The Pen

Christian Pro-life Grad Student is Compared to the KKK

University of Chicago Ph.D. Steven Jacobs

“I heard different voices saying the same thing– that I should not do work on abortion because of who I am: a white, Christian man.”

Steven Jacobs, a University of Chicago PhD, spent the last six years of his life in an agonizing struggle to publish research on the abortion debate. All the while, he was harassed, ridiculed and maligned. Again and again Jacobs was told he was a disgrace to the scientific community and unworthy of a Ph.D.  

Jacobs heard “…that my survey seemed like it was developed by the Ku Klux Klan; I was told that my work could expedite the extinction of the human race; I was told that I should be ashamed of myself since I was damaging the reputation of the University of Chicago.”

Whatever sort of deviant, white-coated images these words bring to mind are quietly dispelled when Steven Jacobs describes the goals and methods of his research: He simply asked thousands of academic biologists: “When does a human life begin?” then sought to compile, argue, and publish what he found.

Steven Jacob’s struggle was not in vain. His research ultimately exposed this stunning truth: biologists overwhelmingly (75%) agree with the pro-life position that human lives begin at conception. At the same time, Jacobs encountered many outraged, not-so-academic caveats:

“Abortion has been legal for over 40 years. It’s time for all the religious nuts to get over it.”

“Abortion is a woman’s right; the state has no role in the decision to abort whatever the reason (medical, cultural, economic).”

“This is some stupid right to life thing…YUCK I believe in RIGHT TO CHOICE!!!!!!!” 

“Abortion is not about biology. Please don’t use this survey to say ‘Look, even biologists are pro-life’ because that is absolutely not what my answers mean.”

“As a scientist, I agree that life begins at fertilization. But, as a citizen of this democracy, I support a woman’s right to choose.”

One respondent referred to Jacob’s questionnaire as a “trap” and another called the questions “horribly manipulative.” Yet another insisted Jacob reword his categories of “pro-life/pro-choice” to “pro-abortion/anti-abortion.”

Meanwhile, Steven Jacobs was called before an academic ethics committee and his research suspended. When Jacobs finally stood to argue his findings, a former academic advisor turned on him publicly with a series of excoriating interrogations. 

For the courageous biologist, these ordeals are worth the price.  Steven Jacobs wishes to see the abortion debate move beyond discussions of when life begins to a more pointed question: When is it okay to kill unborn humans?

“A human’s life begins at fertilization. An abortion is the intentional killing of a human, and thus should be recognized as a homicide.” 

“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this, does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will not he repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:10-12)

Ultimately, Jacobs’ courage cost him a career. “I’ve been regularly told I can’t get a job in academia. I’ve been told don’t try. I’ve been told maybe a Christian school would hire me.”