Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What would you say to an abortionist?

On Saturday, a Christian friend of mine found himself on a plane with late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart. Carhart is known for, among other things, the death of Jennifer Morbelli last year.

My friend says: "I wasn't sitting close enough to have a conversation with him (the aisle and his wife were between us, but we were in the same row) and felt he would shut me down right away anyway. I couldn't sit so close to him and I was shaking so hard. I asked to be moved up a couple rows where I couldn't see him." And then, for the next two hours, my friend prayed. After landing, as Carhart walked off the plane, my friend told him "Leroy, we're all praying for you."

Leroy Carhart
Now, this post isn't meant as a criticism of my friend. We have different religious beliefs, but he is of course entitled to pray whenever he feels like it, and I can certainly understand his anxiety in that unique situation. I'm sure he had never given any thought to what he might say to an abortionist.

So let's give some thought to that question now. It's an unlikely scenario, certainly. (My friend is a very frequent flier and this is the first such encounter he's ever had.) But it can't hurt to be prepared!

If I had the chance to speak to Carhart in particular, I would want to ask some questions along the lines of: "Do you feel bad about Jennifer? I haven't seen anything in the press where you've offered an apology. And you're still doing what you do. Has it changed anything about the way that you practice? She came to you because her unborn child was disabled. Did you share with her any of the resources available to the parents of children with disabilities? Did you talk with her about the adoptive families who have opened their hearts and homes to special needs children? Such a conversation could have saved her life, and the life of her daughter Madison. Have you started having those conversations with patients since her death? Mr. Carhart, I am not asking you to stop helping women: but there are better ways to do it. Please, consider reaching out to And Then There Were None. It isn't too late to change your career path."

Of course, like my friend said, he probably would have shut me down long before I could get all of that out. (Perhaps I could pass a note.)

What about you? How would you react to being on a plane (or other close quarters) with an abortionist?

Monday, April 14, 2014

How a pregnancy scare affected my pro-life views

Nope! Where may I collect?
[Today's guest blogger is anonymous.]

While a stereotype out there about pro-lifers is that we’re prudish virgins who all hate sex, that’s not true. You can be pro-life and still have sex. Plenty of us have, myself included. But I always have sex with the thought in the back of my mind that I may end up pregnant. And I wouldn’t punish an innocent unborn child for my decision.

A few months ago I found myself faced with dealing with the possible consequences of having sex involving having a baby. Having an irregular cycle, the waiting game was even more difficult with timing. Though a woman is more likely to become pregnant at certain times of the months than either, pregnancy is always a possibility.

I knew that I would always give my hypothetical baby life, but thinking I could be pregnant caused me to think a little about pregnancy, privacy, and pregnancy centers.

Here are a few things which ran through my mind during this time of waiting and wondering:

1.      You don’t have to have been pregnant, but it does provide a nice perspective. Now I still don’t fit that category considering I was not pregnant. And I have always held that men have a role in the pro-life movement, to stand up for the women and unborn children in their lives. Still, it is beneficial to the pro-life movement to have women who have become pregnant and had children, especially when unplanned, to encourage others that they can do it.

2.      Nine months may be long and difficult, but it is not forever. Nine months of feeling sick would not have been fun, and it would maybe seem like a long time, but it would not be forever. And no kind of sickness or being uncomfortable could justify having my unborn child go through the pain of an abortion.

3.      Sex and pregnancy are private. Abortion is not. It the decision and business of two consenting adults to have sex. Thus it is the woman and the father of her child’s business if she gets pregnant. Once she is pregnant though, she is pregnant with another human life, and that life being ended is not a private matter.

4.      Pregnancy, or even just thinking you’re pregnant, is an emotional time for women, opening up the possibility of vulnerability and persuasion. I would never have an abortion, for any reason. Regardless, thinking I was pregnant was emotional enough for me. I knew that if I were not so set in my beliefs, especially since I am a person who seeks the advice of others, I could listened to someone convince me to have an abortion. It is not anti-women to say that women are often talked into their abortions. It is anti-women to take advantage and make that decision for them.

5.      Adoption seemed like a much more attractive option than I ever thought possible. I used to be set in that I would never place my child for adoption. This time though, I did not know what my relationship status was or where it would go. My child would also grow up in a household with parents of completely different views and faiths, including the position of life. I wasn’t sure if my pro-life influence would be enough. Adoption would help ensure that my child was raised by parents in a household I hoped for him or her to have.

6.      It is woefully ignorant to assume that one’s pro-life position depends on their faith. am not pro-life because of my faith. I have always affirmed that you don’t have to be religious to be pro-life, and it is ignorant and lazy to assume all pro-lifers are religious. I am pro-life because of science. My faith did not play any smaller or larger a role in my thinking about my possible pregnancy than anything else going on in my life.

7.       The attacks that crisis pregnancies are under seem even more shameful and unnecessary. I turned to a pregnancy center for a pregnancy test. The staffer there was kind, helpful and non-judgmental. I was also promised confidentiality. The test was explained to me, and was free. My partner, who is neither pro-life nor a Christian, felt being at the center went positively. (This blog just recently reported on the hypocrisy of the legal trouble pregnancy centers have to endure when abortion clinics are allowed to operate without being inspected and under deplorable conditions.)

I turned out not to be pregnant, and ideally I won’t be pregnant until I’m in a long-term relationship or married. But I can speak to the experience I have had, and I feel that it gives me a perspective that certainly adds to the movement. And I know that if ever faced with a real pregnancy, I will truly stick to my pro-life values.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why this middle-aged Catholic woman supports SPL

[Today's guest post is by Jan S.]

I’m a social conservative and practicing Catholic Christian. I’ve been involved in the pro-life movement intermittently since 1989, when my husband and I had three children under the age of four, and were expecting our fourth child.

It was at that time that we invited a stranger to live with us. She was poor, young, and pregnant. My husband met her outside of an abortion clinic where he was taking part in a pro-life protest. She was considering abortion, but changed her mind when we invited her to live with us until she had her baby and was on her feet again. She agreed.

From that point until a few years ago, I saw the abortion issue from mostly a Christian perspective. Having been raised before the dawn of the internet, I was, like many people of my generation, sheltered from most other views. I had not considered with any kind of depth that others would not only not share my Christian reasoning, but even vilify it. In today's world, of course, the internet highlights the great diversity of political, social, and religious views. I am now so much more aware of that division, that diversity, than I was back in the day.

As a result of this internet-fueled education, and through my personal relationships with non-religious pro-lifers, I was introduced to Secular Pro-Life. At first I was hesitant to consider a non-Christian view of the pro-life stance. But I deeply trusted the person who introduced me to Secular Pro-Life. As SPL went through its infant stages (no pun intended!) I mostly observed and listened without much involvement. I came to realize SPL is really on to something useful in the pro-life community—something that’s been missing for a long time. That something is a secular- and science-based view of human value: a view that welcomes and unites all pro-life persons, no matter their religious, social, or political views, to expose abortion as a violation of human rights.

Now I have (cautiously) started to become a voice for SPL in my Christian community. I suppose you could say I'm an evangelist (again, no pun intended!) for Secular Pro-Life! I started talking to my fellow pro-life advocates about the need for unity in the movement, and about how secular arguments can help us achieve that unity. I speak with other pro-life Christians about how we need to be able to reason with the pro-choicers who outright reject religious pro-life voices. So far I've seen varied but positive responses to these discussions. I've seen reactions ranging from priests and top-level pro-life activists taking interest to grassroots protesters excited at the prospect of working together with nonreligious pro-lifers.

A major part of Secular Pro-Life's mission is to bring together pro-lifers of any faith and no faith in the fight for the most vulnerable among us. My fellow Christian pro-lifers and I can help SPL unite people. We can reach out to our communities—communities secularists don't often find themselves in—and make a point of discussing the need for pro-life diversity in order to grow the pro-life movement even further. I'm happy to see the pro-life movement keep expanding, and I'm proud to do my part to help. Join me!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

No, I am not interested in "punishing" women for having sex

I went to law school. This has affected my way of thinking, for good and for ill. I am now fluent in legalese.

The purpose of legalese is to increase clarity. I realize that that's very difficult for non-lawyers to believe! But it's true, and in this post, I'll show you by translating some legalese. Please bear with me. I promise there's a pro-life point at the end.

It's been said that possession is nine-tenths of the law. I'm not sure that's right. Much of the law (I won't assign a number) is about the allocation of risk.

This is especially true of tort law. A tort is pretty much anything that causes damage to persons or property (other than damages that come out of violating a contract, which are handled, appropriately enough, by contract law). So torts encompass a wide range of things. If you ever go to law school, you will study many old-timey tort cases involving trains. But tort cases may also be about car accidents, slip-and-falls, dog bites, and all sorts of other routine matters.

Torts can be divided into two general categories. Intentional torts are instances where someone deliberately causes damage; for instance, punching somebody may not only lead to criminal charges, but also to a private lawsuit for the intentional tort of battery. Then there are the non-intentional torts, which are accidental. I've already mentioned some of those: slip-and-falls, and so on.

In a non-intentional tort, nobody has done anything criminal or morally abhorrent. But damage has been donein the form of hospital bills, a totaled car, or whatever elseand the court must decide who will foot the bill. Will it be the person who innocently caused the situation? Or will it be the person who innocently was minding her own business and was harmed by the situation? Neither option is ideal, but it has to be somebody. So the law's function is to allocate the risk of the accident.

When it comes to intentional torts, the court may not only order the perpetrator to pay for the actual costs of the damage, but also order additional payment to the victim"punitive damages," so called because their purpose is to punish the person who committed an intentional tort. But for non-intentional torts, punitive damages usually aren't on the table, because nobody needs to be punished; it's purely about compensation.

For non-intentional torts, a key concept is contained in the word "foreseeable." The court asks: who was in the best position to prevent this tort from happening? Put yourself in the shoes of the person being sued. Could that person have reasonably predicted that what happened was at least a possibility? If so, the risk will be allocated to that person. If not, the risk will be allocated to the victim.

The fact that something is foreseeable does not mean that it was intentional. (Remember, the fact that we're even talking about foreseeability probably means that it was a non-intentional tort.) A dog owner does not consent to her dog biting someone. A corporation does not consent to its employees doing stupidly dangerous things on the job. A grocer does not consent to a glass jar falling off of a shelf and injuring a customer. But they may still be liable for the damages caused by their torts. It happens all the time.

So when abortion supporters chant "Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy!" and accuse the pro-life movement of wanting to "punish" sexually active women (as if babies are punishments, as opposed to human beings), my mind always goes to the concept of foreseeability. When a person has sexual intercourse, pregnancy is a foreseeable result. That does not mean that the sexually active person has done something wrong or deserves to be punished. Let me repeat that: saying that pregnancy is foreseeable is not a moral judgment. It's just an acknowledgement that, let's face it, the cause of pregnancy is not exactly mysterious!

So the question is: who will bear the risk of the situation? Will it be the sexually active person, who did not intend for pregnancy to occur, but who at least has some control over the situation? Or will it be the unborn child, who has no control over the situation whatsoever, and whose very life is at stake?

The answer to that question is very easy when two lawyers are speaking to each other in legalese: it's all wrapped up in that one word, "foreseeable." But when trying to have that conversation in plain English, instead of having one word, you have... well, you have this entire blog post.

So don't knock legalese. It's actually pretty useful.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On Life Issues, New York is Completely Dysfunctional

Via 41 Percent NYC
On Monday, the New York Post published an article entitled "NYC's tanning salons inspected more regularly than abortion clinics." The Post describes this discovery as a "bombshell." And for those who haven't been paying the slightest bit of attention to the abortion industry and its lobby, I suppose it is. For myself, the only source of surprise was seeing this get media coverage outside of the pro-life blogosphere. Nice job, New York Post.

New York City may not have a desire to inspect its abortion facilities, but it is very interested in policing the interactions that pro-life pregnancy centers have with the mothers who come to them for pregnancy tests, sonograms, counseling, diapers, and other assistance. The City has spent who knows how much money defending its unconstitutional anti-pregnancy-center law in court for the past three years.

Most of the legislation that NYC passed to regulate pregnancy centers has been struck down by the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, who noted that the law was not tailored to address any legitimate state interest. (No woman has ever had her uterus perforated, had pieces of her dead fetus left inside her, or hemorrhaged to death at a pro-life pregnancy center. The same cannot be said for those under-regulated abortion facilities.) But the court did allow a small portion of the law to stand, and the pregnancy centers are appealing that decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Yesterday, New York City pregnancy centers won a small victory when the Second Circuit agreed to issue a stay. This means that during the many months it may take to obtain a response from the Supreme Court, no part of anti-pregnancy-center law will be in effect. They will be able to go about their business as usual, providing New York women with an alternative to under-regulated for-profit abortionists. 

These two stories, coming just a day apart, highlight the utter insanity of New York's pro-abortion mindset. They also highlight which side is really pro-woman. Actions speak louder than words. If the government of New York City can find the money to fund biannual inspections of tanning salons, surely it can find the money to beef up regulation of its abortion facilities. Might I suggest dropping their vendetta against pro-life pregnancy centers and redirecting some of the legal budget?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Simple Way to Seek Common Ground

[Today's guest post is by K. M. Misener.]

Far too many abortion debates are framed in the most simple, black and white terms: "Are you for abortion or against it?" However, there are many shades of gray between the two extremes of an absolute ban on abortion from the moment of fertilization vs. abortion on demand up until birth for any reason. For that reason, I have started to make a very simple request to abortion advocates in discussions: Please spell out for me exactly when you believe abortion should be legal, and when it should not be legal.

While that may seem like a very basic starting point, I think simply making sure we clearly understand where exactly our opponent stands can make discussion far more productive than if we just try to debate the issue in a general way.

We have plenty of real-world examples of situations where abortion has been restricted while not being outright banned. In many European countries, abortion is restricted after the first trimester, while in the United States, abortion advocacy groups fight hard against late-term abortion bans. Some readers may be too young to remember the long and difficult fight in America to ban intact dilation and extraction abortion (a.k.a. Partial Birth Abortion or PBA), but I remember that fight well. Once the partial birth abortion ban finally was upheld by the Supreme Court, abortion advocates quietly let their defense of PBA drop after a while. Despite dire predictions at the time that banning partial birth abortion would "undoubtedly harm the future reproductive health of some American women," nowadays you generally do not see people arguing that partial birth abortions need to make a comeback. The partial birth abortion ban shows the value of looking at abortion in terms of a spectrum, rather than pure black and white. Even many people who might have considered themselves pro-choice recognized partial birth abortion as too extreme to justify or defend.

We know from Gallup polling that even though a bit less than half of Americans identify as pro-choice, only about 26% of responders believe that abortion should be "Legal in all circumstances." There are many scenarios that frequently make even pro-choice people uncomfortable:
  • Abortion for so-called "convenience" or "birth control" reasons. 
  • Sex selection abortion (aborting a female fetus for being female, as is commonly practiced in some cultures). 
  • Late term abortions that are clearly for elective reasons.
  • The same woman having multiple abortions. It has been my experience that most abortion advocates are not aware that about half of women who have abortions have already had a previous abortion 
Since many pro-choice people tend to bring up rape and incest when debating pro-lifers (even though rape and incest only account for about 1% of abortions), I think it is completely valid for us to try to understand their stances on situations such as the above cases.

I am reminded of a quote that is very popular among atheists with respect to monotheistic religious adherents: “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Similarly, I say to those who oppose abortion in at least some cases: "I contend we are both against abortion. I just oppose abortion in more situations than you do. When you consider why you oppose these abortions, then perhaps you will understand that I am not your enemy simply because I draw the line in more cases or a bit earlier in pregnancy than you do."

We are used to thinking of abortion as a polarized, black and white issue. But I believe in many, many cases our disagreement is actually just about where to draw the line and matters of degree.

Now, what about abortion advocates who truly do believe abortion is a valid choice right up until the moment of birth? Finding out that someone takes that stance offers a great opportunity to discuss with that person what rational basis there is to abort a third trimester fetus yet protect the life of a newborn infant. Starting at the point where you can both agree that there is a life worth protecting and working backwards from there may be more productive than trying to convince someone who does not see even a third trimester fetus as a "person" that a newly formed zygote deserves to live.

In the effort to change minds and reach people, I think it is very helpful to try to find some form of common ground and use that as a foundation to build on. We need to look for opportunities to meet people at whatever point they are at along the spectrum of abortion beliefs.

Monday, April 7, 2014

I'm not distraught when people kill embryos.

I reevaluate whether I am really pro-life on a regular basis.

I believe abortion is almost always morally wrong. I believe it should usually be illegal. But I typically don't feel very emotional about it, at least not regarding early-term abortions (the most common abortions).

When I think of early-term abortions I don't feel anything like I would feel if someone killed a born child. Or even if someone had a late-term abortion. I mean, sure, I have some emotions about the topic. If a woman chooses to abort under duress, I feel sadness and frustration that we haven't made society better, or her position better in it. If a woman chooses to abort a wanted pregnancy because of a Down syndrome diagnosis, I feel indignant and defensive on behalf of born people with Down syndrome. If a woman has multiple abortions, I just feel exasperated.

So, sure: sad, frustrated, indignant, defensive, exasperated--I feel things. But these aren't the emotions I would feel over infanticide--deeper emotions like sorrow, despair, or rage. I don't feel overwhelmed.

In contrast, my fellow pro-life activists often seem to feel these deeper emotions over abortion. For example, my good friend Kelsey Hazzard has never tried sidewalk counseling, partially because she fears the scenario in which she's unable to change an abortion-minded woman's mind. She says she doesn't think she could live with herself. I don't feel the same. I think I could live with it fine. I'm not indifferent--I'd be disappointed, frustrated, disillusioned, maybe--but I wouldn't be crushed.

If I believe all humans--including fetuses--should have a right to live, shouldn't I feel the same way about early-term abortion as I feel about any other death? (That notion is the basis for the Burning IVF Lab thought experiment.) And if I don't feel the same way about abortion as I feel about other deaths, does it mean I don't think fetuses are morally relevant human beings? Do my inconsistent emotions signify insincere beliefs?

I wonder about this apparent contradiction on a regular basis. But then at least one of two main thoughts brings me back around.

1) Abortion isn't the only type of human death I feel numb to. Every day, around the world, people die of starvation, preventable diseases, and violence--including military conflicts in which my own country is involved. Yet, on a day-to-day basis, I'm more likely to get upset over my car acting up, my research progressing slowly, or my weight climbing too high than over real human suffering and death.

Which of these situations should bother me more?
Which one actually bothers me more?

Does my ambivalence indicate I don't believe the people suffering around the world are morally relevant human beings? If so, what does that say about how strongly my personal emotions are connected to the moral relevance of others? If not, what other factors influence my varying emotions about equally relevant people?

Either way, it seems obvious to me that my emotions aren't necessarily a good indicator of my intellectual beliefs, much less a good indicator of the reality of a situation. In my experience, emotions don't function off of consistency and objectivity, but off of a wide variety of factors, some relevant and some not.

2) Which brings me to my second thought: there's nothing wrong with holding a position you find intellectually compelling even if your emotions don't follow. When my mind and emotions diverge, I've found it's almost always a better decision to go with the mind--and I admire people who try to do the same. It's the intellectually honest thing to do.

So, even though I don't feel much over the idea of early-term abortion, I can find no consistent, objective reasoning to explain why there would be more value in, for example, a fetus who has synapses in the brain (8-9 weeks) compared to a fetus who has only just developed cerebral hemispheres (4-5 weeks). The former is more developed than the latter, but neither of them have present abilities like self-awareness or intellectual connection with others, while both of them have those future capacities. I still feel less emotion over the idea of aborting a 4-week embryo compared to a 9-week fetus, but I find no morally relevant differences between the two. If I can't intellectually defend my emotions, I try not to base my political positions on them.

So what do you think, guys? What are some issues where your intellect and emotions aren't aligned? How do you then approach those issues? What place does emotion have in forming your worldview, and how much weight to you give it?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Join us this evening in Naples, FL

Tonight, we are screening the 40 film! This documentary is a fantastic look at the history of the pro-life cause and what the future holds. It includes the personal stories of women and men affected by unplanned pregnancy, interviews with pro-life leaders (including SPL's Kelsey Hazzard), discussion of common themes in the abortion debate, and much more. There is no charge to attend, but donations are encouraged.

Time: 7:00 p.m.
Where: Room 110 of the Ave Maria School of Law, which is in the Vineyards neighborhood. The address for your GPS is 1025 Commons Circle, Naples, FL.
Free food: Pizza and wings

Click here for the facebook event.

Many thanks to, in no particular order:
  • John Morales, Director of 40, for joining us this evening;
  • Cynthia Morales, John's wife and 40's Development Coordinator, for logistical support;
  • Lex Vitae, the pro-life law student organization, for arranging our free use of the space and promoting the event on campus (who said secular and Catholic groups can't get along?); and
  • Professor Alex Vernon of the Asylum and Immigration Rights Law Clinic, for logistical support.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

All You Need to be Pro-Life

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

This is a follow-up to my March 25 post, “Abortion, Sex Positivity, and the Non-Aggression Principle,” in which I argued that defending the unborn and supporting sexual freedom are not philosophically incompatible. reprinted it under the title “I Am Against Abortion But Pro-Contraception, So Am I Truly Pro-Life?

It's a rhetorical question, but to be clear, I have never doubted whether I am “truly pro-life.” I was an active member of Students for Life at my alma mater for years. I’ve been to multiple pro-life conferences. I’ve marched in Washington and in various local demonstrations.

Yet LifeNews’ readership seemed divided.

The disconnect, from what I can tell, is largely a matter of semantics. When I say “I’m pro-life,” I mean I oppose elective abortion. I oppose any deliberate, medically unnecessary act done with the intent to end an unborn human's life. That’s it. My use of the term is limited to the political arena, where its opposite is not “anti-life” but “pro-choice” (meaning “in favor of legal abortion”).

Particularly among those who are religious, however, opposing abortion is just one part of being pro-life. The phrase “culture of life,” common in Christian outreach, connotes reverence for all human life “from conception to natural death.” Under this definition, anything intended to thwart the natural progression of life—including abortion, capital punishment, and assisted suicide—is “anti-life.” Artificial contraception falls here because it separates sex from its biological purpose. So does homosexuality and other “unnatural” sexual behavior.

Therefore it is conceivable (no pun intended) for someone to be against abortion but not, in the strictest sense, “pro-life.” And if that’s what you mean by “pro-life,” then I’m guilty as charged. I don’t think it’s anyone’s place—not an individual’s, not an organization’s, and certainly not the government’s—to tell rational adults how to conduct themselves sexually. I believe family planning should be left up to the parties involved, providing the chosen method does not entail deliberately ending a life. And I proudly support the LGBT community.

But why is any of that important? Over 3,000 human lives are lost to abortion each day in the United States alone. When set against destruction of such magnitude, our differences concerning sexuality and theology seem awfully petty.

Conservative Christians are entitled to their beliefs, just as I am entitled to mine. There’s a big difference, though, between saying one can believe X and be pro-life and saying one must believe X to be pro-life. It’s okay to be against birth control (even though I personally disagree). It’s not okay to insist that being against birth control is a requisite for being pro-life. As I noted in my first post, such a narrow vision excludes the majority of American abortion opponents—people whose contributions could be of great help to the cause.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re against abortion, I’ll stand with you. I don’t care what religion you practice or how devout you are. I don’t care if you’re straight or gay. I don’t care if you’ve had dozens of sexual partners or if you were a virgin on your wedding night. Because none of that matters. What matters is that your end-goal and mine are the same. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s all you need to be pro-life.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Video & transcript: Life/Peace/Justice conference

At last weekend's Life/Peace/Justice conference in Philadelphia, I was honored to be part of a panel on "Secular Witness: Reaching a Changing Young Culture for Life," alongside representatives of I Stand for Life, Pro-Life Humanists, and PLAGAL: The Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. It was a great conversation, and we recorded it for everyone who couldn't attend:

And for those of you who prefer to read a transcript, please click here, then click on the pdf file to download.