Aug 10, 2015

A case study of confused conversations over abortions

Howard W. Jones Jr. was expecting controversy.

But not this controversy.

Jones was pioneering the developing science of in vitro fertilization in the United States. He and his wife, Georgeanna Jones, one of the nation’s first specialists in reproductive hormones, had retired from Johns Hopkins University in 1978. They moved to Norfolk, Va., the next year and were trying to start a clinic at Eastern Virginia Medical School to help couples struggling to conceive.

The Joneses were familiar with opposition to fertility treatment and fears about so-called test-tube babies. But they didn’t expect their work to become a flashpoint in the then-burgeoning battle against abortion. After all, they weren’t in the business of unwanted pregnancies. Theirs was the science of helping people who desperately wanted babies.

It was actually supposed to be a fairly straightforward and bureaucratic meeting of the Virginia Statewide Health Coordinating Council. Yet the hearing room filled to capacity on Halloween day, 1979, and pro-life protestors gathered outside making dire predictions about this new science.

“Incredible claims were made,” Howard Jones recalled in his memoir. “Protestors [said] that in vitro fertilization would surely promote incest, human-animal hybrids, and other bizarre scenarios which were both shocking and unbelievable.”

It wasn’t the last time Jones found himself confused in a conversation with the pro-life movement. Jones died July 31 at the age of 104. In the years between that hearing and Jones’s death, little changed in the public conversation over abortion.

Jones’ life provides an interesting case study of confused conversations over abortions. For more than 30 years, he engaged pro-life advocates, who frequently opposed his work helping people conceive.

The science he helped develop was “far too wasteful of human life,” as one pro-life group put it, “resulting in thousands of embryos which are destroyed, either by chance in the womb or on purpose when they are no longer needed for the treatment. The process also encourages a mentality which views people as things to be bought or sold.”

He tried to talk to them out of that opinion. Some conversations he was invited to while others were thrust upon him. None resulted in any sort of consensus or clarity.

Read the easy at the Washington Post: How one doctor tried for 30 years to bring clarity to the abortion conversation