Friday, January 31, 2020

The Comfortable Pro-Choice People

Last year before the San Francisco Walk for Life, Monica (SPL co-leader) gave a brief speech about "comfortable" pro-choice people, essentially outlining the most ubiquitous myths that allow people to be comfortable with the pro-choice political position. [And she did this speech before pro-choice people started insisting embryos don't have hearts.] You can watch the video here and/or read the transcript below. Sources are linked in the transcript.

My name is Monica Snyder, I’m an atheist, and I work with Secular Pro-Life. And normally I do discussions about diversity and inclusivity and fact-based research, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. I have been thinking a lot about—I’m pretty fed up, actually. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

I’ve worked with Secular Pro-Life for 10 years. I’ve had many, many conversations about abortion—some of them have been very good. I’m always happy to have thoughtful dialogue with people who are interested in exploring each other’s views. Even if we’re not going to change minds, I’m happy to have thoughtful dialogue.

Kinda over the other kind of conversation though—and by that I mean conversations with who I’ve started to think of as the casual, comfortable pro-choice person. And by that I mean people who—this isn’t a top political topic for them; it’s not something that they know a lot about or dig into a lot, but they still identify as pro-choice because they’ve picked up on the idea that that is the right side to be. The right side of history, the side of progress and freedom of religion and equality. And so even though they don’t know a lot about the situation, it doesn’t stop them from being kind of scandalized that I think…whatever it is I think, they don’t actually have any idea, but it probably involves hating women or something. And so they sort of clutch their pearls at the fact that I’m against abortion. They talk to me as if I owe them an apology or an explanation, even as they say many nonsensical things that they can’t back up in any way.

So, for example, many people have no understanding of American abortion law. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that abortion is illegal after the first trimester. That’s not true literally anywhere in the country. Even in the most restrictive state—Mississippi—you can get a non-medical abortion until the 5th month, okay? They think that anti-choice forces are bringing us into the dark ages. They don’t realize we have some of the most liberal abortion laws in the world. We are 1 out of only 7 countries where it’s legal to get a non-medical abortion after 20 weeks—right there with North Korea and China. They don’t realize that Roe v. Wade makes us this way. They think that all Roe v. Wade did was made abortion a legal option. Actually what it did was make it almost impossible to have any kind of restrictions before viability, which is about 6 months into the pregnancy.

And even if they believe me when I tell them that, it doesn’t shock them because they don’t know anything about fetal development at 6 months into the pregnancy! These are the same people who will tell me that biology—not philosophy—biology doesn’t tell us when life begins, which is complete anti-science nonsense. They’ll use the phrase “clumps of cells” as if we’re aborting amorphous spheres of genetic material instead of small humans with heartbeats and brain waves and organ systems. And if you show them video footage of Planned Parenthood harvesting those organs, they’ll just say “Heavily edited! Heavily edited!” over and over again, even though there’s no evidence that part was heavily edited. They don’t know what they mean when they say that. There’s no evidence of audio manipulation, and Planned Parenthood itself doesn’t even deny that they take organs from late-term fetuses. But sure, they’re taking brains and livers from “clumps of cells.”

And if they believe that part, they still think that it’s only because late-term abortions are done for severe medical reasons. So even if, yes, they take those, it’s from a tragic situation that had to happen anyway so at least it’s useful, right? Unfortunately, the research actually shows that even at 21 weeks or later, 80% of these abortions are not done for health-related reasons. It is a pleasant fiction to think that we are tearing children apart limb from limb only in the most tragic and dire situations. The reality is far less…comfortable. We even have abortion providers—and they’ll talk openly, in interviews, publicly, about how in third trimester they will abort healthy, viable babies. But the comfortable pro-choice people don’t want to talk about that, or hear it at all.

And even if they believe me when I point out that we’re killing small humans, that are abortion laws are insane, and that late-term abortion is not usually for health reasons, what is the comfortable pro-choice person supposed to do? They can’t be on our side! We’re the side of the old, rich, white conservative Christian men, right? Unfortunately that’s not really real either. Actually young people are just as likely to be against abortion as our parents and our grandparents. Poor people are more likely to be against abortion than rich people. Latinos are more likely to be against abortion than white people. And it’s true that we skew conservative and Christian, but 1 out of 5 Democrats is against abortion. 1 out of 5 non-religious people is against abortion. And what about the men thing? Everyone’s heard the “war on women” trope, right? All of the highly educated empowered women are fighting to control their bodies while regressive religious men are trying to stop them, right? Right? NO! Actually women are just as likely as men to be against abortion. There are literally tens of MILLIONS of American women against abortion! And when I point this out you see their true feminist colors, because then the answer is it must be that I am an internalized misogynist! I couldn’t possibly be against abortion because it’s destroying millions of humans! It must be because I hate myself. What a convenient, comfortable theory so that you don’t have to think too much about this. Everyone who disagrees with you is just deep-seated prejudice, right?

The reality is that I am a young, atheist, pretty broke, Millennial woman who is strongly against abortion, and I am standing right HERE! So stop acting like I don’t exist!

So all I ask is that if you’re going to defend our insane abortion laws, at least own what you’re defending. The inconvenient truth is that we’re killing small humans, our laws are insane, and we do late-term abortions even for non-medical reasons. And if you own that in your position, you’re not the one I have a problem with, because you’re doing it with eyes wide open. But if you are comfortable being pro-choice because you bury yourself in euphemisms and nonsense, then I ask you to step up. If you really want to defend this, do it with eyes wide open. That’s all I’m asking, thank you.

SPL banner at the Walk. Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Pro-Life Democrat Draws out the Well-Rehearsed Dishonesty of a Pro-Abortion Candidate

At a town hall in Des Moines on January 26, Kristen Day, the president of Democrats for Life of America, asked Pete Buttigieg whether he would support the Democratic Party platform’s reverting to some language similar to language it had used in 1996 and for several years thereafter. The 1996 platform had contained this:
The Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult [abortion] issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party.
No Democratic platform in recent years has contained such language, while the Party has moved toward an ever stronger pro-abortion litmus test.

Not surprisingly, Buttigieg evaded the question as if it had been the corona virus. Day’s request was exceedingly reasonable, yet he would risk the wrath of a fearsome abortion lobby if he responded positively. So here is some of the rhetoric that Day’s initial question and persistent follow-up did in fact elicit from Buttigieg:
1:02 If we can't agree on where to draw the line, the next best thing we can do is agree on who should draw the line. 
Kristen Day and other protesters display
"Pro-Life for the Whole Life" signs
Here he (irrelevantly to the question, yet to much applause) regurgitates a canned talking point that invokes agreement, and relies on poetic parallelism in order to sound profound. But what does it really mean? In plain prose, it is saying "People differ on the stage of development when killing a baby should be legally impermissible. I think it's after birth. Instead of concluding that the uncertainty should suggest playing it safe for the party who has most to lose (the baby), let's arbitrarily say that a woman who agrees with me about the moment of birth should be allowed to kill her baby just a moment before birth, without any representation of the view (which the uncertainty leaves open) that doing so may be impermissible."
2:35 I support the Roe versus Wade framework that holds that early in pregnancy there are very few restrictions, and late in pregnancy there are very few exceptions. 
WHUT? Again relying on a canned poetic talking point to pull the wool over our eyes, he seems to be saying that late in pregnancy there are very few cases where Roe allows abortion. But in fact it allows abortion in EVERY late-term case if a state so wishes. If a state wishes to restrict, okay, Roe allows some (almost-token) restrictions.
3:31 But this is something that I believe is so important especially because I'm never going to have to make that decision. 
What? Sounds humble and all, but what is important, abortion? If abortion, how does the last clause make it important? It sounds like an answer that has worked for him in a thousand discussions, knowing that the TV host would want to keep things fast-moving and quickly move on.
3:40 I cannot imagine that a decision that a woman confronts is going to ever be better medically or morally because it's being dictated by any government official. 
Sounds nice, but he's saying that in a situation of opposing interests between two parties (woman and baby), he can't imagine that an impartial party can make a better decision than one of the two interested parties. Do we want a slick-talking president with a bankrupt sense of justice?

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

THIS WEEKEND in Our Nation's Capital

This weekend, we mark the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the horrific Supreme Court decision which stripped the right to life from unborn children and authorized tens of millions of prenatal killings. Join Secular Pro-Life as we remember the victims of abortion, celebrate the lives saved, and strategize together to save as many lives as possible in the coming year.

Tomorrow, Thursday, January 23
From 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Secular Pro-Life is proud to support the Geaux Forth pro-life youth rally at the Warner Theater, organized by Louisiana Right to Life.

Friday, January 24
Join us for the March for Life! Look for our 14-foot-tall bright blue banner at the Rehumanize International pre-march meetup, starting at 10:30 a.m. Our very own Terrisa Bukovinac will speak at the meetup, along with several other awesome activists. Then we will walk together to protest at the Supreme Court, where it all began.

On Friday evening from 9:30 p.m. to midnight, we will again join Rehumanize International for our third annual joint karaoke fundraiser! SPL president Kelsey Hazzard will be your K.J. Get ready to belt out some tunes for two great causes.

Saturday, January 25
Secular Pro-Life will have an exhibit booth at the National Pro-Life Summit (SOLD OUT) and the O'Connor Conference (get tickets here). In addition, Kelsey will speak on a panel at an Ivy League student gathering alongside Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America, legal scholar Erika Bachiochi, and Alison Centofante of Live Action.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Planned Parenthood wants you to get out and vote!

Planned Parenthood recently released this political ad:

The bolded lines below are a transcription of the ad and the unbolded text are my first thoughts.

Can I be blatantly honest? My life is at stake in this next election. 
Yeah, lots of lives are at stake in that next election. Pro-lifers think about that a lot, trust me.

It is a matter of life and death to have access to quality health care.
It is a matter of millions of lives and deaths if we restrict or liberalize abortion law, considering how much the law affects abortion rates.

Birth control.
Most pro-lifers are fine with birth control. In general people are a lot more fine with birth control than with abortion.

To safe and legal abortion.
Hard pass here.

And accurate sexual education.
Again, agreed.

And that's not happening right now.
Which part? Contraception use has held steady for well over a decade, and comprehensive sexual education sees wide public support. Planned Parenthood always tries to soften its abortion-on-demand efforts with these other very popular endeavors, but once again they're really just talking about abortion.

Our reproductive rights have come into question yet again.
If you mean we question whether elective abortion should be a reproductive right, that's true. No matter who wins the next election, that question is not going away.

I was a young nurse when Roe v. Wade was passed. Now we worry about protecting it every day.
Good. Roe, and the American abortion laws allowed by it, are ridiculous.

There is no reason politicians should be telling me when or if I can build a family.
Are there politicians telling you this? We aren't saying you either can't have sex or must have sex. We're saying don't kill anyone as a result of your freely made sexual choices. This isn't actually The Handmaid's Tale.

We need to go forward, not backward.
Yes! Forward into a society where we don't legally kill hundreds of thousands of our offspring every year.

We didn't always have the right to vote. Many of my family members grew up in segregation.
We're very pro-voting and anti-segregation. *fist bump

My dad grew up in a country where he didn't have a voice. But I do.
Voting is a way to do something when you wish you could just do something.
That's the whole point of our system! 
It's the basis of our democracy.
Yes! Voting is a way to try to create a society that reflects our values and priorities. Or, as pro-choice people like to phrase it, it's a way of imposing our morality on everyone else, amirite?

Politicians think they decide what we do with our own bodies? 
If by "what we do with our own bodies" you mean non-defensively killing tiny humans, then yes, certain politicians--and the millions of American men and women who voted for them--think we should outlaw that.

But guess what?
We decide. 
To go out there and make the change that we want to see.
We decide who our leaders are. 
Nosotros elegimos nuestro futuro. [We choose our future.]
We decide our future.
And more specifically, apparently, whether the children we carry will even have a future.

We decide.
We decide.
Indeed. We will see you at the ballot box.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Truth is more tragic than fiction

The poster has followed me from one dorm room to another dorm room, to my apartment in law school and the house where my husband and I raise our children. It’s still in the same cruddy frame I bought in 2006 and really should have replaced a long time ago. It’s hung above bookshelves and televisions, next to everyone from Harry, Ron and Hermione to Call Me By Your Name’s Elio and Oliver. It’s the poster for one of my favorite movies of all time: Brokeback Mountain.

Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain
I was among the film’s original fans, someone who squirmed with anticipation waiting for January 2006, when it would open locally and I’d finally get to see what those lucky people in New York and L.A. had already seen. I’d read the short story the summer before, touched and devastated by the story of Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal), two young guys in Wyoming who fall in love in the summer of 1963 and find themselves unable to let go. The simple, deep tragedy of it stuck with me. Ennis and Jack find what so many people hope for – a long-lasting, passionate love – but are unable to spend their lives together, due to the culture they live in and Ennis's terror of what might happen if they try to live outside its rules.

I’d hoped the movie would be good. It was great – amazing cast, stellar screenwriting, fantastic everything. What was supposed to be a small indie film turned into a cultural phenomenon. As more people saw the movie, my fellow fans and I congregated online – the IMDb message boards, LiveJournal, Dave Cullen’s Ultimate Brokeback Forum. Passionate and fascinated, we spent hours discussing the story, the film, the characters, and the cast.

I have vivid memories of all the press and publicity surrounding the film – the talk-show appearances, the lame late-night jokes about “I wish I knew how to quit you,” the fan fury when Brokeback Mountain lost the Best Picture Oscar to Crash. Prominent in it all was the real-life love story of Michelle Williams, who played Ennis’s wife Alma, and Heath Ledger, who fathered their daughter and told Oprah Winfrey, “I love both my girls more every day.”

It was comforting to fans in a way, that love had blossomed on the set. Ennis and Jack’s romance may have been doomed, but in telling their story, Heath and Michelle had found each other, with new baby Matilda completing the picture.

Two years later, what looked like a happy ending came to a shocking conclusion. After separating from Michelle Williams a few months before, Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription medications. People my mom’s age know where they were when they heard Kennedy had been shot. I know where I was when I heard about Princess Diana’s fatal car crash, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and Heath Ledger’s death. We were used to fictional tragedy in the Brokeback Mountain fandom, but this was the real thing. A promising life was over after twenty-eight years, and a two-year-old girl was never going to see her father again.

Alma Del Mar, wife of the closeted Ennis, is a pillar of quiet strength in the film – unexpectedly hit with the knowledge of her husband’s sexuality and then determined to press on for her own sake and for their two daughters. The Brokeback fandom watched as Michelle Williams, only twenty-seven years old, was subjected to tremendous media attention at what had to be the hardest moment of her life. Here she was, heartbroken by the death of her former fiance while the press speculated about the extent of his drug use and his final moments. As days became weeks became months, we could see how she’d been able to create Alma’s inner fortitude. Never less than dignified in public, she kept Matilda away from the media, kept working, and focused on her daughter, at one point taking a year off work to spend more time with her. The roles she took were contingent on Matilda and how much time they could spend together. Over the years her career grew and her one Oscar nomination, from Brokeback Mountain, turned into four.

An emancipated minor at age fifteen, Michelle Williams is resilient, talented, and smart. (She won a futures trading contest at age seventeen, with record 1000% returns.) If anyone can be a devoted mother in adverse circumstances, it’s Michelle Williams. And that’s why it was so damned infuriating to hear her say, as she accepted an award at the 2020 Golden Globes, that she wouldn’t have been able to live a life “carved with [her] own hand” “without employing a woman’s right to choose.” I wanted to shout at her, but more importantly, I wanted to throttle whoever convinced her of these horribly destructive lies.

I don’t know when Michelle Williams had an abortion, or under what circumstances. Her allusion to things that “can happen to our bodies that are not our choice” is worrisome, especially if you’ve read the reports that Harvey Weinstein was at one point obsessed with her and unexpectedly crashed the My Week With Marilyn set to watch her film nude scenes. She’s part of an industry filled with predatory men, and I don’t blame her for wanting to assert control over her body. But believing that you need abortion to live the life you want is playing by their rules. You can’t do this and be a mother. You need to sacrifice your own child, to let doctors push open your cervix with instruments and dismember the tiny person in your womb. And if that’ll help cover up the criminal behavior of some evil man, well, so much the better. 

Hollywood is a fucked-up place, where a girl’s father’s death is met with mourning but that girl’s sibling’s death is met with applause. Where people celebrate not because an actress is pregnant with a small human being, but because that human being had the good luck to show up at the right time. “I really wanted – and I really expected, or imagined – that Matilda would have siblings close to her age,” Williams said when Matilda was six. Matilda is currently fourteen and her pregnant mother is thirty-nine. Whenever Williams had her abortion, that child would be closer in age to Matilda than Matilda will be to the new baby. As per her Golden Globes speech, Michelle Williams wanted to have children “when I felt supported and able to balance our lives, as all mothers know that the scales must and will tip towards our children.” Whoever made her feel unsupported during her aborted pregnancy has a lot to answer for.

I can’t watch Brokeback Mountain without seeing Ennis, age thirty-nine by the end of the movie, and thinking that Heath Ledger never made it to that age. I suspect that when I watch it again, I won’t be able to see Alma’s baby bumps without remembering that one of Michelle Williams’s babies was killed before he or she got to bump size. I miss the days when Brokeback Mountain’s biggest tragedy was the one on the screen.

Jack Twist wished he knew how to quit Ennis Del Mar. I wish Michelle Williams knew how to quit the belief that her life’s successes depend on abortion. She’s a tough woman and a dedicated mother to Matilda, and she deserves better than this.

[Anna Sauber Kuntz has previously written for Rehumanize International and Live Action News. Her guest post today is part of our paid blogging program.]

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Pro-Life Response to "The unscientific nature of the concept that 'human life begins at fertilization,' and why it matters"

Image: Competing protest signs. One reads "Keep abortion safe and legal."
The other reads "Face it... abortion kills a person."

[This article originally appeared at The Fetal Position and is reprinted here with permission.]

Occasionally a pro-choice person will give me a link to an article attempting to refute the idea that a new human organism begins to exist when the process of conception is successfully completed. There is ample scientific evidence for that statement, and that evidence can be found here.

The article The unscientific nature of the concept that “human life begins at fertilization, and why it matters (by Richard J. Paulson, M.D.) was recently sent to me by someone and I’d like to address what is being said in the article. This response turned out to be a lot longer than I expected, but that is likely due to the number of assumptions Dr. Paulson infused into his statements, without reasonable justification. So a lot had to be unpacked.

The first two paragraphs express reasonable concerns about misinformation and disinformation. The author then proceeds to unironically provide ideologically-motivated misinformation, disguising his conclusions behind the objectivity of science. As Dr. John Lennox said, “nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists,” and Paulson demonstrates that not famous M.D.s are not immune.

You get a feel for his perspective when he refers to embryos as “aggregates of cells” (aggregates is science-speak for clump, I suppose), rather than what they are; developing human organisms. In fact, the entire third paragraph is where he reveals why he doesn’t like the idea that a new human life begins at conception. While he doesn’t come right out and say it, this part of the article reeks of an ideological motivation that drives a conclusion, rather than the science itself. That becomes very clear when he asserts that “handling an embryo with the potential to produce a pregnancy is not the same as handling a human life.” I have to wonder how he is using the term “human life” here, because the newly created zygote/embryo is a unified whole human organism, with separate DNA, metabolism, and goal-oriented development that is entirely separate from the mother. He never defines human life or human being; he just asserts his views and expects the reader to accept it as fact, I guess.

I suspect he is sneaking a philosophical understanding of personhood into the debate, possibly unknowingly. And I’m not sure which would be worse; unknowingly bringing philosophy into it (indicating his own ignorance of the subject) or knowingly obfuscating the biological and philosophical categories. Given his professional background, I don’t want to assume ignorance. But that leaves only deliberate confusion, and I don’t like that either.

The fourth paragraph is where he begins discussing the science, and starts off by suggesting that saying a human life begins at fertilization “… is a categorical designation in conflict with the scientific observation that life is a continuum,” and goes onto say that both sperm and egg cells are alive. This unfortunate response is all too common among ideologically motivated people who use science to confuse the issue, deliberately or not. When we say human life begins at fertilization, we are not denying that life is on a continuum. We recognize that somatic cells and gametes are alive, and that those two alive things combine together to create something else that is alive. Ultimately, this isn’t a critique of what we are saying, it is a demonstration of his misunderstanding of what we’re saying. He concludes the paragraph with, “[f]rom a biological perspective, no new life has been created,” and he’s right if we’re using life as a category, like he is. But we’re not. We are saying that a new human life, meaning a new human organism, comes into existence. And this is a fact of biology that remains unchallenged by Dr. Paulson’s confusion.

He also says, “[t]he zygote has the same size as the egg; other than for its new genotype, the cell (comprising the cytoplasm and the rest) is nearly identical to the egg cell.” The components of a newly created zygote may be similar to the egg cell it came from, but it is now in a brand new biological category.

A successful conception event changes everything about what is happening, biologically.

Before conception, the egg will continue to be an egg cell until it is flushed out during menstruation.

But after conception, the egg ceases to exist as an egg and becomes a zygote and begins growing and developing. Eggs do not develop; organisms develop. The egg is a haploid gamete, the zygote is a diploid organism. The organism that you are today came into existence when the process of fertilization was successfully completed. You are numerically identical to that zygote. You are not numerically identical to the egg or the sperm cell that existed before you did.

The “new genotype” that Dr. Paulson dismissed with nothing more than a casual mention is a lot more important than he made it seem. I would expect an M.D. to recognize the profound difference between a haploid gamete and a diploid organism, but sometimes the viewpoints of medical professionals are clouded by ideology.

The fifth paragraph begins with “‘human life’ implies individuality,” implying that the embryo is not an individual and is therefore not a human life. This is certainly not something I expect to hear from an MD writing for Fertility and Sterility. The entity created by a successful conception event is a separate, integrated, whole human organism with its own DNA, metabolism, and development. Sometimes the zygote has a different biological sex than the mother, and it will go on to develop an entirely different set of organs as it grows older. It is not a part of the woman’s body in any meaningful sense. Unfortunately, Dr. Paulson does not offer any definition of what he means by “individuality,” but we can pick up some clues from the rest of the paragraph.

As a side note, I am constantly disappointed by the lack of language precision used by pro-choice people. It’s almost like they thrive on ambiguous terminology.

Continuing in the fifth paragraph, he admits to referring to the embryos as individuals, but waves it away by saying that “each of the totipotent cells that comprise these embryos is, at least theoretically, capable of producing a complete new individual.” I find this phrasing amusing and I wish he would have gone into more detail about what he meant by it. I was initially amused because he is attempting to make the case for why the embryo is not an individual, but then says that the cells that make up the embryo can be used to make a new individual. So apparently the parts of the embryo can create a new individual but the embryo itself isn’t an individual. Like I said, I wish he would have gone into more detail about what he meant by that, but I guess that’s all we get. Technically, any of our cells could be used to create a new individual. It’s complex, but you can take the DNA from a skin cell and put it into a denucleated egg cell and clone yourself. We have adult stem cells in our adult bodies, and it is also possible to induce pluripotency in our somatic cells. Maybe we are not an individual because of these advancements in medical technology.

He then says “multiple individuals can arise from the implantation of a single embryo, as in the case of identical twins. Therefore, we know that the preimplantation embryo is not actually an individual,” which is a conclusion that doesn’t follow from his previous statement at all. Some species of planaria are able to reproduce asexually by taking a part of their individual body and creating another individual body by each part regrowing the now missing part of the body. But nobody views a flatworm as not an individual flatworm because it has the capacity to turn into multiples. The preimplantation embryo’s ability to create an identical twin does not mean that it is not an individual, it just means that it is able to twin at that stage.

He concludes the fifth paragraph with, “it is only after implantation that the early embryo can further differentiate into the organized cell groups that enable the developing conceptus to progress further in embryonic and eventually fetal development,” which is true, but has nothing to do with any of the points he is making. The developing embryo is, in fact, an individual organism that will continue to develop into an older member of its species unless interrupted by an outside force (like an abortionist killing it). He seems to affirm that the embryo does engage in development, which is something individual organisms do.

And this is the end of his attempt to use science to show that a new human life does not begin when conception is successfully completed. His two points (life is a continuum and the embryo is not an individual) have both been addressed by me here, and his conclusion isn’t even remotely close to warranted. I am curious to know when Dr. Paulson believes that a new human organism comes into existence. If it’s not when fertilization is successfully completed, when is it?

I debated whether or not I would address his statements about faith and religion, and decided… yes. Yes I will.

He says, “’Life begins at fertilization’ may certainly be considered a religious concept; because religious ideas are based on faith, no further proof is necessary. It is pointless to use science as an argument against faith-based dictums.”

There have been volumes published on the misunderstanding that faith is somehow in conflict with science, but given that he doesn’t go into much detail here, I would only be speculating about how he views faith. Based on my experience, people who say things like this often view faith as something inherently irrational, unless of course they are placing their faith in their spouse, a pilot, or a jack to hold up a vehicle. I do find it amusing that he says it is pointless to use science as an argument against faith-based dictums, right after attempting to use science to argue against what he refers to as a faith based dictum. I hope he doesn’t just dismiss any argument against his position as a “faith based dictum,” because then he would be the one who has made up his mind and “no further proof is necessary.”

Monday, January 13, 2020

When the media gets abortion wrong

Media bias in support of abortion is unfortunately pervasive. This usually shows up in language choices, expressions of opinion, and decisions about what stories to cover in the first place. But occasionally reporters go a step further and publish demonstrably false statements. When that happens, we bring it up on Twitter and push for a correction. We've seen mixed results. Here are three examples, from oldest to most recent:

Media Matters calls David Daleiden a convicted felon
David Daleiden, the young undercover activist behind the shocking videos depicting Planned Parenthood bargaining for the sale price of aborted children's organs, certainly has no friends at Media Matters, a left-leaning media think tank. On the morning that David was to be arraigned on (baseless) felony charges, Media Matters falsely reported that he had already been convicted of 15 felonies, so that they could attack his credibility as a supposed convicted felon. In the very same article, they pooh-poohed the notion that these were "political prosecutions."
Media Matters eventually responded by altering the article, and to their credit, they included a note about the correction at the bottom. Three and a half years later, David Daleiden still has not been convicted of anything. [Note added 1/14/2020 at 11:20 a.m.: David did lose a civil lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood, which is now on appeal.]

Rewire erases actress of color from Unplanned
Nobody expected Rewire, an explicitly pro-abortion outlet, to give a positive review of the film Unplanned, which is based on Abby Johnson's journey from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life advocate. But it wasn't enough for Rewire to simply register disagreement. No, they had to attack the film as racist:
In addition to the film’s obvious anti-choice positioning, Unplanned delivers a more coded racial—and racist—message. The only nonwhite speaking characters are either those overly enthusiastic Planned Parenthood staffers or abortion-seekers who are portrayed as too downtrodden or stupid to realize the “wrongness” of their decision. The film features several montages of sad women seeking abortion services, including women of color specifically dressed and styled to indicate their poverty. They are rarely given dialogue compared to white women in these montages. Here, there is no chance for redemption if you’re Black or brown: You are either a glib “abortionist” or a tragic victim.
Any of our readers who have actually seen the film will immediately recognize Rewire's statement as an indefensible, bald-faced lie. SPL specifically called attention to Anisa Nyell Johnson's unforgettable performance:

LifeNews also picked up the story, but Rewire would not be moved. Nine months later, the lie remains in print.

Slate gets Supreme Court decision backwards
Unlike the above examples, this case of bad reporting appears to have arisen from an honest mistake. I do not have any reason to believe it was malicious.

The upcoming Supreme Court case of June Medical Services v. Gee will decide whether Louisiana's regulation of abortion vendors can stand. [Side note: here's some important context.] A brief signed by numerous pro-life legislators argues that the Supreme Court's precedents on abortion are hopelessly confusing, and concludes that the Court should take this opportunity to reconsider its self-appointed role as the nation's abortion control board and return the issue to the people by overturning Roe.

A pro-choice author at Slate attempted to refute that argument, claiming that the legislators are acting in bad faith because the Supreme Court's ever-changing tests for abortion laws aren't confusing at all. But, um...

The mistake stayed up for several hours but was eventually changed. Unlike Media Matters, however, Slate did not note the correction.

See erroneous abortion-related reporting? Let us know on Twitter or email

Friday, January 10, 2020

"It" is not the correct pronoun for unborn children

An ultrasound of an unborn baby.
He or she is about 12 weeks old.
The abortion debate is partly a battle between language that describes reality and language that covers it up.

Pro-choice advocates refer to abortion as safe, as healthcare. Pro-life advocates counter that abortion is a process in which a human is violently killed. Humans in the embryonic and fetal stages are poisoned or starved to death. Their limbs are ripped off. Their skulls are crushed. In the case of partial-birth abortions, their legs, arms, and torsos are delivered to the outside world, and scissors are pushed into the base of their skulls.

The pro-choice side dehumanizes those at the embryonic and fetal stages, referring to them as clumps of cells. The pro-life side responds that those "clumps of cells" are incredibly complex and have differentiated into the many parts of the human body very early on.

But far too often, the pro-life side uses a word that inaccurately reflects reality and supports the pro-choice side. We repeatedly use the word “it” for a human embryo or fetus, which only gives up valuable philosophical ground. We sound like we don’t even believe they’re fully human yet. However, for the vast majority of the population, a human’s sex is determined by either XX or XY chromosome pairs at the moment of conception. (For certain medical conditions, this is not the case).

A rock is an "it." A table is an "it." A human being should never be an "it."

Killing the very young is easier whenever we liken human embryos and fetuses with objects or sexless biological organisms. But killing "him" or "her" has an emotional pull. Further, when we say "him" or "her," we are also recognizing the human in the womb as a son or a daughter of the pregnant mother. And the mother-child relationship is one of the most powerful and meaningful relationships there is; inherent in that relationship is the responsibility that the mother has to her child.

We don’t use "it" for a human who has been born. Imagine if you were talking to a co-worker who referred to another individual at your company as an "it." You’d think your coworker was acting very disrespectfully, accidentally misspoke, or had a deeper cognitive issue; clearly, the co-worker’s language would not be reflective of reality. Additionally, when we talk about an individual whose sex we don’t know, we say "they" or "he or she," which is how we should refer to the unborn.

Pro-lifers, you are on the side that realizes the truth, the side that recognizes the humanity of the unborn and that does not turn its back on the horrors of abortion. Avoid that unscientific word that undermines our entire point so that we can get closer to winning this war.

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Disability Rights and the Pro-Choice Movement: A Match Made in Cognitive Dissonance

Above: A group of pro-life advocates, including two wheelchair users (Sarah Terzo and Beth Fox). Beth holds a sign reading: "Dr. said abort. Parents said no. I love my life."
This article is by guest author Sophie Trist, a university student in Louisiana. 

Recently, I came across an op-ed piece in The Hill written by Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU's Disability Rights Project, and Alexa Kolbi Molinas, a senior attorney with their Reproductive Freedom Project, which condemns HB214, an Ohio bill that would prohibit abortion in cases where the abortion is being sought because the unborn child has been diagnosed with a disability. Mizner and Kolbi Molinas claim that "Such attempts to co-opt the mantle of disability rights to ban abortion are not only hypocritical but also deeply offensive." They are far from the first writers to attempt to align the goals of the disability rights movement with those of the pro-choice movement. As a blind woman involved in both the pro-life and disability rights movements, this rankles and troubles me. So let's deconstruct the arguments that try to link these two fundamentally different movements.

One of the most popular arguments, advanced by Mizner and Kolbi Molinas among others, goes something like this: Both the disability rights and the reproductive justice movements are about the right to control one's own body and determine one's medical destiny. Proponents of this argument point to America's long and dark history of eugenics-driven policies, including sterilizing disabled people against their will, performing inhumane medical experiments on them, and restricting their ability to marry and raise children. But in drawing parallels between these tragic events and denying women the right to terminate their pregnancies, pro-choice activists fail to consider two salient points. Firstly, the fetus is not a part of her mother's body, but a distinct, living human being with unique DNA. Scientists have written about this far more eloquently and extensively than I can here, so I will focus on the second counter-argument.

The purpose of forcible sterilization and other policies influenced by eugenics was to decrease the disabled population, because people with disabilities were seen as inferior, even subhuman. The astronomical number of unborn children with disabilities lost to abortion points to the same dehumanizing mentality that people like Mizner and Kolbi Molinas claim to be working against, the destruction of the weak for the benefit of the strong and able-bodied. No pro-choice commentator seems to have a problem with the fact that in the United States, 67% of unborn children who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are aborted, and in some European countries, the percentage is much higher. If these statistics applied to, say, female babies, I doubt I would hear this ringing silence. While some disabled pro-choice activists speak to the negative stereotypes and perceptions of disability that pervade the medical community and cause many frightened and overwhelmed parents to choose abortion, they still celebrate the killing of unborn children, the most dependent and marginalized members of society, on the altar of autonomy and convenience. When an Oregon woman was urged by six different doctors to abort her twin daughters just because they had Down syndrome, the Internet did not burst into flames with pro-choice outrage. And I'm supposed to believe that these people care about disability rights?

Another popular argument used by activists in the strange intersection of disability rights and pro-choice movements is that bills aimed at protecting unborn children from ableist abortions do not help disabled people overcome the myriad discriminations in healthcare, employment, and housing that we encounter on a daily basis. This argument is utterly ridiculous. No law is capable of solving all of a particular group’s problems. Bills like HB214 are not meant to be panaceas that make the world perfect for people with disabilities. But they do protect our right to life, the fundamental right necessary to enjoy and fight for all other rights.

The pro-life position is based on the belief that every human being has equal dignity regardless of size, level of development, or ability. We reject societal standards that tell us a person's worth depends on their self-sufficiency. The disability rights movement embraces the social model of disability, which states that society's standards and stereotypes often place more of a burden on disabled people than our actual disabilities. Like the pro-life movement, disability rights activists assert that someone's value does not depend on their productivity or independence, but on the humanity which we all share. As Matthew P. Schneider points out, the pro-life and disability rights movements share the same fundamental belief about the inherent worth of all human life, while the pro-choice philosophy relies on the same dehumanization, the same "might makes right" attitude which people with disabilities have been fighting against for centuries.

Let us return briefly to Mizner and Kolbi Molinas. They and others of their ilk accuse pro-lifers of "co-opting the mantle of disability rights" and being hypocritical for protecting disabled people in the womb while supporting cuts to healthcare and other services born people with disabilities and their families depend on. While their attempts to link disability rights and reproductive justice are rife with cognitive dissonance, there is a kernel of truth in this assertion. As pro-lifers, we must wrestle with the uncomfortable fact that many pro-life politicians and leaders act in the interest of preborn disabled people while supporting or tacitly accepting programs that make life more arduous for disabled people and our families. People with disabilities are marginalized and underrepresented in nearly every social justice movement, and the pro-life movement is no exception. I feel compelled to speak out in this post because I have heard remarkably few disabled voices during my time as a pro-life activist. If the pro-life's narrative of protecting the disabled comes only from those without disabilities and ends at birth, it is easy to understand why pro-choicers believe that we use disabled people only as a means to an end. People with disabilities are often turned off by those who claim to speak for us, because we experience these forms of infantalization so often in our daily lives. The intersection between the pro-life and disability rights movements is deep and fundamental, and I urge my fellow pro-lifers to go beyond the well-meaning but sometimes simplistic narratives our movement has used for decades and make space for people with disabilities to speak for ourselves on a full range of life issues. And I especially urge my fellow disabled pro-lifers to stand up, to let the world know we're here, that we're not just pawns on the pro-life game board but activists who take the disability rights framework of valuing every life equally regardless of physical or mental characteristics to its logical conclusion.

Monday, January 6, 2020

January Itinerary

January is always a busy time for Secular Pro-Life, and the pro-life movement as a whole, as we mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and develop strategies to save lives in the new year. Here's where you'll find us.

Saturday, January 11: Chicago, IL
Our friends at Rehumanize International have organized a meetup group for the Chicago March for Life at Daley Plaza. Both before and after the march, stop by the Secular Pro-Life exhibit booth at the Chicago March for Life convention. (We could use one or two more volunteers; please email us at if you're interested.)

Thursday, January 23: Washington, D.C.
From 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Secular Pro-Life is proud to support the Geaux Forth pro-life youth rally at the Warner Theater, organized by Louisiana Right to Life. 

Friday, January 24: Washington, D.C.
Join us for the March for Life! Look for our 14-foot-tall bright blue banner at the Rehumanize International pre-march meetup, starting at 10:30 a.m. Our very own Terrisa Bukovinac will speak at the meetup, along with several other awesome activists:

On Friday evening from 9:30 p.m. to midnight, we will again join Rehumanize International for our third annual joint karaoke fundraiser! SPL president Kelsey Hazzard will be your K.J. Get ready to belt out some tunes for two great causes. 

Saturday, January 25: Washington, D.C.

Secular Pro-Life will have an exhibit booth at the National Pro-Life Summit; get your tickets here. Kelsey will duck out briefly to address an Ivy League student gathering, and we will also have a booth at the Cardinal O'Connor conference

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

We Asked, You Answered: New Year's Resolutions

We asked our supporters: What are your pro-life resolutions for 2020? In no particular order, here are a few of our favorite responses.

Susy F.—A new pregnancy center opened last week 20 minutes from my house. I plan to see how I can volunteer with my time. I’ve always donated money when I can, so this is the next step for me.

Andrew M.—My wife and I are starting the adoption process next week. Hopefully we can give a child a home!

Breanne B.—Learn which companies fund Planned Parenthood and find alternatives to them.

Joyce K.—To always speak the truth and not be afraid.

Madison L.—I just filled out a volunteer application for my local pregnancy resource center. My goal for 2020 is to show women that they don't "need" an abortion, share my story with them and let them know they have their community on their side through it all if they choose life.

Timothy K.—To fight for a place at the table for pro-lifers in the Democratic Party. Living in Dan Lipinski's district gives me a chance to do that.

Clare F.—Increase the work of Katie's Way in providing practical assistance to young/disadvantaged single mothers.

Kelley R.—Vote for the most pro-life candidates in every election.

Kendrick V.—I’m hoping to begin training as a Doula and IBCLC so I can offer educational and practical services for free or extremely reduced cost to women who are considering abortion or who are at risk in general. I hope to pair up with local women’s centers and other pro-life organizations to assist with housing, job placements, financial assistance, adoption placement, etc.

Paula L.—To spread the message that love wins, no matter the race, gender, religion, gestational age, etc. Love is where it’s at!

Happy New Year!