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Friday, August 30, 2013

Shoot a Photo, Join a Movement

Secular Pro-Life is working on a new project to increase awareness of the fact that there are over six million non-religious pro-lifers living in the United States.

Don't believe me? Let's do the math. According to the Pew Research Center, 19.6% of American adults have no religious affiliation. That amounts to about 46 million people. According to Gallup, somewhere between 15 and 19 percent of Americans who have no religious affiliation identify themselves as pro-life. Do the math, and it comes out to between 6.9 million and 8.7 million! Secular Pro-Life calls it six million just to be conservative and ensure that no one can accuse us of inflating the numbers.

If you're a non-religious pro-life American, take a photo of yourself holding a sign that says "I'm one in six million" and email it so info@secularprolife.org with the subject line "One in Six Million." Include your first name, last initial, city, and state.

For instance, here's Ellen S. of Daly City, CA:


It's so important to let non-religious pro-lifers know that they aren't alone. SPL gets emails every week saying "I thought it was just me! I'm so glad I finally found you!" How many more want to get involved, but are tentative about speaking up because they think no one will stand with them?

That's why, once we have a critical mass of photos, we will publish them on the SPL website and begin a facebook advertising campaign. You can help SPL cover the costs of advertising here. Your gift will help us reach a vast new audience.

Remember: the volunteer opportunity for photos is limited to non-religious individuals who live in the United States. If you're a religious ally and/or call another country home, you can help by sharing this blog post with your friends, and by donating whatever amount you are able. Thank you!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's the Equality, Stupid

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

Marriage equality. Racial equality. Gender equality. Everywhere there's equality. It's hard to go about even one day in life without hearing a story in which one member (or class) of our species is accusing another member (or class) of our species of unequal treatment.

So allow me to throw my hat in the ring and argue for existential equality. By existential equality, I don't mean to imply anything spiritual as the term seems to imply in a quick Google search. I simply mean to state my belief that in the same way that one strives for the realization of equality between LGBT persons and heterosexuals, blacks and whites, and males and females, so too should we strive to realize the equality of existence. To put it in simplified form, equality of existence is allowing something that already exists to continue to exist in order to maintain a more general principle of equality.

Equality of existence obviously comes into direct conflict with the practice of abortion. Abortion, after all, is the practice of terminating a life that already exists. So my conclusion is that if the equality of existence is true, then it follows that abortion cannot be a matter of individual choice.

My argument that the principle of equality of existence is true relies on the following premise: that equality of existence is required for any subsequent claims of equality or rights. A brief illustrative example: In America, we generally recognize two rights (these obviously aren't the only two): the right to life and the right to vote. Do these rights stand independently? Or would violation of one affect the other? The right to vote begins at the age of 18. Imagine that every person's life is subject to review on their 17th birthday by another individual person. If they are deemed worthy, they may go on their way, if they are not, they are killed. Does this violation of the right to life affect your right to vote? If your family member is killed, your first thought wouldn't be concern over the fact that your loved one won't be able to vote in subsequent election cycles. So the best way to consider this question is to ask, do the individuals who survive their 17th birthday have a right to vote? It's plainly true (in this scenario) that this choice is arbitrary in the sense that this person is allowed to make the choice for any reason that suits his or her fancy. It's also plainly true that a survivor's right to vote is wholly dependent on another's choice to let them live. Because of this dependence, it follows that if your life was upheld arbitrarily, then your right to vote, even if exercised perfectly freely thereafter, is also arbitrary. If the right to vote is arbitrary, then it is not, in fact, a right. Thus, the right to life is a pre-requisite for the right to vote. If there is no right to life, there is no right to vote.

Now, for the purposes of abortion, let's define the right to life as beginning when personhood begins in the most pro-choice sense of the word (consciousness, self-awareness etc.) so that a fetus does not have a right to life and would only attain it at some future date. Does this right require a prior right to shield it from the arbitrariness that infects the above example? Again, the question to ask is do survivors of abortion have a right to life? Again, here it is plainly true that this choice is arbitrary in the sense that the mother is allowed to make the choice for any reason (this is not, in any sense, a claim that mothers generally make this choice lightly). Again, here it is also plainly true that the survivor's right to life was wholly dependent on the mother's choice to let them live. So it also follows that since this choice was arbitrary, the right to life (that kicks in at consciousness), even if exercised perfectly freely at that point is equally arbitrary. If the right to life is arbitrary then it is not, in fact, a right. Thus, equality of existence is a pre-requisite for the right to life. Equality of existence is true. Therefore, abortion should not be a matter of individual choice.  

Equality and rights are temporal processes. The flawed assumption on which every pro-choice argument must rest is on the idea that you can introduce arbitrariness at the very beginning of the process and that this has no consequences for those that survive such arbitrariness. On the contrary, introducing arbitrariness at such an early stage renders equality and rights thereafter meaningless. On what basis can you claim rights and equality when your very existence is dependent on the choice of another person? You can't. Your existence is a privilege, not a right. And consequently, everything else you enjoy thereafter are privileges.

So to all who can read this, congratulations on your membership to life's country club. I hear the pool is really big.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Critique of Mary Anne Warren's On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, Part III

In part one of this series, I examined Warren's definition of humanity, and in part two I examined her argument about what a person is and showed why the unborn certainly qualify. This article will be the third part of five, in which I'll examine Warren's claims about the right to life.

3. Fetal Development and the Right to Life

Warren begins by merely asserting that the paradigm case for personhood is a normal human adult. This strikes me as odd, though, considering that earlier she argued that we have no right to assume that genetic humanity is necessary for personhood. On what grounds is a normal human adult our paradigm case for personhood? Warren simply doesn't bother to lay out an argument on this issue. In fact, her earlier argument seems to suggest that it would be improper to consider a human as our paradigm case at all.

Nevertheless, with the adult human as a paradigm case, she uses this section to address two questions: 1) How far advanced from conception does a human being need to be before it begins to have a virtue of being personlike enough to matter, and 2) To what extent does a fetus' potential for personhood endow it with some of the same rights as persons?

Warren attempts to answer these questions by considering that human value develops gradually. As one becomes more and more like a person, one becomes more and more valuable. Or she at least says that we should take that claim seriously that since the human individual develops sociologically in a continuous fashion, the rights of a human person might develop in the same way. I really don't think we should. As pro-life philosopher Trent Horn has argued, personhood does not come in degrees so it can not be tied to a property that comes in degrees. You're either a person or you're not, so being a person is not tied into becoming more and more conscious, or self-aware, or looking more human, etc. Warren does correctly state that being genetically human, having recognizable human features, detectable brain activity, and viability are not among the relevant attributes for personhood. But they may as well be. Claiming that these properties are morally relevant would be about as ad hoc as Warren's own list of attributes.

Now Warren just keeps digging her hole even deeper. She argues that a seven- or eight-month-old fetus has some rudimentary consciousness and can even feel pain. But does it satisfy condition one of her basic criteria for personhood? No! She writes, "Thus it is clear that even though a seven- or eight-month fetus has features which make it apt to arouse in us the same powerful protective instinct as is commonly aroused by a small infant, nevertheless it is not significantly more personlike than is a very small embryo. It is somewhat more personlike; it can apparently feel and respond to pain, and it may even have a rudimentary form of consciousness, insofar as its brain is quite active. Nevertheless, it seems safe to say that it is not fully conscious, in the way that an infant of a few months is, and that it cannot reason, or communicate messages of indefinitely many sorts, does not engage in self-motivated activity, and has no self-awareness. Thus, in the relevant aspects, a fetus, even a fully developed one, is considerably less personlike than is the average mature mammal, indeed the average fish. And I think that a rational person must conclude that if the right to life of a fetus is to be based upon its resemblance to a person, then it cannot be said to have any more right to life than, let us say, a newborn guppy (which also seems to be capable of feeling pain), and that a right of that magnitude could never override a woman's right to obtain an abortion, at any stage of her pregnancy."

I really don't think Warren has earned the right to tell us what a "rational person" should conclude. A case to support abortion doesn't get much more ad hoc than this. This is also why Warren's case would also support infanticide (but more on that in part five). This just smacks of a pro-choice person desperate to show that her position is morally permissible.

She begs the question by assuming that a woman has a right to an abortion, but the freedom to commit murder on an innocent human being is not a right. If the unborn have the right to live (which they do since they qualify as persons, see part two in this series), then that right to life does override most reasons for a woman to have an abortion.

Warren does argue that there may be other reasons to place legal limits on the stage of pregnancy in which an abortion may be performed. She concedes that life or health of the mother in the late stages is no longer a justification for abortion due to the relative safety of new techniques for inducing labor. She does state that the common argument that late-term abortion will erode the level of respect for human life, which may lead to an increase in unjustified euthanasia and other crimes, is not a reason for legal limits, but that is wholly mistaken. While I believe this is true (and unjustified euthanasia has certainly been performed), it is not, strictly speaking, an argument against abortion. Abortion is wrong because it unjustly takes an innocent human life, not based on the effects it would have on the values of society at large. The effects it has on the society at large is simply a by-product of allowing the legal execution of over 50 million unborn human children.

I would like to say that Warren's essay has not withstood the test of time, but to be honest, I can't imagine why it was ever taken seriously in the first place. I suppose if you already agree with Warren's conclusions, then you wouldn't disagree with the path she took to get there. The essay has already suffered fatally, but there are still two more sections to go. In my next article, I will look at Warren's argument for potential personhood, and show why her argument against potentiality misses the mark.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On the Brain Requirement for Personhood

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

Pro-choice philosophers have offered various laundry lists of criteria that all purport to list the properties relevant to being a person, i.e. an intrinsically valuable being worthy of moral concern and protection. One such proposal holds that the possession of a brain or brain activity is a requirement for being a person. In this post I'll briefly sketch a few problems facing this position.

There are several ways in which the brain requirement may be understood. First, we may take the brain criterion to mean that having a brain is a necessary condition for being a person. This means that although all persons must possess a brain, the mere possession of a brain is not enough to confer personhood. Second, the brain criterion may be understood to mean that the possession of a brain is a sufficient condition for being a person. This means that any being with a brain qualifies as a person simply because it possess a brain. Third, the brain criterion may state both a necessary and sufficient condition for personhood, meaning that all persons must have brains and that the possession of a brain is enough to qualify a being as a person.
Each of these interpretations faces difficulties. The claim that the possession of a brain is a necessary condition for being a person seems false; for it would appear that there could exist persons who lack a brain. There might, for all we know, exist aliens or some other species that lack brains but who are nevertheless persons capable of thinking rationally and acting freely. If this scenario is at least possible – and it certainly seems like it is –  then having a brain is not necessary for being a person, for what this shows is that there is no conceptual connection between the two. The brain may enable the expression of personhood by enabling the expression of, say, the capacity to think rationally, but this function need not be accomplished only by a brain.

There is another difficulty as well, one that also applies to the claim that the possession of a brain is sufficient for personhood. Many insects and animals possess brains, but surely they aren't thereby rendered persons as well. The brain criterion will need to be modified to state that a certain type of brain is necessary or sufficient for personhood. But then what is doing the real work here is not the possession of a brain, but the possession of a brain that possesses some other morally relevant property. It is the possession of this property, not the brain, that is relevant to personhood. But possession of this property is grounded in the kind of organism that the being in question is, since the kind of organism something is serves to determine the structure of its body parts. The brain is only relevant to the expression of that property. Hence, pro-choice philosophers are sometimes accused of confusing the property of being a person with the property of functioning as a person.

So there are good reasons to doubt the adequacy of the brain criterion as relevant to personhood. Since the third interpretation of the brain criterion presupposes the truth of the first two, we may conclude that it fails as well.

Nevertheless, pro-choice philosophers might still insist that the brain surely is in some way relevant to personhood. What gives the brain criterion its intuitive force is that the brain is in a sense the “ruling part” of our bodies: it coordinates and directs the development of the whole human being. Destruction of brain function leads to the cessation of homeostasis, for the body is no longer coordinated as a single unit. This is why the criterion for physical death has traditionally been stated in terms of brain death.

But it will not work to use this as an argument against the personhood of the human embryo. Brain death is accepted as a valid criterion of death by the medical community because brain death signals the irreversible loss of human bodily functioning. When the brain dies, organs are unable to work together for the good of the whole. The various parts of the human being are no longer integrated as a single unit. The exact opposite is true in the case of the developing human. Although adult humans require a brain to integrate and direct their bodily functions, an embryo's development clearly does not require a brain to direct it. Their law-like development occurs without the direction of the brain. It is only at a later stage of development when the brain has developed sufficiently to take over the direction of bodily functioning. Hence, the parallel with brain death fails.

It seems reasonable, then, to think that the brain criterion is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a person.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Argument Against Regulating Abortion Facilities is Disingenuous

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

Whenever a legislator proposes safety regulations for abortion facilities, the abortion industry always plays the part of the victim to drum up sympathy and support for their cause. They often claim safety regulations are unnecessary because complications from abortion rarely arise. Abortion complications may be rare. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen and that clinics shouldn’t be required to be prepared for them.  
 
Above: In Birmingham, AL, EMTs
struggle to carry a victim of a
botched abortion to her stretcher
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which strongly supports abortion, approximately 0.5% of abortion patients have a complication that requires hospitalization. That's likely a low figure, but let's assume that they're right for the sake of argument. When you consider that there are well over one million abortions performed in the United States annually, the number of patients requiring hospitalization after an abortion would be over 5,000! Don’t these 5,000+ women deserve optimal care?    

The fact that abortion complications happen to such a small percentage of women doesn't settle the question. Look at our school buildings. How often does a school go up in flames? Almost never. But think about all the government-required safeguards in place in case a school does cat
ch fire. There are alarm pull stations, portable and overhead fire extinguishers, emergency exit doors, fire drills, and fire lanes around the school building. Even though school fires are rare, we still plan for the worst-case scenario regardless of the chances of such an event happening. If a school went up in flames and only one child died as a result of the school not having enough fire doors, it would be a horrible, preventable tragedy and legislators would be scrambling to pass laws preventing such a thing from happening again.

So, what is so outrageous about the hallways of an abortion clinic being wide enough to accommodate a stretcher if a patient needs to be transported to an emergency room? What is the problem with an abortion doctor needing to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital? Yes, abortion problems don’t happen often, but if compliance with the new laws saved just one woman’s life, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood claim they care about women’s health. If they really cared, they wouldn’t oppose safety measures for their clinics. It’s sad that abortion clinics must be forced to provide safety for their patients. If they really cared about the women in their clinics, they would already have these measures in place without the government having to get involved.

I wish everyone in the abortion industry would just come out and say what they really mean. That they don’t care about women, they care about money. That it’s not about health care, it’s about herding women like cattle through their clinics and turning as high a profit as possible. If they were honest about it, I would at least have a tiny, microscopic amount of respect for them.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Single-Issue Skepticism

Recently, a fellow pro-life atheist who is active in Secular Pro-Life shared this on facebook:
Jillette is obviously not the only person to have this thought, but he expresses it quite well. The argument that we need religion to make us behave is a lousy argument.

The problem is that many people throw this reasoning completely out the window when the topic turns to abortion. Here, I do not mean Penn Jillette; he's pro-choice, but has always been respectful of those who disagree. But for too many pro-choice atheists, abortion is "just a religious issue," pro-lifers are "the American Taliban," and any suggestion that abortion is unethical is just "fanatics trying to impose their religion on others."

I'm a fan of the "good without God" messaging that's been popularized in recent years. But that message is wildly undermined every time an atheist group advocates for abortion, especially the extreme position of abortion on demand at any point in pregnancy. Most people, whatever their religious background or lack thereof, find such a worldview morally abhorrent, for good reasons. It's enough to convince a person on the fence to stay in the atheist closet.

The pro-life movement and the secular movement have something in common: they are both in the midst of internal debates over whether or not they should be "single-issue." I have long encouraged pro-lifers to resist coupling abortion with issues like same-sex marriage or fiscal conservatism. To the secular movement, I now offer the same encouragement: keep it single-issue. Do not tie non-belief to support for abortion.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tomorrow: #LifeMatters Tweet & Blogfest

The Feminist Majority Foundation (which, despite the name, unfortunately does not actually stand with the majority of women who believe that abortion is immoral) is promoting the twitter hashtag #abortionmatters to spread pro-abortion propaganda. They are referring to it as a "blog carnival" and say that the purpose is to "encourage wider education on the procedure." (We're down with educating people about abortion procedures, all right, but I doubt they'll like it!) Another purpose is to "normalize the conversation," by which they actually mean "make the abortion-supporting minority louder than the pro-life majority."

The "carnival" begins tomorrow and runs through Monday. To counter this anti-life event, our friends at the Life Matters Journal have announced a competing campaign: #LifeMatters.
Post early and often with the #LifeMatters hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, your blogs -- however you can spread the message! We want the media to know that our message is one based in human rights, sound science, and solid ethics. That only by laying a foundation based on the respect for life and dignity of each and every human being can we ever hope for a future peace.
You can also change your Facebook and/or Twitter photo to one of these graphics:




Secular Pro-Life is proud to co-sponsor this event. Abortion advocates often rely on censorship, but we know that the best way to counteract toxic speech is with true speech. Don't let opponents of the right to life go unanswered!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Against Abortion but For Choice" is a Cop-Out

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

In today’s often polarized abortion debates, one common middle position is the stance that says “I’m not in favor of abortion, but I think people should have the right to choose.” At first, this sounds like admirably enlightened  and judicious. It sounds like it finds a reasonable middle ground.

But it’s really just a cop out.

For one thing, it assumes that pro-choice advocates are, in general, in favor of abortion as a positive good. But with the possible exception of countries like China where abortion may be encouraged for the sake of population control, few would be positively in favor of abortion for its own sake. Indeed, China’s policies have frequently been denounced as “barbaric.”

In short, no woman deliberately gets pregnant to experience the joy of abortion.

The real debate, then, is over the legal and moral status of abortion. And here is where the tough ethical calls have to be made. If you believe that abortion is an immoral killing of a human being then you must, as a moral person (perhaps with a few exceptions) conclude that abortions should be illegal.

To claim that you oppose abortion but think others should have the choice is as ludicrous as saying that you personally oppose rape, but think that men should be able to rape women if they choose to do it. That’s obviously wrong. If you think people should have the right to choose to do something then you are, in effect, in favor of it. That you yourself might not choose it, is not the same as being against it.

Consider a more realistic parallel: the legalization of marijuana. I don’t smoke pot. I never have, and I have no intention of doing so. But I do think people should have the choice. So, yes, I am pro-pot as far as the legal and ethical debate is concerned. We should all be equally forthright on the question of abortion.

The anti-abortion-but-pro-choice position is tempting, but it must be resisted because it allows people to avoid the essential questions. It allows for a pro-choice position that doesn’t have to answer the hardest questions: Why isn’t a fetus a distinct human life? And if it is a distinct human life, why doesn’t it deserve legal protections? If you can answer these questions, we can have a debate. If not, you’ll have to change your position. Either way, the issue is too important for people to hide behind an easy rhetorical trick.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Critique of Mary Anne Warren's On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, Part II

In part one of this examination, I showed that the pro-life position is not logically incoherent in considering the unborn to be human beings, both in the genetic sense and the moral sense. In this article, I'll examine Warren's criteria for personhood and show how the unborn certainly qualify.

2. Defining the moral community.

Warren says that it can't be established that genetic humanity is sufficient for moral humanity. I believe that she is partially correct -- what makes someone part of the moral community is not simply the species they belong to. But human beings are much more than their genetics. Being genetically human means that we, the preborn included, have a certain nature. We have an inherent nature as rational, moral agents. It is this inherent nature that makes us a part of the moral community. So it's not by virtue of their biological species, but the inherent nature of the species they belong to, that makes them part of the moral community.

The problem with this section is that Warren makes absolutely no argument for her position. She claims that it's self-evident that the unborn are not persons because they don't perform the functions as persons, but as atheist philosopher Quentin Smith wrote"A principle p is self-evident if and only if everybody who understands p believes p." It is not self-evident that the unborn are not persons because not everyone agrees with that position. As another famous atheist, Christopher Hitchens, has noted, "that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." If this principle holds true, then we have grounds for dismissing Warren's entire argument.

Warren concedes that she is not going to give an exhaustive view of what a person is, but believes she has come up with five basic criteria that a person should satisfy. She argues that we have no right to assume that genetic humanity is necessary for personhood. This is true, of course, but since all humans are persons, due to their inherent nature, this does mean that genetic humanity is a sufficient condition for personhood. She asks us to imagine a space traveller who encounters an alien race and wants to know if he should act morally toward them and asks what qualities we should look for. But the pro-life position works here, too -- if the alien species is an intelligent species with the same inherent nature as rational, moral agents that we are -- Klingons or Vulcans of Star Trek lore, for example, then we should act morally toward them and not treat them as a source of food. Looking at the adults of that species will give us an idea of their inherent nature, but we shouldn't just assume that only those of the alien species who are old enough to exhibit personal qualities are the only ones it would be wrong to kill.

So what are the criteria she suggests a person must fulfill? They are as follows:

1) Consciousness (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain;
2) Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems);
3) Self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively independent of either genetic or direct external control);
4) The capacity to communicate, by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an indefinite number of possible contents, but on infinitely many possible topics);
5) The presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness, either individual or racial, or both.

An immediate problem should hit us like a bullet train -- if these criteria are necessary, then that would also justify infanticide. Warren recognizes this and subsequently tries to weasel out of it in a postscript added sometime after her essay was published, but we'll get to that in the last part of this series.

Now I don't know why she was being so wishy-washy about establishing necessary criteria. She first says that certainly all five don't need to be present for someone to be a person. (1) and (2) may be sufficient for personhood, or (1) through (3). But another problem presents itself -- if you don't know how many someone would necessarily have to satisfy to be considered a person, how do you know a person must satisfy any of them? Why couldn't something that doesn't satisfy any of the criteria be rightly considered a person? Also, if not all of them are necessary, then that means that a being that doesn't satisfy those conditions can rightly be considered a person for other reasons.

It gets better. She writes, "All we need to claim, to demonstrate that a fetus is not a person, is that any being which satisfies none of (1)-(5) is certainly not a person. I consider this claim to be so obvious that I think anyone who denied it, and claimed that a being which satisfied none of (1)-(5) was a person all the same, would thereby demonstrate that he had no notion at all of what a person is -- perhaps because he had confused the concept of a person with genetic humanity." This is sheer intellectual laziness. First, I have already demonstrated why Warren's claim is not self-evident. Second, rather than actually argue for her claims (what sort of philosopher doesn't believe she has to support her claims?), she just says "anyone who disagrees with me clearly doesn't even know what a person is." This is an attitude that should be relegated to an elementary school playground, not rigorous intellectual discussion.

Pro-life philosopher Stephen Schwartz, in his book The Moral Question of Abortion (Loyola University Press, Chicago, Il., 1990) explains that Warren is confusing being a person with functioning as a person. As Schwartz explains, "Imagine a person in a deep, dreamless sleep. She is not concious, she cannot reason, etc.; she lacks all five of these traits. She is not functioning as a person; that is what being asleep means. But of course she is a person, she retains fully her status of being a person, and killing her while asleep is just as wrong as killing her while she is awake and functioning as a person. Functioning as a person refers to all the activities proper to persons as persons, to thinking in the broadest sense. It includes reasoning, deciding, imagining, talking, experiencing love and beauty, remembering, intending, and much more."

Schwartz gives an analogy. Imagine two children. One is born comatose and will emerge from his coma after nine years. The second child is born healthy, but as soon as she gains the ability to see herself as a continuing self, she, too, lapses into a coma and will emerge after nine years. If Warren is consistent she would have to say it's okay to kill the first child for any reason and not the second. But this is absurd. Clearly not being able to function as a person does not disqualify someone from personhood.

Warren ends this section with a discussion of certain humans she does not believe to be persons besides simple healthy fetuses. The entities in question are a man or woman who has had her consciousness permanently obliterated but remains alive, and defective human beings, such as an anencephalic human. However, I believe she is mistaken about this. These two entities are clearly still persons, or at least they differ in relevant ways to healthy fetuses.

First, the man or woman whose consciousness is permanently obliterated. Even if this person is no longer a person, he/she differs from the fetus in a morally relevant way. The fetus does not exhibit personal qualities yet because he is still at the beginning of his life, developing his capacities. The human fetus is more comparable to a person in a reversible coma than to a brain-dead human. So as Schwartz would again argue, the reason we consider brain death the death of the person is because the potentiality to function as a person is irreversibly lost. In the case of the embryo or fetus, the potentiality to function as a person will come.

Second, the severely deformed human. Warren is not clear on what she means by a "defective" human being, but if we're talking about a child with a disability, then that clearly doesn't disqualify that child from personhood. But what about the case of a severely deformed human, such as an anencephalic fetus, which is a case in which the brain doesn't develop fully or at all, and the child will die shortly after birth, if not die in utero? This is a very difficult case for all involved. However, as difficult as this situation is, the fact that someone will live only a short time does not justify killing them. Christopher Kaczor, in The Ethics of Abortion (Routledge, New York, NY, 2011) argues that it is immoral to kill a death row inmate a few days before his date of execution. Since the severely deformed human still has the same intrinsic nature as the rest of us (they just tragically won't actualize these potentialities), they are still a part of the moral community and we are not permitted to intentionally kill them.

Warren has not even attempted to argue her position. We are now finished with the second section and the pro-life position stands firm. The unborn certainly qualify as persons. In the next section, Warren will try to determine when it can be said that we actually have a right to life.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Religious Minorities and the Pro-Life Movement

Last Tuesday, Kristen Hatten, writing for Live Action News, wrote a piece that's gotten quite a bit of attention, entitled "Atheists, agnostics, pagans, and more: do they have a place in the pro-life movement?"

First of all, let me say that I'm pleased to see this conversation is happening. It's long overdue. And I'm in wholehearted agreement with Hatten's ultimate conclusion, which is that "any friend of the unborn deserves a seat at our table."

Hatten recounts that she was a pro-choice atheist, who then became a
pro-life atheist, and then a pro-life Christian soon thereafter. It all began with an abortion debate she had with a pro-life friend, and if that friend had "used religion as a basis for her argument, I not only would not have been convinced, I would have dismissed her entire thesis outright and probably would have ended the conversation."

In light of this realization, it's odd that in this very article, she assumes that her audience is Christian:
God has His ways. I believe they have been called “mysterious.” Perhaps we should be humble enough to accept they don’t always involve us being loudly right at everyone’s face. Are you right to say God is the number one reason to oppose abortion? In my opinion, yes. But being right is not always how you win an advocate for Life – or a soul for Jesus.
Of course, neither Hatten nor anyone else should be prevented from speaking about their religious beliefs, and it is not my intention to silence anyone. But Live Action is not a formally religious organization, and I know for a fact that Live Action News has at least one atheist author. There is no reason to think that the readers of Live Action News are exclusively Christian.

The unfortunate impression created by this article (which, in fairness, I'm quite sure that Hatten did not intend) is that non-Christians can become pro-life and that this should be encouraged through secular argumentation, but that this is a mere stepping-stone to creating pro-life Christians. By the time someone is involved enough in the pro-life movement to be reading pro-life blogs, the religious conversion should have already happened.

Is conversion possible? Sure. The inverse is also possible: a pro-life Christian may become an atheist. Indeed, many SPL members are former Christians. What relevance does any of this have to the unborn babies who are at risk each day?

A non-Christian person can be as pro-life as they come, but if that person thinks that the local pro-life organization is on a mission to save his or her soul, there's bound to be discomfort. It might cause the person to be less involved in the pro-life movement than he or she otherwise would be. That's where Secular Pro-Life comes in.

I am optimistic that as SPL grows and develops healthy relationships with other pro-life groups, and as this respectful dialogue continues, the pro-life movement will become more diverse and will derive great strength from that diversity. The table is having some great conversation, so pull up a chair!

Friday, August 16, 2013

SPL is coming to Yale!

Above: Ivy League student groups at the March for Life
Your president, Kelsey Hazzard, here. Choose Life at Yale invites you to the Vita et Veritas (Life and Truth) conference, on Friday, October 18 and Saturday, October 19. The conference will feature speakers from a variety of pro-life organizations, both religious and secular.

I'm slated to take part in a panel discussion on religious diversity in the pro-life movement. This panel will most likely take place on the Friday evening, although the schedule is still being finalized.

This will be the second time this year that a Secular Pro-Life speaker has presented at an Ivy League university! (The first was Columbia University.)

Registration is only $20. This promises to be a great conference. I hope to see you there!

P.S.: Most pro-life organizations charge a speaker's fee or honorarium, but Secular Pro-Life never does. Why? Because once upon a time, I was the pro-life college student extending the speaking invitations, and I know firsthand that most student organizations can barely afford to pay for travel and accommodations.* Add a speaking fee on top of that, and great pro-life events become unaffordable.

When I go to campuses and conferences, I like to bring items for people to take home: brochures, booklets, stickers, that sort of thing. Other speakers do the same. We want our message to reverberate long after the talk is over. How do we pay for all of that without charging an honorarium?

That's where you come in. Reaching out to the next generation of
pro-life advocates with the secular perspective is critical to saving lives in the long term.

These aren't "sexy" expenses as far as a fundraising pitch is concerned, but they are expenses nonetheless. Can you spare $10 a month to cover these routine costs?

*Unless the accommodation is a shared dorm room. Been there.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How Common is Infanticide in Abortion Facilities?

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

In ancient Rome it was customary to present a newborn child to the family patriarch who would decide whether the infant would live or die. Today this right is claimed by the mothers.

While the majority of even late-term abortion campaigners agree that life begins at birth at the latest, that magical moment when a tissue blob suddenly turns into a human being, there are also those who promote the mother’s right to kill her newborn child, especially after a failed abortion attempt. Not everybody phrases it as bluntly as Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, who employ the oxymoron “after-birth abortion,” but the euphemisms used by others leave no doubt about their position. Abortion clinics’ staff, such as in Dr.Emily Women’s Health Center in the Bronx, refer to children who are born alive as “specimen” or, incorrectly, as “the pregnancy,” tell their clients they’ll be put in a toxic solution and give advice as to how to dispose of a live-born child at home. Planned Parenthood, according to their representative Alisa LaPolt Snow, “believe[s] that, you know, any decision that's made [about a child born alive] should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician.” (Under public pressure, Planned Parenthood distanced itself from that statement.)

Some go as far as MSNBC host Melissa Harris Perry, who believes that the beginning of life “depends an awful lot on the feeling of the parents. A powerful feeling – but not science." By this logic, there is no upper age limit for “aborting” a child after birth, so we all should tread very softly around our parents.

Infanticide has influential advocates such as Bill Clinton, who vetoed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which would have banned “terminations” that take place during birth, in 1995 and 1997 (a similar act was finally signed into law in 2003); and Barack Obama, who voted several times against Illinois’ Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (which, as the title suggests, was designed to protect children who are born alive) in 2001 and 2002, stating: “What we are doing here is to create one more burden on women” and that it “would have taken away from doctors their professional judgment when a fetus is viable.”

In May 2013, serial killer Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of murder (among other charges). For those who follow the liberal press, Gosnell was an abortion provider who on several occasions “induced labour, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord.” Even though he was only convicted of three counts of murder, his employees describe this technique as a standard procedure that was carried out on a regular basis. Given that Gosnell performed abortions from 1972 (before they were legal) until his arrest in 2011, he may well be the most prolific serial killer in history.

In the wake of the Gosnell trial, three former assistants of abortion provider Douglas Karpen in Texas came forward and testified in gruesome detail how every day their employer would kill several live-born children or bin them while they were still alive.

Other facilities just shelve the newborn children until they die, which can take up to several days. This practice was highlighted in 1999 by Jill Stanek, who worked in the Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois as a nurse. Her testimony led to the passage of the federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which was signed into law in 2002.

In her treatise Children: Things We Throw Away? nurse Melanie Green not only describes witnessing the death of a child who survived a saline solution abortion but also points out that this is a common practice: 
I’m a housewife and a registered nurse from Jacksonville. I worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, and when we weren’t busy, I’d go out to help with the newborns. One night I saw a bassinet outside the nursery. There was a baby in this bassinet – a crying, perfectly formed baby – but there was a difference in this child. She had been scalded. She was the child of a saline abortion. This little girl looked as if she had been put in a pot of boiling water. No doctor, no nurse, no parent, to comfort this hurt, burned child. She was left alone to die in pain. They wouldn’t let her in the nursery – they didn’t even bother to cover her. I was ashamed of my profession that night! It’s hard to believe this can happen in our modern hospitals, but it does. It happens all the time. I thought a hospital was a place to heal the sick – not a place to kill. I asked a nurse at another hospital what they do with their babies that are aborted by saline. Unlike my hospital, where the baby was left alone struggling for breath, their hospital puts the infant in a bucket and puts the lid on. Suffocation! Death by suffocation!
Abortion rights campaigners continue to claim that Gosnell was an isolated case, but there are multiple indications, such as the mentioned statements of Melanie Green, Jill Stanek, Karpen’s employees, Planned Parenthood and Dr. Emily’s assistant, among many others, that the gosnelling of newborn children is a common method of dealing with failed abortion attempts, in some cases even against the wishes of the mother.

The liberal media generally ignore these cases, and not just because these stories turn the stomach of every sensible person, be they pro-life or pro-abortion. These stories cast an undesired light on the reality of the abortion industry and may cause the undecided to oppose abortion and the pro-abortionists to waver in their beliefs. A legal procedure and a first-degree murder are in close proximity. A newborn child is no different than the fetus they were just a few minutes prior to birth, and this may raise a very unsettling question: if they are the same, is the newborn child still a tissue blob? Or is the fetus already a human being?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Critique of Mary Anne Warren's On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, Part I

I recently gave an in-depth critique of one of the most important articles ever written on the abortion issue. I would like to turn my attention now to another popular essay written by Mary Anne Warren called On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion. Whereas Thomson argued that pro-choice people can assume the unborn are full human persons and still justify abortion, Warren argued that the unborn certainly are not persons because they don't fulfill the qualifications of personhood.

I think Thomson is a genuine philosopher. Warren, despite her essay being popular, does not seem to have been trained very well as a philosopher. Her essay is filled with logical problems, despite her attempt to show that it is actually the pro-life position that is fallacious. She spends much of her essay responding to John T. Noonan's essay "Deciding Who is Human." I have not read it. I tried to search the internet to see if there was a site that had it with no luck. I do have another Noonan essay, "Abortion is Morally Wrong," which I did re-read to prepare myself for writing this article. So I'm going to assume that Warren is accurately representing Noonan's words. Warren wrote her essay in 1973, but some 17 years later Stephen Schwartz wrote a book (now out-of-print) called The Moral Question of Abortion. This book contains a foreword praising the book by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, and contains a very compelling argument for embryonic/fetal personhood. I'm not sure what the state of pro-life arguments were at that time, but Schwartz has compiled a more compelling case for fetal personhood than Noonan did. It will be interested to see if Warren has ever responded to Schwartz.

Warren begins in her introduction with a brief word about Jefferson and how it may be fair to suggest he only meant to attribute those words to men when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal." I find this incredibly dubious. The moral position of the Founders when they wrote the Declaration of Independence was that there was a natural law, and that government's job was not to create rights, but to protect those that all human beings have by virtue of being created, that is, conceived. For a more fuller treatment on this issue, see the wonderful book Natural Rights and the Right to Choose by Hadley Arkes.

From here Warren springboards into a discussion of what makes us human.

1. On the definition of "human."

Warren begins this section by looking at a common pro-life argument: P1: It is wrong to kill innocent human beings. P2: Fetuses are innocent human beings. C: Therefore, it is wrong to kill fetuses.

This is a perfectly valid deductive argument. However, Warren tries to invalidate it by claiming there's a logical fallacy. She argues, correctly it would seem, that there are two different senses of the word "human": the genetic sense, in which a human being belongs to the biological species Homo sapiens. Then there's the moral sense, in which an individual is human enough to where human rights and value can be established. It would be wrong to kill you if you are human in the moral sense, but not if you're not human in the moral sense.

She argues that one of these premises is question-begging because premise one is only self-evident if you mean "human" in the moral sense, and that premise two is not question-begging only if you mean "human" in the genetic sense. So the word "human" is being used in two different senses. So first, a premise can't beg the question, only a person can. You beg the question if you are assuming the conclusion in one of your premises; in other words, you only accept the premise because you already accept the conclusion. So what Warren actually means is that pro-life people are equivocating on the term human. But are they really?

The whole purpose of deductive arguments is to reason from a large group to a specific case. Any deductive argument could be dismissed as question-begging for this reason. It's mind-boggling how a philosopher could completely misunderstand the purpose of deductive arguments. It doesn't matter whether a premise is "self-evident" or not. What matters is, can you support the premises? Of course we can. There's no reason to suppose that the moral sense is not meant in the second premise of the argument. Human fetuses are genetically human, but we can also argue that they are morally human, as well.

Warren finishes up the section by chiding Noonan for arguing that because the unborn have the full genetic code, they are full human persons. He also argues that they have the potential for rationality, but Warren responds to that later. However, it seems to me that whoever wants to take human life has the burden of proof. It seems much more reasonable to assume that the unborn, because they belong to our species, are persons. If someone wants to argue that they are not a person, it seems to me that they actually have the burden of proof. For as long as there is any possibility that they might be full human persons, we ought not be taking their lives.

So far Warren is off to a less-than-stellar start. And to be honest, it's pretty much all downhill from here. In the next part, we'll examine her criteria for personhood and show how the unborn qualify.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Back-Alley" Argument Disrespects Women's Intelligence

We've all heard the pro-choice argument that if abortion is made illegal again, women will be forced to go to dangerous back-alley abortionists, and women will die as a result.

There are many pro-life responses to this. You can explain that maternal deaths from abortion actually decreased before Roe v. Wade, due to advances in emergency medicine and antibiotics. You can point out that legal providers are frequently unsafe anyway. You can bring up all the international research showing that it is possible for a country to have pro-life policies and good maternal health outcomes.

But perhaps the best argument of all is one that is rarely brought to the forefront: the pro-choice argument about "back-alley" abortions assumes that women are stupid and/or without meaningful agency.

Women will be forced to avail themselves of illegal abortion procedures, abortion advocates say. They'll have to. It's inevitable. The idea that they might choose life instead? Preposterous.

In short, they are saying that the average American woman, living after the reversal of Roe, would be completely incapable of the following train of thought:
This pregnancy hasn't come at a good time. There's a pregnancy center a couple miles from here that might be able to help me out, but will that be enough? I suppose I could take a semester off. Or maybe I could take online classes instead. Will I have to take out a loan? Move back in with my parents? Get a second job? Go on welfare? Place my baby with an adoptive family? I'm not thrilled about any of these options. On the other hand, they are much better than the option of sticking a sharp object up my privates and hoping for the best.
Of course, whether or not it's legal, there will always be a few people who make unwise decisions. I recently became aware of the fact that women are dying from black-market silicone butt injections. Cosmetic surgery is obviously legal, but legitimate doctors refuse to perform this particular procedure due to its risks. The alternative procedures that cosmetic surgeons are willing to do are prohibitively expensive. So you have a situation where women are risking their lives to exercise full control over their bodies.

Raise your hand if you think that the solution to the butt injection problem is to make the procedure available on demand and without apology.

Raise your hand if you think that that's a horrible idea and maybe, just maybe, the better approach is to attack the root cause (e.g. body image issues) and continue to punish the sleazebags who profit off of women's suffering.

That's the difference between the pro-choice and pro-life view in a nutshell. I'll be the first to acknowledge that abortion alternatives aren't perfect. More can, and should, be done. But we have made significant progress since Roe. There are now more pro-life pregnancy centers than abortion facilities in the United States. We've come a long way when it comes to the prevention of unplanned pregnancy, too. There are real options for women other than abortion, and after the restoration of the right to life, any woman in her right mind would exercise them.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Secular Pro-Life Launches Monthly Donation Campaign

Secular Pro-Life has big plans, but to move forward, we need to be able to predict incoming donations with confidence. That's why we're looking for new monthly donors to support our life-saving work! The goal: $1000/month by September 12.

Friday, August 9, 2013

My Baby: Human Then, and Human Now

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

It was a quiet Sunday evening and my husband and I were winding down for the night to go to bed. We had contemplated going out to see a movie at the theater but decided against it. In hindsight, I am relieved we made that decision. That's because my water broke that night.

It was March 17th, the day after my birthday. I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first child, who wasn't due until tax day. I had left work that Friday ready to celebrate my birthday at home and enjoy the time that I had left with just my husband and me. Instead, I got a birthday surprise- my beautiful son was born. That was the best gift I could have received.

What breaks my heart is that to many people, my son could have been aborted because he wasn't considered fully human yet. Even though he was born a month early, he was completely healthy. He had two hands, two feet, a beating heart and everything else that a healthy human has. The thing is, he had all of those things long before 36 weeks, which was evident when viewing the ultrasounds during my pregnancy. We were able to capture some amazing photos and videos of my son in utero. My favorite is the video of when we caught him yawning. I remember the first time we were able to hear his little heart beating. Even though he looked like a little alien peanut, he was a living, growing person inside of me.

As my pregnancy went on, I felt those flutters in my womb, which progressed into kicks and jabs to the ribs. To say that my son was not a human at that time is a heartbreaking (and inaccurate) statement. He became human the moment he was conceived. Science will confirm this. Maybe he didn't have a fully functioning brain, or a full head of hair (yet), or the ability to breathe on his own. But you know what? All of us are born lacking a few things. Knee caps. Teeth. Clear vision. The ability to laugh, smile or process information. And yet we never question if those who are born full term are "human." At the moment of conception, our entire DNA is determined. Our hair color, eye color, gender, everything. Our genetic blueprint is laid out long before our physical bodies start developing. I remember one picture we captured during my son's 3D ultrasound. He was about 30 weeks developed and he had opened one of his eyes. Do humans not have eyes? Maybe he couldn't see fully yet but he was fully alive.

Abortion stops a beating heart. You may have heard this before. That's because it's true. By the time a woman finds out she is pregnant, her child already has a beating heart. And developing organs like the spinal cord, liver and lungs. How we can justify the destruction of the child in the womb is unfathomable.

It's been four months since my son was born, and he's as healthy and precious as ever. He smiles all the time, he has started vocalizing and just days ago, he rolled over all by himself for the first time. Looking into his big blue eyes reminds me of when I saw those eyes on the ultrasound screen. I didn't know at the time who that little person was inside of me, but now that I know, I can say with certainty that he is just as human now as he was then.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

On Parental Responsibility and Who Qualifies as a Parent

I would like to address an issue I see as rampant in the abortion issue, the question of what a parent is and who qualifies as a parent. This question is an important one because parents have special obligations to their offspring that strangers don't have, including the obligation to provide the basic necessities they need to survive and thrive: food, water, shelter, clothes, etc.

I prefer to give pro-choice people the benefit of the doubt when discussing with them. I don't think pro-choice people are horrible people, or monsters, or anything of that sort, esepcially if their position is reasoned as opposed to based on emotional rhetoric. But there is one pro-choice position I see as especially repugnant: that parents have no special obligation at all to their children, except ones that are consented to.

It seems to me that there are three different ways someone could be considered a parent.

Biological Parenthood

The first and most basic is biological parenthood. Pro-choice people tend to argue that biology doesn't make you a parent, but I think they're wrong. The child of the union of sperm and egg takes on features of their parents, and has a combination of the parent's DNA. The child even grows up to look and act like one or both of his/her parents. He/she may even pursue the interests of one or both parents. And most parents will naturally bond with their child while the child is yet still in the womb. Children come out of the womb recognizing their parents' voices and trusting their own parents like no one else in the world.

I think this holds even in the case of rape. A rapist is often referred to by the detatched term "sperm donor" when referencing the child he sired, the one he forced on a woman. But if a toddler's father ends up raping another woman, that man does not cease to be the child's father. Why would it be the case that if he raped the child's own mother resulting in his own conception, that the father would not be the child's father? In that case, while the father is a father biologically, I think the fact that he conceived the child through an act of violence would mean that the rapist surrenders any and all rights to the child, while maintaining the obligation to provide for him/her through child support.

Biological parents have special obligations to their children. One is the obvious obligation not to kill the child. Some other obligations are to provide the basic necessities the child needs, such as food/water, shelter, clothes, and education. I think this is true just by virtue of being related.

It seems to me that biological parenthood is the most basic form of parenthood there is, and I think the best situation is for a child to be raised by his/her biological parents. This isn't always possible, however, and if the choice is between killing the child through abortion or gifting the child to a loving couple through adoption, then I think the obvious choice is clear. And that brings me to the second form of parenthood.

Assumed Parenthood

Biological parents can sign their rights and obligations away to another person or couple willing to take on those rights and obligations. If this happens, then the adoptive parents would have all the normal rights and obligations that the biological parents would have. There are two ways this is done, through adoption or foster care. The two are commonly conflated, which is why many people are so averse to adoption. But the reality is they're two very different things.

In the case of infant adoption, parents are located through a rigorous process, often while the mother is still pregnant. The adoptive parents usually pay the medical fees of the pregnant woman, which is why it's so expensive to adopt. The adoption procedure can be either open, in which case the biological mother, and the father, can be as involved or as uninvolved as they want in the child's life, or closed, in which case the mother will not seek to continue a relationship with the adopted child.

Second is foster care. This is what most people usually think of when they think of adoption, which is made more confusing by the fact that putting a child in a home from foster care is also called adoption. This is where a child is usually taken out of a broken home and place with a foster parent until a suitable adoptive parent can be found. When someone speaks of a child that is "lost in the system," this is usually the child in mind.

So what if a person is not biologically related to a child, and hasn't assumed parenthood rights and responsibilities to a child? Can we still be held responsible for a child in that case? That brings me to the third type of parental relationship.

De Facto Guardianship

This is a term that Stephen Wagner uses in a paper he wrote to tackle the most challenging pro-choice argument. In effect, this states that if a child is in your care you become temporarily responsible for the child. Think of the boy Russell and the elderly man Carl from the movie Up. Carl become Russell's de facto guardian when he discovered that Russell had found his way onto his porch which was thousands of feet off the ground.

Think also of a real-life case in Japan in which two women were trying to reproduce through IVF, and the doctors, through a mix-up, implanted the wrong embryo into a woman who ended up aborting the child because it wasn't hers. Surprisingly, Salon posted a very well-written article about it, which I'll link to for more information on this case. The situation is made even more tragic because the woman whose child was killed by hospital staff was in her 40's, meaning that this was her last chance at motherhood. The woman became a de facto guardian of the child that wasn't hers and made the wrong choice by having the child aborted.

Carl became Russell's de facto guardian, even though he didn't kidnap Russell and pull him onto his property. He was found with a Boy Scout on his property, through no fault of his own, and did the right thing by taking him in, after a little bit of deliberation, and taking care of him until the house reached the ground again. If you are faced with a situation in which you find yourself with a child who can't fend for himself or generally take care of himself, you have an obligation to care for the child until he is safe. Since the unborn are likewise human beings, a pregnant woman, even one who finds herself pregnant with another woman's child, has an obligation not to have the child killed. Obligations are not chosen, that's why they're called obligations.

The abortion culture has caused us to stop seeing children as people and to start seeing them as burdens. Some, like Eileen McDonagh, see them as no more than parasites, or little rapists who impregnate a woman against her will. It's difficult to convince someone that it's wrong to kill an unborn human child when they've convinced themselves of all manner of bizarre things about the youngest members of our species. But human beings in a needy position, especially a naturally needy position, need our love and care, our support, not our killing them because we're "more important" than they are.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Secular Pro-Life condemns Daily Show Comment on Abortion and Sharia Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Secular Pro-Life condemns a recent comment by comedian John Oliver, who is currently standing in for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Oliver implied that abortion restrictions are motivated solely by religion and not by secular concern for the human right to life.

The comment came on Monday night's episode. The segment, which can be viewed here, focused primarily on the Supreme Court's recent decision weakening the Voting Rights Act. But about four and a half minutes in, the subject turned to abortion. Commenting on a recent North Carolina senate bill that addressed both abortion safety regulations and sharia law, Oliver joked:
Let me just understand this: you're adding abortion restrictions to legislation banning the making of laws based upon religious belief. That's like passing a bill banning high-fructose corn syrup, and adding a provision naming the state animal the gummy bear!
In reality, a commitment to church-state separation is not at all incompatible with support for abortion regulations. Between fifteen and nineteen percent of non-religious Americans identify themselves as pro-life. And among those who identify as pro-choice, abortion restrictions short of a ban enjoy majority support.

"I myself am a fan of The Daily Show," said Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard. "Its humor is often very insightful. But this time around, The Daily Show chose humor based on blunt stereotyping. I'm disappointed."

"We understand that The Daily Show is, first and foremost, a comedy program," Hazzard added. "But a large percentage of young people get their news from commentators like Jon Stewart and John Oliver, and they have a responsibility as journalists. There's no shortage of real political hypocrisy to skewer; The Daily Show writers shouldn't have to resort to misleading the audience."

If you are non-religious and support legal limits on abortion, Secular Pro-Life encourages you to respectfully share your disappointment with The Daily Show by posting a comment on its facebook page.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Politically Incorrect Medicine

I am in the middle of reading Free Speech for Me-- But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, by the wonderful journalist and First Amendment champion Nat Hentoff (who happens to be a pro-life atheist as well). The book was first published two decades ago. Sadly, it remains as timely as ever.

Last week, three physicians were scheduled to give presentations at a Medical Women's International Association (MWIA) meeting in Seoul. When they arrived, they learned that their presentations had been cancelled. Why? Because the three female doctors--ob/gyns Dr. Donna Harrison and Dr. Mary Davenport, and psychiatrist Dr. Martha Shuping-- had prepared presentations on risks of abortion.

MWIA's press release emphasizes that the presentations were censored because their conclusions were politically incorrect. The title of the press release is "MWIA is proud to stand for women's rights." It "regrets" that MWIA invited presenters "who would deny women their basic right to choice." For good measure, it throws in some slander, stating that the speakers' presentations-- which were to summarize recent studies from such esteemed journals as the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, BJOG, PLoS ONE, and numerous others-- have "no scientific merit."

The real motivation is clear: these speakers were censored for daring to share data that might show that abortion has downsides for women.

What's worse, MWIA leaders actively prevented people who wanted to learn more about the topic on their own time from doing so!
With the cancellation of our talks, our host Anna Choi, head of group of 680 Korean obgyn physicians who stopped doing abortions, had decided to set up a radio and newspaper interview for us during the time that we were supposed to present.
When we got to the “radio” interview that Anna had set up, it was actually a television interview, and the newspaper reporter was there also.
They put the three of us up front like a “panel” discussion, and the reporters started asking us questions about our presentation, allowing us an opportunity to talk about what we came to present. About 20 minutes into the interview, the Secretary General of MWIA, a Canadian woman, burst into the room (I kid you not. …and all of this is on camera), and came up to the table and said “What presentation is this? Donna Harrison said “it’s not a presentation”. So she snarled “Why are you being interviewed? At that point, the answers were left to Anna, our host. Anna said that this was a requested interview by the press.
The SecGen then said “Who gave you permission to interview these people?” And the reporters said “We are the press, we don’t need anyone’s permission. We have freedom of the press” And the Sec Gen snarled at Anna and said “Did you arrange this? Did you talk to the organizing committee?” And Anna said “I am on the organizing committee. I don’t need to talk to anyone.” And the Sec Gen stood in front of the camera, and refused to move, and said “The interview is over.” Then the reporters said “You can’t do this. We have the freedom of the press. You are interfering with the freedom of the press.” But the Sec Gen would not move and said “The interview is over.”
We exited to the hall, and a Belgian and German woman were waiting. They started to make fun of the Korean translator, and to snap pictures in her face. And she said “You can’t do this. This is my country. I will call the police.” And they actually grabbed at her, and then one of the Korean reporters put a huge camera in the Belgian woman’s face and started taking photos of her. A fist fight almost ensured between the women, but another of the Koreans stepped in and kept any contact from happening. And all of this was on camera. And then our Korean hosts ushered us down the hall, and down the elevator, along with the reporters and camera crew, and we resumed the interview in the commons area downstairs by the trash cans and the bathroom. We were able to complete the entire interview, and instead of our audience being a few women doctors from the conference, we now have an audience of probably a few thousand.
In a textbook example of projection, MWIA president Afua Hesse accused the three censored doctors of "politicalization." In reality, it is MWIA that is politicizing science, by placing an ideological commitment to "choice" above all else. MWIA should be ashamed of itself for abandoning basic values of open scientific inquiry.

Censorship is bad enough under normal circumstances, but MWIA's censorship of medical studies that could save lives takes it to an even more deplorable level.

Doctors Harrison, Davenport, and Shuping are true heroines. They will not be bullied into keeping quiet about threats to women's health, and they deserve our thanks. Ladies, Secular Pro-Life salutes you!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Every Child is a Wanted Child

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

I gasped the first time I saw her photo. Limbs splayed out across a metal crib, the little girl's ribs nearly poked out of her chest. Her striped socks -- the only piece of clothing she wore on her emaciated body -- nearly fell off her miniature feet. And her thighs and arms! They looked no larger than my fingers. This girl looked like she had just crawled out of Auschwitz or Dachau, not a government-run children's home. 

Then I saw her statistics and blinked twice. Sophia, a nearly-four-year-girl from Eastern Europe, weighed ten pounds. Ten pounds at four years old. That's how much my brother weighed at birth, not when he entered preschool! 

As a volunteer with Reece's Rainbow, an adoption advocacy agency that works with special-needs children all around the world, I know the statistics, have heard the stories and have even met the evidence: children who have any special need -- whether it be Down Syndrome, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, HIV/AIDS, albinism or even a cleft palate -- often get a raw deal, especially in other countries. That translates into less food, education, resources and love for children from societies who simply don't know better. Parents who birth Down Syndrome kids like Sophia sometimes think the babies cursed and better forgotten in an institution. Or, at the very least, they are a burden and should be treated as such. 

Thanks  to Sophia's extra chromosome, that's exactly the fate her Eastern European country handed her. She had been abandoned to a life of slow starvation of both body and soul. If you asked the average joe on the street, he or she would probably say death would be a kinder fate than the life Sophia was living. 

And yet, Sophia was wanted. My friend Lauren and her family brought her home to the West Coast last year. With some careful nutrition and boatloads of love, she went from this...



to this:
Today, Sophia is a happy, smiley girl who fits in with her family wonderfully -- and most importantly, has nearly doubled her weight! 

When I hear a pro-choice friend say, "I think abortion should be legal because I want every child to be a wanted child," I tell them Sophia's story. And Dasha's, Emily's, Gary's, Marnie's and the many, many other children who have found forever families with my friends in the last few years. All have Down Syndrome or some other condition that labeled them "unfit" from birth. And yet every last one is not only wanted, but cherished and sought after like a priceless treasure. (And thanks to the cost of adopting internationally, these kids literally are worth their weight in gold!). 

When I meet up with my Reece's Rainbow buddies, it's always the same story: we all want to bring a certain child home, but the money holds us back. If it weren't for finances, I'm fairly certain there would be no kids listed because they would all be taken the moment they become available. (And yes, I realize domestic foster care and adoption are options; my own family and many of my friends have taken that route). 

When a society deems its smallest, most vulnerable members unworthy of basic essentials like calories and compassion, it passes on that attitude to its struggling parents. Perhaps these men and women don't have the resources or education to realize that raising a special-needs child isn't a death sentence (or sometimes, they do. One of my friends adopted a beautiful girl with Down Syndrome last year whose biological mother is a lawyer).  But Lauren and all other adoptive parents are proving the pro-choice rallying cry of "Every child a wanted child!" to be completely false. 

Every child IS a wanted child. And Sophia is proof of what a discarded human can do despite his or her biological beginnings.

Recently, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) asked my hometown for permission to erect a statue of a 250-pound banged-up chicken at a very busy intersection. Check it out:
The statue commemorates the hundreds of chickens who perished in a very grisly (for the chickens, anyway) crash last month. The city, citing safety concerns, denied the request.

Though the story made me laugh (and just for the record, I had one very spoiled pet chicken growing up), I couldn't help but wonder what the public's reaction would be if we put a similar statue in front of the local Planned Parenthood. "In memory of the thousands of children who suffered and died in a morality crash. Every day since January 22, 1973. Go Pro-Life."

Because here's the truth: Planned Parenthood's wish for every child to be a wanted child has already come true.