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Monday, June 30, 2014

Meet the Wisconsin abortionists who can't imagine why they've been denied hospital privileges

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

Abortionist Dennis Dean Christensen, formerly of Illinois, now practices in Milwaukee. But the days of his business may be numbered: three area hospitals have denied him admitting privileges due to his extensive history of unsafe practices and bizarre behavior. Christensen has responded by challenging Wisconsin's admitting privileges requirement (SB 206) in court. He is joined by fellow abortionist Bernard Smith, who has a history of his own.

SB 206 was signed by Gov. Scott Walker last summer; among other things, it requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed. Federal District Court Judge William Conley issued a temporary injunction, allowing Christensen and Smith to remain in business while the case is ongoing and Christensen continues trying to obtain privileges. Conley's final decision is expected in the next month.

Let's get to know the plaintiffs, starting with Christensen:
Christensen’s Rockford, Illinois, abortion business that was located in a former church building, was inspected on September 15, 2011, when inspectors found that all three of the abortion rooms “failed to ensure a sanitary environment.” Surgical instruments were not sanitized, and “brown substances” were found on surgical equipment and gloves. Inspectors also discovered that Christensen had no hospital privileges and failed to have a registered nurse present during invasive procedures as required in that state. The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a closure order five days later.
Unsurprisingly, Christensen's profile on HealthGrades.com gives him the lowest possible rating. Pro-lifers may also remember that Rockford, Illinois center for its... unusual response sidewalk counselors: "crucified" and "lynched" rubber chickens displayed in the windows. (Apparently at least one potential customer took that as a red flag—well, duh—and wound up choosing life.)

And then there's Bernard Smith:
He was involved in two medical emergencies on the same day in April, 2011. A previous complaint lodged in 2007 concerning other medical emergencies at AMS involving Smith went unheeded. 
It is no wonder that "doctors" with such records would be denied admitting privileges at a hospital! The agenda of the plaintiffs in this case is abundantly clear. The heck with their records, they want to stay in business killing unborn children, and possibly hurting women as well. When you look at the facts of the situation, one can objectively see the need for hospital privileges in order to truly protect women. Admitting privileges are just common sense.

Sadly, I'm not surprised that abortion advocates would look the other way when it comes to abortionists like Christensen and Smith. Both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are supporting their challenge to SB 206.

Friday, June 27, 2014

July 28: Speaking Engagement at LA Pro-Life Youth Camp

SPL president Kelsey Hazzard here. When I was in high school, I was uselessly pro-life. I didn't do anything about it outside of the occasional debate with friends. It wasn't until college that I really got involved.

Not so for the high schoolers I will address on July 28. They're part of Camp Joshua, a pro-life teen leadership camp in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It runs from Sunday, July 27 through Thursday, July 31.

Yes, it's named for the Joshua of the Bible, but the organizers (Louisiana Right to Life Federation) are careful to point out that this isn't a Bible camp; Joshua is just a source of inspiration. It's not the name I would have picked, but upon reflection, it isn't appreciably different from calling the effort to restore the right to life a "David and Goliath battle," or saying that our work is a "Herculean task."

This being the deep South, I do expect most of the students to be Christian. Even so, the organizers clearly understand the need to reach teens of every religious background, which is why they invited me to address the camp. Participants will also get Justice for All training; hear talks on various pro-life topics; meet post-abortive women, local pro-life public officials, and pregnancy center volunteers; and watch a live ultrasound. All around, it sounds pretty awesome. I'm excited to go to my first ever pro-life teen camp, about seven years late. (It'll be my first trip to Louisiana, too.)

So if you are or know a teen in/near Baton Rouge, come to Camp Joshua! Registration is still open.

And if you have attended such a camp, I'd love to hear from you. What were your favorite presentations? What were your least favorite? Any suggestions for me?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ableism Kills, Inside and Outside the Womb

[Today's guest post by Rebecca Stapleford is part of our paid blogging program. Rebecca is autistic and physically disabled. She has three sisters, two of whom are also disabled. One of her significantly disabled sisters will eventually need a kidney transplant.]

Many of those involved in the pro-life movement are aware of the incredibly high abortion statistics for those prenatally diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome—around 90% by many estimates. We’ve heard stories of women pressured to abort their disabled children by doctors and genetic counselors, and the ableist assumptions that underlie such pressures. Many of us are also aware that legalized euthanasia tends to put pressure on severely disabled individuals to kill themselves, especially if government cuts to their medical services make them feel that it is simply too expensive to stay alive. However, this is only the tip of the iceburg when it comes to the deadly consequences of the ableism which is so deeply rooted in our society.

Simply put, ableism is a prejudice, much like sexism or racism. Unlike most other prejudices, ableism can often be well-intentioned. For instance, a doctor denying lifesaving treatment to a severely disabled infant is often acting out of compassion, believing that the child’s life is not worth living. However, such an assumption ignores the fact that many severely disabled individuals do find their lives to be worth living, and this scenario involves an able-bodied individual forcing their assumptions about the kind of life that is worth living onto a disabled person—a textbook example of able-bodied power and privilege.

There is a much darker side to ableism, however. A commenter on this CNN article regarding the discriminatory denial of organ transplants to disabled individuals summed up his ableist views best when, in support of the practice, he said: "Because they won't be as productive a member of society, and cost tax payers more money to support them their entire life." Sadly, this perspective was shared by the vast majority of the many commenters on this article, and his comment was upvoted 53 times.

Ableist views are held not only by the general public, but also by the medical community. Those involved in the disability rights movement might be familiar with the case of Paul Corby, a young autistic man who was denied a heart transplant based solely on his developmental disability, and the case of Amanda Baggs, an autistic self-advocate whose stay at the hospital took a very dark turn when her medical providers tried to bully her into accepting comfort care rather than lifesaving medical treatment. Thankfully, in Amanda’s case, the disability rights community stood up for her, and she got the medical care that she needed. However, many others in her situation don’t have a community of advocates to rally around them, and their outcomes are much worse.

These are not isolated incidents, either. Surveys and studies that have been taken of the medical community indicate that ableist attitudes are rather prevalent and affect patient care. It is more common than you might think for a disabled individual to be denied or discouraged life-saving medical care that a non-disabled patient would be encouraged to have.

Furthermore, the ableist attitudes that we disabled persons encounter on a daily basis may lead us to believe what society often tells us—that we are burdens on society and therefore unworthy of life. My friend Sarah Terzo, who lives with multiple disabilities and is the brain behind the pro-life website Clinic Quotes and an occasional SPL guest blogger, has this this to say:
You feel like you are a leech on society, and the stigma of being on government assistance can be brutal. You definitely feel like you are burden, and often it’s hard to deal with. You always think people are looking at your life, at the fact you get money to help support yourself, and are judging you. 
I know the feeling. As a teenager, I battled suicidal ideation that was partially based upon the belief that I was a burden.

If we want to create a truly pro-life society, we must not only establish the humanity of the unborn and their right to life, but the right of all human beings to life and non-discriminatory medical care, regardless of how much we cost or how productive we are. We must fight against the ableist stereotypes that many in our society hold. Until that time, disabled individuals such as myself and those that I care about will continue to fall victim to this deadly and discriminatory form of utilitarianism.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Language of Life T-shirt Design Contest


Human life does not begin at birth. Hopefully we can all agree on that by now. 

But the English language hasn't caught up to the science. We've written before about the problem with phrases like "born leader," "a sucker born every minute," etc. We decided it's time to expand that conversation with the ultimate conversation-starter: a cool t-shirt!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create an awesome t-shirt graphic that embraces the language of life. Some possibilities:
  • Conceived to be wild
  • Conceived this way
  • Pro-life, conceived and raised
  • I was conceived for this
If we like your design, we'll sell it on our Zazzle store, and give you a free one. And if you create our favorite design, you'll win free admission to the Students for Life of America conference on Friday, January 22, 2015! (SPL president Kelsey Hazzard got a free ticket, but won't be able to use it because she runs the SPL sponsor booth at the conference. So we're shamelessly re-gifting.)

Entries are due by midnight on Friday, July 11. Send them to info@secularprolife.org. We look forward to seeing your creative side!

And now for a little housekeeping:
1) Please send your art to us in a decent format. Giant pixels do not work on a t-shirt.
2) Don't even think about using somebody else's stuff. Copyright violations are bad.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Imago Dei, or "Why should secularists care about human life?"

I’ve had a few Christian pro-life friends of mine (kindly) tell me they don’t really understand how a secularist can defend the pro-life position. Sure, they get that we don’t need religion to understand fetal development, and we don’t need to believe in a god to recognize that abortion is violence. But they trip over how a secularist could defend the pro-life view on a metaphysical level. Why should secularists care about fetal development or the violence of abortion? What transcendent reason do we have to care about human life in the first place?

In other words, these Christian pro-life friends of mine want to know how I, as a secularist, can truly defend the pro-life position without the Imago Dei.

The Imago Dei (“Image of God”) is the idea that all humans are made in God’s image—that humans reflect God's moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature. Many Christians believe the Imago Dei is why we humans are valuable in the first place and why we’re more valuable than other species. If there's no special connection to God, if there's no soul, many Christians have a hard time understanding why we should value humans any more than any other random collections of atoms meandering through existence.

This question moves the conversation beyond the abortion debate. Christian pro-lifers aren’t asking secular pro-lifers why we care about fetuses. They’re asking why we care about anyone at all.

Got this pic from an advice column about atheists and morals.

A lot of times we secularists take offense to the question. We think Christians are saying secularists can’t or shouldn’t care about anyone, as if, by definition, we can’t be good people. We think Christians are saying we inherently suck. And yes, sure, there are some Christians who actually think that. But most of the Christians I know aren’t saying that at all. They aren’t saying “You can’t be good.” They’re saying “You clearly are good. I just don’t get where you believe your goodness comes from.” It’s not an accusation, it’s a curiosity.

So why don’t we hear it that way? Here’s the problem. Suppose a Christian (call him “Bob”) asks an atheist (call her “Sue”) the following: “If there’s no god, why shouldn’t we murder people?” Bob means, “If there’s no god, there’s no objective morality. If there’s no objective morality, what objective moral reason can we have not to kill each other?” But Sue hears, “If there’s no god, shouldn't we just start killing each other?” Then Sue kind of worries that if Bob ever loses his faith he’ll become a homicidal maniac. That’s where we get memes like this:


Do you see the communication breakdown? It’s like if Bob asked Sue, “Why, in your opinion, is the sky blue?” and Sue heard either “If you don’t believe in God, you aren’t allowed to think the sky is blue” or “If I didn’t believe in God, I would no longer think the sky is blue.”

In this analogy, Secular Pro-Life purposely doesn’t articulate a position on why the sky is blue. We start with the premise that the sky is blue, and go from there. That is, we start with the premise that human beings are valuable, and build our pro-life position off of that.

One of the reasons we take this approach is because secularists don’t have one unifying reason for why human beings are valuable. Secular people use a wide assortment of ethical approaches to reach the same conclusion.

Christians, who have a specific, unified answer to why humans are valuable (the Imago Dei), sometimes find our secular stance incomplete, since we avoid the question. Some of my Christian pro-life friends have asked me how SPL can reach out to other secularists if we don’t offer some metaphysical answers.

But here’s the thing: other secularists aren’t usually looking for metaphysical answers. I have never, not once, had a secularist sincerely ask me to explain why we should care about other human beings. It’s only Christians who ask me that, and only in the context of trying to understand our different religious perspectives.

My fellow secularists aren’t looking for reasons to care about humanity. They already care. They already believe murder is wrong and that we should take care of one another. The secular abortion debate is not about whether human beings are valuable. In most circles, that premise is just a given. The secular abortion debate is about whether the fetus counts as a human being and, if so, whether that’s enough to trump bodily rights. And since those are the premises secularists debate, those are the premises SPL focuses on.

Just as we can all agree the sky is blue even if we don’t articulate why, we can all agree human beings are valuable even if we don’t dig into why. If you really want to get into the “why,” that’s fine, but understand that, to most secularists, that’s a religious debate. Not an abortion debate. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

One Absurd Conclusion of the Pro-Choice Position

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

One of the problems with the pro-choice position, aside from the fact that abortion unjustly kills an innocent child, is the fact that it places the will of the parents over the needs of the child, when in fact it should be the other way around. The vast, vast majority of children are conceived through a consensual act by the mother and father, and the child is conceived through no fault or desire of their own. After all, you cannot consent to being brought into existence because you would have to precede your own conception in order to do that, which is logically absurd. So a child is brought into existence, then killed once deemed inconvenient by the mother, father (in which case coercion usually follows), or both.

However, in many cases our courts actually recognize that the child's needs come before the parent's desires, even if the child is preborn. In many states, including my own very liberal state of California, if someone kills a wanted unborn child, it is considered an independent homicide. The best-known example of this is Scott Peterson, who killed his wife, Lacy, and their unborn child. He was charged with two counts of homicide.

Another example of the child's needs being put before the will of the parents is in the case of child support. Whereas a woman can opt to have an abortion or make an adoption plan if she chooses to be a mother no longer, a father does not have that option. Whether or not he wants to be a father to that child (or whether or not the mother will let him have a relationship with the child), the state will require that he pay child support. That may mean that he will be forced to continue using his own body to work for 18 years and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money toward that child. It seems inconsistent in a country with legalized abortion to require fathers to pay child support. But they are required, as they should be, because the needs of the child come first.

In their essay "Constitutional Balance," in The Morality of Abortion: Legal and Historical Perspectives (ed. by John T. Noonan, Jr., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1970, pp. 244-245), authors David W. Louisell and John T. Noonan, Jr. recount a court case* involving a pregnant Jehovah's Witness. Adherents of that religion interpret the Bible as saying that blood transfusions are sinful. But she was forced to undergo a blood transfusion because her unborn child was anemic. Freedom of religion is a cherished constitutional right, but that right can be superceded if it will cause harm to another person. Louisell and Noonan comment:
The right not to have the state enforce its beliefs upon one's conscience, a 'fixed star in our constitutional constellation,' might have led the court to subordinate the fetus' interest in survival to the constitutional right of the parents to practice their religion. Instead, the life of the fetus was treated as a value outweighing even a prized constitutional liberty. In a previous case, a New Jersey court had ordered a transfusion, despite his parents' religious objections, to a 'blue baby' suffering from a lack of oxygen after birth. The court composed of Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Hall, Schettino, and Haneman found no difference between that case and the case now presented of a fetus likely to be aborted if denied blood.
These are just a few examples in which a child's needs are placed over the desires of the parent. Yet our country allows legalized abortion, placing a woman's desires (often disguised in terms of "health," such as "financial or familial health") over the needs of the unborn child. The bottom line is that an unborn child is denied life because a woman feels that there is some reason she should not be a mother, despite the fact that she already is one. (Or, frequently, because a man feels that there is some reason he should not be a father, despite the fact that he already is one.)

Making abortion illegal again is the step in the right direction we need. The unborn child, as a vulnerable member of our species, needs protection of those more powerful than themselves.

*Raleigh Fitkin-Paul Memorial Hospital v. Anderson, 42 N.J. 421, 201 A. 2d 537, cert. denied 377 U.S. 985 (1964).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I Am Equal Without Abortion

[Today's guest post by Roni Cairns is part of our paid blogging program. An earlier version of this piece appeared on her personal blog.]

Have you ever been told that a woman will lose all of her rights and become a second-class person, inferior, or subhuman if she cannot obtain a legal abortion? I have, numerous times. And lest you think that this is a fringe viewpoint: in her dissent in Gonzales v. Carhart, the partial-birth abortion case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that successful court challenges to pro-life laws vindicated women's right to "enjoy equal citizenship stature."

As a woman who has been pregnant, I take offense to the notion that I need a "right" to abortion, partial-birth or otherwise, to be an equal citizen. Preventing people from killing other humans does not make those who would otherwise kill another human "subhuman."

I, as a woman, am more than my uterus. When I was pregnant, I was not subhuman. I could still think, vote, pursue my goals, etc. And I know that pregnant women are more capable than those who deem pregnant women inferior give them credit for. Women are stronger than that. We do not need the "right" to kill in order to be successful.

I find it terribly sad that instead of helping us "inferior" pregnant women achieve success—in our careers, educational goals, etc.—those who say things like that would rather promote abortion. Instead of helping women graduate from college without ending a human life (which pro-life groups are actively working on), they propose that we kill our future generations and obtain our promotions and degrees by sacrificing our defenseless children.

How is it pro-woman to say that we must be allowed to kill our children in order to be successful, to be "equal citizens," to avoid being "inferior" or "subhuman"? That there is a human within my uterus does not make me less of a human, does not reduce me to such a state that I cannot accomplish anything, that I cannot think or vote, does not "ruin my life." Those who believe pregnant women are inferior do women a serious disservice.

As a woman, I neither need nor want the right to kill humans to be equal as a human being. I am a woman. I am strong. I am capable. I am not inferior. And I don't need the right to kill to be equal.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Introducing the Equal Rights Institute

When you think of “the pro-life movement,” who do you picture? Do you think of a massive crowd with homemade picket signs shuffling through Washington DC in the snow (or San Francisco in the sun)? Do you imagine an elderly lady standing outside an abortion clinic handing out pregnancy resource pamphlets? Maybe the phrase “pro-life movement” brings to mind a politician using a lot of the same old buzzwords, or the guy your campus group hosted for a formal debate last year, or even your friend who is an adoption counselor.

Regardless of who comes to mind for you, when you think “pro-life movement,” you think of someone, right? But wouldn’t it be great if the phrase “pro-life movement” made you think of everyone?

We at SPL want to create a society where everyone is pro-life. Because we’re secularists, we focus particularly on religious diversity. But we are happy to grow the pro-life movement in other dimensions too; we want everyone—people of every age, gender, race, religion, sexuality, and political affiliation—to be pro-life.

You know, like this, except not so "cheesy stock photo."

Being that inclusive is difficult. Any time you throw a bunch of people with such varied backgrounds into a mix, there’s friction. Even if we’re all against abortion, other aspects of our lives are very different. We have diverging, sometimes opposing, perspectives on topics outside the abortion debate—topics that are also important to us. If we don’t make a proactive effort to understand one another (maybe not agree with, but understand), how can we unite?

This is a major hurdle the pro-life movement needs to overcome, and that priority is why I am so thrilled to have met and befriended Josh Brahm.

Josh likes to say his job is to help pro-lifers not be weird. Really his job is to train pro-lifers to think clearly, reason honestly, and argue persuasively. That means he gives talks and speeches and leads (or helps lead) training seminars for pro-lifers. What does he talk about and train others on? Relational apologetics. Josh believes (and I think he’s absolutely right) that we sway the most hearts and minds when we take each person as an individual, and we learn how to effectively relate to people.

The more we learn to relate to one another, the more we expand and unite the pro-life movement. The more united we are, the more we empower ourselves to fight abortion.

We are stronger together than we are apart, and Josh's work helps bring us together. 

So why am I telling you about this now? Because, up until recently, Josh did most of his work as either part of the Right to Life of Central California (RTLCC) or in conjunction with Justice For All (JFA). (In fact, only a couple months ago I wrote some blog posts about attending one of Josh’s JFA trainings. Ellen, a pro-life atheist, and I were very impressed with Josh’s effort to include us, as secularists, in the training. He’s just a very inclusive kind of guy.

Josh and RTLCC did some great work together, but it’s time for a change. Last week, Josh announced that he’s founding his own organization: the Equal Rights Institute (ERI). 

The ERI website will be live by July 1st!

Through ERI, Josh will continue to give his talks, speeches, and trainings, but he can expand his impact from a local to a national level. I'm particularly interested to see the training materials ERI produces. Josh and his colleagues are careful thinkers--not only in terms of relationship, but in terms of philosophy as well. They've already created what are, in my opinion, some of the stronger pro-life arguments (if you haven't already read the De Facto Guardian paper regarding bodily rights, you should check it out). If history is an indicator, I think we can look forward to more work of this quality. I can't wait to read about it.

Josh is a Christian who works to relate to secularists. He's a straight guy who works to relate to homosexuals. He's a pro-lifer who works to relate to pro-choicers. He doesn't just talk about how we should all get along; he actually gets along with a wide variety of people. I find that inspiring and encouraging. 

I'm telling you guys about him because if you're interested in expanding the pro-life movement, this is one of the guys you should keep an eye on. Here's his blog. Here's his Facebook page. Here's his Twitter. Follow him. If you like his work, consider inviting him to speak to your pro-life group, or even lead a training. If you really like his work, consider donating.

Now go!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Florida abortion law enters 21st century

From Reuters (a short article, so here it is in its entirety):
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday barring late-term abortions in cases where doctors determine an unborn child could survive outside the womb, in a move critics say further chips away at abortion rights. 
The measure is among new limits on abortion pushed by Republicans in several states, some of which have prompted court challenges. 
Existing Florida law forbids abortion after 24 weeks' gestation, unless a woman's life or health is jeopardized by continued pregnancy.
The new law, effective next month, sets the no-abortion point at any stage of development when a doctor determines the fetus is viable.
Once fetal viability is attained, no abortion would be allowed under the new law unless two doctors certify in writing that termination is necessary to save the patient's life or to "avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function ... other than a psychological condition."
The bill's sponsors argued modern medicine has made it possible to save infants far earlier than the third-trimester standard for pregnancy termination used by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
Critics accused Scott and Republican legislative leaders of failing to respect women's rights.
"They don't think women should be able to control their own health care decisions," said Barbara DeVane, a Tallahassee lobbyist for the National Organization for Women (NOW).
DeVane said she did not know if NOW would take the issue to court in Florida, but predicted patients will challenge the law.
Let's start with what Reuters got right: the new Florida legislation does restrict abortion after viability. And the bill's sponsors do argue that advances in modern medicine created the need to update the law.

And now for what they got wrong.

First, Reuters failed to mention that the sponsors' argument is provably true. I am a Florida resident, and happened to be attending the University of Miami in 2007, when Amillia Rose Taylor was born just a short drive away from me:

She was just 21 weeks and 6 days. With proper medical care, she survived. If any state has reason to understand that viability is not a hard line set at 24 weeks, it's Florida. Frankly, I'm embarrassed that it took them this long to update the law.

Second, the trimester framework from Roe v. Wade is completely irrelevant and has been since 1992, when the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In Casey, the Court got rid of arbitrary dividing lines based on trimester and replaced them with... an equally arbitrary dividing line based on viability. The Florida law is exactly what Casey explicitly permits. It's hardly the vanguard of protecting life.

So, third, it's a little misleading to lump this together with "new limits on abortion pushed by Republicans in several states, some of which have prompted court challenges." That makes it sound like this is legislation is somehow related to 20-week bans, which it isn't. 20-week bans are based on the emerging science of fetal pain, as well as the increased risks of abortion for the woman after that point; their proponents want the Supreme Court to reconsider Casey in light of these developments. But Florida is just tweaking its Casey-era law.

And fourth, this isn't exactly an error on Reuters' part, but I just want to comment on NOW's prediction that patients will challenge the law. That's hot air and DeVane knows it. Every major abortion case since Roe* has been brought, not by women, but by abortion businesses and/or their political allies (usually the Center for Reproductive Rights). That isn't going to change any time soon.

*Even Roe wasn't really brought by a patient. When pro-abortion attorney Sarah Weddington learned that Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) had become pro-life, her reaction was that she should have "picked a different plaintiff." 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Court cites Roe v. Wade in support of compelled C-section

[Guest blogger Roni Cairns contributed to today's piece.]

One argument in favor of Roe v. Wade, and for the general argument that bodily autonomy trumps the right to life, is that pro-life logic would dictate in favor of forced cesarean sections. Many pro-lifers would of course disagree. It's true that in some scenarios a C-section is the safer course of action for the baby. But the mother who desires a vaginal birth if at all possible, or who wants a second opinion before submitting to a C-section, probably isn't deliberately trying to kill her kid. The right to life isn't the right to be free from any and all risks. (One of the leading causes of death in young children is vehicular accidents; it would be far safer for children if we walked everywhere instead of driving cars. But parents' reliance on automobiles is not a violation of the right to life.) We're really talking about a negative right, the right not to be murdered.

That said, one of our readers, Roni Cairns, stumbled upon a fascinating court case that sheds some light on the issue. In Jefferson v. Griffin Spalding County Hospital Authority, 274 S.E.2d 457 (Ga. 1981), hospital administrators sought to compel a C-section in a severe case of placenta previa. The cervix was completely covered by the placenta, so had the woman gone forward with a vaginal birth, the placenta would have had to detach from the wall of the uterus in order to deliver the child—causing the mother to hemorrhage, and depriving the child of oxygen well before complete dilation. Doctors provided the court with evidence that without a C-section, the child's chance of death was virtually 100%. The mother had only a 50-50 chance of survival herself.

Clearly this was a situation where a C-section was warranted. So why did the mother refuse in the first place? Because she was "of the view that the Lord has healed her body and that whatever happens to the child will be the Lord's will." (Notably, once a child is born, acting on such a belief can form the basis for a murder charge. And rightfully so.)

While acknowledging the general rule that people have the right to refuse medical treatment, and the right to exercise their religion, the court found an exception here. The child was 39 weeks along, viable, and obviously incapable of making an informed decision about religious matters. The court's decision was unanimous:
The Court finds that the State has an interest in the life of this unborn, living human being. The Court finds that the intrusion involved into the life of Jessie Mae Jefferson and her husband, John W. Jefferson, is outweighed by the duty of the State to protect a living, unborn human being from meeting his or her death before being given the opportunity to live.
Perhaps surprisingly, the opinion cited Roe v. Wade in support of its view:
A viable unborn child has the right under the U. S. Constitution to the protection of the State through such statutes prohibiting the arbitrary termination of the life of an unborn fetus. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (93 S.C. 705, 732, 35 LE2d 147) (1973).
Roni speculates that the court was referring to this passage in Roe: "Although the results are divided, most of these courts have agreed that the right of privacy, however based, is broad enough to cover the abortion decision; that the right, nonetheless, is not absolute, and is subject to some limitations; and that, at some point, the state interests as to protection of health, medical standards, and prenatal life, become dominant. We agree with this approach."

Pro-life disagreement with Roe is really about when the interest in prenatal life becomes dominant. Radical abortion supporters would say never; only born life matters. But that position finds no support in the Supreme Court's seminal abortion rights case.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Key to Avoiding Red Herrings

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

I'm currently reading through a book by John S. Feinberg on modernism and postmodernism*, and he made a claim in his book that I thought would be excellent to share. It's also a point that I've been raising in my presentations on abortion.

Feinberg tells us that, in a debate, there are two reasons that you need to clarify any issue at hand: 1) you need to think through the logic of the case presented, and 2) if you don't, the case that you are attacking may be only peripheral to the topic at hand. Many people skip the first reason and proceed right to the second. An example of this would be a conservative Christian who tries to argue against evolution by throwing out arguments for the existence of God. But that's only a peripheral issue in the debate, because even if God exists, the theory of evolution could still be correct. The Christian may be thinking that God's existence would disprove evolution, because if God exists, there's no need for a naturalistic explanation of the origins of life. But the Christian isn't making the case he thinks he is, and is completely failing to address the actual arguments for evolution.

The abortion debate is similar. In order to adequately argue your pro-life or pro-choice case, you have to present a positive case (that is, a case that supports your position) and possibly a negative case (that is, a case that responds to your opponent's arguments). Good pro-life arguments support the biological humanity and philosophical personhood of the unborn child. Good pro-choice arguments argue that the unborn are not persons or that a woman should not be legally compelled to refrain from killing the unborn child. When we keep this in mind, it's easy to see how many arguments are really about peripheral issues and don't even respond to the case presented. These are side issues; they may be affected by the issue at large, but by making a point on a peripheral issue, you do not move any closer to refuting the core argument.

Let's take the pro-life position first. If a pro-life person makes an argument that the unborn are fully human and fully persons, then arguments about difficult situations, such as poverty, or from personal rights, like the right to choose or privacy, are not an adequate argument for the pro-choice position. If pro-life people are right, and the unborn really are full human persons, then poverty would not justify killing them (as it would not justify killing a human child outside the womb), nor would the "right to choose" or right to privacy. Conversely, if the pro-choice position succeeds, and the unborn either are not persons or do not have the legal right to remain dependent on the mother, then a woman can have an abortion for any reason, whether or not we find it indecent (which is, incidentally, a point that Thomson made in her essay A Defense of Abortion, source of the famous violinist thought experiment). If a pro-choice person is going to respond to a pro-life argument, they must directly attack the case that the unborn are biologically human and philosophically persons and show how they are not, in fact, human or persons.

Now let's take the pro-choice position. If a pro-choice person makes an argument that the unborn are not persons or that a human embryo or fetus does not have the right to remain "plugged into" a woman against her will, then arguments about how abortions hurt women or about how women could make an adoption plan for the child instead of aborting are not responsive points. If the unborn really are not persons or do not have the right to remain "plugged in," then a woman should logically be allowed to have an abortion for any reason: even if that reason is to avoid the emotional pain of bonding with the child and then having the child be raised by someone else. Also, all surgeries carry an element of risk, so if there is nothing morally wrong with killing the unborn child, the fact that it hurts some women is not a response to the pro-choice argument.

Bearing this in mind will hopefully avoid frustrations in the pro-choice person, who may feel as if they're not being listened to because the pro-life person is responding to a peripheral argument, but not directly addressing the argument being presented. In our attempt to have good, intelligent discussions on the abortion issue, we need to keep in mind what our arguments for the pro-life position are, what the arguments for the pro-choice position are, and how to adequately respond to those arguments.

*The book I'm reading through is Can You Believe it's True? Christian Apologetics in a Modern & Postmodern Era, but the principle that I'm espousing in this article is one that anyone, religious or non-religious, can benefit from.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"People of Choice" website highlights the bad, the worse, and the ugly

Recently, Life Dynamics launched a new website called People of Choice. Inspired by People of Wal-Mart, it highlights abortion advocates displaying hatred of children, ignorance of human anatomy, extreme selfishness, racism, and other unflattering traits.

"Abortion is not murder. it is a medical procedure to remove unnecessary piece
of meat. what if it is born and becomes a freak, for example gay."
Just lovely.

If you've been at this for as long as I have, you've surely encountered some of these types before. Dealing with, say, men who are obviously pro-choice for self-interested reasons (but remember, it's all about "women's rights") gets tiring. Humor is a good way for us to stay sane. If the goal were to boost pro-life morale, I'd say job well done.

But an email announcing the project indicates that People of Choice is actually meant for people who are undecided:
Years ago there was an article published about the abortion issue and one of the questions they asked was "forgetting the abortion issue for a moment, what is your perception of the two sides?" They said that the most common response that they got was exhibited by this one guy who said, "Look, I don’t really know what I think, I listen to one side and I think they are right. I listen to the other side the next day and I think – no – they’re right. I go back and forth. But what I do know is, I think I like the pro-choice people better than I like the pro-life people." And, that’s a major issue and you cannot discount that. ...
There’s an old saying in marketing that people do not buy products from people they do not like. The pro-aborts, working with their stooges in the media, have been very good at painting a perception of the pro-life movement. They’ve painted this picture of pro-lifers that is very unflattering, and yet, we know there’s all this stuff out there showing what the pro-aborts are really like. And, the media never puts that out there, never says a word about any of that stuff. What we are going to do with this People of Choice website is show the American public what they’ve never been shown before. This is what they’ve never known. These are the kind of people we have to go up against. I think it’s going to change things. We’ve already seen that the pro-aborts are already getting very incensed about it. They don’t want this stuff out there.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I have no problem with hanging people by their own words; ClinicQuotes does this very effectively, quoting abortionists and industry workers who freely admit to horrific things. People of Choice is much snarkier than ClinicQuotes... but I've been snarky on occasion, too.

On the other hand, the site just rubs me the wrong way. It's very negative, and that negativity may turn undecideds off. Pro-choicers who are more reasonable than those featured on People of Choice will dismiss the whole thing as a giant ad hominem attack (and in the process, feel persecuted and become even more entrenched in their position).

Changing the negative perceptions of pro-lifers is important, but it could be accomplished by a more positive site – for instance, showcasing inspiring stories of pro-lifers adopting children with disabilities, opening their homes to pregnant teens, etc. On the other hand, would that be as effective? There's a reason political candidates go negative: it works. (And of course, the other side went negative long ago.)

It seems that, like Tevye, I've run out of hands. So I ask you: what do you think about People of Choice?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Birth isn't the beginning of life, so let's stop talking like it is

[Today's guest blog post by Alexa Gospodinoff is part of our paid blogging program.]

I think most pro-lifers would agree that if one were to examine our current scientific knowledge of the human life cycle from an unbiased perspective, without any cultural baggage, one would immediately see that a human life biologically begins at fertilization and quickly conclude that all human beings are equally worthy of the right to life regardless of level of development. But it's clear that that's not the way most people think. Secular Pro-Life has touched on both obvious and subtle anti-preborn phrases in our language before, and to a large extent those are the kinds of things I'm talking about. But even expressions that only imply birth-as-beginning-of-life—like "born this way, "a born leader," and "a sucker born every minute"—add up to ensure that without critical thought, people will instead perceive birth as the beginning of life. And the consequences for preborn children are very real.

To me, it's obvious that discrimination based on birth originates from the fact that birth is when we become visible to born people. It's a sad but true universal fact that if the dominant, privileged group is not visually exposed to members of a vulnerable population, the culture at large will not consider the needs of that vulnerable population, nor will its members be treated as fully human. A born person is not necessarily more developed, more capable of rational thought, more viable, or even actually older than a person before birth. It is instead through the literal invisibility of preborn children throughout most of human history that birth has become an acceptable criterion for discrimination.

Almost every pro-abortion argument either is explicitly predicated on the idea that human life begins at birth, or depends on its audience to consciously or subconsciously discriminate against preborn persons. That's how someone can conclude that banning abortion is a more intolerable violation of bodily rights than tearing off someone's limbs. While it's true that some people do nominally or actually reject birth as the beginning of human life and yet consider themselves pro-choice, as an industry and an ideology, abortion would quickly wither and die without societal discrimination based on birth status.

Consider this: despite what certain pundits might have you believe, few women, no matter how poor, scared, or desperate, would agree to have the life of a born human ended in order to escape their circumstances. If every person who self-identifies as "pro-life" or "personally pro-life" were to immediately stop using phrases which contribute to preborn erasure and discrimination based on birth status, and start calling out others when they hear that kind of language, we could make an enormous difference in the number of children who are aborted without passing a single law or winning a single debate. (The laws would follow. The debates would follow.)

In fact, I think it's more important to avoid preborn erasure outside the context of abortion. So it's heartening to me to read people's thoughts about avoiding birth discrimination in language, although it's frustrating when dehumanization and erasure are described as "poisoning the debate." Imagine if we denounced the practice of referring to women as "bitches" and "sluts" as "poisoning the equal pay debate". No matter what the topic of conversation, preborn children deserve to be recognized as human beings for their own sake.

In short, I think a big part of "winning the abortion debate" doesn't involve debating at all. The next time you hear the word "born" or "birth," consider whether it's perpetuating that utterly false dividing line between preborn and born.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tomorrow: response to the #AbortStigma tweetfest

[Editor's Note: If you have had an abortion and are dealing with the psychological aftermath, please visit AbortionChangesYou.com for free, non-judgmental peer support through this difficult time. If you are experiencing the desire to harm yourself, skip the website and call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE immediately.]

Tomorrow, abortion advocates plan to flood twitter with an #AbortStigma hashtag, which is exactly what it sounds like. The originators of the hashtag claim that post-abortive women have been "silent," and that they want to "discard the horrors pro-lifers have painted in our absence." The reality, of course, is that the pro-life movement has not silenced post-abortive women, but has amplified their voices; abortion advocates just don't like what these most vocal women have to say (although the official website does concede that regret is at least possible).

More activists are hopping on the bandwagon and intend to use the hashtag to advance the opinion that no one should ever express disapproval of abortion. That's a pretty extreme view, one that I don't think is even shared by most pro-choicers. But it's out there, and pro-lifers naturally plan to chime in with the very legitimate reasons abortion is stigmatized. Abortion isn't just one choice among many; it's a choice that kills someone. Which, of course, is why many post-abortive people experience guilt and regret. "Destigmatizing" abortion by treating it as just another medical procedure belittles the very reasons women "suffer in quiet solitude."

So that's that. But allow me to suggest a secondary theme in the #AbortStigma discussion: we have a responsibility, as pro-lifers, to end the stigma of young and unwed parenthood. Although acceptance is growing for unmarried cohabitation and non-traditional family structures, many pregnancies remain subject to near-instant condemnation. Sixteen? Struggling with substance abuse? In college? "Don't ruin your life with a baby."

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the role that religion plays in this. Some religious schools have a policy of kicking out students, and even teachers, who become pregnant outside of marriage. I can't think of a better way to perpetuate abortion. If people of faith are reading, I urge you to work within your communities to fix this.

To break down the stigma that really needs breaking down, I asked SPL member Michelle Rodriguez to contribute her thoughts. Here's what she has to say:
When I conceived my oldest at fifteen, I had a very vague idea as to how I would be treated once my uterus expanded to reveal my secret. I had the notion that if I just reassured the skeptics that my future would be fine, they would take their negativity elsewhere. Some people however, were determined to convince me otherwise.  
My parents didn't take the news lightly. One of the first things that they exclaimed was, "What will our friends and family think?!" Their disappointment shifted when they came up with the "solution." They said that no one should know of my pregnancy, and that I WILL have an abortion. "We'll pretend that nothing happened and go on with our lives," my mom said happily. I was shocked that they valued the family's reputation more than my daughter's life. 
It's not just my parents that think that way. When I talk to abortion minded girls they often mention being afraid of the rejection, the stares, and the comments. If they're in a private school they fear getting expelled. If they are close with their friends they imagine getting isolated and forgotten. Nobody wants that, yet somehow society manages to justify the stigma by saying that it keeps teenage pregnancy down. This is a myth, considering the fact that the majority of these pregnancies are unplanned, often unwanted. 
Last year the Bloomberg administration released an ineffective campaign where they used shame approaches as a strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy in NYC. The posters depicted minority children crying saying things like, "Honestly Mom, he won't stay with you. What happens to me?" and a texting game in which the protagonist (a pregnant teen) goes to prom just to get called a fat loser. What would a pregnant girl contemplating abortion think when she sees such ads? That she has nothing but misery and failure to look forward to? We need to build our girls up, not tear them down.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Why Abortion Regulation Matters

[Today's guest post is by Maria Tsikalas.]

News organizations from Al Jazeera America to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel were in full force last week lamenting current and pending legislation in Louisiana, Wisconsin and other states that would require admitting privileges at nearby hospitals for abortion providers.

The New York Times said:
The requirement that doctors have admitting privileges has emerged as a new tactic of the anti-abortion movement, which says it is intended to protect women’s health. But major medical groups have said that the rule has no bearing on safety since, in the rare cases of emergency, hospitals will accept and treat women experiencing complications from abortion regardless.
The Times declined to raise any specific cases whatsoever where admitting privileges for abortion clinics might have actually saved women’s lives. Allow me.

Maria Santiago went into cardiac arrest and died in February 2013 in a Baltimore clinic following her abortion. The staff at the facility did not provide correct post-anesthesia care and observation. No one at the clinic, including the abortion provider, had current CPR certification, and the defibrillator in the clinic was broken. The Maryland Office of Health Care Quality determined that the facility “was not equipped to complete a procedure safely [and] failed to implement a safe discharge plan for the patient. … The Respondent practiced in an environment in which unlicensed/untrained office staff were allowed to perform ultrasounds, evaluate fetal gestational age, and provide medications to patients to promote abortions.”

In that same month, in the same state, Jennifer Morbelli died following her abortion at Germantown Reproductive Health Services. The fly-by-night abortionist responsible for her procedure, Leroy Carhart, had left the clinic immediately following her visit. In the hours following, Morbelli’s family tried to reach him for emergency instructions to no avail. They then took her to a nearby hospital, where emergency room staff also tried to contact Carhart and the clinic staff without success, leaving “hospital physicians in the dark about her condition and prior medical treatment, causing a delay in providing the care she needed,” according to Operation Rescue. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found in their inspection following the incident that “the staff were not trained on the emergency transfer of a patient to the hospital from the facility,” nor did the facility have any policies in place to ensure such training.

Tonya Reaves hemorrhaged to death at a Planned Parenthood in Chicago in 2012. She underwent four abortion procedures in one day and bled internally for between 9 and 11 hours. The abortionist in question, Mandy Gittler, who has no certification from any organization in obstetrics and gynecology, initially blamed the incident on Reaves probably having a deformed uterus (despite the fact that Reaves had had an abortion at Planned Parenthood two years before with no complications). Gittler neglected to tell the hospital staff that she might have accidentally perforated the uterus during the abortion, which she admitted to having known as a possibility. Uterine perforation in two places turned out to be the cause of death. Following the abortion, Gittler never even looked at the autopsy report; she was apparently uninterested in what had happened under her watch and indifferent to ensuring that she did not repeat the fatal mistake.

In all of these cases, one can reasonably conclude that had abortion doctors been quicker to involve hospitals following complications, these three women might still be alive. Does that mean, then, that admitting privileges are the solution? Not necessarily. But it does indicate that more oversight and regulations of some form are certainly warranted. After all, as the grand jury report in the infamous Kermit Gosnell case stated, “Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.” And a New York Post article published in April reported that New York City’s tanning salons are inspected more often than its abortion clinics. More than 30 percent of the city’s abortion centers weren’t inspected even once over a 12-year period.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama immediately pushed for gun control legislation, proclaiming "If there's even one step we can take to save another child ... surely we have an obligation to try." But in the wake of the deaths of these women, and other tragic incidents at abortion centers across the United States, what is the response? Abortion-supporting politicians and lobbyist groups are remarkably silent about how to prevent even one more fatality. It's time for them to surrender their "women's health" cards.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How many "bad apples" does it take before you finally treat the orchard?


Just a few notes about the above graphic (which I encourage you to share on facebook).

This is just a sampling of the abortionists and abortion facilities that are known to have endangered women, as evidenced by health code violations, repeated ambulance calls, and medical malpractice lawsuits.

The key word is "known," because in the absence of effective abortion regulation, abortionists can hide their malfeasance for years. Such was the case with Kermit Gosnell. He operated in Pennsylvania, where a pro-choice gubernatorial administration refused to enforce abortion laws. He was finally caught by accident, when the feds took an interest in his shady prescription painkiller side business. If only he'd quit while he was ahead and not expanded into drugs, he would have gotten away with murder.

Every time, inevitably, each and every one of these abortionists is dismissed as an "aberration." But those aberrations add up quickly. There are fewer than 1,000 active abortionists in the United States. Think of it as a large group of bad apples in a relatively small barrel. Fifty or a hundred substandard abortionists is much more significant than, say, fifty or a hundred substandard dentists.

More information on the listed names and others can be found at abortionsafety.com (an SPL project) and abortiondocs.org (an Operation Rescue project), both of which link to primary sources. For more on abortion regulations, visit Americans United for Life.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Abortion and maternal mortality: correlation is not causation

I recently discovered an awesome website called Spurious Correlations. It uses hilarious graphs to illustrate the long-understood but frequently ignored truth that correlation is not causation.
"Number of people who died by becoming tangled in their bedsheets"
and "Total revenue generated by skiing facilities (US)."
Clearly the ski resort industry has blood on its hands.
Sometimes these correlations are purely accidental, as in the above case. Other times, there might be a confounding factor at play. For instance, I would imagine that "Total revenue generated by arcades" and "Computer science doctorates awarded" are both tied to the tech boom in general, which improves video game quality and increases the demand for skilled computer scientists. (But I'd need more data to prove it.)

I really hope this site takes off, because the public's failure to understand that correlation is not causation can have catastrophic effects.

One of the pillars of the abortion movement is the idea that legalized abortion prevents maternal deaths. They can point to improved maternal mortality rates after the legalization of abortion in the United States and elsewhere. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

But there are two major problems with that theory. The first is that the numbers themselves are often either wrong or manipulated. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the co-founder of NARAL, admitted to using inflated figures and noted that "repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public," which is unfortunately true.

The second problem is the spurious correlation problem. The movement for the legalization of abortion happened to coincide with medical breakthroughs that dramatically improved Americans' health in general, and in particular, allowed doctors to manage infection, hemorrhage, and other issues that may appear as complications of abortion. It also coincided, in the developing world, with independent foreign aid focused on maternal health issues, such as the provision of midwives.

Untangling all these influences requires serious effort, and when the spurious correlation happens to support your current ideology, there is no incentive to undertake that research. But in 2012—sadly, several decades too late to combat the big lie effectively—researchers published the results of an in-depth study of maternal mortality in Chile, which restored the right to life in 1989. It found that the anti-abortion law did not lead to an increase in women's deaths; in fact, just the opposite happened. The authors concluded that if a country wants to reduce maternal mortality, it should invest in education, not abortion.

The misapprehension of maternal mortality has grave consequences. Not only are unborn lives lost, but the diversion of money to the ideological goals of the abortion industry reduces the funds available for the desperate, real needs of impoverished people.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Two inspiring lives

Numerous pro-life groups commented on Maya Angelou's passing last week. Most emphasized her courage in rejecting abortion when she became pregnant at the age of 16. But the Radiance Foundation pointed out that Angelou did not speak out for other children to have the same chance at life. In fact, she fundraised for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion organization.

Secular Pro-Life stayed silent; we generally don't comment on celebrity deaths. That said, I agree with the Radiance Foundation that it's inappropriate to "claim" Angelou for the pro-life movement.

At the same time, I kind of understand the impulse of pro-life groups who assumed, or wanted to believe, that Angelou was pro-life. A woman grows up in poverty in the Jim Crow South, chooses life for her child under dire circumstances, and later becomes a celebrated author, civil rights activist, and household name. Who wouldn't find that inspiring?

So let's remember Angelou for her many accomplishments. But if you're looking for someone who made a contribution to the civil rights movement and the pro-life movement, you don't need to twist the facts to invent one in Angelou. The woman you're looking for is Dr. Mildred Jefferson.

Jefferson (1926-2010) grew up in Texas. She was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School—in 1951, when her home state remained segregated by law. She then became a surgeon.

But when the abortion movement emerged, Dr. Jefferson devoted her time and effort to opposing it. Two years after Roe, she took office as the president of the National Right to Life Committee, and held that position for three terms. After that, she continued her involvement in the pro-life movement, helping NRLC form its political action committee and working to elect pro-life political candidates regardless of party.

Dr. Jefferson connected her personal struggles to larger principles of social justice. In her own words: "I am at once a physician, a citizen and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have the right to live."