Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Making A Pro-Life Case in Three Easy Steps

During some recent pro-life outreaches at a couple of local universities, many of the people we would talk to would strongly object to the idea of the unborn being classified as living, distinct, and whole human beings. Quite a few of the objections range from the skeptical ("We cannot say for sure when a human life begins") to the scientific ("A human life is not present during the early part of pregnancy, but sometime later.")

In response to these objections, pro-life apologist Steve Wagner has developed a three-question tool that can be used to help provide an argument that the unborn are fully valuable human beings just like the rest of us, but in a non-aggressive and engaging way. It is called the "Ten Second Pro-Life Apologist":

1. "If something is growing, then isn't it alive?"
2. "If something has human parents, then isn't it human?"
3. "And living humans, or humans like you and me, are valuable, aren't they?"

This tool is very effective at helping keep a conversation about abortion on track by directing it towards answering the question: "What are the unborn?"
"If something is growing, then isn't it alive?"
During his debate with Dr. Nadine Strossen at Oregon State University last year, Dr. Mike Adams made a point similar to this in response to a comment made by Dr. Strossen during the cross examination. Strossen had remarked that it wasn't possible to know when a human life was present, to which Dr. Adams responded, "But Nadine, dead things don't grow." It was obvious to the audience that a living being was present from the very beginning of its own existence.

Now, sometimes there is pushback against this idea, to which I ask a follow-up question, "Well, do you know of any non-living beings that can grow and develop over time?" To this, the answer is usually no. My response is typically along the lines of, "Well, then it seems that the unborn entity that is in question is alive, right?" One student (rightly) pointed out that not all living things share the same value. After all, it isn't a crime to mow the lawn or use a mousetrap. This is a good set-up for another question:
"If a living being is conceived by human parents, then isn't it a human being?"
This is a good follow up, as it begins to focus on the kind of thing that the unborn entity in question really is. It seems odd to think of two human parents being able to conceive offspring that are not human but can somehow later become human simply by developing to a particular point in time. In other words, I am a human now, but not when I was younger? That doesn't sound right. Furthermore, the unborn human possesses a genetic structure that is unique to that human being. That genetic structure is what will differentiate that human being from other human beings throughout his or her lifetime. With this in mind, we can discuss the last question.
"Living humans, or humans like you and me, are valuable, aren't they?"
This question helps to bring the key issues of the abortion debate into focus: Is it permissible to kill the unborn? That depends on what the unborn are. This question can also be a great stepping stone into talking about the SLED test, and can help continue a conversation in a meaningful direction. It can also help establish common ground in the conversation. Nearly everyone I have talked to, with a few exceptions, have admitted that they really do care about human rights.

The Ten-Second Pro-Life Apologist tool is a great resource in helping to stay in the "driver's seat" of the conversation, and can help someone think through the issues involved.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Zero Reasons a Fetus is Absolutely Not a Person [Clinton Wilcox]

Edit: Special thanks to Rich Poupard, a physician on staff with Life Training Institute for reading over my article and providing me with helpful suggestions to improve two of my responses. I have updated the answers to questions seven and eight based on his comments.

A friend posted an article on Addicting Info to my Facebook wall titled 14 Reasons a Fetus is Absolutely Not a Person, written by one Wendy Gittleson (who has obviously never seen the inside of a logic textbook and has no sense of shame). This article will be a bit polemical, mostly because of her undeserved arrogance and the fact that her article doesn't even come close to doing what her headline alleges she is going to do. Seriously. Just take one look through her 14 questions (they are not arguments), and you'll notice one glaring omission: none of these 14 questions offer any sort of argument for why the fetus is not a person. They are merely hypothetical questions one might pose to a proponent of fetal personhood (such as myself), and some of the questions are incredibly dumb. Only one question is actually legitimate. But none of these are arguments that support the proposition "a human fetus is not a person." Ordinarily I'd pay no mind to this article and I would consider it not worth my time to respond to. But it was posted to my Facebook wall and another friend encouraged me to respond because there might be people who are actually taken in by this garbage. And I'll be doing this completely sober. Pray for me.

Gittleson starts off by decrying the fact that conservatives want to "shut down medical care for 4.6 million women" because they want to defund Planned Parenthood. Of course, this is a strawman argument against pro-life people, to say nothing about its being a red herring. If Planned Parenthood didn't kill hundreds of thousands of children every year, we'd probably be leaving them alone. However, bills that go out to defund Planned Parenthood will redirect the money given to them to other healthcare providers for women. No woman need be deprived of healthcare if Planned Parenthood goes under. Of course, what abortion-choice advocates like Gittleson really care about is not healthcare for women but access to abortion. She is using healthcare as a smokescreen.

Next, she engages in a complete non sequitur. She alleges that because conservatives love to make money, if we really believed the fetus was a person "cottage industries" would spring up. She doesn't expand on this so it's difficult to understand what she means here. For some reason, because "cottage industries" aren't springing up, she takes this to mean that conservatives don't really think a fetus is a person. I actually think fetuses are persons because there is good reason to accept them as persons.

So now come Gittleson's questions that allegedly "prove" that fetuses are not full people. Brace yourselves.

14. If a fetus is a person then why don't they issue conception certificates?

One possible reason is because one's conception is notoriously difficult to pinpoint (when reproduction is achieved naturally). This is why when doctors date a pregnancy, they date it from the woman's last menstrual period (LMP). No matter where they go, LMP gives doctors one system that provides a standard convention.

Additionally, this is a societal convention, not based on the status or lack thereof of the fetus. It's also true that pregnancy is a tumultuous time in the life of the unborn human being, and the survival of any given embryo/fetus is not 100% certain (as miscarriages happen, though not likely as often as abortion-choice people think they do). Another reason we issue birth certificates could be because that's when the survival of the human being is much more stable.

To reiterate, this is a societal convention which says nothing about the moral status of the embryo/fetus and either way, society could just as easily have decided to give out conception certificates (based on an approximation of conception date or based on LMP) rather than birth certificates.

13. If a fetus is a person then why do they go to an OB/GYN for medical care instead of a pediatrician?

Because dealing with a fetus requires a different set of skills than dealing with an adolescent. You can't just take the fetus in and say, "here, check her temperature." The fetus is in the woman's body, meaning that it requires a different set of skills (e.g. removing the fetus from the womb if surgery is needed to be performed) and a different set of equipment which requires training (e.g. the ultrasound machine). There's also the fact that OB/GYNs are equipped to help a pregnant woman through pregnancy. The OB/GYN monitors the woman's pregnancy and can refer out to other specialists if something comes up.

12. If a fetus is a person then why can't we claim it on our taxes?

Another societal convention. See number 14.

11. If a fetus is a person then why do we count age starting from birth?

Another societal convention. See number 14. Additionally, some Asian cultures do count your time in the womb and start you out at one year old when you're born. Will you accept that as evidence that the fetus is a person?

10. If a fetus is a person then why is it often kept a secret for the first three months?

Again, for the reason that pregnancy becomes progressively safer as it progresses, so women tend to want to keep it secret in case they lose the embryo. Plus, I've known couples to announce it as soon as they were told. It differs from couple to couple.

9. If a fetus is a person why does "God" kill so many of them?

God doesn't kill any of them. God isn't up in Heaven playing Asteroids with human embryos. Embryos die naturally, just as all human beings die naturally. Some just die sooner rather than later. But conceived embryos have a 100% death rate.

8. If a fetus is a person then why doesn't it eat its own food?

Probably because it doesn't have access to its own food. The womb, her skin, and other internal stuff is in the way.

In fact, there's a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, in which a woman has severe morning sickness, characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. This can result in the mother needing to stay in the hospital and be fed intravenously through a technique called Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). While she is undergoing TPN, the mother cannot eat her own food. She takes in nutrient through an IV. So if Gittleson's criterion for personhood is correct (that one must be able to eat her own food), then while undergoing TPN the pregnant woman is no longer a person. This is clearly an absurd standard to meet for personhood.

7. If a fetus is a person then why does medicine put the life of the mother before that of the fetus?

This is simply incorrect. Medicine doesn't put the mother first. In all contexts outside the abortion context, the life of the fetus is treated with tremendous respect. If the child is wanted, he is always treated as a second patient. This means that certain medical procedures that would be perfectly fine if she wasn't pregnant can't be considered if she is (e.g. if a woman needs a tooth pulled, if she is pregnant the doctor won't put her under because the life of the fetus, the second patient, must be taken into consideration). There are times in which the life of the baby is put ahead of the comfort of the mother.

6. If a fetus is a person then why can't it live outside the womb for several months?

Because it is still developing. For the first nine months the embryo/fetus requires the environment of the uterus because he begins life in the fallopian tube. He has to develop to the point where he can survive outside the womb before he can survive outside the womb. You might as well ask "if astronauts are persons, why can't they survive in the vacuum of space without an EVA suit?" To which I would reply, "go outside and play. You've had enough internet for today."*

5. If a fetus is a person does that mean a pregnant woman is two people? Can she drive in the carpool lane? Can she buy two items when a store advertises "one per customer" sales?

That's three questions. You cheated!

No, a pregnant woman is one person, as one thing cannot be identical to two things (this is basic philosophy). The fetus in her womb is a second person. Again, it's a societal convention that she can't drive in the carpool lane. Society could just as easily allow fetuses to count, if it wanted to. Also, store owners could count fetuses, if they wanted to. It's up to them. Trying to call pregnant women "two persons" as a response to fetal personhood is just metaphysically confused.

4. If a fetus is a person, why would a politician even consider a rape or incest exception?

This is the one legitimate question of the bunch.

You'll have to ask them. I disagree with them on this point. I don't hold an exception for rape or incest because I don't believe killing a human being is an acceptable response to a difficult situation, even one as tragic as rape. As even some abortionists recognize (e.g. Warren Hern in his textbook Abortion Practice), a rape victim just isn't served by the abortion clinic; she needs to be referred for proper counseling. But even so, the fact that some politicians are inconsistent on this point is not an argument that fetuses are not people. At best, it's an argument that politicians are inconsistent.

Not all pro-life people agree on the rape exception. Here's a good article written by Monica Snyder of Secular Pro-Life defending the rape exception, that even pro-life people would do well to read to understand this viewpoint. To provide balance, here's an article I have previously written arguing against the rape exception.

3. If a fetus is a person, why is no one (I shouldn't speak too soon) suggesting the death penalty for women who have abortions?

For a few reasons: 1) Despite what you think about pro-life people, no pro-life person wants to see a post-abortive woman die (there may be some exceptions from extremists, but this is a good generalization about pro-life people). 2) Because abortion is currently, unfortunately, legal, and capital punishment is a penalty for criminals. 3) Not all pro-life people support capital punishment.

2. If a fetus is a person then why is the smallest clothing size "newborn?"

I'm no genius, but I'd wager the fact that they can't wear clothes has something to do with this one.

Also, the smallest clothing size is preemie, not newborn.

1. If a fetus is a person then why aren't adoptions finalized until after the baby is born?

Probably because the baby can't be given to the couple until after the baby is born.

I could have probably teased some of these out more, but I just wanted to give a brief response to each of these questions.

She ends her article by asserting, "...to take away that right to make that decision is to say that not only are fetuses people, their personhood takes precedence over the personhood of the woman and that is indefensible." Of course this says nothing of the sort. The reason we take some choices away from people is because some choices should not be legally permitted. One could just as easily say that by taking the choice to rape a woman away from a man is to say that not only are women people, but their personhood takes precedence over the personhood of the man and that is indefensible. Of course this is absurd reasoning. What it says is that because women are people, we are obligated to respect their rights and their dignity as human beings. I cannot justify an act that would harm or kill someone else, even in the name of bodily autonomy. So if fetuses are people, bodily autonomy cannot be used to justify killing them.

So there you have it. Do you feel pro-choice yet? No? Neither do I. This article is just filled with absurdly poor reasoning, and the fact that someone would write it and share it as a serious attempt at justifying their position shows how badly proper training in logic is needed in our culture.

*There's an obvious difference here in that astronauts are not meant to survive in the vacuum of space but human embryos/fetuses are meant to survive in the world outside the womb once they develop enough. But the soundness of the analogy is in the fact that as embryos/fetuses require a certain environment in which to survive, so do astronauts require a certain environment in which to survive. Appealing to the fact they can't survive in an environment they can't survive in is not a good justification for denying them personhood in that environment.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Is Bodily Autonomy Unlimited?

I would like to continue the discussion regarding the arguments from "Bodily Autonomy" by discussing another issue that needs to be addressed: If bodily autonomy is absolute, then we cannot limit it.

During his debate on the UK radio show Unbelievable, LTI president Scott Klusendorf brought the following point up in response to the argument posed to him by abortion-choice activist Mara Clarke: She phrased her objection to the pro-life view by highlighting the rights that women have in regards to their own bodily autonomy. Scott responded by pointing out that if bodily autonomy is absolute, then it cannot be limited, even when it becomes clear that allowing a woman to do so will result in harm. Scott highlighted the dangers in taking thalidomide and the severe birth defects that have resulted from pregnant mothers taking the drug to alleviate their morning sickness. Given that we think the laws restricting the use of thalidomide are perfectly just, then it must be that even the "right" to do what one wants with their body isn't unlimited.

In his video on the subject of abortion, conservative thinker Dennis Prager asks several questions that further illustrate the problems associated with an "anything goes" mentality regarding bodily autonomy.

One problem that Dennis points out is that this view means that there would be no abortion that could be considered immoral. To cite one example: would it be wrong for a mother to have an abortion if she was carrying a girl and she wanted a boy? In his book Abortion Practice, Dr. Warren Hern, one of the leading abortionists in the United States, cites an example of when a patient came to him seeking an abortion because she was pregnant with a boy instead of a girl. Even Dr. Hern, who provides second and third trimester abortions, expressed concern at the idea of abortion solely because the child is the wrong sex. He writes, "Even though I had begun by being totally opposed to abortion for this reason, she persuaded me that, in her mind, abortion was the only choice she would accept for this pregnancy for her own mental health as well as for the welfare of her family." (Hern, p. 85). Many of the people I have spoken to at pro-life outreaches on campus have felt troubled by this idea and have shown strong resentment to the idea of allowing abortion for something as trivial as what sex the child should be.

One other example that Dennis gives is a hypothetical genetic test that can determine whether a child will be born either straight or gay. Dennis asks an important question: If abortion is solely the choice of the mother (or both parents), then would abortion of a child of an undesired sexuality be wrong? At what stage of life will it suddenly become wrong to terminate the life of that child because he may possess a characteristic his parents don't want him to have? Does it really make sense to allow the bodily rights of one person to supersede the right to live of another? It seems that issues of bodily autonomy aren't entirely relevant, then, to the issue of abortion, as many would agree that there would be times when abortion should not be tolerated.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Can Men Discuss Abortion?

"You're a man! You can't speak on abortion!"
This assertion is so laughably bad, I would prefer to ignore it. It is another example of the Ad Hominem fallacy that is commonplace in heated topics like abortion. However, I have heard a more sophisticated version of the idea, so I figure that it is time for another response.
In conversations about abortion, many have approached me and asked how exactly I am able to understand and oppose abortion, since I will never be pregnant. While it is true that I will never be pregnant, that doesn't mean that I am incapable of coming to the correct conclusion on the ethical and legal implications of the abortion issue, and that there is no good reason to oppose the practice. After all, arguments don't have reproductive organs. People do. Since having a certain set of organs does not cause someone to come to the wrong conclusion on any other issue, then this issue must be no different.

Furthermore, there are many women who oppose abortion, and will use the exact same arguments that men do. Are we going to have to assume that if a woman makes an argument against abortion(P1. It's wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. P2. Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. Therefore, abortion is wrong) then the argument is sound; but if a man makes the same exact argument, then the argument is unsound, simply because he will never become pregnant? What if a woman who cannot become pregnant made the same argument? Is it invalid, because she will never experience pregnancy?

Underlying the objection is a general belief that personal experience is what defines moral truth. I have been hearing this idea promoted more and more at my university. The concept seems to assume that unless I cannot experience a particular ethical dilemma(such as abortion), then I am not capable of reasoning on the issue. This recently was brought to my attention by an in-class discussion on the issue of abortion itself:
A student had made an observation that if men were capable of becoming pregnant, then the abortion debate would have been ended years ago. When I replied by pointing out that not being able to become pregnant does not immediately invalidate the argument that abortion is a moral wrong, the response was that since I am a male in a "patriarchal" society, then I am unable to understand the ethical issues surrounding abortion.

The first response would be: So what? Since when does being in a "patriarchal" society suddenly(almost magically) validate the intentional killing of innocent human beings? Furthermore, even if American society is radically opposed to the rights of women as human beings, why is the appropriate response to one injustice to simply add another injustice to the culture? Since sexism and gender discrimination are wrong, because they are intentionally denying a fundamental right to a human being(based on the sex organs they posess) then abortion is wrong if it denies a fundamental right to a human being(based on the differences outlined in the "SLED" acronym).

The second response would be:"Could the unborn still be human, and therefore bearing the same intrinsic dignity that you and I bear, regardless of who runs our society?" The underlying assumption behind objections of "patriarchy" is that men don't experience the same struggles as women, and are therefore unable to reason correctly about moral issues that may affect women generally more than men. Unfortunately, this is also flawed. Behaviors like discrimination or sexual harassment are wrong, regardless of who is experiencing the mistreatment. Likewise, as human beings, we are capable of reasoning on moral issues, regardless of what gender we happen to be. To conclude otherwise is to affirm that sexual prejudice is a non-issue, by only considering ideas valid if they are promoted by those of the same sex, and not based on the reasoning behind the ideas themselves.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Thinking Clearly Regarding Fetal Organ Donation and Human Value [Clinton Wilcox]

A while ago I came across this letter from a dad whose unborn daughter, Eva, had a debilitating disability and would die a few days after birth. Of course, it's a very difficult situation to go through. No parent ever wants to outlive their son or daughter. However, the circumstances regarding their decision to bring the child to full term, while it appears noble on the surface, actually doesn't respect the inherent dignity of their child.

Listen to what Eva's father says:
We made our choice to carry Eva to full term for a lot of reasons, but the first and foremost was to donate her organs...It was just a practical endgame that in our minds, before we came to the realization Eva is alive and our daughter deserves to meet her mama and daddy, gave us a purpose to continue on. Donating was on Keri's mind from darn near the second we found out and while the experience of holding and kissing our daughter will be something we cherish forever, the gift(s) she's got inside that little body of hers is what really matters. Keri saw that almost instantly...
The first and foremost reason to carry Eva to term is not because she's a valuable human being, or because she deserves to meet her mom and dad. It's simply for her organs. In fact, Keri, Eva's mom, asked if they would be able to donate the child's organs "if they carried her to term." In other words, if they don't abort her, could she donate the child's organs? This child is not seen as an intrinsically valuable human being -- this child is being kept alive, first and foremost, for her organs. They are not respecting Eva's inherent dignity as a valuable human being. What they see are her organs.

Additionally, the child's inherent dignity is not being respected because she obviously cannot consent to having her organs donated. If a woman died in a plane crash and gave no prior acknowledgement that she would have wanted her organs donated, then doctors would be ethically bound not to remove her organs, even if there were others who needed them. Now, in cases where the person didn't consent to donating organs before they died, the doctors can get consent from the family members if the family members believe that's what she would have wanted. But since Eva has not obtained the level of rational cognizance necessary to understand what organ donation is and properly consent to having it done, given all the information, there is no way to know that Eva would have wanted her organs donated after she died.

Treating a child as valuable mainly because of her organs is a clear case of violating a child's inherent human dignity. The ethical thing to do would be to allow the child to be born and die naturally. She has a right to meet her mom and dad, and she has a right to be born. She also has the right to have her dignity respected regarding the harvesting of her organs after birth.

We all want our lives to have meaning, and we want our children's lives to have meaning. The problem is that in a case like this, they are trying to give meaning to the child based on what she can do -- donate her organs -- and not recognizing that the child already has inherent dignity as a human being made in the image of God.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Another Look At the Violinist

Recently, a common objection that I have been hearing from street-level advocates of abortion-choice is the bodily autonomy argument. While doing outreach and discussing the topic of abortion with students on the college campus, this idea would be brought up quite often. The argument has been used and popularized since Judith J. Thomson made it in her 1971 article "The Violinist". Some pro-life authors have given very detailed responses to the argument. Two of my favorites have been Francis Beckwith's Defending Life and Chris Kaczor's The Ethics of Abortion. For this post, I will briefly give a few thoughts that I have about the argument itself, and it's limits.

To summarize the argument, it goes something like this: You wake up one morning to find yourself attached to a famous, unconscious violinist, who has a kidney ailment. The society of music lovers has placed him there, saying that he will need to use your kidneys for the next nine months, until he has recovered from his kidney ailment enough to function independent of you. Thomson then asks, given the situation, are you obligated to remain attached to him? It would be very nice of you to do so, but should you? She goes on to argue that it is not morally wrong to detach yourself, thereby killing the violinist, since he has no "right" to your body unless you consent to give it to him.

The argument has a lot of force, and has been critiqued by numerous authors, both pro-life and pro-choice. The more common street level objection goes something along the lines of "I have a right to do whatever I want with my body. Even though the unborn entity can be a full human person, I am the one who must ultimately decide."

Bodily autonomy has been, for a long time, a major driving force among the pro-choice movement, and I think it will continue to become that, as the science of embryology continues to affirm the existence of human beings from the point of conception.

A couple of questions do come to mind when it comes to bodily autonomy arguments for abortion:

1. To what extent is bodily autonomy unable to be restricted? Of course, women(and men) have very broad choices as to what they are able to do to their physical bodies, but even these choices seem to be limited when it comes to the rights of other human beings that may be infringed upon. Men don't have a right to sexually or physically harass women. No one has a right to driving under the influence, or to indecent exposure. Bodily autonomy is limited by the rights of other human beings, rights that spring from having a human nature(such as the right to not be unjustly killed). The only question then regarding abortion is whether there is a human being present in utero.

2. Would any abortions be immoral?
I have written a prior post on this topic, asking whether there would be times where a woman got an abortion for the sole purpose of selling the body parts of her unborn child for profit. What if another woman participated in a study where she was impregnated, carried the child to a later term, and then had an abortion so that doctors could learn how to develop safer procedures? Do we think that would be wrong? Many pro-choicers argue from hard cases, where abortion is considered to be a last resort. But why does that even need to be brought up? If bodily autonomy is virtually unlimited, why does it need to be just seen as a last resort? It must be because abortion really does intentionally kill an innocent human being, and doing so is close to impossible to justify.

To illustrate this, let's take another look at the violinist argument: Consider a woman who has a 20 year old son who happens to be a well-known violinist protégé(nicknamed "Young Stradivarius"). He becomes ill with a kidney infection, and his mother decides to donate the use of her kidneys until he makes a recovery(which will be in about nine months). Three months into the treatment, she finds out that her son has written a will in which he leaves all of his material wealth to his mother should he pass away. The mother, since she has given up the use of her body for a period of time, loses her job due to being unable to work, and is therefore being placed in a tougher financial situation. His mother, knowing that unhooking herself will kill him, now considers: Given that her "Bodily Autonomy" is absolute, she should be fully justified in unplugging, so she can get her son's money. If a person can choose to kill someone simply for being connected to them, but not wanting to be giving support, why couldn't we allow someone to use this justification for extremely frivolous reasons? But if it would be wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being for reasons that don't justify doing so, then the majority of arguments for elective abortions collapse.

The Bodily Autonomy argument seems, at it's core, an argument based solely in selfishness. The idea that a person may make the choice as to whether their own son or daughter dies, and has the full "right" to do so if they feel inclined, is one that needs to be deeply reconsidered.

Given that this is becoming a common argument at the street level, I think pro-life advocates would do well to deepen their understanding of it, and the broad implications it has.






Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Why Aren't Pro-Lifers More Consistent?" [Nathan Apodaca]

In my last post, I discussed the objection that is often being leveled at pro-lifers, in that they are inconsistent for their alleged hypocrisy when it comes to the issue of aid for foreign refugees. Today, I would like to discuss the issue of pro-life "hypocrisy" just a little bit further.

One of the most common accusations leveled against those who oppose abortion is "Why aren't you doing more to support the poor, or working to end poverty?" Or "Why don't pro-lifers give more support to things like national healthcare reform?"

These talking points have been very common pro-choice slogans for years, but they have become especially popular in light of recent political developments within the new Trump administration, regarding the ongoing debate over national health care reform. Along those lines, another very common slogan among street-level pro-choice activists has been to attack pro-lifers for their supposed unwillingness to adopt children who would have been aborted otherwise. During our pro-life outreach at my local university campus this past year, multiple people asked us why we weren't doing more to care for children who were already born, as opposed to simply "caring" for children who have yet to be born.

Frankly, as I discussed in my earlier post, these talking points also miss the point of the pro-life argument against abortion, by simply treating the unborn as if they were not fully human beings. No one talks this way regarding those whom they already agree are human. It is only when the humanity of the unborn is at issue is it dismissed entirely, and then they attack the character of those who are opposed to abortion.

It needs to be remembered that the debate over abortion is not about who we are going to provide government aid and support for, but rather about who we are going to intentionally kill, and whether we are justified in that killing. If it is wrong to intentionally take the life of an innocent human being, and if abortion does intentionally take the life of an innocent human being, then abortion is wrong. Even if pro-lifers do possess any number of character flaws (we are not perfect), abortion doesn't suddenly become wrong if every pro-lifer becomes a saint.

Second, these assertions are often leveled at pro-lifers who don't support a more progressive view of government on issues like poverty and healthcare. In many cases, opposition to a policy such as government-based health care gets one labeled "anti-poor" or results in being accused of wanting to deny Americans health insurance coverage.

In a recent video for the conservative think tank Prager University, economist Arthur Brooks makes the point that both liberals and conservatives completely agree that more should be done to limit the effects of poverty on the culture. Where conservatives and liberals disagree is the role that government should take in addressing the issue. Highlighting data from the last fifty years of welfare spending since President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" began, Brooks points out that the poverty rate has pretty much flat-lined, with barely a change in the rate of those living in poverty over the last fifty years.

Since many pro-lifers want to see legislation based in evidence, it is not inconsistent for them to oppose programs that will not result in more good, and could produce more suffering in the long run.

Lastly, and perhaps most strikingly, somehow the inconsistency argument is never applied to the views of pro-choice liberals. When objecting to the alleged character flaws in those who support the unborn but oppose anti-poverty legislation, many don't question the absurdity of supporting programs that are intended to help the small and the weak in society, while yet supporting the legalized killing of the smallest and weakest among us: the unborn. If the unborn are human, just like the rest of us, then obviously they should be protected in law just like other innocent people are.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Justifiable Child Killing: A Matter of Geography? [Mike Spencer]

In the newly released book, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, authors Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer painstakingly recount the media-censored story of convicted murderer, Kermit Gosnell, and his “house of horrors” abortion clinic in Philadelphia. Gosnell is serving a life sentence in prison for delivering babies in his clinic and then killing them by “snipping” (severing) their spinal cords with scissors. The court-documented details included in the book are almost too much to stomach. Insulated for decades from any medical or legal accountability, Gosnell plied his grisly trade in his filth-ridden, flea-infested killing center where he stored many of his victim’s severed feet as trophies in jars of formaldehyde and where toilets were occasionally blocked with fetal remains.

Although the name Kermit Gosnell is unknown to the vast majority of Americans, his decades-long killing spree allegedly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent children in this manner, dwarfing the number of victims produced by serial killers, Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy combined.

For obvious reasons, Planned Parenthood and their bedfellows in the media have sought to distance themselves from Gosnell. In fact, some have gone so far as to try to pin the blame for Gosnell on pro-lifers. For example, Jill Philipovic, writing an opinion piece for The Guardian (April 2013) brazenly asserted that “widespread adoption of pro-life laws created…Gosnell,” and stated, “The braying about Gosnell is a ploy to shame the media into covering the issue from the anti-abortion perspective, conflating the illegal procedures performed by Gosnell with safe, legal abortion. That conflation is necessary for the pro-life side to use the media coverage to promote unnecessary regulations of clinics, purposed solely to make abortion less accessible, and advocate for the very things that allowed Gosnell's clinic to exist in the first place.”

Philipovic is suffering from an acute case of denial. The cold fact is that killing children in or out of the womb is a mean and dirty business. Gosnell is guilty before our courts for brutally killing three infants on this side of the birth canal. He killed many others in this way, according to the testimony of his staff, but the prosecution was only able to secure a conviction for three of these little ones. However, Gosnell is guilty before Heaven’s court for brutally killing thousands of children on the other side of the birth canal too. No, Ms. Philipovic, Kermit Gosnell is not the anomaly or aberration you would have us believe him to be. The trail of spilled children’s blood does not lead only to the door of Kermit Gosnell’s clinic, but to every abortion clinic in our nation.

In an April, 2013 USA Today article, Kirsten Powers, known for her arduous defense of “progressivism” nonetheless castigated her comrades in the liberal media for turning a blind eye to the story;

“Regardless of such quibbles about whether Gosnell was killing the infants one second after they left the womb instead of partially inside or completely inside the womb — as in a routine late-term abortion — is merely a matter of geography. That one is murder and the other is a legal procedure is morally irreconcilable.”

Exactly. Abortion is the only legalized method of wantonly killing innocent human beings, and bizarrely, its justification is based solely on the victim’s location. A mother can lawfully have her son or daughter killed, but only if he or she is located in the womb, or at least in the birth canal. But splitting legal hairs over a human being’s location does nothing to change the nature or value of the one being killed, nor does it mitigate the injustice of such killing.

It’s simple really; human beings are precious and deserve legal protection, regardless of their location. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

"The Refugees Are People; Fertilized Eggs Are Not" [Nathan Apodaca]

Not too long ago, I organized a large pro-life outreach at California State University San Marcos. The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, a well known pro-life organization, brought its Genocide Awareness Project display to the campus this past February. A number of us participated in the display, and it sparked a fairly large counter-protest. The Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) is a series of banners depicting the aftermath of abortion, comparing the way dehumanization has affected large groups of people, and explaining how abortion is a form of dehumanization.

In the midst of all the discussions that happened as a result of the display, a common objection that kept being brought up was that pro-life conservatives were inconsistent for opposing government aid for foreign refugees, while still arguing that the unborn should be cared for instead of being killed through elective abortion. A slogan that has made the rounds through discussions of abortion, whether online or in person, is that “If you think fertilized eggs are people, but refugee kids aren’t, then your concerns aren’t religious.”

Many pro-choicers use this objection to try and silence the opposition or to turn members of a listening audience against the pro-lifer’s arguments by focusing on the character of the pro-lifer instead of refuting the material presented. They do this while ignoring that abortions are not performed at the moment of conception but many weeks or even months afterward. Along with this, science tells us that the unborn entity in question is a full, yet immature, member of the human species. If it is wrong to intentionally harm an innocent human being, then it would be wrong to harm the unborn for the same reason it is wrong to intentionally harm any other innocent human being, such as innocent people fleeing the violence of their home country.

Given how bad this objection really is, I would rather ignore it. But many pro-life advocates have come across this objection while trying to understand how to answer it, so I decided it was time to lay out a response.

First, what does the objection assume? Instead of focusing on the status of the unborn, which is the key to the abortion debate, it simply ignores the issue altogether and attacks the person arguing in favor of the unborn’s moral worth. One young woman I spoke to said that people who are opposed to abortion are inconsistent for calling themselves “pro-life” while opposing aid for foreign refugees. However, this doesn’t follow. The abortion debate is not about who we are trying to support, but about who (or what) we are going to intentionally kill. Likewise, the debate over the refugee problem is not about who we are going to intentionally harm, but is about whether harm will unintentionally result from our care of foreign refugees, and whether that will be worth the risk.

Second, so what? Suppose pro-lifers really are inconsistent, heartless, and cruel when it comes to other issues. What exactly does that prove? That people who oppose abortion aren’t perfect? Furthermore, imagine saying to Civil Rights advocates in the 1960s, “How can you say that you are for Civil Rights when there are children being killed daily in the Vietnam War? You aren’t really for Civil Rights. You’re just anti-segregation!” Absurd, right? Here’s another example: Peter Singer and Michael Tooley both argue that newborns are not fully persons until a certain time after birth, and are therefore able to be justly killed. Imagine saying to someone, “Unless you are concerned about the plight of Middle Eastern refugees, you have no basis in opposing parents wanting to kill their newborns. You aren’t pro-child, you’re just anti-infanticide!”

The objection treats the unborn as if they are not fully human. No one in their right mind would use this argument to silence those who oppose the mistreatment of other human beings. It only makes sense if the unborn are not human. If the unborn are not human, then it makes perfect sense to abandon the fight against abortion and turn our efforts to helping alleviate the suffering from other acts of evil. But if the unborn are human, then this objection is nothing more than a callous dismissal of the moral issues involved in abortion.  Such reasoning is cold and foolish.

Finally, it’s not entirely clear what is meant by “helping” refugees. To what extent would pro-lifers, and conservatives in general, have to support foreign refugees in order for the Left to reconsider its own stance on the abortion issue? Do pro-lifers have to build houses and schools for people who emigrate to the US, before we can condemn abortion? And why does the only valid option intended to “help” refugees involve bringing them to the United States? Suppose pro-lifers want to care for them where they are at, or think that the defeat of ISIS is the best way to help people displaced by the war overseas? (Personally, I don’t think the situation will end until the war is over, and ISIS has been defeated.) Once all of these things have been done, will abortion suddenly become wrong? Will the person making this remark reconsider the morality of abortion, and the evidence for the humanity of the unborn once pro-lifers are acting “consistently”? I've yet to meet someone who said that they would.

The objection is nothing more than an appeal to emotion, in order to distract from the main issues at stake in the abortion debate: What are the unborn, and should we be killing them? It is an example of the ad hominem fallacy, attacking the person rather than attacking the argument.

Nevertheless, those who are outraged at the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East are perfectly right to feel compassion for those most affected by it. We should debate what the best methods are to bring an end to the disaster and show the love of Christ to those in need. But that does not, in any way, mean that those who disagree about the methods used are inconsistent in strongly opposing abortion. After all, if abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being, then we have a massive humanitarian crisis within our own borders. Anyone concerned about the lives of the innocent that are being lost overseas should be concerned as well by the loss of life through elective abortion.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How the “Planned Parenthood Baby Part Scandal” affects Bodily-Autonomy arguments for abortion [Nathan Apodaca]

Recently, the abortion debate in America has taken a new turn, as it has begun focusing on the methods of abortion that are used to terminate the pregnancy. The undercover videos released in 2015 by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) purported to show that employees of Planned Parenthood were engaging in the sale of body parts of human fetuses that had been dismembered through abortion procedures. The unveiling of these videos and findings drastically shaped the abortion debate, and has, in my opinion, done more to put the pro-choice movement on the defensive regarding abortion procedures and “rights”.

Given this development in the debate over abortion, I think the pro-life movement has been given a new opportunity to respond to an argument given in defense of abortion that is beginning to gain more popularity in lay-level discussions, the argument from bodily autonomy, or bodily rights.

To summarize the argument, defenders of abortion rights, such as David Boonin and Judith Thomson, argue that just as a woman would have no moral obligation to remain plugged into a human being for a period of time to whom she bears no moral responsibility, she would also not be obligated to carry an unborn human “person” to full term. The argument has been gaining popularity through many lay-level discussions in recent years.

The problem with the argument is that it proves too much about bodily autonomy in relation to pregnancy. The recent debate over the Planned Parenthood videos can help pro-lifers make this case. Even if the videos were “faked” or “deceptively edited”, they do bring up an important question: Is “my body, my choice” really applicable to the abortion of a human being?

Suppose, based on the idea that fetal body parts can generate a pretty good profit, a woman becomes pregnant for the sole purpose of having an abortion. Using the slogan “my body, my choice”, she obtains an abortion and sells the fetal remains to the highest bidder. Would that be an acceptable action? Suppose it goes a step further, and a market is created for body parts of unborn human beings. Using the “my body, my choice” euphemism, human fetuses are conceived to be dismembered, have their organs and tissues divided up and sold to the highest bidders.

Many advocates of abortion choice would say that this is unacceptable. But why? If it's justifiable to eliminate a human being who is attached to another human, why not “connect” human beings so that they can be justifiably killed, and have the aftermath used for whatever purpose the woman desires? Given that a person can willingly donate a body part, such as a kidney, to those in need of an organ, then what would be wrong with allowing women to conceive human fetuses for the sole purpose of killing them and then harvesting their organs or tissues to treat other illnesses?

This is an absurd position to hold. In fact, since the videos were revealed almost two years ago, many pro-choice defenders have shied away from defending all elective abortions. I think the videos shed further light on the problems with the bodily rights argument, as that approach would mean that the only thing wrong with the sale of fetal body parts scandal would be that the woman wasn't notified about the use of the aborted remains, and thus missed out on potential profit. Incidentally, I had a conversation recently where someone said that the most horrifying aspect of the entire scandal was the idea that abortionists made a profit of the sale of body parts, as opposed to the methods used to obtain the body parts in the first place. This is ridiculous.

Friday, February 10, 2017

On Teen Vogue's Recent Abortion Articles [Clinton Wilcox]

Teen Vogue, apparently a publication geared toward teenagers, has recently published two articles about abortion. Now, seeing as though I'm not a teenager, I don't have any kids, and I'm a man of reasonably good taste, I don't read Teen Vogue (or, really, anything with "vogue" in the name of it). But it's distressing the kinds of things publications geared toward teenagers will try to push on your kids. This just goes to show how important it is for parents to be aware of what their children read.

One such article is called "11 Thoughtful Gifts Your Friend Who Just Had an Abortion Would Appreciate." It's actually a "slideshow", so I would encourage you not to click through it as slideshows only artificially inflate the number of clicks a website garners, giving them more money from their sponsors. I only read through one or two of the supposed gifts you should give your post-abortive friend. It's written in a style that's super-casual and intended to be funny (rather than helpful). However, before you click through you are greeted with a pop-up box that talks about how abortion is "never a simple decision" and making it as a teenager is "more than a little terrifying." Never mind the fact that encouraging children to abstain from sex would be an excellent way of ensuring they don't have to make these decisions. Instead, we'll just offer gift ideas for a girl who does go through it. Of course, to Teen Vogue, the reason many women need post-abortion counseling is "not because the act itself is so terrible, but because sometimes the world can be." In other words, the "abortion stigma" is the reason so many women regret their abortions, not because they're killing their own child.

Needless to say, anything Teen Vogue writes on abortion should be avoided, but there's one article in particular I'd like to focus on. An Episcopal priest named Broderick L. Greer (I can't bring myself to use the title Reverend before his name) wrote an article for them called "I Am a Priest and This is Why I'm Pro-Choice." After reading it, there's only one possible reaction:

























That's right. "Martin Luther is not impressed with your theology." Whenever I hear someone say "I'm pro-choice because I'm a Christian", or "I'm pro-choice because I'm a priest/pastor," my only real thought is "you probably have no idea what Scripture actually says about the value of children." At any rate, let's look through what Greer has to say on the issue.

Greer begins by repeating the oft-repeated and also oft-refuted claim that "upwards of five thousand women" died from having illegal abortions eleven years before Roe v. Wade. He talks about abortion eleven years before because he obviously wanted us to think that making abortion legal has made it safer. This is, of course, false. As Bernard Nathanson wrote in his book Aborting America, it's not legalizing abortion that made it safer, it was advancements in medical technology, such as the discovery of Penicillin. [1] Additionally, the "five-thousand women" died statistic is false. Nathanson wrote, "How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In N.A.R.A.L., we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always '5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.' I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the 'morality' of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?" [2] And of course, Greer pointed to an article by NARAL to support his claim, the very institution that agreed to lie about this statistic in the first place.

Greer also indicates that he believes pro-life people would have us return to those days, which of course, is still a specious argument because, as Nathanson has also told us, if abortion is ever driven underground again, it will not become dangerous, to say nothing of the fact that even before abortion was made legal, it was still largely done by physicians in good standing in their communities (see my article here for more on these two points and my sources related to them).

Greer fits in perfectly with leftist ideology. Not only has he bought their lies, but he also uses their language when he takes time out of his article to tell us that he doesn't have a uterus, and that "many of the decisions made about the bodies of people with a uterus are by cisgender men." Of course, those of us interested in objective reality and scientific truth call "people with uteruses" women. [3] He also says that the last thing anyone interested in "transformative public discourse" is another "cisgender man" telling people what they should or shouldn't do regarding their "reproductive health" (a buzzword for abortion). Here's the part where we can take a page from the leftist playbook and call him "cisphobic" for his views.

Greer then apparently struggled within himself about whether or not "cisgender" men should be able to make the determination about abortion for "people with uteruses". Greer, himself, may never be faced with the decision about whether or not to abort, but the reality is that many men are faced with that decision. It takes two people to conceive a child; the father has as much stake in the fate of the child as the mother does (and unfortunately many men coerce their girlfriends/wives into making the wrong decision and aborting the child). To say that men have no stake in this issue is to completely ignore the emotions, thoughts, needs, etc., of men. If we truly care about equality, then they should be considered, as well.

Of course, we can agree that pastors and priests are "companion[s] with people through life's most challenging and complex seasons." But if you encourage a woman to have an abortion, you are trying to help them escape their problems rather than face them head on. To any Christian who understands the value of human life, and who understands how God wants us to love our neighbors, we can't take someone in for an abortion. We need to help them through this difficult time, not by having their child killed but by walking with them through this difficult time, by petitioning the congregation to help walk alongside them, to help them with resources, etc. It's shameful that Greer would use his position as a priest to tell anyone that abortion is an acceptable way out of a pregnancy.

Of course, then Greer tells us that we need to "rediscover" the art of storytelling. Storytelling is important, but the problem is that Greer apparently thinks that stories trump reason and even Scripture. God tells us "you shall not murder," and that he "hates the shedding of innocent blood." No amount of storytelling about difficult decisions will negate these commandments from God, or will negate the basic biological fact that abortions kill an innocent human being.

Additionally, Greer uses the tired old talking point that "anti-choice" people only oppose abortion because of their religious views. This shows that Greer is clueless about the topic and has no right to be writing about it. Maybe he should stop talking about abortion not because he's "cisgender," but because he refuses to take an honest look at what abortion actually is.

Greer then executes some stunningly bad reasoning. He reasons that because abortion rates fell sharply in the Obama years, this "debunks" the "myth" that outlawing abortion will somehow decrease abortions. The language he uses shows that he doesn't understand how outlawing something will reduce its instances of it. This is just embarrassingly bad reasoning. Additionally, it doesn't follow that because abortion rates fell during Obama's administration that outlawing abortion won't reduce its instances. In fact, one of the major reasons abortion rates fell is because of the numerous pro-life laws that were passed and the fact that so many Planned Parenthoods closed up shop. Of course, this won't stop abortion-choice ideologues from claiming they're the ones responsible. (See Seth's and my article here for more on why voting for abortion-choice presidential candidates does not actually reduce abortion rates, and an examination of the argument that abortion rates dropped under Obama's administration.)

Greer repeats even more talking points. Yes, abortions will happen whether they are legal or not, just like rapes, murders, and thefts happen despite being legal. Abortion needs to be illegal because killing an innocent human being must be punished. Plus, the law is a moral teacher; not only will law-abiding citizens not seek abortions, but many abortion-choice people will become pro-life because the law is telling them that abortion is wrong.

Additionally, we are not merely "pro-birth" just because we oppose leftist policies. This may come as a shock to Greer, but pro-life people follow their moral convictions. This means that we support policies that are ethical, and leftist policies that steal money from taxpayers to pay for children conceived by a man and woman who chose to have sex is unethical. I wish Greer would have a better moral compass if he intends to shepherd a church.

Greer is simply not a good priest, and not a good thinker. Notice how he didn't make one compelling argument for abortion. He just relies on abortion-choice talking points and "stories" to make his case. Nothing you read in this article is any different from anything else you read on sites like Salon or Mother Jones. Articles like this should reinforce in all of our minds why the pro-life position is true.

[1] Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D., with Richard Ostling, Aborting America, (New York, Doubleday, 1979), p. 194.
[2] ibid., p. 193, emphasis theirs.
[3] This is not to say that any biological female without a uterus is not a woman. Obviously some women need to have their uteruses removed for various reasons, or some unborn women have their capacity to develop a womb impaired in some manner. But it is undeniable that one defining feature of womanhood, even if not every woman is able to fulfill their ultimate capacity for it, is the natural capacity to become pregnant.

Edit: It has just come to light that in the first article I linked to, the author actually manufactures many of the items she promotes in her article and neglected to disclose that information.

Monday, January 30, 2017

More of the Same Fallacies From an Abortion-Choice Advocate [Clinton Wilcox]

I was pointed to an article by Alan Levinowitz called "Why Do Pro-Life Advocates Only Seem to Care About Unborn Lives?" Of course, the real reason is because abortion-choice advocates are too lazy to do any real research into what people in the pro-life movement actually do. But that would make for a very short article.

Levinowitz starts off by saying he uses abortion as a case study in his comparative ethics course. Considering how rife with fallacy his article is, it actually does give me concern for his students. He is apparently drawing his students away from the pro-life argument not based on logic or reason (which is essential for coming to conclusions on ethical questions) but based on emotion and logical fallacies. There is a silver lining here -- Levinowitz does recognize that abortion-choice advocates can't take the "moral superiority" of their position as granted and should seek out challenging dialogue partners to discuss it further. So if Levinowitz happens across this article, please get in touch with me. I'd love to discuss this further with you. We could even set up a debate on this issue, if you'd be game for it.

Unfortunately, Levinowitz starts out with a major scientific snafu. The unborn organism is not a "fertilized egg" -- this is an unfortunate dehumanizing term for a human zygote, but as embryologist Keith L. Moore informs us, "Human development begins at fertilization, the process the during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." [1] The term "fertilized egg" is a misnomer. Once the egg is fertilized, a new embryo at the single-cell zygote stage comes into existence.

Levinowitz then goes on to say he has certain questions which make it difficult to engage in dialogue with pro-life people, but of course all of these questions are beside the point of the pro-life argument. The pro-life argument is a simple one:

P1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
P2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
Therefore,
C: Abortion is immoral.

I teach to my beginning logic students that in order to refute an argument, you must either show it to be invalid (i.e. the conclusion does not follow logically from its premises) or it is unsound (i.e. it is invalid and/or one or both of the premises are false). So as we're going through this article, ask yourself: "How does this refute the pro-life argument Clinton has outlined above?" The reality is they don't. Now, I do intend to offer responses to Levinowitz' questions, as well. I don't want it to appear that there are no answers to them. But keep asking yourself how his questions refute the pro-life argument above. They won't, and so he hasn't even done any damage to the argument. If an abortion-choice advocate can't refute the argument above, then intellectual honesty demands they accept our argument as true, whether or not they "feel" like it is true.

Q1: Why do no signs at the March for Life mention maternity or paternity leave? Why aren't expansive parental leave policies on every pro-life website and mentioned by every pro-life politician?

Again, the pro-life argument is regarding the right to life of unborn children. Maternal and paternal leave are important questions of policy, but there is no reason to try and fight all of society's problems in order to fight to end abortion. Levinowitz might as well condemn the American Cancer Society for not trying to end AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. The reality is we can't fight to end all of society's ills because if we try to end all problems, we won't end any of them. A better question is, why don't you work to stop people from killing their children then we can start to talk about maternal and paternal leave. But right now parents having their children killed is a much larger problem. This is just a fallacious ad hominem dismissal of our argument.

That being said, many pro-life advocates do support paternity and maternity leave. I can't speak for all politicians who consider themselves pro-life, but I'm generally pretty skeptical about politicians. Any given politician could simply be pro-life to try and win support from conservatives. I'm pretty confident that our current VP is pro-life, and I'm also very confident that Rick Santorum is pro-life, who took Barbara Boxer to the woodshed over her view that partial-birth abortion (known colloquially by the more sterile name D&X, Dilation and Excavation) is morally permissible.

Q2: Why didn't any of the speakers at the March mention contraception? Why don't pro-life people (including politicians) care about sex education?

There is a legitimate debate over the moral permissibility of contraception. But whether or not pro-life people support contraception is irrelevant to the truth of our argument, so this boils down to another fallacious ad hominem dismissal.

The reality is that not all of the speakers believe contraception to be morally permissible, myself included (note: there is likely a difference of opinion among those in LTI on the question of contraception -- this opinion is my own and should not be seen as representative of the other speakers and writers in LTI). However, I do believe that contraception should remain legal, for those who do not have a moral problem with it. It is better to prevent a child from coming into existence than it is to take a child out of existence once they are here. But there is absolutely no reason why any speaker at the March should mention contraception. In most places in the United States, condoms are as available as candy. Of course, that doesn't mean that we will want to provide contraception for anyone. People need to be responsible for their sexual choices, which includes abstaining if they can't afford contraception. This is just a lazy attempt to avoid the pro-life argument.

Q3: Why is adoption only mentioned in passing, if it is mentioned at all?

This seems to be a question pro-life people can't win on. Of course, pro-life people argue that if a woman is considering abortion, she should consider adoption instead, which is the morally right thing to do. But whenever pro-life people mention adoption, abortion-choice people dismiss that as callous to women because it's such a difficult decision. Now Levinowitz seems upset that we don't mention it enough. Again, this is a fallacious ad hominem dismissal of the pro-life argument. Our argument is that abortion is wrong because it intentionally takes the life of an innocent human child. This would be true whether or not we believed in adoption.

Q4: Why do we focus so much on the Christian God if we welcome everyone? How do we expect to win over people like Levinowitz if prayerful protest is more important than funding health care services?

I agree that there's more the pro-life movement can do to welcome those who are not Christians. But the pro-life movement has gone a long way in becoming more inclusive. In fact, Kelsey Hazzard, president of Secular Pro-Life, spoke at the March, as well. She is an atheist (and she is also a friend). There are many other non-religious pro-life organizations, such as the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians and Pro-Life Humanists. So in this case, we're dealing with a new fallacy, the hasty generalization. He's making a generalization based on his observations of speakers at the march, but ignoring the very real counterexamples from people representing organizations who were also there at the march.

Pro-life people are much more interested than abortion-choice people in health care services. However, non-socialists, like myself, do not believe in stealing money from taxpayers to give to people who have no legitimate claim on it. This is why we don't believe in funding health care services -- each individual person should be free to do with their money as they please, which includes choosing where to give their money for charitable giving. Many pro-life people do, in fact, give donations for health care services. There are at least three times as many pregnancy care centers than there are Planned Parenthoods in the United States, and unlike Planned Parenthood, these organizations do not get billions of dollars in government grants. They subsist on generous donations from financial supporters. They give prenatal services, and help pregnant women and parents of born children in need by offering parenting classes and free items like car seats and diapers. They do all of these services for free. You don't get that at Planned Parenthood.

So we don't believe in stealing money to use it for health care, but we do believe in using our money to do real good and choosing where our money would offer the most benefit. I expect to win over people like Levinowitz because I expect them to be reasonable. His entire argument is based on irrationally dismissing the pro-life argument, so I'm not impressed by his questions. They argue beside the point, and they don't even really reflect the reality of the pro-life movement.

So Levinowitz (who also quotes the misguided words of Sister Joan Chittister) believes that unless we're willing to steal money from the taxpayers for health care, we're not "really" pro-life. This is just absurd, and it shows that Levinowitz is not really as willing to understand pro-life people as he claims to be. Again, the real question is why do you believe children outside the womb should be fed and clothed, but we should kill children inside the womb just because they're unwanted? You don't get to claim the moral high-road here.

Levinowitz ends by quoting Matthew 6:5, taking it out of context (which leads me to question whether he's actually read the Gospel of Matthew, since he's just using it to make a political point). Unfortunately he seems blissfully ignorant of such other verses as Proverbs 6: 16-17 ("There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood..."), Jeremiah 19: 3-5 ("'Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus says the Lord of hosts, the God is Israel, "Behold I am about the bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle. Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter my mind..."'"), or Psalm 127: 3 ("Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward").

Those on the left love to use the Bible out of context to support their views, but always try to downplay it when it can be used against them (e.g. arguing that abortion is not a "religious issue" if someone shows from Scripture why abortion is wrong).

Levinowitz' challenge, of course, is easily met. And my invitation to discuss this further with him is an honest and serious one. Unfortunately, as there really is no good justification for abortion, abortion-choice people will continue arguing beside the point to distract away from the simple logic of the pro-life position.

[1] Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th ed., Philadelphia, PA: Saunders 2003, p. 16.