What biologists affirm

As I was preparing for the upcoming issue of ProVita, I ran across this book on Amazon: Embryos Under the Microscope: Ths Diverging Meanings of Life, by Jane Maienschein. The author claims to be giving a history of the human knowledge of embryology so that ethical decisions can be based on accurate scientific information. What I found interesting was this assertion in the book description:

Biologists confirmed that embryos are living organisms undergoing rapid change and are not in any sense functioning persons. They do not feel pain or have any capacity to think until very late stages of fetal development.

As you can see, the embryo is excluded from personhood based on function, They can’t feel pain or think. This, of course, is not a biological determination, but a philosophical one. Biologists don’t determine who is a person and who is not. And philosophers aren’t unanimous that function is the basis for determining personhood. Others look to a more comprehensive and precise criterion, active potency. The human organism has the active potency to develop functions such as sensitivity to pain and cognition from fertilization.

Fetal pain laws and the moral imagination

O. Carter Snead of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture recently gave a talk at the National Right to Life Convention in which he discussed the way fetal pain laws can help citizens develop a moral imagination that sees the unborn as persons.

Study looks at abortion-breast cancer link

According to LifeSiteNews.com, researches have conducted a review of 72 studies. The study, “Breast Cancer and Induced Abortion: A Comprehensive Review of Breast Development and Pathophysiology, the Epidemiologic Literature, and Proposal for Creation of Databanks to Elucidate All Breast Cancer Risk Factors,” by Dr. Angela Lanfranchi and Patrick Fagan, Ph.D., was published in Issues in Law and Medicine. Their conclusion was that there is enough evidence of a link between abortion and breast cancer that a systematic, robust study of the link is warranted. The mechanism involved appears to be the same mechanism that causes an increase in breast cancer for those who are childlessness, have premature birth before 32 weeks, and have second trimester miscarriages.

The authors analyzed the 72 epidemiological studies using guidelines that establish nine criteria that help determine whether a cause-effect relationship exists between a potential risk factor and a disease.

After demonstrating that all nine criteria were met in the epidemiological evidence, Lanfranchi and Fagan stated: “We see that many studies of induced abortion demonstrate significant associations, across multiple cultures and with some apparent specificity of cause, such as hormone exposure. The association manifests itself in the appropriate order, demonstrates a dose effect, is biologically plausible and coherent with existing science and has been demonstrated by analogy.”

International Abortion Conference — PEI

The University of Prince Edward Island is hosting a major international abortion promotion conference, Abortion: the Unfinished Revolution, August 7-8. The program gives an idea of what pro-abortion academics are working on these days.

ProVita coming

I am feverishing working on the July edition of the UFL ProVita Online Newsletter.

Please send me any items you would like to be included to provitanews@yahoo.com.

I am especially looking for upcoming opportunities for scholarship, such as calls for papers, conferences, symposia, new publications, etc.

I am also looking for:

  • News about UFL members
  • New publications by members
  • Other new scholarship that would be valuable to our readers
  • Web pages and other online resources.


Brain Death pro and con

Dr. Accad

Dr. Accad

Not all members of UFL agree on every aspect of the pro-life cause. This was evident at one of the sessions during the UFL Life and Learning Conference in June. There were two presentations, one against brain death as a criterion for allowing the removal of organs for transplant and the other for.

The first talk, “Of Wholes and Parts: a Thomistic Critique of the ‘Brain Death’ concept,” was given my Michel Accad, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco. Accad responded to two common arguments for brain death, the “central organ of integration argument” and the “necessary organ for rational thought” argument. He also addressed the “non-human soul” proposal. Accad used the “virtual presence” concept from Thomism to show that the active heart is the sign of human life.

Prof. Moschella

Next, Melissa Moschella, of the Catholic University of America, presented on “Deconstructing the Brain Disconnection-Brain Destruction Analogy and Clarifying the Rationale for the Neurological Criterion of Death.” Moschella’s argument responded to Alan Shewman’s  proposal that if the inability of the brain to control the body is the criterion for death, then persons with high cervical spinal cord trans-section injuries are dead.  Her argument not only addressed the proper metaphysical principles for understanding the relationship between the brain and the person, but also gave some criteria for identifying an organism. Her conclusion is that the complete cessation of brain activity is death because the brain is irrevocably unable to be the material basis for breathing and mental activity.

A lively discussion from the floor followed the talks.