Friday, May 17, 2019

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, May 22 (Washington, D.C.): A coalition of anti-human-trafficking and pro-life organizations will hold a symposium entitled "Human Trafficking and Women and Children's Health" in the Russell Senate Building from noon to 5:00 p.m. The organizers state:
Human trafficking impacts all aspects of the victim's health, but especially gynecological, reproductive, procreative, and other related health issues. In sex trafficking, but also in labor trafficking and domestic servitude, women and girl children endure serious acute and chronic health problems related to pregnancy and childbearing. Sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, injuries to reproductive organs, breast and ovarian cysts and cancers are some of the health consequences of human trafficking. In addition, studies show that females have multiple pregnancies, miscarriages, and abortions in trafficking, and that traffickers misuse and abuse contraception, Plan B and RU-486. Substance use and abuse, which are common in human trafficking, also affect pregnancy and childbirth. Finally, studies indicate that thousands of children are born into and raised in trafficking situations in the U.S. today.
While there is little research on this problem, the negative physical, mental and emotional repercussions for such children are considerable and deserve further attention. This half-day event brings together academics, experts, physicians, service providers and survivors of human trafficking to examine the public and private health issues as well as discuss treatment and prevention programs to safeguard at risk women and children. focused on reproductive and procreative health issues including pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, and childbirth in trafficking, all important but neglected aspects of this problem. 
These topics are particularly critical for us to address, as abortion advocates are pushing for unaccountable online chemical abortion sales and sexual predators have already begun to take advantage.

Wednesday, May 22 (Nationwide): Created Equal is promoting a day of protest against Stericycle, a medical waste hauler that serves abortion facilities. By disposing of the bodies, Stericycle performs a key support function in the abortion industry and allows abortion centers to stay open. More information here.

Friday, June 21 to Sunday, June 23 (New Orleans): Secular Pro-Life will proudly exhibit at the fourth annual Pro-Life Women's Conference, a little over a month away. If you haven't already purchased your ticket and made travel arrangements, now is the time! Details here.

Friday, October 18 to Sunday, October 20 (New Orleans): Our friends at Rehumanize International just announced the dates and location for their 2019 annual conference! Mark your calendar and stay tuned for more information.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The zygote is the beginning of the human life cycle: everyday examples.

The human zygote is the first developmental stage in a human life cycle. 

A zygote is different in kind from sperm and unfertilized eggs, which are gametes, not organisms. The zygote is different from any random cell that has human DNA, such as your skin cells (also not organisms). The zygote is a separate and biologically unique human.

In the abortion debate, people treat this statement as if it were a belief, rather than a fact. They seem to assume the demarcation of the zygote as a human's beginning is just one belief of many, brought up only to support an anti-abortion agenda.

But pro-lifers didn't invent the idea that the zygote is the start; we're merely acknowledging that already existing reality. And I notice that whenever biology comes up outside of the abortion debate, science communicators readily acknowledge this basic biological fact too.

Here is my toddler's ABCs of Science book, part of the Baby University series. I couldn't help but notice that the final page states "Z is for Zygote. A zygote is the first stage of development in living things."

Similarly, here's a page out of the (pretty delightful) children's book You Are Stardust, which reads "You started life as a single cell. So did all other creatures on planet earth."

(Click to enlarge.)

In the meiosis video of Crash Course's biology series, Hank Green exclaims "If you're not suitably impressed by the fact that we all come from one single cell and then we become this [gestures to himself] then I don't—just I don't know how to impress you!"

Here's a photo from Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in late 2018. MSI had a room you can walk through that shows prenatal human development using real specimens. Just outside the exhibit is a display which reads in part "All of us start as a single cell and then begin a wondrous journey of change in—and with—our moms."

(Click to enlarge.)

We begin as zygotes. This is a basic (and typically readily acknowledged) biological fact. It doesn't necessarily follow that human zygotes are morally relevant or are "people"—the personhood debate is an important but separate discussion. But before we can discuss which human organisms count as "people," we need to have a shared understanding of when human organisms begin in the first place.

Further Reading:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Baby Chris is Seven Weeks Old

Figure via the Endowment for Human Development
[This is part 8 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

Seven weeks after fertilization, Baby Chris has brainwaves! In fact, brainwaves have been detected by EEG as early as six weeks and two days.

Baby Chris's heart, which has been beating since 18 days after conception, now has a more matured four-chamber structure. It now beats between 167 and 175 times per minute; it will decline to about 140 beats per minute at birth.

The reproductive system is emerging with the formation of ovaries or testes. (We chose the gender-neutral name "Baby Chris" to represent unborn children of all sexes.)

Fingers and toes are starting to separate but are still somewhat webbed. Until now, Baby Chris's skeletal system has consisted solely of cartilage and membranes, but that is beginning to change as bones ossify in the collar bone and jaw. Also appearing by seven weeks: taste buds, elbows, and hiccups!

Baby Chris is approximately 14 mm long and continues to grow at a rapid pace. For more information on Baby Chris's development in the womb, download the free See Baby app on your smartphone.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Baby Chris is Six Weeks Old

[This is part 7 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

Six weeks after conception, Baby Chris has reached several major milestones, particularly when it comes to nervous system development. Neurons are growing in the newly formed cerebral cortex, a brain structure crucial for complex thought. Baby Chris has also started moving. As the Endowment for Human Development explains: "Though a pregnant woman does not feel movement for at least another 8 to 10 weeks, the embryo begins to move between 5 and 6 weeks. The embryo’s first movements are both spontaneous and reflexive. A light touch to the mouth area causes the embryo to reflexively withdraw its head, while the embryo’s trunk will twist spontaneously. Movements are essential for the normal development of bones and joints."

In the liver, Baby Chris is producing red blood cells and lymphocytes (a key component of the immune system). Cartilage (including the external ear) is now present, as are retinal pigments, salivary glands, and "digital rays"—which will create fingers from Baby Chris's disc-shaped hands. The diaphragm and nipples have also formed.

Baby Chris's organs are growing so rapidly that his or her abdominal cavity is running out of space! As a result, it is normal at this stage for the intestines to temporarily protrude into the umbilical cord, a phenomenon known as physiologic herniation.

Remember to download the See Baby app to follow Baby Chris's journey through pregnancy and birth!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Who needs an ultrasound? DIY chemical abortion is here.

In 1996, the Clintons used the phrase “safe, legal, and rare” to describe the supposed goal for abortions. Since then, many people have dropped the “rare” from their list of stated expectations, but they have continued to proclaim that they are concerned about the safety of women getting abortions. In fact, a primary purported reason for keeping abortion legal has always been the prevention of do-it-yourself, “back-alley” procedures.

In what could certainly be seen as a contradiction, some of these same people have petitioned to increasingly remove medical professionals from the abortions themselves. Not only have these activists dodged efforts to hold abortion centers to the same standards as other medical facilities, but in Canada, they have now legalized self-managed chemical abortions. Until now, patients were required to receive an ultrasound before being prescribed the abortion pills, but the government has done away with this mandate.

“Sexual health advocates” were quick to praise this action, noting that it would remove a possible barrier to abortion for women who had difficulty scheduling an ultrasound. But what it has also removed is a vital safety check that keeps women likely to be harmed by the medication from taking it. So… what could go wrong?

Undiagnosed Ectopic Pregnancy 
One of the main reasons for the ultrasound requirement (currently still in place for the United States) is to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. In this life-threatening condition, the zygote implants in an improper and dangerous place, such as a fallopian tube or the abdominal cavity. Just as an ultrasound is part of regular prenatal care, it’s essential even if a woman has chosen an abortion. Without an early ultrasound, she cannot be diagnosed, and she may experience the hemorrhaging and shock that can result from untreated ectopic pregnancy.

Miscalculated Gestational Age 
The abortion pills are contraindicated after a certain point of pregnancy (with the point depending on the type of pills), and without an ultrasound, women may easily miscalculate how far along they are. Taking the pills too late in pregnancy decreases their effectiveness and increases the risk of life-threatening complications.

In addition, a misjudged gestational age may affect a woman’s decision to get an abortion. Some women are more opposed to the procedure later in pregnancy, and without an ultrasound, she will not have accurate information to make her decision.

So, Why Would Anybody Support This? 
Again, abortion advocates insist that they care deeply about women, but this latest step makes clear that safety is lower on their list of priorities than they imply. Furthermore, for people who tout their belief in choice for (and trust of) women, they seem remarkably unconcerned about making sure these women are making informed decisions. As they have so many times in the past, they have once again proven that their real goal is to protect their lucrative industry at any cost to others. And once again, both their unborn children and the women themselves will pay the price.

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

When women can't get abortions, what happens to the children they birth?

Came across this article recently and the headline caught my eye.

There, fixed it.

Broadly speaking, pro-choice people treat abortion as if it prevents a child from coming into existence, rather than destroying a child who already exists. Diana Greene Fosterthe article's author and principal investigator of the study being summarizedsuggests as much when she says:
Whether to have an abortion can be a difficult decision to make. The fetus could develop into a unique person that would never get another chance to be born. [Emphasis added.]
From her perspective, the entity being destroyed is not yet a unique person, but could someday be one. With that framework it makes sense to ask "Under these circumstances, is it responsible or moral to bring this child into existence?" 

One way to answer the question is to compare the outcomes of two groups of children:
  • Group 1: children born because women were denied abortion.
  • Group 2: children born to women who were not seeking abortion. 
But of course pro-life people will see this whole discussion in a totally different light. Pro-life people recognize that abortion destroys already-existing human organisms, and we view those humans as morally relevant and deserving of protection. Under that framework, we would compare the outcomes of three groups of children:
  • Group 1: children born because women were denied abortion.
  • Group 2: children born to women who were not seeking abortion. 
  • Group 3: children aborted.
It was with this mentality that I read the above article and its underlying study; while it's interesting to compare Groups 1 and 2, the backdrop is always the comparison between Groups 1 and 3. How do children born to women denied abortion fare compared to children aborted? They fare better. Because they aren't dead.

I'm not trying to be glib here. From the perspective of people who believe prenatal children deserve protection, this whole study is like asking "How do poor children fare compared to middle class children?" or "How do children with developmental delays fare compared to children without delays?" or "How do children raised by single mothers fare compared to children raised by stably married parents?" Those are all questions worth studying, but they take a much darker meaning if the suggestion for improving aggregate child outcomes is to kill all the disadvantaged children.

FB shareable version here or see a similar dichotomy here.

Setting aside the glaring difference in pro-choice and pro-life perspectives, though, I read the study with interest. Here are the points that caught my eye:

When women were denied legal abortion, the vast majority of them birthed their children. Contrary to the common pro-choice talking point, preventing women from getting legal abortion doesn't simply push them to get dangerous illegal abortions. In this study, of the 195 women turned away from abortion clinics who completed all the study's interviews, 2% miscarried, 23% obtained abortions elsewhere, and 75% gave birth. This result dovetails with the many studies that find abortion restrictions decrease abortions.

Mostly the kids fared just as well either way. This study defined "index children" as children born to women who were denied abortion and "subsequent children" as children born to women who received abortions and then birthed a child in the ensuing 5 years. By most metrics, index children had the same outcomes as subsequent children.

Index children were no more likely than subsequent children to experience:
  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • admission to NICUs
  • physical disabilities
  • asthma
  • household incomes below the federal poverty level
  • receipt of public assistance (WIC, TANF, SNAP)
Similarly, index children were no less likely than subsequent children to:
  • be breastfed
  • achieve the same mean scores on developmental milestones
  • reach the following specific developmental milestones:
    • fine motor skills
    • self-help skills
    • social emotional skills
    • receptive language
    • expressive language
    The two groups did have some differences, though. Index children were slightly less likely than subsequent children to achieve gross motor milestones. They were more likely to have been injured (mostly accidents and falls) in the last 6 months. Index children were less likely to live in households with the mother's male partner and more likely to live in households with other adult family members.

    Mothers of index children were more likely to report they struggled in the last month to afford basic needs (75% of index mothers reported this struggle compared to 55% of subsequent mothers). Index mothers were also more likely to struggle to bond with their children. In her article, Foster elaborates:
    Women are also much more likely to report poor maternal bonding — feeling trapped as a mother, resenting their baby, or longing for the “old days” before they had the baby — with the child born after abortion denial than with the next child born following a wanted abortion.
    Specifically the study found that 9% of index mothers reported poor maternal bonding compared to 3% of subsequent mothers. This difference is substantial but the statistic also still indicates that over 90% of mothers bond just fine to the children they weren't able to abort.

    It's also noteworthy that the study doesn't measure whether women raising index children retrospectively wish they had gotten abortions instead. Struggling to bond with your child is not the same as wishing your child didn't exist. All parents experience resentment and frustration at some points or others, but that doesn't mean we wish we weren't parents or wish our kids weren't our kids.

    Of course we don't want children to grow up in harsh circumstances. While the circumstances of a child's birth aren't fate for the rest of the child's life, they are still a major influence. Ideally all children would be conceived in circumstances where their parents are as prepared as possible to best care for them. Fewer unintended pregnancies mean not only fewer abortions but also fewer births and less child-rearing in difficult situations, which is why preventing unintended pregnancy should be easy common ground.

    Still, we don't share the pro-choice view that it's better to help a woman get a wanted abortion and birth a different child later than it is to try to protect the child she is already carrying. We can't share that view because we believe that:
    1. Prenatal children are morally valuable and deserve protection and care;
    2. Killing innocent people who have no say in the decision is immoral, even if it's ostensibly done to prevent their future suffering; and
    3. It's a mistake to assume a child born of a denied abortion will deeply suffer for it anyway.
    This study found index children do not differ from their (living) peers in most respects. These children still reach developmental milestones with the same average scores as their counterparts, and in the vast majority of cases index children live with their biological mothers who feel bonded to them. While there are some differences that we would hope to mitigate, the results aren't anywhere close to enough to justify advocating for these children to be aborted for their own sakes. It's one thing to argue for abortions in terms of benefits to the women seeking them. But arguing for abortion for the sake of those being aborted is nonsensical.