Response to Bill O'Reilly: The Unborn Child is Not "a Potential Human Being"!

Dianne N. Irving
Copyright April 7, 2001
Reproduced with Permission

Seems conservative stalwart Bill O'Reilly is either frightfully confused, or fudging his facts. On Friday, March 30, 2001, O'Reilly graciously read to his TV audience some letters received by him from some of his viewers.

One such viewer, Amy Nicholls, from Mansfield, Louisiana, quipped: "Mr. O'Reilly, I am extremely disappointed that you referred to the fetus as 'a potential human being.' They are in fact already human." To which O'Reilly responded with a straight face: "Ms. Nicholls, I respect your belief, but that is not how the Supreme Court does it, and I have to deal with the law here. The abortion discussion will never be advanced until people find common ground. I used the term 'potential human being because that is indisputable'. I hope you understand what I'm trying to do here." (emphases mine).

Well, now, it is a bit difficult to honestly understand just what Mr. O'Reilly is trying to do here. Really confusing. But not to fear, Ms. Nicholls. Despite the best efforts of such conservative stalwarts as Bill O'Reilly, you are not going nuts, and the "expert" advice given freely by Mr. O'Reilly to you and to his TV audience is not "indisputable", to put it mildly. Indeed it is not a "belief" but an objective scientific fact that the unborn human fetus is already a human being, and has been so since fertilization in his mother's fallopian tubes (or, with IF, since fertilization in the petri dish). Quoting from several human embryology textbooks, agreed to by a 100% consensus of human embryologists internationally:

BRUCE M. CARLSON, Human Embryology and Developmental Biology (St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 1994): "Human pregnancy begins with the fusion of an egg and a sperm." (p. 3); " ... finally, the fertilized egg, now properly called an embryo, must make its way into the uterus ...." (p. 3). KEITH MOORE AND T.V.N. PERSAUD, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (6th ed. only) (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998): "Human development is a continuous process that begins when an oocyte (ovum) from a female is fertilized by a sperm (or spermatozoon) from a male. (p. 2); ibid.: ... but the embryo begins to develop as soon as the oocyte is fertilized. (p. 2); ibid.: Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm ... unites with a female gamete or oocyte ... to form a single cell ... . This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." (p. 18). WILLIAM J. LARSEN, Human Embryology (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1997): "In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual. ... Fertilization takes place in the oviduct ... Embryonic development is considered to begin at this point. (p. 1). RONAN O'RAHILLY AND FABIOLA MULLER, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994): "Fertilization is an important landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed. (p. 5); ibid.: Fertilization is the procession of events that begins when a spermatozoon makes contact with a secondary oocyte or its investments ... (p. 19); ibid: "The ill-defined and inaccurate term pre-embryo, which includes the embryonic disc, is said either to end with the appearance of the primitive streak or ... to include neurulation. The term is not used in this book." (p. 55)."

How really quaint for O'Reilly to depend for his belief on the Supreme Court's rather suspect version of "human embryology" in this matter. After all, it is "just" a question of law, isn't it? If the Supreme Court says the fetus is "just a potential human being", then it is just a "potential human being", right? End of discussion. And if the Supreme Court says that water boils at 5 degrees Fahrenheit, well, then, that is when water boils, right? And if by "common ground" O'Reilly means that we must all "believe" that water boils at 5 degrees Fahrenheit, then by golly, let's believe it! All together now --: "We all believe that water boils at 5 degrees Fahrenheit!" Phew. I feel much better now already. At least we are all on the same page -- "common ground", you know. In the Supreme Court and Bill O'Reilly we trust. Right?

Those involved in the abortion "discussion" will never find "common ground" as long as the objective scientific facts of human embryology are ignored, fudged or deconstructed for dubious ends.

I might add that both I and Dr. C. Ward Kischer (who has been teaching human embryology for over 30 years now) have been trying to contact Bill O'Reilly for months so that we could "discuss" this "common ground" with him. There are quite a number of similar "fudgings" O'Reilly has stated on his programs in "discussing" human embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, etc. He has failed to return all e-mails, phone calls, letters, and various other efforts to "find a common ground" with reality, or to discuss his fudgings.

He refuses to be contacted. Hmmm. Well, at least he can just go to his local public library and find out the indisputable scientific facts in a good human embryology textbook. I recommend it.