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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I thank the pro-lifers who persuaded me with compassion

[Today's guest post is by Jewels Green. This Thanksgiving week, Secular Pro-Life is giving guests a public platform to thank the pro-life heroes in their lives.] 

For much of my life, I was so entrenched in the pro-choice worldview that I would completely shut down conversations that invited me to examine or question my position. Even with my history of being pressured into an abortion at 17 and surviving my subsequent suicide attempt, I remained a vehement and vocal advocate for abortion. I even worked at an abortion facility for five years. College, grad school, marriage, giving birth to three babies—nothing swayed me from my myopic view of a "woman's right to choose" abortion.

Four Novembers ago that began to change.

While discussing abortion and surrogacy in an online forum with a group of women I knew from a natural childbirth support group, the topic of in-vitro fertilization came up. I held fast to the standard pro-abortion rights theorizing that a "bunch of cells" could not possibly be as worthy of our respect and protection as an adult woman. I was baffled (but intrigued) by two voices speaking clearly, consistently, and compassionately (against the tide of a dozen opponents) in support of the right of these microscopic humans to live to maturation.

The author wearing a consistent life
ethic hat: Life matters, no matter what.
In the ensuing conversations neither Lindsey nor Lauren ever berated, belittled, or otherwise bashed those of us who disagreed with them—but they also never backed down. Their unshakable belief and eloquent defense of the value of all human life put a chink in the armor I'd spent decades carefully constructing. What was life if not a continuum from conception to death? Wasn't I once a tiny collection of cells? I finally began thinking about these issues of life in a new way.

As the forum expanded to discussions about surrogacy, I was primed for further interior examination of my long-held, never-before-questioned position... and I slowly began to consider that a child in womb just might be, in fact, a child. Then I learned of a surrogate who was paid her full contract price to abort the baby she was carrying after the biological parents were disappointed by an in-utero diagnosis of Down syndrome. The chink in the armor became a chasm and the truth was blindingly clear: abortion is wrong. Abortion kills a living, growing member of the human family. And to quote Feminists for Life, women deserve better than abortion.

Only as I look back do I see the blinders. My willful ignorance, my avoidance of true introspection, my stubbornness. I can never thank Lindsey and Lauren enough for their unwavering witness to the sanctity of life. These two remarkable women (unknowingly at the time) set me on a path of discovery that culminated in my wholehearted acceptance of the right to life from conception to natural death and of a life devoted to furthering the cause of LIFE.

Thank you, Lindsey.

Thank you, Lauren.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Thank My Birth Team

[Today's guest post is by Crystal Kupper. This Thanksgiving week, Secular Pro-Life is giving guests a public platform to thank the pro-life heroes in their lives.]

I was filling out my grad school applications the day I found out I was pregnant. I was surprised, and put my education on hold. But even more surprising than the pregnancy was the shocking way my military hospital treated me during labor and delivery.

Without going into too many traumatic details, I wound up giving birth in a janitor's closet, and that was about the best thing to happen to me that night. It all went downhill from there. I came away from that hospital with a beautiful son, but also a torn, broken body and an even more deeply-scarred psyche.

For the next year I didn't recognize myself. A cheerleader, classical pianist and scholarship winner, I have always had a happy disposition and a determined attitude. Yet suddenly, even sleep eluded me, let alone the ability to be a good mother or wife. On the rare night I did fall asleep for five minutes, I woke up screaming from nightmares of knife-wielding, camo-clad doctors. During the day, I had random flashbacks of the birth that left me paralyzed. I purposefully avoided the hospital at all costs. I could barely walk across a room, let alone run a marathon like I was used to. I told no one of what happened that night, not even my journal or mother. I cried for no reason, felt no love for my son -- just pure, numbing fear when my Air Force husband deployed when our boy was six months old.

Yet the worst part was the people. "At least you got a healthy baby!" they would chirp when they sensed I wasn't loving life. And when I tentatively told my OB what was happening, she actually laughed in my face. "Welcome to being a mom!" That was it, I decided. My firstborn would be an only; if this was motherhood, I wanted no part in it.

Then we moved, thankfully to an assignment far away from the nearest military facility. I had to go to midwives for standard care, and after one look at that area, she goes, "So, do you want to tell me what happened to you?" The whole story came spilling out, three years later. I almost made her cry. "It can be different, you know," she told me. She was right.

Bolstered by stories of women-centered healthcare, I worked up the courage to become pregnant again. I hired a doula who listened in shock to my story ("Um, I'm pretty sure what they did to you was illegal") and promised to support me in my wishes throughout the pregnancy, labor, delivery and recovery. And so she did. Referred to a women's physical therapist, I spent months in the pool getting to know my body in ways I had never dreamed. She promised me that this birth would be an empowering physical experience, a chance to watch what my body could do. And so it was.

Today, I am a mother of three who is passionate about a previously unknown and uncared-for subject. I am in an awesome marriage of a decade. And I am forever grateful to a birth team of professionals who gave me my body, motherhood, mental health and marriage back. They cared not only about birthing a baby but guiding a woman with both scientific facts and empathy-based guidance and support. That, to me, is the ultimate expression of pro-life values.

Above: the author with her doula and newborn son

Monday, November 24, 2014

I thank everyone who supported me and my baby

This Thanksgiving week, Secular Pro-Life is giving a few guests the opportunity to thank the pro-life heroes in their lives.

First up is Valerie Lopez, a Texas A & M University student who got a huge shock in January: she was pregnant, and for added drama, she didn't find out until she was already 23 weeks along! A late-term abortion was never an option for Valerie, whose dedication to the pro-life cause included a leadership role at TAMU's pro-life student organization and an internship with SPL. But Valerie still needed support as she navigated the special challenges of parenting as a student... with just four months to prepare.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I'd add that the village gets involved long before the child is born! Valerie thanks:
  • her mom, who was strongly supportive,
  • her friends, "who never delivered an ounce of judgment and threw me a surprise baby shower,"
  • her family, "who made big changes and lots of room for an extra person in their lives," and last but certainly not least
  • her partner Ervin, the baby's father, to whom Valerie is now engaged. "Instead of being worried about himself and everything going on in his life, he showed pure joy throughout the entire pregnancy and is now a great father," Valerie says. "I am so thankful because I know how much my son is loved, especially by his parents."
Baby Noah was born six months ago, and I have to agree: while his conception wasn't planned, there's no question he's very much loved! 

Above: the family of scallywags at Halloween

Friday, November 21, 2014

Abby Johnson urges Texas to spare mentally ill death row inmate

Everything's bigger in Texas... including, unfortunately, hypocrisy. In the past year, Texas has seen major progress in its laws protecting the lives of preborn children. But it has made no analogous progress on the death penalty, and as a result, the inconsistency in Texas' treatment of the right to life has grown larger.
Scott Panetti

We've written before about anti-abortion support for the death penalty. While I disagree with that position, I grant that the distinction they're making—that abortion ends innocent lives—isn't ridiculous.

But here's what is ridiculous, and unconscionable: Texas is scheduled to execute Scott Panetti, a man who almost certainly should have been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The Dallas Morning News recently published an editorial on the subject by none other than Abby Johnson. Johnson, as you probably know, is a former Planned Parenthood abortion worker who famously quit her job and blew the whistle on a range of misdeeds, including Medicaid fraud and abortion quotas. Her memoir, Unplanned, is on many a pro-lifer's bookshelf (including mine!). She now runs an organization dedicated to helping abortion workers leave the industry. And while I realize that what I'm about to say isn't really measurable, I'm going to just go ahead and declare that Abby Johnson is the most famous pro-lifer in Texas.

And she's using her powerful voice to speak out on Mr. Panetti's behalf, calling for his death sentence to be commuted to life in prison:
Leading mental health experts have said that, if the execution of Panetti goes forward, it would be “a miserable spectacle.” I could not agree more. Panetti does not even understand why he is being executed. He believes that Satan, using the state of Texas as his agent, is trying to execute him for preaching the Gospel while in prison. 
The execution of Panetti would be more than an embarrassment to our state. It would undermine our commitment to protecting life, especially the most vulnerable, by extinguishing the life of someone clearly suffering from mental illness.
The editorial is worth reading in its entirety. And while Johnson doesn't name names, I will. Panetti's fate is initially held in the hands of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, appointed by the governor. If the Board recommends commuting the sentence, Panetti's fate will then be in the hands of the governor himself: presidential hopeful Rick Perry.

Gov. Perry, the pro-life community is watching.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Follow Up: Working it Out

A while ago, I started an audience participation post entitled "Working It Out", the first in a series of posts putting forth basic questions to both sides of the abortion debate. And we certainly got audience participation! We received over 700 comments on our blog page alone, and the question was discussed in various other forums.

For details about how the series of posts work, please visit here for the original post.

Here I will discuss some good points that were presented, as well as my thoughts. In this post, there will be follow-up questions that I would love if you addressed! Here is the statement we discussed:

Scientific information about fetal development does not answer the question of the worth of the fetus.

Now one thing that quickly became apparent to me was that people--especially on the internet and while talking about controversial issues--do not naturally take things at face value. A large number of comments read the statement as "science can't dictate morality" and began commenting on that premise. I found that so many people leaped to this interpretation to be fascinating. However, I took care to not use the word "morality" while crafting the post. So many people began talking about science and morality, in fact, that I was convinced I must had accidentally dropped the "m-word" accidentally somewhere in the post. But I didn't!

Follow up question: is there a difference between asking if science can determine a worth of a fetus and if science can determine the morality of abortion?

In my opinion, "value of the fetus" and "morality of abortion" are two completely different things--but I could be the only one thinking this.

Commenter "ignorance_is_curable" on the blog made the point (edited heavily for the sake of room):
It doesn't matter in the least if you think human beings have "innate worth", if you can't actually prove such a thing truly exists...that is, the whole concept of "innate worth" should be proven to exist, before anyone can say, "this entity has innate worth"... So far as I've seen, no one has offered any evidence that innate worth exists for anything. And do remember, the claim that it exists is the sort of "positive claim" that puts the Burden of Proof on the claimant.
This strikes me as a reasonable point, and one that matches well with my atheist sensibilities. What do my fellow atheists think about this?

Of course, don't pro-choicers ascribe innate value to adults, and particularly to women? Indeed, isn't their value of pregnant women so high that they believe it's acceptable to abort the fetus with no say from anyone else but herself? What about in the case where an unborn fetus is wanted? That strikes me as quite a large amount of value, however undefined "value" may be. Secular people often stand up for various human rights causes--aren't we putting value on people then?

EdinburghEye (another pro-choicer), said the following (again, edited for the sake of space):
That prolifers think the morality of abortion is determined by how much "worth" can be allotted to a fetus, and literally don't understand that for most normal people the morality of abortion is determined by the effect of the pregnancy on the human being who is pregnant...for human rights activists, obviously, the ethics of abortion are around the right of each human being not to be forced, used, enslaved, or harmed at the will of another.
But you don't have to be a human rights activist, just a normal person who knows women are human, to see that pregnancy is an action undertaken by a human that can permanently change her health, her wellbeing, her life.
Yet for prolifers, human health, human wellbeing, human life, are never discussed except with regard to fetuses. The girls and women they want to force do not exist.
The points this person brings up here I think raise a large concern that I and many other pro-lifers have about our own movement. Pro-life advocates who are heavily involved in the movement, and particularly those who are involved in the pregnancy resource and/or post-abortion aspects of the movement, clearly do not have an attitude that women "do not exist." But what about the "average" pro-lifers who are less involved? Are we giving them an adequate feminist education? While I think that EdinburghEye is painting with a rather large, broad brush, it's still an important point to bear in mind. Pro-life advocates should always be careful not to dehumanize the woman due to a bias toward the fetus.

However, on the other hand, pro-lifers think that abortion always ends a human life. I simply cannot see how a pro-choicer can deny that, if we take out any never-ending discussion of "personhood". It's a human life, and it is ended, for a variety of reasons that range from inconvenience to risk of severe quality-of-life impacts on the woman. I'm not saying that this fact ends debate or even puts pro-lifers in the right, but if this is how pro-lifers view the act of abortion, is it not unreasonable that they would at least favor the side of the fetus a little? Again, understanding how pro-lifers see the issue, do pro-choicers really see it as an intentional dehumanization rather than a step in logic on the part of the pro-life position?

The question is, do pro-lifers take it too far? I would have to say that at times yes, we do. Black and white thinking about the act of abortion and our reason for being pro-life can make us blind to the reasons why women seek not only abortion but control over their bodies. I know that for myself, despite having done almost a decade of pro-life work, it took a worldview change and feminist theory to actually make me understand the severity of situations that women face, not only around the world but right here in our own country, and thus for me to pause at my rather large assertion, "Abortion is always wrong."

And, sadly, this post is already getting long! Was there a comment from someone on the other side that you found insightful and thought-provoking? Share it in the comments!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Announcing a new website


As a resource for all of you internet debaters out there, Secular Pro-Life is proud to introduce Not1in3.com!

Abortion activist groups are making increased use of the claim that one out of every three American women will have an abortion, and many well-meaning people on both sides of the fence repeat the statistic without knowing its deceptive origins. Not1in3.com sets the record straight: the study cited for the 1 in 3 claim actually contradicts that claim, and in any event, the dramatic drop in the American abortion rate since 2008 has completely altered the landscape.

Thanks to a decrease in unplanned pregnancies and better resources for young women who do become pregnant, there's just no feasible way that the lifetime abortion rate is anywhere close to 1 in 3. And that's worth celebrating! Today's girls and young women have much better things to look forward to than abortion.

Abortion advocates plan to push the false "1 in 3" theme on social media this Thursday beginning at 1pm. Hashtags will include #1in3speaks and #1in3. Your job is simple: when you see it, respond with a link to Not1in3.com. Don't be accusatory or feel obligated to engage in a protracted debate. Remember, most rank-and-file pro-choicers are not being deliberately deceptive; they're merely repeating what they've heard from what they believe is a reliable source. Gentle correction is all that's called for here.

While I'd like to close with something like "let's nip this myth in the bud," that's overly optimistic. Abortion advocacy groups will no doubt continue to peddle the myth for as long as they can get away with it. So don't stop after Thursday! After all, it's an easy website to remember. Link to it wherever you see the 1 in 3 claim, for as long as it takes.

And P.S.: If you lead a pro-life organization and would like to endorse this effort, please email your logo to info@secularprolife.org.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dismemberment is not an act of love

[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.]

Sometimes when talking to pro-choice leaders and reading what they write, one is reminded of George Orwell’s novel 1984. Words have their opposite meanings; black is white, slavery is freedom, and abortion is a social good and moral choice instead of a brutal act that kills a baby and, quite often, scars a woman.
Above: Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt, former President of Planned Parenthood, says the following in her book The War on Choice:*
I have spoken and read letters from hundreds of women about their experiences with abortion, and one thing I know is that abortion is almost always a profoundly moral choice. Women and men plan their families because they have respect and reverence for human life. Women who choose abortions do so because they love children…
It is not an act of love to kill a baby. Choosing to give birth to an unwanted pregnancy leads to a living, intact, usually healthy child. Abortion leads to a baby poisoned or torn apart and extracted in bloody pieces. Statistics on when in pregnancy abortions take place are notoriously unreliable, but evidence suggests that most abortions take place between the sixth and tenth week of pregnancy.  By seven weeks after conception, the baby already has fully developed hands and feet—hands and feet that are torn from her body in the most commonly used suction abortion procedure.

Former clinic worker Catherine Anthony Adair described first trimester abortions as follows:
I was a medical assistant in the room for hundreds of abortions. I witnessed the baby being suctioned out of the uterus and watched blood and tissue work it’s [sic] way through the tube into a metal bowl. The baby was dismembered during the process. The nurse would account for the baby parts and put it into a baggy, which I then put in a box with the other aborted babies. We then had to count them at the end of the day to ensure we had all of them to go to the lab. 
Dismemberment is not an act of love or kindness. We don’t brutally murder our loved ones. Criminals do not commit their violent crimes out of love and concern for either their victims or society as a whole. These statements seem so obvious that it’s absurd to make them, and yet we have to bring it up because of extreme comments from pro-choicers like Gloria Feldt.

Too many Americans are ignorant as to what abortion actually does to a baby. Oh, on some intellectual level, they may be aware that abortion ends a life or potential life—but they have no idea how developed the babies are, how brutal and bloody abortion really is. They have not thought about the life of the child, the unseen victim who is growing within his mother’s womb, secure and safe, with a beating heart and developing brain, only to be suddenly, brutally killed.

Pro-lifers must educate the American public. The fact that Gloria Feldt was able to make such a statement to her supporters and be taken seriously shows the ignorance and denial that is epidemic in the United States when it comes to the abortion issue. We have our work cut out for us. But if we continue to state the truth on the Internet and in other uncensored forums, perhaps one day statements like Feldt’s will be seen for the absurdities they are.

*Gloria Feldt. The War on Choice: the Right-Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back (New York: Bantam Books, 2004) 103

Friday, November 14, 2014

Are you thankful for a pro-life hero? Tell us about it!

Do you want to publicly thank a pro-life person who saved your life or the life of a loved one? We want to hear from you! Throughout the Thanksgiving week, we will be running articles about your stories. We're looking for titles like these (in no particular order):
  • I give thanks to my mom
  • I give thanks to my birthmom
  • I give thanks to my child's birthmom
  • I give thanks to my sidewalk counselor
  • I give thanks to my pregnancy resource center
  • I give thanks to my supportive partner and/or family
  • I give thanks to my pro-life student organization
  • I give thanks to my pro-life obstetrician
  • I give thanks to my maternity home
The possibilities are endless, and we'd like to publish at least five pieces. If you are interested in writing, email info@secularprolife.org with the subject line "Thanksgiving" and include your name and a short version of your story. Please send this initial email no later than Wednesday, November 19. If we like it, we'll work with you to prepare a longer version for publication.

We look forward to hearing from you and amplifying your voice of thanks!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When Democracy Wins, Abortion Loses

Despite the very common misconception that the US is mostly pro-choice, the US is in fact majority pro-life (48% pro-life, 45% pro-choice). And probably most shocking to your average American: the youngest generation (you know, the one that just started voting) is most likely to say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Young people don't just call themselves "pro-life," a phrase which can have an array of meanings; they explicitly support making abortion illegal.  

Click to enlarge

So it should come as no surprise that the nation leaned more pro-life on November 4th. Most notably, the people of Tennessee removed the right to an abortion from the state's constitution, finally allowing a democratic approach to abortion legality.

Now Tennessee has three proposals up to bat:
  1. Mandatory waiting period for women seeking abortion
  2. Mandatory counseling (informed consent)
  3. Inspection requirements for abortion facilities
According to Gallup:
  • 60% of pro-choicers and 79% of pro-lifers support waiting periods
  • 86% of pro-choicers and 87% of pro-lifers support informed consent
If Tennessee is anything like the overall nation, these proposals will pass. The fact that TN needed a constitutional "right to abortion" to prevent restrictions from passing may remind you of a similar, yet larger-scale case of short-circuiting democracy: Roe v. Wade. For the past 40 years, the ruling of 7 justices has allowed the killing of preborn human beings at any stage of development based on privacy (oddly, though, women cannot murder their toddlers using the same rationale). And this overreach has not jived with the vast majority of Americans. For example, 79% of pro-choicers and 94% of pro-lifers want third-trimester abortions banned.

Americans have skewed views of how their fellow citizens stand on abortion. Even now, most probably see Tennessee as extremist and unusual. But in truth, TN is fairly representative. It is my hope that young people entering the voting population continue to be strongly pro-life and vote to protect unborn children, and that the population as a whole can understand and embrace the (secret) pro-life norm. 

What do you think: could knowledge of the status quo position affect the extent to which people (particularly political moderates) accept pro-life views?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Abortion, Sterilization, and Regret: A Double Standard

A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post ran an article about the obstacles encountered by young women interested in permanent surgical sterilization (e.g. tubal ligation):
The first time Bri Seeley told her doctor she wanted to be sterilized, she was 24 years old. ... Motherhood, she knew deep in her bones, was not for her. But the naturopath whom Seeley saw for her annual exam told her that because of her age, she was not a good candidate for permanent sterilization. The following year, Seeley asked again -- and was rebuffed again. Next year, the same thing.
"Every single year she would say to me, 'You will never find a doctor to do that for you,'" said Seeley, who is now 31 and lives in Los Angeles, and who has blogged for The Huffington Post about her experience. Though her desire for the procedure only grew, she said, the anger she felt after her initial rejection gradually gave way to a kind of numbed resignation.
The issue is that doctors are concerned that women, and particularly younger women who have never given birth, will regret being sterilized:
A major area of focus for ACOG, and the OB-GYNs it seeks to counsel, is the question of regret. A comprehensive 2008 review looking at sterilization in the United States found that patient regret is the most common lasting complication of sterilization, and one that disproportionately affects women: Up to 26 percent of female patients say later that they regret the procedure, according to statistics cited in the study, compared to less than 5 percent of men who have a vasectomy. And age, the researchers concluded, is the top predictor of regret. Women who were under 30 when they were sterilized were twice as likely as their older counterparts to say they had later misgivings.
As one ob/gyn put it, "In some ways, it's very difficult to see a 22-year old make a decision for the 35-year-old she will be someday and not have major concerns that she might regret that decision."

Naturally, as I read this, my mind immediately went to the topic of post-abortion regret. Abortion, obviously, is also permanent. A 2008 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that abortion is associated with an 81% increased risk of mental health problems. And I realize that this is a matter of intense ideologically-driven debate, but even if you disagree with the meta-analysis and refuse to accept that abortion is associated with mental illness, it is absolutely, at minimum, associated with regret. (Witness the explosion of women-led support programs that have emerged in the vacuum of official silence/reluctance/opposition.) If regret is a "complication" of sterilization, there is no defensible reason not to treat it as a complication of abortion as well.

Where is the concern from physicians that the 22-year-old obtaining an abortion is "making a decision for the 35-year-old she will be someday"—the woman wondering about the child who would have been on the cusp of his or her teen years?

If a childfree young woman wants a tubal ligation, and she has been fully informed of the one-in-four chance that she may later regret it (along with the obvious risks attendant to surgery), she should be able to obtain a tubal ligation. In addition to helping the majority of patients, a policy of open access to sterilization would also have the happy side effect of preventing unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Conversely, ob/gyns and women's health advocates should not be so cavalier about the chances that a woman will one day say that she regrets her abortion. (Often, as with sterilization, the regret won't come until years later, which is why I'm thoroughly unimpressed by research emphasizing that relief is the most common immediate reaction to an abortion.)

I don't wish to diminish the experiences of women who regret their tubal ligations. But they at least have options: some tubal ligations can be surgically reversed, sterilized women can become mothers through adoption, and one of the women quoted in the HuffPo piece was a stepmom. In contrast, there is nothing that can replace the unique daughter or son lost in an abortion.

The medical community has this completely ass-backwards.