Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Speaking a Universal Language for Life

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

Today’s world is truly global. The past hundred years have seen incredible improvements in communication and transportation that have allowed us to interact with people all over the world, from different upbringings, backgrounds, religions, and cultures. We are interacting with people completely different from us, with completely different ways of looking at the world, in a way never before seen. This means we must change the way we defend the pro-life cause.

This is something I learned very quickly my first year at Harvard. I came from a very conservative, Baptist town in Texas, and from a staunchly conservative, Catholic family. In my town, even the liberals were pro-life and religious. My family had a very strong voice in the pro-life movement, so I grew up hearing the arguments for being pro-life. It was quite a culture shock moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts, a town in which my freshman year almost the entire city voted President Barack Obama into his first term of office, and to Harvard, where the Harvard Right to Life group had to fight the administration for even the basic right granted to all student groups to put posters around campus (if not for our arguments, they would not have even let us put up “Smile, your mother chose life” posters, much less of the stages of pregnancy). I was surrounded by people who had grown up in rich, Liberal, well-educated, mainly Northeastern-dwelling families who had had just as little exposure to the world outside of that bubble as I had had to the world outside of my own. Thankfully, my bubble had popped when I stepped foot outside of it, and since the people around me had yet to step outside of their own bubble, I decided to make it my mission to pop it for them. I did this by trying to take away all of their stereotypes of the pro-life movement and argue for pro-life causes in a way they could not dismiss.

My experience has taught me the way that one can defend the pro-life movement to anyone, anywhere in the world, with any background or religion. Of course, when you are talking to someone with your own faith, with your own background, you are welcome to argue based on that religion, and that is probably the most effective way to do it, and I encourage you to do so. But when we take this argument to the state or national level, or you are facing people who are not religious, or who are of a different religion, or you just don’t know their background, this is not the way to go. It will only reinforce stereotypes, cause people to ignore what you are saying, and create enemies. You will never convince anyone who disagrees with your religion to choose life for their child or to work to change laws that allow others to choose not to, if you quote Bible verses and say what God wants. There is no need for that! The pro-life movement can be defended on a strictly scientific and philosophical level, which will gain us much more ground both nationally and internationally.

Though many of you know this, I want summarize some of the pro-life stereotypes that must be combated. The people I met in Massachusetts automatically assumed that pro-life people had to be religious, had little education, were male and didn’t care about women’s rights, had no justification for their arguments outside of “superstition,” and/or just disregarded scientific evidence that didn’t prove their point. It doesn’t help that most politicians they see arguing for the cause are male, rich, and wrap their arguments in religion rather than science. They don’t take into account that being male and rich is true of a vast majority of national-stage politicians of any party, and religious arguments are what appeal to the conservative audiences they are addressing. Since those politicians, and religious groups protesting outside abortion clinics based on “God’s will,” are all they see of the pro-life movement, they have no reason to change their belief in that stereotype.

So how do we combat all of this? When you are talking to someone who is pro-choice, I want you to ask them one question: “What is the exact day in development that a fetus becomes human?” If one is to terminate a pregnancy, one would have to know this, otherwise they might be killing a child. If it is at birth, what is the difference between the baby one day before or one day after? The child could survive on its own if you took it out of the mother – would still have the same thoughts and emotions, same capabilities. These days most people see something wrong with partial-birth or late-term abortions. At this point the baby is starting to look too much like a baby, and it is getting hard to pretend that it isn’t human. 

But if the cut-off is at six months, there is still the same question: what is the difference in that baby one day before and one day after? Or at three months? How can you make a law saying that someone is not human and someone else is with no justification? How can a law say that someone has a right to kill (for no one can honestly debate whether the fetus is a living thing) one of these sets and not the other? What exactly is it that makes fetuses human on the 6th month, or 5th month, or whatever date you choose, that no fetuses the day before that have? I have never debated anyone who has been able to answer this question, so how can a wide-sweeping law be made allowing the death of this fetus/baby?

The second thing I will ask you to do is to leave religion out of your argument. Unless you are talking to someone who has your beliefs, do not mention God, the Bible, or praying. Just don’t. We will never get laws passed across the nation protecting these babies until we get everyone to see that they are babies. Stick to the science, something everyone can agree on and debate in a coherent and intellectual way. Stick to the philosophy of basic human rights, which almost everyone, at least in the United States, can agree on. Once we have scientifically shown that this baby is just as much a human as one that is already born, which I feel is a very easy argument to make, then everything will change. As Justice Harry Blackmun said in the Roe vs. Wade decision, "The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a ‘person' within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the (Fourteenth) Amendment." 

Let’s change people’s opinions of what a baby in the womb truly is in a way that everyone can see. So keep the stages of development posters and bracelets! But as soon as you start quoting the Bible, a wall will come up with anyone who does not believe the way you do. So tear down those walls! Show that you respect other people and argue with them on an equal playing field. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

There is no right to hide the facts of prenatal development from your kids

Recently, pro-lifers in North Dakota distributed some fetal models to kids at the state fair. [Disclosure: I know Devyn Nelson, the Executive Director of North Dakota, personally; we were both in the inaugural class of Wilberforce Fellows at Students for Life of America.] Abortion advocates didn't take it well. A major theme of the criticism: the pro-lifers violated parental rights.

The fetal models and the cards that accompanied them were purely about prenatal development; there was nothing in them about abortion. There was nothing that might upset the children, because Devyn isn't a jerk. So apparently, the "parental right" that was violated here was a parent's "right" to make sure that his or her children don't learn about the reality of life in the womb.

Allow me to model my response off of this famous video by Bill Nye the Science Guy (whose views on abortion are not known to me, but who hopefully recognizes that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. You're the bomb, Bill Nye!).

Abortion on demand throughout pregnancy is unique to the United States, Canada, China, and North Korea. That's a major problem, but generally, most people in the United States are pro-life. The pro-life movement is still growing. And that's largely because of the intellectual honesty that we have, the general acknowledgement of life in the womb. And when you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in that, it holds everybody back, really.

Prenatal development is a fundamental concept in embryology, and in abortion policy. It's like, it's very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You're just not going to get the right answer; your whole position is just going to be... stupidity, instead of a reasoned stance.

As John F. Kennedy said, "The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened," so... once in a while I get people who really don't, or that claim they don't believe that unborn children are anything more than clumps of cells. And my response generally is, well, why not? Really, why not.

Your ideology just becomes fantastically complicated when you don't believe in prenatal development. Here are these sonograms or ultrasound images; here's the unborn baby kicking; here are fetuses who are just like newborns but are at a different point in their life cycle; the idea of fertilization, of a new set of DNA... explains so much about human life. If you try to ignore that, your worldview just becomes... crazy, just uh... untenable, itself inconsistent.

And I say to the grown-ups, if you want to deny life in the womb and live in your world of radical abortion rights that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe about prenatal development, that's fine. But don't make your kids do it, 'cause we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and parents for the future; we need doctors that can practice medicine with integrity, help mothers...

It's just a really hard thing, a really hard thing. Now in another couple centuries, that worldview I'm sure will be-- just won't exist. There's no evidence for it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Abortionist: Hysterectomy is "basically an early cesarean section"

Dr. Benjamin's office, via
Recently, as I was doing some pro-life research, an ad came up for an abortion business in south Florida. I clicked it, not only because I enjoy costing them money, but also because you can find some incredible things on abortion websites.

But what I came across on Dr. Michael Benjamin's website shocked even me. I immediately took a screenshot, which you can view here, in case he tries to cover his tracks.

Here is the relevant segment, in which he gives completely bogus medical advice on late-term abortion methods:
The final alternative is "hysterectomy" which is basically an early cesarean section.
This procedure is best reserved for situations where emptying the uterus by the vaginal route is not possible. It has the disadvantages of greater risk, greater pain, greater recuperation, and higher cost and perhaps of greatest significance, it precludes future vaginal birth.
A hysterectomy absolutely is not an early cesarean section. It is the surgical removal of the uterus, typically as a treatment for uterine cancer, fibroids, or other gynecological problems.

Dr. Benjamin is technically correct that a hysterectomy precludes future vaginal birth, because it precludes any future birth-- you can't get pregnant without a uterus!

Perhaps he meant hysterotomy, a very different procedure, which does in fact resemble a cesarean. But cesarean sections don't preclude future vaginal birth. Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) may have increased risks for some women, but it is a medically legitimate option. According to the Mayo Clinic:
Years ago, a C-section ended any hope of future vaginal deliveries. But today, thanks largely to changes in surgical technique, VBAC is possible in many cases. In fact, an estimated 75 percent of women who try VBAC have a successful vaginal delivery.
If Dr. Benjamin cannot get his basic facts straight, how can women possibly trust him with their health and lives?

The icing on the cake is that Dr. Benjamin proudly states that he adheres to the supposedly high standards of the National Abortion Federation. The NAF's website confirms that he is a member.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Signs and Songs at the Texas Capitol: What Have We Learned?

[Today's post by Rebecca Downs is part of our paid blogging program.]

Texas Governor Rick Perry just signed the state's pro-life omnibus bill into law last week. In his statements he said he'd "like to thank everyone involved in making today's signing a possibility, including... everyone who stood for life throughout this process." The pro-lifers who maintained a peaceful presence certainly deserve recognition and thanks from the governor. What they had to contend with in the form of angry pro-aborts could not have been easy.

Many pro-abortion advocates at the Capitol were photographed holding offensive and obscene signs. A young girl even held a sign that said "If I Wanted the Government in my Womb, I'd F*** a Senator!" Others also took on a religious tone, to attack the Christian faith. Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America compiled a list of several of the signs she saw while there. One includes a teen girl with a sign that said "Jesus Isn't a D***, Keep Him Out of My Vagina." Another sign clearly shows the assumption about the reasoning behind being pro-life and pro-life laws, which read "America is NOT a theocracy. Your religion is NOT what decides law. If you want theocracy, move to Iran." A few there attempted to drown out pro-lifers in song with chants of "Hail Satan!" and there were also separate instances where pro-abortion advocates shouted of "F*** the Church!" 

The pro-lifers at the Capitol did engage in prayer and singing hymns such as "Amazing Grace," which is what prompted the chants of "Hail Satan!" Pro-lifers singing "God Bless America" were also drowned out with booing. It would seem that many of the pro-lifers present were religious persons. However, that does not mean that all were and even if they were, that does not mean they were there purely for religious reasons. Further, the religious preferences of those at the Texas Capitol do not represent those of all pro-lifers.

For those who carried such signs, they themselves were only further contributing to the problem of making abortion a religious issue. Religion need have nothing to do with a debate based on science and our inalienable rights. When pro-lifers bring religion into this debate, that speaks specifically to personal preferences. The pro-abortion response-- attacking those personal preferences-- is hardly surprising. It's also unsurprising that in doing so, they painted the entire pro-life movement with one brush.

And just as we've seen before, many of us firsthand, false assumptions are being made about the pro-life movement. These assumptions may be true for some individuals, but it is woefully ignorant to claim they are true for all pro-lifers. Taking the time to do basic research will show that not all pro-life organizations are based upon religion. To repeat such a false claim that abortion is a religious issue actually demonstrates that those who oppose us are the ones set in their ways.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Pro-Choice Dilemma

There are basically two types of rights that you possess: those of a human being and those of a particular government(s) you belong to. These are called natural rights (or basic human rights) and legal rights.

Discussion of rights often gets confused in discussions on abortion so it’s important to keep these terms straight. A natural right is a right that you possess by virtue of being human (belonging to our biological species). These include (but are not limited to) the right to life, the right to self-defense, and the right to liberty. If you’re from the United States, our Bill of Rights is a basic treatise on the natural rights of human beings. These are rights that every human being has and a government that does not recognize them is a corrupt government.

A legal right is a right that is granted by the government and can rightly be taken away or adjusted. They are also acquired due to achieving a certain level of maturity with which to be able to exercise them. These include (but are not limited to) the right to vote and the right to drive. These are rights granted to anyone who is a legal member of a state, country, province, etc. There lies a problem in that people tend to conflate the two types of rights together.

Usually when I argue that a human fetus has certain rights, they’ll argue back that a fetus has no rights because they don’t have a right to drive or vote. The response to this reasoning is obvious: Of course not. The right to drive and to vote are legal rights, obtained when one reaches a certain level of maturity. Toddlers don’t have a right to drive or vote, either, yet they still have natural rights as human beings.

This is actually a dilemma which does not seem resolvable for the pro-choice advocate. You see, natural rights exist when we come into existence. Natural rights are rights we enjoy by virtue of our being human, not by virtue of obtaining a certain level of development or maturity. So are the rights to life and bodily autonomy/integrity [1] natural rights? If no, then they are legal rights-- meaning that the government grants those rights and can rightfully take them away. I don’t think the pro-choice advocate wants to make this concession. So if the answer is yes, then the unborn actually do have a right to life and bodily autonomy/integrity. It follows, then, that abortion is actually a violation of not just the unborn’s right to life, but the unborn’s right to bodily integrity, as well.

So the discussion usually moves to: which right takes precedence? The argument is usually made by the pro-choice crowd that the right to bodily autonomy trumps the right to life. [2] But many people in the pro-life crowd argue that the right to life trumps the right to bodily integrity. First, it should be pointed out that abortion can be seen as the greater violation than preventing a woman from aborting since in the case of abortion, you’re violating two rights that the unborn has, the right to life and bodily autonomy (to say nothing of robbing them of their future), whereas if you prevent a woman from aborting, you’re only “violating” one, the right to bodily integrity (I put violating in quotes because if a woman willingly engages in sexual intercourse, knowing that pregnancy is always a possibility, she arguably waives her right to bodily autonomy).

Aside from that, the right to life is the most fundamental right anyone has. That’s why it is mentioned first in our pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Without the right to life no other rights makes sense. It is incoherent to speak of my having a right to free speech if I don’t have a right to live in the first place. The right to life trumps the right to bodily autonomy/integrity because it encompasses and affects the whole person, "mind, body, and (if you believe in it) soul." Bodily autonomy/integrity only encompasses what can or can’t be done to your own body. If you don’t have a right to live, you don’t have a right to your own body (which is why people don’t give animals a choice on if they want to become someone’s next meal -- obviously this is debatable, I’m just using it as an example for clarity of understanding). If you do have a right to live, only then do you have the right to determine what can be done to or with your own body.

So now that we’ve seen that the right to life is more fundamental than the right to bodily autonomy/integrity (though it, of course, is also a fundamental right), the objection is usually brought up that if the right to life trumps the right to bodily integrity, then we should force blood transfusions, kidney donations, bone marrow donations, etc., since a dying cancer patient’s right to life is more important than a healthy person’s right to bodily integrity. However, this objection doesn’t stand up.

The right to life, properly understood, is a right not to be intentionally killed without strong justification. If I refuse to donate blood or an organ, no one’s rights are being violated. So since forcing a blood transfusion or organ donation would be a violation of someone’s right to bodily integrity, and no one’s rights are being violated by a healthy person not being forced to donate an organ or blood, then it would be blatantly immoral to force someone to donate blood or an organ.

So with a proper understanding of rights, it seems that granting a “right” to abortion simply cannot be justified.

[1] I separate bodily autonomy/integrity for this reason: in philosophical discussion, it’s important to make your terms as clear as possible. Autonomy is usually understood as the right to do what you want. For example, an autonomous state is one that is not subject to a higher government and can make whatever laws it feels is best. So it seems to be the best way to understand bodily autonomy is the positive right to do whatever you want with or to your own body, within reason. The right to bodily integrity is the negative right not to have your body infringed upon for any reason against your will (such as being forced to donate blood). 
[2] Pro-life people who believe that abortion should be illegal except in the case of rape make this same argument (the Responsibility Objection explains why abortion should be illegal in all cases except for rape). I didn’t include them in the body of the article because explaining the exact position would have detracted from the flow of the article itself. This also explains why I say “many” pro-life people, since the pro-life people who believe abortion should be legal in the case of rape don’t argue this position.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Two-year-olds, cats, and parasites.

"What on earth does this mean?" you wonder. Well read on.
I find pro-choicers and pro-lifers often talk past each other because they seem to take for granted certain assumptions the other side doesn't share. In order to improve communication, I sometimes tell pro-choicers that if they want to understand how pro-lifers view abortion, just replace "fetus" with "two-year-old."
For example, suppose a woman sought an abortion because a pregnancy and child would completely disrupt her education or career. To see this situation from a pro-life perspective, imagine if, instead of having her fetus killed, she was having her two-year-old killed in order to not disrupt her education or career. Sounds horrifying, doesn't it? Same goes for having her two-year-old killed because she thinks the father is a bad life partner, or because she lost her job and is too broke to raise a toddler, and so on. Many of the reasons women normally cite for having an abortion seem woefully insufficient to justify having a toddler killed. And that's roughly how pro-lifers see abortion, because most pro-lifers recognize the fetus as a member of the human species differing only in level of development--a difference pro-lifers do not believe is morally significant.
I don't expect pro-choicers to agree with this illustration. I only point it out to try to give pro-choicers an idea of how pro-lifers view the situation.
But what would be the reverse analogy? How would I likewise explain to pro-lifers how pro-choicers view the fetus?
This is trickier for me because, first of all, I'm not pro-choice, and it's a lot harder to fairly describe a position you don't hold or agree with. 
Second, I think the term "pro-choice" covers a wider range of viewpoints than the term "pro-life." "Pro-life" usually means a person believes most abortions are immoral and should be illegal. "Pro-choice" usually means a person believes abortions should be legal at least some of the time, but beyond that it could mean many different things. For example, different pro-choice people believe abortion is immoral, morally neutral, or even a moral good. Additionally, different pro-choice people believe abortion should only be legal in the first trimester, or only until viability, or all the way up until birth. It seems to me the label "pro-choice" is just a catch all for anyone who doesn't think abortions should be illegal as a general rule. 
With that in mind, it's hard to think of a single analogy that would encompass how most pro-choicers view the fetus.
Some people consider themselves "personally pro-life," meaning they personally would not choose abortion, but they believe the choice should be up to each individual woman. I don't think these people would apply the same reasoning if we were talking about two-year-olds; I don't think they would say they personally wouldn't kill their two-year-old, but they think that choice should be up to each individual woman. Therefore, I expect the "personally pro-life" crowd does not see the fetus the same way most pro-lifers do--morally equivalent to a two-year-old. At the same time, "personally pro-life" people don't believe the fetus is morally irrelevant, hence their personal conviction not to abort. 
Therefore, I think perhaps they view the fetus the way some of us view, for example, our pet cat or dog. We may be happy to have our pets around. We may love our pets. We may care for them so much, in fact, that we would spend considerable resources to keep our pets alive and healthy. At the same time we recognize that, for some people, paying, for example, $1,000s in medical bills for a cat or dog just isn't feasible. For some people, if their pets get seriously ill or injured, it's really more financially responsible to have the poor animals put down. We personally wouldn't do this, but we respect that some people choose to. We certainly don't think putting animals down should be illegal as a general rule. 
Perhaps that's how some pro-choicers view the fetus: like a beloved kitten--an entity with some moral worth, though certainly not as much moral worth as a human child. (Aside: I realize for vegan pro-lifers this analogy may not work at all, but it's the best I can think of so far.)
I've talked before about how I think "pro-abortion" people are only a subset of pro-choice people, and I want to reiterate it here. At least based on my sample set, most of the pro-choicers I know are either "personally pro-life" or neutral, rather than "pro-abortion."
However, there are some people quite sure they would choose abortion, and even believe abortion is the morally preferable choice in many situations. I think it's fair to call people who think abortion is preferable "pro-abortion." In these cases I don't have to wonder as much what analogy to use to describe how "pro-aborts" view the fetus, because they've stated it explicitly enough. They see the fetus as a parasite, or a cancerous tumor--something foul to be removed as soon as possible. Certainly they don't assign the fetus any moral worth.
And finally, some people are pro-choice without necessarily being either "personally pro-life" or "pro-abortion." These people may choose abortion, or not, depending on the circumstances--it's not out of the question--and they believe abortion should generally be legal. But they don't necessarily think of abortion as a blessing *or* a curse--they don't necessarily think abortion (at least earlier term abortion) should have much moral connotation to begin with.  I believe these are the people most likely to describe the fetus as a "clump of cells," "pregnancy," or "product of conception." They think of the fetus not as a moral entity but in a rather vague, abstract way. To them, I think, the fetus has no "self" or "identity" apart from the mother, at least in the early term. I'm not sure which analogy would be appropriate to explain that perspective.

I'd be interested to get feedback from any pro-choicers reading this: what analogy would you use to explain how you view the fetus morally?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What about the choice to have a large family?

[Today's post by Rachel Cox is part of our paid blogging program.]

I saw an article a while back on Yahoo News reporting the birth of Josh and Anna Duggar’s third child. For those of you who don’t know, the Duggars are famous for their much-larger-than-average family size. Josh Duggar is one of the 19 children of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. Josh, their oldest child, married Anna a few years ago and the couple is already on their third child, paving the way for another big family.

I hadn’t followed the family’s show for a couple years so I was pleased to catch up with them. However, I was shocked at how many horrible comments people had written at the end of the article denouncing the Duggars’ choice to have large families. I could not believe how many hateful criticisms there were. It wasn’t just a few rogue commenters who posted their extreme opposition to the Duggars; it was very challenging to find any positive comments at all.  Here’s just a sampling of what people in the comments section of the article had to say:
  • “Disgusting on some [sic] many levels”
  • “Please stop reporting on these freaks. They need counseling and the girls need real futures instead of the slavery of reproduction.”
  • “REPULSIVE. These people are REPULSIVE. They and their REPULSIVE elders are professional f**kers, hiding under the guise of religion (which is even more REPULSIVE).”
  • “They are so saturated in their religious beliefs and think that it's normal to have that many children..idiots. They are addicted to having babies like an alcoholic addicted to difference.
  • “These people are despicable and should be executed for crimes against humanity.”
  • “These people need to be spayed & neutered.”
  • “the breeding like rats continues....”
I could hardly believe what I was reading. Some of the contributors thought Mrs. Duggar must have been brainwashed (or "enslaved" as one person put it) into having that many kids.

The reality is that there are still women out there who have no desire to have careers and simply want to stay at home and raise a family. And if that’s what a woman wants to do, whether it's for religious reasons or just because she loves children, “it’s her choice” and she should be able to exercise that choice without being verbally assaulted and degraded. Based on the sentiments presented in the article’s discussion section, the “it’s my body, my choice” slogan only seems to apply when a woman wants an abortion. When a woman chooses to have more children than average, in the eyes of those who made these hateful comments, she becomes a “repulsive freak” and should stop bearing children.  

In addition to being obviously hypocritical, do these people also not see how blatantly sexist their logic is? They’re basically saying women are animalistic and disgusting for exercising the full potential of their reproductive abilities. Anybody besides me have a problem with that?

So, what happened? Why have the Duggars and others like them been vilified so drastically to the point of being referred to as animals and having death wished upon them? My answer is simple: the proliferation of abortion. Since the 70’s, the abortion industry has drilled into our culture that it’s not only okay to limit your children by having them killed before they’re born, but expected. They’ve preached that the only way women can be truly free is if they can get abortions. They’ve touted abortion as an integral tool of family planning that should be utilized on-demand. The standard feminist philosophy (which is also shared by the abortion industry) is that women should not “become baby factories.” We’ve all been subject to this rhetoric for so long that now a lot of people feel that it is abnormal, or even criminal, to have a larger-than-average family size. 

But they’re wrong. There is nothing abnormal about having babies. That’s what women’s bodies do! There is nothing freakish, disgusting, repulsive, or despicable about it. Contrary to what our culture says, it’s perfectly natural to have as many children as nature allows. If the Duggars want to have as many kids as possible, more power to them, and they shouldn’t be judged hatefully for it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fewer Abortions & Fewer Births: CA Teen Pregnancy Reduced by Sex Ed?

A couple days ago, The Huffington Post published an article titled, "California Teen Pregnancy Rates Drop 60 Percent Thanks To Sex Education." But wait! You think, after carefully reading the article. HuffPo is talking about teen birth rates, not teen pregnancy rates. Those aren't the same thing.

Too true, dear reader, too true. And that's an important distinction for us pro-lifers to make. Why? Because the birth rate can drop even if the pregnancy rate stays the same if women are getting more abortions. A decreasing birth rate doesn't necessarily mean a decreasing pregnancy rate. 

Here is a graph of the birth rate in California, according to the California Department of Public Health:

But is the birth rate declining because fewer teens are getting pregnant, or because more teens are getting abortions? Is comprehensive sex education actually lowering the pregnancy rate, or is it leading to more pregnancies and more abortions?

Well, let's see. Here's the graph when we add in California's overall abortion rate (that is, not just teen abortions, but all women age 15-44):

If the teen birth rate was only going down because of abortions, the abortion rate would be increasing. But it's actually quite the opposite.

But, wait! You think. Maybe the teen abortion rate skyrocketed even though the overall abortion rate decreased. A reasonable consideration, but you'd be mistaken. If we insert the trend for California's teen abortion rate, we see an even stronger decrease:


So although Huffington Post didn't bother looking at the (crucial) abortion rate, they happen to be correct that not just the birth rate is declining, but the pregnancy rate is declining as well. There are fewer teen births *and* fewer teen abortions in California since comprehensive, medically accurate sex education has been implemented. 

But wait!! You say. Correlation isn't causation! And you are so right! I'm glad you remembered, because people forget that all the time. So: is the declining teen pregnancy rate because of comprehensive sex education? 

As HuffPo notes, the declining abortion rate is part of a national trend. The declining birth rate is also part of a national trend. Maybe the declines in California teen pregnancy and teen abortion are just part of an overall national trend, and not specific to California's sex education initiatives. We need to look more closely at states that differ in their sex education policies if we want to see how it affects pregnancy rates.

This study rated each state based on their abstinence-only education (as opposed to comprehensive sex education). Level 0 states don't use any abstinence-only education, level 1's use minimal amounts of it, level 2's even moreso, and level 3's teach strictly abstinence-only. Also "pregnancy rate" is calculated based on birth, abortion, and estimated miscarriage rates (not just birth rate!). Results?

In 2005, level 0 states had an average (± standard error) teen pregnancy rate of 58.78 (±4.96), level 1 states averaged 56.36 (±3.94), level 2 states averaged 61.86 (±3.93), and level 3 states averaged 73.24 (±2.58) teen pregnancies per 1000 girls aged 14–19 (Table 3)
The level of abstinence education (no provision, covered, promoted, stressed) was positively correlated with both teen pregnancy and teen birth rates, indicating that abstinence education in the U.S. does not cause abstinence behavior. To the contrary, teens in states that prescribe more abstinence education are actually more likely to become pregnant.

Since abortion rate was actually not correlated to a state's emphasis on abstinence-only education, the reason birth rates differ is because of differing pregnancy rates. States with less abstinence-only education (and more comprehensive sex education) had lower pregnancy rates. Still too much correlation? Well it helps that this study even accounted for "socioeconomic status, teen educational attainment, ethnic composition of the teen population, and availability of Medicaid waivers for family planning services in each state." 

So it looks like HuffPo is right, and comprehensive sex ed has been helping California reduce teen pregnancy. And I know at this point you're all thinking something along the lines of Woohoo! Me too, dear reader. Me too. :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

In Defense of Graphic Images

[Today's post by Alycia Hartley is part of our paid blogging program. Secular Pro-Life has no official position on the display of graphic images and welcomes debate on the issue.]

One of the strategies that I personally believe has divided the pro-life community more than any other is the debate over the use of graphic images. Graphic images, in the pro-life sense, are the images of aborted babies. I have met people on all parts of the spectrum when it comes to whether these images should be used or not. Some believe they should be used everywhere and anywhere, others believe that they should be used but that it depends on how and where, and others believe they should never be used. The latter position is held not only by individuals, but by some regional and national pro-life groups as well. Their reasons for the disapproval of graphic images vary, but in general, they usually center on the concern that these images turn others off to the pro-life message. Opponents of graphic images tend to believe more so-called “compassionate” methods should be used, and we should work on hearts rather than employ the vomit reflex.

I should confess a few things here. First of all, I have worked with graphic images, and secondly, I hate graphic images. A few years ago I had a flexible enough schedule to do some volunteer work locally with the organization Center for Bioethical Reform (CBR). CBR is committed to ending abortion by exposing what abortion is. The work I did with them was mostly done on college campuses, where there was not a threat of children seeing the graphic images. Most of the work I did was in what is called “choice chains,” where light, portable signs that are about four feet high are used. When we were on campus, we didn’t just show the images, but tried to engage people in peaceful discussion about abortion. One common comment that came up was that we were “sick,” or that we “liked” the images. I would often comment back to people that I hated these images, and I only worked with them so that one day there wouldn’t be a need to show them.

I remember one gentleman in particular who came up to me during one of these visits to a college campus. He told me that he was Christian and was pro-life, but that he absolutely did not agree with our tactics of showing abortion imagery. Unfortunately, as soon as he said his piece, this man quickly turned and walked away. As he did so, I asked how he knew about the Holocaust, but received no answer from him. I know I personally cannot hear the word “Holocaust” without seeing a vision in my own mind of the many rail-thin, starved bodies, stacked up like garbage rather than people. I would assume the experience is similar for many others when they hear the word “Holocaust.”

I know a little about educating people, as I am a graduate student in education. Much of what we learn is through visuals. In fact, one instructor I recently had claimed that 90% of what we learn is through visual information. How did people learn about how blacks were being treated in the South before the Civil Rights Movement? Was it not through graphic images such as the photos of Emmett Till? How do we know of the fate of women who have acid thrown on their faces in the Middle East? I have an ingrained image of a poor woman this happened to, her beautiful face burned so badly that her nose is gone.

So how to educate people about what is involved in abortion, and who it involves? I can tell you about the nightmarish procedure of abortion, but once you see the graphic image you immediately know the truth of abortion, and it speaks much louder and clearer than anything I could say. People need to be exposed to the injustice of abortion, just as past injustices are exposed in high school history classrooms all over this nation when teachers show students images of the Holocaust, or of the battered body of Emmett Till.

When we are dealing with a scourge on our country that kills thousands of preborn babies every year, we have to pull out the big guns, so to speak. We have to use the tools available, and one of the most practical tools is abortion imagery. Yes, people may be offended, but abortion is offensive. They may be sickened, but abortion is sickening. They may get angry, but abortion is something to get mad about. Maybe, just maybe, those people who walk away after seeing what abortion really is, will wake up to the holocaust that is happening right under their noses, and help to do something to stop it.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Church, State, and License Plate

When I first heard that Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee cited church-state separation when vetoing a bill for Choose Life license plates, I rolled my eyes. Great, I thought, another politician who thinks "pro-life" and "religious" are synonyms. But when I looked into it further, I changed my mind.

Part of my confusion stemmed from the fact that I am from Florida, where funds from Choose Life plates go to Choose Life Florida, which then distributes the funds to qualified "pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, or non-profit adoption agencies" within the state. According to Choose Life Florida, over 250 agencies qualify. Other states give to adoption programs only, give to a non-sectarian Right to Life group, or follow the Florida model.

But as it turns out, the Rhode Island legislation would have done something entirely different: the sole charity to receive funds from the Rhode Island Choose Life plates was Care Net, a Christian pregnancy resource center.

Faith-based charities can do some great things, no question. And I have nothing personal against Care Net. But singling out a religious charity for license plate fundraising help, when there are secular charities available to accomplish the same or similar goals, does indeed pose a church-state separation problem.

Right to Life of Rhode Island says that Governor Chafee is "hiding behind the separation of church and state." Perhaps he is. Perhaps he really just doesn't want his abortion industry donors to have too much competition from pro-life charities. Perhaps he is de facto opposed to choices other than abortion.

But the only way to know is to pass legislation that funds pregnancy support services broadly. Pro-life advocates in Rhode Island should try again, this time with a bill that distributes funds to qualifying charities without regard to religion.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dear Jezebel: Real friends don't count chromosomes.

According to the Washington Times, there was a couple planning to abort their child diagnosed with Down syndrome. A priest made a deal with the couple--if he could find a good home for the baby before their state's deadline for late-term abortions, the couple would not abort. The priest's church reached out through Facebook for interested parties, and was soon inundated with offers to adopt the baby. According to the article:
The president and founder of the International Down Syndrome Coalition, Diane Grover, stressed the importance of informing couples who are considering abortion for babies with Down syndrome that adoption is a viable option, pointing to the fast and overwhelming response her organization received about this one unborn child as an amazing example.
Now this seems like a story everyone can get behind, doesn't it? A community rallied around a couple and got them the resources they needed in order to no longer desire abortion. Both pro-life and pro-choice people can appreciate one less abortion due to increased support for abortion-minded women and couples. Right?

Well, yes, I think so. In most cases. Just not with Jezebel's Katie Baker:
...But the woman in this story is still being coerced into carrying to term.
So many mistreated babies and kids with Downs live terrible lives. Instead of throwing resources at a nonviable fetus, why can't the church help children with Down syndrome that are already alive? Because anti-abortion folks care more about fetuses with fairytale narratives than actual babies.
There's so much stupid in this quote I need to take it piece by piece.

1. "But the woman in this story is still being coerced..." So offering to help find an adoptive family is coercion now? That's awkward. Just so I understand: pro-lifers are jerks for not trying to help women get through crisis pregnancies, and pro-lifers are jerks for trying to help women get through crisis pregnancies. Is that right? The only people who truly care about women are those who either stay uninvolved or encourage abortion, yeah?

The woman is not being coerced. The priest offered to find an adoptive family. The woman could have said "No, I'm not interested in doing that" and continued with her plan to abort. She chose to wait and see if the child could be adopted instead. It's biased to assume (and condescending to insist) that if a woman makes any choice other than to abort, she must not be thinking for herself--that it must be coercion.

2. "So many mistreated babies and kids with Downs live terrible lives."

2a. The solution to people being mistreated is to fight against the mistreatment, not to kill off the people being mistreated.

2b. So many kids in general live terrible lives. So many people live terrible lives! It's ridiculous to suggest that you are somehow in the wrong if you try to help some people without managing to help everyone. What an unhelpful, impossible standard.

3. "Instead of throwing resources at a nonviable fetus..." Not that viability is a reasonable measure of "personhood" anyway, but for the record: fetal viability hovers around 24 weeks, and can be even earlier. This fetus may well have been viable at the time the priest entered the picture, and if not, the fetus would be viable very soon thereafter.

First the author tries to undermine this fetus's life by talking about how terrible life is for people with Down syndrome (I believe families of people with Down syndrome have plenty to say about that), and then she tries to undermine it with the red herring of nonviability. Classy.

4. "...why can't the church help people with Down syndrome that are already alive?"

4a. "Already alive?" Not to impose science on you, but the fetus is already alive. I thought pro-choicers who denied that the fetus is alive were a thing of the past, but (embarrassingly) apparently not.

4b. As I said, it's counter-productive to tell people they can't help anyone unless they're helping everyone. The only way these suggestions make sense is if you assume fetal life is less worthy of protection or respect than the lives of other human beings which is, of course, a distinctly pro-choice assumption. Way to beg the question.

4c. The church can help born people with Down syndrome. And the church does. Along with helping plenty of other born people, too, by the way. Not to mention all the assistance that pro-lifers of all religious persuasions provide outside of the church, through such organizations as the International Down Syndrome Coalition.

4d. The particular priest in this story, Rev. Thomas Vander Woude, comes from a family marked for their support of people with Down syndrome. Vander Woude's youngest brother, Joseph, has Down syndrome, and several years ago Vander Woude's father actually gave his life to save Joseph's. ...I couldn't make this stuff up.

5. "Because anti-abortion folks care more about fetuses with fairytale narratives than actual babies." Yeah. I'm sure the families offering to change their entire lives by adopting a child with Down Syndrome are just doing it to keep our fetus fairytales going. I'm sure Vander Woude's family members, who have raised and supported his brother with Down syndrome, are just perpetuating a decades-long ruse to cover up their fetus-centric mentality. If only we all cared about babies as much as Katie Baker--then instead of seeking (and being) loving families, we could assume these children's lives will be terrible and kill them off early.

And people say no one is "pro-abortion."

See the rest of brother and sister Josh and Grace Curley's sweet message here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Understanding the situation in Ireland

[Today's guest post is by Irish SPL member Evelyn Fennelly.]

For the first time in its history, Ireland passed a bill legalising abortion in the early hours of Friday morning. 

The Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill contains provisions for termination of pregnancy where there is a physical threat to life of the mother and legalises abortion where the mother experiences suicidality. 

To be clear: pro-life groups do not oppose the provision of medical treatment to pregnant women. Sometimes treatment will consist of medication, other times major interventions of surgery or combinations of medication and surgery. Sometimes the pregnancy will have to be ended (i.e. the baby delivered) but everything will be done to also preserve the life of the baby. The intention of these interventions is to save lives, not end them. Sometimes a baby will not survive, but that is not the intention of the procedure. For example: in the case of a mother with pre-eclampsia that is unresponsive to interventions, the pregnancy needs to end immediately. The baby will be delivered. Doctors will care for the mother and a team of neo-natologists will care for the baby, endeavouring to preserve his or her life as well. That baby will hopefully survive, but some babies delivered early because such a termination of pregnancy was required do not survive and may die in the NICU hours or days later. The death of the child was not the intention of the procedure. It is very different from an abortion, where the purpose is to end the life of the child. 

Pro-life groups in Ireland support the provision of medical treatment to pregnant women and support the ethical distinction between interventions intended to save lives and abortion, which intends to end a life. As such, we do not have an issue with clarifying the law surrounding the provisional of ethical treatment. [Ironically, this Bill may in fact result in reduced clinical flexibility in such cases, as it states specific circumstances when terminations may be carried out. Before now, provision of treatment, including termination, was permitted when the doctor's intention was to preserve life in accordance with the Medical Council's guidelines, which allowed for clinical flexibility in treating cases as they arose, not according to prescribed legal definitions.]

The big issue that pro-life groups have with the Bill is Section 9, which permits termination of pregnancy in women experiencing suicidality. This clause is based on the Supreme Court's decision in The X Case in 1992, when they concluded (without hearing any psychiatric evidence) that abortion was a permissible treatment for a woman suicidal during pregnancy. As this Bill was being formulated, the government held two sessions of medical and legal hearings. At those hearings, all the psychiatrists present -- including those who were pro-choice -- confirmed that abortion is not a treatment for suicidality. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that shows abortion can have a harmful effect on a woman's mental health, especially if she has a history of mental illness. The evidence of these psychiatrists seems to have been completely ignored, as the clause allowing termination of pregnancy because of suicidality remains in the final Bill. 

The supposed restricted access legalised in this Bill is similar to the law in California in 1968 which also legalised abortion in cases of suicidality. In three years, the number of abortions in California rose from under 700 to over 61,000. Systems in the UK, New Zealand and other countries show mental health exceptions being widely abused and gradually leading to de facto abortion on demand. There is a real fear that this Bill presents the beginning of a similar trajectory for Ireland.

Aside entirely from the prospect of wide-spread abortion, the Bill as it stands presents a disturbing reality. For the first time in the history of our state, the life of an unborn child can be deliberately and intentionally targeted -- without any term limit. Abortion is now legal when a woman experiences suicidality in pregnancy, even though there is no medical evidence to show that it will help her, and a significant amount of evidence that it could further harm her mental health. Government members and media commentators who talk about possible repeal of Section 9 (the "suicide clause") if it becomes abused miss the point entirely: destroying the life of one child under this section is a grievous wrong and is in itself an abuse. 

Interestingly, the Abortion Rights Campaign opposed the Bill because it did not "go far enough." The ARC ultimately supports unrestricted abortion in the "Canadian model," and wanted this Bill to include legalising abortion for unborn babies diagnosed with fatal conditions, and for unborn babies conceived in rape. The ARC also opposed the provision in the Bill which creates a 14 year prison sentence for those who procure abortions. This provision was not proposed by any pro-life group. I also do not believe that women should be imprisoned -- but I do believe that those who perform abortions should be subjected to legal prosecution and struck off the medical register.  

The current government consists of a coalition of Fine Gael and Labour. The main government party, Fine Gael, courted the pro-life vote in the last election, giving a commitment not to introduce abortion to the Pro Life Campaign and asking them to circulate this commitment to their membership in advance of the General Election in 2011. Some government members tried to deny that a commitment was ever given (unfortunately for them, the Irish Independent published it -- see the second half of this article). Others engaged in some spectacular semantic gymnastics, claiming that the Bill did not renege on the commitment. 

The Bill was voted on in the Dáil (parliament) after lengthy debate. The "whip system" requires government representatives to vote as mandated -- in this case, to vote in favour of the Bill. 31 members of parliament voted against the Bill. Five of these were government members who were subsequently expelled from Fine Gael (ironically, for honouring the party's pre-election commitment). We applaud the courage and conviction of: Terence Flanagan, Billy Timmins, Brian Walsh, Peter Mathews and Lucinda Creighton. Other representatives struggled against their conscience -- and won. Notably, Regina Doherty, James Bannon, John O'Mahony, Michelle Mulherin and Simon Harris, who had previously given personal pro-life commitments on top of the party's commitment, went on to support the Bill this week, sacrificing principle rather than being expelled from the party. 

The Bill will go to the Senate next week, where more Senators will oppose the bill -- and more members will be expelled from Fine Gael. The government Chief Whip in the Senate, Paul Coghlan, has been a long-time pro-life advocate, which presents the extraordinary possibility of the Chief Whip defying the very whip he is tasked with enforcing. After the Bill passes through the Senate, there will be "rebel" groups in both houses -- still representatives, but no longer members of government. It is unclear at this stage whether a new political party will emerge from the pro-life "rebels." 

Senators can recommend amendments to the Bill, which will then go back to the Dáil, where representatives will accept or reject proposed amendments from the Senate. The Bill will then be sent to the President for his signature. The President has the power to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court in order to determine its constitutionality before signing it. The President, Michael Higgins, has been a long time abortion advocate and supports this Bill. However, if referred to the Supreme Court and determined constitutional by the court, the Bill is rendered immune from legal challenge. I think it unlikely that Higgins will take the risk of sending the Bill to the Supreme Court - it is more likely that he will sign the Bill, making it law late next week. 

What then? That's not clear just yet. Irish pro-life activists will spend some time licking their wounds and reflecting. The past few months have been a long and stressful battle for those involved in campaigns. Whether the strategy that's ultimately decided upon will be a legal challenge, a repeal through parliament or a constitutional amendment (or something else entirely) is anyone's guess at this stage. What I do know is that the past months have mobilised and galvanised a growing pro-life movement that's motivated to ensure unborn babies and their mothers are protected by Irish law. This picture says it all.

Inline images 1 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Don't Impose Your Science on Me!

On Monday, Rabbi Aaron Alexander took to the Huffington Post to put the latest face on a tired argument. Happily, he kept it short, so I'm going to break it down piece by piece.
Though I've hesitated from doing so until this point, I'm going to reflect briefly on abortion. I am not going to engage in the conversation -- as a man -- of what women ought be permitted to, or prohibited from, doing with their bodies. The policy makers in Texas and North Carolina seem to have that well covered, tragically.
Really? You think it's "tragic" that abortion centers will be held to the standards of other surgical facilities and women will be unable to have abortions after five months? Because, beneath all the hype, that's what the legislation actually says.
Rather, I'm going to speak as a person of faith to my fellow brothers and sisters of faith. Please know this comes from a place of respect, love, and shared service to God.
Well, clearly I'm not the audience, so moving on...
You first need to know that I seriously admire your advocacy on behalf of life. To battle for deeply held convictions in this age is no small thing and deserves praise.
Why thank you.
You possess a (not THE) definition of what constitutes life

The Princess Bride was wrong; there is no such thing as mostly dead and slightly alive. You are one or the other. It is a scientific question with a right or wrong answer. The "many truths" approach does not work when the issue is one of objective fact.
and you won't back down from trying to defend it. There is much integrity to that consistency.
But, like all things religious, it is also potentially dangerous.
How is it "religious" when there are millions of pro-lifers in the United States with no religion? It can't just be because there are religious folks who agree with us; most religious people also agree that human trafficking is immoral, but we don't call human trafficking a religious issue.
So this is the part I don't understand. Your definition of when life begins is not based on scientific fact. It is your religiously held belief. But it isn't mine. 
The reason Rabbi Alexander doesn't get it is because our definition of when life begins IS based on scientific fact.

This misunderstanding goes way back to the beginning, when in Roe v. Wade, Justice Blackmun briefly mentioned the view of modern physicians that life begins at conception alongside the various views of ancient Stoics, Aristotle, Jews, Protestants, and the Catholic Church. Actual medicine was discarded as just another truth among many.
My religious tradition -- which prioritizes life above all else -- generally assumes that potential life doesn't become its own living entity until 40 days into the pregnancy. And, for the entire pregnancy, the mother's life is always given priority. Right up until birth. (See Mishnah Ohalot, 7:6.) That includes both physical health, and even in certain cases (like rape), emotional health as well.
I don't have much to say about this, except to mention that there are pro-life Jews who, shockingly, think that prioritizing life above all else is pretty freaking incompatible with support for abortion on demand.
You may disagree with my religion's definition. That I understand and respect. But here's the rub: when you attempt to legislate what my community (or any community) can and can't do based on your faith's definition, you don't just simply disagree with me. You are saying, to be blunt, that your religion is correct and mine is incorrect -- coercively.
Public policy should not be based upon anyone's religion, but upon objective reality alone. Sometimes religious adherents may not like the way that turns out. Modern science has been kind to Christians, and others, who want life to be protected from conception; it's been considerably less kind to those Christians who want Genesis to be taught in public schools. So it goes. This isn't about bashing anybody's religion; it's about protecting human lives from violence.
That takes a considerable amount of hubris that isn't worthy of either of our faiths, or our great country's principles, for that matter. And that doesn't mean your opinion isn't relevant and shouldn't be part of our country's dialogue. Of course it should.
So, what, we're allowed to talk about abortion, so long as we don't actually save any babies?
But when we both base our imperatives on religious values -- we need to recognize that that gives us no right to impose them on anyone else. I know you wouldn't want me to enforce my definition of life on you and your family. You'd fight that, even. If we truly value one another, as people of faith dedicated to the service of God, then we owe each other nothing less. Can we please agree to disagree and let faith communities dictate only to their own?
In a word: no. Rabbi, if the Aztec religion resurfaced and started performing human sacrifices to the gods, I am certain that you would not just sit back and let them dictate their own faith to their own people. I think that you would intervene, because I think that you are a well-meaning person. But it's not enough to mean well, if you don't acknowledge the facts. As a wise religious person once said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"The Miracle of Abortion"

Remember watching those awkward sex education videos when you were about eleven? Ever have to watch a live birth one?

The satirical online newspaper, The Onion, parodies the adolescent awkwardness of learning about sex with its article "8th-Grade Health Class Squirms Throughout Entire Screening Of 'Miracle Of Abortion'." Some excerpts and thoughts:

"During the video’s first 20 minutes, as the patient and various surgical tools were prepped for the procedure, the only noise reportedly made by the students was the sound of anxious fidgeting as they repositioned themselves in their seats. While many grew red in the face and giggled audibly at the first sight of the woman’s genitals, the chuckles are said to have quickly turned into gasps and groans of revulsion as the film approached its climactic scene of embryo evacuation." 

Abortion rights proponents decry the use of graphic abortion photos as disturbing and irrelevant. As they point out, photos of open heart surgery could likewise look disturbing or disgusting, but that doesn't necessarily mean open heart surgery is immoral.

But the revulsion we feel when seeing an abortion is fundamentally different from the squeamishness of watching an open heart surgery; it is the revulsion of watching a death. Our reaction is not based solely on "grossness" but also on an understanding of the meaning behind the disgust. It's like the difference between watching a surgeon break a kid's leg in order to set it so it will grow properly and watching an abusive parent break a kid's leg. Yeah, they're both "gross," but they are entirely different and appropriately elicit different responses. I expect parents would feel very differently about allowing their children to watch one situation versus the other. It's not about being gross, it's about being horribly violent.

On the other hand, we do provide people--including our children and teenagers--with specific descriptions, photos, and sometimes video of the reproductive/birthing process. That information can also be disturbing and disgusting to kids, but as they become old enough to be sexually active it's important they understand how their bodies work and what can happen as a result of their actions. Or, as The Onion puts it...

“Every year, there’s a lot of uneasiness when I show this video,” Flannery said. “I recognize it’s uncomfortable for kids their age to watch, but as they start to become aware of their own sexuality, it’s important they see what actually happens to the female body during abortion.”

Again, The Onion is a satirical newspaper. Still I couldn't help but think, as I read the above, what a sad thought it is--as if abortion is so inevitable that we need to educate children on exactly how it works. And yet, in reality, is that so far off? Abortion isn't exactly a rare event. Depending on which organization you look to for estimates, there are between 780,000 to 1,200,000 abortions in the US every year. According to Guttmacher, by age 45 about 1 in 3 American women have had an abortion. As Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post put it:
We have indeed come a long way from Roe v. Wade. In the early days of legal abortion, nearly everyone insisted the procedure wasn't intended as birth control. Millions of abortions later, original intent is laughable. Even Bill Clinton's call for abortion to be safe, legal and rare has a fairy tale quality by today's standards.
(You should read her whole piece, by the way. It was excellent.)

Again, from The Onion:

In both the moments leading up to and immediately following the screening of the film, health teacher Diane Flannery, 53, is said to have reminded the unsettled students that the events depicted on screen were 100 percent real, and simply a natural part of life and sexual behavior.

I don't know about "natural." But "common"? Sadly, yes.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pro-choice groups say subway ads are a form of intimidation

Yes, you heard right. Offering free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and counseling is super-duper intimidating. Pro-choice groups (NARAL) are up in arms against ads from EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers, a pro-life group. According to Andrea Miller, Executive Director of NARAL, "there should be truth in advertising."

Alternatives to abortion?? False advertising! There are no alternatives to abortion!

Well, 'truth in advertising' would be an issue if they didn't offer free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and counseling. Yet they do. So what's the real issue here?

Surprise surprise, it's because EMC offers pro-life alternatives to abortion. NARAL justifies their attack with this keen observation: "those behind the ads try to reach out to women considering abortions and attempt to stop or delay them from doing so." Oh gosh, she's right -- that's so illegal! Because everyone knows that you must explicitly state your angle on all ads even if what is being advertised is 100% accurate. And we'd never tolerate less than 100% accuracy in advertising.


Look & Feel Your Hottest: Photoshop CS17

And NARAL isn't alone on this. "NY Congresswoman  Carolyn Maloney has now introduced federal legislation that would call on the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission, to regulate such ads and prevent advertisers from making what Maloney is calling false promises."

Well that would certainly be useful legislation if anything they were promising was false. Way to spend your your constituents' tax money doing something useful, Maloney.

So what do you think -- are pro-life ads held to a completely different standard?    

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Abortion Religion

Average “pro-choice” people in America are actually quite moderate. They support a ban on abortions after the first trimester. They support informed consent and waiting periods. And they do not join a mob at the state capital to spit on pro-lifers and chant “Hail, Satan.”

This is not a post about average pro-choicers. This is a post about abortion activists who dedicate significant portions of their lives to defending the practice of prenatal killing against any and all regulation, or to actually committing abortions. I’m talking about activists who believe in abortion with what is practically a religious fervor.

Religious doctrines can provide a tool for understanding the views of these abortion rights hardliners. Below, I draw upon traditions from Catholicism, Hinduism, and other faiths to shed light on the pro-abortion worldview. Whatever your own beliefs, I hope that you find these analogies to be helpful.

Admittedly, not every abortion advocate subscribes to every belief listed here. But these themes appear frequently enough that pro-lifers are bound to come across them in conversations and debates with people from the other side. Bear in mind, too, that people can hold these beliefs without having examined them carefully or even consciously realizing that they hold them.

“[B]y the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” ~Catechism of the Catholic Church
“Well, in my heart and my mind, you know, life begins when the mother says it begins, not when anybody else thinks it begins. For some women it’s before they conceive; for some women, it’s never. Even after they deliver, it’s still a problem, not a baby.” ~Late-term abortionist Leroy Carhart
The basic idea of transubstantiation is that when a particular individual speaks particular words, this causes the fundamental nature of something to change, even though this change is not physically apparent or scientifically measurable. In Catholicism, the speaker is a priest, the words are a blessing, the object is a loaf of bread or goblet of wine, and the transformation is that the bread or wine becomes the body or blood of Jesus. In abortionism, the speaker is a pregnant woman, the words are an acknowledgement of positive feelings about motherhood, the object is the unborn child, and the transformation is that the "clump of cells" becomes a living baby.
7 weeks, 4 days

Of course, this is the sort of thing that has to be taken on faith. An 8-week-old unborn baby who is scheduled to be aborted looks and functions just like an 8-week-old who is loved by his or her mother. Both have clear signs of life.

“When people die with strong unfulfilled desires, which can only be fulfilled on earth, their minds—while they are in the other world—strongly yearn for the fulfillment of those desires. As every conscious action is prompted by a thought, those unfulfilled desires eventually bring them back to earth, thus causing their rebirth or reincarnation.” ~Swami (monk) Bhaskarananda, Vedanta Society of Western Washington
“Abortion access is very rarely about being a mother vs. not being a mother, about having a baby to love or not. While that's true for a small percentage of women seeking abortions, for most women, it's about timing. Women just want to give the children they do have the best possible shot at a good life by having them at the right time.” ~Abortion supporter and blogger Amanda Marcotte
Unlike the abortion transubstantiation doctrine discussed above, abortion advocates rarely state a belief in reincarnation explicitly. But it is implicit in the idea that abortion is not a matter of deciding which children will be born, but when children will be born. If abortion is all about the “timing” of parenthood, and abortion is a morally acceptable way to accomplish that timing, then unborn children cannot be unique individuals; the aborted child and the later-born one must be essentially the same. This flies in the face of scientific and medical evidence, which shows that every human being has unique DNA from conception. But reincarnation makes sense of it; the aborted child may not be physically the same as her later-born sibling, but they are spiritually the same. The aborted child is “reborn” at a more convenient time.

“Good Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.” ~Rev. Jerry Falwell
“You can't call yourself a feminist if you don't believe in the right to abortion.” ~Nora Ephron
Fundamentalism has been widely criticized, by secular and religious leaders alike, because it makes a virtue of closed-mindedness and fosters an “us versus them” mentality. When you meet an abortion advocate who refuses to see pro-lifers as anything other than misogynists, and who declares “You will never change my mind,” you are dealing with a fundamentalist. No amount of evidence for the humanity of the unborn child will move them; it will go in one ear and out the other. Just as religious fundamentalists reject any facts that contradict their religious texts, and try to prevent those facts from being widely disseminated, so too abortion fundamentalists condemn life-saving ultrasound technology and try to insulate women from the reality of the abortion choice.