Monday, March 31, 2014

Post-Debate Reflection

My debate with Matt Dillahunty has come to an end. If you didn't get a chance to listen to it, you can do so here. The winner of sporting events is clear-cut; the winner of debates: not so much. What matters are the arguments, and whether the arguments were adequately answered, though other factors can sway people's opinions. In terms of content, I’m pleased with what I had to offer, though Matt probably topped me in terms of style. As far as who “won”? I think most debaters think they won the debate (and most listeners believe their debater won the debate) regardless of how well or poorly their opponent did. Personally, I’m not as interested in who won the debate. What I care about is the fact that I was able to present my case to Matt's supporters.

My arguments were that the unborn are full human beings from fertilization, and that they are fully persons from fertilization. Matt gave no response to these arguments; more than that, he flat-out refused to engage these arguments. He just asserted that personhood is irrelevant because the woman's bodily autonomy is sacred (kind of ironic, coming from an atheist). Specifically, he claims "no one has the right to use your body against your will," without evidence or really even an argument for that conclusion. As well as giving an argument for the full humanity and personhood of the unborn, I gave an argument for why personhood is very relevant to this issue, and Matt didn't respond. He just kept repeating his mantra.

I think we were given too much time for cross-examination, and I think that's where I did the worst in the debate. I'm used to giving presentations, not the back-and-forth of cross-examination. After the fact, a friend pointed out that Matt thrives on cross-examination; he has years of experience doing that on The Atheist Experience. I'm not so used to that. I think Matt was also able to capitalize on the long pauses I gave while I was thinking of what to say. I suppose podcasts aren’t the best format for taking time to formulate what I want to say. I want to take care not to say something I don’t mean, but in an audio-only format I think silence really counts against debaters.

When it came time for me to cross-examine Matt, I tried to press him on the personhood issue. He still flat-out refused to address personhood because, to him, it's irrelevant to the question of abortion. Yet, once again, he didn’t provide a real argument for why it’s irrelevant, so much as a simple assertion. Despite his insistence that personhood is irrelevant and his refusal to engage personhood arguments, Matt continually implied his position on personhood through language such as “non-conscious clump of cells” or “human quote life” (i.e. human “life”). He also continually betrayed his presupposition that fetal life is irrelevant with examples and analogies that fail to account for the fetus at all, such as his modification of the baseball analogy to be breaking a window in your own house, which doesn’t affect more than one person. It’s bad enough to refuse to engage your debate opponent’s arguments. It’s worse to imply disagreement or mockery of those arguments and then continue to refuse to actually address them, much less refute them.

During cross examination I also tried to press Matt on child support, but like the personhood question, he wouldn’t give a solid answer, instead asserting that I wasn't listening to him. The reality is he just wasn't willing to take a stand on child support, but to be consistent, if the woman should be able to opt out at any time during pregnancy, so should the man. But we don't accept that, because what matters are the needs of the child, not the desires of the parent.

Matt also didn't adequately respond to my discussion of rights. He asserts that society grants rights, but he doesn’t then try to explain why society values some rights more than others, or whether society is correct in doing so. Moreover, he doesn’t explain how a right grounded in society—which is ever changing—could be an absolute right. Does Matt believe bodily autonomy always trumps the right to life? If so, why? If the answer is simply “because society says so,” and society changed its mind, would Matt go along with the change? If not, why not? And if not, how does he ground rights? Because it clearly wouldn't be simply "rights are whatever society grants as rights." That’s where you get to the heart of Matt’s foundational principles, but he refuses to address those root questions.

Similarly, if rights come from society, there’s nothing inherently right or wrong with society restricting or taking away completely the "right" to an abortion—because society is what’s determining rightness or wrongness in the first place. Matt needs to provide a much stronger answer than “society grants rights” to justify continually fighting for the right to abortion. Otherwise the society that Matt believes in is a society in which no one is safe, because the many can take away the rights of the few, or the strong can take away the rights of the weak, as we’ve seen plenty of times in the past. Only if all human beings are recognized as rights-bearing entities are all people in that society safe.

Unfortunately we weren't given a chance for closing statements. I really wish I had more time to interact with that last caller, but if you'd like to see my full in-depth response to the Burning IVF Facility thought experiment, you can read it here.

All in all, it was an interesting and intense time. Matt Dillahunty is definitely one of the most heavy-weight debaters I've had the chance to debate. If you listened to it, I'd love to hear how you think I did, or what you think I could have done better. Please feel free to give me your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, March 28, 2014

TOMORROW: Life/Peace/Justice conference at Villanova University!

Secular Pro-Life is incredibly pleased to co-sponsor the Life/Peace/Justice conference, taking place tomorrow from 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You can get all the details at

Joining us at the last minute? Not a problem. You can register at the door; it's $20 if you're with a student group, $25 for an individual student, and $30 for non-student adults.

The speaker lineup is awesome. Seriously. Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard joins April Casey (I Stand for Life), Kristine Kruzselnicki (Pro-Life Humanists), and Cecilia Brown (Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians) for an afternoon breakout session. Other pro-life speakers include abortion-worker-turned-life-advocate Abby Johnson, consistent-lifer-slash-film-producer Jason Jones, and Kristen Day of Democrats for Life. On post-natal life issues, there are representatives from Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, Witness to Innocence, the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, and more.

Basically, if you come to this conference, you'll leave with some serious name-dropping abilities. You can't miss it. See you there!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Preborn Rights are a Social Justice Issue

[Today's guest post by Alexa Gospodinoff is part of our paid blogging program. Alexa is agnostic and openly queer.]

The modern social justice movement can be described as a loose union of movements that oppose institutionalized injustice in various forms—racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and many more. It’s seen as a single movement because all forms of oppression share certain characteristics: most importantly, that they are systems of injustice perpetuated by the entire culture, not merely collections of unrelated incidents. One of these axes of oppression, though not often recognized by the mainstream social justice movement, is adultism—the idea that adults are the “default” human beings, and the less adult-like a person is, the less valid their existence is. And preborn children are the ones who suffer most acutely from this injustice.

All forms of institutionalized oppression are sustained by their culture subconsciously or overtly perpetuating the idea that humanity is meaningfully divided into groups and that one of these groups constitutes the “default” human being with everyone else being “other”. Inextricably entwined with that belief are numerous other subconscious or overt beliefs that comprise a pattern of dehumanization against all human beings who don’t fit the “default”, passed down through stereotypes, traditions, media, and even the building blocks of language. Some of the beliefs that perpetuate adultism include: that dependency is a shameful state, that children are the property of their parents, that one’s immediate physical or mental ability (rather than one’s inherent ability or inherent human nature) is a measure of human value … the list could go on and on. These bigoted beliefs are leveled against children of all ages (and others—for example, people on welfare suffer because of the first belief, and people with disabilities suffer because of the last), and most acutely against preborn children.

Our language is riddled with discriminatory phrases against all kinds of groups seen as “other,” from outright slurs to phrases like “that’s so gay” and “you hit like a girl,” which make the “other” group into an insult. In the case of adultism, preborn children and infants are regularly referred to as “it”, and the use of words like “childish” and “immature” as insults is routine. These examples only barely scratch the surface of the ways language is used to perpetuate oppression, and to end the more obvious problems of violence and overt discrimination, it is necessary to also eradicate the subtler ways we perpetuate the attitudes that cause them. I call myself “pro-preborn” rather than “pro-life” because I want to see all discrimination against preborn children ended, not just the obvious violent result.

I think the pro-life movement as a whole could benefit from what the social justice movement has learned about fighting institutionalized oppression. One way is that seeing abortion for what it is—a violent form of institutionalized oppression—makes it easier to process and understand the fact that it occurs despite how manifestly unconscionable it seems to us. Neither people who have abortions nor abortionists are cartoon villains. Our entire society bears the blame for dehumanizing children and particularly preborn children to the point where it is even conceivable that abortion would be a solution to an unplanned pregnancy.

I could go on about the ways in which it’s helpful for pro-lifers to conceptualize abortion as institutionalized injustice and learn from the social justice movement, but that would take an entire other essay. I hope this essay helps pro-lifers to approach the preborn rights issue in a more holistic and effective way, but I also hope to influence progressives to be more respectful of born and preborn children, and pro-lifers to have a better understanding of other forms of institutionalized oppression.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Agnostic on the Sidewalk

[Today's guest blog post is by Nick Reynosa.]

One of my first experiences ever at an abortion facility was on March 31, 2011. I arrived early, just as the workers were approaching. I remember thinking of what horrible things were set to occur that day. I was emotional about it and had a strong sense of helplessness. As I left for my early morning classes, I hoped deeply for the sidewalk counselors’ success. Later that day I received an email from my good friend Wynette, who wrote with an elated enthusiasm that not one, not two, but three young women had changed their minds at the sidewalk that day and their babies had been saved! This is the true face of sidewalk counseling.

Unfortunately, many Americans' only exposure to sidewalk counseling has been related to the controversies associated with the pro-life movement that have been so copiously covered by the media. The peaceful free speech exercised by nearly all counselors has been deceptively conflated with the rare instances of extremism that these same counselors have consistently decried. For example, NARAL claims that there have been 6,100 acts of violence and over 156,000 acts of disruption at clinics since 1977. I guess we’re supposed to infer from these numbers that the tactics of sidewalk counselors are anything but peaceful, indeed, are quite consistently violent.

In reality, NARAL's numbers are deliberately misleading; I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s adage, “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” How does NARAL manufacture such a grandiose figure? They key is in the wording in “acts of disruption.” This spin term is subjectively determined by the clinic workers themselves. These so called acts need not be illegal, charges are not filed let alone convictions garnered. A graphic sign, a counselor affirming that a public sidewalk is in fact public, these interfere with business as usual at the clinic and are thus are labeled “disruptive.” The fact that these contentions are perfectly legal and non-violent is intentionally misconstrued. In the 41 years of the pro-life movement there have been eight homicides against abortion facility workers. Major pro-life organizations have repeatedly and consistently denounced such acts of violence. Yet to this day, people use these crimes to poison the well and undermine sidewalk counselors’ compassionate message.

My first exposure to the sidewalk happened over three years ago; since then every experience has made me more pro-life and has proven to me the justness of our cause. Sidewalk counselors have been falsely slandered, and I feel I should use my own experiences to set the record straight.

In many ways the sidewalks outside of abortion facilities have become a microcosm of the larger debate. Not only are the talking points of both sides well on display, but the truth of their claims is also played out. What choices do “pro-choice” escorts think pregnant women should be able to hear about? Is the pro-life movement run by old sexist men? In visiting the sidewalk, you are confronted with so many realities of abortion. The marketing and mechanics of the clinic, the employees of the clinic and their interaction with the counselors. The friends and family that accompany these women to the clinic. And most graphically, the aftermath and removal of the remains of these procedures. For anyone who has never read accounts from the sidewalk or is unsure about abortion in general, I challenge them to venture to their nearest clinic, where reality will overcome previous perceptions.

Clinic Tactics

One of the first observations one makes when visiting a clinic is how much thought goes into the design and marketing of a clinic. Besides the counselors and their signs, there is no overt evidence that the building is in a fact an abortion clinic. In fact the “A” word is avoided like the plague.  Phrases like “Women’s Health,” “Reproductive Health,” and “Family Planning” abound. So I ask: if abortion is a human right, akin to speech or assembly, why don’t clinics proudly state that they offer the “A” word?

The actual layout of the clinic itself, including the clinic’s neighbors, are considered with the sidewalk counselors in mind. For example, the original Women’s Health Specialist Clinic in Sacramento had an L-shaped design, with its parking lot internalized within the property, to make the distance from the sidewalk to the door as short as possible. When the counselors were still successful, the clinic escorts put sheets over the metal fence on the back side and played loud music through concert speakers to drown out the appeals of the counselors. Eventually a new solid fence was added. Later, Women’s Health Specialists changed locations altogether, moving to a location co-occupied by Woman Infants and Children government assistance program as well as a substance abuse counseling program. The media subsequently criticized those on the sidewalk for making it uncomfortable to access those programs. Thus Women Health Specialists shamelessly used impoverished women and children as well as recovering addicts as human shields against the just cause of these sidewalk counselors

The clinics’ attitude toward the friends and family that accompany these women also speaks volumes. It is rare for a woman to come to a clinic completely alone. Oftentimes they are joined by their mothers, sisters, friends, boyfriends, or husbands, because they have asked for emotional support through this tumultuous time. Yet once arriving at the clinic, the woman is often isolated form her friends and family and instructed to turn off her phone. The clinic thus ensures that any doubts already being experienced by these women are not compounded by the reservations of those who brought them.

In addition to the lack of respect shown to these women’s families, clinic escorts routinely attempt to intimidate those sidewalk counselors exercising their free speech rights. I have personally had escorts come up right in my face and take my picture numerous times without my consent. I’ve had them state that I’ve been cited and served by a court ruling and then have them issue court documents that were several years old dealing with a completely different group. I’m not a lawyer, but I think that constitutes fraud! And I have them lie to me about the borders of the buffer zone. Don’t take my word for it; check out these videos for evidence of this intimidation and lies toward myself and my friends.

The Aftermath of Abortion

One of most compelling events at the sidewalk is watching the fetal remains of these procedures being removed. Once a week, a bio-hazardous waste truck comes and carts away that week’s portion of Women’s Health Specialists’ more than 6,000 annual abortions. Witnessing this, it’s impossible not to marvel at the fact that these atrocities are taking place right in the middle of residential neighborhood of Sacramento. It becomes clear that there are thousands of acts of violence being performed at clinics, but they are not being committed by these peaceful sidewalk counselors.

A Ray of Hope

In the literal shadows of these injustices, a small band of volunteers is all that stands as an appeal for these innocent children and a pro-life resource for these frightened women. These men and women—in my experience, mostly women—selflessly give their time to a ridiculed cause. Often times their compassion is met with profanity and spite, and yet they remain resilient. Outside of their fellow counselors and the women they help, it is unlikely that anyone will ever appreciate their presence, and yet they remain steadfast. So I ask, would you describe a nationwide effort consisting mostly of women offering help to other women as a “War on Women”?

So the next time you read an article about anti-abortion violence and intimidation, ask yourself: why does the media highlight the murders of 8 people, murders that have been condemned by sidewalk counselors, to slander these very sidewalk counselors? And at the same time, the media ignores the countless lives these people have saved through their efforts. Here’s to using this knowledge to support our community’s sidewalk counselors, whether it be with our time, money, or just our encouragement. And here’s to us overcoming our own reservations to join our rightful place beside them on the sidewalk.

(Check out the list of ways you can support sidewalk counselors from

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Abortion, Sex Positivity, and the Non-Aggression Principle

[Today's guest post by Kris Skul is part of our paid blogging program.]
[See Kris' follow-up post: "All You Need To Be Pro-Life"]

Supporters of abortion sometimes insist that the principal objective of the pro-life movement is not to fight any real or perceived injustice, but rather to control female sexuality. To these critics, restricting abortion access is primarily a means of punishing women who choose to have non-procreative sex.

I can’t blame them entirely. Many prominent organizations in the pro-life movement, such as the Pro-Life Action League and Students for Life of America, also support the chastity movement. Groups like Real Alternatives, a nonprofit that stresses the potential risks of premarital sex and artificial birth control, are a regular presence at student conferences. And well-known anti-abortion advocates like Abby Johnson and Lila Rose often champion abstinence in addition to their pro-life activism.

Of course, abstinence is a valid choice. It certainly provides excellent protection against unplanned pregnancies! But with people generally marrying later in life than they did in generations past, complete abstinence until marriage is a rarity.

Where does that leave people like me? I neither practice nor advocate for abstinence until marriage. I affirm fully the right of every person to express their sexuality in a manner of their choosing. I believe contraception is an acceptable option for those not yet ready for parenthood, and I respect the choice of those who decide to forgo parenthood altogether. But I cannot condone abortion.

Does this mean my position is morally inconsistent?

John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty (1859), wrote: “[T]he only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” This is closely related to the non-aggression principle, which forms the basis of my personal and political philosophy. It states, in effect, that each individual should be afforded the freedom to do as (s)he wishes, even—and this is important—if his or her actions are morally questionable. It is only appropriate to curtail one person’s freedom of choice when that choice would violate the freedoms of somebody else.

Under the non-aggression principle, sex positivity is perfectly compatible with the anti-abortion stance. Assuming participants take the appropriate precautions against disease, sexual activity among consenting adults—regardless of manner, relationship status, or number or gender of partners—has no effect on anyone beyond those involved. In other words, my sex life doesn’t infringe on anyone’s basic rights. One need not approve of my decisions to acknowledge this.

The same cannot be said for abortion, however, as it is the deliberate termination of another human life. To frame the issue exclusively in terms of the woman’s agency is to deny the humanity of the unborn, which I submit is criterion enough to grant it the protection of the law. Fertilization—when sperm meets egg to form a product that is genetically distinct—is the only objective standard for when new life begins. Terms like “personhood,” commonly used by pro-choicers as a benchmark for when life becomes worthy of protection, are dangerously vague: what constitutes “personhood” to A may not constitute “personhood” to B, and so on.

The mainstream pro-life movement does itself a disservice by propagating the myth that opposition to abortion and a liberal attitude toward sexuality are fundamentally irreconcilable. It overlooks the fact that nearly three-quarters of American teens are sexually active by the time they reach college age. It alienates the overwhelming majority of self-professed pro-lifers who have no ethical objections to birth control. And it surely doesn’t foster constructive dialogue with those on the other side of the abortion debate.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pro-choice ethicists: OK to use aborted baby's ovaries to create new children

[Today's blog post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind]

Fetal tissue harvesting and experimentation on aborted babies are logical outgrowths of the pro-choice position. After all, if unborn babies are mere “tissue,” then there is no need to respect their remains.

But some proposals of what to do with those remains are truly bizarre – and deeply disturbing.

In an article titled "Transplantation of Aborted Fetal Ova: a Short Analysis" that was published in The Wanderer on August 4, 1994, author Lawrence Roberges described grisly experiments done by Dr. Robert Gosden of Edinburgh University. Dr. Gosden proposed harvesting the egg cells from the bodies of female aborted babies and using them for in vitro fertilization, as well as implanting ovarian tissue from aborted babies into the ovaries infertile women. He has had success with this process in mice. What the experiments would entail is obtaining female aborted babies from clinics (increasing clinic revenue), then slicing open the aborted children’s ovaries (ovaries actually start developing in the first trimester) and harvesting their eggs. The article went on to describe experiments he has done on mice:
A paper written by Dr. Gosden in the April 1992 Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics reviews the outline of this research a full two years before his research proposal became news. This paper bases his proposal on prior work in which Dr. Gosden has extensively performed mouse fetal tissue transplants studies to restore the fertility of sterile mice. These studies included using mice fetal tissue to restore fertility to sterile mice, restore endocrine function to mice without ovaries, and freezing and storing mouse fetal ovarian tissue for later successful implantation. Dr. Gosden's work promises to harvest eggs from aborted fetuses at the 12 to 16 week stage. They would then fertilize the eggs by in vitro methods and implant them into previously sterile women.… it would restore the fertility of women who have prematurely undergone menopause, thereby giving them extended years of childbearing.
Can you imagine going through life knowing that your mother was an aborted baby? The prospect is deeply disturbing. Many adopted children grow up wondering what their birth parents were like, but I cannot even begin to imagine how a person would come to terms with the fact that their mother never drew a breath outside the womb. It leads to all kinds of disturbing and macabre thinking.

In the Journal of Medical Ethics, Jonathan M. Berkowitz, a supporter of Gosden’s proposal, sidestepped the issue:
Certainly there may be many emotions associated with the knowledge of being conceived outside sexual intercourse… [A] study concluded that "the majority [of children produced via IVF] were performing above the norm for the chronological age but were subject to a "significantly higher incidence of… behavioral and emotional problems.
Jonathan M Berkowitz, "Mummy Was a Fetus: Motherhood and Fetal Ovarian Transplantation" Journal of Medical Ethics 21:298 – 304 (October 1995).
Of course, knowing that your mother was an aborted baby is very different from knowing that you were conceived through in vitro fertilization. It’s hard to understand how he does not see the difference.

The New York Times summarized Fletcher’s argument:
Dr. John Fletcher [an ethicist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville] said most of the ethical qualms  pale beside the good that can be done for infertile couples. For example, he said, even though a child might be troubled to learn that its genetic mother was an aborted fetus the child would almost certainly rather have been born from the fetus's eggs than not to have been born at all. "The idea that you would be filled with self-loathing if 50% of your genes are from the ova of an abortus seems to me highly questionable,” he said. 
Questionable? Really? It is questionable that knowing that your mother was an aborted baby (or, as he says, “abortus,” a dehumanizing term if I’ve ever heard one) would be traumatic and disturbing? I can’t imagine any human being not being affected by the horror of this type of beginning. The psychological ramifications are enormous – and so are the social ones. What would America be like if it were socially acceptable for people to be born with an aborted baby for a birth mother? It reminds one of the society portrayed in the book Brave New World.

One might think that the concept of harvesting fetal ovaries for future implantation in women and extracting fetal eggs for in vitro fertilization would be just an aberrant idea that would be quickly forgotten. But in 2003, BBC News described experiments with aborted babies’ ovaries taking place in Israel:
The lead researcher, Dr Tal Biron-Shental, from Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, Israel, conceded that the concept of taking egg follicles from an aborted baby was controversial.
Presenting the work to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Madrid, she said: "I'm fully aware of the controversy about this - but probably, in some place, will be ethically acceptable.” 
It is hard to suppress a shudder when imagining a society that would condone this way of creating children. Dr. Biron-Shental went on to describe the benefits of her work, saying "There is a shortage of donated oocytes (eggs) for IVF - oocytes from aborted foetuses might provide a new source for these. There are a huge amount of follicles in the foetal ovary."

Fortunately, Biron-Shental’s work is still in its preliminary stages – no embryos or fetuses have been created using this method – at least as of 2003. But it is deeply disturbing to think about where this research is going. What will the future hold?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Attention Students!

This is a public service announcement to let you know that if you want to bring a Secular Pro-Life speaker to your campus next semester, you should contact us soon. We have already heard from pro-life clubs at three colleges, which is excellent!

Our two speakers, Kelsey Hazzard (me) and Monica Snyder, are both volunteers. I'm an attorney and Monica is a graduate student. So as much as we would like to speak at a different school every week, that's just not possible. We can only get so many days off. It's first come, first served.

The good news is that Secular Pro-Life does not charge an honorarium. We realize that student organizations are usually on tight budgets. We do require coverage of travel expenses. But with me in Florida and Monica in California, schools all over the country are just an inexpensive plane ticket away.

So bring up the idea of an SPL speaker at your group's next meeting. You can view past presentations here. Hope to hear from you soon!

Audience of presentation at University of Georgia

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Everyone Welcome!

A while ago, I wrote a post on encouraging more secular participation in the pro-life movement and asked readers to give their ideas on how we might increase religious diversity. Thanks to everyone who gave feedback. Here are a few suggestions. Feel encouraged to add more in the comments section, or email us (!

10 Ways To Be Inclusive
  1. Remember you don’t know people’s religious views unless they tell you. Often we associate certain political perspectives, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and other factors with certain religious beliefs (or lack thereof). But in reality, people with all sorts of backgrounds can have different religious beliefs. Do not assume you can guess a person’s religious affiliation. For example, don’t assume that a person is secular just because they identify as LGBT, or that a person is Christian just because they want to help with the pro-life cause. Take each person as an individual. If you want to know where someone stands on issues of faith, ask them. :-)
  2. Let people describe themselves. No one wants to be given a label they don’t agree with. “Atheist,” “agnostic,” “religious,” “spiritual”—different people define these terms in slightly different ways. Don’t tell people which label best applies to them, and try to avoid debates about what the labels should mean. Instead, ask people how they describe themselves religiously, and ask them what they mean by the labels they use. Ask them what philosophies or ideas influence their positions on abortion.
  3. Use inclusive language. Using inclusive language means talking in a way that either does not express a religious preference or acknowledges a variety of religious affiliations. For example, instead of “We are all made in God’s image,” you could say “We believe each human being has value.” The latter statement applies equally well whether the listener believes in God or not.
  4. Talk about diversity. Be explicit about the fact that you welcome people from all different backgrounds. Talk with your fellow pro-lifers about the range of people who consider themselves pro-life, and how to include and encourage all types. If you are hosting an event, specifically announce that you welcome all attending, whatever their background. Make sure any pro-life minorities know you are glad they are there.
  5. Include religiously diverse flyers, posters, and publications. Many of the people interested in the abortion debate are Christian, and may find Christian-based publications useful and insightful. But of course our country is a diverse one, including people of many other religious beliefs and people who aren’t affiliated with religion at all. Having publications addressed to religious minorities shows your group anticipates and welcomes their presence. These publications also give people something firm to take home and really think about.
  6. Focus on fighting abortion. It is easier to unite diverse groups by focusing on their common ground. Here, our common ground is our opposition to abortion. Other political topics (e.g. gay marriage, welfare programs, the death penalty, etc.) only serve to alienate people from varied backgrounds who otherwise want to help the pro-life cause. We are here to grow the pro-life movement, so focus on being pro-life. Let people work out their differences on other topics in their own time.
  7. Do not evangelize. If people of other faiths or no faith believe you are welcoming them only because you see them as a soul to save, most of them will not continue participating. Please keep in mind that many secularists are former people of faith. People leave their faiths for a variety of reasons, and those reasons can sometimes be sensitive, even painful to discuss. People want to feel accepted for who they are. They want to be seen as friends and allies, not projects.  If someone asks you about your faith, it is completely appropriate to discuss your beliefs with them. If cross-religious friendships blossom from your pro-life work together, conversations about your faith may come about organically. However, don’t initiate such conversations unasked, especially when first meeting and getting to know fellow activists.
  8. Strengthen the voices of pro-life minorities. Make your inclusiveness pro-active! Ask non-traditional pro-lifers to blog for your website, give talks to your group, or just chat with you over coffee about how they arrive at their pro-life positions. Giving pro-life minorities a stronger voice (1) makes them feel welcome, (2) helps everyone understand one another, and (3) increases the pro-life movement’s diversity and inclusiveness.
  9. Discuss comments that are religiously biased when you hear them. We are all in this cause together, and we should stick up for one another. If you hear someone using non-inclusive language, making derogatory jokes, or voicing misinformation about other peoples’ religious beliefs (or lack thereof), mention it. You can either speak with the person directly, or talk to your pro-life group leader about it privately. Discuss why you think the comment may be inappropriate or could be improved.
  10. When in doubt, contact us! Whether you are planning a pro-life event, want to increase diversity in your pro-life club, or are just generally curious—contact us! We are very happy to give feedback on the secular pro-life perspective and how we can all improve communication and cooperation between diverse pro-lifers. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


[Today's blog post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind]

Every now and then, during my research on abortion, I come across a quote or statement that just makes me shake my head. Such as this quote from a post-abortive woman named Sue Nathanson. Nathanson, a self-proclaimed feminist, apparently regrets her abortion. But she regrets it not because she lost her child, even though she acknowledges this fact. No, she wishes that her child could have been “sacrificed” in a more “compassionate and loving” environment:
I wish now that my fourth child could have been sacrificed with my love and tears, even with my own hands, in a circle of a family or community of women, in a circle of a compassionate and loving community of men and women who might be able to perceive my vulnerability as a mirror of their own, and not as it was, in a cold and lonely hospital room with instruments of steel.
Wow, what a lovely sentiment! She wishes that she could have killed her baby herself. It’s hard, as a pro-lifer, to understand this kind of mentality. However, it is a logical outgrowth of the pro-choice position. I have debated many pro-choicers, and I have found that many of the most hard-core ones are willing to admit that abortion takes a life. As shocking as this is, it is an argument that sometimes stops the debate cold – if your opponent thinks killing babies is okay, it’s hard to know what to say next. The argument they put forth is that of bodily autonomy – a woman has a right to kill her baby because the baby is residing in her body. This argument overlooks the fact that the child is an innocent victim who, in 99% of cases, was put there by a consensual act of the woman herself. (According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, only 1% of abortions are done because of rape or incest).

They claim that if the woman’s circumstances are bad, abortion is the best choice for both her and the baby. Under this mentality, killing can be compassionate – it can relieve the woman of a bad situation, and it might even be kind for the child as well, who does not have to grow up “unwanted.” Killing people to help them. What a twisted concept. Perhaps telling themselves that killing a baby is good for the baby is the only way that some of these pro-choicers can sleep at night.

If Nathanson’s idea of “love” is killing, I sincerely hope she never “loves” anyone else. Killing with love. Wishing you had killed your unborn baby with your own hands, because somehow that would be more “loving” and “compassionate" than having an abortionist do it? I’m not sure how many pro-choicers would flinch at this quote, maybe many of them – but Nathanson has obviously been persuaded by the most virulent and extreme pro-abortion rhetoric to come to the opinion she has. It is a truly twisted philosophy.

* * *

Editor's Note: The idea of abortion as "sacrifice" seems to be becoming a minor theme in pro-abortion rhetoric. Sarah has actually written about it previously; in that article, an abortion worker talked about "respecting" abortion victims by "thanking [them] for [their] sacrifice so that the woman could continue on the path she was on."

At the risk of sounding judgmental (oh, who am I kidding), this strange way of thinking about "sacrifice" always makes me think of Lord Farquaad from Shrek; specifically, this scene:

"Some of you may die... but it's a sacrifice I am willing to make." Yeah, that about sums it up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bodily autonomy vs right to life... but this isn't about abortion

New York City is not a good place for unborn babies. The area has long had an abysmally high abortion rate, and even after a recent reported decline, it's double the national average. But now, the unborn children and born infants of NYC face another threat, one that is largely beyond the control of their parents: New York City is experiencing a measles outbreak. (For now, it's contained to northern Manhattan and the Bronx. If you live in NYC, you can get up-to-date information about the measles outbreak from the NYC Health Department.)

According to the CDC, if a pregnant woman is infected by the measles virus, her unborn child may miscarry. Even if the child survives, he or she faces an increased risk of premature birth, with all its attendant health problems. If a child contracts measles after birth, the chance of death is 1 or 2 in 1000. (That's the statistic for the United States; in developing nations with an inadequate medical infrastructure, odds of death are much higher.) And children typically are not vaccinated for measles until 12 months after birth, which means that the youngest New Yorkers are at the greatest risk.

The general consensus is that declining vaccination rates are to blame. Now, the last thing I want to do on a Tuesday is have my time sucked into the vortex that is debating the merits of vaccines on the internet. You can probably guess where I can come down, but this post addresses a different question. Assuming that someone genuinely believes that the risks of the measles vaccine outweigh its benefits, what are that person's ethical obligations to society at large? [Note: although some vaccines are made through a process that involves cell lines derived from aborted human remains, the measles vaccine is not one of them.] [Update: the rubella vaccine is, though, and I've been informed by several readers that the measles vaccine is not available separate from the rubella vaccine. You can find an extended discussion of the ethics of abortion-derived cell lines here.]

On the one hand, we have a bodily autonomy right (not wanting to be injected with a vaccine). On the other hand, we have the right to life (a risk of death for children who are too young to be vaccinated). This basic setup should be very familiar to our regular readers!

In keeping with the pro-life truism that the right to swing your fist ends where another person's nose begins, I say this: if an individual decides not to receive the measles vaccine, fine, but that individual then has an ethical duty to avoid contact with all babies. That includes no socializing with your pregnant friends.

That happy coexistence of bodily autonomy and the right to life may be possible if you live in a rural area. It's a tall order in New York City, where the ubiquity of public transportation means that you effectively have daily contact with hundreds of thousands of people who you never see.

What about legal consequences? Here, the analogy to abortion breaks down somewhat. [Note: I should emphasize that, although I am a lawyer, none of the following should be taken as legal advice.] There is some precedent for criminalizing the negligent transmission of a disease. But those laws are mostly limited to sexually transmitted diseases, which are obviously much easier to trace than diseases that can be spread by a cough in a subway. If the measles victim dies, a charge of negligent homicide is theoretically possible, but I haven't found any examples. (I'd be interested to see how a court would rule if the defendant claimed bodily autonomy as a defense.) On the civil side, I see no reason why the family of a measles victim couldn't sue for wrongful death, etc. Again, though, even if the protection of the law is adequate, proving who caused the infection is a significant barrier for any potential plaintiffs.

Bottom line: whatever the law in this area, consistent pro-lifers have an ethical duty to avoid harming others, and should bear that in mind as they make decisions about their health.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Debating abortion with other secularists

Last week Pro-Life Humanists' Kristine Kruszelnicki wrote a blog post featured on Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist blog ("Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here's Why I'm One of Them.")

I was pleased and impressed to see that Hemant posted the piece. In my experience working with Secular Pro-Life, pro-choice secularists tend to be very hostile toward pro-life secularists. They're not just angry that we're pro-life; they're angry we are pro-life and secular. Often times they will imply or outright insist that we are lying about our secularism, that we are secretly religious and we're pretending to be secular to trick people into... something. Listening to us, I guess.

In any case, even if they begrudgingly admit secular pro-lifers exist, they don't believe we should have a voice in secular communities. So since Hemant gave Kristine a platform he's gotten a fair bit of backlash (examples here). (By the way, if you are a pro-life secularist, feel encouraged to contact Hemant and thank him for giving our side a voice.)

But most of the backlash focuses not on Hemant, but on Kristine's piece itself. I'm sure there are a lot of responses to Kristine piece that I haven't read, so I don't expect the following will cover every objection. Still, here's a quick overview of some of the reactions.

1. Libby Anne: 

The Friendly Atheist created quite the brouhaha lately by publishing a guest post by Kristine Kruszelnicki, president of Pro-Life Humanists. This post was titled “Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here’s Why I’m One of Them.” My response? Thank you, Captain Obvious. 
No seriously. Are there really people who think that atheists can’t be against abortion?  I do not understand this reasoning. Is there supposed to be a litmus test, that if you’re an atheist you’re automatic and by definition a-okay with abortion?
I mean... apparently. Yes. We've got one set telling us we are only pretending to be secular, that we're secretly religious (or, at minimum, "infected by religious ideas"), and then we've got another set telling us it's so obvious that atheists can be pro-life that it's foolish to bother pointing it out?

Note that you rarely hear people claim Hitchens was "infected" by religion.

Actually, overall I like Libby Anne's piece; of course she and I don't agree on everything, but she makes a lot of good points, talking about how so many issues don't hinge on religion, and how
[Kristine's] "secular" argument against abortion is no different from the arguments I and other evangelical kids like me grew up hearing. In my experience, the only point where God enters the evangelical equation is the idea that we should value all human life, from conception to natural death, because God values all human life. Atheists who believe life is inherently valuable can build this argument the same way.
I'm not sure why she put "secular" in quotes--is she implying Kristine's argument isn't really secular? (Ha ha ha) I thought one of the main points of Libby Anne's post was it's obvious you can be secular and pro-life, so that's a bit confusing.

But anyway, she's right. Many religious people grow up with, and use, the same or very similar arguments to the ones Kristine put forth in her post. Most secular pro-choicers claim the arguments are therefore religious, but that doesn't follow. That's like saying because most Catholics think birth control is morally acceptable, anyone who accepts birth control must be Catholic. (This mistake--thinking if a premise is true, its converse must be true--is actually a very common logical misstep.)

So no, just because a lot of religious people use an argument doesn't mean the argument is inherently religious, and Libby Anne recognizes the distinction. I appreciate that. If more people realized the difference, perhaps Kristine wouldn't need to be so explicit about the fact that she is both an atheist and pro-life. So far, though, that's not the case.

2. Greta Christina: 

This piece is not a response to Kristine's post specifically. It's a response to a larger trend Greta Christina sees in the atheist community--the trend in which people she respects and thinks of as allies (such as Hemant) act as if there's room for reasonable debate among atheists on abortion. You can get an idea for how Christina feels about said trend here:
See, here’s the thing. I don’t see a lot of atheist leaders and bloggers suggesting that we have a calm, reasonable debate about whether homosexuality is a mental illness and gay people should be locked in mental institutions. I don’t see them suggesting that we have a calm, reasonable debate about whether or not black people are human beings or are some other sub-human species who should serve white people. I don’t see them talking with reporters about those arguments, or giving them space in their blogs without comment. I don’t see them saying that because we’re freethinkers, because we support free inquiry and the free exchange of ideas, that therefore we should freely inquire into the issue of whether black people and gay people are fully human with the basic right to bodily autonomy. I don’t see them saying that the “be willing to question anything and everything” spirit of skepticism applies to questions that have dehumanization built into their very core. I see them recognizing these arguments as morally reprehensible on the face of it.
So why is abortion a special case? 
Christina certainly isn't the only one making these points--there were plenty of comments on Kristine's original post along the same lines:

(Click to enlarge.)

So some pro-choicers think being pro-life is as reprehensible as wanting to lock up homosexuals and enslave black people. I'm sure this comes as a surprise to PLAGAL and the 40% of Black non-Hispanics who think abortion should be illegal.

These nasty comparisons make sense... as long as you assume the fetus is irrelevant. If you believe the pregnant woman is the only human worth any moral consideration in the abortion debate, it makes sense to feel bewildered and betrayed by people saying maybe her right to abortion isn't absolute. You don't see why people would acknowledge a controversy because you're omitting one of the most fundamental questions of the entire debate: what is the fetus?

There's no comparison between the abortion debate and these other issues, because freeing the slaves and fighting for gay rights don't require looking the other way while hundreds of thousands of humans (or, depending on your stance, "potential humans") are killed each year. If you ignore this profound moral concern, it makes sense to be confused and angry that other people see a debate worth having.

3. PZ Myers:

So. This guy.

I saved this post for last because I think it's on a whole different level than the other entries. Libby Anne talks about what it means to be an atheist, and Greta Christina works through her anger over what she thinks people think about women. Those are big issues. Complicated issues. Issues that merit serious discussion.

But PZ Myers is not taking on complex social and philosophical issues. He's waffling about simple facts. Kristine pointed out that human organisms--including the zygote, embryo, and fetus--belong to the human species. Based on this point (and a whole lot of twisting of her original post), PZ claims Kristine is "lying" about science.
But what about this claim that science can tell us who among us belongs to the human species?
First question I have is…which species concept are you using? There are a lot of them, you know; I daresay we might be able to find a few, that when inappropriately and too literally applied, would define away my status as a human, which simply wouldn’t do. There are also a lot of non-scientific or pseudo-scientific definitions of what constitutes a human that have been historically abused. Were the Nazis being scientific when they defined sub-species of humans and classed Jews, Gypsies, and Africans as something less than fully human? What, exactly, is Kruszelnicki’s "scientific" definition of human, that she’s using so definitively to declare a fetus as completely human? 
Do you know what you just read, guys? This is what desperation looks like.

If PZ could give a commonly accepted definition of "species" that debunked the idea that human organisms--including zygotes, embryos, and fetuses--are part of the human species, he would. If he could give a commonly accepted definition of "organism" that did not include zygotes, he would. But he doesn't give those definitions. He can't. Because zygotes are organisms, and human organisms are part of the human species. PZ can do a bunch of hand wavy complaining about how he's not sure what Kristine means (and try to assert that his alleged lack of understanding equals her dishonesty), but that's all he's got. There's no substance here.

He's right that there are many ways of thinking about the concept of "species." But Kristine's perspective doesn't rely on some obscure, slippery definition. How about a group of organisms having common characteristics and capable of mating with one another to produce fertile offspring? You can find that description on the lying, anti-woman, secretly religious website: Biology Online.

Kristine claims "science defines a fetus as a biological member of our species." PZ tries to brush off Kristine's perspective as "traditional and colloquial" (as if those attributes, in themselves, make an idea anti-scientific), but in reality Kristine's assertions rely on a very common--and scientific--species concept: the biological species concept. UC Berkeley's "Understanding Evolution" website describes the biological species concept as the concept used "for most purposes and for communication with the general public." How dare Kristine fail to define that for someone like PZ--he only has decades of background in developmental biology. That must have been very confusing for him.

I wonder, does PZ call people liars when they say they are members of the species Homo Sapiens? You know, because they haven't clarified which species concept they're using? Would he think it "dishonest and more than a little annoying" for a pregnant woman to say her fetus is a member of her species? Please.

No amount of swearing or bold, italics, and ALL CAPS will make up for the fact that PZ's indignant objections are utter nonsense--political rantings smothered with enough science-y words to mollify the readers who want him to be right to begin with. (He said "totipotent" and "multicellularity," guys! I guess his blog post must be logical and fact-based.) See Amanda Marcotte, Greta Christina, and Avicenna reference PZ's science "education," or recall when Matt Dillahunty dodged a question by throwing it to PZ.

Thank goodness the pro-choice side has people like PZ Myers to steer them clear of Kristine's "anti-scientific" claims. Otherwise they might get confused and start believing crazy things--like the idea that human organisms belong to the human species.

Bottom line.

These three blog posts are just a sampling of the reactions secular pro-life ideas like Kristine's often get in atheist circles. Yet, despite the inevitable backlash, Kristine continually puts herself and her message out there. My hat goes off to her.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thoughts about birthdays

On occasion, pro-choicers will argue that the government's use of birthdays as a starting point to measure age is evidence that life begins at birth rather than at conception. In fairness, these are usually not pro-choicers who are deeply involved in the debate. Intellectually honest pro-choicers realize that the argument from birthdays is extremely weak, and that they're better off making other points.

Birthdays are, of course, entirely arbitrary, and not an exact measure of age. As an example: my birthday is July 15. I was not born until three weeks after my due date. And even then, I was only born because my parents and their doctors decided that I needed to be C-sectioned out. (My family jokes that this was just the start of a lifelong pattern of procrastination on my part.) Some of the many other children born on July 15 of that year were born prematurely. That means that I could very well be two or three months older than someone who, for purposes of legal driving, voting, and drinking, is "exactly my age."

But since it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when fertilization occurs unless a baby is conceived in vitro, birthdays are a reasonable shortcut. Good enough for government, right? Age-related laws are so arbitrary to begin with (is a guy on the day of his 21st birthday really more mature than he was on the day before his 21st birthday?) that an additional layer of arbitrariness can't really hurt anything.

Oddly, though, I've found that when I wish a fellow pro-lifer a happy birthday, I feel compelled to say something more than just "happy birthday." Don't get me wrong: I like birthdays. One day a year is designated for your family and friends to let you know how much they appreciate your life. That's awesome. And of course the day you are finally able to see and hold a member of your family is worth celebrating. What's not awesome is when "It's your Xth birthday" is treated as synonymous with "You've been alive for X years." I don't want to appear like I'm making that concession.

And so I say things like this:

I'm also not the only one who does it:

Are we taking this birthday stuff too seriously? Yeah, maybe. But it's part of a broader point: the way that we use language is extremely important. Abortion advocacy groups are masters at obfuscation and euphemism. We need to clarify the truth however, and whenever, we can.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Secular Pro-Life's Christian Outreach

Ha! Made you look at the headline! Now read the whole article, because it's a little more complicated.

Secular Pro-Life has always been open to people of any faith or no faith. Still, SPL is often associated with, well, secularism. Our leadership is comprised of non-theists, and we're always going on about that "over six million pro-life American nones" statistic, and about young people being the most pro-life and least religious generation since Roe v. Wade.

But this statistic may actually be more important: a recent Pew survey of Americans between the ages of 18 and 33 found that only 36% would describe themselves as "a religious person."

While the United States certainly has a Christian majority, that is based on self-identification. What does it mean for someone to call himself a "Christian"? Young Americans in particular are not devout. Sure, they grew up in Sunday School (who else remembers Silly Songs with Larry?). They try to be good people and not hurt anybody. They attend church on Christmas and Easter, and maybe a few other times a year. But these are not people who have religious concerns about eternal life and sin at the center of their minds. They drink. They cuss. They party. And they most assuredly have sex before marriage.

My point here is not to point and stare and call people hypocrites for not living their lives by a particular Christian worldview. My point is to describe average young American Christians, bearing in mind that I was once one myself. And my point is that non-religious Christian youths are unlikely to be swayed by pro-life arguments that are full of citations to a Bible they don't read and theological thought leaders they've never heard of.

If I'm right, Secular Pro-Life is actually in a better position to reach out to a significant percentage of Millennial Christians than explicitly Christian pro-life groups are. Because if you aren't a "religious person," prayer vigils, sermons, and sayings like "Let God Plan Parenthood" are not going to get you involved in the pro-life movement. And heaven forbid (ha!) that you take such an approach with an average young Christian woman who is pregnant, terrified, and considering what looks like an "easy way out." About 65% of abortions in the U.S. are performed on Christian mothers, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.

This is a major reason why Secular Pro-Life is, always has been, and always will be open to Christians. Many pro-life Christians, to their credit, recognize the problem and understand that a religiously-neutral human rights perspective can provide the solution. (Yes, that has prompted some backlash from certain highly fundamentalist Christian subgroups. But those critics are in the minority.) Working together, we can reach the full spectrum of Americans, and make abortion unthinkable for them all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

GOAL: 24,000 diapers for charity by the end of March

My friend Jennie is a wonderful pro-life young woman. I've known her for years and she has a big heart. Her 24th birthday is today, and true to form, she's thinking about those less fortunate. She wants to collect 24,000 diapers for charity by the end of the month.

She's been soliciting friends to help out for a while now, and she's almost reached the 10,000 mark. But to get to 24,000 by March 31, Jennie needs your help.

While the challenge was originally limited to two faith-based pregnancy centers near Jennie's Texas home, we are now opening it up so that all SPL members can participate. Pregnancy centers, maternity homes, shelters for abused women, homeless shelters, community centers—any charity that serves underprivileged families will be grateful for your gift. All babies need diapers, and the cost of diapers can add up quickly. So please donate diapers and make Jennie's birthday wish come true!

To have your gift count toward the 24,000 diaper challenge, leave a comment below stating how many diapers you purchased and what charity received them. The diapers can be any brand and any size. And be sure to follow Jennie's progress at the 24,000 by 24 website.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Pro-lifers should support sex ed... but pro-lifers aren't welcome in our sex ed club!"

[Today's guest post is by Rebecca Stapleford.]

As a pro-life activist who supports comprehensive sex education, reliable contraception, and pro-life legislation to reduce the number of abortions performed, I was deeply disheartened to learn that my university’s sex education club, which is officially connected to my university’s student health center, is officially pro-choice. 

This revelation came during the graphic image displays of aborted fetuses hosted by my Students for Life club, when the sex education club came out to counter-protest. The president of the club not only falsely claimed that the images were of stillborns, but also claimed that her club officially supported legalized abortion as a matter of public health. When I challenged her on these claims, she admitted that this entire controversy was about whether or not the fetus is a human being, and she believes that the fetus does not become a human being until it is able to survive on its own without medical assistance.

Throughout the day, I was repeatedly told by pro-choice counter-protesters that I needed to support comprehensive sex education and contraception if I was opposed to abortion. Most were shocked when I expressed support for such social policies. But if I were to try to become active in promoting such things on my campus, I would be excluded from doing so by the sex education club because of my political pro-life beliefs!

The sex ed club’s insistence on taking a stance on abortion means that they have fewer opportunities to reach and to educate their fellow students who are pro-life about safer sex. After all, if you alienate a certain segment of the student body, they are less likely to listen to what you have to say.

Sadly, my university is not unique in this situation. The research that I have done indicates that many clubs and organizations, student-led or otherwise, which promote comprehensive sex education and contraception also take a very pro-choice stance on the issue of abortion. This excludes pro-life individuals from being involved and furthers the stereotype that pro-lifers don’t support such efforts. Then when we proclaim our support for pro-life legislation, we are accused of not really wanting to end abortion and of wanting simply to oppress women because we allegedly do not support policies like comprehensive sex education. This hostile attitude leads to many pro-life advocates not even bothering to consider supporting comprehensive sex education and contraception. Those who do continue to be excluded by both communities... and the cycle repeats itself.

At the end of the day, this cycle of distrust harms unborn children and sexually active women and men alike.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Upcoming events: FL, PA, and your computer

New Event: Screening of the 40 Film in Naples, FL
40 is a documentary film that paints a picture of the pro-life movement forty years after Roe v. Wade. Along the way, the film examines issues of feminism, rape, secular and religious values, prenatal development, and more. It also features the personal stories of women who have faced crisis pregnancies, some of whom chose abortion and some of whom chose life.

Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard is one of the many pro-life leaders interviewed in 40, and she will be present at this screening. Director John Morales will be there too. Lex Vitae, the pro-life student organization at Ave Maria School of Law, has graciously provided the space.

Date: Friday, April 4, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: 1025 Commons Circle, Room 110, Naples, FL 34119
Food: TBD, but there will be some.

This event is free; however, we will request donations to benefit Secular Pro-Life projects.

Space is limited. Please RSVP on facebook.

Reminder: Life/Peace/Justice Conference in Philadelphia, PA
We've told you about this before, but it's not too late to sign up for the Life/Peace/Justice conference on Saturday, March 29! This conference is organized by our friends at the Life Matters Journals. Speakers will address abortion, suicide, capital punishment, child abuse, drone warfare, and the need for a broad coalition in defense of human life. It will be held at Villanova University in Philly. Registration is required, but affordable. Learn more on the Life/Peace/Justice website.

Unofficial Event: Abortion Debate Podcast
This is not an SPL-sponsored event, but it may be of interest to our members. Clinton Wilcox and Matt Dillahunty will face off in an abortion debate on a Christian podcast called Theology Matters with the Pellews. The debate will take place on Tuesday, March 25 at 6pm EST, and will subsequently be available on the Theology Matters website.

Clinton is a Christian ally of SPL and a frequent contributor to this blog, most often on popular philosophical arguments (the famous violinist, a future like ours, etc.). Matt is a pro-choice atheist best known as the host of The Atheist Experience.

Friday, March 7, 2014

What NOT to say if you're a pro-life politician

[Today's guest post by Rachel Enders is part of our paid blogging program. Get more thoughts from Rachel at her Pro-Life For All tumblr. She also blogs about sexual health at Birds, Bees, and Other Things, which is not remotely safe for work.]

The past year or so has been very exciting for pro-life activists. In Texas, we went beyond the pink shoed filibuster to pass innovative laws to preserve life and women’s health. We’ve seen more and more celebrities speaking up as pro-life activists. Most noticeably, abortion clinics nationwide are shutting down. We’ve also seen a great increase in the secular side of the pro-life movement.

However, despite the great pro-life victories, we have also been set back by the statements of certain pro-life politicians. These statements are ignorant, misogynistic, and, in some cases, very worrying to the cause of respecting human dignity.

I’ll give a few example of these comments, uttered by people who should know better.

In September 2012, a reporter from Al Jazeera asked State Rep. Jim Buchy (R-Oh) what he thought made a woman seek out abortions. His reply? “It's a question I've never even thought about.” This statement is troubling for multiple reasons. It reinforces the stereotype of pro-lifers as old white men. It rejects compassion for the woman. It perpetuates ignorance, and it simply is not productive to the pro-life movement.

Last month, Virginia Senate Republican Steve Martin spoke out on his facebook. In his status, he said “However, once a child does exist in your womb, I'm not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child's host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn't want it.” This statement is equally shameful. By using the word "host," he treats mothers as mere vessels. He leaves out every human aspect of abortion from the mother’s point of view. (After being called out, he edited the facebook post, changing "host" to "bearer of the child.")

In the early 1990's, a current Maine Republican, Lawrence Lockman, said “If a woman has (the right to abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.” This is probably one of the most disgusting and disgraceful quotes out there said by a lawmaker and pro-life leader. At the time, he was the director of the Pro-Life Education Association. This statement was misogynistic, hateful, and downright revolting. It does nothing but harm the pro-life movement. While Lockman has since apologized, the statement does not reflect well on the Maine pro-life movement or the entire pro-life movement in general.

In my opinion, one of the most positive things that could happen for the cause of unborn children would be the rise of politicians who speak about the pro-life position eloquently and compassionately.

We need more leaders like former Congresswoman and Ambassador Lindy Boggs, who passed away in 2012. Congresswoman Boggs marked up the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, and she made sure to add sex and marital status to the nondiscrimination bill. She co-founded the Congressional Women’s Caucus. She also repeatedly voted against abortion and was one of the five women who voted for the Hyde Amendment.

We need more leaders like the great Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who fought against sex-selective abortions in an environment that favored men over women. She refused to make legislation that forced women to choose between careers and children. The woman who championed democracy in Pakistan said, days before her assassination in 2007, “I dream of a Pakistan, of an Asia, of a world, where we can commit our social resources to the development of human life and not to its destruction.”

We need more politicians like Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, who “walks the walk” for pro-life legislation and actions. Representative Herrera Beutler recently gave birth to a daughter who was prenatally diagnosed with Potter’s Syndrome. Potter's Syndrome was believed to be uniformly lethal, and the pressure to abort was surely immense, but Herrera Beutler chose life for her daughter. Nearly a year later, baby Abigail is thriving.

We need our male politicians to step up too. We need more men like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who consistently steps across party lines to preserve the life of the unborn as well as the hard working laborers of the Mountain State.

It is compassion that will further the pro-life movement. It is compassion that will change hearts and minds. It is compassion that will pass legislation. It is compassion that will end abortion. If we are to make any progress, the judgment and ignorance have got to go.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

"Talking about my abortion."

In this link is the abortion story of a woman named Molly. You should know before you read it that there are some graphic descriptions and there's some language. But you should read it. It's very interesting. I thought the most interesting quote was here:

What about for the in-between? The post-abortive women who need recovery and who, at the same time, don't feel they need to repent? Many factions of the pro-life movement say we are the ones who really care about women, who want to help women. Which women? Do you want to help a woman reeling from an abortion, even if she believes strongly that it wasn't wrong?

Molly explains the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy, what her abortion was like, and how she felt afterward. Her feelings are what catch my attention.

Pro-lifers often insist post-abortive women regret their abortions, have deep psychological and emotional pain. We hear these women need healing, forgiveness, or, as Molly said, repentance.

Pro-choicers are more of a mixed bag. Some acknowledge that many women are deeply troubled by their abortions. Others brush off the women who really suffer--either as anomalies, or as a threat to abortion rights. Or both. Many pro-choicers insist that abortions don't come with any major negative psychological or emotional repercussions. Sure, women may be initially upset about their abortions, but no more upset than they would be about any other stressful life event. Any major surgery is stressful. Nothing remarkable about that.

Molly doesn't fit either of those narratives. She talks about feeling depressed and angry. She talks about physical and emotional pain, and about being "too traumatized" to go to her follow-up appointment. But she also talks about not being sorry, and about seeking out other women's abortion stories, especially the ones who aren't sorry. She says,
As soon as I could, I raised a thousand dollars for Planned Parenthood. It felt like paying a debt.
That quote is not an expression of anger at no one warning her about what she was going to do. It's not an expression of sorrow at not having explored more options and resources. That quote is gratitude.

I'd like more people to acknowledge that abortion can be deeply troubling to women, and that many women seek abortion specifically because they feel they don't have a choice. Women know that to be pregnant means to be limited in what we can do in terms of education, careers, supporting ourselves financially, supporting our other children, and so on. That's the society we live in, and we need to change it.

Some people, like Molly, say abortion "is the basis of fertile women living equal lives." But it's not really true. Molly's life after abortion wasn't equal to that of a woman who has never been pregnant. And Molly's life wasn't equal to that of a woman who felt supported while she carried a pregnancy to term. Abortion doesn't make us equal. Abortion takes the lives of our children in a pathetic attempt to paper over societal problems with deeper roots.

But I agree with Molly that pregnancy makes us unequal. And I believe fertile women should be able to lead equal lives to those of fertile men. Pregnancy should not be anyone's undoing, and the pro-lifers I know (and, to be fair, some of the pro-choicers I know) that inspire me most are the ones who work to give pregnant women support.

Meanwhile, I'd also like more people to acknowledge that not all post-abortive women wish they could undo their abortions. It's different for different women. As Molly explains,
Abortion is sometimes a trauma, sometimes an anticlimax, sometimes a relief.
Does this idea mean abortion is kind of okay, depending on the situation? No. Abortion takes human lives, and so it's wrong, and should be illegal. I've written before about how I'm not clear what overall effect post-abortive women's emotional repercussions have on the abortion debate.

But I do think stories like Molly's show we should let women speak for themselves about how they feel about their abortions--including women who are relieved, traumatized, or any emotion in between. I think we should ease up on the idea that abortion should be illegal because it emotionally scars women. When we say that, we are telling a lot of women what they went through and how they felt, and many don't agree.