Thursday, April 26, 2012

CA Working to Legalize Non-Doctors Performing Abortion

The California Senate is still working to legalize nurses, midwives, and physician assistent's ability to perform abortions. Please read my post with details from last week

Since then, California Senate Bill 1338 passed in one of the Senate Committees and is on to another today. Please take immediate action to prevent this mass abortion expansion. This legislation would not only put more pre-born children's lives at risk but would give women healthcare that is not what they deserve. 

Action: Contact Senate Business and Professions Committee Members and ask:
“Please vote no on SB 1338. Women deserve better than relegating their medical care to subordinate health care workers.”
For the Dignity of the Born and Unborn,


Who are Pro-Lifers?

According to Gallup, Americans are split relatively evenly regarding the abortion debate: 47% describe themselves as "pro-life," 45% "pro-choice."  Half of America is pro-life, but that doesn't tell us a great deal.  Which people are included in the pro-life half?

Old, white men?

The same Gallup poll found that those who call themselves “pro-life” include:
  • 47% of 18-29 year-olds
  • 45% of 30-49 year-olds
  • 50% of 50-64 year-olds, and 
  • 54% of people age 65 and over.  
The poll's margin of error is +4%, making these differences statistically insignificant; the pro-life movement includes roughly half of every age group.  It’s also worth noting that all of the above percentages have increased over the last 10 years.  People in every age bracket have become more likely to call themselves “pro-life.”

Gallup also found that 48% of men and 49% of women describe themselves as “pro-life.”  Again, with a margin of error is +4%, this difference is statistically insignificant.  There is no correlation between gender and views on abortion.

Gallup didn’t break down abortion views by race, but the Pew Research Center did.  The following people said abortion should be illegal: 40% of Non-Hispanic Blacks, 45% of Non-Hispanic Whites, and 50% of Hispanics.  This is a wider range than that for age, but it doesn’t align with the suggestion that the pro-life movement is disproportionately white.  Apparently Hispanics are more likely to consider themselves pro-life than white people, and there are millions of black people who are also anti-abortion. (If anyone has research regarding the abortion views of other racial or ethnic groups, please leave links in the comment section.)

The pro-life perspective is found in all ages, many races, and both genders.

Right-wing extremists?

It’s more understandable to associate the pro-life perspective with conservatives or Republicans, given a) the rather inflexible party lines politicians often push and b) the definite correlation between political affiliation and abortion views.  Gallup found 68% of Republicans and 61% of those who “lean Republican” call themselves "pro-life," compared to the 62% of Democrats and 60% of those who “lean Democrat” that call themselves "pro-choice."

Even so, this rigid politicized view of the pro-life movement doesn’t take into account the 31% of Democrats, 34% of those who “lean Democrat”, and 45% of Independents who call themselves "pro-life" (37% of Independents call themselves "pro-choice.")  There are thousands and thousands of non-conservative pro-lifers who are overlooked when the pro-life movement is portrayed as a conservative movement.

Christian fascists?

Since I flatly don’t believe most pro-lifers support supreme dictators who crush opposition and take over all industry and commerce, I’m not actually going to bother with the term “fascist."  In American political debates “fascist” mostly means “You’re trying to use the democratic process to make laws I disagree with.” 

But what about the term “Christian”?

According to the same Pew Research Center survey, 52% of Protestants and 45% of Catholics believe abortion should be illegal, compared with only 25% of those religiously unaffiliated.  Additionally, 68% of Christians who attend church at least weekly think abortion should be illegal, compared to 38% of Christians who attend monthly or yearly and only 28% of those who rarely attend church.  These findings reaffirm the conclusion of a 2006 Gallup poll that stated “Christians have stronger anti-abortion views than non-Christians, and those who frequently attend church have stronger anti-abortion views than those who attend less frequently.”

While there are plenty of non-religious people who consider themselves pro-life, there is a strong correlation between religiosity (specifically Christianity) and the pro-life movement.  Conversely, people who support abortion rights are less likely to be religious.

Religious Diversity

Meanwhile, religiosity as a whole is declining.  According to a separate 2010 Gallup poll, church and synagogue membership has decreased 9% in the last 10 years, while 70% of Americans see religion losing influence in the country.  A 2011 Gallup poll found 15% of Americans claim to be Atheists, Agnostics, or have no religion, a dramatic increase over the last several decades.

While pro-lifers tend to be Christian, secularism is on the rise. These trends can sometimes lead to tension within the pro-life movement.  For example, several years ago I tried to volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center, but I was not allowed to work with the CPC unless I signed a statement proclaiming Christ as my savior.  I'm not comfortable lying about something like that, so I was unable to help the center.  Some of my fellow secular pro-lifers take a different route; I’ve been told of situations where secular pro-lifers pretended to be Christian so they would be permitted to work with other pro-life activists.  It should never come to that.

I’m grateful for a group like Secular Pro-Life, creating space for non-religious pro-lifers.  I do believe, however, that the pro-life movement as a whole—not just SPL—should be inclusive.  There is already no correlation between the pro-life perspective and gender.  The pro-life movement includes all ages and people of diverse racial and political backgrounds.  I hope in the years to come the movement will include a more diverse religious composition as well.

UPDATE: A 2012 Gallup poll found a decrease in self-described pro-choicers to 41%.  However, views on the legality and morality of abortion did not change.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pro-life students face vandalism, theft

Students for Life of America is raising a firestorm over a recent incident at Western Kentucky University (WKU).  The pro-life student organization there, Hilltoppers for Life, put on a Cemetery of the Innocents display, with a "cemetery" of 3300 small crosses to symbolize the average of 3300 abortions that take place each day in the United States.  Several WKU art students came by and draped condoms over the crosses.  The Hilltoppers for Life contacted campus police, who said that the act was technically not vandalism and that there was nothing they could do.  That may be true-- the condoms can at least be removed, unlike spraypaint-- but it sure is a pain in the butt for the Hilltoppers, who had the university's permission to use the area for the display.

Making this even more interesting, the students claimed that the condoms-on-crosses display was an art project approved by their professor.  In other words, they trespass on the pro-life group's reserved space and get college credit for it. Call me a Philistine, but I'm unimpressed by an "art project" that's so disrespectful and, frankly, immature.

Students for Life is taking it one step further, saying in a recent email that "the desecration of the crosses at WKU is sacrilegious, offensive, and borders on a hate crime."  I'm not sure I agree with this statement, which emphasizes the religious meaning of the crosses.  I've seen Cemetery of the Innocents displays done with many symbols, including American flags, pinwheels, baby shoes and flowers.  Disruption of these displays would be equally unacceptable.

On the other hand, I completely sympathize with Students for Life's frustration.  They've been dealing with a wave of pro-abortion vandalism in recent weeks.  The pro-life group at Dartmouth had their American flag Cemetery of the Innocents run over by a car, pro-abortion vandals at Northern Kentucky University stole donated baby clothing (which was destined for local needy families) from a clothesline, and the incident at WKU is just the last straw.  

Pro-abortion students have the right to express themselves legally.  They do not have the right to infringe upon pro-life expression or destroy pro-lifers' property.

Monday, April 23, 2012

(Video) Secular Pro-Life: A Brief Overview

The University of San Francisco Students for Life invited Secular Pro-Life to give a brief overview of the non-religious pro-life perspective and the need for this perspective in the larger pro-life movement.  

Click here to see the presentation.  Sources for the presentation are listed below the video.

Click here to see the partial Q&A session following the presentation.  (Unfortunately the video camera ran out of power 30 minutes before the Q&A session was finished.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why I'm an atheist who's pro-life

[Today's post is written by Delroy Dyer, a pro-life atheist at Carleton University in Ottawa.  This article was originally posted by Campaign Life Coalition, and is reprinted with permission.]

Delroy Dyer
Throughout life, one goes through changes. As time goes on, you’re supposed to be changing for the better. You’re older, and supposed to be wiser. Of the changes that I have made in my life, two stand out. I used to be a regular church-going Pentecostal. Every Sunday morning I could be found in the church. I also used to believe that abortion was a woman’s decision, and nobody else’s. Today, I am writing from the perspective of a pro-life atheist.

When people talk about abortion, they often tend to frame it in the light of religion vs. secularity. Only “religious whack jobs” wanting to impose their moral values on innocent women were against the so-called “right” to abortion. That’s the most common refrain of the pro-abort lobby. I, however, am living, breathing proof that this is a far cry from the truth.

I habitually question facts and beliefs, and it was through that process that the idea of there being a God made less and less sense. How can we have both free will and a pre-determined set of actions that this Almighty being knows will happen? How can we have some unknown entity deciding what is right and what is wrong? Are we as human beings not capable of deciding such things for ourselves? I do realize that most readers of [the Campaign Life Coalition blog] are probably religious and strongly disagree with me on this, but my questioning nature is pertinent to why I became pro-life.

So why pro-life? Why not let women do whatever they want and abort their children if it doesn’t fit in their life? To ask that question is to answer it. There is no right to take the life of those who cannot object. The fetus in the womb is guilty of no crime, so why should they be punished for what someone else did? Most abortions are carried out not because of a medical emergency, but because somebody sees that child as not currently fitting into their life pattern. I almost was one of those victims.

My parents are young. My father was heading off to university when my mother got pregnant. Like many others contemplating abortion, he was thinking solely about his life situation and having a child would not have worked out in his life plans. Like so many other men who were not yet ready to own up and accept responsibility for their actions, he gave my mother two options: abortion or he leaves. It’s obvious which choice she made, but many other women would have taken the opposite position. Of course after finally growing up, he returned, but had my mother chosen to abort, that option would not have been available to him any longer.

Abortion is not solely a women’s issue as many pro-abortion feminists like to make it seem. It takes two to create a life, and men need to be much readier to accept their roles as co-creators of a life with lots of potential. Being pro-choice is taking the easy way out. A real man is going to be there to support the woman he is with, and take care of that child. Many young men are faced with the three scariest words for the unprepared: “Honey, I’m pregnant.” True men of character are going to be there for their future offspring, from conception to death. This is simply the right thing to do and you don’t need a God to tell you that!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

TAKE ACTION: CA Senate to Vote to Allow Non-Doctors to Perform Abortions

The California Senate’s Economic Development Committee intends to vote Tuesday on SB 1338 which, if passed, would allow midwives, nurses, and physician assistants to perform “suction” abortions.

If this bill were to pass, it would lead to a mass expansion of abortion in the state of California. Areas where abortions are not currently performed because they lack an abortionist would be able to perform abortions. Many of the Planned Parenthood clinics that do not perform abortions could begin providing abortions on demand without a doctor on site.

Before being allowed to perform abortions, non-doctors would receive training from the Health Workforce Pilot project. Dana Cody, of the Life Legal Defense Foundation has filed a motion concerning this training which, she shares, is already being done.
"We want to see who's involved in the training. We want to see the accounting," she says. "Is this just more money going to clinics? Because they're certainly not doing the training at U.C.; they're giving it to clinics to do the training. Do these clinics have good records? Are they clean? Are they complying with health codes?"
Midwives to go from delivering
to taking baby's lives?
Not only would this be a mass expansion of abortion, SB 1338 will open the doors for further malpractice suits because of inadequate health standards surrounding abortion practices. Are women being considered first and foremost in this decision? I would beg to differ.

Please call the Senators on the committee today, it only takes a few minutes, and send them the following message:

“Please vote no on SB 1338. Women deserve better than relegating their medical care to subordinate health care workers.”

Senator Curren Price
Los Angeles Phone: (213) 745-6656 Fax: (213) 745-6722
Sacramento Phone: (916) 651-4026 Fax: (916) 445-8899

Senator Bill Emerson
Riverside Phone: (951) 680-6750 Fax: (951) 680-6757
Sacramento Phone: (916) 651-4037 Fax: (916) 327-2187

Senator Tony Strickland
Simi Valley Phone: (805) 306-8886 Fax: (805) 306-8899
Sacramento Phone: (916) 651-4019 Fax: (916) 324-7544

Senator Mark Wyland
San Juan Capistrano Phone: (949) 489-9838 Fax: (949) 489-8354
Sacramento Phone: (916) 651-4038 Fax: (916) 446-7382

Senator Ellen Corbett
San Leandro Phone: (510) 577-2310 Fax: (510) 577-2308
Sacramento Phone: (916) 651-4010 Fax: (916) 327-2433

Senator Lou Correa
Santa Ana Phone: (714) 558-4400 Fax: (714) 558-4111
Sacramento Phone: (916) 651-4034 Fax: (916) 323-2323

Senator Ed Hernandez
West Covina Phone: (626) 430-2499 Fax: (626) 430-2494
Sacramento Phone: (916) 651-4024 Fax: (916) 445-0485

Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod
Montclair Phone: (909) 621-2783 Fax: (909) 621-7483
Sacramento Phone: (916) 651-4032 Fax: (916) 445-0128

Senator Juan Vargas
Chula Vista Phone: (619) 409-7690 Fax: (619) 409-7688
Sacramento Phone: (916) 651-4040 Fax: (916) 327-3522

For the Dignity of the Born and Unborn,


Lessons from History: The Trail of Tears

This is not an explicitly pro-life video, but pro-life advocates certainly can (and should) take lessons from the failures of history.  The take-away point is this: the Trail of Tears was a result of the politically powerful ignoring the constitutional rights of weaker persons.  They knew it was wrong at the time, but their interest in material gain defeated their own consciences.

So it is with many in the abortion industry.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Great news for Texas women

Despite the Obama administration's pseudo-feminist decision to pull women's healthcare funding from Texas, the state is not backing down.  It has found the funds to administer the Women's Health Program (WHP) without federal dollars, thereby allowing WHP to prioritize legitimate clinics over those associated with abortion and continue providing care to low-income women.

In a recent interview, state Medicaid director Billy Milwee explained that the Planned Parenthood funding will cease on May 1st.  Only 3% of WHP-funded clinics are affected by the new rule.  A few women "may have to find a new provider," he said. "We’ll help them do that. But, the services will continue."  The budget for women's health services has already been appropriated, so disruptions should be minimal.

This is a great example of pro-life, pro-woman legislation.  Supporting women's health should not come at the expense of funding prenatal homicide.  Less than two fifths of American women believe that abortion is morally acceptable.  Pro-life women are sick and tired of the abortion lobby co-opting our health for their anti-right-to-life message.

Moral of the story: Don't mess with Texas!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Romney considers pro-life running mates reports that presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is considering several pro-life politicians to be his running mate, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

Although Romney has received a number of pro-life endorsements in the last week, many Americans remain skeptical of the genuineness of Romney's conversion.  Accordingly, I expect that Romney will select a running mate with strong pro-life credentials.  

Students for Life of America asked its members who they would like to see Romney pick for the vice presidential slot.  I'll ask you all the same question.  Some things to consider: Which of the pro-life politicians under consideration would be the best voice for the unborn in the White House? Which would do the best job of uniting pro-lifers of different backgrounds, rather than relying upon a small subset of Catholics and evangelicals? Which is most likely to succeed with the media?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Urgent call to action

The governor of Nebraska has promised to veto LB 199, an important pro-life measure recently passed by the Nebraska legislature.  But we aren't giving up!  The legislature has rescheduled its final session to make a vote on veto override possible.  All it takes is the support of 30 senators.

LB 199 would restore prenatal care funding for low-income families; the funding was cut six years ago.  Anti-immigration groups are opposing the bill because it would fund prenatal care for unborn babies conceived by illegal immigrants.  As if babies have any control over who conceives them!  Opponents argue that the provision of prenatal care will cause Nebraska to become a "magnet" for illegal immigrants.  Supporters of LB 199 point out that there's no evidence of that from the earlier period in which Nebraska funded this care.  Even if it were a legitimate concern, however, it pales in comparison to the concerns over increased abortions, premature births, and pregnancy complications.  As the Endowment for Human Development points out, lifelong health begins in the womb.

Nebraska Right to Life, immigration groups, and anti-poverty groups have formed a coalition to make LB 199 law.  Even if you don't live in Nebraska, please email one or more state senators!  It only takes a minute of your time, and it could have a major impact: the anti-poverty organization Nebraska Appleseed reports that senators supportive of LB 199 are "under a good deal of pressure" from the anti-immigration lobby.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

SPL visits University of San Francisco!

Students for Life is hosting a Secular Pro-Life presentation at the University of San Francisco:

Friday, April 20th
313 Cowell Hall
University of San Francisco

Join us to hear Secular Pro-Life's position and why it's needed in today's pro-life movement.

Update: The presentation went very well.  The students were engaged and inquisitive.  See here for the video.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thank you! a success

Exactly one week ago, we launched  And what a week it's been!  The project got excellent coverage on,, and  As a result, volunteers from all over the country have contacted us about adding their local abortion facilities to the database!

In addition, we're excited to announce that we have started to run advertisements on AdWords.  These advertisements are tied to searches for "abortion information," "safe abortion clinics," and other keywords likely to be used by people who are considering abortion.  The ads are targeted to regions that have a high concentration of troubled abortion centers: Illinois, MississippiPittsburghFort Worth, and Baton Rouge.  These keywords and geographic limits ensure that we spend our money wisely, by reaching those who are most at risk.

Our daily AdWords spending limit is $25.  Please consider sponsoring a day of advertisements with a $25 donation.  Thank you for your generosity.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Arguing Against the Rape Exception

[Today's post is the second in a point-counterpoint debate. See the previous post for an argument in defense of the rape exception.]

Is abortion justified to ease the suffering of a rape victim? Consider the following scenario:

A married woman and her husband make love in hopes of conceiving a child. A few days later she is brutally raped, only to soon discover that she is pregnant. With great difficulty she struggles through the pregnancy, trying to get over the trauma of the rape while hoping that the child she is carrying is the child she and her husband conceived in love.

The child is born. His racial traits makes it obvious that the child she is nursing is the rapist’s offspring and not her husband‘s child. Every time she looks into her son’s eyes she sees her rapist looking back at her and is reminded of the trauma she endured.

Is the woman in this fictitious scenario justified in ending her newborn son’s life in order to erase the ongoing reminder of the rape she endured? Most people would say no. And why? Because hardship doesn’t justify homicide. As a civil society we don’t kill human beings who remind us vividly of a traumatic experience.

That is why it is inconsistent of pro-lifers to make an exception for abortion in cases of rape. If we are pro-life because we believe the testimony of science that life begins at fertilization, then a child conceived in rape is no less a human being. If we will not justify the death of a born child whose father is a rapist and whose presence is causing his mother pain and suffering, then neither ought we justify the death of a younger and less developed child conceived in rape.

Making an exception for rape sends the message that while it is wrong to kill a pre-born human being if a pregnant woman’s struggles involve concerns like financial hardship, family disruption, social isolation and shame, an apparently greater hardship does justify the child’s death. Pro-lifers discredit their claim that abortion is wrong because it kills a human being, when they make allowances for any case other than to save the immediate life of the mother. Hardship does not justify homicide even when that hardship is extremely hard.

Bodily Rights and Unplugging the Violinist

Judith Jarvis Thompson’s Unplugging the Violinist argues in favour of bodily rights, and ever more so when a pregnancy is the result of rape and not the natural consequence of one’s own choices. Thompson argues that a child conceived in rape is like a famous violinist who hooks himself up to a woman’s kidneys without her consent and makes her life miserable for 9 months. A woman is justified in unplugging the violinist from having the support of her body, she argues, because she did not consent to such a bodily sacrifice.

Thomspon’s argument is flawed on several grounds, including the following:

1. Unlike the violinist who is a stranger, a woman’s prenatal offspring is biologically her flesh and blood, even if the father is an evil man. Thompson’s argument assumes the humanity of the unborn and consequently must grant that women have a basic obligation to their human offspring - at least to such a degree that they cause no direct harm and provide basic care for them until such a time as care of an unwanted child can be transferred to another party.

2. A pre-born child is not a rapist, nor is he enslaving the woman for his own gain. Pregnancy is a natural phenomenon in which an innocent bystander is invited into existence by the body’s natural functions. This is a far cry from a violinist maliciously kidnapping a woman and unnaturally attaching himself to her body.

3. An abortion does more than simply deny access to one’s resources. Abortion actively dismembers a human being and kills them. If the pre-born child is indeed a human being, “unplugging” him or her is not a mere passive act of independence and denying of resources, but the active infliction of death.

Death Penalty for the Wrong Party?

Rape is a horrendous and terrible crime and it is wrong because it violates the body of an innocent human being. Rapists should certainly receive the greatest penalty permissible under the law. But if we don’t even give the death penalty to the rapist, why do we justify the death penalty for an equally innocent bystander whose only crime is to have an evil and terrible man for a father?

Rebecca Kiessling’s mother was brutally attacked at knife-point by a serial rapist, and Rebecca was conceived as a result of this rape. Rebecca says:
"Please understand that whenever you identify yourself as being “pro-choice,” or whenever you make that exception for rape, what that really translates into is you being able to stand before me, look me in the eye, and say to me, 'I think your mother should have been able to abort you.' That’s a pretty powerful statement. I would never say anything like that to someone. I would say never to someone, “If I had my way, you’d be dead right now." ...This is the ruthless reality of that position, and I can tell you that it hurts and it’s mean."

Rebecca and others conceived in rape dispel the myth of the rape-child being a horrible monster, and they help put a face to the second victim in a rape resulting in pregnancy.

Does Abortion Help Rape Victims?

A woman’s bodily integrity was violated when she was raped. An abortion will not 'unrape' her or undo the rape in any way, nor is it likely to make her forget that she was raped. Instead, an abortion turns a rape victim into a victimizer. Having been wrongly violated she turns around and destroys the body of an equally innocent party and bystander in the rape.

"I felt that the abortion was like being raped again," said Nicole W. Cooley in her book Into the Light: Rape, Abortion and the Truth that Set Me Free. "Only this time, it was much worse because I had consented to the assault."

David C Reardon interviewed more than 200 women who became pregnant as a result of rape for his book Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault Of those who chose to give birth to their child, nearly all of them felt it was the right thing to do, and many felt that having had something good out of their terrible ordeal helped them to find healing and meaning for what had been done to them. Conversely, more than 80% of those who chose to abort felt that the abortion had only compounded their pain, exposed their bodies to further invasion, and led others to dismiss their need for comfort and support.

"I deeply regret having put my innocent little baby through such torture and painful mutilation, letting her be cut up into pieces while still alive with a beating heart," said Irene van der Wende after she witnessed a video of a 12 week abortion. "Killing an innocent baby is never right, even after rape. Two wrongs don’t make a right. The father harmed me, but I harmed the baby. The baby didn’t do anything wrong. The baby is a third person. I could have grown to love her, or [had] her adopted in a loving family. A baby should not carry the burden of the sin of the parent and be killed for it."

In conclusion, rape is wrong because it violates an innocent human being, and abortion is wrong because it kills an innocent human being. Abortion hurts many women and adds a new trauma and sorrow to their lives and therefore women who become pregnant from rape deserve so much more than the wound of an abortion multiplied unto their current pain. Women who are raped need the utmost care and support, whether or not they are pregnant. In a case of pregnancy, both the woman and her child are equally innocent victims of the rapist, and we have a moral obligation to do everything that we can to help both of them, without taking an innocent life.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Arguing For The Rape Exception

[This post is the first in a point-counterpoint debate.  See the argument against the rape exception here.]

Art by R. Young

According to Gallup, 59% of self-described pro-lifers believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape.  This is a higher percentage than I expected.  Anecdotally, it seems most pro-lifers I interact with believe there should be no rape exception.  I’m glad to see that’s not the case, and that most pro-lifers share my view that restrictive abortion laws should have a rape exception.

In order to understand the following post, it would be helpful to first read this.

I consider bodily integrity the strongest pro-choice argument.  Our society does not accept an infringement on bodily integrity in most circumstances, including when another person’s life is in danger. We don’t, for example, require all citizens to be organ donors, despite patients dying while waiting for transplants.  I sometimes feel my fellow pro-lifers too easily dismiss this very serious consideration when discussing abortion.

Because of issues of consent and responsibility, I do not find the bodily integrity argument sufficient to justify most elective abortions.  However, in cases of rape, issues of consent and responsibility do not apply.  A rape victim does not consent to risking conception, and she does not cause the fetus’s dependent state. If abortion were illegal even in cases of rape, women in these situations truly would lose their bodily autonomy.

Rape cases are properly analogous to Thomson’s violinist: if you are kidnapped and your circulatory system is connected to a very sick man, you should have the right to disconnect. This does not mean the violinist is not human. This does not mean the violinist is not a person.  This does not mean the violinist is of less moral worth than other people.  It means the responsibility for another’s life shouldn’t be forced upon you in a situation you had no control over, especially when it requires giving of your own body.

It is important here to make a distinction between what ought to be legal and what is moral.  The Court recognized this moral/legal distinction in the case of Shimp v. McFall.  The Court described Shimp’s refusal to donate life-saving bone marrow as “morally indefensible,” but still ruled that Shimp cannot be compelled to donate.  Morally, I would hope you’d stay connected to the violinist for the nine months of his recuperation.  Morally, I hope a woman who has been raped will still choose life.  Legally, though, these heroic actions should not be mandatory.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Jezebel recently posted an article entitled "This Is How Much It Costs to Own a Vagina: An Itemized List."  The main point is that hormonal contraception is just one of many female-specific costs; all those tampons, shaving items, and Midol packs add up.  This is certainly true, although not really news to me as a woman.  (Men, I'd be interested in getting the costs of your prostate exams, deluxe razors, etc. so we can make a comparison.)

And then Jezebel moved on to the "variable costs."

Okay, class: what's missing?

Oh yeah-- prenatal care and childbirth expenses!  Those are much more expensive than an abortion (unless you qualify for Medicaid or receive services from a pro-life charity).  Why isn't Jezebel concerned about that as an issue of reproductive maintenance?

I'm sure that it simply never occurred to them.  They are deep in the world of "pro-choice" activism, where choices other than abortion quickly disappear into the abyss.

Justice in the Face of Unknowing

[Today's post is by Aimee Bedoy and Steven Oetjen.  It is a shortened version of an article that originally appeared in the Life Matters Journal.]

            A quandary of major proportions faces our nation in this day and age. It could be a matter of life and death for countless persons – we cannot truly be sure. This post seeks to examine abortion through the lens of Constitutional law, science, and justice.

The U.S. Constitution, Justice, Personhood and Abortion Law
Abortion & Present Constitutional Law
         As law currently stands within the United States, the ability to procure an abortion is a constitutional right, which should not be impeded by an “undue burden.” In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court disseminated a decision which stated as law that “the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State”[1] is a result of Roe’s “essential holding” of the right to abortion. According to this statement, provided that new State laws which may place restrictions on the abortion procedure did not provide an “undue interference from the State,” they would be constitutional.
            The existing allocation of constitutional rights according to judicial decisions regards the woman’s right to choose abortion as “central to personal dignity and autonomy”, and views it as a matter of "the highest privacy and the most personal nature.”[2]  However, the Supreme Court also claimed in Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, Inc. that “the State possesses compelling interests in the protection of potential human life . . . throughout pregnancy.”[3] Constitutionally, we are asked to draw the line between the value of potential human life and the value of a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy.

The Constitution & Societal Pressures and Mores
The Court in Roe v. Wade made a claim to ignorance as regards fetal life, and weighed historical belief against the not entirely fully formed beliefs of various modern groups.[4] In this case, our Constitution was interpreted to be a relative compass defined by popular voice, and utilitarian meter based on assigned cultural value. This is not the foundation of the U.S. Constitution -- contrariwise, it is to represent a moral, objective justice that may be unpopular (i.e. banning slavery through the 13th Amendment), but claims truth and righteousness as federal mandate. Yet in the cases of Roe v. Wade and PP v. Casey, the decisions of the courts could not claim to be “grounded truly in principle, not as compromises with social and political pressures having, as such, no bearing on the principled choices that the Court is obliged to make.”[5] The laws that states can use to restrict abortion may not place an “undue burden”[6] on women – however, there is no measure for what consists of an “undue burden” and this policy may deem void those laws which may significantly decrease the amount of abortions, for any reason. These decisions were based on contemporary and societal persuasion, and were given the power of law that easily condone and encourage abortion.
         If truth and morality are claimed as part of the Constitutional mandate, what may have been voted on state by state has become a matter of national importance through Roe v. Wade. Though states may attack the Roe decision and the right to abortion little by little through State impositions, “Roe's mandate for abortion on demand... rendered compromise impossible for the future, and required the entire issue to be resolved uniformly, at the national level.”[7] States may be allowed to add restrictions through political law, but given that the right to abortion was made federally and not locally, the debate has become one of absolutes. But the only real absolute truth in the matter is that which is outlined in the Constitution: the responsibility of the federal government is to protect the life, liberty, and property of all persons. If the government is to protect these rights of persons, there must be a definition of personhood.
Constitutional Law & Personhood
         In reality, according to the U.S. Constitution, “personhood” has yet to be defined according to any specific factors. Citizenship is granted to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” but no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law (emphasis added).”[8] Citizen and person seem to be two different ideas. Though many rights are afforded and protected by the U.S. Government to all persons based on the Constitution, personhood is not defined by age, place, gender, or race; neither is it articulated by development, dependency, sexual orientation, creed, nor size.
         In order to more clearly delineate who is afforded all of the rights granted to persons, and therefore have a totally just Constitutional law on abortion, we as a nation must define personhood. Some specific interpretation must be done that would define this concept according to a great number of categories. This process must be undertaken at a national level; if different states define personhood differently, we may very well be violating the rights of true persons while defining them as “others” in an attempt to negate their personhood. This would be a great injustice.

Justice & Abortion Law
         Justice can be divided into natural rights and positive rights. Natural rights are those which are due to persons by their very nature, such as life and liberty. Positive rights are those which are granted to individuals based on agreement or consent. A legislature can formulate positive rights by agreement, and these have their place so long as they do not violate natural rights. Thus, different states can justly make different laws as long as none of the laws allow the violation of natural rights.
         Regarding abortion, the positive right guaranteed by the Constitution is the right to privacy. Different laws can exist justly in different states as long as they protect this right to privacy without violating any natural rights. States are free to regulate privacy in abortion in different ways, as is fitting for different regions. If a state law preserves the positive right of privacy in such a way that it fails to protect a natural right, however, it is unjust. The agreement of a legislature cannot make such a law truly just.
         The justice of an action considers not only the relation to its agent, but also to others affected. The justice of abortion laws is not only dependent on the privacy of the woman involved in the abortion, but also on the natural rights of other persons. Harm against any other person’s natural rights is an injustice that a positive right cannot justly supersede.

Personhood as a Binary Condition
Personhood is a binary condition: either you are a person or you are not a person. While no claim is being made here to know whether the unborn are truly persons, if justice, personhood, and Constitutional law are to be viewed through another lens, consider the case of historical slavery laws in our own country.
According to the Constitution as it was first written, the unjust policy both allowing slavery and acknowledging slaves as “three fifths” of a person degraded the worth of particular human beings based on their enslaved status and likely based on the color of their skin. It allowed for slavery, prevented them from voting, and denied them any rights to autonomy or property. In Scott v. Sanford, members of the African race “were not numbered among its ‘people or citizens.’”[9] This we eventually and painfully discovered to be unjust and accordingly outlawed slavery and assumed to protect the rights of all persons.
However, the law is not what made these individuals persons: they were persons before they were granted freedom and rights. Though the law allowed for a devastating degradation of the African race because they were not popularly viewed as persons, whether or not a being is popularly viewed as a person is not truly indicative of whether or not it is a person. Further we see that we must be careful when proclaiming personhood, so that we may never again perpetrate such an evil against justice as was done in the case of slavery.

Science, Ethical Frameworks & Abortion Policy
Science as Objective Information
         In our modern day world dominated by scientific reasoning and advanced technology, so often our society views science as an objective meter for what is or can be reasonably theorized to be. While it is true that advancing science increasingly shows us the scientific truth of situations, the results of the evidence presented are always viewed through the eyes of politics or our existing ethical frameworks. Thus, though science is often thought to be an infallible entity, it is constantly changing, and is consistently influenced by external forces.

Science Within an Ethical Framework
         Our ethics are preconceptualizations of norms and practical applications. These frameworks are determined and set and we make moral decisions based on the complex systems we create for ourselves. Science can only inform these frameworks, it cannot define them.
         The problem with relative ethical frameworks then lies in the fact that manifold different moralities are held within the United States, and our justice system tells us that outlining one particular system of morality (based on religion, claims to truth, etc.) would be wrong – we must allow for liberty in all cases except where one person’s liberty infringes upon the life, liberty, or property of another. This question again leads us back to the idea of personhood: if our morality cannot define personhood due to the pluarlity of belief, can science dictate it for us?

Science & Personhood
         Due to the fact that science can only inform ethics and cannot define it, we cannot use science to define personhood. Only a set of ethics can delineate how science will be used to create policy. The personhood of a being is not a scientific question. Science can only answer the queries we place before it, like, “personhood is defined by a heartbeat, when does a heartbeat start?”, or “personhood is defined by brainwaves, when do brainwaves start?”, or perhaps “personhood is defined by humanity, when does the being become human?” As you can see, science can answer these questions, but our morality is not defined by the scientific evidence placed before us; rather, it is based entirely on the morals which we already base our lives on.[10]

            If we intend, as a nation, to stand for justice for the rights of all persons, we cannot do so if we do not first define who persons are. Justice asks us according to no particular framework, “who is a person?” Though some laws protects human beings after 20 weeks gestation, we cannot know whether this human being is a person or not. Using our best judgment and not using ignorance as an excuse, we as a nation are compelled to protect human development from the beginning since we cannot know whether personhood is existent from conception, quickening, pain-capability, birth, or even later. We are not capable of knowing.
            But because we do not know does not give us the right to terminate the life of a being for whom we cannot determine personhood status. The act of injustice that would be present to hurt a human person, much less to kill a human person is one which we must do everything to protect against. There are laws that makes great strides against the claim to ignorance that Roe utilized to create the right to abortion: but they are not complete. Ignorance provides a veil of inculpability for those perpetrators of injustice to hide behind, but it does not change the fact that “an unjust law is no law at all.”[11] And if we cannot know, we must, for justice’s sake, err on the side of caution.

            The role of science in the issue is in informing the pre-existing ethical frameworks on abortion; while according to our judicial system no particular ethical framework can be made law of the land based on its claim to truth. Scientific observations confirm that a fetus feels pain 20 weeks after conception, that brainwaves can be detected at about the sixth week after conception, and that the beginning of a human being’s development is at the moment of conception. Scientific observations, however, make no claim for the exact moment human personhood begins, only that it could reasonably begin as soon as conception. To deprive a person from life without due process is unjust and unconstitutional[12]. The exact moment that personhood begins for a human fetus is not known, but ignorance does not excuse injustice. Therefore, the life of a human should be protected by law if there is a reasonable possibility of personhood -- we must be willing to protect potential human life in the case when we cannot know whether any being is truly a person – to uphold justice in the face of unknowing.
[1]PP v. casey (1992)
[2]PP v. casey (1992)
[3]Akron v. Akron (1983)
[4]Roe v. Wade (1973)
[5]PP v. Casey (1992) dissent
[6] PP v. Casey
[7]PP v. Casey (1992) dissent
[8]Amendment 14
[9]Scott v. Sanford
[10] Scott F. Gilbert, “Chapter 29: When Does Human Life Begin?”, from Developmental Biology 8e Online,
[11] Augustine of Hippo, unknown source
[12] Amendment 14