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Good Christian morality is better than bad science

  • 12 August 2014

Even before the controversies surrounding Eric Abetz’s remarks on Channel Ten’s The Project, the World Congress of Families was under fire for its endorsement of Angela Lanfranchi’s research linking abortion to breast cancer.

Dr Lanfranchi was accused by feminist writer Van Badham of 'peddling… information out of a concern for women's health, while playing down their theological or political agenda.'

Badham’s implication was that Dr Lanfranchi and others have tried to develop medical scientific or psychological arguments against abortion. The specifics of the arguments differ, but the general point is the same. Abortion is against the best interests of women, and activists who defend it as a means of advancing the wellbeing of women are mistaken. 

Although it’s very likely that Dr Lanfranchi genuinely believes her argument to be true, it still doesn’t give voice to what anti-choice activists actually argue is wrong with abortion; namely, that the foetus is a morally precious person with infinite value and dignity. Instead of making this powerful claim, scientific proponents dilute the argument in order to make it more palatable to a potentially hostile audience. 

It’s important that we not assign motive and assume that any medical scientific argument (or, for that matter legal, practical or psychological argument) against abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, or other heated moral issue is actually subversive ideology. However, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to believe that some such arguments are - from both sides of these debates. 

Subversion of this sort is problematic for anybody interested in truth and integrity in public debate. For one thing, if proponents of a particular perspective aim to support their arguments with facts rather than ideas, they are at constant risk of losing the argument if the facts change. 

Consider, for instance, the possibility that it is true that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. For those who oppose abortions, this makes a compelling case for minimising abortions, but if, say, we were able to sever the link, then the argument against abortion would disappear. I suspect, though, that many with a stake in the scientific argument would not so readily abandon their position. There is good reason for this: because arguments against abortion exist in deeper, more powerful forms, even if they are less effective at gaining popular support. 

To mask beliefs in another form (if, and when, that occurs) is to immediately concede that they are shameful, unpopular, or prima facie