12 Comments on “[Video] Abortion Debate: Stephanie Gray vs. Dr. Fraser Fellows

  1. Hello,
    I have recently watched, online, more than one debate between Stephanie Gray and Dr. Fellows. My opinion, in a nutshell, is that Ms. Gray is dealing with an ideal and Dr. Fellows is responding to the reality of life in the 21st century.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      What realities of 21st century life in particular do you think justify abortion?

      I don’t see it as a question of idealism vs. reality, but a question of principle on human rights — if a pre-born isn’t a human being, then no justification for abortion is necessary, but if a pre-born child is a human being, then no matter the reality of 21st century life, killing that human being is not a legitimate solution to even the most difficult problems. Would you disagree?

      • Hi Blaise,
        The laws or rules regarding when a pre-born becomes a human being aren’t decided by Dr. Fellows or the public (i.e. you or myself). That may be more of an opinion than a rule to many. I agree with Dr. Fellows that his patient is the living human that he is treating, not the embryo or the fetus she wishes to abort. The sad reality of life in the 21st century is that the expense of setting up supports for pregnant women who haven’t planned a child are apparently unrealistic. In a perfect world every child would be loved and taken care of, but clearly that isn’t happening even with the option of abortion. I love babies, and my life has been spent mostly as an at home mother by choice. Dr. Fellows was my obstetrician for my first daughter, (moved after that) so maybe I am biased, but I think I can understand when a new baby would be a devastating result for a woman in a particular situation or time in her life. I also see that all life is precious, but still feel that we are arguing idealism vs. reality.

        • But, should we kill people when they’re too expensive to support?

          This is why I don’t think it’s a matter of idealism vs. reality. Stephanie Gray isn’t arguing about our ability or inability to support people; she’s arguing that killing them isn’t a legitimate solution if we can’t.

          Their difference isn’t over idealism vs. reality, but on the question of whether pre-born children are people too.

          Laws or rules about when a pre-born child becomes a human being are pretty arbitrary. (For example, in Canada, it isn’t until a child has completely proceeded from the body of his or her mother that he/she is considered to be human. But the biology isn’t arbitrary — from the point of fertilization, there is a unique human being present.

          That’s the difference between their positions, I think. It’s not a question of idealism vs. reality, but whether or not we (a) recognize that there is a unique human being present from the point of conception, and (b) kill people that we don’t think we can support.

          If something changes when a mother has an infant child, such that the child dependent on her is “a devastating result… in a particular situation or time in her life” (e.g. husband leaves), can she kill her infant child? That’s not a question of idealism versus reality, but whether or not killing an infant is a legitimate solution to even incredibly difficult life circumstances.

          If something changes when a mother has a pre-born child, such that the child dependent on her is “a devastating result… in a particular situation or time in her life” (e.g. husband leaves), can she kill her pre-born child? That’s not a question of idealism versus reality, but whether or not killing an infant is a legitimate solution to even incredibly difficult life circumstances.

          I think I see what you’re saying, that there are many incredibly difficult life circumstances in reality that can make it very difficult to have children. We don’t live in an ideal world. But, do you think that killing an innocent child is ever a legitimate solution to really difficult life circumstances?

          What kinds of harsh realities would make it okay to kill another innocent person?

          ps I only know Dr. Fellows from the debate at U of T, but I heard from another pro-life student hosting an abortion debate with Dr. Fellows that he was a good obstetrician. He delivered her!

  2. Your arguments all have a degree of validity, but I still feel that we are differing partly in terminology/semantics, which is causing this to become a circular debate. I am glad that there are people like you, and Stephanie Gray, in the world who are willing to debate these contentious issues publicly. But I am also glad that there are doctors like Dr. Fellows, who understand that people are very complex, and just listing reasons for or against abortion doesn’t fully take into account the complexities of a woman’s life or mind.

    • Thanks very much again for your thoughtful comments, Cathryn.

      What terminology/semantic difference do you see?

      I think you and Dr. Fellows are quite right to recognize the complexities that surround a decision about abortion. But the question still seems to come down to, not to the complexities or even extreme difficulties in life, but whether or not we’re willing to end the life of another as a legitimate response to those complexities.

      To argue against abortion is not to say that life isn’t complex, or that a decision to have an abortion isn’t complex, but rather that even in the face of those complexities, we shouldn’t kill.

      • Hi Blaise,
        The terminology differences are the use of words such as “killing people” vs. aborting the possibility of a human life. It’s all wrapped up in belief, I suppose. You are correct that the biology is not arbitrary, when an embryo is formed, but some people believe that because the embryo, or fetus later, cannot survive outside of the mother’s body that it is not yet a person . I find it difficult to argue for the pro-choice side when emotion laden terms such as “killing a human being” are used. Also because I know that the possibility of a human life at conception is true. But as Dr. Fellows has said, if the option of abortion is not offered, women will seek unsafe, illegal abortions. Hopefully someday there will be a resolution to this issue, but until then many women will be grateful to doctors who are willing to offer abortions. There will also be some who regret their decision.

        • Thanks for this comment.

          I try choose my language carefully. For example, “killing” is about as straightforward a word I can think of for ending someone’s life, that describes precisely what abortion is without passing judgment. (Killing can be justifiable — many abortion advocates believe that an unwanted pregnancy is justification for killing human beings if they’re young enough, though I don’t agree.)

          I wouldn’t say something like “the possibility of a human life” because that would be an inaccurate euphemism — it contradicts the basic biology. A sperm or an unfertilized egg are the possibility of a human life; an embryo or fetus or newborn or infant or toddler is a young human life. Those are just age range terms — embryo up to 8 weeks after the beginning of life, fetus from 8 weeks to ~9 months, birth, newborn for a month after birth, infant until walking at which point we use the term toddler, etc. They’re all age range terms that refer to human beings after the beginning of life.

          With respect to the possiblity to survive outside of the mother’s body, that line of thinking has always struck me as odd. With today’s medical technology, a human being has a 50-70% chance of survival outside his or her mother’s womb if born around 25 weeks into his/her life, and 25 weeks if generally considered to be the point of fetal viability today. But 20 years ago, it would have been later, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t move up over the next 20 years. Some children have survived being born as early as 20-21 weeks after the beginning of life — within the age range that Dr. Fellows would be willing to perform an abortion to kill them.

          The line of thinking strikes me as odd because fetal viability is so linked to the state of our medical technology. Do you think that a human being who’s 25 weeks old is a human being today, but a human being at the same age 100 years back would only be “the possibility of human life”? Does our the state of our medical technology determine whether or not we’re human? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

          With respect to women seeking illegal abortions, that’s a difficult reality. But it comes back to the question of what abortion actually is — if pre-born children are human beings, can we kill them to solve even that difficult of a problem? If we’re worried about one person hurting themselves when trying to kill another, is ensuring the death of that other person in a “safe” environment a real solution? No abortion is safe for the child.

          Lastly, again, I think this highlights the real area of difference — it’s not about idealism vs pragmatism, but about whether we recognize that human life begins at conception or whether we consider young human life to be somehow just “potential.” That’s where we differ. If pre-born children weren’t human beings, then I might agree that legal abortions could be a solution to the risks of illegal abortions. At the heart of it, our difference is on the question: what is the pre-born?

          • Thanks for fixing the email problem, Blaise. You are making an excellent case against abortion at any stage and are right that one difference we have been discussing is “what is the pre-born.” Personally, I’m not sure about that, but have been pointing out the differences of belief, which you are already very aware of. What I still believe, though, is that the regulations regarding abortion are an attempt to respond to what women want. Whether that is good or bad is still a value judgement. Having public debates is an important way to keep this sad issue alive, so I’m for that. If women who listen to the pros and cons decide against abortion, then I’m sure Dr. Fellows will be more than happy to stop doing them, since he believes it is a women’s issue. That’s all I have to say about this issue, so am thanking you now for the discussion.

          • Thanks for the discussion, Cathryn.

            I’d agree that part of the reason why abortion is legal is the result people wanting to have abortions. To change public policy, first you have to change public opinion, which is why we host debates like this at the University of Toronto, or run a blog and engage in the comments on our website, etc. While I still think that laws are important to protect the vulnerable, I agree that we do need to convince women and men (men sometimes want abortion too, sometimes against the wishes of their partner) not to have abortions in the first place. The culture needs to match the laws and regulations, which is exactly why we focus on things like the debate and presenting the case against abortion publicly. To Dr. Fellow’s credit, he’s quite willing to engage in public debate on the issue as well.

            Thanks for the conversation.

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