The Facts of Life: Science and the Abortion Controversy
Morowitz (Harold J.) & Trefil (James)
Source: Morowitz (Harold J.) & Trefil (James) - The Facts of Life: Science and the Abortion Controversy
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Preface (Full Text1

  1. It is almost impossible to live in the United States today and be unaware of the heated and divisive debate that surrounds the abortion2 controversy. There are few subjects in the public arena that touch individuals more deeply, or that engender such strong emotions. In such an overheated atmosphere, it might seem that there is little that scientific inquiry could add. Sometimes it seems that rationality itself has been excluded. Nevertheless, we believe that significant new information has been brought to light in the last few decades – information that speaks directly to many of the arguments made by people on both sides of the issue.
  2. If you've already made up your mind on the subject of abortion3, this book probably won't change it, although it may add a depth of understanding to your position. If you haven't made up your mind, or if you have misgivings about the whole question, you will find information here that may help you come to firm conclusions. While no one is going to make a decision on abortion4 purely on scientific grounds, we feel that everyone, at the very least, ought to get the facts straight. To that end we explore the areas of science that bear on the abortion5 controversy, explaining what we know today that wasn't known when the whole subject blew up in the 1970’s and why that knowledge is relevant to the debate.
  3. The idea for this book arose in the late summer of 1991 when the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court made it seem likely that Roe v. Wade would be overturned and the country would be plunged, state by state, into an intense debate on abortion6. One of us (HJM) began to think about writing a friend-of-the-court brief laying out the best scientific knowledge available. Thanks to an innovative program at George Mason University, the authors have offices next to each other, although we are in different disciplines. Daily conversations and interactions made us realize that there was more to be said than could be contained in a short brief and that what we were finding deserved a much wider readership.
  4. The one overriding principle on which we agreed at the start was to make every effort to present the diverse science as accurately as possible. This meant that whenever possible we would visit or talk on the phone to people generally recognized as leaders in the different fields of research we were reporting and at the very least that we would track down claims in the original research papers, rather than rely on secondary sources and reports. Sometimes this method led us to unexpected results. We found, for example (see page 122), that a bit of "common knowledge" used by people on all sides of the abortion7 controversy is simply wrong.
  5. In the first seven chapters of this book, we present the results of a search through the sciences. This presentation is as dispassionate and objective as possible. In the final chapter we discuss policy on the basis of the scientific findings. Here, obviously, our own opinions and sensibilities have to enter the picture, and we do not try to conceal the fact that they do. Finally, in the Afterword, we make individual statements about our feelings about the abortion8 issue so that the reader can judge the extent to which those feelings may have colored the earlier discussion.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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