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Monday, December 11, 2017

A model pro-life response to violence


Earlier this month, pro-life activist Purity Thomas, who is fifteen years old, was punched in the face as she stood peacefully outside an abortion facility in Roanoke, VA. She was treated for a concussion. The pro-choice assailant has not yet been identified; however, employees of the facility have been ruled out.

Purity's courageous response is both inspirational and instructive. Here is a short list of everything she did right, in chronological order:

(1) She got it on video. The assailant began by screaming at Purity and her friends, and stealing one of their signs. At that point, one of her friends started recording, with the result that the physical attack was caught on video.

When an interaction with an abortion supporter becomes heated, pull out your phone. It's for your own safety; people tend to be better behaved when they know they're being recorded. And if the situation nevertheless escalates, at least you have evidence. (I know some pro-life activists who take this a step further and wear GoPro cameras during all outreach as a matter of routine, but that's impractical for many, especially in a sidewalk counseling setting.)

(2) She did not fight back. Purity did not make any attempt to defend herself against her attacker. Whether that's because she physically couldn't, or chose not to, or both, is unclear. Regardless, it was the right move for two reasons. First, self-defense probably would not have deterred the abortion supporter; Purity could have received another punch, or worse. And second, taking the punch is an act of solidarity with preborn children, who are physically defenseless.

(3) She stood firm. This is what Purity had to say:
“I think it encouraged me and spurred me to continue my pro-life work,” she told us after the attack. “I know that there’s always a possibility to save a baby’s life and the woman from the violence of abortion. That is more important than my own well-being.”
Purity, you are awesome. May pro-lifers everywhere follow your example.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Human Rights Day

On Sunday, December 10, the world marks Human Rights Day. We hope our readers will take this opportunity to reflect on the meaning of human rights, and we especially encourage our fellow pro-life activists to think about how they can apply these fundamental principles to their advocacy.

Human rights are for all human beings equally. But not all human beings have an equal need for human rights protections. Human rights documents are designed to shield the weak from the strong, and the unwanted minority from the dominant majority. The implications for abortion are obvious (unless, of course, your identity and/or income depends on not seeing them).

"Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law."
-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 6

"Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."
-American Convention on Human Rights, Article 4.1

"...nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."
-United States Constitution, 14th Amendment

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person."
-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3

"The child ... shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection
shall be provided both to him and to his mother, including adequate pre-natal and post-natal care."
-Declaration of the Rights of the Child, Principle 4

"Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 6.1

Human rights for ALL human beings

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Alabama special election shows need for pro-life Democrats


In case you've been living under a rock, there's a special election coming up in Alabama to name a new senator. The slot was previously held by Jeff Sessions, who stepped down to become Attorney General. Republican candidate Roy Moore was the obvious favorite in the state so red it's crimson (oh hey, congrats on making the playoffs, Bama)—until multiple women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct when they were teens and he was a young adult.

The evidence against Moore is compelling, but due to the amount of time that has passed, there will be no definitive ruling from a court of law. Besides, even if it were to go to court, there certainly wouldn't be a ruling before the December 12 election.

Moore is still favored to win, but it's no longer so obvious. Democratic candidate Doug Jones has a real chance. The main thing holding Jones back?

You know it. He's a no-abortion-limits Democrat, running for a position that has a significant vote on judicial appointments and federal abortion policy. Moore, in contrast, has a long record of opposing abortion. Pro-life voters in Alabama must weigh which is more damaging to the lives of preborn children: an alleged sexual predator, the very type that we call out Planned Parenthood for concealing, who votes our way but damages our credibility in much the way Trump has; or a Senator with zero regard for children in the womb, but who has no skeletons in his closet. As far as we know. Yet. (Future readers: at this time, it seems every week brings fresh allegations against another dozen or so powerful white men. If Jones turns out to be one of them, have a sad laugh at my expense.)

And now, an open letter to the Democratic Party.

WHAT THE HELL, YOU GUYS. You couldn't run a pro-life candidate in Alabama? In Alabama?! If Doug Jones were pro-life, or even if he committed to abstain from life-related votes, you'd have this election in the bag. Instead, you're so deep in Big Abortion's pocket than you couldn't manage to run a moderate candidate in a state so pro-life, its abortion rate is 43% below the national average. You morons are probably developing an anti-gambling candidate for Nevada. Get a hold of yourselves.

Sincerely,
Voters Everywhere

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Seeking partners for an upcoming project


Have you experienced a coerced abortion or threat of coerced abortion? Have you survived sex trafficking? Or do you work for an organization that combats domestic violence and sexual abuse?

Do you want to tell your story? If so, we want to amplify your voice.

The abortion lobby is pursuing a course of action that could be devastating for mothers in abusive relationships and victims of sex trafficking. To effectively fight back, we need to bring your stories front and center. It will not be easy, but we will be with you every step of the way. (I'm sorry to be so vague; we need to keep the details under wraps for the time being.)

If you are interested in learning more, please email us at info@secularprolife.org. We will not publish your story unless and until we have specific permission from you.

If this doesn't apply to you, you can help by sharing this post on social media. The more partners we have in this project, the more effective it will be!

Monday, December 4, 2017

The dying gasps of an industry


Suppose that you were the CEO of a business in crisis. Industry-wide, sales are down a shocking 21 percent. What would you do?

You might start by trying to improve your company's public image. If that fails, you might go negative, increasing your customer base by scaring them away from alternatives to your product. And if you're truly desperate, you might seek a government subsidy.

The Centers for Disease Control recently released its 2014 abortion statistics. The number of abortions in the United States fell to a new record low—from the previous record low set in 2013. In the ten-year period from 2005 to 2014, abortions plummeted 21 percent. And while the CDC's consistently delayed reporting is obviously an issue, all signs point to the abortion industry being in even more dire straits today than it was in 2014.

Pro-life legislation is certainly one cause of the drop in abortions. But even in states that are hostile to life, babies were better off in 2014 than they were in 2005. Other contributing factors include improved contraceptive methods; a spike in sexual abstinence among young adults; pro-life educational efforts, which have a greater reach than ever thanks to social media; and the continued work of pregnancy resource centers, many of which have harnessed innovative marketing tools to reach mothers in crisis.

So what's an abortion vendor to do?

Try to improve your company's public image: Last year, Planned Parenthood blew $4 million on an effort to "refresh our brand."

Go negative on your competition: The abortion lobby has dramatically increased its attacks on pregnancy resource centers, but has little to show for it. A recent attempt to smear pregnancy centers with fake online reviews fell flat, and the reviews were taken down for violating Google and Yelp terms of service. Laws forcing pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion have run into First Amendment obstacles.

Seek a government subsidy: Naturally, Planned Parenthood is working overtime to preserve its existing $500 million annual taxpayer subsidy. But Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups are also out to destroy the Hyde Amendment, which is a restriction on federal funding of abortion through the Medicaid program. The Hyde Amendment has prevented over two million abortions since it was first enacted in 1976; if you were born through the Medicaid program during that time frame, there's a 1 in 9 chance the Hyde Amendment saved your life. Eliminating the Hyde Amendment would create a massive subsidy for the abortion industry, and could even reverse the downward trend in abortion numbers.

The days of "safe, legal, and rare" are long gone. As I wrote a few years ago:
There is a kernel of fundamental tension between the movement for "choice" and the movement for "access." They can coexist while there are a million abortions a year. But in the long run, in order to have access, a critical mass of women have to make the "right" choice.
"Choice" has fallen by the wayside. The abortion lobby's current priorities—rebranding, attacking on pregnancy resource centers, and pushing for subsidies—points to one goal: increasing the number of preborn babies who die by abortion.

I realize there are still moderate pro-choicers out there. If that's you, I have a message: Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and all the other "pro-choice" organizations stopped representing you a long time ago. The abortion industry is dying, and as it struggles to stay afloat, it has quickly shed any pretense of charity. It is acting like the profit-driven business it has always been. If you find this appalling, please consider joining our efforts to help women and children. Even if you aren't 100% on board with the anti-abortion stance, look into what your local pro-life charities are doing. You'll find many opportunities to advance true choice.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Newly launched project advances health for mothers and babies of color

"What would it look like opening a birthing center in the hood?" That question sent Cessilye Smith of Dallas, Texas on a journey.

Cessilye is a pro-life feminist, racial justice educator, and doula—on top of just being an all-around rad woman. (Disclosure: she's also a friend of mine, obviously.) She is incredibly knowledgeable about the past and present of racism, the devastation abortion has inflicted on the black community, and low-income mothers' needs. I cannot think of a better person to open a birthing center in the hood.

I am so excited to share that Cessilye has teamed up with fellow Texas activist Bethany Stricker to launch Abide Women's Health Services!

If you were at the Life/Peace/Justice conference in October, you may have heard Cessilye speak about the crisis facing black mothers and babies. On nearly every maternal, fetal, and infant health measure, people of color fare orders of magnitude worse than the general population. And Abide plans to open its first location in a segregated, under-served neighborhood of south Dallas where the statistics are staggering: it has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, maternal mortality, infant mortality, and small-for-gestational-age births in the county.

Abide aims to break down the barriers keeping low-income mothers and babies from quality prenatal and birthing care. Not only that, Abide will help like-minded aspiring midwives, doulas, and other birth workers overcome obstacles to training and certification.

In their own words:
Abide Women's Health Services is dedicated to improving outcomes in maternal and child health by providing education and care that is easily accessible, culturally competent, and woman-centered within our diverse and under-served communities. This includes comprehensive prenatal, labor, delivery, and postpartum care, as well as women’s health services. Understanding that poor outcomes are related to quality health care worker shortages, Abide prioritizes offering excellent, relevant accessible training for aspiring doulas, birth assistants, midwives, and childbirth educators.
This project has so much life-saving potential, and Abide is counting on the pro-life community's support. Monetary donations are always welcome, but for this phase, Abide especially needs in-kind contributions: web design services, logo design services, volunteer consultants, and help creating educational materials. If any of that sounds like your wheelhouse, please email cessilye7@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Baby Nielson and the humanity of the preborn child

Jaelyn Barnes had a miscarriage at eleven weeks. Baby Nielson, as you can see in this family photo, was a human being.


This being Jaelyn's fifth child, she was an experienced mother and their entire family was ecstatic for the newest addition. Jaelyn's husband was serving their community as police officer when they first discovered there wasn't a heartbeat. They were urged not to worry and the midwife advised rechecking in a few days; however, her husband was injured badly on the job and the fetal heartbeat check was put on hold another few days. Nearly a week later, the heartbeat still could not be found. After an ultrasound, it was confirmed that the baby they looked forward to meeting had passed away a week prior.

At this gestation, many people believe that babies are a clump of cells and nothing more. Jaelyn bravely shared this photo of her miscarried baby to spread awareness about how human these children truly are, even at only eleven weeks. In addition, there is a common misconception that because these precious lives are "just a clump of cells," they feel zero pain during abortion.

Dr. Maureen Condic is a professor of neurology at the University of Utah. She testified before Congress that a person's experience of pain evolves over time, beginning in the first trimester:
The neural circuitry responsible for the most primitive response to pain, the spinal reflex, is in place by 8 weeks of development. ... This is the earliest point at which the fetus experiences pain in any capacity. ... A fetus responds just as humans at later stages of development respond; by withdrawing from the painful stimulus.
By 8 to 10 weeks, Dr. Condic says many of the neural connections are formed. How can any person who has the knowledge that a baby can feel the pain of abortion and see this beautiful and perfectly formed child, still think abortion is humane?

[Today's guest post by Heather Hobbs is part of our paid blogging program. Heather is an editor and blogger at Life Defenders.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cultivating a pro-life worldview?


Last January, at my presentation to the Students for Life of America east coast conference, I was asked a question that I don't recall verbatim but was something along the lines of: "Rather than making the case against abortion in isolation, shouldn't we instead work to advance a pro-life worldview, like by converting people to Catholicism?" I don't remember my exact answer; it was probably fine, but it was very off-the-cuff and short because the session was about to end.

The question resurfaced in my mind recently. Eleven months later, with no further ado, here's my better answer in two parts:

(1) Practicality: What the pro-life movement is asking for is so basic—don't kill babies!—that it's compatible with a wide range of worldviews. Not all worldviews, sadly, but many. That's why you'll find pro-life Catholics, atheists, evangelicals, Jews, agnostics, mainline Protestants, Muslims, neo-pagans, and so on.

It's much easier to convince a person that the pro-life position is compatible with their pre-existing worldview than it is to change that person's whole worldview. That's especially true in the time-limited situations that activists frequently encounter.

(2) The hidden cost: Getting someone to adopt a "pro-life worldview" sounds great, but what happens if the person's worldview changes? Time and time again I've seen people who grew up in strict religious households abandon their Christian worldviews in favor of atheism or agnosticism, and become pro-choice at the same time—throwing out the literal baby with the metaphorical bathwater. If people are taught that being pro-life is a mere accessory to some larger cause, and don't have a solid independent basis to reject abortion, we risk tying the success of the pro-life movement to factors completely out of our control.

So there you have it, better late than never! If you'd like to hear me elaborate more on these thoughts, come to the Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life on January 20, 2018 at Georgetown, where pro-life student leaders will explore the theme "(Ir)religiously Pro-Life: The Future of the Movement in a Secular World."

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Plot Thickens: Rasanen on Ectogenesis

I recently wrote an article responding to Joona Rasanen's arguments regarding ectogenesis. Ecogenesis refers to an organism growing in an artificial environment outside the body in which it would normally be found. In this context, it refers to the human embryo or fetus gestating in an artificial womb rather than the woman's womb who conceived the child. That article was, itself, inspired by comments that I left on an earlier article on BioEdge. Rasanen, who is apparently a reader of BioEdge, responded to my comments in general. He wrote,
Thanks for your comments. However, I suggest you, and others, to [sic] read my article... I have not argued that a genetic mother has a right to the death of the fetus. I claimed that the right to the death of the fetus is couple's [sic] collective right which they can use together.
A right to genetic privacy should be understood not as an individual but as a collective right. That is because reproduction is not an individual but a collective action. Even though a fetus shares 50% of its genetic material with each genetic parent respectively, 100% of the fetus' genetic material comes from its genetic parents.
Also, I do not believe that we have full moral status from the moment of conception. Elsewhere, I have argued against such views (but if I am wrong it probably [sic] change the outcome of this debate).
I e-mailed Rasanen and he was kind enough to provide me with a copy of his article.[1] To recap, the four arguments I presented against his view on ectogenesis are:
  • Considering the embryo/fetus the property of the mother is dehumanizing.
  • The genetic material is not identical to the mother's genetic material but is a combination of the mother's and father's genetic material.
  • This argument proves too much (it would justify coerced abortions in some cases)
  • A violation of this nature would justify killing a person at any age if it justifies killing the embryo/fetus
Rasanen's thesis is that despite the views of abortion-choice thinkers, and despite the possibility that ectogenesis for the human embryo/fetus may become a reality one day, a pregnant woman doesn't just have a right to be unpregnant, she also has a right to the death of the fetus. I have perused Rasanen's article and now I intend to show that the arguments he provides don't justify the woman having any sort of right to the death of the fetus, even if we grant her the right to removal of the unborn child from her uterus (and I would only grant this for the sake of this particular discussion -- I obviously do not hold this position).

Argument #1: The right not to become a biological parent

Rasanen spells out his argument as follows:

1. Becoming a biological parent causes harm to the couple because of parental obligations to the child.
2. The couple has the interest to avoid the harm of parental obligations.
3. Therefore, the couple has a right to the death of the fetus to avoid the harm of parental obligations.

This argument is a non sequitur just on the face of it. The conclusion does not follow from the premises. If we assume that both premises are true, then one can avoid the harm of parental obligations simply by abstaining from having sex. Like bodily rights more generally, if the argument succeeds, then it only justifies abortion in rape cases, not in non-rape cases, which make up the vast majority of abortions.

However, let's examine his reasons for believing the premises to be true. He only offers reasons to accept the first premise, and they are: 1) even if the child is adopted out, if the fetus is allowed to survive the biological parents will always feel morally responsible for the child, which then could cause them significant psychological harm, and 2) he believes that biological parents actually do remain obliged, life-long, to their birth children, even when adopted out. Adoption doesn't resolve this issue, he says, because parental obligations cannot be fully transferred or delineated to adoptive parents. They are, by nature, non-transferable according to his view. However, Rasanen doesn't justify these two supporting arguments; his justification is simply that as there is no alternative ways to avoid the harm of parental obligations, then the parents have a right to the death of the fetus.

Even if we accept Rasanen's view as correct, that the responsibilities of parenthood cannot, by nature, be transferred (and I would argue he is wrong about his view of the non-transferability of parental obligations via adoption), his argument would not succeed. My counterargument is simply that Rasanen's argument is invalid because its conclusion doesn't follow from its premises. There is, in fact, an alternative way to avoid the "harm of parental obligations" -- to abstain from having sex. If you don't have sex, you don't get pregnant. Now I know that many readers of this blog might not find this an altogether appealing response (you should hear some of the things I've been called due to holding this view). But it doesn't matter whether or not this response is ultimately appealing. All that matters is that it is an alternative way to avoid this harm. Rasanen's argument is dependent on there being no alternative to avoid it, so by presenting a valid alternative, Rasanen's argument is also shown to be unsound.

Argument #2: The right to genetic privacy

Rasanen's second argument is formulated as follows:

1. People have a right to genetic privacy.
2. Ectogenesis abortion violates the genetic privacy of the genetic parents of the fetus.
3. Therefore, genetic parents have a right to the death of the fetus.

I agree with Rasanen's first point. I think that people do have a right to genetic privacy. After all, if someone steals your DNA and clones you, it seems that two wrongs have been committed: first, in stealing your DNA, and then in cloning you. So I'll accept Rasanen's first premise.

However, even if I, again, grant Rasanen's second premise for the sake of argument (which I do not grant otherwise), his argument is, again, a non sequitur. It doesn't follow from the first two premises that the genetic parents have a right to the death of the fetus. Here are a few reasons why:

1) This argument proves too much. The fetus is already in existence. The parents' DNA has already been used to conceive a new human being. If we accept that this violation of the right to genetic privacy grants the parents a right to the death of the fetus, there is no principled reason why this would not grant them the same right when the child is older. Some women are not aware they are pregnant until they give birth (as incredible as this is to believe). Why wouldn't the mother have the right to kill her infant if she gives birth to a child she didn't even know she had? Or what if she gives birth to the child, but a couple of years down the road decides that it's just too difficult and wants to claim her right to genetic privacy? What principled reason is there to deny this? If your response is that the child is a person at that stage, then it's not a right to genetic privacy that is doing the work of justifying the death of the fetus but the argument that the fetus is not yet a person. So in that case, this argument doesn't justify the conclusion.

2) This argument again proves too much in the fact that it would justify coercive abortions. Now, Rasanen justifies his right to genetic privacy by saying because procreation is an act that requires two people, the right to the death of the fetus is not an individual right but a collective right. So the decision must be unanimous in order for the fetus to be killed. However, I'm not sure there are such things as collective rights, and the concept is a controversial one. It seems to me that all rights are reducible to individual rights, and any supposed right a group might possess must never infringe on the individual right of a human being, certainly not if the infringement is a greater harm than the prevention of being able to act in some way. So even if we conceive of the "right to genetic privacy" as a collective right, that collective right must never infringe on the individual right of a human being, so it still would not justify a "right to the death of the fetus."

Now, if both parents have a right to genetic privacy, then the child would be violating the father's right to genetic privacy just as much as the mother's. So he would have the right to force her to have an abortion. Or if they do give birth to a child, any grandchild that their child eventually conceives will also have come from their genetic code, so this would also justify the grandparents forcing their daughter to have an abortion for whatever reason. Rasanen apparently believes that when the child is still in the uterus, the choice to terminate the pregnancy is the mother's and the mother's alone to make. But this doesn't make sense considering his argument that reproduction is a collective act. If reproduction is a collective act, and the death of the fetus a collective decision, then the right to terminate the pregnancy must also be a collective act, requiring the permission of both parents because removing the child from the natural environment of the uterus would present a harm to the developing embryo/fetus. So while the embryo/fetus would not die, this would be allowing the mother to harm the child against the father's wishes.

3) The child is not violating the right; the perpetrator of the act has violated your rights and must be punished for it. The child is doing nothing wrong by merely existing. The harm of violating the right to genetic privacy has already been done. The DNA has already been used to produce an embryo from the parents' DNA, and even after you kill the child, that won't undo the conception. There will still be a dead human being with the combined DNA of the parents. Only now a child has been punished for these circumstances beyond his control.

So again, his conclusion doesn't follow. The fact that their right to genetic privacy has been violated does not justify a "right to the death of the fetus" because the harm has already been done, and because this would allow killing a person at any age, not just while in the womb. Also, there is simply no causal link between the violation of the parents' genetic privacy and the right to the death of the fetus as killing the fetus will not remove her genetic code or undo the conception.

Argument #3: The right to property

Rasanen's third argument is formulated as follows:

1. The fetus is property of the genetic parents.
2. People can destroy their property.
3. Therefore, genetic parents can destroy their fetus.

Now this is the most barbaric of the three arguments. I can cite numerous examples where human beings were considered property in world history, with disastrous results. This is simply dehumanizing and not an argument that a person concerned with ethics ought to be making. An embryo/fetus is a human being at an early stage of development. Even if the fetus is not a person, there is no justification for considering it of such low status as to be simply a piece of property. So this argument is unsound because premise one is simply not true (and oddly enough, this is the only one of his three arguments that is actually logically valid).

However, aside from the previous paragraph, this is also an instance in which Rasanen just didn't seem to be paying close attention to what he was arguing. The only justification he gives for the two premises is that common intuition supports them (for example, many people have an intuition that a couple who uses IVF to get pregnant can destroy the excess embryos if they wish, and no one can use them against the couple's consent). This is despite the fact that many people have strong intuition in the opposite direction, such as myself and most pro-life people, that a couple who conceives through IVF does not have the moral right to destroy the excess embryos (to say nothing of whether or not it is even ethical to conceive them artificially in the first place, but that's irrelevant to the present discussion). This is, frankly, shocking since in his discussion of the "right not to become a biological parent" he chides two abortion-choice philosophers, Eric Mathison and Jeremy Davis, for arguing that intuitions against the claim that gamete donors and surrogate mothers have rights toward the child means that there are no such rights, and thus there are no ethical problems with those practices. He scolds them because of the numerous philosophers who argue that they do, indeed, have rights toward the child, so intuition, alone, cannot justify their argument. So Rasanen is making the same kind of argument, that common intuition, alone, justifies that the fetus is the property of the genetic parents despite the fact that numerous philosophers have argued that human personhood is established during fertilization.

In fact, to make matters even worse, he concedes that older children are not property because they are persons, and persons cannot be property. But he doesn't justify his position that early fetuses are not persons. Despite conceding that if the early fetus is a person, it might change the outcome of the debate, he makes no attempt to justify his position, instead stating that it is outside the scope of his article. Under ordinary circumstances, I would agree. But since his third point literally rises or falls on whether or not the early fetus is a person, it is well within the scope of his article to address it. In fact, it is mandatory, if he expects his arguments to convince anyone.

Post Script

Rasanen finishes up with a discussion about what happens, in his view, when biological parents disagree over the fate of the fetus. I have already argued that all rights are reducible to individual rights, so there may not be any such things as collective rights, but even if there are, they certainly could not infringe on the individual rights of a human being, especially if that infringement is a greater harm than being prevented from acting. So I need not comment on this section, as I believe the discussion in this section of his paper to be without merit or meaning.

But something needs to be said. Apart from the lack of awareness of what he's writing in his own article, one of Rasanen's supporting points is that "when a man and woman are having sex, they implicitly accept the possible consequences of their activity." This is quoted verbatim from his article. He is meaning this to show that we should accept the status quo -- the fetus is alive, and killing it would change the status quo. So we should protect the life of the fetus if the genetic parents are in disagreement. But the problem is that Rasanen's statement basically negates the whole abortion debate. I agree wholeheartedly that when a man and woman are having sex, they implicitly accept the possible consequences of their activity. But this includes conceiving a child! When a man and woman have sex, which results in the conception of an embryo, they now bear a responsibility to care for this embryo because they engaged in an act which leads to the creation of a naturally needy child. So they implicitly accept the possible consequences of their activity.

It gets worse for Rasanen, and this one I'm going to quote at length:
...in cases where genetic parents disagree, I believe we should follow what can be called the status quo approach. According to this approach, change needs a stronger justification than keeping things as they are. 
As long as there is no intervention to the pregnancy, the fetus will naturally develop inside the woman's womb. This means that there is no change to the status quo and the fetus' naturally probable potential to develop into an infant would be actualized. Following the status quo approach would mean that when one parent wants the death of the fetus and the other does not, the fetus should not be killed or left to die. Therefore, when, for example, a pregnant woman wants the fetus to die, but the father wants it to live, the fetus should be detached and implanted into an artificial womb where the fetus would continue its development into an infant. Thus the status quo should be understood from the point of view of the fetus: an already developing fetus would continue its development in a womb -- albeit an artificial one.
Did you catch that? There are several things wrong with his statements here. First, there's a fairly obvious one. Rasanen is essentially arguing that a woman should be forced to have an operation (i.e. "detach the fetus") against her desires. This is unethical medical practice. Second, if the fetus is not a person and is merely property of the genetic parents, then on what grounds should we understand the status quo from the point of view of the fetus? I have never asked my car whether it prefers 10W-30 or 5W-30 motor oil. I've never asked it whether it would be willing to give me a lift to the store or if it would prefer to stay at home, or even acted in such a way, from its perspective. It's my property; it has no say in the matter. In fact, it has a specific purpose that I own it for. When it can no longer fulfill that function, I sell it off for parts. Third, if the fetus is merely property and is not a person, then on what grounds should we accept the status quo argument? Why not allow the mother to kill the fetus against the father's wishes? He could, after all, find someone else to have children with. If the fetus is merely property, it isn't being harmed by being killed. I'm not harming my wall when I take a sledgehammer to it. The status quo argument implicitly assumes personhood of the fetus. But fourth, if changing the status quo requires a stronger argument than keeping it the same, it's not obvious why the woman should be allowed to terminate the pregnancy at all, especially if the pregnancy is a normal, healthy pregnancy. If the status quo should be understood from the point of view of the fetus, and it takes a stronger argument to change it than keep it the same, there is no reason why a woman in an average pregnancy should be allowed to terminate the pregnancy (and note: I'm not saying that pregnancies are easy, I'm simply saying that barring cases in which the pregnancy presents a danger to the life or serious health of the woman, the status quo argument would not justify terminating the pregnancy).

Conclusion

I have examined four arguments by Rasanen (the right not to become a parent, the right to genetic privacy, the fetus as property, and the status quo argument) and shown them all to be flawed for various reasons, either because they are logically invalid and unsound, simply logically unsound, or they actually argue against his position rather than for it. For these reasons, Rasanen's arguments cannot be seen as weighing in favor of a right to the death of the fetus, even if we grant a right terminate the pregnancy but keep the fetus alive.

[1] All quotations and paraphrases from Joona Rasanen, unless otherwise noted, are from his article "Ectogenesis, abortion, and a right to the death of the fetus," Bioethics, 2017, 31:697-702, DOI: 10.1111/bioe.12404.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

We are thankful for you

To the moms and dads, through birth and adoption;

To the educators, administrators, and peers who reject judgmental stereotypes, and instead work to make life easier for pregnant and parenting students;

To those who take to the streets;

To the sidewalk counselors;

To the pregnancy care center volunteers;

To the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who uphold their vow to do no harm;

To pro-life activists in every community and online;

To those who donate their hard-earned money to pro-life causes;

To the politicians who represent the best interests of all of their constituents, not just those who are old enough to vote;

To everyone who has ever supported a pregnant mother and her baby in their time of need...

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Want to "live and let live"? Then don't support abortion.

Over the last few years, alternative media figures have gained prominence; one of them is a Youtuber named Dave Rubin. Despite criticizing the left, he describes himself as a liberal and wishes everyone could just “live and let live.”

Well, almost everyone.

Rubin believes abortion should remain legal. His rationale is that women have a right to control their bodies—a concept most pro-lifers support. Their problem with abortion? It destroys someone else’s body. And although Mr. Rubin may not agree with that, the facts do. He should really take a look at them.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court said states could limit abortion after viability. But not all states choose to do so; in New Mexico, Southwestern Women’s Options offers abortions at 28 weeks for women who didn’t realize how far along they were. Children are generally considered viable at 24 weeks, but plenty have survived earlier. This little guy did:


That’s Trevor Frolek, and he was delivered at 23 weeks. I suspect Rubin would concede Trevor was a distinct individual by the time his mother went into labor; wouldn’t that have still been true if she had aborted him instead?

Of course, Trevor’s individuality began earlier than that. Being able to feel pain is evidence of it, and according to Dr. Kawaljeet Anand’s research, children start doing so at 20 weeks. Anand testified under oath that, “If the fetus is beyond 20 weeks of gestation, I would assume that there will be pain caused to the fetus. And I believe it will be severe and excruciating pain.” Most 20 week abortions employ a technique called dilation and evacuation (D&E). Here’s what it involves:


The ability to independently suffer pain stems from having a separate neural system, but proof that a fetus is an individual doesn’t end there. While Rubin has referred to a first-trimester fetus as “cosmic stew,” that “stew” has a developing set of fingerprints at 12 weeks and an observable heartbeat at 6 weeks. A preborn child also has a unique DNA profile. When does that develop?

At fertilization.

Dave Rubin is a big fan of choice and personal freedom, and there are a number of ways he can promote those things. For example, he could publicize how abortion isn’t the only alternative to parenting: couples seeking to adopt outnumber available infants, and you can find plenty of waiting families online. He could also point out that Planned Parenthood has a history of hiding abuse and exploitation, which is part of why its funding should should go to federally qualified health centers instead. Both would be consistent with his “live and let live” mantra.

But denying reality and ignoring how abortion ends a life? Sorry Dave, but that just doesn’t fit.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Official March for Life/Walk for Life Itinerary


This is our final schedule for January. Mark your calendars now!

Friday, January 19 in Washington, D.C.
11:00 a.m-11:45 a.m.: As usual, we will participate in a pre-March for Life meetup with various allied organizations, coordinated by Rehumanize International. There will be speakers (including from Secular Pro-Life!) and socializing. You can get all the details at the facebook event.

Noon-3:30 p.m.: Follow our bright blue banner down the National Mall to the Supreme Court in the 45th annual March for Life.

3:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.: Free time and dinner. Historically, Pro-Life Future and Consistent Life have hosted gatherings during this time. We'll share information about those if/when they become available.

8:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.: For the first time ever, Secular Pro-Life and Rehumanize International are co-hosting a karaoke night fundraiser! We are super excited about this. Space is limited, so please RSVP on facebook.

Saturday, January 20 in Washington, D.C.
9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.: Secular Pro-Life will participate in the Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life at Georgetown University. This is a Catholic conference, and we've never been before. The 2018 theme is "(Ir)religiously Pro-Life: The Future of the Movement in a Secular World," and the conference organizers personally reached out to us to ensure that our voice is heard. Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will be a panelist at the 2:45 p.m. session. We're excited to share our perspective with Catholic allies.

Saturday, January 27 in San Francisco, CA
11:00 a.m.-11:45 a.m: We will again meet up with Rehumanize International and other allied organizations in the Civic Center Plaza, immediately prior to the Walk for Life. Get details at the facebook event.

12:30 p.m.: The Walk for Life begins at Civic Center Plaza and ends approximately two miles away at the Justin Herman Plaza. More information about the route can be found here.

Sunday, January 28 in San Francisco, CA
8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.: Secular Pro-Life will have an exhibit booth at the Students for Life of America West Coast Conference. Registration is required; visit SFLAlive.org for details and to sign up.

Friday, November 17, 2017

We asked, you answered: Changing hearts and minds


On Sunday, we asked our facebook followers: "Have you ever converted a pro-choice person to the pro-life view? If so, what was the situation?" Dozens of people responded. Here are a few of our favorite answers.

Lauren H.: Multiple times. I showed them a picture of an abortion victim.

Pauline N.: My sister; what helped changed her mind was that in some states, if a pregnant women is murdered it's considered a double homicide. So the fetus only has rights if the mother wants them.

Vanessa K.: A close relative saw me adopt one of my kids. The underage mom on the streets surely had no good options but wisely still chose life for her child. She (the relative) and I had had a few brief mutually respectful conversations about abortion. Later she told me... my adopted child's presence in our family had changed her mind.

Michael C.: My buddy said the man with Down syndrome who gave that pro-life speech changed his mind. 

Chris V.: I was talking to an acquaintance and she was telling me about her new job which she said she loved because it was really empowering for women (at a family planning center). She had been working there a couple of months. I really tried to listen non-judgmentally in order to find some common ground. I’m glad I waited. She started telling me about how disgusting it was when these older guys brought in these young girls for “procedures” or pills so their wives wouldn’t find out. I listened as she basically talked herself out of a pro-choice position because how is THAT empowering to women...? Sometimes the best “argument” is to just listen. The facts are already there.

Jena Q.: We were talking about abortion and she she said “Who the hell wants a f***ing rape baby?!?!?” I just said “My parents did.” By the end of the conversation, her whole attitude had changed.

Ricky S.: I myself was convinced by a woman that was conceived in rape. She asked me to my face if she deserved to die for the crime of her father.

Sonia S.: My husband converted me from ambivalent/uninformed to adamantly pro-life. When we were dating he took me to my first March for Life in D.C. This past year, several years later, it was my idea to go back.

Meaghan A.: I kept an open dialogue with her, I never insulted her or forced my ideas. I just loved her and then she had her baby. She and her husband just had baby #2 and she told me now that she's a mom, no way can she condone abortion.

Mary H.: My now husband. First date and I was 29 and done wasting time on morally ambiguous dudes, so I go right for all the hot button issues. He starts with the classic “I’d personally never would but”... and I am let me stop you right there... didn’t take much, he just needed to hear the other side of the arguments.

Jana K.: Yes. After a few discussions with my friend about the actual abortion procedure and the science of fetal development, without political or religious references. It wasn't a lecture, just whenever the subject came into our natural conversation. One day, she told me she had changed her mind and thanked me.

Chiara B.: Just myself, when I finally discovered that there were non-religious reasons people were pro-life, and I did a close examination of both sides' reasoning, and was forced to conclude that the pro-life side has all the facts on its side, and all the pro-choice side has is emotions.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Romanian Perspective on Abortion

It's now been 100 years since the Bolshevik Revolution—a good time to remember that widespread state-sanctioned abortion is the fruit of Communism. However, when someone argues that Communists disrespected the right to life of unborn humans the same way they disrespected the basic rights of other groups of people, pro-choice activists always bring up one counterexample. That example is of the so-called abortion ban in my country: Romania.

Historic facts: the Communists who had occupied Romania legalized abortion on demand in 1957. As in all countries with Communist regimes, abortion was promoted and viewed as a sign of progress and women's emancipation. Abortion had already been widely performed since World War II; now it was official, state-approved family planning. It became so frequent that the birth rate declined rapidly and the number of abortions per year, in this country of 19 million people, reached a peak of 1.15 million in 1965 (when 8 in 10 pregnancies were aborted).

Faced with a looming demographic disaster, the leaders of the Communist Party decided on a sudden change of policy: after they had told women to have as many abortions as they (or their husbands) wanted, they were now going to request that they have babies instead. The Decree 770 issued in October 1966 restricted abortion access, allowing it only to women whose life or health was endangered by pregnancy, who were over 45 years old or had already born 4 children. And while contraception wasn't forbidden in any way, it wasn't being imported either. The effects were predictible: many women by now used to "solving the problem" chose to self-induce or procure illegal abortions—fueled by the indifference of the men in their lives who expected sex without children, as well as the general lack of support for families (mothers were forced to go back to work three months after birth, daycare centers and hospitals were terrible, many commodities were hard to find, etc). Thousands of women died as a result.

This is the tragedy that abortion activists exploit whenever they speak of the "total abortion ban" in Romania (in reality a restriction on elective abortions). It doesn't matter to them that over 7 million unborn Romanians and members of the minority ethnic groups died too in those years between 1958 and 1989 (that's just the abortions in the state records; there were of course many more illegal ones that weren't recorded). More should have died, since they were unwanted. People see the effects of the Decree on a population accustomed to getting rid of their unborn offspring, with no family-friendly laws and no education to counter that mentality, and look no further. Communist anti-abortion policies bad, therefore any other anti-abortion initiative bad.

There is a documentary that shows how things were. It's called Children of the Decree and has a strong pro-choice angle. One implied message is that the unwanted children in the horrible state orphanages should have been killed before birth. And that the woman who performed hundreds of illegal abortions (and went to prison for killing a girl in the process) was simply necessary to "help" desperate women. But there are also other things, in the comments of actual Children of the Decree who were interviewed for the documentary.

A woman had a baby who was unwanted, just as she had been: a second-generation Child of the Decree. A teenager at the time, she was convinced by her father that a child would destroy her future. Only the fear of complications prevented the abortion. In the film however she shows deep remorse, regretting that she ever saw her boy as an obstacle to get rid of. Conversely, another adult Child of the Decree finds it "amuzant" (funny, amusing) that his mother had countless abortions and he was just a case of "nothing could be done." He says that he was just lucky—could have been like the one before or the one after him. Separately, his mother observes that this generation of children was more determined to thrive than others, fought harder for what they wanted, maybe because of how they came to be born.

There are many horrifying things in the documentary, but perhaps nothing as unsettling (because of its banality) as a man who laughs at the thought that his parents would have had him killed like they did his siblings. This is what widespread abortion, legal or illegal, leads to: the knowledge that one's life doesn't matter. Like Communism, abortion kills people who get in the way, while their relatives go along with it. Those of us who survive the "choice" learn to ignore the ones who don't make it out of the dictatorship we are all conceived in—whether that dictatorship is behind an Iron Curtain or in a 21st century democracy in which the unborn have no protection. We just fight harder for ourselves, as if to win the right to our own life.

[Today's guest post by Alexandra Moldoveanu is part of our paid blogging program. Alexandra is a pro-life poet who writes and promotes literature on abortion and other human rights issues at www.prolifepoetry.space. She is the "wanted" sister of an aborted Romanian and the niece of many other aborted Romanians.]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

In one weird way, California pregnancy centers are more harshly regulated than cigarettes


Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would take up the case of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, which is a constitutional challenge to California's anti-pregnancy-center law. The law forces pregnancy centers to post a sign advertising California's abortion subsidy program. Pro-life pregnancy centers claim that this compelled advertising violates their right to freedom of speech, and are excited to see the Court hear the case.

At Slate, abortion-supporting authors Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern say not so fast. They claim that if NIFLA succeeds in taking down California's law, then informed consent laws for abortion (which pro-lifers, and also most pro-choicers, support) will go down with it. Their argument, in a nutshell: California's law compels speech (true), and informed consent laws for abortion also compel speech (true), so both types of laws will inevitably be treated the same way by the courts.

I don't think Lithwick and Stern's conclusion follows from their premises. To understand why, let's start from an area of agreement: tobacco. It's safe to say that Marlboro would rather not place the Surgeon General's warning on its flagship product. Clearly, that's an instance of compelled speech. But even among free speech absolutists, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who believes that the required Surgeon General's warning violates the First Amendment. Why not? Because the government interest in regulation is incredibly compelling—it's literally life and death.

The same rationale applies to the legal requirement of informed consent in the healthcare context. This is true not only for abortion—which is designed to kill (and therefore, pro-life advocates argue, not actually healthcare at all)—but for all surgical procedures and potentially harmful drugs, even if they are not as deadly as cigarettes. The freedom of speech isn't limitless, and requiring warnings about potential physical dangers is a sensible limit.

Contrast that with the services typically offered by pregnancy resource centers: pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STI tests, parenting classes, financial aid, baby supplies, maternity clothes, job training assistance, maternity housing referrals, and the like. Services vary from location to location, but they all have one thing in common: they pose zero physical risk to women. They are either diagnostic or socioeconomic; they are not invasive, and they have no side effects. When it comes to regulating abortion facilities, pro-life lawmakers can cite studies showing abortion risks, and pro-choice lawmakers can cite studies whitewashing those risks, and they can battle it out. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a single reputable study that shows, say, an increased risk of preterm birth from receiving a free sonogram. It's been said so often that I don't know who coined the phrase, but no woman has ever died at a pro-life pregnancy center.

If any real risk existed, I'd support compelled warnings. But it just doesn't, and that's why California's law doesn't require disclosure of any danger; instead, it requires NIFLA to advertise for its competitors in the abortion industry. Even the Surgeon General's warning doesn't go that far! Cigarette manufacturers are not required to post advertisements for Nicorette gum on their packaging; their compelled speech is limited to posting warnings about the risks of tobacco. And yet pregnancy care centers in California are compelled to actively promote the tragedy of abortion—the very thing they exist to help mothers avoid.

Compelled speech laws are generally unconstitutional unless the government has a compelling interest in preventing serious harms. California's compelled speech law doesn't come close to meeting that test. It is an ideological crusade against those who would dare use the peaceful power of persuasion to save lives from abortion, and the Supreme Court should invalidate it.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Project Weak Link enters next phase


Last year, Created Equal launched Project Weak Link. This campaign focuses on corporations that, while they do not kill unborn children directly, enable the killing by contracting with abortion businesses.

Sometimes, contractors don't realize that they are enabling violence, and it's a simple matter of education. For instance, earlier this year, a Wichita abortion facility lied to roofers about the nature of the building they were working on; when pro-life advocates informed the roofing company of the deception, the roofers exercised their consciences and walked off the job.

Project Weak Link, by contrast, focuses on companies that know full well what they are doing: "medical waste" disposal contractors. These are the corporations that profit from carting away the tiny bodies of abortion victims. As we wrote when Project Weak Leak first launched:
One of the leaked CMP videos featured abortionists commiserating about a perplexing administrative problem: if you can't sell the corpses, how else to dispose of them?
Created Equal has jumped on this and launched a new initiative called Project Weak Link. The tissue disposal companies are the weak link in the abortion industry chain. Created Equal proposes that if tissue disposal companies realize that working with abortion businesses will bring them bad press and cost them money, the power of the market will kick in to save babies.
Project Weak Link achieved a significant victory when the nationwide disposal company Stericycle cut ties with approximately 260 abortion businesses. Now, Project Weak Link is shifting its focus to another company: Specific Waste Industries, a disposal corporation enabling abortion throughout the Midwest.

Specific Waste Industries is particularly notorious for contracting with EMW Women's Surgical Center. EMW is the last abortion facility in Kentucky, and it encourages women to abort by giving them fake information about prenatal development.

To participate in this phase of Project Weak Link, you can do two things:

1. Sign the petition against Specific Waste Industries.
2. Call Specific Waste Industries CEO Victor Anderson at 502-425-2770; ask him to put humanity above profits and terminate his company's contracts with abortion vendors.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Aborting to get a guardian angel?


Last week, Susanne Maynes, writing for Pregnancy Help News, discussed an unusual issue facing pregnancy counselors:
“My best friend died a few years ago,” she said. “I think of him as my guardian angel now. I don’t know, but that’s what I think.”
Brittany was articulating a notion that ... those who die somehow morph into angels who provide a comforting presence, and even guidance, in our lives.
I’ve heard this idea from clients at our pregnancy center quite a few times. Often, it’s a dear grandmother who has passed away, and the girl believes Grandma isn’t really gone; she is still nearby and able to help her. 
While there are a number of problems with this unbiblical view of life and eternity, none looms larger than the next (il)logical step some women do take: If those who die become our guardian angels, then the baby I abort can become a source of comfort and guidance in my life.
This isn't the first time we've seen supernatural concepts used to rationalize abortion. Nicki Minaj may be the most prominent example; when she went public about the abortion she had as a teenager, she acknowledged being “haunted” by it, but said she found comfort in the idea that her aborted baby became a “little angel” watching over Minaj's brother Caiah.

Maynes describes the guardian angel mentality as both “scientifically and theologically unsound.” I can't speak to the theology, but she's undoubtedly correct about the science. There is zero scientific evidence that the dead watch over us. The idea that someone would kill a precious, innocent human being in order to acquire a fictional guardian spirit utterly horrifies me.

Maynes is a Christian, so unsurprisingly, she thinks the solution to guardian-angel religion is a dose of non-guardian-angel, orthodox Christian religion. Also unsurprisingly, I disagree with her. But let's move on, because Maynes goes on to propose a series of four breakthrough questions that I quite like. In fact, I think they have the potential to be used in countless situations, not just counseling a pregnant woman who believes in guardian angels. Those four questions are:

  • “How do you know that’s true?”
  • “Where did you get your information?”
  • “How did you come to that conclusion?”
  • “What if you’re wrong?”

Think of the possibilities here.

Pro-lifers don't care about children who are already born! How do you know that's true?
It's just a clump of cells. Where did you get your information?
Women can't be equal to men without abortion. How did you come to that conclusion?
Being aborted is better than being born into poverty. What if you're wrong?

For more on asking good questions in abortion debates, check out Equal Rights Institute.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

She was raped and refused abortion. Here’s how she answers her critics.

It’s common to catch hate online; perhaps you made a comment someone didn’t like or posted a meme they didn’t agree with. A few years ago, a friend of mine started getting criticized a lot. The reason?

She didn’t kill her son.

Jennifer Christie refused to have an abortion after being raped on a business trip. Some people weren’t happy about that, calling her “stupid,” “brain damaged,” “f–ked in the head” and “an a–hole.” They also labeled her son as a “rapist’s DNA deposit” and something “from Satan.”

She’s often condemned for having a “rapist’s baby” or “bringing another rapist into the world.” A message from one woman was particularly blunt: “I want to hurt you.”

Considering all of this, you might assume that Jennifer would back off. It’s a reasonable assumption; it’s also wrong. Here’s an excerpt from her courageous reply:
The “rapist's baby”? How about MY baby? Because that is what he is. He's part of me. In my blue eyes that have every old lady in town stopping us in the grocery store and giving him little treats and kisses because he looks “just like an angel!” But not only mine. 
He's part of the father who is raising him and loving him and takes him to the library and the park and vanquishes bedtime monsters with silly songs and sock puppet shows.
He's part of his big brothers who put together toddler bikes and tirelessly toss the ball outside with enthusiasm and his sister who insists he dress like a Ralph Lauren ad so she can parade him around her friends at work and tell customers he's hers (I don't love this).
He's his grandparents and godparents and aunts and uncles and our friends and church family and people around the world who love him yet have never laid eyes on him.
That's who he is and that's who he'll be. 
You can check out more of Jennifer's advocacy at her website.

Jennifer’s son isn’t alone. Rebecca Kiessling was also conceived in rape, and she’s only alive today because abortion was illegal at the time. Rebecca isn’t “spawn” or “another rapist”—she’s an attorney, an adoptive mother, and a human being. So is Juda Myers, Valerie Gatos, and every other child, regardless of how they were conceived.

There’s a lot to be said about rape and abortion (like the abortion industry’s habit of helping rapists hide their crimes). But the most basic? That we shouldn’t execute girls and boys for what their fathers did. It’s something Jennifer Christie has never doubted.

She won’t stop saying it either.

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Will Artificial Wombs End the Abortion Debate?

Illustration of artificial womb technology sustaining a young lamb

Xavier Symons, writing for BioEdge, a news website that focuses on bioethics, wrote an article about ectogenesis. Ectogenesis refers to a human embryo or fetus developing in an artificial environment outside of the woman's uterus. Scientists recently kept premature lamb fetuses alive in an artificial environment, so hopes are high that they can eventually develop artificial womb technology to keep human embryos and fetuses alive if the woman absolutely does not want to be pregnant. Many are touting this as exciting technology that could essentially end the abortion debate.

Judith Jarvis Thomson, in her famous essay about abortion, argued that simply having a right to an abortion does not grant a woman a right to a dead baby. The reason abortion is justified, as a proponent of bodily rights would argue, is because the child is violating the right to the woman's bodily autonomy and the state should not legally compel a woman to remain plugged in as life support to the developing embryo/fetus. She compared pregnancy to a famous, unconscious violinist. But, she conceded, the right to unplug from this violinist does not grant you the right to slit the violinist's throat. So if the woman could be unplugged from the unborn child without killing him, that would be ethically preferred. According to the aforementioned article, some bioethicists, such as Eric Mathison and Jeremy Davis, both from the University of Toronto, agree with Thomson's position that a right to abortion does not include a right to a dead fetus.

The possibility of artificial wombs does raise some ethical concerns. For example, considering how important pregnancy is, does a woman have a right to separate herself from her developing child in order to avoid the burdens of pregnancy, even if she intends to keep the child? At the very least, pro-life people can agree that if a woman intends to abort her child, allowing the child to survive in an artificial womb and allowing the child to be given for adoption would be preferable. I think many abortion-choice people, such as Thomson, Mathison, and Davis, could agree that if a woman intends to abort, it would be preferable to place the child in an artificial womb since a right to abortion does not ipso facto guarantee a right to a dead fetus.

However, not all abortion-choice advocates would jump on the bandwagon. As much as I would love artificial womb technology to end the abortion debate, the reality is that many who are involved with abortions are not simply seeking to make the woman un-pregnant; they are actively seeking the death of the child. Look no further than doctors who will kill a child born alive after an "unsuccessful abortion," and abortion-choice advocates and organizations that oppose "infant born alive" bills which prohibit such killings.

According to the article, Joona Rasanen offers the following argument that a right to abortion also grounds a right to a dead fetus (see the BioEdge article for the original source):
...if ectogenesis abortions become reality, some women (and men) will have genetic children out there who carry their genetic material without their consent. In this scenario, their right to genetic privacy has been violated, and the only way to avoid this is if they have a right to the death of the fetus…[and] there is yet another way to claim that the genetic parents have a right to the death of the fetus: the genetic parents own the fetus, and because of that, their property rights are violated if the fetus is gestated in an artificial womb without their consent.
There are a number of things wrong with Rasanen's arguments.

First, it's simply barbaric to consider the fetus to be property of the mother. We used to consider black people property and that was a gross denial of their human dignity. Fetuses are human beings at a very early stage of development. Calling them property is dehumanizing.

Second, Rasanen doesn't seem to understand that the fetus' genetic material is not the woman's; it comes from the woman (and the man), but it is not identical to her genetic material. This kind of argument would work against cloning her against her will, but not against a child existing against her will just because he or she came from her genetic material.

Third, this argument proves too much. What if a woman has a daughter, and her daughter then, at the appropriate age, has a child, but the mother doesn't want the grandchild for whatever reason? This argument would justify the mother forcing her daughter to have an abortion, or killing the child once the child is outside the womb, because this child is allegedly violating the grandmother's "right to genetic privacy." In fact, it would justify the woman's boyfriend or husband forcing the woman, herself, to have an abortion because the child would be violating his "right to genetic privacy," and she would be violating it by not having the abortion.

Fourth, why would a violation of her "right to genetic privacy" bring a death sentence? Someone who steals my car is violating my right to property ownership, but that certainly doesn't justify my killing the thief. Perhaps the argument is that it would bring a death sentence because that is the only way to preserve the woman's (and man's) "right to genetic privacy." But of course, then the argument that abortion is impermissible at any time during pregnancy due to the fetus gaining personhood rights would be negated. This would grant the parents the right to kill the child at any age, even as an adult, because there is someone walking around violating this alleged right. If your argument, though, is that it's permissible at some points because the fetus is not a person, then impermissible at some other point because he gains personhood rights, then it's your personhood argument that is doing the work of justifying your abortion-choice stance and not any right to genetic privacy.

These arguments simply don't justify killing the embryo or fetus, especially if artificial womb technology becomes a reality. But what do you think? Will artificial wombs put an end to the debate? Are they a good thing? If you consider yourself pro-choice, what do you think about artificial wombs, and will the death of the embryo/fetus still be justified if they become a reality?

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

UK abortion investigation reveals threats to women's health


All too often, abortion businesses cut corners with women’s health. This is true not only in the United States but in other countries as well. The legalization of abortion was supposed to make it safe. However, one only has to look at the many failed inspection reports of legal abortion centers to see that a legal abortion is not necessarily a safe one. Abortion facilities often endanger women’s health.

The most recent inspection report from an abortion clinic in England illustrates this. The Marie Stopes abortion chain, a network of abortion clinics similar to Planned Parenthood in the United States, had its Maidstone abortion facility inspected on May 17, 2016. The resulting report was released on February 10, 2017, and it shows major deficiencies that endanger women. Details in the inspection report show poor training, lack of cleanliness, lack of patient privacy, and abortion workers paid on commission, encouraged to sell as many abortions as possible.

The long and detailed inspection report, which can be read at this link, found that:
Infection control systems, processes and practices were not delivered in line with the current national guidance. There was poor hand hygiene, poor use of personal protective equipment and poor pre-surgical preparation. 
The report went into more detail. The inspectors noted that:
the sink in the theatre was not used by any member of staff throughout the entire list of 21 patients. We saw a surgeon [who] wore sterile gloves but kept their large, stoned costume rings on when undertaking surgical procedures. This surgeon did not wash their hands or use alcohol gel between patients and failed to follow good hand hygiene practice. Other theatre staff changed their gloves but did not wash their hands or use hand gel between patients…
We observed that poor practice in the theatre meant that the sterile gloves were contaminated by being removed from the outer wrapper with unwashed hands. The contaminated gloves were dropped by the surgeon from unwashed hands onto the trolley, which contaminated the sterile field.
We observed poor practice in pre-operative preparation of the genitalia. This posed a risk of introducing an infection…
We observed that in the theatre, a member of staff used a single antiseptic wipe to clean all equipment, the couch and the floor between patients. 
In addition, not enough time was allocated between patients to properly clean and sterilize the room and instruments.

Keep in mind that this is the way doctors and staffers conducted abortions and cleaned the space while the inspectors were right there, standing over their shoulders and watching. The employees knew that they were being supervised by inspectors and still did not wash their hands or clean properly. If workers were willing to do surgery on 21 women in a row without washing their hands knowing they were being watched, what were they doing when the inspectors weren’t there and no one was watching them?

The inspectors also cited workers for carrying an open bucket of aborted baby remains through the waiting room where women were sitting. Abortions at Maidstone are done through fourteen weeks, so dismembered arms and legs may have been visible among these remains. Inspectors did not note women’s reactions to this, but they found it “poor infection prevention and control practice as well as potentially being offensive to patients waiting.” The abortion facility gave women the option of taking her abortion “remains” home, in which case “they were put into an opaque pot and a release form signed.”

One wonders if the women had been properly educated about what those remains would look like because before making the irrevocable and life-changing decision to abort her baby, patients were only giving “counseling” sessions of fifteen minutes. According to the report:
Appointments were 15 minutes long. Heavy workloads, crowded operating and clinic lists and a strict 15 minute consultation time led to best practice not being adhered to…. Staff we spoke with talked about a lack of time and need to keep the appointment on track. One member of staff said about the information provided, “They can’t take it all in, it’s so fast.” This presented a risk that consent was not fully informed.
We observed a member of staff passing the consent form to the patient to read and sign whilst they cleaned the room. There was no opportunity given for discussion or questions and when questioned the member of staff felt this was because of a lack of time. 
Women were not given time to think about their options. In fact:
Staff were also concerned that the pressurized environment … meant that there was a culture that worked against patient choice….One staff member describe it as “feeling like a hamster in a wheel” and said the word, “Cattle market” came up quite a lot. 
The abortion facility was so crowded that:
There was limited space in the waiting rooms. At one time during the day there were 15 people in the waiting room, with four standing due to lack of available seating. Staff told us that this was the usual situation. 
Finally, the abortion workers “expressed concern that they were assessed and bonuses were paid based on performance against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for patients.”

“Key Performance Indicators” is a term that means the intended number of abortions to be done on a given day. In plain language, the word used would be “quota.” This was a number set by the management. Staff members were given bonuses and evaluated based on whether or not they met the “key performance indictors” i.e., quotas, of abortions for each day. The inspectors said that “this corporate focus on achieving KPIs worked against the concept of patient choice.”

Although the lack of cleanliness, rushed schedule, poor “counseling,” and abortion quotas were the main things mentioned in the report, the inspectors also said workers were poorly trained and careless when administering anesthesia. The center was also criticized for sending patients, including teenagers, home unescorted after their abortions, even when they had not yet recovered from general anesthesia. Patients drove themselves home or tried to negotiate long bus routes while still under the influence of drugs given to sedate them.

There was very little Marie Stopes did, in the final report, that the inspectors did not find fault with. The overall picture was of a dirty, hazardous facility where women were pressured and rushed through their abortions. This latest example of rushed, biased counseling and unsterile premises fits with an overall pattern of profit-seeking and indifference to women’s health found in many abortion facilities today.

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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

January Plans!


It's November first, and you know what that means: it's time to make your plans for all the Roe v. Wade anniversary protest events happening in January!

Friday, January 19
The March for Life in Washington, D.C.
As we have done every year since our founding, Secular Pro-Life will join the hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates marching down the National Mall to the Supreme Court in the March for Life. This event memorializes the millions of innocent lives lost to abortion as a result of Roe v. Wade, which the Court handed down on January 21, 1973. It sends a message to the Court, and to our elected officials, that we will not back down until the right to life is restored. And it is an opportunity for us to connect with one another, building relationships that will help us save lives together in the coming year. 

Of course, we will carry our giant, bright-blue, can't-miss banner that says "Secular Pro-Life: For the embryology textbook tells me so." Stay tuned for details about our meet-up location.

Saturday, January 20
This is a Catholic conference, and we've never been before. The 2018 theme is "(Ir)religiously Pro-Life: The Future of the Movement in a Secular World," and the conference organizers personally reached out to us to ensure that our voice is heard. We're excited to share our perspective with Catholic allies.

Saturday, January 20
TENTATIVE: Students for Life of America East Coast Conference in Upper Marlboro, MD
Secular Pro-Life has always loved the SFLA conference; it's a great opportunity to equip campus pro-life leaders with the tools they need to reach diverse audiences. We do have enough volunteers to exhibit at both the SFLA conference and the O'Connor conference simultaneously. Unfortunately, money is tight, and the price of an SFLA conference exhibit booth has gone up. If you want to see us at the SFLA East Coast Conference, please make a donation to help cover our expenses. Your generosity is greatly appreciated!

Saturday, January 28
Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, CA
The Walk got started as an alternative for those who couldn't travel all the way to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life, but has blossomed into a fantastic event in its own right. Stay tuned for meet-up details. 

Sunday, January 29
This is the smaller and less expensive of SFLA's two conferences, and we will definitely be there. Come by our booth for free SPL literature you can use on your campus, and learn about our exciting upcoming projects! 

We hope to see you at one or more of the above events in January! Torn about whether or not to participate? Check out our photo albums from past years:
If you can't make it but support what we're doing, please consider a donating to help us through our costliest time of the year. Thank you for your support!