Wednesday, July 31, 2019

It's not about bodily autonomy. Here's how we know.

We've all heard the argument that begins "You must not really care about saving lives because you don't [fill in the blank with the policy preference du jour]. You're just about controlling women's bodies!" And when we're feeling uncharitable, we can always throw it right back at them: they don't really care about bodily autonomy, because if they did, they'd promote legalizing raw milk, or allowing minors to get tattoos, or whatever.

But I try to be charitable, so let's narrow the issues. "The debate about abortion is really a proxy battle in a war on women's right to control their bodies" is a testable hypothesis. It's thought experiment time.

Suppose there were a bill on the table that would make it easy for women who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but who fear such a diagnosis in the future (due to family history, the BRCA gene, or any other reason), to obtain elective mastectomies on demand. Government budget authorities have confirmed that the proposal is financially sound. This is a law that would not cause a single human death, but that would undoubtedly increase a woman's control of her own body.

Can you imagine the National Right to Life Committee, Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life, and so on lobbying against such a bill? I, for one, cannot. There would be no reason for them to do that. Likewise, I have a hard time picturing pro-life stalwarts in the House of Representatives voting it down multiple times and celebrating its defeat. A woman's exercise of bodily autonomy by itself doesn't fuel outrage; it is only when that exercise ends in the death of a human child that the pro-life movement rallies its troops.

Now let's imagine the inverse: a bill that would save babies' lives, at no cost to women's bodily autonomy. Where would pro-choice lobbyists and politicians stand on that?

We don't have to imagine it. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 962) was introduced in the House of Representatives nearly six months ago. The legislation would require doctors to give infants who are born alive after abortion procedures—who are already outside of their mother's bodies—the same hospital care that their premature, wanted counterparts receive. It would not ban a single abortion.

At the behest of pro-choice groups, House Democrats have blocked a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act eighty times. That is not a typo. Eighty times.

It's not about bodily autonomy.

Photo Credit: Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

Monday, July 29, 2019

Baby Chris is 18 Weeks Old

[This is part 19 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.] 

18 weeks after conception (20 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is about the size of a banana at 10 inches long from head to toe and 10 1/2 ounces. Circadian rhythm—the daily cycle of wakefulness and rest—shows up in Baby Chris's movement and heart rate. You can also spot movement in Baby Chris's vocal chords as he or she practices the muscle movements that will be necessary to make noise in the outside world.

It's common for prenatal care providers to offer ultrasounds at this point in pregnancy, so we have an abundance of images this week. Here are just a few. Thank you to everyone who donated!

The 20-week ultrasound is a wonderful opportunity for family members to bond with the baby, and it is often when the baby's sex is revealed. Unfortunately, there is a darker side; this is also when parents may learn that their child has a disability, such as Down Syndrome, that is often accompanied by tremendous pressure from "pro-choice" medical professionals to abort. Hope Story is an excellent resource for families facing a prenatal diagnosis, where they can cut past the scaremongering and hear directly from other parents.

If you haven't already, download the free "See Baby" app for more information and resources on a child's development from conception to birth!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Pro-Life Events This Weekend and Next

If you're in Lansing for the Democrats for Life of America conference this weekend, be sure to catch Terrisa Bukovinac's speech! Terrisa is an atheist, SPL co-admin, and the president of Pro-Life San Francisco. More info here. For those who can't make it, we'll try to post video later.

Next Saturday, August 3, Students for Life of America is putting on its annual National Pro-Life Sidewalk Day. This is an invitation for pro-life advocates who don't normally go out to the sidewalk of their local abortion centers to take the leap and offer support for women in need. You can participate anywhere. More info here.

It's especially important to have students and other young people on the sidewalk. Often, sidewalk advocacy is dominated by retired folks who have the ability to be there during business hours. And don't get me wrong—their contribution is incredibly valuable! But where possible, a student presence is powerful; 45.5% of abortion clients are under the age of 25, and relating to a peer can have a life-saving impact.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

New Life: My Pro-Life Conversion Story

My name is Chris, and I’m an alcoholic. Thankfully, a recovering one – though I was not a first-time success story.

I got sober through Alcoholics Anonymous, and my most daunting obstacle to working the program’s Twelve Steps of Recovery was embracing a higher power. In trying (and failing) to quit drinking for some time, I’d seen many alcoholic atheists become quick converts to religion upon drying out.

I watched, with envy, as lost souls seemed to summon loving deities that sustained their sobriety. So I did what any hopeless drunk would do: I attempted to short-order one for myself.

It didn’t work. Spirituality isn’t a “fake it ‘til you make it” type of thing. Conjuring up a god I didn’t believe in was disingenuous and, in my experience, recovery requires brutal honesty. I was able to concoct no such deity, no interventionist god capable of personally arresting my alcoholism. I don’t buy the idea that God, in His or Her infinite wisdom, rescued a loser like me while leaving the schmuck on the next barstool to die. While other AA members were able to turn their will over to a capital-G God of their understanding, the best I could fathom is a lowercase one of my misunderstanding.

It was imperfect – but it was enough.

In the seven-plus years since my last drink, I have heard amazing stories of resilience – of people who were once hopelessly addicted and no longer are. So much of recovery is built on identification with other alcoholics, I believe, because few groups of people experience the sensation of being completely doomed… and then miraculously finding an escape hatch we never knew existed. We know both unsolvable compulsion and deus ex machina salvation.

One lesson I’ve learned in recovery is that people are incredibly durable. We can rise from near-total physical, financial and spiritual bankruptcy to become productive, even admirable members of society. Like microbes inexplicably living under the Antarctic ice shelves, or eyeless fish thriving in the lightless ocean depths, we adapt. We find a way.

Life finds a way. And when I realized that, I had found my Higher Power.

I had also found a heaping help of hypocrisy. Because once I realized life finds a way, a vociferously politically liberal like me had to come to terms with one simple fact: I could no longer support abortion rights without being a walking, talking contradiction.

That’s how recovery made me pro-life.

Second Chances, Second Thoughts 

Let me back up, because the term “pro-life” typically has ifs and buts. To state my position clearly: I believe in the right to abortion in instances of rape (including statutory rape), incest and serious threat to the mother’s health, as well as when the fetus is inviable or has debilitating birth defects. I also believe in contraception, including Plan B – which does not end pregnancy but rather prevents its likelihood.

Those circumstances aside, I believe that a woman’s rights to privacy and dominion over her own body, though indeed important, do not outweigh the right of a budding life to exist. It’s that simple.

Despite the recent uproar over length-of-pregnancy abortion limitations, my position has nothing to do with trimesters, or heartbeats, or out-of-womb viability. I believe that life begins at conception, meaning that if something is en route to becoming a human being, I value its right to continue along that path more than anyone’s right to terminate it.

That’s what pro-life means to me: All things being equal, I err on the side of life over the right, or choice, to end it.

And per my once-recovery-stunting struggles with God, this position has nothing to do with religion. In fact, my agnosticism only strengthens my conviction that life on this Earth is precious. If this is all we get, there better be a tremendously convincing reason to take it – to take everything – away from an innocent being.

Everything is exactly what my alcoholism nearly took from me. I was not only unemployed, but unemployable. I was a liar, a thief, a manipulator who used people to use, period. My wife had one foot (at least) out the door on numerous occasions.

Everyone deserves a second chance; what I got was third, fourth and fifth ones. In succession, I failed to stay sober following AA meetings, intensive outpatient therapy and, finally, inpatient rehab. I was running out of options and running out of hope.

And then, after a cathartic DUI, I was done. The principles of recovery – admitting defeat and powerlessness, taking stock of my shortcomings, making amends – started to stick to a shell-shocked man-child. My recovery is the closest thing to a miracle as I’ve ever witnessed. I was doomed… and then suddenly I wasn’t.

They say recovery and politics don’t mix; in fact, AA’s Preamble expressly says so. But recovery and morality certainly do. And it is this moral awakening that led me, despite my otherwise cookie-cutter liberal leanings, gradually to pro-life. This isn’t about politics. This is a principle – one I can’t see myself ever abdicating.

Life – even a lost life, like mine – finds a way. Every time I attend an AA meeting, I enter a room full of people who were granted a second chance at life. Considering this, the thought of denying someone a first chance runs counter to everything recovery has taught and bestowed.

Life is a precious gift. I know this because I was given it twice.

[Today's guest post by Christopher Dale is part of our paid blogging program. Photo credit: Louis Hansel on Unsplash.]

Monday, July 22, 2019

Baby Chris is 17 Weeks Old

[This is part 18 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.] 

Seventeen weeks after fertilization (19 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is about six inches long and weighs a bit more than half a pound—about the size of a tomato.

Photo by Melanie Brown on Unsplash
Hair growth begins around this time, and the eyebrows are complete. According to the Endowment for Human Development, "[a]ll skin layers and structures are present, including hair follicles and glands."

Baby Chris has also developed vernix, "the waxy or cheese-like white substance found coating the skin of newborn human babies." The exact function of vernix is unclear; the leading hypothesis is that it has something to do with protecting the baby's skin from potentially damaging effects of amniotic fluid.

To learn more about prenatal development, download the free See Baby app wherever mobile apps are sold.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Justice John Paul Stevens Leaves Tragic Abortion Legacy

John Paul Stevens, who served on the United States Supreme Court from 1975 until his retirement in 2010, died earlier this week. He was 99 years old.

He had a major impact on numerous legal issues during his long tenure on the Court. Virtually every law student has read his opinion in Chevron, which established a doctrine for courts to defer to administrative agencies' interpretation of statutes in most cases. Many obituaries highlighted his famous dissents in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United. Church-state separation groups have rightly celebrated Justice Stevens' decisions requiring religious neutrality from public schools. Above all, journalists and pundits on both sides of the aisle are remembering Justice Stevens nostalgically, admiring him as a symbol of an era when the United States was less partisan and more genteel.

Justice Stevens is also directly responsible for the deaths of millions of human beings.

He was one of the five Justices who voted to uphold Roe v. Wade (albeit with modifications) in the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. If Justice Stevens had mustered the conscience and courage to vote the other way, Roe would have been reversed 27 years ago. And when the Court considered the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion in Gonzales v. Carhart and found the federal partial-birth abortion ban to be constitutional, Justice Stevens shamefully dissented.

I take no pleasure in speaking ill of the dead. I take even less in glossing over the truth. Society is undertaking a long-overdue reassessment of many historical figures, emphasizing racist and sexist behavior that was previously swept under the rug. A generation from now, what will the history books say about those who defended the slaughter of defenseless human beings in the womb?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Chicago-Area Volunteers Needed!

If you will be in the Chicago area on Saturday, January 11, 2020, this message is for you! Secular Pro-Life has been presented with an opportunity to exhibit at the March for Life Chicago Convention. We would love to participate in this event, but we need your help. I'll let this email from weDignify (formerly Students for Life of Illinois) sum it up:
I'm reaching out because, as you've probably heard, Illinois recently passed the most extreme statewide abortion legislation in the country—fully legalizing abortion through all nine months, for almost any reason, and no restrictions on the medical professionals performing abortions.
Now more than ever the pro-life movement needs to present a large, united front where it's needed most: Chicago.
That's why weDignify is working with the March for Life Chicago Board to expand the March for Life Chicago from one March to a unified, day-long endeavor: the March for Life Chicago Convention on Saturday, January 11th 2020.
Last year over 8,000 people came to March in Chicago—despite the cold—making this the largest pro-life event in the Midwest by far. And, with the new laws this year, we anticipate growing even larger.
And we want Secular Pro-Life to be a part of it—will you come to have a vendor table and help us promote the March for Life Chicago Convention? As a special offer, vendor booths are only $450 if reserved before August 20th!
The $450 vendor booth expense is within our budget. Unfortunately, the cost of travel and lodging is not. Most of our regular volunteers are on the coasts, and flying them to Chicago for a one-day event just doesn't make financial sense.

But if we can find two or three local supporters to run the Secular Pro-Life exhibit booth, this is totally doable! We'll train you, and send you a banner, pamphlet, stickers, and everything else you need.

According to the statistical information Facebook gives us about people who like our page, we have 252 supporters in Chicago—but we have no way of figuring out who you are, until you tell us! So please, reach out by emailing with the subject line "Chicago." Thank you!

Photo credit: Pedro Lastra on Unsplash

Monday, July 15, 2019

Baby Chris is 16 weeks old

Image via the Endowment for Human Development
[This is part 17 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.] 

Sixteen weeks after conception (18 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is 5 and a half inches long and weighs almost 7 ounces—about the size of a bell pepper. The ears, previously low on the sides of the head, have migrated to their final positions. Lung development is ongoing, with bronchioles and respiratory sacs beginning to appear. In female babies, the uterus and fallopian tubes are established.

According to the Endowment for Human Development, "[t]he vast majority of neuron multiplication in the brain is complete by 16 weeks." The retina now has discrete layers. Beneath the gums, enamel is developing on Baby Chris's teeth.

Follow Baby Chris's growth from conception to birth by downloading the free See Baby app!

Friday, July 12, 2019

The religious diversity of the pro-life movement

Last week, we posted the above graphic to our social media pages with the caption "In the United States, 23% of abortion opponents are Catholic and 12% have no religious affiliation. We are proud to stand with our pro-life brothers and sisters of all faith backgrounds to end the violence of abortion!"

We got a ton of likes and shares, and also questions. Mostly, "Wait, what about the other 65%?" and "Where are all the Protestants?"

We did not, of course, mean to suggest that pro-life movement is made up entirely of Catholics and secular people. It's far more diverse than that. We simply found the two-to-one statistic interesting, in contrast to the oversized role that Catholicism has played in the pro-choice imagination (e.g. "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!").

Our source is the Pew Research Center Forum on Religion and Public Life, and if you're as nerdy as I am, you could get lost in that data set for hours. But I won't keep you in suspense. The religious makeup of Americans who say abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances* is:
  • 38% Evangelical Protestant
  • 23% Catholic
  • 12% Unaffiliated
  • 12% Mainline Protestant
  • 6% Historically Black Protestant
  • 3% Mormon
  • 1% Jewish
  • 1% Muslim
  • 1% Orthodox Christian
  • 1% Jehovah's Witness
  • 1% Other Faiths
It's not surprising that, in a largely Protestant nation, the pro-life movement is also largely Protestant. However, no one Protestant tradition commands a clear majority. Evangelical and Mainline Protestants would add up to exactly 50%, but speaking as someone who grew up in a mainline denomination (the United Methodist Church, which is officially pro-choice), Pew is right not to group those two together. And as for how Protestant denominations and Catholicism can clash... literal volumes have been written.

Ironically, the godless approach may offer the best chance to unite these disparate factions into a cohesive movement for the human rights of the smallest and most vulnerable humans among us.

*Note: These figures add up to only 99% due to rounding.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Baby Chris is 15 Weeks Old

[This is part 16 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

Fifteen weeks after conception (17 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is five inches long and weighs five ounces—about the size of a turnip.

Stem cells are multiplying in the bone marrow. Baby Chris's sweat glands are starting to develop. In the respiratory system, the bronchial tree is almost complete and the airways contain smooth muscle and nerve bundles.

Download the free See Baby app to learn more about the journey from conception to birth!

[P.S.—My apologies for the tardiness of this post; Baby Chris updates usually come on Mondays, but I was at a retreat center with unreliable internet for the Louisiana Right to Life PULSE leadership program for teens and young adults. Other than the internet issues, it was a wonderful experience! I expect great things from the next generation of pro-life advocates.]

Friday, July 5, 2019

We Asked, You Answered: Moderate Pro-Choice Positions

On our facebook page, Monica wrote: "I feel like I've been spending too much time reading the most ridiculous ideas from the pro-choice side. For contrast, tell me what you consider the most understandable or relatable aspects of the pro-choice position." Here are a few of our favorite responses from the Secular Pro-Life community:

Mandi S.: "I think many pro-choice individuals believe in their heart of hearts that their position helps women so we both are coming from a place of wanting to support women. We just see things differently."

Tiffany C.: "I do think there are grey areas. The pro-choicers I have the most respect for are the ones who don't like abortion but believe that it's a necessary evil."

Frank L.: "I have come across a few [pro-choicers] who acknowledge basic biology but claim that the mother's right not to be pregnant is more important than the child's right to live. And while I can't agree with their priorities, their position makes more sense than that of who deny science in this discussion."

Keri R.: "I just want to know when are the laws regarding delinquent child support payers going to become stricter? Takes two to make the problem, but somehow the sperm supplier isn't the one under attack."

Jenna C.: "That it's hypocritical for pro-life people to try and protect the unborn while actively opposing policies that would both prevent pregnancy and support children once they're born. It frustrates me that in part because of the Democratic party's systematic excision of any pro-life candidates, the most conservative people are the ones controlling the legislation and public narrative of the pro-life stance. We really DO need to be supporting comprehensive sex ed, free contraception, and any and all social supports that helps pregnant individuals and their children prosper."

Tanya S.: "Women fought long and hard for the right to be seen as more than mothers, caretakers, and homemakers. And I sympathize greatly with this because I know the pain that the oppressive culture that made women stay home and pop out as many kids as possible caused to generations of women."

Megan L.: "We're both fighting for human rights. They just only see one person whereas I see two."

Clinton W.: "Contrary to what pro-choice people think of pro-life men, I do understand that pregnancies are not easy and they can sometimes be dangerous. That's why I'm so adamant that men step up when they get someone pregnant and be there for her through every step of it. I think it's completely understandable that women don't always want to be pregnant (although many of them do), and if men are there to help them through it, it makes it more bearable."

Keely A.: "Thank you so much for this thread. I am pro-choice and I have spent the past few weeks in a constant state of upset and anxiety. ... I read these comments and I'm heartened. It is so easy to demonize those who don't agree with us. ... My position remains unchanged, but what I see in this group (FINALLY) is a willingness to discuss the nuances that are at play here. AND a willingness to do something that will actually reduce the number of abortions, which is really what it's all about, right? If we have fewer abortions, it means that women have access to the healthcare and support they need to prevent pregnancy in the first place or to take care of themselves and a child should they become pregnant."

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Google Trends Suggest Historic Moment in Abortion Debate

Four short months ago, we reported that according to Google Trends, interest in abortion was at a 15-year high. News about permissive late-term abortion laws in New York and (nearly) Virginia earlier this year, together with federal legislative efforts to ban infanticide when babies survive abortion, drove more abortion-related keyword searches than at any point since the 2004 election.

That record has already been shattered (click to enlarge). 

Pro-life legislative efforts in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and elsewhere; the possibility of Missouri becoming the first abortion-free state since Roe, if the courts allow it to close the dangerous St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility; Democratic candidates competing to out-abortion each other in the 2020 presidential primary... all of these things and more have combined to create a perfect storm of media coverage. People who normally prefer to sit out the debate are forced to take notice.

With the caveat that correlation is not causation, this could be related to the latest Gallup poll (taken May 1-12) showing a positive trend in favor of prenatal rights. "Pro-life" now holds a 3-point advantage over "pro-choice," and the percentage of Americans who say abortion should be "illegal in all circumstances" or "legal in only a few circumstances" is up 7 points since last year. This is in spite of Google's alleged manipulation of abortion-related search results to disadvantage grassroots pro-life organizations like Live Action.

I can't help but feel that we are living in a moment that will make the history books. But history is written by the victors. Are you prepared to contribute a chapter?

Monday, July 1, 2019

Baby Chris is 14 Weeks Old

[This is part 15 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

Fourteen weeks after conception (16 weeks LMP), Baby Chris is about the size of an avocado: four and a half inches long and three and a half ounces. Baby Chris's heart pumps 25 quarts of blood every day.

Although Baby Chris has been moving for a long time, he or she has been too small for those movements to be felt by the mother—until now! Before modern science gave us a window into the womb, the start of prenatal life was often defined by when a mother can feel her unborn child's movement, sometimes called "quickening." That happens when the baby is around 14 weeks old.

Quickening no longer has the medical significance that it once did, but that doesn't mean that our legal system has gotten any better at protecting the right to life; on the contrary, Baby Chris can still be legally aborted anywhere in the United States. Of the approximately million abortions that take place in the U.S. every year, about 51,000 (5.1%) occur at Baby Chris's age or later.

Throughout the Baby Chris project, we've been illustrating our articles with ultrasound images donated by Secular Pro-Life supporters. This week, we have two unusual photos to share. Mother Aimee explains:
I suffered from preterm premature rupture of membranes at 13 weeks and my pregnancy was deemed terminal for the duration of it. I received an ultrasound weekly until I delivered at 32 weeks so needless to say I have several ultrasound pictures to choose from. That being said, my fluid levels were very low (0-1.6cm) so they don't look like a normal one. ... I've been meaning to catalogue them anyway so I can show my daughter some day. This medically impossible child is currently rolling around in her crib refusing to nap.
13 weeks and 6 days, with rupture of membranes

14 weeks 2 days, with rupture of membranes