British scientist says US anti-abortion lawyers misused his work to attack Roe v Wade

By Rosa Rubicondior | 8 May 2022
Rosa Rubicondior Blog

Crowds protest at Supreme Court after leaked Roe v. Wade draft opinion. (Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

British scientist says US anti-abortion lawyers misused his work to attack Roe v Wade | Roe v Wade | The Guardian

If you’re an American woman who is about to have her legal right to an abortion removed by the Supreme Court, you might like to know that the decision of the highest law officers of the state is based, at least in part, on lies told to them by lawyers representing fundamentalist Christians in order to mislead them about what the science shows. In other words, their decision is based not on scientific truth but on lies and misrepresentation by Christian extremists with a political agenda.

Commandment eight of the Ten Commandments forbids a Christian from bearing false witness (Exodus 20:15). This is later clarified in Exodus 23:1 to prohibit false testimony with “Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.” Yet American fundamentalist Christians, who demand everyone else be subject to these simplistic Bronze Age tribal laws, don’t feel in the least constrained by them when they need an excuse to foist their barbaric rules on the rest of us.

For example, in their testimony to SCOTUS, which might have influenced them in their widely touted impending ruling effectively overturning Roe vs Wade and re-criminalising abortions, Christian lawyers acting for fundamentalist Christians who wish to impose their views on, and re-establish their control over, women in America, cited the British scientist, Dr Stuart Derbyshire, a British associate professor of psychology at the National University of Singapore. In a discussion paper in Journal of Medical Ethics in 2020, Derbyshire suggested that work by Giandomenico Iannetti, an Italian professor of neuroscience, who at the time was working in University College, London and Oxford University, showed that a foetus can feel pain prior to the development of the cerebral cortex at 24 weeks.

Professor Giandomenico, however, is adamant that his research shows no such thing. With a cavalier regard for truth and accuracy, right-wing lawyers, acting for Christian Talibangelicals seeking power at any price, misled SCOTUS with the traditional right-wing Christian extremist tactic of misrepresenting science by presenting a minority and highly contentious interpretation of a paper as mainstream science, claiming it supports them when the truth is, it does exactly the opposite.

Desperate to pretend there was some scientific support for their bigotry, they lied about the science.

Professor Iannetti, who disagrees with Dr Derbyshire’s interpretation of his work, as do most researchers in the field, says he was not made aware that his work was being misrepresent to SCOTUS so had no chance to correct the disinformation they were being misled with.

Other scientists have spoken out in support of Professor Iannetti and what his work did and didn’t show. According to this report in the Guardian:

Prof Vania Apkarian, director of the Centre for Translational Pain Research at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who has spent two decades studying pain in humans and animals, said the evidence on foetal pain had not changed since 1973 and remains “irrefutable”.

Apkarian wrote the scientific briefing for the Jackson Women’s Health Organisation case, on behalf of organisations including the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the US and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK. He spent months checking all the anti-abortion scientific references in case his side had missed some piece of serious evidence. “We hadn’t,” he said.

Apkarian believes science has been roped into a social and religious battle over abortion in order to play on people’s emotions. “The Mississippi case claimed that the foetus, when aborted, is suffering. They claimed that because it is such an emotionally highly laden statement. But it is also totally untrue,” he said.

As always the truth is the first casualty in war and Christians see this as a war against liberalism and a rejection of their control of society. The important thing to them is to win the war and retain that control at any price, moral or immoral. Religion is providing them with the excuses they need to justify their antisocial behaviour. To quote Dr Meera Shah, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic:

The bottom line is that a patient’s health, not unproven theories, should drive important medical decisions.

Rosa Rubicondior (a pseudonym) is a retired data analyst, biologist, blogger, author and atheist.

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