Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What do turtles have to do with abortion?

I have been a highly involved pro-life advocate for nearly a decade now, and I also happen to be a lawyer. And yet I didn't know about this interesting fact until recently. I came across it completely by chance.

So here's your fun fact of the day: turtles can bring lawsuits.

I'm completely serious (click to enlarge):

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) empowers non-human animals to be plaintiffs in ESA lawsuits. Yes, naturally, ESA suits are brought by environmental lawyers. But those lawyers don't represent a person, nor do they represent a human-led environmental organization (like the Sierra Club). The animals themselves are the plaintiffs.

I find that fascinating, but not entirely unprecedented. Lawsuits can be brought by many parties who are incapable of understanding the legal system and who require special representation, such as infants and young children, people with severe mental or intellectual disabilities, and people on life support. So why not turtles?

And obviously, since this is a pro-life blog, why not the preborn?

A measure recently passed in Alabama provides representation to preborn babies in judicial bypass proceedings. Judicial bypass is a procedure, mandated by the Supreme Court, which allows a teenager to petition a judge for permission to have an abortion without the knowledge of her parents. The proceeding is a matter of life or death for the preborn child, making the need for representation obvious. The fact that the United States does not currently recognize preborn children as legal persons is irrelevant, because turtles aren't legal persons either!

Abortion advocates have no good legal argument here, so they've resorted to mocking the attorneys appointed to represent the interests of preborn children in Alabama, saying it's a "crazy-ass job." But it's surely no crazier than being a turtle lawyer.

Those who are the least capable of defending themselves are, practically by definition, those who are most deserving of legal representation. The abortion lobby may not like it, but we must continue to speak for the voiceless.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Abortion Religion: or, the baby isn't really dead

Last week, pro-life media outlets broke the story of a pro-abortion children's book entitled Sister Apple, Sister Pig. The lead character in the book is a little boy who is happy about the fact that his sister was aborted, because "If you kept my sister, you would be tired, and sad, and mad!"

The idea of indoctrinating a child to celebrate the death of a sibling is sick. But I'm more interested in how the author does it. Sister Apple, Sister Pig teaches children that aborted babies are "happy ghosts"—spiritual beings who may reside in inanimate objects or animals. The story is an excellent example of what I like to call the Abortion Religion.

My working definition of the Abortion Religion is: 
A set of supernatural beliefs which justify abortion on the ground that the victim of an abortion isn't really dead.
Adherents to the Abortion Religion selectively borrow concepts from other faiths and twist them to suit their ideological purposes. Sister Apple, Sister Pig is derived from animism, a belief that "non-human entities (animals, plants, and inanimate objects or phenomena) possess a spiritual essence," common in many ancient and tribal religions. The baby isn't really dead; she's just become a spirit (or "ghost").

The Abortion Religion also takes the idea of reincarnation from Eastern religions, but divorces it from the corresponding ideas of karma and ahimsa (non-violence). So, for instance, when a 15-year-old girl who was raised to support abortion became pregnant, she aborted the baby and declared:
Did I feel sad? Yes. Do I regret it? No! Because I know that the spirit I named Mariah will go on to a woman who is ready for her.
The baby isn't really dead; she's just become a spirit named Mariah who will reincarnated as another woman's baby.

The Abortion Religion uses Christianity as well. Late-term abortionist Curtis Boyd, who was once a Baptist minister, prays over his victims, asking "that the spirit of this pregnancy returns to God with love and understanding." The baby isn't really dead; she's just been returned to God.

And so it falls upon me, as someone with no supernatural beliefs, to look like a jerk by pointing out the obvious: the baby is dead. Abortion killed her, and it was permanent.

If you regret an abortion and believe that you will be reunited with your aborted child in the afterlife, I hope that belief brings you comfort. Truly I do. I have no quarrel with peaceful religious people.

But the moment religious beliefs are used to justify violence toward a human being, I have a duty to speak up. And when abortion supporters blather on about pro-lifers "imposing their religion," while themselves ignoring basic scientific facts about preborn life and adhering to the Abortion Religion, you'd better believe I am going to call that out.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Indiana pro-life advocates need your help

I can't put it much better than this young woman does in her email to Secular Pro-Life:
My name is Clare McKinney and I am an undergraduate student at Saint Marys College in Notre Dame, IN. I am an active member in the University of Notre Dame's Right to Life Club. This has put me in contact with [the Life Center, a local PRC]. 
Every Wednesday myself and other students volunteer at the Life Center from 2-7. What I do specifically is work as a sidewalk counselor and talk to the women going into the abortion clinic next door and explain the life giving options that they have. Currently the Life Center has been able to account for 64 "saves" since its opening two years ago. 
Right now is a pivotal moment in our fight for life. The abortion clinic, called the Women's Care Center, has failed its health inspection for the fifth year in a row. The doctor is currently under review to have his license revoked and has two criminal suits pending against him. 
The local news station has been out to cover this story, but I want to get the word out there to more people about the dangers of the Women's Care Center. At this point the issue isn't even so much a pro-life/pro-choice issue, but an issue of women's safety. For years, Dr. Klopfer has been committing illegal acts and putting women in danger. It is time for this to end.
Here's more on Klopfer's scandals, via the Associated Press:
An October inspection cited 27 regulations the clinic did not meet, including proof of staff certification, clinic procedures and disposal of expired medication. The report also details clinic shortcomings, including that 15 out of 30 patient files showed patients were not monitored by qualified personnel other than the doctor while under conscious sedation during an abortion procedure.
And the criminal suits Clare mentions? They're for failure to promptly report statutory rape:
Klopfer faces criminal misdemeanor charges of failing to properly report abortions on 13-year-olds in Gary and South Bend. He is scheduled to appear March 26 before the Indiana Medical Licensing Board for a hearing pertaining to a state investigation on complaints filed against his practices. 
States have good reasons for requiring doctors to report statutory rape. Rapists who prey on underage girls are rarely one-time offenders, and getting them off the street is imperative. That should go without saying, but apparently it doesn't, because Klopfer himself characterizes it as just "paperwork."

Unfortunately, the case continues dragging along (Klopfer first appeared in court last summer), and in the meantime he continues to commit abortions. So a coalition of Indiana pro-lifers have put together a petition urging the Dr. Darren Covington, head of the state's medical licensing board, to revoke the medical licenses necessary for Klopfer's abortion center to operate.

Please sign the petition, regardless of whether or not you live in Indiana. And if you do live in Indiana, consider joining Clare on the sidewalk. Klopfer's potential abortion customers deserve to be fully informed about his legal troubles before making a decision.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TONIGHT: The 40 film comes to Spanish-speaking audiences

40, so called because it was produced in conjunction with the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2013, is a documentary film about the history and future of the pro-life movement. It includes interviews with a diverse array of pro-life leaders, including Secular Pro-Life's Kelsey Hazzard and Pro-Life Humanists' Kristine Kruszelnicki. Click here for our review of the film.

Although the film is not religious, EWTN (the Catholic channel) broadcast it this past January as part of its March for Life coverage. And tonight, 40 will be broadcast to Spanish-speaking audiences via EWTN ESPAƑOL, at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. That's just the beginning:
There will be an encore presentation of the 40 film on March 27 at 8PM ET. 40 will be also be broadcast internationally in Mexico, South America and Spain on March 25 at 5:30AM in Madrid, Spain, at 10:30 PM in Mexico City and at 11:30 PM in Bogota, Colombia.
It's so wonderful that this documentary is reaching such a large audience! For a Spanish review of the film you can share on facebook, click here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Be smart about sidewalk counseling signs

Yesterday, LifeNews published an article entitled "Ambulance Rushes to Abortion Clinic that Killed Woman in Botched Abortion One Year Ago." The abortion business at issue is Preterm in Cleveland, OH, where 22-year-old Lakisha Wilson bled to death in March of 2014. In response, advocates for women and their unborn babies are once again calling for a state investigation into Preterm. But since Wilson's death wasn't enough to kick the bureaucracy into action, who knows if a second incident will have any effect.

Tragic. Outrageous. Unacceptable.

But, uh... can we talk about the signs in this picture taken at the scene?

Yikes. No offense, whoever is running things outside of Preterm, but it doesn't get a whole lot worse than this. The grammatical ambiguity in "Mommy let me live" drives me a little nuts. And just stating that there is an "abortion mill" is completely unhelpful... with or without the bloody font, but especially with. Goodness. I'm secular, and I'd pick a "Pray to end abortion" sign over this mess. Or even "All babies want to get borned."

Allow me offer some alternatives. Given that an abortion patient has died here, that's something you might want to mention! Or do what this clever sidewalk counselor did and invite women to educate themselves; everybody has a data plan nowadays:

Got a personal story? Tell it!
"You can stop and talk to me. I was a teen mom. I've been there."

And rather than just asking women to choose life, offer to be part of the journey:

Bonus points for prenatal development facts!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Supreme Court free speech case has pro-life implications

This morning, the Supreme Court holds oral argument in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. Although the case itself has nothing to do with life issues, the precedent it sets could have a major impact on funding for pregnancy resource centers and clinics.

The Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) sought to create a specialty license plate. State authorities rejected the SCV's proposed design because it features a Confederate flag. Presumably the rejection was premised on the argument that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol, or at the very least has racial connotations that are likely to cause offense. However, "lawyers for the SCV stressed that a visitor to the gift shop in the Texas Capitol can buy replica Confederate currency and miniature Confederate flags, yet when the SCV sought to express the same message it was rejected." Sounds like a classic case of right-hand-doesn't-know-what-the-left-hand-is-doing syndrome.

The SCV sued for violation of its right to freedom of speech. SCOTUSblog sums up the central legal question:
If a state is forbidden by the Constitution to dictate the message that private citizens must put on their license plates, is it also forbidden to veto a message that citizens would prefer? That has been a lingering First Amendment question for nearly four decades, but the Supreme Court now seems prepared to answer it. The answer depends, simply, on whether the voice of the license plate is that of the government, or of the motorist.
The Supreme Court is finally weighing in because license plate cases come up fairly often. Many of those cases concern "Choose Life" plates.

If the voice of the license plate is that of the government, only motorists in pro-life states will be able to obtain Choose Life plates. States hostile to the preborn will continue not to offer the plate, or will stop offering it.

But if the voice of the license plate is that of the motorist, Choose Life plates should become available in all 50 states. According to, pro-life plates are currently available in 27 states and the District of Columbia; approval is being sought in another 15 states; and the plates are tied up in court in New York and North Carolina.

This isn't just a matter of protecting pro-life speech from censorship, as serious an issue as that is. To date, Choose Life plate sales have raised more than $21 million for pregnancy resource centers. If the Court rules in favor of the SCV, that number could grow tremendously.

What about our loyal opposition? Would they take advantage of a favorable ruling to raise license plate money for abortion businesses? They would certainly try, but I'm not terribly concerned. As I previously wrote in connection with the pending North Carolina plate lawsuit:
[T]he availability of a pro-choice plate is no threat to us, and will probably help the pro-life movement in the long run. In those states where pro-choice plates have been introduced, they've been duds. For instance, in Montana, the state Right to Life organization raised $5,570 from specialty license plate sales between April and June 2011. Planned Parenthood of Montana, during the same time frame? $700. 
I also anticipate that, if the Court rules in favor of the SCV, states will quickly implement viewpoint-neutral measures to limit less popular plates, in order to avoid the administrative burden of creating plates that only one or two people want. Those requirements will pass constitutional scrutiny. They will also likely filter out plates with pro-abortion messages.

For example, my home state of Florida requires 1,000 presales before a plate is produced, and "discontinues specialty plates if its sales numbers fall below 1,000 plates for 12 consecutive months." Critics of Florida's gluttonous approach to specialty plates (we have 123) feel that the cut-off number should be higher. I'm inclined to agree. But whatever the number is, Choose Life plates will be safe; they're the #13 best-selling plate in Florida, with nearly 25,000 sold last year.

That's a lot of funding for programs helping mothers in crisis. Let's hope that success spreads to other states! We will alert you when the Supreme Court's decision is announced (which probably will take several months).

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day!

You sure are!
Tomorrow, March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day. We mark the occasion on March 21 (3/21) because Down Syndrome is caused by three copies of chromosome 21. And here are three ways to participate:

1) Wear some colorful socks! Down Syndrome International, which coordinates World Down Syndrome day, asks us to wear crazy socks; "something that people will ask you about so that you can tell them all about World Down Syndrome Day. It is easy to do, so whether you are at home, nursery, school, university, work, play, travel, holiday or anywhere, join in!" By wearing colorful socks, we acknowledge the people with Down Syndrome who "color our lives." Some people are also using the colors blue and yellow.

2) Share articles and graphics that celebrate people with Down Syndrome. There is no shortage of memes to choose from! People with Down Syndrome repeatedly shatter society's lame expectations. From taking on the catwalk at New York fashion week, to owning a restaurant, to starring in a Hollywood film, the possibilities are endless. Share those stories, or share some of the great photos from the International Down Syndrome Coalition's facebook page.

Parents who learn that their child has Down Syndrome are often overwhelmed by (natural) fears, which are amplified by the (unnatural) cultural emphasis on what people with disabilities cannot do rather than what they can do. As a result, it's reported that roughly 90% of children who are prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome become victims of late-term abortion. Pro-life organizations are working to pass legislation that prohibits this horrific discrimination. But in the meantime, we can make a difference simply by illuminating the truth and allowing the lives of people with Down Syndrome to speak for themselves.

3) Donate to a Down Syndrome charity. The National Down Syndrome Society has a five-star Charity Navigator rating. If you prefer to give locally, that's great too. Better yet, volunteer your time with the Special Olympics or Best Buddies.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What's in a Category?

If a pro-choice person you're talking to understands the distinction between the question of biological humanity and philosophical personhood, he/she will undoubtedly attempt to find some property/properties that persons must possess in order to be a person. Some common ones are consciousness, self-awareness, sentience (meaning the ability to sense and feel pain), and desires.

While the person is attempting to locate personhood grounded in these properties, they will usually support their criteria by arguing from analogy. Rocks are not conscious things, and it is not wrong to destroy rocks. The unborn are not conscious, so it is not wrong to destroy the unborn. This can be a common comparison, such as one being made by this individual whose article I came across. Even professional philosophers engage in these kinds of comparisons, although unlike those at the popular level they make a better comparison. They don't compare the unborn to inanimate objects like rocks, but will compare them to other living things, such as when Mary Anne Warren, in her essay On the Legal and Moral Status Of Abortion, argues that the unborn, in the relevant respects of consciousness, are less personlike than the average fish.

The problem with this argument is that it commits a lesser known logical fallacy called the category error fallacy (or category mistake). A category error is a semantic or ontological error in which things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category.* For example, the statement "the number seven smells like pine trees" is a category mistake because numbers are abstract objects and don't produce odors.

What's the category error being made here? By comparing unborn human embryos/fetuses to objects like rocks or living things which do not possess consciousness in the relevant sense to have personhood attributed to them, these pro-choice people are attributing the category of non-consciousness to the unborn human embryo/fetus, when in fact the unborn are not non-conscious, they are pre-conscious. This is an important difference. It is not wrong to destroy rocks because they are not the kind of thing which has a serious right to life. Nor are fish the kind of thing that has a serious right to life (and if they were, it would be just as wrong to kill immature fish as it is to kill mature ones). Your intrinsic value and rights depend on the kind of thing that you are. Since the unborn belong to a conscious species and they are self-directed entities who will develop the present capacity for consciousness if not prevented from doing so, they are in a different category than rocks and guppies.

So whether or not the active potential to develop along the path of human development is morally relevant to the unborn human's intrinsic value (as I argue it is), comparing unborn human beings to non-conscious entities does not do the work of arguing against it.

*Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 58.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Website Under Deconstruction: Disney Trademark Violation Edition

On Sunday, I was researching an abortion business for our "Website Under Deconstruction" series, and wound up contacting the Walt Disney Company's corporate office.

For those of you who haven't visited a Disney park, FastPass is a program that allows you to skip to the front of the line for rides. In essence, it saves your place in line while you do other things in the park. It's a free service.

That is not the description you'll find on the South Wind Women's Center website:

Front of the line for your abortion! Enjoy fond memories of your family summer vacation!

Unsurprisingly, Disney has trademarked the FastPass name. It has a small army of intellectual property lawyers and takes this kind of thing very seriously. I have made them aware.

Some pro-life activists have criticized Disney for donating money to Planned Parenthood (though the donation was supposed to go toward sex education programs, not abortion). But whatever Disney's ideological commitments may be, I find it hard to believe that they'll take kindly to their family-friendly trademark being used to market abortion outright. They should be all over this.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Trans* people and abortion

National Review reports:
Feminists are now arguing about whether or not it’s offensive to talk about abortion as a “women’s issue” because gender is not that simple and men have abortions too.
National Review's attitude about the matter is rather sarcastic. For example:
At the risk of being branded a “cissexist,” feminist essayist and poet Katha Pollitt wrote a piece for the The Nation today daring to suggest that maybe it’s not totally offensive to link being pregnant with being female.
It would be a huge mistake for pro-lifers to adopt that sarcastic attitude.

As far as population demographics are concerned, the overwhelming majority of people who consider abortion are going to be straight cis women. That's a given. But that doesn't mean we should ignore the minority. If we are committed to saving every child we can, we need to reach out to all families experiencing crisis pregnancies and tailor solutions to meet their circumstances. Those circumstances may include issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.

In fact, when I got involved in the pro-life movement as a college student, one of the first pro-life speakers I ever heard was a lesbian. As a teenager several decades ago, she felt under enormous pressure to deny her lesbianism and "act straight." An unplanned pregnancy resulted.

Of course, to be a lesbian and to be trans* are two different things. But I bring it up because, in both cases, the pro-life movement's failure to recognize a world beyond binary heterosexuality can prevent us from effectively serving those in need.

I actually think inclusion of trans* people is not as radical a step for the pro-life movement as it is for the pro-choice movement.

Hear me out. I realize that the pro-life movement has traditionally been associated with social conservatism. I'm not an idiot. But I also see that among my Millennial pro-life cohort, acceptance of trans* people is commonplace. As with same-sex marriage, it's a generational difference more than a political one.

Critically, the pro-life movement has a long tradition of viewing abortion through a broad lens, and that's a tradition that isn't going anywhere. For us, it has never been merely a "women's issue," as Katha Pollitt would like it to be. We have traditionally been concerned about how abortion affects men (particularly fathers), other family members, and the whole community. Obviously we have been concerned about abortion's effect on the child, a concern which has never been limited to children of a particular gender. (No self-respecting pro-lifer would refuse to save an unborn child because an ultrasound revealed an intersex condition, for example.) In short, the pro-life movement is a human rights movement for all people. Why not trans* people?

By contrast, the abortion movement has political difficulties here, as Pollitt recognizes:
Restricting abortion is all about keeping women under the male thumb: controlling women’s sexual and reproductive capacities is what patriarchy is all about. Indeed, that women should decide for themselves is controversial even now. Although the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that men were not entitled to be notified if their wife was planning to end a pregnancy, some polls show large majorities of Americans believe husbands have a right to know. Once you start talking about “people,” not “women,” you lose what abortion means historically, symbolically and socially. It becomes hard to understand why it isn’t simply about the right to life of the “unborn.” After all, men get pregnant too!
Reading Pollitt's piece, I got deja vu. The problem that pregnant trans* people pose for the abortion movement isn't new; it's the same problem that's posed by the existence of pro-life women! It screws with their rhetoric of abortion as freedom from gender oppression. And given the lack of factual support for the pro-choice position (what's with the scare quotes around "unborn"? As if they're not real??), a threat to rhetoric is a serious threat.