Wednesday, May 22, 2019

We asked, you answered: why did you convert from being pro-choice to pro-life?

Original FB post here. At the time I started organizing these answers, there were about 200 comments.

Many people became pro-life because of their own pregnancy experiences:

Sasja: I was pro choice, and even against the gestation of embryos that showed signs of hereditary diseases or birth defects ... And then I fell in love when I first saw the beating heart of my 12 weeks into development unborn child—at that time nothing more than a blinking lo-res pixel on the ultrasound screen.

Myles: Having our first child and thinking we were going to lose him at one point during the pregnancy. Made it crystal clear.

Cassie: I was raised by a feminist mom to be pro-choice. I believed it was a "blob of tissue" until I was pregnant with my first child. When they handed me all the info on prenatal care and my "growing baby" I was like, "Wait what?" I pretty much changed my mind right then and there though it probably took me 3 or 4 more years to talk about my change of mind with friends and family.

Mandy: Seeing my 12 week old baby miscarriage.

Rachael: Pregnancy changed my mind. I had an unplanned pregnancy and I just felt different after that. It is hard to explain.

Heather: I was rather uncommitted either way, just not a problem I had to consider. Until I miscarried at 5 weeks. That was a life. I felt real loss, real grief. And the pro-abortion side tells me it's just a clump of cells. It wasn't. It mattered. It had meaning. I know that now.

I found myself getting pressured into abortions with both my kids by people in the healthcare and mental health services industry. Later on, I was told that I should have not even had kids if I had an intellectual disability. On top of that, my boyfriend wanted me to abort.
I made two appointments with PP who were actually fair saying I have to really want it. I dreamed my baby was being attacked by a large snake. I had to protect and defend my baby as her mother! That's when I knew I wasn't going through with it.
Things actually worked out for us. Section 8 gave us a home. When things went south with my relationships, there were shelters, I had a legal advocate and counselors, we always had enough food. Later on, we got a new apartment and thrived. Point being things were never as bad as things were painted.
I want to advocate for other women going through this. I want them to know the Truth that someone dies during an abortion and someone could be saved and things can turn out even when things are at their worst when they choose life!
I think when I was very young I didn’t give it much thought. Then gradually as Roe v. Wade was passed I thought more about it and my understanding of how the baby developed brought me to be pro-life. Lastly becoming a mom cemented it in me. Especially mother of a baby who died at 22/3 weeks gestation.

I still can’t reconcile how people can be sympathetic to that sort of loss and yet still think abortion is okay. Yet I know pro-choice folks who were very appropriate to me at that time and later when I lost three grandbabies. How do they say "I understand your loss is painful" but at the same time say it’s okay to take the life of a baby in the uterus? Is a baby at that stage valuable in one circumstance but not the other?
Rhonda: I was one that said I wouldn’t do it unless there was an extreme abnormality, but then our first pregnancy ended up being a partial molar pregnancy. Our baby died at 15 weeks and I had to deliver him. Watching my husband hold our fully formed baby and confirm his gender at this early stage did it for me. Doctors tried to comfort me with the fact that if he had survived he would have had severe problems. But to me the pain and emptiness I was feeling was worse than anything else I could imagine. It’s been 20 years and I still grieve that loss. And for people to dismiss his humanity cuts right through me.

Whitney: Incredibly, I used to be pro-choice even though I was given up for adoption as a baby. I thought it wasn't my business what other women did with their bodies. Changing my mind was a process. It started with seeing my daughter on an ultrasound. I knew then that I could never have an abortion and that she was a living person. It took years to break down the mental walls, though, before I became fully pro-life.

Phoebe: I was more of like its not my business, but I was not gonna go out and fight for choice either. Then I carried a child, a child I almost lost. I spent a week in a NICU and saw babies smaller than my hand. That was my turning point. A few years later I realized if I was pro-life I also needed to stop supporting the death penalty. That's my evolution.

Lesli: I was because I was ignorant of how babies developed and what the procedure was actually like. Once I became pregnant, learned about fetal development and found out they have a heartbeat so early on my entire outlook on it changed. Then I read about the procedures themselves and became disgusted that I ever supported it.

Alexis: I've had two unplanned pregnancies. One when I was 17. Abortion was thrown around by others around me, but that wasn't an option. I was determined to raise that baby. Unfortunately she didn't survive and her heart stopped at 16 weeks. My second unplanned pregnancy was when I was 21. I JUST started my career as a paramedic and was not in a committed relationship. I had been on birth control since 18. Once again abortion was thrown around by others, and once again I wouldn't hear it. My beautiful daughter is now 8 years old; my husband and I (her father) have two more children together. We chose life with the odds stacked against us, and we are thriving. Not all stories are like mine. All these babies have a purpose and it is not right to kill them. Abortion is legalized genocide.

Karen: I was. I saw my child on ultrasound and realized she was a child. I expected to see a blob, not a baby sucking her thumb, at 20 weeks gestation. I knew then I'd been lied to and was furious.

For others it was their experiences with abortion itself (or abortion providers) that changed their minds:

Valerie: I was raised pro-life, but became pro-choice in adulthood. It wasn’t until the devastation of my own abortion that I realized those pro-lifers really knew what they were talking about.

Autumn: Working in an abortion clinic changed my mind. It took time.

Monique: I was pro-choice just not for me. Then I had an unexpected pregnancy and went to Planned Parenthood to confirm. They pushed me to not tell anyone and have an abortion. The more I resisted, the more aggressive they got. I literally had to run out of the office. She's 7 now, I'm married to her dad, and just thinking about the possibility of not having our little family is crushing. Abortion hurts women and most are coerced into it.

Rachel: My best friend was 17 when she became pregnant. I went with her for the pregnancy test at PP. She was scared but wanted to keep the baby. Her parents and boyfriend pushed her to terminate. Our state had a mandatory ultrasound and 48-hour waiting period; she shared the ultrasound photo with me. It was not a clump of cells. We could see the head, the defined jaw and chin, a small arm. She wanted to refuse. Her parents sedated her and forced her to go in for the termination. She had a total breakdown. In the months that came she drank, did drugs, became self-destructive. She later killed herself. Every time I hear someone say "clump of cells" and "not human," I think back to an ultrasound photo from 1996.

For some it was increased knowledge of biology:

Lauren: Me. #1 Science; recognizing that's a human in the early part of the human life cycle and we shouldn't kill humans. I can't reason out of that fact.

Jackie: I’m liberal so being pro-choice came with the territory, but I'm also a professor and I’ve been teaching Anatomy & Physiology since 2002. When I started teaching an advanced Human Physiology class in 2008, something huge shifted inside of me. I can't teach about the wonders of development and ignore the wonders of development. I'm also inherently a tree-hugger and can’t handle it when trees and animals are harmed and the cognitive dissonance started breaking.

I was pro-choice for many years. I finally found it too exhausting trying to justify abortion while also supporting my values in science, equality, non-violence, and non-discrimination.
The science doesn't lie. It's a scientific fact of biology that life begins right after the fusion of the two cells, where our unique human genetic makeup now exists, with our own individual DNA.
Every pro-choice person (including me once) tries to say this may be what happens to the cells but it's not "alive." Which is ridiculous! I was that once. A zygote. We all were.
So if I wasn't "alive" then, then how am I here now? That's when I changed. I can't deny the science.
No human should lose their only chance to experience this physical conscious life as we are enjoying, simply because we ignored the reproduction process that's been happening for thousands of years, and don't want to take responsibility for our actions.
Andrew: I used to think that it was nobody's business. I was against abortion being funded publicly but if people wanted to pay for their abortion procedures I thought that was fine. But then I read about and started to think about when human life begins and biologically speaking it starts at conception and saying it begins somewhere after that is to impose your scientifically unfounded beliefs. And if that is a human life you cannot kill it just because it inconveniences you.

Some people changed their minds after talking to pro-lifers:

Karen: A discussion with a pro-life person outside a Planned Parenthood in Washington D.C. At the time, I was assisting PP with political strategies. And thought I was doing so as a strike against the Patriarchy. This woman challenged me to read what the first feminists had to say about abortion. That led to more reading and finally the scales fell from my eyes.

Mike: I was pro-choice because of the media. Eddie Vedder was my hero and I took a lot of my social justice beliefs from him. Once I met pro-life people and started having open discussions about it, I realized I had no foundation to why I believed the government should not be involved in a woman's decision. Once you recognize a fetus as a human life, or even a potential human life, you can't stay pro-choice very long.

Heidi: I read Abby Johnson's book seven years ago. Completely changed my mind. I started educating myself and learning more about what abortion really was and how we can embrace life and protect it at its most vulnerable stage. How can we be a species that kills our young simply because it’s convenient?

Darinka: I thought I'd never do it, but I wouldn't dictate the choice to someone else. But then a friend asked me a simple question. "Why would you never do it?" And when I thought about it, I realized that it's for the same reasons nobody else should.

Kristin: I was pro-choice until a few years ago. A close pro-life family member was challenging my conscience with facts against abortion. I felt I had to strengthen my argument with facts too, so I went on a mission to educate myself with as much unbiased information as I could find. That journey led me to the truth, and the truth led me to becoming pro-life. I watched "The Silent Scream" and an interview with Dr. Levatino, and I was forever changed, and glad for it.

Abby: I started to change my mind when I held my own miscarried baby in my hands. I completely changed my mind when I read about Abby Johnson. If she could cross over to pro-life I could too and it didn't make me a hypocrite.

Ellen: I was heavily indoctrinated into everything hard left, including radical support for abortion, coming of age in a large east coast city government school environment. I was also raised Catholic, while my catechesis was... Not great... So that probably planted the seeds of a consistent view on the dignity of human life. As a young adult, I decided I was personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice (I didn't want to force my view on others). It was my then-boyfriend (now husband), who identified as atheist/agnostic at the time, who highlighted the logical inconsistency of my position; if I was against abortion personally, the fact that it was a human rights violation didn't change depending on who was committing it. Over the next few years, I formed a highly consistent life ethic—all human life, regardless of circumstances, from conception through natural death.

And, maybe surprisingly, some changed their minds after talking to pro-choicers:

Stephen: I met other pro-choicers, heard their arguments, tried to research some of them, and ended up finding a good number of fallacies or terrible ethics. Sooner or later I adopted into my moral philosophy that all humans have an intrinsic value, and abortion under any circumstances is incompatible with that philosophy.

Shelby: I used to be pro-choice as I believe that if you get rid of it before it has a heartbeat it isn't as bad. But what pushed me to just be pro-life is pro-choicers pushing for second and third trimester abortions. Acting like abortions are normal.

Cian: To an extent I still am pro-choice but what's driving me out of that camp is seeing the enthusiasm and wanting to terminate and display it as something that should be celebrated.

Stephanie: I was always an "Abortion is murder but..." thinker but the left's cultural shift from "Abortion is a necessary evil sometimes" to "celebrate your abortion" has prompted me to think "Abortion is murder." Period. I cannot be on board with the celebration of the murder of the most innocent for convenience's sake.

Katherine: Two things: (1) going to a sex week event in college and seeing pro-choice people misrepresent statistics. I thought "If we have the right argument, we shouldn’t need to lie and manipulate numbers." (2) I shadowed in a hospital and went through pages and pages of women's gynecological history, seeing that most of the women had at least one abortion. The prevalence was shocking. Then I came across a 24-year-old woman who had been pregnant ELEVEN times and had SEVEN abortions. THAT is the moment I completely switched to pro-life and realized abortion is completely abused and not "rare."

Monday, May 20, 2019

Baby Chris is Eight Weeks Old

[This is part 9 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

Since his or her conception eight weeks ago, Baby Chris "has grown from a single cell into nearly 1 billion cells forming over 4000 distinct anatomic structures" and "now possesses more than 90 percent of the structures found in the adult." He or she is about the size of a kumquat. This marks the end of the embryonic period; from now until birth, Baby Chris is referred to as a fetus.

Above: Human embryo at 7 weeks and 4 days, via the Endowment for Human Development
Baby Chris now has distinct fingers and toes. His or her kidneys are beginning to filter toxins from blood and produce urine, which is released into the amniotic fluid. The hypothalamus is forming in the brain. His or her heart has beat over 7 million times. Skeletal development continues, with bones ossifying in the arms and legs. The skin is thickening, and as a result, Baby Chris's internal organs are no longer visible. If Baby Chris is biologically male, testosterone production has begun. And unlike the Mona Lisa, Baby Chris now has eyebrows.

Baby Chris continues to move frequently, exercising his or her developing muscles and joints. According to the Endowment for Human Development, "[t]he earliest sign of right- or left-handedness begins around eight weeks, with 75 percent of embryos already exhibiting right arm dominance."

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion, reports that 14.5% of abortions in the United States occur between 7 and 8 weeks after fertilization (or between 9 and 10 weeks using the LMP method of dating pregnancy). With approximately 1 million abortions taking place in the United States annually, this amounts to 145,000 abortion victims every year who are about the age Baby Chris is now. For comparison, 143,396 people live in Syracuse, NY.

Download the See Baby app for more information on how prenatal children develop in the womb.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, May 22 (Washington, D.C.): A coalition of anti-human-trafficking and pro-life organizations will hold a symposium entitled "Human Trafficking and Women and Children's Health" in the Russell Senate Building from noon to 5:00 p.m. The organizers state:
Human trafficking impacts all aspects of the victim's health, but especially gynecological, reproductive, procreative, and other related health issues. In sex trafficking, but also in labor trafficking and domestic servitude, women and girl children endure serious acute and chronic health problems related to pregnancy and childbearing. Sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, injuries to reproductive organs, breast and ovarian cysts and cancers are some of the health consequences of human trafficking. In addition, studies show that females have multiple pregnancies, miscarriages, and abortions in trafficking, and that traffickers misuse and abuse contraception, Plan B and RU-486. Substance use and abuse, which are common in human trafficking, also affect pregnancy and childbirth. Finally, studies indicate that thousands of children are born into and raised in trafficking situations in the U.S. today.
While there is little research on this problem, the negative physical, mental and emotional repercussions for such children are considerable and deserve further attention. This half-day event brings together academics, experts, physicians, service providers and survivors of human trafficking to examine the public and private health issues as well as discuss treatment and prevention programs to safeguard at risk women and children. focused on reproductive and procreative health issues including pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, and childbirth in trafficking, all important but neglected aspects of this problem. 
These topics are particularly critical for us to address, as abortion advocates are pushing for unaccountable online chemical abortion sales and sexual predators have already begun to take advantage.

Wednesday, May 22 (Nationwide): Created Equal is promoting a day of protest against Stericycle, a medical waste hauler that serves abortion facilities. By disposing of the bodies, Stericycle performs a key support function in the abortion industry and allows abortion centers to stay open. More information here.

Friday, June 21 to Sunday, June 23 (New Orleans): Secular Pro-Life will proudly exhibit at the fourth annual Pro-Life Women's Conference, a little over a month away. If you haven't already purchased your ticket and made travel arrangements, now is the time! Details here.

Friday, October 18 to Sunday, October 20 (New Orleans): Our friends at Rehumanize International just announced the dates and location for their 2019 annual conference! Mark your calendar and stay tuned for more information.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The zygote is the beginning of the human life cycle: everyday examples.

The human zygote is the first developmental stage in a human life cycle. 

A zygote is different in kind from sperm and unfertilized eggs, which are gametes, not organisms. The zygote is different from any random cell that has human DNA, such as your skin cells (also not organisms). The zygote is a separate and biologically unique human.

In the abortion debate, people treat this statement as if it were a belief, rather than a fact. They seem to assume the demarcation of the zygote as a human's beginning is just one belief of many, brought up only to support an anti-abortion agenda.

But pro-lifers didn't invent the idea that the zygote is the start; we're merely acknowledging that already existing reality. And I notice that whenever biology comes up outside of the abortion debate, science communicators readily acknowledge this basic biological fact too.

Here is my toddler's ABCs of Science book, part of the Baby University series. I couldn't help but notice that the final page states "Z is for Zygote. A zygote is the first stage of development in living things."

Similarly, here's a page out of the (pretty delightful) children's book You Are Stardust, which reads "You started life as a single cell. So did all other creatures on planet earth."

(Click to enlarge.)

In the meiosis video of Crash Course's biology series, Hank Green exclaims "If you're not suitably impressed by the fact that we all come from one single cell and then we become this [gestures to himself] then I don't—just I don't know how to impress you!"

Here's a photo from Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in late 2018. MSI had a room you can walk through that shows prenatal human development using real specimens. Just outside the exhibit is a display which reads in part "All of us start as a single cell and then begin a wondrous journey of change in—and with—our moms."

(Click to enlarge.)

We begin as zygotes. This is a basic (and typically readily acknowledged) biological fact. It doesn't necessarily follow that human zygotes are morally relevant or are "people"—the personhood debate is an important but separate discussion. But before we can discuss which human organisms count as "people," we need to have a shared understanding of when human organisms begin in the first place.

Further Reading:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Baby Chris is Seven Weeks Old

Figure via the Endowment for Human Development
[This is part 8 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

Seven weeks after fertilization, Baby Chris has brainwaves! In fact, brainwaves have been detected by EEG as early as six weeks and two days.

Baby Chris's heart, which has been beating since 18 days after conception, now has a more matured four-chamber structure. It now beats between 167 and 175 times per minute; it will decline to about 140 beats per minute at birth.

The reproductive system is emerging with the formation of ovaries or testes. (We chose the gender-neutral name "Baby Chris" to represent unborn children of all sexes.)

Fingers and toes are starting to separate but are still somewhat webbed. Until now, Baby Chris's skeletal system has consisted solely of cartilage and membranes, but that is beginning to change as bones ossify in the collar bone and jaw. Also appearing by seven weeks: taste buds, elbows, and hiccups!

Baby Chris is approximately 14 mm long and continues to grow at a rapid pace. For more information on Baby Chris's development in the womb, download the free See Baby app on your smartphone.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Baby Chris is Six Weeks Old

[This is part 7 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

Six weeks after conception, Baby Chris has reached several major milestones, particularly when it comes to nervous system development. Neurons are growing in the newly formed cerebral cortex, a brain structure crucial for complex thought. Baby Chris has also started moving. As the Endowment for Human Development explains: "Though a pregnant woman does not feel movement for at least another 8 to 10 weeks, the embryo begins to move between 5 and 6 weeks. The embryo’s first movements are both spontaneous and reflexive. A light touch to the mouth area causes the embryo to reflexively withdraw its head, while the embryo’s trunk will twist spontaneously. Movements are essential for the normal development of bones and joints."

In the liver, Baby Chris is producing red blood cells and lymphocytes (a key component of the immune system). Cartilage (including the external ear) is now present, as are retinal pigments, salivary glands, and "digital rays"—which will create fingers from Baby Chris's disc-shaped hands. The diaphragm and nipples have also formed.

Baby Chris's organs are growing so rapidly that his or her abdominal cavity is running out of space! As a result, it is normal at this stage for the intestines to temporarily protrude into the umbilical cord, a phenomenon known as physiologic herniation.

Remember to download the See Baby app to follow Baby Chris's journey through pregnancy and birth!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Who needs an ultrasound? DIY chemical abortion is here.

In 1996, the Clintons used the phrase “safe, legal, and rare” to describe the supposed goal for abortions. Since then, many people have dropped the “rare” from their list of stated expectations, but they have continued to proclaim that they are concerned about the safety of women getting abortions. In fact, a primary purported reason for keeping abortion legal has always been the prevention of do-it-yourself, “back-alley” procedures.

In what could certainly be seen as a contradiction, some of these same people have petitioned to increasingly remove medical professionals from the abortions themselves. Not only have these activists dodged efforts to hold abortion centers to the same standards as other medical facilities, but in Canada, they have now legalized self-managed chemical abortions. Until now, patients were required to receive an ultrasound before being prescribed the abortion pills, but the government has done away with this mandate.

“Sexual health advocates” were quick to praise this action, noting that it would remove a possible barrier to abortion for women who had difficulty scheduling an ultrasound. But what it has also removed is a vital safety check that keeps women likely to be harmed by the medication from taking it. So… what could go wrong?

Undiagnosed Ectopic Pregnancy 
One of the main reasons for the ultrasound requirement (currently still in place for the United States) is to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. In this life-threatening condition, the zygote implants in an improper and dangerous place, such as a fallopian tube or the abdominal cavity. Just as an ultrasound is part of regular prenatal care, it’s essential even if a woman has chosen an abortion. Without an early ultrasound, she cannot be diagnosed, and she may experience the hemorrhaging and shock that can result from untreated ectopic pregnancy.

Miscalculated Gestational Age 
The abortion pills are contraindicated after a certain point of pregnancy (with the point depending on the type of pills), and without an ultrasound, women may easily miscalculate how far along they are. Taking the pills too late in pregnancy decreases their effectiveness and increases the risk of life-threatening complications.

In addition, a misjudged gestational age may affect a woman’s decision to get an abortion. Some women are more opposed to the procedure later in pregnancy, and without an ultrasound, she will not have accurate information to make her decision.

So, Why Would Anybody Support This? 
Again, abortion advocates insist that they care deeply about women, but this latest step makes clear that safety is lower on their list of priorities than they imply. Furthermore, for people who tout their belief in choice for (and trust of) women, they seem remarkably unconcerned about making sure these women are making informed decisions. As they have so many times in the past, they have once again proven that their real goal is to protect their lucrative industry at any cost to others. And once again, both their unborn children and the women themselves will pay the price.

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

When women can't get abortions, what happens to the children they birth?

Came across this article recently and the headline caught my eye.

There, fixed it.

Broadly speaking, pro-choice people treat abortion as if it prevents a child from coming into existence, rather than destroying a child who already exists. Diana Greene Fosterthe article's author and principal investigator of the study being summarizedsuggests as much when she says:
Whether to have an abortion can be a difficult decision to make. The fetus could develop into a unique person that would never get another chance to be born. [Emphasis added.]
From her perspective, the entity being destroyed is not yet a unique person, but could someday be one. With that framework it makes sense to ask "Under these circumstances, is it responsible or moral to bring this child into existence?" 

One way to answer the question is to compare the outcomes of two groups of children:
  • Group 1: children born because women were denied abortion.
  • Group 2: children born to women who were not seeking abortion. 
But of course pro-life people will see this whole discussion in a totally different light. Pro-life people recognize that abortion destroys already-existing human organisms, and we view those humans as morally relevant and deserving of protection. Under that framework, we would compare the outcomes of three groups of children:
  • Group 1: children born because women were denied abortion.
  • Group 2: children born to women who were not seeking abortion. 
  • Group 3: children aborted.
It was with this mentality that I read the above article and its underlying study; while it's interesting to compare Groups 1 and 2, the backdrop is always the comparison between Groups 1 and 3. How do children born to women denied abortion fare compared to children aborted? They fare better. Because they aren't dead.

I'm not trying to be glib here. From the perspective of people who believe prenatal children deserve protection, this whole study is like asking "How do poor children fare compared to middle class children?" or "How do children with developmental delays fare compared to children without delays?" or "How do children raised by single mothers fare compared to children raised by stably married parents?" Those are all questions worth studying, but they take a much darker meaning if the suggestion for improving aggregate child outcomes is to kill all the disadvantaged children.

FB shareable version here or see a similar dichotomy here.

Setting aside the glaring difference in pro-choice and pro-life perspectives, though, I read the study with interest. Here are the points that caught my eye:

When women were denied legal abortion, the vast majority of them birthed their children. Contrary to the common pro-choice talking point, preventing women from getting legal abortion doesn't simply push them to get dangerous illegal abortions. In this study, of the 195 women turned away from abortion clinics who completed all the study's interviews, 2% miscarried, 23% obtained abortions elsewhere, and 75% gave birth. This result dovetails with the many studies that find abortion restrictions decrease abortions.

Mostly the kids fared just as well either way. This study defined "index children" as children born to women who were denied abortion and "subsequent children" as children born to women who received abortions and then birthed a child in the ensuing 5 years. By most metrics, index children had the same outcomes as subsequent children.

Index children were no more likely than subsequent children to experience:
  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • admission to NICUs
  • physical disabilities
  • asthma
  • household incomes below the federal poverty level
  • receipt of public assistance (WIC, TANF, SNAP)
Similarly, index children were no less likely than subsequent children to:
  • be breastfed
  • achieve the same mean scores on developmental milestones
  • reach the following specific developmental milestones:
    • fine motor skills
    • self-help skills
    • social emotional skills
    • receptive language
    • expressive language
    The two groups did have some differences, though. Index children were slightly less likely than subsequent children to achieve gross motor milestones. They were more likely to have been injured (mostly accidents and falls) in the last 6 months. Index children were less likely to live in households with the mother's male partner and more likely to live in households with other adult family members.

    Mothers of index children were more likely to report they struggled in the last month to afford basic needs (75% of index mothers reported this struggle compared to 55% of subsequent mothers). Index mothers were also more likely to struggle to bond with their children. In her article, Foster elaborates:
    Women are also much more likely to report poor maternal bonding — feeling trapped as a mother, resenting their baby, or longing for the “old days” before they had the baby — with the child born after abortion denial than with the next child born following a wanted abortion.
    Specifically the study found that 9% of index mothers reported poor maternal bonding compared to 3% of subsequent mothers. This difference is substantial but the statistic also still indicates that over 90% of mothers bond just fine to the children they weren't able to abort.

    It's also noteworthy that the study doesn't measure whether women raising index children retrospectively wish they had gotten abortions instead. Struggling to bond with your child is not the same as wishing your child didn't exist. All parents experience resentment and frustration at some points or others, but that doesn't mean we wish we weren't parents or wish our kids weren't our kids.

    Of course we don't want children to grow up in harsh circumstances. While the circumstances of a child's birth aren't fate for the rest of the child's life, they are still a major influence. Ideally all children would be conceived in circumstances where their parents are as prepared as possible to best care for them. Fewer unintended pregnancies mean not only fewer abortions but also fewer births and less child-rearing in difficult situations, which is why preventing unintended pregnancy should be easy common ground.

    Still, we don't share the pro-choice view that it's better to help a woman get a wanted abortion and birth a different child later than it is to try to protect the child she is already carrying. We can't share that view because we believe that:
    1. Prenatal children are morally valuable and deserve protection and care;
    2. Killing innocent people who have no say in the decision is immoral, even if it's ostensibly done to prevent their future suffering; and
    3. It's a mistake to assume a child born of a denied abortion will deeply suffer for it anyway.
    This study found index children do not differ from their (living) peers in most respects. These children still reach developmental milestones with the same average scores as their counterparts, and in the vast majority of cases index children live with their biological mothers who feel bonded to them. While there are some differences that we would hope to mitigate, the results aren't anywhere close to enough to justify advocating for these children to be aborted for their own sakes. It's one thing to argue for abortions in terms of benefits to the women seeking them. But arguing for abortion for the sake of those being aborted is nonsensical.

    Monday, April 29, 2019

    Baby Chris is Five Weeks Old

    [This is part 6 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

    Animation via Virtual Human Embryo
    Five weeks after his or her conception, Baby Chris is rapidly developing new organs. The kidneys have appeared, the liver is producing blood cells, and the yolk sac is providing germ cells for the nascent gonads (ovaries or testes). In the digestive system, the stomach, esophagus, pancreas, and intestines are present.

    Although Baby Chris has no access to air, respiratory system development is nevertheless underway. The airways repeatedly branch off to form the "bronchial tree" structure in the lungs. Key structures are also forming in Baby Chris's eyes: the optic cup, optic vesicle, and primitive retina. You can also see four limb buds, which will become Baby Chris's arms and legs.

    Sadly, babies at 5 weeks are at a high risk for abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank allied with the abortion industry, approximately two-thirds of abortions in the United States occur at or before 8 weeks of pregnancy as measured by the last menstrual period (LMP) method—which is equal to 6 weeks post-fertilization (actual age).

    Thankfully, Baby Chris's mother has rejected abortion and has a supportive pro-life community to care for her through the rest of Baby Chris's nine-month journey to birth and beyond. Keep following their progress by downloading the free "See Baby" app on your smartphone!

    Friday, April 26, 2019

    Nathan Nobis' Summary of Pro-Choice Arguments

    Nathan Nobis is an associate professor of philosophy at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. He published an article on 1000 Word Philosophy summarizing the arguments in support of abortion. His article is called "The Ethics of Abortion." Nobis clearly has a good grasp on the philosophical literature by pro-choice thinkers. While his summary of pro-choice arguments is admirable, he makes some basic mistakes that cause him not to correctly represent the debate on abortion (and granted, as he only had 1,000 words, it's not like he could present a very complex overview, anyway). I was going to comment on his article but comments are closed, so I decided to write a response article here in case anyone comes across Nobis' article.
    Photo by Jonathan Sharp on Unsplash

    He begins by agreeing with pro-life people that the unborn are human beings. So we're off to a good start. Then he presents five arguments that despite the unborn being human beings, abortion is still permissible.

    Argument #1: Human Organisms?

    Nobis briefly expounds the argument that since adults are biologically continuous with the fetuses and embryos they were in the womb, abortion is wrong. He then calls the argument dubious because you obviously have properties now, like being over three feet tall, being able to reason morally, and having the right to make autonomous decisions about your own life, that you obviously didn't have when you were too young. This shows that just because we have some property or some right now, we didn't always have that right. Then he states, "[t]his argument's advocates need to plausibly explain why, say, the right to life is an exception to this rule."

    This is a very bizarre way to end his point. Defenders of this argument have plausibly explained that. In fact, in Nobis' own second footnote, he explains that this argument can be interpreted in just such a way that plausibly explains why the right to life is an exception to this rule.

    At any rate, Nobis is simply ignoring the difference between an essential property and an accidental property. My being 5'11" tall is accidental to who I am as a person. I could have been 5'6" or 6'3" and I'd still remain the same person. My growing taller, gaining the ability to reason, or gaining the right to have autonomy over my own body are accidental to me as a person. They didn't change my nature, or make me a fundamentally different person than I was before. However, my right to life is an essential property of me. I could not lose my right to life and still be the same person. But having a right to life is grounded in my rational nature, which all humans possess. So that's the plausible difference -- the right to life is essential to who I am, and the other properties Nobis lists are accidental to who I am.

    Argument #2: (Human) Persons?

    He begins this section by describing John Locke's view of personhood, that a person is a being with personality (e.g. having thoughts, feelings, memories, anticipations, etc.). This argument is to be preferred, Nobis says, because it has explanatory power: It helps us understand how we are persons and cease to be persons, and it justifies a belief that some non-human animals, extraterrestrials, and/or divine beings (if they exist) are persons. Early fetuses would not be persons on this view, but late fetuses would be, since they are "sufficiently developed" enough for consciousness and personhood. They don't become that developed until, at least, midway through pregnancy.

    However, I would contend that his view of personhood should be abandoned for at least two reasons: The pro-life view, that all human beings are persons because one's personhood depends on what that thing is, has greater explanatory power than Nobis' personhood view. Additionally, Nobis' view is too ambiguous to be useful.

    2a. The pro-life view has better explanatory power

    Nobis gives four reasons for believing his view has explanatory power (although his last three points are basically the same point). But the pro-life view doesn't lack in explanatory power in these areas. Plus, it has explanatory power in other areas.

    His first point is that his view of personhood helps us understand why we are persons and how we cease to be persons. But the pro-life view of personhood does this, too: we are persons because we have a rational nature. And we never cease to be persons. Nobis assumes that one can cease to be a person, but this obviously has to be argued for (and he probably has in other articles he's written).

    His second through fourth points are that his view helps justify a belief that some non-human animals, extraterrestrials, and divine beings would be persons. However, this is simply a question-begging argument. You have to first assume that these beings are persons in order for your argument, that it justifies your belief that these are persons, to even get off the ground. But that's exactly what's at issue here. You can't start from the premise that some animals, extraterrestrials, and divine entities are persons and then use that as an argument to show that your view has explanatory power. Plus, this argument assumes that no pro-life people believe that non-human animals, extraterrestrials, or divine beings have rights, but this is clearly false. My view of human personhood would exclude non-human animals, but some pro-life people believe that some non-human animals have rights. But you can't use this explanatory power to show why the rational nature view of human personhood fails. You first have to see which view succeeds and then use that view to extrapolate which types of entities have rights. Nobis is simply putting the cart before the horse here.

    So not only does the pro-life view of personhood share explanatory power with the pro-choice personhood view regading these points of explanatory power, but the pro-life personhood view also has better explanatory power for why racism and sexism are wrong. Racism and sexism have, traditionally, led to some serious tragedies. But what accounts for the view that it's wrong to judge someone as a non-person based on their skin color or their gender? It's not the fact that they're self-aware, or are able to perform some function that white people can perform. Not only does this conflict with our deeply held intuitions that all human beings have equal value, but it also doesn't get to the heart of the matter. Arguing that racism or sexism is wrong because of self-awareness, or ambitions, or some other thing, is to simply trade on one form of unjust discrimination for another. It's just as wrong to kill or torture someone because they lack ambitions or because they lack self-awareness as it is to kill or torture someone because they're black or because they're female. So the pro-life personhood view has better explanatory power as to why racism and sexism are wrong than the pro-choice personhood view.

    Considering how powerful the explanatory power of the pro-life view is over the pro-choice view, if we take Nobis' argument at face value, we ought to reject the pro-choice view for the pro-life one.

    2b. The pro-choice view is too ambiguous to be useful

    One of the major issues with arguing a point that personhood is established as anything other than fertilization is that it is too ambiguous. The problem is that many philosophers disagree over what property is necessary to bestow personhood. David Boonin argues that it's when cortical brain activity begins, which occurs at around 30-32 weeks in utero. Michael Tooley believes you have to be sufficiently self-aware such that you can see yourself as existing through time, which happens well after you're born. Nobis apparently believes that the late-term fetus is a person, but not before "their brains and nervous system [are] sufficiently developed and complexly interconnected enough for consciousness and personhood." But he never tells us how much development and interconnectedness is sufficient. He just assumes that there is some sufficient amount which justify our achieving personhood status. But other philosophers would disagree. Tooley doesn't believe our brains are sufficiently complex or interconnected enough until after we're born. So not only does he have the pro-life advocate to contend with, he has other pro-choice philosophers to contend with.

    So the pro-life position not only has the advantage in explanatory power, it also has the advantage in placing the demarcation line between non-person and person in an objective line (fertilization/conception) while also being able to provide a solid reason for why, exactly, that point is the point at which personhood is established.

    Argument #3: Potential Personhood?

    Nobis now considers the claim that if he is correct about personhood, fetuses are, at least, potential persons. So is that potential personhood enough to justify a right to life since they will one day become persons? Nobis says no, because potential things don't have the rights of actual things. I am a potential judge, but I do not have the right to rule on criminal court cases because I do not have the qualifications. I am also a potential doctor, but I do not have the right to perform surgery. So just because a fetus is a potential person that does not mean it has the right to life as actual persons do.

    Here, Nobis is correct. A potential X does not have the same rights as an actual X. And while there have been some pro-life thinkers who have argued that a fetus is a potential person and therefore should be treated as an actual person, I find these arguments to be extremely weak. But that's okay because the strongest pro-life arguments do not argue from potential personhood -- they argue that human embryos and fetuses are actual persons with great potential. Sperm and ovum cells are potential persons in the same way that flour, sugar, and milk are a potential cake (though, if we want to be super technical, they are not, strictly speaking, potential persons since they will cease to exist once they contribute their genetic material to the new human embryo). Being potential persons does not grant the sperm and ovum cells a right to life as they are not actual persons. But the human embryo that results from the sperm/ovum fusion are actual persons, not potential persons. So I grant Nobis' response here, but with the qualification that these arguments are not very strong and we should focus on discussing the stronger arguments.

    Argument #4: Valuable Futures?

    Here Nobis refers to Don Marquis' famous argument against abortion, the argument that what makes killing an adult human being wrong is that you are preventing their future of valuable experiences from obtaining. You are basically robbing them of their future. Since fetuses have a future of valuable experiences as adult humans do, so, too, is it wrong to kill a human fetus because you are also robbing her of her future of valuable experiences.

    Nobis has two brief responses to this argument: 1) Our futures are plausibly valuable, in part, because we can, at present, look forward to them. Since fetuses have no conscious awareness of their futures, this makes an important difference between the adult human's future of value and the fetal human's future of value. 2) His second argument is a reductio ad absurdum against this argument: An ovum and sperm cell both arguably have a future akin to the fetus' future. But using contraception (even by abstinence) would be wrong, since it robs the sperm and ovum cells of that valuable future.

    And my response would be: slow down, Turbo. There are a couple of fatal errors being made by Nobis in these responses.

    Regarding response 1, Nobis says our futures are valuable in part because we can presently look forward to them. Nobis, himself, concedes that this is only part of what makes our futures valuable. The fact that we have this future also makes it valuable, and one does not always have to be consciously aware of something in order to be harmed by being deprived of it (e.g. a child who is set to inherit a fortune from his dead father is surely harmed if the executor of his estate squanders the inheritance and never tells the child about it).

    Regarding response 2, Nobis is just mistaken that the sperm and ovum cells have a future of value. The future of the sperm and ovum cells are to die. They will not become a human organism, they will simply make a human organism. When the sperm contributes its genetic material to the ovum, it ceases to exist. And even though the embryo inherits certain structures from the ovum cell, such as the zona pellucida, the ovum cell, too, ceases to exist once the new human organism comes into existence. The sperm and ovum cease to exist, they are not biologically continuous with the new human embryo as the embryo is biologically continuous with the adult she will become. So using contraception does not deprive anything of a future of value, it simply prevents a human being, with a future of value, from coming into existence.

    Argument #5: The Right to Life?

    Finally, Nobis considers the possibility that all the previous answers may be wrong, but abortion may still be impermissible because the fetus has a right to life. But Nobis rejects this argument, channeling Judith Jarvis Thomson in arguing that if I had need of your kidney to stay alive, do I have a right to it? No, and you don't violate any right I may have by refusing to let me use it, even if refusing it means I will die. This shows that the right to life does not include a right to the use of someone else's body, even if it's necessary for you to stay alive.

    The problem here is that organ donation is not relevantly like abortion. In the case of abortion, the embryo/fetus plausibly does have a right to the use of the uterus, considering that the woman created the fetus and placed the fetus in a state of dependence upon her (in the vast majority of cases), which grounds an obligation of care from the pregnant woman to her child.

    This is a much different case than organ donation. If you need my kidney and I refuse to give you one, I am not actively killing you. This is certainly not nearly as wrong (if it is wrong at all) as actively killing someone, even if you need my kidney. Your kidney ailment is. I may be letting you die, but I am not actively killing you.. By contrast, you must actively kill the fetus in order to deprive her of the use of the pregnant woman's uterus. So organ donation is not an apt metaphor -- more apt would be to consider that you already received a kidney transplant (which is a more similar situation regarding the fetus who already has obtained use of the uterus). In this situation, the abortion would be analogous to killing or maiming the other person to get your kidney back because you have revoked consent regarding the kidney. But once the kidney transplant has already been made, you can't get your kidney back because you would have to operate on someone against their will to retrieve it. So it is with the abortion; it is wrong because the fetus has already obtained the use of the woman's uterus, so she can't revoke consent because she would have to kill the fetus in order to revoke that consent.

    So a right to bodily autonomy does not carry with it the right to kill innocent people who are in the way of something you want (e.g. financial independence, a college education, etc.). Killing a human embryo or fetus violates its right to life because it is not violating the woman's bodily autonomy by existing.

    I appreciate people like Nathan Nobis who are able to have a reasoned discussion about abortion, even though (or perhaps, especially because) we disagree on the issue. I believe I've made a sufficient, brief case for why these arguments in support of abortion are mistaken and why the pro-life position should be seen as superior. I'm of course willing to continue the discussion in the comments, so long as the discussion is kept civil.

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