Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

All that needs to be said regarding President Obama speaking at Notre Dame

Go here and read this:

I would love to hear a direct answer to that question.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pro-life Awesomeness

Since starting this blog I have found many resources regarding the abortion debate, and they have been so incredibly helpful that I figure I ought to share them with you (yes, all three of you).  I've kind of laid out the links based on a rough idea of how to construct a well reasoned argument against abortion.  

But before I do that, let me start by saying this; I think that it is always important when discussing any contentious topic to first acknowledge the goodwill of the other person.  After all, there are many women out there facing a tough and scary situation, and I honestly believe that many pro-choice advocates are just trying to help them out.  We should try and show them that the means does not justify the end with charity and respect.  

Ok, on to the links.

The first set has to do with how the different abortion procedures work, and what the end result looks like.  I think it is really helpful to start here because it provides context to the debate that is based in reality.  In depth discussions about abortion center often center around specific scientific details or abstract philosophical ideas, and it becomes very easy to forget what we are actually talking about.  

Quotes from abortion providers on how abortion works
http://www.priestsforlife.org/isthiswhatyoumean/isthiswhatyoumean.pdf  (scroll down to read the quotes in red)

Video series demonstrating how the different type of abortions work

Pictures of aborted babies organized by gestational age

The second set of links has to do with the central question of the abortion debate, what is the unborn?  This is THE crux of the issue.  If it is wrong to kill innocent human beings, and the unborn is not a living human being, then we should be free to perform abortions.  If the unborn is a living human being, then abortion is wrong.

There is not much debate in the scientific community about when a new human life begins from what I have seen.  The most informed and intellectually honest pro-choice advocates agree, life begins at fertilization (conception).

More quotes here, including one from Alan Guttmacher, the former President of Planned Parenthood.

Here is a paper that gets into the specifics of the the beginning of life, heavy reading, but well worth it.

The third set of links really gets into the philosophical debates that mostly revolve around the 'personhood' of the unborn.  Pro-choice advocates who understand that abortion kills a living human being will often defend their view by saying that this living human isn't yet a 'person' because of a lack of mental or physical development, or its size or number of cells, or its location, or its dependancy of the mother.  The first link is an informational website, the second two links point to podcasts that should be regular listening if you wish argue for the pro-life cause effectively.

http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2009/02/lti-podcast-episode-3-serge.html (A great episode from the above podcast that addresses the bodily autonomy argument for abortion)

Live Action Films has exposed several different Planned Parenthood employees in several different clinics in several different states covering up statutory rape and showing young girls how to circumvent parental notification laws.  

The Silent No More Awareness Campaign gives a voice to those women who have had abortions and regretted it, and in some cases seen it ruin their lives.  These videos are incredible.

So thats a long list.  But I think when you look at everything, it seems impossible to me to justify the means that pro-choice advocates take to reach their end.  Women facing unplanned pregnancies do need our help, compassion, and not arrogant judgement.  But we cannot kill innocent human beings in order to reach this end.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Viability - how can life BEGIN only when we are pretty sure it won't end???

4D Ultrasound of a 24 week viable fetus
what abortion did to another 5 month old

One pro-abortion argument in my Crux of the Issue post that I didn't address goes something like this:  "The point where the fetus becomes viable is the most crucial point that can be used to determine when we should and shouldn't perform some/all abortions."

What does viability mean,  and what determines the point of viability?

Viability refers to the ability of the fetus to survive outside of the mother's womb.  The more interesting question though, is when is a fetus designated as viable?  Well that depends on a number of things.  First, at what point in history are you asking this question?  In the 1970's, babies born before 28 weeks were basically doomed.  Now, that threshold has been pushed back to 24 weeks, and some have survived when born around 21 weeks.

Technology and a greater understanding of neonatology have pushed the barrier back a few weeks closer to conception in the last 40 years, and this is an important point.  Fetal development has not changed in the last 40 years, only our understanding and ability to support a fetus outside of the womb has changed.  A fetus at 24 weeks that now has a chance at a long, full life is no different than a fetus at 24 weeks in the 70's that was almost certainly going to die.  Fetal viability is largely a function of our abilities, not the fetus's.  So why should we use this as a benchmark as to when we can abort or kill the fetus?

Are you saying that life begins at viability?

In light of the fact that the point of viability of the fetus is dependent on our knowledge and not the development of the fetus, this would seem to be a very poor spot to mark the beginning of life.  It would mean that a baby in the 18oo's and a baby in this century and possibly (if they ever figure out how to simulate a uterus) a baby born in the next century all had lives that began in different places.  This is of course the pinnacle of inconsistency, and therefore viability cannot determine when life begins.

There is another logical problem with stating that life begins at viability.  If viability is determined by the point at which it can survive outside the womb, that means that it is the point where the fetus has a good chance of not dying.  Of course, if something is going to die, it has to be alive first; this is kind of hard to get around.

Most abortion advocates are astute enough to recognize these points, which is why many resort to the whole "it may be alive, but it hasn't reached it's potential yet" which I addressed in the Crux post.  In short, if someone is alive, we have no business judging the value of their lives, especially if it is based on some threshold of potential that no one agrees upon.  By extension of this logic we might as well kill all the poor people in the world.  After all, you could say they haven't reached their potential, and they are just another mouth to feed, just like any unwanted baby.  Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  Of course it does, but this is where the logic of the abortion rights movement leads us, and it is also where it started:
"The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it." Margaret Sanger (editor). The Woman Rebel, Volume I, Number 1. Reprinted in Woman and the New Race. New York: Brentanos Publishers, 1922.

If we can do some abortions, we can do any and all abortions.

If viability is not indicative of the beginning of human life, then why should it have any impact on whether or not an abortion can be performed?  Often, the more serious abortion advocates also dismiss the threshold of viability as a useful point to determine if and when we should be able to perform an abortion.  They support abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy. 

It's perfectly viable if you leave it where it is supposed to be in the first place.

I can see being concerned about viability when dealing with a mother who is trying to carry her child to term and may deliver prematurely; surely you would want to do whatever you can to stave off the delivery until after viability has been reached.  This gives you increased odds of the continued survival of the fetus (note the word continued).

However, if you are trying to decide whether you can morally kill a fetus (or "terminate a pregnancy") that has every chance of living a full life if left to its own devices whether it is at 8 months or 8 weeks of gestation, it seems you have already ignored viability as a reason not to abort.


Really, there are two possibilities here when we look at the big picture in the abortion debate.  Either abortion takes an innocent human life, and represents the most fundamental human rights violation, or abortion does not take an innocent human life, and banning it would be a violation of the rights of the mother to do what she wishes with her own body.  

If fetal viability cannot speak to when life begins, than it can have no bearing on whether an abortion should or should not be done.  After all, many premature babies are not viable outside of their incubators, many are not viable without a respirator, and absolutely zero babies are viable without someone to feed and care for them every hour of the day.  Our viability has never made us more or less human, or at least it shouldn't.  

This leads us back (yet again) to the Crux of the Issue.  If an embryo or a fetus is an innocent living human being, we cannot kill it, whether it is "viable" or not.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What is the definition of newsworthy?

If over 300,000 people marched on the capital, would that be newsworthy?

If the march happened every year for thirty six years, would that be newsworthy?

If the march inspired countless marches all across the world, would that be newsworthy?

If members of congress from states all across the country publicly spoke at this march, would that be newsworthy?

If these 300,000 marchers contained Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians (and maybe more?) all marching together with a united purpose, would that be newsworthy?

If the first African American President in U.S. history took office just days before, and leaders of the black community including Dr. Alveda King, neice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived at this march to challenge this president on civil rights issues, would that be newsworthy?

I've been searching for press coverage on the March for Life 2009, and even with the almighty Google scouring the internet, the pickings are slim.  Try Googling the The New York Times and March for Life 2009, you won't find anything.  An LA Times article found 2 of the approximately 10 abortion advocates at the march and decided that a picture of the two of them would be the most accurate representation of the other 300,000+ prolifers that were there.  Most other mainstream media mentioned the "thousands" or "tens of thousands".  It seems that they don't want to talk about it, or show how big it was.

Why is this?  Why would 300,000 people in the Mall be completely ignored by the media?
A liberal bias?  I'm sure there is some of that, but Fox News didn't seem to have much coverage either.
Old news?  Some of that too, I suppose.


Maybe this is just a really unpleasant subject that doesn't make our readers/listeners feel good so they might change the channel or read something else.  

Where do you get your news from?

There were several speakers on the coverage that I watched on EWTN, here is one, Pastor Luke Robinson.  He shows how abortion is just the latest chapter in the same civil rights battle that Martin Luther King fought.  And this man can give a speech!

The speech that really stuck with me though, was a woman who told an intensly personal story about her own abortion.  I couldn't find her speech on YouTube, but I am sure the Silent No More Awareness Campaign will have it up soon.  Here are three videos from previous demonstrations, they are, well... just watch.

In fact, go to the Silent No More Awareness Campaign's YouTube website and watch their videos.  No amount of reasoning or logic can say what we are trying to say as well as these women can.

How is this not newsworthy?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This isn't just about religion.

One thing that gets me going is when I hear that abortion is just a religious issue.  Some people seem to think that because many prominent leaders from all churches and faiths speak out against abortion that the issue is a theological one.  To these people, banning abortion for everyone would be like banning meat on Fridays for everyone during lent.  Some even go so far as to say that it would violate the separation of church and state or suggest that pro-lifers want to create a theocracy.  

As best as I understand it, the argument goes something like this: 

Your faith teaches you that you should oppose abortion, and so you do, and that is ok.   However, since this is an issue of personal beliefs, you just can't come out and say we should ban it.  After all, not everyone shares your faith.  At first blush this may seem to make sense.  However, when we really think about it, this argument misstates the role of religion in the public, and more than that it completely misunderstands the reason why people of faith speak out about abortion.  

The problem arises from the fact that anyone who makes this argument is confusing religious doctrine with religious teaching on morality.  Just because not everyone shares my faith, or the religious doctrines I ascribe to, doesn't mean that our laws should not represent our foundational and universal morality.  After all, that is exactly what laws are meant to do.  Why do we all agree so readily that it is wrong to steal, cheat, and kill an innocent person?  We do not need to agree about the validity of the doctrines of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Atheism, Agnosticism, or any other "ism" to agree on these things.  

Indeed, the fact that so many people from ALL faiths and NO faith speak out against abortion greatly discredits the argument that it is just a religious issue.  If CatholicsJewsMuslims, and Atheists can all agree about one issue, well then it is clearly not an issue that speaks to what makes us all Jewish, it is an issue that speaks to the heart of what makes us all human.  Abortion is not wrong because the Pope said so, rather, the Pope said so because abortion is wrong, and a bunch of Rabbi's, pastors, atheists, and faithful Muslims, and countless other groups of people happen to agree with him. 

Religion doesn't function in the public square as rule-maker, instead it informs the consciences of those who make the rules, namely you and I, so that we may make rules that are fair and just for everyone.  People of faith speak out about abortion not because they are just following orders from their spiritual "bosses", they speak out about abortion because their faith calls them to "be their brother's keeper", to care about the lives of other human beings.  They see that reason and science point to the fact that innocent life is being taken by abortion, and their faith then requires them to act.  This is not theocracy, this is compassion and justice.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The crux of the issue

November 9th was my daughter's due date.  That very day we had the legal right to "abort" her for any reason... oh, except for the fact that she had already passed through the birth canal seven days earlier and is currently sleeping on her grandmother's lap.  "That is a pretty big difference", some might say.  But is it really?  

Before the election threw me off course, I had planned to first address what I believe is at the very heart of the abortion debate: the beginning of human life.  Abortion doesn't just kill an embryo or a fetus, it kills a person; a living, innocent human being.  In the next several (and I mean several) paragraphs, I intend to explore some common suggestions about the criteria used  for determining when life begins.  As I thought about all of these ideas, I saw that the “big difference” between my daughter inside the womb and my daughter outside the womb has more to do with our perceptions rather than the child herself.

Things we should all be able to agree upon

Lets start with a couple of (hopefully) obvious common principles.    First off, I think we can all agree that taking innocent human life is a bad thing.  It's the ultimate no-no, even the most primitive civilizations have realized this.  In fact, the only thing that can super-cede my right to my own life is your right to yours!  In other words, I can't kill you to get a kidney that I may need to survive.  (Obviously, if you were attacking me, I have the right to defend myself, hence the requirement for the 'innocent' tag.)

Secondly, I agree with Barack Obama when he says that there are people of good will on both sides of the debate.  Here is how I see it: If we have a woman in a terrible situation surrounding an unplanned pregnancy, abortion advocates will claim that they can help her.  Their compassion leads them to want to help because they recognize the anguish that this woman is in, and they want to help her deal with this anguish and the (sometimes extreme) difficulty of her situation.  They recognize a neighbor crying out for help, and out of respect for her human dignity they reach out to help.  (In other words, it is not my intent to demonize the people who support abortion, I only hope to show the intrinsically evil nature of the act which I believe most people haven’t thought about.  I know I didn’t.)

What its all about

So if we all agree that taking innocent human life is a bad thing, and if we are considering the option of abortion out of respect for the human dignity of the mother, then we had better well know when life begins.  If the fetus is nothing but "a clump of cells" and not a human life, then the case for abortion gains some credibility.  If, however, it is a human being, then abortion takes an innocent human life.  If the fetus is a human being then it has the same dignity as the mother, and therefore requires the same care and compassion given to the mother.  If the fetus is a human being, it is as innocent (if the mother was raped) or perhaps more innocent (if the mother was irresponsible) regarding the cause of the pregnancy.  If we are performing abortions and we are wrong about when life begins, then we are taking innocent human life.  

And yet, we never see Planned Parenthood or NARAL explain where they believe life begins.  In my limited experience, pro-choice advocates almost inevitably try and shift the debate from whether abortion takes a human life to how "comprehensive sex education" and contraception can lower abortion rates.  We are not debating the merits of different strategies to lower abortion rates, we are debating whether or not abortion takes human life.  Because if it does, then just lowering abortion rates is about as acceptable a solution as Hilter just killing less Jews in Nazi Germany.  The problem is that the beginning of human life is the heart of the abortion debate, and one side almost never seriously addresses it.  Maybe it's because people have a much easier time defending abortion when we don't talk about when life begins.  

What other people are saying

So when does life begin?  If you are reading this post because you received my email, you'll recognize this link: http://www.priestsforlife.org/ultrasound.html.  Here you can find the discoverer of the cause of Down's Syndrome, the founder and director of the Department of Genetics at Mayo Clinic, and an embryology textbook published in 1998 all stating that conception is the point where life begins.  Honestly though, I'm sure you could find conflicting quotes with just a quick Google search.  I found one from a Sheldon Turkish, an abortionist, who by his own admission told a woman who was six to seven weeks pregnant that the unborn child was "nothing but some tissue" when she asked if "the baby was already there".  I wonder if she would have considered the beating heart that I was looking at on our son's 7 week ultrasound "nothing but some tissue".  You can read about it here or just Google his name and his quote.

Or, instead of just trusting quotes, you can you can use your own reason.  At one point, you and I were not alive.  Clearly we are alive now.  I think we can all agree that we weren't alive as a separate sperm and egg, we weren't even "put together".  I think we can all agree that we were certainly alive when we were crying our eyes out on the delivery table.  Therefore, somewhere between these two points we were given the gift of life and all of the “inalienable” rights that come from this gift.  

Location, location, location

The way the law is written right now, that moment is the when we pass through the birth canal and into the outside world.  This makes no sense what-so-ever, as it essentially defines life by location.  Inside the womb?  Not alive yet, no rights.  Outside the birth canal?  Living, all the rights you could want.  Never mind the fact that there is no difference in the development or growth of the child as it passes through the canal, except that she was probably pretty happy where she was and now she is royally ticked off.  

The lunacy of this is made even more apparent when I think about the birth of my daughter, as I had mentioned earlier.  Had she been born on her due date, it would have been legal to abort her on Nov 9th.  Yet, on Nov. 9th, she was already 1 week old.  No one would advocate “aborting” a one week old infant, that is infanticide.  So what is the essential difference here?  Location.  The child herself isn’t really significantly different, she is just outside the womb instead of inside it.  

As an aside, until the partial birth abortion ban passed, everything but her head could have been outside the birth canal and they could have legally stuck a closed pair of scissors into the back of her head, opened them up, and sucked out her brains.  If you were unaware of this, I am not making this stuff up.  Thankfully, this technique is now illegal, but that may not last if President-elect Barack Obama signs the Freedom of Choice Act.  Here is the Senate and House version of the actual bill for those who wish to do some homework, it is a very short bill.  Call your representatives.

So at what point between the separate sperm and egg and baby-on-the-birth-table does life begin if not at live birth?  Would a heartbeat qualify?  Well, you’ve got that at three weeks after conception.  How about a brain?  At eight weeks after conception, your brain is growing at a rate of 250,000 neurons per minute.  I do not suspect that Planned Parenthood would support either of these points as benchmarks for the beginning of life.

Its all there at conception

When we go backwards from live birth, we see that we are covering gradual and indistinct stages of growth and development.  At no point is there a defining moment that clearly separates one stage from another until we hit conception.  At conception, the child has its own DNA, clearly differentiating it from just another body part of the mother.  All it needs now is the nutrients and shelter provided by the mother’s womb, which in effect isn’t much different than the nutrients and shelter the mother provides once the child is out of the womb.   The baby will grow and develop in amazing ways, to be sure, but all the power of this growth and development is harnessed at conception.  A glaring example of this comes from many abortion advocates themselves; they speak in hushed tones at the power of embryonic stem cells, yet these same embryos are dismissed as merely a clump of cells or “just some tissue” when referring to abortion.  I do not believe it is conscious, but this does show how utilitarian our view of the dignity of human life has become.  If it can DO something for us, it is valuable.  For those of you who share my faith, it seems being made in the image and likeness of God isn’t good enough anymore.  

Any argument that life begins at some point after conception invariably states that the fetus is a potential human life, and must reach some point of development before this potential is reached.  Yet when pressed about what point of development this is, no one seems to be in consensus.  The argument almost always devolves into a personal list of two or three things the fetus must be able to "do" before they are considered "fully human" by the person you are speaking with.  

There are two logical problems with this argument, we'll tackle the issue of life being defined by development or abilities first.  This kind of argument for human life usually goes something like this, "Once you can do 'this' and 'that' you are human." with the 'this' and 'that' often referring to some basic level of communication or cognizance.  In essence, we end up being defined based on our behavior and/or abilities instead of our innate characteristics or features.  (Again, the spread of this kind of thinking shows that we are becoming more and more utilitarian.)  We do not do this anywhere else in life, a coffee mug isn't a coffee mug because it can hold coffee and keep my hand cool at the same time, a thermos can do that just as well, and clearly a coffee cup and a thermos are two different things.  We define things based on their inherent characteristics or features, and it is these characteristics or features that give rise to our abilities & behaviors, not the other way around.  Here is another example; a shark isn't a shark because it can swim fast and eat seals, a killer whale can do that just as well.  It is the characteristics and features of the animals that define them and differentiate them from one another.

Secondly, when we consider that before this point of development is reached, the zygote/embryo/fetus is clearly as developed or more developed than many of the single or multi-celled organisms that science considers living, this idea becomes very problematic.  If it is not a living human being, but it is alive, and it has human DNA, then what is it?  

Have it your way

Aside from the moment of birth, the moment of conception, or some developmental benchmark, another common answer to when life begins states that it is a personal decision.  This is what many abortion rights groups and activists claim.  To paraphrase Nancy Pelosi, it is between the woman, her doctor, and her god.  (As a self-proclaimed “ardent, practicing Catholic”, I think her choice of word order is telling.)

Well, it is certainly true that you must choose what you believe, but just because you choose to believe it doesn't mean it is true.  For example, lets say I believe that life begins at conception, and Nancy Pelosi believes it begins once the child exits the birth canal, and crazy uncle Billy believes it begins at 3 years of age because kids are annoying during the terrible twos, anyway.  Clearly, all three cannot be right at the same time.  Therefore, two of the people must be wrong, despite the fact that it was their personal belief that led them to their decision.  And if you are wrong about when life begins, then an innocent life has been taken.  

Another problem with this personal choice approach is that there can be no set standards, it opens the door to whatever you think at the moment.  Uncle Billy can say that 2 year olds aren’t human lives because, hey, that’s his decision.  I realize that in reality Uncle Billy wouldn’t be able to act on his belief, but the premise of personal choice allows this.  It is moral relativism at is finest.

Created equal, with an unalienable Right to Life

When you get down to it, it becomes less a question of whether the fetus is human and alive, and more question of whether that life is valuable.  When we start assigning our own judgement of value to another's life, we are opening up doors to some very ugly places. Just look at Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.  Sanger edited the Birth Control Review, which promoted eugenics.  She reffered to immigrants and the poor as "...human weeds,' 'reckless breeders,' 'spawning... human beings who never should have been born." Please note that I am not saying that every pro-choice advocate is also an advocate of eugenics. But if we start to believe that not all human lives should have human rights, and we leave that power up to the government?  Yikes...

When we look beyond all of the emotional, philosophical, political, social, and religious differences involved in this issue, we all end up looking at the same thing, the fetus inside the womb.  The more we look, the more we realize how our perception of what the child is changes more than fundamental make-up of the child itself.  The more we look, the more we open our eyes to the miracle of the power of procreation, and the harder it is to tell ourselves that this is just a “clump of tissue”, or just a “potential” human being.  The more we look, the more we see that the potential has been reached.  If we deny this and abort the child, or if we see this tremendous power simply as a means to our own ends and destroy embryos for stem cells, then we have taken innocent human life.  If this is the road that our generation continues to travel down, then hopefully future generations will look upon this as a dark period in American history, and they will see what is plainly before us in the womb: a child.