Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New pro-life book "Cultivating Weeds" now available!

"Cultivating Weeds is gripping. It handles ethically complex issues without being preachy.  Its deeply human characters are a refreshing change from the caricatures that so often plague the abortion debate. This book has the potential to start a new, productive conversation on one of the most emotionally charged issues of our generation."

That's what Josh Brahm of Life Report has to say about the newly released pro-life novella written by Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard. Cultivating Weeds follows the life of Stacey Roberts, a young abortionist who becomes pro-life and is swiftly drawn into a secretive, controversial, and revolutionary medical study.

You can purchase a printed copy, and it is also available as a Kindle eBook.

Abby Johnson says: "Hazzard has successfully captured the unique psychology of abortion work. As a former abortion clinic worker myself, I couldn't help but be moved by this beautiful story about new beginnings and the true meaning of heroism. I wholeheartedly endorse Cultivating Weeds."

All proceeds through the end of February will benefit Secular Pro-Life. So please, get a copy today! And when you've finished reading it, share your review on the Cultivating Weeds facebook page.

Thank you all for your support,
The Secular Pro-Life team

P.S.: Going to the Students for Life of America conference next month? Kelsey will be there with signed copies. Come say hello!

P.P.S: Cultivating Weeds contains some explicit language that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 13. Please don't give copies to the young people in your life without their parents' permission.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hiatus until December 26

As the New York Times pointed out in this 2006 article, a surprising number of atheists and agnostics in the United States celebrate Christmas:
With all this high-profile atheism in mind, it might come as something of a surprise to learn what sort of tree [Sam] Harris has sitting in his living room right now. Let’s just say that it is not a ficus, that it tapers to a little peak practically begging for a star and that it is currently sporting some lovely ornaments on its branches.

In a recent phone interview, Mr. Harris explained that as a “full-time infidel” these days, with book-tour and speaking duties, he didn’t have time to pick out his Christmas tree personally. And it was really not his idea but a result “of a lost tug of war with my wife,” who likes Christmas trappings and insisted on buying it. But he added that his reluctance “was good-natured all the while.”

In other words, he is a having a (relatively) holly, jolly atheistic Christmas, one that will include presents and a big family party. And Mr. Harris, who was raised by a Jewish mother and a Quaker father, sees no glaring contradiction in doing so, at least not one he feels the need to spend much time thinking about.

“It seems to me to be obvious that everything we value in Christmas — giving gifts, celebrating the holiday with our families, enjoying all of the kitsch that comes along with it — all of that has been entirely appropriated by the secular world,” he said, “in the same way that Thanksgiving and Halloween have been.”

[Richard] Dawkins, reached by e-mail somewhere on a book tour, was asked about his own Christmas philosophy. The response sounded almost as if he and Mr. Harris — and maybe other members of a soon-to-be-chartered Atheists Who Kind of Don’t Object to Christmas Club — had hashed out a statement of principles. Strangely, these principles find much common ground with Christians who complain about the holiday’s over-commercialization and secularization, though the atheists bemoan the former and appreciate the latter.

“Presumably your reason for asking me is that ‘The God Delusion’ is an atheistic book, and you still think of Christmas as a religious festival,” Mr. Dawkins wrote, in a reply printed here in its entirety. “But of course it has long since ceased to be a religious festival. I participate for family reasons, with a reluctance that owes more to aesthetics than atheistics. I detest Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and the obscene spending bonanza that nowadays seems to occupy not just December, but November and much of October, too.”

He added: “So divorced has Christmas become from religion that I find no necessity to bother with euphemisms such as happy holiday season. In the same way as many of my friends call themselves Jewish atheists, I acknowledge that I come from Christian cultural roots. I am a post-Christian atheist. So, understanding full well that the phrase retains zero religious significance, I unhesitatingly wish everyone a Merry Christmas.”

Such obliging feelings toward Christmas will undoubtedly serve as another piece of evidence for those like [Bill] O’Reilly and conservative Christians who feel that the holiday has been hijacked — so much so that even atheists are now comfortable getting into the spirit. But to listen to Mr. Harris and other nonbelieving Christmas celebrators, you sometimes get the feeling that their accommodation stems from the fact that Christmas — no matter how religious it still is or is not — has become such a juggernaut that it is simply impossible to ignore entirely. So why not grin, bear it and have yourself a double eggnog?
In past years the Christmas season has been tricky for me to address on the blog.  But by golly, if it's good enough for Harris and Dawkins, it's good enough for me!  So whether you are celebrating the birth of your lord and savior, or just enjoying a time of love, peace, and gift-giving with your family and friends: Secular Pro-Life wishes you all a very happy holiday, and safe travels.  We'll be back on Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Substance View

I have given you my own basic argument for the pro-life position. But now I’d like to examine two more arguments, what I consider to be the two strongest arguments for the pro-life position. 

Today's post will focus on a Catholic philosopher, whose argument is grounded in intuitions that most people agree with. My next post will describe an argument by a pro-life atheist; I’ll leave who it is a mystery, but those who are well-read in the abortion issue will likely know who I’m talking about.

Beckwith and the "Substance" View

In his book Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, philosopher Frank Beckwith makes an argument that he has deemed the Substance View. His argument is as follows:

1. The unborn entity, from fertilization [1], is a full-fledged member of the human community.
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community.
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community.
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is
prima facie morally wrong. [2]
(Frank Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, Cambridge: University Press, Cambridge, New York, 2007, p. xii.)

This is an argument I use in my discussions on abortion, as well as my previous argument. In fact, this is the argument that I have adapted my own argument from. Beckwith’s position here relies on the continuum of human essence. In other words, it is morally wrong to kill you now. You are the same entity now as you were in the womb. So it was morally wrong to kill you then, as well.

As I mentioned, Beckwith is a Catholic. So he does believe in the concept of a soul. However, even if you don’t believe in a soul you can at least see that there is a continuity of human essence. You have developed more as a human being, you have developed more skills and basic human abilities (such as the ability to walk, talk, etc.). You have grown taller (perhaps wider). You may have dyed your hair, gotten a piercing or tattoo, broken a bone, gone through puberty, and/or have gone through any number of other changes since you were conceived. But who you are, your substance, hasn’t changed. A substance is simply an entity that maintains its identity through change. The human being is a particular type of substance, a rational, moral agent, and remains one until he/she dies.

Some might argue that we’re not the same entity as we were in the womb because we had no experiences and we have no memory of being in the womb. This argument is mistaken because first, you have no memory of being a newborn or a toddler, either. Yet you are undoubtedly the same entity then as you are now. Second, if your mom had miscarried or aborted you, you would not be here today. The same as if you had died when you were a toddler or newborn. Third, the unborn do have experiences. Even if you don’t consciously remember your experiences, you still have them. The unborn are pushed down the fallopian tubes toward the uterus by tiny hairs called cilia. My friend and pro-life advocate Josh Brahm calls this your first “waterslide ride.” The unborn implants in the uterus. These are all experiences that the unborn have, even if they can’t remember them.

Another objection I occasionally encounter is that our cells die and replace themselves every seven years, so we are not the same person we were seven years ago. However, this doesn’t follow. You are still the same “you” you were seven years ago (and seventeen years ago, and when you were born, and when you were conceived). We all experience changes, but we don’t “cease to exist” every seven years just because our cells replace themselves. The experiences we had before our cells replicated were still had by the same “substance.” Provided we are old enough, we can remember back to times in our lives from before we had our current cells. We may go through changes, but the essence that makes us “us” doesn’t change.

Beckwith has devoted an entire book to defending his argument (and it’s one of the strongest books defending the pro-life position), so obviously it would be impossible to give a full treatment and defense of the argument here. This is the backbone of the argument, and I really think it’s the strongest argument we have (though there are, of course, those who disagree). Beckwith’s argument is made from a non-religious standpoint. Even if you don’t believe in the same theological concepts that he ascribes to, you can’t dismiss the argument simply because it’s made by
a Catholic. As he says in his book, if Beckwith’s argument is sound, an atheist, agnostic, or humanist is intellectually obligated to become pro-life. (Beckwith, Defending Life, p. xiv.)

[1] Beckwith argues from the "moment of conception." I have changed this to fertilization. Conception is not actually a "moment," and the process of bringing a human into existence occurs sometime during the fertilization process, even though the exact point has not yet been agreed upon (Beckwith also mentions this later in his book). So I have substituted fertilization because I feel it's slightly more accurate.

[2] It should be noted that if the Substance View succeeds, then even unsuccessful abortions are immoral since it is wrong to even attempt to take someone's life, even if the actual outcome was less than was intended (or if no harm actually arose).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Should oral contraceptives be available over-the-counter?

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Louisiana Governor and 2016 GOP hopeful Bobby Jindal, in which he argued that oral contraceptives should be made available without a prescription.  Jindal is pro-life and has governed accordingly, so his proposal is being seriously debated in the pro-life community.

Arguments in favor:
  • De-politicize contraception: Jindal notes that in the 2012 election, Democratic messaging was "that Republicans are somehow against birth control," which is "a disingenuous political argument."  Over-the-counter birth control would make that a non-issue in 2016 and beyond.
  • Protect free exercise of religion: The debate over contraception was never about being for or against birth control, but about who pays-- and specifically, whether Catholics who have religious objections to contraception can be forced to provide it.  If oral contraceptives cease to be prescription medication, the question of who pays will have a simple answer: the user, not an employer or an insurance company, will pay (just like people currently pay for condoms out of pocket).  Note, however, that this would not address other types of contraception covered by the HHS mandate, such as IUDs.
  • ACOG is in favor: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently released an opinion in favor of over-the-counter oral contraceptives.  It does seem strange that morning-after pill-- which contains higher hormone levels, is less effective, and may (or may not) work after fertilization-- is already available over-the-counter, while regular pills are not.
  • Hurt Planned Parenthood's brand: Jindal doesn't mention this, but think about it: if birth control is available at any old CVS or Walgreen's without a prescription, it will be very difficult for Planned Parenthood to market itself as the source of contraception for women.  Combine that with the impending requirement that every Planned Parenthood affiliate do abortions, and the American people will quickly figure out what Planned Parenthood is really about.
Arguments against:
  • Women's health: One ACOG opinion does not a medical consensus make.  Oral contraceptives have serious risks, and we should not jump to a premature conclusion just because it's politically convenient.
  • Problems for teenagers: Jindal limited his argument to people 18 and over, but it could easily be expanded to minors.  Will parents be able to know if their daughters are on the pill?  Will they be on the lookout for potential complications?  Will OTC oral contraception encourage teen sexual activity?  Will OTC oral contraception discourage condom use, exposing teens to a greater risk of STDs?
  • Long-term pro-abortion strategy: Planned Parenthood has come out in favor of Jindal's proposal, which should make us pause.  Over the long term, abortion supporters would surely love for the abortion pill (RU-486/misoprostol/mifeprex) to be available without a prescription, which would be a disaster for babies and for women's health.  It's hard to make that happen without making more innocuous medications available OTC first.  (But note that some abortion advocates are publicly opposing the idea of OTC oral contraception, putting them at odds with Planned Parenthood.)
After all that, I'm still on the fence.  Convince me of your position in the comments section.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Human Rights for Born and Preborn Campaign

[Today's guest blogger is pro-life atheist Ward Ricker.]

International Human Rights Day was marked on December 10.  As we were approaching that day I was thinking to myself, What can I do to help promote human rights on December 10, with special consideration in mind for those who are subject to the most horrendous human rights abuse of all, the preborn, who are killed to the tune of tens of millions each year worldwide, over one million of those right here in the United States?

I have always been concerned over the focus of the pro-life/anti-abortion movement.  It seems that we often take positions in regards to ideology, religion, or other factors, and seem to almost forget sometimes that we’re talking about the killing of fellow human beings.  Indeed, the whole world out there seems to think that abortion is a religious issue, a conservative or liberal issue, or (what I might find the most ridiculous of all) a “social” issue.  (Somehow I think that if armed gangs were running around shooting down innocent people in the middle of the streets, we would not look upon that this being a “social” issue!) When we’re talking about abortion we’re talking about the killing of innocent little human beings.  Why does our society not see the horror of this and put a stop to it?

Well, one reason that occurred to me is that we have organizations that call themselves “human rights” organizations that not only do not advocate on behalf of those being killed, but many of whom actually advocate in favor of killing them!  I had previously listed all of the “human rights” organizations on my website that were listed in the Yahoo! Directory - over 100 of them – according to whether they opposed, supported or took no position on abortion.  Out of over 100 organizations, do you know how many took a stand on behalf those being killed by abortion?  Three.  Of the remaining 100-or-so organizations, somewhere around half actually promoted killing preborn human beings!  How are we ever going to convince people of the horror of the atrocity of abortion, as long as so-called “human rights” organizations promote abortion in the name of human rights?

So, with some help from my friends at the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League, I started the Human Rights for Born and Preborn campaign.  The goal is two-fold.  First, the obvious goal is to contact these so-called human rights organizations and “call them on the carpet” for their stance in favor of killing people.  No human rights organization can stand for killing people, and we need to get these organizations to truly uphold human rights for all.

Secondly, the goal is to try to redirect the focus of existing pro-life/anti-abortion groups and organizations, and to make sure they are indeed looking on the issue of abortion not as a religious issue, or as a social issue, or as an ideological issue, but as what it is: a human rights issue - a human rights catastrophe that nothing else on earth currently compares with.  We need to take our place as the true human rights leaders – the true advocates for human rights.

So I took the list of human rights organizations that I had previously created, and turned it into a page for a campaign to “change the paradigm” and convert the world of human rights advocacy into true advocacy for those who need it most.  I got it together in time to “kick off” the campaign on International Human Rights Day, December 10.  I am asking everyone who cares about the plight of the preborn to go to my website,, contact some or all of these organizations that claim to support human rights and ask them to truly stand up for the human rights of all people, no matter how young.  I hope that each person who reads this will go to the site and let these groups know that it is not okay to promote killing in the name of human rights.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Balance

[Today's post is re-posted from "Yeah, but..."]

There are many important factors in the abortion debate. I try to weigh all factors in forming my perspective. I am pro-life, but I don't pick the side lightly. It seems the only options are restricting a woman's control over her body or allowing the unrestricted killing of human fetuses. I take both outcomes seriously; something is sacrificed no matter which side you choose, and I think a lot of people recognize that.

But not everyone. A lot of people insist the issue is black and white, that their own view is the only obvious view. I think this happens because--out of the many factors that play into abortion--people decide which factor they think is the most important...and then they refuse to consider anything else.

For example, I've seen pro-choicers say that whether the fetus is a person is irrelevant because no person has the right to use your body against your will. I'd depict their perspective like this:

Similarly, I've seen pro-lifers say that it makes no sense to grant a rape exception because the fetus is a human being no matter how he or she was conceived. I'd depict their perspective like this:

I disagree with both of the above perspectives. I think both the humanity of the fetus and the woman's bodily rights matter. In my opinion, the scale should look more like this:

One factor may still outweigh another, but it won't outweigh by as much as if there were no other factors to consider. We can certainly argue over which factor has more weight, why it has more weight, and how much more weight it has. But those are very different arguments than asserting that only one factor matters at all.

When considering only bodily autonomy and humanity, I believe one person's bodily autonomy does outweigh another person's humanity. After all, we don't require people to donate blood even if it means other people will die without blood donations. We don't do this because your bodily autonomy--your right to decide whether or not to donate blood--is considered more important than the life of a man who will die without a blood transfusion. The dying man still has his humanity--no one is saying he's not a human being--but his humanity doesn't somehow mean you can be forced to donate blood. 

Some people say this does make the dying man's humanity irrelevant. After all, whether he is human or not, you still don't have to donate blood, right? Who cares whether bodily autonomy outweighs humanity a little or a lot--in the end it still outweighs, so why even talk about humanity?

Because humanity and bodily autonomy still aren't the only factors to consider. Other factors must be added to one side of the balance or the other, and the accumulation of multiple factors may tip the scales. For example, what if the man is dying because of you? What if you consented to some action you knew risked putting his life in danger? Maybe then the scale would look more like this:

Take away any one of the factors on the left, and bodily autonomy wins out again. But the combination of factors on the left is another story.

Now, there are actually many, many more factors to consider on both sides of the scale. My point in this post is not to give an exhaustive argument for why I think most abortions should be illegal. My point is simply to say that there are a lot of factors in the abortion debate, and while some of them weigh more than others, they all weigh something. Keep that in mind.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard has written a book!  Cultivating Weeds is the fictional story of an abortion doctor who secretly becomes pro-life and is recruited to help conduct a controversial, revolutionary medical study.

Unlike most pro-life fiction, Cultivating Weeds takes a non-religious approach.  Some of its language may be inappropriate for younger readers.  But Christians seem to like it anyway; in fact, Abby Johnson has even written an endorsement!

Barring Murphy's Law, Cultivating Weeds should be available online sometime next week.  Soon after that, it will become available on Kindle.  We will keep you posted.

In addition, we will be selling signed copies at the Students for Life of America conference.

Best of all, proceeds of book sales through the end of February will benefit Secular Pro-Life.  So please, like the Cultivating Weeds facebook page now, and be the first to know when it's released!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lisa Harris, Abortion Provider

The Weekly Standard describes former abortion providers who have converted to the pro-life cause. I found this passage particularly compelling:
In 2008, however, abortionist Lisa Harris endeavored to begin “breaking the silence” in the pages of the journal Reproductive Health Matters. When she herself was 18 weeks pregnant, Dr. Harris performed a D&E abortion on an 18-week-old fetus. Harris felt her own child kick precisely at the moment that she ripped a fetal leg off with her forceps: 
"Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes—without me—meaning my conscious brain—even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling—a brutally visceral response—heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics. It was one of the more raw moments in my life."
Harris concluded her piece by lamenting that the pro-choice movement has left providers to suffer in silence because it has “not owned up to the reality of the fetus, or the reality of fetal parts.” 
The article mentions in passing that Harris chose to stay in the abortion business; the article goes on to describe other abortion providers who were so horrified by what they witnessed that they quit and, in some cases, joined the pro-life movement. (See here for a campaign to help more abortion providers leave the industry.)

I'm glad to hear that even people who begin with strong pro-choice views can be moved by the fetus's humanity. However I'm more interested in Harris and providers like her. 

Not only has Harris continued to work as an abortion provider, she writes about how providing abortions can be just as much an act of conscience as refusing to provide abortions. Earlier this year, Harris published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine called "Recognizing Conscience in Abortion Provision." Harris believes:
Doctors (and, in some states, advanced practice clinicians) continue to offer abortion care because deeply held, core ethical beliefs compel them to do so. They see women's reproductive autonomy as the linchpin of full personhood and self-determination, or they believe that women themselves best understand the life contexts in which childbearing decisions are made, or they value the health of a woman more than the potential life of a fetus, among other reasons. [Emphasis added.]
To be fair, in this passage Harris is describing reasons and perspectives given by other abortion providers besides herself. Even so, it's very frustrating that the same person who has called for the pro-choice movement to own up to "the reality of the fetus" continues to use phrases like "potential life."

So many abortion advocates avoid or flatly deny the humanity or moral relevance of the fetus. I've had pro-choice people insist on using the phrase "clump of cells" even after I point out that most abortions are performed on fetuses with brain waves and heartbeats. But (as I've discussed before) I find it particularly disturbing when people do accept the fetus as a human being--not just in theory, for the purposes of discussion and debate, but in reality--and yet continue to advocate for the right to kill the fetus. I'm a big believer in working to change hearts and minds at least as much--if not more--than working to change laws. But how many hearts and minds are actually unchangeable?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Philosophy in the abortion issue: part three

[Today's post is the third and final article in a series on abortion and philosophy by SPL member Clinton Wilcox. Part one is here and part two is here.]

Now we’ve seen what goes into an argument, and how to possibly respond to an argument. We’ve also seen some arguments that commit logical fallacies, that is, errors in reasoning. Now we’ll look at some arguments that are simply bad arguments, from both sides of the abortion fence.

Bad Pro-Life Arguments

If Mary were pro-choice, there would be no Christmas.

A perfect one with which to begin, considering the upcoming Christmas holiday.
Obviously, as anyone involved with Secular Pro-Life understands, this argument is completely unconvincing if you're talking to a non-Christian. (Moreover, a pro-choice Christian audience will recognize it as just bad theology. Why would God have entrusted his son, Jesus, to a woman who might have aborted him? The Biblical passage itself shows that God didn’t force Mary to carry Jesus; Mary indicated to God that she was willing to carry the child.)

This is exactly like the argument, which I mentioned in part one of this series, that we’ve aborted Beethovens or the people who would find the cure for cancer. The pro-choice side can just respond with “If Hitler was aborted, there would be no Holocaust.”

Your mother was pro-life.

This argument is usually spoken to a pro-choice person, indicating that their mother was pro-life because that person wasn’t aborted. But how do you know that? Pro-choice people have children, too. You might say “Your mother chose life,” which is closer to accurate but still not so. Pro-choice people also go through times in their lives where they are fully prepared to have a child so abortion doesn’t even enter into the equation. This is just a silly thing to say.

Many women regret their abortion.

This is true, of course (and shoved under the rug by pro-choice advocates).
However, just because someone runs the risk of regretting an action doesn’t make the action in choice immoral. You may regret having that extra piece of cheesecake last night, but that doesn’t make the act of eating cheesecake immoral. Besides, it’s also true that many women don’t regret their abortion. So while a woman who regrets their abortion (or perhaps is suffering psychologically for it) needs the proper care and empathy, this, in itself, is not an argument against abortion.

Bad pro-choice arguments.

Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.

This is one I hear all the time, but it’s just a ridiculous and inane argument. It can be used for anything else. Don’t like slavery? Don’t own a slave. Don’t like murder? Don’t kill anyone. Don’t like rape? Don’t rape anybody. This objection does not make an immoral act moral. Like slavery, murder, and rape, abortion is so wrong that no one ought to be doing it. You can’t justify abortions by appealing to a woman’s “choice” or privacy, any more than you can excuse child abuse by appealing to a parent’s “choice” or privacy.

If abortion is made illegal again, women will resort to back alley abortions and coat hangers.

This is simply false. First, even if it’s true, then it is a tragedy. One woman dying is too many. But why should the law be faulted for making it more dangerous to kill an innocent human being? Bank robbers run the risk of being shot and killed by police. Should we legalize bank robbery to make robbing banks safer for bank robbers? Pro-choice philosopher Mary Anne Warren affirms this: “The fact that restricting access to abortion has tragic side effects does not, in itself, show that the restrictions are unjustified, since murder is wrong regardless of the consequences of prohibiting it.” [1]

Second, even before Roe v. Wade, women simply weren’t having “back alley” abortions and using coat hangers. Doctor Mary Calderone wrote, thirteen years before the Roe v. Wade decision, that “the conference estimated that 90 per cent of all illegal abortions are done by physicians. Call them what you will, abortionists or anything else, they are still physicians, trained as such; and many of them are in good standing in their communities.” [2]

Third, as Bernard Nathanson wrote in his book, Aborting America:

“The practice of abortion was revolutionized at virtually the same moment that the laws were revolutionized, through the widespread introduction of suction curettage in 1970. (Even before this, antibiotics and other advances had already dramatically lowered the abortion death rate.)...Though is it preferable that this be done by a licensed physician, one can expect that if abortion is ever driven underground again, even non-physicians will be able to perform this procedure with remarkable safety. No woman need die if she chooses to abort during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy...As for the self-induced abortion, by thrusting a coathanger or other dangerous object into the womb, this will also be a thing of the past. Compounds known as prostaglandins can now be used to bring on contractions and expel [the human embryo/fetus], and would readily be available for do-it-yourself abortions in vaginal suppository form.” [3]

This is simply an emotional argument that has no basis in fact.

Making abortions illegal won’t stop them.

Perhaps not. But this is a lousy reason for keeping abortion legal. The same argument can apply to anything: making rape, theft, and murder illegal hasn’t stopped them. A civilized society makes the killing of innocent human beings illegal, so although murder
statutes don’t always stop people from murdering, it is still illegal to do so. Even though abortions won’t stop women from aborting, we are not justified in keeping it legal.

These are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad arguments in the abortion issue (and for more bad arguments, refer back to part one of this series). If we avoid these and other bad arguments, rather than clinging to them as if they’re meaningful, then our discussions on the topic of abortion will be much more fruitful. The best pro-life arguments focus on the nature of the unborn human being. The best pro-choice arguments focus on bodily rights. Let’s try to add some depth to our discussions rather than using the same tired (and bad) arguments we hear all the time.

[1] Mary Anne Warren, “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion,” in Joel Feinberg, et al, The Problem of Abortion, (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1984), p. 103.
[2] Mary S. Calderone, M.D., “Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem,” American Journal of Public Health, July 1960.
[3] Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D., Aborting America, New York, Doubleday, 1979, p. 194.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Human Rights Day

Today is International Human Rights Day, and pro-life advocates across the globe are marking the occasion in various ways.  Two LifeNews articles on human rights are worth your attention.
First, Women's Rights Without Frontiers and other coalition groups fighting abortion in China have sent a letter to President Xi Jinping, imploring him to bring an end to the one-child policy:
[I]t is time for this policy to end, not to be replaced by a ‘two-child policy’ as some of your advisors may be suggesting, but to be eradicated from the face of the earth because it has caused more violence toward women and girls than any other official policy on earth, and any other official policy in the history of the world by coercively preventing more than 400 million births through forced abortions, sterilizations, confiscatory fines, and infanticide – all in violation of international norms.
Second, international human rights legal expert Bill Saunders of Americans United for Life has a piece that explains, in lay terms, how abortion supporters have attempted to hijack worthwhile treaties to create an international "human right" to abortion: 
Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but for us, it must be a reminder that there is a war on human rights, a war in which some seek to advance false human rights (such as abortion) at the expense of true human rights (the right to life). On Human Rights Day, we should pause to note the irony that treaties purporting to help women, children, and people with disabilities would be used to promote abortion.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pro-lifers should support free day care in high schools

Like many D.C.-area commuters, I always grab a free copy of the Washington Examiner to read on the metro.  Today's cover story: For teen parents, day care free at area high schools.  According to the article, seven area schools provide the service, which supporters say help prevent teen parents from becoming dropouts.

Of course, the paper presents the other side of the story as well:
But critics question whether the facilities encourage teens to engage in risky sexual activity by providing a safety net on the taxpayers' dime. . . . Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, said local and state governments send the wrong message by cutting costs for teen parents.
"We're subsidizing and encouraging out-of-wedlock births," Purves said. "It encourages a large class of people who are totally dependent on the government."
I highly doubt that the program encourages teens to have unprotected sex.  High school students generally do not get pregnant on purpose.  They do not say to themselves, "Gee, free day care-- what a great opportunity for me to get knocked up at the age of 16!"

So the program does not encourage out-of-wedlock conceptions.  It does, however, encourage out-of-wedlock births.  And that's a good thing.

No matter how much prevention work takes place, some number of students are going to get pregnant or father a child.  Free day care in high schools encourages those teens to give birth instead of using the $400 "safety net" of abortion.  The programs send a very positive message: a child need not "ruin your life."  You can choose life, choose parenting, and still move forward with your education.

Purves' comments are disturbing from a pro-life perspective.  We should keep in mind that conservative support for abortion is nothing new.  The early abortion movement of the 1960s relied heavily on the argument that abortion would save taxpayer money by "preventing" the lives of poor children.  There will always be a segment within the pro-choice movement that is interested in making sure that the "wrong sort of people"-- people who are "totally dependent on the government"-- do not reproduce.

But, as the Examiner article points out, pro-life programs like free day care in schools can actually save taxpayer money over the long term:
In 2008, teen childbearing cost taxpayers at least $10.9 billion, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.  But many of these costs . . . are canceled out when teens obtain an education and support their families, according to school officials who have watched it happen firsthand.
More important, such programs save human lives.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updates on RU-486

Via RH Reality Check:
In October a divided panel of Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judges upheld the state's law restricting the use of RU-486 as a constitutional restriction to a woman's right to access abortion. Late last week the full Sixth Circuit denied Planned Parenthood's request to overturn that October ruling, leaving in place the panel decision and upholding, likely permanently, the state's restrictions on medical abortions.
The law at issue, HB 126, was first passed in 2004, and regulates and restricts the use of mifepristone by requiring that it can only be administered in the same exact dosage as approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000 and further restricts the use of mifepristone to the first seven weeks of pregnancy. After the seventh week of pregnancy the law criminalizes the use and administration of the drug.
The article goes on to point out:
The ruling is a significant one because it is the first federal appellate decision to rule on the constitutionality of laws restricting the use of RU-486. And while not binding on jurisdictions outside of the Sixth Circuit, which encompasses Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, other courts that have similar legal challenges to similar restrictions pending, like the Oklahoma Supreme Court, could look to the decision for persuasive authority and decide to follow it.

It appears Oklahoma didn't find the Sixth Circuit court's ruling persuasive enough, however. According to Americans United For Life:
The Oklahoma Supreme Court today overturned an Oklahoma law intended to ensure the safe use of abortion-inducing drugs, such as RU-486.  The law, enacted in 2011 and based upon an AUL model, simply required that abortion providers administer the drugs in the manner approved by the FDA.
The state’s interest in enacting such a law was clear: Since RU-486 was approved in 2000, thousands of women have faced complications, many life-threatening.  Both the FDA and the drug manufacturer have acknowledged the substantial risk of complications following use.  Fourteen women have died.  Eight of those women died of a severe bacterial infection that would not otherwise harm healthy women.  All eight of those women were instructed to use the drugs in a manner that directly contravened the approved FDA protocol. 
On the other hand, no women have died from bacterial infection after using RU-486 in the manner approved by the FDA.
With that in mind, Oklahoma adopted a law aimed at ensuring that RU-486 and other abortion-inducing drugs are administered only in the way approved by the FDA.  Rather than allowing providers to hand out dangerous drugs and send women home to self-administer away from physician oversight and beyond the gestational limit approved by the FDA, the law required that physicians examine women before administering the drugs and instructed that the drugs be administered in a clinical setting within the gestational limit approved by the FDA.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Philosophy in the abortion issue: part two

[Today's post is part of a series by SPL member Clinton Wilcox. Read part one here.]

Now that we’ve learned what goes into making an argument, let’s talk about how to respond to an argument. First, a bit about why philosophy is necessary.

Philosophy is all around us. Why are you an Atheist/Christian/Buddhist/etc.? That can only be answered through philosophical reasoning. All of our laws are based on philosophy. Why should abortion be legal or illegal? Science can’t tell us. That can only be answered through philosophical reasoning. Why is murder wrong? Why are rape or theft immoral? What is the meaning of life? All of the important questions are philosophical ones. How should we behave toward other people? Another philosophical concern. If abortion can be shown to be immoral through philosophical reasoning, then anyone who wishes to live a moral life should not have an abortion, or suggest one to another person considering abortion. The only result of rejecting philosophy is that you will continue to do philosophy, badly.

Consider my argument from my last article,

P1: It is prima facie immoral to kill a human being.
P2: Abortion kills a human being.
C1: Therefore, abortion is prima facie immoral.
P3: The unjustified killing of human beings should be illegal.
C2 (from P2 and P3): Therefore, abortion should be illegal.

First, I will justify my argument. Then I will illustrate how one could respond to it.

Premise One: It is prima facie immoral to kill a human being.

Prima facie is Latin for “at first sight.” I include this because it is not always immoral to kill a human being. Some forms of killing are justifiable. For example, self-defense. Every human being has a right to self-defense. If someone wishes to take your life, you have the right to defend yourself (within limits). The right to self-defense also entails reasonable measures being taken. If your life is not being threatened, you do not have the right to take life.

Human beings are uniquely valuable based on the kind of thing they are, humans (that is, members of species Homo Sapiens). I do not mean that humans are valuable simply for being human (as opposed to being a dog, cat, etc.). But human beings are valuable due to their inherent nature as rational, moral agents.

The burden of proof must always be on the one wishing to take human life. We do not allow anyone to take anyone’s life without proper justification. Murder is illegal, as are infanticide, genocide, etc. If you look at every human being, we all have different hair color, eye color, height, weight, skin color, etc. The only thing we all have in common that makes it as wrong to kill one human as to kill another is our common humanity. Ergo, it is unjustified to kill someone without provocation.

Premise Two: Abortion kills a human being.

This is self-explanatory. Science has proven long ago that the unborn are living human beings (biologically). The only people who disagree with this premise are lay pro-choice people with an agenda.

The unborn from fertilization are alive because they grow. They also exhibit other forms of life, such as cell division, metabolism, and response to stimuli. In fact, the only thing the unborn need to survive are adequate nutrition, a proper environment, and an absence of fatal threats. That’s all any of us need. There is no point in human development when the developing entity goes from non-life to living.

The unborn are also human from fertilization. We know that everything reproduces after its own kind; dogs have dogs, cats have cats, and humans have humans. They have separate human DNA from, and often a different blood type than, the mother. A white human embryo can be created in a petri dish, implanted into a black mother, and be born white. In fact, if the unborn organism were simply a “part of the mother’s body,” then the pregnant woman would have four arms, four legs, two heads, four eyes, two noses, and roughly have the time male reproductive organs. But this is absurd. At no time during human development does the unborn ever go from “non-human” to human.

In every scientific sense of the word, the unborn is a separate, whole, living, human individual organism. I have literally dozens of quotes from embryologists, doctors, and pro-choice philosophers that attest to this I could offer, but in the interest of space, I’ll offer two. The first one is from the most-used embryology textbook:

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.” [1]

“A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e. an embryo).” [2]

To top it all off, past president of Planned Parenthood, Alan Guttmacher, wrote the following concerning the scientific fact of the unborn human being in 1933, a full forty years before Roe v. Wade:

“This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge.” [3]

Pro-choice philosophers accept this scientific fact, as well:

“It is possible give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo sapiens’. Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.” [4]

“Prior to conception there is only a sperm and an ovum. As these are both necessary for bringing somebody into existence, but because they are distinct entities prior to conception, they cannot be identical with the being that will be brought into existence. Two cannot be identical with one. Thus we cannot speak of a new organism as having come into existence prior to conception. Put another way, each one of us was once a zygote, but none of us was ever a sperm or an (unfertilized) ovum.” [5]

Conclusion One: Therefore, abortion is prima facie immoral.

If it is prima facie immoral to kill a human being, and abortion kills a human being, then it naturally follows that abortion is prima facie immoral. The burden of proof is on the pro-choice advocate to show that abortion is morally justified.

Abortions are, in fact, justified to save the life of the pregnant woman if her life is in immediate jeopardy and the child is not yet viable. If the child is viable, the child must be delivered (not only to save the child, but it is safer and faster for the mother to deliver the child). If the child is not yet viable, then the doctor must do the greatest good he can. If only one can be saved, the doctor must save the one with the greatest chance of survival (the mother).

In all other cases, abortion is simply not morally justified.

Premise Three: The unjustified killing of human beings should be illegal.

By unjustified, I simply mean killing a human being without moral justification. It is wrong to go and kill a human being without just cause. And humans are uniquely valuable (as I have shown), so valuable that society does, in fact, make their killing illegal. It doesn’t just take moral justification to kill a human being, it takes strong moral justification to kill one. Killing a human being without just cause should be illegal, and is made illegal by civilized societies. If the unborn are human beings, which is strongly supported by science, then killing them should be illegal, as well.

Conclusion Two: Abortion should be illegal.

My second conclusion naturally follows. If we make the unjustified killing of human beings illegal, which the unborn certainly are, then killing them should also be illegal.

Now that my argument has been supported, how does one respond?

There are three ways you could respond to an argument:

1) Search for logical fallacies. I have shown several logical fallacies and some of the arguments made by pro-life and pro-choice people in my previous article. My argument here does not contain any logical fallacies. I have supported my premises with arguments, and the conclusions naturally follow.

2) Rebut the premises. If there are no logical fallacies, then what remains is to argue against the premises. You could tackle premise two, but you’re arguing against science if you try to do so. Embryologists (the experts on human embryology) consistently agree that human beings are human beings from fertilization. The only people I’ve ever heard contest this are lay pro-choice people who are so desperate to prove that abortion is moral that they are willing to argue against science. But I’ve always found it bizarre that people will accept science’s word when it comes to evolution, but suddenly science can’t be trusted when it comes to determining human life.

However, the best pro-choice arguments attack premise one. Pro-choice people agree that it is prima facie immoral to kill a human being, but they believe that abortion is justified killing. If you can show that abortion is justified killing, my argument fails to show that abortion is immoral. This is usually done by arguing for bodily rights (the best defenders of this being Judith Jarvis Thomson and David Boonin). But even then, bodily rights arguments are not sufficient to show that abortion is moral or should be legal. [6]

3) Concede the argument. If there are no logical fallacies and there are no arguments strong enough to refute it, then the only thing left is to change your views. I fully admit I could be mistaken in my views. I don’t believe that I am, and I’m open to discussion about my argument. However, I have read the best arguments on both sides of the equation (from pro-life, as well as pro-choice, philosophers). The best arguments, with the greatest explanatory power, lie on the pro-life side.

In my next and last article in the series, I will discuss bad arguments from both sides of the abortion fence.

[1] Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd ed., New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001, p. 8.
[2] Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th ed., Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003, p. 2.
[3] Alan Guttmacher, Life in the Making: The Story of Human Procreation, New York: Viking Press, 1933, p. 3.
[4] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 85-86.
[5] David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence, (Oxford University Press: Oxford, New York, 2006), p. 134

Monday, December 3, 2012

Let us be your voice in 2013

Here we are in the final month of 2012-- and what a year this has been! 
  • Secular Pro-Life reached out to the next generation, speaking to pro-life student organizations at the University of San Francisco and UNC-Chapel Hill, the atheist and agnostic student organization at the University of Virginia, and young activists from across the country at the Students for Life of America conference.
  • We sent representatives to the American Atheists convention and the Texas Freethought convention, making the non-religious case against abortion.
  • We were featured in Humanist magazine and on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More."
  • We brought you free, quality pro-life commentary and news on our blog.  Countless SPL articles were reprinted in pro-life media. 
  • We produced a professional YouTube video taking on the bodily autonomy argument in an accessible way.
  • Most important of all, we launched, our database of medical malpractice and health/safety violations at abortion clinics.  Through targeted online advertising, over 1200 at-risk women have received this critical, life-saving information!
And we did it all with a limited budget and no full-time or paid staff.

We want to do even more in 2013, but we need your help.

Secular Pro-Life is in need of immediate donations to ensure that we are able to pay for our exhibition booth at January's Students for Life of America conference.  More donations will also allow us to expand our advertising for  And we have many ideas for continuing our pro-life educational efforts in 2013-- if our financial situation permits it.

Please make a donation today!

Secular Pro-Life is funded entirely by donations from individual supporters.  We do not take a dime from churches or corporations.  We depend entirely on people like you.

2012 has been our best year yet.  Our support has grown to over 1600 Facebook fans and over 900 Twitter followers.  If everyone reading this appeal gives just five dollars, we will be able to do incredible things in 2013.

Click here to contribute to the movement.  With your help, we will continue to the be a voice for the voiceless: preborn children, and the people of every faith and no faith who care about them.

Update: there was a technical problem with the link that has now been fixed.  If you tried to donate earlier but got an error message, please try again!  The link now goes to the donation page on our website, instead of going directly to Paypal.  Click the orange "Donate" button and you'll be on your way.  Sorry for the snafu!