Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Supreme Court delays implementation of abortion regulations in Texas

For the immediate future, Texas abortion businesses will not have to meet the same safety standards as other outpatient surgical centers.

The regulation has been tied up in court since its passage almost two years ago. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the abortion industry plaintiffs on June 9, holding that the safety requirements did not pose an "undue burden" as set forth in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Five Justices—Kennedy and the four reliably pro-abortion Justices—granted the stay, which essentially maintains the status quo while the abortion industry plaintiffs prepare an appeal to the Supreme Court. The stay does not guarantee that the Supreme Court will hear the case, but it's likely.

The abortion industry plaintiffs argue that they cannot meet the ambulatory surgical center standards and will be forced to close their abortion businesses. It's a quantity-over-quality argument: abortion access matters more than whether or not the facility is any good.

This argument carried the day in Mississippi, sadly; Mississippi has only one abortion facility, and it has all kinds of problems, but it's been kept alive by the courts on the ground that it would be an "undue burden" not to have an abortionist in Mississippi.

I have a question for abortion advocates. This is a sincere question.

The number of abortion facilities is plummeting. Pro-life laws are part of it, but not the whole picture. A big reason for the drop is that abortion rates have plummeted, and abortion businesses are, well, businesses; as they compete for a shrinking pool of patients, it's Econ 101 that some of them are going to close. Then there's the matter of getting new medical students excited about doing abortions when young adults are increasingly pro-life; abortionists are retiring and not being replaced. These trends show no sign of stopping.

If a law that closes abortion centers is an "undue burden," why don't broader social trends that close abortion centers also constitute an undue burden? What if the state encourages the social trends (by, for instance, offering Choose Life license plates)? Is that a constitutional violation?

If you have to have an abortion center in every state, what happens when the last one closes on its own? Is the state required to open its own abortion facility or run afoul of the Supreme Court? Conscript doctors? Open abortion practice to non-doctors?

As I wrote last year:
So what happens when the end of abortion "access" is caused not by legislation, but by the natural ebb and flow of culture? How, in that circumstance, can you defend abortion as a constitutional right?
The "right" to abortion is somewhat unique in that it requires another participant to "exercise" it. The only possible analogy I can think of, if I were to assume for the sake of argument that abortion were a constitutional right, is a hypothetical (and, admittedly, extremely unlikely) world in which guns have become so unpopular that it's difficult for Second Amendment enthusiasts to find sellers of firearms.
How important is it to abortion supporters that a woman in a pro-life region has "access" to abortion? Would they be willing to conscript doctors? Willing to encourage unplanned pregnancies to drum up sufficient business? These questions may seem ridiculous now, and I'll admit I've allowed my imagination to run a bit free in this article. But if current trends continue, these are the questions that the abortion movement will have to confront in the next ten or fifteen years. There is a kernel of fundamental tension between the movement for "choice" and the movement for "access." They can coexist while there are a million abortions a year. But in the long run, in order to have access, a critical mass of women have to make the "right" choice.
Treat abortion "access" like a constitutional right, and the tension grows even greater.

That is what is at stake in this case. The undue burden argument being used to challenge the Texas law is fundamentally different from the argument that it's burdensome to receive informed consent or wait 24 hours.

A ruling that a state must have a certain number of abortion centers per capita, or at least one abortion center per X square miles, would be devastating. It would give sleazy, inept abortionists a free pass to exploit women. It's already happened in Mississippi. Thanks to the Supreme Court, it's happening in Texas.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A pro-life analysis of Obergefell v. Hodges

Above: Demonstrators await the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage
On June 4, Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation called out LGBT rights leaders for their hypocritical support of abortion. In particular, he cited Lambda Legal's statement that "reproductive freedom and LGBT rights have been inextricably linked both legally and politically. The ties between these rights are so strong that we really believe that a threat to one directly and profoundly impacts the other."

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court released its opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, declaring state laws against same-sex marriage void. The majority opinion was written by Justice Kennedy, who is widely recognized to be the Court's swing vote on abortion. Notably, he did not cite any abortion cases. However, he did cite contraception cases, which were expanded upon to invent a "right" to abortion in Roe v. Wade. This has some pro-life leaders worried that Obergefell could be a bad decision for the preborn.

Since I am a lawyer, I share this summary for the benefit of pro-life legal advocates as well as the pro-life community at large. In my view, Obergefell is a mixed bag. It provides language the abortion industry can use. It also provides language the pro-life movement can use, and Justice Kennedy's refusal to cite an abortion case is very encouraging. At the end of the day, though, Obergefell is unlikely to have a significant impact on abortion jurisprudence.

Justice Kennedy's opinion opens with a discussion of the history of marriage:
From the beginning to their most recent age, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes more than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.
He then turns to the personal stories of some of the plaintiffs: James Obergefell, whose partner died of ALS shortly after they traveled outside of their home state to marry; April De Boer and Jayne Rowse, who are jointly raising three children but cannot jointly adopt them; Ijpe DeKoe, who served in Afghanistan with the support of his stateside partner Thomas Kostura. "Their stories reveal that they seek not to denigrate marriage but rather to live their lives, or honor their spouses' memory, joined by its bond."

The opinion next discusses how opposite-sex marriage has changed over time, particularly with respect to the abandonment of "coverture," a doctrine that effectively subsumed a wife's legal identity under her husband's. "These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage. Indeed, changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or protests and then are considered in the political sphere and the judicial process."

This segues into a discussion of the LGBT rights movement, beginning with homosexual activity criminalized and homosexuality viewed as mental disorder, through the Supreme Court decisions in Bowers v. Hardwick, Romer v. Evans, Lawrence v. Texas, and finally the various same-sex marriage decisions in the lower courts.

Finally, the introductions are over and Justice Kennedy begins his discussion of the Due Process Clause. He cites the contraception cases, writing: "[T]hese liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs. See, e.g., Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453 (1972); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 484-486 (1965)."

In a passage that certainly rings true to me as a fighter against the injustice of abortion, Justice Kennedy declares:
The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals a discord between the Constitution's central protections and a received legal structure, a claim to liberty must be addressed.
"Applying these established legal tenets," the Court decided Loving v. Virginia (allowing interracial couples to marry), Zablocki v. Redhail (allowing men behind on child support to marry), and Turner v. Safley (allowing prison inmates to marry).

Justice Kennedy states four reasons why same-sex marriage must receive the same type of Constitutional protection under the Due Process Clause:

(1) "[T]he right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy." 

The opinion points to Loving first, but adds: "Like cases concerning contraception, family relationships, procreation, and childbearing, all of which are protected by the Constitution, decisions concerning marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make." 

As far as the right to life is concerned, that is the most troubling line in the opinion. "Intimate decisions about childbearing" can be read as polite legalese for killing preborn children. 

The remainder of this section, however, focuses on the unique nature of marriage.

(2) "[T]he right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals." 

Justice Kennedy quotes a passage from Griswold about the "association" of marriage, as well as passages from Windsor and Lawrence. The Court adds: "Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other."

(3) "A third basis for protecting the right to marry is that it safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childbearing, procreation, and education." 

Here the Court cites precedents protecting a parent's right to place children in private education. The Court emphasizes that children of same-sex couples will benefit from the increased stability offered by marriage. (At the same time, it recognizes that marriages without children are valid too.)

This is a decent section for pro-life advocates. Abortion obviously does not safeguard children. Quite the opposite.

(4) "Fourth and finally, this Court's cases and the Nation's traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order." 

Here Justice Kennedy outlines some of the many legal benefits connected to marriage. The consequence of this legal framework is that, without same-sex marriage, LGBT couples "are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives."

Justice Kennedy then moves to a fifth basis for the opinion: the Equal Protection Clause. "[I]n interpreting the Equal Protection Clause, the Court has recognized that new insights can reveal unjustified inequality within our most fundamental institutions that once passed unnoticed and unchallenged." This is exactly the argument that pro-life advocates make with respect to the preborn, whose legal personhood has been stripped from them despite the scientific advancements that make it clear that preborn human beings are as human and alive as the rest of us.

* * * 

So where does all of that leave us?

Justice Kennedy was smart. By writing an opinion that does not cite any abortion cases, he has assured that Obergefell will withstand the reversal of Roe and Casey. Lambda Legal has been proven very wrong.

That took restraint on Justice Kennedy's part, because Casey contains a lengthy discussion of the Due Process Clause—which he authored. He could have had a grand time quoting himself. Instead, crickets. That leaves the door open for him to step back from Casey in the future and be a fifth pro-life vote. It's no guarantee, of course. But if he had cited Casey, I would be writing a very pessimistic article. The fact that he didn't gives me hope.

That doesn't mean abortion advocates won't try to add Obergefell to their arsenal, of course. They'll naturally try any legal argument they can. But Obergefell doesn't say much that's helpful to the abortion industry beyond what was already out there in the contraception cases. And Obergefell  contains arguments that are helpful to the pro-life cause, too, chief among them the recognition that legal injustices that were once commonly accepted may come to light with time and be undone by the Court.

Ultimately, Obergefell is an opinion about the centrality of marriage in people's lives. It is an opinion about "the hope of companionship," commitment, family, and love.

Abortion is many things, but abortion will never be about love. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

The New Leviathan: Must-Read Report Explains Planned Parenthood's Strategy

Over the last few years, pro-lifers have celebrated dramatic declines in the U.S. abortion rate. Ever wonder how Planned Parenthood manages to stay afloat in such an environment?

Wonder no more. Americans United for Life has put together an incredibly thorough and well-documented report they're calling "The New Leviathan." It covers a huge amount of ground: how Planned Parenthood is running away from its less profitable contraception and cancer screening services; how it is siphoning abortion business from its competitors, allowing it to take a greater share of the market even as nationwide abortions plummet; how it is putting its proverbial eggs in the basket of "mega-centers" that commit abortions six or seven days our of the week instead of just one or two; how it is developing those mega-centers by deceiving local authorities; and how our tax dollars are the scaffolding for the whole twisted enterprise.

I hesitate to offer the highlights because you really should read the report itself. I can't do it justice. But these social-media-friendly infographics tell a lot of the story (click to enlarge):

Pro-life organizations, including us, have made similar points before. But Americans United for Life is to be commended for its comprehensive presentation. They hit this out of the park.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Buddhist and Christian post-abortion healing rituals have much in common

Post-abortive parents demonstrate at the March for Life
The Bangkok Post recently ran a fascinating piece on Buddhist post-abortion healing ceremonies. In Thailand, as in the United States, many pregnant teens feel forced by circumstance to have an abortion, but later come to regret taking the child's life. Like Americans, many seek solace in religious rituals.

The parallels don't end there. The Buddhist temple's program shares some striking elements with Christian programs like Rachel's Vineyard and Silent No More. Both encourage parents to name the aborted child. Both seek to relieve the parents' feelings of guilt. In Thaliand, parents write the baby's name on a paper and the papers are cremated; in the United States, parents sometimes "let go" of an aborted child by releasing a helium balloon. And on both sides of the globe, aid to living children seems to help; the Thai temple requires offerings of children's supplies, which go to charity, while in the United States, many post-abortive mothers volunteer at pro-life pregnancy help centers.

Of course, there are differences as well. I don't know of any American post-abortive programs run by witch doctors who will create an amulet for the child's spirit to inhabit.

But overall, post-abortive mothers around the world seem to have more in common than not.

Given how different the doctrines of Buddhism and Christianity are, the fact that the same and similar post-abortion healing rituals have developed in both faiths is remarkable. These rituals are not particularly dogmatic and could even, with some tweaking, serve as the basis for a secular program.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Creating an LGBT-Inclusive Pro-Life Community

Students discuss abortion within a human rights framework at a Justice for All outreach.

[Today's guest post by Rebecca Stapleford is part of our paid blogging program. Rebecca attends the University of Georgia and majors in Greek, Latin, and Classical Culture. She is vice president of UGA Students for Life. Her passion is pro-life and disability rights activism.]

It was my first day of Justice for All outreach this past spring at the University of Georgia, and I noticed two counter-protesters holding up signs that said, respectively “If the fetus that you save is gay, would you still fight for its rights?” and “I was not aborted, but turned out to be gay, trans, and pro-choice.” My first reaction was frustration. As a queer pro-lifer, I have faced more discrimination from the LGBT community than from the pro-life community, even though the vast majority of pro-lifers in Georgia are religious conservatives. UGA’s Women’s Studies Student Org passes out stickers that equate abortion rights with LGBT equality; UGA’s taxpayer-funded LGBT Resource Center endorses politicians based not only on their stances on LGBT rights, but also specifically on their support for abortion rights without any restrictions; and the majority of pro-choice individuals that I meet in the course of my pro-life outreach make the assumption that I am straight, opposed to LGBT rights, and that I view LGBT people as inferior, despite the fact that all of these things are false.

I marched over there and informed those two individuals that I felt that they were marginalizing and excluding LGBT pro-life people such as myself; that I had worked hard to make Students for Life @ UGA an inclusive place for all pro-lifers regardless of religious belief, gender identity, or sexual orientation; and that no one associated with Justice for All hated LGBT people. They both assured me that it wasn’t their intent to marginalize me and told me that they appreciated my inclusive stance. We then got into further conversation, and the girl revealed to me that she was adopted by Christian parents who rejected her once she came out as a lesbian. At once, the reasons for her sign became clear. Her only experiences with pro-life people had been with those who devalued her very existence and personhood based on her sexual orientation. I recalled to her my own painful years of struggle with my sexual orientation, which manifested itself in severe depression and suicide attempts, and the fact that I will probably never be able to tell my own father the truth about myself, and we found common ground. We understood each other, despite our ideological differences. I was reminded again that people are never arguments to be won, but individuals to be loved. The JFA staff also showed her love and care, despite the fact that same-sex relationships were against most of their religious beliefs, because one does not have to agree in order to understand and empathize. 

At the same time, an unaffiliated street preacher who frequents our campus came by to let the queer individuals know that they were going to hell and abominations in the sight of God while at the same time declaiming against abortion, and I realized that the pro-life movement as a whole has a lot of work to do, not even to be welcoming, but not to be actively hostile towards LGBT people. I remembered the angry man at a state right to life meeting that I had attended, proclaiming that “the gays” were destroying America, and the comments made at a Students for Life meeting that made a lesbian friend of mine in attendance feel excluded. I looked back on the support that I had received in coming out of the closet and recognized that had I not announced that I would not be dating other women due to my own personal religious beliefs, not only would I have probably not received that support, certain individuals might have even questioned my fitness for presidency of the pro-life club. When the mainstream pro-life movement so frequently combines opposition to LGBT equality with opposition to abortion, is it any wonder that so many LGBT individuals won’t even consider the pro-life point of view?

The counter-protesters returned each day of the JFA outreach, but there was now genuine respect for us now that they realized that we respected them and their humanity. They listened to what we had to say, and we were able to have civil conversations on abortion where we found genuine common ground with each other. Why? Because we all viewed them not as arguments to be won, but people to be loved. That empathy and understanding can make even the most difficult conversations between the most ideologically opposed people not just possible, but highly productive and meaningful for both parties.

That particular outreach taught me that a way forward is possible for the pro-life movement, where all people can be included. It does not require individuals to change their personal religious beliefs, but it does require them to gain respect, understanding, and empathy. It requires our movement to lay aside the demonization of LGBT individuals and to stop pairing opposition to abortion with opposition to LGBT equality. It requires us to speak up when we encounter discrimination and prejudice within our ranks. It requires us to refrain from stereotyping and assumptions. Change is hard, but I believe that it is possible. In the past few years I have seen the pro-life movement grow more queer-inclusive, and I am confident that this trend will only continue, however, we still have a long ways to go. My hope is that the mainstream pro-life movement will realize the ways that they have excluded and harmed queer folks in the past, and work to prevent this from happening in the future.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Prevent Preterm campaign update

About three weeks ago, we launched Prevent Preterm, an innovative online campaign educating the public about three known and preventable risk factors for premature birth: smoking, lack of prenatal care, and abortion. By connecting women with smoking cessation resources, affordable prenatal care, and abortion alternatives, we are saving the lives of babies both in and out of the womb.

Prevent Preterm is off to a fantastic start. Numerous pro-life organizations have promoted the project. More importantly, over 125,000 young women have seen our ads on facebook!

That is only possible because of the generosity of our donors. If you have already given to Secular Pro-Life, we cannot thank you enough!

Secular Pro-Life doesn't ask for money very often. That's because we don't have paid staff, or an office, or the other big overhead costs that most organizations do. We only ask for money when there's a big project that merits the request.

Prevent Preterm definitely merits the request.

It's a simple equation: the more money we have, the more ads we can buy. The link between abortion and premature birth does not get much press, because abortion politics get in the way. That means the only way people are going to learn about it is if we tell them.

So please, if you have the financial means to donate, please give to this life-saving cause. We greatly appreciate your support. Thank you!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Supreme Court: No Free Speech for License Plates

In March, Secular Pro-Life reported that the Supreme Court had held oral argument in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, concerning the state of Texas' decision to prohibit a license plate with the Confederate flag on it. Presumably the prohibition was based on the racist history and symbolism of the Confederate flag... except that, in a classic case of right-hand-doesn't-know-what-the-left-hand-is-doing syndrome, Confederate flags are sold in the Texas Capitol gift shop.

The more important point, though, is that freedom of speech requires us to tolerate noxious messages. Even Westboro Baptist Church has First Amendment protection. It's the price we pay for the right to speak truth to power and speak freely about the things that matter, including the life-or-death issue of abortion.

Walker was an important case to watch, then, because of the potential impact on pro-life speech. As we noted back in March:
The Supreme Court is finally weighing in because license plate cases come up fairly often. Many of those cases concern "Choose Life" plates.
If the voice of the license plate is that of the government, only motorists in pro-life states will be able to obtain Choose Life plates. States hostile to the preborn will continue not to offer the plate, or will stop offering it.
But if the voice of the license plate is that of the motorist, Choose Life plates should become available in all 50 states. According to, pro-life plates are currently available in 27 states and the District of Columbia; approval is being sought in another 15 states; and the plates are tied up in court in New York and North Carolina.
This isn't just a matter of protecting pro-life speech from censorship, as serious an issue as that is. To date, Choose Life plate sales have raised more than $21 million for pregnancy resource centers. If the Court rules in favor of the SCV, that number could grow tremendously.
Just a few weeks ago, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a terrible decision against Choose Life license plates, declaring that the pro-life message could be censored because it is "patently offensive"—a legal term usually reserved for hard-core pornography. We expressed hope that the Court's decision in Walker would lead to a quick reversal of the Second Circuit.

We now have our answer. The Court has, in a 5-4 decision, rejected the free speech argument. States have the authority to ban license plates based on disagreement with the content. Legally it will be treated as though the state government, not the vehicle owner, is conveying a message.

The liberal online magazine Slate realizes exactly what this case was really about:
[T]he decision will likely have serious ramifications for the abortion debate. One federal court has already allowed a liberal state to ban "Choose Life" license plates while permitting pro-choice license plates. Conservative states will likely begin to do the opposite—banning pro-choice plates while permitting anti-abortion ones. That doesn't look like government speech in action. It just looks like censorship.
I doubt that many states will start banning pro-abortion plates. The pro-life movement historically has been on the receiving end of censorship, not dishing it out. (In compiling those links, I've limited myself to the past year.)

The better approach is the one Virginia took in 2010: if a plate is going to say "Trust Women," then the proceeds must go to an organization that actually trusts women, and not an organization like Planned Parenthood that opposes informed consent.

But even if pro-life states were inclined to take the low road and censor opponents of the right to life, there would be no point; pro-abortion plates have only been attempted in a few states, and they've proven to be a huge dud. The bigger concern is what the Supreme Court's decision means for Choose Life plates and the families who rely on their revenue.

You can read the full text of the Supreme Court's opinion here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New issue of the Life Matters Journal available now

Our friends at the Life Matters Journal, a wonderful consistent life ethic magazine, have just released their latest issue. You can read it for free on Issuu. Topics include:
  • Physician-assisted suicide
  • Students for Life of America's Pregnant on Campus initiative
  • A mother's essay about refusing to abort her severely disabled sons
  • A student's decision to reject the University of Virginia upon learning that its affiliated hospital commits abortions
  • "Moral Intuition, Logic, and the Abortion Debate" by SPL supporter Acyutananda
  • A review of the human trafficking documentary Tricked
and a whole lot more. (Be sure to check out the very special advertisement on page 16!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Atheist, Gay, Pro-Life: An Activist Describes His Conversion

[Today's post is an interview conducted by Sarah Terzo. 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]

The pro-life movement is more diverse than its critics imagine. People of all religions, races, and sexual orientations oppose abortion.

Pok is an atheist and gay pro-life activist who grew up in the Philippines. He was pro-choice until he came to link the struggle for rights for preborn babies with the struggle for gay rights. Below is an interview I did with him.

Why were you originally pro-choice? 

There were several things that made it almost instinctive for me to be pro-choice. I grew up around grinding poverty. I have been lucky that my family has always had enough, but I saw what poverty did to relatives who hadn't been as fortunate. I saw what it was doing to my country, the Philippines, with young kids sleeping on sidewalks and under bridges—hungry, homeless, uneducated. Some my own cousins lived in a house without a roof—literally. Poverty was as ordinary as air.

You could walk down some street and literally step over children, curled up in sleep beneath the fumes of carbon-belching jeepneys and buses. I have an aunt who was involved with family planning at the community center. I think it was in their little house in the projects where I was first introduced to human reproduction and population control. I couldn't have been more than 7 years old at the time, but I started being really afraid of the population bomb. As a kid, I had visions of crowded cities with people standing on top of each in a dwindling space. But my fear was specifically directed at the uncontrolled reproduction among the poor. In my mind, I sincerely believed the way to help the poor was to stop them from reproducing.

Looking back now as a pro-lifer, that strikes me as ominous. In addition, just a few blocks from where I lived was the office of the Center for Population Control. I can't remember if that was the exact name, but I remember it having either the phrase "population control" or "population explosion" in its name. Also, for a small city in a religious country, my family was pretty unconventional. My mom was a single mom, which was pretty scandalous at the time. So, I am used to being odd. By 13 or 14 years old, I had gone beyond mere support for birth control. I was one of only two people I could remember in my debating class who was vocally pro-choice. But once again, my concern was almost wholly directed at the poor. I wanted them to have access to abortions because I saw them as a threat and a burden to the country.

What led to your becoming pro-life? 

My conversion wasn't an event. It happened gradually in the course of several years. By the time I was in college, I went through a depression which worsened year by year for over a decade. By the time I arrived in America, I had, by then, wanted to die. I realized I was gay in college, and the older I got, the more I thought I understood what it meant to be a homosexual. And to me, at the time, it meant a lifetime of unhappiness and ridicule. I had such a dark view of the world, and I simply couldn't see life worth living as a gay man. Every night, I would hope to never wake up again, and every morning, I hated that I was still alive.

I'm not sure if I was too cowardly to simply just jump onto an incoming train or I was always sane enough to actually commit suicide, but dying was constantly on my mind. I was so angry. I felt being attacked from every angle: by family, by friends, by the state, and by the church. I felt so alone, and I felt a terrible sense of injustice that society and its laws couldn't see that I am fully human. That sounds cliché, but I really can't think of any other way to say that. I know I am every bit as human as everyone else, but the law refuses to recognize that. That's the problem. For the first time, I became intimately aware of the difference between being human and being a legal person, but it wasn't until later when I saw the parallels between the status of homosexuals and the preborn. I did my best to deny that, and when I couldn't, I felt horrible for even daring to compare homosexuals to a clump of cells. That was hard to accept as a hardcore prochoicer. I felt like I betrayed my best friend. So, I resisted that for years by employing a bit of selective perception and cognitive dissonance.

I kept telling myself that homosexuals are human in a way that the preborn aren't, but deep down, I knew it was a mere piece of paper, a mere artificial and legal designation that created the difference. And deep down, I knew that the difference between homosexuals and the fetus is the same prejudice that differentiates homosexuals from heterosexuals. I could only deny that to myself for so long. When I saw the video of the hanging of two Iranian teens in 2005, I could no longer deny my denial. [Editor's note: In the incident Pok refers to, the teenage victims were targeted for their sexual orientation.] I could no longer reconcile my sense of injustice at the rejection of the personhood of homosexuals with my own rejection of the personhood of the preborn. We are both as human as the other and both as legal nonpersons as the other. The very same artificial legal boundaries that define what rights I may or may not have are the very same artificial legal boundaries that objectify our youngest human beings as mere body parts that could be thrown away at will.

How did your family/pro-choice friends respond to your new pro-life views? 

We don't talk about abortion openly in the family, except in the few times we had to deal with it directly. And even then, I couldn't say anything. My family is pro-choice. As for my friends, I have lost a few, but everyone of my closest friends are still there. I was lucky to have known them long before my vocal support for human rights for the preborn. We've bonded early on, and we've learned to respect each other and know our limits. But, initially, it created some strains in some of my relationships.

When abortion ever came up, there was this expectation that every reasonable person should be pro-choice. It was awkward to be at dinner parties with friends I've argued with, but we've learned to see past our differences, thankfully. Coming out as pro-lifer has also yielded some surprises from the unlikeliest places. I have friends whom I just assumed would be pro-choice, but let me know in private that they are, in fact, pro-lifers. There are also the pro-choicers who've appreciated hearing, for the first time, a secular side to pro-life arguments other than the usual religious claims.

What have you done in the pro-life movement, and what do you continue to do?

I do what little I can. I've attended the past two marches in Washington, DC, and tried to connect with more secular pro-lifers out there to lend a non-religious alternative voice to the pro-life movement. There's big gap in the pro-life movement that's waiting to be filled by people who are pro-life but are uncomfortable with religion. The pro-choice movement has been very successful in isolating pro-lifers and in making the pro-life movement socially and politically unacceptable.

Part of the problem is because it's easy to ignore and marginalize a movement when it's closely associated to religion at the precise time when the country is growing increasingly agnostic. Secular pro-lifers have been largely AWOL in the abortion debate, and the argument for life has almost entirely been left up the religious. But that's not because a secular defense for life doesn't exist. It's a combination of, both, a still very young organizational structure on the secular pro-life side, and the pro-choice movement's monopoly on the one-way dialogue on abortion.

I, too, didn't know about a secular argument for life when I was beginning move towards being pro-life. Knowing that secular pro-lifers are out there gave me validation for my developing prol-ife philosophy. Prior to being pro-life, I'd already made commitments to some charitable organizations, but being pro-life only underscored the importance of providing sufficient resources for those in need—not just those in the womb, but those already born. My family had also set up a small fund to send our poor cousins to school. A few have since graduated college. It's a small effort, but it's something we hope makes a difference.

Why do you feel that gays and lesbians should be pro-life? 

Homosexuals are natural pro-lifers because they are still insufficiently legal persons, like the preborn. The entire philosophy of revolt of the gay movement rests on a simple but powerful notion that our human rights as homosexuals are intrinsic on the very fact that we are organically human. Laws merely recognize a humanity that already preexists, but it cannot confer humanity, by itself. The absence of the evidence of our existence in our laws doesn't make us nonexistent. They merely make us legally invisible.

This was the very same injustice that the early feminists fought head on. That is why Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Mary Wollestoncraft, Victoria Woodhull and the first wave feminists were pro-lifers. And that is also why the refusal of our laws to recognize our humanity as homosexuals is so deeply unjust. Legal personhood is a pure legal construct that has nothing to say about our underlying humanity. Laws can artificially accord non-human corporations personhood, or it can make male-to- female transexuals into legal women. Our legal non-personhood is an unjust, artificial, self-perpetuating injustice mitigated by those who've defined the criteria for personhood in a way that disqualifies homosexuals from ever becoming persons. It is the same for those who set the personhood of humans in the womb at the moment of their birth. There is nothing miraculous about birth that biologically transforms a non-human being into a human being when a baby takes her first breath outside the womb. Her rights do not derive from her location and age, but are intrinsic to her humanity, in the very same way that the gay movement lays a claim to human rights on the simple, unalterable fact that we are human.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Website Under Deconstruction: Family Planning Associates of Chicago

First, watch this incredible video from the Pro-Life Action League. If you're hearing-impaired or can't turn on the volume, there are subtitles. No excuses. Watch:

A little background: although this location is known as Albany Medical-Surgical Center, the facility is part of the Family Planning Associates (FPA) abortion chain. And FPA Chicago is the subject of today's entry in our "Website Under Deconstruction" series, exposing lies, omissions, and threats to women's health on abortion business websites.

To answer the question posed in the video: no, patients are not being informed about the license revocation and fine. The site is replete with weasel-word commitments to "quality," but light on specifics, for obvious reasons.

FPA Chicago openly advertises the abortion pill regimen through 10 weeks of pregnancy, omitting the fact that it is only FDA-approved for the first 49 days of pregnancy. They're going an extra three weeks with no regard for patient safety. And just how does the abortion pill regimen work?

The Abortion Pill procedure involves the oral ingestion of mifepristone after ultrasound verification of a pregnancy ten weeks gestation or less. 24 to 36 hours later, misoprostol is inserted into the cheeks, held in place for 30 minutes, and then swallowed with water. In most cases, a miscarriage occurs within 24 hours.
If bleeding does not occur after 24 hours, the misoprostol insertion is repeated. Usually bleeding is like a spontaneous miscarriage and bleeding or spotting may occur for up to two weeks longer. And ultrasound will be used to verify the successful termination of the pregnancy.
For the millionth time, an abortion is not a miscarriage. On behalf of all the Secular Pro-Life members who have experienced actual miscarriages, here's a message to FPA Chicago from my favorite fictional Spaniard:

There's much more I could discuss about the FPA Chicago website—like the complete omission of any information about fetal development, referring to even second-trimester babies as just "the pregnancy"—but you get the point. This place is seriously skeevy. The only silver lining here is that sidewalk counselors are there to give the vital information that the abortion center and escorts are deliberately concealing.

More in our "Website Under Deconstruction" series:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Learn your pro-life history: Ladies Center of Clearwater v. Reno

I happen to be a lawyer, and on occasion I come across abortion-related cases in the course of completely unrelated research. I thought this one might be of interest to you.

Let's go back in time to Ladies Center of Clearwater v. Carol Ann Reno, 341 So.2d 543 (Fla. 2d DCA 1977). The case concerned a child who was conceived by Ms. Reno and a David Keller.

Florida's Second District Court of Appeal
Reno purchased an abortion from Ladies Center of Clearwater. The child survived. Reno sued the abortion business and abortion doctor Francis Swain for her medical bills, damages for emotional trauma, and the expenses associated with "support[ing] said unwanted child until she reaches her majority."

Not surprisingly, the abortion business was not interested in accepting any responsibility for its actions. In a rather ingenious move, it sued Keller, the baby's father. Its logic was that Keller was ultimately responsible for the situation since he failed to use effective contraception, and therefore Keller, not Ladies Center, should have to pay Reno.

The court didn't buy that argument, and Keller successfully defended against the abortion center's claim. Florida's Second District Court of Appeal affirmed.

One judge, Joseph McNulty, dissented. He worried that by placing the entire financial burden on the abortionist, the abortion industry would have a terrible incentive to ensure that no babies survive. In his words, "I would do nothing that might inspire abortionists to attain greater efficiency in the taking of life."

So, where are they now?

McNulty's judgeship ended later that year. He has since passed away.

The court's opinion doesn't say what became of Reno's lawsuit against Ladies Center of Clearwater, but a contemporaneous newspaper article reports that she received an out-of-court settlement. The same article states that the abortion business faced several additional lawsuits by women who suffered uterine perforations and other injuries, and that it had changed its name to Women's Community Health Center. No such business is operating in Clearwater today, although it's certainly possible that there were further name changes. (There are still two abortion centers in Clearwater, according to Abortion Docs.)
I don't know where Francis Swain is today, or even if he is still alive. I have no indication that he is currently an abortionist.

I also don't know what became of Reno, Keller, or their child. At the time the court's opinion was issued, elective abortion had only been legal for four years (since Roe v. Wade in 1973). Since this is an appellate opinion, and it can take some time for a case to work its way up to an appellate court, my educated guess is that the child was born sometime in 1974 or early 1975.

I got in touch with Melissa Ohden, who is an abortion survivor and has networked with over 200 abortion survivors and family members. She told me she hasn't heard from anyone involved in this case, but that she would be happy to assist them in any way possible. If any of them happen to be reading, you may reach Ms. Ohden at this link.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Black Pro-Life Leaders Launch Selma Project

Black pro-life leaders have announced a protest against unlicensed Selma, AL abortionist Samuel Lett to take place on June 19 (Juneteenth) and 20. They're calling it the Selma Project.

Selma is of course a key city of the civil rights movement, and even today four out of five Selma residents are people of color. That adds a disturbing element to Alabama's failure to address Lett's unlicensed abortion practice.

Alabama law requires abortion businesses to meet the same regulations as other outpatient surgical facilities. But for unknown reasons, the state health department is not keen to enforce those regulations in Selma. The department is claiming that Lett does not commit enough abortions to qualify for the licensing regulation, but local activists have strong evidence to the contrary. The time has come for protest.

I should note: the Selma Project is not remotely secular. In the tradition of the civil rights movement, it is pastor-led and features a hearty Southern helping of scripture, prayer vigils, and worship.

And you know what? I'm okay with that. Because the Selma Project is not a "big-tent" event for all pro-lifers, like the March for Life or the Students for Life of America conference, and it doesn't claim to be. This is an event specifically for the Black community in Selma, a time for them to stand up for themselves and their progeny, so that the state government gets their message loud and clear.

For all sorts of historical reasons, Black Americans remain much more religious than the United States as a whole. That shouldn't keep secular pro-lifers from supporting valiant efforts to protect Black women and their preborn children.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Insight Into The American Moral Compass

Above: Bristol Palin in a PSA for teen pregnancy prevention.
56% of Americans believe that sex between teenagers is morally wrong. 
Last month, Gallup came out with some new and interesting polling data. Gallup found that half of Americans prefer to be called pro-choice-- despite the fact in the same survey, a 55% majority of Americans said they want abortion to be illegal (19%) or legal in only a few circumstances (36%).

Those results got a lot of attention, and deservedly so. But Gallup didn't just poll on abortion; they conducted a broader survey on a range of moral issues. Examining abortion in the context of this broader polling yields some even weirder discrepancies. Click to enlarge:

For starters, I'd like to meet the people who believe that it's wrong for teenagers to have sex, but apparently have no problem with aborting the child who may result. What is the rationale here? Is it a matter of finding teenage sex so shameful that any means are justified to hide the evidence that the teenage sex took place? I'm not saying I'm pro-teenage-sex, but I'm disappointed that the American public finds teenage sex more objectionable than tearing an unborn baby limb from limb.

And what's with the 35% of people who find it immoral to have a baby outside of marriage? I'd love to know where they came out on abortion.

I'd also like to have a word with the people who continue to insist that the pro-life movement hates birth control. Based on this data, Americans who find birth control morally wrong can only constitute, at maximum, 18% of those who find abortion morally wrong. (I suspect the number would be even lower if, instead of a broad question about "birth control," Gallup distinguished between non-abortifacient, pre-fertilization methods versus methods that prevent a zygote from implanting.)

Any other results jump out at our readers?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Abortion Debate: Kelsey Hazzard vs. Peggy Loonan

On Thursday night, yours truly (Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard) had the privilege of appearing on the HEAL Report, a social justice podcast, to debate abortion. My debate opponent was Peggy Loonan, a longtime Coloradoan pro-choice activist who runs a group called Life and Liberty for Women.

There are a million abortion debates out there, and this one is over an hour, so why pick this one to listen to? First, because this is a completely secular debate. In the entire program, the only mention of religion came from Loonan, who said something in passing about women making choices in accordance with their moral and religious beliefs. I still don't know if Loonan holds any religious beliefs, and if so, what they are. Very refreshing.

And second, you should listen because Loonan and I make for an interesting pair. The HEAL Report did a great job recruiting the two of us. We come from different generations and have different personalities, which come through very clearly. And obviously we have very different beliefs about abortion. But we also have some things in common. At one point Loonan mentioned that she left NARAL over strategy disagreements and that she views herself as a black sheep of the pro-choice movement. I told her I know the feeling! We all got a nice laugh out of that.

Without further ado:

I haven't had the chance to re-listen to the debate, but my recollections are still pretty fresh.

Loonan's presentation consisted chiefly of anecdotes about women having back-alley abortions, often read verbatim from pro-choice books. I presented CDC data showing that maternal deaths from illegal abortion plummeted before Roe v. Wade, pointed out that women continue to die in legal abortions, and highlighted Chile as an example of how we can achieve positive health and social outcomes for women without sacrificing the right to life.

I stand by the accuracy of what I said, but Loonan had me beat on pathos. I should have been ready to tell the tragic stories of Tonya Reaves, Lakisha Wilson, Jennifer Morbelli, Maria Santiago, and so many others. People are usually moved more by stories than by statistics. I did tell the story of Heather, whose son was saved by a sidewalk counselor. But I could, and should, have done more.

In my column: I raised the conjoined twin analogy and Loonan had no good response. I also found her argument about viability unconvincing. Both of those weak points came up at times when Loonan was deviating from her prepared comments, which she didn't seem used to. I felt pretty comfortable throughout the debate.

I hope you enjoy the debate! If any moments stand out to you, please comment with the timestamp.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Politically Correct Human Inequality

Last weekend, I spent time in Ventura and Los Angeles speaking at seminars for Justice for All, then went out to UCLA for two days of pro-life outreach. One of the arguments used at JFA is regarding human rights, and whether or not all human beings deserve those rights. We ask whether or not people with darker skin deserve equal rights, whether females and males deserve equal rights, and whether or not unborn and born humans deserve equal rights. Most people treat the first two questions as if they're patently obvious, and then either hesitate on that third question, or are quick to answer that no, born and unborn human beings don't deserve equal rights. It seems absurd and evil now to assert that blacks don't have the same equal rights that whites do, or that women don't have the same equal rights that men do. But 100 years ago, it would have seemed obvious to a lot of people that blacks don't deserve equal rights to whites. Two hundred years ago, it would have seemed obvious to most that women don't deserve equal rights to men. The unborn are the current politically correct group of people to deny equal rights to.

My friend and colleague Catherine Wurts in
conversation with a protester from Stop
Let's take a quick look at just what equal human rights are. In our Declaration of Independence, our forefathers made the following statement: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Today it is seen as controversial to assert that one has rights simply by being a human being -- but that's exactly where our forefathers grounded our rights. They are not self-awareness rights. They are not consciousness rights. They are human rights. These human rights come to be when the human does -- at fertilization. Our forefathers understood, and I believe rightly so, that your value exists in the fact of the kind of thing that you are, not in the kinds of things that you can do.

Sometimes someone will reply that the unborn don't have equal rights to us -- they can't drive or vote. But this is a confusion of legal rights and natural rights. Natural rights are rights that you have based on your natural kind (i.e. that you are human). These include the rights outlined in the Declaration of Independence above. Legal rights are rights that are granted by the government and usually are given based on your developmental maturity. These include the right to drive or vote. The right to drive or vote are not natural rights because cars and societies don't occur in nature.

Since the unborn are human just like we are, they deserve equal rights to us. As Christopher Kaczor points out in his book, The Ethics of Abortion, considering how we now understand that denying equal human rights to groups of people was wrong and we now consider them equal, can we really state with any certainty that this is the only time in human history we've ever been right about doing so?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Abortion Religion Strikes Again

Via LifeNews comes the disturbing headline Methodist Pastor Justifies Abortion by Saying Unborn Babies Have Original Sin. According to Pastor John Swomley:
The first claim is that society should protect innocent human life that is unable to protect itself. The term “innocent,” originally used by various popes, refers to fetal life which has committed no sin. Yet the Roman Catholic Church has proclaimed only one person, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as having an immaculate conception and hence free from original sin. In any event, public policy cannot be founded on theological claims to innocence. There is another meaning of “innocence” which comes from two Latin words, in (not) and nocere (to harm), and therefore means “not harmful or dangerous.” However, it is precisely the fact that some pregnant women (and their physicians) view the fetus as harmful or threatening to their health or welfare and hence leads them to consider abortion.
How about the common-sense definition of having not done anything wrong? Jesus Christ... I mean, gosh golly gee.

In all seriousness, religious justifications for the destruction of human life are terrible. And they come up quite often the abortion movement. Swomley is hardly the only culprit. We've also seen animist, Buddhist, and other Christian beliefs twisted to support homicide.

I grew up in the Methodist church. To his credit, my childhood pastor never preached abortion. But he never spoke out against the official Methodist position, either, whatever his personal disagreements with it may have been. In any event, the Methodist failure to stick up for the innocent made it a lot easier for me to leave.

P.S.: Swoley's quote was first brought to pro-lifers' attention by Sarah Terzo of Clinic Quotes and Live Action News, who happens to be an atheist and a long-time supporter of SPL. Go Sarah!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Second Circuit Has a Low Opinion of Pro-Choice New Yorkers

Last week, a federal appellate court ruled that New York could ban Choose Life license plates because they are "patently offensive"—a legal term usually reserved for hard-core pornography. The ruling was met with instant derision from grassroots pro-lifers and legal scholars alike.

At the time, SPL simply condemned the decision with a tweet, which was widely retweeted and even made it onto Twitchy:
Now that I have had time to dig a little deeper into the news, I've decided it merits a full blog post. It's even worse than I thought initially—and the people who should be most offended are pro-choice New Yorkers!

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh wrote up the decision in the Washington Post. (You should read the whole thing.) He begins with the obvious point that it's a First Amendment violation. But then he explains the Second Circuit's reasoning, if you want to call it that, and it is truly incredible. The logic of the opinion requires the assumption that pro-choice New Yorkers are so violent, pro-lifers have to be censored for their own safety:
[I]t’s reasonable for the government to exclude such messages, because of the risk that they might lead to “road rage” attacks against drivers by other drivers who are angered by the license plate ...
[But] the DMV had allowed a “Union Yes” plate and a plate showing cross-hairs, blood spatter, and “Support Police” (a fund-raiser for “‘Cop Shot,’ an organization providing monetary rewards for information concerning officers harmed in the line of duty”) ...
I acknowledge that pro-lifers have been victims of politically motivated violence at the hands of abortion supporters. But just as I believe that the entire pro-life movement should not be judged by the actions of a few violent outliers, I believe the same courtesy should be extended to our loyal opposition. The Second Circuit is completely off base.

And that Cop Shot plate? It's not at all obvious that it's a fundraiser for fallen officers. It looks incredibly creepy, particularly in the context of highly publicized police misconduct in New York, including the choking death of Eric Garner last year. Apparently the Second Circuit believes that pro-choice New Yorkers will get worked up to the point of violence over someone asking people to choose life, but will react to the issues raised by the Cop Shot plate with a shrug. That's a pretty horrible assessment of the people of New York.

In any event, censorship cannot be legally justified by concerns about violence. We call that a hecker's veto. The people of New York, pro-life and not, deserve better.

Fortunately, the Second Circuit's error may be fixed quickly. Another license plate case is already pending before the Supreme Court, and while it doesn't involve a Choose Life plate, the legal issues so similar that the Supreme Court's decision will likely be dispositive for Choose Life plates as well. We will keep you posted.

Monday, June 1, 2015

New campaign educates public on abortion-premature birth link

We are incredibly pleased to announce our newest project, Prevent Preterm! 

Over 100 peer-reviewed studies have found that abortion is a risk factor for premature birth in subsequent pregnancies. But that research has largely been drowned out in the highly contentious public debate about abortion. 

It's time to change that.

Prevent Preterm educates the public on three known risk factors for premature birth: tobacco use, lack of prenatal care, and prior abortion. We sum up the medical literature on abortion and preterm birth in a layperson-friendly way, so that women are empowered to investigate the link for themselves. 

We also amplify the voices of families affected by premature birth, and provide important resources for quitting smoking and accessing affordable prenatal care. You can learn more by visiting and reading our press release.

There are two things you can do today to support the life-saving work of Prevent Preterm:

(1) Like the new Prevent Preterm facebook page. Every week we'll post new educational graphics (like the one above) that you can share with your friends.

(2) Donate. It's a simple equation: the more we spend, the more people we can reach with our social media ads. Your gift could mean the difference between life and death, or the difference between a healthy term birth and a premature birth. Whatever your means, every donation is greatly appreciated.