Monday, September 30, 2013

Delusional for Davis: What Texas Abortion Supporters Have Wrong

Wendy Davis, the Texas politician best known for wearing pink shoes while fighting for the right to kill five-month-old fetuses, is expected to run for governor of Texas. Abortion advocate and Democratic consultant Jason Stanford has an opinion column in Politico that desperately seeks to convince people that the Davis campaign is not doomed:
In a June University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, 38.65 percent of moderates, 38.36 percent of suburbanites, and 29.31 percent of soft Republicans agreed with the position that abortion should be a legal and personal choice. Those are minority opinions, to be sure, but Democrats haven’t scored that high in the suburbs since Ann Richards was governor. Add to their numbers the suburban Texas women who support exceptions for rape and incest — and who might think twice about electing a governor who didn’t — and Davis could have an opening.
Stanford argues that Davis' near-certain opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, is "far out of the mainstream" because when Abbott was questioned about abortion to save the life of the mother, he responded, "What both the medical community needs to do, and the pro-life community supports, is doing everything we can to protect the life of the mother." Stanford calls that "obfuscating" and "gobbledygook." I guess people hear what they want to hear.

Stanford concludes: "If Davis can frame Abbott’s extreme position as restricting abortion access, then Gov. Wendy Davis might not be such a crazy idea after all." The problem with that theory isn't just that Abbott is less extreme than Stanford wants to believe. It's also that Davis actually is extreme. The bill that Davis filibustered was not a bill that would have created barriers to contraception, or banned abortions to save the mother's life. The bill, which is now an enacted law, does two things: it bans abortions after 20 weeks, and it holds abortion facilities to high safety standards.

It's one thing to be the pro-choice candidate; it's quite another to be the pro-late-term-abortions-and-unsafe-clinics candidate. Abbott is going to have a field day. And voters aren't going to forget what the content of the law is, as much as Davis might want them to, because pro-abortion groups recently sued over the clinic safety provisions. That means that the law will be tied up in court, making news at each step of the proceedings.

Then there's the wild card: Douglas Karpen. Karpen is a Texas late-term abortionist who is accused by former employees of killing babies outside of the womb. An investigation is ongoing. If the results of that investigation are released during the gubernatorial campaign, Davis will have a lot of explaining to do. ("Obfuscating" and "gobbledygook" will certainly be appropriate words then!)

The real take-away from Stanford's piece is that abortion advocates are desperate to believe that their cause will triumph, despite all evidence to the contrary. That's great news for protectors of human life.

Friday, September 27, 2013

33 Years of Slaughter in China

This week marked a tragic anniversary: 33 years of the one-child policy in China. This barbaric policy has harmed hundreds of millions of people. Abortion is a major component of the policy, whether it is "chosen" by women who know that they will only have one shot at motherhood, or physically enforced by government goons. Women can be forcibly aborted up to the very moment before birth.

Women's Rights Without Frontiers asks you to add your name to its petition against the one-child policy. The government of China must know that the international community condemns its slaughter. There is little else that we can do.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Seeking Intern & Volunteers

Several opportunities for involvement in the secular pro-life movement have come up recently. You don't even need to leave the comfort of your home!

First up: that rarest of birds, a paid pro-life internship! Secular Pro-Life seeks an intern to update the database for, which warns abortion-vulnerable women about medical malpractice lawsuits and health code violations at abortion facilities. This is a work-from-home position, great for a part-time worker or student. Secular Pro-Life will pay $10 an hour.

The ideal candidate will be well-versed in information technology. Careful attention to detail is a must. Please email your resume and a statement of interest to no later than Sunday, October 13, 2013.

And now, for some volunteer opportunities:
  • We know a journalist who is interested in interviewing pro-life atheists, agnostics, and "nones." Email with the subject line "Interview," and we will pass along your contact information.
  • The Bell Towers, which published SPL's "Pro-Life Without God" article earlier this year, plans to follow up with an article discussing the intersection of the pro-life movement with the gay rights movement. In particular, they are interested in an article that makes the case for why an LGBT advocate should be concerned about the dehumanization of the unborn. If you are pro-life and involved in the gay rights movement (either as an LGBT individual yourself or as an ally), use The Bell Towers contact form and mention Kathleen Hunker.
  • Pro-Life Magazine, which featured SPL in its inaugural issue last month, is working on its second issue. The editor would like a piece about Dr. Bernard Nathanson's conversion from an abortionist to pro-life advocate. Nathanson was an atheist at that time and was convinced by the science of prenatal development, so this is a great opportunity to promote the secular pro-life perspective! If you have read Nathanson's books and want to be the author of this piece, email with the subject line "Nathanson" and we will pass along your contact information.
If none of those appeal to you, remember: ongoing opportunities to volunteer are available on our website.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Critique of Mary Anne Warren's On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, Part V

have spent four parts in this series responding to Warren's argument that the unborn cannot be considered persons. Warren wrote her essay in 1973 in a publication called The Monist, but in 1982 she re-published the essay with an added postscript. One of the objections she was receiving to her paper is that it would also justify infanticide as well as abortion. She sought to reply to this claim in her postscript.

5. Postscript on Infanticide

Warren calls this objection to her piece "troubling," but seems unwilling to fully follow her argument to its logical conclusion (as opposed to philosophers like Peter Singer and Michael Tooley who embrace the logical implications of their views with open arms). Her rejection is completely ad hoc. She admits that if her argument is correct, then if you kill an infant you are not killing a person. But, she adds, there are "many reasons" why infanticide is much more difficult to justify than abortion. What are these reasons?

First, in this country and period of history, the deliberate killing of newborns is almost never justified. She argues that they are "person-like enough" that to kill them requires very strong moral justification, as does killing dolphins, whales, chimpanzees, and other highly personlike creatures. It would be wrong to kill these beings for convenience, financial reasons, etc. But this is just an attempt to side-step the issue. She argued in her previous parts that human fetuses are only "potential persons," and if her argument succeeds, newborns are only "potential persons" and not actual persons. So killing them would not be immoral. You may not like it, but you have no grounds on which to say otherwise. In fact, Singer argues that infanticide is morally permissible because newborns are no different in any morally relevant way from late-term fetuses. So if Warren argues that abortion is permissible up until the time of birth, then she must argue that infanticide is morally permissible. Otherwise she should admit that late-term abortions are immoral as late-term fetuses, like newborns, are "person-like enough" that to kill them requires very strong moral justification.

Next she offers a great apologetic for adoption. Unfortunately she sees that her argument only states that it would be wrong to kill newborns, not that it would be wrong to kill fetuses, even though her reasons for adopting out newborns certainly also apply to fetuses. Here are her reasons: "...there are (in most cases) people who are able and eager to adopt it and provide a good home for it. Many people wait years for the opportunity to adopt a child, and some are unable to do so even though there is every reason to believe that they would be good parents. The needless destruction of a viable infant inevitably deprives some person or persons of a source of great pleasure and satisfaction, perhaps severely impoverishing their lives. Furthermore, even if an infant is considered to be adoptable [sic -- she likely meant 'unadoptable'] (e.g., because of some extremely severe mental or physical handicap) it is still wrong in most cases to kill it. For most of us value the lives of infants, and would prefer to pay taxes to support orphanages and state institutions for the handicapped rather than allow unwanted infants to be killed." Tell me why any of these reasons could not also be applied to a human fetus? In fact, there are currently more couples waiting to adopt babies in the United States than there are infants to adopt because we are aborting children that are unwanted by their own parents.

So Warren says there are "many reasons" not to support infanticide and gives us... two. Both of these arguments fail to justify her position on abortion and to argue against infanticide. She can't eat her cake and have it, too. If my (and Schwartz') argument for fetal personhood succeesd, then Warren's argument fails. And if Warren's argument succeeds, then infanticide is also morally permissible, whether or not Warren has the stomach to follow her argument to its logical conclusion (or do the reasonable thing and give up her position on abortion).

Now Warren does concede that these arguments, at least prima facie, might also support forbidding late-term abortions. But, she continues, there is an obvious and crucial difference in the case of late-term pregnancies: "...once the infant is born, its continued life cannot (except, perhaps, in very exceptional cases) pose any serious threat to the woman's life or health, since she is free to put it up for adoption, or, where this is impossible, to place it in a state-supported institution." This doesn't help her case, however. First, if newborns are really not persons, and it is not wrong to kill non-persons, or at least not seriously wrong, then even if a woman could give the child up for adoption, she would not be morally obligated to. Second, you can't kill someone on the off-chance that they may pose, in the future, a serious threat to your life or health. If you could, then you could still justify infanticide on the grounds that the child may grow up to kill his/her parents. I believe that life-saving abortions are justified, but you can't justify abortion in the chance that the pregnancy may one day become life-threatening.

She does argue that if the child can be delivered safely without killing her, then she has no right to insist on the child's death. The problem with this is that delivering the child in the late term is a faster and safer procedure than late-term abortions (late-term abortions are a two or three day procedure, and c-sections take about thirty minutes). So no late-term abortions are justified because the child can be delivered and then life-saving measures to the mother and child both can be administered. Yet she still argues that abortion is permissible up until the time of birth.

Finally, she argues that even though infanticide is not properly considered a form of murder, and our society disapproves of it, there still remains the moral distinction separate from the legal distinction, with several consequences.

First, she takes the morally relativistic route. It's wrong to kill infants in our society, but in societies which are so impoverished that it cannot take care of infants adequately without endangering the survival of existing persons, killing it or allowing it to die would not be seriously wrong, provided there was no other society willing and able to take care of it. But this response just begs the question. This only succeeds if the unborn are not human persons. Since Warren never argued for that, only asserted it, she has not supported her contention and so her argument fails (to say nothing of the severe problems with a morally relativistic framework). She also mentions highly civilized societies, like the Greeks and Romans, who allowed infanticide under "such unfortunate circumstances." That's not my understanding. Greeks and Romans would allow infants to die if they were simply the wrong gender, as well as any other reason, like the infant being disabled, that the father did not approve of.

Second, she argues that if "an infant is born with such severe physical anomalies that its life would predictably be a very short and/or very miserable one, even with the most heroic of medical treatment, and where its parents do not choose to bear the often crushing emotional, financial, and other burdens attendant upon the artificial prolongation of such a tragic life, it is not morally wrong to cease or withhold treatment, thus allowing the infant a painless death." This argument, again, begs the question. If infants are, in fact, persons, then we are not justified in prematurely ending their lives, even in the case of severe physical handicap.

Warren tries to escape the logical conclusion of her argument, that infanticide is morally permissible for any reason a woman wants it. The only alternative is to accept that late-term abortions are not morally permissible, which to my knowledge she has not yet done. However, even aside from this, I have argued that the unborn from fertilization should be considered full human persons. If my argument succeeds, then Warren's argument is moot, anyway. The unborn deserve the same protections as all other human beings.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Is "unbiased abortion counseling" a unicorn?

Yesterday, an article by SPL member Sarah Terzo appeared on Live Action News, entitled "Abortion clinic counseling: rhetoric vs. reality." In it, she describes insider accounts of supposedly "non-directive" counseling at abortion facilities that is anything but. The "counselors" emphasize the negative aspects of parenthood, evade questions about prenatal development, and make their sale.

This comes as no real surprise to pro-lifers, of course. But it got me thinking about the supposed virtue of the "unbiased" approach.

Forget about whether or not non-directive counseling is desirable for a moment. Obviously pro-lifers are all for directing people away from killing human beings. Today I ask you: is the famed "non-directive, unbiased, non-judgmental" counseling on abortion even possible? I posit that it is not. It is a unicorn, long thought to exist somewhere (at Planned Parenthood? dream on), but ultimately a figment of the imagination.

Most people have an opinion one way or the other about the moral acceptability of abortion. Why is it that only those who are pro-life are considered "biased"? Well, a pro-choicer might say, the counselors Sarah Terzo described were really pro-abortion, not pro-choice. A truly pro-choice person could treat all the options equally. That's right, but treating all the options equally creates a bias of its own. If abortion is the taking of a human life, it should be off the table. Treating it as the equal of parenting or adoption speaks volumes.

Perhaps, you suggest, only those few people who have no opinion one way or the other are qualified to give unbiased counseling. As a practical matter, those individuals are highly unlikely to become pregnancy counselors. But the bigger problem is that they'd be useless. Women who are considering abortion want to talk about the moral dimensions. If all the counselor can offer back is "I don't know, how do you feel?" it's hardly counseling at all. It's a woman talking to herself.

How about a just-the-facts approach? "These are the risks. This is how the procedure will be done. This is what the fetus is like at X weeks. These are the programs offering alternatives." I'm all for this, but I suspect abortion facility owners are not. It sounds a lot like the informed consent laws championed by pro-lifers, funny enough. (And it suffers from the same weakness mentioned above, stripping counseling of its appropriate moral dimension.)

I put the question to the community of readers, both pro-life and not. What is your abortion counseling ideal? And are these ideals attainable?

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Importance of Civility

I spent the weekend of August 24th speaking and mentoring at a seminar in Visalia, CA, then at two days of pro-life outreach at College of the Sequoias. I am a mentor and speaker through Right to Life of Central California's (RLCC) Justice For All (JFA) program. RLCC is the organization that holds the seminars and puts together the outreach. RLCC and JFA decry abortion-related violence in any form, be it against the unborn, against pro-life or pro-choice people, abortionists, abortion clinics, etc. Everyone who is out at the outreach signs a form that states that they denounce all forms of violence in the abortion issue.

We believe that the best way to change hearts and minds on the issue is to treat the other person with respect, and to have good conversations with them. We teach that there are three essential skills to any conversation: Listen to understand, ask questions, and find common ground (without compromise).

I'd like to briefly tell a story that underscores the importance of the three essential skills for a conversation. Names of non-JFA volunteers have been changed to protect identities. Language warning, though the offensive word has been censored.

I was standing by our poll table, which just asks a simple question: "Should abortion remain legal?" Someone can sign their name on the "yes" or "no" side, and give a reason. Before they leave we like to engage them in conversation to get a more specific idea of their views. I started talking to a pro-choice Libertarian whom I'll call Arthur. We were having a very good conversation. I was asking him questions about his views, listening to him and asking him to clarify his views where needed. He believes that late-term abortions are wrong, which is a point where we can find common ground. So I went from there and started asking him questions about what the relevant difference was between an early-term embryo and a late-term fetus that would justify our killing it.

After about ten minutes or so, a pro-life guy whom I'll call Dennis approached the conversation. Dennis and Arthur had both been around the JFA exhibit earlier in the day. Dennis had overheard my conversation with Arthur. It's true that Arthur was saying some things that don't sit well with pro-life people, such as that the unborn are less valuable than born human beings. I was using the essential skills that we teach at our seminar, listening to his arguments and using questions to understand his view and to see if the views that he holds are really true. But Dennis, not having had the benefit of JFA training, took it upon himself to hijack the conversation and argue with Arthur. I don't mean argue in a philosophical sense, where one presents premises and a conclusion, I'm talking about doing the things we teach not to do -- raising your voice and yelling back and forth.

At this point, I went into referee mode. I wasn't sure whether I should step in or not. It started somewhat cordial and grew in intensity as it went on. I was paying close attention to what both parties were saying to make sure that no one crossed any lines. And then it happened -- Dennis compared abortion with the Nazi Holocaust. Now I believe that there are parallels we can draw between abortion and the Holocaust, but we want to make absolutely sure that we are not giving the impression that we think that pro-choice people are like Nazis. That's not what we think at all. Now I didn't step in at this point because Dennis said, "that's just like what the Nazis did." He didn't call Arthur a Nazi, so I didn't see the need to step in. But my friend Charles was there listening in, and he told me afterward that Arthur may have perceived that Dennis was calling him a Nazi, so it was probably appropriate to step in there.

The argument went on a little further and Dennis continued to raise his level of belligerance. This is where Charles stepped in, like a boss, to start "narrating the debate." This simply means that Charles was giving his examination of what was happening so far in the discussion. Dennis wasn't listening to really anything that Arthur was saying. This certainly helped to diffuse the situation a bit, but it would get heated again.

Dennis was keeping the conversation focused on what the unborn is, but due to raising his voice and not listening, everything he was saying was lost on Arthur. He continually accused Arthur of supporting murder, which wasn't his position at all. Additionally, I'm afraid that most of what I was talking about with Arthur had been lost. But one thing was clear -- Arthur definitely noticed that there's a difference between what we do at JFA and what pro-life people usually do. After more argument from Dennis and Arthur, Arthur pointed at me and told Dennis that he enjoyed the conversation that he and I were having, and that he wasn't enjoying his conversation with Dennis.

Finally the conversation came to a head and Arthur was finished arguing with Dennis. He walked away, furious at Dennis. To make matters worse, Dennis, very sarcastically, waved at Arthur and said "have a nice day!" That was too much for Arthur. Arthur turned around and said, incredulously, "are you f---ing kidding me?!" At that point Dennis snapped. He walked up to Arthur, puffing up his chest and he was about to take a swing at Arthur. This is the point that I placed myself between Dennis and Arthur, turned Dennis around, and encouraged him to walk away. This was the first time, at any of my JFA outreaches, that I've seen a discussion on the precipice of coming to blows.

At the very least, Arthur left knowing that there are reasonable pro-life people. He said that he appreciates what JFA is doing, to come here to talk about abortion without getting in peoples' faces about it. I don't think that Dennis is a bad guy. He's obviously passionate about the pro-life issue, but he just hasn't be trained on how to present the pro-life case effectively or persuasively. But this is the best part.

The next day, Dennis came back. Another JFA mentor, Sierra, talked to him. Dennis realized that he wasn't effective in his conversation with Arthur, telling Sierra that he lost his cool and that he would be interested in learning how to discuss abortion the same way that we do. Sierra invited him to our next JFA seminar which will be in Fresno two weeks later.

This is the cold-hard reality: I don't consider myself a very strong conversationalist. But you'd be amazed that just by learning the three essential skills that we teach at our seminar, your conversations will be transformed. Just by listening to them and asking questions, the people that you talk to will think that it's one of the best conversations you've ever had. If I can learn to do it, anyone can. I know that sounds cliche, but it's absolutely true.

It's because of things like this that I am very happy to support the JFA method and to give so much of my time. Justice For All is an organization that can change how people perceive the pro-life movement and pro-life people in general, in turn having been heavily influenced by Greg Koukl and the rest of the apologists at Stand to Reason who have done great work in helping pro-life people to talk about abortion more effectively and more persuasively. If you ever hear about a JFA seminar in your city or state, I think you owe it to yourself, to the pro-choice people you have in your sphere of influence, and to the unborn children that you could potentially save to go to the seminar and learn a better way to talk to pro-choice people.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Participate in the National Community Baby Shower Day!

The National Community Baby Shower Day is just five weeks away! Actually, it isn't a day, but a weekend: Saturday, October 26 and Sunday, October 27.

To participate, first, check to see if there's already a baby shower scheduled in your area. If there isn't, follow these simple steps:
1) Contact the local pregnancy resource center in your area and tell them your group wants to host a Baby Shower to collect items to donate. Ask them what items they are generally most in need of.  Visit to find a nearby PRC.  [Editor's Note: Secular Pro-Life has a more comprehensive list.]
2) Visit a local superstore (like Target, Walmart, HEB, Kmart, etc) several weeks or months ahead of time to get permission to host a donation drive outside of their store. Have as much information about the local pregnancy center you’re helping as possible, in case the manager requests it.
3) Once permission is obtained, make signs that say “We need: diapers, baby formula, wipes, etc.” and “All donations go to (name of pregnancy resource center).” Have a decorated jar ready for people to make cash donations.
4) Call to confirm the date of the Community Baby Shower with the store the week beforehand.
5) On the day of the Community Baby Shower, bring a table to place donations and to tape the signs.
6) About an hour before you pack up your donations to leave, take down the signs and stop requesting items. That way people still shopping who intend to donate will not be stuck with baby items they have no use for because you left!
It's easy to get your pro-life friends together and help families in need. But you'll want to start planning soon! Click here to register your group. And be sure to post a notice on the Secular Pro-Life facebook page as well. We'll be more than happy to promote your baby shower.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


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

Last month, when I wrote about the value and worth of four-year-old Sophia, I wasn't surprised that people were taken with her story. After all, the photos spoke for themselves. How could anyone not read her tale of initial neglect and starvation, to finally adoption and love, when there are before-and-after shots like these to illustrate?

Within a few days, other pro-life blogs picked up the post, and through social media, it garnered more than 16,000 likes, 10,000 shares and 500 facebook comments. It was immensely flattering to hear from SPL's editor that my post was their most-read of the year.

As I scrolled through the comments, three themes quickly jumped out. The vast majority had nice things to say, like "Look what love can do! What a beautiful girl," and "Kudos to the adoptive parents."

The second group wasn't nearly as positive, just mad. Trust me, I understand the fierce protectiveness and righteous anger behind comments like "Whoever did this to this beautiful child should be taken out back and shot" and "When I got through with her abusers, they would look a lot worse than Sophia!" I found it incredibly ironic, however, that the same people who were fired up over the slow violence shown to Sophia wanted to solve the problem with a quicker version. But that issue is one for another blog post.

The last group of commenters fascinated—and bugged—me. "These photos are obviously digitally altered, because nobody could look like that and live." "I don't think this is the same child. The navels are totally different." "This isn't real." Trust me, I wish it weren't.

Those comments are easy to refute. When Lauren, Sophia's adoptive mom, traveled to Bulgaria to bring her home, she did so with a medical team, because no one was sure if this sweet, fragile ten-pounder could survive the trip. As soon as they hit the ground in Portland, Oregon, they headed straight to the hospital for an intense, multi-day regimen of nutrition therapy and overall medical rehab to stabilize her starved body. So her physical size and great need are quite simple to prove; it's all documented. Plus, I and many of my Reece's Rainbow buddies have met her and held her—doing so even inspired my friend Haley to adopt her own special needs child from Eastern Europe—and we can all say for sure that she really was that small!

So it wasn't people doubting the truthfulness of the story that bothered me. But I couldn't get those comments out of my head. I mentioned the "controversy" to Lauren, and her reply struck me:
"I kind of wish those looking for reasons to downplay this could have been the first one to change our sweet daughter's diapers last November."
Because Sophia's tailbone and hips had no fat to cover them, they were poking straight out of her backside. She looked like a living skeleton, and in reality, that's exactly what she was.

Her orphanage caretakers saw her every day. But they, like many of us when confronted with abuse, reasoned that it wasn't that bad.

They downplayed.

As humans, we're naturally drawn toward beauty, and repelled by ugliness. And what could be uglier than society's strongest murdering society's weakest, most innocent members, whether slowly through abuse or quickly through an abortionist's forceps?

Child abuse is ugly. Abortion is ugly. (If it weren't, why all the controversy, whether major or minor, every time photos of abused or aborted children are shown?) Humanity abused is flat-out, soul-crushingly repulsive.

So we either do something about it, like Lauren did, or we look the other way. We question the situation's veracity. Or we ignore the topic entirely, using polite terms like "choice" and "personal issue." After all, if we can't see it—if we insist that it can't really be that bad—then it's not real, right? Like the local Germans who lived directly outside WWII-era concentration camps yet didn't know its horrors until forced to see, we ignore what is happening in orphanages across the world, homes on our block, and Planned Parenthood offices in our town.

But it doesn't have to be this way. There are so many ways to look the ugly truth in the face and reflect beauty back instead. We can follow along and support families like the Hortons, who are currently adopting two more special-needs children. We can give to pro-life organizations like SPL. We can advocate for foster children, volunteer at pregnancy resource centers, educate our friends and family about the humanity of both the born and unborn, and support and empower women (and men!) in our spheres of influence who face an unplanned pregnancy.

For the sake of Sophia and the millions of nameless others like her—ignored, abused, and dismissed—we must resist the urge to downplay their pain, all so we can avoid feeling any ourselves. That tactic is great for our conscience, not-so-great for the babies. Just ask Sophia. Unlike preborn babies, at least she can answer.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Tragic Unintended Consequence of the Failure to Treat Unborn Children as Unique Persons

Recently, SPL member Mollie G. sent in a horrific July 11, 2013 alert from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, entitled "In Utero Medication Administration to Fetus Presents Unique Safety Challenges." The advisory relates a tragic incident that occurred when an unborn baby needed to be treated for erythroblastosis fetalis, a complication that can arise when the baby has Rh-positive blood and the mother has Rh-negative blood. The treatment required an infusion into the umbilical vein, for which the baby had to remain still (obviously):
In the recent case, an obstetrical resident asked another resident to order a neuromuscular blocking agent for the procedure. The resident ordered the drug in the mother’s medical record, but did not include the dose or route. It wasn’t clear that the drug was intended for intramuscular administration to the fetus in utero. Therefore, the order was processed for the mother, not the baby, and pharmacy dispensed a vial of the paralyzing agent. A medical intern, who was unfamiliar with the procedure and neuromuscular blocking agents in general, administered the drug intravenously to the mother since it had been ordered on the mother’s medical record. Apparently, the intern did not realize that the neuromuscular blocking agent would paralyze the respiratory muscles, and that administration of this class of drugs required concomitant mechanical ventilation. It is believed that the entire vial was administered, not just the small amount intended for the unborn baby. The mother suffered a respiratory arrest, which regrettably was not recognized immediately given prior sedation the mother had received. The mother died and the infant sustained central nervous system (CNS) impairment as a result of this event. 
This tragedy could have been prevented in several ways. The order should have been clearer. The procedure should have been in the hands of an experienced doctor, not an intern. And above all, there's the fundamental structural problem: why was a drug intended for the baby ordered in the mother's medical record?

The author of the advisory states: "A separate account and medical record for the fetus seems appropriate, but there may be obstacles given the baby’s unborn status." What obstacles? You don't need a photograph of a patient to create a record. You don't need the patient's driver's license. The patient doesn't have to be able to communicate. Extremely premature babies in the NICU get separate medical records. The only "obstacle" I can think of is the cognitive dissonance that an unborn baby's medical record might cause in the sensitive psyches of obstetricians who also perform abortions. You want to risk someone's life over that? Get over it, or better yet, stop doing abortions.

Indeed, the advisory continues, "Some hospitals enter the orders for the fetus temporarily on a paper form or electronically as “Baby Doe” (or generic name with parent identifier) if the infant’s birth is imminent" (emphasis mine). So long as birth is imminent—so long as the baby is no longer "abortable"—a separate medical record is fine.

Constitutional law scholars sometimes speak of an "abortion distortion," in which the ideological desire to maintain abortion access causes judges to twist legal doctrines and create lousy precedents. Sadly, the abortion distortion exists in the medical context, too. Our society is schizophrenic about life in the womb, to the detriment of unborn children and their families.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Adverse Prenatal Diagnosis: Marlena's Story

[Today's guest post is by SPL member Lindsey Musgrave.]

Photos courtesy of Lindsey Musgrave

I hope that this story emphasizes the importance of researching all options and even getting a second opinion when faced with a prenatal diagnosis. Sometimes, things truly are bad when it comes to prenatal anomalies, but not always, and hope is a wonderful thing to have. 

We went in for our routine fetal anatomy ultrasound around 21 weeks gestation. I was so naive. I was just happy to learn the sex of our new baby. Anomaliesthe true reason for ultrasoundswere the last thing on my mind. For 15 euphoric minutes while my husband and I sat in the waiting room, we blasted all over social media and sent texts to family and friends that we were having a beautiful baby girl we named Marlena. Then we were called back into a room. A doctor sat us down and explained that something was wrong with her brain. It wasn't clear to me. "Should I be crying right now?" is all that I could ask, not able to immediately grasp the seriousness of a brain anomaly. 

My ultrasound technician is someone I will always look back on as a person I respect so much. Marlena's brain problem is not a subtle problem. Instead of lots of gray imaging, representing brain tissue spread throughout her circular head on the ultrasound, it was a gaping black void; black representing fluid. Nothingness. Her brain was being pressed against the sides of her skull by the immense pressure of fluid that had nowhere to go, like sticking a balloon on a water faucet and letting it fill non-stop. After she was done with her job of checking on all of Marlena's fetal anatomy, she asked me if I thought she was a boy or a girl. I said boy. She then said, talking to my baby, "Nope! Your mommy's intuition was wrong. You're a girl!" That ultrasound technician knew, without a doubt, that something was very wrong. Yet she kept cool, never letting on. She referred to my little one as a person when addressing her.

Luckily, we were able to see a specialist the same day because of a cancellation. They confirmed the problem. Our unborn daughter was diagnosed with severe hydrocephalus. It was the closest I've ever seen my husband come to tears. I was in shock, and struck with grief instantaneously. I had no time to process this. It was the type of emotional hurt that you physically feel in your chest. It was despair. My doctor then told us she would likely be mentally and physically challenged and that she may not even survive birth. We were encouraged to get an abortion and told that we needed to decide quickly, as time was running out. 

I went home and researched hydrocephalus. I met other parents of children with hydrocephalus and they were all so happy to have their children. I've not met a single parent of a child with hydrocephalus that isn't happy they have their child with them. 

I researched abortion as well. I will not lie and say that I didn't have selfish thoughts. What I learned is that abortion is dismemberment. Abortion is stopping a beating heart. Abortion is barbaric. Abortion is destroying a child. Abortion is erasing smiles before they've been given a chance to shine. Abortion is a light in this world snuffed out. The amount of time I considered abortion, albeit not long, was the worst time of my pregnancy, despite the diagnosis.

Marlena is now two and a half years old. She is the light of my life. It pains me to think about what life would be like without her here. Every piece of her was decided at conception through genetics. Her now toddler arms are the same arms she had when she was inside of me. Her now toddler legs are the same legs that formed in the womb. A doctor wished to take those from her body. Her same arms. Her same legs. All because she was "less than perfect." 

Marlena underwent brain surgery a day after her birth. I mentally prepared myself as much as I could to parent a child who may have vision impairment, hearing impairment, seizures, developmental impairment, physical impairment, a feeding tube, and even possibly a breathing tube, but ultimately, those things didn't matter to me. All that mattered was that we took this journey together as mother and child. 

She has none of those challenges. She is advanced intellectually and has amazing cognitive and reasoning ability. As her shunt has drained fluid away, her brain has drastically physically improved in terms of volume, but there are some parts that have atrophied under the pressure and will never be normal. 

Marlena's first year of growing outside the womb blew my mind. She has taught me to be thankful for piles of folded towels knocked over and crayon on the wall. She taught me that to validate life through statistics and imperfections is to siphon the enchantment of what it means to live.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Secular Pro-Life Launches "Six Million Project"


Secular Pro-Life has just launched its Six Million Project, which is designed to raise awareness of the fact that there are over six million non-religious pro-life adults in the United States. The campaign features photographs of pro-life atheists, agnostics, and "nones" from across the nation.

"Every week, we get an email from someone to the effect of 'I thought I was the only pro-life atheist!'" said Kelsey Hazzard, the president of Secular Pro-Life. "It gets lonely out there. Non-religious pro-lifers are not often acknowledged in the mainstream media. This creates a vicious cycle; people think they're alone, which makes them less likely to speak out for life, which makes others more likely to think they're alone."

To break this cycle, Secular Pro-Life is running facebook advertisements targeted to non-religious audiences, directing them to the Six Million Project website. The site encourages visitors to share their own photographs and to connect with like-minded people through Secular Pro-Life's facebook page.

"We want to organize as much of this six-million-member community as possible," Hazzard added. "To be an effective pro-life advocate, you need a strong support system."

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 27.5% of American abortion patients have no religion. "The best possible source of support for these women, the best chance they have to find an alternative to abortion, is a pro-life friend who shares their secular values," said Hazzard. "This is a project that will save lives in the long term."

Friday, September 13, 2013

You Are Awesome

Our monthly donation campaign has come to an end, and Secular Pro-Life raised (drum roll please)... just over $300!

Thank you so much for your generosity. With your help, SPL will continue to grow, gain strength, change minds, and save lives. None of it would be possible without you. You are seriously the best, and I am honored to be your president.

For Life,
Kelsey Hazzard

P.S.: SPL never stops. Stay tuned next week for the launch of our 6 Million project!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Down to the Wire

Today is the last day of our monthly donor campaign. So far we've raised $137.10 in recurring monthly gifts, or $1645 a year! That's not bad, but we're not done. I know from experience that most fundraisers surge at the very end.

If you haven't made a contribution yet, please click here to give. Any amount helpsthe key is that it be a recurring monthly donation. For a small, volunteer-run non-profit like Secular Pro-Life, having a predictable budget is so important. The amount we raise by the end of today will determine the scope of Secular Pro-Life's projects for the near future.

I'd love to update and expand our advertising to women who are being targeted by dangerous abortion mills. I'd love to purchase Facebook advertising to let pro-life atheists know there are others out there who think like them. I'd love to create innovative new videos making the case for life. I'd love to reach more campus activists than ever at the next Students for Life of America conference.

But all of these things take money. Without sufficient funds, we'll have to triageand potentially life-saving projects will be left on the table.

A small SPL contingent at our first March
for Life.  How far we've come!
(That's me in the purple hat.)
I don't get paid to run Secular Pro-Life. I do it out of love. And I know that Secular Pro-Life has many members who share that passion. Whether you've been part of this movement
from the beginning, or just found SPL last week, your support matters.

Please give today. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your generosity!

Kelsey Hazzard
President of Secular Pro-Life

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Critique of Mary Anne Warren's On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, Part IV

In part one, I examined Warren's claim about humanity, in part two I examined Warren's qualifications for personhood and showed why the unborn qualify, and in part three I examined Warren's two questions about personhood and showed that her position fails to disqualify the unborn from personhood. In this article, I will examine her argument about potentiality.

4. Potential Personhood and the Right to Life

Warren asserts that she has shown that a fetus does not resemble a person in any way which can support the claim that it has even some of the same rights. In fact, I have shown that a fetus does exhibit the same qualities that make any of us a person -- the inherent capacity to perform personal functions. Warren has not shown what she has attempted to show, she has merely asserted it and claimed that anyone who disagrees just doesn't know what a person is.

Warren now turns to arguing about potentiality. She claims that just merely having the potential to be a person doesn't mean that the unborn has the same rights as actual persons. In this case, Warren is making two fundamental mistakes. First, she is confusing human development with construction. Human beings do not develop piece by piece, like cars on an assembly line, but they develop themselves from within. See this article for more detail. The second fundamental mistake is that Warren is confusing active potential with passive potential. Fellow pro-life advocate Daniel Rodger explains this quite well in an article he has written.

This distinction is an important one. Daniel uses the example of the ingredients in a cake, but the same argument works with Stith's example of cars. You can't look at a hunk of metal and call it a car. This is because that metal could be used for anything: a car, a boat, a house, Christmas ornaments, whatever. These items (like the flour, sugar, eggs, and milk for the cake) have the passive potential to become a car. They won't actually become a car until all the pieces are put together. Living things are different. Human beings have the active potential to develop human and personal properties. They have this potential due to their inherent capacities to develop these properties. So an argument from potential is not stating that anything with the potential to become a human being is valuable. It would be a strawman argument to claim that we're saying that sperm and eggs are persons. It is simply claiming that a person is a person by virtue of the kind of thing it is, an entity with the inherent capacity for personal properties.

Warren does argue that it may be wrong to kill a potential person when that potential person is not violating anyone's rights. Now, I don't think that there really are any potential persons, as I argued in my article responding to pro-choice philosopher Dean Stretton. Either you are a person or you're not. Warren is correct that a potential person does not have rights that would supercede an actual person. The problem is that if something is a potential person, it is only potential in the passive sense that I outlined above. Something with the active potential for personal qualities is a person already. Warren lays out her case with an analogy that actually serves to illustrate my point, and not hers. Her analogy is as follows:

"Suppose that our space explorer [from part two] falls into the hands of an alien culture, whose scientists decide to create a few hundred thousand or more human beings, by breaking his body into its component cells, and using these to create fully developed human beings, with, of course, his genetic code. We may imagine that each of these newly created men will have all of the original man's abilities, skills, knowledge, and so on, and also have an individual self-concept, in short that each of them will be a bona fide (though hardly unique) person. Imagine that the whole project will take only seconds, and that its chances of success are extremely high, and that our explorer knows all of this, and also knows that these people will be treated fairly. I maintain that in such a situation he would have every right to escape if he could, and thus to deprive all of these potential people of their potential lives; for his right to life outweighs all of theirs together, in spite of the fact that they are all genetically human, all innocent, and all have a very high probability of becoming people very soon, if only he refrains from acting."

There are actually two fatal flaws to Warren's analogy. The first is that you can't harm someone who is not in existence. Assuming that each of his cells can be considered legitimate potential human beings, there is no human being in existence to harm (whether or not you want to argue over personhood). If he refuses this procedure, he is not harming anyone, person or not. [1]

Second, the explorer's cells are only potential human beings and persons in the passive sense. That is, they are not living, human organisms, just cells that belong to the parent organism, the explorer. They are only potential persons in the same passive sense that flour is a potential cake or a hunk of metal is a potential car. They do not have the potential for personal properties in the same way that unborn human beings do.

So in short, I agree with Warren that he has a right to escape if he can, but not for the reason Warren thinks. I also agree that he has a right to escape no matter the length of his captivity, or whether he was deliberately captured or was captured due to carelessness. The problem is that this situation is not analogous to killing an unborn human being through abortion. It's a false analogy.

So to summarize, Warren's first argument fails because the pro-life position is really not fallacious, as she alleged. Warren's second point fails because she didn't provide any evidence or arguments to support her position, and I have shown that the unborn certainly do qualify as persons. Warren's third point fails because human value does not develop gradually. And Warren's fourth point fails because her argument is a false analogy and confuses active potentiality with passive potentiality.

This ends Warren's essay proper, but she later included a postscript in which she tries to justify why we should not allow the killing of infants even though they don't qualify as persons under her view. I will examine her postscript in the last part of this series.

[1] This probably needs a bit more elaboration. There are other considerations, such as the metaphysics of time, as well as what obligations, if any, we have to people who are not in existence yet but will be. It's not within the scope of this essay to go into more detail, but I do intend to go into more detail in the future at some point. Suffice it to say that I believe this point to be a valid one for the purpose of responding to Warren's thought experiment, since these "potential humans" would only be coming into existence due to an act of violence by a hostile alien race.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Please, No Tying 9/11 to Abortion

Tomorrow is September 11th, the twelfth anniversary of the unforgettable terrorist attacks. I was in middle school at the time. I'm sure everyone reading this remembers what they were doing that day.

Every year on September 11th, I've seen comments from pro-life individuals along the lines of "Abortion is like 9/11, every day!" I beg of you, if you're tempted to say something like that, please don't.

Yes, it just so happens that the number of abortions each day is pretty close to the number of people who died in the 9/11 attacks. But just because you can make the comparison doesn't mean you should. Tomorrow, all focus should be on the 9/11 victims and their families and friends. Any comparison--whether to aborted babies or any other victimized group--detracts from that. I'm sure that's not the intention, but that is how it comes across.

Frankly, it's tacky. There are better ways to raise awareness of the horror of abortion.

Note: I am not suggesting that we should cease all pro-life efforts tomorrow. Indeed, many people volunteer on 9/11, or give to charity. Helping a family in need would be a great pro-life act that also honors the memory of those who died twelve years ago. Just keep it positive and appropriate.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Today's News Items

Americans United for Life reports on a positive development in Iowa, where the state Board of Medicine has resolved to stop the practice of "Skype abortions" and require physical examinations. (The measure the Board adopted still has to be reviewed by the General Assembly.)

Pro-life Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Butler recently went on the Today Show to discuss her infant daughter Abigail. Abigail was diagnosed in utero with Potter's Syndrome, which is usually fatal. Some abortion supporters disgustingly took the news as an opportunity to attack Butler's pro-life views. But Abigail sure showed them! A month after her birth, Abigail is doing great, thanks to an experimental treatment.

The Huffington Post has published two pro-abortion advocacy pieces recently, but they both came with useful infographics. Here's one on health insurance coverage of abortion. And here's one on the closure of abortion facilities since 2010. (, which is pro-life, has more detailed information on abortion facility closures if you're interested.)

In Want to Win a Political Debate? Try Making a Weaker Argument, social science analyst Eric Horowitz writes:
Because political beliefs are connected to deeply held values, information about politics can be very threatening to your self-image. . . . It follows that our openness to information depends on how it affects our self-worth, and a number of studies bear this out. One line of research has found that self-affirmation-- a mental exercise that increases feelings of self-worth-- makes people more willing to accept threatening information. The idea is that by raising or "affirming" your self-worth, you can then encounter things that lower your self-worth without a net decrease. The affirmation and the threat effectively cancel each other out, and a positive image is maintained. A 2006 study led by Geoff Cohen, for example, found that when pro-choice people had their partisan identities made salient, affirmation made them more likely to compromise and make concessions on abortion restrictions.
Unfortunately, it's hard for pro-life advocates to time the release of information on prenatal development to when pro-choice listeners are in a state of high self-esteem. Ultrasound images are everywhere, and if a pro-choicer sees them while not feeling good about himself or herself, they may react by "intensify[ing] their incorrect beliefs." It's no wonder abortion is such a divisive issue!

Friday, September 6, 2013

SPL Featured in Inaugural Issue of Pro-Life Magazine

Pro-Life Magazine is a free e-publication, available on your iPhone or iPad, featuring interviews with pro-life advocates on a wide range of topics. The very first issue just launched, and it includes an interview with yours truly, SPL president Kelsey Hazzard! Non-Apple-users can read it here. SPL's appearance begins on page 47.

The piece goes on at length about Secular Pro-Life's purpose and projects, from to campus presentations, and everything in between. Please read it, especially if you're new around here.

By the end of the interview, the interviewer was stunned that we've accomplished everything that we have in less than five years, without any full-time or paid staff. In retrospect, I'm stunned too! Secular Pro-Life has the best volunteers, donors, and supporters out there. I truly believe that. You're all awesome.

Of course, we can't look backwards for too long. I don't need to tell you that the situation is urgent for unborn children and their mothers every day. We have to keep working. More than that, we need to push ourselves.

One week remains in our fundraising campaign. We need people who will commit to give a recurring donation every month. You can give 'til it hurts or give an amount you'll barely notice is gone-- the important thing is to give monthly. We have close to 4000 fans on Facebook, and close to 2000 of you come here via Twitter. If everyone who reads this gives just a dollar a month, we'll exceed our fundraising goal in no time!

If you have already donated, thank you so much for your generosity. Together, we will continue working to save lives. Secular Pro-Life reaches people no other pro-life group can-- and it's all thanks to you.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Abortion: Everybody's Doing It!

By now, you've all heard about Udonis Haslem and Faith Rein's wedding announcement in the New York Times, which included the fact that they'd had an abortion many years ago. (The couple also has a surviving young son, Josiah.) Pro-choice-remember-no-one-is-pro-abortion media outlets like Think Progress are of course thrilled.

Plenty of pro-life commentators have already written about how sad this is, so I'll just echo that sentiment and move on to a different angle, namely, why radical abortion advocates love this story. They love it because it fits into their long-term strategy of taking abortion out of the moral realm entirely and treating it as a routine medical event.

We've seen this before, of course. "One in every three women will have an abortion by the time she's 45!" Past statistics are no guarantee of a younger generation's behavior, but factual accuracy isn't the point. The point is the message that everybody's doing it. It is, at its core, marketing.

Above: a pro-choice protester
with an altered sign.
Then there's this Slate piece from July, wishing for more "blithe" abortion stories because "it pushes forward the idea that there isn't one right way to feel about terminating a pregnancy." As if the value of an unborn life depends at all upon how someone feels about destroying it.

They will, of course, frame this goal as "ending abortion stigma." But as anyone who's been debating this long enough knows, abortion advocates do not actually like to talk about abortion. They like to talk about "choice," and "reproductive health," and maybe they'll even get out the a-word every once in a while. But get down to the nitty-gritty of what happens in this neat little procedure? No thank you.

But that suction, that scraping, that violence, that death, are unavoidably a part of every woman's experience with abortion, whether they regret it or not. In pro-life circles, post-abortive women openly share their entire experiences, including those that aren't "fit to print." So who's creating a stigma here? If not the pro-choice movement, perhaps it is post-abortive women individually, who do not wish to trumpet what, even if they do not quite regard it as murder, was certainly not their finest moral hour.

The make-it-routine strategy is certain to backfire in the end. Most middle-of-the-road people, and even people who call themselves pro-choice, do at least believe that abortion has a moral dimension. They will recoil from depictions of abortion that fail to even acknowledge the life lost, such as the one in the New York Times.

I will close with the note that Haslem and Rein did not write the wedding announcement themselves. We should not impute the piece's agenda to them personally. For all we know, they do feel grief for the child they lost, and are unable or unwilling to express it, or the NYT author selected only the quotes that would be least offensive to the paper's pro-choice audience. (Even what was quoted suggests some ambivalence; Rein stated that it "was a difficult time" and that she was "willing to have an abortion" for Haslem's sake.) Let us always take the high road, not insulting those who have chosen abortion, but instead working to divert others from that lethal path.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Abortion: A Woman's Right to Control Her Body?

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

Women’s rights clearly include their right to health and to make fully informed decisions regarding their bodies. Does a woman's right to decide what she will and will not do with her body extend to cover actions affecting the fetus who may reside in her body? Does a woman’s right to control her own reproduction include a right to induced abortion?

Granting the notion that our bodies are our own property, does it follow that a pregnant women can choose to kill her fetuses because the fetus is also her own property? Or, if we grant that a fetus is a separate individual with future of value like ours, does it follow that women can choose to kill fetuses on the ground that they are trespassers?

These questions get to the heart of the abortion debate. At Secular Pro-Life, we do believe that women have a right to make reproductive decisions. They have a right to control their own bodies. They may exercise these rights by, for instance, using contraception or natural family planning. But do they have a right to do what they please to their fetuses?

Imagine the following scenario: Jane decides to chop off the legs of her embryo, at week 7. Believing that Jane has the right to choose what happens to her body, Dr. John, with help of modern technology, performs the operation and chops the legs off Jane's embryo. In week 10, Jane decides to chop the hands of off her fetus and Dr. John again performs what he reasons to be Jane’s personal choice and right. Taking it to an extreme, Jane decides to pluck her fetus’ eyes out. I'll refrain from continuing this gruesome tale, but it ends in one of two ways: Jane finally decides to have an abortion, or Jane decides to give birth to an blind, amputated child. This second possible outcome reveals the obvious fact that Jane's actions were not done to her own body, but to the body of another individual.

If it is true that a woman’s right to control her own body extends to her unborn child, then Jane's actions are permissible. Assuming we are not sociopaths, however, we naturally condemn Jane's hypothetical actions as inhumane and morally repugnant. Clearly, Jane's right to control her own body does not extend to her fetus. A woman's right to bodily autonomy does not go that far.

If it is not true that a woman's right to control her body encompasses a right to control what happens to her fetus, then the argument for abortion rights is fatally flawed.