by the fifth week

  • At the end of the sixth week, the unborn child is recognizable as a human being

  • Spontaneous movements by the unborn child have been observed in the seventh week

According to the United States National Library of Medicine:

  •  At 10 weeks, the unborn child has eyelids, digits and ears

  •  At 12 weeks, it can make a fist and suck its thumb

  • At 16 weeks, the baby can move about and make sucking motions

  • At 24 weeks, it has fully developed eyelashes and is forming fingerprints

The task force found that "it is clear to us that abortion terminates the life of a child and the relationship with his or her mother and is an unsafe procedure that places women at significant risk for psychological and physical harm."

Accordingly, the report recommends that abortion be banned.  However, the task force realizes that the Roe v. Wade decision is accepted as legalizing abortion, and until that decision is overturned by the Supreme Court, the only option available to legislators will be to regulate and restrict abortion so that the harm to unborn children and their mothers is minimized.  

The following members were appointed to the task force by Governor Mike Rounds: State Senator Stan Adelstein (R-Rapid City), Dr. Marty Allison of Pierre, State Senator Julie Bartling (D-Burke), Dr. Maria Bell of Sioux Falls, Travis Benson of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, University of South Dakota law professor David Day, State Senator Jay Duenwald (R-Hoven), State Senator Brock Greenfield (R-Clark), Rapid City therapist Linda Holcomb, State Rep. Roger Hunt (R-Brandon), State Rep. Elizabeth Kraus (R-Rapid City), Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota Director Kate Looby, State Rep. Kathy Miles (D-Sioux Falls), John Stransky, State Rep. Theresa Two Bulls (D-Pine Ridge), Dr. Allen Unruh of Sioux Falls, and Dr. David Wachs of Aberdeen.

Related Reports:

Legislative Recommendations from the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion

South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion Report Addresses Sex Education

Roe v. Wade Assumptions Examined by South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion

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