I received the email below after the debut of Episode 6: Melissa, and I had to share it with you guys. Many thanks to incredible listener who sent this in! If you have information that you think I've missed or gotten wrong, please shoot me an email using the Contact form. I love hearing from you guys, and I don't always get everything right. Your input is invaluable!
First off, I love what you're doing with the pod. I am the only liberal among a family of Republicans, so I can really appreciate the conversations that you are having with women in that both parties are coming from a place of love and of respect for one another.
I have a couple of things to bring up regarding the "abortion episode" (episode 6), and I must tell you that your show notes are pretty impressively comprehensive.
I work in developmental neurobiology, so I am well-versed in most things when it comes to pregnancy and neural development.
I noticed that your guest said something along the lines of since a fetus has its own DNA, then it is alive. While a fetus does have its own DNA separate from the mother, where do we then draw this line? Should we give our skin cells the same respect that we give a developing fetus, since every cell in our bodies contains the whole of an organism's genome? What makes any one cell "alive" or more "worthy of living" than another? In fact, viruses and prions have their own DNA and genomes, but are not considered to be "alive" by the scientific and medical community (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-viruses-alive-2004/); but I digress...
Something that your guest did not necessarily bring up but is a pillar of anti-abortion arguments is that "life begins at conception." While it is nearly impossible to draw the line at a time point when it is and is not okay to have an abortion, many that are against the practice use this to argue their side. This always really gets to me, as at least 25% of pregnancies in the first trimester are spontaneously aborted (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/home/ovc-20213664) due to a whole host of factors that can disrupt the delicate machinery that it takes to develop a fetus. In fact, this number is probably higher, because it doesn't include people who have had miscarriages that did not know they were pregnant in the first place.
One more thing I wanted to get into is the whole "the fetus can feel pain" thing. In the show notes, you explain that touch and pain receptors are not the same, in that their function and morphology differ. Here's a great, albeit older, peer-reviewed article about pain and the developing fetus: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1440624/.
Although it's pretty sciencey, researchers estimate that a fetus cannot really feel pain until embryonic week 26: well beyond the 6-week mark (I think that is what your guest mentioned in the episode). Although spinothalamic projections are present in the first trimester, they do not extend far enough into the cortical plate to really initiate a normal pain response.
I like to argue things like this with science, because science doesn't really get stuff wrong (and if it does, then it is fully vetted and debunked by the rest of the scientific community; there are really strict checks and balances here). I wish people would really do research and use peer-reviewed sources to back up their claims. I'm just really passionate about this subject and deal with this stuff in my work everyday.
It means a lot that you released an episode like this. Keep up the great work.