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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Reader Question: What About the Right to Privacy?


We recently received an email from Josephine C., asking: "How do you respond to those people who maintain that prohibiting abortion is an invasion of privacy?" Unfortunately, when I tried to reply, I got an automated error message. Hopefully this blog post will reach Josephine, but even if it doesn't, it's an important issue for all our readers.

I respond that the right to privacy, while legitimate, is not broad enough to encompass acts of violence. For example, domestic abuse is not a "private" matter just because it occurs within the confines of one's home. Because abortion is also an act of violence against another person, it is distinct from the non-violent behaviors—such as sending one's children to private schools, maintaining confidential membership in the NAACP, and using contraception—which originally caused the Supreme Court to recognize a right to privacy in the Constitution.

In addition, a right like privacy, which is merely implied from the Constitution, should not take precedence over the right to life, which is explicitly stated in the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment provides: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Laws permitting abortion are discriminatory and unconstitutional, because they deprive unborn children of life without due process of law.

We welcome reader questions! If you have a topic you'd like to see on the blog, email us at info@secularprolife.org.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Baby Chris is 37 Weeks Old

Illustration via BabyCenter.com

[This is part 38 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

37 weeks after fertilization (39 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is 20 inches long and weighs 7 ¼ pounds—about the size of a mini watermelon. He or she is full term and could be born any day! The Endowment for Human Development reports that "[t]he eye of the full-term fetus or newborn has achieved roughly 75% of its adult size and about two-thirds its adult weight."

Although we've been using averages to educate our readers about prenatal development, it's important to keep in mind that every person is different and grows on their own timeline. Many babies are born before 37 weeks or weighing less than 7 pounds; this is perfectly healthy and normal. I myself was not born until three weeks after my due date (an early sign of my bad tendency to procrastinate) at 9 pounds, 3 ounces. My brother was right on time yet weighed in at 10 pounds, 12 ounces!

To learn more about the incredible journey we have all taken from conception to birth, download the free See Baby app.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Please support Secular Pro-Life on Giving Tuesday


We appreciate that you're probably being bombarded by fundraisers, so we'll keep this short and sweet: an anonymous donor will match the first $1000 we raise through Giving Tuesday. If you like the work we do, now is the perfect time to donate! You can give via Facebook or PayPal. Thanks to the generous support of donors like you, we are already more than a third of the way to our goal. Thank you, and have a great day!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Baby Chris is 36 Weeks Old

Image via BabyCenter
[This is part 37 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

36 weeks after fertilization (38 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is 19 ½ inches long and weighs 6 ¾ pounds—about the size of a leek. The brain has developed "deep, convoluted grooves — extra surface area for neurons." The Endowment for Human Development notes that brain weight doubles during the last nine weeks of pregnancy:
Much of the brain’s weight gain is due to the thickening of the myelin sheath around the nerves. By the end of pregnancy, the fetal brain is about a quarter of its eventual size and contains nearly all the neurons it will ever have: perhaps 100 billion. Each of these neurons will eventually synapse with as many as 200,000 other neurons, creating an electrical network of almost incalculable complexity.
For more prenatal development info, download the free See Baby app on your device.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Book Review: "Pro-Life Kids"

Above: Preview page of Pro-Life Kids. Text reads: "It doesn't matter your size or your age. You have equal value whatever the stage." It is accompanied by cartoon illustrations of many people, forming a line from youngest to oldest.

Pro-Life Kids, written by Bethany Bomberger and illustrated by Ed Koehler, is a rhyming picture book that introduces children to the concept that all humans are people: at every age, no matter where they live, and even before they are born. This concept is conveyed clearly and illustrated beautifully, including children of all races and abilities.

This book is best read aloud by a trusted adult who is prepared to spend a good amount of time on the subject. Although the book's overall tone is upbeat and positive, it is impossible to be honest about abortion without bringing up death. Pro-Life Kids forthrightly describes abortion as taking a baby's life away. It also contains references to other upsetting situations when some humans have not been recognized as persons (slavery and the Holocaust), as well as the successes of the civil rights movement. These topics will likely prompt difficult questions from young children who lack the historical education. The story also assumes a prior knowledge of concepts like adoption and pregnancy care centers, which the reader may need to pause to explain.

The author, a Christian, included one religious passage: "God made you unique. You have no clone. Your fingerprints are yours. Yes, yours alone. He knit you together one cell at a time... with love and attention—a plan so divine." Secular households could modify this page (but I recommend against skipping it entirely, as it contains a lovely fetal illustration).

Pro-Life Kids also contains significant back-page material, including photos and biographies of real pro-life kids, a "Pro-Life Kids Pledge," and kid-friendly action items.

Pro-Life Kids is available for purchase here.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Baby Chris is 35 Weeks Old

Above: Depiction and ultrasound of 35-week-old unborn baby via the Endowment for Human Development

[This is part 36 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

35 weeks after fertilization (37 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is 19 ¼ inches long and weighs 6 ¼ pounds—about the size of a bunch of Swiss chard.

If you've ever interacted with a newborn, you've probably done the adorable "grab my finger, oh no the baby's got me I can't escape!" trick. The Endowment for Human Development reports that this grasping reflex has developed by 35 weeks.

For more information on life in the womb, download the free See Baby app!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Confronting the Pro-Choice Stance, Honestly

Above: Pro-life youth demonstrate outside the Supreme Court; in the
background, a sign reads "Keep abortion safe and legal."

Last week, The Atlantic published an article by Caitlin Flanagan entitled "The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate: Why we need to face the best arguments from the other side." I encourage you to read the whole thing. Flanagan, who is pro-choice, did an admirable job of identifying the best arguments on each side of the abortion debate.

For the pro-life side, she gave a heartfelt defense of children in the womb. While there are many other ways to arrive at the pro-life position—such as abortion's harm to mothers, fathers, abortion survivors, people with disabilities, and society at large—I agree that the harm to the unborn child is paramount. And boy, does she write it well. No one can accuse her of failing to understand the opposing position:
What I can’t face about abortion is the reality of it: that these are human beings, the most vulnerable among us, and we have no care for them. How terrible to know that in the space of an hour, a baby could be alive—his heart beating, his kidneys creating the urine that becomes the amniotic fluid of his safe home—and then be dead, his heart stopped, his body soon to be discarded.
For the pro-choice side, she selected the fear of "back-alley" abortion as the strongest argument. This is apparently the argument that most convinces her personally. She tells the tragic stories of three mothers in the 1950's who died after attempting to abort their babies with Lysol (which had a different formula than it does today). She concludes:
Women have been willing to risk death to get an abortion. When we made abortion legal, we decided we weren’t going to let that happen anymore. We were not going to let one more woman arrive at a hospital with her organs rotting inside of her. We accepted that we might lose that growing baby, but we were not also going to lose that woman.
It's the best available argument for abortion. And it's wrong, for at least three reasons.

(1) Roe v. Wade didn't reduce the maternal death rate from illegal abortion. 

Flanagan assumes that making abortion legal made it safer, but doesn't offer any evidence for that assumption beyond a correlation-is-causation argument; since women are no longer showing up in hospitals after surreptitious Lysol abortions, Roe must have been the answer! That's a weak case, and the data just don't back it up.

Whenever I give presentations on college campuses, I share this graph from the National Center for Health Statistics, showing maternal deaths from illegal abortions by year—but with the x-axis, the year, erased.


I then ask a brave audience volunteer to guess where 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade, falls on the graph. Most select a peak, in line with the narrative that Roe v. Wade caused maternal deaths to plummet. Invariably, they guess wrong:


Roe v. Wade isn't even a blip on the graph. Forget "correlation doesn't equal causation"—they don't even have correlation! The real savior of women's lives? Advances in antibiotics.

(2) A lot has changed since the 1950's.

And not just antibiotics. Flanagan herself acknowledges that it "was illegal to advertise contraception nationally until 1977," four years after Roe; today, you can pick up condoms at any corner drugstore, and prescription contraceptives are widely available. Pregnancy discrimination was perfectly legal at the time of Roe; today, it's prohibited by federal law. Women couldn't get credit cards in their own name at the time of Roe; today, it's unquestioned. Marital rape wasn't criminalized in all 50 states until two decades after Roe. And I haven't even mentioned that today, pro-life pregnancy centers outnumber abortion businesses. Using the 1950's to predict a post-Roe future is wildly unrealistic.

(3) Legal abortion is still killing women.  

Tonya Reaves. Jennifer Morbelli. Maria Santiago. Lakisha Wilson. Christin Gilbert. The list goes on. The pro-life movement can tell stories just as tragic as the "back-alley" stories Flanagan shares. The fact that their abortions were legal doesn't make them any less dead.

I appreciate Flanagan's attempt to engage the pro-life position honestly. It's the best article from an abortion supporter I've seen since Shawna Kay Rodenberg's piece in Salon two years ago. I hope Flanagan will keep digging, keep following her conscience, and become the next convert to the pro-life cause.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Baby Chris is 34 Weeks Old

Diagram of a mother and 34-week-old baby in the womb via BabyCenter
[This is part 35 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

34 weeks after fertilization (36 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is 18 ¾ inches long and weighs 5 ¾ pounds—about the size of a head of romaine lettuce.

Baby Chris isn't just growing; he or she is also learning. The Endowment for Human Development reports:
Studies suggest that towards the end of prenatal development, the fetus has been developing preferences and tastes based on prenatal experience. For instance, fetuses whose mothers consumed anise, the substance which gives licorice candy its flavor, showed a preference for anise after birth. Newborns without this fetal exposure disliked anise.
The fetus hears numerous sounds before birth, with the mother’s voice and heartbeat dominating other sounds. Studies show that after months of listening to the mother’s voice, the newborn prefers her voice to any other. The newborn also prefers female voices to male voices and familiar lullabies heard before birth to new lullabies after birth. Newborns can distinguish prose passages heard during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy from new passages, providing additional evidence of in utero memory formation and learning.
For more information about prenatal development, check out the free See Baby app!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Book Review: "Sex Ed for Everyone"

Above: A free sample panel from the "Sex Ed for Everyone"
comic by Sophie LaBelle. Click to enlarge.

Sophie LaBelle, best known as the artist behind Assigned Male Comics, recently came out with a new comic book entitled "Sex Ed For Everyone." Featuring many of the same characters as her regular Assigned Male series, "Sex Ed for Everyone" is aimed at teenagers who are dissatisfied with the scope of sex education they are receiving in school.

It's important to note that "Sex Ed for Everyone" is not a substitute for comprehensive sex education. Pregnancy is not covered, so you will not find adorable cartoon depictions of prenatal development (I know, I was disappointed too). There's also not much in the way of contraceptive knowledge or STI prevention, beyond a brief mention of male and female condoms.

But it was clearly never LaBelle's intent to be a one-stop shop for sexual health information. Instead, "Sex Ed for Everyone" is best thought of as a supplement to sex education, particularly on matters of sexual identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression.

Judged on that metric, the book does an admirable job. To give you a sense of its tone, here are a few points I particularly appreciated:
  • "I think it's a shame that we don't hear much about the variety of bodies out there. It's one thing to tell us that the majority of people aren't trans, intersex, or disabled. It's another to tell us that we don't need to learn about them."
  • Speaking about queer teens making the decision not to have sex, one character notes: "The need for belonging might pressure people into situations they don't actually want."
  • And then there's this fantastic dialogue: "I'm scared to get pressured into having sex. When do you know you're ready?" "It's true that it can feel overwhelming, but it's totally OK to take your time. Maybe you'll never 'be ready' and that's also fine."
These messages are especially important for LaBelle's trans and queer audience, because sexual minority youth are actually more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than their cis, straight peers. That might seem like a paradox, but when you consider the cultural pressure that some lesbians and bisexuals are under to "appear straight," the risk of reluctant sexual intercourse is apparent. In fact, when I was a student at the University of Miami, our pro-life student group hosted a speaker who had been in that very situation — twice. (Her first pregnancy tragically ended in abortion after she received deceptive counseling; for her second, she chose life.)

"Sex Ed for Everyone" is available on Etsy.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Baby Chris is 33 Weeks Old

Above: Image of a 33-week-old baby in the womb. Their hand covers their face. Graphic via the Endowment for Human Development.

[This is part 34 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

33 weeks after fertilization (35 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is 18 ¼ inches and weighs 5 ¼ pounds—about the size of a honeydew melon. Baby Chris has doubled in weight compared to just six weeks ago!

Organ development is mostly completed at this point. The Endowment for Human Development reports that "[t]he digestive system further develops as the lower esophageal sphincter, a valve leading to the stomach, begins functioning by 32 weeks. Blood-filtering groups of capillaries called glomeruli have completed their formation in the kidneys."

Learn more about Baby Chris's journey from conception to birth by downloading the free See Baby app!