Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Parents should not be allowed to kill their obligations

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

Ever hear that consenting to sex doesn’t mean consenting to a baby? If you’re discussing abortion, then it’s likely to come up. When women invoke that principle, they’re often lauded for defending their “right to choose.” When a man does the same?

He's a deadbeat.

Non-custodial parents (the overwhelming majority of whom are men) are expected to pay child support. This responsibility stands regardless of if a man used a condom or even if he only had sex on the condition that his partner would abort. When you point that out, expect to hear how child support requirements don’t compare to pregnancy because they don’t limit bodily autonomy or carry physical risks. Many are adamant when they insist this.

They’re also wrong.

The money to pay child support is typically earned using one’s body, and if you don’t come up with it, your body gets put in jail. Incarceration carries a serious risk of sexual assault and other forms of violence, something Rafael Solis’ family knows all about. Solis went into custody for failing to pay child support.

He didn’t come out.

But incarceration isn’t the only consequence of not paying child support. Some states will suspend your driver’s license or revoke other certifications as well. These things clearly impact autonomy, and they last for eighteen years, not nine months. Nevertheless, most people don’t see this as unjust: they understand that helping to create a child also creates a responsibility to support said child.

What doesn’t make sense? That this principle is only applied following birth.

Now, some will respond that a fetus is actually part of her or his mother’s body. It’s a claim Neurobiologist Dr. Kawaljeet Anand’s research doesn’t support: his work suggests a fetus can feel pain at twenty weeks. Neither does the fact that a preborn girl can be observed sucking her thumb at fifteen weeks. Her fingerprints were visible at twelve weeks and her heartbeat became detectable at six. Her unique DNA profile? That goes back to conception. Saying that one person has two neural systems, two hearts, two sets of fingerprints, and two DNA profiles just doesn’t hold up.

Of course, having a baby doesn’t mean having to raise one. People hoping to adopt outnumber available infants, and they aren’t hard to find: the website allows those who’ve been vetted by a licensed adoption agency to create a profile, and they can be searched by location, age, religion, or other factors.

However, children do come with some expectations. The most basic? You can’t kill them to keep from providing support. That shouldn’t just start at delivery.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Whatever happened to PASS?

When I first got involved in the pro-life movement as a college student about ten years ago, I heard a lot about PASS: Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome (or sometimes PAS, for Post Abortion Syndrome). I've noticed that discussion of PASS has faded away in recent years. There are still plenty of active post-abortion groups out there, but the terminology has changed; they generally emphasize regret, grief, and healing rather than a syndrome.

I think this change in language is for the best, for two reasons.

PASS and the DSM
I am not a psychologist, but I did receive my bachelor's degree in psychology and know the basics, so bear with me. Psychological disorders are defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM. (The DSM is typically referred to by its edition, such as the current DSM-5, but since the time period I'm talking about involves multiple editions, I'm just going to say DSM.)

Importantly, DSM classifications are symptom-based. A patient presents with symptoms, which a psychologist or psychiatrist checks against possible conditions in the DSM. For example, the DSM will offer a list of ten symptoms and state that if seven out of the ten symptoms have been present for more than X amount of time, then the patient has Condition Y. It's not perfect—what possible catalog of the human mind and emotions could be?—but this standardization is well-suited for a clinical setting, where symptoms and their treatment are the central concern.

Contrast that with PASS, which is cause-based. One woman with PASS might present with PTSD-like symptoms, such as nightmares or panicked reactions to seeing babies. Another might present with clinical or subclinical depression. Still another might have symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety disorder. The only thing they have in common is the cause of their symptoms: abortion.

Since PASS is cause-based and the DSM is symptom-based, PASS was never going to make it into the DSM. This created an opening for abortion supporters to declare that PASS didn't really exist; it was just a fake disease made up by those unscientific anti-choice loons! Of course, the logical fallacy is easy enough to spot. Just because something isn't in the DSM (which has a narrow, clinical purpose) doesn't mean people don't experience it, and you must not have a high view of women's intelligence or honesty if you believe that tens of thousands of women created and joined support groups for a non-existent phenomenon. But with the help of the media, the "PASS is fake" narrative caught on and the damage was done.  

PASS and Pathology
The second reason I'm glad to see PASS go is that it pathologized women who should not be pathologized. Outside the womb, if a parent kills their child (whether deliberately or accidentally), grief is a common, normal, healthy reaction. Abortion kills a child too, so shouldn't negative reactions to abortion be considered normal?

Calling post-abortion grief a "syndrome" suggests that psychologically healthy women wouldn't experience it. From a pro-life perspective, that's totally backwards. If anything, I worry about the psychological health of women who celebrate their abortions.

Post-abortive healing is incredibly important, and I admire the work of organization like Abortion Changes You that help mothers through that process. I'm hopeful that abandoning the language of PASS for a more holistic view will allow the pro-life movement to reach many more post-abortive mothers in the years to come.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Upcoming Events

September is quiet, but October is going to be very busy.

Friday, October 6 and Saturday, October 7 is the Vitae et Veritas (Life and Truth) conference at Yale University. Secular Pro-Life will have an exhibit table with free literature. Come say hi!

Saturday, October 14 is the Students for Life of Illinois conference at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where we will also have an exhibit table.

Friday, October 20 through Sunday, October 22 is the Life/Peace/Justice conference in Pittsburgh, hosted by our good friends at Rehumanize International with help from the pro-life student organizations at Duquesne and Pitt. Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will speak on "Maximizing the Pro-Life Reach: Pro-Life Apologetics from a Secular Perspective." (Also, it's not set in stone yet, but we may do another Sunday morning "infidelicious" breakfast!)

Finally, it's not too early to be thinking about Roe v. Wade anniversary activities in January. As always, there's the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and the Walk for Life in San Francisco, and the respective Students for Life of America east and west coast conferences.

Also in D.C., the Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life (which I probably don't have to tell you is Catholic) has invited us to participate in a panel on this year's theme: "(Ir)religiously Pro-Life: The Future of the Movement in a Secular World." That will take place on January 20, which is the same day as the Students for Life of America east coast conference. To solve the two-places-at-one-time problem, we anticipate needing more volunteers than usual this year. If you're interested in helping out, please email with the subject line "January volunteering."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Nobody is pro-abortion? These people are.

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

When you’re debating abortion, there are a few lines that tend to come up. One of the most common? “Nobody is pro-abortion!” It’s also one of the easiest to disprove.

In an article for Salon, Valerie Tarico said that she’s “pro-abortion, not just pro-choice.” Tarico isn’t the only one who feels that way, either. Katie Klabusich declared, “Actually, I love abortion.” Meanwhile, Amelia Bonhow started the #ShoutYourAbortion campaign after announcing that her abortion “made me happy.”

Of course, there are plenty of other people who appreciate abortion. Sexual abusers do; they know it’s a great way to destroy evidence. That’s why Edgar Ramirez, Gary Cross, Luis Gonzalez-Jose, Andrew King, John Haller, Adam Gault, Grey David Woods, and John Blanks, Jr. all brought their pregnant victims to America’s largest abortion chain. Rescuing those girls wasn’t a priority: when Timothy Smith brought his thirteen year-old stepdaughter to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, no one called the authorities. As one staffer later admitted, “being thirteen and pregnant alone is not a red flag” there.

Abusive partners like it too. Abortion helps them avoid child support, which is why women have been smothered, shot, stabbed, burned, and beaten to death for refusing to have one. That’s something else Planned Parenthood isn’t eager to change: it opposes legislation to protect women from coercion and violence.

Human traffickers also like abortion. A survey of trafficking victims published in the medical journal Annals of Health showed over half had at least one abortion while being trafficked; some had over a dozen. As one woman put it, “No one ever asked me anything anytime I ever went to a clinic.”

And there’s another group of abortion fans: racists.

Black children make up a disproportionate share of those aborted, something former KKK leader Tom Metzger approves of. He calls abortion “non-white population control,” telling his followers to “invest in ghetto abortion clinics” and “raise money for free abortions.” Planned Parenthood has been happy to accept their help: in 2008, the group Live Action caught staff agreeing to take donations from people who said they wanted black kids aborted.


Federal funding for Planned Parenthood started under President Richard Nixon, a man who favored aborting mixed race children and thought abortion could “control the negro bastards.”

Whether it’s sex predators, abusive partners, pimps, or racists, plenty of folks are indeed pro-abortion. If you’re not a fan of their agenda, show it by supporting anti-coercion laws (Planned Parenthood opposes them). You can also tell Congress that Planned Parenthood’s federal funding should be redirected to federally qualified health centers and community health centers instead; they’re more accessible and offer non-violent services Planned Parenthood doesn’t.

Children face too many threats; your tax dollars shouldn’t be one of them.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A pro-life activist's unplanned pregnancy story

Above: an adoptive parent and child participate in a pro-life rally
[Today's guest post by Debby Wakeham is part of our paid blogging program.]

I was 27 years old, living in the UK and bringing up two children single handed after my divorce. I was also running a small secular feminist pro-life group called Women for Life, which had enjoyed some media attention (when we could get past the censors who always want to stereotype pro-lifers as male, misogynist religious fanatics!). So it was no real surprise when there was a knock on the door one afternoon and a man stood there, saying he was a journalist sent to interview me by my friend and fellow Women for Life member, Ellen (not her real name). My five-year-old came to the door with me and the man said: “You are lucky to have children, I can’t have any.”

The man introduced himself and seemed quite knowledgeable about the abortion controversy and claimed familiarity with mainstream pro-life groups which, in the opinion of Women for Life, could be counterproductive with their religious underpinning and opposition to contraception. We got on quite well; he said he was Jewish and had been in a concentration camp. He said he had seen some horrible things and I felt sorry for him.

Time passed and evening drew in. We decided to go for a drink – luckily I lived in a flat and babysitters were not hard to come by. He ended up staying for 3 days, during which time he claimed to be fatally ill and I was not to worry if one day he disappeared.

I became increasingly uneasy about him. Though there was no hint of aggression or violence, intuitively I knew something was not quite right – especially when he claimed to be making a telephone call to the Guardian newspaper in Fleet Street. I knew the Guardian was not in Fleet Street.

I was relieved when he went and immediately had the locks changed. I told Ellen about his visit and it turned out that he was not a journalist; he was in fact her current boyfriend and she had not given him my name and address or encouraged him to interview me. She thought he must have stolen it from a letter from me in her handbag. I apologised profusely for what had happened but she realised it was not my fault as I didn’t know; he had lied to me.

I began to wonder what else he had lied about – sterility for instance? I was not in a relationship at the time so I was not taking the pill. Neither did he (being ‘sterile’) offer to use a condom. I had been at the most risky time in my menstrual cycle, so it was a case of Wait and See – or as it turned out, Wait and Not See.

A short while later, I visited the doctor about an infection. My older child was at school but I had to take the younger one with me. I asked the doctor to tell me if I were pregnant as I did not want any treatment that would harm the baby. He examined me and said I was. On learning that the pregnancy was accidental, he said something which made me think he considered me to be naive and solely responsible for the pregnancy. I said: “What – no word of condemnation for the man?” He then said: “I want you in hospital before you are 8 weeks.” I said: “What for?” He replied: “If you’re going to have a termination...” That is as far as he got. I told him in no uncertain terms that I was not and that the child would probably be adopted.

When I got outside the surgery, I felt nauseous – he had made his lethal offer in front of my five-year-old.

I made a list of pros and cons of keeping the child versus adoption. It was not particularly helpful; it came out 50/50. I decided on adoption but resolved to keep the child if s/he were disabled. I was lucky in that I knew about adoption at first hand; I had myself been adopted as a baby and my parents had wisely told me very early on that they had chosen me specially. I remember the day my sister (also adopted, no blood relation) arrived – a tiny baby in a large pram!

The weeks passed; I continued with pro-life activities and my boys went to school. As I began to show, my older son suspected and soon it was time to tell them. I said that some people were very sad when they wanted children but were unable to “grow their own.” I was having a baby and was going to make a couple very happy by giving them the child they so badly wanted. I did not want the boys to feel insecure and that I might one day decide to have them adopted so I explained that because this one was going to be adopted, I would be better able to look after them. They accepted this and the older boy said, approvingly: “That proves you’re pro-life if you’re having an adoption.”

I moved out of the area about half way through the pregnancy and found schools for the boys. I arranged for them to go into temporary foster care when I was due to give birth and they stayed with a very nice family. I was careful not to refer to the growing child as their brother or sister and decided that it would be better if they did not see him or her. I asked the older boy to choose a girl’s name and a boy’s name, and explained that s/he would have to have a name when I registered the birth.

During the pregnancy, I encountered varying reactions to what I was doing: Some people thought I was “wonderful” or “unselfish” – not so. There was a lot of legitimate self-interest. In the circumstances it was best for me and best for the child – and I had prepared the boys well. Other people, even pro-lifers, said: “How could you give up your own child?” My mother thought it was sad that I had to go through pregnancy and have nothing at the end of it; she meant this kindly. I told her it was not sad – it was very positive and someone had had to go through it so that she could have me. Very few, if any, people could handle the fact that I was actually happy about what I was doing.

Women giving children for adoption are always assumed to be under pressure to do something they don’t want to do – and desperately unhappy as a result. I accept that this can happen (though hopefully not so much as it did in the past) and it is totally unacceptable.

I do believe, however, that women have the right not to be mothers, provided this is achieved non-violently – either by preventing conception or, if conception occurs, ensuring the best possible future for the child. I hope my own birth mother made her decision freely – I would rather she had not wanted me than been heartbroken at having to give me up.

I arranged the adoption through the (now defunct) National Children Adoption Association; I chose this organisation because it was secular. I also wanted the child brought up, like me, knowing that s/he was adopted. As s/he was conceived after the passage of the 1967 Abortion Act, I wanted the child to grow up appreciating and affirming the right to life.

The Director described prospective parents to me and said I could choose those I liked the sound of. I was so certain of my adoption decision that I did not want the child fostered beforehand, though this was an option for those who were undecided. I wanted the child to go straight from hospital to new parents. The Director offered me the chance to meet the parents I chose and I said yes. I could change my mind at this point if I wanted, and any time in the ensuing three months, after which the adoption would become legally binding.

The birth was at the due time and was quick, as if the baby wanted to cause me minimal inconvenience. I had decided that I would see the baby but not feed or look after him, in order to minimise bonding. I looked at him and immediately fell in love – but it was not a possessive love, my decision remained unchanged. Just after the birth, a nurse asked me if I was having him adopted because I wasn’t able to get an abortion. She meant well. I told her my reasoning and she respected my decision as it was my “right to choose.” Pleasant though she was, I felt she had somewhat missed the point.

My breasts were bound to dry up the milk. I was in hospital for a week, during which time I saw him often and even fed him once and changed a nappy. It felt strange bottle feeding after having breastfed the others. Many friends came to visit and the time passed quickly. A photographer came and I ordered a picture; the baby was then 4 days old or, as I said when asked, “nine months and four days old.” The picture was beautiful; he had a Buddha-like appearance and a Mona Lisa smile.

There was an unpleasant incident one lunchtime: Some of the other new mothers said: “How could you give up your own child – why didn’t you have a termination?” So I told them, in graphic detail.  I think the image of him being “chopped up in bits and thrown into the incinerator” turned their stomachs. They said: “Ugh, can’t we talk about something else?” To which I replied, “I was asked a question and I must answer it.” It was not until years later that I thought I understood how they could be so irrational. They had obviously bonded with their babies and probably perceived me as cruel and heartless for (as they saw it) for abandoning him – utterly unable to see the fatal flaw in their position.

The Director of the adoption society came and we planned that I would meet the baby’s new parents in her office. I would leave him in the hospital when I was discharged and we would all converge at the office the next day.

I arrived wearing a large badge with a picture of an unborn baby surrounded by the words; “Give life a chance” so his parents would be under no illusions as to my ethical framework. They arrived with their older child (also adopted) and the baby was brought in. I said to the little girl: “Have you seen your brother yet?” and she bent over the cot, looking at him with interest.  His new mother had bought the most expensive baby milk you can buy and they promised to look after him very well. His father said to me: “Some people make me very angry.” I can’t quite remember the conversation up to that point but I remember feeling certain that he was referring to the tragedy of babies being aborted when they could have lived to be adopted.

I left feeling very happy that he had such a wonderful family who would bring him up with integrity and love. I wished we could have been friends, but confidentiality meant that there would be no direct contact. They said they would keep the name I had chosen as the child’s middle name, just as they had with their daughter. I told them I was adopted and that it had never been a shock to me; I had been brought up knowing – they said they would do the same. Indeed it must be so, as they had involved their older child in the first meeting with her little brother, who was 7 days old. They had said: “We love him already.”

At the postnatal examination, the male doctor (a different one) asked me how the baby was.  I said I was sure he was fine; he had been adopted. The rather predictable response was: “Oh, have you accepted it? Couldn’t you get a termination?” to which I replied: “No, I don’t believe in killing.”
I resumed life with my boys, who appeared then (and ever since) to be unscathed by the whole series of events. I was visited by a social worker, a kind of intermediary between me and the child’s new parents. I guessed the 3-month cooling-off period would be agonising for them, so I asked the social worker to assure them that I was not going to change my mind.  He said that he would. He was excellent – very professional and we got on really well. In due course the adoption went through and my baby was legally the child of his new parents.

Four months later, I got a beautiful photograph of him sitting in a high chair, with a lovely note from his parents saying he was getting on very well and now sleeping through the night.

I continued with my pro-life activities. His parents had been told that I sometimes appeared on television or had letters/articles published and they were fine with this. I had a letter published in a national newspaper in response to some article on abortion. I wrote of my experience and said that children were not disposable. This prompted one of their journalists to contact me with a view to doing a full page feature. I went to her house for the interview and was also photographed. I was very pleased with the published article; she had not distorted anything I said and reported true, including the fact that I was atheist and pro-life and the sadness of women (like a friend of mine) who have abortions and say: “My child would have been six years old” – and the fact that if women are sad after having babies adopted they can in all probability derive some consolation that they can say: “My child is six years old.”

Six years after the adoption, another journalist whom I knew, Mary Kenny, wrote an article in the Sunday Telegraph entitled “Adoption: Too few babies to meet the demand” in which she told my story. Imagine my delight when she wrote to me to say she had had a letter from my child’s adoptive father. He had read the article and was very moved by it. They wanted her to tell me that the child was getting on very, very well and they were going to keep the article and one day they would show it to him when he was grown up.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Don't Forget: The White Supremacist Movement Supports Abortion

[Today's guest post by Perri is part of our paid blogging program. This post was submitted some time ago, and was originally slated for publication this past Monday, but was postponed for obvious reasons. For our official statement on Charlottesville, see here. For more information about the "alt-right" white supremacist movement, see here.]

White supremacist leader and abortion
advocate Richard Spencer
Pro-choice liberal feminists and the alt-right would like to consider themselves polar opposites in every way. And in most ways, they are. But when it comes to abortion, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

It turns out that those mean alt-right “Nazis” are not in favor of “forcing a woman to go through with a pregnancy,” as it is so often put. Rather, they are in favor of “degenerates” and undesirables weeding themselves out of the population through the use of abortion.

In a video defending political commentator Tomi Lahren’s pro-choice views, alt-right icon and self-described “Identitarian” Richard Spencer states that “People who are having abortions generally are very often black or Hispanic and very often in very poor circumstances to be honest,” highlighting that abortion mainly affects populations that the alt-right considers not worth reproducing.

Spencer adds, tellingly, “and so the anti-abortion crusade becomes this human rights crusade…that every being that’s human has a right to life and so on and that’s not how we think as Identitarians.”

Spencer’s view of the pro-life philosophy, labeled by the alt-right commentator as “a kind of dysgenic, ‘we are the world’ dogma” echoes the sentiments of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who is believed by many to have been a eugenicist who targeted African-American children for extermination.  According to the most recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics (2013), non-Hispanic black women had the highest abortion rate and ratio whereas non-Hispanic white women had the lowest abortion rate and ratio. The CDC report states that there were 664,435 abortions reported that year.

Most members of the alt-right, who concern themselves only with the wellbeing of white children, are not at all distressed at the mass death toll of abortion because many of the children killed are not white. And those that are white, they believe, are terminated children of “degenerates”- drug addicts, hedonists, and other irresponsible people whom they feel should not be breeding anyway.

This wholesale dehumanization of the fetus and rejection of life is held in common with more mainstream or liberal pro-choice views. Although liberal feminists like to couch their pro-choice dogma in statements about a “woman’s body,” the fact remains that these individuals are choosing to dehumanize and disregard the life of the fetus in the very premise of their argument. If the abortion debate is only a matter of “her body, her choice,” that negates the existence of the fetus.

While the alt-right is dehumanizing these children on the basis of race and the activities of parents, liberal pro-choicers dehumanize children on the basis of age or developmental stage. Discrimination is discrimination. Both groups are able to arrive at a pro-choice philosophy as a result of negating the worth and existence of the fetus.

If you are a pro-choice liberal feminist, please think about the logical basis of your arguments and whether you can really defend them when placed under a humanitarian lens.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Heather's Story

Heather Hobbs with her children Alexandria, Tristan, and Gideon
[Today's guest post is the personal story of Heather Hobbs as told to Feleica Langdon. It is part of our paid blogging program. Feleica is a provincial pro-life speaker in Newfoundland and the regional coordinator in NL of Campaign Life Coalition working alongside the provincial coordinator, Margaret Hynes. She also runs the Life Defenders facebook page.]

I grew up in an abusive household, and as a teenager, I vowed never to bring children into such a horrendous world - a perspective shaped by my upbringing.

The callousness of the world was proven once more when I was violently raped by my abusive boyfriend. That violation shattered me, and in spite of being on birth control, I became pregnant from that rape. Coming from a staunch pro-choice background, I didn't know any other way out of this situation other than abortion!

Things went from bad to worse when my rapist found out that I was pregnant. He found me, beat me, and proceeded to choke me. I remember feeling my baby flutter for the first time just before I passed out.

Upon waking up in the hospital and explaining everything that was going on, I was asked if I wanted an abortion. Remembering feeling my baby move , I refused to terminate. Embracing my daughter's life saved mine in every way imaginable. My baby was just as innocent in all of this as I was. 

Looking back I can tell you with the utmost confidence that my daughter, Alexandria, gave me purpose. She is what I needed to live and grow; she helped me heal and to see beauty that I hadn't before. I don't see her as being the "child of a rapist"; instead, I see her as the child of a rape survivor!

When she was four I married a wonderful man named Jeremy who accepted my little girl as his own. My husband and I wanted to give our daughter a sibling. To our surprise we were already pregnant due to the failure of the IUD Mirena. Unfortunately, I had a difficult pregnancy. I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, acute pancreatitis due to gall stones, and cholestasis. With my health deteriorating quickly, the doctors suggested that we have an abortion; when we refused the doctors said at the very least I would need to be induced early and undergo surgery immediately.

We were life-flighted to Portland and we received the care we needed. Tristan was born on my birthday and is perfect in every way!

On my third pregnancy we thought we were finally going to catch a break. Everything seemed to be going so smoothly; however, at 24 weeks along I knew something wasn't right. Upon medical investigation it was determined that I had cholestasis again, but something also showed up on the sonogram. There was a big black hole in his stomach and it was determined that he had a meconium pseudocyst. His intestines had ruptured and his body had built a calcified shell to hold the stool. We were told by specialists that he wouldn't live and that I needed to abort before the sac ruptured and I became septic.

I refused and signed the necessary waivers saying I was continuing the pregnancy against doctors' orders. We drove two hours in the snow and mountains to see specialists who kept an eye on the cyst.

At 28 weeks I went into quick and active labour. Every parent longs to hear that cry when their child comes into the world, but when Gideon was born, he was purple and silent. You could cut the panic with a knife and they whisked him away for what seemed like forever. He made it through emergency surgery but the doctors still didn't expect him to make it. Fast forward 18 months and 11 procedures later. Our son is happy, healthy, and excelling above the milestones for his age.

If you've been raped and have found yourself pregnant, Alexandria was my diamond in the rough and has brought me the healing that abortion would have stolen from me. Don't let abortion steal that healing from you! If you don't think you can parent, place your child for adoption! If you have received a difficult maternal and/or prenatal diagnosis, don't concede to the pressure to terminate. Yes, you may need to induce labour early, but then it's left up to your child! Premature babies and their moms beat the odds everyday!

I know you're scared, but I hope that my testimony will encourage you to give your child a chance at life! They have so much to offer this world and teach you! Jeremy and I are currently pregnant with our fourth child and couldn't be happier with our precious family. Watching our kids interact together brings us so much joy! Each pregnancy has had its own set of challenges, but Jeremy and I have grown as a couple and as parents through all of it. We can't picture our lives without either one of them and are so glad that our family doesn't have to deal with the hurt of abortion! We hope yours doesn't have to either, and if it already has, that you find healing!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Adoption is Not About "Giving Up"

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

Recently, Secular Pro-Life shared a throwback post about the stigma of adoption. They (rightly) pointed out that the stigma is going away for teens, but is still rampant for women over 21, which is the highest demographic for abortion. In the comments, we see so much support for women and a lot of great ideas about how to change this cultural problem. Yet, even those sympathetic to the pro-life cause are still using old language to discuss adoption.

As a linguist (that sounds more impressive than it is), I truly believe that words matter and they help shape our perceptions, which eventually form our culture. So, I’d like to share a quick fix you can incorporate into your mindset and vernacular to help reduce the stigma of being a birth mother who chooses adoption.

Try this: use “place for adoption” instead of “give up for adoption.” It’s a small change, but a powerful one. When we use the word “place,” we open up a new world for women who are carrying unplanned life inside of them.

After all, who among us likes to think of ourselves as someone who “gives up”? It perpetuates a defeating mindset to hear the phrase, even though we might know cognitively that it’s not what we mean. Understanding the background of a word doesn’t always translate when we’re talking about sensitive subjects and emotionally connected decisions. Using “place” gives women a sense of choice, rather than a sense of desperation. It is an empowering word that emphasizes the strong role that women play in the future of our society.

In addition to the feeling of choice, using “place” highlights the reality of choice. Many women don’t realize that adoption has changed so much over the last 100 years. Gone are the days of orphanages, and infants placed for adoption don’t go into “the system.” Rather, adoption agencies work with families and birth mothers to make a good fit so a woman can feel comfortable knowing her child is going to be in a family with the love and resources she desires for her baby. The birth mom has a choice in who her child will be with and how often (if at all) she will receive updates about the child’s welfare.

The point here is that we want to raise adoption to the status it deserves. We want women to understand the heroine they become for families that feel incomplete and can’t add children for whatever reason. Many adoptive mothers I know, including myself, have suffered either from infertility or particularly difficult pregnancies themselves. Not a single adoptive parent that I know judges our children’s birth moms. Why would we? They all chose to birth their children, and for that we are more grateful to these women than we could ever explain. No matter the choices a woman made that led her into an unplanned pregnancy, she showed her strength when she made the choice to let her child live.

Monday, August 14, 2017

YouTuber calls abortion a "necessary evil." He's half right.

[Today’s guest post by Adam Peters is part of our paid blogging program.]

Are you a fan of social justice? Do you think intersectional feminism has something to offer? Do you dislike hearing the f-word said in a British accent? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then there’s a YouTube channel you probably won’t enjoy.

Sargon of Akkad makes videos criticizing “the regressive left.” He doesn’t identify as a conservative, however, and rejects positions many conservatives hold. That includes his stance on abortion: during a conversation with fellow YouTuber Dave Rubin, he called it “a necessary evil.”

He’s half right.

Abortion is evil, and the later it happens, the more evil it gets. That’s evident from Dr. Kawaljeet Anand’s research indicating a fetus feels pain by twenty weeks. Dr. Anthony Levatino is a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist who has performed over twelve hundred abortions; here, he describes what a twenty week abortion entails.

The Supreme Court said in Wilkerson v. Utah that “punishments of torture” like dismemberment are too cruel for convicted killers. For children in the womb? Apparently not.

That abortion destroys an individual isn’t just evident at twenty weeks. After all, a little girl can be seen sucking her thumb at fifteen. Her fingerprints are present at twelve and her heartbeat is detectable at six. While some contend abortion only impacts a woman’s body, arguing that one body can have two brains, two hearts, two sets of fingerprints, and two DNA profiles is a little hard to take seriously.

Not that children are the only ones harmed. There’s evidence many women feel pressure to abort, and they can face violence when they refuse. That includes being smothered, shot, stabbed, burned, and beaten to death, which partly explains why homicide is a leading cause of death during pregnancy.

Changing this isn’t a priority for America’s largest abortion chain: Planned Parenthood has opposed legislation to protect women from coercion and violence. Further, when Texas state Rep. Molly White proposed a bill requiring that abortion centers have a private room with a telephone to contact law enforcement, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas called the move “not needed.”

Some men use abortion to avoid child support; others use it to make money. The medical journal Annals of Health published a survey of human trafficking survivors; it showed over half had at least one abortion while being trafficked. In a video produced by the anti-trafficking group A21, you can hear a survivor named Nicole describe being coerced into two abortions—an experience she calls “the hardest.” Listen to her story and then decide whether Rep. White’s bill would have helped.

But isn’t abortion often necessary? For example, aren’t late-term abortions only done to save a woman’s life? Nope. In Albuquerque, Southwestern Women’s Options offers elective abortions through twenty-eight weeks.

What if you’re just not in a position to parent? In that case, abortion might seem like the only alternative. It’s not.

Having a baby doesn’t mean having to raise one, as there are literally millions of people seeking to adopt. Many are interested in “open adoption,” an arrangement in which the birthmother knows the adoptive parents and usually has some role in the child’s life. One place to look for them is a website called It allows those who’ve been cleared by a licensed adoption agency to create a profile; you can search them by location, family size, and other criteria. More information about adoption and parenting along with material support can be found at pregnancy care centers.

Many cite rape as an example of why abortion is necessary; they rarely explain why someone like Rebecca Kiessling deserved to die for her father’s crime. Rebecca is an attorney and an adoptive mother; she was also conceived in rape, and she’s only alive because abortion was illegal at the time.

And while there’s no proof abortion helps deal with emotional trauma, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that women who abort have a higher suicide risk than those who don’t.

Sargon says he’s interested in “finding the truth of the matter using rational arguments backed up by evidence.” If so, he should re-examine his views on abortion. Yes, the facts show that it’s evil. But necessary? Not so much.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Human Beings Begin as Zygotes: Refutations to 8 Common Pro-Choice Arguments

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is meant for biological definition purposes. It is not meant to establish or argue any moral or philosophical points.
A zygote is a human being.  

1.  The zygote is an organism.
Fertilization – the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism – is the culmination of a multitude of intricately regulated cellular processes. [Marcello et al., Fertilization, ADV. EXP. BIOL. 757:321 (2013)]
This is not a new concept. The zygote has been recognized as an organism for decades:

"The zygote and early embryo are living human organisms.[Keith L. Moore & T.V.N. Persaud Before We Are Born – Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects (W.B. Saunders Company, 1998. Fifth edition.) Page 500]

"Embryo: the developing organism from the time of fertilization until significant differentiation has occurred, when the organism becomes known as a fetus."[Cloning Human Beings. Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Rockville, MD: GPO, 1997, Appendix-2.]

"Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed."[O'Rahilly, Ronan and Muller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29.]

"The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote."[Sadler, T.W. Langman's Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]

Some pro-choicers imply that the zygote is in some nebulous “in between phase” – not a gamete but not a human organism. But biologically, life cycles do not contain such a phase. In humans (animals), our life cycle goes from diploid organism, which produces haploid gametes, which combine to form a new diploid organism. The zygote isn’t in an unknown stage; it's the same organism as the grown adult, but at an earlier stage of life.

The Diplontic Life Cycle

2. Every organism is part of some species, and the human ZEF is part of the human species (Homo sapiens) by virtue of its human DNA.

A species is defined as
 (2) An individual belonging to a group of organisms (or the entire group itself) having common characteristics and (usually) are capable of mating with one another to produce fertile offspring. 
Please note that "capable of mating" does not mean at any given instant. For example, newborns are not capable of mating, but are still organisms of the human species. "Capable of mating" refers to an organism who should be capable of mating in their lifetime, barring sterility. And on that note, also keep in mind that there's a difference between an individual organism being sterile vs. an organism having developed genetic changes which render reproduction with his origin species impossible (speciation).

Every organism is part of some species. There are no "non-species" organisms. The organism is part of its parents’ species. For example, two honey-badgers cannot reproduce and create a frog; their offspring would also be a honey-badger. Furthermore, an organism can never change its species mid-development (in the middle of its life). A honey-badger zygote develops into a honey-badger adult; a honey-badger zygote can’t develop into a frog adult.

One species can develop into another species over many generations. This is called speciation. Speciation most often occurs when one species is split into two or more geographical groups (allopatric speciation). Genetic changes accumulate over many generations, not within a single lifespan, such that if the groups ever met again, they would not be able to produce viable offspring. That's when you can say "these are now two different species."

But we would never say "this offspring is an organism but has no species membership."

Human zygotes are human, both because their parents are human and because they have human DNA. They are not part of some other species, nor do they lack species membership.

3. An organism that is a member of the species Homo sapiens is a human being.

There are other definitions of human being, including “a person, especially as distinguished from other animals or as representing the human species.” I am only referring to the biological definition of human being when I use the term:
1. any individual of the genus Homo, especially a member of the species Homo sapiens.  

CONCLUSION: Since the zygote is an organism and a member of the species Homo sapiens, it is a human organism and therefore biologically a human being.

Below we present some topics that have been brought up as questions or objections.

Q1. Chimerism

Put simply, a chimera is a single organism composed of more than one unique DNA type (or antigenic marker on red blood cells). In animals, this can result from the merging of 2+ zygotes into one entity (tetragametic), or from twins sharing blood supply in gestation ("blood chimeras" have more than one blood type). You can be a microchimera if you received blood from mom early in gestation, if as a mother you received fetal cells during pregnancy (as most do), or just from a blood transfusion. You're even considered a chimera if you received an organ transplant. Chimerism is usually asymptomatic, but rarely it can result in things like intersexuality if it results from absorption of a twin.

The important thing to note is that a chimera is still one individual human organism. From the britannica article:

Chimera, in genetics, an organism or tissue that contains at least two different sets of DNA. In dispermic chimeras, two eggs that have been fertilized by two sperm fuse together, producing a so-called tetragametic individual—an individual originating from four gametes, or sex cells.When two zygotes do not undergo fusion but exchange cells and genetic material during development, two individuals, or twin chimeras, one or both of whom contain two genetically distinct cell populations, are produced. 

You may be a chimera and not even realize it. You may have multiple DNA types due to absorption of some cell types or an entire other organism -- and this doesn't change the fact that you are still an individual human organism.

The reason this is brought up as an objection is because people sometimes think of DNA as some sort of marker of individuality, and therefore they may see multiple markers of DNA as a sign of "multiple individuals." DNA can function as an individuality marker, but it doesn't always as is evident in the case of identical twins. DNA is simply a code of instructions for the body to function effectively as an organism. That's it. If it is unique to you, and you only have one set of DNA -- great! If you do not have unique DNA, or you have multiple unique DNA sets -- you're still a singular human organism. 

Q2. Twinning

This objection usually goes something like: A zygote can twin, therefore how can you say it's an individual human being before the potential twinning stage is over?

This objection is interesting because by extension, none of us are individual human beings. Why? Well twinning is essentially the same thing as cloning. The main difference is that one happens "naturally" and the other happens artificially. The point is, if your DNA can be taken from an epithelial cell on your arm and made into a clone, would spawning a clone mean you were not an individual human being to begin with? With advanced technology, we could all conceivably be in the "twinning" (cloning) phase indefinitely! Yet we're all still singular human organisms.

This is basically the backwards version of chimerism, by the way. Absorbing or spawning organisms does not change the fact that a single organism is still a single organism.   

Read more: Monozygotic twinning, Weasley brothers, flatworms, and cow clones.

Q3. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

"In vitro" means "outside the body." IVF is when we use sperm to fertilize an egg in a laboratory dish instead of a uterine tube (in vivo). The resulting embryo is then placed into the woman's uterus to allow implantation and thus a pregnancy, which is why IVF is considered a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART).

The pro-life objection to IVF is that -- due to time, cost, and failure rates -- companies performing the procedure will always fertilize more than one embryo at a time. Many will then select the highest quality embryos to increase chances of a successful pregnancy. This means either cryopreservation (freezing) of the remaining embryos if the couple wants to pay for it, or destroying them.

In some countries, including the US, multiple embryos can be transferred to the woman's uterus to increase chances of a successful pregnancy. This can sometimes result in multiple implantations (twins or more), but this isn't usually the case, which means the other embryo will have been miscarried.

It's worth noting that although survival rates for IVF are poor, nothing about IVF alters the basic biological process outlined above: gametes join to form a new human organism. It is merely accomplished in a laboratory rather than in the womb. People conceived through IVF are as human as anyone else.

From my perspective, there is nothing inherently wrong with IVF if it were done on one embryo at a time, which gives every embryo the best possible chance of life. But this is not standard practice. Rather, IVF is used to make multiple embryos with the foreknowledge that not all will be allowed to grow and live their life, and in most cases with the foreknowledge that some will die.

One objection to this is: But a large percentage of conceptions die before ever implanting, or soon after. Why is that foreknowledge ok in natural conception, but suddenly wrong if done in a petri dish? 

In natural conception, couples are trying their best to give every zygote a chance to live. If a zygote dies naturally, that is not the preemptive work of the couple creating him/her as it is in most cases of IVF.  

And while I greatly sympathize with men and women who have fertility problems but have a great desire to create their own offspring, the solution is not to treat human organisms as disposable.

Q4. Random Mutations

Through your life, your body replenishes cells via mitosis. Every time a cell is copied, the replication machinery -- while mostly very accurate -- will make mistakes in copying the template DNA. Not to worry, there is proofreading machinery too. However, even this can make mistakes. So in the end, there is some non-zero number of mutations that are incorporated into the new cell which are propagated in that cell line (although you still have your original batch of stem cells).

What this means is that as you get older, some portion of your cells will have a specific DNA sequence that is different than the one you had when you were younger. Some people see DNA as a unique identifier, like a name, and therefore a change in this identifier might mean you are not the same individual.

We all change as we grow. I am not the same person I was when I was 5; I have different memories, experiences, mindsets, functionality, and slightly different DNA. But guess what? I'm still the same organism. While some people may ascribe to the belief that we are not the same "person" we were yesterday, in a scientific sense we are still the same organism. An organism goes through changes in its life, but it doesn't end its life and begin a new one in the same body.

Q5. Life as a Continuum vs Individual Life

We have written about this topic before. The objection goes something like: "Human life doesn’t begin at fertilization; it began millions of years ago."

The objection confuses the life of an individual human organism with life arising from life (also known as the Law of Biogenesis.) The Law of Biogenesis points out that living matter has to come from other living matter. However you, as an organism, were not the precursor molecules that eventually formed you, as an organism. For example you were not sperm and egg. Or an early primate. The precursors that create an organism are not equivalent to the organism itself.

The fact that all life comes from preexisting life does not change the fact that an individual organism's life has a start and end point. And for human organisms, that starting point is always as a zygote.

Q6. Hydatidiform Mole

[November 2018 update: in the original version of this section we incorrectly stated that partial moles are never viable. We have sense learned there are rare cases where such humans have survived to infancy.]

hydatidiform mole (1/1000 pregnancies in the US) is an abnormal fertilized egg which implants in the uterus.

(Q6a) Complete Mole: This abnormality can occur when one (90%) or even two (10%) sperm combine with an ovum that has no maternal DNA; the sperm then replicates its DNA to create an artificially "diploid" cell. This results in a mass of abnormal tissue which can develop into cancer (15-20%) and/or invade the uterine wall (10-15% of all molar pregnancies will invade if not removed). Complete moles have no embryonic growth; there is only abnormal placental tissue. Maureen Condic said it much better than I ever could (the bolded part is most important):
Despite an initial (superficial) similarity to embryos, hydatidiform moles do not start out as embryos and later transform into tumors, they are intrinsically tumors from their initiation. Moreover, they are not frustrated embryos that are “trying” (yet unable) to develop normally. Just as a CD recording of “Twinkle, twinkle little star” is not somehow thwarted in its attempt to play the “Alphabet song” by a deficiency of notes in the fourth measure ..., hydatidiform moles are not “blocked” from proceeding along an embryonic path of development by a lack of maternally-imprinted DNA. Rather, hydatidiform moles are manifesting their own inherent properties—the properties of a tumor. Even in the optimal environment for embryonic development (the uterus), hydatidiform moles produce disordered growths, indicating they are not limited by environment, but rather by their own intrinsic nature; a nature that does not rise to the level of an organism...If the necessary structures (molecules, genes etc.) required for development (i.e., an organismal level of organization) do not exist in an entity from the beginning, the entity is intrinsically incapable of being an organism and is therefore not a human being. Such entities are undergoing a cellular process that is fundamentally different from human development and are not human embryos.
(Maurine Condic, "A Biological Definition of the Human Embryo," Persons, Moral Worth, and Embryos: A Critical Analysis of Pro-Choice Arguments, as quoted by Jay Watts in his article Condic on the Difference Between Embryonic Humans and Hydatidiform Moles, emphasis Condic's.) 

(Q6b) partial mole on the other hand is when a normal ovum is fertilized by two sperm or by one sperm that replicates itself, creating a triploidy or tetraploidy cell. In this case, an embryo/fetus can develop. Rarely is this embryo viable; partial moles usually miscarry and even when they do not the embryo is often overtaken and destroyed by the abnormal placental tissue. However there have been extraordinarily rare cases of triploid human organisms surviving until infancy. These are human organisms with severe and fatal genetic abnormalities.

We have written on molar pregnancies before. Some people use hydatidiform moles as an example to argue that fertilization is not necessarily the beginning of a human being, or that because fertilization can result in these moles, then it's wrong to say a fertilized egg is a human being.

In one sense, they're right. They're correct to say that not all fertilizations result in human beings. Clearly, some result in complete moles. Fertilization is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the formation of a human organism.

However in the vast majority of cases, a fertilized egg is a human organism (human being). The exception really does prove the rule. As the previous blog post pointed out, pro-lifers tend to take shortcuts here and say that fertilization is the beginning of a new human life. Most of the time, that's true. Perhaps it would be better to just say "a zygote is a human being," or something similar.  

Read more: Hydatidiform moles and molar pregnancies

Q7. Miscarriages

According to the NIH, half of all fertilized eggs die spontaneously, and 15-20% of pregnancies (post-implantation) will miscarry.

Q7a) People may cite the high number of miscarriages to imply that abortion is not morally problematic or the zygote is not a human being.

However, there's a clear distinction between natural death and intentional killing. Every human being will die. Some die of cancer (natural death) and some die of gunshot wound (intentional killing). If lots of people die of cancer, would that make shooting them morally acceptable? No. Just because people die naturally, whether in old age or pre-implantation, doesn't mean it's acceptable to kill them, whether by gun or by chemical.

If lots of people die naturally of cancer, does that mean they were not human beings to begin with? Clearly not. Likewise a high rate of natural death in the preborn does not mean they were not human beings. As stated above, a zygote is a human being, whether it dies naturally in a day or in 100 years.

(Q7b) People may also cite the high number of miscarriages to question why pro-lifers don't appear as concerned with the high number of deaths there. 

Why do people speak out more passionately and perhaps more frequently about shootings than they do about cancer? Does it mean that people who die naturally, from cancer, don't matter? Does it imply that they don't really care about people dying in general? Of course not. It makes sense to be more upset by a human being intentionally killing another human being than it does to be upset by a natural cause of death. Furthermore, stopping this type of killing is more likely within our grasp than finding a cure to cancer.

Likewise with abortion: we are far more equipped to stop the intentional killing of young human beings than we are equipped to stop natural miscarriages. And it's understandable that an egregious harm being perpetrated by an intelligent human being (capable of moral contemplation) is more upsetting than harm perpetrated by non-moral agents.

Read more: Nearly half of all fertilized eggs fail to implant

Q8. Skin cells are human!

The skin cells on my arm are human, too. Is it murder if I scratch my arm? Sperm are also human, is masturbation murder? 

This objection conflates "human" the adjective and "human" the noun. Epithelial cells and sperm are human cells, but they are not human organisms. There is a difference between components that make up an organism (epithelial, endothelial, renal, pulmonary, hepatic cells, etc) and the organism itself. Human organisms (human beings) are what pro-lifers are concerned with, which includes the zygote.