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Examining terminology

Letter to the Editor | Friday, November 10, 2006

In his recent exchange with Daniel Hicks over whether Plan B emergency contraception acts as an abortifacient (“The facts on Plan B,” Nov. 8), Andrew Rosato relies on an untenable definition of pregnancy. Since this mistake is common to many with views such as Rosato’s – including Professor Charles Rice, whose article began this debate – the issue deserves independent attention.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnancy is “established only after implantation [of the fertilized embryo] is complete” (www.acog.org). Since an abortifacient acts by terminating a pregnancy, merely preventing implantation cannot count as an abortion in the medical definition of this term.

Moreover, there are good reasons to accept this medical definition. One is the fact, cited by ACOG, that in the normal course of things between one-third and one-half of all fertilized eggs fail to implant. This fact would seem to constitute something of an embarrassment to those, like Rosato, who hold that human life begins when a human egg is fertilized. For such a view is then committed to saying that at least one-third of all human beings naturally abort.

If this in turn means that the life of those beings has been taken unjustly – a position Rosato seems to endorse – it then follows that God or nature (I leave it to you to decide) is morally responsible for taking a great deal of innocent human life.

Kevin Robbins

graduate student

off campus

Nov. 9