Saturday, February 2, 2019

Are Late-Term Abortions Ever Medically Indicated? [Clinton Wilcox]

The state of New York recently passed a law that establishes the wording of Roe in its own state laws so that if Roe/Casey are ever overturned, abortion will remain legal up until the point of birth for any reason deemed relevant to the woman's life or health. I'll write more on this bill in the future, but right now I want to address some arguments that are going around on-line because pro-life and pro-choice advocates are really talking past each other here.

Pro-life advocates, including pro-life OB/GYNs such as Dr. Omar L. Hamada, are arguing that abortion is never medically indicated in the late-term. Pro-choice advocates disagree, including one Buzzfeed blogger who has linked to several tweets from Dr. Jennifer Gunter, who asserts that these pro-life OB/GYNs are lying about late-term abortions never being medically indicated. (As an aside, don't read Buzzfeed. Just don't.)

The most succinct definition of "medically indicated" I could find is this one: "[T]o make a treatment or procedure advisable because of a particular condition or circumstance." So basically, if a particular condition or circumstance would warrant a late-term abortion, then it is medically indicated, whether or not any other treatments might be available or also advisable.

Now, before I jump in to interact with Dr. Gunter's tweets, I want to explain the difference between types of disagreements one might have. This is information I teach to my intro to logic students but it's something that most people you see interacting on-line haven't had the benefit of. It's one of the reasons it's so difficult to have rational conversations with others. My reason for doing this is because both sides are arguing something about medically indicated procedures. Pro-life OB/GYNs assert that late-term abortion is never medically indicated and pro-choice OB/GYNs assert that it is in rare cases. The problem is that both sides are using a different definition of "medically indicated". Because pro-life people believe that human embryos and fetuses are persons, then late-term abortion is never medically indicated because once the fetus can survive outside the womb, you can simply deliver the fetus alive and work as best you can to save it. C-sections are a lot faster than late-term abortions and are also, in many cases, safer for the mother because you are able to get the fetus out relatively quickly. However, pro-choice doctors either don't believe fetuses are persons or they believe that a woman's right to bodily autonomy outweighs the fetus' right to life. So to a pro-choice doctor, abortion is medically indicated because there is nothing morally wrong with ending the life of the fetus for what they deem to be a sufficiently strong medical reason.

So the three terms I'd like to introduce here are real disagreement, apparent disagreement, and verbal disagreement.

A real disagreement is an actual inconsistency between two statements. The statements "The Dodgers won the 1981 World Series" and "The Yankees won the 1981 World Series" are statements in actual disagreement. It is not possible for both statements to be true, although it is possible for both statements to be false (perhaps I am misremembering and it was two different teams that went to the World Series in 1981). So they are not contradictory, but they are inconsistent. And since there is an actual fact of the matter, all it takes to resolve this inconsistency is to Google it or find a sports almanac somewhere.

An apparent disagreement results from a difference in opinion or perception. So if someone makes the statement "Fifty degrees Fahrenheit is hot" and someone else makes the statement "Fifty degrees Fahrenheit is cold", these statements could actually both be true. Not because language is relative, but because terms sometimes are. Someone who is from Mojave, California might make the first claim, and someone who is from Anchorage, Alaska might make the second claim, because of the temperatures they've gotten used to in their respective locations.

A verbal disagreement is a disagreement that occurs when different meanings are used for the same term. So if someone looks at a pine tree and says, "that tree is really tall", and someone else kind of scoffs and says, "it's not actually very tall at all," this, again, is not a real disagreement. It's a verbal disagreement. If we consider that the word "tall" is somewhat vague, and that the first statement might be made by a child in fifth grade and the second statement is made by someone who is used to seeing towering redwood trees, then we realize that there is really no disagreement here. The word "tall" is being used in two different ways by both speakers.

So based on these three types of disagreements, it should be obvious that what is going on here is a verbal disagreement regarding the term "medically indicated". Because pro-life doctors have taken abortion off the table, they do not consider it medically indicated. And because pro-choice doctors have put abortion on the table as a viable medical procedure, they consider it medically indicated. Accusing the other side of lying isn't helpful, and it certainly isn't a result of critical thinking.

Now with that out of the way, let's look at the tweets from Dr. Gunter.

Doctor Gunter, unfortunately, seems to be a pretty extreme pro-choice advocate, unwilling to reasonably engage with those she disagrees with. As such, she starts her second tweet by asserting that pro-life doctors who disagree with her are lying. Of course, lying is not the only thing that might be going on here. As I have shown, what's really going on here is a difference in understanding of what procedures are medically indicated. I don't think Doctor Gunter is lying, and I don't think the pro-life doctors she's responding to are lying. But this is no way to make your disagreement known.

And while it is true that late-term abortions are much more rare than early-term abortions, the fact of the matter is that they are not just situations with fetal abnormalities or situations in which the woman's life or health is in jeopardy. As Secular Pro-Life recorded, according to research done by Guttmacher Institute, which is Planned Parenthood's research organization, most late-term abortions are not done for medical reasons. The most common reasons for late-term abortion are having a baby would dramatically change her life, she can't afford a child now, and having relationship problems or doesn't want to be a single mother. Many late-term abortions are done for the same reasons as early-term abortions, just later for reasons such as she didn't know she was pregnant or had difficulty procuring an abortion earlier.

The rest of her tweets outline situations in which abortion is medically indicated. Now, of course, that doesn't mean an abortion is necessary to resolve the situation. But abortion would be legally permissible in those cases. Taking a look through them will be instructive, not because they actually prove her case, but because they actually do show just how flimsy the "health" exception is regarding when a woman can procure a late-term abortion.

Here's an example Dr. Gunter gives of a girl who was raped by her brother and couldn't get an abortion because her parents wouldn't consent. This is a situation in which it wasn't because of a fetal abnormality or because of a risk to the mother's life. It was because she was raped. A tragic situation, to be sure, but this abortion was done because the fetus was conceived in rape, not because the pregnancy posed a risk to her life.

Here are two different situations, one focusing on the pregnant woman and the other focusing on the fetus. According to Mayo Clinic, preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other organ systems. If left untreated, this complication can be fatal for the woman and the child. The most effective treatment if the child is viable is delivery of the baby.

According to Healthline, the term "triploid" refers to the cells of the fetus, rather than the fetus, herself. A triploid fetus has one extra set of chromosomes in its cells. A haploid cell has one set of chromosomes, 23 -- sperm and ovum cells are haploid. A diploid cell has two sets of chromosomes, 46 -- typical cells are diploid cells, and once the sperm and ovum cells fuse together creating a zygote, this zygote consists of a diploid cell which soon starts to divide as the embryo grows. A triploid cell has three sets of chromosomes, 69, and this results in this condition. Triploidy occurs when the embryo inherits two sets of chromosomes from a parent, rather than just one from each parent. Fetuses with this condition rarely survive until birth, and those that do usually last only a short time afterward.

So here we have two different conditions, one threatening the life of the mother and one threatening the life of the child. In both cases, the pregnant woman chose abortion over c-section. Now, Dr. Gunter will likely say these conditions were medically indicated, but again, that's because abortion was on the table. If abortion is immoral because it kills an innocent human child, then it can't be medically indicated. So if pro-life physicians are correct, then these conditions would not indicate abortion. The condition of preeclampsia would indicate a c-section to save the mother's life, whether or not she would prefer to have an abortion. And the condition of triploidy would indicate that the child be born normally, since no one has the right to decide for anyone else whether or not their life is worth living.

In fact, these situations also count as a counterexample to a common pro-choice talking point. Pro-choice people often talk about how no one wants to abort a late-term fetus because these were wanted pregnancies, so late-term abortions are not done frivolously. But these conditions here show that even though these were late-term fetuses, the mothers preferred to kill the child than to undergo a c-section. That's not a loving act from someone who could never kill her own child because of the lateness of the pregnancy, especially since in the case of preeclampsia, according to Mayo Clinic, c-section is the most effective treatment.

Here we have a situation with an anencephalic fetus, which is a fetus where most of the brain has failed to develop. In this case, the pregnant mother asked to induce delivery early because she couldn't take people touching her belly or asking about the baby. She was allowed to deliver early because of this.

These situations show just how pernicious the "health" exception is for abortion restrictions. They're so broad that there are really no legitimate restrictions on abortion in the United States. A woman was allowed to have a late-term abortion because she was distraught over people asking her about the pregnancy and touching her belly. Another girl was allowed to have a late-term abortion because she had been raped. Another was allowed an abortion because she didn't want to deliver her child via c-section. It is obscene that these situations are considered medically indicated, but they also show that pro-life doctors are on firm ground when they say that a woman never needs an abortion in the late-term.

In fact, here is an article written by a pro-life doctor which outlines several situations in which a doctor might prescribe abortion, but after giving these women more information they opted not to abort. These doctors seemed more interested in not being held liable for continuing the pregnancy than in actually saving the life of the unborn patient. On top of that, the author outlines two reasons that doctors prefer to refer for abortion rather than provide needed information to protect the life of the unborn child: "the transference of an ambivalent attitude toward the developing human" and "the unbalanced legal burden of informed consent".

It takes three days for a late-term abortion because the doctor has to forcibly dilate the cervix. A c-section takes roughly 45 minutes. It's faster and it's safer for the mother. An abortion is never necessary in the late-term, and if it is indeed medically indicated, the medical field is in error.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Why We Should Not Honor Established Precedent

The National Abortion Federation(NAF) has said that we need Supreme Court justices who will honor established precedent meaning that the abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, should never be overturned. National Abortion Federation, “We Need a Supreme Court Justice Who Will Honor Established Precedent.” July 9, 2018. NAF Blog, Those that espouse a duty to honor abortion precedent are mistaken and hypocritical. When abortion was legalized, the Roe court abandoned long held legal precedent that protected unborn life to the celebration of abortion advocates like NAF. What about honoring legal precedent? I see a double standard. There is nothing wrong with upsetting established precedent if the precedent is morally wrong.

History is a great teacher, though very few pay attention to the lessons that can and should be learned from it. The statement about honoring precedent by NAF echoes a similar argument America heard back in the 1800s. When the moral issue of slavery was tearing apart our country, slavery proponents argued that it needed to remain legal, honoring the precedent set in the Dredd Scott decision. I doubt any person in NAF today would say it was wrong for anti-slavery advocates to upset established legal precedent founded in Dredd Scott.

The laws back in the South effectively treated African-Americans as subhuman. It was okay to abuse them, enslave them, deprive them of their rights, and suppress their efforts for equality because after, all, they were “lesser” than whites.

We have a similar law today. The unborn are considered a subhuman class. It is okay to abuse them, to murder them, and to take away their right to live because, after all, they are “lesser” than born humans. This kind of thinking and reasoning is wrong and evil. People that are different than us are not subhuman. Just like skin color does not make someone less human, someone’s size, level of development, environment, or degree of dependency also does not make someone less human. The greatest injustices in history were considered by many people at the time to be good, moral aspects of culture. But future generations looked back and rightly found those social institutions like slavery to be wrong. Likewise, future generations will look back and condemn abortion as a gross moral evil that was permitted to flourish for far too long because it was faithfully advocated as a cultural necessity. When are we going to learn?

The argument that appeals to precedent being established is a bad one. It doesn’t matter how established a law or Supreme Court decision is. If it is a bad law that infringes on human rights, then it should be overturned. Precedent has nothing to do with it. Slavery was precedent and was established through many laws in the South. That in no way made it something good that should have been protected and kept legal. When current laws support injustice it is our moral obligation to stand against those laws. Let us do everything we can to change them so that justice and goodness are promoted for every person from the womb to the nursing home. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Myth of Neutrality in the Abortion Debate

We live in time where human life is no longer valued. From the womb to the death bed, evil worldviews are being implemented through legislation and people are dying as a result.  Throughout history, there have always been groups of people that have been wrongly marginalized and dehumanized so that injustice can be perpetuated as if it’s a virtue. The most difficult and egregious thing about this is that the injustice is always presented as something good, right, and beneficial, when in fact the opposite it true.

Physician and anthropologist Dr. Paul Farmer has said that “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” The issue of abortion perpetuates that idea-that some lives are not worth protecting because they get “in the way” of someone else’s desire for happiness or ease of living. Many people pretend that there is some middle ground on this issue. They claim to be personally opposed to abortion but will not lift a finger to rescue innocent victims that are being led away to a literal slaughter. To paraphrase Desmond Tutu, confessing one’s alleged neutrality on important moral matters places you on the side of the oppressor.

When it comes to abortion, you are either for it or against it. When people make the claim that they are personally against abortion but say that some people have the right to make that decision for themselves, they are, in effect, saying that there is nothing wrong with intentionally killing an innocent human being if it feels right to someone else. Our value and right to life does not emanate from the fickle feelings of another person. Human value is rooted in something much deeper than that. It is grounded in the fact that we are made after the likeness of God Himself. We have been given a rational nature that is grounded throughout time. Of course, there are developmental differences and many changes that occur during a human’s life, but those alterations do not change the kind of being that exists. There are many human beings that function at different levels rationally: the mentally handicapped, elderly people with Alzheimer’s, the embryo, the fetus, those who are sleeping, and those temporarily in comas. Yet all of these people with different rational capabilities still have a right to life because of their inherent nature. Christopher Kaczor uses the example of the reproductive organs in men and woman. The ovaries and testicles on men and woman are not “potential” organs when they are not being used for sexual reproduction. They remain reproductive organs whether or not they actually function as such because that is what they are. Likewise, the rational human being may not function in the same way as others, but from conception to natural death, human beings hold a value and dignity in their very existence because they are human. Christopher Kaczor. (2011) The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice, Routledge, New York and London.

Injustice and evil take so many forms and it is important to be able to recognize them and expose them for what they really are. Abortion is a serious battlefield that needs to be faithfully fought upon. The worst kind of injustice takes place around us every single day as approximately three thousand innocent babies lose their life in that span of time. Doing the right thing and standing up for the voiceless have always been difficult tasks because if you do that, you are in the minority. As I like to remind myself, God has never worked with large numbers to accomplish amazing things. Press on and keep fighting. Do not give up because in the end, we really do win. Life will prevail.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Book Review: Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice by Rebecca Todd Peters [Clinton Wilcox]

Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice by Rebecca Todd Peters is, unfortunately, another one of those dime-a-dozen pro-choice books that adds nothing of value to the conversation. Peters is a self-proclaimed feminist social ethicist, but her understanding of the abortion issue is shallow, at best, and she doesn't understand the arguments that pro-life people actually make. On top of that, she outright lies about the agenda of pro-life people. She talks a lot about the role of women in the abortion issue and doesn't give any good reasons to believe the unborn should not be considered in the abortion issue. She uses the word "moral" a lot, but every time she does, the immortal words of Inigo Montoya just echo through my head: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I also doubt she's ever actually read any books written by pro-life people. I have at least two points of evidence for this claim: 1) She actually claims that "[t]here is an unexamined pronatalist bias in this country." She can only make this statement if she's never read any books or articles by pro-life thinkers. She may disagree, but to claim that our bias is unexamined, or that it really even is a bias, is ignorance of the highest degree. 2) Not only does she consistently misrepresent pro-life arguments and lie about pro-life activists, whenever she quotes a pro-life activist it's either from a news source, such as New York Times, or a staunchly pro-abortion website like Mother Jones. She also consistently shows a lack of knowledge of the abortion debate, in general. This is not acceptable behavior for someone who wants to be known as an ethicist.

I hate having to be so harsh. I was pretty blunt when I reviewed Willie Parker's book because it was so awful (and dishonest), and unfortunately Peters' book is just more of the same feminist complaints about misogyny and how pro-life people just want to control the bodies of women. It really does just get old because so many pro-choice advocates are willing to fight dirty in their advocacy for abortion. I am willing to recommend pro-choice books that make meaningful contributions to the abortion debate, as I did with Kate Greasley's recent book. This is a book that will go unrecommended from me as a good contribution to the abortion debate.

Unfortunately, the book reads as if it was written by someone who is uneducated in logic, has never read Scripture, and has not read many books by people who aren't feminists. I'll just give three examples from chapter eight of the book, then I'll stop harping on her lack of qualifications as an ethicist and just respond to a couple of her arguments which are germane to her overall thesis.

1. On page 170 of her book, she claims that in today's society, sex is not just for procreative purposes. People just tend to want to have sex for pleasure rather than to create a child. This doesn't mean that many people aren't willing to accept pregnancy resulting from sex, but "it challenges the long-held Christian narrative that the purpose of sex is procreation."

But this is completely false. She acts as if no one in Christian history has ever had sex simply because they enjoy it. But one read through Song of Solomon will show that to those who take Scripture seriously, sex is also something that is immensely enjoyable. In fact, the Apostle Paul told fellow believers it is better to marry than to burn with lust and have sex in a sinful way (1 Corinthians 7:9). Christians have long held that sex is enjoyable and there is nothing wrong with having sex because you enjoy it. But none of this lends any sort of evidence for Peters' claim that sex is not for reproduction. The final end of the sexual organs is reproduction -- that's why we call them reproductive organs and not recreational organs. Sex is enjoyable, but it is not the purpose of sex. Just as eating is enjoyable but the purpose of eating is to nourish the body, not simply for enjoyment. A couple can have sex because they enjoy it, but all sex they have must be open to creation of new life to be ethical.

2. On pages 170-171, she talks about cryogenically frozen embryos. Considering how many pro-life people in minority groups believe in adopting these embryos, she makes the following argument:
"[C]oncern over the fate of these embryos pales in comparison to the outsized public interest in preventing pregnant woman from securing safe, legal abortions. This is further evidence that abortion politics are not about abortion, the status of prenatal life, or women's health, as much as they are about the social control of women."

Her argument here doesn't even make any sense. Pro-life people, by definition, do not believe in "safe, legal abortions" because they kill innocent human beings. It's not very clear what she's arguing. Is she arguing that pro-life people care more about saving frozen embryos than in helping the women that can't abort because of pro-life laws? That, of course, would take some defense (which is not forthcoming), especially since there are numerous pro-life pregnancy care centers and churches who are able and willing to help. This is just a nonsensical argument.

3. Finally, on pages 174ff., she quotes a theologian named Kendra Hotz who describes parenthood as "a calling that not everyone is called to fulfill." She continues, "the choice for parenthood is bigger than what pleases me; it is also about God's reconciliation of all things." She argues that parenthood is a sacred trust, a covenant relationship entered into in which parents care for and nurture their children.

Of course, this is a mistaken view about parenthood; or at least, very simplistic. No one can be forced into a covenant -- covenants are agreements made between two or more parties. While parents could certainly enter into a covenant (and they do when they get married), having children cannot be considered a covenant because no one has a choice to be conceived. No child has a choice to be part of this covenant relationship. In fact, it's this natural neediness and the fact that they didn't choose to be conceived which is part of what grounds the parents' obligation to care for their children.

The idea that not everyone is called to be a parent is simply absurd. If God didn't call all people, in general, to be parents, he wouldn't have made sex the way to conceive children and then give all people a sex drive. We have a sex drive, and reproduction happens through sex, because God wants us to populate the world and wants us to have families. Families are good things. People are made for community, which is why Paul exhorts us not to forsake assembling together with other believers. Friends come and go, but families give us a community of people who will always be there for each other when we need it most. In fact, I don't find anywhere in Scripture that only certain people are called to be parents. What I do find in Scripture is that certain people are called to be single. In fact, because our sex drive is so strong, it takes a special gift and a special calling to remain single and celibate. It is not for everyone. Again, this idea that one must be specially called into parenthood is absurd.

The main argument of Peters' book is to shift the discussion away from what she calls "the justification framework" (i.e. the idea that women have to give reasons to justify their abortions) toward a framework of reproductive justice. She writes, "[Reproductive Justice] has three primary principles: the right not to have a child, the right to have a child, and the right to parent in safe and healthy environments" (p. 7, emphases hers). Trying to shift the conversation away from the nature of the unborn isn't exactly a new tactic -- many pro-choice people do that in their conversations, and occasionally a pro-choice author will try to do that in one of her books (e.g. Eileen McDonagh trying to shift the conversation from one of choice to one of consent). In fact, Judith Thomson's famous essay with the violinist tried to shift the conversation away from the nature of the unborn. Peters' new tactic is to frame the conversation away from what the unborn are and more toward the lives of women. She believes that the complex lives of women is the foundation that we must start from in the conversation on abortion.

Peters is very much pro-abortion, believing that any restrictions on abortion are immoral and oppressive. How does she justify her pro-choice stance? She believes that the "prenate" (her term for the human embryo/fetus) only crosses the threshold of life by the physical experience of birth, becoming part of the human community (p. 5). She then claims that beginning with the premise that women should continue their pregnancies misidentifies the act of "terminating a pregnancy" as the starting point for our ethical conversation. She writes, "It reduces the conversation to an abstract question of whether abortion is right or wrong, creating a binary framework woefully inadequate for the complexity of the moral questions surrounding abortion. Abortion, however, is never an abstract ethical question. It is, rather, a particular answer to a prior ethical question: 'What should I do when faced with an unplanned, unwanted, or medically compromised pregnancy?' This question can only be addressed within the life of a particular woman at a given moment in time" (p. 6). Thus, by attempting to reframe the discussion of abortion, she can completely dismiss the question of whether or not the unborn are human beings with a wave of the hand and resort to telling stories about the difficult situations women find themselves in and justifying their decision to abort based on their considerations regarding that difficult decision (of course, she ignores the fact that abortion is only a difficult decision because there is a human child at stake in the decision). Plus, she doesn't really give us any reason for believing that we should reframe the discussion in such a way. One could just as easily support infanticide or toddlercide by arguing that we should reframe the discussion away from one of are infants and toddlers human persons and toward one of the complex lives of parents. However, if the unborn are persons, as pro-life advocates argue, then we can't just take them out of the equation. No matter how complex a woman's life is, it doesn't justify murder of an innocent human being. So unless she can make a compelling case that the unborn are not persons, then we are free to reject her suggestion that we move the conversation in a different direction.

What are her arguments that the unborn aren't persons? She has a small section in chapter five dedicated to that question. Needless to say, she does not engage with the argument of pro-life thinkers but primarily repeats talking points you hear from lay level pro-choice advocates:

1. Several times she declares that the belief that personhood is established at fertilization is a "theological belief". Of course this is plainly false (again lending credibility to my claim that she likely has never read any books or articles from pro-life thinkers).

2. While "prenates" are human, they are not fully developed. They don't have a heart in the same sense that we do, even though it beats, because the prenate body is still in development. This argument always strikes me as bizarre. Do pro-choice people not understand how development works? Do they not realize that even infants and toddlers are not fully developed? She claims that birth is when we become persons, but if she is going to deny personhood rights to the unborn on the grounds that they are not fully developed, she is being inconsistent by not denying infants or toddlers personhood rights.

3. Prenates cannot survive outside the womb before viability and are dependent on the woman's body. But of course, these things do not justify denying personhood rights to the unborn. After all, people in reversible comas cannot survive outside the hospital environment without their respirator. Diabetics cannot survive without insulin. Being dependent on someone or something else for your survival does not mean you have less rights. In fact, we often tend to think it grounds more of an obligation to help someone, if we can. Not less of an obligation.

Those are the main arguments she gives, and needless to say they are not persuasive in the least. There are many problems with Peters' book, and I'd have to write a book myself to address all of them.

One major issue is that she cites studies in support of many of her statements. The problem, though, is that almost always she quotes just one study that supports her position. However, one study is not evidence of your claim. The thing about studies is that they are easy to fudge the results of (and, in fact, it has been shown that many studies are unreliable because the sociologists were more interested in appeasing their donors than in getting to the truth -- and she even talks about one such study on p. 88, in which the sociologist was unaware of biases that tainted his studies). Results must be replicatable to be reliable, so pointing to one study does not support her position. And despite the fact she dismisses pro-life organizations as unreliable, she constantly relies on pro-abortion organizations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who are also unreliable as organizations for the same reason (just reversed). In fact, I've written an article taking ACOG to task for being dishonest when asked a question about when human life begins.

She also makes several dishonest claims about pro-life people. One of the most egregious is on p. 42, in which she references the Center for Medical Progress' videos showing Planned Parenthood selling fetal body parts for profit. She repeats the common claim that these videos were "heavily edited". Of course they were heavily edited. That's what you do when you want to shorten them for public consumption. What she probably means is that they were "deceptively edited", despite the fact that the full videos are available on-line for viewing

It would take a book or several lengthy articles to pick out every error in reasoning or false claim made by Peters. But this should suffice to show that Peters' book, unfortunately, is not one that adds meaningfully to the discussion on abortion. Your time will be better spent reading something else.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

On Destiny's Unfortunate Support for Pro-Abortion Politicians [Clinton Wilcox]

Yesterday, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder and president of New Wave Feminists, wrote an opinion piece for Dallas News entitled, "I'm pro-life and I voted for Beto O'Rourke because I'm done being used by the GOP". To put it mildly, Destiny's article is poorly reasoned. I would expect this kind of article from someone like Rachel Held Evans, not from someone who wants to be known as a pro-life leader. In short, "The GOP uses us, therefore we should support the pro-abortion Democrats" is, of course, a non-sequitur, mixed with a false dichotomy. There are more than two parties one can support, and there are other pro-life parties one can support if one is fed up with the GOP (rightly or wrongly; it's not my intention to enter into this debate here). Before I begin, I want to point out that I sympathize with Destiny's frustration at legalized abortion having gone on for so long. And I'm going to be a bit harsh in this article (and I'll try to do it as nicely as possible). But this must be done, since Destiny's article is likely to mislead a number of pro-life people into voting for a pro-abortion candidate for U.S. Senate.

In case you aren't aware, Beto O'Rourke (D) is running against former presidential candidate and current senate incumbent Ted Cruz (R) for Texas U.S. senator. As you might imagine, Cruz is against abortion in all cases except when the mother's life is in danger, and believes in defunding Planned Parenthood. O'Rourke, on the other hand, is strongly pro-abortion. I tried looking for what his exact views on abortion are but have come up empty. My google-fu is apparently not strong enough. However, on his campaign website, under "women's health" in issues, it has the following: "Ensuring that a woman's right to choose is not compromised by limited access to safe and legal abortion services or family planning help." That, combined with the fact that in 2017, he voted against the 20-week abortion ban on the grounds that it would endanger the life and health of women (which, of course, is false since most late-term abortions done are not medically necessary), lead me to conclude that O'Rourke supports late-term abortion at least until the point of birth, since he opposes limiting access to "safe and legal abortion services". As such, if you are pro-life in Texas, it seems pretty clear which is the preferred candidate.

Unfortunately, Destiny disagrees. So now let's dig into her article and see how her case for a pro-life vote for O'Rourke is so weak.

She starts her article off with a pretty bizarre statement: she broke the "golden rule" of the pro-life movement, which is to vote Republican. Of course, this isn't the golden rule of the pro-life movement. If there is a golden rule, it's to vote pro-life, not vote Republican. Pro-life people are not tied to the Republican party. If the Democrat party had a pro-life platform and the Republicans ran on a pro-abortion platform, the pro-life movement would be voting Democrat. It's the pro-life platform pro-life people cling to, not the color red. Perhaps Destiny doesn't understand the pro-life movement as well as she thinks she does. But this alleged tie will be a recurring theme in Destiny's article.

Next she talks about how she voted for people who had other views she found detestable, such as bombing other countries or taking children away from their families. Of course, these two statements are very much simplified and I'm not really interested in cashing them out. But needless to say, actions taken in wartime are not comparable to abortion (as war can be permissible but abortion is rarely permissible), and the situation of illegal immigration and taking children away from their parents is much more complicated than there being simply a nefarious mustache-twirling villain sitting in the Oval Office, wanting to tear children from the grasp of their parents.

She states that she's a "consistent life ethicist", meaning that she opposes "all forms of violence against other human beings". Now, I've been a pretty vocal critic of the "consistent life ethic" for some time. It's really just a way for some pro-life people to feel morally superior to other pro-life people. It's just a more sophisticated form of saying "I'm more pro-life than you." Again, I'm not really intending to debate the merits or lack thereof of this idea. But it seems pretty hollow when we consider that she voted for O'Rourke. If she really opposes all forms of violence against other human beings, why would she vote for someone who openly opposes any restrictions on abortion instead of Ted Cruz, a man who actually has a pretty good track record of pro-life votes? Just this year, Ted Cruz backed an amendment which would have defunded Planned Parenthood in Texas (the measure lost, unfortunately). In fact, political scientist Alan Abramowitz has said publicly that Cruz's positions are on the far right, even further to the right than conservative leaders like Reagan and Gingrich, and Cruz is among the 2 or 3 most consistently conservative voices in the senate. And Destiny, the "consistent life ethicist", thought O'Rourke would be a better choice.

Once Beto O'Rourke entered the race, though, he apparently charmed her enough to win her support. He wanted to "work with Republicans and independents", and "find common-ground solutions" we can all get behind on nonpartisan issues. Of course, abortion being a partisan issue, one wonders why this would win Destiny's support, especially when friend after friend warned her about O'Rourke and his many attempts to stop common-sense restrictions on abortion, which she apparently turned a blind eye to. And her rationale for turning a blind eye to this? Because her organization, New Wave Feminists, is not just a pro-life organization, but a feminist one, and Trump has made public declarations that paint him as a pretty sexist guy. But again, one wonders why this would lead her to vote for O'Rourke. Cruz is not Trump. Cruz is Cruz. And even if Cruz was a sexist in the same vein as Trump allegedly is, this should lead someone concerned about such matters to not vote. Or apparently she believes that dehumanizing unborn children is more justifiable than dehumanizing women. Or perhaps it just hasn't exactly sunk in for Destiny that unborn children really are full persons deserving of full moral respect (I have spoken to pro-life people like this, who pay lip service to fetal personhood but don't act as if they really believe it). No matter which it is, her decision to vote for O'Rourke is disappointing.

Destiny relies on a red herring in her article. She doesn't have any dirt on Cruz, so she spends an inordinate amount of time talking about Trump, which has nothing to do with whether or not Cruz will be a good conservative voice in the Senate. And while it's true that President Trump so far has not kept his campaign promise to defund Planned Parenthood, and Republicans have, in the past, failed pretty spectacularly to vote in a way consistent with their alleged pro-life views, what Destiny also fails to consider is that there are many pro-life laws that have been passed in many states, such as mandatory waiting periods and parental notification laws, which have been shown to reduce the incidences of abortion. Do you think someone like O'Rourke will support these laws? He doesn't believe in abortion restrictions, so it doesn't seem he would. With pro-life legislators, it is easier to pass these pro-life laws. Pro-choice legislators will make passing these laws extremely more difficult.

Continuing her red herring, she moves on to Kavanaugh. Susan Collins, she reminds us, voted yes for Kavanaugh's confirmation because he assured her that Roe is "settled law". Whether or not this is true has no basis on whether or not she should vote for Cruz over O'Rourke.

Destiny goes on to tell us that we have to create a post-Roe culture while Roe still stands in order to eradicate abortion from our culture. But this is simply a pipe dream. Abortion will never completely go away, even if it's made illegal. Again, one wonders just exactly what Destiny expects of the pro-life movement. With 2,752 locations across the U.S., pregnancy care centers significantly outnumber abortion businesses, to say nothing of the number of churches in the United States who would be willing to help a woman or couple in a crisis pregnancy. The resources are there for any pregnant woman who wants them. I don't know anyone who thinks that we should only make abortion illegal and stop there. Every pro-life advocate I know, including the leaders, agree that pregnancy care centers provide valuable services. But to claim that we should make a post-Roe culture before outlawing Roe is simply misguided and foolish. In fact, none other than moral reformer Martin Luther King, Jr., would disagree with her.
Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion. Well, there’s half-truth involved here. Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation on the local scale within states and on the national scale from the federal government. [1]
In fact, New Wave Feminists does not have a monopoly on wanting to make abortion unthinkable. Justice for All was working toward making abortion unthinkable long before New Wave Feminists ever came around. One can work toward making abortion unthinkable while also working toward making it illegal, and we should because killing an innocent human being should be punished, and especially prevented.

Destiny mentions that she does not believe O'Rourke, like most pro-choice people, is really "pro-abortion". He is "pro-choice" and just believes abortion to be a "necessary evil." This might make it easier for Destiny to sleep at night, but there is evidence that countermands her statements here. The majority of Americans, including pro-choice people, oppose late-term abortions as has been shown time and again by Gallup polls. O'Rourke doesn't believe in any restrictions on abortion, which means O'Rourke is out of touch with what the average American believes, even those on his side of the fence. If you believe in unrestricted abortion access for any reason, you are not simply pro-choice, you are pro-abortion. And while O'Rourke says he supports "safe and legal abortion access," he has dropped the word "rare" from that slogan, meaning that he doesn't even seem to have any moral qualms about abortion (why make it rare if there is nothing morally wrong with it?). Additionally, O'Rourke is not willing to work with the other side on this because he doesn't believe in any restrictions on abortion. Destiny's belief simply does not reflect reality.

The first sentence of her article states that she may have ruined her career with her vote for O'Rourke. If Destiny refuses to admit that she was wrong and recant her support for O'Rourke, then this incident should end her career as a pro-life leader. We should not have pro-life leaders who compromise their pro-life views by voting into office those who are dedicated to fighting tooth and nail to provide unlimited abortion services for women. I would hope that Destiny realizes the egregious error she's made and does the right thing.

[1] From Martin Luther King, Jr.'s address at Western Michigan University, December 18, 1963

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Supreme Court’s Insidious History of Approving Injustice

The Supreme Court of the United States has an impressive record of condoning injustice. It was the Supreme Court that claimed that African Americans were not “persons”. It was the Supreme Court that affirmed the “separate but equal” facilities to keep blacks and whites separate. It was this court that declared that unborn human beings were not “persons” under the law, condemning millions of little humans to death by poison, crushing, burning, or dismembering.

If you read the legal texts of Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, etc., the reasons given for legalizing and justifying abortion hinge on an assumption that the unborn are not human like us and, therefore, warrant no protection under Constitutional law. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court used language to denigrate the unborn to a subhuman, “other” status. The legal opinions of these cases rendered by the justices support a worldview that holds that all human beings are not equal. In effect, the Court opinions say killing some people to achieve a selfish benefit is not always morally problematic. One of the justifications for this was that because some people disagree about when human life begins, the Court could not take a side regarding the “mystery of human life”. This “mystery of human life” is really not so much a mystery. The science of embryology is clear that the unborn are living, distinct, and whole human beings from the moment of conception. As Scott Klusendforf says, the absence of consensus does not mean that there is an absence of truth.

Imagine if these cases were decided to allow women to murder their inconvenient toddlers using the language of “potential life” and “mystery of human life” to relegate three year olds to a class of humans with no rights. Comparing the toddler to the unborn is a very useful tactic because it reveals a begging of the question. The immediate reaction from the pro-choice person is to say how the toddler is very different from the unborn human being. In response to that, ask the person what the relevant differences are between the unborn and the toddler that justifies killing one but not the other. The typical response is to point to the size, level of development, environment, or the degree of dependency of the unborn baby. If human beings have equal value, that worth must be grounded in something we all share equally. The value human beings possess comes from the fact that we are made in God’s image. We have been given a rational and relational nature that grounds our existence throughout time. Though many changes occur throughout human development, none of those developmental modifications increase the right to life. The basic human right to live cannot be contingent upon alterable characteristics for that would mean that the human right to live would vary from person to person. Our moral intuitions reject that.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey acknowledged that some people find abortion offensive to their morality but the Court concluded that that could not control their decision because that view should not mandate moral code. But they did in fact mandate a moral code-the very thing they claimed to avoid. The moral code they endorsed was that it was permissible to kill little human beings in the womb if they are unwanted.

Our laws in this country condemn and prevent people from harming and killing their animals in horrible ways. While you cannot torture your dog just because you don’t want him anymore nor can you kill an endangered species without facing jail time, you can walk into an abortion clinic and have your unborn baby torn apart in the name of “reproductive freedom”. Taking the life of an innocent human is granted under our laws in this country. This evil is so difficult to fight because you don’t see the dead babies and their body parts when you walk out your front door. The apathy that surrounds this injustice is appalling. Do not sit idly by while your unborn neighbor is being taken to the slaughter. We have all been made for such a time as this. The battle we face is one of life and death. Be on the side that chooses life.

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.

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?