Friday, June 29, 2012

I Award You No Points.

So apparently there's this podcast called Ask an Atheist (AaA) that asked their listeners to provide non-religious reasons to oppose abortion.  On June 17th, AaA discussed these responses and other abortion-related topics during their show entitled "The Other A-word."  

Listen to the full show (or download it) here.  Please note: the online audio clip displays the time remaining in the show.  All time stamps below are the time that has past in the show, based on the downloaded audio clip.

“Like, so, a dog barf slime mold is precious?”

During the first segment of the show, hosts Sam, Bob, and Eileen consider abortion from a "sort of medical point of view and a morality point of view" (0:57).  Emphasis on "sort of."  They quote from listener-submitted emails:
  • "Address the question of when a fetus goes from something that is not a person to something that is" (1:11),
  • "When two adults engage in consensual sex they are aware that a pregnancy could result from the encounter" (4:28),
  • "As a humanist I believe strongly that every life is inherently precious and equally deserving of the right to life" (5:34),
  • "From a biological standpoint, every egg and sperm combination is unique" (6:27),
  • "As a humanist I believe that the more fragile a life is, the more it needs protection" (9:06); and
  • "From a biological standpoint, every embryo is a growing entity with the potential to become a viable life" (10:45).
Perhaps because I am pro-life, it is clear to me that most of these queries are in reference to human organisms.  Apparently this was not clear to our hosts, who managed to joke about the skin cells scratched off their arms screaming "help me, help me!" as they die (1:55), discuss whether "dog barf slime mold" is precious (5:40), point out that the single-celled germs we kill with hand cleansers aren't people (6:11), and laugh about how asparagus is fragile (10:01).  They all heartily agree that "the twinkle in Dad's eye--I'm sorry, that's just not a baby" (4:19).  I guess now that I know mold, asparagus, and twinkles aren't people, I can be pro-choice.  I'm glad someone finally cleared that up.

To be fair, they don't spend the entire time attacking strawmen.  They do discuss the zygote too.  While there is an offhand acquiescence to the idea that the zygote is "a human" (2:57), the hosts repeatedly assert that it is not "a person":
  • "The point is that green is not blue" (1:24), 
  • "A group of cells--whether they be a single cell organism, two cells, three cells, four cells--is not a person" (2:23), 
  • "Most people who don't have a very specific dog in this fight wouldn't say that it begins on day zero, as you put it. They'd say it begins sometime after day zero" (3:48),
  • "Single cells, everyone agrees, just not a big deal. This idea that the potential is the same thing as person just collapses when you think about it" (6:03). 
Unfortunately, they never quite get to the part where they define the significant moral distinction between, to use their analogy, blue and green (a newborn and a zygote).  They offer their repeated assertion, but no rationale, no basis--no argument.  Apparently the medical, moral standpoint boils down to "nuh-uh!"

“We cannot have abortion because that ‘unique little soul’ would go away!”

Aside: I am a big supporter of Secular Pro-Life because I want people to have frank, useful conversations about abortion.  Quoting Bible verses to people who don’t believe in the Bible is not useful.  There’s a flip side to that coin, though: rejecting pro-life claims because you don’t believe in a soul does nothing for pro-lifers who also don’t believe in a soul.  Pro-choicers think religion should be irrelevant to the abortion debate?  We do too!  So why do some pro-choicers continue to discuss religion even when no one else has brought it up?

One listener emailed in saying, “from a biological standpoint, every embryo is a growing entity with the potential to become a viable life" (10:45).  Bob’s response? (11:04) 
Yeah, potential—what just drives me nuts about this Quiverfull the idea ‘We’re going to let God decide how many children we’re going to have.’  Which is, from my standpoint, the same thing as ‘I’m going to drink a big bottle of poison.  I’m going to let God decide if I die or not.’
Why is Bob talking about the Quiverfull movement and God?  Acknowledging the biological reality of the embryo does not somehow imply a religious value that everyone should get pregnant as often as possible, anymore than saying a 3-year-old is a human being implies that everyone should have lots of toddlers.  If AaA wants non-religious arguments against abortion, perhaps they shouldn’t assign religious meaning where none was provided.

This disconnect arises again with Mike, Deanna, and Libbie, the next set of hosts. Mike poses an amazingly loaded (they prefer the term "open") question (21:54): 
Can you find a rational, justified argument for making abortion illegal that doesn’t, when you dig down deep under all the equivocations, under all the bad science, under all the red herrings, that you won’t find religious ideology at the bottom of it? 
Shockingly, Mike's fellow pro-choicers can't think of a non-religious reason to oppose abortion.  Deanna claims pro-life arguments come down to claiming "the potential baby is a special, unique creature endowed with a soul at the moment of conception by their god" (22:35).  She goes on to assert "when you look at the science that opposes that you're still not looking at a unique, special, magical, souled creature" (22:52).  

Deanna is right.  Science does not support anything "magical" or "souled."  If you take those superfluous adjectives out, though, science actually does support the "unique creature" narrative.  Unique DNA from the moment of conception, guys.  The hosts earlier in the show already acknowledged this point (6:32).

“It’s not about abortion. It’s about making more little Christians.”

The biggest religious red herring—by far—comes from Libbie.  According to Libbie, pro-lifers don't oppose abortion due to an actual problem with abortion.  Instead (28:14): 
What they care about, what's really at stake here for them, is the gradual decline in numbers of members of their religion. 
This is what I think. I’m not a scientist okay? I’m not like a social scientist, whatever.  This is just my opinion about the situation.  But I think that the need to reproduce, to have as many babies as possible in any given family, is a feature that is built into religions that long-term exist, like I said a little bit earlier. And I think it’s kind of a three-pronged approach of how this happens, how this is actually built into the meme of religion. 
Number One: The best way to keep a woman uneducated is for her to have children young. If she’s too busy raising kids she’s not going to go to school, she’s not going to educate herself, she’s probably not even going to have time to think too much about politics or anything like that.  She’s going to be too busy running around taking care of kids forever because she’s going to be barefoot and pregnant for most of her life! 
Number Two: An uneducated person is far more likely to be religious than nonreligious.  I think a few different studies have shown, including, I believe, Darrel Ray's, that as a person’s level of education increases their tendency to become less religious also increases.  So the more uneducated a person is, the more likely they are to cling to a religion. 
And Number Three: The more religious a mother is, the more likely she is to raise her children religious. 
So therefore you keep a woman uneducated, pregnant and having babies, she’s going to raise up religious babies.  And that just keeps the religion going, and I think that’s what these people are really afraid of, whether it’s conscious or not, whether they realize this or not.  This is so much a part of religion, that I think these people are really fearful of a loss of their culture, a loss of their religion, and that’s what they’re really fighting against.  It’s not about abortion, it’s about making more little Christians.
I felt this amazing mischaracterization of the pro-life position deserved a very specific reply: 

Of course, later the hosts go on to talk about how pro-lifers just want to guilt and shame people into not having or enjoying sex (32:41, 33:52, 35:16) (which, by the way, is apparently another tactic to ensure people are trapped in religion (35:31)).  I'm not clear on how pro-lifers can simultaneously want everyone to procreate as much as possible and also want to stop people from having sex, but whatever.  It seems any theories of pro-life motivation, however internally inconsistent, are acceptable, as long as those theories have nothing to do with, you know, the fact that abortion kills fetuses.  The entire podcast tended to avoid that small detail.

We Are Here.

There’s no denying that the pro-life movement is strongly correlated with religiosity, particularly forms of Christianity.  In that light, it is somewhat understandable that AaA puts forth so much energy rebutting Christian-specific assertions.  It would be a lot more understandable, though, if they hadn’t asked for and quoted non-religious anti-abortion arguments throughout the show.  As it stands, they side-stepped the non-religious points, and opted to focus on religion anyway. 

Religion gives abortion advocates a cop-out.  They can allege religious misogyny and ignore the historical anti-abortion stances of prominent feminists.  They can claim puritanical views on sex and avoid the level of fetal development at the time of most abortions. They can talk all day about how there’s no proof of a soul and skip the part where there’s plenty of proof of a new human life.

This is exactly why I devote my pro-life activism to Secular Pro-Life.  Perhaps if more people recognized the religious-free arguments against abortion, we could stop having the same sideshow conversations.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Court Decision: Open Door for Free Abortion

This morning the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Obama’s Healthcare law, much to the dismay of pro-life advocates across the country, came as a shock. Setting aside whether or not we are in favor of the Obama administration’s healthcare reform legislation, this healthcare mandate is the largest abortion expansion since Roe v. Wade.

President Obama has opened the doors to federally funded abortion, and other so called “preventive services” that go against the conscience of millions of Americans. There is a false belief that the Hyde Amendment will prohibit federal funds from paying for abortion. Unfortunately, the reality is that American’s will be forced pay into insurance programs that will provide elective abortions.

As a taxpayer, and a woman, I say we should not be forced to pay for elective abortions, nor should we treat women’s bodies as if they are deficient and need free fixing. Under President Obama’s healthcare law, with no copayment, women will receive such life destroying services, while those who are in need of other truly vital medical assistance for non reproductive reasons will not always receive the same free care; many true health care procedures will not be covered even with a co-payment.

We will not be silent as we are forced to participate in the destruction of human life and as women’s bodies are treated as deficient objects. Stand for freedom and the protection of our Constitutional rights before it is too late.

For the Dignity of the Born and Unborn,


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We are here.

Since SPL's presence at the American Atheists Convention, we have had multiple people accuse us of being a secretly religious/Christian group, and insist that there is no such thing as a non-religious pro-lifer.

According to this recent Gallup report, 19% of atheists, agnostics, and those with no religious preference identify as "pro-life." While Gallup's findings confirm a trend we already knew (there is a strong correlation between religiosity and pro-life views) it also confirms what we've been saying all along:

"We are here! We are here! WE ARE HERE!"

By Gallup's stats, 1 out of every 5 non-religious people considers themselves pro-life.  A minority, to be sure, but certainly not non-existent.  Over 34 million American adults identify as atheist, agnostic, or no religion; that means roughly 6.5 million non-religious pro-lifers.  

Secular Pro-Life is glad to create a space for this demographic.  Consider sharing our publications and FB page, and help spread the word today!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Her Story: Letting Go...

[Guest blogger EN shares the 2nd part of her story: the years after giving up her daughter for adoption.  See the first part of EN's story here.]

Six years ago, I made a choice that changed my life forever.  I chose life for my baby girl.  I also chose to place her for adoption.  I found loving, wonderful parents for her, carried her, gave birth to her, and let her go.

In the six years since her birth, I have made peace with my decision.  It has been a road filled with ups and downs, but, at the end of the day, I know I did the right thing by her.

The day of her birth:

Giving birth to a baby that you know you are not taking home is heartbreaking, to say the least.  You feel all the physical pain and realize you are doing this for another woman.  I felt a little resentment toward Kylie's mom at this point.  I went through all of this, 9 months of pregnancy, 13 hours of searing pain, and a C-section: all for another woman?  In the time since that day, I realized that, yes, I did go through all of that for another woman, but more importantly, I went through it to give life to my baby.  It wasn't easy, but it will always be worth it, and knowing what I know now, I would do it again.

My hospital stay:

Knowing that my baby was in the same building but not in the same room was hard.  Knowing that she was not going home with me was insanely painful.  Knowing there was a woman holding her, overjoyed to be her mom, made me mad.  My emotions were all over the map.  I was proud of what I had done, but jealous of the woman who would be her mom.  I was wavering... I wanted to keep her.  Over the course of my three days in the hospital, I was not 100% sure I would be giving her up.  It wasn't until my last day, when Kylie's mom came in and told me how complete she felt, how content and grateful she was, that I knew Kylie was where she was meant to be.

Signing away my parental rights:

Ten days after Kylie was born, I went to the courthouse to sign the paperwork that would allow her parents to adopt her.  I was signing the paperwork that would make placing her with her new parents legally binding.  By now, I was much more at peace with my decision; this day brought a sort of closure to the process. Kylie and her mom and dad were not there, at my request.  We didn't meet again after I was released from the hospital until the day they left.  I needed this time to reflect on and make peace with my choice.

Saying good bye:

Two weeks after her birth, Kylie left for her new New York home with her new parents.  I had an afternoon with them to say goodbye before their flight home.  It was at this point that it really sank in that I was doing the right thing.  Kylie's mom looked like a new mom.  She was glowing.  Kylie's dad was loving and attentive.  Kylie was their baby girl now.  I would always hold her in my heart, but she would never know me as her mom.  I was beginning to feel okay with that.  We took a ton of pictures and knew that we would be in touch soon.  I held her one last time, and whispered in her ear, "Good bye for now peanut."  They got in the car and left.  That was it.  She was gone.  It was time for me to get on with my life.

Moving on:

The first year after placing her was most definitely the hardest.  I missed her so much.  I wondered what she looked like, what her favorite toy was, had she cut her first tooth yet?  But then, about a week before her first birthday, I got a phone call.  It was Kylie's mom letting me know that I was to watch for a package in the mail.  And then it came!  A TON of pictures, a letter, and a necklace with 4 hearts on it.  All the questions I had were answered.  She had my eyes!  She was happy and loved.  I was told that her mom had the same necklace.  One heart for each of us.  I wear it to this day to remember the bond we all share.

In the six years that have passed since her birth, I have gotten my package of pictures every year like clockwork.  She is beautiful, healthy, and best of all, happy and well-adjusted.  She has parents who love her, and calls me her "tummy mommy."  We haven't met yet.  I think that will come one day, but for now, I am content to know she is happy and enjoying her life.  She knows as much of her story as a 6-year-old should.  She knows who I am and will always know that I love her.

Any regrets?

No.  I feel that I did what I was meant to do.  Yes, of course, I miss her.  I love her, and wish that I could have kept her, but that was not in the cards for us.  She is where she belongs with a mom and dad who love her.  This journey changed me for the better.  I learned how to love someone enough to let them go.  I am a better mom to the three kids I already have.  I am a more loving person.  Choosing life for Kylie and then giving her the best possible chance at living it to it's fullest was my contribution to her life, and for me, at this point in my life, I know that's enough.

Monday, June 25, 2012

No Abortion Clinics in Mississippi?

Hinds County: location of the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mississippi  may be the first state to have zero abortion clinics.
Beginning July 1, all abortion-clinic physicians must have admitting privileges at a local hospital under a law passed by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by Republican Governor Phil Bryant in April. At the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s sole remaining clinic providing elective abortions, none of the three physicians who perform the procedure has been granted those privileges.
The article discusses how a majority of abortive Mississippi women already go out-of-state for their abortions.  For the women who get their abortions in Mississippi:
...the majority went to women who were nonwhite, unmarried, had a high-school degree or less and already had children, according to Health Department statistics.
Notice it doesn't say "or already had children."  It says and.  The majority already have children and have a high school degree or less. 

I used to be more interested in the legal battles of the abortion debate, but the longer I go the more I feel the pro-life movement needs more victories over hearts and minds before the legal victories will really be helpful.  Apparently the pro-life activist interviewed for this article felt similarly:
Doug Hiser, a 54-year-old retired engineer from the Jackson area, stood outside in 90-plus-degree heat trying to talk to people heading inside. Ironically, he said, were the clinic to close, it may hurt the local anti-abortion movement more than it does the abortion rate.
“It’ll almost squash the pro-life movement, because we don’t have a place to focus,” said Hiser. “It actually prevents us from being able to do counseling.”
Doug Hiser appears to be less concerned about making abortion inaccessible and more concerned about being able to talk to abortive-minded women about their situations.

What do you think?  Is it more important to change minds or change laws?  Obviously we want to do both, but which strategy takes precedence, and why?

Friday, June 22, 2012

No one wants to give that impression.

Interesting piece by pro-choice author Jeannie explaining why mandated transvaginal ultrasounds should not be likened to rape.  I don't agree with her on every count--for example I don't see how anti-abortion folks are to blame for imagery purported by abortion rights activists--but I still think her overall message is valid, particularly her 3rd point.
Arguments that metaphorize—that symbolically associate—the ultrasounds to rape are dangerous in three ways. First, they demonize healthcare providers. This, I am sure, is a planned effect of the anti-abortion politicians’ strategy. Just days after the Virginia governor refused to sign the transvaginal ultrasound law, a prominent anti-abortion website ran a story about the percentage of abortion clinics that use transvaginal ultrasounds, suggesting that these providers are, indeed, rapists. I believe we have played right into their hands.

Second, the association of transvaginal ultrasound to rape serves to demoralize women who have these ultrasounds. Imagine that you are a pregnant woman in Virginia, at your doctor’s office (for either an abortion or prenatal care). Your doctor says to you, “Your abdominal ultrasound is inconclusive. We’re going to try a transvaginal ultrasound to see if we can get a better picture, OK?” You’ve heard the words “invasive” and “shove” and “rape” used to describe this procedure by everyone from the left to the right. How are you going to react, at this already-emotional moment? Are you going to think, my doctor is doing the best she can for me right now? I don’t think so. I think you will be scared and angry and possibly too overwhelmed to know what to say. This, too, is part of the anti-abortion politicians’ strategy: all women should be ashamed and afraid, unable to make our own decisions.

Third, the metaphorization of transvaginal ultrasound to rape euphemizes, or makes less awful, rape in a way that I personally find offensive. Seriously, I don't know anyone who describes her rape experience as clinical in any way—and that's the inverted implication of the metaphor. We must be very careful, when we make our arguments, that we do not invoke a message that hurts other women, even inadvertently. Now, I know that no feminist who has made this argument has intended to promote a message that rape is not so traumatic, but isn’t that where the argument ultimately goes? This metaphor says to women who have experienced rape, “Your experience is really no worse than what happens to other women at the doctor’s office.” I know no one wants to give that impression to anyone.
(Emphasis added.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"The only good abortion is my abortion."

Maggie Koerth-Baker describes a heartbreaking situation in which the fetus she tried desperately to conceive has a chromosomal abnormality and is going to die.  Maggie considers whether or not to have an abortion, as opposed to waiting around to miscarry.  She points out that many people who are against abortion in general are less likely to be against abortion in her particular circumstances, and suggests this is because her abortion is not considered elective.

However, as Maggie explains in some detail, her abortion actually is elective--she has options to weigh and a choice to make. Maggie concludes,
Let me be clear. I have options. It’s just that they all suck. That’s kind of how bad news related to pregnancy works...There is no universal good option. There is no universal bad option. But for each individual there is an option that is the least bad. Here is why I am pro-choice. If someone has to make a decision and the best they can hope for is the least-bad option, I don’t believe I have any business making that choice for them.
My abortion is not a good abortion. It's just an abortion. And there's no reason to treat the decision I have to make any differently than the decisions made by any other woman.
But, like many pro-choicers, Maggie's thought process omits a crucial part of the equation: the life of the fetus.

Maggie's abortion isn't a "good" abortion because it's "not elective."  Maggie's abortion is seen differently because the fetus is going to die in either case.  Continuing the pregnancy would protect no one; it would just prolong emotionally painful circumstances and delay the inevitable.  This is, of course, in sharp contrast to most abortions, which are performed on healthy fetuses that would otherwise live.

I can understand how a woman with an unwanted pregnancy would feel all of her options suck.  But the only way to evaluate all options as having equal suckage is to consider how the options affect the woman alone.  Once the options are considered in light of how they affect the fetus as well, we see there actually are some slight differences between the options.  Say, for example, life and death.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's their fetus to tweak.

Once again, the topic of "justifiable reasons for abortion" is at the forefront of the abortion debate. Recently, the New York Times published an article hailing a breakthrough in genome sequencing of human fetuses using the parents' DNA only.

This method makes it easier for parents to detect genetic diseases prenatally. As the article points out, this is likely to increase abortions for a wide variety of reasons, some of which are seen as less ethical than others:
But the ability to know so much about an unborn child is likely to raise serious ethical considerations as well. It could increase abortions for reasons that have little to do with medical issues and more to do with parental preferences for traits in children.
This completely noninvasive procedure could become widely available at a reasonable price in three to five years. However, 
“There are some scenarios that are extremely troubling,” said Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a public interest group in Berkeley, Calif. The tests will spur questions on “who deserves to be born,” she said."
Interesting that Darnovsky phrases it that way: who deserves to be born. Doesn't this insinuate that she sees the fetus as a person already?
Use of the approach could lead to an increase in abortions because some parents might terminate the pregnancy if the fetus was found to have a genetic disease. But it is also possible that parents may be tempted to terminate if the fetus lacked a favorable trait like athletic prowess.
If one is pro-choice, why is this being cast a bad thing? Is it not their choice to make, their pros and cons to weigh, and their fetus to tweak? I find it interesting that the politically correct position seems to be to condone abortion if the fetus has a medical problem, but shy away from the idea of customizing a fetus or aborting if the fetus is not up-to-standard in looks, physical prowess, or personality.

As I've asked before, if one is pro-choice, what difference does the motivation for an abortion make, so long as the decision is voluntary? If anything, pro-choicers should be celebrating the increase in available choices.

The contradictory nature of pro-choicers aside, this new technology may reveal the humanity of the preborn in a more concrete way to people who still think of it as a "clump of cells." Hopefully people will also further investigate the reason behind their unease at the thought of the-fittest-survive (or by our hand be killed). This is, after all, what the pro-choice mentality allows: abortion as contraception, and, increasingly, as part of a human screening method. 

It is my hope that trends in polls showing more people identifying as pro-life are a result of more widespread information and advancing technology which reveals the humanity of the unborn. Hopefully this genome sequencing will lead us further down that road, and not to a place where we no longer shudder (even if we aren't sure why just yet) at the thought of aborting because the fetus won't be a natural blonde.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Feminist, Pro-Life, and Atheist

Wonderful exploration by Kathryn Reed:
I decided when I was thirteen that I was both an atheist and prolife. I became an atheist because I had no belief in a spiritual reality. I became prolife because my biology class taught a section about the development of the human embryo and fetus. I saw a human life as beginning at conception and stretching in one continuum until the death of that being. I saw that the inclusion of a child into society after birth (but not before) was nothing but a human convention.
Reed describes why an atheist, who has no belief in divine purpose or meaning, may find human life worth defending:
Possibly, the root of my reaction against abortion is one of self-interest and of self-identification. Aren't there many in this world who see me as less than human because I am a woman? Aren't there people who would deem me to be politically, socially, or ideologically "degenerate" and "undesirable" because of my atheism, bisexuality, desire not to be a mother, pacifism, or other personal characteristics? How can I demand my inclusion in humanity and yet deny humanity to another? What kind of gamble would I be taking if I allowed a dehumanizing custom to persist in my society without questioning it?
There are many other interesting passages, including her thoughts on human relationships versus abstract principle, the best ways to let ideas grow, how women she's known have been affected by unplanned pregnancies, and how those effects get overshadowed by the abortion debate.  Reed also considers the most effective (and ideal) ways to end abortion, naming off many methods of further empowering women so they would feel less inclined to abort in the first place.  Feel encouraged to read the entire piece.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A market in fetal organs?

[Today's post is written by Jameson Graber, originally posted on his blog, "I think, therefore I blog." Post reprinted with permission.] 

Here's a story that escaped me until just today:
Professor Richard Gardner of Oxford University, a renowned expert on human reproduction and an advisor to Britain's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, recently raised the prospect of using organs from aborted fetuses for transplantation into adults. This possibility offers the potential to save or improve the lives of the hundreds of thousands of patients in desperate need of such organs throughout the world, especially the more than 70,000 in the United States waiting for kidneys.

The date of this story is 2009. I suspect this idea has been floating around for much longer than that.  

Pregnancy is, essentially, a way to produce an endless supply of organs to be given to those in need:
The first striking of fetal organs is that their supply, for all practical purposes, is unlimited. Unlike living kidney donors, who must then advance through life with only one functioning kidney, pregnant women who provide fetal kidneys could do so repeatedly without incurring the medical consequences of adult organ loss. When overseen by properly-trained physicians, abortion is an extremely safe procedure -- even safer than delivering an infant at term. Since far more women have legal abortions each year in the United States than would be required to clear organ wait-lists, if only a small percentage of those women could be persuaded to carry their fetuses to the necessary point of development for transplantation, society might realize significant public health benefits. The government could even step into the marketplace itself to purchase fetal organs for patients on Medicare and Medicaid, ensuring that low-income individuals had equal access to such organs while keeping the "asking price" elevated. [emphasis added]

It's for the greater good, after all. And really, if we didn't have to deal with those clumsy, traditional wombs, we could just have little human farms all of over the place, giving us literally infinite access to replacement body parts:
Someday, if we are fortunate, scientific research may make possible farms of artificial "wombs" breeding fetuses for their organs...

All of this technology promises us the gift of long life, of reduced pain and discomfort, of increased health and "well-being." The more we come to measure the value of life in terms of these things, the more we cheapen the inherent value of life. That is, we view human beings as means to an end, presumably our ends, but more likely ends which have been suggested to us by the amazing force of cultural cohesion and advertising.

Don't you want to live longer? Well do we have an offer for you!

Just make sure you understand what these guys are selling.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

The Economist reports on the studies conducted by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist investigating correlations between parenting and life satisfaction.
[Dr. Lyubomirsky] found that, regardless of the year the survey was conducted, parents had higher happiness, satisfaction and meaning-of-life scores than non-parents. ... Moreover, a closer look showed that the differences in happiness and satisfaction were the result of men’s scores alone going up with parenthood.
 To all of our readers who are fathers: may your children bring you continued happiness and satisfaction.  Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 15, 2012

"When the unborn baby is no longer unborn."

I have written previously about the emotional numbness that can come with arguing about any topic frequently enough.  I’ve discussed and debated abortion so often for so long that nowadays I find I tend to get angrier over egregious errors in logic than I do over flagrantly pro-choice mentalities.  I used to worry that this disconnect between my personal views and my raw emotions was a signal of a lack of conviction, but I’ve abandoned that concern.  As Sirius Black said (to geek out for a second):

I don’t need to feel perpetual outrage to act according to my conscience.  Maybe I’m fortunate, because it’s a lot less exhausting that way.

Even so, every rare now and again I stumble across something connected to the abortion debate that does awaken those raw emotions that had settled somewhere in the back of my mind.  And, like the last time I blogged about this, the awakening seems to happen when pro-choice people candidly and fully recognize the humanity of the fetus, yet are unwavering in their pro-choice convictions.  It’s chilling.

In the great majority of my abortion debates, pro-choice people avoid any focus on the fetus whatever; they keep the conversation on the mother, almost as if there were no other consideration in the debate.  I don’t think most pro-choice people do this on purpose—for many of them there is no other consideration in the debate, and so they just don’t think about mentioning it.  When the fetus does get mentioned, the verbiage is usually clinical and impersonal (e.g. “products of conception,” “the pregnancy”) or, worse, antagonistic (e.g. “tumor,” “parasite,” “invader”).  This makes sense to me.  I can comprehend how someone who sees the fetus in such terms would be pro-choice.

What catches me off guard are quotes like this
“[W]hile she is pregnant, her decision to have an abortion is like any other woman’s. How does this change when the unborn baby is no longer unborn—no longer inside her body?
I’ve talked with two wise people about this question. One said to me, ‘when the baby is inside the mother’s body, its death is birth control; after it is outside the woman’s body, its death is something else—maybe population control.’ He went on to suggest that we are, as a society, a lot more comfortable with birth control than with population control and that we might even consider the latter to be immoral.
The other wise person I spoke with suggested that we think about it another way. The pregnant woman went to Dr. Gosnell to ensure that she would not have her baby. She knew the baby would die. He did exactly what she asked, although not in the way (we presume) that she expected him to do it.”
(See the full passage here.)

The author of this quote, "Jeannie," insists "we should never deny that abortion kills an unborn child.”  She says, “Women know this, and they have abortions anyway.”

I’m not convinced.  I’ve seen too many people object to the phrase “unborn child” and stick to ideas like “potential person.”  I’ve seen too many people recoil at the suggestion that abortion is akin to infanticide.  Women know that abortion terminates a pregnancy, and may acknowledge that abortion will destroy a fetus, but do women “know” that abortion “kills an unborn child”?  Do abortion-minded women see the fetus as a child, and abortion as killing?

You know what? I hope not. I would rather believe people are pro-choice because they’ve convinced themselves of a significant moral distinction between a fetus and a baby, than that they are pro-choice because killing “the unborn baby that is no longer unborn” need only be placed “in broader contexts of our social mores and expectations.”  If people are pro-choice because they think of the fetus as a "clump of cells," then we still have more information to give them, a chance to change their perspective.  But if people are pro-choice because "an unborn child dies in each abortion" and “having a part in these deaths is an important—and ethical—thing for us to do,” what hope have we?

As we increasingly demonstrate the similarities between a fetus and an infant, my aspiration and expectation is that society will increasingly reject abortion.  But what if, rather than reject abortion, society recognizes the similarities and therefore increasingly accepts infanticide?  I wish I felt sensationalistic suggesting as much, but writings like Jeannie’s leave me uncertain.

See related posts:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Are You Watching?

Often in order for a person to be upset over something, their thinking has to be altered in some way or another, whether it be by a person’s story, a personal experience, or even a picture. Unfortunately the majority of us do not care about the major issues of our day until we are confronted with something that either impacts us personally or unless it pulls at our emotions.

An example of this is the outrage that has been taking place across the world these last few months over human rights issues in China. For years Chen Guangcheng, blind self taught lawyer, was persecuted for his efforts of exposing the injustice of forced abortion and sterilization in a Chinese village. Finally, after many years of imprisonment and torture, Chen and his family have been reunited and have found refuge, for the time being, in the United States. Chen is just one of many who have been isolated, beaten, and silenced for exposing the truth. The world was silent until this man’s story hit a climatic point after he escaped his confinement. Yet, because people across the world spoke out, much was accomplished in helping Chen and his family after years of suffering and continued injustice by China’s One Child Policy.

Feng and Child
Now, two more stories have been shared of the enforcement of China’s One Child Policy. Feng Jianmei on June 3rd was beaten, taken from her home by family planning officials, and her seven month pre-born child was forcibly aborted. The dead child was left on the bed next to her. This story is beyond tragic and difficult to face, but this is really happening. The world is outraged by this situation and people are speaking up.

Cao Ruyi
June 6th, another woman in China, Cao Ruyi, was also forcibly taken from her home and beaten by family planning officials for violating the one child policy. Because of the international attention of Cao’s story the woman with her five month pre-born child were allowed to go home; however, only after she paid a fine for violating the one child policy (approximately $1,500 US) which will only be returned if she aborts her unborn child. In addition, Cao and her husband Li Fu will have to pay the equivalent of $25,000 for the “social burden compensation fee” if they choose to keep their child.

What on earth is happening to our world? How does forced abortion of a seven month preborn child or charging that couple over $26,000 if they do not abort their child, make sense? YES, we should be outraged and YES we should do something. We cannot keep turning a blind eye to what is happening around us.

Many could say we are just as bad as China in the United States, but we are more civilized and quiet about it (I guess). Unborn children are being aborted in the United States just because of their gender, and government funding of abortion helps to make this happen. See the video below that is the most recent in a series of undercover investigations of Planned Parenthood’s involvement in sex selective abortions:

Does the truth have to be thrown in front of you with horrific pictures and stories in order for you to do something, or will you recognize the injustice of laws today and say this is not okay?

For the Dignity of the Born and Unborn,


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Her Story: Helping Her Become a Mom

[Guest blogger EN shares her story about her unplanned pregnancy.]

It is hard to imagine a journey as beautiful as the one I'm going to tell you beginning in a stall in the ladies room at Target, but that is where I found out I was pregnant with my 4th child. There I sat, staring at two unmistakable blue lines. How could this be happening?  I was "careful."  I had already broken up with the baby's father, and since he was married (a little detail he had neglected to tell me), he would not be pleased to find this out. What on Earth was I going to do? I quickly threw the positive test in the small trash can next to the toilet where I was still sitting...stunned. I gathered up my bags and walked out into the store in a fog.

Later that day, I called my mom. She would understand, right? She was surprised, but not angry like I'd feared. She was actually very level-headed and supportive. She asked me what I was going to do. I told her I didn't see how I could raise a 4th child on my salary as a youth care worker in a juvenile corrections facility. She asked me if I was going to have the baby. It was a question I hadn't even considered. Of course I was going to have the baby, but then what? Go after her father for child support? Try to take care of another child on my own? My head was still spinning.

The next day, I made the phone call I had been dreading. I had to tell her father that I was pregnant with her. He was livid. Screaming at me about how I was "trapping" him. He demanded that I have an abortion. I hadn't expected any more. I hung up the phone and made an appointment at a women's clinic. (You know the one... planned something or other) to discuss my options.

Four days later, I went in for my appointment. I was expecting a physical exam and some pamphlets discussing my options. I was wrong. The woman at the desk told me that unless I wanted to terminate, there was little they would do for me. With my insurance, I could be "rid of my problem" for $8 by noon the next day. I told her I was not there for an abortion, just prenatal care. She told me prenatal care was not offered at the clinic; I would need to go to a regular clinic. 

On my way out, I met a sidewalk counselor. She directed me to the Birthright center the next town over. She didn't talk about God or the Bible, just my baby: how she had a heartbeat and a brain. She showed me a picture of what my baby looked like. I knew right then: abortion was completely off the table.

The next day, I went to Birthright. I was given something no one else up to that point had given me: options. She put me in touch with agencies that could help with expenses, food, counseling, and resources, should I choose to parent my baby. It was at that point I asked her about the possibility of placing my baby for adoption.

She showed me several agency profiles and gave me a list of websites to check out at home.  It was later that day that I found a profile for two of the most loving, wonderful people I had ever met. I found my baby's mom and dad.  

Because I was so early in my pregnancy, I really had time to get to know them. As the months went on, we talked more and more. They got to know my entire family, my kids, my parents. I became very comfortable with the fact that they would be leaving the hospital with the baby I was carrying. 

The birth father was glad to know that his secret was safe. He promptly signed all the papers and had nothing else to do with us.

Finally, the time had come for the adoptive parents to fly to Minnesota. (They were from New York.) I remember the first time I laid eyes on them: the people my baby would forever know as "mom and dad". She gave me a huge hug and we both started to cry. I was days away from helping her become a mom. It is was a very surreal feeling. We went out for dinner, discussed our birth plan, went shopping for some last-minute hospital items, and agreed to meet for dinner the next night.

I went to bed that night feeling wonderful. What had started as something terrifying had turned into something very beautiful. In a few days, I would give birth and go on with my life, while the two of them would become parents, because of me. I knew I was making the right decision.

Over the next week, we met almost daily. I really bonded with her adoptive mom. We went shopping, got our hair done, and ate...a lot. We decided that I would not hold the baby at the hospital, but would hold her for pictures before they flew home to New York. We also made arrangements for them to be in the room when the baby was born and made sure the hospital staff knew that she was the first one to hold the baby.

We also made decisions that would be put into the adoption contract as to the contact I would have with them and the baby as she grew up. We decided on yearly pictures, letters, and phone calls. I wanted to know how she was doing, without being too invasive in her life. It was an arrangement with which we were all comfortable.

The next week, the night we had been waiting for had come. I was in labor. I called them and off to the hospital we went. I was in labor for 13 difficult hours before it was decided that I was going to need a c-section. I was quickly wheeled to the operating room with my baby's mother by my side. She was not allowed in the room as I was going to be put completely to sleep. I remember the last thing I said to the nurse was, "You make sure she holds her baby first." 

I woke up in some pretty insane pain, but was relieved to hear that all had gone well. The baby, named Kylie, was doing well and in the arms of her new parents. About an hour later her mom came in to see me with tears in her eyes. She thanked me over and over. We hugged and both cried.

Over the next few days, I became very sad that my time with Kylie was over, but I was very proud of myself for giving her life. Leaving the hospital without her was the hardest thing that I have ever done. It is a feeling of loss that no one but another birth mom can identify with. But over the next few weeks, that feeling of loss gradually lessened and the feeling of pride over what I had done grew.

I met with them before they went home. I held her and took a picture with her and her mom and dad.  It is a photo I will always cherish. We said our good-byes and off they went to start a new life with the baby I had placed in their arms. It was a life-changing moment. I had a new respect for life. When you are given the choice to choose life or death for another human being, it changes you. At least it changed me.

[Read the 2nd half of EN's story here, in which she describes the years after the adoption.]

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Her Story: Glimmers of Justification

[As pro-lifers, we often find it difficult to comprehend how anyone could choose to kill their offspring. In this remarkably honest post, guest-blogger CP relates the new understanding she experienced through her second pregnancy.]

I am currently pregnant with my second child and was recently offered the Downs Screening blood test.

With my first child I refused it, it didn’t matter. There was no way I would risk miscarriage (1 in 100 for the follow up test) under any circumstance, least of all based on the results of a test that deals in statistical probability. Besides abortion was out of the question irrespective of the results.

This time round however I accepted the test. Why did I do that? Having that simple blood test is after all tacit admission that should the results be other than you would hope that you would, as the leaflet tactfully puts it, ‘consider your options’. 

Perhaps having one child changes your perspective, makes you more concerned about the implications for others of your decisions. I don’t know. What I do know is that waiting for the results I was terrified and that I hoped desperately that my pro-life convictions wouldn’t be tested. Mercifully for me they weren’t, but that’s really not the point.

During that week I could hardly think of anything but what I would do should the results be positive. Glimmers of justification formed for what had always been, to me, unjustifiable and it shook me deeply.

I have more sympathy now not for the pro-choice cause perhaps but definitely for women facing that decision. I can begin to understand how the mind moves, how it realigns itself to allow you to consider the unthinkable. For me perhaps it would have been the pressure on my family of caring for a disabled child, for others the life they could offer a child, or the impossibility of paying for one.

I have no conclusions to draw from this experience, no new insights now on fighting abortion. Just a disturbing understanding that if I could feel my conviction waver, even so minutely, how much harder it must be for women in a less comfortable situation and without already formed pro-life views to choose life when the alternative might seem so much simpler. 

Monday, June 11, 2012


It's easy to spend a lot of time discussing the issues close to our hearts.  It's not as easy finding time to get more pro-active.  For many of us (hopefully) summer means a more flexible schedule.  I encourage you all, if you don't already, to take some time for volunteer work this season.

I work for a non-profit organization that provides after school programs to elementary school children.  My job has given me a great deal of emotional fulfillment, as well as a much deeper appreciation of the value of volunteerism.  We have volunteers who help with tutoring, teaching classes, coaching sports teams, and even simply helping us clean and maintain the building.  I'm not sure they realize how much they help us run our program, or how grateful we are for each and every volunteer's help.

I'm certain various pro-life organizations feel similarly, as do politically neutral organizations that help women and their families in times of need.  I strongly recommend volunteering, even just an hour per week, at an organization that supports your ideals.  This does not have to be an abortion-prevention endeavor, although, this being Secular Pro-Life, we would love it if it were. :) may be a good place to start.  For example, here are some projects I found in my state:
  • Counsel pregnant teens, women, and families facing unplanned pregnancies.
  • Donate new or "like new" infant supplies for families at local shelters.
  • Tutor pregnant/parenting teens studying for their GEDs.
And here are some great youth development organizations:

Additionally, if you have a positive pro-life volunteer experience you'd like to share, email us at

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kudos to Zits

Teenage pregnancy is a tough topic to discuss.  That's even more true when your medium of discussion is a comic strip.  So I want to take just a brief moment to highlight today's Zits strip.

Pregnancy-related humor often relies, sadly, on making the pregnant woman the butt of the joke.  I am happy to see that the authors of Zits did not take that pitiful shortcut.  The pregnant student is not portrayed as an oddity or an object of ridicule.  She is not portrayed as a slut.  She is not portrayed as "ruining her life" (implication: she should have had an abortion).  She is portrayed as a regular person doing her classwork. 

As I interpret this, the butt of the joke is the school, for failing to provide her with a decent desk.  Hello, it's 2012!  Don't you know that some of your students are going to get pregnant?  (And stay pregnant?)

Well done, Zits.  Well done.

New Male Contraceptive?

As TIME reports, researchers at the Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh have discovered a gene (Katnal1) that appears to be crucial to sperm production.  They found that mice with mutations in Katnal1 are infertile.  If a drug can be developed to target Katnal1, the drug could serve as a non-hormonal, reversible, highly-effective male contraceptive. (See the research here.)

Katnal1 controls a protein needed for sperm maturation; interfering with Katnal1 thus prevents proper sperm development.  A drug that causes this intervention would be the type of contraceptive that prevents fertilization, rather than implantation.  For many, including SPL, this is an important moral distinction.

Any method of reproductive control that doesn't involve taking human lives is a step forward.  Let's hope this research is fruitful, so our population doesn't have to be.