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Friday, February 5, 2016

Pro-Choicers Exploit Ableist Fears to Legalize Abortion in Brazil

The author at the 2015 March for Life
[Today's guest post by Rebecca Stapleford is part of our paid blogging program. Rebecca is autistic and physically disabled. She has three sisters, two of whom are also disabled. One of her significantly disabled sisters will eventually need a kidney transplant.] 

In the wake of the Zika virus epidemic, which has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, abortion rights activists in Brazil are petitioning their Supreme Court to allow women affected with the Zika virus to get abortions. These children are said to have no futures, and abortion is being presented as the merciful choice.

Enter Ana Carolina Carcares. The 24-year-old Brazilian journalist was born with microcephaly. Her parents were told at her birth by their doctor that she would be a vegetable, with no chance of survival. Today she is a college graduate who plays the violin and authored a book about her life and the lives of other people with her condition. The recent comments made by Brazil’s minister of health, as well as by those seeking to legalize abortion for microcephaly, led her to speak out. According to her:
Microcephaly is a box of surprises. You may suffer from serious problems or you may not. So I believe that those who have abortions are not giving their children a chance to succeed. I survived, as do many others with microcephaly. Our mothers did not abort. That is why we exist.
Unfortunately, this ableist strategy is not new when it comes to pro-choice activism. The thalidomide crisis was exploited by the pro-choice movement in the 1960s in their campaign to liberalize abortion laws. Just like with the Zika virus, children damaged by thalidomide were described as grotesque deformities, monsters with no quality of life. Today, thalidomide survivors are speaking out. While the birth defects have caused them suffering, many also report a good quality of life and thankfulness for their survival.

This most recent ableist campaign reveals what abortion is really driven by: fear of an uncertain future, and a belief that certain people, particularly the poor and the disabled, are better off dead. The unborn are disproportionately likely to be victims of such beliefs, since they are not being seen as being persons with a right to life. After all, for the most part, we don’t think that it should be legal for parents to decide to euthanize even a terminally ill born child, because we understand that they are persons, with a right to life, even though their lifespan is short. Yet when it comes to the unborn, we allow their parents to sentence them to death for the most trivial reasons, because we buy into a bigoted and fundamentally ableist ideology that assigns personhood based not on who we are, but on what we are currently able to do and how developed we are.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Exciting news!

Secular Pro-Life is very excited to co-sponsor two amazing pro-life conferences!

The Life/Peace/Justice Conference will be held from Friday, April 22 to Sunday, April 24 at Villanova University in Philadelphia. This is a consistent life ethic conference, covering not only abortion, but also war, the death penalty, end-of-life issues, etc. It's organized by our dear friends at the Life Matters Journal. (The L/P/J conference comes every two years. We went in 2014 and it was awesome.)

Secular Pro-Life's president, Kelsey Hazzard, will speak in two breakout sessions. Tentatively, one will be on how to make your pro-life activism secular-friendly, and the other will be on the Hyde Amendment.

The Pro-Life Women's Conference will be held from Friday, June 24 to Sunday, June 26 in Dallas:
At this event by WOMEN and FOR WOMEN, we are coming together to proclaim that women's empowerment cannot be attained by the oppression of other human beings. We are reclaiming the narrative of women's empowerment; we are reclaiming our voice as the grassroots of the pro-life movement. Join us for three days of powerful presentations, fellowship, friendship, and fun that promises to be unrivaled and unforgettable.
This is the first conference of its kind, and we can't wait! Kelsey will speak on pro-life apologetics.

Both conferences present an amazing opportunity for Secular Pro-Life to meet with and encourage non-Christian pro-lifers, help religious pro-lifers improve their outreach to broad audiences, and promote our upcoming projects (including the one related to the Hyde Amendment that I've been hinting at for months now but still can't discuss publicly—I won't keep you waiting forever, I promise!).

But here's the best part.

Both conferences are being held on weekends, including Sundays. The conference organizers have accommodated Christian participants by scheduling Sunday morning church services. But they recognized that these conferences are likely to attract non-Christian participants (good job!) so they reached out to Secular Pro-Life, asking us to sponsor an activity for the non-churchgoers on Sunday morning.

And so we bring you...


At both conferences, you can have free breakfast and mingle with your like-minded non-Christian defenders of life. Our online community is great, but we know it can get lonely behind a screen, and we're excited to facilitate some IRL socializing. We also hope that this will become a pattern for future pro-life conferences, as the movement grows more diverse.

Registration is now open for both conferences. We hope to see you there!

P.S.—We need your help to make event sponsorships successful. If you like what Secular Pro-Life is doing, please donate. We appreciate gifts of any size. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tonight: Webcast featuring David Daleiden


Tonight at 9:00 p.m. EST (8 Central, 7 Mountain, 6 Pacific), Life Legal Defense Foundation will present a webcast with the latest updates on David Daleiden.

As you probably know, Daleiden is the head of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which broke the "baby parts" story this past summer. Life Legal Defense Foundation is a pro bono legal group that is helping Daleiden navigate a number of lawsuits, including a suit from NARAL attempting to censor not-yet-released videos, a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood claiming that CMP's investigation ran afoul of racketeering laws, and most recently, a criminal indictment for using a fake ID to go undercover (brought by a Harris County, TX prosecutor who is close friends with late-term abortionist Douglas Karpen, a.k.a. the "Texas Gosnell," who himself escaped an indictment after his own staffers accused him of infanticide).

That's a lot of moving parts, and I'll confess that even I haven't been able to stay on top of all the news. Secular Pro-Life isn't involved in the organization of the webcast, and it may include some religious content, but I'm sure Life Legal's recap will be helpful.

Registration for the webcast is required; go to IStandWithDavid.org to sign up.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Do women regret abortions? The problem with emotion-based morality


[Today's guest post by Sylwia Gryciuk is part of our paid blogging program.]

According to a study published last summer, a whopping 95% of women having abortions do not regret them in the short term. Unsurprisingly, such findings were widely commented upon in the pro-choice-friendly media, sometimes being triumphantly waved back at the pro-lifers. In her article written for the Guardian, Rebecca Schiller asks: “Women rarely regret their abortions. Why don’t we believe them?”

But what would believing actually mean, according to Schiller and the movement she represents? Well, throughout the article she makes it pretty clear that women’s emotions alone are a serious argument for loosening the abortion restrictions in the U.S.

In truth, the reliability of the study has already been criticized—it can be argued that the sample was self-selected, the three years covered by the study was too short a period for the grief and regret to surface in some women, and finally, that the sheer concept of regret is not that easily definable. But for a moment, let’s pretend that it’s a well-established fact that 95% of women do not ever regret their abortions. What should our response be? Is it really a fatal blow to the the pro-life movement? Do women’s emotions alone settle the debate?

I was thirteen when I saw the photos of aborted fetuses for the first time. I had always known that abortion takes a life, but thus far had not been aware of the violence involved. The images of the blood-soaked bodies, of the detached limbs and crushed faces seemed too gruesome to be real. But they were. I couldn’t believe how some people could still support abortion after viewing the pathetic piles of tiny corpses or that doctors performing these atrocities could still sleep at night. But they do. And so do I. After years the once powerful stimulus has lost its shock value, the once haunting images no longer horrify. Even though my interest in the abortion debate has only been growing I recently realized that my opposition to abortion is now largely intellectual, rather than emotional. I focus on facts, logic, and reason, while I refuse to be swayed by emotions. And that is the way it should be.

Last summer was also the time when the controversial Planned Parenthood videos started appearing. Disquieted, we watched as, in between mouthfuls of wine and salad, the PP workers talked idly about crushing fetal skulls, or amused, rummaged in the bloody mass of human remains. In their defense, the pro-choice movement argued that specialists become desensitize to stimuli which the laypeople find shocking and repulsive. To an extent, I agree. In similar vein, I can imagine, a pathologist casually eating her burger during the lunch break between the autopsies, even though most people, unfamiliar with the sights she encounters on a daily basis, would surely get their stomachs upset instead. But still, even if her emotions are likely not aroused, the pathologist is intellectually aware that what she’s dealing with are dead bodies of human beings, and that respectful attitude is required on her part. Here lies the crucial difference between her and the PP workers.

Do women regret abortion? Some do, some don’t and will never even come close. We should avoid absolute statements as they contribute to the destructive illusion that women’s emotions alone settle the morality debate surrounding abortion—the illusion which the pro-choice movement promotes as a hard fact. Indeed, they want us to believe that abortion is just a matter between woman and her god or woman and her conscience, and not a matter of someone’s life and death.

Surprisingly, even some of the non-theists among us seem to believe that every human is equipped with infallible, absolute conscience which, sooner or later, will come to sting. But in truth, many people live and die without a shadow of regret for their misdeeds and without the faintest need to be forgiven. Still, it does not make the damage they have done any less real, or the suffering they have caused to others or/and themselves any less significant. Similarly, I can easily imagine that many women—being repeatedly told that abortion is morally neutral or, in certain circumstances, morally right—will embrace the pro-choice narrative and here will lie their comfort ever since, waving off the potential regret. Still, it does not change the fact that abortion takes a life. Our emotions deceive us, our conscience fails us. They may be signs, but they should not set our routes. This is why emotions cannot be the basis for morality and surely, they cannot be the primary argument for modifications of laws.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Upcoming event in Louisiana, February 15


On Monday, February 15 (Presidents Day), Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will make the secular case against abortion to students at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA. The event is hosted by Nicholls Students for Life. It will be free and open to the public. If you live in the area, we'd love to see you there! We also plan to record the presentation.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

National Right to Life report: pro-life movement on the right track

Two weeks ago, National Right to Life issued a new report, The State of Abortion in the United States. The news cycle was quickly dominated by a lot of other things (hello, snowstorm) and I want to make sure you didn't miss it; better late than never. Here are a few highlights:
  • Abortion rates are plummeting in almost all states and in every age group, but especially among women under 25.
  • Although chemical abortion methods are becoming more popular, "curretage" procedures that dismember the embryo or fetus remain the most common method by far.
  • "Safe and legal" abortion has killed at least 58,586,256 unborn babies and 424 mothers since Roe v. Wade.
  • A full analysis of Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report
  • Polls asking whether people identify themselves as "pro-life" or "pro-choice" have yielded inconsistent results. But polls soliciting specific policy preferences are more useful: they have repeatedly shown that a strong majority of Americans opposes current abortion policy and wants significant protections for unborn children. For instance, while Congress can't manage to pass legislation protecting babies at twenty weeks, the vast majority of Americans want to protect babies after just twelve weeks. There is also strong support for banning abortion except when necessary to save the life of the mother and/or in cases of rape and incest.
  • A full analysis of federal and state abortion legislation
This is a great resource and I hope you'll take the time to read the entire report.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Walk for Life West Coast & West Coast SFLA Conference, 2016

The rally before the Walk was this bizarre San Francisco weather fluctuation, alternating between warm sunshine and sudden, cold rain. It was funny to see the giant crowd suddenly covered with umbrellas, then back to people milling around, then a wave of umbrellas again. But after seeing what our friends on the East Coast went through, we could hardly complain about the weather.

Yikes.

I really liked the Walk’s speaker line up this year. The first speaker was David Daleiden of The Center for Medical Progress and #PPsellsbabyparts fame. It was cool to see a Millennial up there. The Walk also invited Obianuju (“Uju”) Ekeocha, a Nigerian woman who encouraged American pro-lifers to take their pro-life activism to a more global level.  There were also several portions of the rally given in both Spanish and English, which is nicely inclusive for the traditionally heavily Latino San Francisco crowd.   

Uju Ekeocha, David Daleiden, and Walter Hoye

Last year during the Walk I was almost 8 months pregnant, which means this is the first year my daughter got to see it. My 10-month-old daughter was a trooper, watching the crowd curiously and especially enjoying exploring our banner.


However, once the Walk actually started she slept through the entire thing. Not that she would’ve understood what’s going on anyway. As every year before, it was a huge column of people pouring into downtown San Francisco. We walked several city blocks before we even saw the counter protesters. Personally I enjoy the Walk more when there are more counter protesters there, and this year there was a larger crowd than there had been for several years past. Most of them seem to be affiliated with the group Stop Patriarchy. Here is a screencap from their website:


“Forced motherhood is female enslavement” was the slogan of the year, although they still had the classic “Pro-life, that’s a lie! You don’t care if women die!” I suspect that there may have been more counter protesters this year because of the Colorado shooting. In fact one woman specifically shouted in the face of fellow SPLer Terrisa, saying "You don't give a sh** about what happened in Colorado!” Terrisa felt that, given the sign she was holding, it didn't make sense for her to engage in a fight. 

Fighting would undermine the message, no?

I give "Most Creative Counter Protest" to a man wearing a colorful sequined outfit that said “Roll for Choice,” and of course he had roller skates on. We had no “Roll for Life” counterpoint...this year. Maybe next time.


But besides a lot of shouting and a few rude gestures, the counter protest was not eventful. It helps that there is a dense line of police officers who separate the two sides and who make sure no one crosses from one side to the other. They won’t even let you walk too near them. Here's a (shaky) video of the bulk of the counter protest:



At one point we also saw an anti-abortion graphic photos group with large posters facing the Walk itself. I don’t think they were shouting anything though. At another point some construction workers about 5 or 6 stories above us kept cheering and using their air horn to get everyone to cheer back.

Sadly my sister and pro-life activist partner, Ellen, couldn’t come to the Walk this year, as she has now moved on to medical school in another state. This was unfortunate both because I miss her companionship and because she’s usually the one that takes all the photos of creative and unusual signs. And since this year is also the first in which I had to push a stroller, it was difficult for me to take the pictures either. I can say, as with every Walk I’ve gone to before now, there were a lot of nuns, priests, and monks in full dress, religious signs, and people singing hymns and praying. The rally before the Walk included much of the same: a lot of prayers from the podium and discussion of God's calling and so on. And I thought the same thing I thought every year: it’s not that I want pro-life events like this to scrub out any trace of religious belief, but I would like it if they operated in a way that more readily acknowledged not all present are believers.

Terrisa and I experienced a bit more of this the next day at the SFLA West Coast conference. (Originally Terrisa and Kelsey were going to table, but thanks to winter storm Jonas, Kelsey was stranded in some pile of snow on the East coast, so I went in her place.) At one point a nun from the Sisters of Life came to speak to us. She was very kind and told us all about their ministries, which include post-abortion counseling. I asked whether the counseling was designed for Christians specifically, and she explained they try to meet people where they’re at. She told us about how part of the process includes women going to designated days of prayer and healing, and often during those times the women name the children they never got to meet and focus on how those children are with God now, and how the women will eventually see them again. 

I can see how this would be cathartic for those who share these beliefs, and I’m glad the Sisters of Life are there to help so many women through the grieving process. However I asked the Sister how they would handle that part of their ministry if an atheist woman came to them. My understanding of her answer was that she believes all people know somewhere in their hearts that when loved ones die, that is not the end of their relationships with said loved ones. 

It’s possible the Sister meant that, even if you don’t believe in life after death, the relationship can go on through the memories you have or through some other symbolic means. But both Terrisa and I had the impression that she meant a version of the claim we’ve heard before: that there is not really such thing as an atheist. That is, many people seem to believe that deep down all of us know in our hearts that Christianity is true, or, at minimum, that God and the supernatural world exist. In this case, the implication seemed to be that all people sense we will eventually see our departed loved ones again.

Even if that is what the Sister meant, she clearly did not mean it in any kind of aggressive or challenging way, but as a comfort. I hold no ill will toward her. But to me that interaction was characteristic of what I expect when I participate in pro-life activism: I see the movement treated as a movement that belongs to Christians who are willing to host the rest of us as guests. But what I work and hope for is a diverse movement where we all are all hosts, so to speak—that is, the movement belongs to all of us.

The conference was still really enjoyable. Our table was again next to the table for Life Matters Journal, which we love. The people who table for LMJ are invariably friendly and funny and generous. They had a whole bunch of the decorative signs artsy Ms. Aimee had made for the Walk, and our tables jointly decided to line the signs along the hallway in the empty space next to us so everyone could appreciate them fully. Plenty of students stopped and took pictures. We took a few pictures ourselves.


We also had a lot of great interactions with people. One woman told us she works as a lab technician for a physics department and sometimes gets into debates about abortion with the professors there. She said she directs them to our group all the time so they can see the pro-science pro-life view. Another woman told us about how she used to lead a college pro-life club; she found it frustrating when she asked her fellow pro-lifers why they were pro-life and they answered “because we are Christian.” A Christian herself, she wanted her group to be able to do outreach with a variety of people, so she was happy to take some of our materials to discuss with her friends. Another student told us that one of her friends was both pro-life and secular and hadn’t heard of us, and she (and we) were excited for her to return home and tell her friend about SPL. That’s definitely my favorite part of our outreach: when we find other secularists who are thrilled to realize they aren’t alone in their pro-lifeism.

If any of our readers are interested, you can find PDFs and JPEGs here of some of the materials we gave out at the conference as well as materials we've created before. Specifically, the conference materials included "Why Should Non-Christians Care About Abortion" and "10 tips to be inclusive."

Friday, January 22, 2016

March for Life recap

Your president Kelsey Hazzard speaking. This has been, without a doubt, the strangest and most stressful March for Life I've ever attended. The anticipated blizzard cast a shadow over everything.

The East Coast Students for Life of America conference, which I was supposed to speak at, got cancelled. My flight to San Francisco—to speak at the West Coast conference on Sunday—also got cancelled. So the plan was to speak at two conferences, and now I'll be speaking at zero (unless they Skype me into West Coast, but let's be real: it's not the same).

"Disappointed" doesn't begin to describe it. "Crushed" comes closer. It all felt to me like the scene in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer where Santa announces that Christmas has been cancelled. Some small remnant of my childhood mind still hopes for Rudolph's glowing red nose to save the day. Of course, that didn't happen. My travel itinerary is so thoroughly FUBAR, I wound up marching with my suitcase! (Thank you, everyone who helped with that.)

And yet... the March for Life came. It came without as many people. It came without sunshine. It came without the SFLA conference. What if the March for Life, perhaps, means a little bit more? (I know, I'm mixing my animated Christmas classics metaphor. Deal with it.)

Here are a few of my favorite pictures. You can view them all here.






In conclusion, I have an unusual request. I'd like for you to make a donation—but not to Secular Pro-Life. The East Coast conference is Students for Life of America's biggest event of the year, and the fact that they had to cancel it means that they are getting hammered financially. Please help them out with whatever gift you can afford.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The fight for life after a devastating diagnosis

[Today's guest post by Andy Cavadino is part of our paid blogging program. Andy is a primary school teacher in Leeds, England.]

The author as a child in Ward 48, Leeds General Infirmary

The High Court in Belfast recently ruled that abortion laws in Northern Ireland contravened human rights. The ruling, by Mr. Justice Horner, states that “cases of fatal foetal abnormality were entitled to exemptions in the law.” Currently, Northern Ireland does not allow abortion in such circumstances.

I wouldn't expect anyone from outside the British Isles to know about its sovereignty so here’s a simplified version: Basically, you have the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland (or Eire) is a different country. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, so part of the UK. However, there are differences in the law in the four countries of the UK and abortion law, until now, has been stricter in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK.

Now, Northern Ireland faces pressure to legalize abortion for “fatal foetal abnormality.” What does that mean? No chance of the baby being born alive? The baby won’t live long after birth?

Secular Pro-Life has written about these tragic cases before. Many parents prefer to avoid abortion even in dire circumstances, and perinatal hospices have arisen to meet their needs. They find solace in being able to hold their baby following delivery, take photographs to remember the child, and conduct a funeral. But of course, other parents seek out abortion, hoping to bring a quick, painless end to a horrific circumstance.

Both reactions are completely understandable. My main issue is this: What if the doctors are wrong? It happened to this girl and this family. And a similar thing actually happened to me.

I was misdiagnosed with a permanent life-limiting brain injury following an accident at 12 years old. I ran out into the road and was hit by a Mercedes (if you’re going to do something, do it in style!). I was thrown up in the air and landed on my head. Over the next 25 days on intensive care, I was literally seconds away from death on many occasions, both due to head injuries and other complications. In fact, on one occasion, my life was saved because a medical student had happened to read something about magnesium and irregular heart rates in the New Scientist the night before. It was about 6 months before I returned to school. The incident has left me with epilepsy, which isn’t nice, but that’s pretty much it.

I got 5 A grades at A level. I’m a qualified teacher. I play guitar and bass with professional musicians, holding my own at charity events. I’m not in a vegetative state, unable to move properly, like the doctors told my family I could be, based on the scans.

When I was hospitalized, scans showed huge areas of potential brain damage. My prognosis was very poor. Nevertheless, my family made the decision to consent to several dangerous surgeries. As I improved, the hospital arranged for families of children with a similar initial prognosis to meet me and my family, to encourage them not to give up and withhold treatment, to give them hope that their child could pull through.

Prenatal diagnosis is a similarly imperfect science. Scans aren’t always accurate. What if the diagnosis is wrong? You’ll never know if you go through with an abortion, just like my parents would have never known that I’d recover so well if they had given up hope and let nature take its course instead of pursuing risky, but ultimately life-saving surgery.

I don’t judge the families who choose abortion in the face of a lethal diagnosis. It’s heart-wrenching and emotional and I can’t begin to fathom the pain that they’ve been through, nor what my parents went through. I hope that my child never faces a premature death, whether before birth or at whatever age. But if the worst comes to pass, I firmly believe that every child deserves a chance. It’s not easy. But you never know what can happen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"1 in 3" lie reemerges in abortion "speakout" this afternoon

 
Abortion advocates will hold an online "speakout" today from noon to 6:00 p.m., in which women who do not regret ending the lives of their children will attempt to counter the very vocal post-abortive pro-life women who do. (Amusingly, they're streaming the speakout on a pro-choice website, which is basically the definition of preaching to the choir.)

Free speech is free speech, of course. They have every right to tell their stories, just like I have the right to say that celebrating the deaths of helpless unborn children is seriously disturbing and shows just how out of touch pro-choice leadership is with the American public.

But their decision to promote the speakout using the hashtag #1in3 crosses the line into outright deception.

The supposed statistic this alludes to—that one out of every three American women will kill at least one unborn child in her lifetime—has been thoroughly debunked. You can get the whole story at not1in3.com, but here's a quick recap. In 2011, researchers published a study of American abortion rates from 2000 to 2008. Based on those rates, they predicted that 3 in 10 (not 1 in 3) women would have an abortion in their lifetime, "if exposed to prevailing abortion rates throughout their reproductive lives."

This was merely a hypothesis, and the authors cautioned that the even the 3 in 10 figure may have been too high. But activists ran with it. The message of "1 in 3" is simple: abortion is very popular, so there's no way to talk about the deaths of unborn children without alienating a significant and growing number of women. Just shut up, okay?

But then the post-2008 abortion statistics came out. All those headlines you saw about abortion rates hitting a record low? Abortion advocates saw them too. Women aren't being exposed to the same abortion rates throughout their reproductive lives; instead, we're being exposed to plummeting abortion rates. The researchers' hypothesis was wrong.

That happens a lot when you do science. It's okay; I don't fault the researchers for this boondoggle at all. It's abortion advocacy groups who turned "1 in 3" from prediction into supposed fact, and kept running with it long after it had been disproven.

At this point, any pro-choice organization that uses the "1 in 3" messaging is deliberately lying to you. I'll cut some slack to pro-choice individuals, who may be less educated about the issue. Show them not1in3.com, and if they keep using it, then you'll know that they care more about their ideology than about the truth.

You know what to do. Let's take over the #1in3 hashtag with the facts. Link to this article and/or to not1in3.com. Abortion groups think that if they just keep repeating the lie often enough, no one will question it. But we won't let them get away with it.