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Friday, December 31, 2010

Our year in review

Plenty of pro-life blogs are reviewing the year's top stories. From Live Action's investigation of medical lies in Planned Parenthood abortion counseling to the passage of Obamacare, 2010 has certainly been an eventful year. It's been a banner year for us at SecularProLife.org as well. In only our second year of existence (we were founded in January 2009), we...

...shared the secular pro-life message at the March for Life, Students for Life of America conference, National Right to Life Committee convention, and Liberty University. We also expanded our presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

...began the Secular Sidewalk program. Our Monday bloggers show that sidewalk counseling does not have to be a religious affair. We continue to collect data in the hopes of more effectively saving lives and sparing mothers the pain of abortion. Expect this activism to expand in 2011.

...launched Grow Your Knowledge, a pro-life, comprehensive sex education initiative for teens and young adults.

In addition, SecularProLife.org had over 4000 unique visitors from 69 countries this year! We look forward to continued growth in 2011. As always, your donations are appreciated.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Holiday Message from SecularProLife.org

I've struggled with how to approach this post. I don't put much stock in the "war on Christmas," but it does seem silly to pretend that people are merely celebrating "the holidays." In fact, I've noticed that many of our atheist members are preparing to celebrate Christmas with their families. (No suprise there, really: most American atheists are under 30 and converts from Christianity.) But if I were to wish you all a Merry Christmas, our opponents would inevitably seize on it as evidence that SecularProLife.org is secretly a religious operation. Nor would I wish to alienate those pro-lifers, however few in number, who do not observe Christmas, and for whom SecularProLife.org is expected to serve as a safe haven.

If it's this complicated for me, I can only imagine the predicament that pro-abortion groups face! After all, they spend a great deal of time labeling us "Christian fanatics" and distancing themselves as much as possible from that sort of thing-- but they're certainly not going to pass up a Christmas fundraising opportunity, either, despite the fact that abortion promotion is more than a bit incongruous with what is essentially the world's largest celebration of a birth. Perhaps that explains the bizarre holiday messages that Jill Stanek has documented over the last few days. (The "best" so far? The fetal models converted into "abornaments" as a Planned Parenthood fundraiser!)

My wish for you, whether you are celebrating Christmas, the end of final exams, or nothing in particular: May you be filled with joy, surrounded by family and friends. And may you take the time to remember those less fortunate. Your local pregnancy center would be very grateful for your donation of diapers, blankets, maternity clothes, and other supplies this time of year.

And to the abortion advocates who read this blog, well, I hope that the holiday spirit will have an impact. As it is, I think that this quote from the (pre-reform) Ebenezer Scrooge captures the pro-abortion way of thinking:"If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pro-life Victory on Judicial Appointments

Pro-life advocacy groups and members of Congress put a lot of emphasis on Supreme Court nominations, and for good reason. Only the Supreme Court can overturn Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which would allow pro-life states to legally protect unborn children before the arbitrary point of viability. It's easy to forget the important role of lower federal courts. But of the many cases that are appealed to the Supreme Court, the Court only decides to hear about 4% of them. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the Circuit Courts have the last word. These include cases about important constitutional issues like abortion and the freedom of pro-lifers to peacefully assemble and protest.

President Obama recommended Goodwin Liu for one of these Circuit Courts, but pro-life groups opposed Liu because his well-known pro-abortion views brought his objectivity into question. LifeNews.com reports that Liu will not be approved by the Senate! Three pro-abortion nominees for District Courts (a step below Circuit Courts) were also rejected. Nineteen nominees were approved; none of them faced opposition from pro-life groups.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunny Florida

So, today I sidewalk counseled for the first time outside of Planned Parenthood of Collier County, down in sunny Florida. They perform abortions on Mondays, which is a tad inconvenient when sidewalk counseling. However, if South Florida is known for anything, it is for the retirees. The pro-lifers here are very active and they pray and do counseling from 8 in the morning until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. There are so many of them that they have a shuttle from a local church.
They are very well prepared. Most of their materials are secular (it’s hard to argue with science). They have a dvd and they hand out packets of information in little bags with fetal models. They also have post-abortive packets which they hand out with roses. I really like the idea of handing them roses, it seems like an effective way to get them to stop. The counselors themselves are not in the least bit secular. The first question I was asked was which parish I was from, so I assume that the majority of them are catholic. However, they do use secular arguments when they talk to the women heading into the clinic. They mostly tell people that they’re praying for them post-abortion.
The Planned Parenthood itself is kind of creepy. It’s done in the Mediterranean stucco that all buildings are done in, however, it is completely surrounded by black tarps. These are apparently to keep us from interacting with the patients. They have escorts (or deathscorts if we’re being mean) who are also retirees. They walk everyone in from their cars, using umbrellas so that we can’t see them. Two of them normally carry guns, which they have out whenever the doctor enters or leaves the building. Whenever a car leaves the parking lot (the only time we are near the patients), they stand in front of us, preventing us from giving pamphlets to the cars.
I didn’t stay long today, but while I was there one woman accepted a post-abortive packet. Another woman arrived in obvious pain. All of the “escorts” sobered up immediately. It took them such a long time to get her inside and she walked like she was in labor. None of the other counselors had seen something like this before. We don’t know what was wrong with her, so the following is just my reasoning. This Planned Parenthood only performs abortions up to 13.6 weeks post period, or I’d think it was the laminaria strips causing her to dilate too early. So the only thing I can see it being is a complication with RU-486. We felt awful, there was nothing we could really do or say at that point. One of the counselors just spoke to the man who was with her, offering our sympathies and post-abortive support.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Control and Misogyny

[This is the third post in a series on the pro-life movement and misogyny. Previous posts can be found here:

It cannot be denied that the pro-life perspective endorses a more limited range of options for women. Does taking away options infer hostility or, at best, indifference towards those whose choices we wish to restrict?

Let us now examine another assumption underlying accusations of pro-life misogyny: if you truly care about people, you will approve of or accept any choices they make.

When worded in such a way, this idea seems immediately untenable. It is in fact because of my care for my loved ones that I will reject some of their choices. For example, if someone I loved wanted to use heroin, I would rail against and restrict that choice as much as possible. I believe such a choice would harm my loved one and harm those around her, and I care too much to passively sit by and watch.

There are those within the pro-life movement that argue against abortion because they believe abortion hurts women. This certainly can be true. Some women have endured great emotional and psychological suffering due to obtaining abortions. Some women have been physically injured. Some have died. Many pro-lifers believe permissive abortion law eliminates motivation to provide sufficient support for women who wish to carry their unplanned pregnancies. It is a tragedy and a failure every time a woman obtains an abortion specifically because she feels she doesn't have a choice.

It should be noted that there are post-abortive women who have not suffered mentally or physically--who have in fact felt relieved and grateful for their abortions. There are many women who do choose abortion freely.

Regardless, there are those within the pro-life movement that believe the inhumanity of abortion can overall only harm women. Certainly these pro-lifers care a great deal about fetal life, but they also care a great deal about the women involved. So yes, some people wish to restrict choices out of concern for the choosers.

However, a choice may be bad overall while not necessarily hurting the chooser. Suppose you have a dear friend who is pregnant. She still enjoys having drinks with friends on the weekend. You are aware of the dangers of drinking while pregnant. If you try to stop your friend, does it mean you don't love her?

We all try to live our lives according to certain principles. Well-meaning people won't always hold the same principles. Well outside the abortion debate, most of us have to deal with situations in which people we love want to choose courses we believe are harmful to them or are simply wrong. We don't have to feel antagonistic towards people in order to try to prevent them from making poor decisions. We don't have to feel animosity towards women in order to try to prevent them from choosing abortion.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Abortionists' Legal Woes

Two doctors are reportedly training to become abortionists, with plans to set up shop in Wichita, Kansas. One of them, Mila Means, has a past:
Means has a troubled past that includes disciplinary action taken against her medical license for the misuse of psychiatry in her family practice, having improper personal relationships with patients, and for something more serious that the Kansas Board of Healing Arts has redacted from her public record.

However, the Board did indicate in Means' disciplinary documents that it had the authority to discipline her under a Kansas law for unprofessional conduct including the "commission of any act of sexual abuse, misconduct, or exploitation related to the licensee's professional practice."
No medical misconduct was reported for the other potential new abortionist, Gregory Lindhart, but he did violate a protective order in March of 2010.

A Woman's World Medical Center in Ft. Pierce, FL, has been cited for numerous health and safety violations, including the failure to even have a blood pressure cuff. The kicker?
Bearing in mind pro-aborts often accuse pregnancy care centers of hiring unqualified personnel, the owner admitted to FAHCA that untrained staff performed its ultrasounds, including 2 administrative assistants (neither of whom had personnel files). This is a big deal, particularly since the owner stated the mill uses ultrasounds to determine the age of the baby and cost of abortion.
This would be just another routine abortion dump story, except that the Woman's World mill was featured in 12th and Delaware, an HBO documentary that pro-life critics say is little more than a pro-abortion propoganda film.

On a completely unrelated note, I just learned that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was apparently inspired by drunken abortion advocates defacing a pregnancy center. (Warning: link contains video which contains nudity.) Ironic, given that today's teen spirit is pro-life!

Friday, December 17, 2010

What can we learn from the polls?


You're probably very familiar with this graph by now. Many have been declaring this a success, and in early 2009 with a statistically significant (outside the margin of error) majority it appeared it was. The trend we're seeing in youth is very promising.

In 2010, however, we've dropped to a tenuous and statistically insignificant plurality. However, from other polls we can learn what types of outreach we should focus our attention on.*


As you can see, 3% fewer people identify as "pro-life" than consider abortion to be "morally wrong". This is within the margin of error, but with the drop being from 50% to 47%, I think it's worth outreach to those "personally opposed" to abortion. SecularProLife.org is already doing some of this by its mere existence, as many religious people are unaware of the secular reasons to be pro-life, and are thus pro-choice due to their beliefs on the separation of church and state. There is also probably significant concern about back-alley abortions, and we definitely need to devote attention to the statistical and philosophical reasons why this is not a good reason to be pro-choice.

What I find more interesting is that 7% more people identify as "pro-choice" than consider abortion to be "morally acceptable". At most, 3% of this difference can be accounted for by the "personally opposed" crowd, meaning at least 4% of the 12% morally undecided/neutral crowd consider themselves "pro-choice". I think this means people don't understand that the benefit of the doubt should go to life.

The demographic differences are less interesting. There is only a 5% gender gap, for instance, on the morality of abortion (women being more against it), but very slightly (1%) less likely to identify as "pro-life". In addition, Republicans and Democrats have become more pro-life and pro-choice, respectively, but it's hard to know if this is an actual change in anyone's opinions or just a result of pro-life liberals feeling not welcome in the Democratic party.

What I find most interesting is the role education plays in the legality polls, with graduating from college (especially among women) being correlated to support for the "legal under all circumstances" view of legality. By emphasizing the scientific/biological and philosophical arguments against abortion, SecularProLife.org also helps address this issue.

In summary, if we take the current 47% pro-life plurality, and manage to get people to vote their consciences (+3%) and give the benefit of the doubt to life (+12%), we should get a sizable (62%) pro-life majority without actually having to change anyone's mind on the morality of abortion!


As demonstrated by this graph, those who view abortion as morally acceptable have been consistently in the minority. Even when those who view abortion as morally wrong were below 50% (2001, 2006, & 2008) or at 50% (2004 & 2010), everyone against abortion voting their consciences and everyone with no opinion giving the benefit of the doubt to life would bring a sufficient majority to protect the rights of the unborn.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quick News Bulletin: 12/16/10

Today I'm going into a little more depth on a few stories - so check them out.

Ireland - The European Union's Court ruled that the Irish abortion ban breached the human rights of a specific woman in a specific instance. The decision is already being dubbed the "Roe v. Wade of Europe." Three women brought a joint motion against the Irish law - one was a recovering alcoholic who wanted an abortion because she was afraid a new child would limit her chances of regaining custody of her other children; one woman was afraid to be a single mother; the third woman had a rare form of cancer which a) could have come back due to the pregnancy and b) her cancer treatments could have had an impact on the unborn child. The European Human Rights Court only ruled in favor of the third woman, not the first two, regarding the Irish law. The judgement said, "The court considered that the establishment of any such risk to her life clearly concerned fundamental values and essential aspects of her right to respect for her private life." Irish law will now need to change to reflect this ruling.

Canada - Canadian Parliament voted down a bill which would have made it illegal to coerce a woman into getting an abortion. The bill failed by a margin of 178 against to 97 in favor. The Conservative Party leadership actually opposed the bill on the grounds that they felt that this was already the law and that this specific legislation was unnecessary. Heritage Minister James Moore said, “I just think it’s legally unnecessary...Those protections already exist in the criminal code. That was the justice minister’s assessment and I agree with him.”

Wisconsin - In Madison, Wisconsin, a new surgery center was supposed to be offering late-term abortions. That has changed. Originally, the new center was planning to perform late term abortions and had even approved plans last year to that effect. Pro-life groups in Wisconsin fought the plan and can take this as a minor victory that they have scrapped the proposal. That said, the UW Medical system says, "...it remains committed to providing the procedure [abortion] eventually."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Roe v. Wade: A Brief Overview



In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Roe v. Wade. The Court reasoned that a woman has a right to an abortion under the Constitution’s implied right to privacy. The Court’s reasoning has subsequently been derided by people from both the pro-choice and pro-life movements.

If you want evidence of how disconnected this thought process is, you need look no further than current abortion debates. In my experience, pro-choice advocates rarely, if ever, argue that abortion makes sense under a right to privacy. After all, your right to privacy doesn’t protect you from prosecution should you murder someone in the privacy of your home. If the fetus is a person with equal rights, right to privacy doesn’t begin to cover the right to an abortion. In contrast, if the fetus is not a person with equal rights, right to privacy isn’t even necessary. You don't need to claim right to privacy to legally obtain other medical procedures. Medical treatment is usually involved with issues of bodily integrity.

However, note that Roe itself rejected unrestricted bodily integrity as a basis for abortion:

In fact, it is not clear to us that the claim asserted by some amici that one has an unlimited right to do with one's body as one pleases bears a close relationship to the right of privacy previously articulated in the Court's decisions. The Court has refused to recognize an unlimited right of this kind in the past.

The reasonableness of the right to privacy argument implicitly and explicitly rests on the assumption that the fetus is not a person with equal rights. The Court acknowledged as much:

The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.

However the Court rejected the assertion that the fetus is encompassed in the term “person” as used in the Fourteenth amendment. Meanwhile the Court did address, separately, the central question as to when “life” begins. The Court essentially refused to answer:

We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.

It is curious that the Court did not feel justified in determining when life begins, but felt justified in determining when it can be extinguished.

In Roe, the Court did grant the state some ability to restrict abortion:

For the stage subsequent to [fetal] viability the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.

However this caveat was rendered effectively useless in a companion case decided by the Court the same day: Doe v. Bolton. The Court held that a state may not unduly burden a woman's fundamental right to abortion by prohibiting or substantially limiting access to the means of effectuating her decision.

Doe v. Bolton is of particular interest because of the following quote:

...the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health. This allows the attending physician the room he needs....

This quote is important because it implies that "health" exceptions are not just for physical health, but for a wide range of issues. In fact, in this context “health” has become such a subjective term that Doe v. Bolton essentially legalized abortion for a great variety of reasons at any stage of pregnancy.

Since Roe and Doe, there have of course been populous cries for repealing Roe. Some legal minds within the pro-life movement believe it would be best to wait until the Supreme Court's composition is more sympathetic to the pro-life cause. If Roe were overturned, the legality of abortion would be left up to each state.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can technology end abortion?

Over the last few years, numerous scientific breakthroughs have shown that adult cells can be made to behave like embryonic stem cells. These "induced pluripotent stem cells" have great promise. Not only are they more ethical than embryonic stem cells, but since they can be derived from the same patient who needs treatment, they don't pose the rejection problems that embryonic stem cells do. Eventually, scientists hope that this technology will result in the ability to create tailor-made organs for people with severe medical needs. There's still a lot of work to be done, but pro-life advocates have a reasonable hope that embryonic stem cells will simply become obsolete. Could the same thing happen with abortion?

Technology has already benefited unborn children in significant ways. Ultrasounds have debunked the "ball of cells" myth, changed mother's minds about abortion, and converted many people from pro-choice to pro-life. Advances in prenatal care have improved the health of mothers and babies. And just yesterday, Heather wrote about a new medical protocol that can save certain older fetuses from abortions that have already begun. But I'm talking about something bigger: the technology to safely transplant an "unwanted" unborn child into an artificial womb.

Unfortunately, as soon as the thought came to me, I realized how much abortion advocates would fight to keep it from happening.

At first glance, artificial wombs seem like the perfect solution. The baby lives and the mother doesn't have to share her body-- sounds great! But while bodily integrity is a nice rhetorical point for abortion advocates, the real objective of abortion is not to terminate a pregnancy, but to kill a baby. Mothers with pregnancy complications would take advantage of the artificial womb, but they make up a very small fraction of abortions. For most abortion-minded women, the pregnancy itself isn't the problem-- it's the newborn who results. They cite financial constraints, education, career, and poor relationships.

That means that the majority of mothers would not want to raise the babies gestated in artificial wombs. The babies would instead be put up for adoption. If artificial wombs became available, some mothers would still prefer abortion. In that situation, abortion advocates will ditch the bodily integrity argument, and instead argue that for a woman to know that her baby is out there, being raised by someone else, is a psychological burden that outweighs the baby's right to life. (While I don't dispute that adoption is an emotional minefield, that alone cannot justify killing a human being. But any argument with the full support of Planned Parenthood and NARAL is bound to get some traction, no matter how wrong it is.)

Another issue arises when we think about how the technology would develop. In the early stages of experimentation, it will not be safe for the babies. The only (possibly) ethical approach would be to work with babies who are already doomed to die-- that is, babies who are scheduled to be aborted. But what abortionist will refer mothers to a study that could put him out of business?

While artificial wombs sound cool, I have to conclude they will do little to save the lives of unborn children. Please prove me wrong in the comments section.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Never Too Late!

An article has been circulating about a mother in the Las Vegas area who chose to keep her baby-- even after the abortion process had begun!

A new mission has started by the brave sidewalk counselors of the Pro-life Action League to save babies from being aborted during the second trimester abortion process. During certain types of late-term abortion, an abortionist will insert laminaria (a Japanese seaweed used for dilating the cervix) to open up the cervix and prepare for the evacuation of a dead baby. The baby is then killed by lethal injection. What sidewalk counselors have found is that this type of abortion takes up to three days to complete, and in a short span of time, roughly 6-7 hours, the laminaria can be removed and the baby be saved!

However, they must be taken out quickly, before the cervix has dilated too much and the baby is born premature. Thankfully, the Pro-life Action League has used this to their advantage to save these babies from an untimely death. The article shares the story of Jamie Stout, a mother at 5 months gestation who decided to have an abortion. She changed her mind, deciding to give life to her child instead of death after sidewalk counselors had brought Jamie to have a sonogram done. She bravely had doctors remove the laminaria from her cervix. Luckily, no harm had come to the baby, and months later Jamie gave birth to beautiful baby girl she named Claire.

This is just one story of how sidewalk counselors are getting more savvy to show girls the truth about their babies. The Pro-life Action League, with the help of former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino, has even got Resurrection Hospital on board with training on abortion reversal for situations such as Jamie Stout's. Now a new protocol within the Pro-life Action League allows sidewalk counselors to alert the emergency room of Resurrection Hospital of an emergency abortion reversal. This is a huge success for the pro-life cause! Hopefully this will spread nationwide and most hospitals will have trained physicians in ERs everywhere to help with the abortion reversals. Thankfully, here in Roanoke, VA, second term abortions are not done and sidewalk counselors here don't have to worry about this procedure. But just across the state line into North Carolina, abortions take place up to 19 weeks! So for the sidewalk counselors in states that have late-term abortions, this story is a beacon of hope. Let us keep up reaching out to these girls and pushing for change in our nation, so that one day we will not have to worry about abortions at all!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bunnies and Misogyny

[This is the second post in a series on the pro-life movement and misogyny. Additional posts can be found here:
Logical Reasoning and Misogyny
Control and Misogyny]

An analogy:

A fatal disease is spreading among a population. An ointment is being developed that will likely cure the disease, but every few ounces of the ointment must be secreted by killing 10,000 bunnies. You personally don’t have the disease, and you oppose the ointment on moral grounds because of the bunny killing.

After awhile, public outrage at bunny killing culminates in the ointment being banned. Research continues, and a few years later a vaccine is discovered. However the vaccine only gives white people immunity. Minorities are still afflicted with the disease.

If you continue to hold the same position you already held—that killing 10,000 bunnies just to secure a few ounces of ointment is immoral—are you now a racist?

Clearly not. Race is incidental to the larger moral question, even though the issue only affects one race. Some people will oppose the ointment because they are racists, but as was discussed in Logical Reasoning and Misogyny, this is not evidence that anyone who opposes the ointment must be racist.

The same line of thinking can be applied to the pro-life movement in terms of the sexes. Gender is incidental to the moral question of whether fetal life is worthy of legal protection, even though pregnancy only affects one gender. If men could get pregnant, such a question would still remain, and pro-lifers would still hold that our society should value and care for fetal life.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Today's stories

The Department of Defense authorization bill, which contained both taxpayer funding of abortion (the Burris Amendment) and the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, has failed to pass. Now, a standalone piece of legislation has been introduced to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. By divorcing it from the abortion issue, LGBT advocates may be able to pick up some pro-life votes, but whether or not those votes are enough remains to be seen.

For years, Life Decisions International has maintained a long list of companies which donate to Planned Parenthood and encouraged pro-lifers to boycott these businesses. An unusually high number of companies have been dropped from the boycott list in the last few months. The economy may be part of the reason, but doesn't completely explain the timing.

A new report by abortion advocates suggests that ultrasounds before chemical abortions are unnecessary, but pro-lifers respond that the study's own data shows that ultrasounds help detect ectopic pregnancies. The abortion pill does not work in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, which can be life-threatening if noticed too late.

The 2011 Students for Life of America conference has sold out. Over 1600 students are expected to attend! SecularProLife.org will be there with resources for campus activists.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quick News Roundup: 12/09/10

Domestic News: Pro-life state legislators in Indiana are planning to put forward legislation to prohibit the state from funding Planned Parenthood and to ban abortions after 20 weeks. In Hamilton County, Ohio a Judge rules in favor of a woman suing Planned Parenthood. A woman says that she received an abortion when she was 14 years old, in violation of state law. In Iowa, pro-life legislators proposed fetal pain legislation prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks.


International News: The European Court of Human Rights will be ruling soon on Ireland's abortion law. The courts will be determining if Ireland's abortion law violates women’s human rights according to European law, the court will be meeting to rule next Thursday. Abortion advocates are angry about an update to the Hungarian Constitution which states "...that life must be protected from the beginning..." which could be used to prohibit abortion. In China, pro-life messages are beginning to break through with some religious pro-life activists using new media approaches to spread pro-life information.



Discussion Topic: Are there any specific new legislators that you are looking forward to in the coming new legislative session in your home state, city, country, or other locality?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What should be the pro-life position on climate change?

I won't leave you hanging: the answer is that pro-lifers must follow the scientific evidence wherever it leads.

Recently, Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute wrote an article for LifeNews.com, rightfully denouncing Ted Turner's call for a global one-child policy. (Turner, he writes, fathered five kids but "has often publicly regretted having so many children." Boy, that must make the younger Turners feel fantastic.) Mosher pointed out that China's approach is not the carrots-only, rights-respecting policy of Turner's imagination: it is a coercive violation of the rights of unborn children and their parents.

He could have left it at that. Instead, he took a detour:
Turner justifies his proposed war on people by claiming that we are in the midst of an environmental crisis of the first order—and that we can stop global warming by reducing the number of people.

He spoke in conjunction with economist Brian O’Neill, who claimed that promoting access to “family planning” could be a major boon to those seeking to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Now, I personally find it hard to get worked up about rising levels of carbon dioxide, since increased amounts of this atmospheric “fertilizer” will lead to increased food production. Ditto for global warming— if indeed it is happening at all. But these are subjects for another day.

As for Turner, long before he or anyone else began hyping “global warming,” he was an outspoken population controller.
I soon got an email from a SecularProLife.org supporter, angry that global warming doubt is being associated with the pro-life cause. This, he said, plays into the "unscientific pro-lifer" stereotype propogated by the opposition. Would I please write about it?

When the pro-choice movement frequently makes bogus medical claims like these, it ought to lose all scientific credibility. But that doesn't give us pro-lifers a free pass. We don't get to be the scientific ones just by default. We have a responsibility to do research, cite our sources, and be willing to say "I don't know."

In the case of global warming, I am admittedly not an expert. I defer to the scientific consensus, which is that climate change is taking place and poses a threat. It's possible that rising levels of carbon dioxide could benefit some regions of the earth. But in other regions, we may see changing temperatures and water patterns that disrupt farming.

Climate research is, of course, ongoing. If strong evidence surfaces showing no threat from global warming or greenhouse gases, we should adapt our positions to the new evidence. And we can always say: "I don't know enough about global warming to make a judgment. If it is happening, we should address it by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, breeding or engineering better crops, etc. But environmental concerns can never justify killing people or robbing them of their fertility." That's a position that all pro-lifers can get behind.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ship of Theseus

Two interesting dilemmas are the Ship of Theseus paradox and the Loki's Wager fallacy.

Basically, the ship of Theseus was an important ship in ancient Greece (for reasons that aren't important). This ship was so important that the Athenians decided it needed to be preserved. So, through the years, they would find old, decaying boards and replace them with new boards. Of course, that meant that eventually none of the material that was in the original ship was left. The controversial question among philosophers was deceptively simple: Is it the same ship?

What does this have to do with abortion? Many times the other side will pose a question about cyborgs. Yes, cyborgs. They ask where along the spectrum one draws the line between human and non-human.

It is a question designed to put the abortion opponent in a corner as to what organ or body system is necessary to humanity. If we say "Once the brain is replaced, you've got a robot.", they can say "Aha! So abortion is okay until the brain has formed.".

But this rests upon an unfounded assumption. Consider the following gradient.


At the left border, we have someone who is 100% organic. This entity is a human. On the far right border, we have the 0% organic "robot" category. Regardless of where in between one draws the line between man and machine, the human embryo falls on the leftern border.

This is related to the fallacy of Loki's Wager.

The story goes like this: In Norse mythology, the trickster Loki loses a bet to some dwarves, and, per the terms of the contract, the dwarves get to take his head. Loki tells them that, fine, they could have his head, but insisted that they had absolutely no right to any part of his neck. Though some places were clearly part of his head and some part of his neck, the squabbled endlessly as to where precisely to draw the line, so he kept his head indefinitely.

"Loki's wager" is now used to refer to the logical fallacy that anything that cannot be defined precisely cannot be discussed.

EDIT: Also, I now have administrator privileges, and have bookmarked this blog's spam queue. Hopefully I can check it regularly, and legitimate posts don't get "censored" for too long.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Quiet Days

This week was a quiet one. We gave out one pamphlet in the morning, but it doesn’t seem to have changed her mind. However, last weekend, when I was home for Thanksgiving, we apparently had a drive off. One young woman sat in her car for a long time before coming over to talk to the counselors. She reportedly had a joyful smile on her face as she told them that she was going to keep her baby. I was told that it was the look any parent gets when he or she realizes that yes, this IS their child!

I am grateful that such things come in balance. Days when we speak to no one always leave me heartbroken. But whenever we successfully save a life it gives me hope and reminds me that just being there matters more than anything else.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Logical Reasoning and Misogyny

[This is the first post in a series on the pro-life movement and misogyny.  Additional posts can be found here:

So a few months ago I was studying for the Logical Reasoning portion of the LSAT. My practice book had a section on causal reasoning that gave a method for writing out conditional statements in shorthand.

Premise: A --> B
Contrapositive: B --> A
Inverse: A --> B
Converse: B --> A

For example:

Premise: If you are swimming, you are wet. (swimming --> wet)
Contrapositive: If you are not wet, you are not swimming. (wet --> swimming)

Logical reasoning dictates that if a premise is true, its contrapositive must be true. However, if a premise is true, it does not necessarily follow that the inverse and converse are true.

Inverse: If you are not swimming, you are not wet. (swimming --> wet)
Converse: If you are wet, you are swimming. (wet --> swimming)

Assuming an inverse or converse is true based on a true premise is one of the most common mistakes on the LSAT. Presumably it is one of the most common logical missteps in daily life as well. The inverse and converse could be true, but this cannot be inferred from the premise. What if you’re standing in the rain? You are not swimming, but you are wet.

This brings us to pro-lifers and misogyny. Let us assume for the sake of argument that the following premise is true.

Premise: If you hate women, you will want them to endure unwanted pregnancies. (hate --> endure)
Converse: If you want women to endure unwanted pregnancies, you hate women. (endure --> hate)

Often, people who agree with the premise assert the converse, but this does not follow logically. For example, you may want women to endure unwanted pregnancies because you want fetal life to be protected. This says nothing about how you feel about women, one way or another.

People with terrible motivations may support any number of causes. Those who hate rich people likely support progressive income taxes. Those who hate Mexicans probably want stricter immigration laws. Those who hate children will support the right to an abortion. Does this mean that if you support the right to an abortion you must hate children? No. No more than it means that if you support restrictive abortion laws you must hate women.

A secular review of HLI America birth control survey

HLI America is a part of Human Life International, a Catholic group opposed to birth control. So when I saw that they had released a survey of 800 women regarding hormonal contraceptive use, I took it with a grain of salt. Their interpretation emphasizes the negative; the HLI America website gives it the title "The Pill and America: What Women Don't Know May be Hurting Them."

Looking at the data from a different perspective, I see it as a mix of good news and bad news. Here are the findings that I think are most important:

Informed consent is lacking. This is HLI's main point, and I agree that it's disconcerting. For instance, only 40% of women reported that their doctors discussed the widely acknowledged risk of blood clots and stroke. Worse, 10% of young women age 15 to 17 reported getting their pills from a friend instead of seeing a doctor.

On the plus side, the vast majority of respondents were aware that hormonal contraceptives do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Women view contraception as a social good. A majority of American women believe that contraception has had a positive impact on society (64%, versus 19% neutral and 9% negative), marriages (56%-29%-6%), and the quality of relationships between men and women (57%-26%-8%). Breaking down the results by religious affiliation, a plurality of Catholics and a majority of evangelical and mainline Protestants view the pill as positive for society. To put it bluntly, when religious groups blame contraception for abortion, divorce, and other social ills, they aren't only alienating the non-religious-- they're also alienating their supposed constituents!

The pill is pervasive. Only 12% of respondents over the age of 25 had never taken hormonal contraception. The majority of respondents in every religious subgroup, including Catholics, are on the pill or have been at some point in their lives. Roughly half of pill users began taking the pill at or before the age of 18, many at the suggestion of a parent. It's common for women in their 30s and 40s to report having taken oral contraceptives for ten years or more.

But it isn't just about contraception. While a majority of oral contraceptive users are on the pill to prevent pregnancy (61%), I expected the percentage to be much higher. Other reasons for being on the pill include regulating periods (21%), alleviating cramps (8%), and treating acne (4%). Catholic pharmacists who have qualms about distributing oral contraceptives should bear this in mind.

For most, sexual activity precedes going on the pill. This is true for every age group except the youngest, the 15- to 17-year-olds. The survey doesn't indicate whether women are using other forms of contraception in the interim.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Women Veterans Bill of Rights

H.R. 5953 is a proposed piece of legislation designed to help meet the needs of women who have served the United States in the military by posting "Women Veterans Bill of Rights" signs in Veterans Affairs offices. It includes a provision that will hopefully improve female veterans' awareness of their ability to access health care. A few days ago, the National Right to Life Committee was concerned that this language was vague enough to cover abortion. I'm happy to report that the language has been revised, so that abortion is excluded (among other things that were apparently raised by unrelated interest groups, like spa treatment).

But since, as everyone knows, pro-life groups hate women, especially women who would dare to be so brazenly feminist as to join the armed forces, pro-life members of Congress are urging a no v-- oh, sorry? Just kidding. Pro-life leaders stated that they had no objections, and the bill passed the House that same day.

That still leaves the Senate. It is expected to pass there without any changes; the real obstacle is not opposition to the merits of the legislation, but simply time, as the lame-duck Congress is scrambling to pass many other bills. To contact your Senator about the Women Veterans Bill of Rights law, click here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Quick News Roundup: 12/02/10

Happy December and Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish readers.


Domestic News: A federal judge rejected a lawsuit by Liberty University regarding the recently passed federal healthcare overhaul stating that they did not see enough evidence to sustain their claim that the legislation would require abortion funding. Dr. Leroy Carhart is officially moving to Maryland to perform late term abortions. Following Nebraska's recent legislation prohibiting most abortions after 20 weeks, Dr. Carhart decided to move his operation to Maryland. As a Maryland resident, I'm outraged and hope locals fight to keep the disgusting procedure out of my home state. Pro-Life groups, including the Americans United for Life Action, are publicly lobbying Republican House Leadership to prevent Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) from becoming the new Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee citing his views on life issues. The committee's scope can be reviewed here. Upton's rankings by abortion issues groups can be found here.



International News: Argentina is having its first debate on legalizing abortion in the nation's history. 50 lawmakers in the Argentinian House of Deputies has co-sponsored legislation which would legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. The Commission of Penal Legislation is set to look at the legislation when the next legislative session begins. Debate continues in Canada regarding Roxanne's Law, a law to prohibit coerced abortions. Women have been testifying in favor of it before Parliament.



Discussion Topic: Sorry, my brain's a little fried with all the traveling I've been doing lately. Not sure what discussion topic to post - so take this to be an open discussion topic. Discuss the news, the topics I've brought up, or anything else you want to discuss.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. Here are some HIV/AIDS facts that every pro-life advocate should know.

HIV testing is an important aspect of prenatal care. If a pregnant mother is HIV-positive, medications can be prescribed to prevent the baby from becoming infected. The sooner your ob/gyn knows your HIV status, the better!

The best way to prevent the sexual transmission of AIDS is to be abstinent or practice mutual monogamy with an HIV-negative partner. Obviously, you should also avoid injecting illicit drugs.

If you are sexually active, insist that your partner get tested. Of the estimated 1.1 million HIV-positive people in the United States, as many as one in five do not know that they carry the virus.

When used consistently, latex condoms reduce the risk of spreading HIV by about 80%. This benefit does not extend to condoms made with other materials.

Planned Parenthood is not the only option for HIV testing. Standalone programs, local health departments, and pro-life pregnancy clinics in your area may also offer testing or referrals. Click here to search for HIV testing sites by zipcode. You may need to be tested more than once to ensure an accurate result.