There are lots of things that I want to say about abortion, but right now, I just want to put on my biochemical engineering hat and speak about our responsibility, as scientists, in this abortion ethics debate.

Right now, we live in a world in which science is becoming more and more important in our daily lives. The general public knows more science than at any other time in history, despite the current lamentations of many scientists today about the general public’s scientific knowledge, or lack thereof. There are many scientists who are currently having conniption fits about society’s perception of evolution, global climate change, and vaccinations, yet they remain strangely quiet about the issue of abortion. There is no doubt that the above topics are very important issues that must be dealt with, but the silence regarding abortion is deafening. Why?

It is sheer idiocy in which we pretend that human life is something that magically occurs at the moment in which a baby is extracted from its mother. We know better than that. We, as scientists, know too much about pregnancy and the whole process of the creation of life to pretend such a thing. To believe anything else is a lie that is based on pseudoscience and wishful thinking.

Why is the disbelief of evolution such an abhorrent thing and yet the belief that a human is formed at conception such a controversial topic in which we can’t speak about unless we know the circumstances of the birth? After all, the idea that life begins at conception is so well known of a scientific principle that even scientists are able to create human embryos in the lab and implant them into people so that these people are able to conceive a child, via in vitro fertilization, or IVF. If this is the scientific reality that we live with today, then why do we shy away from talking about what makes a human alive?

Of course the fetus is human. Of course the fetus is alive. Of course it’s a lump of cells — so are all of us. We know this all from basic biology. This isn’t even difficult biology. All of these shouldn’t be up for scientific debate. In fact, as scientists, we should make sure the general population is scientifically educated to know these basic facts of biology, at the very least. The question is, when we are posed with the choice of deliberately preserving life or deliberately destroying it, will we choose the side of life or will we choose the side of death?

Let’s talk about another uncomfortable, controversial issue for us scientists, which the recent controversy regarding the sale of dismembered fetal body parts delves into: scientific research. As scientists, as much as we would like to believe otherwise, scientific research is not some sort of hallowed golden calf that we should all bow down to and worship as the source of enlightenment that will lead to the betterment of society. And yet too often, in order to get donations, grant money, or corporate funding, we treat it as if it is. And we have done so to such a large extent that the public perception is such that donating “to science” with their money, their own bodies, or even to the fetal remains of the fetus that was once inside of them, is considered to be an act of goodness.

Perhaps Planned Parenthood is not making any money off the proceeds of the fetal body parts they are selling, but the companies they are selling the parts to are certainly making a lucrative profit in this niche market. After all, there is a certain scarcity of these sorts of human tissues, if one can call fetal body parts that. Perhaps we should be less outraged at Planned Parenthood for trying to find a use for these body parts, which would otherwise be thrown into the trash as bio-hazardous waste, and more angry that the reason why these people were able to go undercover and shoot this video in the first place was because companies can buy fetal body parts and sell them for profit, and quite legally too.

Let me put this another way: we, as a society, are outraged if women who abort fetuses profit financially from their aborted fetuses. We, as a society, are outraged if Planned Parenthood profits financially from aborted fetuses. But if a corporation that invests in “scientific research” for profit financially profits from aborted fetuses? What then? Are we still outraged?

Let’s get real here: many of the women who undergo abortions are poorer women who would be financially imbalanced caring for a child. With that said, it seems to be in remarkably bad taste for a corporation to make a profit of their financial suffering. And yet this is clearly what happens. As scientists, are we comfortable in exploiting other people, especially the most vulnerable in our society, in this fashion in order to possibly progress our own agendas?

Speaking for myself, and only myself, I am not comfortable at all in sacrificing to this golden calf of scientific research in this way.

Once again: I’m trained as a biochemical engineer. I studied science and math because I hoped to make the world a better place. I believe that science and technology add a definite value to our society and can, in fact, better it. But I also think that science and technology can be a dual-edged sword and, if we are not careful, it will destroy us.

If science and scientific research are truly going to be a sources of betterment for society, it needs to be for all of society. We cannot exploit the most vulnerable and impoverished of the world, all in the name of scientific research. It’s as simple as that.