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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The JFA training seminar was great.

Last Saturday, fellow SPL rep Ellen and I attended a Justice For All (JFA) training seminar; the seminar was sponsored by the Right To Life of Central California and lead by pro-life advocate Josh Brahm

(If you aren’t familiar with Josh’s work I suggest you check him out. He has a very thoughtful, relational approach to the abortion debate, and from what I’ve seen his approach is quite effective. Josh is a Christian, but much of his work is secular in nature, and I’ve been repeatedly impressed with his efforts to be religiously inclusive. More on that in tomorrow’s blog post.)


My one grainy pic of Josh presenting.

As JFA states in some of their training materials, their goal is to “train thousands to make abortion unthinkable for millions, ONE person at a time.” The idea is to equip pro-lifers to have meaningful conversations about abortion by giving them more effective dialoguing tools. For example, in any given abortion conversation, JFA strongly emphasizes asking the other person questions and listening attentively to his or her response. Try to understand the perspectives of the people you’re talking to. It seems like this advice should go without saying, but how many abortion arguments have you witnessed that were more about trying to “win” the conversation? How often do you see the two sides talk right past each other?

JFA also encourages trainees to find common ground with the people they’re talking to (“What do you think of late-term abortion? What do you think of sex-selective abortion? Do you think abortion should be used as birth control?”).  Build a rapport and help create an open, useful conversation.

I am all for these approaches. Understanding and relating to other people makes it easier for us to have a dialogue instead of a debate. Dialogues are more effective for changing hearts and minds. Plus, I think—as a baseline behavior—we should treat people kindly.

Some people think it’s inappropriate to even be friends with those who disagree with us on abortion. I don’t see how that’s helpful, either in the abortion debate or in our personal lives. Being friends with those who disagree gives both sides an opportunity to understand one another better, to learn about other perspectives, and to influence each other. We want abortion to be unthinkable for everyone…not just for the people who already agree with us. Beyond that, I already have close friends and family who are pro-choice. They know I’m pro-life. We care about each other, and we have good relationships. I’m not going to sacrifice those relationships because we don’t agree on what I consider a complex and highly emotional issue.

And if abortion is an emotional topic in general, abortion in cases of rape is all the more so. That’s why I was glad to find JFA had an entire training section dedicated specifically to how we talk to people concerned about abortion in cases of rape. The section focused on how to relate to people, not how to win arguments. 

That emphasis is so refreshing. I’ve been extremely frustrated at times with the way I’ve seen some pro-lifers handle the abortion-in-cases-of-rape issue. In my experience, it seems like most people—within and outside the abortion debate—don’t internalize how horrible rape is or how difficult the social, psychological, and emotional circumstances can be for a rape survivor. Not so with JFA. JFA’s message, as I understand it, is essentially, “Now more than ever, listen to this person. Seek to understand where they’re coming from and how they feel. Have compassion for what others have gone through.” Compassion is an admirable quality in general, but, given my way, it would be a required quality for someone to discuss abortion in cases of rape. And I’ve heard JFA mentors go so far as to say (paraphrasing), “If you don’t feel genuine concern and compassion for survivors of rape, we don’t want you representing us on campus.” Good. Exactly. Thank you.

Similarly, the seminar had a training section to address talking with post-abortive people. During that part, a post-abortive woman told us her story: the circumstances of her unplanned pregnancy, the factors leading to her abortion, her emotional turmoil afterward, and her eventual healing process. I wrote recently about my emotional detachment from certain aspects of the abortion debate, but sitting in-person listening to this woman tell of her own heartbreak, what she went through leading up to the abortion and went through after, and what her preborn child meant and means to her—there was no way to be emotionally detached. It was very sad and very touching. After her story, the seminar again encouraged gentility and empathy over a more argumentative style. We still have points to make, thought experiments to explore, and reasons to give for being pro-life, but the manner of our approach is nearly as important as the substance of our perspective.

But the JFA seminar focused on substance as well. During the training, Josh and other JFA speakers talked about the biological humanity of the unborn, the Equal Rights Argument, and different types of bodily rights arguments.  Even though I’ve heard of or talked about a lot of this before, I was glad to see JFA focus on these ideas during the training. These are high-quality arguments. They’re simple without being simplistic, and they take the pro-choice perspective seriously (as opposed to strawmanning what pro-choicers are saying, or addressing the simpler pro-choice arguments and ignoring the complicated ones).


One of the slides from the Equal Rights Argument presentation.
Click here to read more about it.

I especially appreciate how JFA takes the time to explain and address different bodily rights issues. In my experience, most pro-lifers don’t seem to take bodily rights arguments seriously. But I see pro-choicers use bodily rights arguments more and more frequently, and some of these arguments can be very compelling. We pro-lifers need to take the bodily rights issue seriously, both for the sake of the abortion debate and because bodily rights are important rights independent of the abortion debate. So it’s satisfying to see JFA emphasize bodily rights arguments. During the training, JFA speakers provided several great analogies to help trainees understand and express the pro-life perspective on bodily rights and abortion.

Overall I got a lot out of the seminar. I so admire JFA’s relational approach and the substance of their arguments. I expect the more pro-lifers we have making better arguments in kinder ways, the more hearts and minds we’ll sway.

Tomorrow I’ll post about what the seminar was like more specifically from the perspective of a non-Christian.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Respect in death, but not in life

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about the big scandal in Marion County, Oregon (Salem): for years, it's been revealed, the bodies of aborted and miscarried babies from British Columbia have made up some of the fuel in their waste-to-energy plant. In plain English: dead human bodies were incinerated to heat Salem-area homes.

I think all compassionate people (whether pro-life or pro-choice) can agree that families who lose a child to miscarriage should have full control over what happens to the remains, and that they probably wouldn't have chosen this. British Columbia clinics obviously need to change their policy on that. So this article will focus solely on the issue of the aborted remains.

Local officials expressed disgust and immediately took action to end the incineration of any fetal remains at the plant.

Now, I completely understand why Oregon Right to Life made this an issue. And I guess I'm glad that there was a swift response. But allow me to express an unpopular opinion: this is just NIMBYism.

All this does is prevent people from being reminded of abortion, and feeling squeamish, every time they flip on a light switch. It does absolutely nothing to prevent the death of a single unborn child in British Columbia. It does absolutely nothing to prevent the death of a single unborn child in Oregon—which happens to be the only state in the U.S. with no pro-life laws, not even informed consent. And in case you were wondering, yes, there's an abortion center in Salem.

Evidently, there is more outrage over the disrespect of aborted fetal remains than outrage over what caused their deaths in the first place. I'm reminded of the abortion worker who was upset with pro-lifers "disrespecting" the dead with abortion victim photography: "In my clinic, we wash off the tissue and examine it. It is treated respectfully..."

But why should the dead receive more respect than the living?

We saw this same question come up in the Marlise Munoz tragedy. To recap, Munoz was pregnant when she suffered a sudden blood clot, which left her brain-dead, but her child remained alive. Her husband wanted to remove her from life support, saying that's what she would have wanted. Pro-lifers sought to give the child a chance. Pro-choicers argued that what Marlise would have wanted should take precedence, even though she was dead and therefore had absolutely no interest in the outcome. (Sadly, the court adopted the pro-choice view.)

I do not approve when pro-lifers refer to abortion advocates as "pro-death." It makes me cringe, because it's unnecessarily divisive, overwrought, and easily dismissed. But we're dealing here with a philosophy that is, for lack of a better term, pro-the-dead, while neglecting the living.

You know what would really be respectful of the unborn? Not killing them, for starters. You might also try not treating parenthood as incompatible with higher education, not telling young people that childbirth will "ruin your life," and working with pro-lifers to ensure that mothers have the resources they need so that abortion isn't their only option.

If you're not disgusted by these more pressing problems, why bother wringing your hands over aborted children being burned for energy?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Two must-see documentaries expose the abortion industry

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

“Meet the Abortion Providers” and “Abortion the Inside Story” are companion documentaries that must be seen by anyone who wants to understand the issue of prenatal homicide. The films feature women and men who used to work in the abortion industry, but who have turned around and to defend life and women from abortion killing. Although the documentaries were produced in the late 80s and early 90s, they remain highly relevant in the post-Gosnell era.


 
[Part 2, Part 3, Part 4]

If you can't watch the videos now, here are some highlights:

Joy Davis, who directed six abortion clinics in Alabama and Mississippi but later became a pro-life activist, said that her boss, Dr. Tommy Tucker, was so greedy that he fired his anesthesiologist, the registered nurses and the lab technician.  He trained Joy Davis to act as an abortionist.  “I never spent the first day in medical school.  I really know nothing about medicine, other than what I had seen other doctors do, but I started doing abortions.”  Ms. Davis, who was only trained as an ultrasound technician, explained that staff had watched the doctors put women under anesthesia.  “We started putting patients asleep ourselves, and we had no idea what we were doing.”

Helen Pendley explained that it was she, not the abortionist, who prescribed the drugs, called in the medications, and was the one on call when a woman started hemorrhaging.  She also handled post-abortion calls from women who told her that they were  experiencing physical or emotional problems; the women were curtly told that their problems must have been preexisting and were not  the abortion center’s responsibility.

“I cannot tell you one thing that happens in an abortion clinic that is not a lie,” says Carol Everett, who had an abortion and was an administrator of five abortion facilities.  Nita Whitten, who also worked in a Dallas abortion center says, “It’s a lie when they tell you that they’re doing it to help the woman, ‘cause they’re not … We were doing it to get her money.” She explained that it was common to bring $15,000 a day to the bank. 

Norma McCorvey, the woman who challenged Texas’ pro-life law using the pseudonym “Jane Roe” in Roe vs. Wade, is also a former abortion worker who became pro-life.  Now she admits:  “It was just a racket…  [The abortionist] was just doing it for the money.  He didn’t care about the women.”

Dina Madsen, a former abortion worker from Sacramento, explained that many of the clinic workers had had several abortions and had no confidence at all in the abortionists they worked with, but had no trouble falsely reassuring their prospective clients. “How stupid can you get?”  Deborah Henry, a Michigan abortion counselor, explained that she and her coworkers lied about the pain women experience while undergoing abortions, and provided no information whatsoever about the development of the preborn child. 

One former abortionist testified that the ultrasound machine is always hidden from the pregnant mother, so she won’t see the image of her child and change her mind (and so the abortionist won’t lose a sale).  But how can a woman make an informed choice about abortion when information is deliberately hidden from her?

The pro-life movement has led the way in combating these abortion industry abuses.  But it is an uphill battle against an aggressive, well-funded opposition.  Don’t be fooled: abortion facility regulations are incredibly necessary.  No one makes the case for them better than abortion workers themselves.

Friday, April 25, 2014

So-called "freedom of choice" in Mexico City

[Today's guest post is a press release from the Mexican pro-life organization TAD, which has been translated into English. This week marks the anniversary of legal abortion in Mexico City.]

The Mexican state has neglected its duties toward mothers. Without support from her family, her partner, or her government, abortion would seem to be the only "choice" for many women in Mexico City.

The figures are alarming. In 2009, the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) reported 153,237 births in Mexico City, while El Colegio de México and the Guttmacher Institute stated that 122,455 abortions took place during the same period. That's 12 abortions for every 15 births.

"Pregnant and lacking support, women seek options that might help them face maternity. But after an excruciating bureaucratic ordeal of misinformation, lengthy processes, and endless obstacles—emblematic of a State that does not consider pregnant women as a relevant peopulation—many mothers make desperate decisions which later on they regret”, said Ingrid Tapia, lawyer and specialist at TAD (THINK • ACTION • DEVELOPMENT).

According to Tapia, the abortion program created by Mexico City’s government and maintained for the past seven years has emphasized abortion advocacy, rather than meeting women's real needs. The local government has failed to propose or implement programs to aid expectant women and their gestating children.

“Seven years ago, the local government claimed that the legalization of abortion would drastically reduce clandestine practices, and thus reduce maternal mortality. But clearly, maternal mortality is still a problem—and clandestine abortions haven't been eliminated either, so no one knows for certain how many abortions take place and under what conditions," concludes Tapia.

Mexico has many social welfare issues to address. But supposed "quick fixes" like the failed abortion policy only make matters worse. Expectant women in Mexico continue to face discrimination, abandonment, and violence. We must demand better from our country.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday :-)

We're jumping on the throwback Thursday bandwagon! Today's feature is a video we put together way back in 2010:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When did DNA become controversial?!

Earlier this week, pollsters released the results of a AP/GfK survey on scientific knowledge. Just over 1,000 American adults were presented with various scientific statements and asked to state how confident they were that the statement was correct: extremely confident, very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not at all confident. Most news outlets that covered the story focused on the large percentage of Americans rejecting climate change, evolution, and the Big Bang—and while I do find those numbers disheartening, they've been reported frequently, and I've become somewhat desensitized to them.

This, however, floored me:
"Inside our cells, there is a complex genetic code that helps determine who we are."
Extremely confident: 38%
Very confident: 30%
Somewhat confident: 22%
Not too confident: 8%
Not at all confident: 1% 
Nearly one in ten Americans either don't understand what "genetic code" means, or are not confident about the existence of DNA. And another 22% have their doubts. Only 38% answered "extremely confident," which, frankly, is the only acceptable answer.

This has huge implications for pro-life education. "Life begins at conception" is meaningless if people don't accept that a "genetic code that helps determine who we are" is also present at conception. Without DNA, all you have is generic life, a clump of cells that might become an individual some day. DNA is what stays constant throughout our lives, from fertilization, giving us unique identities.

And that's just abortion. What about other life issues? How do DNA doubters perceive people who have been released from death row due to exonerating DNA evidence? Do they understand the basics of adult versus embryonic stem cell research?

I usually try to end blog posts on a high note, but there's not much of a silver lining here. Yippie, about two-thirds of Americans got it right. It should be 100%.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Join the "You are not alone" post-abortion campaign

Abortion Changes You is an online safe space for post-abortive parents to share their stories and begin the healing process. Unlike many other
post-abortion programs, it does not insist (or even suggest) that a conversion to Christianity and/or the forgiveness of Jesus are required.

Through May 31st, Abortion Changes You is running a campaign called "You are not alone." The concept is very simple. Go to urxalone.com and sign the open letter to people who are struggling with a past abortion. The message is short and sweet: "If you are hurting, I want you to know that I care. You are not alone." Their goal is to get 5,000 signatures. 

This is not a petition. It is a direct message to someone who may be experiencing the darkest moment in his or her life. Think back to the worst day of your life; now imagine finding a message from 5,000 complete strangers, tailored to your exact situation, giving you love and encouragement. Pretty awesome, right?

The Secular Pro-Life facebook page alone has over 5,500 fans, so this goal is very doable. Please, take two seconds to sign your name at urxalone.com. And then spread the word!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Don't let the oligarchy get you down

Last week, the media exploded with the news that the United States is not a democracy, but an oligarchy:
Oligarchy is a form of government in which power is vested in a dominant class and a small group exercises control over the general population. 
A new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities concluded that the U.S. government represents not the interests of the majority of citizens but those of the rich and powerful. 
"Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens" analyzed extensive data, comparing nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted between 1981 and 2002 with the expressed preferences of average and affluent Americans as well as special interest groups. 
The resulting data empirically verifies that U.S. policies are determined by the economic elite.
This should not come as a shock to anyone who is involved in the pro-life movement.

The American public overall is opposed to abortion on demand; whether they call themselves "pro-life" or "pro-choice," a majority do not want abortion to be legal except in the "hard cases" (e.g. rape and incest), and of the remainder, most support limits on later-term abortions. The problem is that low-income Americans lean pro-life while the well-off tend to support abortion. For instance, in a January 2013 Gallup poll, 58% of those with an annual income of $75,000 or more identified as "pro-choice." Among those who earned less than $30,000 a year, only 41% identified as "pro-choice"—a whopping 17-point gap.
The 1973 Supreme Court

This leads, unsurprisingly, to abortion groups having a fundraising advantage over right-to-life groups. Abortion groups also enjoy the patronage of billionaires like Warren Buffett and Susan Pritzker. And of course, they command a majority of
a particularly elite group of nine.

But I don't think the oligarchy report (or at least, the media's reporting on it) captures the full picture. When the United States was founded, the vote was restricted to certain white males over the age of 21. It has never been a pure democracy. Put into that historical context, we are moving in the right direction; this study just serves as a reminder that we aren't all the way there yet.

And the pro-life movement is moving in the right direction too. Abortion levels in the United States are at record lows, pro-abortion think tanks are panicked by our progress at the state level, and just last week, the representatives of the people of Colorado rejected abortion-on-demand legislation.

So don't let the oligarchy get you down. Wealthy elites are powerful, but they are not omnipotent. By banding together, we can win.

P.S.—If you're a young pro-lifer in college, thinking about majors, consider business. The revolution needs funding!

Friday, April 18, 2014

What would ever change your mind?

[Today's post is by guest blogger Kara B.]

No too long ago, renowned Planet of the Apes cosplayer and animatronics enthusiast Ken Ham catalyzed the most massive synchronized facepalm when he answered a simple question asked by an audience member: “What, if anything, would ever change your mind?”  His answer, of course, was along the lines of “Nothing. No one is ever going to convince me that the word of god is untrue.”  Somehow, I suppose, he thought this was an intellectually honest answer. Ham even seemed to feel Bill Nye’s response (“We would just need one piece of evidence”) bolstered Ham’s position. 

See full quotes here.

Whether the topic is science, philosophy, politics, or math, there’s value in stepping back, loosening your hold on even your most closely guarded values, and pondering this question: “What would it take to change my mind?” Rather than simply taking a defensive position, you can actively define and set limits to the extent of your beliefs, while remaining open to the possibility that you might very well learn something.

Of course, the abortion debate is not primarily a question of science, but of values.  When we’re debating the humanity of the fetus, science can help, but if we are debating the personhood of the fetus, Bill Nye’s answer of “evidence,” won’t suffice.  Instead of more scientific facts, we require a change in philosophy. What would change your mind about your philosophical views on abortion? I think it’s alright if we offer answers to this thought experiment that may be highly improbable.  As long as the scenarios that would change your mind are possible, you have logically worked out your limitations and left your ideological opposites room to convince you.

I’m going to outline the results of my own experience with this thought experiment, but, before I do, I’m going to qualify my experiences with some background information.  Nearly all of my in-person friends hold some type of pro-choice position.  This has exposed me to a number of arguments and scenarios I’ve had to judge my own arguments against.  Since the arguments have come from friends, they haven’t been filled with vitriol; instead they've helped me determine where I agree with them, where I don’t, and what that means for my thought experiment.  Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, I recommend you talk your views over with some friends who disagree with you 100%, to help you if you get stuck.

There was a point in my life when I nearly did change my mind.  In high school I argued against abortion on secular grounds, but a few years later I spent a year abroad in Japan, and that shut me up. At the time, Japanese abortion laws were being revisited by the Diet (Japanese congress).  In light of the fact that Japan was, and still is, facing a huge crisis in having an aging population with a shrinking birthrate, the Diet was looking to restrict access even further.  Essentially, the Diet was hoping to use restricted abortion access as a way to increase the birthrate, thereby giving credence to the argument I hear these days, that abortion restrictions are designed to turn women into broodmares. 

I had never considered this perspective before.  I saw the destruction of the unborn as a very individual crime with a very individual victim.  I had never considered abortion politically.  I had never considered the idea that a restriction on abortion was intended specifically to force women into a particular lifestyle, and I wasn’t sure how that worked out logically in my mind.  Was potential tyranny of the state enough to override the rights of an individual to life?

It took me many years to process this information, although eventually I came to the conclusion that no, it was not.  The fear of turning women into broodmares is a separate question from that of abortion.  Besides, during the Japanese baby boom of the 1960s extended access to abortion was similarly used as a tool to manage women’s fertility, because at the time there were too many children for the social system to handle.  What needs to change in the present is the Japanese attitude towards women, not the Japanese policy towards increasing abortion access.

So, without any further procrastinating, here are five (perhaps improbable, but possible) ways in which I would change my mind.  They aren’t meant to be exclusive.  Perhaps there are other arguments there and I just have yet to find them:


1) I would need to find religion:

I’m an atheist.  As far as I know, this is the only life I will ever get to live and, as far as I know, the same is true of you, and of everyone.  I place a high value on the right to life specifically because there are no other rights without that first one.  Abortion is unique in that it revokes the right to life without serious consideration by third parties to reduce bias in the decision.  Revoking the right to life when the person in question has done nothing wrong, with the perpetrator receiving no legal or military consequences, is also unique to abortion.

However, people with religion have it differently.  I suppose if I were a true Buddhist, a true believer in reincarnation, I would be not only pro-choice, but I’d argue for abortion on demand.  After all, if the mother thought she couldn’t offer a decent life to the child, it would make sense to send that child on to its next life, where it might have the opportunity to have a good one.  If I were just your run-of-the-mill Christian, I might rationalize that though the opportunity to live might be lost, that child would be in heaven as an innocent.


2)  I would have to have a different understanding on what it is that makes up “me” and my consciousness:

This follows closely with the above reason, just in more secular terms.  As far as I know, the sum of me is a combination of brain chemicals and outside stimuli.  I don’t know why it is “me” who is experiencing what is going on in my brain, but I suspect that when that brain is done, whatever it is that is “me” will be done experiencing.  If I am wrong on that (and I don’t think I am, but anyway…), if there are some other levels of consciousness, then I might still not agree with abortion, but I might be more permissive with the idea of other women getting them, since their children would still go on to experience other things, instead of being robbed of the only consciousness they might ever know.  Of course, that kind of takes away part of the moral outrage I’d have about murder in general, which brings me to my next point…


3) Convince me that murder isn’t a big deal:

While I do think morality is subjective, I’m not a moral relativist (i.e. a person who accepts the morality of other groups and cultures because it is the morality they have).  My moral code may have been developed in the context of a western, American lifestyle, but I think it is a pretty good one. One of the core values included is that, generally, it is not okay to kill someone, and when it is, it is because of extenuating circumstances whereby that person is posing a direct threat to someone else.  Some cultures think it is okay to kill a woman because she was raped.  I’m not okay with that, and I wouldn’t be okay with that even if I did think sex was wrong.   A rape victim hasn’t done anything wrong, and she is paying for the actions of both another individual and a larger family or society that doesn’t know how to deal with her in their cultural and socio-economic context. I think this description also fits the aborted unborn.  However, if you can turn me into a moral relativist remove this concept of universal human rights, and convince me that murder is okay when the surrounding culture and society deem it okay, I’m pro-choice.


4)  If we lived in a certain dystopia:

Has anyone here watched the rebooted series of Battlestar Gallactica?  No?  There is one episode about a place called “The Farm,” in which my favorite character, Starbuck, is kidnapped by the Cylons and sent to a place where women are hooked up to machines to breed (Cylons want babies!)  That’s a pretty horrifying scenario.  If women were in fact being inseminated and forced to breed, and the only way to even fight back from this very desperate scenario was to prevent their oppressors from getting what they wanted and repeating the cycle, I would say abortion would be fully justified.  I would mourn the dead, but at that point, humanity is pretty much dead.

Similarly, if we as a species were less like Homo sapiens and more like Pacific salmon, I would have a different opinion on abortion.  If the only way to reproduce was to have the parent or parents die, I wouldn’t begrudge a parent making the decision to stop reproduction in its tracks.


5) Evidence against our current understanding of biology:

Lately we’ve heard some pro-choicers say that, due to the Great and Powerful Oz Bodily Autonomy Argument (GAPBAA), the fact that the unborn are human beings doesn’t matter.  I disagree.  If the unborn were not human beings, we wouldn’t be discussing whether bodily autonomy is sufficient to override their rights to life. 

I’m not terribly interested in legalistic personhood at this point.  Personhood has historically followed what the society at the time has felt about which human beings are persons.  This means that certain groups (including women themselves) have been seen as persons, non-persons, 1/3 persons, etc.   I am far more interested in knowing if the unborn are unique, self-automating human beings or not. 

Along those lines, I’m more interested in biological humanity than “personhood.” In that case I can’t see when a human being begins if not as a zygote. Convince me that I am in error on this point, provide me positive evidence that human beings begins at some later point, and you will have yourself a pro-choicer up until that later point.


Ok, kids, your turn.  Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, what would it take to change your mind? If you are undecided, what arguments would convince you one way or another?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The threat of illegal abortions doesn't justify legal abortions

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

The soon-to-close abortion center.
Image via Google Maps
Here in Eastern Canada, where I live, the abortion debate has been reignited by news that the Morgentaler Clinic, a private abortion clinic in the province of New Brunswick, will close this summer. When that happens, women in the province who want an abortion will have to go to a publicly-funded hospital which will perform the procedure only if it is deemed medically necessary by physicians.

The firestorm ignited by this announcement is blazing on a number of fronts, partly because the unusually nebulous rules around abortion in Canada mean that the reality of abortions vary widely from one area to another. The procedure has been legal in Canada since the late 1980s when the Supreme Court struck down the existing abortion law and no new law was passed to replace it (the late physician Henry Morgentaler who was at the centre of that decision also established the clinic now about to close). All regulation of abortion is done through the health care system, but since health care is run by the provinces, the relative ease of accessing abortion varies widely.

To be sure, the New Brunswick case raises difficult questions. In the absence of an abortion law, is it really right for provinces to control abortion through the indirect means of health-care funding? On the other hand, other non-medically-necessary procedures are not covered by provincial health plans (the New Brunswick government lists over thirty on its website). It is not immediately obvious that the public should pay to end a pregnancy when it won’t pay for eyeglasses or an artificial leg.

In any case, New Brunswick pro-choice advocates, it seems, see all abortions as medically necessary, and have condemned what they take to be unjustly restricting access to a perfectly legal procedure. Here is where the arguments begin to generate more emotional force than logical sense.

If abortions are not legal and easily accessed, the argument goes, women will undoubtedly seek unsafe, illegal abortions with disastrous consequences. In other words, if a woman is going to have abortions anyway, we might as well allow it and fund it. For some, this argument is so compelling that they become incensed that anyone could disagree. As one blogger recently wrote in the context of the closure of the Morgentaler clinic:
Do you honestly believe that women just won’t have abortions? Are you seriously buying into some kind of anti-choice fantasy where a woman gets to the halfway mark in her pregnancy and suddenly falls in love with the idea of being a mother and then her boyfriend shows up on their doorstep and asks her to get married and it’s all roses and white picket fences from there on? For fucking real?
This kind of rhetoric is typical of pro-choice arguments in two ways: first, it attacks the pro-life position as hopelessly naïve; second, it presents an easy way out for anyone who might be uncertain about the ethics of terminating a pregancy. It doesn’t matter whether abortion is right or wrong, a confused person might theorize, because making it illegal won’t stop it anyway.

Phew.

But any argument that lets you out of hard ethical questions is probably a bad one. And this argument is very bad.

When a society holds that a particular course of action is wrong because it unjustifiably violates the rights of others, it must make such an action illegal. Thus, for instance, assault is illegal, as is theft, and any number of other violations of other human beings’ rights. This principle is usually so obvious that we hardly give it a moment’s thought. You can’t just hit people for no reason. Or take their stuff.

But the illegality of assault and theft doesn’t, in fact, stop those crimes from occurring. They happen anyway, although they are illegal. And we don’t argue that because people continue to commit such crimes, we should just make them legal and not worry about the morality involved. No one calls for publicly-funded assault centers where angry and violent people can beat up victims in a controlled setting. Anyone who argued for such a thing would be rightly viewed as crazy. And if they responded by saying that “assaults are going to happen anyway,” we would instantly recognize that the point has been missed.

Consider how absurd it would sound if we borrowed our feminist blogger’s rhetoric but applied it to, say, a proposed measure to reduce theft:
Do you honestly believe that people won’t ever steal things? Are you seriously buying into some kind of ownership fantasy where a desperate person is about to break into a house and suddenly realizes that he has no right to take things that don’t belong to him, and then he and his buddies go off to volunteer at a food bank? For fucking real? 
No, not for real. Nobody seriously believes that the Criminal Code of Canada will prevent people from stealing. But that doesn’t make it right. And that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be illegal. And that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t punish people who steal things.

Those who favour legal abortions must show that an abortion is not a violation of the rights of an unborn child. Or, that such a violation of rights is justified. Or that an unborn child has no rights (and is, in a sense, not a child at all). I haven’t been convinced by any such arguments, but at least they are to the point.

Abortion supporters must not, however, be allowed to bully opponents by simply denouncing them as out of touch with reality. And they must not be allowed to get away with the chopped logic that tells us laws are only worth having if no one is likely to break them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When abortion is the man's choice

[Today's guest post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind ClinicQuotes.com.]

Abortion is touted as a woman’s choice, but according to one study, 64% of women feel pressured into abortion by their partners. Men may pressure their partners into having abortions because they do not want a child and do not want to pay child support.

A common way that men influence women to have abortions is by threatening to leave them. Sometimes a woman is so emotionally dependent on her partner that she is willing to sacrifice her baby in order to keep his “love.” Other times, the threat of physical violence or financial dependence is a factor. But, unsurprisingly, these efforts to keep the relationship intact often fail. Many times, the man will leave the woman anyway, or resentment and regret about the abortion will drive the couple apart.

Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote a book compiling testimonies of post-abortive women. One testimony was that of a woman named Eunice. Eunice was influenced by her husband to have an abortion, but even at the last moment, she wanted him to come charging in, like the stereotypical white knight, and halt the procedure:
"When I was at the clinic waiting for the abortion, I kept hoping my husband would show up. I kept hoping he would come in and say, 'Don’t do this! I changed my mind!'” 
Several months later, the couple divorced – the emotions related to the abortion were just too much for them to deal with.

Another story in Mathews-Green’s book is that of Kate, whose husband was experiencing health problems when she got pregnant:
"Nobody asked me, 'Is this really what you want?'… I was hoping and praying that someone, my husband, would come in and stop it from happening. But he was totally opposed to what I wanted to do. I felt like I was just being selfish, wanting the child; it was too much of a burden on his health.” I asked how her husband’s health is now; she responds that he’s fine, but he isn’t her husband anymore. He left her a few years ago.
A study done in 1985 found that 70% of relationships broke up after an abortion. [Vincent M. Rue, “Abortion in Relationship Context,” International Review of Natural Family Planning, Summer 1985, p 105.] This is an old study, but it shows that guilt and resentment can tear apart a relationship in the wake of an abortion. Perhaps this would be a good area for further research. A more contemporary study could verify the 1985 study’s conclusions.

I remember one of my friends from high school, and how she sobbed into the phone 20 years after her abortion. She had been a 16-year-old impressionable teenager when she slept with her boyfriend and got pregnant. Her boyfriend, who was several years older than her, insisted she get an abortion. His mother also put pressure on the girl, telling her that he would definitely leave her if she didn’t have the abortion. According to my friend, this woman sat her down and convinced her that her boyfriend would resent her forever if she had his unwanted child. She aborted. Within a week of the abortion, he left her. She became suicidal and depressed and spent time in a mental hospital. All the while, she kept her pregnancy and abortion a secret, even from me. Years later, she would tell people that she had suffered a miscarriage. It took her 20 years to even express what happened to her, and she still deals daily with the trauma of the abortion. She misses her child, whom she has named.

The sad truth is that a man who will pressure a woman to have an abortion against her will is not the type to stick around anyway. As hard as it is, women need to fight the coercion that they sometimes face from their partners. Crisis pregnancy centers and other pro-life groups need to be sensitive to the problem and be there to help and support the women find the courage to resist.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What would you say to an abortionist?

On Saturday, a Christian friend of mine found himself on a plane with late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart. Carhart is known for, among other things, the death of Jennifer Morbelli last year.

My friend says: "I wasn't sitting close enough to have a conversation with him (the aisle and his wife were between us, but we were in the same row) and felt he would shut me down right away anyway. I couldn't sit so close to him and I was shaking so hard. I asked to be moved up a couple rows where I couldn't see him." And then, for the next two hours, my friend prayed. After landing, as Carhart walked off the plane, my friend told him "Leroy, we're all praying for you."

Leroy Carhart
Now, this post isn't meant as a criticism of my friend. We have different religious beliefs, but he is of course entitled to pray whenever he feels like it, and I can certainly understand his anxiety in that unique situation. I'm sure he had never given any thought to what he might say to an abortionist.

So let's give some thought to that question now. It's an unlikely scenario, certainly. (My friend is a very frequent flier and this is the first such encounter he's ever had.) But it can't hurt to be prepared!

If I had the chance to speak to Carhart in particular, I would want to ask some questions along the lines of: "Do you feel bad about Jennifer? I haven't seen anything in the press where you've offered an apology. And you're still doing what you do. Has it changed anything about the way that you practice? She came to you because her unborn child was disabled. Did you share with her any of the resources available to the parents of children with disabilities? Did you talk with her about the adoptive families who have opened their hearts and homes to special needs children? Such a conversation could have saved her life, and the life of her daughter Madison. Have you started having those conversations with patients since her death? Mr. Carhart, I am not asking you to stop helping women: but there are better ways to do it. Please, consider reaching out to And Then There Were None. It isn't too late to change your career path."

Of course, like my friend said, he probably would have shut me down long before I could get all of that out. (Perhaps I could pass a note.)

What about you? How would you react to being on a plane (or other close quarters) with an abortionist?

Monday, April 14, 2014

How a pregnancy scare affected my pro-life views

Nope! Where may I collect?
[Today's guest blogger is anonymous.]

While a stereotype out there about pro-lifers is that we’re prudish virgins who all hate sex, that’s not true. You can be pro-life and still have sex. Plenty of us have, myself included. But I always have sex with the thought in the back of my mind that I may end up pregnant. And I wouldn’t punish an innocent unborn child for my decision.

A few months ago I found myself faced with dealing with the possible consequences of having sex involving having a baby. Having an irregular cycle, the waiting game was even more difficult with timing. Though a woman is more likely to become pregnant at certain times of the months than either, pregnancy is always a possibility.

I knew that I would always give my hypothetical baby life, but thinking I could be pregnant caused me to think a little about pregnancy, privacy, and pregnancy centers.

Here are a few things which ran through my mind during this time of waiting and wondering:

1.      You don’t have to have been pregnant, but it does provide a nice perspective. Now I still don’t fit that category considering I was not pregnant. And I have always held that men have a role in the pro-life movement, to stand up for the women and unborn children in their lives. Still, it is beneficial to the pro-life movement to have women who have become pregnant and had children, especially when unplanned, to encourage others that they can do it.

2.      Nine months may be long and difficult, but it is not forever. Nine months of feeling sick would not have been fun, and it would maybe seem like a long time, but it would not be forever. And no kind of sickness or being uncomfortable could justify having my unborn child go through the pain of an abortion.

3.      Sex and pregnancy are private. Abortion is not. It the decision and business of two consenting adults to have sex. Thus it is the woman and the father of her child’s business if she gets pregnant. Once she is pregnant though, she is pregnant with another human life, and that life being ended is not a private matter.

4.      Pregnancy, or even just thinking you’re pregnant, is an emotional time for women, opening up the possibility of vulnerability and persuasion. I would never have an abortion, for any reason. Regardless, thinking I was pregnant was emotional enough for me. I knew that if I were not so set in my beliefs, especially since I am a person who seeks the advice of others, I could listened to someone convince me to have an abortion. It is not anti-women to say that women are often talked into their abortions. It is anti-women to take advantage and make that decision for them.

5.      Adoption seemed like a much more attractive option than I ever thought possible. I used to be set in that I would never place my child for adoption. This time though, I did not know what my relationship status was or where it would go. My child would also grow up in a household with parents of completely different views and faiths, including the position of life. I wasn’t sure if my pro-life influence would be enough. Adoption would help ensure that my child was raised by parents in a household I hoped for him or her to have.

6.      It is woefully ignorant to assume that one’s pro-life position depends on their faith. am not pro-life because of my faith. I have always affirmed that you don’t have to be religious to be pro-life, and it is ignorant and lazy to assume all pro-lifers are religious. I am pro-life because of science. My faith did not play any smaller or larger a role in my thinking about my possible pregnancy than anything else going on in my life.

7.       The attacks that crisis pregnancies are under seem even more shameful and unnecessary. I turned to a pregnancy center for a pregnancy test. The staffer there was kind, helpful and non-judgmental. I was also promised confidentiality. The test was explained to me, and was free. My partner, who is neither pro-life nor a Christian, felt being at the center went positively. (This blog just recently reported on the hypocrisy of the legal trouble pregnancy centers have to endure when abortion clinics are allowed to operate without being inspected and under deplorable conditions.)

I turned out not to be pregnant, and ideally I won’t be pregnant until I’m in a long-term relationship or married. But I can speak to the experience I have had, and I feel that it gives me a perspective that certainly adds to the movement. And I know that if ever faced with a real pregnancy, I will truly stick to my pro-life values.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why this middle-aged Catholic woman supports SPL

[Today's guest post is by Jan S.]

I’m a social conservative and practicing Catholic Christian. I’ve been involved in the pro-life movement intermittently since 1989, when my husband and I had three children under the age of four, and were expecting our fourth child.

It was at that time that we invited a stranger to live with us. She was poor, young, and pregnant. My husband met her outside of an abortion clinic where he was taking part in a pro-life protest. She was considering abortion, but changed her mind when we invited her to live with us until she had her baby and was on her feet again. She agreed.

From that point until a few years ago, I saw the abortion issue from mostly a Christian perspective. Having been raised before the dawn of the internet, I was, like many people of my generation, sheltered from most other views. I had not considered with any kind of depth that others would not only not share my Christian reasoning, but even vilify it. In today's world, of course, the internet highlights the great diversity of political, social, and religious views. I am now so much more aware of that division, that diversity, than I was back in the day.

As a result of this internet-fueled education, and through my personal relationships with non-religious pro-lifers, I was introduced to Secular Pro-Life. At first I was hesitant to consider a non-Christian view of the pro-life stance. But I deeply trusted the person who introduced me to Secular Pro-Life. As SPL went through its infant stages (no pun intended!) I mostly observed and listened without much involvement. I came to realize SPL is really on to something useful in the pro-life community—something that’s been missing for a long time. That something is a secular- and science-based view of human value: a view that welcomes and unites all pro-life persons, no matter their religious, social, or political views, to expose abortion as a violation of human rights.

Now I have (cautiously) started to become a voice for SPL in my Christian community. I suppose you could say I'm an evangelist (again, no pun intended!) for Secular Pro-Life! I started talking to my fellow pro-life advocates about the need for unity in the movement, and about how secular arguments can help us achieve that unity. I speak with other pro-life Christians about how we need to be able to reason with the pro-choicers who outright reject religious pro-life voices. So far I've seen varied but positive responses to these discussions. I've seen reactions ranging from priests and top-level pro-life activists taking interest to grassroots protesters excited at the prospect of working together with nonreligious pro-lifers.

A major part of Secular Pro-Life's mission is to bring together pro-lifers of any faith and no faith in the fight for the most vulnerable among us. My fellow Christian pro-lifers and I can help SPL unite people. We can reach out to our communities—communities secularists don't often find themselves in—and make a point of discussing the need for pro-life diversity in order to grow the pro-life movement even further. I'm happy to see the pro-life movement keep expanding, and I'm proud to do my part to help. Join me!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

No, I am not interested in "punishing" women for having sex


I went to law school. This has affected my way of thinking, for good and for ill. I am now fluent in legalese.

The purpose of legalese is to increase clarity. I realize that that's very difficult for non-lawyers to believe! But it's true, and in this post, I'll show you by translating some legalese. Please bear with me. I promise there's a pro-life point at the end.

It's been said that possession is nine-tenths of the law. I'm not sure that's right. Much of the law (I won't assign a number) is about the allocation of risk.

This is especially true of tort law. A tort is pretty much anything that causes damage to persons or property (other than damages that come out of violating a contract, which are handled, appropriately enough, by contract law). So torts encompass a wide range of things. If you ever go to law school, you will study many old-timey tort cases involving trains. But tort cases may also be about car accidents, slip-and-falls, dog bites, and all sorts of other routine matters.

Torts can be divided into two general categories. Intentional torts are instances where someone deliberately causes damage; for instance, punching somebody may not only lead to criminal charges, but also to a private lawsuit for the intentional tort of battery. Then there are the non-intentional torts, which are accidental. I've already mentioned some of those: slip-and-falls, and so on.

In a non-intentional tort, nobody has done anything criminal or morally abhorrent. But damage has been donein the form of hospital bills, a totaled car, or whatever elseand the court must decide who will foot the bill. Will it be the person who innocently caused the situation? Or will it be the person who innocently was minding her own business and was harmed by the situation? Neither option is ideal, but it has to be somebody. So the law's function is to allocate the risk of the accident.

When it comes to intentional torts, the court may not only order the perpetrator to pay for the actual costs of the damage, but also order additional payment to the victim"punitive damages," so called because their purpose is to punish the person who committed an intentional tort. But for non-intentional torts, punitive damages usually aren't on the table, because nobody needs to be punished; it's purely about compensation.

For non-intentional torts, a key concept is contained in the word "foreseeable." The court asks: who was in the best position to prevent this tort from happening? Put yourself in the shoes of the person being sued. Could that person have reasonably predicted that what happened was at least a possibility? If so, the risk will be allocated to that person. If not, the risk will be allocated to the victim.

The fact that something is foreseeable does not mean that it was intentional. (Remember, the fact that we're even talking about foreseeability probably means that it was a non-intentional tort.) A dog owner does not consent to her dog biting someone. A corporation does not consent to its employees doing stupidly dangerous things on the job. A grocer does not consent to a glass jar falling off of a shelf and injuring a customer. But they may still be liable for the damages caused by their torts. It happens all the time.

So when abortion supporters chant "Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy!" and accuse the pro-life movement of wanting to "punish" sexually active women (as if babies are punishments, as opposed to human beings), my mind always goes to the concept of foreseeability. When a person has sexual intercourse, pregnancy is a foreseeable result. That does not mean that the sexually active person has done something wrong or deserves to be punished. Let me repeat that: saying that pregnancy is foreseeable is not a moral judgment. It's just an acknowledgement that, let's face it, the cause of pregnancy is not exactly mysterious!

So the question is: who will bear the risk of the situation? Will it be the sexually active person, who did not intend for pregnancy to occur, but who at least has some control over the situation? Or will it be the unborn child, who has no control over the situation whatsoever, and whose very life is at stake?

The answer to that question is very easy when two lawyers are speaking to each other in legalese: it's all wrapped up in that one word, "foreseeable." But when trying to have that conversation in plain English, instead of having one word, you have... well, you have this entire blog post.

So don't knock legalese. It's actually pretty useful.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On Life Issues, New York is Completely Dysfunctional

Via 41 Percent NYC
On Monday, the New York Post published an article entitled "NYC's tanning salons inspected more regularly than abortion clinics." The Post describes this discovery as a "bombshell." And for those who haven't been paying the slightest bit of attention to the abortion industry and its lobby, I suppose it is. For myself, the only source of surprise was seeing this get media coverage outside of the pro-life blogosphere. Nice job, New York Post.

New York City may not have a desire to inspect its abortion facilities, but it is very interested in policing the interactions that pro-life pregnancy centers have with the mothers who come to them for pregnancy tests, sonograms, counseling, diapers, and other assistance. The City has spent who knows how much money defending its unconstitutional anti-pregnancy-center law in court for the past three years.

Most of the legislation that NYC passed to regulate pregnancy centers has been struck down by the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, who noted that the law was not tailored to address any legitimate state interest. (No woman has ever had her uterus perforated, had pieces of her dead fetus left inside her, or hemorrhaged to death at a pro-life pregnancy center. The same cannot be said for those under-regulated abortion facilities.) But the court did allow a small portion of the law to stand, and the pregnancy centers are appealing that decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Yesterday, New York City pregnancy centers won a small victory when the Second Circuit agreed to issue a stay. This means that during the many months it may take to obtain a response from the Supreme Court, no part of anti-pregnancy-center law will be in effect. They will be able to go about their business as usual, providing New York women with an alternative to under-regulated for-profit abortionists. 

These two stories, coming just a day apart, highlight the utter insanity of New York's pro-abortion mindset. They also highlight which side is really pro-woman. Actions speak louder than words. If the government of New York City can find the money to fund biannual inspections of tanning salons, surely it can find the money to beef up regulation of its abortion facilities. Might I suggest dropping their vendetta against pro-life pregnancy centers and redirecting some of the legal budget?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Simple Way to Seek Common Ground

[Today's guest post is by K. M. Misener.]

Far too many abortion debates are framed in the most simple, black and white terms: "Are you for abortion or against it?" However, there are many shades of gray between the two extremes of an absolute ban on abortion from the moment of fertilization vs. abortion on demand up until birth for any reason. For that reason, I have started to make a very simple request to abortion advocates in discussions: Please spell out for me exactly when you believe abortion should be legal, and when it should not be legal.

While that may seem like a very basic starting point, I think simply making sure we clearly understand where exactly our opponent stands can make discussion far more productive than if we just try to debate the issue in a general way.

We have plenty of real-world examples of situations where abortion has been restricted while not being outright banned. In many European countries, abortion is restricted after the first trimester, while in the United States, abortion advocacy groups fight hard against late-term abortion bans. Some readers may be too young to remember the long and difficult fight in America to ban intact dilation and extraction abortion (a.k.a. Partial Birth Abortion or PBA), but I remember that fight well. Once the partial birth abortion ban finally was upheld by the Supreme Court, abortion advocates quietly let their defense of PBA drop after a while. Despite dire predictions at the time that banning partial birth abortion would "undoubtedly harm the future reproductive health of some American women," nowadays you generally do not see people arguing that partial birth abortions need to make a comeback. The partial birth abortion ban shows the value of looking at abortion in terms of a spectrum, rather than pure black and white. Even many people who might have considered themselves pro-choice recognized partial birth abortion as too extreme to justify or defend.

We know from Gallup polling that even though a bit less than half of Americans identify as pro-choice, only about 26% of responders believe that abortion should be "Legal in all circumstances." There are many scenarios that frequently make even pro-choice people uncomfortable:
  • Abortion for so-called "convenience" or "birth control" reasons. 
  • Sex selection abortion (aborting a female fetus for being female, as is commonly practiced in some cultures). 
  • Late term abortions that are clearly for elective reasons.
  • The same woman having multiple abortions. It has been my experience that most abortion advocates are not aware that about half of women who have abortions have already had a previous abortion 
Since many pro-choice people tend to bring up rape and incest when debating pro-lifers (even though rape and incest only account for about 1% of abortions), I think it is completely valid for us to try to understand their stances on situations such as the above cases.

I am reminded of a quote that is very popular among atheists with respect to monotheistic religious adherents: “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Similarly, I say to those who oppose abortion in at least some cases: "I contend we are both against abortion. I just oppose abortion in more situations than you do. When you consider why you oppose these abortions, then perhaps you will understand that I am not your enemy simply because I draw the line in more cases or a bit earlier in pregnancy than you do."

We are used to thinking of abortion as a polarized, black and white issue. But I believe in many, many cases our disagreement is actually just about where to draw the line and matters of degree.

Now, what about abortion advocates who truly do believe abortion is a valid choice right up until the moment of birth? Finding out that someone takes that stance offers a great opportunity to discuss with that person what rational basis there is to abort a third trimester fetus yet protect the life of a newborn infant. Starting at the point where you can both agree that there is a life worth protecting and working backwards from there may be more productive than trying to convince someone who does not see even a third trimester fetus as a "person" that a newly formed zygote deserves to live.

In the effort to change minds and reach people, I think it is very helpful to try to find some form of common ground and use that as a foundation to build on. We need to look for opportunities to meet people at whatever point they are at along the spectrum of abortion beliefs.

Monday, April 7, 2014

I'm not distraught when people kill embryos.

I reevaluate whether I am really pro-life on a regular basis.

I believe abortion is almost always morally wrong. I believe it should usually be illegal. But I typically don't feel very emotional about it, at least not regarding early-term abortions (the most common abortions).

When I think of early-term abortions I don't feel anything like I would feel if someone killed a born child. Or even if someone had a late-term abortion. I mean, sure, I have some emotions about the topic. If a woman chooses to abort under duress, I feel sadness and frustration that we haven't made society better, or her position better in it. If a woman chooses to abort a wanted pregnancy because of a Down syndrome diagnosis, I feel indignant and defensive on behalf of born people with Down syndrome. If a woman has multiple abortions, I just feel exasperated.

So, sure: sad, frustrated, indignant, defensive, exasperated--I feel things. But these aren't the emotions I would feel over infanticide--deeper emotions like sorrow, despair, or rage. I don't feel overwhelmed.

In contrast, my fellow pro-life activists often seem to feel these deeper emotions over abortion. For example, my good friend Kelsey Hazzard has never tried sidewalk counseling, partially because she fears the scenario in which she's unable to change an abortion-minded woman's mind. She says she doesn't think she could live with herself. I don't feel the same. I think I could live with it fine. I'm not indifferent--I'd be disappointed, frustrated, disillusioned, maybe--but I wouldn't be crushed.

If I believe all humans--including fetuses--should have a right to live, shouldn't I feel the same way about early-term abortion as I feel about any other death? (That notion is the basis for the Burning IVF Lab thought experiment.) And if I don't feel the same way about abortion as I feel about other deaths, does it mean I don't think fetuses are morally relevant human beings? Do my inconsistent emotions signify insincere beliefs?

I wonder about this apparent contradiction on a regular basis. But then at least one of two main thoughts brings me back around.

1) Abortion isn't the only type of human death I feel numb to. Every day, around the world, people die of starvation, preventable diseases, and violence--including military conflicts in which my own country is involved. Yet, on a day-to-day basis, I'm more likely to get upset over my car acting up, my research progressing slowly, or my weight climbing too high than over real human suffering and death.


Which of these situations should bother me more?
Which one actually bothers me more?

Does my ambivalence indicate I don't believe the people suffering around the world are morally relevant human beings? If so, what does that say about how strongly my personal emotions are connected to the moral relevance of others? If not, what other factors influence my varying emotions about equally relevant people?

Either way, it seems obvious to me that my emotions aren't necessarily a good indicator of my intellectual beliefs, much less a good indicator of the reality of a situation. In my experience, emotions don't function off of consistency and objectivity, but off of a wide variety of factors, some relevant and some not.

2) Which brings me to my second thought: there's nothing wrong with holding a position you find intellectually compelling even if your emotions don't follow. When my mind and emotions diverge, I've found it's almost always a better decision to go with the mind--and I admire people who try to do the same. It's the intellectually honest thing to do.

So, even though I don't feel much over the idea of early-term abortion, I can find no consistent, objective reasoning to explain why there would be more value in, for example, a fetus who has synapses in the brain (8-9 weeks) compared to a fetus who has only just developed cerebral hemispheres (4-5 weeks). The former is more developed than the latter, but neither of them have present abilities like self-awareness or intellectual connection with others, while both of them have those future capacities. I still feel less emotion over the idea of aborting a 4-week embryo compared to a 9-week fetus, but I find no morally relevant differences between the two. If I can't intellectually defend my emotions, I try not to base my political positions on them.

So what do you think, guys? What are some issues where your intellect and emotions aren't aligned? How do you then approach those issues? What place does emotion have in forming your worldview, and how much weight to you give it?