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August 21, 1981

Science and the 'Human Life Bill'

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Scientific Publications, American Medical Association, Chicago.

JAMA. 1981;246(8):837-839. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320080023020

RECENTLY, the Subcommittee on Separation of Powers of the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on S 158, the "human life bill." The hearings raise interesting questions about the role of science in the resolution of moral issues and about scientific consensus.

Background  In a 1973 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States in Roe vs Wade upheld the right of a woman to obtain an abortion until the stage of fetal "viability" without the interference of the state.1,2 An amendment to the Constitution could reverse this decision, and, in fact, one has been proposed. Meanwhile, however, a bill has also been proposed to Congress by which its sponsors would attempt to reverse the 1973 Supreme Court decision. The bill (S 158) states:Congress finds that present day scientific evidence indicates a significant likelihood that actual human life exists from conception.The Congress further finds that the fourteenth amendment

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