Monday, August 31, 2015

Sex makes babies, but it shouldn't

[Today's guest post is by Sean Cahill, a recent graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law. She says: "Because it changes the way my voice is heard when it comes to life issues, I feel compelled to state that I'm a woman, despite what my name suggests."]

Pro-choicers claim that a woman has a “right” to an abortion. To be clear, this is not merely an argument that to obtain an abortion or allow abortion would be morally permissible, but a claim that the absence of legal abortion on-demand is morally impermissible. Where does this “right” come from?

When claiming this “right,” people cry “My body, my choice!” A person’s body has an inherent dignity and we should have a right to choose what happens to ours. To which pro-lifers reply: in the vast majority of abortions, didn't the woman choose to have sex? Didn't she exercise a choice, regarding her own body, a choice that could result in a pregnancy and in this case, did?

Abortion advocates respond to these inquiries often with an all-knowing head shake and an eye roll, leaving the questioner waiting for the earth-shattering retort, that somehow we have all been wrong, that our parents lied to us during that sex talk in grade school, that we were right in preschool: sex doesn't make babies, a stork brings them. Instead, the answer is some variation of: “A woman consents to sex, not to the resulting pregnancy.”

All of us, pro-life and pro-choice, know that sex makes babies. But many of us wish it didn't. We know that in every pregnancy, a brand new human being has been created, with a unique DNA sequence that is distinct from any that has existed before. We know this to be true, but we wish it wasn't. The phrase that ten year olds taunt each other with on the playground while giggling, confounds many adults: “Sex makes babies.”

We know that women's bodies have the amazing ability to carry life, to give this brand new person sustenance and a place to grow. We know this is to be expected, but we wish it wasn't. Ultimately, we wish that women's bodies didn't work the way they do. We wish we could completely divorce sex from babies. When we can't, this makes us angry, indignant even. So angry that when a healthy woman's body acts as women's bodies have for millions of years, and a new life comes into existence within her womb, a common reaction is to ask: What went wrong? What can we do to fix this? We want to fix one of the defining features of the female sex, as if a woman getting pregnant is equivalent to a car breaking down.

We scratch our heads and ask: How could this be? In this day and age, with all our technology: sex still makes babies? We can put a man on the moon but sex still makes babies? There must be something we can do about this. We can make it less likely through contraception and education, but what can we do to stop it all together? Nothing? That can't be! We have a “right” to stop this! Sex is always going to make babies?

Then there's only one thing left to do: kill the babies.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Registration open for Vita et Veritas conference at Yale October 2-3

Join Secular Pro-Life on the evening of Friday, October 2 and all day Saturday, October 3 for the third annual Vita et Veritas conference at Yale University. Registration is now open, and very affordable at $20 for students and $35 for adults. And if you just want to stop by for the Saturday talks without getting food, it's free!

As she has done for the past two years, SPL president Kelsey Hazzard will contribute to a pro-life interfaith panel, which will also include a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim. They might even walk into a bar. (You can watch last year's video here.)

Go to for the full conference lineup. The interfaith panel will be on the Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

Registration is available up until the day of the event. However, they're also doing an essay contest this year, and those submissions are due by September 18 (three weeks from today). The contest is open to current students and those who have graduated in the last five years.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

One or Many

Much has been said about bodily rights arguments, the arguments that state a woman has a right to do whatever she wants with anything inside her body, or that no woman should be forced to remain as life support for an unborn human being. I have responded to these arguments elsewhere. However, a similar argument used by some is that it's the dependency on her body that justifies the mother's right to kill the child. Usually one of the responses to this idea is that even born children are completely dependent on their mother for survival. An infant cannot feed himself, change himself, drive to the store to pick up necessities, etc. And the response to this is usually before birth, the child is dependent upon only one person, the mother, for survival, whereas after birth many people can take care of the child. Therefore, before birth the mother can kill the child (since no one else can take care of him), but after birth it's wrong because someone else can take care of him.

This is one of those arguments that just makes you scratch your head about how anyone can find it compelling. Why is it that the fewer people you burden, the more right someone has to kill you? And at any rate, this idea seems to be backward. The more dependent you are on somebody, the more of an obligation they have to help you, not less.

Former director of Justice for All, David Lee, uses the following analogy to respond to this idea. Suppose you're at a public pool, and you're the last one out. You're drying off but you hear a splash. You look in the pool and a child has fallen into the deep end, drowning. Assuming you can swim, do you have an obligation to save this child? It would seem that yes, you do. You can't just walk away, because you're the only one this child is now dependent on to save his life.

This is one of those arguments that won't seem to ever die. Nevertheless, it can be pretty easily dispatched.

Edit: a few people pointed out that I wasn't very clear in what argument I was responding to. I'll chalk it up to fatigue of spending a few hours trying to write something, then rejecting it, and eventually writing this at 12:00 midnight, which is way past my bedtime (I'm an early to bed, early to rise kind of guy). :) I've edited this to make it clearer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Recap: SPL at #ProtestPP San Jose

Last Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters converged on Planned Parenthood abortion centers across the country to denounce the organization's brutality toward unborn children, unethical organ harvesting practices, and constant lies.

Secular Pro-Life's very own Terrisa Bukovinac Lopez delivered the following remarks to a crowd of 500+ people in San Jose, CA:
This morning, pro-lifers are gathering at over 300 protest sites across the United States. For many of you, this is a time of prayer. Not for me.

My name is Terrisa Bukovinac Lopez, and I am a pro-life atheist. I’m here representing the organization Secular Pro-Life. There are more non-religious pro-lifers out there than you might think. I am here because I feel I have an ethical duty to speak out. And I thank Karen of 40 Days for Life for giving me this opportunity.
This morning, the pro-life movement is united. Because whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your gender, whatever your age, we all feel the same emotions when we watch those videos. Horror. Shock. Anger. And above all, grief for those who have lost their lives.
We must never allow our desire for scientific knowledge to eclipse out consciences. Planned Parenthood crossed that line a long time ago. Women deserve better, and Planned Parenthood deserves zero taxpayer funding.
Terrisa reports that her speech was well received. A question and answer session followed, in which she explained how she came to hold the pro-life view and how religious allies can make the pro-life movement more inclusive. Afterward, pro-lifers thanked her and she even received an invitation to speak at a local Catholic gathering.

Planned Parenthood staff stood at the facility entrance and listened silently.

Terrisa addresses the crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside of Planned Parenthood San Jose.

A portion of the attendees. Good thing Terrisa had a microphone!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Media coverage of the Planned Parenthood protests

On Saturday, pro-lifers across the country peacefully protested outside hundreds of Planned Parenthoods, calling for the industrial purveyor of abortion to be defunded in the wake of damning videos from the Center for Medical Progress. (Watch the videos or, if that’s too gruesome, read the transcripts at Here's how the media reacted:

LifeNews: Thousands of Pro-Life People Protest at Planned Parenthood Abortion Clinics in Over 350 Cities

Live Action News: Pro-life advocates line sidewalks nationwide outside 300+ Planned Parenthood centers

Breitbart: National Day of Protest Against Planned Parenthood to Be Held in Over 320 Cities, 5 Other Nations

Washington Post: Thousands protest outside Planned Parenthood clinics around the country

Reuters: Anti-abortion protesters rally at Planned Parenthood sites

ThinkProgress: Thousands Rallied to Defund Planned Parenthood. This is What They Look Like.

Jezebel: Thousands Rally Across the Country to Protest Planned Parenthood

Despite coming from sources that tend to have very different perspectives, these headlines are pretty consistent. But a look at the first lines of each article shows a little more variety: "tens of thousands"/"thousands"/[no number given] "pro-life advocates"/"anti-abortion protesters" against Planned Parenthood "abortion clinics"/"facilities"/"clinics," also described as "the controversial health-care organization" or "one of the country's largest health providers."

LifeNews: "Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates across the country — perhaps as many as 50-75,000 people in all — protested at Planned Parenthood abortion clinics..."

Live Action News: "Almost half of the 668 Planned Parenthood facilities in the nation were flooded with pro-life protesters Saturday in a nationwide effort."

Breitbart: "#ProtestPP, is a coalition headed by Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal, 40 Days for Life, and the Pro-Life Action League, and is co-sponsored by more than 50 state and national pro-life organizations, states a press release."

Washington Post: "Thousands of antiabortion activists descended upon Planned Parenthood clinics on Saturday to participate in a nationwide protest aimed at cutting off federal funding for the controversial health-care organization."

Reuters: "Thousands of anti-abortion protesters on Saturday demonstrated at Planned Parenthood sites around the United States where they called for the federal government to end funding for the health organization."

ThinkProgress: "On Saturday, thousands of anti-abortion protestors demonstrated in front of Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the nation, calling for the defunding of one of the country’s largest health providers."

Jezebel: "Anti-abortion activists held protests in front of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country on Saturday."

What other media coverage did you see?

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 8.26.24 PM

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why Personhood Ultimately Doesn't Matter in the Abortion Debate

Today, Dennis Prager released an excellent video presenting five non-religious moral arguments against abortion. Please give it a watch. I'd like to focus on the first of Prager's five arguments, which is that even if the unborn are not persons, it doesn't mean, ipso facto, that abortion is moral.

Now, I've argued elsewhere that the unborn certainly count as persons. Being a person is about the kind of thing you are (an individual substance of a rational nature), not about the kinds of things you can do. However, let's look at it the opposite way. What if the unborn really aren't persons?

In a compilation of essays, philosophers Frank Beckwith (pro-life) and Louis Pojman (pro-choice) wrote the following: "Another popular prolife argument goes something like this: Because the unborn entity is a human being from the moment of conception, and because it is morally wrong in almost all circumstances to kill human beings, therefore, abortion in almost all circumstances is morally wrong. Although the prolifer is certainly correct that the unborn entity is a human being in the genetic sense from the moment of conception, it is not clear from the biological facts alone, without philosophical reflection, that the fetus is a human person and possesses the rights that go with such a status." [1]

Other philosophers argue that the question of personhood is meaningless because all people mean by "person" is "an entity with rights and value," which is exactly what is at stake in the abortion debate. So from this perspective, arguing the unborn are persons is just redundant because the debate is about whether or not the unborn have rights and value. Plus, I am certainly identical to the embryo that was in my mother's womb, even the zygote that was conceived from my mother and father. That biological entity was me, so if I have a right to life now, I had a right to life then. So even if I didn't qualify as a "person," it is by no means certain that I did not have the right to live.

So contra Beckwith and Pojman, two intellectuals I respect, I don't think it's true at all that "it is not clear from the biological facts alone" that a fetus is a human person and has rights. Our forefathers certainly didn't agree with Beckwith and Pojman. In the Declaration of Independence, they wrote that they considered it self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A fact that is self-evident is one that is evident even without philosophical reflection. These are human rights because these are rights we all have by virtue of being human, whether or not we are persons. The term "person" has been used in the past to justify all sorts of atrocities. The unborn are just the most recent group of human beings to be denied their basic rights.

So again, while I think it can be argued very persuasively that the unborn are persons too, it ultimately doesn't matter in the abortion debate. What does matter is that the unborn are human beings and all human beings have rights by virtue of their nature as human beings.

[1] Introduction, from The Abortion Controversy, 2nd Ed., ed. Louis Pojman and Frank J. Beckwith (Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1998), p. xiv.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SPL to speak at San Jose Planned Parenthood protest this Saturday

This article has been updated with a MAJOR CORRECTION: They want us to speak at the San Jose location, not the Fresno location. Sorry for the confusion!

This Saturday, August 22, beginning at 9:00 a.m., pro-life advocates will protest at Planned Parenthood offices across the country. So far there are well over 200 protest locations.

Terrisa Bukonivac Lopez, the most recent addition to the Secular Pro-Life speaker team, will address the crowd at the San Jose, CA protest. She will share a message of secular opposition to Planned Parenthood's brutality, and encourage unity across religious lines in the pro-life fight for justice.

The address is 3131 Alum Rock Avenue, in front of the Planned Parenthood.

We hope to see you there! We'll do our best to make video footage available for those who can't make it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Once again, abortion advocates are enemies of free speech

In response to the Planned Parenthood undercover investigation, abortion advocates have once again shown themselves to be enemies of free speech.

Shortly after the first video made headlines, the National Abortion Federation, an abortionist trade group, and Stem Express, a buyer of fetal remains, each sued the Center for Medical Progress in an attempt to block the release of videos involving meetings with their members/employees. In each case, the judge imposed a temporary restraining order to preserve the status quo until a hearing can take place. (In the meantime, the Center for Medical Progress has been releasing footage involving other abortion workers.)

In the long run, I have no doubt that the Center for Medical Progress will prevail. This is a delay tactic, pure and simple. The judge in the Stem Express case recognized that last week, when she denied Stem Express' request for access to the footage. In her opinion, she noted that, among other things, Stem Express' case falls afoul of "the First Amendment and the parallel protections under the California Constitution."

Stem Express and the National Abortion Federation can surely afford to hire lawyers who know how the First Amendment works. So why do they bother?

Simply put, they are doing it because they don't support freedom of speech, the key value underlying the First Amendment. And they figure that with a little luck, they could find a judge who feels the same way. Their optimism isn't entirely unfounded. In Hill v. Colorado, the pro-abortion members of the Supreme Court upheld what amounted to a ban on sidewalk counseling, First Amendment be damned. Although Hill was undermined somewhat by the Court's subsequent decision in McCullen v. Oakley, pro-life advocates continue to be a frequent target for First Amendment violations. As I wrote in June:
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 courts usually intervene, but not always.

As a lawyer, I take my ethical responsibilities seriously. As a result, I do not engage in meritless litigation, and I certainly wouldn't advocate a position that violates the First Amendment rights of the opposing party. 

But I have yet to hear a single abortion advocate condemn Stem Express and the National Abortion Federation's lawsuits. RH Reality Check openly encouraged it, without even mentioning free speech concerns.

And why would they? Free speech simply isn't a concern for them. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

In-depth interview: Kristi Burkhart, Executive Director, Pregnancy Care Center

Kristi Burkhart is Director of Pregnancy Care Center, a locally organized and funded organization that has been helping women and their babies in Fresno, California since 1984. Here she talks to us about how she got involved with a pregnancy center, what kind of help the center offers, how the center navigates working with people of diverse backgrounds, and how others who are interested can get involved.

Personal Background:

How did you get started working at PCC? What draws you to pregnancy care compared to other types of pro-life work?

I had recently left a position as a full-time teacher and was looking to volunteer in the community. I responded to an announcement in the church bulletin regarding an orientation for volunteers at a pregnancy center. I was drawn to pregnancy care because I am adopted (my birthmother had an unplanned pregnancy in the mid 60’s) and also because I have many friends who are post-abortive and have been deeply wounded by the decision to abort; they thought they had no other choice at the time.

I remember my volunteer interview. I was thinking, “You think you are interviewing me, but really I am interviewing you.” I was not familiar with pregnancy care organizations and was leery that they would be very political and stereotypical in their approach to women, in which case I would have to gracefully say “no thanks.” I was pleasantly surprised!

What is your least favorite part of your job? What do you enjoy the most?  

Being in administration, my least favorite part of my job is staffing and staff management. It is very difficult to keep all positions filled with trained, competent (and preferably bilingual) people. It’s also difficult to make sure the staff are working to their strengths, and to work with them through their individual personal needs. There’s vacation time, sick time, broken down cars, pets dying, children getting sick, etc. We have to work through all of that just like many organizations do.

I really enjoy being able to teach and encourage people through my job. I love training volunteers and watching the lights go on as they explore what they think they know about our clients and who our clients really are. I love teaching youth about healthy sexual integrity (and shocking them with my perspectives, which aren’t too far from their own!) I can help them realize they truly are responsible for their own boundaries and need to decide for themselves what is best, but only after understanding the potential consequences of sexual intimacy. I love when I can encourage those who are struggling, letting them know that they are not alone and that there are good answers available. My job allows me to help clients, volunteers, staff, or donors, whether the issue is unexpected pregnancy or something entirely different.

General Questions:

What services does PCC offer? Are there any costs to the clients? If not, how does PCC get funding?

As a fully licensed medical facility we offer free pregnancy tests, limited OB ultrasound exams, pregnancy options counseling, pregnancy and child-birth classes, and community referrals. We also offer sexual integrity seminars, post-abortive support, miscarriage support, and a Just 4 Guys group.

There are never costs to our clients. All services are free and confidential. We do not bill any insurance provider either, so our services are also free to the tax payer. We are 100% funded by this community and for this community through one-time and monthly donations from individuals, organizations, and churches. We have four PCC annual fundraisers: a banquet, a “Change 4 Babies” campaign, a Men’s BBQ, and a Ladies’ High Tea.

What are some of the more common circumstances your clients have that lead to crisis pregnancy?

I would call them “unplanned” or “unexpected,” rather than “crisis.” “Crisis” sounds like an emergency, trauma, or something dangerous—even a tragedy. “Unexpected” or “unplanned” sounds more realistic: they are caught off guard and unsure what to do because the pregnancy was an accident.

I think the more common circumstances are that the girls are young, unmarried, and still in school (high school or college). 59% of our clients are between ages 15 to 24 (10 year age range), whereas only 40% are between ages 25 to 50 (26 year age range). Less than 1% of our clients are under age 15. We also often have single moms come in who are separated or divorced and who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant.

What qualities do you look for when hiring staff or selecting volunteers?

We look for people who are pro-life, compassionate, humble, kind, and open. They need to be good listeners and non-judgmental. They can’t be pushy; we look for people who are eager to serve a woman with an unexpected pregnancy regardless of her decision (that is, even if she chooses to abort, or has chosen to abort before). We look for people with a certain level of personal sexual integrity; after all, we can’t ask others to practice a lifestyle we don’t practice ourselves. And we are a faith-based organization, so we do look for people with faith in Jesus. However, it’s essential that our staff can lay aside any agenda they hold and serve each woman with compassion and integrity.

Your clinic is located across the street from an abortion clinic. Tell us what that is like.

We are in front of the abortion clinic and share a parking lot. It’s interesting. There’s no open hostility, but there is a very real tension. We see their staff outside, and as much as I try to smile or wave they just ignore me. No offense taken on my part. If mail or boxes are delivered to the wrong address, we are very congenial with each other when we walk the packages over.

Our center and the clinic have some shared clients. Sometimes a woman comes through our door for her “appointment” and we can tell that she probably meant to go to the clinic instead (most of the time she won’t say the word “abortion” and she’ll have a hard time looking at the receptionist). Even if we are pretty sure she has an appointment with the clinic, we still have to ask what the appointment is for, in case she actually does have an appointment with us for a pregnancy test or an ultrasound. If she is looking for the clinic instead, we tell her she doesn’t have an appointment with us and ask if she is sure she is pregnant. We offer her our services. These conversations sometimes lead to an appointment with us instead of an abortion. Other times, she walks out the door and we don’t see her again. Our job is to be here and available in either case.  Sometimes she leaves, but returns again.

Religion and Politics:

Does PCC have a religious affiliation? How does this affect your day-to-day work?

We are non-denominational but faith-based, and we ask all staff and volunteers to sign a basic statement of faith. You and I had a conversation about asking our clients one simple question when we are discussing their options with them, “Where does God fit into this for you?” A vast majority (80-90%) of Americans believe in God, so it’s an important question to ask. In many cases her faith is part of her decision making process and part of how she deals with the decision she makes. So we ask “Where does God fit into this for you?” and then it’s our job to respect her response. If she wants to discuss it, we are happy to have spiritual discussions with her and even share the gospel. But again, only if she wants to go down that road; her needs supersede any religious agenda.

How do you make your center a comfortable place for your non-religious clients?

There are no religious pictures or icons around. There are no scriptures written on the walls or over the doorposts, haha. We do not force a spiritual discussion or biblical resources onto our clients. We respect her wishes and ask permission to share anything having to do with religion.

Does your center provide adoption referrals? If so, does your center have a policy regarding adoption agencies that work with LGBT parents?

Yes, we provide adoption agency referrals. There are four local agencies on our list so that clients have choices. We do not have a policy about agencies that work with LGBT parents. Also, the quality of care provided to each person seeking services at PCC is consistent regardless of socioeconomic status. 

Many people believe that pregnancy centers give their clients incomplete information or pressure their clients into making a specific decision. How do you respond to that idea?

It is against everything that I stand for to give incomplete information or to emotionally or spiritually manipulate people. I also believe that abortion hurts women first—it isn’t just about the life of the unborn. These two beliefs, which I hold dear, are precisely why I was interviewing PCC before becoming a volunteer 14 years ago. I would not have gotten involved in the first place had PCC been contrary to my stand on these two personal issues. PCC is very careful to use only researched and medically accurate information and to train, train, and retrain our staff and volunteers. We have had volunteers-in-training who were too forceful or zealous in the their approach, and we asked them to step down.

PCC is also affiliated with two national organizations that provide training materials, conferences, policy suggestions and so forth. I find these organizations to be those of integrity that I can personally align with. As Executive Director for PCC, it is important for me to understand the organizations PCC is directly associated with and their leadership.

With that said, there are a few pregnancy resources centers and pregnancy medical centers that do not follow all the guidelines set before them by the national organizations to which they are affiliated. This is a travesty and misrepresentation of the rest of us, and it greatly angers me.

I understand that everyone comes into this type of pro-life work to serve with a genuine heart for women and babies. We are sincere but we also usually come with an agenda without even realizing it. If our service to our clients is not based on love, truth, and integrity then we should step aside. It takes good training and more good training to be ready to serve women with unexpected pregnancies.


What advice would you give to someone looking to start a pregnancy center?

First, make sure you have the support of your family and best friends—people who believe you are called to this. Second, visit at least 3-5 centers in communities with demographics similar to your own. Third, contact the national organizations and align yourself with at least one for support, training, and resources. Finally, make sure you have adequate support from your community—a portion of the community that you can draw on for volunteers, vision, cheerleading, and, yes, financial support too.

What advice do you have for people who don’t work at pregnancy centers but still want to help women with crisis pregnancy?

Listen well. Educate yourself and give only accurate information that you know to be true (don’t believe everything you hear and read either….research for yourself!) Remember, you could be her if you had her background, knowledge, and experiences. Love her. Really see her, as a person—it’s not just about the life of the child she may be carrying, it’s about her too. Understand the difficulties she faces: in her relationships, in her schooling or career, in her ability to provide basic necessities, etc. Don’t shoot from the hip. You are dealing with at least two lives here. Set aside your own agenda, and remember: love, truth, and integrity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Valuing the lives of the elderly

Above: Not Dead Yet display protesting assisted suicide

Fun fact: in addition to being a lawyer and a pro-life activist, I'm also a bit of a karaoke nut. I go out and sing on a weekly basis. I'm part of a regular crowd that follows the same "K.J." to different bars and restaurants. And because I happen to live in a popular area for retirees, most of my fellow regulars are older folks.

By older folks, I don't just mean old enough to be my parents, or my grandparents. No, I'm proud to say we have two 92-year-old WWII veterans: George and Frank. The latter speaks several languages and served as a translator at the Nuremberg trials. Today, he is always called up to the stage as "Sexy Frank Senior!"

Both use canes. A while ago, Frank had a nasty fall that kept him out of commission for months. I'm sure they have other health issues I'm not privy to. George finds the internet bewildering, and he has trouble keeping tempo when he sings. (We applaud anyway.) I consider them both friends, and respect them greatly. Their zest for life colors my perception of elderly people in general.

Tragically, that perception was not shared by 75-year-old British woman Gill Pharaoh. She killed herself to avoid, in her words, living past her "ideal shelf life." The suicide took place in Switzerland, which allowed Pharaoh to access lethal medication despite the fact that she had no terminal health condition.
In an interview before her death, she complained that her life was in decline as she was no longer enthusiastic about gardening, did not enjoy late dinner parties, and she had issues with tinnitus.
While acknowledging that these were ‘comparatively trivial’ complaints she said she wasn’t prepared to go further ‘downhill’. 
‘I do not think old age is fun. I have gone just over the hill now. It is not going to start getting better,’ she said. ‘I have looked after people who are old, on and off, all my life. I have always said, “I am not getting old. I do not think old age is fun.” I know that I have just gone over the hill now. It is not going to start to get better.’ 
I don't want to sound snide, but I hate gardening and late dinner parties, and I'm 27 years old.

It breaks my heart that she robbed herself and her loved ones of who knows how many years, because she assumed that old age wouldn't be "fun." I wish she had received life-affirming counseling. I wish she had given herself a chance.

I wish she could have come out to sing with us.

A few weeks ago, tragedy struck my karaoke family. When I heard that someone had died suddenly, my first thought was that Frank or George must have passed. I was wrong; shockingly, it was a healthy middle-aged singer, and the cause was suicide. He was always the life of the party. No one saw it coming.

I am used to thinking about the pro-life cause in terms of a helpless victim whose life is violently ended by the "crushing" force of an abortionist. But sometimes, the greatest threat to human life comes from within.

Suicide hotline:1-800-273-8255 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Kantian Analysis of Bodily Autonomy

Bodily autonomy. It's a term that has essentially lost all meaning in our culture today. Not because it doesn't have an objective meaning, but because the cry for "bodily autonomy" (e.g. "my body, my choice") has been accepted uncritically as a modern slogan, despite most pro-choice people being unable to defend the proposition that bodily autonomy justifies abortion. Pro-choice people assume (through repetition, usually without argument) that the child's dependency upon the mother and location inside her body gives her the moral right to have the child killed. But in absolutely no other context can I use my right to bodily autonomy, ipso facto, to justify killing someone, nor does someone else's dependency upon me give me the right to kill them. It's usually quite the opposite: if someone is dependent on me for survival, and I must use my body to help them, it gives me a greater obligation to help them.

Immanuel Kant was an agnostic philosopher. Notably, he rejected Realism (which I hold to), but even so I believe he offered valuable insight. Kant argued that we are rational agents, and as such morals must be grounded in reason alone. He was one of the earliest philosophers (that I'm aware of) to speak in terms of autonomy. Kant argued that we should follow what he calls the principle of autonomy (auto-nomos, which means "self-legislating). As R. Scott Smith, in his book In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichtomy (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2014, p.94), wrote:
In our context, 'autonomy' often implies that each person decides what is right for him or her. Clearly, though, Kant was not a relativist. For him, we are to be self-legislating and develop maxims, or plans of action, that are to command us categorically. Moreover, we are to will to universalize them. Thus, they are binding independently of our desires, consequences or other experiences. By acting autonomously, we do our duty for duty's sake, out of pure respect for the moral law.
Again, Kant was not a relativist. Since we are rational agents, that means that we are bound to the moral law. Rational agents are intrinsically valuable, meaning they are valuable in and of themselves. Another way of saying this is that they are an end unto themselves. So one of our duties is that we are never to treat other rational agents as purely a means to an end (in other words, as purely a means to get something else that we desire). They are always to be treated as an end, themselves. This means that all human beings have human dignity. Abortion treats the unborn as a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. This means that if you really do hold to bodily autonomy, you should also hold that abortion is immoral. Having bodily autonomy means you have the right to follow your duty as a rational agent, not that you have the right to do whatever you want regardless of how it affects other people.

The next time someone talks about how bodily autonomy justifies, remind them that while bodily autonomy is very important, there are limitations to it, just like there are limitations to most of our rights.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The roots of adoption stigma

Above: the socially acceptable face of adoption
Adoption is a loving option. Many people wait years before they can adopt a baby. Adoption is the greatest gift you could give to a waiting family. Adoption is noble, courageous, beautiful.

It seems to me that American society accepts these messages... but only when the biological mother is a teenager.

I'll grant that this is an entirely unscientific way of looking at the problem, but consider two hit movies from 2007: Juno and Knocked Up. In Juno, our titular heroine is a high school student, played by a then 20-year-old Ellen Page. In Knocked Up, the lead character is Alison Scott, an adult woman with a career in entertainment news, played by a then 29-year-old Katherine Heigl.

Both consider abortion and reject it. But while Juno chooses adoption, it's not even on the table in Knocked Up. Once Alison has chosen life, it's treated as a given that she will raise the child herself, despite the fact that the pregnancy resulted from a one-night stand.

Look around. Do you know anyone who has made an adoption placement after the age of, say, 21? When you encounter a pregnant person in the workforce, do you assume that the pregnancy was planned? Does it even cross your mind that she could be pursuing adoption? If she said she was, would you find that weird?

These attitudes matter, because the vast majority of abortions are not done on teenagers. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2008, 33.4% of abortion patients were between the ages of 20 and 24, 24.4% were between the ages of 25 and 29, and 24.6% were 30 and older.

When a teenager gets pregnant, people immediately understand why she may not feel equipped to parent. The reason for the adoption plan is obvious and we empathize. When a more established adult gets pregnant, she may be just as unequipped to raise a child for any number of reasons, but the general public can't tell.

If an adult chooses adoption, once she becomes visibly pregnant, she will be bombarded with congratulations and faced with the prospect of explaining herself over and over again. In a pro-life world, it ought to be enough for her to say "Thank you. I am placing this child for adoption and the adoptive family is thrilled." But people can be nosy, judgmental, and cruel. Or maybe it will be fine. She really has no idea what to expect, because, well... adoption is just something teenagers do, right? She looks to the media and sees no representation of her circumstances.

A Secular Pro-Life supporter messaged me saying:
I did volunteer for a pregnancy care center years ago. The main reason that adoption was seen negatively: no support from friends or family. 
"Giving away a baby: WE don't do that, we take care of our own." 
"You go through 9 months and then lose the child anyway." 
"You would go through all that for someone else's PLEASURE?" 
These are all quotes I remember.
Of course, abortion is stigmatized too. But at least nobody has to know. And so adoption is passed over and a child dies.

We have a responsibility to fight the roots of adoption stigma. Share this article and start a conversation with your friends. Talk about what adoption means for your age group. And let us proclaim from the rooftops that we will support any mother making an adoption plan, whether she's a ninth grader or a CEO.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Ask your mom: "Were you on Medicaid when you were pregnant with me?"

The Planned Parenthood scandal has kept the pro-life movement very busy, but rest assured we aren't neglecting other projects. Secular Pro-Life has a great one in the pipeline, and we could use your help. If you've been wanting to become more involved with SPL, this is a great opportunity!

Without giving away too many details about this project, it is a campaign supportive of the Hyde Amendment. By prohibiting federal subsidization of abortion through the Medicaid program, the Hyde Amendment has saved the lives of over a million children.

In the spirit of "nothing about us without us," we are putting together an advisory board consisting of young Americans who were conceived by moms on Medicaid after the Hyde Amendment was first passed on September 30, 1976.

You do not have to be an abortion survivor to participate; we understand that "Hey Mom, would you have aborted me if Uncle Sam were paying for it?" is a ridiculously awkward and potentially hurtful question. Instead, all you have to ask is: "Were you on Medicaid when you were pregnant with me?"

If the answer is yes, consider applying! If not, stay tuned for other ways you can get involved, and please pass this post along to friends who might qualify.

In addition to the Medicaid requirement, advisory board members must meet the following criteria:
  • Be pro-life and have references to show it.
  • Be willing to give 2-3 hours a month of your time, possibly more as the campaign launch approaches, for the next year.
  • Have working knowledge of social media. 
We are looking for a diverse group of people. Feel free to apply regardless of your religion or lack thereof, gender, sexual orientation, color, etc. The passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976 does create an age restriction (sorry, those of you who are older than 39), but don't worry about being too young to apply. We'd love to include some high school students.

To apply, please email and use the subject line "Hyde Advisory Board." Include a summary of any previous pro-life volunteering you've done, names and contact information of pro-life references, and a brief statement about your interest in preserving and expanding the Hyde Amendment.

This project is still in the early stages, so input from advisory board members will count for a lot. We look forward to seeing your application!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

An open letter to Planned Parenthood

[Today's guest post is by Zak Schmoll.]

Dear Planned Parenthood,

There have clearly been plenty of factual statements, opinions, mischaracterizations, assessments and judgments about your fetal tissue donation program recently, and admittedly the responses from your organization and defenders of it have been rather unconvincing. The main charge that seems to be being brought against your organization is the fact that you are profiting off of the sale of this tissue which is clearly in violation of the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. §289g-2).

This law states that, “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.” Of course, that raises the question as to what valuable consideration is. The law goes on to define that as, “The term ‘valuable consideration' does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.” Clearly then, that is a prohibition on profit. The law does not prohibit money being collected for this service, but it does prohibit money being collected over and above what is necessary to perform this service. Admittedly, there might be a potential loophole in the definition of reasonable, but I wanted to be straightforward with what the law says.

Even though there are incredibly obvious ethical dilemmas and concerns that many of us feel about abortion in general, that is not the issue on the table right now. After all, even without Planned Parenthood, abortion would still be a legal procedure that could be done by another business. That cannot be changed as a result of this investigation. That would take a governmental action on some level or Supreme Court decision which is a conversation that I think is long overdue. Regardless, the issue at hand right now is whether or not there is illegal profit being generated and what consequences should be levied at Planned Parenthood for your actions if those claims are substantiated.

This should be a simple issue. As with any organization, Planned Parenthood should be able to provide a breakdown of the expenses that are used to perform certain services. Organizations design budgets with the explicit purpose of understanding how they will cover their expenses. It should be possible to provide a number for the price of this procedure. It is not hard to imagine that a particular clinic that participates in these programs would know the amount of time that specific employees spend on a case, and the value of that time along with the value of the materials used. Elementary mathematics is all it takes to provide a number.

After that number is calculated, then it would be simple to match that with what your organization is receiving from these procurement companies such as Stem Express. If the numbers match up, the law is being complied with. There’d be no profit being generated. All of this argument about the illegality of your operations would disappear. Again, people would and could certainly be opposed to abortion for other reasons as I am, but this particular case would seem to disappear. Planned Parenthood would not be in legal jeopardy.

So far the evidence shows that prices are negotiable, which is of course what raises this question from many skeptical observers. If the law is being complied with, then the undercover investigator asking about prices should get a simple answer: “The price is being set by our expenses, and once we calculate that, I will be able to let you know.” That is not the answer that has been seen in any of these videos.

For example, in the unabridged transcript from the first video with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, she begins by stating that the price would vary from location to location. That seems reasonable. Cost would be different at different locations. However, she goes on to say near the middle of page 4 on this transcript, “I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they’re a non-profit, they just don’t want to—they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that.”

I agree that they should want to break even. No non-profit wants to take a loss, or they could cease to exist. That’s not the issue at hand here. The issue is the fact that there seems to be some room for negotiability built into the pricing structure for this procedure which by federal law should not have any profit being generated from it. It would not be an issue if Planned Parenthood was making money off of publications they produce which then helps offset some of the other costs of running the organization, there would not be a problem with that. The problem is that the law of the land prohibits profit from being generated from this particular set of procedures. Therefore, it seems to be the case that there should be no room for negotiation on this issue of pricing or doing “a little better.”

The unabridged transcript of the second video with Dr. Mary Gatter is just as troubling. Near the end on page 23-24, they continue discussing compensation, and again, it seems problematic that there is room for negotiation: “It’s been years since I talked about compensation, so let me just figure out what others are getting, if this is in the ballpark, it’s fine, if it’s still low then we can bump it up.” Keep in mind that the context of the conversation is about pricing specimens that would come from a specific office in Pasadena & San Gabriel Valley. As a result, there should be no room for negotiation here. If the law says that you can essentially recuperate your costs, then there should be no question about what other people or other clients are receiving. If that particular clinic is incredibly efficient and is able to make this procedure happen with lower costs, then that is what they should be able to bring in for payment. That is what the law states is allowable. It does not say that you can set your costs based upon the costs of other people.

Bottom line: We should be united across the aisle on this issue. Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, if the evidence points to a reasonable belief that there is illegal activity going on, then there is certainly reason to open an investigation into these practices. Yes, I am clearly aware that if Planned Parenthood was penalized as a result of these illegal activities, it would be a major blow to abortion access. That would be incredibly positive in the opinion of some and negative in the opinion of others. Nevertheless, when there is reasonable belief to think that any organization broken the law, then investigation is necessary regardless of your ideology.

Planned Parenthood, release the numbers and shut this entire controversy down. If you have done nothing wrong, then you absolutely have nothing to fear. Hiring PR organizations to quiet journalists and simply reasserting your innocence without any type of justification won't do.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Website Under Deconstruction: Orlando Women's Center

SPL supporter Margot D. suggested that we take a look at the Orlando Women's Center as part of our "Website Under Deconstruction" series. Here's the first thing we saw:

The discount offer isn't surprising; abortion is a business, and there's significant competition in central Florida. But a three-minute abortion?!? That's not a decision between a woman and her doctor, that's an assembly line.

Once you close the pop-up, it only gets worse. That discount applies to the abortion pill, which is supposed to be for pregnancies early in the first trimester. OWC is offering it through 14 weeks, which is into the second trimester. But of course, the fact that they're using the same pill regimen for early-term and later-term pregnancies doesn't stop them from charging the later-term patients over $100 more than the early-term ones. Shameless.

OWC offers abortions through 24 weeks, and the "Note From The Founder" page makes it clear that they would like to commit even later abortions and would do so if not for Florida law banning abortions after viability. There's also this interesting statement:
Abortions performed before 6 weeks gestation are at the forefront of how abortions will be performed in the future as the majority of abortions will occur during this time. There are less moral and ethical personal conflicts associated with having an abortion performed earlier in pregnancy. The earlier in pregnancy the abortion is performed the less fetal development, fewer complications, and less guilt.
How it is that an abortionist can simultaneously want to do third-trimester abortions and also express a preference for "less fetal development" is beyond me. But clearly they're not that concerned; that's the sole mention of fetal development on the entire site.

I was surprised to see that OWC is much more forthcoming about the possibility of post-abortion psychological issues than most abortion businesses. On the "Abortion Methods" page, it says:
Psychological Impacts Associated with Abortion 
Studies conducted on the impacts of abortion do not provide conclusions which allow doctors and others to make statements or predictions about psychological problems associated with abortion. While many women are relieved after their abortion, others may experience anger, regret, guilt, or sadness. In a review of 250 such studies, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop reports that factors which may make the decision about abortion more difficult for some women than others include: Strongly held personal values, feelings about abortion, pressure from other people, ending an originally desired pregnancy, a decision made late in the pregnancy, or the lack of support by a partner or family member.
That's not great—after over forty years of legalized abortion, of course there are studies with conclusions—but it's better than the usual approach of sticking fingers in your ears and shouting LALALALALA.

The next paragraph is just a straight-up lie:
Effects of Abortion on Fertility or Future Pregnancy 
Most studies show no impact of first trimester abortion on fertility or subsequent pregnancies. The effects of multiple second trimester abortions are undetermined.
Abortion is known to increase the risk of premature birth in subsequent pregnancies. That conclusion is supported by over 100 peer-reviewed studies. Those studies have also found that multiple abortions pose a greater risk. The effect of multiple second trimester abortions is no mystery.

But the kicker is the "Safe Abortion" page, which states: "We are proud of our excellent safety records and extremely low complication rates." OWC's safety record is nothing to be proud of. It includes numerous malpractice lawsuits for botched abortions, including one in which the victim was awarded $36.7 million; a criminal charge for slapping an abortion patient who changed her mind and got up to leave because the abortionist couldn't place a needle in her vein after several attempts; and a police raid.

No wonder OWC's advice to patients regarding "annoying" sidewalk counselors is to "avoid them, not speak to them, and walk directly into the office."

More in our "Website Under Deconstruction" series:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Time to redirect Planned Parenthood money to more deserving providers

In the wake of the growing "baby parts" scandal, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on a measure to defund Planned Parenthood and redirect that taxpayer money to legitimate, deserving women's health care providers.

Planned Parenthood apologists will tell you that this measure will deprive women of care. They're even running advertisements to that effect. (On whose dime, I don't know.) Don't believe them. This is a funding reallocation, not a funding reduction. Since the bill is pretty short and sweet, here it is in its entirety:
A BILL to prohibit Federal funding of Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Congress finds as follows:
(1) State and county health departments, community health centers, hospitals, physicians offices, and other entities currently provide, and will continue to provide, health services to women. Such health services include relevant diagnostic laboratory and radiology services, well-child care, prenatal and postpartum care, immunization, family planning services including contraception, sexually transmitted disease testing, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and referrals. 
(2) Many such entities provide services to all persons, regardless of the person’s ability to pay, and provide services in medically underserved areas and to medically underserved populations.
(3) All funds no longer available to Planned Parenthood will continue to be made available to other eligible entities to provide women’s health care services. 
(a) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be made available to 16 Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or to any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics.

(b) RULES OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this Act shall be construed to—
(1) affect any limitation contained in an appropriations Act relating to abortion; or
(2) reduce overall Federal funding available in support of women’s health.
The primary beneficiaries of the legislation will be Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). FQHCs already have far more locations than Planned Parenthood and treat far more patients: over 21 million a year, according to the Government Accountability Office. FQHCs provide holistic care on a sliding scale. Not only do they offer contraception, well woman exams, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screenings, in violation of Planned Parenthood's purported monopoly on women's health, FQHCs also offer a wide range of primary health care services for women, men, and children that Planned Parenthood doesn't. And they somehow manage to do all that without killing anyone and dissecting them for parts. Imagine that.

President Obama has vowed to veto the bill. He is far too deep in Planned Parenthood's pocket to see reason. But the legislative vote is worth having, because it gets lawmakers on the record and sets the stage for another vote once someone who respects the right to life is in the White House.