Roe v. Wade: Bad law and bad science

A new book by a renowned reproductive healthcare doctor takes a critical look at the flawed science of Roe v. Wade, the infamous Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. over 50 years ago. 

The Fake and Deceptive Science Behind Roe v. Wade is the result of a years-long scientific study conducted by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, M.D., who has practiced obstetrics and gynecology for over 40 years. Dr. Hilgers founded the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Neb., in 1985 and presently serves as its director. He is also known as one of the primary developers of the Creighton Model Fertility Care System, which is endorsed and promoted by the Catholic Church as a method of Natural Family Planning. 

Many experts of constitutional law have argued that the Roe v. Wade decision should be considered illegitimate from a legal standpoint. Dr. Hilgers takes that logic a step further and argues that Roe, as well as the similar decision of Doe v. Bolton, were also decided based on bad science. 

“My study found that both rulings are riddled with scientific errors,” Dr. Hilgers said. “With regard to these decisions being settled law, we can only hope and pray that the conscience of a nation is not willing to accept that distinction. The scientific reality that the Court failed to grasp in these rulings is that human life begins at conception. 

“I’ve known for a long time that this science that they presented was not accurate and the thing that I had some trouble with over the years was trying to document that they actually lied,” Dr. Hilgers told the Denver Catholic. “I’ve been able to do that now. They either were lying, or they were deceptive in how they presented their case. The whole Roe v. Wade decision is based on aberrant science, and it is in a lot of ways an illegitimate decision because of that.” 

The lynchpin that the Roe v. Wade decision is based upon, and the primary lie that has subsequently shaped the way much of society thinks about abortion, is the fact that the court did not define when life begins. 

“They basically said, ‘well, we don’t need to determine when life begins,’” Dr. Hilgers said. “It seems to me that that’s a really important issue here. Otherwise, we just have the Dred Scott decision all over again, which in fact, I think there’s a real similarity between the two, because they wouldn’t give the unborn full credibility for being human in Roe v. Wade.” 

The Dred Scott v. Sandford decision of 1857 ruled that Black people could not be recognized as U.S. citizens, whether they were enslaved or not, and essentially denied them their humanity. It is universally condemned as one of, if not the worst Supreme Court decision in U.S. history. The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once cited Scott v. Sanford as a precedent that paved the way for Roe v. Wade

In the Roe decision, the court cited what they called “new embryological data” that was pulled from law review articles by lawyers and other lay publications written by people who were interested in science but were not scientists themselves, Dr. Hilgers explained. The data cited in the decision “was certainly not the consistent thought at the time of Roe.” 

A 2019 study conducted by a scholar of the University of Chicago found that of 5,577 biologists who were asked whether human life began at conception, 96 percent responded in the affirmative. Interestingly, the majority who responded identified as pro-choice. Given the scientific advancements that have been made since the 1970s, this consensus is notable. It implies that most scientists know that human life begins at conception and aligns with Dr. Hilgers’ notion that they knew this fact in 1973, too. 

“We knew then, and we know now, life begins at conception,” Dr. Hilgers said. “Then it grows all the way through pregnancy, birth and all the various stages of life. That’s what human life is, it’s a group of stages of life. They talk about a woman’s choice [or] women’s freedom to choose. I couldn’t find any place in Roe where it talks about a woman’s freedom to choose. In fact, the choice to do the abortion, according to Roe, was the decision of the doctor and the doctor alone.” 

Another claim in particular that alarmed Dr. Hilgers is a statistical figure that purported 5,000 – 10,000 women die each year from illegal abortions. It’s a figure that Chelsea Clinton has cited in recent years, and the same one they used at the time of Roe

“It’s completely untrue,” Dr. Hilgers said. “The maternal death rate for abortion of all causes, not just septic abortion, but of all causes the year before Roe v. Wade was 48 women. Now, that’s 48 too many, but maternal death does occur still in pregnancy every once in a while. That was in 1972, and they don’t miss these deaths very easily when it comes to the scrutiny of the statistical division of the national vital statistics.” 

In fact, the activists and doctors who used these figures to help advance their argument to legalize abortion knew themselves that these statistics weren’t true, Dr. Hilgers said.  

“There was a book published by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who was an obstetrician-gynecologist and was one of the core of three people who are responsible for making the argument for abortion,” Dr. Hilgers said. “He said that he knew for a fact that five to ten thousand women did not die every year from illegal abortion and that [they] just said it to make a big mark. [They] knew it wasn’t true. He flat out admitted it.” 

Despite being one of the three doctors who helped to make the arguments that would legalize abortion in the U.S. with the Roe v. Wade decision, Dr. Nathanson would later have a conversion to Catholicism and become a staunch anti-abortion advocate. 

The Fake and Deceptive Science Behind Roe v. Wade is the result of a years-long scientific study conducted by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, M.D., who has practiced obstetrics and gynecology for over 40 years. Dr. Hilgers founded the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Neb., in 1985 and presently serves as its director.

Another claim in Roe that befuddled Dr. HiIgers was one that said abortion was 23 times safer than ordinary or normal childbirth, implying that giving birth is more deadly than getting an abortion. 

“That’s actually a statistic that I’ve been chasing for quite a few years, and I never could quite get my fingers on it. I couldn’t figure out exactly why I was having trouble with it,” he said. “Then I realized how they worded it. They worded it by saying that it’s 23 times safer than normal or ordinary childbirth. That’s the language used in Roe. You can [also] say it the other way around, that normal, ordinary childbirth is 23 times more dangerous than an abortion. But actually, the mortality rate from normal and ordinary childbirth is zero because there is nothing normal or ordinary about a maternal death in childbirth. They still occur once in a while, but they’re quite rare, and when they do, it’s a catastrophic medical situation that happens usually without warning.” 

Dr. Hilgers said that similar to what we’re seeing amid the current pandemic crisis, science isn’t always politically neutral, and Roe v. Wade was in fact a highly politicized decision that neglected to take into account all of the scientific facts that were presented at the time. 

“Medicine is much more political than one can imagine,” Dr. Hilgers said. “The decision itself was highly political. It was set up to be able to make a case for abortion and was written from a very pro-abortion mindset as opposed to a constitutional mindset or a more neutral presentation. They decided pretty much what they wanted to do.” 

Roe v. Wade completely reframed the issue of abortion and opened the door for what St. Pope Paul VI alluded to as a “throwaway culture” in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. The effects of this decision are still felt to this day, and not just in the fact that abortion remains legal. The language used in Roe v. Wade persists in mainstream American culture and informs how the majority of people think and talk about the issue of life. Dr. Hilgers hopes this book will give people a foundation to enter the debate in a more effective way.

“We live in a climate of what people have called Identity politics, and these poor babies have had no identity because they’re inside their mother’s womb,” Dr. Hilgers explained. “When [people] start saying its products of conception or amorphous cells or whatever it may be, they use a lot of language which is very nonspecific and oftentimes clouds the issue on purpose. I’m not talking just here about the court, but just in general in the general debate. When they do that, people don’t know how to respond. One of the challenges with this book is to try to get people to start thinking otherwise about it so they can be a lot more effective at standing up for the unborn. It is the number one human rights issue in the world right now. 

“People just don’t know what’s going on,” Dr. Hilgers continued. “They believe a lot of how people frame this issue [when] it’s framed as pro-choice or they use the terminology that really is so fake. Does the baby have a choice? The answer is no. We have to find better ways of arguing the issue. There are ways of doing that. I’m not saying I’m an expert at it, but I’ve always been aware of the language and we need to work harder at getting it into everyday life.” 

In addition to becoming more aware of the pro-choice stance and entering into the debate in a more informed and effective manner, Dr. Hilgers said that another step to take is better equipping and training doctors to provide actual real support for women who are distressed by pregnancy. 

“We need to find a way to take care of those women who are pregnant and distressed,” he concluded. “The whole culture has to get to a point where they don’t see a pregnant woman as a threat, but to see them as someone that you need to really help and find ways of supporting them that are really effective.” 

Featured photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”