November 2018  |  Prof. John Wyatt

“In one part of the hospital we’re trying to save babies’ lives, and in another part of the hospital, bigger, tougher, stronger babies are being aborted…”

Transcript | What we see and what we say about the unborn

Glen

Professor John Wyatt, Professor of Neonatal Pediatrics, University College University College, London, and you have come to the Brephos conference here to speak about the unborn with your doctor's hat on.  Why do you want to protect the unborn?

John

So, I spent most of my life working as a baby doctor and you know as a baby doctor I've invested a huge amount of time and energy and resources and spent of the government's money trying to protect young babies and trying to give them the very best possible chance of life.  The bizarre thing in modern hospitals isn't

00:39

one side of part of the hospital where

00:41

we're trying to protect and lives at the

00:43

beginning of life and then the another

00:44

part of our hospital be in the fetal

00:46

medicine unit there are actually

00:47

abortions taking place of babies often

00:50

with because of medical problems and

00:53

sometimes those abortions are taking

00:55

place even at greater stages the babies

00:57

are bigger and tougher and stronger than

01:00

the babies other ways struggling to save

01:02

another part of the hospital and so you

01:05

say to say yourself this can't be right

01:07

and and so my feeling is there I'm

01:11

called to be there to be a voice for

01:12

these babies who can't speak for

01:14

themselves

01:14

yeah because from a scientific point of

01:16

view you're thinking there is nothing

01:18

morally relevant that is different

01:21

between the case of a let's say a

01:23

26-week baby who is you know trying to

01:26

be given every chance of survival as

01:29

opposed to a 23 week old baby who can be

01:32

aborted we can't be terminated that's

01:34

that's yes I I don't believe there is

01:36

any moral fundamental moral significance

01:38

and in fact the 26-week baby can be

01:41

aborted in the UK it's legal for

01:43

abortions to happen at any stage in the

01:45

pregnancy all the way up till term and

01:47

and so there are abortions happening at

01:50

the very same point is that we're

01:52

capable of keeping babies alive and the

01:57

only moral difference is that in the one

01:59

case the baby is outside in the world

02:02

and therefore we as a society can can

02:06

show our compassion and concern for this

02:08

be

02:08

whatever the parents think even if the

02:11

parents don't wish their child is alive

02:13

I as a doctor have a duty of care to

02:16

this child and I have to put the child's

02:19

interest first I have a legal duty to

02:21

put the child's interests first

02:22

right in the second case at 26 weeks the

02:26

unborn baby it's as though the unborn

02:28

baby is hostage within the body of the

02:31

mother and in fact that in fact the law

02:33

doesn't recognize the status of the

02:36

unborn babies has no legal personality

02:39

so that's the moral difference the moral

02:43

difference is not in any difference in

02:44

the baby it's like it's in the situation

02:47

the contact yes and you were giving an

02:48

interesting story about the 12-week scan

02:51

so the person doing the ultrasound for

02:53

the 12-week scan if that pregnancy is

02:56

wanted the language is of oh you have a

02:59

baby and doesn't it have daddy's chin

03:01

and all that's right so the single most

03:04

important thing that the person who is

03:05

doing the scan needs to know is there

03:07

needs to work out is this a one two baby

03:09

or is it not once a baby because and

03:12

they need to work that out before they

03:14

start the scan once they start the scan

03:16

if it's a wanted baby they turn the

03:18

screen to the mother and often the

03:20

father's there as well and the language

03:22

is all about the baby yes how he's doing

03:24

really well and he's wriggling around

03:26

and oh look he's sucking his thumb and

03:28

he looks just like his dad and it's all

03:30

this kind of baby talk but if the baby

03:33

is not wanted the screen is turned away

03:36

from the mother right and the language

03:40

changes completely and they talk about

03:41

the pregnancy the pregnancy is growing

03:44

normally normal-size it's all this

03:48

impersonal yes language yeah and and yet

03:52

yeah the being the right in the yeah in

03:56

the womb it's exactly the same right so

03:58

the bizarre thing that's happened is

04:00

that your value your moral status

04:03

depends on whether you're wanted on our

04:05

right and yet elsewhere in the whole of

04:08

human life if we were to say the value

04:10

of this child right depends on whether

04:13

it's what this minority group within

04:15

society or if this elderly lady right

04:17

who nobody wants well clearly her life

04:19

is of no significance yes because it's a

04:21

strong

04:21

have chosen the moral value to place on

04:24

that yes and this is the exact

04:26

equivalence it's but we would be

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appalled that do you know any

04:30

right-thinking person would be appalled

04:33

that the idea that we value human beings

04:35

according to whether other people think

04:37

their life is worth living right but

04:40

we've accepted this yes at in the unborn

04:43

without without doctors and healthcare

04:46

professionals have accepted this and

04:48

what's more they think they're being

04:50

incredibly sensitive and sophisticated

04:52

and professional right that they can

04:54

they can talk this two languages

04:57

completely seamlessly shift from one to

05:00

the other right just enough to be

05:02

sensitive yes to the person and what

05:05

shifts is what they see so what they see

05:09

is managed a pending on whether the baby

05:12

is wanted or not and then how they speak

05:14

of the issue absolute is altered so from

05:18

the point of view of trying to stand up

05:19

for the unborn what do you think we need

05:21

to do in terms of what people see and

05:23

how people speak about this issue

05:25

Thanks well I think you put your finger

05:27

on them so I think language is

05:29

incredibly important in this whole

05:30

debate and the interesting thing is

05:32

there is no neutral language right as

05:35

soon as we use words in this area we are

05:38

already expressing a moral commitment

05:40

yes so we either talk about the unborn

05:42

baby or we talk about the fetus right or

05:45

the pregnancy and as soon as we do that

05:48

we've already made a moral commitment

05:50

yeah if either recognize this being as

05:54

one of us right part of our family part

05:56

of the human family or we distance

05:58

ourselves by using a medical term like

06:01

fetus or pregnancy and so the language I

06:05

think is really important and I think as

06:06

Christians therefore although we get

06:08

criticized for it I've been frequently

06:10

criticized for using this kind of

06:12

language you know that it's coercive

06:13

it's manipulative and so on I think we

06:17

have to say there is no neutral language

06:21

but the language that I'm choosing to

06:23

use is because I believe this is a

06:26

precious person the member of the human

06:29

race right and it's a baby yes and the

06:32

interesting thing and you my I've often

06:35

found this talking to women who have

06:38

abortions is that the women who've had

06:40

abortions generally speaking they use

06:43

the same language so the professionals

06:46

has none of the notes of pregnancy it's

06:47

a fetus then a woman says I killed my

06:50

baby it was a terrible thing I felt I

06:52

had no choice right right because I I

06:54

knew what I did because no one speaks in

06:56

the language of fetus you know Megan and

06:59

Harry are having a royal baby not a

07:00

royal fetus absolutely and of course

07:02

that you make exactly the point look at

07:05

the sort of the incredible fascination

07:08

there is in the royal pregnancy or in a

07:09

celebrity's pregnancy but no one is

07:11

talking about this it's all about the

07:13

baby it's all about how wonderful and so

07:15

on so there's the extraordinary

07:17

doublethink yes that goes on here but

07:20

it's the professionals who cultivate

07:23

this neutral impersonal language because

07:26

it's to make you feel better yes no no

07:29

let's not talk about a baby and we're

07:30

talking about a pregnancy you don't need

07:32

to feel guilty yes we're very

07:33

compassionate people right and we're

07:36

helping you not yes we're reducing the

07:39

guilt yes so that's about the language

07:42

that we use about the unborn what about

07:44

the images why is what we see so very

07:48

controlled when it comes to this area of

07:50

life well again it's a fascinating thing

07:54

is that images are very important one of

07:56

the things that interests me is that

07:58

every child has a photo album and

08:01

whereas it used to be that the photo

08:02

album started at the moment of birth

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with some grainy image taken under after

08:07

birth now every baby's photo album

08:09

starts with an ultrasound image and the

08:12

child is shown this image and says

08:14

that's you that's what you look like

08:16

right so the image is again powerful and

08:21

is and is recognized by by parents the

08:27

watching your child an ultrasound scan

08:29

is a very moving experience

08:32

I've had it myself and I've seen

08:34

thousands of ultrasound scans of other

08:35

people's babies which frankly happen to

08:37

that a lot but when I see the ultrasound

08:38

scan of my own child I think this is a

08:40

this has a huge impact so the images are

08:44

very important wonderfully as science

08:47

advances it's given us more and more

08:49

images of the unborn child and again

08:51

amazing paradox it's not often it's not

08:55

Christian people who are celebrating the

08:56

images of the unborn child is Discovery

08:58

Channel or it's yes it's some secular

09:01

science documentary which shows these

09:04

spectacular pictures of the developing

09:06

child and they wonder of what is

09:08

happening in them in the womb of the way

09:10

the child is responding to stimuli and

09:12

to sound and to light and so on and I

09:15

see that as a very positive thing it's

09:16

all about seeing the creation but again

09:20

this doublethink in the secular world is

09:22

that when it comes to abortion all of a

09:25

sudden we sort of take those images away

09:27

we shield people from those images don't

09:29

think about it just a blob it's just a

09:32

tissue it's part of a woman's body yeah

09:34

it's a it's of no significance and and

09:37

and this is a sort of misguided attempt

09:40

to to reduce the guilt to reduce the

09:43

shame and one of the things that many

09:45

women after they've had an abortion that

09:47

they're feeling often you know who

09:50

approach people because of guilt and

09:52

sense of distress and so on very often

09:56

they say if only someone had said you

09:58

know are you sure about this

10:00

if only but the professionals that said

10:02

no don't worry about it it's a pregnancy

10:03

and everything's fine yes so so the

10:06

attempt to assuage guilt

10:08

it is often completely for long on it it

10:12

doesn't work yes nonetheless is deeply

10:15

rooted in a professional culture do you

10:17

do you have hope that with

10:19

ever-increasing ability to see inside

10:22

the womb that technologically we're able

10:25

to see more this minority group we are

10:28

oppressing and surely the more we see

10:31

that minority group hopefully the more

10:33

we will feel the empathy that will

10:34

translate I do I actually do I think so

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and I think we should celebrate and I I

10:39

will

10:40

you know that churches would celebrate

10:43

the creation more it seems to me bizarre

10:46

that these secular documentaries the BBC

10:51

in Discovery Channel and everything else

10:53

and sky I have all these wonderful

10:56

programs celebrating the creation and

10:59

when we go to church we don't have any

11:00

of that we yeah it isn't seen as

11:02

relevant yes to celebrate the beauties

11:06

of God's creation so so yes I I think as

11:09

we get more of what scientific and

11:14

understanding of what's happening in the

11:15

womb

11:16

the hard and harder it is to to keep

11:19

this illusion ization depersonalization

11:23

yes and it is interesting that when the

11:27

abortion debates were going on say in

11:29

the 90s and the 80s very often the

11:31

debate was about a blob of jelly

11:33

yeah very interesting that you don't

11:34

hear that language now nobody talks

11:36

about blobs of jelly because no people

11:39

is not true we've seen that it's not a

11:41

blob of jelly that's my baby yeah yeah

11:43

yes so I think images are powerful I

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think one of the very interesting and

11:50

also controversial issues is whether the

11:53

images of abortion itself which are

11:56

deeply distressing and painful to watch

11:59

yes and which the doctors go out of

12:02

their way to try and shield people so

12:04

that you don't again to assuage your

12:06

guilt yeah we'll make sure that you'll

12:08

never see these images of what is

12:11

actually happening in an abortion yes

12:13

whether actually as Christian people

12:15

it's our responsibility to painfully but

12:19

sensitively you know show people

12:23

actually we can't shield you from the

12:25

reality of what is actually happening in

12:26

abortion clinics yes we can just

12:29

describe it I mean I had a friend who

12:31

just said to me that he just read out to

12:33

friends from Wikipedia a description of

12:37

the process for a twenty week old baby

12:40

and they they got angry yeah well I'm

12:42

just you know this is not a pro-abortion

12:43

approach you know line of science this

12:46

is this is Wikipedia but yes the truth

12:48

the truth confronts

12:50

the truth does and I think we have to

12:53

find a way sensitively of confronting

12:56

people with the truth but of course we

12:58

do it in the knowledge that so many

12:59

people have been touched by these issues

13:01

one in three people in our society have

13:04

had an abortion or will have an abortion

13:06

in that lifetime that for every woman

13:07

there's a man yes that there are deep

13:09

deep scars and hurts yeah so when we

13:14

show these images we have to be aware or

13:17

talk about the reality of abortion we

13:19

have to do it if you like with tears in

13:22

our eyes not with rhetoric and judgement

13:24

or harshness yeah so let's kind of

13:26

finish with that because I think I think

13:28

you spoke very wisely about the grace

13:33

and truth of Jesus and yes there is

13:36

truth and there is that prophetic

13:38

element that we are called to to to to

13:42

speak truth to power but what about that

13:45

incarnation 'el side that you drew it

13:47

out how how can we speak with grace into

13:51

this issue well I do think this this

13:53

combination of grace and truth is a

13:55

really powerful and important idea and

13:58

that the truth by itself can be very

14:01

harsh it's like a knife that can be used

14:05

as stabbed and wound and hurt and we've

14:09

all come across situations where people

14:10

have told the truth but in ways which

14:13

have been intensely wounding and

14:15

damaging but if you just have grace by

14:17

itself grace without truth is is

14:21

deceptive it's cheap grace and

14:25

ultimately it lies it becomes it becomes

14:28

something which is manipulative but if

14:30

you have grace and truth

14:32

utterly intermingled then I think you

14:36

have something very powerful and that is

14:37

the very personal character of the Lord

14:39

Jesus himself and you know if we think

14:43

about how Christ confronted people as he

14:49

confronted people who were in in deep

14:53

distress or where it's a sin or broken

14:56

in some way he combines the two he

14:58

doesn't shield the truth right he says

15:00

some very hard things

15:02

but he but his compassion his gentleness

15:05

he doesn't break a bruised Reed there's

15:08

a nice on Lydia there's these beautiful

15:10

images of this gentleness I'm gentle and

15:14

compassionate of heart so what does it

15:17

look like practically well I think there

15:21

are many examples thankfully a way that

15:23

Christians are reaching out to people

15:25

affected by abortion in ways that

15:27

combine this compassionate and gentle

15:31

aspect of Christ without the same time

15:34

not shielding the truth and so I think

15:37

it's offering people who ask who are

15:41

asking for help

15:43

yes it's offering them honest accurate

15:46

information but at the same time

15:49

compassion not not rushing to judgment

15:55

you know I think one of the images I

15:59

like is one beggar helping another

16:01

beggar hat to telling her how to found

16:03

bread you know that we're not in any way

16:05

sitting in judgment on other people

16:08

interestingly many people are involved

16:11

in this ministry have themselves have an

16:13

abortion many are women or sometimes men

16:16

who've been affected by abortion who

16:18

found healing for themselves and then

16:21

they're now reaching out to others and

16:24

wanting to share the healing that they

16:27

found and I think these are often the

16:29

people who are able to speak with

16:31

integrity yes authority in this

16:34

situation and and other others of us can

16:36

support them in their ministry yes as so

16:40

this incarnation or ministry I think

16:42

needs to go hand in hand with the with

16:46

the more prophetic side and I think you

16:49

can see that by themselves both the

16:52

prophetic ministries and the Incarnation

16:54

ministers have potential they can go

16:57

wrong

16:57

the people who concentrate on the

17:00

prophetic ministries can become very

17:02

harsh dogmatic Ryan Ives

17:07

yeah that's right rhinos who

17:09

are always just engaging and rather

17:11

prickly and difficult people to engage

17:14

with and they need the incarnation of

17:17

people they need to be softened by the

17:19

compassion and gentleness of Christ and

17:22

His Minister that side of the ministry

17:24

at the same time the people who are

17:26

predominantly involved in the compassion

17:29

ministers can become compromised they

17:31

can lose their commitment to truth they

17:34

can be blend in with the culture and

17:38

they need to be held to account by those

17:42

who have a prophetic edge so we need one

17:44

another in God's in God's church and

17:48

together we can be reflect the activity

17:52

of Christ we can be salt and light

17:54

together brilliant well that's a

17:55

wonderful vision United together in

17:57

Christ who is full of grace and truth

17:59

professor John white thank you so much

18:01

thanks

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