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The sea of the pro-life movement: a brief response to ‘Reflections on the Kermit Gosnell Controversy’
  1. David P Lang
  1. Correspondence to Dr David P Lang, Department of Philosophy, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA; david.lang{at}

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The article titled The pearl of the ‘Pro-Life’ movement? Reflections on the Kermit Gosnell controversy is a thoughtful piece in which the author raises some important questions, including those impinging on the motivations and apparent inconsistencies of the more vocal officials of the more visible segments of a vast and somewhat diverse grass-roots social uprising.1

The pro-life movement has indeed showcased the Gosnell trial, but not because many of its members actually believe that gestational age is a morally relevant criterion. In fact, there is probably a nearly uniform desideratum among the most influential groups to abolish all induced abortion from the first moment of conception, even if that goal logically also requires a ban on all potentially abortifacient contraceptives (along with all surgical methods of terminating pregnancies).2 Even the umbrella National Right to Life Committee with its 50 state affiliates, many of which have been criticised for their incremental approach to ending elective abortion,3 holds that ‘a new individual human being begins at fertilisation, when the sperm and ovum meet to form a single cell.’4 There is no practical necessity to split temporal or geographical hairs about when or how far the sperm must enter the ovum for formal union to occur, because the process is virtually inexorable once it starts, and is, thence, confined to a short span of time and space.

Nor are the pro-life leaders being ‘disingenuous’ in their focal interest on this particular case. The underlying motivation is not to go delving for a mere ‘pearl’ (however glaringly lustrous the ‘gem’), but rather to dive into some deep metaphysical waters about the …

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