Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Hiatus

Due to the authors' travel plans for Thanksgiving, the blog is on hiatus until Monday, November 30. We wish you a happy time with your loved ones.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It's not about who matters more

Everyday Feminism recently published a comic on the "32 types of anti-feminists," with each type getting a panel. Some of them are pretty funny and sadly accurate.

And then there's this straw man:

Where to begin?

Okay, let's begin with appearances. What's up with his eyes? And his hair? And his nose? And the nervous shaking? He looks drunk or high! I hesitate to suggest that there's such a thing as a "typical pro-lifer," but it definitely wouldn't be that guy.

An intellectually honest illustrator can certainly do better than depicting a nascent human life as a speck. Most abortions take place in the latter part of the first trimester (8-12 weeks). Here's a more realistic depiction (via, which strangely enough supports abortion):

Before I go on to the words uttered by our inebriated caricature friend, let me tell you a story.

Clarence, a man in his early 50s, lived in Florida. He was often unemployed and had only an eighth-grade education. He had married four times, had six children removed from his care by social services, and lived his life in poverty. In 1961, Clarence was accused of stealing $55 and a few bottles of beer from a pool hall and was arrested.

He had no money to pay an attorney, but since the charges were not capital, the court declined to appoint a lawyer to defend him. He conducted his own defense, failed, and began a five-year prison sentence. From prison, Clarence sued the director of the Florida Division of Corrections, claiming that he had violated Clarence's rights under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Supreme Court considered the matter. If the Court had begun with the question, "Who matters more?", poor Clarence would have had a very hard time proving that he was more important than a government official. Thankfully, that is not how the law works.

Clarence is Clarence Earl Gideon, and the Supreme Court case is Gideon vs. Wainright—the landmark ruling in Clarence's favor that granted all criminal defendants the right to court-appointed counsel.

Asking "who matters more?" completely mis-frames the problem. Abortion is a legal issue, and like any other legal issue, involves competing interests. Gideon's right to counsel was deemed more important than Florida officials' interest in avoiding the cost of hiring public defenders. And pro-life people deem an unborn child's right to life more important than a mother's right to avoid the costs associated with childbirth and adoption.

That does not mean that children are "infinitely more important" than their mothers.* It only means that children are in a vulnerable position that demands protection of their rights. In much the same way that opponents of feminism wrongly characterize feminism as putting women above men, pro-choice feminists wrongly characterize us as putting unborn babies above women.

Mother and child are equal. We will continue working until the law recognizes this truth.

* In my own experience, pro-lifers tend to hold mothers in high esteem. We certainly never call them "ovens."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why I'm Optimistic About the Future of the Right to Life

[Today's guest post by Barry Stefan is part of our paid blogging program.] 
"The equal protection of the law should extend to all members of the human family, old or young, black or white, able or disabled, gay or straight, born or unborn—those are the values of human dignity and human equality that should be reflected in our laws, our lawmakers, and our law enforcement.”
~ David Daleiden, Center for Medical Progress 
“They’re human beings today, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to make my own reproductive choices, as a right that every woman has and should maintain.”
~ Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in response to the question of whether or not her children were human beings before they were born 
I’d like to take a moment and reflect on what a great time it is to be pro-life. Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I see a changing tide. First, we had David Daleiden - the man responsible for pulling back the curtain on what daily life is like for those who traffic in the business of abortion (spoiler alert: they use dark humor as a tool for self-preservation. “Another boy!!!” Slice.) - speak eloquent truth to power. Speaking in a way that might surprise some to learn he’s Catholic, he tied the struggle to end abortion with the struggle against racism and the fight for gay rights. Meanwhile, the head of the DNC offered a non-answer to a direct question as to whether her children were human beings in the womb.”They’re human beings,” she said, coming dangerously close to correctly answering the question, “today.” Ok, so this latter response is nothing new. Dehumanizing nascent human life as non-human beings has been the bread and butter of pro-choice politics for decades. But Daleiden’s decidedly secular language provides a fresh counterpoint and suggests a new emerging narrative; not an us vs. them story of the God fearing vs. the civic minded, but the story of an ideology’s forced self reflection as society broadly adopts its moral language.

Exhibit A of this new narrative is the noticeable decline of religious life in America. In some ways, this may come as welcome news to pro-choicers, but there's another phenomenon that should have them worried. While religious decline coincides with more tolerant attitudes for homosexuality across both religious and unaffiliated groups, it has not translated to liberalized attitudes on abortion across these same groups. This is a big deal for a society that conflates traditional marriage and pro-life sentiment as solely religious concerns. I am agnostic on the net effects of religious decline, but it undeniably exposes the myth that defense of nascent human life is cut from the same cloth as denying human rights based on sexual orientation. Before research confirmed the downward trend of religiosity, it was easy enough to point to organizations like Secular Pro-Life who belie this myth, but these types of organizations may well just have been outliers - exceptions to the general rule, perhaps just the occasional progressive misanthrope who, God bless them, misapplies liberal orthodoxy. But the inability of pro-choice sentiment to capitalize in an increasingly secular society indicates secular pro-life thought is not an outlier, but rather a preview of what’s to come.

Declining religiosity is more than just less formal religion. It’s a fundamental shift in the informal, everyday aspects of our life - the way we think, the way we interact and, ultimately, the moral language we speak. Within today's framework of social justice and equality, it's intuitively easier to understand why traditional marriage might never have stood a chance. But it's not so easy with abortion. After all, where's the equality in dividing nascent human life into those who are wanted and those who are not? So while it may be extremely fishy and just a titch ironic, it may not be all that surprising that in these crazy times you can find a devout Catholic speaking eloquently and fluently in defense of equality, while a devout progressive and top Democratic representative clings to just the kind of technicalities one would cling to if they wanted to avoid an honest discussion on the nature of equality. Maybe no one will notice. Just this time. Just this once. Just on this issue.

But we are noticing. And we're noticing because we speak the language of equality. We know the words, we get the concepts, and we understand just how high a standard it is. We know it's disruptive to the status quo and not always comfortable. So we don't blink at the fact that equality might have a disruptive thing or two to say about the manner in which we treat nascent human life. And we’ll call you out on the cake-and-eat-it-too dissonance between a supposed commitment to equality and the desperate attempt to retain the sanctified, but ultimately old-fashioned practice of killing human beings to preserve a grace period to parenthood. Sure, you may want to reap the social and economic "rewards" of eliminating unwanted fetuses, but it's a braver, more equal world out there and equality has something to say about benefitting off the backs of others. The economic spectacle of slavery learned this lesson long ago. Recently, we've learned that we cannot maintain the fiction of a heterosexual society by keeping gays and lesbians in the shadows. And soon we will learn that an attitude that values adult desires and needs over nascent human life is ill suited to meet the high standards of equality. Certainly take all prophylactic measures you wish; Secular Pro-Life encourages it. But killing your offspring is nothing less than discrimination based on level of development, no different than discrimination based on race, gender or sexual orientation.

If you are pro-choice and reading this, you are probably thinking many things, one of which may be that this is all bunch of crap and Ms. Schultz has it exactly right. An embryo, zygote, fetus or any human being that doesn't meet a certain developmental threshold are simply not persons, so inequality is a moot point. To which I would reply that inequality isn't limited to discrete examples of violations of a self-aware, thinking person’s individual rights. It is firstly an arbitrary climate we create through a focus on meaningless traits. If, back in the day, equality came across a freed slave, it would not be impressed. It doesn't care much that this particular individual is free, it cares about why he's free. And if the answer is because his “owner” freed him or anything less than because he's a human being, then no matter how free this person is legally, BOTH he and his enslaved counterparts are victims of inequality because his freedom and their lack of it is arbitrary. This also holds true for any offspring he might beget. If the child is free only because she was born to free parents, it doesn't matter if she goes through life unaware of oppression, discrimination or other setbacks; she's still a victim of inequality.

Nothing about this moral framework changes when the subject is nascent human life. Whether it's the 50+ million unborn lives legally snuffed out since Roe v. Wade or the 100+ million of us who have survived this shameful decision’s limits upon our humanity, the stain of inequality touches us all. The fact that nascent human beings are not self-aware, conscious, or able to feel pain is only relevant because these are precisely the traits used by foes of equality to rob them of their humanity and bring about the arbitrary environment in which we currently live. Schultz doesn't even attempt to pay lip service to this idea. Yet history is replete with stories about how attempts to define human beings have run afoul of the interests of equality. It's such a complete story that one wonders who exactly the last person was that argued a whole class of human life were not persons, proceeded to sanction the killing of that class and was, in the end, morally correct?

This is why, for at least one reason, the decline of religiosity is such a magnificent thing. It is crumbling the pillars of self-preservation on which lethargic pro-choice attitudes rest. The prevailing narrative of abortion as a cosmic fight between the religious and the civic minded provided cover for this lethargy since there’s a certain security in avoiding an issue because the other side speaks a different moral language. But broader society is beginning to speak a more secular language and the needle on abortion sentiment, in stark contrast to traditional/same-sex marriage, hasn't moved an inch. A pessimist might see this and predict another 40 years of gridlock. But I'm optimistic because the persistence of pro-life sentiment in a more secular world means that pro-choice individuals are eventually going to have to confront abortion in their own moral language and it's going to bring about some uncomfortable truths. Like the truth that the unborn are the actual victims of inequality. Like the truth that discrimination based on level of development has vast implications, since all of the human family begins the same way. Like the truth of the massive scale of abortion’s inequality: 50+ million lives irrevocably discriminated against and another hundreds of millions alive today who’s discrimination is echoed by the continued presence of the institution of abortion.

And like the truth that there can be no grace periods. If equality is to mean anything then it must begin when you do. Not “able to do calculus” you, or “capable of desiring to continue as a subject of experience and other mental states” you, or “white” you, or “straight” you, or “wanted” you. Just the you that begins as a speck barely visible to the naked eye and develops into a complex thinking moral being who eventually bears both the power and the responsibility to honor the equality of those who come after you. These are not easy pills to swallow, but equality demands high standards, the most important of which is to get it right from the start.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hulu cowardly rejects "controversial" ads for PP alternatives

Students for Life of America produced two commercials encouraging pregnant mothers to use federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) for their care instead of Planned Parenthood. One ad points out that 94% of pregnant women who go to Planned Parenthood wind up having an abortion, a fact that comes straight from PP's own annual reports. The other mentions Planned Parenthood's abortion quotas, which are verified both by the testimony of former PP workers and by contemporaneous documentation of awards to affiliates that exceeded the quota.

Neither commercial mentions the more recent scandals about Planned Parenthood selling fetal remains and altering the abortion procedure to avoid damage to desired fetal organs. That's because the ads were in production long before the Center for Medical Progress released any videos. Students for Life of America reports:
This June, Hulu told us they would run our commercials no problem. But last month, after viewing our final versions, they denied us. They said that Hulu won’t run a pro-life commercial. ... The only reason Hulu is now saying our commercials are too controversial is because Planned Parenthood was caught this July in a damning scandal, with high-level officials captured on video discussing the harvesting and sale of baby body parts.
Students for Life of America argues that these aren't "pro-life commercials" at all; they're PSAs for a government health center website. And it's true that nothing in the advertisements says that abortion is wrong. But (in large part due to our efforts!) Planned Parenthood has become synonymous with the abortion debate.

Hulu has run ads for Planned Parenthood before. But now, they want to avoid "controversy."

Sorry, Hulu, but it doesn't work that way. Yes, as a private company, you can censor as much as you like; you aren't breaking the law like pro-abortion public school administrators who bully pro-life student organizations. But you are cowards, and we are going to call you out on it. You just created a much bigger controversy for yourselves.

Students for Life of America has a petition you can sign. Until Hulu responds with an apology and airs the ads, I won't be watching Hulu. Let's hit 'em where it hurts: in the wallet.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Your miscarriage stories

On Tuesday, we posted an article about miscarriage and asked our supporters on facebook: "Have you lost a child to miscarriage? How did your pro-life friends and family react? How did your pro-choice friends and family react?" You had some insightful, moving responses. A selection follows. (You can read them all in their entirety here.) Without further ado, let's bust some miscarriage stigma.

Jessica M. - "We lost a baby at 18 weeks. It was a horrendous thing to go through. A lot of people - Christian, pro-life or otherwise - managed to say the wrong thing. I'm not necessarily upset with them - I earnestly believe they meant well but had no idea what to say. I think people are confused, in general about the unborn, and how to treat grieving parents. I did, and do have the continuous sense that I will have to defend to everyone, forever, that he was a person, which breaks my heart and makes me feel dejected, angry and alone. Even some pro-life Christians, while they wouldn't deliberately take an unborn life, have a deeply-held pragmatism about unborn children and expect you to absorb the loss without a great deal of grief. ... With all of that said, however, the people who really supported me most, who rallied around me and grieved with me, were pro-life. Pro-choice people can just never, ever reach the level of compassion that a pro-life person can, because the best they can do is 'we feel sympathy for you because YOU believe it was a person.' It's a hollow gesture."

Suzanne F. - "Pro-lifers have been extremely supportive about my miscarriage. I haven't had any bad encounters with people who are not pro-life, but then I tend not to share with them."

Michelle E. - "As an atheist I think one of the hardest things to deal with is death. For me my miscarriages are the hardest. Not only is it taboo to grieve, but knowing you won't get to see them again is rough. I will never know my children. I won't see them in heaven, or the next life. Their souls haven't traveled to other children with a better fate. They are gone and the only memories I have of them are very painful. With someone who had lived longer I could honor them in sharing the good times..."

Hillary B. - "Sharing with pro-choice folks is impossible. Their reactions are always minimizing."

Felice F. - "The worst and hardest part was all the well-meaning pro-life Christian friends (who had either never gone through it or who had, but had received the same treatment and thought it appropriate) telling me that at least it was early in the pregnancy and God had a reason and at least I wasn't further along. Abortion at 6 weeks is a horrific crime against a baby, but lose a baby at 12 weeks and at least it wasn't a big deal yet?! ... Fortunately, due to everyone blogging and sharing through various media their stories of loss, more of my pro-life friends are coming around. Some have even pulled me aside to apologize."

Jen G. - "I miscarried in my early 20s and was devastated. I don't feel like anyone really understood my pain - it was blown off. ... Now I just want to hug that young girl and tell her everything I went through was okay. That was my baby! Mourning him and being traumatized by his death was perfectly okay."

Michele G. - "In 2010, at 10 weeks along I found out that my child had a possible chromosomal abnormality. Then at 11 weeks we found out they had a heart condition as well. At 12 weeks we lost her. It was a very difficult two weeks, there was so much to process. But I have to say that all of my friends, no matter their beliefs, stood beside me and helped me get through this period and the depression in the months that followed. I believe that was because no matter where they stood on abortion, they cared deeply about me. At that point it wasn't about my child, it was about me and what I was going through. I thank them every day! Through this day I have a picture hanging in my hallway that is a collage of every sympathy card I received with one of the ultrasound pics inlayed as well."

Steve H. - "My wife and I went through it. To some degree several decades later, we still do. Losing a child doesn't leave you. What we found is that people who had been through it themselves understood, including some pro-choice folks, most of whom had many more reservations about abortion than they did before their own miscarriage."

Marie R. - "My answer to your question is rather bleak. I did not dare to tell pro-choice friends of what had happened, and even in my pro-life family some people expected me to be over it within a month and reproached me my subsequent commitment in the pro-life movement. It was a very lonely time. My husband was as devastated as me, so I did not discuss it with him as much as I needed, as I did not want to poke at a painful wound. My best friend was pregnant (our babies were exactly the same age), so I did not want to scare her by telling her too much. My mother's initially heartfelt support turned into contempt. I was very alone. Now three years (and a living child) on, I'm happy again, and I believe a better and more mature person for it. But it was a very tough experience."

Ann M. - "The worst, absolute worst were the [pro-choice] doctors ... who continually repeated that it was so common. Yes, death is common! We all die. It doesn't make it less painful, less sad, less a shock. The doctors made me feel worse about it."

Stephanie D. - "My pro-choice friends/family were far more supportive of me grieving my miscarriage than my abortion."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Planned Parenthood reconciliation bill heads to the Senate

Via Charlotte Lozier Institute; graphics for other states available on their facebook page

A few weeks ago, we reported that the House of Representatives was taking up a reconciliation bill that would redirect Planned Parenthood funding to more deserving providers. Previous efforts to accomplish this were not reconciliation bills, and were filibustered in the Senate. (A majority of Senators support the right to life, but not the 60% needed to overcome a filibuster.) But a reconciliation bill cannot be filibustered; the Senate has to allow an up-or-down vote.

The House passed it, and now it's the moment of truth: on to the Senate.

The Susan B. Anthony List has a simple form you can use to contact your Senators to urge passage of the legislation. The form letter is short and sweet:
I urge you to support the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act (H.R. 3762),* which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on October 23.
This bill uses the reconciliation process to curtail the largest sources of federal funding to Planned Parenthood, those being Medicaid and other mandatory-spending programs – about $400 million. The funding is re-directed to community health centers, which provide comprehensive health care for women but do not perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses do not need or deserve taxpayer funding. Most recently, undercover videos show that Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion business, has been engaged in unethical and possibly illegal abortion practices connected to the trafficking of unborn children’s organs for profit.
Anyone who tells you that this measure will restrict healthcare access is lying: community health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood locations more than 20 to 1.

*Editor's note: I'll be the first to admit that this is a stupid name for the law, but that's Washington for you. I would have called it something like "the Women's Health Funding Allocation Act."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mourning miscarriage

Memorial photograph of a pro-life mother's miscarried baby

I have been actively involved in the pro-life movement for almost ten years now. In that time, I have had the privilege of meeting countless amazing pro-life people, including many who have conceived children over the years.

One of the great things about the pro-life community is our support for one another in times of grief. In general, of course, you can say that about any community. But I have found the pro-life movement to be unique in the way that it supports people experiencing the grief of miscarriage. In my experience, pro-lifers tend to announce pregnancies right away, to the congratulations of their pro-life friends. And when a child dies in the womb, pro-life friends surround mothers and fathers with words of compassion and love. I've also noticed that pro-life parents are aided by institutional, ritual aspects of grieving; for instance, holding a funeral, keeping their children's ashes in an urn, and/or sharing memorial photographs of their children (a practice deemed "weird" by pro-choice media outlets).

I'm pleased to see the broader culture catching on. The Huffington Post recently published a piece denouncing the social "rule" that pregnancy announcements should come after 12 weeks:
Why I'd ever believed that keeping to the 12-week rule would safeguard me, I really don't know.  
I still endured the grueling physical process of miscarriage and struggled with the messy emotions of grief, sadness, frustration and anger. I just did it alone.
In the days and weeks afterward, friends at church smiled and chatted with me in the hallways like they always did. Why wouldn't they? The other parents at my kids' schools were cordial as ever. Life went on, just like always.
Not a single soul so much as acknowledged that we'd just lost a baby, because no one knew there'd been a baby to lose.
A baby to lose: this is refreshingly honest language, but dangerous to the abortion lobby. Indeed, the abortion advocates at Everyday Feminism openly admit that the pro-choice movement is largely to blame for the stigma around miscarriage:
One reason we, as activists, often fail to discuss miscarriage is because we find ourselves caught up in the semantics of choice politics.
Anti-choice narratives rely on equating pregnancy with a baby and abortion as the taking of that life. Therefore, much of our rhetoric around choice and reproductive rights depends on differentiating a fetus from a fully delivered baby in order to combat this.
But this doesn’t leave a lot of space for reproductive rights activists to discuss the loss of a wanted pregnancy. And not having these conversations alienates those who do experience miscarriage. We silence those whose pregnancies were very much wanted and the loss of which is marked as the loss of a life.
Everyday Feminism's proposed solution is to "leave it up to those who are experiencing a pregnancy — or who lose one — to define what their pregnancies are." It's a baby if wanted, and just tissue if unwanted. This is the abortion religion at its finest; women have a magical power akin to transubstantiation, turning clumps of cells into babies with just our thoughts!

I'm not saying pro-lifers are perfect. Like anyone else, we struggle to find the right words to say to a grieving person. But we do our best to support those who have experienced a miscarriage, just like we would support anyone else who lost a child. After all, unborn babies are children. So we don't have to do any mental gymnastics to come up with the correct response to a grieving mother.

For those who do, consider that it might be a sign that something about your thinking is off.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Abortionists only want to preserve fetal tissue if they get paid for it

Screenshot from an undercover investigation on abortion centers' failure to report child rape

The Center for Medical Progress undercover videos make one thing abundantly clear: abortionists commonly preserve the remains of abortion victims. Whether you believe this practice has been conducted legally or illegally, there's no question that it happens regularly.

The abortion lobby would have you believe that the preservation of fetal tissue is a good thing, and that research on fetal tissue will one day yield cures for serious diseases. It's not about wanting a Lamborghini. It's all for a good cause.

Turns out, they're considerably less altruistic when the good cause is preventing child exploitation.

Oklahoma passed legislation requiring abortionists to take fetal tissue samples from all abortions where the mother is younger than 14, and send those samples to law enforcement to investigate rape. When a girl that young becomes pregnant, it's a good bet that a same-age classmate is not the father. In the vast majority of such cases, the pregnancies are caused by predatory adults. We've seen time and time again that statutory rapists use abortion to cover up their crimes, and abortion centers turn a blind eye. By requiring abortionists to preserve DNA evidence, Oklahoma aims to close a dangerous loophole.

The law would have gone into effect yesterday if not for a lawsuit by the "feminist" Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of Oklahoma abortionist Larry Burns. The Center for Reproductive Rights describes its client as "a physician with over 42 years of experience providing safe abortion care in Oklahoma." In fact, he's settled several malpractice lawsuits out of court.

In their press release, they claim that the law targets "health care providers with onerous criminal penalties simply because they provide abortion services." But in the actual lawsuit, they rely on a purported technicality: they claim that the fetal tissue preservation requirement should have been passed as a separate law, and not together with other abortion regulations.

If the Center for Reproductive Rights had wanted to only challenge the other abortion regulations, they could have. By including the fetal tissue preservation requirement in their lawsuit, they made their position clear: abortionists shouldn't have to produce evidence that could put away child rapists. Fetal tissue preservation is wonderful—but only when abortionists get paid for it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Liberty, Equality, and Life

Graphic via Online for Life
[Today's guest post by B. T. S. Agnomen is part of our paid blogging program.]

Liberty and equality: our democratic republic was founded on these twin principles. Yet even before and ever since, individuals have posed this perennial question: "Are liberty and equality consistent one with the other, or are they in conflict?"[1]

Like two sides of a coin, liberty and equality are not only consistent with each other, they are inseparable. For who can be truly free if she is not recognized as an equal among her peers? On the other side of the coin, who can be truly equal if he is not free
at libertyto pursue his life like all others?

All coins are alloyed to some degree or another with impurities. Throughout its history, the coin of American promise has been alloyed with various impurities; we have never fully lived up to the ideals in our founding documents. In fits and starts, Americans have eliminated many of those impurities, through the successes of the abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, and many more.

Yet impurities remain, and today, the greatest of these is abortion, which denies equality and liberty to an entire class of human beings: preborn children.

For what are the preborn but a distinct class of human beings? As the biological progeny of two separate human beings, the preborn possess their own DNA—their own unique genetic fingerprint, and thus they are nothing less than human beings themselves. This is a basic application of the Law of Biogenesis.

Opponents of prenatal human rights must concede the biological facts. Instead, they attempt to make a distinction between “humanity” and “personhood.” But again, like both sides of a coin, humanity and personhood are inseparable.  That is, they are ontologically indistinguishable. "Being a human with unalienable rights is bound up with being a person. One can't be separated from the other. All human beings… are valuable persons."[2] The preborn are not potential persons; rather, they are persons with great potential.[3]

This potential, however, will never be realized if preborn children are systematically deprived of their fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And what right is more fundamental than the right to life? Happiness cannot be pursued without the liberty to do so, nor can liberty be obtained without life. Deprive a person of the right to life, and you deprive that person of all their rights. What individual’s liberty, then, can outweigh another’s right to life?

[1] Milton and Rose Friedman, "Free To Choose," 1980
[2] Greg Koukl, "Precious Unborn Human Persons," 1999
[3] Francis Beckwith, "Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights," 1993

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Taking a Symmetrical View of Human Life

Baruch Brody, in an essay titled "Against an Absolute Right to Abortion", [1] defends what he calls the brain, heart, and lung theory of death, adapted from a theory put forth by ethicist Paul Ramsey. Brody is, himself, pro-life, but only after the first trimester. The view he supports essentially states in order to determine what is essential for humanity, you must ask under what conditions does the human being die. Since the human being dies when the brain, heart, and lungs stop, then so, if we take a symmetrical view of life, then the human life begins when the brain, heart, and lungs start working. Past that point, abortion is seriously immoral in most, if not all, circumstances:
According to [Ramsey's] theory, what is essential to being human, what each human being must retain if he is to continue to exist, is the possession of a functioning (actually or potentially) heart, lung, or brain. It is only when a human being possesses none of these that he dies and goes out of existence; and the fetus comes into humanity, so to speak, when he acquires one of these.
I appreciate Brody's opposition to abortion past the three-month stage. And I think he masterfully takes down arguments from bodily rights in his essay. Brody's essay is interesting to say the least, but has a number of fatal flaws.

First, Brody confuses "essential for humanity" with "essential for life." In Brody's essay, he doesn't really seem too concerned about the distinction between biological human life and personhood, so it's difficult to really understand what his argument is. I'm going to assume he's referring to personhood, or at least the personal identity of the individual, since he likely understands that biological life begins at fertilization (which is a fact beyond dispute).

The problem is that while a functioning brain, heart, and lungs are all necessary for an individual's continued life, it does not follow that they are essential to the essence of who they are as a human person. After all, people who obtain heart or lung transplants do not cease to be themselves during the operation. There is a more fundamental essence to a human person, which grounds their capacities and their properties. The reason that human beings develop a rational brain is because they have a rational nature. It is this rational nature that makes them who they are, not a functioning brain, heart, and lungs. They simply need those organs to continue living.

Another flaw in Brody's reasoning is that he mentions that the organ must be there, even if it doesn't function, because it's the potentiality for functioning that grounds the humanness of the unborn human entity. But the problem here is that even before the lungs develop, the unborn human being has the active potentiality to develop functioning lungs. Why is it the lungs must be there, even if only to function potentially, but the potentiality for functioning lungs does not ground the entity's humanity even if they haven't developed yet?

So Brody's and Ramsey's account of human essentialism is flawed. The human organism is a person from fertilization because of the fundamental nature that grounds their development and their capacities. Arguing that certain properties must be present for the human to be valuable is still a form of functionalism, albeit one that includes more human beings in the moral community than that offered by Singer or Tooley. However, a proper pro-life account of human personhood establishes that personhood from fertilization because you are a person based on the kind of thing you are, not the kinds of things you can do.

[1] From The Problem of Abortion, 3rd Ed., ed. Susan Dwyer and Joel Feinberg, Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, CA, 1997, pp. 88-97. The essay was taken from his book Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life, and another essay, "Fetal Humanity and Essentialism" in Philosophy and Sex, ed. Robert Baker and Frederick Elliston.