Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
Disagee with with Spinka on Abortion
Gordon 0. Johnson, M.D.
The Fairbury Clinic P.C.
825 22nd Street
Fairbury, Nebraska 68352
From: JASA 30 (September 1978): 144.
I am a practicing Family Physician having passed my Specialty Boards in Family
Practice, having graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine
in 1958 and having attended Wheaton College from 1951 to 1954. In our practice
we handle approximately 200 obstetrical eases in a year and recently our clinic
acquired an ultra sound machine of the latest variety which includes real time
scanning. Its use is most extensive in obstetrics. We routinely scan all of our
obstetrical patients at five months to see if the development of the
baby is normal
and also to see where the placenta is implanted. We also scan them at any time
that we feel there is any problem. This may be as early as three
weeks after conception.
My reason for the above information is to establish my qualification and my reply to the article by Harold M. Spinka, M.D. and his article entitled, "Society and Abortion" from the March 1978 Journal ASA. I think his article is typical of the somewhat appalling nature of scientific literature that comes to the Christian community in that someone who is not qualified writes with regard to a subject and then is held out to be an authority. My question is, How can a dermatologist write anything with more than a superficial knowledge with regard so abortion? Dr. Spinka probably handles no obstetrical cases and, therefore, does not have to face the realities of obstetrics and abortion in everyday practice. With regard to his indications for abortion, under number one he states, "In both defensive and offensive wars, and criminal justice and death sentences, and in large hospitals where there are not enough respirators or kidney machines to meet the demand, society must make the difficult choices of who shall live and who shall die. Therefore, abortion is also controlled by society." I would thoroughly reject this statement. First of all from the standpoint that if we know if the baby is healthy, which we can know from ultra sound and amniocentesis, it is therefore not a matter of letting a person die because we do not have enough kidney machines to rake care of them. It would, rather, in my opinion be a ease of murder, due to neglect.
For my position there are relatively few indications for abortion. I do feel that if we know that the fetus is defective and cannot survive outside the womb, such as in cases where there is an anencephaly or renal agenesis or other chromosomal defects which do not allow for survival of the infant, or if the infant is going to be severely damaged to make life miserable, then this is perhaps an indication for an abortion. The other indication, of course, as Spinka states is for the health of the mother. I think if the pregnancy is such that it will pose a definite threat to the life of the mother, then certainly the pregnancy should be terminated. However, with our newer scientific methods we find that we can make pregnancy safer than it was a number of years ago.
With regards to rape and incest, I have some mixed feelings. Certainly, the Bible seems to be clear that adulterous or illegal pregnancies are to be terminated. However, I think that one has to be extremely careful in making these judgments and we must consult with the clergy and with the patients themselves and thus come to a decision whether an abortion should be done in these cases. Also, the only reference to this is in the Books of the Law and may not be applicable in our day of grace.
With regard to his section under abortion and government laws, he cites a number of incidences in ancient society where abortion was allowed. t think this is merely historical "irrelevance" and is of no point in a discussion of this kind. The societies which he lists were idolatrous, godless societies and, therefore, their standards have no bearing on the standards that we should have today. Under his statement with regard to when the soul enters the body, he has given a rather comprehensive although somewhat confusing review. I was rather confused by his statement that in 1869 Pope Pious X dropped she forty day rule and this was reconfirmed in the current Canon law code in 1918. 1 checked with our local Catholic priest and evidently what Spinka means here is the Catholic Church accepts the fact that the soul enters the fetus at the time of conception.
With regard to his statement on the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, he states, "We should be grateful and thankful for the additional direction provided for us in this complex problem by the U.S. Supreme Court." My disagreement reaches a peak here. The only thing I think we have to be thankful for here is that we are able to see through our eyes as Christians the thoroughly godless part that this decision has played in our society. Why we should choose to take the opinion of men, some of whom have demonstrated their lack of any regard for the principles that God has set before us, and then use them as standards for our decision, is more than I can understand.
I believe, as do our Catholic friends, that the soul enters the fetus at or very near the time of conception. Certainly newer techniques of diagnosis in pregnancy such as ultra sound, which I mentioned above, have convinced me as to the fact that within three to four weeks the fetus is a living creation that has the Godgiven potential for humanity at a very early stage. An infant moves extremely early within the uterine cavity and the heart can be seen to be beating at three to four weeks. Therefore, I feel that abortion at any stage of pregnancy is comitting a criminal act against the laws of God. I feel that abortion is wrong except in very rigid circumstances and these I have mostly listed above. I also feel that a magazine of the caliber of The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation should be more careful in its selection of articles to print on such delicate subjects which may have a great deal of impact on people who will be reading them.