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Friday, July 14, 2017

A pro-life birthday wish


Hey, everybody, Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard here. Twenty-nine years ago tomorrow, the U.S. government arbitrarily decided that I could no longer be legally dismembered!

Okay, so birthdays can be a little fraught for a pro-life activist. They shouldn't matter as much as they do. Still, tomorrow is the anniversary of the day I first came face to face with the family members and friends who mean so much to me, and I think that's worth celebrating.

If you'd like to celebrate with me, here are four things you can do that would make my (birth)day:
  • Donate to a federally qualified health center (FQHC) that serves low-income women regardless of their ability to pay. These are the clinics that will benefit from a funding increase when Planned Parenthood is finally stripped of taxpayer money—but there's no reason we can't boost their budgets right here and now. Go to FundWomensHealth.com to support an FQHC near you.
  • Donate to Secular Pro-Life. We're a volunteer-run organization with no paid staff or physical office, so every penny you give goes to our programming.
  • Register for an upcoming conference! We'll be at the Consistent Life Network's 30th anniversary conference the first weekend of August at Eastern University (near Philadelphia), and at the Life/Peace/Justice conference October 20-22 in Pittsburgh.
  • Help Secular Pro-Life reach 20,000 likes on facebook by inviting a friend to our page. We're just 742 away!
I am about to embark on a few weeks of heavy travel, so blog posts will be few and far between. But don't worry—Secular Pro-Life's wonderful co-admins will keep the facebook page updated with the latest pro-life news and commentary. (Thanks, ladies!)

For Life,
Kelsey

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The "Pro-Birth" Objection


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

Lately it seems like abortion proponents have fallen in love with pointing out what they see as a glaring hypocrisy in the pro-life position: that those supposedly pro-life types are only pro-life when it comes to a fetus, but hate the lives of those who are already born. You're not pro-life, they say, merely pro-birth. So let's call this "the pro-birth objection."

It's tempting move because like so many rhetorical tricks, it seems to easily settle the question. Why debate a pro-lifer when they don't even care about living people? But, of course, it is a trick. And a dirty one at that. And the use of such tricks must be called out.

One problem with the pro-birth objection is that it tends to assume that everyone who is pro-life people is a traditional political conservative who holds a whole suite of other supposedly non-life-affirming positions such as opposition to gun control and support of capital punishment. Of course, as supporters of Secular Pro-Life well know, those with a pro-life stance are not necessarily uniform in their other politics or beliefs. I'm pro-life -- how do you know I'm not against capital punishment?

Of course, many on the pro-life side do hold other traditionally conservative views, but then responses tend to get bogged down in the particulars of policy. If one is pro-life, shouldn't one be more compassionate towards refugees? Well, who says they aren't? And now we are off into the minutiae of the politics of the day.

But such policy debates ignore the bigger, more basic, problem with the the pro-birth objection. That underlying error is that it twists the word "life" in "pro-life" by ignoring its context. Everyone knows that the "life" in this specific usage means the life of the unborn person. It is not referring to the value of life in every single context. It would be absurd to say that you can't be pro-life and still condone killing someone in self defence. Likewise, a pro-lifer might defend killing in defence of one's country. Or physician-assisted suicide. Or killing animals for food.These are complex moral questions and, of course, they are all open to debate. But it's willful ignorance and gross over-simplification to that you're either in favour of life or you're not.

The reality of such moral questions is, to be sure, more complex. While I myself am both pro-life and opposed to capital punishment, I can see how support for capital punishment could be squared with the pro-life position. One could argue, for instance, that the unborn child has a right to life and has done nothing to forfeit it, whereas the murderer has given up his right to life by taking the life of another. As I say, I don't actually take this view, but I can see how a reasonable person could hold it without hypocrisy.

To show just how absurd the pro-birth objection is, imagine if the same trick were applied to the term "pro-choice." If we said one cannot be pro-life without being in favour of all life, we could argue that to be pro-choice we must be in favour of all choice. Everyone's right to choose anything, at any time. Thus, while some have argued that a pro-life proponent must support gun control because guns take away life, we might just as easily argue that one cannot support gun control if one is pro-choice. After all, owning a gun is a choice. How can you ban smoking in restaurants if you believe people have the right to choose? What about teachers who choose to beat their students? Are you in favor of choice or aren't you?

But of course, one can value choice when it comes to seeking an abortion and still, without hypocrisy, maintain that some choices may be constrained. Choice is not an absolute value. It must be evaluated in the light of the particular circumstance.

The same holds true for life.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Revisiting the Spectrum Argument

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

A few years ago, Bob Seidensticker, a Patheos blogger, wrote about an argument he called the Spectrum Argument. I wrote an article in response. Seidensticker just updated a response to me a few days ago, which you can read here. I'd like to respond to the points he's raised in his new article. To summarize his argument, there is no dividing line between "person" and "non-person". It is a spectrum, and the embryo begins as a non-person and eventually becomes a person once it reaches a certain developmental milestone, and this milestone is the number of cells that go into making up a human person. As he says in his original article,
But the vast difference in the number of cells only begins to define the vast difference between the two ends of the spectrum. At one end, we have arms and legs, fingers and fingernails, liver and pancreas, brain and nervous system, heart and circulatory system, stomach and digestive system -- in fact, every body part that a healthy person has. And at the other, we have none of this. We have...a single cell. In between is a smooth progression over time, with individual components developing and maturing. That's the spectrum we're talking about...Note also that the difference between a newborn and an adult is trivial compared to the difference between the cell and the 1,000,000,000,000-cell newborn.
He makes several comparisons. A brain with only one neuron doesn't think at all, which is a huge difference between it and the brain with one million neurons, which does think. There is a continuous spectrum from blue to green, but blue is not green. There is no objective dividing line between child and adult.

A refutation of his argument, generally

The argument can really be refuted right away. Seidensticker here completely ignores the fact of human development. Once we develop enough cells, these other structures don't mysteriously come into existence. They develop gradually: a heart develops at around 22 days in utero, arms and legs start to form around the second month, etc. Seidensticker says "this is the spectrum we're talking about," but in what sense is this a spectrum? The reality is we don't exist on a spectrum -- what is human is human from the beginning. It has a human nature which directs its development and grounds its ultimate capacities, and all physical parts of the embryo eventually develop into the adult. Blue may change from green on a spectrum, but green didn't start out as green -- it starts out as blue. A human doesn't start out as a non-human, it starts out as a human and remains human. The single-celled zygote is a fundamentally different entity than the sperm and ovum cells that went in to make it -- and from then on, there is a continuity of existence from the single cell zygote all the way through that embryo's life. The zygote doesn't go out of existence once the cell starts to divide, it develops along the path of human development. But Seidensticker never gives us any sort of argument as to why he believes humans develop on a spectrum -- he only tries to argue for it by pointing to other things that are spectrums and saying "see, they're the same."

Even if we consider Seidensticker's argument as an argument of personhood, he still has to argue for why personhood is a spectrum. This would commit him to a gradualist position, similar to the likes of Wayne Sumner, who believes that sentience (i.e. the capacity to feel pain) is what grounds personhood. However, while Sumner's argument from sentience makes sense (it is at least intuitively plausible that the reason it's wrong to kill someone is because they can feel pain, but of course, this position is open to several counterexamples), Seidensticker's doesn't. Seidensticker places the value-giving property on the number of cells the entity contains because of the differences between a single-celled zygote and a one trillion celled newborn. Of course, if the pro-life position is successful, then these differences are trivial because it's the same individual through all points in its development. After all, although I may be qualitatively different than an embryo (I'm older, I am presently rational, I can talk, etc.), I am quantitatively the same embryo that was in my mother's womb.

A response to Seidensticker's other points

But now let's turn to Seidensticker's other points. It's trivial, but I want to start out by pointing out how amusing it is that Seidensticker claims that conservatives are trying to get votes by making an issue out of abortion, when Hillary Clinton's campaign ran mostly on her support for abortion rights (and ultimately ended up losing the election). Donald Trump made a few comments but for the most part, his campaign was silent about the abortion issue. Was Seidensticker living in an alternate reality last year during the presidential campaign?

Cutoff line

The problem with Seidensticker's argument here is that since we are dealing with the life of a human individual, then we must be able to make a determination. One advantage that the pro-life argument has over the abortion-choice argument is that the pro-life argument presents a clear dividing line between non-human and human: fertilization. But abortion-choice advocates generally disagree over when the dividing line is. Is it when sentience is sufficiently present, as Sumner argues? When cortical brain activity is present, as David Boonin argues? Is it when the human is sufficiently rational, as Michael Tooley argues? And even if we can decide which one of these thinkers is correct, there's no clear dividing line at which point the developing human being attains personhood, under that conception of "person." It does not disprove Seidensticker's argument that he can't come up with a clear dividing line (to argue that it does would be to risk committing the sorites fallacy), but it is a disadvantage that it has as compared to the pro-life argument.

Potential

Seidensticker responds to my arguments simply: "No, an acorn is not a tree, it is a potential tree." "No, it is a potential brain." Seidensticker presents no new arguments, so I can only point him to Monty Python to show why this isn't an appropriate way to argue. The reality is that yes, the acorn is an immature oak because all of its physical parts will develop into the mature oak tree, and all capacities that mature oak will have are present in the acorn in a latent form (or it might be more accurate to say that it's not the acorn, per se, that is the same as the mature oak tree because the acorn actually contains the oak embryo, and that oak embryo is the same individual as the mature oak tree it will become).

Simply repeating "no it isn't" isn't an argument, it's contradiction.

Personhood spectrum analogy

Something similar to the acorn happens with the brain. Now, I'm not an expert on the brain or how it develops, but according to my research, a single neuron is not the brain itself, but the gray matter of the brain is made up of neurons. The neuron is only a potential brain in the sense that all the neurons will develop into the gray matter of the brain, but the gray matter and white matter must be present for the brain, itself, to actually function as a brain should.

Seidensticker tries to show why his brain analogy works by analogizing it to water. A single water molecule does not have the properties of wetness, fluidity, etc., but these are emergent properties that emerge once a sufficient amount of water molecules are present. Now, let's set aside for a moment that the concept of emergent properties is controversial among philosophers, Seidensticker seems to be conflating the development of the brain with the development of a human. The human being is a human person from the beginning because from that single cell develops everything that the human will eventually be and have (including the brain). However, from that single neuron does not develop the brain -- the neuron must be combined with other neurons in order to form the gray matter of the brain. This is the main, and important, difference between the development of the human and the development of the brain.

Seidensticker finishes off this section by asserting that the embryo is not a baby now but will be in the future. I don't believe I ever used the term "baby" in my response to him, but the unborn child can certainly be seen as a baby. After all, what pregnant woman tells people she's "with clump of cells", or is having a "parasite shower"? She's with child, and has a baby shower. The term baby can be used to refer to a lot of things, including an unborn child or child after he has been born. Many mothers still think of their adult offspring as their "babies." "Baby" does not describe a stage of development of the human being, so it is not technically incorrect to refer to the unborn child as a baby. But neither does it add anything to the pro-life argument to use that emotionally loaded term.

The vastness of the spectrum

For this next section, I'll simply respond to Seidensticker on a point by point basis:

1) Between a newborn baby, a teenager, and an adult, they have the following in common: a brain, a pancreas, skin, eyes, nose, bones, muscles, hands.

The problem is that these are all arbitrary commonalities. If I set a newborn and an adult down in front of me and ask, "raise your hand if you understand this command," how many will raise their hand? One. There are large differences between an adult and a newborn: the adult can engage in rational thought. The adult can read this article. The adult can use language with intentionality. The newborn can't do any of these things. To say that these are negligible differences would simply be an ad hoc defense of Seidensticker's argument. Yet none of these differences justify killing the newborn and protecting the adult. Why? Because the newborn is a human being and has all of these capacities the adult has presently inherently (i.e. latently), just as the human embryo/fetus is and has. In fact, just as a late-term fetus has. The difference between a late-term fetus and newborn are negligible (hence why philosophers like Tooley and Peter Singer support infanticide), but Seidensticker hasn't told us if he believes late-term abortions are wrong.

2) "The commonality across the spectrum is that they all have eukaryotic cells with Homo sapiens DNA. That's it." That's an important commonality. But there are others: the unborn embryo has a human nature (in other words, even at the single-cell stage, the zygote behaves exactly as all humans do that early in their development). The developing embryo also has all the capacities the adult will develop at a latent level. Human embryos develop the ability to have rational thought because they have this capacity inherently. Human embryos never develop the ability to breathe underwater because they do not have this capacity inherently.

3)  "That's not something that many of us get misty-eyed about. Very little sentimental poetry is written about the kind of DNA in the cells of one's beloved." This is a non-point. I don't get misty-eyed when I think of homeless people on the streets. But that doesn't mean those homeless people are any less human or valuable because of it, and it doesn't mean I have any less of an obligation to help them. Just because I don't have an emotional attachment to the developing embryo does not give me justification to kill it. Humans are rational animals and should use their rational faculties to rise above their emotional, animal instincts.

What do we call the spectrum?

Here's where Seidensticker really seems to misunderstand my response to his spectrum argument. I fully concede that there are differences between a single-cell zygote and the newborn or adult it will one day become. But my response is philosophically nuanced and Seidensticker's argument conflates many ideas together and fails to make important distinctions. Of course there are differences, differences in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency, between a zygote and an adult. But these are all qualitative differences and don't justify being able to kill the developing embryo.

So it's not about needing to "rename" the spectrum to show why the spectrum is a determiner of personhood. It's about no matter what name you give it, none of the differences Seidensticker fixates on are enough to justify killing the embryo in the womb.

Miscellaneous arguments

1) PETA: Seidensticker points to the fact that PETA uses their slogan, "a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy" and argues they are trying to "collapse the spectrum" between these animals. The problem is Seidensticker, again, never addresses why he thinks this is a spectrum at all. He seems to assume that everything is a spectrum. But why assume that animal DNA exists as a spectrum? Certainly arguing that a member of a different species, say comparing a dog with a fish, is a fundamental difference and not a spectrum. Yes, they are all animals, but in what sense does fish and dog exist on a spectrum? Perhaps Seidensticker would do well to define what, exactly, he means by "spectrum." But whatever he means, it is clear that human person is not a spectrum, it is an all-or-nothing thing. Either you are a person or you are not. Seidensticker has yet to refute the pro-life argument.

2) Evangelicals thirty years ago supported abortion: This is, again, irrelevant, but Seidensticker tries to save it by saying it's not irrelevant to people who use religious arguments in this discussion. Except that it still is irrelevant. What matters is the truth of the arguments, not whether the group, as a whole, have switched their positions.

Again, Seidensticker misconstrues human development by asserting humans develop along a spectrum and fails to take into account that what is human is human from the beginning. He fails to make several important distinctions which show his argument to be faulty. It's clear that Seidensticker's argument fails to do the work of justifying abortion.

Friday, July 7, 2017

How I went from staunch pro-choice to pro-life

7 and a half week old human, via the Endowment for Human Development
[Todays guest post by Lauren Matthews is part of our paid blogging program.]

Most of us have seen the insensitive pro-choice signs that people hold at marches and rallies. They say things like “abortion on demand and without apology” or “hoes before embryos.” These are the same people who call embryos cysts and fetuses blobs. I know because I used to be one of them. I used to talk about abortion as if it was an operation to remove a tumor. I thought it was ridiculous to be pro-life and I was convinced that only religious fanatics were against legalized abortion. Personally, I always thought having an abortion would be painful and scary, but when it came to the subject of abortion in general, I was okay with it. I didn’t consider unborn babies as real babies, and I thought it was a reasonable option for women who are dealing with trauma, or who just aren’t ready to have kids.

That was, until a few months ago.

I was several weeks late and almost certain that I was pregnant. I looked up what stage of pregnancy I would be at, trying to estimate how far along I would be, but what I found made me cry. I learned that at just eight weeks the embryo already has hands, and at seven, a brain. I saw how quickly embryos develop and realized... the pro-lifers were right.

I know that it may sound stupid to people who have known this all along, but hear me out. Since I was young, I heard pro-choice activists telling people that the facts of embryonic and fetal development advertised by pro-life groups are lies. They tell us that fetuses and embryos are lifeless blobs and that the only thing that matters is a woman’s choice. They tell us that pro-life is a religious movement for the backwards and the ignorant. They groom us to ignore fetal development and focus on societal issues. On top of that, they use peer pressure to make anyone who questions pro-choice feel less intelligent and non-progressive. I haven’t told anyone besides my husband that I’m pro-life because I know I would be relentlessly judged and labeled as “part of the problem.”

As a teen, I saw the pro-life billboards that say the heart starts beating at five weeks, and I thought it was just another lie. Now, I wonder why this plain and simple message doesn’t get through to people and why it didn’t get through to me. What I observed is that the subject is usually handled wrong because it’s rarely ever spoken about from a scientific standpoint. People don’t need to listen to philosophical or religious debates, because it doesn’t matter when anyone believes a life begins. It’s true that the vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester—but even before eight weeks, the child has a heartbeat, a brain, and fingers and toes. In 2008, roughly 29% of all abortions in the U.S. took place between 8 and 13 weeks. If more people truly understood embryonic and fetal development and how rapidly the child develops senses and human characteristics, there wouldn’t be anything to debate.

I want pro-lifers to know that not all pro-abortionists are bad people. Most of them just don’t know a thing about prenatal development. When discussing abortion, try to focus on embryonic and fetal development instead of engaging in philosophical or moral debates. People don’t want to hear when you believe life begins or what you think is wrong because they will laugh in your face. Tell them that embryos have nervous systems; that fetuses can hiccup, kick, and stretch. Tell people the scientific facts of embryonic and fetal development that they’ve been taught to close their eyes to, and challenge them to look it up for themselves. Maybe they’ll change their minds too.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

National Right to Life Convention Recap

Jennifer Popik addresses the convention

On Saturday, I had the privilege of speaking at the National Right to Life Convention in Milwaukee. The convention is an annual event bringing together pro-life leaders from every state to learn from one another. This year's theme was "Keeping Tomorrow Alive." It was actually a three-day affair, beginning last Thursday, but due to work commitments I was only able to participate on the final day. Still, if the first two days were anything like the third day, it was a stellar convention.

Saturday morning opened with a panel discussion of euthanasia and assisted suicide, with a particular focus on how that's worked out in nations where it is fully legalized, like Belgium and the Netherlands. Short answer: not well. Formal reporting is poor, anecdotal reports indicate widespread abuse, and we now have the phrase "involuntary euthanasia," formerly known as murder. The panelists also discussed scholarly articles floating a "duty to die"—thankfully that is not the law anywhere (yet), but clearly they're testing the waters, and we need to be prepared to defend vulnerable elderly and disabled individuals.

Then we moved to breakout sessions. I attended the presentation by NRLC's Jennifer Popik, JD, on the progress of federal legislation. Obviously NRLC's strategy is confidential, but in broad strokes, she gave us a primer on the various procedural hoops pro-life laws need to jump through.

After lunch, there were more breakout sessions—including mine! My presentation on secular outreach was streamed live on facebook. You can watch the video here

I also had the pleasure of watching the final round of NRLC's oratory contest. This is a program for high school seniors, who each crafted their own short speech on a topic related to the protection of vulnerable human lives. I was thrilled when my favorite contestant won. She was not only persuasive and poised, she also chose one of the most difficult topics: how the pro-life movement can support women who become pregnant as a result of rape.

The convention concluded with a banquet featuring keynote speaker O. Carter Snead, a law professor who brilliantly summed up the equal rights argument against abortion.

I can only hope that next year, I will be able to attend all three days. The 2018 National Right to Life Convention will be held in Kansas. Stay tuned for details!

Monday, July 3, 2017

The good, the bad, and the ugly in the Senate health care bill


[Today's guest post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind ClinicQuotes.com.]

For a long time, the pro-life movement has been calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. This is a worthy aim. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States. They have been caught lying to women about fetal development and offering to protect sex traffickers at the expense of their underage victims. An undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood in six different states showed Planned Parenthood workers agreeing to cover up statutory rape and send underage victims back to their abusers.  And that doesn’t even touch upon the lengthy investigation into Planned Parenthood’s selling of fetal organs and body parts.

But in the long-term battle to protect the lives of preborn babies and vulnerable disabled children and adults, care must be taken not to make one step forward and ten steps back.

The health care bill currently being considered in the Senate, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, does defund Planned Parenthood for one year. But other aspects of the bill, as it stands now, can have a terrible impact on the issues of abortion and euthanasia.

One part of the Affordable Healthcare Act that the new bill would repeal is the mandate that insurance plans cover birth and maternity care. According to CNN, the average cost of childbirth is $30,000. A cesarean section raises the bill to $50,000.

The changes in the law will mean that at least 22 million fewer people will have health insurance coverage, including maternity coverage. Millions more, who will keep their coverage in other areas, will lose maternity coverage as well.

According to statistics gathered by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (which supports abortion), 73% of women who have abortions say that they aborted because they could not afford a child. Pro-lifers have often said that if a woman cannot afford to raise a child, she can place the baby for adoption. But as we have seen, birth without insurance is very costly. Poor women, including many single mothers, may be faced with a “choice” between spending $30,000 on a birth (if everything goes right) or $400 on an abortion. If the adoptive parents are unable to cover that cost, the pressure this would bring to bear on women would be enormous. There is no doubt that more women would be pressured to “choose” abortion.

Pro-lifers have also spoken out, and rightly so, against euthanasia. Those most vulnerable to euthanasia are the disabled and the elderly.

Over 6.2 million disabled people rely on Medicaid to provide health care. The Better Care Reconciliation Act, as currently drafted, will cut Medicaid by billions of dollars. This will force state insurance to cover fewer services. There have been multiple examples of insurance companies refusing to cover chemotherapy for cancer patients, but offering to cover pills for assisted suicide. With so much pressure to cut costs for disabled and chronically ill Americans, this will only increase.

Currently, many elderly men and women in nursing homes are being paid for by Medicaid. Medicare only covers skilled nursing care for 100 days. After that, the only option for a great many elderly people is Medicaid, which pays for long-term stays in nursing homes. This will be cut. What happens when elderly people cannot live on their own, have no family to take care of them, and have no way to pay for nursing home care? Such individuals would be at very great risk for both voluntary and involuntary euthanasia.

And, as I’ve said, 22 million fewer people will have health insurance if the Better Care Reconciliation Act is passed.

I would like to share this story from a friend on facebook:
My sister ... died on March 23, 2008 following a brainstem stroke, locked-in syndrome, and no hospital or rehab facility wanting to touch her because she was uninsured (she had a new job and was 30 days away from qualifying for benefits). Her medical costs for 1 week, post-stroke, were 1.2 million dollars so the doctors said sorry, butbecause she is 100 percent physically paralyzed, yet 100 percent mentally alert and able to communicate by blinking her eyeswe must videotape her blinking in agreement to our request to terminate life support since she lacks coverage for alternative treatment. And to be sure, they said, we'll videotape her doing this 3 times over as many days just to cover our butts. The life support was terminated on Good Friday but unlike Lifetime movie depictions, death did not come swiftly or without pain. Patricia Ann Brown Medley, age 43, lingered until 11:07 p.m. on Easter Sunday, at which time her soul left the earth where a handful of fellow inhabitants decided she wasn't worth saving. Sleep well tonight if you find this acceptable.
Did Ann Brown Medley have a right to life?

Incidents like this will become more and more common if the health care bill is passed without serious revision.

Adding to the number of suicides (assisted or not) will be some of the millions of mentally ill people who will be taken off their medication. The Senate health care bill has a clause that allows Medicaid in individual states to stop covering mental health care in 2019. Ironically, the most mentally ill people in the country are on Medicaid. Medicaid is given to those who receive SSI disability benefitspeople who have been so disabled they have never held a job. Four million people have been scrutinized by the government and declared so seriously mentally ill that they cannot work (and have never worked). All four million would potentially lose all access to the medication that keeps them stable. This includes over two million people with paranoid schizophrenia. The havoc this would wreak on society (and in individual lives) would be staggering .

Planned Parenthood should be defunded. Pro-lifers must insist on this. But the defunding of Planned Parenthood must not be wedded to other policies that will cause abortion and assisted suicide rates to skyrocket. If you call your senators, tell them to defund Planned Parenthoodand to stop the terrible health care cuts that will bring suffering and death to innumerable people.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Planned Parenthood Closings in California by Michelle Rodriguez



Three Planned Parenthood clinics located in Vacaville, Pittsburg, and central Richmond, California are scheduled to be shut down this summer. This news comes shortly after the release of the organization’s annual report which showed a sharp decline in services such as cancer screenings, STD testing, and contraceptive care. Prior to closing, the Pittsburg location was open only a few days a week because of the absence of patients.  



Planned Parenthood Northern California’s spokeswoman, Miriam Gerace explained to The Sacramento Bee that the clinics are shutting down largely due to low Medicaid reimbursement rates. As a result, State Treasurer John Chiang announced lawmaker’s plans to allocate $20 million dollars to local reproductive health clinics. “The Community Clinic Lifeline Grant Program,” his office says, “will help small or rural nonprofit clinics, including Planned Parenthood clinics, keep their doors open and provide critical services,”

PPNC is specifically shutting urban centers because they admit that their patients there already have other nearby clinics to rely on. According to Gerace, the organization is planning on expanding their services at rural clinics.


Pro-life leaders in the state believe that much of the reason for these clinics closing is due to an increasing popularity of affordable, comprehensive healthcare providers that offer reproductive health services. There are over 35 Federally Qualified Health Centers within 10 miles of these three clinics. In fact, in the Vacaville location, there is a competing, accessible provider in the same building! 


Planned Parenthood is showing signs of hurting even in states with allied politicians. While they lobby, we will continue to support nonviolent health clinics for the people that need them. We encourage you to donate to authentic women's healthcare at https://www.fundwomenshealth.com/.






Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Show Solidarity with Ireland to #SaveThe8th


Ireland has long been a model for pro-life advocates in the United States. The 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution protects the right to life for all people, including those in the womb. When the Eighth Amendment was passed, abortion lobbyists predicted that women's health would suffer. Instead, Ireland enjoys lower maternal mortality rates than neighboring countries—and much lower than the United States.

Of course, the abortion industry can't let that narrative stand. Ireland has come under immense international pressure to revoke the right to life for the youngest people within its borders. And recent political events have Irish pro-life advocates very worried. In the words of Life Institute:
As you know, the 8th amendment (which guarantees the right of life of both mother and child) is under serious attack by pro-abortion extremists. They have the backing of wealthy foreign donors and organizations like Amnesty International. They also have the full sympathy of the media. For this reason each of us must do our best to spread the “save the 8th” message ourselves. We must be the ones to show our friends, our neighbours, and our government that the Irish people do not want abortion in this country and do want to protect our life saving laws.
The 8th Amendment has saved the lives of over 100,000 Irish children.

Irish supporters of the right to life are gathering this Saturday, July 1 for the All Ireland Rally for Life. The rally will begin at 2:00 p.m. local time in Parnell Square, Dublin. And while most Americans can't make it in person, we have a responsibility to show our solidarity from across the pond. And it's very easily done, so no excuses:
  • Take a photo in support of the 8th Amendment! Rehumanize International suggests shooting with a local landmark in the background. Don't have a local landmark? Get creative!
  • Send your photo to info@thelifeinstitute.net for use in their campaign.
  • Use the hashtags #SaveThe8th, #AbortionDiscriminates, and #WeStandWithIrelandForLife on social media.
And if you really want to go the extra mile, organize a gathering on or near July 1 in your town! Rehumanize International says: "To create your own Rally For Life to #SaveThe8th and stand with Ireland, just shoot me an email at cwilliams@rehumanizeinternational.org with your name, your location, and your event’s date and time. Your event can be as large as 30+ at the Hollywood strip or as small as your family at your neighborhood park."

The unborn children of Ireland are under threat, and sad to say, that threat is largely funded by pro-abortion individuals and lobby groups in the United States. It's time for us to counter the "ugly American" effect and show our appreciation for Ireland's pro-life, pro-woman example.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pro-Life Women's Conference Recap

Birth Moms panel at #ProLifeWomen17

The 2017 Pro-Life Women's Conference was amazing. A picture is worth a thousand words, so check out our photo album on facebook.

Friday Night
Secular Pro-Life's conference booth was set up just a few yards away from our friends at Rehumanize International, with whom I also shared a hotel. Quick plug: their latest project is Create | Encounter, which wants your visual art, creative writing, musical works, etc. related to any and all life issues. Submissions are due July 31; details here.

Saturday
The program opened with Lacey Buchanan, who spoke about her experience as a mother. Her son, Christian, has an extremely rare disability. Among other things, his eyes never developed. She struggled with people who've stared at Christian, made insensitive comments, and even attacked her as a "bad mother" for not aborting him! But the family has persevered, and the more she publicly advocates for him, the better it's gotten. She had a wonderful message about the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Next up was a panel of women who had all received poor prenatal diagnoses. Some did indeed give birth to children with disabilities; in other cases, the doctors turned out to be wrong. All of them described immense pressure from their doctors to abort, even after repeated refusals. One asked for a note to be placed in her chart that she was keeping the baby and did not want to hear any more abortion talk, to no avail. The most moving story came from a woman who received a scary initial test result. She asked the doctor for more testing, and was told "The only test I'll perform on your daughter is an autopsy." After sharing this, she asked her daughter to please stand—she was there attending the conference, 19 years old and perfectly healthy!

After lunch, there was a panel of pro-life physicians. Much of the discussion focused on natural family planning (NFP): what it is, and what it isn't. Specifically, it is not the rhythm method, and it is not just having a period tracker app on your phone! Effective natural family planning methods use personal indicators like cervical mucous and temperature readings to determine when you are ovulating, as opposed to when the "average" woman in an "average" cycle is ovulating. NFP allows women to either avoid pregnancy or try to conceive, and charting also offers doctors insight into underlying hormonal issues that may be treatable. The panelists were religious, and opposed hormonal birth control for a mix of medical and religious reasons, but noted that NFP can benefit women from all walks of life. This led to the memorable line "Atheists have cervical mucous too!" (Can confirm.)

Two breakout sessions were scheduled for the afternoon. All the speakers and topics looked interesting, and it was hard to pick. For the first session, I attended a presentation on pregnancy loss from a woman who had experienced seven miscarriages/stillbirths at various gestations. She shared that she was well supported when she lost a child later in pregnancy; people brought her meals and sent sympathy cards and listened. But that was not the case when she miscarried early, and that hurt. The pro-life community needs to step up in those situations, and we shouldn't expect women's grief to follow the classic linear "seven stages." Life is much messier than that.

The second breakout session I attended focused on sex trafficking. The speaker was a social worker who shared (with names changed, of course) how her clients, often young teens, were recruited into prostitution rings through a combination of seemingly legitimate job opportunities, manipulation, and force or the threat of force. Helpful tip for pregnancy care centers: trafficked women and girls are often supervised by a handler, except when they are in the restroom. When a client goes to the ladies room to take a pregnancy test, give her the opportunity to tell you what is going on. This can be accomplished with a sign and a message box. Naturally the message box must be checked after each pregnancy test.

Sunday
The morning's keynote speaker was Melissa Ohden, who shared her story of surviving a saline abortion, growing up in a loving adoptive home, and eventually reconnecting with her birth mother—who, as it turned out, had been coerced into the abortion by her mother, Melissa's grandmother. You can read more about Melissa's incredible journey here.

Next up was a panel entitled "Engaging the Black Community." Much of it was church-focused, which is not surprising given the large role Black churches play in social and political life. But here's an important takeaway for the pro-life movement in general: be mindful of Martin Luther King Day! It often falls on or near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when we have memorial events and rallies planned. But Planned Parenthood is attending the MLK events, and if we aren't, we're giving the abortion industry a free pass. Schedule accordingly.

The final event of the conference was also one of the most moving. Seven birth mothers shared their pregnancy and adoption stories. They were incredibly diverse; some never considered abortion, others wavered back and forth, and others were dead set on abortion until a pro-lifer changed their mind. One woman was incarcerated during her pregnancy and gave birth in shackles, a terribly inhumane practice that everyone, whether pro-life or pro-choice, should oppose. There were many adoptive parents and adoptees in the audience, and the Q&A was truly beautiful.

Throughout the weekend, I had the opportunity to network with like-minded women from all over the country, and I also got to hold three different babies. This is the most mom- and child-friendly conference on the planet. Whenever a mom needed a break, there was a line of people volunteering for a shift. If you want to see what pro-life means in practice, this is it! The date for the 2018 conference is TBD (I assume it will be sometime in the summer), but the location has been announced: St. Louis, MO. See you there!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Join us at the Pro-Life Women's Conference THIS WEEKEND!


Tonight's the night! The second annual Pro-Life Women's Conference kicks off with a reception at the Orlando World Center Marriott. The keynote speaker is Abby Johnson, famous for leaving her job as a Planned Parenthood facility manager and blowing the whistle on Planned Parenthood's Medicaid fraud and other misdeeds.

The conference will continue tomorrow and Sunday with a wide array of panels and breakout sessions. This year's theme is "Life Empowers Women." Topics will include adverse prenatal diagnosis, race relations, adoption, sex trafficking, the consistent life ethic, and sidewalk advocacy. Secular Pro-Life has an exhibit booth, and we encourage you to come say hello! There will be many other familiar faces, including: our dear friend Aimee Murphy of Rehumanize International; Christina Bennett, who you'll recognize from our Students for Life of America conference presentation back in January; SPL blog contributor Sarah Terzo; and Gina Mallica of the #HelloHyde campaign.

Registration is required. If you ask me, the ticket price is well worth it. Get all the information you need and sign up ASAP at ProLifeWomen.com. See you soon!