Wednesday, January 30, 2019

An interview with Tamika Bassman

Tamika Bassman is the co-president of Students for Life at Berkeley. Secular Pro-Life's Monica Snyder interviewed her about the ups and downs of that experience. Enjoy!

Q: What does the term "pro-life" mean to you?
A: To me, being “pro-life” means that I strive to support the fundamental human right to live for all human beings from conception through natural death, regardless of stage, age, ability, or circumstances. This is what I believe to be called the “consistent-life ethic” in some pro-life circles. I do understand that there are people who identify as “pro-life” but would not agree with all of the ideas underlying the consistent-life ethic. It’s my opinion that debates and controversies surrounding life- and choice-related issues such as the death penalty, euthanasia, and abortion ultimately circle back around to a fundamental question of what makes a human being human, and what aspects of societal organization are compromised when you remove the foundational human right to life. I think “pro-life” connotes the defense of the human right to life.

Q: How did you become pro-life?
A: I first remember hearing the term “pro-life” from my eighth grade teacher at my Catholic elementary school. At the time I must have had no better than a rudimentary idea of what abortion even was, but one of my clearest memories is hearing my teacher say to another student in the class that she would gladly defend the pro-life position to anyone. It was a few years before I had fully explored the pro-life argument to the point where I could say with confidence that I myself was pro-life, but I think it really was hearing someone I knew and greatly respected be so steadfast in her pro-life beliefs that set me in motion to figure out my own beliefs.

In my senior year of high school, my government class held a Mock Congress in which the entirety of the senior class convened for a pseudo-congressional session, hearing students present bills they had written, debating each bill, and voting on each. I wrote a bill that called for ending federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, which ended up getting chosen to be presented at the Mock Congress before my class and a number of teachers. In hindsight I think this was my first step towards defending the pro-life perspective in a secular and majority-pro-choice environment, which describes my high school class as well as the climate at Berkeley.

Q: How did you get involved with Berkeley Students for Life?
A: I joined Berkeley Students for Life my freshman year because I wanted to get involved with a group of pro-life students, which was not something I had ever really experienced prior to college I’ve been a part of the club ever since!

Q: How long have you been President of the group? What has that been like?
A: I became co-president alongside Daniel Frise at the start of the fall 2018 semester, so quite recently. I am happy to have been able to step up in participating in and representing Berkeley Students for Life. The role definitely has its challenges; it’s difficult at best to rally an already small percentage of pro-life students on campus, especially when Berkeley culture tends to encourage everyone to study unceasingly. We also had a number of very active students graduate at the end of last spring, so recruitment and rebuilding are two larger priorities for our club this year. Our Students for Life of America advisor (Anna Bakh) has provided invaluable help and encouragement for us in this process.

Q: What motivates you to stay involved with pro-life work?
A: To paraphrase something I remember reading out of Trent Horn’s Persuasive Pro-Life, the issue of abortion can be seen fundamentally as pretty black-and-white, even though arguments for and against it in various cases quickly get complex. Either abortion does not kill an innocent human being, and most all of the arguments and concerns brought up by the pro-life movement are largely inconsequential, or abortion does kill an innocent human being endowed with the right to live, and abortion is among the largest human rights violations in history. It is difficult to comprehend the sheer gravity of what is at stake in the movement to make abortion both illegal and unthinkable, even before adding on other issues which compromise the fundamental right to human life such as euthanasia and the death penalty.

So in that way, the issue itself is what motivates me to stay involved in pro-life work: the millions of innocent human lives which have no means of defending themselves against their own parents and medical practitioners. They unknowingly rely on strangers who will likely never meet them but are dedicated to ensuring their right to life is protected. As I implicitly already mentioned, I also think that the goal of making abortion “unthinkable” (shout-out to Kristan Hawkins and Students for Life of America) as opposed to “merely” illegal demands those of us who are pro-life to be committed to our activism. We know that laws are destined to be rewritten at the whims of the political climate but that individual perspectives and beliefs constitute the mindset of an entire society.

Finally, this year in particular, following the large pro-life conference which Berkeley Students for Life co-hosted with Pro-Life San Francisco on our campus, my eyes have truly been opened to the amazing diversity of the pro-life movement. We have so many passionate pro-lifers from all walks of life that differ in so many ways but are united by a common belief in the importance of protecting the universal human right to live. I think our diversity is a really important asset that we need to better explore as we sort out our differences between each other so that we can really reach out to and relate with as many different pro-choice people as we can.

Q: How does the group recruit members?
A: A number of methods. Time has proven to me that passionately pro-life students crop up all over the place, and in unexpected places! This year, as we try to rebuild membership, friends of friends have been an important way that we have recruited new members. The conference we held on campus in September was also an important way that we got our name out there to more new students. We also do the typical tabling events at the start of each semester where nearly all the student organizations on campus go out to recruit.

Q: What does the group do? What are some of your projects?
A: Our smaller-scale, more regular events have historically been weekly meetings for our members to have discussions on various life-related issues, as well as tabling on Sproul Plaza, the main thoroughfare through campus that gets the heaviest foot traffic. We have held larger poster displays on Sproul Plaza from Students for Life of America with our advisor Anna, which have been great at stimulating conversations with students and getting thought-provoking questions and images into the minds of passers-by. Each semester, we host a pro-life speaker to debate a pro-choice public health professor as part of a public health ethics seminar, and we also occasionally bring other speakers to campus as well. We bring a group of students to the Walk for Life each year and attend occasional pro-life conferences in the area. This year was our first year holding a conference ourselves with Pro-Life San Francisco on our own campus. It was a great success, so we’re hoping it’s an event that will continue to happen in the future!

Q: Do you tailor your efforts to a Berkeley student population? If so, how? Which efforts have been the most useful/effective?
A: Berkeley’s campus is a generally left-leaning, secular one, including the student government and student newspaper (though I would be remiss to say that there are not large minorities which do not identify with this majority). While UC Berkeley has a history of being the home of the free-speech movement and open sharing of (often radical) ideas, this precedent has definitely been put to the test by the treatment of more conservative student groups, leaders, and organizations. The sensitivity of the campus climate to certain materials, images, and words means that we definitely have to be careful with how we phrase and present ourselves publicly to the student body, or else risk being dismissed all together by the very people we’re trying to reach. I’ve found that the best way to get students to even look at our tabling displays is to simply be calm and reasonable and to present our position in an open-ended way, often in the form of questions on the flyers we hand out or on the posters we display. This seems to let students who may not be pro-life contemplate something they see for themselves, rather than feel barraged by insistent student-activists.

Q: Do you have any projects focused on getting resources to pregnant/parenting students?
A: In the past our club has held diaper and supplies drives for the on-campus Student Parent Center. We also try to spread word when possible in tabling events about life-affirming pregnancy resource centers such as Support Circle.

Q: Do you interact with any student government leaders? If so what has that been like?
A: This last fall semester has in particular been an interesting one for UC Berkeley’s student government. One of our own Berkeley Students for Life club members and officers, Isabella Chow, is also a Senator in the ASUC (Associated Students of the University of California) and came under considerable fire from the ASUC and hundreds of protesting students when she abstained from voting on a senate bill which involved statements surrounding the Trump administration’s proposed changes to Title IX. Daniel gave a very coherent speech in defense of Isabella’s actions at an ASUC hearing, and the both of us have done what we can on social media and in conversation with other students to support her and more broadly the free communication of minority opinions on our campus.

Q: Is there a plan to get more liberals and/or secular people involved?
A: Diversifying our club is definitely a priority built-in to the rebuilding we plan to do this year. When I joined Berkeley Students for Life my freshman year, Catholic students made up the majority of the club. Though I see nothing wrong with that, as most of these students graduated, now is actually an opportune time for us to really try to reach out to other communities on campus as well. 

Q: How can older generations support pro-life college groups and their efforts?
A: We definitely appreciate when they keep updated on the major events on campus and offer us advice as far as methods of outreach and recruitment. Our club over the last decade or so has taken up a number of different tactics for tabling and recruitment from more experienced pro-life activists and supporters, and some of these methods were more effective than others. I think that any and all advice and support we can get from pro-lifers with more experience is helpful, though ultimately how we choose to implement the ideas and strategies of our mentors may vary based on the particular climate of Berkeley’s campus.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Secular Pro-Life is Ten Years Old

When I attended my very first March for Life as a college student in 2009, I saw more crucifixes and Virgin Mary icons than I'd ever encountered in my (raised-Methodist-but-having-doubts) life, and thought it would be cool to organize an explicitly secular march group. And maybe we could put together some pro-life literature without Bible verses in it, the kind of thing my student organization would find useful, and put it on the internet for others to use.

From those modest beginnings sprung Secular Pro-Life. I can't believe it's been ten years!

Another ten years of Roe v. Wade and millions dead from abortion is an unspeakable tragedy. I wish there were no need for Secular Pro-Life to exist. Nevertheless, I am in awe of everything we've been able to accomplish. As a 20-year-old with virtually no leadership experience, I never could have imagined how Secular Pro-Life would grow. "Build it and they will come," indeed!

I want to thank each and every person who has supported Secular Pro-Life over the past decade. Whether your support has taken the form of liking us on social media, or donating funds, or attending one of our many events, or serving on a special project committee like #HelloHyde or #NextNominee, or inviting an SPL speaker to your school, or telling your friends about Secular Pro-Life, or contributing to this blog... thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You've helped change hearts and minds. You've refuted the notion that abortion is a mere "religious issue" and moved the abortion debate to the realm of life-and-death ethics, where it belongs. We may never get to meet the people whose lives we have indirectly saved, but it is 100% worth it. You are amazing.

I also want to take this opportunity to check in with all of you. What do you think we're doing well, and what areas need improvement? What do you want to see more of? What project ideas do you have? How can we help you in your pro-life advocacy? I fully expect Secular Pro-Life to continue for another ten years. (Even after Roe is overturned, there will surely be abortion industry resistance; we are in it for the long haul.) What is your vision for us in 2029? Tell us in the comments!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Walk for Life West Coast 2019 Recap

As has become tradition, we kicked off the Walk for Life with our own meet-up before the rally before the Walk itself. The past several years we’ve partnered with Rehumanize International, Pro-Life San Francisco, and other non-traditional pro-life organizations to host a meet-up in front of the Asian Art Museum typically highlighting the diversity in the pro-life movement, the different ways we’ve each come into antiabortion advocacy, and the many reasons we’re pro-life.

This year was no different. The meet-up, largely organized by our beloved Terrisa Bukovinac (both SPL co-leader and President of PLSF), included many excellent speeches.

SPL co-leader Monica Snyder gave a brief speech about the “comfortable pro-choice person,” that is the pro-choice person who is comfortable with his or her stance largely due to reassuring falsehoods (e.g. abortion is illegal after the first trimester, Roe v. Wade did no more than make legal abortion an option, biology doesn’t tell us when life begins, women only abort mere clumps of cells, the CMP videos were entirely faked, late-term abortions are only ever done for dire medical necessity, and the pro-life movement is just a bunch of old rich white conservative Christian men). She concluded that she doesn’t take as much issue with the pro-choice person who is aware of the truth regarding all these ideas and defends the pro-choice position in context of the facts, but she is very tired of pro-choice people who can’t seem to hold their position with eyes wide open. You can see the full video of the speech (including sources) here.

Other speakers discussed pro-life feminism, the consistent life ethic, the parallels between animal rights advocacy and pro-life advocacy, personal stories about the effects of abortion, and rousing calls to continue marching beyond the walk today and into our towns, school houses, and court houses. And while no doubt not everyone there agreed with every view of everyone else, we did all agree that we’re prepared to set aside differences and work together to fight abortion. Among the attendees and speakers were Christians, atheists, conservatives, liberals, straight, queer, Latino, white, women, men, young and old, and more. Berkeley Students for Life President Tamika Bassman spoke about how inspired she was by the diversity and harmony of last year’s Let There Be Life conference in Berkeley (sponsored by Pro-Life San Francisco); she explained that the conference really emphasized for her how people from all different walks for life can come together on this very important issue. This meet-up highlighted the same unity through our differences. It was wonderful to witness.

The rally before the Walk included speakers Abby Johnson and Patricia Sandoval, both former abortion clinic workers now in pro-life advocacy. At one point both they and several other women, all of whom are pregnant, used megaphones to allow the crowd to hear their children’s heartbeats.

After speeches, the mass of tens of thousands of marchers moved from the plaza onto Market Street, a major thoroughfare through downtown San Francisco. They walked past the downtown skyscrapers and past several dozen counter-protesters to the Justin Herman Plaza and the clock tower at Fisherman’s Wharf. This year marked the 15th Walk for Life, which started with only about 7,000 people in 2004. It’s now the second largest pro-life event after the D.C. March, and gives people who can’t haul all the way to East Coast an opportunity to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Friday, January 25, 2019

THIS WEEKEND: Walk for Life West Coast

After an amazing and inspiring March For Life weekend in Washington D.C., pro-lifers will gather this Saturday in downtown San Francisco for the annual West Coast Walk For Life. This is the largest pro-life gathering on the west cost and, as always, Secular Pro-Life will be there to represent. Below you’ll find a list of relevant activities happening this weekend in SF and we’d love to see you there!

Tonight, Friday 1/25

6:00 PM: Meet at Embarcadero Plaza for guerrilla projection activism with Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust. We will be using a light projector to display large lighted messages on downtown buildings, such as “Planned Parenthood Sells Baby Parts.” It’s going to be epic.

8:00 P.M.: Pro-Life Karaoke at the Mint Karaoke Lounge. It’s basically a tradition!

Tomorrow, Saturday 1/26

8:00 A.M.: Meet at Planned Parenthood on Valencia for a morning rally and vigil with Priests for Life and Stand True. Hope to see you there!

11:15 A.M.: Gather outside the Asian Art Museum for our annual Walk For Life meetup and rally! There will be amazing pro-life speakers including, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, of New Wave Feminists, SPL’s own, Monica Snyder, and Founder of Pro-Life San Francisco (and also fellow SPL Director), Terrisa Bukovinac, among many others! There will be music, fun, and maybe even some local press. Bring the whole family!

1:30 P.M.: The Walk begins. Some of us will likely walk near the front of the line to do a civil rights era style “Die-In” at Embarcadero Plaza. We will explain how to participate at the meetup! It’s going to be a great weekend of solidarity with the pro-life left coast! We Walk in defiance of Roe but we also Walk towards a brighter future for San Francisco and the world. Join us and help spread the word, the future of California is Pro-Life!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

March for Life Recap

Whew. What a whirlwind. Last weekend, in the span of three days, Secular Pro-Life exhibited at three pro-life youth events (giving away a ton of free literature and meeting lots of leaders who'd like to have us speak at their campuses), co-hosted a karaoke fundraiser with Rehumanize International, encountered a ton of incredible pro-life projects at the March for Life Expo, got legal updates at the Law of Life summit... and, of course, participated in the largest annual human rights demonstration in American history.

On top of that, our very own Terrisa Bukovinac (who is also the head of Pro-Life San Francisco) got interviewed for the Today show! If/when it airs, we'll be sure to let you know.

A picture's worth a thousand words, so check out our photo album! And a video must be worth even more words, so listen to Sarah Terzo's rundown of how abortionists rationalize killing and Kelsey Hazzard's pro-life sonnet.

This weekend SPL representatives will be in San Francisco for the Walk for Life West Coast, after which our blog schedule should finally return to normal. Thank you for your continued support.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Blog Hiatus

We will be very busy at the March for Life and associated events! You can find a more detailed schedule here, but to recap:

On Thursday morning, rally with us.
On Friday morning, meet up and march with us.
On Friday night, sing with us.
On Saturday, conference with us (and also this conference, but it's sold out).

See you soon!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

My visit to Planned Parenthood

It is universally acknowledged among pro-lifers that Planned Parenthood is an abortion corporation that should not be supported nor funded through taxpayer dollars. But how many pro-lifers can say that they have actually been to a Planned Parenthood, with the intention of having an abortion? Sadly, I have experienced this first hand, and by sharing my story today I hope that I can prove once and for all that Planned Parenthood is not about “women’s rights” or “healthcare,” it’s about profiting from ending lives prematurely.

It all began in November of 2017. I was in my junior year of college and had just discovered that I was pregnant. I was a resident advisor, taking 15 credit hours, and working a part-time job. I was preparing for graduation and applying to graduate school. A baby was honestly the last thing on my mind. “Just get an abortion,” my friends told me. “You don’t want this one mistake to derail your entire life.” Living in a pro-choice society led me to believe that my baby really was just a clump of cells. With no one encouraging me to continue with my pregnancy, I called Planned Parenthood to schedule my appointment, figuring that it was the best solution for my current situation.

I went into the clinic the following day, and was told to sit down and fill out some paperwork. The clinic itself was clean and brightly lit; encouraging plaques were on the wall that said, “I make my own destiny,” and “ This does not define you.” The emotion in the room, however, was something entirely different. Though I was accompanied to the clinic with my boyfriend, many women sat in that waiting room alone. I saw one girl who could not have been more than 15 years old, silently crying as she filled out paperwork. Her mother sat next to her, stony faced and staring straight ahead. I saw another woman with marks on her arms and neck, foundation poorly covering over what the man sitting next to her had clearly given her. Finally I saw two women who were sitting next to each other laughing as they filled out the paperwork. They were talking about getting manicures after their appointments and “making a day of it.” Though we each came from different walks of life, I couldn’t help but feel connected to each of these women, in the worst way possible.

My name was called after about an hour, and both my boyfriend and I stood up to walk inside. “No,” the nurse said, “he has to wait here, and you have to leave your cell phone and any other recording devices with him.” I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, about to go through a very traumatic experience, and not only was I forced to go through it alone, I couldn’t even have my cell phone with me to use as a distraction or to text my boyfriend. Just wanting the entire nightmarish experience over with, I silently handed my cell phone over to my boyfriend and followed the nurse into the back.

Once I was in the back I was told to sign paperwork stating that I had come there of my own free will and that no one was forcing me to have an abortion. I couldn’t help but think of the young girl and the woman in the waiting room who had clearly been abused by her boyfriend. It hadn’t seemed as if they were there of their own free will, and yet these nurses were doing nothing to help them. I dumbly signed my name on the dotted line and followed the nurse into the examination room.

In the room I was forced to get undressed and was only given a small paper sheet gown to cover myself with before the doctor came in. As I sat there shivering, I kept asking myself, “Am I really doing this? Is this what I really want?” The nurse didn’t ask me if I was okay; she simply sat there, filling out paperwork as we both waited for the doctor. Finally, a middle aged man came in the room and shut the door. “Excuse me,” I whispered. “But isn’t there a female doctor who can examine me?” “Listen lady,” the doctor snapped, “We are short staffed as it is, so if you want this procedure then you’re going to have to deal with me.” “Ok,” I said, “I’m sorry.” The doctor then gave me a transvaginal ultrasound and stated matter-of-factly, “This pregnancy is ectopic.” “What does that mean?” I asked. “It means the pregnancy is developing outside of the uterus,” he stated. “It’s most likely developing in the fallopian tube. Based on the date of your last missed period, you should be 6 weeks pregnant. However, there is no pregnancy showing up on the ultrasound, which leads me to believe the pregnancy is ectopic. We can do a test and schedule an abortion for next week.” And maybe it was the fact that the staff here seemed to have no soul and no sympathy towards me or the other girls, or maybe it was the fact that I was all alone back there. “I want to leave, now,” I said. “Alright,” the doctor said, unfazed, “but schedule your abortion with the receptionist before you leave. I’m a very busy man and only have a few open appointments next week.”

I left Planned Parenthood in tears that day. My boyfriend consoled me, and told me that he would support whatever I decided to do. The following week I went to an actual hospital, and received proper prenatal care. My beautiful baby girl showed up on the ultrasound screen that day, no bigger than a pea. She was not an ectopic pregnancy at all; she had simply been hiding from the evil abortion doctor that day. Nine months later I gave birth to beautiful and healthy Noelle. She is perfect and I am so thankful for every moment that I get to spend with her. Sharing this story is not easy, as I still feel guilty for ever even thinking that I could get an abortion. However, I had decided to share my story today so that others can finally know the truth. Planned Parenthood is not about women’s rights, or about reproductive rights. It only has one bottom line, to make a profit. And they make that profit by attempting to exploit young girls like me and by trying to perform as many abortions as possible. Say yes to life and no to the abortion corporation. Say no to Planned Parenthood.

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

A look at a major New York Times article

On December 28, 2018, the New York Times published a 13,500-word article attributed to its editorial board. A momentous question underlying this article almost receives the recognition it deserves from the authors. In the third paragraph they say this much about the question: a deep shift in American society, away from a centuries-long tradition in Western law and toward the embrace of a relatively new concept: that a fetus in the womb has the same rights as a fully formed person. But the article is titled only “A Woman’s Rights” – nothing about the fetus or its rights – and except for one incongruous sentence near the end, perhaps added for token purposes, this long attack on fetal personhood nowhere directly addresses the question: Is the unborn, fully-formed or not, in fact a person, and thus entitled to rights?

In terms of any direct examination, the question remains an elephant in the room throughout the article.

But the article strongly suggests that the unborn child is actually a zero as regards moral importance. According to the authors, the editorial board, any ostensible belief in fetal personhood is mainly a ruse to mask social reaction . . . to a perceived new permissiveness in the 1970s.

If that is true, then of course the only concern for anyone that the “new concept” really involves is erod[ing] the existing rights of . . . women, and it hardly requires 13,500 words to prove that. Though I strongly advocate anti-abortion laws, if I thought that the unborn was a zero, I too would find it abhorrent to tell women what they can do with their bodies. And if the unborn child is actually a zero, then the abortion issue is not complex or sensitive, and any laws designed to protect the unborn are nothing but the unnecessary and inexcusable headache for women that the article portrays them to be.

Social reaction . . . to a perceived new permissiveness in the 1970s can only be an allusion to a tired and desperate theory (perhaps itself sometimes a ruse), popular among pro-choice feminists, that goes like this: Uptight personalities don’t like it when women enjoy sexual intercourse, so, since they cannot punish them all, they wish at least to punish those who stumble into an unwanted pregnancy, by making them endure what they don’t want. This is supposedly the main reason that anyone opposes the gruesome slaughter of an innocent unborn child.

But let’s just directly ask the question that the article consistently sidesteps: Is the unborn in fact a person?

That the same harm – the same loss of a good – is caused to even a zygote or early embryo, if we kill it, as to a born person, can be shown, in a way that is perfectly satisfying to thoughtful secularists, by an argument that is usually attributed to Don Marquis. We owe much gratitude to Marquis for the most precise and thorough formulation of the argument so far, but actually the essence of the argument has been present for a long time in Indian philosophy, and was also stated perfectly, sixty years before Marquis was born, by pro-life feminist Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to declare her candidacy for the US presidency.

Following the logic of that argument, personhood is ultimately semantics, a fight over definitions, but in the context of a proposal to kill any organism, the most morally-relevant definition of “person” would be: “any organism which, if you kill it, will be deprived of the conscious human life (or equivalently conscious non-human life) that it would likely have had.”

Another argument that has convinced many people of the humanity of the unborn is the equal-rights argument used by the Equal Rights Institute.

So yes, a fetus is, in fact, a person and a full-fledged member of our human family, in the ways that are most morally relevant when abortion is considered.

In the early 1940's, when the possibility of an atomic bomb was becoming clear to scientists, some people may have said, "If uranium 235 is fissile, that may have negative consequences for many people. Therefore uranium 235 is not fissile."

And today there are people saying in effect, "If a fetus is a person, that may have negative consequences for pregnant women who would like to make themselves unpregnant or hire someone to make them unpregnant or behave as if they are not pregnant with a vulnerable little person. Therefore a fetus is not a person."

But obviously when we need to make a correct ontological evaluation of anything, the way to do it is not to base it on any possible negative consequences for some group of people. There may be many ways to deal with the possible negative consequences of any truth, but first we have to embrace any truth that is clearly true, and then deal with the consequences.

Following the new concept: that a fetus in the womb has the same rights as a fully formed person lines, the article continues:

This idea has now worked its way into federal and state regulations and the thinking of police officers and prosecutors. As it has done so, it’s begun not only to extend rights to clusters of cells that have not yet developed into viable human beings, but also to erode the existing rights of a particular class of people — women. . . . 

Because of the newly fortified conservative majority on the Supreme Court, such laws are likely to multiply . . . 

Suppose we were to read instead an article like this:

a deep shift in American society, away from a centuries-long tradition in Western law and toward the embrace of a relatively new concept: that a black person / woman has the same rights as a white man. 

This idea has now worked its way into federal and state regulations and the thinking of police officers and prosecutors. As it has done so, it’s begun not only to extend rights to black persons / women, but also to erode the existing rights of a particular class of people — white men . . . . 

Because of the newly fortified conservative majority on the Supreme Court, such laws are likely to multiply . . .

Do you get the point? Progress toward equality and inclusiveness for a previously-marginalized group is something to celebrate, not something to condemn and misrepresent as this reactionary article does! Real progress for our species involves movement toward greater and greater inclusiveness, as one previously-excluded class of people after another becomes included as equals in our human family – though of course this never happens without some loss of privileged status by some other group, and never without opposition by the dinosaurs in society.

I think that in a way, the very appearance of this article should be celebrated; the resources spent on this article seem to indicate a real fear by the dinosaurs that inclusiveness for the unborn is now at hand.

The long-term trend toward ever-greater inclusiveness in human society is something that cannot be stopped. As Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The inclusion of the unborn is the last major frontier of civil rights, even if it is the most difficult.

It is a sad fact, of course, that inclusion always has a trade-off and that that will be all the more true when the unborn are the ones included. There is no denying that unborn child-protection laws will make life tougher in some ways for some pregnant women. And it is also true that sometimes the laws are poorly written. Articles such as the Times’s, along with all the misleading stuff they are likely to include, do, in passing, make one valid point: that poorly-written pro-life laws can cause unjustifiable suffering for pregnant women. 

However, it is not difficult to formulate intelligently-written pro-life laws that cannot cause such unjustifiable suffering.

The editorial board who wrote this article are either obtuse or dishonest. I have already mentioned their implication that those who champion fetal personhood do not really believe in it – which is overwhelmingly false – and I have already mentioned the elephant in the room. The authors fail ever to confront directly the obvious question right under their noses, and seem to be trying hard to avoid it – which would be a form of intellectual dishonesty. Only in one sentence near the end do the authors address at all whether it is possible that a fetus is, in fact, a person. That sentence is, And it reflects a tragic reality: There are circumstances in which the interests of a fetus and those of a pregnant woman collide. But if the death of a fetus is truly a tragedy, then why the authors’ sly (or unthinking) suggestions to the effect that any “tragedy” is just a ruse employed by neurotic personalities, and that Ronald Reagan was only convinced by cynical "Republican strategists" to deem it a tragedy?

And if the authors really considered unborn deaths to be tragedies, then there would be another question right under their noses, which either it does not occur to them to raise (obtuseness) or which they choose not to raise (duplicity): Even supposing it were true (which it is not) that pro-life laws could not be written more intelligently to avoid injustices against pregnant women, how many unborn lives have been saved – not only spared from some injustice, but saved – by those same laws? They count "several hundred" women who suffered harassment, etc., since 1973. They don't claim that any of those several hundred died. But within that span of years, entirely unmentioned by them, is the fact that about 60 million unborn children were slaughtered by abortion – a ratio of about 1 incident to 600,000 incidents, without even considering the differing magnitudes of the incidents. How many more unborn children would have died if not for the laws the authors condemn? Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, a million or two? By all indications, the authors could not care less how many babies were saved by those laws – they are willing for it to have been any number – it seems that to them, any number would be irrelevant to their contention that the laws were unjustified.

And why is abortion an explosively emotional issue if it is really accurate that the unborn can be reduced to clusters of cells?

Elsewhere I have provided several more examples that I noticed of falsehoods that the authors have obtusely, or more likely deliberately, spread in their article, and of sloppy logic that they have obtusely, or more likely deliberately, employed.

One effect of what the authors have done will be to scaremonger, and to unduly alarm readers who do not think critically enough. I am not saying that there is NO cause for sadness or alarm. Whenever there is an unwanted pregnancy, there is rarely going to be a perfectly happy solution. Often the baby loses its life, while the woman loses something psychologically; if the baby’s life is to be preserved, the woman will likely lose something on the material level, while the unwanted baby’s life will be less than perfect; and on top of that, some pro-life laws have no doubt been poorly written. It is imperative to correct the defects in pro-life laws that can cause avoidable suffering for women. But the solution is not to literally throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I said earlier that How the idea of fetal rights gained currency is a story of social reaction . . . to a perceived new permissiveness is “overwhelmingly false.” The most obvious explanation as to why one might treat a fetus as a person is that one actually considers a fetus to be a person. Not only is that the most obvious motivation for treating fetuses as persons, but in my personal acquaintance with many people who do treat fetuses as persons, it is the only motivation I have ever detected.

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

Friday, January 11, 2019

Americans United for Life releases 2019 "Life List"

Every year, Americans United for Life (AUL) releases the "Life List," which ranks each U.S. state on a spectrum from most to least pro-life based on a "comprehensive legal analysis of each state's legal protections for human life from conception to natural death." Numerous laws, from gestational limits to informed consent to facility regulations, factor into the analysis. And although a state's abortion rate is not part of the equation, historically, a state's position on the Life List positively correlates with its abortion rate.

Here are the rankings, with #1 Arizona being the best state for unborn children and #50 Washington the worst:

AUL writes:
This year, we are excited to announce that Arizona has gained our highly coveted #1 ranking this year, closely followed by Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
Sadly, for the tenth year in a row, Washington remained the state where women and their children have the fewest legal protections, followed by California, Vermont, New Jersey, and Hawaii.
Nebraska, Alabama, and Virginia made notable gains as well, each moving up in the rankings by three places after fighting hard to pass significant protections during the 2018 legislative sessions.
More details about the legal landscape in each state, along with recommended pro-life priorities for 2019 legislative sessions, can be found in AUL's 2019 "Defending Life" manual.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Dan Barker's "Mere Morality" is Mere Nonsense on Abortion

I recently purchased Mere Morality, a book by former pastor turned atheist activist Dan Barker. The premise interested me; it aims to distill morality to a basic secular principle of not harming others. That's generally what guides my moral life as well, although it's hardly that simple. What constitutes harm? And what is the frame of reference? If you're not careful, an unsophisticated do-no-harm analysis can lead to things like "mercy killing" of people with disabilities, because "I could never live like that"—when of course plenty of people do live like that, and their perspectives are the ones that should count. Those are the sorts of questions I wished to explore.

I did not expect this to be a pro-life book by any means. Barker's wife Annie Laurie Gaylor, with whom he co-leads the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is not merely pro-choice; she takes it a step further and actively finances the killing of unborn babies. Still, I had hoped for a book that was at least neutral on abortion, or didn't mention it at all, so that the millions of intellectually curious pro-life people in the world could explore Barker's ideas about universal, non-supernatural morality.

Instead, we get a giant middle finger—and a fun demonstration of scientific illiteracy on Barker's part—not even 30 pages into the book (bold emphasis mine):
If a man cuts off one of his own fingers (or some other body part, as Jesus encouraged in Matthew 19:11-12), that is certainly harmful and destructive, and may be unhealthy but the act is only immoral if it affects other people—and it might indeed, especially if others are dependent on that person. (In my case, as a professional pianist, it would certainly affect others.) If I know in advance that a man is intending to lose a finger, and I suspect there is no good reason for it, then I am the one faced with the moral question of whether I should try to stop him I certainly want to keep people from harming themselves, and I think most of us feel that way. But if the person is not mentally unhealthy, then what he is doing might actually be a moral act, as in the case of the men who shot off their trigger fingers in order to avoid being drafted to fight in a war not of their choosing, preferring to stay home and raise their families. Similarly, virtually all women who choose to have an abortion are making a mentally healthy and rational choice, a difficult decision for moral and health reasons. I'm not directly comparing a fetus to a finger, although most abortions occur when the fetus is smaller than the tip of your little finger. Contrary to the dogmatic opinions of the misnamed "pro-lifers," abortion is not the killing of an unborn baby. (See the chapter "Religious Color Blindness" in Life Driven Purpose for more on abortion.) The blinkered absolutist doctrine of some religious groups that "life begins at conception" interferes with moral reasoning.
Abortion absolutely is the killing of an unborn baby. Abortionists themselves freely admit this. Indeed, abortion kills an unborn baby by definition. If an unborn baby is not killed, no abortion has taken place. If you want to convince people of your position, maybe don't open with something so easily debunked. I can't put it better than Christopher Hitchens: "I do, as a humanist, believe that the concept 'unborn child' is a real one and I think the concept is underlined by all the recent findings of embryology about the early viability of a well conceived human baby."

Life's beginning is not a mystery. Your life, and the life of every human being you have ever met, began when a sperm met an egg. This is settled science that is not up for debate. If you want to talk about some lives being less worthy than others, or having no worth at all, because they are small or unwanted, I am willing to entertain those arguments. (Just don't pretend you care about human rights or equality if you go that route.) But if we can't begin from common facts, I'm done reading. Why should I value your take on foundational philosophical questions, when you can't even tell me what an abortion does?

In conclusion, I'm not directly comparing Mere Morality to a steaming turd, although you definitely shouldn't waste your money on it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

In 10 short days...

The March for Life will take place on Friday, January 18, 2019 in Washington, D.C. This annual gathering in opposition to Roe v. Wade regularly draws 100,000+ people. The March for Life honors the memory of the millions of children killed as a result of Roe, demonstrates to lawmakers that abortion is not a "settled issue," and is a terrific opportunity to network with fellow pro-life advocates and coordinate strategies to save lives in the coming year.

If you wish to march alongside Secular Pro-Life, you can find us at the Rehumanize International pre-March meet-up between 10:45 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. at the Mall side of Smithsonian Castle, near the statue of Prof. Joseph Henry. Details about the meet-up can be found here. (Look for our 14-foot-tall, bright blue banner; you really can't miss it.) Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard and frequent blog contributor Sarah Terzo, among others, will speak at the meet-up. The March for Life itself will begin with a noon rally, followed by a march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court of the United States.

If you are still in town on the evening of the 18th, please join us for our second annual karaoke fundraiser from 7 to 11! Details here.

The next day (Saturday, January 19), Secular Pro-Life will have exhibit booths at the Students for Life of America Conference in Upper Marlboro, MD and the Cardinal O'Connor Conference at Georgetown University. If you've registered for either of those conferences, be sure to stop by our booth for free literature you can use on your campus.

Monday, January 7, 2019

NYT Reports Planned Parenthood Discriminates Against Pregnant Employees

An article in the New York Times entitled "Planned Parenthood Is Accused of Mistreating Pregnant Employees" documents the stories of former Planned Parenthood workers who say they were discriminated against or had their needs ignored by Planned Parenthood when they were pregnant. 

Ta’Lisa Hairston, former medical assistant at Planned Parenthood, had dangerously high blood pressure during her pregnancy. She was instructed by medical professionals to take frequent breaks at work. Hairston brought in multiple notes from her nurse asking for more breaks and other minor accommodations, but the notes were ignored by her bosses. The New York Times article says:
Ms. Hairston’s hands and feet swelled; the clinic’s plastic gloves no longer fit. Her blood pressure got so high that her doctor put her on bed rest when she was seven months pregnant.
She returned to work on strict orders to not work more than six hours a day and to take regular breaks. One day in March, she worked a much longer shift. She soon became so sick that her doctor told her to go back on bed rest. A few days later, on March 23, she went to the hospital. Doctors performed an emergency C-section. She was 34 weeks pregnant.
When she had been on maternity leave for eight of the 12 weeks guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act, Planned Parenthood’s human resources department called her multiple times and urged her to return to work early, Ms. Hairston said. She emailed the department and said she felt “discriminated against.” She resigned in June.
“I didn’t get into the medical field to be treated like this,” she said. 
Hairston's case was only one of many. The New York Times interviewed multiple former Planned Parenthood workers for the article:
[M]anagers in some locations declined to hire pregnant job candidates, refused requests by expecting mothers to take breaks and in some cases pushed them out of their jobs after they gave birth, according to current and former employees in California, Texas, North Carolina and New York...
Managers have discriminated against pregnant women and new mothers, according to interviews with the current and former Planned Parenthood employees and with organizers from the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents some Planned Parenthood workers...
Multiple Planned Parenthood executives said in interviews that they were eager for The Times to publish an article about the lack of paid maternity leave because they hoped it would lead to changes in the organization’s policies. 
Planned Parenthood employee Marissa Hamilton gave birth to a baby who was eight weeks premature. The child had to spend months in the NICU. Without paid maternity leave, Hamilton couldn't afford to pay the medical bills and had to start a GoFundMe to try and support herself.

The New York Times article also covered multiple lawsuits against Planned Parenthood about pregnancy discrimination. Tracey Webber, former director of clinical services in White Plains, sued Planned Parenthood after she was fired four weeks after giving birth. Planned Parenthood settled the lawsuit out of court. Other lawsuits echoed Hairston's situation, with Planned Parenthood's administration refusing breaks to pregnant women even when doctor's notes were presented. Another woman was fired the day she returned from maternity leave, and PP settled with her as well. According to a former manager at PP, "executives assumed that when a pregnant worker brought in a doctor’s note, it was an excuse to work less. People who took sick days were perceived as lacking commitment."

Other Planned Parenthood managers spoke about how higher-ups refused to promote pregnant workers and new mothers. Decisions on who would be promoted included speculation on which workers were more likely to have children. They also declined to hire pregnant women. Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, it is illegal to consider whether a job candidate is or will become pregnant.

Is it really surprising that Planned Parenthood would discriminate against pregnant mothers and women with young children? A pro-abortion organization might have little respect for women who choose to have children. Perhaps Planned Parenthood’s administration felt that workers should just abort, or that because they had the abortion option, there was no need to accommodate woman who chose against abortion. “It’s her choice” becomes “it’s her problem.” An organization that does not value motherhood and that promotes abortion wouldn’t hold childbearing in high esteem.

Keep in mind also that the New York Times is not a pro-life publication, but a mainstream newspaper, and a traditionally liberal one at that. If the Times says there is a problem at Planned Parenthood, the problem must really exist.

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

Friday, January 4, 2019

Choosing Adoption Over Abortion

Picture this: a young, teenage girl becomes unexpectedly pregnant. She has no money, is still in high school, and only works part time at the local fast food chain. Her friends tell her to get an abortion. After all, it’s only a clump of cells, right?

But this girl has questions. Sure, she doesn’t feel emotionally mature enough or financially ready to raise a baby, but does that mean the baby has to die before it even has a chance at life? No, it does not.

This courageous girl chose an option not often chosen. She chose adoption. Here are some common adoption questions and answers, in an attempt to pull back the curtain and reveal adoption to be the loving, life affirming option that it really is.

Q. Does it cost money to place a child for adoption?
A. No, it does not! All adoption related fees including but not limited to, legal fees, pregnancy related expenses, and medical bills not paid for by insurance are paid for by the adoptive parents.

Q. What is an open or semi open adoption?
A. Open adoption is when the birth parent may choose the adoptive family themselves, rather than the adoption agency choosing the family for them. Birth parents may also arrange to receive pictures of their baby from the adoptive family, or they may arrange visits. Ultimately it is up to the birth parent in regards to how much contact they want to have with the child.

Q. What is a closed adoption?
A. Sometimes, birth parents may choose to have no contact with their child after the adoption has taken place. This is called a closed adoption and may happen for a multitude of reasons. Regardless of the reason however, the parent can rest assured that their child is being taken good care of and loved.

Q. Does placing the child for adoption mean that the child is not loved?
A. Adoption is a very loving and selfless option. It is trusting others to care for the child and love the child just as the birth parents do. Sometimes birth parents can not keep the child, due to a multitude of reasons. They may not have enough money to financially support the child, they may not be in a stable living situation, or they may already have other children they have to take care of. Whatever the reasoning, adoption is a loving option, and it saves the child from death by an abortion.

Q. Will the baby be placed with a good family?
A. The family can be chosen by the birth parent, or if the birth parent would rather, the adoption agency can choose the family. Either way, the adoptive family must go through an intensive background check to ensure they do not have any criminal history. Their marital status, financial situation, lifestyle, and medical history are also taken into account. Finally, the adoptive family’s home is put under inspection, to confirm that it is a safe environment to raise a child. Hopefully, answering these questions takes away some of the mystery that usually comes with the adoption process. Adoption is an option that is full of love and more importantly, full of life. It allows the baby to live a life with a family that loves them, it does not force the baby to be destroyed through abortion. Encourage those you love to consider adoption if they are looking to expand their family, or if they are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. It may just be the best decision they ever made.

More information regarding adoption can be found at:
[Today's guest post by Annaliese Corace is part of our paid blogging program.]

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

We Asked, You Answered: New Year's Resolutions

We asked our facebook followers about their life-related resolutions for 2019. You all have some great plans!

Kara B. — Unless I get pregnant in the first half of the year, wanting to start the process of us being made available as adoptive parents to a woman with a crisis pregnancy.

Leette E. — Give to my local pregnancy crisis center/clinic.

Beth F. I want to do a better job respecting and protecting my own life. I often fight so hard to defend the value of others but struggle to see my own. I don’t want to let my health and disabilities limit my work for the movement, but I need to find a better way to balance my passion with less strain on my physical health.

Gina M. — Sidewalk counseling.

Pablo M. (of Argentina) — Preventing abortion from being legalized in my country for one more year

Kelsey H. (SPL president) — Finish the darn book.

Tim L. Volunteering with pro life organizations and crisis pregnancy centers!

Jody W. I hope to convince one or more inner-city pastors in Baltimore to open church-based pregnancy centers.  

Becky C. — More BOLDNESS, Less FEAR

Last but not least, judging from all the likes it got, everyone has adopted this resolution...

Adam P. Just gonna keep on not killing people.