MIT group sponsors abortion forumMembers of the MIT community discussed issues concerning abortion prior to an April 29 screening of Silent Scream, a film on abortion. The MIT Christian Community sponsored the event.
A talk entitled "People or Kleenex?" given by Elisabeth Elliott, author of 16 books, preceded the screening.
Approximately l50 people, mostly students, attended the screening in room 10-250. Members of Pro-Femina, an MIT feminist group, distributed leaflets criticizing the film at the entrance to the lecture hall.
Elliott said she spoke on the abortion issue as "a Christian woman." She explained that she drew much support for her anti-abortion stance from the Bible because of her Christian background. Some members of the audience later criticized her use of religion to justify her beliefs.
Elliott argued that a fetus is a human being from conception, and therefore abortion is wrong.<>
She spoke of an aborted fetus as "... a child ... [which] was killed."
Karen Keating Ansara, a representative of Planned Parenthood in Cambridge, said in an interview with The Tech that whether a fetus is a human being from conception is "a matter of religious or personal belief, and there is no consensus in our society."
Elliott addressed one pro-choice argument that abortion is justifiable because the fetus cannot survive on its own outside the womb. She attempted to invalidate this argument by comparing a woman carrying a fetus to a dialysis machine supporting a patient.
She argued that society would not pull the plug on the patient, so society should not allow a woman to abort the fetus she supports.
"A dialysis machine does not have a personal life," Ansara said. She took exception to Elliott's analogy because it conveyed the idea of "woman as breeder."
Jorgen Harmse G rejected Elliott's argument when Elliott opened the floor for questions from the audience. Harmse said<>
that "in fact there's a great difference between a dialysis machine and a woman. A dialysis machine does not suffer." Some of the audience applauded.
Elliott countered that "a woman does not have the right to detach herself from a child." She argued that aborting a fetus is the same as killing an unwanted child. "I really don't see any difference," she said. Some members of the audience applauded her point of view, also.
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Ansara cited a study completed in the early 1970s by a Catholic theologian which found that in countries where abortion was legal, the respect for life had not diminished. "In fact, I think you'd find that it's in countries where the poor are burdened by excessive childbirth that infanticide is practiced," she said.
The audience discussed both sides of the abortion issue for 30 minutes after Elliot's presentation. The forum's sponsors then showed Silent Scream.
The film's narrator, Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, was once an abortionist who now speaks against abortion. He echoed Elliott's stance when he asserted that "the unborn child is simply another human being, whose functions are indistinguishable from any of ours."
Nathanson first described how a suction method abortion is performed. He then narrated the abortion of a 12-week-old fetus, as seen by ultrasound imaging.
The ultrasound imaging shown in the film produced a blurry picture. Nathanson pointed out a probe entering the uterus and the fetus purportedly moving away from the probe.
"The child will rear away from<>
[the probe] in a purposeful manner. The child's mouth is now open. We see the child's mouth wide open in a silent scream. It does sense aggression in its sanctuary," Nathanson said.
Pro-Femina's literature contained a list of medical opinions which argued that a 12-week-old fetus is not capable of screaming or sensing pain.
Prof. Jerome Y. Lettvin '47 of the Department of Biology said that "we simply do not know that there is any awareness or cognition" in the 12-week-old fetus. "He [Nathanson] is lying through his teeth when he says that the fetus feels pain."
"The ultrasound image was grossly overinterpreted," said Prof. Vernon M. Ingram, also of the Department of Biology. In response to Nathanson's claim that the fetus is indistinguishable from a human being, Ingram said, "No, that's not true. There are some major physiological changes that occur before birth."
The film ended with pictures of hundreds of aborted fetuses lying in piles on floors and tables. Nathanson did not explain how the fetuses shown in this portion of the film were aborted.