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Jacob Michael Froehlich, Published April 13 2013

Letter: Trust science, medicine

‘It is not up to the Legislature to prove that the baby’s heartbeat is compelling proof of life; science and medicine have proved that.” In Sunday’s (April 7) edition of The Forum, Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, cited “science and medicine” as she advocated for her unconstitutional, Roe v. Wade-violating ban on abortion in North Dakota. This may strike many as ironic, considering Grande’s recent assault on academic freedom at North Dakota State University.

While she is correct that science has developed the technology to detect a heartbeat as early as five to six weeks into a pregnancy, that same science and medicine has shown that six-week-old embryos are dramatically and definitely different than neonates, infants, children, and adults. As someone with specific training in developmental biology, I can say that embryos are in fact alive. The “compelling proof of life” exists. No one is arguing that.

What she is arguing for is equivalency between an embryo, one without complete organ development let alone sentience, and a fully developed human being. That is not supported by science and medicine. She can’t have it both ways. If Grande and the Legislature are going to cite scientists and physicians, those professionals who have devoted their lives to understanding biology and pathology, then they also need to heed their data and their opinions when those data and opinions do not support their cause.

They need to respect academic freedom so that those scientists can do their work – whether they “like” that science or not. They need to respect medical judgment and the intimate relationship between patient and physician so that those physicians can deliver the very best care – whether they “like” that care or not. But Grande and the Legislature have done just the opposite. Their actions are antithetical to those principles.

I moved to Alabama to broaden my understanding of biology, particularly animal development. I enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study alongside some of the premier biomedical scientists in the world. Because of the current actions of the Legislature and utter disrespect for science and medicine, however, it is unclear when, or if, I’ll ever bring that knowledge back to North Dakota.

I don’t say that selfishly; I say that out of necessity.


North Dakota native Froehlich is a doctoral student at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.