The recent election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence to the highest offices in the nation has prompted an outpouring of support for women’s rights. Thousands have donated to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name, partially due to the outrageous anti-abortion laws passed by the Indiana governor during his time at the Statehouse. An unexpected ally has emerged in the debate over women’s rights: Science educator Bill Nye.
Wearing his familiar bow tie, Nye discusses the biology of human conception. He starts by pointing out that many fertilized human eggs fail to implant in the uterus and therefore never grow beyond a single cell. He asks how lawmakers can see a fertilized egg as a human being when so many of them simply die out naturally. Later, Nye points out that many anti-abortion laws are passed by “men of European descent” using “ignorance” and passing laws “inconsistent with nature.”
The Science Guy continues his frustrated lecture by asking everyone to overcome this bad science. He points out that health policies centered around closing abortion clinics or denying access to birth control are not “an effective way to lead to healthier societies.” He asks for his listeners to be objective, understand the scientific facts around abortion and work together on important problems.
Nye points out an important issue in public health policy. Countries with the lowest rates of abortion provide free, readily available contraception, teach comprehensive sexual education in public schools and make abortion clinics – which also offer gynecological services, health education and birth control prescriptions – easily accessible. By contrast, countries with high rates of abortions have waged a successful war on women’s health and limited access to contraceptive services, removed sex ed from schools or never offered it and criminalized abortion. From a scientific viewpoint, Bill Nye is right; healthier societies and fewer abortions only happen in countries that embrace evidence-based methods for reducing unwanted pregnancies.
Unfortunately, his words are unlikely to bridge the deep divide between science and religion. As Bill points out, many views on abortion are based on “books written 5,000 years ago” before modern scientific knowledge. When “post-truth” is the defining word of the election cycle, no amount of facts are going to change minds. With the increasing division between conservative Christians and liberals, red states and blue ones and Democrats and Republicans, even a beloved childhood hero like Bill Nye the Science Guy can’t solve our country’s problems.