There is a remarkable coda to our recent story about Cuban pro-life physician and human rights hero Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet. On Thursday, June 23, in Dallas, former President George W. Bush welcomed Dr. Biscet to the Bush Center and personally presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom he had awarded him in absentia in 2007 when Dr. Biscet was serving a 25-year sentence in a Castro prison.
Last week The Washington Examiner reported on a new study released by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. It analyzed the declining birthrate in the United States since 2007. Even though there are more women of childbearing age, the number of births has fallen from over 4.3 million in 2007 to 3.978 million in 2015 – an 8 percent decline. If the fertility rate had remained at its 2007 level, the author estimates that there would have been 3.4 million more births during the last 8 years.
On March 24 of this year Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law legislation that forbids doctors from performing an abortion, before or after the unborn child reaches 20 weeks of post-fertilization age, if the reason for the abortion is based on the “race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability.”
In his statement announcing his signing of the bill, Pence said, “I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable—the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn.
Proponents of abortion are all about “choice.” Yet in many cases, it seems, a woman’s decision to procure an abortion does not feel like much of a choice at all.
The best estimates indicate that somewhere between 30 to over 60 percent of women seeking abortions in the United States do so under pressure—from the father of her child, her parents, her family members, friends, or employer. One study shows that up to 64 percent of women who had undergone an abortion reported that they were pressured to do so. What can be done to counteract this phenomenon of coerced abortions? Coerced abortions are especially harmful to women—not only does the voice of the unborn child, who cannot plead on his own behalf, go unheard, but also the voice of the mother is muted by outside pressure.
One of the earliest attempts to square this circle of trying to conduct morally problematic research within ethical guidelines is the “14-day rule” for embryo research. The rule has allowed embryo research outside the womb for up to 14 days post-fertilization, after which time the embryo would be destroyed. Although the origins of the rule go back over 40 years, it has been much in the news lately as scientists have developed methods to considerably extend the life of embryos outside the womb.