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Monday, July 30, 2012

Bringing the secular perspective to the next generation of pro-life leaders

Last week, Students for Life of America welcomed its third class of Wilberforce Fellows.  The year-long fellowship trains promising pro-life college, law, and medical students in leadership skills.  The goal, of course, is to ensure that the next generation of pro-life leadership is up to the task.

But there is also another goal: the promotion of pro-life unity.  As part of the first class of Wilberforce Fellows myself, I recall that day one involved receiving a powerful history lesson.  We learned how the pro-life movement suffered serious setbacks in the 1980's, largely due to a tactical disagreement-- should we focus on legislation, a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution, or both-- which got personal and created massively counter-productive division.  The Wilberforce Fellowship is meant to be a uniting force; if most of the leaders of pro-life groups ten years from now have gone through the program, we will have the skills necessary to get along (and understand the importance of doing so).

For many years, pro-life groups have relied on religion as a means of maintaining unity.  That won't last long, since the current generation of college students is both the most pro-life and least religious since Roe v. Wade.  Students for Life of America has wisely gotten ahead of this issue by teaching its Fellows about the similarities and differences between the religious and secular pro-life positions.  To do so, it recruited Christian pro-life apologetics expert Scott Klusendorf, and Secular Pro-Life's own Phil E.  Phil, an atheist and a member of the SPL leadership board, has been active in SPL from its inception.

Says Phil:
The discussion with Klusendorf went well, and he wants to do something like that again.  We discussed the basis for morality and whether a grounding in deism or atheism was stronger.  It was more of a discussion than a debate, and things didn't get heated or contentious.  Most of the students seemed very receptive to what I had to say.
Some of the Fellows had broader questions for Phil about atheism in general (e.g., in Phil's words, "the idea of not being completely depressed about a finite existence.").  Again, these were not contentious questions, but questions that reflected a genuine concern for understanding the non-religious point of view.  These Fellows realize how vital cooperation between religious and non-religious activists will be for securing the right to life.  I am confident that they will be excellent pro-life leaders.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Maternal Death at Illinois Planned Parenthood

From the Chicago Tribune:
Tonya Reaves died Friday after she began to hemorrhage, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Her death was ruled an accident.
The pregnancy and “cervical dilation and evacuation,” which is a technical term for abortion, that she received at the Planned Parenthood clinic, 18 S. Michigan Ave. were listed as contributing factors in her death. 
 Planned Parenthood of Illinois President Carole Brite gave a statement:
While legal abortion services in the United States have a very high safety record, a tragedy such as this is devastating to loved ones and we offer our deepest sympathies. Planned Parenthood of Illinois cares deeply about the health and safety of each and every patient.
 The article gives no further details regarding in what way and to what degree the abortion contributed to the 24-year-old's death.  This is particularly relevant given the Tribune has previously reported the failure of Illinois healthcare providers to detail abortion complications as required by state law, including but not limited to nearly 4,000 abortion complications in 2009 missing their required descriptions. As the Tribune puts it:
While abortion has proven to be a very safe procedure, heightened rates of complications or clusters of deaths could signal problems with particular providers. 
In an attempt to avoid situations like Tonya Reaves, SPL collects information about malpractice suits against abortion providers and the like, and makes that information publicly available through AbortionSafety.com.  If you have access to information about abortion-related complications or deaths, please contact us at info@secularprolife.org.  



Thursday, July 26, 2012

Abortion and Suicide in South Dakota


On Tuesday the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a law in South Dakota requiring that doctors tell their patients considering abortions that the abortion procedure increases her risk of committing suicide.

Considering the great post abortive impact on a woman's physical and mental health, this is a reasonable decision that should be supported by pro-abortion and pro-life advocates. However; Planned Parenthood of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and other pro-abortion organizations have all rallied against the law for the last seven years since it was passed.

Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior narrates the below video.

Kimberly, A Member of Silent No More, shares her story after having had an abortion a few years prior to being married and having a daughter. She says:
“Although I loved my daughter and wanted to see her grow up, get married, and have children of her own, I constantly thought of suicide. It was better to die than to feel empty inside. I loved my little girl. But my heart was broken, yet I refused to understand why. “
Not all women have suicidal thoughts, but many women struggle after having an abortion. and because of this woman considering abortion should be warned. I applaud South Dakota and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals for valuing the woman’s life enough that she is warned of the increased risk of suicide in women who have abortions.

Timmerie
www.Timmerie.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Be part of a viral video!

Secular Pro-Life is working on a short video that will tackle the grand-daddy of all pro-abortion arguments: bodily autonomy.  Of course, there has been no shortage of discourse on this topic-- most of it dry and unmemorable.  But nobody is going to say that about this video.

Why not?  Because our short video is going to feature two very special actresses.  The pro-choice stance, that you must be physically independent of other people to enjoy the right to life, is going to be addressed by a pair of conjoined twins!

We need your help to make this happen.  The costs of hiring the actresses, traveling to meet them for filming, and publicizing the video are likely to surpass $10,000.

Here's what you can do:
1) Donate any amount through our fundraising page on YourFilmFund.com by the end of the month.  (YourFilmFund.com only funds projects with positive, life-affirming messages.  Your donation is tax-deductible.)
2) Join our facebook event and invite your pro-life friends.
3) Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you'll be the first to know when the video is released!

Thank you for your support, and have a wonderful week!

P.S.-- Watch this video message from SPL president Kelsey Hazzard, who has taken time out of her busy bar exam schedule to appeal for your help:

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Tiniest Patients


MSNBC covers the story of Addison Hope Kelly.  When Addison was a fetus around 6 months gestation, ultrasound revealed she had a tumor between her heart and lungs, making it unlikely that Addison would survive.  Addison's parents chose fetal surgery, which would give Addison a 50/50 chance of survival.  Although the process caused Mary Kelly, Addison's mother, to go into early labor, ultimately Addison survived.  She is now 5 years old and will begin kindergarten this fall.

The article goes on to discuss the increase in fetal surgery over the past years and the improvements researchers are expecting in years to come.
Dr. Alan Flake, director of CHOP’s Center for Fetal Research, is working with stem cells from adult bone marrow to develop a treatment for the blood disorder sickle-cell anemia that could be administered 12 to 14 weeks into pregnancy. Clinical trials of the therapy should begin in a year or two.
In the longer term, [Dr. Scott Adzick] said, researchers are looking at treating other single-gene disorders that can be diagnosed early in pregnancy.
Finally, Adzick said more work is being done for spina bifida. A tissue-engineering technique could be used to protect the spinal cord opening, essentially working as a "band-aid" early on in pregnancy, with repair being done after birth.
It is amazing to consider what technology is capable of.  It's also interesting to me that in some cases the fetus is so greatly valued that tremendous resources are used to ensure the highest levels of fetal health and safety, while in other cases the fetus is valued so little that steps are taken to ensure fetal death.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

The ABC Link


Disclaimer.

Even if all pro-lifers used secular reasoning, there is plenty of room for disagreement in the multi-faceted abortion debate.  Secular Pro-Life takes formal stances on a few issues, but where SPL members—especially SPL leadership—disagree, SPL declines to take an official position.  (See, for example, the rape exception.)

The alleged link between abortion and breast cancer (“ABC link”) is one of these topics.  SPL leadership includes those who believe the science behind the link is sound, those who believe the evidence is mixed, and those (me) who don’t find the evidence compelling.

Therefore, it should be noted that this post does not constitute an official SPL stance.  It is my own view, and I make it in the hopes of promoting an earnest discussion.

It’s easy to believe what you want to hear.

People are generally more accepting of information that supports their personal views.  For example, scientific consensus serves pro-lifers well when we talk about fetal development and the biological beginning of human life.  In my experience, pro-choicers tend to avoid/ignore this information.  On the other hand, scientific evidence seems better suited to the pro-choice perspective when they discuss relative maternal mortality rates between abortion and childbirth.  Again in my experience, pro-lifers tend to avoid or deny this aspect.  As much as I seek to be objective, I know that I also tend to turn a more skeptical eye toward information that undermines the pro-life view than information that supports it.  It’s a common tendency.

But intellectual honesty requires us to think critically about all evidence.  This doesn’t necessarily mean we will all come to the same conclusions.  Earnest people can look at the same evidence and see different patterns.  But our primary goal should be to seek truth, not to support a specific agenda.  If our beliefs are solid, seeking truth should simultaneously support our agenda anyway.  I don’t want to view evidence a certain way because I am pro-life.  I want to be pro-life because evidence leads me to that stance. 


So while it’s true that abortion causing breast cancer would be yet another reason to oppose abortion, intellectual honesty compels me to explain why I don’t find the claim convincing.  (Indeed, I don’t see sufficient evidence for the correlation between abortion and breast cancer, much less causation.  Read about the correlation/causation distinction here; see an amusing graphic about it here.)

Background: The ABC Link Theory.

It is true that women who have never had children or who have them only after age 30 have an increased risk for breast cancer.  This would imply that before age 30, abortion, miscarriage, and never conceiving to begin with all increase the risk of breast cancer. 

It’s important to understand that this is a distinct issue from the ABC link.  The ABC link is the idea that induced abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer as an independent factor.  This would mean induced abortion causes a greater risk of breast cancer than miscarriage or than not ever getting pregnant in the first place. 

I recently wrote about a podcast in which pro-choice atheists greatly mischaracterized the pro-life perspective.  During part of the show the hosts expressed their ignorance as to why some people suggest there is a link between abortion and breast cancer: “Where did this even come from? Is it just completely made up out of nothing?” “I feel like it’s another scare tactic.” “The Big C is the big scary, so let’s bring that specter up.” (14:44)

The abortion/breast cancer connection is not “completely made up out of nothing.”  Proponents of the ABC link suggest a mechanism as follows: 

  • There are three types of lobules in the breast.  Type 1 and Type 2 are cancer-sensitive.  Type 3 lobules, the most mature type, are cancer-resistant, possibly because they replicate DNA more slowly, resulting in less replication error and more time for DNA repair.  When a woman carries a pregnancy to term, during the 3rd trimester her breast lobules mature to the cancer-resistant Type 3 lobules.  By comparison, women who don’t carry pregnancies to term (abortion, miscarriage, and never conceiving at all) have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Never conceiving: During the first two trimesters of pregnancy the breast merely enlarges, increasing the numbers of Type 1 and Type 2 lobules, which are cancer-sensitive. For women who never get pregnant to begin with, there’s no increase in cancer-sensitive lobules.  Less risk.
  • Miscarriage:  Most miscarriages occur in pregnancies with low hormonal levels, meaning that there is again little-to-no increase in the cancer-sensitive Type 1 and Type 2 lobules.  Less risk.
  • Abortion: In contrast, most abortions are performed on pregnancies with normal hormonal levels, meaning an increase in cancer-sensitive lobules has already happened, but the final maturation (in the 3rd trimester) to cancer-resistant Type 3 lobules doesn’t occur.  More cancer-sensitive cells.  More risk.

This is the ABC link theory.

Given that studies have shown premature birth can cause an increased risk of breast cancer, and that the risk is correlated to how premature the birth is, the ABC link theory seems perfectly plausible.  Indeed, if premature birth causes an increased risk of breast cancer, I have to wonder why abortion wouldn’t cause an increased risk.

Background: Recall Bias.

In order to determine a correlation, if any, between abortion and breast cancer, researchers must collect women’s reproductive histories (i.e. how many pregnancies, miscarriages, abortions, and live births women have had).  This can be done in multiple ways:

·         Prospective Interview: researchers interview women about their reproductive histories before any of the women have been diagnosed with breast cancer, then monitor who is diagnosed with breast cancer in the years following.
·         Retrospective Interview: researchers interview women about their reproductive histories after the women have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and interview comparable healthy women.
·         Medical Records: researchers collect reproductive histories from medical records instead of interviews.

If all women were accurate about their reproductive histories, we would expect to find the same correlation between abortion and breast cancer regardless of whether women were interviewed before or after diagnoses, or whether the information was taken from medical records.  However, this has not been the caseStudies have found that when information about abortion is collected before women are diagnosed with breast cancer, it appears abortion has no effect or possibly even decreases the risk of breast cancer.  When information about abortion is collected after women are diagnosed with breast cancer, it appears abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. 

Clearly abortion cannot both decrease and increase the risk of breast cancer, so what do these results mean?  In both cases, women had abortions before they were diagnosed with breast cancer; the only difference is whether women were asked about their abortions before or after they found out they had breast cancer. 

The different results may be the product of recall bias.  Some researchers theorize that, compared to breast cancer patients, healthy women are less likely to report their abortions.  The idea is that breast cancer patients will be more forthcoming about their abortions because they hope an increased understanding of their physical history can help them combat cancer.  In contrast, healthy women have little incentive to admit to something as highly stigmatized as abortion. 

If this is true, recall bias could not skew the results of prospective interviews, because the women interviewed don’t know whether they will have breast cancer.  Recall bias could, however, skew the results of retrospective interviews. 

Scientists at the Netherlands Cancer Institute decided to look further into potential recall bias by comparing the number of reported abortions between women from predominantly Catholic regions to women from other regions (the theory being that abortion is less accepted in predominantly Catholic regions).  They found that in the less Catholic regions, women reported similar numbers of past abortions whether they had breast cancer or not.  However, in the predominantly Catholic regions, healthy women reported significantly less past abortions than women with breast cancer.  This suggests that either abortion is more likely to cause breast cancer in some parts of the country than others, or divergent social attitudes toward abortion in different parts of the country affect whether women will report their abortions.  Given that the former makes no sense, the researchers concluded that recall bias is a real problem in retrospective studies of abortion and breast cancer.

So what does the research show?

There have been numerous studies conducted by numerous medical organizations that have found no ABC correlation.  In particular, because of the controversy surrounding the alleged correlation, NCI had this response:
In February 2003, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop participants reviewed existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.
(See a summary of the workshop’s findings here.)

However, there has also been research, particularly by Dr. Joel Brind, that has found a significant correlation between abortion and breast cancer.  Additionally, Dr. Brind has criticized some of the studies that have claimed no correlation between abortion and breast cancer. 

But then again, Dr. Brind’s own research has been critiqued, particularly with regards to recall bias:
One issue is how easily Brind et al. dismiss bias. They argue that any bias is unlikely to have been responsible for their finding because there is "consistency across the independent studies," as reflected in the overall result of the meta-analysis. This argument ignores the possibility that a systematic bias may affect all (or nearly all) studies. For Michels and Willett, recall bias remains a viable explanation for the finding of slightly increased risk. They cite survey data and a Swedish study using a registry-based gold standard to show that healthy women consistently and widely underreport their history of induced abortion. Brind et al. discount this same evidence. They also jump from the finding of an association to the conclusion of cause and effect—a leap beyond the bounds of inference.
These are by no means the only criticisms of or by Dr. Brind.  He and other researchers go back-and-forth over the veracity of various conclusions in regard to multiple ABC studies. 

So now what?

Meanwhile pro-choicers and pro-lifers alike emphasize the research refuting or supporting the link, respectively, while accusing the other side of ignoring contradicting evidence. 
Anti-choice zealots have drawn highly questionable conclusions to develop “public education” campaigns… Anti-choice claims linking abortion and breast cancer fly in the face of scientific evidence. - Planned Parenthood 
That truth, like the blood of the aborted children that drenches the ground of our nation, keeps rising up and crying out to be noticed—much to the disdain of Planned Parenthood and its pro-abortion-biased scientists who discredit and trash studies that do not show what they want them to show. – LifeNews.com
I think both of these claims go too far.  Linking abortion to breast cancer “flies in the face” of some scientific evidence, but appears to be a sound conclusion based on other studies.  Reasonable people who simply want to know the truth could review the myriad of ABC studies and critiques and be left feeling uncertain one way or another.  Indeed, when you take a step away from the more highly politicized sites and a bit closer to the original research, it’s readily acknowledged that studies have conflicted.  As the National Cancer Institute states: 
Until the mid-1990s, the evidence was inconsistent. Findings from some studies suggested there was no increase in risk of breast cancer among women who had had an abortion, while findings from other studies suggested there was an increased risk.
However, NCI goes on to explain: 
Most of these studies, however, were flawed in a number of ways that can lead to unreliable results. Only a small number of women were included in many of these studies, and for most, the data were collected only after breast cancer had been diagnosed, and women’s histories of miscarriage and abortion were based on their “self-report” rather than on their medical records. Since then, better-designed studies have been conducted. These newer studies examined large numbers of women, collected data before breast cancer was found, and gathered medical history information from medical records rather than simply from self-reports, thereby generating more reliable findings. The newer studies consistently showed no association between induced and spontaneous abortions and breast cancer risk.
So the evidence is mixed, right?

I can understand people coming to that conclusion.  When a topic is as highly politicized as abortion, it can be hard to tell the difference between truly mixed results and an attempt to hold on to pre-ordained narratives because of bias. 

However, if denial of the ABC link is the result of bias, that bias would have to be rampant.  And we aren’t just talking about the bias of organizations like Planned Parenthood or the National Abortion Federation.  In order to flatly overlook evidence that contradicts the ABC link theory, we’d have to believe that organizations whose main purpose is to combat cancer (National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society) are overlooking risk factors for cancer in deference to a specific abortion narrative. 

There are conflicting studies, and each side has suggestions as to why the other side’s studies are inaccurate.  If I understand correctly, one side says that recall bias makes there appear to be an ABC link where there is none.  This seems plausible to me.  The other side suggests that pro-abortion bias causes people to emphasize some factors and studies and overlook others.  While also possible, this seems much less plausible to me.

In fact, that sounds suspiciously like a conspiracy theory.  Conspiracy theories are non-falsifiable, immune to contradictory evidence—in short, the very opposite of science.  I think we should avoid that.

Dr. House, however, is fine with conspiracy theories.
While there are conflicting studies, it seems to me that the majority of the more reliably conducted studies have not found a correlation between abortion and breast cancer.  Additionally, it seems the majority of the scientific community is in consensus on this point.

So you’re saying abortion does not cause breast cancer.

Not quite. 

Scientific inquiry often provides more nuanced answers than strong personal beliefs or politics can abide. (Scienc-y cartoon here!) 

Am I absolutely sure abortion has no effect on breast cancer risk?  No.  Am I convinced that the current scientific consensus is that no correlation between abortion and breast cancer has been found?  Yes. 

Many studies have failed to find a significant correlation between abortion and breast cancer.  We don’t know what studies with improved design, sample sets, and follow up will find in the future.  Given the correlation between pre-term birth and breast cancer, and the inverse correlation between full-term birth and breast cancer, I think it’s reasonable for people to wonder, and continue researching the topic.  However, based on my understanding of the studies thus far and of the declarations of most of the scientific community, I am not inclined to believe abortion significantly increases the risk of breast cancer. 

I can understand feeling uncertain about the ABC link.  I don’t understand, though, feeling certain or insisting that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer.

Implications.

If abortion, as an independent factor, does not cause breast cancer, what does that mean for the pro-life movement?

It does mean we need to take care to be accurate in what we say to women in crisis pregnancies.  It’s true that carrying a child to term decreases the risk of breast cancer.  It’s true that there have been many studies on the ABC link, and some have found a correlation and many have found no correlation.  We should not, however, flatly assert that a woman who gets an abortion is greatly increasing her risk of breast cancer, or that she will certainly get breast cancer.  From what I understand of the research, such statements are at best misleading, at worst outright false.

It does not mean, however, that abortion is therefore acceptable.  How abortion relates to breast cancer has no bearing on the fact that abortion destroys a human being in the most vulnerable and dependent stage of development.  The ABC link may inspire a lot of debate within the pro-life movement, but it shouldn’t cause division, because it doesn’t change the bottom line anyway.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

FBI Visits ProLife Advocate's Home

Andy & Son

Since the Obama Administration took over in 2009 there have been a series of  FBI interrogations of pro-life advocates. Most recently a friend of mine, Andy Moore, received a knock at his door and, to his surprise, was confronted by FBI agents. The agents asked a number of questions, some of which being very personal, and dug deep concerning other members of the pro-life movement. 


The FBI house visit was very peaceful; however, it was rather unnecessary. Andy is an immigrant from New Zealand and the agents made a comment implying if he had a felony on his record, “You wouldn’t want to be apart from your wife and newborn.”


I believe this is quite a threat, especially considering that Andy is a very peaceful pro-life advocate and would not break the law while trying to help women in need. Yes, pro-life activism comes in many forms, with some tactics being more forward than others, but Andy has always been a peaceful activist. 

Read more of the story from Jill Stanek's website or World Net Daily


For the Dignity of the Born and Unborn,



Timmerie

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Prosecuting Women? Part 2.


Recently I highlighted a story about a woman arrested for her self-administered (via RU-486) abortion; I then asked what you, readers, believe the repercussions should be for breaking the law if abortion were illegal.  In a case of coincidental timing, Live Action News also recently discussed the punitive implications of legally restricting abortion.

In the post, author Calvin Freiburger reacts to "a video of someone asking a small handful of pro-life demonstrators...if they think women who have abortions should go to prison. Most of them say 'no' and/or admit they never gave the question much thought."

Mr. Freiburger makes several points worth re-posting.  First of all:
That a few pro-lifers didn’t have coherent answers...doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer; if anything, it actually underscores that they’re motivated by the babies’ suffering, not desires to punish women. 
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Additionally, I believe there are certain limitations in the abortion/murder comparison.  Mr. Freiburger articulates one of the differences quite nicely:
It’s important to recognize the legal and cultural context that distinguishes abortion from post-birth homicide, theft, rape, and just about every other crime: only abortion has decades of legal recognition and social celebration as a constitutional right, and pervasive misinformation about what its victim is – a propaganda campaign backed by a powerful industry, influential advocacy groups, forces at every level of government, one of America’s two main political parties, and scores of wide-ranging voices in our media, education establishment, and popular culture. It’s entirely appropriate to consider how pervasively abortion-seekers have been misled for so long when deciding whether to punish them.
In a collection of other pro-life opinions on the subject, Professor Matthew Franck also expresses the point well (emphasis added):
American women have been taught that their unborn children have no claim on them — mere lumps of tissue to be discarded if inconvenient. If the law is to recover its sanity, it will have to proceed by degrees, forbidding what it can and enforcing its prohibitions by the mildest punishments sufficient to achieve the desired results. Consciousness of abortion’s wrongness will not be rebuilt overnight. It is plausible that we could begin by reducing the number of abortions in America by 90 percent with zero jail time for any woman who obtains one. In a more just society a generation or two after Roe, further reductions might require stronger laws. But by then, such laws would once again be tolerable and recognized as just. Which is to say, the law must be prudent, not the product of sophomore logic.
If abortion were made illegal, do you think this incremental approach makes sense? 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Single Issue Voters?



The Washington Post suggests that it would be controversial for Mitt Romney to pick Condoleezza Rice as a VP candidate due to Rice's "mildly pro-choice" views.  Rice has previously stated she supports parental notification and is against late-term abortions (as are most Americans).  However, regarding Roe v. Wade, Rice has said, "I have not wanted to see the law changed because it's an area that I worry about the government being involved in."

Though Romney has not yet picked a VP candidate, some pro-life groups are already objecting to Rice, should she be picked, because of her stance on abortion.  However Rice has previously indicated no interest in the VP candidacy.

Regardless of who Romney picks, or whether you intend to vote for Romney, Obama, or someone else, what do you think of this emphasis?  Where does abortion weigh in on your decision when voting?  Do you consider yourself a "single issue" voter because of abortion?  Or is abortion one of many issues you weigh, and if so, how heavily do you weigh it compared to other issues?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Internship: Life Matters Journal

Life Matters Journal is looking for a graphic/layout designer to help produce issues.  This is a pro-bono internship that requires:
  • Help with layout/graphic design for four issues in a one year cycle (see their latest issue here);
  • Working internet with Skype for meetings, consultations, and interviews;
  • Experience in Adobe InDesign (send applicable work if possible); and
  • Interest in the Life Matters Journal and the Consistent Life cause.
You can contact Life Matters Journal on Facebook or at lifemattersjournal@gmail.com for more information.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Abortion Queen in Mississippi


Mississippi recently passed a law requiring that abortionists be OB-GYNs with the ability to admit patients to a local hospital if necessary. This new law has come close to shutting down the last abortion clinic in Mississippi which is owned by Diane Derzis -- also known as the ‘Abortion Queen’.

The ‘Abortion Queen’s’ clinic has been all over the news today because she has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the new law that puts women’s safety at the front of the issue. She insists the law is unnecessary and could drive her out of business.

After doing some research I discovered this so called ‘Abortion Queen’ is actually a familiar face. Last year while in Birmingham, Alabama I met the woman outside her clinic (which is now closed) as I was part of a group that re established peaceful prayer and life affirming counseling on the public sidewalk in front of one of her then three clinics.

The woman was shocking to say the least. She stood infront of her clinic yelling and singing in a floor length fur coat.

While the ‘Abortion Queen’ has spent many years in the industry and continues to fight to keep her businesses running, she brings hope to those who work within the pro-life movement. She made the following comment to the Associated Press:
"They're going to keep coming back. They're not going to be satisfied until they (pro-lifers) have driven us out of business.”
I think everybody can see that. She’s absolutely right, and would know from first hand experience.

So while things may be overwhelming and we feel like abortion continues to become a bigger monster, I encourage you to remember that life affirming laws are being passed, clinics are being closed, and those in the abortion industry are getting sick and tired of the persistence of pro-life advocates.

Continue to fight the fight and put on the pressure and you will continue to see clinics closed; but more importantly lives saved and women not subject to such degrading and unsafe ‘reproductive care’.


For the Dignity of the Born and Unborn,

Timmerie

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

International Down Syndrome Coalition

The International Down Syndrome Coalition (IDSC) is a religiously- and politically-neutral organization dedicated to supporting individuals with Down syndrome and their families.  According to IDSC,
When a mother finds out her baby has Down syndrome, she needs support and helpful information.  What sometimes happens, instead, is that professionals, family members, and friends will pressure her to terminate her pregnancy. 

Whether you are pro life, pro choice, or neutral, it is easy to see that this should not be happening to women.  It lowers the dignity of the mother, and the dignity of the child, when people infer that a child should not exist, simply because the baby has Down syndrome. 
I'd be interested to know more about how many fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted based on external pressures, versus how many are aborted because the mother freely chooses abortion.

Because all abortions result in the death of the fetus, some people feel all abortions are equal, but I think there's something especially sad and objectionable about aborting an originally-wanted pregnancy because of a prenatal trisomy 21 diagnosis.  That is too like eugenics for me.

If it seems that way to me, I can only imagine how it seems to people with Down syndrome.  How would you feel if you knew that the vast majority of the time, when people find out their progeny have the condition you have, they decide to have them killed?

IDSC features several "self-advocates"--people with Down syndrome advocating for themselves and those like them.  One such self-advocate, Bridget Brown, wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post describing her perspective on the high abortion rate of fetuses with Down syndrome:
Dear Editor,
I am a young woman with Down Syndrome. I am so sad to hear about all the babies with Down Syndrome who are aborted.  I am so grateful that I was not aborted because I have a full and wonderful life!
The world needs to know that I do not “suffer” from Down Syndrome. I believe in the sacred dignity of ALL people. AND most people I know with disabilities have full and productive lives.
I learned about what Hitler did during the Holocaust. He killed many people because he did not think they had the right to live. He learned how to kill by killing people with disabilities first. My heart broke when I learned about this at the Holocaust museum.
It seems to me we are doing the same thing to children with disabilities today in our country. I think this is like genocide - the systematic killing of a whole people or nation.
I wonder why we think Hitler was so horrible when we are doing the same thing he did? My heart breaks again when I think that I might be the last generation of people with Down Syndrome. The world will never again benefit from our gifts.
Even though I am discouraged - I will continue to hold hope for people with disabilities. And I will continue to pray for all the people who think we don’t have the right to live. 
Thank you,
Bridget Brown {Self advocate}

Learn more about IDSC at their website, on Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Prosecuting women?


Earlier this year, NPR reported on a controversial abortion-related arrest:
Jennie Linn McCormack was charged last year under an obscure Idaho law for ending her pregnancy with RU-486. She joins an increasing number of women who get the so-called abortion pill off the internet.
NPR describes the circumstances of the abortion:
In late 2010, McCormack learned she was pregnant. The father was out of the picture. Her youngest was barely two and she was living off child support checks.  
Getting an abortion would have cost at least $500 and required multiple trips back and forth to a clinic hours away. So, McCormack turned to the rising number of Internet suppliers of abortion pills.  
Some pro-lifers believe that, should abortion be made illegal, doctors--and not women--should be prosecuted for breaking the law.  How would that play out in cases of self-administered medical abortions?
Now, this is where the story gets more complicated. RU-486 is medically recommended only within the first nine weeks of pregnancy. It turns out that McCormack was way past that although she said she didn’t realize it at the time.  
After she aborted the fetus she was horrified by how far along it seemed. Possibly as much as 20 weeks. McCormack confided in a friend. It was this friend's sister that tipped off the police. 
This, by the way, is why pro-lifers emphasize prenatal development as a part of informed consent.
“There are many cases where they prosecute or threaten to prosecute a doctor," [defense attorney] Hearn says. "There are not so many where they’ve prosecuted a woman.” 
...
One of the few pro-life groups we could find willing to say anything about McCormack was the Susan B. Anthony List. President Marjorie Dannenfelser calls the case “not acceptable." She adds, "We do not think women should be criminalized. Criminal sanctions or any kind of sanctions are appropriate for abortionists, and not for women.” 
And that’s the tricky thing about the case for the pro-life side according to Will Saletan. Saletan writes about reproductive health politics for Slate magazine. “The prosecution of abortion, which always hinged on the doctor being the targeted party, now has to target the woman," he says. "And the pro-life movement is completely unprepared for that.”
So what do you think, readers?  If most abortions--and not just self-administered abortions--were illegal, what should the repercussions be for breaking the law?  And why?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Baltimore cannot "compel speech" from CPC.


Similar to previous stories, a federal judge ruled that Baltimore cannot force a CPC to post signs stating the CPC does not provide abortions or birth control.

In 2009 Baltimore passed a law requiring such signs, and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien filed suit, claiming the law violated free speech and assembly, free exercise of religion, equal protection under the 14th Amendment, and a conscience clause under Maryland Code.

In 2011 a U.S. district judge issued a permanent injunction against the law, saying it amounts to unconstitutional "compelled speech."  Baltimore appealed, and two more U.S. district judges upheld the decision, with another dissenting.
Niemeyer found the ordinance fails to target false advertising as it purports, it is overinclusive in its application to all pregnancy centers, and it ignores other alternatives that could accomplish the ordinance's goal without imposing speech on the centers, like starting its own educational campaign.
He wrote, "That the City resorted to speech restrictions before trying these or other similar options is more than enough to doom the ordinance."
 Several thoughts/questions:

  1. How would it affect the CPC if the ruling had gone the other way, and the CPC had been required to post a sign saying it does not provide abortions or birth control?
  2. I like that the judge specifically stated this law is overinclusive in its application to all pregnancy centers.  I've heard anecdotes of CPCs that mislead women, and anecdotes of CPCs that were forthright and helpful to women. What proportion of CPCs would need to be "bad apples" in order to justify compelling speech from all CPCs?  
  3. If some abortion clinics giving out false prenatal development information and some give out accurate information, what proportion of abortion clinics would need to be "bad apples" in order to justify, for example, mandating certain prenatal development information be discussed?  Or mandating ultrasounds?
  4. Do you think questions #2 & #3 are comparable?  Why or why not?
  5. Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe free speech can be restricted or speech can be compelled?  For example, should there be limits to freedom of speech in medical/scientific settings?

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Gnawing at my belly, chewing through my organs."

I've previously mentioned how most abortion advocates discuss the fetus in impersonal terms ("product of conception") while some go further and describe the fetus as an antagonist ("parasite").

I've had a few (albeit not many) people object to these suggestions, insisting that pro-choicers do understand the humanity of the fetus.  Some pro-choicers insist all women "know" "abortion kills an unborn child."

It blows my mind that a woman who fully believes abortion "kills an unborn child" would still choose abortion.  It makes more sense to me that a woman would choose abortion because she believes something like this:
I tried to imagine a living thing implanting itself inside of me and growing there, feeding off my energy. It was unreal. It was nine weeks old. I pictured the little alien form attaching itself to my uterine wall, cleaving to my insides. I touched my stomach and almost convinced myself I felt it gnawing at my belly, chewing through my organs; climbing up my esophagus to get a breath of fresh air. Pushing my uvula aside with its tiny red hand and sliding down my tongue like a Slip ‘N Slide. 
How creepy.  Maybe if I thought of a human fetus as a cannibalistic alien about to crawl out of my mouth, I'd be pro-choice too.

Shortly after, the author goes on to describe her 9-week-old fetus as an "expanding cluster of cells."  According to the Endowment for Human Development:
By 9 weeks thumb sucking2 begins and the fetus may swallow amniotic fluid.3 The fetus can also grasp an object,4 move the head forward and back, open and close the jaw, move the tongue, sigh,5 and stretch.6
The fetus shown in this bumper sticker is 6 weeks old:

Pictured: cannibalistic alien.
I'd like to believe that if the author knew more about her fetus's level of development, she would have made a different choice.  I'd like to believe that if we can make fetal development more common knowledge, we can reduce abortions.  Maybe in many cases that would be true, but it seems unlikely in this case.  The author related a conversation between her and her mom before her abortion:
“You’re really not going to change your mind?”
“Mom, I can’t. I’m 19. I’m in school.”
“I was in school too.”
“But I’m not ready.”
“You were ready to do it, weren’t you? Don’t you realize that baby has a beating heart?”
“…Maybe. But so do I.”
I'd also like to believe that if we supported better sex education and access to contraceptives, less women would be seeking abortions.  Maybe in many cases that would be true too, but it seems unlikely in this case.  As the author points out,
I remembered how earnestly, stupidly, I had insisted we use a condom each time. Like it made any goddamn difference.
Knowledge of fetal development and use of contraceptives didn't prevent this abortion.  I wonder if making it illegal would have.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Surgery in Utero Removes Tumor


I came across a story on Live Action News this morning and had to share. . . The first successful surgery on an unborn child in the womb to remove tumor was recently performed. The surgery was a success and the baby was born with nothing but a little scar on her lip. (read the story at Live Action News). 

It is so beautiful to see all that can be accomplished within the mother's womb from how quickly the child develops to how a successful surgery can be performed on a child when a tumor is detected. Yet, simultaneously the unborn children's value is not always upheld and such efforts are not taken to protect their lives.

Never forget the true wonder of the unborn and how precious their life is. 


For the Dignity of the Born and Unborn,

Timmerie

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The ACA, Abortion, and the Election


The Washington Times reports on reactions to the Affordable Care Act in terms of the abortion debate:
“Defeat Obama, elect Mitt Romney and repeal Obamacare,” David O'Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), said in response to the high court’s 5-4 decision Thursday, which found the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act constitutional under the taxation powers of the federal government.
“We have saved the Affordable Care Act … but the gains of women for 40 years are at stake,” Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, said Friday in Baltimore at the annual conference of the National Organization for Women. “We cannot lose this election … We must get out the vote,” she told her cheering audience.
Unsurprisingly, pro-lifers are associated with electing Mitt Romney, defeating Obama, and repealing the ACA.  Pro-choicers are associated with the opposite.  Gallup finds Americans are split on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the ACA (46% agree, 46% disagree), but these views skew heavily along party lines (79% of Democrats agree, 83% of Republicans disagree).

However, Gallup also finds that, of those who want to repeal the ACA in some form, 40% only want to repeal parts of the Act, rather than repeal the entire Act.

If the ACA had nothing to do with abortion, would that substantially change your view of the Act?  Would it change your view of the election?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

They Exist!

[From "I think, therefore I blog," Jameson Graber considers the dynamics between Secular Pro-Life and a) religious pro-lifers and b) pro-choice secularists.  Excerpts are reprinted with permission.]

SPL's blog regularly receives comments from people trying to "uncover" their secret religious affiliation. Their presence at the Reason Rally was not exactly well-received by all. Why is this?
...
Accusing SPL of being "secretly religious" is the most ironic of accusations, since it seeks to discredit someone's view solely on the grounds that it breaks with secular orthodoxy. The irony would be amusing if not for the high stakes in this debate.
Perhaps part of the claim that SPL is "secretly religious" stems from SPL's own need for solidarity, which happens to come largely from religious organizations. It is true that they link to blogs like Jill Stanek's, whose views are hard-line conservative and religious, and that they work with sites like LifeNews.com, which has a specifically religious and conservative affiliation. But keep in mind that SPL maintains a pro-contraception stance and remains willing to openly debate the rape exception, two positions which are out of sync with standard pro-life religious orthodoxy. Many of their members also openly support gay marriage, although the purpose of their organization is not to address such issues.
The point of SPL, as I see it, is not to advance secularism, but rather to advance the pro-life movement from a secular perspective. As they do so, it's natural for them to make friends among religious pro-lifers. In my opinion, the religious pro-lifers stand to gain quite a bit more from SPL than the other way around in terms of intellectual credibility; in terms of resources, however, quite the opposite is true. I don't think anyone needs to apologize for this. 
(As an illustration of one of my points above, I've been impressed with SPL's ability to clearly and openly discuss the issue of bodily integrity with regards to the abortion debate...It is SPL's willingness to delve seriously into all the philosophical dimensions of the abortion debate that makes me believe they will grow to have a huge influence on the pro-life movement.)

[A big thank you to Jameson for such kind words of encouragement.] 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Secular Conscientious Objectors?


NBC Philadelphia reports on an upcoming merger between two Montgomery County-based hospitals: Holy Redeemer Health System (Catholic) and Abington Health.  One effect of this merger is that Abington Health will no longer perform abortions.  As Abington Health President and CEO Larry Merlis explains,
We wanted assure that we would be able to provide assurances that Holy Redeemer would continue to fully comply with ethical and religious directives -- and all the Catholic entities of our new organization would.
Two thoughts:
  1. How many of our nation's hospitals are Catholic?  How often do they influence non-religious hospitals to stop performing abortions because of mergers?
  2. What is the difference, if any, between getting social/legal exemptions because of your religious beliefs and getting exemptions because of your personal (but secular) beliefs?  I know you can be a secular conscientious objector, but does the same mentality apply for issues besides war?