Saturday, April 28, 2007

Serge Debates Abortion Doc in Missouri [Serge]

It almost didn't happen, but I just returned from a debate on abortion organized by the science club of Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia, Missouri. Dr. Jonas threatened to pull out of the debate at the last minute, but after I allowed him to see the video presentation prior to the event he agreed to the debate. I will give my own report soon, but the reporter for the local newspaper did a good job summarizing our main points:

While one debater said legal abortions save women’s lives, the other said abortion should be outlawed to save the lives of unborn children.

The Smith-Cotton High School science club sponsored the debate between Dr. Harry Jonas, a supporter of abortion rights, and Dr. Rich Poupard, who is anti-abortion. Jonas is a gynecologist who previously served as president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Poupard is a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon who is studying for a master’s degree in Christian apologetics and bioethics.

Jonas said the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age in Missouri before abortion was legal was botched illegal abortions. He described one of his first patients, before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, who died of an infection after she tried to use a coat hanger to abort her fetus.

Poupard showed a video of aborted fetuses at different levels of development.

“The unborn are members of the human family and thus should not be harmed without justification.” He said medical textbooks are clear on when human life begins: at conception.

About 100 people attended the event, a fundraiser for the science club and the fourth annual debate the club has hosted.

Jonas’ main points were that women should be able to decide whether to have an abortion on her own terms, that family planning and methods should be available to all who seek it, and that any legislation to ban abortion should have exceptions to protect a woman’s life, and her physical and mental health.

He said society “should uphold the idea that the health and life of the woman must take precedence over the life of the fetus.”

“Advocates for reproductive rights believe a woman is entitled to make her decision, and she must live with the consequences,” Jonas said.

Poupard analyzed how the differences between an unborn and newborn child affect the perception of their human value. He said size doesn’t matter, since a tall person is not more important than a short one. Development doesn’t matter, since a 5-year-old is no less human than a 30-yearold, he said. He said the environment didn’t seem to make much of a difference. When considering dependency, he said that patients in an intensive-care unit are completely dependent on machines, yet a human fetus is also completely depending on the mother.

Referring to civil rights, and how people used to discriminate based on skin color, gender or religious beliefs, he said, “we now discriminate based on size and level of development … We can and we must do better than that.”

In a rebuttal, Jonas said that religious beliefs are taking away access to abortions and birth control methods, and the issue has become “totally politicized.”

“We cannot glibly claim God’s will is involved in every conception” when rape and incest lead to pregnancy, Jonas said.

Since religious traditions have different views on the beginning of life, and human value, then women should have “the legal, moral, religious freedom to chose,” Jonas said.

Poupard said he wanted to stick with scientific reasoning, not religious arguments.

He said that his view on human life is inclusive, while Jonas’ was “elitist,” because it argues “there are some human beings that have value, and some that don’t.”


  1. Say to go, Serge! I have no doubt you made a great case for our side and persuasively refuted our critics. I'm sure this is just the start of a long debating career.

  2. I am shamed by how mouch more impressive you are on paper than I am. Keep the pressure on them.


    PS "Say to go?!!" Is that what all of the kids are saying now?

  3. I guess I am not mouch better, huh?

  4. uh, that should have been "Way to go" not "say to go." I guess I'm a better debate guy than some, but a much worse spel-checker than many. :)

  5. Now I know Serge's name. I'm really pleased that the reporter mentioned your saying that you want to stick with scientific args. Isn't it noticeable and sort of pathetic the way it's always the pro-aborts dragging in religion? Every darned time. Ensoulment, "a woman and her god," "religions have different views," and on and on. They're the ones who don't want simply to look at the biological fact that the we're talking about chopping up a human being.

  6. Serge, Is this comment by your opponent accurate?
    "Jonas said the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age in Missouri before abortion was legal was botched illegal abortions."

    Sounds a lot like the 5000 or 10000 exaggeration that is now known to be a lie.

  7. Lydia,

    Thanks for your kind comments. I once asked the audience who thought the pro-lifer would be using science and philosophy and the pro-abortion choicer would be depending on theology to make their points. It was pretty amazing.

    I did "out" myself about 9 months ago on the old blog before Scott blew it up:-)

  8. Alan,

    Jonas did use that figure. I responded by holding up an article by Mary Calderone - medical director of Planned Parenthood from 1960 - that stated that due to antibiotics and the fact that doctors were performing most illegal abortions that illegal abortions were no longer a dangerous procedure.

    He did not have a response.

  9. Alan, I think you'll be interested in

    Consider the following quote:

    "If you go to the year before the Supreme Court decision (that was 1972), we find pro-abortion people claiming that from 5,000 to 10,000 women died every year from illegal abortions. As a matter of fact, however, the official government statistics are quite clear. The total number of women who died the year before abortion was legal nationally was 39. There were an additional 25 who died that same year from legal abortions. Not 5,000, not 10,000 – 39."


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