Dan Murtah used to be a Catholic priest. He used to stand outside of abortion clinics in the United Kingdom and pray for women and babies with other priests and pro-lifers.
In a column for The Huffington Post this week, Murtah said he now regrets those pro-life prayers on the sidewalk. He no longer is a priest, and now believes that opposition to abortion is little more than a religious belief.
Murtah said he now believes the government should not get involved in abortion, what he says is a religious issue. He based his position on the inaccurate claim that there is no evidence that life begins at conception, and being pro-life is merely a religious viewpoint.
“Religious belief is only that – an assumption that something is true even if scientific evidence is lacking,” Murtah wrote. “There is no evidence that life begins at conception, however because there is a lack of scientific consensus religion is inclined to plug the gap with belief.”
Because of his conclusions, he said he now believes his prayers outside the abortion clinics did not do any good.
Six years ago when I was training to be a priest in the U.K. I would borrow the seminary car and – with some of the lads in my year group – we would travel across the city to pray outside an abortion clinic. We gathered on the path near the main gates for an hour every week and prayed out loud. We asked God to help the young girls we saw sat on the back seats of cars entering the carpark, the staff inside and what we believed to be the unborn life. We wanted our religious beliefs to impact those women’s lives and that was the problem.
I am not sure why I thought standing outside on those cold afternoons was appropriate. Maybe I thought it would actually make a positive difference. I’m now certain it didn’t. No woman arriving to have an abortion was comforted by our presence. Why would they have been when we obviously felt their actions were so bad that praying quietly at church wasn’t enough – we had to gather outside and pray aloud for all to see and hear us. I now realise the unnecessary guilt and shame our presence may have caused and this is something I deeply regret.
At one point, he even claimed that life begins at conception is a “scientifically unsupported belief.”
Interestingly, he later wrote:
Last summer I attended the comedian Louis C.K.‘s show at Wembley Arena in London. Louis is pro-choice but he argued that you would have to be a psychopath to believe life begins at conception and then not think abortion is wrong. I agree with him and that’s why I think – for the sake of women’s rights – religious belief should be kept as far as possible from government and abortion clinics.
Yet, there is a strong scientific consensus that human life does begin at conception. This is science, not a religious belief.
Here is just a sample of citations that support this, as compiled by pro-life writer Sarah Terzo:
“The life cycle of mammals begins when a sperm enters an egg.”
Okada et al., A role for the elongator complex in zygotic paternal genome demethylation, NATURE 463:554 (Jan. 28, 2010)
“Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.”
Signorelli et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, CELL TISSUE RES. 349(3):765 (Mar. 20, 2012)
“The oviduct or Fallopian tube is the anatomical region where every new life begins in mammalian species. After a long journey, the spermatozoa meet the oocyte in the specific site of the oviduct named ampulla, and fertilization takes place.”
Coy et al., Roles of the oviduct in mammalian fertilization, REPRODUCTION 144(6):649 (Oct. 1, 2012) (emphasis added).
Last spring, scientists at Northwestern University in Chicago further confirmed this with an interesting finding. The research team not only noted that human life begins at conception, but also video-recorded a spark of light that takes place when the new life forms.
Some abortion activists also admit that life begins at conception. These include abortion practitioners, both current and former. Curtis Boyd, a New Mexico abortionist and founding member of the National Abortion Federation, is one of them.
“Am I killing? Yes, I am. I know that,” Boyd once said.
Murtah probably should start doing some more research.