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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

We Asked, You Answered: Your Pro-Life Platform

A person stands in front of the Supreme Court with a sign that reads "We are all humans / Todos somos humanos." Image credit: Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

We posed the question on our Facebook page: "If you could design a pro-life platform, what principles & policies would it include?" Here is just a sampling of the 200 comments we received: 

April J.: (1) Better paid and more generous parental leave. (2) Cheaper, less bureaucratic adoption process. (3) Incentives to colleges/universities/trade schools that have daycare and/or on campus living accommodations for moms/parents in school.

John D.: Ending innocent defenseless human lives is wrong. This should be taught unambiguously in all public schools as well as those that receive any federal funds.

Multiple commenters: The platform of the American Solidarity Party.

David J.: Constitutional amendment protecting life in the womb.

Amy K.: Wow, where to start?? Classes on embryology, education and access to birth control, easier access to sterilization, support for mothers and their entire families during and after pregnancy, resources for nutrition, insurance, legal, housing needs, job training, continuing education, more aggressive child support enforcement.... I'm sure there's a lot more and each of these has plenty of subcategories of course!

Manisha D.: Disability rights!!

JoAnn S.: Federal deposits into Social Security accounts for anyone staying out of the labor market on order to care for one or more children. Raising the next generation is beneficial to all even those without children. Children are not equivalent to pets. They are not optional to a society. Someone's kid is going to dig our graves.

Austin S.: Not killing babies. The matter's so simple to me. I don't believe it's ever okay to murder an innocent human. I believe doctors should always try to save every life possible. That’s their job—to help people. Currently they do a terrible job at that. We should value life. That’s the most fundamental, basic start towards decent society.

Jordan W.: I'm actually most interested in the core values of the movement. We’ve been lacking the clear core values needed to win. Here are just a few suggestions. (1) The ONLY thing necessary for membership in the pro-life movement is the belief that abortion is the unjustified killing of human beings and a commitment to save babies from abortion. No one can be excluded based on politics, religion, race, gender, or any other trait. (2) Principles over personalities. We must always put the mission over any person’s personal agendas, fame, or self interest. (3) Non-violence. We must be committed to non-violence as the way to end abortion. Anyone in the pro-life movement must be 100% committed to non-violence both as the reason to end abortion and the means to end abortion. (4) Pro-life means ending abortion. We can't have add on agendas such as "ending abortion AND electing our favorite politicians”, “ending abortion AND converting people to my Christian denomination," or "ending abortion AND converting people to Catholic doctrine on contraception." There is plenty of time outside the pro-life movement for other agendas. When we are engaged in pro-life activities we are solely focused on the mission. No additional missions. These are just a few of my suggestions for core values.

Pamela M.: At a quick glance I didn't see anything about perinatal and pediatric palliative care and hospice programs. Proper funding for medical childcare/daycare options, Early Intervention, Special Education, respite, in home nursing for the most medically fragile, adult day programs and vocational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, group/supportive living as well as residential care (when that is the best option for the individual), etc. As a mother of a child with severe disabilities due to being born with a rare life-limiting genetic diseases that is typically fatal in childhood we are more aware than most that many children who are aborted are terminated due to a prenatal diagnosis.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Abortion Survivor's Mother Speaks Out

Many of our readers are familiar with the name Melissa Ohden. A longtime friend of Secular Pro-Life, Melissa is probably the most outspoken abortion survivor in the United States. She has testified before legislative bodies about her birth following a saline abortion procedure in the late 1970s, and she is the founder of More Than A Choice: Abortion Survivors Network

But do you know the name Ruth Lindahl?

Abortion survivor and pro-life 
advocate Melissa Ohden

Ruth is Melissa's biological mother. They were reunited thirty years after Melissa's odds-defying birth, and they have fully reconciled.

As it turns out, Ruth never wanted to have an abortion. She was only nineteen years old when she conceived Melissa, and Ruth's mother (Melissa's grandmother) demanded the abortion and made the arrangements. When Melissa was born alive, the family conspired to hide that fact from Ruth and secretly placed Melissa for adoption, with the help of a family friend in the clerk of court's office. 

In an interview reported exclusively by the Christian Post, Ruth explains that her churchgoing, locally prominent parents were appalled that she became pregnant before marriage, and they pursued the coerced abortion to protect their reputations. (Ruth was in fact engaged, but her parents hated her fiance, and the engagement unsurprisingly fell apart in the traumatic aftermath of the "abortion.") Although Ruth is a woman of faith, she has harsh criticism for her fellow Christians who prioritize appearances over basic decency and compassion.

Melissa asked Ruth: "What would you tell someone right now, if somebody listens to this, if they're thinking about having an abortion, what would you tell them?" Her answer was simple and powerful: "I would tell them to think five times over... that they will regret it for the rest of their life; they will think forever about that baby."

You should definitely check out the full interview, which I am told is just the first in a series of videos uniting abortion survivors and their biological parents. Stay tuned.


Friday, September 11, 2020

March for Life announces 2021 theme


The March for Life has been held every January, around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, since 1974. Luckily, the March itself always takes place outdoors, with pro-life advocates walking down the National Mall toward the Supreme Court building — and since outdoor protests like Black Lives Matter have not led to COVID-19 spikes, I believe the March for Life can continue to operate safely. But the ecosystem of indoor events that has grown up around the March for Life over the years is another matter. Those auxiliary events have largely been cancelled (the National Pro-Life Summit) or gone virtual (the O'Connor conference at Georgetown). To be clear, that's the right decision; I am not complaining, and I know this is a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. I am merely, as a human being, struggling to process all the changes the pandemic has thrown my way. 

Where was I? Right! The March for Life! Although we march every year for the same basic reason — to register our protest against Roe and memorialize the millions of innocent human beings destroyed by abortion — the pro-life cause is multi-faceted, and each March for Life has a particular theme. For instance, the most recent March for Life focused on pro-life feminism to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The 2019 theme was "Unique from Day One," focused on the science of life at fertilization. 

The 2021 March for Life theme, just announced last night, is "Together Strong: Life Unites." I couldn't have selected a better theme for these tumultuous times. The pro-life movement unites people of all backgrounds — every age, gender, race, and religion (including no religion!) — to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family. Secular Pro-Life is honored to play a role in this diverse campaign for human rights.  

P.S. — Since we are saving on the cost of conference exhibit booths this year, we are thinking about using that money to order custom masks and distribute them at the March for Life. Is there a particular pro-life slogan you'd like to see on our masks? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Secular Pro-Life August Recap!

Projects
Secular Pro-Life's president Kelsey Hazzard was busy this month so check it out:

Mid-August Kelsey was featured in an interview on Respect Life Radio, a Denver-based Catholic radio station.  Of particular interest, discussion on Proposition 115, which would clamp down on late-term abortions in the state.  

Later in August, she was one of two debaters representing the pro-life side on the YouTube channel Modern-Day Debate

In other news, Rehumanize International came out with a plan for restorative justice in a world after the end of Roe v. Wade.  Secular Pro-Life has come on-board as one of the organizations endorsing this plan.  Students for Life Action has developed a strategic plan to improve a culture of life within the United States which SPL has also signed on to.  Check it out here.

SPL's own pro-life firebrand Terrisa Bukovinac was one of the many dedicated pro-life Democrats to make their voices heard during the Democratic National Convention, even though officially they were not included at the convention.  

And finally, August 29th Secular Pro-Life joined several other organizations as co-sponsor at the first virtual Rehumanize Conference.  This was a conference focused on the spectrum of life issues - from abortion to war and everything in between and SPL had a virtual booth.  If you missed it, keep an eye out for when they post videos of the conference on their YouTube page.

The Rehumanize Conference featured speakers from all over the country
Twitter
We gained 207 new followers, bringing us to 11,980 total. We sent out 33 tweets this month which were viewed 141,700 times.  The story that got most people talking?  Where Secular Pro-Life was forced to do The Washington Post's fact-checking for them.  No retraction by The Washington Post as of this email.
Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?  (apparently SPL)
 
Facebook
In August we gained 107 followers, bringing us to 33,132 total. Our content was viewed over 252,356 times, including 10,381 views of our snarky meme that encapsulates how far too many pro-choicers come across to pro-lifers who see abortion as a human rights violation.
"I reject your reality and substitute my own!"
Blogger
Our three most-read blog posts for August, in increasing order:
  • In Depth: Abortion in Ireland After Repeal of the Right to Life: A post-mortem on the impact abortion legalization has had on this country that once protected both.  
  • Shouting About Heartbeats: This post showcases the mental gymnastics certain pro-choice advocates have found themselves doing when they interpret a heartbeat ban as a 6-week ban because that is about when a heartbeat shows up, then claim that a 6-week embryo doesn't have a heartbeat.
  • Yeah, about that bizarre "Satanic abortions" story:  Well, SPL fandom, this is your top viewed blog post.  Frankly, I'm a little worried about you.  This is a handy analysis of The Satanic Temple's political goals and methods and is a perfectly good post for those of you interested in the intersection between the separation of church and state issues and abortion.  But we all know the real reason you clicked on this one with its clickbaity title.
Join our army of bloggers with a guest post! Guest posts help us cover a more diverse range of perspectives, topics, and experiences. If you have an idea for a piece you'd like to submit, please email us at info@secularprolife.org to discuss.
Thank you to our supporters
Thank you to those of you who donate to help support our work. SPL is run by dedicated volunteers, and we would not be able to devote the time and energy without the help of donors like you.

In gratitude for all their hard work in putting together the Rehumanize Conference, consider donating to Rehumanize International.  An anonymous donor is currently matching all donations up to $5000.  You can donate to them here.

And if you haven't already, come find us on social media!

Friday, September 4, 2020

Louisiana's Amendment 1, the "Love Life" Amendment, Explained

A young person stands outside the Supreme Court of the United States holding a pro-life sign. The sign is in the shape of Louisiana and reads "Patients before profits."

When the people of the Pelican State hit the polls on November 3, the first amendment on our ballot will be a pro-life measure ensuring that no right to abortion or government funding of abortion can be found in the state’s constitution. The new tactic of law firms representing the abortion-industrial complex is to petition state courts to find a right to abortion in the state's foundational legal document. For example, just last year, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the right to terminate pregnancies is inherent in its state constitution, meaning that abortion will remain fully legal even if Roe v. Wade is overturned and leaving no right to appeal. About a dozen other states are caught in the same judicially imposed trap. Louisiana has had a trigger law on the books since June of 2006, meaning that if Roe is overturned, abortion will automatically be banned. But if a Louisiana court finds a right to abortion in our state's constitution, the trigger law could be rendered null and void. That is why it is vital that Louisianians vote yes to Amendment 1 on November 3.

The Love Life amendment was authored by state senator Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe), a powerhouse in the pro-life Democratic movement, and her colleague Sen. Beth Mizel (R-Franklinton). The amendment reads in full: "To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion." You can read the complete legislation authorizing the ballot measure here. The amendment has been endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, both U.S. senators from Louisiana, Louisiana Right to Life, and several other faith communities.

The Love Life amendment is expected to pass in Louisiana, as the pro-life movement in our state is strong and uniquely bipartisan. Louisiana is the only state with a pro-life Democratic governor, Jon Bel Edwards, and other leaders like Sen. Katrina Jackson who stand for the rights of unborn children as well as more traditionally Democratic issues such as Medicaid expansion and racial justice.

In addition to ensuring that the most valuable and fundamental right to life for all humans is enshrined in the Louisiana constitution, the Love Life amendment also prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions. Although the Democratic Party is pushing for taxpayer funding of abortion, it's an unpopular cause; multiple polls demonstrate that the majority of Americans do not want their tax dollars going toward the killing of unborn children. Passing the Love Life amendment is important not only to protect pregnant people and preborn children here in Louisiana, but also to demonstrate the power of pro-life Democrats. If the pro-life Democrats in Louisiana join with Republican counterparts to affirm that our constitution values preborn life, the Democratic Party may realize that using extreme pro-abortion ideology as a litmus test is a losing issue.

TJ Burgess, a self-identified pro-life Democrat and Louisiana college student, explains his reasons for supporting Amendment 1: "As a college student, I’m proud to support the Love Life Amendment, which will ensure that abortion giants don’t profit off of young students who are in desperate need of life-affirming resources and care. The abortion industry is terrified of losing millions of dollars because Louisiana is becoming a more pro-life, life-affirming state, but that’s why it is vital to pass this amendment and provide support to pregnant people." 

President of student group Nicholls for Life and self-described progressive pro-life feminist Rebecca Beyer says: "I fully support this amendment as a vital step toward creating a holistic culture of life. I hope that this will set a trajectory in the right direction towards a state and country and world in which all human life is valued and protected."

Long-time Louisiana pro-life activist Ashlen Sandoz says, "The Love Life amendment is important to support because it seeks to change our laws to recognize the humanity of a group of people who is being dehuamanized. As someone who believes in more progressive ideas, I know that a right cannot be granted by taking away the rights of a vulnerable population."

[Today's guest post is by Sophie Trist. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Democratic Party Targets Life-Saving Hyde Amendment

YouGov data shows majority support for the Hyde Amendment, which limits taxpayer subsidies of abortions

During the Democratic primary, former Vice President Joe Biden was forced to explain his view on the Hyde Amendment. On June 5, 2019, his campaign claimed Biden supported Hyde, which bans federal Medicaid funds from paying for elective abortions. Biden had held that view for years, and was once considered a moderate. 

After facing backlash from his primary rivals, Biden was forced to "clarify" his statement. A mere day later he said that he no longer supported the Hyde Amendment. 

Much was written about Biden’s views following the announcement. The Washington Post wrote that "Joe Biden learned the hard way there is no middle ground on abortion." And many discussed the change of view with regards to Biden being a Catholic.

It is worth stressing, however, that the position a candidate takes on taxpayer funded abortions, if they wish to best reflect the American people, should not be affected by their religion, or lack thereof. 

Ultimately, Biden became the Democratic Party's nominee, while Senator Kamala Harris, a primary rival who vocally criticized Biden on Hyde, was nominated to be his Vice President. 

To the Democratic Party, repealing the Hyde Amendment is about equal access to health care being a right. In this line of thinking, that means abortion. "If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's ZIP code," Biden said. "I can't justify leaving millions of women without the access to care they need, and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right," he added.

The Democratic Party position is not merely semantics. The Los Angeles Times reported on August 28 that "House Democrats will try to repeal long-standing ban on federal money for abortions." A disturbing prospect, but nothing new, right?

Wrong. It shows that Democratic leadership is taking active steps to end Hyde:

Now, top House Democrats say they plan to challenge that status quo. Beginning next year, Democratic leaders in the House no longer will back the annual move to put the prohibition into law, they’ve told a small group of House Democrats.

While Americans support keeping the Hyde Amendment, as further explained below, that’s no longer the case with the Democratic Party. "The Democratic party's changing position on the policy has been swift," the article mentions. "It's not just [lawmakers] from safe Democratic districts" who support changing the law, [Rep. Diana] DeGette said. Support comes from "across the entire Democratic caucus," the article continues.

It is almost certain that this move from House Democrats, if successful, will have paramount consequences. What are the personal impacts of the Hyde Amendment on human life, though?

The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization vocally in favor of repealing Hyde, paints a grim picture. In a 2013 report, they flippantly offered an estimate on what the abortion rates would look like:

The number of abortions among Medicaid-eligible women nationwide would be expected to increase by approximately 33,000 if the Hyde amendment were to be repealed—or only a 2.5% increase in the number of abortions performed nationwide.

"Only?" How can one so casually mention these 33,000 additional abortions and excuse it that it’s "only a 2.5% increase…?"

As admitted by the New York Times, discussing American’s views on the Hyde Amendment, it "depends how and whom you ask," emphasis added. 

Perhaps the worst example is a Hart Research Associates poll, commissioned by All* Above All, whose very purpose is to repeal the Hyde Amendment. It's delusional to say such a poll could not be expected to be biased and misleading. Even when taxpayer funds were mentioned, it was through an offered question with prejudgment, just as virtually every other question asked.

"Using taxpayer dollars for abortion forces all of us to pay for them–even people who don't believe in abortion," was an option for respondents to choose with which they agreed with most. Only 37 percent chose the response. Conversely, the only other option, which 63 percent chose, read "However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny insurance coverage for it just because a person is struggling financially." Decide for yourself if that's a fair wording. 

This opinion piece by The Hill references the poll, but does not mention All* Above All’s involvement. 

Polls which objectively ask respondents about their thoughts on taxpayer funded elective abortions, consistently show a majority against repealing the Hyde Amendment. 

Fortunately, the New York Times mentions other polls which show support for the Hyde Amendment, a Politico and YouGov poll, both from 2016.

Each year the Knights of Columbus commissions a Marist poll. These polls, including the one for 2020, have shown overall opposition to taxpayer funded abortions, including from those who are pro-choice. 

Even Slate, which is pro-choice, recognized support for the Hyde Amendment and recommended candidates heed such views. The piece also mentions the Politico/Morning Consult poll from 2019 and PRRI from 2018. 

Another poll, from McLaughlin & Associates, commissioned by the Susan B. Anthony List, shows a majority of respondents opposing abortions paid for with taxpayer funded dollars. 

This year's Democratic Party platform was clear throughout that a goal of the Biden-Harris administration is to repeal the Hyde Amendment. The 2016 platform was the first to say so. Any such discussion was virtually absent from the convention, other than when Harris briefly mentioned in her acceptance speech an "injustice in reproductive and maternal health care." That same night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used "championing a woman's right to choose and defending Roe v. Wade" as her first example of how Democrats "are unleashing the full power of women to take their rightful place in every part of our national life..."

Both the pro-life and pro-choice media took notice at the lack of a comprehensive discussion of proposed abortion policy. 

Meanwhile, speakers at the Republican National Convention addressed the Democratic Party's view on abortion, included taxpayer funded procedures, each night. 

As various media sources commented, it is rather strange that the Democrats would leave out such a fundamental tenet from their convention. This is especially the case when they're so set on refusing to budge on Hyde. Perhaps it's because they don't think that they need to earn the support of the American people with such a dramatic move. 

There is a hopeful, human side to the Hyde Amendment, however. The #HelloHyde campaign was introduced in 2016, the 40th anniversary of Hyde.

A child born via Medicaid wears a
name tag that says "#HelloHyde
my name is Noah."

Also in 2016, the Charlotte Lozier Institute released estimations that over 2 million lives were saved because of Hyde. For those born after 1976 through Medicaid, 1 in 9 owe their lives to Hyde. It's #HelloHyde which puts a face to these countless, invaluable lives.

So, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the Democratic ticket want taxpayers to fund abortions. The American people don’t, though. It's time for politicians to listen to their constituents, with all views on abortion, who don’t want their taxpayers going to a procedure which is not only elective, but morally reprehensible to the conscience of so many Americans. 

[Today's guest post is by Rebecca Downs. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Monday, August 31, 2020

Rehumanize Conference Recap

Rehumanize Conference speakers Jazzi Milton, Herb Geraghty, Kristen Day, and Tom Shakely

Saturday's Rehumanize Conference was incredible. The organizers did a terrific job pivoting to a virtual format. One happy side effect: the conference attracted attendees from most U.S. states and several other countries, including Germany, Japan, and Australia! For most, it was the first time they'd been able to attend. It was a great demonstration of radical inclusivity, which (as organizer Herb Geraghty reminded us) requires an examination not only of who we are working for, but who we are working with.  

Rehumanize International's executive director Aimee Murphy kicked it off with her argument for the consistent life ethic, rejecting the notion that human rights should be based on one's innocence or usefulness. My favorite quote: "I constantly get asked how I approach the voting booth, and my answer is always: 'With angst and trepidation.'"

The morning panel on police, prisons, and the death penalty was excellent. Zuri Davis, who reports on exoneration stories, prosecutorial misconduct, and prison abuses for Reason, talked about the legal doctrines that stand in the way of accountability. She urged us not to let criminal justice fade as an issue after November. Abraham Bonowitz of Death Penalty Action described his work bringing together the "voices of experience," including wrongfully convicted people, former executioners, and the family members of both murder victims and death row inmates. Hannah Cox of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty shared her insight that "support for the death penalty runs about a mile wide and an inch deep." She works both with people who oppose the death penalty for moral reasons, and with those whose reasons are strictly practical. But the most impactful panelist for me was Miea Walker of Forward Justice, who shared the struggles she faced reintegrating into the community after serving a prison sentence. She is currently focused on COVID-19 decarceration efforts; her former cellmate died from the virus in May.  

The next panel was "Pro-Life Perspectives." Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America had harsh words for her party's destructive disregard of babies who are "unwanted." Aside from being morally appalling, she argued that the party's abortion stance is responsible for a loss of electoral advantage at the state level. She noted that the 2020 DNC was muted on abortion, especially compared to 2016: "They know it's a losing issue." Tom Shakely of Americans United for Life discussed long-term policy strategy. Jazzi Milton of Pro-Life San Francisco talked about her mission to extend her city's welcoming reputation to the most vulnerable children in the womb. She declared: "If we can make San Francisco pro-life, the world will follow!" 
 
I then attended a breakout session on feminism and the consistent life ethic, led by pro-life atheist Rachel Peller. Rachel shared stories from her time as a Birthright volunteer, including helping a woman escape an abusive relationship and observing that the vast majority of abortions are motivated by economic insecurity. Her desire to identify and address the root causes of abortion led her to pursue a degree in women's studies. She gave an excellent overview of pro-life feminist traditions, noting that there has never been a single definition of feminism; we really have feminisms, and participants in feminist movements must adapt to challenge a variety of gender-based power structures. 

Next up was Robert Saleem Holbrook of the Amistad Law Center & the Human Rights Coalition, who lost two cousins to gun violence. He also participated in a drug-related homicide when he was sixteen years old, for which he served 27 years in prison. Having been on both sides of the issue, he said "There's no wall between victims and offenders." He advocated moving away from harsh sentences like life without parole (which he calls "death by incarceration") and toward approaches that get to the root of community trauma, arguing that we need not sacrifice public safety to do so. He also shared this excellent short documentary about women serving life sentences for crimes committed in their youth:

 

The next session I attended was Aimee Murphy's breakout on sexual violence. She bravely shared the details of her own rape and trauma response, which I will not recount here. Suffice to say that she is a powerful advocate for educating people about consent from a young age. 

David Swanson of World Beyond War spoke on the topic: "Can War Ever Be Just?" He answered in the negative. Much of his keynote was devoted to a discussion of World War II, since it is often cited as the prototypical just war. His argument was that the United States and other Allied countries had ample opportunities to prevent the Holocaust before World War II broke out, but failed by their racist refusal to accept Jewish refugees. The costs of war, particularly its opportunity costs, were also discussed. 
 
Mikhayla Stover, who wittily described herself as an expert in "immigration policy and making people really depressed at parties," provided a 101-style introduction to the disastrous history of United States interventions in Latin America. It is summarized in a three-part vicious cycle: (1) destabilization, e.g. sponsoring coups and promoting banana republics; (2) deflection of responsibility; and (3) detention of immigrants who cross the border into the United States. She also talked briefly about the narrowing paths to legal immigration and the rise of private prison companies.

Ismail Smith-Wade-El, an anti-racist advocate and local elected official, asked: "Do we love America enough to deal with racism in a meaningful way?" Doing so will require us to recognize forms of racism more subtle than slurs and burning crosses. He encouraged us to expand our horizons to include problems like gentrification, acknowledge internal prejudices (rather than claiming colorblindness), seek out perspectives different from our own, and actively intervene in racist situations as they are happening. He made the point that racist systems harm everyone, including white people, quoting Zora Neale Hurston: "Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me."
 
John Kelly of Not Dead Yet gave a powerful keynote on ableism, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. He shared some startling statistics on the reasons people give for physician-assisted suicide; many are based on the ableist idea that dependence on others is humiliating, making issues like incontinence a fate worse than death. He connected this attitude to surveys showing that white, affluent, privileged people are the most likely to support assisted suicide, while people of color and other marginalized groups broadly oppose it. He lamented abhorrent media treatment of disability, from news coverage that identifies with parents who kill their autistic children, to movies like "Me Before You" promoting a better-dead-than-disabled narrative. All of this has been made worse by COVID-19, especially for people living in nursing homes. The case of Michael Hickson is the stuff of nightmares. 

The final breakout I attended was a joint presentation on creative expression. Maria Oswalt of Rehumanize International focused on visual art, urging artists to carefully reflect on both the message and the medium. (Her prime example of what not to do? The infamous Pepsi/Kendall Jenner commercial.) Sarah Terzo of PLAGAL+ and Live Action took up poetry and fiction. She gave numerous examples of works with consistent life ethic messages, noting that science fiction is a particularly good way to humanize the "other" and expose the evils that logically follow from dehumanization. 

And speaking of creative expression, the conference concluded with the annual Create | Encounter release party. You can check out all the winners and honorable mentions here, but if you only have time for one thing, make it this poem by our frequent guest contributor Acyutananda.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Pro-Life Happenings THIS WEEKEND

It's a very busy time for Secular Pro-Life!

Saturday, August 29 (TOMORROW) from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern: Join us for the virtual Rehumanize Conference! This can't-miss event brings together activists on a range of issues — including abortion, racism, the death penalty, and much more — to learn from one another and promote the value of every human being. It's not too late to register! More info here and here

Sunday, August 30 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern: Tune into the Modern-Day Debate channel on YouTube for — what else? — an abortion debate! The pro-life side will be represented by Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard and pro-life libertarian Kay Fellows. The pro-choice side will be represented by YouTubers Hannah Reloaded and NineTail CosmicFox

In case you missed it, part 1: Last Saturday, Rehumanize International and Americans United for Life released a vital agenda for restorative justice after Roe v. Wade is reversed. Secular Pro-Life is pleased to endorse this plan because we know that our work will not end with Roe's reversal; defiant illegal abortionists will need to held accountable, and we will need to bring healing to individuals, families, and communities impacted by abortion. These concrete restorative justice proposals will guide our way. Read more here, or watch the presentation here.

In case you missed it, part 2: 'Tis the week of strategic planning! On Wednesday, Students for Life Action released their Blueprint for a Post-Roe America, a youth-led plan to build and sustain a pro-life society, which Secular Pro-Life has also endorsed. The six key points are (1) reverse Roe and Doe; (2) curtail the expansion of the abortion industry; (3) promote adoption and foster care reform; (4) support pregnant and parenting students; (5) encourage family-friendly workplaces; and (6) defund the abortion industry. Add your name to the blueprint and check out the launch video, featuring Kelsey Hazzard alongside Kristan Hawkins, Christina Bennett, Charlotte Pence Bond, and Joshua Edmonds!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Book Review: "Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women"

In her new book Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women, author Lyz Lenz seeks to demythologize motherhood and explore its human, physical reality. Belabored does an admirable job of examining how narratives of motherhood are constructed in American culture, and how those narratives often erase the humanity and lived experiences of marginalized pregnant people. Though Lenz is unapologetically pro-choice, this book can help pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike understand how our society treats various types of mothers. With this knowledge, we can work toward a more inclusive, life-affirming world for all.

One of Lenz's most compelling points is that our cultural mythology of motherhood focuses almost exclusively on married, middle-class, able-bodied white women who can afford to stay home and care for their children 24/7. America does not consider Black, LGBTQ, disabled, or fat women to be ideal mothers. Nearly half of pregnant women in the U.S. are considered obese, and study after study shows that doctors routinely fail to see the woman for the weight, making generalizations based on biased and obsolete data. Fat mothers' food choices and those of their children are judged and scrutinized, and if they are not strictly regulating their bodies, society treats them with condescension and scorn. All pregnant people deal with this to some extent, with random strangers touching their stomachs without consent and offering unsolicited advice, but the judgment is much harsher for fat women.

Black women are also excluded from the mythology of American motherhood. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, with an estimated 700-900 deaths annually, a staggering sixty percent of which are preventable. The maternal mortality rate for Black women is three times higher than that of white women. Due to unconscious bias in the medical system, pregnant Black women are often undertreated for pain, and when they report symptoms, they are less likely to be believed. Lenz also calls out the virulent homophobia that pregnant LGBTQ people face when seeking care: being misgendered, being forced to fill out forms assuming a heteronormative family structure, having the nonbirthing partner being barred from the delivery room even in situations where a heterosexual male partner would be permitted. Lenz discusses how the patriarchal medical establishment discredited midwives and over-medicalized the female body, taking childbirth out of supportive feminine communities and relegating it strictly to hospital settings controlled by men. A quarter of women report experiencing some form of trauma or PTSD after childbirth, feeling that their autonomy and wishes were not respected. Despite these powerful discussions, the book takes a strong pro-choice stance and is inconsistent in discussions of preborn life.

Lenz refers to her first pregnancy as "the first time I created life." But later in the book, she refers to zygotes as potential life. Lenz writes exquisitely about the feelings of grief, shame, and emptiness that accompany miscarriage, stating that for the intangible worth we ascribe to every human being, including the viable fetus, no tangible substitute exists. But the worth is ascribed, not inherent. The worth exists only so long as the unborn child is wanted and planned. 

Lenz defaults to the common pro-choice argument that the truth of when a human life becomes a person is and always will be unknown, because it's a question of philosophy, not science. She dismisses pro-lifers' claim to speak for the unborn as "creating a divide where none exists" between mother and child. Apparently, by asserting the individuality of preborn children, pro-lifers turn pregnancy into an adversarial relationship. She seems to want to have her cake and eat it too: to see the pregnant person and preborn child as simultaneously a united whole and two distinct entities. Lenz raises this fascinating question about the relationship between mother and child: "Even after the umbilical cord is cut, is the separation total?" She acknowledges that newborn children contain cells from both of their parents and are still completely dependent on them for care, yet she sees no cognitive dissonance in the fact that it is somehow okay to kill those children inside of the womb but not outside of it. The author clearly considers newborn children to be persons, so despite all her talk about autonomy, independence is clearly not the defining criteria of personhood. I can only assume that the author believes in the magical power of the birth canal to turn human lives with little outside moral relevance into actual people.

Despite its inconsistencies regarding preborn life, Belabored is a powerful book about pregnancy and motherhood that pro-lifers can get much out of. In addition to working to end abortion, pro-lifers can and should work toward improving birth outcomes for Black, disabled, fat, and LGBTQ people. Birth should be an empowering experience, not a traumatic one, and we can work to stamp out racist, ableist, and homophobic biases in our communities and healthcare system that rob pregnant people of their autonomy and humanity during their prenatal, delivery, and postnatal periods. We can normalize nonbinary/transgender pregnancies instead of treating them as sad aberrations. We can tell more inclusive stories about motherhood, focusing on the experiences of invisible and marginalized mothers. In this way, the pro-life movement can help our world see mothers not just as vessels for preborn children, but as nuanced, multi-faceted human beings with complex needs. Only then will we build a culture in which abortion can become unnecessary and unthinkable.

[Today's guest post is by Sophie Trist. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Monday, August 24, 2020

Yeah, about that bizarre "Satanic abortions" story

Earlier this month, you may have seen a few headlines about "Satanic abortions" that made you roll your eyes and flash back to kooky chain emails you received from your uncle in the early 2000s. Allow me to explain what is going on. 

Let's begin by clarifying the nature of the Satanic Temple, which despite the name does not worship Satan or any other supernatural being. It's actually an atheist group which promotes seven tenets, some of which sound pro-life — like support for science and "compassion and empathy toward all creatures" — but in the abortion context, the humanity of unborn children is always sacrificed at the proverbial altar of Tenet #3: "One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone." (A full rebuttal of the "sovereign zone" argument for abortion would make this blog post several times longer, so I'll just link to our good friends at the Equal Rights Institute.) 

The Satanic Temple is known for enforcing church-state separation through a variety of legal campaigns. For instance, when towns try to erect Christian symbols on public land, the Satanic Temple will apply to erect a statue of their own (pictured right) as permitted by Supreme Court precedent. The town then has three choices: (1) allow the Satanic statue; (2) stop erecting any religious symbols at all; or (3) discriminate against the Satanic Temple, prompting a lawsuit which the town will inevitably lose. Although this approach has given the Satanic Temple a trollish reputation, it's a win-win-win as far as the law goes. 

They are now trying to replicate that strategy in the abortion context, by presenting abortion as a religious ritual subject to the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The idea is to create a scenario where a court must either (1) strike down pro-life laws, or (2) undermine RFRA, with either result advancing the Satanic Temple's goals. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might notice an ironic, unintentional point of agreement between Secular Pro-Life and the Satanic Temple — we have previously argued that pro-abortion beliefs are essentially religious.

But the Satanic Temple is wrong about the law. Their scenario doesn't present the catch-22 they think it does. A judge can and should treat abortion as a religious ritual subject to RFRA, and still uphold the pro-life laws that are being targeted.

To understand why, we need to look at RFRA. Contrary to popular perception, RFRA is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, where people can claim a religious exemption from any law they don't like. To take an extreme example, RFRA will not embrace your attempt to restore Mayan religious practices, complete with human sacrifice atop a stately ziggurat. That's because RFRA does not apply when the government can show that the challenged law "(1) furthers a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest."

If that sounds familiar to you, it should: it mirrors the Supreme Court test that already governs abortion law

When it comes to protecting unborn babies, the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized what it calls a "state's interest in potential life." That is the compelling governmental interest furthered by pro-life legislation. Although the phrase "potential life" is obviously unscientific nonsense, this legal doctrine has nonetheless created an opening for states to save some actual lives from abortion. The Supreme Court permits pro-life laws so long as they do not create an "undue burden" on a mother's right to abort her child. The measures the Satanic Temple seeks to challenge, like waiting periods and informed consent, received a green light from the Supreme Court years ago under that test.

For the Satanic Temple to succeed, it's going to have to convince a judge that the "least restrictive means" and "undue burden" tests are substantially different and should lead to opposite results. That's some pretty fine hair-splitting if you ask me. I will keep an eye on it, but for now, I suggest you rest easy and take the Satanic Temple's legal threat about as seriously as an early 2000s chain email.