Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Apparently protecting embryos is more extreme than severing babies' spines.

Pro-choice activists mock the most socially unpalatable aspects of the pro-life position. Broadly speaking, pro-lifers believe human life is morally relevant when the human organism begins: as a zygote. This means we oppose killing not only fetuses, but also embryos and zygotes. And so, while we primarily object to surgical abortion, many of us also object to embryonic stem cell (ESC) research, contraception that prevents implantation, and aspects of in vitro fertilization (IVF)—all processes the public tends to be a lot more okay with than abortion.

Pro-choicers like to emphasize these objections, implying or outright saying we’re out-of-touch zealots with whacked priorities. They paint a dystopian picture where women can’t access the most common forms of contraception, people keep suffering from ailments ESC could have cured, and infertile couples have nowhere to turn. They usually go further and suggest we want people to suffer in various ways, or at least we are indifferent to suffering as we elevate the welfare of microscopic one-celled “seeds” over everyone else.

I have plenty of problems with these assertions. It’s obnoxious when people ignore your stated motivation in favor of the secret more sinister motivation they’re sure you have. It’s equivocating to try to claim motivation is more about effect than intent. And the dystopian predictions require a whole host of assumptions beyond “zygotes are morally relevant” to actually come true.

But what annoys me most is the hypocrisy.

If zygotes are morally relevant, pro-lifers have to argue for socially unpopular opinions, like that certain forms of contraception may be immoral. That’s true. But if fetal life is morally irrelevant, pro-choicers have to defend (or, more typically, wholly ignore) socially unpopular realities, like that healthy women abort healthy fetuses 4 months into pregnancy and beyond thousands of times a year. They abort fetuses developed enough that Planned Parenthood can harvest intact organs. They abort fetuses developed enough to sometimes survive the abortion by accident.

Most Americans consider contraception morally acceptable; they’d likely be averse to a worldview that takes a moral stand against certain forms of it. But at the same time, most Americans recoil at the idea of late-term abortion of healthy fetuses carried by healthy women. I think many simply don’t realize how extreme the American version of abortion rights is. (Other first world countries have abortion laws more restrictive than our own.)

Moreover, when darkly predicting what pro-lifers want to do about contraception, ESC, and IVF, pro-choicers are theorizing about what could happen someday if XYZ factors come to pass. But the dismemberment of late term fetuses is happening now. It’s already a reality, and it’s not even a secret.

Remember last year when Carly Fiorina said this regarding the CMP videos?

Fiorina got a lot of flack for allegedly making things up, but pay attention to the nature of the objections. People were quick to point out that the CMP videos never had a scene exactly as Fiorina described. So the objection was “There isn’t specific video footage of what she said!” The objection was not “Planned Parenthood never harvested the brains of fetuses who were developed enough to have a heartbeat or kick their legs.” You know why? Because Planned Parenthood has done that. They don’t even deny it.

The entire CMP controversy is a great example of pro-choicers ignoring the most perverse aspects of the American pro-choice stance. The rampant accusations of edited footage and public deception all focus on whether PP profited in their exchange of fetal organs for money, not on whether they harvest fetal organs from late-term fetuses. They do. But sure, let’s talk more about what might happen with the copper IUD and ignore that we’re ripping babies apart.

(Yes, I said “babies.” I get objecting to calling a zygote or blastocyst a “baby” because of the completely different imagery the word brings to people’s minds. But when I’m talking about fetuses at this level?

Objecting to calling ^that a baby is, to me, just another way of trying really hard to pretend this isn’t happening.)

The typical pro-choice defense here is that late-term abortions are due to fatal fetal abnormalities or threats to the mother’s life. It’s no doubt true that, proportionally, late-term abortions are more likely to be for those reasons than earlier term abortions are. But what research we can find indicates most late-term abortions aren’t done for those reasons. Pro-choice activists try to use heartbreaking stories of planned pregnancies gone horribly wrong to sidestep the more common scenario of healthy late term fetuses aborted in far less dire situations.

For the most part Americans seem to take the “abortion is a necessary evil” perspective. On average, Americans think early term abortion ought to be legal but remain divided on its morality and resistant to late-term abortion. And yet we already have the regular destruction of fetuses who were so developed all but the most insistent pro-choicers would recognize them as babies.


How much darker would things get if more of America moved from a pro-choice perspective to a pro-abortion one? We’re not even getting into what could happen if our society switched from “abortion: the necessary evil” to “abortion: the responsible, empowering, moral choice.” We’ve already had glimpses of that world, with issues like renaming "infanticide" as "after-birth abortion," claiming that "killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person," and resisting requirements to try to save the lives of babies who accidentally survive abortion.

And this is what I mean by hypocrisy – pro-choicers bash us for being concerned about aspects of IVF, but what does the average American have a bigger problem with? IVF clinics possibly shutting down someday, or people tearing babies’ legs off now? Which worldview really has the extreme repercussions here?

Note I’m not saying pro-choice people are all okay with late-term elective abortion. I think--and polls back me up--that most of them are pretty uncomfortable with it. But I am saying it’s a fact of the American pro-choice political platform. And late-term elective abortion isn’t the only extreme aspect of this platform.

This is the platform that forgives Planned Parenthood for failing to report or, worse, covering up rape and sex trafficking. It’s the platform that has inspired Sanders to vote multiple times against criminal penalties for harming a fetus during the commission of a crime. It’s the platform that had Obama voting against legislation to protect preterm infants who accidentally survive abortion—because such protections would “undermine Roe v. Wade.”

Do you follow that? What does it say about American abortion rights if they’re threatened by specifying legal protection to born babies whose parents had wanted to abort? Obama isn’t the only one who sees the problem. When Gosnell was found guilty of severing the spinal cords of born babies, some abortion rights supporters objected to him being charged with murder—because what he’d done was so similar to late-term abortion. You’d think this similarity would suggest a problem with late-term abortion, but apparently instead it’s a problem with how society reacts to killing born babies. We are through the looking glass here, guys, and it's not the pro-life side that pushed us there.

And while most pro-choicers wouldn’t go so far as to outright defend Gosnell’s infanticide, plenty did follow the same strategy they typically follow when we get to the edges of the pro-choice position: “If we just don’t talk about this, maybe it will go away. Let’s keep pretending our defense of abortion has no relation to literal murder. Maybe we should write a snarky blog about how pro-lifers are suspicious of the Pill.”

I think the most relevant abortion debates take an unblinking look at early term abortion and discuss its many moral, legal, and social factors. But I don’t think every single abortion debate has to focus on only the most common forms of it. I think it’s fair to look at the trickier, less socially acceptable implications of a perspective (be it defense of zygotes or lack of defense of newborns). But if pro-choicers are going to scrutinize the edges of our side, they should have the courage to look as critically at their own. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

New Mom Code

When I hear the phrase “Girl Code” I think of some randomly numbered meme dictating who you’re allowed to date. 

Well if there were 1,718 rules more important than this one,
maybe it's not as serious as it sounds.

But today I saw a small collection of stories about women helping other women (often strangers) out of potentially dangerous social situations with no explanation needed, and they said that was “Girl Code.” Much better definition, in my opinion.

I think both genders can benefit from help from strangers in awkward or potentially dangerous social situations, and we should all do what we can do avoid becoming part of the bystander effect. But in the particular (and sadly not uncommon) case of women experiencing harassment or violence from certain kinds of men, it makes sense to me that fellow women who have previously experienced this would be especially inclined to step in and try to help.

There’s an analogy here to motherhood. You can find a bunch of different articles online about what we’re supposed to include in the “Mom Code.” Some of it I agree with, some maybe not so much, but the recurring theme I do like is: moms help each other out. As the author summarizes: 
“I’ve had mom friends lend me last-minute Halloween costumes, bring my family dinner, and take pictures of my kids during the Christmas play. In turn, I’ve happily contributed to meal trains for new moms, picked a friend’s kid up from practice, loaned out books and DVDs, and dropped off good chocolate when I could tell a friend just finished a particularly rough day.”

This kind of support is wonderful at any stage of parenthood. But since I’m still a relatively new mom (my daughter is 14 months old), I wanted to focus in particular on helping out moms with newborns.

I’m happily married and my daughter was planned. I had the luxury of putting on hold other aspects of my life (work, my degree, SPL, whatever) in order to focus on recovering from a C-section, taking care of my little one, and adapting to such a different chapter of my life.

Let it begin...

Even with such a good setup, there were still times, particularly in the first few months, when I felt pretty overwhelmed. I now understand much better the kind of physical and emotional exhaustion brought on by long-term sleep disruption; the frustration of having few chances to really focus on anything for more than a couple moments; and the alienation of suddenly being home and away from other adults so much more than before.

I can only imagine what all of that is like for new moms who are single or in problematic relationships, or who have to go back to work or school or other responsibilities before they’re ready. I expect if their pregnancies were unplanned it will typically feel even more intimidating.

So, as a subsection of Mom Code, I propose New Mom Code: helping her out especially in the first few months after she has her baby.

Of course you don’t have to be a parent to pitch in. I was touched by the help I got from my friends, none of whom have children. Most of them were classmates from my graduate program, and pretty busy with their lives. Yet they found time to provide me company, encouragement, a break in routine—oh, and food. That doesn’t hurt.

Keep in mind: a lot of times new parents will be too exhausted and inundated to reach out and say “Hey, think you could help me with XYZ?” If you are in the position to, just take the initiative and call them up: “I can come over on this day and run some errands, clean something, watch the baby while you get a nap, bring lunch, whatever. Let me help.” There are plenty more suggestions online to choose from. 

Don't underestimate the precious gift of parent naps!
"Best Case Scenario" by Danielle Guenther
Also keep in mind: a lot of people are already great about this support for the first week or two, but, at least for me, it was more like the first two or three months that I could really use the help.

I think other mothers are more likely to realize how much support a new mom can use, and so may be more likely to know what to offer and more tenacious about paying forward the kindness they received (or wish they’d received) when it had been their turn. But really any of us can and should pitch in. It’s a very pro-life thing to do!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Four Terrible, Yet Common, Pro-Life Arguments

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

Truth matters. I hope that I don't come off as pretentious or pedantic with this post, because that's not my intention. But the reality is that there are many arguments going around Facebook that are really, really bad arguments but are shared by well-meaning pro-life people who ought to know better.

The problem with memes is that they oversimplify issues and they convince no one. There's a reason why Frank Beckwith's Defending Life is 229 pages long, and Chris Kaczor's The Ethics of Abortion is 260 pages. It takes time and effort to build an argument, even if it only one pithy sentence to attack it. Memes are rhetorically powerful but lack substance. You can't present a compelling argument by sharing a meme. We really ought to quit sharing memes because they're helping contribute to the intellectual decline of our society.

Let's start with the first one.

This argument states that since you are pronounced dead when your heart stops beating, you should be pronounced alive when your heart starts. But there is an immediate problem apparent with this meme: pro-life people don't believe life starts when the heart does, but it begins at conception. So why do so many pro-life people share this meme and make this argument? It presents a false case for the pro-life position, and it's also scientifically inaccurate.

I would encourage you to read Maureen Condic's "Life: Defining the Beginning by the End". Defining when life ends is not exactly clear-cut. When the heart stops beating has traditionally been seen as the event which heralds in your death, but with the advent of organ transplantation technology, around the 1960's the medical community changed it to brain death so that they could keep your body alive to allow your organs to stay alive for transplantation. However, even if we look at the heart stopping its beats, it's not that event, per se, that causes your death. When your heart stops, your cells shortly thereafter cease being able to communicate as a unified whole. It is this cessation of unified communication that is the actual death of a human being. So if we're going to take a symmetrical view to life, life begins when our cells start being able to communicate as a unified whole, which begins at fertilization. If we expect pro-choice people to believe that science is really on the pro-life side, we can't use scientifically inaccurate arguments to make our case.

This next meme compares a human being to a bacteria, which is a false analogy. Additionally, it equivocates on the term "life" (which is usually the domain of the pro-choice advocate). Plus, it's another scientifically inaccurate, or at least very simplified, meme. Scientists may have discovered bacteria on Mars during the Viking program of the 1970s. However, saying that finding bacteria would be finding life on Mars is not the same thing as saying that they have found intelligent life on Mars.

For the heartbeat response, see my response to the previous meme. Thankfully, I have seen a better version of this meme, which says "if a single cell would be considered life on Mars, then why isn't a single-celled zygote considered life here on earth"? But that meme is still bad for the same reason. Additionally, a single-celled zygote is considered life by scientists. They simply don't believe that life to have personhood status.

The reason that this argument is such a terrible one is because not all animals are protected by law. It is not illegal to kill chickens, cows, etc. for food. However, eagles are an endangered species, so they are protected by law. Humans are not currently an endangered species, but it is conceivable that if a catastrophic event happened and humans suddenly became endangered that our government would outlaw abortion.

Finally, I'd like to address this argument, which I've seen several times in the past few days. The simple fact is this argument sets up a strawman to knock down. When a pro-choice person is saying "it's my body", there are at least three different things they might mean by it (in my experience). There might be some people who argue that the embryo/fetus is literally a part of the woman's body, but usually what they mean when they say "it's my body" is 1) It's in the womb, it's not in the world yet. We should terminate the pregnancy because bringing it into the world in my present situation would be to harm it (an "environment" argument, the E in Stephen Schwartz' SLED test); 2) It's in my body, and I can do whatever I want with anything in or on my body (a "sovereign zone" argument); or 3) I am not morally obligated to remain plugged in as life support, even if it is a full human person (a "right to refuse" argument).

So this meme doesn't respond to any of these three people. At best, it responds to a very small minority of pro-choice people who believe the embryo/fetus is a literal part of her body, like an appendage. But that's not what most pro-choice people mean when they say that.

Plus, to say "if it were your body, you'd be the one that dies" is silly, because that's only true of vital organs. You can remove one kidney, your appendix, your tonsils, etc., without dying. The only thing this statement would prove is that the embryo/fetus is not a vital organ.

My reason for writing this article is because I'd really like to see pro-life people raise the intellectual stakes when it comes to engaging with pro-choice people. Don't misrepresent their arguments but respond to their arguments directly. Don't use bad arguments against abortion, but stick with the good ones. The only thing sharing these memes serve to do is pat each other on the back and preach to the choir, but we should care more about winning the person than simply winning the argument.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Pro-Life Women's Conference is just one month away

The Pro-Life Women's Conference will be held Friday, June 24 through Sunday, June 26 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. Meet SPL president Kelsey Hazzard, join SPL for our "infidelicious" Sunday morning breakfast, learn about our upcoming Hyde Amendment campaign, and take in the incredible all-female speaker lineup, which includes abortion survivors, physicians, political activists, pregnancy center leaders, Millennial feminists, former abortion workers, adoptive parents, and more, headlined by former Planned Parenthood manager Abby Johnson.

This conference is the first of its kind and we are thrilled to co-sponsor. It's not too late to register. See you there!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Just don't have sex"

A pro-choice friend shared this tweet recently, via Women's Rights News on facebook:

Well, Jessica, that day has arrived. SPL has never been an abstinence-only organization, but we are totally comfortable saying that men who are unprepared to deal with fatherhood should not have sex.

This statement is hardly revolutionary. Men are capable of self-control, after all. To suggest otherwise is to perpetuate rape culture. Surely, if we can insist that men abstain in the absence of mutual consent to avoid the trauma of rape, we can also insist that men abstain in the absence of readiness to parent or make an adoption plan to avoid the destruction of human life.

We're not even asking for total abstinence. Not all forms of sex lead to conception. Oral sex is still on the table. Try mutual masturbation. Try anything that won't send the little swimmers on the path to an egg.

Contraception is, of course, also an option. If you are not looking to become a father at the moment, but are a decent enough human being to step up to the plate on the 1% chance you do conceive, and you've had that conversation with your partner, then very well. 

But if you're the sort of scumbag who would demand an abortion from your partner in the event of an unplanned pregnancy, you have a very important role to play in reducing the abortion rate: just don't have sex.

Monday, May 23, 2016

My childhood church finally stood up for unborn children

Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard speaking. I hope you don't mind me being a little more personal than I usually am on this blog.

Although I've been an atheist for years, I grew up in the United Methodist church. It's not a fire-and-brimstone denomination. I'm fortunate in that my memories of church are mostly positive: Silly Songs with Larry, Vacation Bible School, and my role as the narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in my senior year of high school (the peak of my short acting career).

Photographic evidence
But in retrospect, my church lacked courage. We stuck to happy, uncontroversial charitable activities. Our membership was overwhelmingly white and we didn't make any significant effort to change that. And we definitely steered clear of abortion. 

Once I was old enough to understand, I was disturbed to realize that not only was my home church silent, but the denomination as a whole was officially "pro-choice." As a result, even when I was a Christian, I was a secular pro-lifer. While a student at the University of Miami, I volunteered at a local Methodist after-school program, and simultaneously led UM's Students for Life group in active opposition to my church's teaching.*

The conflict wasn't enough to make me leave, at least not right away. Atheism was a gradual process for me; the Bible and key doctrines stopped making sense, and I came to see that I could be good without God. But the fact that leaving my church didn't require me to leave behind my pro-life networks too probably helped ease the transition.

Last week, the United Methodist Church finally took a step forward for human rights and voted to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). RCRC is SPL's polar opposite and advocates vocally for abortion.
Speaking for the withdrawal, delegate Katherine Rohrs from West Ohio, said she’s heard time and again about the need to stay at the table because the UMC’s voice matters, but nothing has changed.
“RCRC refuses to talk about unborn children as just that,” Rohrs said. “They refuse to condemn abortion as a form of birth control or gender selection. They affirm abortion in any way.”
Is this enough to make me return to faith? No; at this point, I don't think anything would be. But it's nice to see my childhood church do the right thing.

* Last month, abortion advocates at Southern Methodist University vandalized a pro-life display.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Seven Pillars of Life in the Abortion Debate


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

When does life begin? This question is one of the most argued in the abortion debate. Many on the pro-choice side say it begins with birth; only then is the child "really alive." This definition has gained some popularity to defend abortion. Is this definition of life scientifically sound? What are the qualities that biologists, people whose job it is to study life, define it by?

Daniel E Koshland, Jr., writing in the journal Science, offers a neutral definition. He states that life has seven pillars: programming, improvisation, separation, energy usage, self repair, adaptability, and separation of processes. Something that has all seven of these attributes—be it a bacterium, a whale, or a human being—is biologically alive.

First, programming. Life has a program or set of instructions that say how it is to be built. In the case of a human being this would be DNA, which encodes for our various genes. Without DNA, there is nothing to tell what proteins get made, or whether the eyes should be on the front or sides of the head. Unborn babies need to have this; without it, nothing happens. 

Second is improvisation, meaning that the above code can be changed if things don’t work out. This isn’t talking about the individual creature changing, but the code itself changing over time within a population. Improvisation here is another word for evolution. Since humans have evolved and are subject to natural selection, we meet the improvisation pillar. An unborn human is part of that improvisation. 

Third is that the program needs something to separate it from the outside world. This could be a bacterium’s cell membrane or human skin, but there needs to be a well defined boundary that holds the organism. Again, from conception humans have such a boundary: first more primitive, then, eventually, the complex organ that is our skin.

Fourth is that a living organism must take in energy, whether from the sun or from eating other organisms. The energy and nutrients are used to build up the organism’s framework and keep it living. Unborn humans obviously do not "eat" in the conventional sense, but they take in energy nutrients via the umbilical cord.

Fifth is that an organism must have a system in place to repair any damage that happens. This involves keeping muscle fibers working and bones strong, replacing cells that break or tire. The early human is able to do more than simply keep in shape: it grows, multiplying cells at an incredibly rapid pace.

Sixth is adaptability; this is like improvisation, but at the level of the individual organism rather than the population. If something bad happens to an organism, it needs to be able to change its behavior in the present in order to survive. This can range from simple reflexes in response to pain, to complex cognitive decision-making. Again, human development involves adaptability from an early stage. Individualized brainwaves are detectable from 6 weeks and 2 days, showing individual neural activity. A week later the embryo will kick if startled, demonstrating the ability to adapt to the surrounding environment, if only in a simple way. These processes show that human adaptability starts early in the womb.

Seventh is the ability to separate different reactions. This means that the food going into your stomach doesn’t get mixed with the blood pumping from your heart. In a simpler example, a bacterium needs to manage the food it just ingested and break it down into useful components. Again, this becomes evident in humans long before we are born. Each of our cells must be able to keep reactions separate otherwise they would be unable to live.

The human embryo meets the seven-part test. The unborn child has a program which is part of evolutionary improvisation; is separated from the outside world and requires energy in order to live; not only repairs itself, but grows; and reacts to stimuli. Finally, the reactions that power these processes are carefully separated, allowing the baby to live.

Life, biologically speaking, begins long before birth.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Last chance for reduced-rate rooms at the Pro-Life Women's Conference

The first-ever Pro-Life Women's Conference will take place Friday, June 24 through Sunday, June 26 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. Mindful of the fact that Hyatt is expensive and wanting the conference to be open to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, the conference organizers booked a block of rooms at the Hyatt for a reduced rate.

That reduced rate expires today. So if you want to have the best opportunity to network with speakers and fellow attendees, and you don't want the inconvenience of having to drive to the conference each day from another hotel, no more procrastinating!

More info about the Pro-Life Women's Conference:
The all-female speaker list includes abortion survivors, physicians, political activists, pregnancy center leaders, Millennial feminists, former abortion workers, adoptive parents, and I could go on. There are also Spanish-language sessions. Headlining the whole shebang is Abby Johnson. It is going to be awesome. 
Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will speak during a Saturday afternoon breakout session. She "will present on pro-life apologetics with a particular emphasis on reaching non-Christian, LGBT, and other minority audiences with the pro-life message." We will also have a booth where you can meet Kelsey, along with two of the advisory board members for our upcoming Hyde Amendment project. 
Of special interest to non-Christian folks, Secular Pro-Life will once again sponsor a Sunday morning breakfast; it was a hit at the Life/Peace/Justice Conference last month and we hope to make it a tradition for all pro-life conferences that fall on a Sunday. For Christian conference attendees, the Radiance Foundation will host worship services at the same time as our breakfast.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jumping through ideological hoops for pregnancy care

Today's advice seeker writes to Secular Pro-Life:
I'm a married mom who is currently pregnant. I needed a medical verification of pregnancy for insurance, so I went to a free pregnancy center. I received the verification, but first they asked me for a lot of information that I felt was intrusive given my situation.
I was clear the entire time that I was a married woman in a long term monogamous relationship with my spouse, and that this is very much a wanted pregnancy—I just needed the verification for insurance, and I didn't want to go to Planned Parenthood to get it. They asked me quite a few questions about my religion and asked if I'd be open to talking about God. I left there feeling a mix of grateful that they exist, but really dirty and somewhat violated by the information I was asked to provide.
I'm living in the Bible Belt, so that might be why, but things like this are why nobody wants to recommend crisis pregnancy centers to those in need. I wonder if there actually ARE any secular ones. Thanks!
That really sucks. I suppose it's better than a place where 94% of pregnant patients are sold abortions, but still. You shouldn't have had to endure a lecture when it was OBVIOUS your baby was in no danger and they were just after a religious convert. 

Every pregnancy center is different and it depends a lot on the philosophy of the individual volunteers and staff. Being in the Bible Belt is definitely a factor. I note that the Birthright chain of pregnancy centers has a non-proselytizing policy, but most of its locations are up north. 

Then again, I know a devoutly Christian pregnancy center director in Tennessee whose non-Birthright center provides regular STD screenings for a trans patient without judgment. As the pro-life movement as a whole comes to see the value of the secular perspective, pregnancy center leaders are taking note. I'm also greatly encouraged by the rise of the student-led Pregnant on Campus movement, which offers much of the material support of pregnancy centers but without the religious mission. 

Loyal readers, do you have any further suggestions for finding the pregnancy care resources that fit best?

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Canadian March for Life, Tomatoes, and Progress

[Today's guest post is by Alan Trahan.]

For the second year in a row, I took my home-made “We're Here, We're Queer, We're Pro-Life” sign out with me and my wife to March for Life on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Just like last year, it was an incredible experience. I can't count the number of people who came up to take our picture, or just to quietly thank us for being there—even (or perhaps especially!) among the many, many conservative Catholics in attendance. Only one person we talked to told us that gay marriage was destroying families, and even he made sure to thank us for participating first. It was an amazing crowd, with an opening address by an Algonquin elder and attendees including both robed brothers of the Missionaires del'Evangile and the president of the Pro-Life Humanists.

After the march, when Billie and I decided to strike out early for our car, we were accosted by a group of counter-protesters just past the police escort's line of sight. They pelted us with tomatoes while running past us, screaming, “We're here, we're queer, we riot!”, flipped us off, and called us fascists. We were not the only protesters targeted; at least one other group, the aforementioned Pro-Life Humanists, had their banner vandalized by the fruit-wielding activists. And the previous night a number of people interrupted a candlelight vigil, causing a ruckus in which two people were arrested.

This feels significant not because we were violently persecuted—I mean, really, it was tomatoes, my first reaction was to laugh!—but because these incidents are demonstrative of the way some of the more radical segments of the left have been shifting. While the pro-life movement has been expanding, developing, and reforming itself, explicitly prioritizing love and care over blame and harassment and even helping abortion workers to leave the profession, it seems like the most hardcore pro-choicers have been adopting the same tactics they used to love accusing our side of. Recent incidents include bricks thrown through windows and aggressive disruption of pro-life events, and anyone on a university campus can tell you how difficult it can be to keep any kind of pro-life messaging intact and in place for long.

But the most important part of this, I suspect, is the fact that it was my transgender self and the humanist group that were specifically targeted. (Stopped by a crossing light a safe distance away from us, our new friends re-emphasized their chant with an outraged, “We're queer too!”, as if this somehow had bearing on the comparative validity of their mainly vegetable-based argument.) To the marchers, it seems, even if we're heathens, queers and humanists are allies in a struggle that transcends any lesser differences. But to the counter-protesters, we're a clear and present danger. We're evidence that this isn't just the campaign of religious patriarchy they want to dismiss it as, but a movement that can and will involve all kinds of people, and is doing so more and more every year. I think that worries them, and I think that's a really, really good sign.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Meta-analysis bolsters evidence for abortion-preterm birth link

Last summer, Secular Pro-Life launched Prevent Preterm, an educational campaign focusing on preventable risks for premature birth. Among them: a history of elective abortion.

Prevent Preterm's summary of the medical literature, written for laypeople and available for free here, included over 100 studies when the campaign launched. Since then, the evidence that abortion is a risk factor for preterm birth in later pregnancies has only grown.

The latest study was published in the May 2016 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. It is a meta-analysis (a.k.a. a "study of studies") encompassing over a million women. The majority of the 36 studies analyzed involved women who had obtained abortions; a handful involved women who suffered miscarriages and subsequently required surgical procedures which, like common abortion methods, forcibly open the cervix.

The result, consistent with the existing body of research, is that abortion and similar procedures are associated with an increased risk of premature birth in subsequent pregnancies. The finding was statistically significant.

The authors recommend non-surgical (medical) abortion as a safer alternative, but on that point, the science is less settled. A Chinese study published in the Archives of Gynaecology and Obstetrics in September of 2011 (Vol. 284 no.3 pp.579-586) found an increased risk of premature birth following medical abortions, too. But to date, the bulk of the published literature has focused on surgical methods. More research is needed. In the meantime, women seeking abortion of any kind deserve no less than full informed consent.

Guttmacher Institute studies concerning the reasons that women abort indicate that most women who have abortions have not yet completed their childbearing. Women report feeling unprepared for parenthood at the time of the abortion—typically for financial reasons—but being open to parenthood in the future. Some even report getting an abortion out of a desire to set up an ideal situation in which to parent sons and daughters not yet conceived.

These statements show a tragic lack of awareness of abortion's long-term consequences. A child born preterm may face lifelong health problems. And ironically, those problems are often expensive, creating a financial burden on the family—precisely the outcome the mother sought to avoid by having an abortion.

You can help by talking to your friends about the latest meta-analysis and by sharing Prevent Preterm graphics on social media.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pro-Life Humanists plan presence at Reason Rally

Crowd photo of the 2012 Reason Rally, via Wikimedia Commons

The Reason Rally will take place in Washington, D.C. on June 4. The organizers invite those who "know that you can be a good person without believing in a god" and "think public policy should be based on scientific evidence, not religious beliefs" to gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial for an event featuring various humanist celebrities and luminaries. (One of them, unfortunately, is Bill Nye, who totally bungles the scientific evidence that informs abortion policy.)

Secular Pro-Life has been stretched thin with other spring/summer events this year (including the Pro-Life Women's Conference coming up soon), but our friends at Pro-Life Humanists will be at the Reason Rally and we encourage you to join the fun:
20,000+ people attended the 2012 Reason Rally and at least double that number has been projected for this one. PLH will be doing outreach via a big bright banner, literature, "Thwart Don't Abort" condoms, and engaging people in civil discussion. Come help out for an hour or for the day! 
More than six million American "nones" are pro-life—and yet Secular Pro-Life gets "I'm so excited to find you guys, I thought I was the only pro-life atheist!" emails on a regular basis. We need to show our brothers and sisters that they aren't alone, and attending the Reason Rally is a great way to do just that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pro-life accommodation of Trump would be a grave mistake

In December, we wrote:
Trump as the GOP nominee, or (FSM forbid) the President, would be a disaster for the pro-life cause...
If it comes down to it, I will refuse to hold my nose and vote for Trump. I have many personal reasons for this, but keeping my focus on abortion, here are three. It's not clear he's even on our side.
His positions on life issues are incoherent...
His off-the-cuff blustering and insults will bite the pro-life movement in the ass...
And finally, the biggest reason of all...
If Trump does oppose abortion, it's for all the wrong reasons. Trump has amply demonstrated that he does not have much love for humanity. His deplorable treatment of women, Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and anyone who disagrees with him goes way beyond the realm of normal rough-and-tumble politics and into the realm of dehumanization...
Trump's opposition to abortion clearly is not rooted in respect for the immeasurable value of human beings. Respect is not part of Trump's moral vocabulary. What it is rooted in, only he knows in his heart. My money is on simple pandering.
We stand by our previous comments 100%.

Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee. That is not a merely a disappointment to accommodate. It is a tragedy to mourn.

Unfortunately, some pro-life organizations appear to be leaning toward accommodation, despite the plethora of red flags well summarized by Talking Points Memo:
Their approval comes after Trump repeatedly roiled anti-abortion activists by wobbling on some of their stances or even blowing up their talking points. He caught flack last year for speaking positively of Planned Parenthood, as anti-abortion lawmakers flirted with shutting down the government over its federal funding. They jumped on Trump again this spring for the opposite reason, saying something too extreme: that women should be punishing for seeking abortions if the procedure is outlawed. 
Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life Education and Defense Fund, called the remark "completely out of touch with the pro-life movement" and Trump eventually walked it back. But he antagonized them yet again last month, when he said he would change the GOP's anti-abortion platform to permit exceptions in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother -- an idea that March for Life Action's Tom McClusky said "set back years of hard work in the pro-life movement.”

However, now that Trump is the presumptive nominee it appears anti-abortion groups are falling in line behind him. Priests for Life and Susan B. Anthony List both told the Washington Times they would support him in the general election.
The TPM article specifically notes that pro-life groups active in the political realm are happy with Trump's decision to hire John Mashburn as an adviser. The SBA List, among others, applauds Mashburn's pro-life credentials. I've never met the man; I extend the benefit of the doubt and assume he's the genuine article. And I believe in the good faith of the SBA List, too. I don't mean to suggest that each and every Trump supporter must turn in their pro-life cards. We should try to transcend our political differences whenever possible.

Unfortunately, a single adviser, no matter how fantastic a defender of human life he or she may be, cannot possibly outweigh the damage that Trump has already caused—let alone the damage he would cause if actually elected to the highest office in the land.

I humbly suggest that there are worse things than having a pro-abortion president. We currently have one, you'll recall, and despite that fact we have managed to bring the abortion rate to its lowest level since Roe v. Wade. Abortion businesses are shutting down left and right, even in blue states. As Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America wisely put it: "While many of us use our voting power to elect those who share our values and we hope will help us save as many innocent lives as possible, our answer, our win, doesn’t come from politics. It has and always will be culture. As our culture changes, so does our politics and the positions of those who run for office."

A President Trump who calls himself "pro-life" and grossly dehumanizes nearly everyone he encounters, while prominent abortion opponents stay silent or even openly support him, is a cultural wound that could take another 46 years to heal.

Is that a price we're willing to pay to replace Scalia with another pro-life Justice? Should pro-lifers vote third party? Should we write in protest candidates? Should we leave the presidential ballot blank and just vote in the Senate and House elections? Secular Pro-Life doesn't have the answers. We welcome a discussion of those questions, knowing that they torment the consciences of pro-life people across the nation.

One thing is for sure: the way we respond to this challenge will have years-long, life-or-death consequences.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Deja vu all over again

A sidewalk counselor whose sign reads: "You can stop and talk to me.
I was a teen mom. I've been there."

I write today to point out an interesting parallel between two public policy debates that, at first glance, don't have much to do with one another. But the exact same argument is being used in both.

The Battle of the Buffer Zones. For decades, pro-life advocates have stood outside of abortion centers. Some merely protest or pray; others, the sidewalk counselors, offer alternatives to the mothers going in to the facility. Sidewalk counselors save lives, and the most effective ones can reduce demand enough to make an abortion business unprofitable.

Enter "buffer zone" laws, which purport to ban pro-life advocates from public property like sidewalks within a certain radius of abortion centers. Since nobody wants to claim the financial motive for buffer zones, the abortion lobby instead claims that buffer zones are needed because sidewalk counselors are likely to commit acts of violence within the buffer zone. For example, New Hampshire state senator Donna Soucy recently asserted that her state's buffer zone law—very similar to the one the Supreme Court unanimously declared unconstitutional two years ago—"balances safety with free speech."

The pro-life counterargument is that acts of violence are already illegal. The supposed justification for buffer zone laws is clearly unnecessary. Treating the peaceful pro-lifer on the abortion center sidewalk as a presumptive criminal is incredibly offensive, discriminatory, and does nothing to improve safety. It is also a violation of federal law, namely the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech and the well-established body of law prohibiting viewpoint discrimination in that context.

The Battle of the Bathrooms. This has dominated the news cycle for several months, and has come to a head most notably in North Carolina, which passed a law requiring people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their birth certificate. The measure was a reaction to a Charlotte ordinance extending anti-discrimination protections to LGBT individuals.

Despite the fact that North Carolina's bathroom law was quite obviously prompted by the T in LGBT, proponents of the birth certificate requirement (both in North Carolina and elsewhere) have suggested a less inflammatory justification: namely, that the requirement promotes safety by keeping male sex criminals out of women's bathrooms.

What bathroom-bill proponents are asking for is in fact a buffer zone, albeit based on one's genitalia rather than one's bioethical views. So the counterargument is easily predicted: committing a sex crime in a public restroom is already illegal. Treating the masculine-appearing or trans person* in the ladies' room as a presumptive criminal is incredibly offensive, discriminatory, and does nothing to improve safety. And what do you know: it violates federal law, too.

The parallel is striking. But human nature being what it is, people aren't always consistent. Some of those who appreciate the "it's already illegal" argument in the context of trans people going to the bathroom ignore it in the context of sidewalk counselors saving lives, and vice versa.

If you accept the argument for one but not the other, please explain yourself in the comments.

* These are, of course, two different things. As many people have pointed out, many trans people "pass" well and thus avoid scrutiny when using the bathroom of their choice, but stick out like a sore thumb when using the bathroom mandated by law. Conversely, women who are XX and have female reproductive organs but do not dress in a traditionally feminine way can be singled out and humiliated for going to the ladies' room.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Clara, daughter of Secular Pro-Life's west coast coordinator Monica, at the Walk for Life

To all the moms:
All the birthmoms,
All the adoptive moms,
All the moms who planned for years,
All the moms of surprises,
All the crunchy moms,
All the soccer moms,
All the women trying to conceive,
All the moms who celebrate milestones,
All the moms who suffer unimaginable loss,
All the teen moms,
All the new moms,
All the moms who've been at it for decades,
To you and yours.

Secular Pro-Life wishes you a safe and happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pro-Life Women's Conference schedule announced

The first ever Pro-Life Women's Conference will take place Friday, June 24 through Sunday, June 26 in Dallas, Texas, and they have put together a phenomenal program.

They've just released their full schedule, and I am extremely impressed. The all-female speaker list includes abortion survivors, physicians, political activists, pregnancy center leaders, Millennial feminists, former abortion workers, adoptive parents, and I could go on. There are also Spanish-language sessions. Headlining the whole shebang is Abby Johnson. It is going to be awesome.

Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will speak during a Saturday afternoon breakout session. She "will present on pro-life apologetics with a particular emphasis on reaching non-Christian, LGBT, and other minority audiences with the pro-life message." We will also have a booth where you can meet Kelsey, along with two of the advisory board members for our upcoming Hyde Amendment project.

Of special interest to non-Christian folks, Secular Pro-Life will once again sponsor a Sunday morning breakfast; it was a hit at the Life/Peace/Justice Conference last month and we hope to make it a tradition for all pro-life conferences that fall on a Sunday. For Christian conference attendees, the Radiance Foundation will host worship services at the same time as our breakfast.

The Pro-Life Women's Conference has reserved a block of rooms at the Hyatt for a reduced rate, but they are going fast and the organizers have informed us that the reduced rate option will expire May 18th. If you were on the fence about attending, now is the time to sign up!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Planned Parenthood boycott list now available for free

For years, Life Decisions International (LDI) has maintained a list of businesses and organizations that fund Planned Parenthood. The boycott list is updated twice a year, as LDI works with those who want off the list to confirm the cessation of financial support for abortion.

The boycott has achieved impressive results: "To date, at least 323 corporations have agreed to stop funding Planned Parenthood’s deadly empire, which has kept an estimated $42.5 million out of its coffers." Not bad!

Historically, LDI has offered the boycott list to pro-lifers for a small fee, in order to cover its research expenses. But as interest in defunding Planned Parenthood has increased, and particularly since the release of the Center for Medical Progress videos last summer, boycott lists have swirled around the internet—and according to LDI, some of these lists are out-of-date or otherwise inaccurate.

So in order to make sure that boycotters have access to an accurate listing, LDI has made the decision to offer it for free.

To obtain the list, you must agree to LDI's terms of use, which include various provisions meant to avoid the problems LDI has observed (i.e., no deleting or adding companies based on rumors). Then you email them at to get your list. The list includes contact information for the companies so that you can (politely!) explain why you will no longer be doing business with them.

If you find the list helpful, please consider a donation to LDI. Their decision to make the list free has been a big hit to the budget.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Review: The Walls are Talking

As we wrote last month, The Walls are Talking is an anthology of stories from former abortion workers, compiled by Abby Johnson of And Then There Were None.

Many of the abortion workers featured in this anthology had religious conversions alongside their ethical ones, and cannot help but insert thanks to God or biblical references. It was distracting for me as a secular reader, but of course they have the right to tell their own stories as they see fit.

I urge you to read The Walls are Talking anyway.

Be warned that it is not an easy read. Abortion workers describe the horrific details of late-term abortions, abortions as birth control, dealing with fetal remains, and exploitation of women and girls that will make your heart break. But we need to know what we are dealing with.

For me, the most impactful stories were the ones about abortion complications. Years ago, when we launched, we advertised it with this graphic:

I had no idea how true that was. From reading The Walls are Talking, it becomes abundantly clear that abortion complications are under-reported. In fact, the victims themselves may not know that they came close to death.

This had never even occurred to me. It's not the sort of thing you could get away with easily at a hospital, where dozens of people touch any given patient file. But at a small, independent abortion business, it's possible to cover up malpractice, and abortion workers have every incentive to do so.

The story that hit me strongest was one of a girl whose father waited in the lobby while she underwent the procedure. The girl, under sedation, had no idea that she was hemorrhaging and that the workers were scrambling to get the bleeding under control (without transporting her to a hospital, of course; that would attract attention). Her father grew concerned as the hours ticked by. The abortion worker—who now deeply regrets her involvement—went to the lobby:
I swallowed hard and masked my own fear with a smile that I prayed didn't come across as forced. "Sir," I started, careful to keep my words from rushing out in a torrent, "I'm so sorry for the delay. We had a procedure that was a bit more complicated than we anticipated, so we really got backed up. We are trying out best to get caught up now."
Technically, every word of the statement to the father was true. She just didn't mention that the "complicated" procedure was his daughter's procedure.

I think the phrase I'm looking for is "deceptively edited."