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National Organization for Women president shocks radio host with response to abortion question

Posted August 22

A Seattle-based radio host recently asked the head of the National Organization for Women a series of controversial questions about women's health and abortion.

Among the many points of discussion, there was one response in particular from NOW head Terry O'Neill that seemed to shock KIRO radio host Jason Rantz — so much so that he called her perspective "extreme," and sought clarification.

The key moment came when Rantz asked O'Neill a hypothetical question: whether she would still support abortion rights if science determined that life definitively begins at the moment of conception.

"I kind of wish we lived in a world where we knew where life began," Rantz said before leading into his question, with O'Neill responding, "I don't care."

The host then proceeded to ask whether O'Neill would still support abortion rights even if science concluded that life begins at conception.

"Of course I would," she said.

O'Neill went on to say that she understands and is in favor of the "concept of potential life" before birth, but that she is "not in favor of ... women dying because adequate reproductive healthcare is withheld from them on religious grounds."

But Rantz wasn't willing to give the issue up, digging a bit deeper and telling O'Neill that he believed her perspective seemed "very extreme."

"Take religion out of it, and we have shown through science that life begins the moment that a fetus is created, is developed," he said. "This is not the potential for life — that is life. You are saying that you do support abortion. Wouldn't that be the textbook definition of murder in that case?"

O'Neill, who dodged directly answering that question, said that the public wouldn't even be having the conversation about women's reproductive health if religion were taken out of the equation.

She added that she believes "women's lives are precious" and that it is shameful to not support "access to basic reproductive healthcare."

Earlier on in the interview she said that the 2016 Republican Party Platform is "viciously anti-women" — a critique that has emerged following both major parties' political conventions. Interestingly, some conservative groups have dubbed the GOP document "the most pro-life platform ever."

The debate over when life begins has long been the centerpiece in the decades-old stalemate between pro-life and pro-choice Americans.

This is the exact issue that Wired tackled in a 2015 article titled "Why science can't say when a baby's life begins." According to that piece, "The ultimate question is, when does a fetus become a person — at fertilization, at birth or somewhere in between?"

There's still no clear consensus among scientists, with the public remaining divided on the matter.

In the 19th century, the article claims that it wasn't until the mother could feel her baby kick — something called the "quickening" — that it was considered a life.

But with the rise and development of technologies that show doctors, mothers and fathers what's going on inside of the womb, it has become clearer that life appears to be in action much earlier.

It's a battle that is surely nowhere near over, as some argue that life most definitely doesn't begin at conception, while others on the pro-life side claim that science has already settled the matter and that it indeed does.

Even if the life issue was settled, though, it surely wouldn't stop the abortion debate from forging on.

As previously reported, some researchers recently called for the inclusion of abortion as an official cause of death in U.S. vital statistics.

In a recently published article in the Open Journal of Preventive Medicine titled "Induced abortion, mortality, and the conduct of science," researchers James Studnicki, Sharon J. MacKinnon and John W. Fisher made the case for treating abortion as a recognized form of human death.

"There is no credible scientific opposition to the fact that a genetically distinct human life begins at conception and that an induced abortion is a death," the study's abstract reads. "Yet abortion is not reported as a cause of death in the U.S. vital statistics system."

The researchers argue that mortality patterns impact public policy and that there are "large racial and ethnic disparities" when it comes to abortion. Read more about that here.

Email: bhallowell@deseretnews.com Twitter: billyhallowell Facebook: facebook.com/billyhallowell

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