NECAC Debate: Harvard Medical School: “Your Concern, Not Ours”

John C. Rankin

On February 13, 1986, while serving as director for the New England Christian Action Council (NECAC), I addressed a debate at Harvard Medical School, with a colleague who is a medical doctor, Andy White. The abortion-rights side was represented by a physician and a Unitarian sociologist. About 80 medical students were in attendance. During the evening, Andy and I consistently spoke of the woman and her unborn child equally. But the abortion-rights advocates kept positing a war between mother and (unwanted) child.

During the Q & A, a medical student stood up and announced that politically he held a “pro-choice” position. Then he addressed Andy and me, saying he noted how we expressed “care for both the woman and her unborn child.” Then he addressed our debate opponents and noted how they only spoke about care for the woman. Then he asked them, “Do you also have any care for the unborn?”

The physician and sociologist looked at each other, were at a loss for words for some embarrassing moments, then the sociologist gestured to us, and she said, “Well, that is their concern, not ours.”

The audience, overwhelmingly “pro-choice” in sympathies, then rippled with some laughter and amazed sighs. The contrast could not be clearer: abortion-rights activists defined an inequality of the strong over the weak, and accept a war; pro-life advocates define and accept the hope of true equality and reconciliation.

In a point of interface on punting the question, in my 1989 debate (elsewhere cited) I asked the abortion rights panel if there were anything intrinsically good in the act of human abortion. They hesitated even more embarrassingly than did the physician and sociologist at Harvard, for perhaps ten seconds. Then one woman said, “Well, we are not used to the format yet …” and proceeded to avoid the question, because they knew that human abortion is intrinsically an act of destruction. And we were already 45 minutes into the format.

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