Friday, May 29, 2015

Countdown to launch...

If you follow Secular Pro-Life on facebook (and if you don't, why don't you?), you may have seen this earlier in the week:

June 1 is Monday, and we're so excited for this incredible project to finally be revealed!

Until then, here are a few hints we can share:

1) Many women who have abortions say that they are motivated by their love for future children who haven't been conceived yet. They believe that by aborting a child who is conceived at a bad time, they can create better circumstances for the later siblings they keep. Abortion advocates have picked up on this theme, even referring to abortion as a "parenting decision." This project will specifically speak to women who are considering abortion for this reason.

2) This project isn't just about abortion. It takes a broader approach, educating the public about a range of issues that can affect children's health throughout their lifetimes. This is a project that intellectually honest pro-choicers can support.

3) Secular Pro-Life has partnered with the Alice Paul Group to advertise this campaign on social media. APG created the graphic design above, and is creating many more. I've seen them, and I can tell you that these ads will appeal to people who aren't at all involved in the abortion debate. The only limit to who we can reach? Our budget.

Your help is needed. Please click here to donate. We greatly appreciate your support.

Want to wait until you've seen it for yourself on Monday? That's totally understandable—but please bookmark this page so you don't forget!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What is Godwin's Law?

I recently came across an article from pro-choice blogger Libby Anne, who responded to a letter and stated that the only place men have in the abortion debate is supporting a woman's right to choose (abortion). In other words, men have no place in the abortion debate unless they're pro-choice. How open-minded. I didn't realize my genitals could influence the soundness and validity of my arguments. You learn something new every day.

However, that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about something that is often mentioned in controversial discussions but is rarely used correctly: Godwin's Law. Near the end of her article, Libby Anne said that she "violated Godwin's Law" by mentioning the Germans and Nazis. I have often seen someone try to invoke Godwin's Law whenever a comparison to Nazis or Hitler is made.

Godwin's Law was a tongue-in-cheek observation made by Mike Godwin, in which he stated: "As an on-line discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." For those of you unfamiliar with Bayesian reasoning, if something has the probability of zero, it is impossible; if it is 1, it is certain; the closer a probability is to 1, the more certain it is.

Essentially, Godwin's Law is an observation, not a law. If you raise a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis, you have not violated an actual law. You have simply confirmed Godwin's observation.

As Wikipedia puts it: Godwin's law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one's opponent) with Nazis -- often referred to as "playing the Hitler card." If you compare your opponent to Hitler, you've "violated this law," but it would be more accurate to say that you have committed an actual logical fallacy, the ad hominem.

"Godwin's Law," in the sense of an ad hominem attack, does not apply if the comparison to Hitler or Nazis is legitimate. Comparing abortion to the Holocaust can be legitimate, but only if the correct parallels are made. There are obvious disanalogies between the two. There are also parallels, such as both being human rights violations, and both requiring the dehumanizing/depersonalization of the victim group in question to justify the act. You must engage with each particular invocation of the Holocaust in order to see if fallacious reasoning is being utilized.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Increased legal recognition for stillborn babies in Western Australia

A 7-week-old baby shows off fingers which are beginning to
separate and will be fully distinct by week 8. Photo via the
Endowment for Human Development.
Malessa B., an Australian supporter of Secular Pro-Life, recently sent us an article from Perth Now about a family's successful campaign to obtain legal recognition for second-trimester stillborn babies:
[T]he WA Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages will formally recognise babies lost between 12 to 19 weeks following Mrs Worthington’s campaign after she lost her child at 13 weeks.
“I wasn’t prepared for how developed he was. He was a fully formed little human being. We would have named him Blake,” she said.
“As far as the world is concerned, if you have a miscarriage and the child is under 20 weeks you’re expected to flush it down the toilet,” Mrs Worthington said.
“(But) once you reach the second trimester, that baby is fully formed with fingers, toes, organs and a heart beat. How can it not be a baby?
“A certificate might just be a piece of paper but that recognition is important.”
The new laws have been backed by Attorney-General Michael Mischin and the Stillborn and Neonatal Death Support Group, and are similar to current legislation in Queensland and New South Wales.
Perhaps the most stunning thing about this article is that it actually includes a photo of Blake. I cannot imagine that happening in any American mainstream media outlet, given the obvious implications for abortion. (We're not embedding the image for copyright reasons, but you can honor Blake's legacy by viewing the family photo here.)

I'm not sure why the drafters of the legislation chose 12 weeks as the cut-off, or why they insisted on a cut-off at all. If the purpose is to provide solace to grieving families, there's no good reason to distinguish between miscarriages and stillbirths. Queensland already offers "In Loving Memory" certificates without regard to gestational age.

Even if it's legitimate to recognize only those babies who, like Blake, died after developing "fingers, toes, organs, and a heartbeat," the legislation still misses the mark. Those milestones are met by 8 weeks, 8 weeks, 8 weeks, and 3-4 weeks, respectively.

But I mean no disrespect whatsoever to Mrs Worthington or her family, whose dedication has made significant progress possible. Thanks to their efforts, far more children qualify for stillbirth certificates than under the prior law. And perhaps, little Blake will spark some conversations about when humanity begins.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Video: SPL presentation to Texas Right to Life college seminar

On Wednesday night, for the first time, I gave a Secular Pro-Life presentation via Skype. The audience was a great group of pro-life college leaders from Texas. We had a few technical difficulties, but overall, not bad!

If you're interested in a Secular Pro-Life speaker, email

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

4000 years of Barbarism

I recently came across a pro-choice organization called 4000 Years for Choice. This group seeks to make abortion appear to be something innately human, by highlighting how long women have sought out abortions and abortion inducing concoctions. I couldn't help but be completely perplexed by images such as this:

The first thing that comes to mind is how ridiculous it seems to justify an act by how prevalent the act has been in the ancient world. I mean... really?! You know what else was popular in the time of ancient Rome? Slavery, human sacrifice, and mass infanticide. A real hotbed for morality. So what on earth would prompt this organization to promote ancient practices of abortion as proof that abortion is good?

In order to answer this question, I wanted to understand why infanticide seemed to be so common in the ancient world. The top article I found, published by Discovery, summarized a recent study on the practice and said:
The study, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science, explains that "until recently, (infanticide) was a practice that was widely tolerated in human societies around the world. Prior to modern methods of contraception, it was one of the few ways of limiting family size that was both safe for the mother and effective."
The article continues:
The findings add to the growing body of evidence that infanticide was common in the Roman Empire. ... 
"Societies with extreme poverty may use infant homicide as a means to conserve resources, reduce economic strain, or improve the quality of life for the family," they explained. ...
The researchers suggest that the practitioners may, in some cases, perceive infanticide as "mercy killing, where the goal may be to alleviate suffering, not to cause it."
Call me crazy, but this seems very similar to some common reasons for abortion today.

In a modern society, infanticide is clearly not an acceptable form of birth control, and we have come to ensure that one's life is legally protected from birth. No longer do we allow the killing our born offspring as a way to address concerns about poverty and economic strain. But is this a real change, or have we merely shifted the killing to an earlier point?

It is our duty, as modern, moral and rational agents, to address the moral failures of past societies, and to continually take actions that are progressive, not regressive. Attempting to celebrate abortion in ancient Rome, a world rife with human rights violations, to me just highlights how important it is to move away from these destructive social practices, and to value human life and sustain it whenever possible.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Movie Review: Where Hope Grows

Before going to see Where Hope Grows, I knew only two things about it:
  1. One of the main characters has Down Syndrome and is played by an actor with Down Syndrome, David DeSanctis.
  2. DeSanctis promoted the film at January's Students for Life of America conference. I didn't get to hear him, though, because I was manning the Secular Pro-Life table.
So I went in with few preconceptions. As it turns out, Where Hope Grows is not explicitly a pro-life film; abortion is never mentioned, even obliquely. It is, however, a strongly pro-disability-rights film, and I have always considered disability rights to be a sister movement. We also learn that another character conceived his daughter while in high school.

Where Hope Grows is, as the title might imply, a heartwarming film. I always worry that films which try to be heartwarming will veer into cheesiness. I'm happy to say that Where Hope Grows managed to stay on the non-cheesy side of the line. 

DeSanctis turned in an excellent performance. His character displays the cheerful nature typical of people with Down Syndrome, but there's more depth than that. He also has a strong sense of justice and is a fundamentally courageous person. In one of my favorite scenes, he takes a drunk friend's car keys and refuses to back down. 

My biggest beef is that we never learn his name. DeSanctis' character works in the produce department of a grocery store and wears a "Produce" tag on his apron, so it makes sense that people would call him Produce—at first. But even as he befriends the other principal characters and is in countless scenes outside the grocery store, everyone continues to call him Produce. I kept waiting for the big scene in which someone, in recognition of his humanity, asked him for his real name. It never came. Still, overall, the film's treatment of Down Syndrome is excellent.

Where Hope Grows is rated PG-13, despite a lack of profanity and graphic violence, because it deals extensively with alcoholism.

Religion is a secondary theme in Where Hope Grows, but I didn't feel that it was being shoved down my throat. Produce is a devout Christian and carries a Bible with him wherever he goes; his new friends are non-religious or only nominally Christian. His efforts to get them to go to church flow naturally from his character and add some levity to what would otherwise be pretty dark scenes. It also makes sense that an alcoholic character would begin attending the church where his AA meetings are held. Finally, there is a scene in which several characters pray for someone who is in the hospital and debate whether or not God grants prayers. That's it. I dreaded a proselytizing "come to Jesus" moment, which would have sent the film swerving into the cheesy lane; thankfully, the writer refrained.

Where Hope Grows was released last weekend and is playing in theaters nationwide.

Monday, May 18, 2015

High School Students Win Legal Battle to Establish Pro-Life Clubs

Photo of Brigid via SFLA
We've written previously about Brigid and Katie, students at two high schools in Fargo, ND. Each wanted to start a pro-life student organization. Each faced opposition from school officials who claimed that pro-life clubs would be too controversial—a blatantly unconstitutional justification, and one which had not been used to refuse permission to any other extracurricular clubs. School officials also denied the science of prenatal development, stating that the girls could not promote their "religious view" that life begins at conception.

Of course, the science is in their favor, and so is the law: public schools that allow extracurricular clubs must provide a non-discriminatory "open forum" for student expression. The students got some pro bono lawyers, who sent a demand letter over a month ago.

Last week, the school finally caved and let them start their clubs. They conveniently waited until the school year was almost over. Nevertheless, Students for Life of America reports that "Davies Teens for Life members already held their first meeting, and Brigid is planning the first Spartans for Life meeting for next week."

Congratulations to Brigid, Katie, and Students for Life on their big win! And if either group needs ideas for events for next year, SPL would love to send a free speaker.

Friday, May 15, 2015

20 Weeks in 20 Headlines

Graphic via Louisiana Right to Life Federation
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which limits abortions after 20 weeks (five months) to cases of rape or to save the life of the mother. Here's how the media reacted, in rough order from most pro-life to least.

LifeNews: House Passes Pro-Life Bill Banning Late-Term Abortions After 20 Weeks

Live Action News: BREAKING: House votes to ban abortions in the U.S. after five months

Breitbart: House Passes 20-Week Abortion Pain Bill on Anniversary of Gosnell Murder Conviction

Town Hall: After a Failed First Attempt, Congress Passes Bill to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

The Blaze: GOP Marks Gosnell Conviction by Voting to Ban Abortion After 20 Weeks

The Daily Caller: House Finally Gets Around to Passing 20 Week Abortion Ban

The Hill: House approves 20-week abortion ban

The Washington Times: House votes to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy

The Daily Signal: House Passes Bill Banning Most Abortions After 20 Weeks

Bloomberg: U.S. House Votes To Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

The New York Times: House Approves Revised Measure Banning Most Abortions After 20 Weeks

Al Jazeera America: House approves 20-week abortion ban

Raw Story: House moves to ban abortions after 20 weeks

CNN: House passes bill banning abortion after 20 weeks

USA Today: House approves GOP bill banning most late-term abortions

Huffington Post: U.S. House Passes Abortion Ban That Could Challenge Roe V. Wade

Jezebel: House Passes 20-Week Anti-Abortion Bill

Washington Post: Congress is voting on yet another anti-abortion bill

Slate: House Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban With Exciting New Hassles for Rape Victims (by who else would think that a rape victim seeing a real counselor rather than an abortion salesperson is a "hassle"? Amanda Marcotte)

RH Reality Check: House Passes 'Disgustingly Cruel' 20-Week Abortion Ban

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Vote expected TODAY on national legislation to protect late-term babies

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act has been enacted by many states. It prohibits abortions after 20 weeks (five months), with varying exceptions. Pro-life leaders selected the 20 weeks as the cutoff for several reasons:

1) After 20 weeks, the risks of abortion to the mother increase significantly.
2) After 20 weeks, emerging science suggests that the baby can feel pain.
3) The point of "viability," when the baby can survive outside the womb, has dropped dramatically since Roe v. Wade and may now be as early as 22 weeks.
4) A strong majority of Americans oppose late-term abortion.

Above: Pro-life advocate Lauren Handy
demonstrates outside Speaker Boehner's office
It's time for the law to catch up, and since the right to life should not depend on what state you live in, federal legislation has been in the works for months. It was supposed to come up for a vote around the time of the March for Life, but then D.C. politics happened. Pro-lifers quarreled with each other about the bill's rape language. People got arrested at Speaker Boehner's office to draw attention to the delay... twice. It was a mess.

Today, finally, the babies get a vote in the House. You can read the bill here.

The vote is timed to coincide with the anniversary of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell's convictions for homicide and manslaughter.

When Gosnell was on trial, I was a recent law school graduate doing a public service fellowship with Americans United for Life. As part of that, I witnessed the closing arguments in Philadelphia.

I was in the same room as a serial killer.

His defense attorney argued as best he could that Gosnell's infant victims weren't human. Everyone there knew better. He argued that they never took a breath outside the womb, that they were stillborn, that Gosnell didn't technically break the law. But he couldn't give a satisfactory answer to the question on everyone's mind: If they weren't alive, why did he cut their spinal cords with scissors?

The grand jury found that Gosnell got away with murder for years, perhaps decades, because Pennsylvania politicians refused to enforce abortion industry regulations. The absolute least we can do in memory of his victims is to give the law more teeth.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Encouragement for Pro-Life Artists

[Today's guest post by Kasey Jackson is part of our paid blogging program. Kasey is the author of the pro-life dystopian novel Blue, the busy mom of twin toddlers, and a "creator-of-all-trades" that whole-heartedly believes in the power of the arts to influence social justice.]

It is a beloved anecdote passed down through generations of the Stowe family–the story of the first time that Harriet Beecher had the honor of meeting President Abraham Lincoln.

Though some historians question the validity of the quote, it is reported that at Lincoln’s first meeting with Stowe, he greeted her by shaking her hand and saying these words: “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!”

The historical accuracy of the quote may be in question, but there is little doubt among biographers that Lincoln would have agreed with the sentiment. Stowe had managed to write a novel that deeply affected and infuriated the masses again to the horrors of slavery. She wrote in a way that deeply humanized those trapped in slavery and gave them a story to tell.

She was a voice for those that couldn’t effectively stand up for themselves at the time.

She made an impact on the course of history by writing a story that made the issue at hand undeniably real and urgent.

She wrote a story that was a contributing spark to the fires of war that would ultimately mean freedom to millions.

Slavery was a terrible reality and a horrific violation of human rights. Stowe felt the burden of this reality and, as an artist, she was inspired to use her artistic bent to inspire social change. Today, we are still facing the other horrific human rights violation that is legal abortion-on-demand. So why are there so few pro-life artists putting their work “out there” with the hope of inspiring social change on this important subject?

Yes, there are hundreds of non-fiction books on the subject, tens of thousands of people “marching for life” every year, sidewalk counselors, crisis pregnancy centers, speakers and pro-life legal advocates. And these are all fantastic things that are helping the pro-life cause more than we can even see at the moment.

But where are our Harriet Beecher Stowes? Where are the artists that see the devastating reality that is at hand and use their artistic giftings to inspire change? Are there just so few pro-life artists out there that we just don’t notice new pro-life artwork surfacing and gaining popularity?

Are the artists just too scared of releasing a work with such a controversial inspiration?

While researching for my pro-life novel, I googled the term “pro-life art.” Among many articles on the first page of search results (most about the lack of respected pro-life artwork) was an article from the popular conservative news site The Blaze entitled: Will Christian Artist’s Anti-Abortion Painting Actually Save Unborn Babies’ Lives? The article is about a painting called “Before I Formed You In The Womb” by the respected Christian artist Ron DiCianni. After painting this pro-life piece, DiCianni embarked on a campaign to get this “inspiring piece of artwork in front of women that are considering abortion” to hopefully move hearts into reconsidering the value of the human life that they were carrying.

When I first read the title of the article, my heart sank. I thought that this would be yet another article questioning the motives and tactics of an artist using their gifting to draw attention to the pro-life cause. But, I was refreshed to see that the article itself was supportive and seemingly appreciative of DiCianni's work, despite the suspicous tone that the title may have suggested.

But this recognition is sadly an anomaly, even for highly respected and seasoned artists such as DiCianni.

Is it any wonder that pro-life artists are nervous to put their work out there? The conservatives that tend to agree with their position are often those that also tend to devalue the arts. Those that support the message of their work are often those that are quick to question the artist's motives and inspirations—asking questions like "Is this just to further their career?" or "What good is this doing, really?" All the while the liberals that tend to strongly disagree with the pro-life position are often those that truly value the arts, but because of the "anti-choice" nature of the work (their terminology, not mine) they can not fully appreciate the work by its artistic merit alone; it is tainted by its message.
Is this unfortunate combination of beliefs to blame for why the pro-life movement's "Cabin" has yet to be seen?

Or could it be that the artists that DO attempt to create moving works for this cause are usually green, budding beginners that suddenly feel the weight of unappreciation by the majority of the pro-life cause after releasing their first work, so they simply give up? Could it be that upon feeling this rejection, they are discouraged from creating pro-life works altogether—thus making the pro-life cause one that is tackled only by beginner artists, with no mature artists to explore the depths of this issue to its greatest potential?

I could write a dozen other articles about my experience so far with releasing my first pro-life work to the public and the reactions that it has garnered from those in the pro-life community in comparison to the general public—but I will refrain, and offer encouragement to any pro-life author, poet, musician, painter, sculptor, or other artist that might be feeling the weight of the lack of appreciation and support from those involved in the pro-life cause.

You’re not alone.

And yeah, maybe your work so far isn't the pro-life movement’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

But, one day, there will be an Uncle Tom’s Cabin for this movement. It’s just too important of a cause for there to NOT be a piece of artwork that eventually inspires a huge paradigm shift.

There are always going to be naysayers that tell you that what you are doing is pointless. They will tell you a million other things that you COULD be doing to affect change in your revolution of choice. Things that seem MUCH more important to them than creating art to inspire change.

But don’t ever stop using your artistic gifts to inspire the change that you want to see in the world–even if the majority of those that agree with you pick apart your work and seem that they couldn’t care less about being inspired.

For every revolution, there are artists that sparked flames in the hearts of the revolutionaries. And who’s to say that yours can’t be the voice to strike the match?

“It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.” ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

Monday, May 11, 2015

What Amnesty International Isn't Telling You About Its Paraguayan Abortion Campaign

Out of Paraguay comes the horrific story of a 10-year-old girl who, according to Amnesty International, "was taken to hospital by her mother after complaining of stomach ache. They discovered that she was 21 weeks pregnant – the result of being raped by her stepfather."

Via Amnesty International's facebook page

Although they concede that the girl's condition is stable, Amnesty International claims that the girl must have an abortion to save her life, and that Paraguayan authorities are refusing to "grant her right to a safe abortion." Amnesty International is running emotionally compelling advertisements on social media and urging people to sign a petition directed to a panel that is considering the girl's case.

There's something fishy about this.

I don't dispute that a 10-year-old could be pregnant from rape; that, sadly, is something we have seen before. What's fishy is the timeline.

By now, the unborn baby is 22 weeks old. A recent study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine found that 22-week-old babies can survive outside the womb when given proper medical attention. Of course, it's better for the baby to be born at term; the more premature, the greater the likelihood of disabilities. But if the girl's life is actually in danger and the baby has a chance, wouldn't the obvious solution be to induce birth?

An abortion on a pregnancy this advanced is performed by lethal injection to the unborn baby's heart, after which the mother goes into labor to expel the corpse. That means this poor 10-year-old is going to experience labor* no matter what happens. For that, and for all the trauma he has inflicted on her, I hope her stepfather rots in hell.

The only question is whether she will give birth to a live baby or a dead one. But Amnesty International doesn't even consider the idea of allowing this baby to take a breath. They're just using this case to push a "safe abortion" agenda. I'm afraid the days when Amnesty International actually stood up for human rights are long gone.

What would have happened to this girl if she had lived in a country with the "right" to "safe abortion," like the United States? We don't have to guess. We already know, because it has happened over and over again: her stepfather would have taken her to a Planned Parenthood for an early abortion and some birth control pills, Planned Parenthood wouldn't have asked any questions, and the sexual abuse would be ongoing.

*or possibly, if doctors deem it safer, a C-section

Friday, May 8, 2015

You Should Be Open-Minded About Abortion: Don't Worry, Your Brain Won't Fall Out - By Deanna Unyk

I can't count the number of times that I've seen suggestions that people should be open-minded responded to with the cliché “don't be so open-minded that your brain falls out”. In this article I want to accomplish three things: first, clarify what I mean by open-mindedness, second, respond to this cliché and third, give an argument in favour of open mindedness.

This is what I mean by “open-minded” when I suggest that it is a virtuous thing: being open-minded about a view is being open to considering evidence in favour of that view in an unbiased way. I don't think that acting in the way I just described suggests that the actor is someone who's brain has fallen out. If I'm correct in that assumption, then the response “don't be so open-minded that your brain falls out” has a major flaw. Open-mindedness, as used in the cliché, has a different meaning than the one I use when I suggest that open-mindedness is a virtuous thing. To illustrate this issue we can consider the following example: Jill claimed that Bobs diamond studded steering wheel was about two pounds. Bob responds by saying “that's ridiculous, because two pounds is only about $3.35 and diamonds cost considerably more than that”. Bobs response is faulty because when Jill used the word “pounds” she was referring to the a unit of weight and Bob responded by using the word “pounds” to refer to a unit of currency. I think that when people say “don't be so open-minded that your brain falls out” they are warning against accepting claims either without any evidence, or without evaluating the evidence critically. While this is certainly good counsel, this meaning of open-mindedness is quite different from the one I endorsed above. Being open to considering evidence is different from accepting things without evidence and evaluating evidence in an unbiased way is also different from not evaluating evidence critically.

So, now that we've established that our brains aren't going to fall out, what reasons are there to be open minded? Well, if we can agree that the truth is most likely to be on the side with the most powerful evidence then it follows that open-mindedness would be essential if you want to have true beliefs and also want to avoid having false beliefs. If you aren't open to hearing the evidence that the other side has to offer then there's no way for you to be able to weigh the evidence in favour of your view against the evidence in favour of your opponents view and if you are examining the evidence in a biased fashion then you aren't going to be able to accurately gauge who has the most powerful evidence. So, if you even want to have a hope of eliminating your false beliefs and adopting true beliefs, then open-mindedness is something you should seek to cultivate.

There's also a pragmatic reason for being open-minded. If you endeavor to persuade those who disagree with you to adopt your view and abandon their own, open-mindedness is either extremely helpful or essential for two reasons. First, you are expecting them to be open-minded to your view. It is much more difficult to be open-minded to the views that someone you disagree with is expressing if it is clear that they are not open-minded themselves. Because of this, it is really helpful to lead by example. If you are relaxed and truly listening to and understanding your opponent, then they are more likely to do the same for you. Second, if you aren't open to hearing their evidence and evaluating it in an unbiased way then there's not a chance that you will be able to respond to their view well. How can you respond to evidence that you aren't even open to hearing? How are you going to respond with intuitively powerful arguments when you aren't unbiased enough to recognize the intuitive power of the arguments you're responding to? I don't think you can.

Assuming that you've been persuaded by my case for open-mindedness I want to finish by giving some helpful tips for being open-minded. If you are open-minded about abortion, try and find other open-minded people who disagree with you to discuss abortion with. It is very difficult to have meaningful dialogues with people who aren't willing to hear you out and it can get very
frustrating very quickly. So, while I think that talking to people, even closed-
minded people, is a virtuous thing, I also think it can very easily get discouraging.

Another thing that I have found helpful, is reading scholarly work written by those who disagree with me. Pieces written by journalists and pundits and activists are probably much more entertaining than pieces published in peer reviewed ethics journals, but the articles in the ethics journals are written by experts. And experts, while not infallible, will probably have smarter things to say than your average journalist or pundit or activist.

I think there are good reasons to think that being open-minded is a pragmatically wise thing to do and it almost certainly is essential if you endeavour to be a rational person. But most importantly, there’s no reason to fear that opening your mind will cause your brain to fall out. I’ll leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein,“The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

SFLA Launches Pro-Life Future

Students for Life of America recently announced their new initiative called Pro-Life Future. This is a very exciting new division of the organization, which seeks to help continue the work, of what they have coined "The Pro-Life Generation", beyond the reach of college campuses, and out into the rest of the world.

SFLA boasts an impressive record of training over 20,000 college, high school, medical, and law school students, to protect life before birth, and effectively help mothers on their campuses. They are also considered one of the nation’s most active pro-life organizations and the largest youth pro-life organization. Now, thanks to Pro-Life Future these well trained youths can continue their pro-life work within their communities.

According to a video released by the new division, Pro Life Future has concerns about the age gap between pro life youths and the much older pro life generation. In order to continue the momentum gained at the college level, PLF seeks to create active young adult groups in every city that will work towards abolishing abortion.In a recent blog, Sara Van Hoose, President, Buffalo Pro-Life Future stated "I am disappointed to say that while my passion for the Pro-Life cause has never wavered in the 3 years since I graduated college, my involvement has stalled completely".

Brendon O'Morchoe, the director for PLF, has indicated that the organization is intended to unite pro-lifers, especially those that have not been reached by the movement previously. O’Morchoe said in an email statement to Breitbart News. “We know that for anyone to stay engaged and active in a social movement, they have to feel like they belong, like there is a community of people all fighting for the same goal. Pro-Life Future is that community, leading to action and change,” he said, adding:

“And while we will be starting with students we trained and worked with in college, Pro-Life Future is open to all pro-lifers. One of the goals is to recruit new people who haven’t been involved before, our peers who haven’t been reached with the pro-life message.”

If you are interested in starting a local chapter in your area, visit

I think we can agree that this is great news for secular pro-lifers!

PLF's strategy for equipping these young adults is to establish regular meetings, opportunities for fellowship, and building relationships. Although each community will have it's own unique needs and plan of action, PLF intends to recruit sidewalk counselors, and pregnancy help center volunteers, as well as speakers for rally's and state houses, and those who are ready to help pass protections into law. The organization wants to fully engage the communities in which we work and live, lending a hand in all local pro-life initiatives.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Note on Human Dignity

I came across a question over the internet. I'm not a user on Tumblr, but this came up on Google. Someone had asked this question: What's the main reason you think abortion is ok? The answer, which is indicated as the best one, is: "Because forcing someone to continue with a pregnancy against their will is awful and a violation to one's dignity."

That term "dignity" can be a loaded one. In modern parlance, it seems to have come to mean "getting to have my way at all times." If you force someone to do something against their will, or if you indicate that they are doing something immoral, you are treating them in an undignified way. But this goes against the traditional understanding of moral duties. We have moral obligations. The reasons we call them obligations is because they are not usually chosen, and to avoid them is to do something immoral. We also have obligations to each other, which is another sore spot today. But it's true. I have a responsibility not to lead others astray. This goes for when I write and teach, and in my interactions with other people. We are social creatures. This is not just because I need human interaction to be happy, it also means that your welfare is my business. I won't force you tell me when something is bothering you, but if I have the means to help and don't sincerely offer, I am surely doing something wrong.

We have obligations and duties. This is because we are rational agents. We can recognize right from wrong and act accordingly. We also have a human nature. This means that to do what goes against our human nature is undignified. Slavery is wrong not just because people have a natural right to freedom, it's also because to treat them as no better than animals is undignified. We must never treat another human being as merely a means to an end because humans are intrinsically valuable, an end unto themselves.

So what does this mean for the abortion discussion? It means that to force a woman to continue a pregnancy is not undignified. In fact, just the opposite. Abortion, because it is human nature to reproduce and to carry the child inside the mother for nine months, and because parents have natural obligations to their offspring that are not chosen (despite what Thomson argues), is an undignified response to a difficult life circumstance. And by the same token, we should be willing to help women in these difficult circumstances, if we have the means to do so. We have to remember that there are two human beings here. It can't be seen as dignified to have an abortion when the abortion not only kills an innocent human being, but also undignifies them by treating them as a means to an end, themselves.

It's important to have a good grasp on what human dignity is. It's also important not to use it for an immoral purpose, to argue that we can use one subset of humanity's population anyway we want to. We are not animals. We're better than that.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Show me a sign!

I don't know how to feel about stories like this:
Fay Murrish was 20 weeks pregnant with her third baby when she and husband, Micheal, were given heartbreaking news. Their baby girl, Chanel, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which meant only half of her heart was actually beating. Doctors gave her very little chance of being born alive, and advised the couple to end Chanel’s life through abortion. But then, Chanel sent them a message in the form of a thumbs-up in an ultrasound image.

Fay Murrish told the Mirror: “I know she wanted to live because she was giving me a huge thumbs-up at her scan. It was like she was telling us everything would be OK.”
After emergency heart surgery just seven days after her birth, baby Chanel is in fact OK for now. She will likely need a heart transplant when she gets older.

Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled that Chanel's parents chose life. I'm just bothered by the reason why. The thumbs-up obviously wasn't a message. Unborn babies, like newborns, do not know what the thumbs-up sign means. They just love to squirm and flex their muscles in every possible random way because it's important to the development of their motor skills.

In fairness to Fay Murrish, this may be a case of the media simplifying her statements. (Reporters have been known to do that.) But if you've been in the abortion debate for any length of time, you know that stories abound of people choosing life because of some "sign"—from the baby, from God, or from the universe.*

Abortion supporters would have you believe that women have abortions after careful examination of all options. Pro-lifers would have you believe that women have abortions out of panic, pressure from family members, and so on. But at least sometimes, the difference between life and death comes down to dumb luck. Believers will call it divine intervention, but is either possibility less disturbing?

* I've also read at least one parallel story from the other side, in which an ambivalent pregnant woman sought a sign and chose abortion after coming across pro-choice graffiti. Unfortunately, that was a long time ago and Google is no help in finding it. If you know what I'm talking about and where it is, please post a link in the comments.