Wednesday, October 10, 2018

“Vital” Health Services for Whom? Planned Parenthood Avoids the Only Question That Really Matters.


Planned Parenthood is responsible for over 300,000 abortions every year. That is a third of the nation’s abortions. 

Yet you would never know this listening to Planned Parenthood or its apologists in the main stream media.  Both would rather change the subject and that is exactly what happens every time this issue is brought up. You’ll get lectured about how poor people need Planned Parenthood's services and that without them, poor women will have nowhere to go for health problems. You’ll get lectured about the “many vital health services” Planned Parenthood offers and how abortion is only 3% of its activity. 

Do not believe this red herring. That three percent figure is misleading. An article in the abortion-sympathizing Washington Post doesn’t believe it either. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/08/12/for-planned-parenthood-abortion-stats-3-percent-and-94-percent-are-both-misleading/?utm_term=.e95753146dc1

But suppose the 3% figure is true. 

What would that matter?

Since when do good deeds atone for bad ones? If the KKK provides free medical care to non-white women, does that make it a benevolent organization? 

The issue is not whether Planned Parenthood offers other services. They do. The issue is whether abortion violently and intentionally kills an innocent human being. Imagine a clinic that treated epilepsy and diabetes. In that same clinic, there’s a room where parents could take burdensome toddlers and have them euthanized. Suppose that clinic euthanized 300,000 children a year. Would anyone with a functioning conscience justify the clinic’s murdering toddlers by pointing to their “other services”?

Of course, Planned Parenthood and its defenders reply that toddlers and fetuses are not the same. But that’s precisely the issue isn’t it? If abortion does not intentionally kill an innocent human being, who cares if abortion is 3% or your business or 100% of your business? If abortion does intentionally kill an innocent human being, (and it does) then Planned Parenthood has got a lot of explaining to do.

Justifying abortion won’t be easy. The science of embryology confirms that you are identical to the embryo you once were. You’re the same being now as you were then. But in Planned Parenthood’s worldview, being human isn’t enough. You must also be a “person,” and embryos and fetuses fail the test. In other words, there’s a class of humans we can’t kill who are persons and another class we can kill who are not. 

There is no significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today.  It is not okay to pick on small humans who depend on us.

Planned Parenthood does not and cannot provide a serious defense of its position. Its apologists simply assume the unborn are not one of us.  But Planned Parenthood is not the arbiter of who is valuable and who is not.

We have a long history of ignoring the humanity of those we wish to exploit for our benefit. Slaves didn’t count because of their skin color. Women didn’t count because of their gender. Embryos and fetuses don’t count because of their size and dependency. Planned Parenthood and its supporters are just exchanging one form of discrimination for another and it is costing millions of lives.

When people spoke up against the evil of slavery, defenders of that injustice changed the subject and talked about how slavery “benefits society”, and assumed that the slave was not one of them. When abortion is brought up, PP talks about how women benefit from health services, that abortion is only “3%” of what it does, and that women need it to flourish. They assume the unborn is not one of them.

Which women need it to flourish? What about all the unborn women? What about their rights?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Book Review: Arguments About Abortion by Kate Greasley [Clinton Wilcox]

Arguments About Abortion: Personhood, Morality, and Law is a book published in 2017 by Kate Greasley, a British lawyer. This book took me by surprise as I didn't hear about it until earlier this year. It also seems to have slipped under the radar, having only one review at the time of this review's writing on Amazon and none on Goodreads. However, I would say, without exaggeration, that Greasley's book is an important contribution to the discussion on abortion and for anyone who wants to understand this issue, this book is required reading. I read a lot of books by pro-life and pro-choice advocates. It's not often that a good pro-choice book comes along, one that not only makes a compelling intellectual and articulate case for the pro-choice position, but also interacts with the best of the pro-life academic literature on the topic. The best book defending abortion before this one was David Boonin's 2002 book A Defense of Abortion. Now I can place this book alongside Boonin's as one that anyone who wants to educate themselves on the issue must read.

Greasley's book is in three parts. In the first part, she examines arguments that try to show that the question of personhood is irrelevant to the abortion debate, including 1) Thomson's bodily autonomy argument justifies abortion whether or not the unborn are persons, 2) that abortion can be justified as an act of self-defense, and 3) Dworkin's "red herring" argument, that at the heart of the issue is not really personhood but that pro-life people believe that life is sacred and inviolable. Greasley interacts with these, and others, dispatching them, showing that these arguments do not justify abortion if the unborn are persons. So the personhood of the unborn is the central issue regarding whether or not abortion is moral. The second part of her book is where she makes her case that the unborn are not persons. The third part of her book talks about issues regarding abortion law and regulation.

I will not look at her arguments in part one since I agree with her position. I also won't look at her arguments in part three because they really depend upon her arguments in part two succeeding. So I will leave that up to the reader to follow up there. I do want to look at her arguments regarding personhood. I don't believe her arguments succeed in justifying abortion for the reasons that I give below.

While Greasley's case is intelligent and articulate, I believe that her case fails for one important reason: She interacts with some of the best pro-life thinkers, but she only interacts with two main views of personhood among pro-life advocates: substance dualism and animalism. She doesn't interact with hylemorphism, such as that held by Edward Feser. The reason that this is important is not just because she neglects to interact with a feasible account of personhood, so considering that she hasn't refuted it, her own argument that the unborn are not persons fails. But it's also important because the criticisms she raises against substance dualism and animalism are easily answered by hylemorphism. So it can give the impression that there are no good responses from pro-life advocates when in fact there are responses to these concerns already in the literature.

That being said, I'll address two of her main contentions in the book: that the unborn do not count as persons, and that pro-life personhood accounts also suffer from various amounts of arbitrariness.

Personhood

Greasley takes the position that personhood is a gradual property, not an all-or-nothing one. Similar to Mary Anne Warren, she takes personhood attributes to be the fully realized, presently exercisable capacities that typical human adults exhibit. Human adults are our paradigm case for persons, and when you ask what capacities they possess that other creatures, which we don't consider persons, lack, these are things like rational thought, the ability to communicate, etc. These, of course, are gradually developing properties. But since early embryos lack these capacities, just like creatures who are non-persons lack them, they are not persons, either.

However, while personhood develops gradually, there is a definite point at which we should establish legal personhood, even if the unborn are not yet persons in the moral sense. She thinks that the unborn don't become persons in the moral sense until sometime after birth, but that we should establish birth as the point at which we establish personhood legally. So she would take personhood not to arrive at a certain threshold, which someone like David Boonin would take to be a set point, Greasley takes personhood to be a ranged property. A ranged property, she explains, is some arbitrarily determined point at which we will establish that all who meet these qualifications will be considered persons (paraphrased, p. 183). Regarding the fact that not all human beings who are born lack these personal properties that adults exhibit, she further explains, "[a]lthough human beings in general meet the condition, there are of course some individuals who fail entirely to realize that capacity or who realize it only to a minimal degree, perhaps as a consequence of some unfortunate defect or deprivation" (p. 183). In other words, some human beings may fail to exhibit the properties that adult humans exhibit which make them persons. But as long as they fall under the legally recognized range of personhood, they are persons, no matter how closely they resemble adults, the paradigm case. To even further explain the concept of a range, you might think of the state of California. Fresno and Blythe are both cities in California. Fresno is further into California than Blythe is, Fresno being in the center and Blythe being near the border to Arizona. But even though one city is clearly further inside California than the other, both are considered California cities because they are inside the state boundary.

Of course, Greasley recognizes that a possible retort is that this argument attempts to have it both ways, that personhood is binary (i.e. you're either a person or you're not) and that it supervenes upon properties which come in degrees. So the question is, why draw this line at birth instead of some other place? She offers the following as reasons that birth, rather than some other range, should be considered as the range property that establishes legal personhood. She considers an argument for legal or pragmatic interests, but considering that it has some unpalatable consequences (such as mentally handicapped people being legal persons only by "polite extension"), she presents arguments that this range is acceptable as morally necessary, as well.

1) Opacity respect -- Greasley considers that her argument might appear circular because it claims that there is a moral interest driving the specification of "person" as a ranged property, yet this moral interest exists only if all individuals within the range actually are persons. But this is what personhood accounts grounded in gradual properties seem to deny. So she introduces the concept of "opacity respect" as a way to try and ground an independent moral reason for focusing on the ranged property, one that is independent from a prior commitment to equality. Opacity respect, borrowing from Ian Carter, is simply that a respect for human equality requires maintaining a sort of blindness toward their individual capacities. We treat them as equals regardless of how developed their capacities are.

However, rather than avoiding the charge of circularity, this only pushes the problem back an extra step. As Calum Miller responds, either humans are morally equal or not. If they are not, then it is implausible that we are in any way required to treat them with respect. The only way we would need opacity respect is if they are already equal. (Calum Miller, "Arguments About Abortion: Personhood, Morality, and Law Book Review", The New Bioethics, Vol. 24 No. 2, 2018, 190-195). So the charge of circularity stands.

2) Some arbitrariness in the law is unavoidable. Consider the seven month cut-off for prosecution of a serious criminal offense. This is an arbitrary limit set which permits some prosecutions which shouldn't be permitted and precludes some which ought to be permitted. Stipulating personhood at conception is unsatisfactory due to how far away those organisms are from the sorts of creature which exemplify personal properties, and putting the threshold at birth is not unacceptably arbitrary, as shown by the case of criminal prosecution. But the event of birth is favorable for several reasons: It is a highly visible event, it is not speculative, and it is an easy guideline with which to comply. By contrast, other milestones (those before and after birth) are less visible and easier to mistake or conflate with other events.

Now while it's true that birth is a highly visible event, this is hardly grounds for favoring birth over conception. After all, even though it's not visible like birth is, every embryo that implants itself in her mother's womb was conceived. The fact that we couldn't see it doesn't mean the event isn't significant.

Also, while birth is not speculative, it is not always safe for the unborn child. Unborn children should gestate for 40 weeks. A child born too prematurely faces developmental problems, if he even survives at all. Yet this argument seems to suggest that we can intentionally induce birth at any stage of development, and you haven't actually harmed the entity in question, despite now being born with developmental issues that you purposely caused. Additionally, while the date of conception may be speculative, the fact of conception is not. The fact that we can't accurately pinpoint the exact date of conception is not an argument against conception being the event that establishes personhood in an individual.

Finally, the fact that it is an easy guideline with which to comply is not grounds for establishing birth as the event which establishes personhood either. How is the threshold of birth easier to comply with than the threshold of conception? And what if the law is wrong? You might be killing entities which are actually persons for a weak justification, that birth is easier to comply with than conception. And while it may be easier to determine the date of birth than the date of conception, it is not out of the question to approximate the date of conception. Just because one is easier does not make the other illegitimate.

3) There are good reasons for favoring birth as the legal threshold for personhood over other thresholds. These reasons are: 1) Birth is a watershed event in the life of a human because "emergence into the world marks the beginning of a human's exposure to the objects of mental experience and enables the discriminations necessary for conscious self-awareness and the basic understanding of where we end and everything else begins" (Greasley, Arguments About Abortion, p. 194). 2) At the point of birth, the neonate attains separate embodiment in the world.

Regarding her first point, it's really meant more as a response to pro-choice philosophers who argue that there's no significant difference between a late-term fetus and a newborn. Greasley's point is that there are significant differences that aren't usually mentioned by these philosophers that show that we can support late-term abortion but oppose infanticide because of these changes. Now, Greasley's discussion here is interesting but ultimately I think she misses the point of the arguments by these philosophers (and gets some facts about the late-term fetus wrong). These philosophers don't necessarily claim that there are no differences at all, but in the way that is morally relevant (such as needing to be self-aware to have a right to life), there is no significant difference between the two. However, there is no real need to belabor the point or offer much of a response, since this is a point toward these other philosophers and not a general defense of her position. All I need to say is that even though her argument here makes sense in the context of arguing for abortion rights at birth rather than later, she is still placing one's personhood in a developmental milestone, so her argument is no more successful than Sumner's argument that sentience is what matters morally, or Tooley's argument that self-awareness is what matters morally.

Regarding Greasley's second point, it is still largely a response to the other pro-choice philosophers who might place personhood threshold in some other property (this is largely because she has dismissed the conception threshold out of hand with arguments that I will address below). In order to support her contention, she points to the existence of conjoined twins, using Abigail and Brittany Hensel, who are conjoined below the neck, as her example of such twins. She claims that despite there being two "separate and distinct little girls," each one having an independent mental life and personality, their connectedness diminishes their personhood because of things such as their inability to live the kind of life distinctive of persons.

She goes on to say that the fetus' attachment to the woman is more extreme than that of the Hensel girls, but she asks us to consider another pair of conjoined twins. This time one twin is completely enclosed within the other but still is bodily sustained and possesses a mental life. She claims that many of us would doubt that it is still correct to call this individual a person. She claims this shows that there is a level of enmeshment beyond which much of the meaning of personhood is lost.

The problem with Greasley's claim here is that she doesn't support it at all, merely pointing to what she thinks many of us would accept as a person. But why shouldn't we consider Greasley's second pair of twins both persons? I see no reason not to consider the enclosed twin a person, especially since my conception of person has to do with one's nature, not with the functions one can perform. Greasley offers no supporting arguments for her assertion besides the one I just addressed, so her argument is not a very strong one, especially considering how strong the arguments for personhood established at conception are.

"Punctualism"

Greasley refers to the idea that personhood comes into existence at one time "punctualism," as opposed to "gradualism," the idea that personhood is a property that comes on gradually through the development of some characteristic seen as morally relevant for personhood status. Greasley goes on later to critique arguments made by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen in their book Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. I hold to a different account of personhood than George and Tollefsen do, and they can respond to Greasley's charges, if they wish to. I hold to hylemorphism, similar to that held by Ed Feser and David Oderberg, an idea that Greasley doesn't critique in her book. So I will respond to the arguments in her book which could be directed toward hylemorphism.

She trots out a few reductios against the idea that personhood is established at conception. I'm not going to address them here because they are in the context of giving an overview of the discussion within the abortion topic. She also trots out some reductios against personhood being established at other points along human development. Additionally, I have responded to these reductios elsewhere, as have other pro-life writers.

She then goes on to argue that the conception thesis is just as arbitrary as the other personhood criteria that pro-life people allege are arbitrary. She alleges there are three ways in which those who are punctualists are arbitrary: 1) In assigning our value in our species; 2) They don't treat like cases alike; and 3) Sorites-susceptibility.

First, the charge is that by placing personhood in one's humanity, we are being arbitrary because species membership is irrelevant to one's moral status. One might consider it not seriously wrong to abort a cat fetus, but a human fetus is no more sentient or intelligent than the cat fetus. The only main difference is its species. This is to arbitrarily prefer one species over another without reference to morally differentiating characteristics.

Now, Greasley does anticipate a possible objection to the arbitrariness charge. Biological humans are special because they possess the unique capacity for rationality and higher thinking, complex desires, etc., that are typical of adult human beings. However, Greasley says that this essentially just pushes the problem back a step. For the advocate of abortion rights can simply ask "Why is it that merely belonging to a biological species the typical adult members of which are capable of higher forms of thinking itself suffices for personhood status?" (emphasis hers)

Greasley's pro-life formulation is true as far as it goes, but she doesn't give the full argument. It's not simply that human embryos and fetuses belong to a species the typical adult members of which are capable of higher forms of thinking. It's that human nature is a rational nature. The reason that human embryos will grow up to be self-aware, conscious, etc., is because they have a rational nature, which grounds all of their capacities. So it's not just simply that they possess these capacities that they will develop in time, it's that they have a rational nature which grounds these capacities. This rational nature is what grounds our personhood. Since all of the changes I eventually undergo are changes that are within my nature (or my internal programming) to undergo, I remain the same entity through all points in my life. There is no substantial change that happens, even though I get bigger, I develop a brain and get smarter, etc. None of these things changes me from one thing into a completely different thing. Since I am the same individual through all points in my life, if I have a right to life as an adult, I had one as an embryo because our rights are intrinsic to us; they are not established by anything outside us.

Her second charge is that we are not treating like cases alike. If it is not seriously wrong to abort a cat fetus, then since human fetuses are like cat fetuses (in the sense given above), it is arbitrary, then, to claim that aborting human fetuses is seriously wrong. However, the response above will outline why this is not an adequate charge against punctualists. Cat fetuses and human fetuses are not alike. Cat fetuses lack a rational nature and human fetuses have a rational nature. It is the rational nature that makes it seriously wrong to kill you, not mere species membership. And as an aside, I don't think that necessarily justifies aborting cat fetuses, either, but that discussion is outside the scope of this review.

Her third charge of arbitrariness is that of sorites-susceptibility. The sorites paradox has been around for a few thousand years. It basically asks the following: If I add one grain of sand to another, I will not have a heap of sand. But add enough grains of sand and a heap will eventually materialize. At what point did the sand particles become a heap? Was it when you added the 400th sand particle? The 399th? What is the relevant difference in sand particles between a heap and a non-heap? There is no single grain in which it could be plausibly argued that that was the grain of sand that turned it into a heap. Yet we definitely do have a heap at some point. The implications this has for abortion is that pro-life advocates sometimes argue that there is no real difference between a human at one point (say, birth) and a human a few moments before birth. Even worse, there is no way to distinguish a late-term fetus a few minutes before birth and a few hours before birth, and so on.

Now, the problem with this kind of argument is that it does commit a logical fallacy -- the aptly named "fallacy of the heap". Just because we can't pinpoint when X occurs does not mean, necessarily, that X doesn't happen. This fallacy is also sometimes called the fallacy of the beard, because this example is used to illustrate it: We know what a clean-shaven face is and we know what a bearded face is. But just because we can't pinpoint how many hairs are necessary to be considered a beard (as opposed to merely stubble) does not mean we can't recognize a beard when we see it. So when we point to a personhood criterion, say sentience, just because we can't tell at exactly what point sentience arises, doesn't mean we can't know when something is sentient. So this is not an argument I would make, and I don't think any of the best Christian thinkers use that kind of argument, either (Greasley points to something Kaczor wrote in his book, but she's misunderstanding the point of Kaczor's argument).

However, Greasley forgoes the route of accusing pro-life people of arguing fallaciously and instead decides to argue that pro-life people can't escape the charge of arbitrariness here. She claims that describing conception as a "discrete, identifiable 'moment' is considerably misleading," and then she points to various stages and events that happen during fertilization in order for conception to occur. She asks questions such as, ""If penetration of the egg is the moment, how far must the sperm penetrate before a person exists, and why is any one of those microscopically distinct advances more significant than the adjacent ones?" and so on (Greasley, p. 115). However, her various questions don't show that conception is an event that is susceptible to the sorites problem. When a pro-life person makes this argument, he is speaking of a human being that is already in existence and trying to show that placing personhood at one exact moment is arbitrary (e.g. if you need brain activity, how much brain activity is needed to be considered a person?). But in the case of fertilization, you are going from non-human entities to a human entity. Fertilization is a process, yes, but it is not a process of sperm and egg becoming human and then the human continues from there. In the process of fertilization, the sperm and the egg literally cease to exist and give rise to a new human being, and that event definitely has a point of occurrence. When the woman's ovum ceases to exist and the new human zygote comes into existence, that is when conception finishes.

This review was rather long, but I felt it necessary to address several of the arguments Greasley made in her book. Again, Greasley's book is meticulously argued and is required reading for anyone who wants to keep up with the academic discussion on abortion. Her arguments don't succeed in justifying abortion, nor do her arguments show that a "punctualist" view of human personhood is mistaken.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Tomi Lahren Begs the Question on Abortion

Opposing unwelcome government intrusion into our daily lives includes supporting legal abortion, according to conservative spokeswoman Tomi Lahren.

Never a stranger to controversy, her recent comments defending her views about Roe vs. Wade and the legality of abortion in the United States on Fox and Friends do deserve an adequate response, as opposed to much of the name calling and personal attacks that are all too typical of political or social discourse today.

In a piece for her Fox News Column, “Final Thoughts”, Tomi Lahren states the following:

“I’m saying this as someone who would personally choose life, but also feels it’s not the government’s place to dictate. This isn’t a black and white issue and I would never judge anyone in that position. I believe the way to encourage someone to choose life is to treat her with compassion, understanding and love, not government regulation. Let’s be honest - the federal government does few things well, and I believe regulating social issues is an area where it fails. Let the churches, the non-profits, and the community groups step in, not almighty Uncle Sam.”

Many may remember the brief firestorm she created among pro-life conservatives after she asserted her pro-choice position during an appearance on the American talk show, “The View” in Spring 2017 to the glowing endorsement of the pro-choice Left, saying:

“You know what? I’m for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well,” Lahren said.”

And I absolutely agree with her. We shouldn’t push for government to intrude in people’s decisions. We should leave individual families alone to deal with making the decision to choose an abortion. We should keep the government from interfering with a woman’s body.
I agree completely, if: The unborn are not human. If it so happens that the unborn are not human, then abortion is morally no big deal any more than plastic surgery is. Go ahead and have it.
However, if the unborn are in fact human beings, then we shouldn’t simply excuse the intentional killing of them in our laws any more than we would the killing of a newborn or even a toddler. This is where Ms. Lahren makes her mistake. She simply bypasses the question, “What are the unborn?” and proceeds directly to talking points that can fit into a short sentence.

For instance, would she say the same thing if the law allowed the killing of born children? Imagine a law was passed several decades ago that allowed parents to kill their unwanted children up to two years of age, and a Supreme Court Justice was nominated who expressly wanted to overturn such a law. Would Ms. Lahren object to this as well, saying that the question should be “left to the churches, community groups, and non-profits instead of the Almighty Uncle Sam”? I would hope that she had the moral clarity to say “no”.

For another example, if her neighbors were planning to kill one of their toddlers, would Ms. Lahren feel compelled to call on government authorities in the form of law enforcement and Child Protective Services to stop the killing? Or would she leave it up to the churches and non-profits, because “Government does few things well”. I think everyone, politically Right or Left, would consider this horrendous, not to mention absurd.

This raises a question: Then why not protect the unborn from being intentionally killed? Some might respond by saying that there is a significant difference, but ah! That is the question. What difference is there that makes them less worthy of our protection? She never offers an explanation, which means she has done what pro-life philosopher Francis Beckwith calls “Begging the Question”; that is, assuming one’s position is true while trying to prove it. She doesn’t offer any arguments for her statements that the government should leave her alone when considering abortion, or the more broad assertion that the government cannot legislate effectively on moral issues. Most people who make this claim have no problem with the government banning murder, or sexual violence, or spousal abuse. They only make this claim about abortion because they simply assume that the unborn are not human, when that is precisely the question that must be resolved in the abortion debate.

If the unborn are human, just like the toddlers and newborns in the examples above, then they are just as worthy of protection from being intentionally killed as the toddler is. The question now becomes what relevant difference sets them apart from being protected in our society and legal system? As philosopher Stephen Schwarz points out in his book The Moral Question of Abortion, all of the differences between the born and the unborn fall into four categories that can be remembered with the "SLED" acronym:


  • Size: It’s true, the unborn are much smaller than the newborns or toddlers I mentioned in my hypothetical cases. But so what? How big does one have to be before they deserve to be protected from harm? As an adult man, I am bigger in my body size than many women, including Ms. Lahren, but it is odd to say that this grants me special protections from harm. If anything, it seems the smaller someone is, the more effort we should put towards protecting them.
  • Level of Development: Yes, the unborn are not as developed as the born are, and can’t do everything a born person can. But why does that determine whether we can kill someone or not? As another hypothetical, imagine I have two sisters, aged 6 and 18. They do have differences in their development. The older sister is more developed mentally, is more developed physically(she may play a college level sport) and is mature sexually. Her six year old sister possesses none of that, but it would be insane to assert that she is less deserving of our efforts to keep her safe. If level of development between two born humans doesn’t matter, why should it matter when protecting unborn humans?
  • Environment: During her appearance on “The View”, Tomi stated that the government needs to “stay out of her body”. This can be fairly reasonable; after all, who wants a nosy bureaucrat from Washington performing exploratory surgery against one’s will? However, this misses the point. Given that the unborn is located inside one’s body, does this really matter as to whether they can be killed whenever it suits our immediate needs? How does one's current environment determine the most basic protections from harm they are entitled to?
  • Degree of Dependency: Yes, it is true. The unborn are far more dependent on their mothers for their very lives before birth. Again, what exactly does this prove? Why should anyone accept that those who have reached a certain degree of physical independence from their mothers are the only ones deserving of legal protections from being killed? This raises another question: What degree of independence should we go with in attributing protections? As the Roe court ruled, before fetal viability(The time when an unborn human can live outside the womb) the government has no interests in protecting prenatal life. This may seem reasonable to some, but why is viability the marker of who can be protected or not? Why didn't the court rule that babies who need additional medical care after birth don't merit a "state interest"? Or how about children who can't walk without any assistance yet? Or children who cannot ride their bikes without "training wheels"? They are still remotely dependent on adult support, so why isn't that the degree of who deserves protection? It seems that dependency is a poor way of determining who gets to live and die.




Tomi Lahren's assuming of the unborn not being human needs to be called out, clearly and concisely. By asserting that conservatives need to move on past Roe vs. Wade so that the nation won't shift Left in it's politics, she is saying that millions of lives simply don't matter enough to warrant our protection. The American conservative wishes to protect the values that were put in place when the United States was being founded, not shift away from them when votes are on the line.
That means the unborn are worth every ounce of our efforts to protect them in law, and conserve what the American founders saw as “...truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Responding to Back Alley Logic Butchers

We are living through a zombie apocalypse of sorts, rhetorically speaking. Old arguments that should have died long ago in light of solid responses keep finding new life in the "blogosphere" and on social media, especially with abortion finding its way back into the public dialogue due to recent events in Ireland and the United States.

Common among these arguments is the claim that pro-life legislation will lead to scores of dead women. From "back alley butcher" statements to feminists protesters waving coat hangers at rallies, to claims that thousands of women will die if abortion is made illegal, the argument is, like a horror movie zombie, still coming around. Even some college professors(Who really ought to know better) have repeated these sound bites.

Ironically absent these cries of supposed fear is any real rebuttal to the pro-life argument:

Premise 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.

Premise 2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.

Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

As philosopher Chris Kaczor points out, questions about women's health and abortion are indeed important, but they still fail to settle the question of the moral admissibility of the act of abortion itself. Do we have any obligations to protect innocent human beings before birth in society and our law? Or can we dispose of them whenever their existence becomes a burden upon us? Philosopher Mary Anne Warren, herself an advocate of abortion, is in agreement; highlighting that murder is wrong regardless of the social consequences of prohibiting it.

This raises a question: Should the law protect the innocent from being intentionally harmed, even though some may be unintentionally killed as a result? Consider that some have been killed accidentally by unsuspecting family members when entering their own residence late at night, being mistaken for a burglar. This is undoubtedly a major tragedy, especially for the family. But does it logically follow that the moral position a society should take is to legalize armed burglary so that no one accidentally dies in this manner?

For another example, should armed robbery(stealing items off a person directly) be made legal so that no one gets accidentally shot by an overly nervous, trigger happy pedestrian walking through a high crime part of town? This is also a tragedy, but it is going to be really hard to argue that this is grounds for abolishing laws against robbery.

Aside from the logical mistakes, there is an honesty question that needs to be asked of our critics: If pro-lifers were to propose a law that restricted abortion but also made sure that no woman had to seek out a "back alley butcher", would our critics then join us in opposing abortion? Some may say yes, but many will still retort that "Abortion is a fundamental right." Ah, but that is the question at hand. Abortion is only a fundamental right if it is a moral act, and it is only a moral act if the unborn are not human. That needs to be argued for, and not simply asserted. This goes for everyone, on Twitter and in the academy.

One last point on the topic, those who raise the concern of women dying from illegal abortions do have some explaining to do. By what basis do we know that "[abolishing abortion] will be a death sentence for thousands of women", as the Women's March responded to the nomination of a pro-life Supreme Court Justice recently? Very often there is little to no support provided for the claim. As the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson(a former abortionist) points out, there is very little support to back up the claim:

"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? The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible." (Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D., Aborting America (New York: Pinnacle Books, 1979), 193)
While more can be said about the actual data on the number of deaths from illegal abortions in the pre-Roe years( Abort73 has a good list of sources, which can be found at http://www.abort73.com/end_abortion/what_about_illegal_abortions/. Also see Erika Bachiochi's The Cost of Choice: Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion)

The purpose of the objection itself needs to be questioned. Are those who raise it doing so out of an emphasis on truth, or as a means of fear-mongering in an already tense political climate? With women dying even during the era of legal abortion in the United States at the hands of men like Kermit Gosnell, it should be obvious that those who truly care for the needs of American women would be willing to consider all the implications of legal abortion today, not just the immediate emotions that all too often drive cultural debates.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Definition That Just Won't Die

They are onto us. We've finally been made. People who oppose the intentional killing of innocent human beings in the womb are mean, nasty, rich, and don't give a rip about starving or homeless children. We aren't pro-life unless we feed starving kids or give them shelter.

How do I know? Because a meme like this one said so.


Question for Ms. Isabel: And the problem is what exactly? Let's suppose pro-life people are mean, nasty, fetus freaks who don't give a rip about starving kids like pictured above. How does that entail that the unborn are not human, and we may do with them as we please, including intentionally kill them?

It doesn't follow logically at all. The pro-life movement is arguing that it is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Abortion does that. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

An honesty question is in order when the assertion that pro-lifers only care about the unborn is made: If pro-lifers were to devote an equal amount of time to feeding and housing born children in a bad circumstance, would our opponents join us in opposing abortion? If they say no, then they have simply trotted out suffering children in order to score rhetorical points against their opponents. Chances are, if those opposed to abortion were to take responsibility for ending every social evil under the sun before focusing on abortion, our opponents would find another reason to excuse it.

Setting aside the fact that pro-lifers do actually care about the born and the unborn, which becomes obvious if one is willing to take an honest look, the humanity of the unborn is a question that has to be resolved regardless of how nice pro-lifers are. Even if pro-life people were the meanest, cruelest, most fanatical people on the planet, it still would not follow that we could justifiably end the life of an unborn child. That has to be argued for, and not merely asserted.

 Saying that pro-lifers need to do more in order to be taken seriously is dishonest and a foolish attempt to change the subject. Until our opponents use the science of embryology to show that the unborn are not human, or moral reasoning to show that we have no duty as a society to value them, then nothing has been accomplished by pointing to other issues that are arguably not as urgent in scope or in nature.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Current Immigration Crisis and Abortion


Imagine someone telling an anti-trafficking organization that if they really cared for children, they would do more to address poverty in India that harms large numbers of children every year. Imagine someone telling a clinic engaging in cancer research that if they really cared about healing people of sickness, they would also focus on research for diabetes and Crohn’s disease. These are ridiculous accusations, yet pro-lifers get them very often.

I have seen recent news headlines aimed at pro-lifers for being silent on the issues surrounding immigrants at the border. It is being said that if one is truly pro-life and pro-family, one must also care and be involved in protecting children who are being brought into the country illegally by their parents. Make no mistake, I believe that the lives of immigrants and their children are valuable and important. They are made in the image of God just like you and me.  The issues of immigrant children and abortion are not the same, yet the two are being equated in such a way as to attack the motives and sincerity of pro-life individuals.

The fact that there are very important issues regarding immigrant children at the border is not comparable with intentionally dismembering, poisoning, crushing, and burning a little human to death.

If the tables were turned, we might equate their seeming disregard for unborn human beings with having no credibility when it comes to “caring” about immigrant children. If this is really about consistency, wouldn’t it make sense to want to protect human beings in all stages of development whether they are at the border or in the womb? Why do many people seem to only care about children when it suits a political agenda they have? There have been cases in the news where an illegal immigrant wished to receive an abortion while in detention at the border. Many people showed support for her “right” to have an abortion. If all the outrage over the border crisis was genuinely about caring for human beings, why was the concern only shown for the born immigrant? What about the unborn immigrant? It is wrong to mistreat an immigrant, legal or not legal. If this issue were really about human rights, then where is all the outrage over the 3,000 innocent human beings that get murdered in the womb every day by poisoning, crushing and dismembering?


Suppose pro-lifers are terrible human beings who care nothing about immigrant children. How does that justify ending the life of an innocent human being? It doesn’t. The immigration issue being raised against pro-lifers is a clever ad hominem that impugns the motives and sincerity of pro-lifers.


The issues of abortion and immigrant children are both important. Please don’t read this post and  think I don’t care about the immigration issue. I do care. We should be concerned about children and families coming into this country, and the problems we face at the border. But we should also be deeply concerned about living in a culture that dehumanizes a group of people simply because they are unwanted and inconvenient: the unborn. I have chosen to focus time and effort in fighting the particular evil of abortion. If a person tries to attack every social ill in society, that person’s effectiveness will be diminished. Do not impugn the motives or the operational objectives of pro-lifers as they seek to create a culture that values human life from conception to natural death. Our objection to the moral evil of abortion does not make us responsible for the issues with children at the border.



Friday, May 11, 2018

How Consistent Do We Need To Be?

Source: LiveAction https://www.liveaction.org/news/amazing-photos-of-preborn-babies-in-the-womb-show-that-life-begins-at-fertilization/

Pro-Lifers like me are inconsiderate, hypocritical jerks.

That's what you will think if you spend enough time listening to those who criticize pro-life conservatives for their alleged inconsistency. Consider the words of Pastor John Pavlovitz during the 2016 Presidential Election, a writer, activist and so-called star of the religious left:

"I actually don’t believe you’re pro-life, I believe you practice a far more selective and convenient defense of Humanity. From where I’m standing it seems as though “Life” for you, comprises a very narrow demographic—one that bears a striking resemblance to you. The unborn are easy to advocate for because you can idealize them into something palatable to you, something benign and comfortable, something in your own image.
You see, it’s not that you’re really pro-life, you’re pro-straight, white, Christian fetuses." -John Pavlovitz, "GOP-I Wish You Really Were "Pro-Life"
Pastor Pavlovitz then goes on a very emotional diatribe about the alleged inconsistencies of conservative pro-life advocates, highlighting how they are not really "Pro-Life" unless they take the time to address every other issue of controversy.

Aside from not citing a single example of pro-lifers actually arguing that only "straight, white, Christian fetuses" should be spared from abortion, and also ignoring the work of pro-life advocates like Star Parker, Dr. Alveda King, Christina Marie Bennett, and many others, all of whom uniquely focus on the problem of abortion in minority communities, he doesn't provide a single explanation for why any of the issues he lists need to be addressed with the same seriousness as abortion. He simply assumes moral equivalency, without providing any arguments for that assumption whatsoever. He then goes on to ridicule his opponents for what he sees as selectively valuing only life until birth.

Apart from these gross academic errors, I would raise a question for Pastor Pavlovitz: Let's assume that pro-lifers like myself actually did everything he was asking of us. We supported socialized medicine, ending capital punishment, gun control, police reform, and the military. Will Pavlovitz and those who make this kind of argument then join us in opposing abortion on demand? Chances are, they will say no, to which one should respond, "Then why bring up our supposed inconsistency in the first place? If you support abortion, then offer a defense of it, instead of attacking me personally."

To cite another example, a few weeks ago I was helping put up a graphic abortion display at San Diego State University. A young woman, quite angrily, began asking me whether or not I opposed war, inhuman treatment of animals, or supported same-sex marriage. Stopping her so I could offer a response, I asked the following:

"Tell me, if I were to join you in supporting all your views on those issues, would you then join us in opposing elective abortion?"
"Of course not! I am solidly, 100% pro-choice!"
To which I responded, "Then why did you highlight those other issues, which really have nothing to do with abortion, when you support any abortion for whatever reason? Why not offer a defense of that, instead of changing the subject?"

Instead of refuting the pro-life argument, bringing up supposedly inconsistent beliefs does nothing to justify killing a preborn baby. It's simply a lazy way to change the subject and score cheap points by making people you disagree with look bad. Such a behavior is pretty unbecoming of anyone claiming to be educated, let alone claiming to support justice.

Mr. Pavlovitz, I wish you really did care about social justice.




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Personhood Theory: The False Dichotomy Between Humans and Persons


Surrounding the abortion debate, there is a distinction that is made between being a human and being a person. Advocates for abortion argue that just because someone is human does not necessarily mean they are a person. The argument is no longer about whether or not the unborn are human. That is clearly established through the science of embryology. Personhood is now the benchmark of determining value and worth as a human being. The problem is that no one agrees when personhood begins. Some say it is ability to feel pain, others say it is cognitive awareness, while others argue it is the ability to exercise rational thought.

Dichotomizing the human and the person provides the pathway for egregious injustice. We are not the first people in history to apply this theory and use language in a way that denies an entire group of people their rights as human beings. Hitler used dehumanizing language against the Jews and they were not seen as persons. Americans used dehumanizing language against blacks, and they were not viewed as persons. Now we use dehumanizing language against the unborn claiming they are not “persons” like us until they can meet some arbitrary standard. We are familiar with the saying that those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it, but even those who do know history still allow evils to repeat themselves. They come back to us in different forms with different groups of people being targeted. Every time the injustice is vehemently defended so that people can feel moral and pious in their advocating for evil. This is what has happened with abortion.

Abortion rights hide behind a selfish façade of human rights, women’s rights, and personal freedom. We do not have the right to do what is wrong. Our human rights should never trample on someone else’s right to life. The personhood theory places value on a human being based on what they can do for society. A short story by Philip Dick called “The Pre-Persons” written in 1974 illustrates the slippery slope that personhood theory places on society. In that world, no one was a person until they were twelve years old and capable of doing algebra. This standard was enforced by a totalitarian state. The personhood theory now pushed in America has not reached that extreme but who’s to say it won’t in the future? Many bio-ethicists already support infanticide and euthanasia based on the personhood theory. When our value as human beings is based on what we do, no one is safe. Right now, people attribute personhood to an ability to feel pain, a capacity for cortical brain functioning, reasoning, viability or consciousness. Everyone exercises these things in varying degrees in their life. Who’s to say that these give us value and magically make us persons? Arbitrary standards for being persons need to be resisted. We are valuable simply because we are human. If personhood theory is correct, equal human rights are non-existent. Be on your guard against the dichotomy of humans and persons. One day, the state might decide you are not a person based on some arbitrary function you cannot adequately exercise.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Why The Church Must View Abortion Images

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ gives a powerful message to His audience on the dangers of focusing so hard on being religious that we overlook those most in need of our help. (Luke 10:25-37). Using as examples a Jewish Priest and Levite who simply passed on by a man who had fallen prey to a group of robbers while traveling to Jericho, he highlights that it was a Samaritan, a class hated by the first century Jewish community, who best exemplified the commandment to "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

Today, the danger of passing by those in need on the issue of abortion has to be continually emphasized in the church. Consider the following data, collected and published by CareNet:


  • 4 in 10 women who had an abortion were churchgoers at the time of their decision
  • Only 7% of women discussed their abortion with anyone at church
  • Two-thirds (65 percent) say church members judge single women who are pregnant.

  • A majority (54 percent) thinks churches oversimplify decisions about pregnancy options.
  • Fewer than half (41 percent) believe churches are prepared to help with decisions about unwanted pregnancies.
  • Only 3 in 10 think churches give accurate advice about pregnancy options

Clearly, abortion happens far more within church congregations than many are comfortable admitting. However, there are many within the church today who think that this issue is overly discussed, and needs to be talked about less in contrast with other issues. Consider the following comments from Pastor A.R. Bernard. He asserts that the church should focus less on "personal sins" like abortion and same-sex marriage, because black evangelicals like himself are more concerned with other issues, like police shootings and "income inequality". 

Aside from the debates over whether those are major problems today(For more on these topics, see Walter E. Williams "Race and Economics" and Thomas Sowell's "Discrimination and Disparities") the moral problem of abortion still remains for the church: If 900,000 women are having abortions in America per year, and 4 in 10 women who have abortions were attending church at the time, then 225,000 or more abortion minded women were sitting in church pews across our nation in one year's time. That is not a small number. 

What leads many church leaders to shy away from discussing abortion? I'm convinced it's because the church doesn't want to talk about the act of abortion itself. Many will talk about it in terms of an abstract, political issue(And many then go on to add "But we don't talk about politics here") But most will never show their congregations just what an abortion does. In fact, I am convinced that many leaders aren't aware of the horrific nature of the abortion act itself.

This is a wrong approach, I think. If congregations and church members are not aware of just what abortion does to the unborn child(And to her mother) then if follows that they won't stop to consider the ramifications of that decision, both morally and spiritually. This is why I think, now more than ever, congregations must compassionately address the issue today by showing abortion, exactly as it is, through pictures of what it actually does. If 225,000 preborn children a year are at risk of being killed, then to not address this issue is to pass by on the "other side of the road" when our neighbors are in the most need. 

I think the method of showing abortion imagery that is used by pro-life speakers at LTI and elsewhere, such as Scott Klusendorf, Greg Koukl, and Dr. Mike Adams, among others, is the best method for doing this. They will give the context for showing the images, and will make the viewing optional by dimming lights or cutting out the sound from the video. Children who are under the age of 13 are sometimes encouraged to leave the room, but parents can make the decision to let them watch if they so choose. If in front of a church audience, they will show how the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives the best answer and hope to those in the congregation who have experienced abortion, or know someone who has. Even more so, having a post-abortion healing ministry present at the church or resources on hand can help those who most need help. Groups like Silent No More and Surrendering the Secret are phenomenal in helping post-abortive men and women find the hope and forgiveness that is offered by Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, there are some pro-life speakers who have sprung the images on audiences without warning; however, if appropriate warning is given, congregations will not only know the need for engaging on the abortion issue, they will know what exactly is at stake with abortion itself: The intentional killing of an innocent human being.

Some may object and will raise the concern that this will cause guilt for those who have experienced abortion, which is a valid concern. However, I think the better question to be asked is: Are we really helping anyone by not addressing the issue? You may remember several years ago when a French Court banned a video of Down's Syndrome children because it may unintentionally cause guilt for women who had made the decision to abort their child because he or she had been diagnosed with the disorder. That should raise a question: How far are we willing to go to spare someone guilt? Should we hide the truth so as to ensure that no one experiences pain? Or should we show the truth in a manner that will obviously raise pain, but in such a way that can help bring those in pain to find healing? And if showing that truth can help others avoid the future pain of a bad decision, is it worth the risk? I think the answer is obvious.

Jesus called out those who pass by on the other side of the road when their neighbors are in the most need of their life. When our neighbors' lives are at stake, avoiding truth is not an option.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Answering the "Women's Perspective" Argument for Abortion

In continuing my posts looking at the effects of post-modernism on the abortion debate (You can access part one and part two here). I would like to highlight another way that the postmodern worldview has influenced the way members of our society view the pro-life argument, and give some practical tips for engaging this view. Since I have already addressed several of the fatal flaws in relativism, I will focus more specifically on how relativism manifests itself in the most common slogan of the pro-choice movement in the West today.

Many pro-life men(myself included) have had the slogan repeated to us that since we cannot get pregnant, we should remain silent on the issue of abortion. To put it another way, since men cannot experience the troubles that come with pregnancy, it is assumed (On this view) that they have nothing of importance to add to the discussion on abortion.

It is definitely true that men canUsually, at this point, pro-lifers will correctly point out that Roe V Wade was decided by men who could not experience pregnancy. However, this misses the point that the critic of the pro-life view is making: Pro-Choice advocates in this case are not saying that any view on abortion is nullified because it is held by a man(Though some do believe this). Instead, it is the ability to experience pregnancy itself that is the deciding factor in whether or not a woman can choose to end her pregnancy.

While this may seem sound to some, I think it falls apart under closer scrutiny.

First off, why should anyone accept the claim that the ethics of any action taken is solely up to how a person may feel when faced with that dilemma? Should only parents have a say in whether or not it is wrong to abuse a born child? I personally do not have children, but it would be crazy to assert that because I don't have kids, I cannot therefore step in to stop someone from abusing their own children.

Second, the pro-life argument does not rest on anyone's experience. Suppose every single person who opposes elective abortion was a male. What logically follows? Not much. Sure, pro-life men may not be able to sympathize with the emotional turmoil that a woman in a crisis pregnancy may be experiencing, but that proves little. The pro-life argument is that abortion is wrong because it intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being. If it does not intentionally end the life of an innocent human being, then it is not wrong. No experience with pregnancy is needed in order to understand this.

As I stated above, there is a subtle form of relativism that does creep into the argument as well, especially when gender politics is raised. When many feminist groups(Not all) bring up the issue of men not being able to engage on the abortion issue, they are assuming a form of cultural relativism, that relegates values to distinct cultures and sub cultural categories. Since men and women would generally qualify as two sub categorical groups, they may end up viewing an issue such as abortion differently, and thus, one group does not have a view superior to another.

Now, aside from overstating one's case drastically (It's simply not true that all men oppose abortion while all women support it; in fact, many men support it for what they can gain, which is easy sex.) The idea also still assumes that the pro-life argument is completely subjective, and is true for some people but not others. The assumption is that since pregnancy primarily affects women, they should decide the morality of killing the child whom they are pregnant with.

 However, that isn't the way that rights(Including abortion rights, if they exist) end up working. To say that a right or a wrong only exists if someone or some people personally choose to accept it would completely undermine any claim to legitimacy for any right, including abortion. The abortion supporter is thus stuck asserting that the right to abortion only exists for her personally if she feels like it does, but if others feel like it doesn't, then she is out of luck.

It seems odd to think of a notion like intrinsic rights being something as superfluous as a desire for spicy food or chocolate ice cream, which means that any right that human beings have for simply being human is not merely a preference for a particular individual or group. Thus, a right that exists across individuals and groups is capable of being recognized by everyone. If that right extends to the unborn as well, then both men and women are capable of recognizing that right, and the injustice of when that right is taken away. Therefore, the assertion that the abortion debate depends solely on women's perspectives fails in this regard as well.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Social Parallels of the America that Enslaved Blacks and the America that Kills Unborn Babies.


There is truly nothing new under the sun. I have been taking some time to study the social parallels between the America that enslaved people based on the color of their skin and the America today that kills unborn humans based on their size and whether or not they are wanted. The parallels are thoroughly depressing. We have not changed or progressed at all as a nation. The south in the antebellum period of American history defended slavery by arguing that it was essential to social progress and economic success. Abortion is similarly defended as being a crucial right women have so that they can pursue their dreams and benefit their own social standing emotionally and economically.
            During the antebellum period, an entire group of people were not considered equal to other people. Current America would not dare utter the words, but our actions and laws show that we also view an entire class of people unequally. We have placed an entire group in a dehumanized category so that some individuals can make “progress” in their lives at the expense of someone else’s life.
            It helps to dull the conscience so that evil can be perversely twisted into something that is seen as “beneficial for society” by so many people. Slaveholders argued that the institution of slavery benefited the slave because it spared him from something worse. They masked their evil by saying they wanted to prevent the slave from possessing something he/she was not equipped to handle: freedom. I’m sure you have heard the statement, “Every child a wanted child”. Abortion advocates claim that we need to spare children from pain, poverty, and medical challenges in the future so we should end their lives by abortion. They say we should not allow an “unwanted” child to be born. Ending their lives is “benefiting” the children, women, and society, because it is supposedly preventing harm in the future that would be too difficult and burdensome to bear. History has repeated itself.
            Slavery advocates argued that blacks were intellectually and physically inferior to whites. Now some argue that the fetus is not valuable because it cannot function intellectually/mentally on the same level as another human. As for the physical aspect, if you are small, dependent, and less developed, then you are inferior in this country.
            In the America that enslaved blacks, it was simply assumed that they were inferior and not part of society like the whites were. It is also assumed that the unborn are not one of us and not part of society as born people are. They are unjustly excluded from the protections that grant rights to all “persons” in this country.
            Many Southerners saw the institution of slavery as the basis for freedom. In the same way, many people view abortion as essential to the freedom of women. To which I add the question, which women?     
            These parallels are paradoxically depressing yet encouraging in a way. It is encouraging in that now, the vast majority of Americans look back on the race-based slavery that existed and are appalled that that happened in this country. We rightly look back in horror at the injustice that took place. In the same way, one day abortion will be unthinkable. People will look back on this time and wonder how anyone could have ever allowed that to happen. They will wonder how we ever justified the evil of abortion and how we let it go on for so long. But as we understand that the nature of human beings have not changed, when that time comes and people look back on abortion in horror, they will have their own social injustice right under their noses that they justify. History indeed repeats itself. There is nothing new under the sun.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Hard Cases Make Bad Law [Clinton Wilcox]

Over at the Seattle Times, Bettina Paek, a maternal fetal medicine physician in Kirkland, wrote an opinion article called "Abort a baby to save twin: Painful choice that is a mother's to make." She recounts a difficult story about Lisa and Nick, a couple having twins who shared a placenta and the same amniotic sac. Lisa experienced complications in the pregnancy. As Dr. Paek explains, it is uncommon for both twins to share the same amniotic sac, and when they do, they share the same blood vessels. As can happen, the twins' umbilical cords can get tangled up, cutting off blood flow. Since both babies share the same blood vessels, if one twin dies, the other soon follows. This was Lisa and Nick's situation, as described by Dr. Paek.

Lisa and Nick's twins had their umbilical cords wrapped around each other. One twin was alive and vigorous, the other one was dying, his heart rate decelerating rapidly. Once the dying twin's heart stopped pumping completely, the resulting change in blood pressure would cause the other twin to pump all of his blood into his dying brother. It was a tragic, difficult situation. The only solution was to close off the umbilical cord of the dying baby and cut through it. This would sever the vascular connection between the two brothers, which would result in the dying twin's death almost immediately. However, it would save the healthy twin. If Dr. Paek had waited for nature to take its course, it would be too late to save the healthy child.

This seems almost like a textbook example of a triage case: both patients are in mortal danger (even though the second twin was still healthy and vibrant at the time, he was in mortal danger because of his dying twin), and you can only save one. Which one do you save? In this case, it was only possible to save one child.

I don't fault Dr. Paek for her decision. She clearly considers this to be a tragic case and would have preferred both twins to survive. In fact, I agree that Dr. Paek did the right thing, and that the parents did the right thing by requesting the surgery. Not only could this be justified as a case of triage (act to save one patient or end up losing them both), but it could also be justified by double-effect reasoning: one twin was already dying, so the death of that twin was not aimed for -- the immediate death of the twin was foreseen, but not intended. If it was medically possible, the doctor would have saved them both (which seems clear from the context of the article). And while the doctor says her severing of the umbilical cord "killed" the dying twin almost immediately, she is not making a distinction between a direct and indirect killing. In this case, the death of the fetus was not caused by a direct action from Dr. Paek, but from an indirect action on her part, the severing of the umbilical cord.

Now here's the rub: this is clearly a medical emergency. But Dr. Paek wants to argue that the bill the Senate was going to vote on, outlawing abortion after 20 weeks (which, we know now, failed to pass a Senate vote) would criminalize surgeries like the one she performs. It would also criminalize, she claims, other "hard case" surgeries like abortions in the case of fetal abnormalities incompatible with life which, Dr. Paek asserts, make up the vast majority of terminations after 20 weeks. But as Secular Pro-Life has reported, it's simply not true that the vast majority of late-term terminations are due to fetal abnormalities. Women abort in the late term for socioeconomic reasons, just like they do in the early term, mixed with the fact that she either didn't know she was pregnant or was unable to secure an earlier term abortion.

Unfortunately, abortion-rights advocates tend to resort to the extreme difficult cases in order to justify all abortions remaining legal. But as has been rightly said, hard cases make bad law. Saying that we should legalize all abortions because there are extreme rare cases where it may be needed is like saying we should legalize speeding because there may come a day someone may have to rush a loved one to the hospital. Doctor Paek saved a baby's life in this surgery, but with abortion, the end result, and the aim, is a dead baby.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Love For Innocent Children and Guilty Adults [Mike Spencer]

When it comes to speaking up for preborn children targeted by abortion, the vast majority of churches choose silence over faithfulness. Although many churches have eloquent pro-life statements in their by-laws, few do anything to stop the killing even within their own four walls. The church’s refusal to blow Ezekiel’s trumpet for the preborn has become our great scandal. Could the heroes of Hebrews 11 whose faith compelled them to “shut the mouths of lions, quench the fury of flames, route foreign armies” and “administer justice” have imagined a day when shepherds who are called by God to protect the flock would instead surrender precious children from their own flock to the abortionist’s knife without so much as a whimper from their pulpits? God help us. God help the preborn.

There are many reasons for the church’s silence, but none of them are good ones, given the fact that Proverbs 31:8 clearly commands us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” One excuse that is particularly troubling is when pastors spiritualize their disobedience with comments like, “Preaching against abortion will distract me from the gospel” - as if speaking up for helpless children and sharing the gospel of Christ are competing interests. Notice that no one in the Body of Christ ever argues this way with respect to victims of sex trafficking or the homeless. Only the preborn are treated with such contempt. And only in hell could one consider rescuing children from the abortionist’s knife a “distraction.” Jesus rebuked His disciples for this pernicious thinking when He told them, “Suffer the children to come to me.” Far from a “distraction” from the gospel, rescuing helpless children from abortion is the gospel in action.

Preaching against the sin of abortion, or against any sin for that matter, does not turn people off from the gospel; it turns them on to it. As Jesus taught, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:19). I was reminded of this truth several times in the months of January & February as I had opportunity to speak in 5 churches and at several other events in Washington, Oregon, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. In each church I spoke plainly and boldly of the evil injustice of abortion. I also spoke plainly and boldly of God’s grace, pointing those who’ve had abortions to the One who died to forgive them. I explained that Jesus not only offers forgiveness from the sin of abortion, but the Holy Spirit also promises to begin a sanctifying work that He will carry on “to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”, (Philippians 1:3). In other words, God not only forgives, he heals and restores. I pleaded with those who had abortions not to leave without speaking to me or to their pastor.  I was approached several times by both men and women. Far from being turned off from the gospel, preaching against abortion led these dear ones to recognize their need for the gospel. It was my joy to direct them to verses like Isaiah 53:5 and John 8:36 and to pray with them. In addition, I was able to connect one woman to a post-abortion Bible study through her local pregnancy care center.

Abortion is evil because it kills innocent children, but the gospel of Christ is beautiful because it provides forgiveness for guilty adults. Faithful shepherds do not hide such hope from those who’ve had abortions. Christ calls pastors to thunder from their pulpits both the evil of abortion and the grace of God. The church that fails to fulfill either of these obligations fails to love as Christ has called her to love.

In short, we’re never forced to choose between speaking up for innocent children and pointing guilty adults to the gospel of Christ. Instead, by “speaking the truth in love,” we do both (Ephesians 4:5). 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Another Fatal Flaw in Post-Modern Thinking

"Who are you, a straight, white, male, to tell me what to do?"

A common objection that is often raised on the college campuses in America today is often leveled at male pro-life advocates as a way to simply silence the pro-lifer into submission. I was listening to a presentation by Gregory Koukl recently, on the material in his book Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, when this realization came to me. When this objection(which isn't even a legitimate response to the argument being made against elective abortion) is raised, it is simply a way to silence any disagreement. (I also recommend Douglas Groothius' excellent book Truth Decay, as a tool for critiquing relativism and postmodern thought)

One other example of this happening, during a college campus outreach in the San Diego area a couple of years ago, a similar response was raised when I was speaking to a crowd of students who had come to our display to hear what we had to say. After laying out a brief case for the pro-life view, one student simply said, "Well, that's a male's view, let's get a woman's view on the issue." I was dumbfounded.

How is one to respond? The best way I can think of is to simply turn the question around: "Who are you to tell me I can't?" Or more along the lines of "So what if it's a male's point of view? How exactly does that undermine everything I just said?" Wait and see what the response is; I can guarantee it isn't something most people have though much about. Let me explain.

First, what does one's racial, sexual, or any other characteristic have to do with whether or not their point of view on a particular matter is correct? The statement is based on the worldview of postmodernism, and it's descendent, cultural relativism. A cultural relativist holds to the view that all moral, social, religious, or other views are relative to the culture that produces them. With this in mind, it is helpful to see where the postmodern mindset leads to this type of thinking. As a variation of the "Who are you to say?" answer of the relativist, this one puts values as relative to the members of a particular community group, whether they be racial minorities, gender minorities, or anything else. So, many times, when a feminist group at the local college is putting on an event with the title of "A Feminist Perspective on (Fill in the social issue here)" this is precisely what we are seeing happen. "Why is a man telling me what to do?" is as similar a response as the rhetorical question "Says who?"

The biggest problem with this line of reasoning, based on truth claims and values claims being relative to particular communities, is that it also undermines anything any particular group has to say. After all, if it is all just perspectives and opinions based upon the socio-environmental experiences of the members of a particular group, then no one has anything remotely useful to add to any discussion whatsoever(Including the correction of run-on sentences). There is no real difference then between a women's rights group and their views and any other group. The mantra "You're just a white male!" can be equally applied to the person making the statement "And you are just a female." Why is one perspective automatically superior to another? The postmodern worldview can't pass it's own test. This ends up meaning that no one is obligated to take a feminist perspective on anything seriously to begin with, up to and including abortion.

Some might say, "Wait a minute, women are human beings to, and deserve to be listened to!" Precisely. To acknowledge this statement as true is to reject the relativism that leads to a valuing of a view on the basis of which community it comes from, as opposed to the reasons for that view. It is because women(and minorities) are equally as human as everyone else is what grounds out obligations to respect them as persons, not necessarily as a way of thinking. A man can be just as mistaken as a woman, and vice versa.

This leads us back to the conclusion that there are some objectively true ideas that can be held independently of community experiences. Questions like, "Are all human beings fundamentally equal?" "Do all human beings deserve equal rights?" and "Are human rights worth striving for and upholding?" Don't seem to be questions that should be left up to the individual or the group to decide how to answer. In fact, we can take this a step further: Do human beings cease to be worthy of justice and protection when we leave earth? If we were on another planet, like Mars, Pluto, Vulcan, or Tatooine, would the statement "All human beings have inherent worth and dignity" suddenly cease to be true? What about a mathematical claim, like 2+2=4; would that suddenly cease to be the proper formula if we left our own solar system, or traveled to another country? Thinking this way gets pretty goofy upon further reflection.

So, now that we've arrived at the conclusion that there are indeed objective, universal truths that transcend cultural and subcultural experiences(To deny this is to admit there is one objective, universal truth that transcends cultural and subcultural experience. There is no escaping this conclusion. It cannot be done), how does this correspond to the issue at hand, the morality of abortion?

The argument against abortion, as laid out in logical form below, is either valid or invalid; sound or unsound:

1. It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being
Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

This argument is no more undermined or refuted if presented by a straight, wealthy, Republican, Christian, white biological male than if it was articulated by a talking parrot. Anyone who objects to the pro-life position needs to show how the syllogism fails, not merely get angry that someone who has a characteristic they happen to dislike is arguing it. Anything less is an insulting way to say "Just shut up" when there is a needed dialogue to be had.