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Friday, December 7, 2018

Vote for Secular Pro-Life in the Project for Awesome Video Contest

The Foundation to Decrease World Suck, led by legendary YouTubers John and Hank Green, is holding its annual Project for Awesome (P4A) event this weekend. The P4A is a fundraiser and video contest rolled into one. Participants submit videos highlighting their favorite charities, and supporters vote on the videos at the P4A website. Voting opens today at noon EST. The dozen or so charities with the top-voted videos get grants from the Foundation to Decrease World Suck!

This is the first year that Secular Pro-Life has been eligible as a 501(c)3, so naturally I submitted a video:



Increasing representation for secular pro-lifers, and moving the abortion conversation away from religious red herrings toward universal recognition of the right to life, is a great way to decrease world suck. Here's how to help:
  1. Go to ProjectForAwesome.com between Friday, December 7 at 12:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 9 at 11:59 a.m. UPDATE: You can now use our direct link.
  2. Vote for Secular Pro-Life's video.
  3. Tell your friends to vote too!
Thanks for your support, and as they say in John and Hank's hometown, don't forget to be awesome!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

McFall v. Shimp and Thomson's Violinist don't justify the vast majority of abortions.

Many people argue that abortion is justified because of bodily rights. The idea is that it doesn’t matter if the fetus is a person or not, because no person can use your body against your will. If that principle is generally true and generally applies to abortion, it makes sense to be pro-choice regardless of whether or not you think the fetus is a valuable human.


McFall v. Shimp
People who argue that bodily rights are paramount sometimes point to the court case of McFall v. Shimp. This isn’t a huge court case—it wasn’t the Supreme Court, it was the Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania—but it’s an important case because of the unique case elements.

Robert McFall was an asbestos worker with anemia. He was given a 20% chance of surviving another year unless he got a bone marrow transplant. His relatives were tested and his cousin, David Shimp, was a likely match. Unfortunately Shimp didn’t want to donate his bone marrow. In desperation McFall took Shimp to court, hoping to compel Shimp to give this life-saving donation. However the court sided fairly quickly with Shimp. The judge stated,
Morally, this decision rests with the Defendant, and, in the view of the Court, the refusal of the Defendant is morally indefensible. For a law to compel the Defendant to submit to an intrusion of his body would change every concept and principle upon which our society is founded.
In other words, even though Robert McFall was clearly a person with as much moral worth as you and I, and even though he would die without this bodily donation, the Court would not compel Shimp to donate to McFall. And McFall did die shortly thereafter.

Article here.

So if we can’t compel someone to give of his body to save Robert McFall, how can we compel someone to give of her body to save a fetus?


The Violinist
Another example of this idea is a thought experiment by Judith Jarvis Thomson. She wrote an essay called “A Defense of Abortion” in which she argued that we need not debate whether the fetus is a person because abortion is justified anyway. To illustrate her point, she asks you to imagine you wake up one day in a hospital bed and your circulatory system is hooked up to a man in the bed next to you. You learn this man is a very talented and famous violinist with a fatal kidney ailment, and his fans--the Society of Music Lovers--have somehow reviewed all available medical records and learned that you are the only person with the right kidney or blood type to filter the poisons from the Violinist’s blood. So the Society of Music Lovers kidnaps you, knocks you out, and attaches you to the Violinist.


The hospital director enters the room and says he is terribly sorry—if he had realized what was happening he would have never allowed it. Nevertheless, you’re now attached to the Violinist and if you unplug, the man will die. But if you stay plugged in for nine months, the Violinist will be cured and you can each go on your way.

Thomson then asks if it is morally required of you to stay plugged in to the Violinist. And even if it is morally required, should it be legally required? Most people intuitively think it should not. They agree it would be a heroic act if you stayed hooked up to the Violinist, but they don’t think such an act should be legally required.


True Analogies
I agree with both the real life example of McFall v. Shimp and the hypothetical example of the Violinist. I don’t think Shimp should have been legally required to donate to McFall, and I don’t think you should be legally required to stay hooked up to the Violinist. And yet I still think most abortions should be illegal. Is that a contradiction?

No, it’s not.

McFall v. Shimp and The Violinist are not analogous to abortion; if they were I would think bodily donation should be required in those cases too.

In order for a bodily rights argument to be analogous to abortion, the hypothetical needs to include the following five elements:
  1. If you refuse bodily donation, someone else will die.
  2. You chose to risk making this person’s life depend on you.
  3. No one else can save this person.
  4. Your bodily donation is temporary.
  5. Your refusal means actively killing this person, not just neglecting to save him.
Some suggest that last factor is being too nitpicky. If the person is going to be dead either way, what difference does it make whether you neglect to save him versus actively kill him? 

It makes a great deal of difference. It’s the difference between watching someone drown while refusing to try to rescue him versus holding him underwater until he dies. It’s the difference between unplugging from the Violinist and letting him succumb to his kidney ailment versus shooting him in the head. We recognize both socially and legally a great difference between actively killing someone versus simply neglecting to save him. And the main point here is that most forms of abortion actively kill humans, rather than simply fail to save them.


McFall v. Shimp Revisited
McFall v. Shimp does not meet all five criteria. It does have the following two elements:
  • If you refuse bodily donation, someone else will die.
  • Your bodily donation is temporary.
Shimp refused to donate bone marrow, and McFall died. And bone marrow donations are temporary in the sense that you can regenerate bone marrow. 

But the case lacks the remaining three criteria:
  • You chose to risk making this person’s life depend on you.
  • No one else can save this person.
  • Your refusal means actively killing this person, not just neglecting to save him.
Shimp had nothing to do with the fact that McFall's life was in danger. (And even though Shimp was in no way responsible for McFall's condition, the court still found Shimp's refusal to donate "morally indefensible.") Additionally, in coming to a ruling, the Court discussed the fact that there could be an unrelated person out there who was a bone marrow match. (If you’re interested in potentially saving lives through bone marrow donation, please check out BeTheMatch.org.) Finally, Shimp neglected to save McFall; he didn't actively kill his cousin.
If McFall v. Shimp were truly analogous to abortion, it would involve Shimp making a decision that he knew could endanger McFall. Say there was some button Shimp could press that made him feel wonderful; he knew pushing the button involved the remote chance that McFall would contract a fatal ailment only Shimp could save him from. Still, Shimp figured the chance was too small to worry about, and so he pushed the button anyway. Then McFall did get a fatal illness, and he reached out to Shimp to save him. Shimp declined ...and then shot McFall in the head. That’s abortion.


The Violinist Revisited
The Violinist thought experiment suffers from similar limitations. It’s a bit closer to the proper analogy because Thomson includes the fact that you are the only person who can save the Violinist. So The Violinist has the three elements: 
  • If you refuse bodily donation, someone else will die.
  • No one else can save this person.
  • Your bodily donation is temporary.
But the thought experiment fails to meet the remaining two criteria:
  • You chose to risk making this person’s life depend on you.
  • Your refusal means actively killing this person, not just neglecting to save him.
In the thought experiment, you didn’t choose to risk the Violinist’s life, nor did you choose to hook yourself up to him. In fact a major aspect of the story is that you were kidnapped and hooked up to the Violinist against your will. You very specifically had no choice in the matter. Furthermore you don’t kill the Violinist. You are choosing whether or not to unplug from him and let him succumb to his ailment; you’re not choosing whether to smother him with a pillow.

When bodily rights arguments are adjusted to include all five criteria, they become pretty unpersuasive. At best the conclusion sounds incredibly immoral, and at worst it also sounds very illegal.


Roe v. Wade
It’s important to also understand what the Supreme Court case legalizing abortion, Roe v. Wade, had to say about bodily rights. During oral arguments they did argue that the woman should be able to get an abortion because it’s her body and thus her choice. However SCOTUS did not ground the right to abortion in bodily rights; instead they grounded it in a right to privacy and explicitly rejected the bodily rights argument:

Click to enlarge
Roe v. Wade actually ruled that the government can outlaw abortion after a certain point in the pregnancy, meaning the government can compel bodily donation to keep another alive. In fact in an article analyzing McFall v. Shimp and whether we should always say bodily rights trump saving lives, FE Huffman cites Roe v. Wade as precedent for compulsory bodily donation.

Click to enlarge
Huffman also notes that Roe v. Wade didn’t even consider the fetus a person and yet still allowed for compulsory bodily donation to keep another entity alive. How much stronger would the case be if the law recognized the fetus as a person?*

If your response to all this is that these analogies overstate the case because the fetus isn't a person, you're implicitly demonstrating my point: bodily rights arguments work only if the fetus isn't a person. If the fetus is a valuable human being, the "my body, my choice" train of thought isn't nearly strong enough to justify abortion.


We have now completed half of this cycle.

Consider the fact that most Americans believe abortion is justified only at earlier stages of pregnancy or only under more severe circumstances. If you believe elective abortion should be illegal at later stages of the pregnancy, your stance implies bodily right are not sacrosanct. For people who view the embryo and fetus as morally valuable humans from the beginning, bodily rights don’t even come close to justifying the vast majority of abortions.

*During oral arguments the justices and plaintiffs suggested that if we recognized the fetus as a person under the 14th amendment, it would be almost impossible to justify legal abortion. Remember that background when people claim Roe v. Wade remained neutral on the question of when life begins.


Further Reading
ERI Bodily Rights Materials - a whole collection of thoughtful articles by the Equal Rights Institute related to bodily rights arguments.
Misconceptions about the rape exception - Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, 7/19/14, post exploring the relationship between bodily rights arguments and the rape exception

Monozygotic Twinning: Weasley brothers, flatworms, and cow clones

Dizygotic twinning is when two sperm fertilize two eggs and produce two zygotes which grow as two separate organisms. Not confusing, right?

Monozygotic twinning is when a single sperm fertilizes a single egg and produces a single zygote, but in the earliest stages of development that embryo splits into two organisms.

Image from Gilbert & Barresi, Developmental Biology, 11th Edition

We don’t actually know why this happens. MZ twinning is more common in in vitro fertilization (IVF) than in naturally occurring pregnancies, and there is some interesting research trying to explore why that might be, but so far we haven’t got any clear answers.

Fred & George prove mysterious once again.
Occasionally people point to MZ twinning to undermine the claim that the human zygote is the first developmental stage of a human organism. After all, if it’s possible the early embryo can split, does that mean the zygote is actually two organisms at once? How can we say the zygote is the beginning of a single human organism when we don’t know how many organisms will be present at the end?

But we have analogous situations where a single organism can ultimately produce another, and that doesn’t undermine the fact that the original organism was and is a single organism.

For example, some people think of MZ twinning as akin to a type of asexual reproduction. Flatworms can eventually generate and split from new flatworms. That doesn’t mean the original flatworm wasn’t an individual organism.

The parent flatworm on the far left is an individual organism.

Others see MZ twinning as a type of natural cloning. In somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning), we take the DNA from Donor 1, and then we take an egg from Donor 2. We remove Donor 2’s DNA from her egg, and instead we insert Donor 1’s DNA into the egg. We stimulate that cell to grow, implant in a surrogate, and the surrogate will gestate and birth a clone of Donor 1.

Donor 1 (top left blue cow) is an individual organism.

This is a fascinating and impressive process, but it doesn’t change the fact that Donor 1 is an individual organism. We wouldn’t look at the donor cow and say “Is she an organism? Is she just one organism? If bizarre or mysterious processes happen to some of her cells, it’s possible she could generate a new organism, so how do we know how many organisms she is?” No, we know she is a single cow.

By analogy, the zygote may, for reasons mysterious, generate an additional organism; that doesn’t change the fact that the zygote is a single organism, and that a human zygote is the first developmental stage of a human organism.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Project Rosie Saves Lives in Michigan

A pregnant Rosie the Riveter is the mascot for Project Rosie, a pro-life campaign dedicated to assisting pregnant and parenting college students in Michigan. Project Rosie is a nonprofit group created by Protect Life Michigan, and it travels to different colleges all across Michigan in an attempt to help pregnant college women choose life.

I met with Project Rosie in the Eastern Michigan Student Center entirely by chance. It was towards the end of November, and I was hurrying back to my dorm room to study for an exam and to try and figure out what I was going to do with my life, and with the life growing inside of me. I had found out that I was pregnant only three weeks earlier, and with no money, no job, and a relationship that could be described as rocky at best, it was seeming more and more like abortion was the only option. Then I ran into Project Rosie. The group was handing out cards and explaining how they could connect pregnant or parenting students with resources that would allow them to keep their baby and finish school. I approached the table hesitantly. “Hi,” I said, “I’m Anna and I’m six weeks pregnant.” What followed was hugs, love, and good wishes. They were the first people who didn’t respond to my pregnancy with a disappointing, “oh,” or start lecturing me about how the responsible thing to do would be to get an abortion. I left that table with plans to meet with the Protect Life EMU student organization group leader, and a huge box filled with gifts for me, and for my baby.

This group leader met with me every week, and walked me through the decisions of abortion, adoption, or parenting. While I ruled abortion out pretty quickly, it seemed for a while as though an adoption was the way to go. I picked out a nice couple and even met with them once or twice, but the day I felt my baby kick I knew I couldn’t go through with it. Once I decided to keep my baby I was scared to tell the group leader. Sure, she had been supportive so far, but would she continue to support a young, 20 year old college student who honestly had no business raising a baby? And yet she did. Throughout the entire process, Project Rosie never once judged me or told me what to do. At a time when everyone else was giving me their opinions and telling me what to do, they were the only ones who truly listened to me, and always asked what would be best for me.

Project Rosie has three main goals: to reach, to empower, and to support. Project Rosie reached out to me, empowered me, and continues to support me and countless other girls to this day. Project Rosie’s website provides information to resources available at or around every college in Michigan. They don’t just care about saving a baby’s life, they care about saving the woman as well. Before Project Rosie, I wasn’t sure what I should do and I did not see my pregnancy as a blessing. It’s been a year since I first met them and I now have a beautiful 4 month old baby girl to show for it. Both she and I will always be thankful for the wonderful people at Project Rosie.

[Today's guest post by Annaliese Corace is part of our paid blogging program]

Monday, December 3, 2018

Nearly half of all fertilized eggs fail to implant.

The human zygote is the first developmental stage of a human organism’s life cycle. Sometimes when I state this fact, people respond by pointing out that many zygotes never implant. Bill Nye made the same point in his video on abortion rights:
Many many many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans. Eggs get fertilized—by that I mean sperm get accepted by ova—a lot. But that’s not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb.
It’s true that a large proportion—possibly even up to half—of zygotes never implant and instead pass through the woman and die. I’m just not sure why people think this fact undermines the claim that human zygotes are human organisms. We don’t decide whether an entity is an organism based on how easily that entity dies. Consider the fact that as recently as the 1800s over 40% of children between birth and age 5 died. Despite their high mortality rate, those children were clearly still human organisms.

Consider also that very elderly people die more easily than younger people. If we plotted the human life cycle against our survival rates, it might look something like this (this is not an official graph, just a rough drawing to illustrate the point):


There are developmental stages when human organisms have lower survival rates. That’s true. I’m just not sure what it has to do with whether those entities are human organisms. Elderly people, very young children, and zygotes all die more easily than people my age, and they are all still human organisms.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Personhood based on human cognitive abilities.

What difference is there (if any) between a human organism and a “person”? Is there such thing as a human non-person? How do we determine which human organisms have moral worth and merit social protection?

People have given me a variety of suggestions for the factors human organisms need to be morally relevant, including connection to society, viability, the ability to feel pain, or conscious awareness. For different reasons I find these moral cutoffs pretty ad hoc and problematic (see Further Reading at the end of this post).

But some suggest you aren't a “person” until you exhibit human-specific cognitive abilities. To my mind this definition of personhood is more intuitive, especially for secularists. What is it that we value about humans? What sets us apart from other known species? It makes sense to me that it would be our unprecedented cognitive abilities. While there are certain species that have shown impressive levels of cognition compared to most others, they still don’t come anywhere close to the level of complexity in language, social interactions, and creativity that humans achieve. So if we’re taking a step back from the abortion debate in general and asking “What do we value about the human species?” and you answer “Our cognitive abilities,” that makes sense to me.

I think if I were pro-choice, human-specific cognitive abilities would be my definition of personhood. Of course I'm not pro-choice, and in this post I’ll explain why this definition just doesn’t quite get me there.

If a human organism needs human-specific cognitive ability to have moral worth, it’s true that abortion would be justified at any stage in pregnancy. Even later term fetuses don’t have human-specific cognition yet. The problem is neither do newborns.

People who emphasize human cognition typically consider infanticide—killing human neonates or infants—horrific. But if abortion is justified and infanticide is horrific, it can’t be human-specific cognition that separates the two. There is nothing magical about birth in terms of our cognition.

"No major cognitive distinction here." Click to enlarge.

Quite the opposite, humans are specifically underdeveloped in terms of cognition when we’re born. For our first two years functional networks in our brains swiftly gain structure. Here’s passage from a 2017 publication in NeuroImage:


Researchers exploring early childhood development believe we don’t achieve conscious awareness until, at the earliest, 9 months old:


Here’s a table summarizing their assessment strategies. You can read more about it in the publication:

Click to enlarge

The neurons and neural connections that ultimately “make us human” are still proliferating rapidly during our first few years:

Developmental Biology, 11th Edition, Gilbert & Barresi

Human neonates are comparatively useless because at that point we still have such a huge amount of brain development ahead of us. This idea is well known in evolutionary biology. Sea turtles are born and soon start hauling toward the sea. Giraffes are born and within days are walking around. Have you ever held a human newborn? We can’t even raise our heads for the first two months or so. We are remarkably helpless and dependent. Scientific American talks a bit more about why:
Human infants are especially helpless because their brains are comparatively underdeveloped. Indeed, by one estimation a human fetus would have to undergo a gestation period of 18 to 21 months instead of the usual nine to be born at a neurological and cognitive development stage comparable to that of a chimpanzee newborn.
In “Developmental Biology” (11th edition), Gilbert & Barresi reiterate the point:




Gilbert & Barresi point out that it is uniquely human for our brains to continue maturing into adulthood. Here is an illustration from the same text showing how myelination (basically coating our nerves in a way that allows nerve impulses to travel more quickly) continues to increase even up to age 20.


Anyway.

If our moral worth stems from our present human-specific cognitive abilities, it’s true the embryo and fetus don’t yet have those abilities and so wouldn’t yet have that worth. But it’s also true neonates don’t have those abilities and so also wouldn’t have that worth. When I point this out, sometimes people respond by saying the newborn is still valuable because she will have those abilities in the future. I agree, but if our moral worth stems from our future human-specific cognitive abilities, that argument applies to the fetus as well.

It isn’t only those of us against abortion who have noticed this connection. In their infamous 2012 publication “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argue that it should be permissible to practice “after-birth abortion” on healthy human newborns because the newborn and fetus are morally equivalent: both are human beings and potential persons but neither are actual persons due to their insufficient level of mental development.

I recognize that the vast majority of pro-choice people find this idea despicable. Pro-choice people love babies and frequently have their own children and don’t in any way intend to normalize infanticide. My point is not to suggest that anyone who advocates for abortion must feel cavalier about killing newborn babies. My point is that the idea that our value comes from present human-specific cognition necessarily devalues not only fetuses but also infants. That is why I can’t hold such a position.


Further Reading (or Watching):
Why viability is the least plausible definition of personhood, Equal Rights Institute, August 10, 2018
Circumventing philosophy hell, Equal Rights Institute, December 8, 2017
The Nervous System, Part 2 – Action! Potential! Crash Course A&P, March 2, 2015
The most undervalued argument in the prolife movement, Equal Rights Institute, October 1, 2013
Arguments against fetal personhood, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, February 4, 2013
Viability = Personhood? Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, August 15, 2012
Consciousness = Personhood? Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, August 7, 2012
No matter how small, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, November 13, 2011

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Hydatidiform moles and molar pregnancies

[This post contains photographs of infants with serious genetic abnormalities.] 

Pro-life people often say:
  • Life begins at conception (or fertilization). 
  • At fertilization there is a new entity genetically distinct from the woman. 
  • If two humans have sex their offspring will be human (rather than a dog, a frog, or any other species). 
Sometimes pro-choice people point to molar pregnancies, or hydatidiform moles (HMs), to undermine the above claims. HMs are products of human sexual intercourse. They are genetically distinct from the woman. Yet to the extent we’re aware of molar pregnancies we nearly always destroy them.

This situation demonstrates how messy biology can be. But it doesn’t undermine the basic fact pro-life people are trying to establish: the human zygote is the first developmental stage of a human organism. Every human has his or her own life cycle, and the zygote is the beginning of a human life cycle. HMs don’t change that fact, and in this post I explain why not.

There are two types of HMs: complete and partial.


1. Complete hydatidiform moles (CHM) 
A CHM exists when the sperm fertilizes an egg that had no nuclear DNA. While it’s true this mole arises from fertilization, it is not true that the mole is a human organism. The vast majority of human organisms have two sets of DNA: one set of 23 chromosomes from the father and one from the mother. A CHM has only the sperm’s DNA. Here is a relevant excerpt from Larsen’s Human Embryology (Schoenwolf, Bleyl, Brauer, & Francis-West, 5th Edition):


Similarly, here is the definition of a hydatidiform mole from the 11th edition of Developmental Biology (Gilbert & Barresi):


A CHM involves no embryonic growth. As Larsen’s explains, “the fetus is entirely missing.” Moreover CHMs have a high probability of becoming carcinogenic. We can and should terminate these pregnancies: they are very dangerous to the woman and they don’t even involve another human anyway. This situation is not ethically complicated.


2. Partial hydatidiform mole (PHM) 
A PHM arises when two sperm fertilize an egg that does have nuclear DNA. In contrast with other human organisms who generally have two sets of 23 chromosomes, these organisms have three sets of 23 chromosomes. Here is another excerpt from Larsen’s:


We typically have two copies of every chromosome. Three copies of a chromosome are called trisomies. For example, Down syndrome is called Trisomy 21 because it occurs when there is a third copy of the 21st chromosome. Even one extra chromosome is often fatal: fetuses with trisomies frequently miscarry. Even when they survive beyond birth, they have significant developmental challenges. With that in mind, it is really astounding that triploid human organisms (that is, humans with not just one extra chromosome but 23 extra chromosomes) ever make it to infancy. It’s very rare, but it has happened. Here are two examples, including photographs from the publications:

Digynic triploid infant surviving for 46 days, Hasegawa et al, American Journal of Medical Genetics, December 1999

Infant at 4 weeks

Long-term survival in a 69,XXX triploid premature infant. Takabachi et al, American Journal of Medical Genetics, June 2008

Click to enlarge.

These human organisms have fatal genetic abnormalities, but they are humans nonetheless.

To summarize, complete hydatidiform moles are not human organisms. Partial hydatidiform moles are human organisms with severe genetic abnormalities. And neither case changes the fact that a human zygote is the first developmental stage of a human organism’s life.

Further Reading
Human Beings Begin as Zygotes: Refutations to 8 Common Pro-Choice Arguments, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, August 11, 2017
Do human beings begin at fertilization? Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, November 29, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2018

I'm a Millennial Woman, and I Voted Yes on Amendment 1

My state of West Virginia just passed a constitutional amendment specifying that our constitution does not contain the right to elective abortions nor require taxpayer funding for those abortions. The vote was close—52 to 48 percent—and I watched as the results came in. Now I watch as reactions from fellow West Virginians appear on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Many are based around misconceptions of what the law means: that there are no exceptions (a prior 1993 law which now goes back into effect does require funding for cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies) and that women will therefore die of a lack of basic healthcare.

They also contain blame. Blame of anyone who voted to pass the law, but more-so, blame of the women who voted Yes. These women are accused of setting the state back by decades, of putting other women’s lives in immediate danger, and of ripping basic rights away. I am one of these women. And because I am a left-leaning political independent, occasional social justice activist and pagan, no one ever sees it coming.

I am one of the women who voted Yes, and I represent a different kind of pro-life, a kind most people don’t realize exists. I don’t pray to God to end abortion. This isn’t about religion for me. It’s about moving beyond the beginning of biological human life and feeling my way around far-reaching philosophical questions. When does human life first deserve our protection? When does “personhood” begin? But more than that, it’s the radical idea of getting to the root and figuring out why women are choosing abortion in the first place and what that means.

Once you know that I’m pro-life, some of my opinions are expected. I believe a pre-born baby—a fetus, if you will—is a vulnerable human life that deserves protection. I believe a person’s right to personal liberties is justifiably limited when another life is inextricably tied up with those liberties. But there are other ideas that are less common. You see, I also believe that social inequality is putting women in a position to make difficult decisions no one should have to make. That women are choosing between giving birth and financial security. Between giving birth and career success. And I believe that when we’re choosing between giving birth and happiness, we have a serious problem.

These feminist undertones separate my kind of pro-life from dominant pro-life thought. In a way, I find that they begin to bridge the left and the right, the pro-life and the moderately pro-choice. Some of us in this pro-life movement driven by ethics and social justice rather than religious dogma want to pass laws to stop abortion. Some don’t, and this is where we see some seriously (uncomfortably to some) blurry lines. What we have in common is that we all want to see less abortion, and we know this involves more than voting Yes on an amendment. It requires asking difficult questions and being open to the possibility that society may, in fact, be built in favor of certain groups, leaving women and others with more barriers to achieving basic security and success.

It leads us to ask how we can create the beginnings of a society in which no woman feels the need to choose between these incredibly important things—a happy, secure life and her children. The answers are not simple and they are not singular. We can look at social justice, at assistance for women with children, at applying pressure to corporations to make maternal leave and other relevant benefits standard. These aren’t the kinds of conversations you see from many pro-life groups, and so people assume that we care about birth only or that we’re brainwashed by dogma or we’re the hopelessly uneducated who oppress themselves. We are not your typical pro-lifers or what you expect us to be, but we are here.

I am a woman who voted Yes on Amendment 1 and you never would have guessed. I am not the kind of pro-life you’re used to.

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

Thanksgiving Hiatus

Traffic to the Secular Pro-Life blog tends to dip this time of year, as people travel and prioritize spending time with their families. Therefore, we will not have any blog posts this week. We wish a very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and we are very thankful that each and every one of our readers was born!

For those of you who are participating in Giving Tuesday, please consider a donation to our fundraiser for youth outreach at the March for Life.

Friday, November 16, 2018

March for Life Itinerary!


UPDATE 11/27/18: We've raised $740 and are just $1,635 away from our goal. Please support us for #GivingTuesday!

We are just two months away from the March for Life! Every January, the pro-life community gathers in Washington, D.C. to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It is a time for mourning, as we remember the many lives lost to abortion since 1973. It is also a time for organizing, as we strategize to save lives in the coming year. In particular, Secular Pro-Life takes this opportunity to (1) draw media attention to secular arguments against abortion, and (2) connect with pro-life youth activists and equip them to engage with people of any faith or none.

The March for Life and associated events are can’t-miss for Secular Pro-Life—and you can’t miss us either, as we carry our 14-foot-tall bright blue banner down the National Mall! We would love for you to join us. A tentative itinerary is below. However, our schedule is not finalized, as we still have some funding needs. You can help us meet those needs by making a donation.


Geaux Forth Youth Rally
Date: Thursday, January 17, 2019
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Location: Warner Theater
Description: The Geaux Forth Youth Rally is a gathering of pro-life teens and young adults sponsored by Louisiana Right to Life
Funding Needs: $175 for exhibit booth

Rehumanize Meetup
Date: Friday, January 18, 2019
Time: 10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Location: Mall side of the Smithsonian Castle, Washington, D.C.
Description: Before the March for Life, join us for a mini-rally with various allied organizations, hosted by our friends at Rehumanize International. Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will speak at the meetup.
Funding Needs: Covered

March for Life
Date: Friday, January 18, 2019
Time: Noon
Location: National Mall, Washington, D.C.
Description: March with us down Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court to protest the injustice of abortion and demand the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Funding Needs: Covered

Karaoke Fundraiser
Date: Friday, January 18, 2019
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Location: TBA
Description: Last year’s joint karaoke fundraiser with Rehumanize International was a hit, so we’re doing it again! Practice your song in the shower and get ready to belt it out for a great cause.
Funding Needs: Covered

Students for Life of America National Conference
Date: Saturday, January 19, 2019
Time: All day
Location: Upper Marlboro, MD
Description: Approximately 2,700 students from colleges and high schools all over the country gather at this event to learn from seasoned activists—and, of course, take home materials they can use on their campuses!
Funding Needs: $2,000 for exhibit booth

Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life
Date: Saturday, January 19, 2019
Time: All day
Location: Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
Description: This Catholic-focused student conference has invited Secular Pro-Life to exhibit and offer attendees a different perspective. We want every pro-life person, including those who belong to a church, to know how to make the secular case against abortion!
Funding Needs: $200 for exhibit booth

January is the most expensive time of the year for us. In total, we need to raise $2,375. Any additional funds raised will be invested in extra pamphlets and other educational materials which we distribute to students for free. Please contribute as you are able. Your support for Secular Pro-Life is greatly appreciated.

For Life,
Kelsey Hazzard
President of Secular Pro-Life


P.S. – If you happen to live in the D.C. area and would like to open your home to Secular Pro-Life, please contact us! Every dollar we do not have to spend on a hotel is a dollar we can put toward our other March for Life expenses. Thank you for your generosity.