Our country’s legal system adheres to the Blackstone ratio, which says that it is “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” In other words, “innocent until proven guilty” and only proven guilty when it is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” As innocent citizens, sometimes that is hard for us to swallow, considering we’ve most likely never been that one innocent person to suffer unjustly at the hands of the court. However, this was the way our Founding Fathers established the system and for good reason: a free society must be ever vigilant in balancing the protection of the innocent with the punishment of the guilty. When government is forced to consider taking a person’s freedom or even their life, it is imperative that it be done with the utmost caution, sober judgment and as close to absolute certainty as is possible. In America, we reap the benefits of Blackstone’s ratio more than we realize. Other nations with authoritarian rulers have held the exact opposite: better that ten innocent persons suffer than that one guilty escape. I don’t imagine a regime like that would be lenient on things like parking violations or speeding tickets. Concerning the criminal burden of proof, there has been discussion over whether it should be raised to “beyond the shadow of a doubt” for a death sentence. Again, we see the importance of exercising the greatest care when the effect of a decision is quite literally life or death.
In recent years, we have seen another variable become a major player: science. Of course forensic science has always been involved in criminal investigations and court proceedings, but it took on a much bigger role with the advent of DNA. DNA evidence appears as a beacon of objectivity in an otherwise super subjective courtroom. Although even DNA is not without some degree of uncertainty, it is more mathematically definite that our human reason can fathom. Due to rare inaccuracy, even its inconclusiveness can be cause for dismissal or acquittal in a criminal trial. For example, a man is accused of raping and murdering a woman in her home. However, when semen samples are taken, they are not a clear match of the DNA taken from the woman’s body. This is not to say it ruled him out as a possible match, but rather was inconclusive in positively connecting him to the crime. Barring some other extremely convincing evidence to the contrary, this man will go free. Science, by nature, is objective and provable; therefore, when its results are vague or inconclusive, it is cause to, at the very least, proceed with even more extreme caution and reservation than usual. DNA is a wonderful tool that allows science – an impartial judge – to decide guilt or innocence, and it is to be wielded with prudence and respect.
There is one area where life is at stake and yet our society employs a standard even lower than that of the “reasonable doubt” required to convict criminals. Those who oppose abortion will contend that a baby is created at the same time that life begins (i.e., conception), while advocates will say it is merely an embryo then. But here is the real quandary: if not at conception, at what point does it become a baby? There are many different opinions on that subject. Some believe it is when a human embryo can be distinguished from that of other animals; others hold that it is not a person until it can survive independent of its mother. I find the former reasoning silly and irrelevant, since I don’t see that it matters what an embryo looks like; a rat embryo will never grow into a human and vice versa, so they are distinct organisms at creation whether or not a naked eye can discern it. The second argument is probably the most common view, and I think, the only one worth addressing.
I’ve been around lots of children, and I’ve never seen one that could survive on its own. If you put a strong, healthy newborn on the ground outside and left it alone, it would soon die either of thirst, starvation, the elements, predators, or possibly from just choking on its own saliva since it can’t turn over to spit properly; yet it is no less a “person” than you or me (proven by the fact that doing this would rightly result in child abuse or murder charges). Given the care and nurturing of its parents, a newborn will eventually grow into an adult, but without caregivers, it can die just as fast as an underdeveloped fetus outside of the womb. When scientists speak on this subject, they are referring specifically to a concept known as “viability.” In laymen’s terms, this is the earliest point at which a baby can survive outside the womb without artificial support. However, according to that logic, the viability point changes with the advancement of medicine. A baby born prematurely today might easily go on to live a normal life, while a baby born 100 years ago under the same circumstances would have died. Similarly, a child born four weeks early in the U.S. has a better chance of survival than one born two weeks premature in a third-world country. Our close friends had their baby boy at 25 weeks. During Mark’s birth, several skilled neonatal surgeons stood by to perform emergency operations on his heart and brain, which they expected would be underdeveloped. As it turned out, all of his organs were completely functional and he needed no surgery at all. Under the viability argument, Mark was not yet (at least in the surgeons’ opinion) capable of surviving outside his mother’s womb, meaning that technically, he was not yet a person. How absurd! He was quite obviously a person and moreover, he didn’t need the extra care that medical science indicated he would. In other words, the doctors were wrong. Taken a step further, the doctors could be wrong at any time throughout gestation. The simplest and perhaps the most convincing arguments against the viability theory are the babies – like Mark – who defy science and baffle doctors by surviving against all human odds. This tells us that either there is some force beyond us that is in control, or that researchers lack the mastery of science that they purport to have in deciding life and death.
For scientists, doctors and everyone else supporting abortion, this should be terrifying. Similar to the inconclusive DNA in a capital murder case, the viability view leaves too much room for error to be grounds for terminating a pregnancy. For this reason, abortion is an anomaly where life and death are concerned. In any other realm, the vast uncertainty that exists in the conception/viability/baby debate would be more than enough “reasonable doubt” to keep doctors from tampering. As it stands, if they are right, they have aborted what could just as easily have been a baby rat. However, if they are wrong, they have sentenced a person to death without due process where great doubt existed, and they have disregarded all laws of nature by murdering an innocent human being. Were this a murder trial, no jury in the world would convict – not even a jury of abortion doctors.
Sadly, the abortion issue is much less scientific than it is political. Science is rooted in a general and earnest desire to learn the truth about the way things work. While he may start with a hypothesis, a true scientist will readily admit error if he discovers evidence to contradict his original suppositions. He begins with a question and systematically works toward the correct answer. But what if a scientist refused to depart from his hypothesis even when faced with obvious facts which disprove it? This is exactly what mainstream abortion researchers have done. Instead of sincerely asking questions and seeking the truth, they knew in advance what they wanted the truth to be and then built their arguments to defend that so-called “truth.” To the non-scientific world, the message should echo loud and clear: don’t accept as fact what may be the political agenda of pseudo-scientists. There are certainly still scientists out there who are purists that frown upon this sort of deception, and hopefully they are crying “FOUL” at the top of their lungs. Don’t reject science altogether, but use common sense and examine warily any science that ends up dominating the political forefront.
The entire process of human procreation is both wonderful and mysterious, with many aspects that stump even the cleverest doctors and researchers. So for them to decide who is a “person” and who isn’t, is frankly arrogant and abominable. When error in calculation means the difference between medical procedure and murder, America needs to afford “life” the benefit of the doubt they do in every other situation. A nation that so carefully guards the rights of accused criminals makes itself a hypocrite by recklessly tampering with the intricate course of growing life with so little solid evidence to support its interference.