Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How so, Ms. Wood? [Jay]

I am clearly not as thrilled as some others I have read in the blogosphere with the cover story on crisis pregnancy centers in the February issue of Time magazine. Although my displeasure for the article works on multiple levels, I will focus on one item for this post. Deborah Wood, the CEO of Asheville Pregnancy Support Services in Asheville, NC, makes an observation that I take exception to in the following excerpt from the article:

She tells her counselors to tread gently. You don’t need to lie or bully, she says - just listen and love: “We understand completely that this is her decision.” The waiting room is not full of baby pictures, she notes, and the counseling room is no place for political debates. “We don’t want a zealot in there,” she says. “We want someone who’s going in there with a heart and compassion who’ll talk reasonably and present options.” And, she adds, she would never show graphic pictures or movies like the Silent Scream, the landmark 1984 video that presents an abortion being performed in which the fetus is portrayed as crying in pain. The women who come through her door, Wood says, “are traumatized enough already. Why would we do that? We’re trying to be caretakers. I know how I’d respond if somebody did this in-your-face thing to me. I’d pull back. It’s why do it?” (Page 27 & 28)

There are so many things to sort through here. I do not want to react from offense at what she seems to be implying or what I most definitely infer from this excerpt, so let us focus on the last statement. It’s ineffective? Graphic images are ineffective at changing the minds of women considering abortion as a live option?

That sounds an awful lot like a truth claim. The problem is that she offers absolutely no evidence or supportive arguments for her claim. She says that she does not think that she personally would react well if that method of counseling was used on her. From her preference statement she deduces that it is universally ineffective?

Well, I work in a crisis pregnancy center that enjoys fantastic success in turning women who are abortion vulnerable back from that decision with love, mercy, reason, and if necessary graphic images. Our leadership has set standards and practices that assure that these images are used in the proper manner, but they are used. My first day of work Lori Parker, our Executive Director, was explaining the controversy around graphic images and our continued use of them. I asked one question. Do women decide to not get abortions after seeing the images? Does it work? The answer is yes. It has saved lives. We use them rarely, but when we use them we see results where every other avenue of counseling failed. Certainly not every woman who has seen the graphic videos and images has changed their mind and committed to carrying their child to term. But how many babies have to be saved for it to be worth their use as a tool when all else has failed? Maybe one.

So I challenge Deborah to produce evidence to contradict what we experience everyday. If you personally find the images distasteful to use then be clear that it is a preference. When you say they are ineffective, you had better be ready to support that claim.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Whose life is it anyway? [Jay]

In light of some of the conversation about the purity of the movement being the primary focus even if it means rejecting legislation or policy that will save lives now, I thought the following text from the James Oakes book The Radical and the Republican was appropriate. In writing about Frederick Douglass, Oakes says:

By early 1862 there was no disagreement between Lincoln and Douglass over whether slavery should be abolished. The issue was how. For all his talk of violent slave insurrection - and he talked a lot about it after Harper’s Ferry - Douglass actually endorsed all paths to emancipation. He was a flexible dogmatist. The goal mattered much more than the means of achieving it. Twenty years earlier, when his own freedom was at stake, Douglass had backed a proposal by his English friends to purchase his liberty from the man who technically owned him, thus making it possible for Douglass to return safely to America. Righteous abolitionist cried foul, but Douglass cared more about securing freedom than securing freedom in the purest way. (Page 170)

The final sentence struck me as applicable to the debate of purity of the cause versus saving as many lives as we can. The purists found the idea of purchasing the freedom of Douglass from his “technical owner” an admission of the legitimacy of that ownership. That is all well and good that they passionately felt that way, but it was Douglass’s freedom that was at issue. And Douglass wanted to be free however that could be accomplished.

It is also well and good to feel so passionately about the pursuit of legal recognition of the sanctity of human life that we refuse to compromise on our moral message and position. It is another thing when we let our moral position create an unnecessary climate where more people that are “not us” are being killed. I appreciate the concept of the purity of our cause. I just think that the unborn probably share Mr. Douglass’s perspective. Save as many as we can when we can because they would rather have their life than die for MY principled stand.

I post this with all due respect to those who disagree and their zeal for this issue.

Cloning and Juvenile Diabetes [SK]

Richard Doerflinger explains why cloning won't cure that disease:

Who are these tens of thousands of people? A hint of an answer is that Culver said this at a press conference surrounded by parents of children with juvenile diabetes, who spoke about a 'cure' for their children's illness...

It is worth asking: Have these parents ever read anything about cloning and juvenile diabetes--or are they being misled and used? Even the most vigorous proponents of human cloning for research purposes, such as Ian Wilmut (head of the team that created Dolly), admit that stem cells from cloned embryos will not treat juvenile diabetes. The reason is simple: Any embryo cloned from a child with juvenile diabetes (and any stem cells from that embryo) would be an exact genetic match to the child, and thus have exactly the same genetic profile that provoked the illness in the first place.(Emph. added)

HT: Second Hand Smoke

Monday, February 26, 2007

Brits Will NOT Ban Human-Animal Hybrid Cloning [SK]

See for yourself.

More on Priorities [SK]

Peter writes:

I think that perhaps your communication with Jeremy and Jim has been going at cross-purposes for the reason that you are mainly speaking to the kinds of arguments that you use in the apologetic context of a public forum at universities, etc., whereas Jeremy and Jim both seem to be more concerned with the kinds of conversations that occur in the more intense, emotionally and spiritually pressurized situation of the counseling session with the young woman contemplating abortion. Even if we grant that there will be some hearers in your audiences who are on the verge of making just such a choice, surely the differences in forum require different speaking strategies.

What I am getting at is that the fire-fighting analogy breaks down most obviously here. Crisis pregnancy counseling may be fairly compared to rescuing people from burning buildings, but only to a point. As insurance companies so often tell us, catastrophes like fire, flood, and tornado are impersonal "forces majeueres", (or as they still say in many policies, "acts of God"). In contrast, the baby in danger of abortion is at immediate risk because of the conscious deliberate and willful exercise of choice on the part of a knowing human actor, i.e., the mother--a person by the way, whose understanding is often darkened under the influence of powerful and seductive lies. So the rescue process proceeds by argument and explanation in order, hopefully, to avert the immediate catastrophe by changing the will of the mother. But unless there is a deeper structural change, a change of heart on the part of the mother, there is good reason to fear that she may wind up in the same predicament again in 9 months or 2 years or 5 years--sin being what it is. The most effective method of counseling--one that addresses these heart issues-- is best accomplished through a strategy of compassionate witness that exposes the mother to the reality and power of her own sin, of which the abortion question before her is only the most obvious manifestation. The crisis pregnancy counseling conversation is rightly seen to be the most critical "front-line" component of an overall strategy that seeks to reverse the momentum of the "culture of death." Pragmatic strategies that only focus on the immediate task of saving this baby in this situation now, it seems to me, fail to make these larger connections, and so, ultimately, prove to be less successful, for the reasons I suggest. This seems to be the point of Pat as well--who speaks from quite a bit of experience. By the way, all of this is not to say I accuse you being a short-sighted pragmatist, but rather, that I agree with the "both/and" approach you suggest.
My reply:

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I hope you’ll pardon my tardy response—the kids were out of school last week and I’m just now getting back to the office!

Just to review, the debate here got started over this general question: “Must the gospel be at the center of the pro-life movement in order for that movement to be faithful?” Jeremy seemed to say yes (at least that’s how I interpreted his post). I said no.

That’s where my fire department (FD) analogy came in: The primary activity objective of the pro-life movement, like the FD, is not to save souls eternally, but rescue lives at risk here and now.

Your point that CPCs must employ differing counseling techniques is a good one. I also agree that the apologist and the CPC counselor sometimes draw from different toolboxes. Every client is different and each, at least to a point, requires a tailored response.

However, I contend that my FD analogy still holds, even in CPC settings, and that your distinction between so-called “acts of God” and deliberate “willful exercise,” while interesting, doesn’t damage my case at all. For example, suppose a woman is preparing to jump from a high-rise building and take her two-year old with her. Suppose also the FD is first to arrive on the scene. (Don’t we hear stories all the time about firemen talking people off of ledges?) True, the causation changes (the act of God is random; the woman’s act in this case, if successful, will be agent-caused), nevertheless, the fire department’s primary activity remains the same: Rescue human lives. That activity trumps all other considerations, including preaching the gospel. Indeed, we have years to present God’s truth to that woman, but only moments to save her and her child from a devastating choice. Put differently, the FD deals with the immediate danger and lets the mental health professionals and clergy sort out the underlying causes after we get her down from the ledge.

Applied to CPCs, I’m okay if a center makes evangelism an overarching goal provided 1) its primary activity is saving babies here and now, and 2) its governing body judges success primarily in terms of how the center used its available resources to save those lives most at risk. That’s not to stop a center from working with the client later on underlying issues, but the primary activity should be aimed at saving her child right now! After that objective is met, we can certainly go to work securing, as you put it, those "deeper structural changes” that bring about a transformed life.

Finally, I agree CPCs must expose women to the reality of their own sin. But in crisis situations, we should first make the sin of abortion real to her before talking about sin in the abstract, theological sense. As my colleague Gregg Cunningham puts it, “if a woman is not more horrified of abortion than she is terrified of a crisis pregnancy, her baby will die.”

Beyond that, there’s no reason to suppose that making the sin of abortion real (indeed, that is the specific sin she contemplates, right?) will stop us from presenting the full gospel when the time is right.

For example, my friend David Lee reaches thousands of college students each year with his pro-life exhibit and I’m a proud partner of his work. This is not your daddy's cardboard poster show. It's a professionally designed (and hugely expensive) display that tastefully depicts the graphic horror of abortion and teaches students the moral logic of the pro-life view. The exhibit is huge (20 feet tall on four sides) and can be seen from a quarter of a mile away. (See the exhibit here.)

David's staff is first class all the way—no shouters screaming unkind remarks, just well-informed Christians graciously making a case for life against the backdrop of horrific images. No wonder Focus on the Family featured his work in Citizen Magazine. He's gone everywhere it seems--UCLA, University of Kansas, University of Texas, Baylor, Wichita State, University of Colorado, to name a few. Each place, abortion becomes THE talk of the campus. No more sweeping injustice under the rug!

While not strictly evangelistic, David points out that much of his work is, indeed, "road-block removal"--that is, clearing up stuff that keeps people from considering Christ in the first place. He describes the evangelistic nature of his abortion display this way: "When people come to understand sin in concrete (rather than abstract) terms, they begin to understand their need for the gospel." They also learn that moral truth is both real and knowable. For example, at one display in Texas, a young woman approached with anger. She asked, ‘Why weren’t you here two years ago?’” She continued: ‘If you’d been here two years ago, I wouldn’t have had an abortion.’ Eight weeks later, she knelt in the counseling room at a pro-life crisis pregnancy center and put her trust in Christ. Once convicted of the realness of her sin, the gospel of grace was irresistible.

Best Regards,

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Beckwith on Laws and Hearts [SK]

In a previous post, I quoted "Frank" (not Beckwith) as saying, "Making more rules [against abortion] will only cause greater rebellion. But attacking the heart will prevent a need for more rules. The heart won't want to follow the rules unless it is changed."

To which Francis Beckwith replies:

Then why have any laws at all?

Also, this statement is offered as a rule by which we assess laws. So, that means this rule ought not to be enforced since, on its own grounds, it would cause rebelllion. So, the best course of action is not to make any rules including rules about rules.

But Frank's rule is mistaken for another reason: it assumes a false view of human nature, one that sees human beings as one-dimensional desirers. But human beings are much more complex than that. They sometimes resent laws that later in life they are grateful existed. Were you ever angry as a teenager that your parents told you that you had to be home by 11 pm, but now, as an adult, are thankful for that rule? Of course you are. Rules must be seen in the entirety of life and not at the moment of desire at which you want to break them. To think otherwise is to embrace the philosophy of the adolescent.

Visit Beckwith's website here.

John Ensor on Gospel and Pro-Life [SK]

My friend Justin Taylor recently asked John the following question:

Taylor: Another criticism of the pro-life movement is that it's "social gospel," and that instead we should just preach Christ and him crucified. In your mind, what's the connection between the gospel and working to end abortion?

Ensor: It is no small lesson that that the great missionary, William Carey, who labored to bring the Gospel to India, who translated the Bible into three languages over 40 furlough-less years, and portions of the Bible into some 30 dialects, also labored to end child-killing in India. The prolife legislation that finally outlawed the practice of throwing babies into the Ganges River to be eaten by alligators is called Carey’s Edict. The Gospel saves the innocent and proclaims good news to the guilty. They are not at odds with each other or Christ would not have pointed to the Samaritan and said, “Go and do likewise.” When we preach Christ and him crucified, we are proclaiming the extreme end to which God proves his love of human life; body and soul. That is why when Amy Carmichael (again in India) rescued an innocent young girl from a cult temple of prostitution, her ministry was transformed. She soon was rescuing dozens of young girls, opening orphanages and schools, and her gospel message rang with authority to the glory of God. But prior to this, she was one fruitless missionary.

So if I am sitting in a café sharing the Gospel with a lost friend (soul), and a car accident outside leaves a baby and a mother pinned in a car (body), and I stay seated doing my evangelism (soul), my message is distorted and unconvincing. But if while rescuing the young mother and baby (body), the car blows up and I am killed by shrapnel (body), my guess is my lost friend will weigh my gospel (soul) with great care. It is sophistry to make it more complicated than that.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Words escape me. [Jay]

I do not have the words to articulate how this story about a 13 year old Italian girl being forced into abortion by a judge because her parents were outraged by her unexpected pregnancy makes me feel.

I was once asked why I did not argue more forcefully with a beloved friend of mine who is pro-choice. I told the questioner that I knew my beloved friend had encouraged her daughter to get abortions on two separate occasions. Winning the argument with my friend over the truth of what abortion truly is means convincing her that she encouraged her daughter to kill her grandchildren. That was a realization I intended to bring about through love.

All too often we see parents at our center forcing their children toward the decision of abortion. This is the grotesque reality that we are confronted with in a world that has been convinced the sanctity of life is a question of preference. Parents compelling their children to kill their grandchildren.

I pray for that young woman. I pray for her parents. God help us all.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Gospel and Pro-Life Apologetics [SK]

A commenter named Jim asks where the gospel fits into my pro-life apologetic.

Answer: I sometimes do and sometimes don't present the gospel in my pro-life apologetic talks. It depends on the context of where I'm presenting my case. When speaking to secular audiences, I usually don't mention the gospel specifically. I'm not there to do that. Rather, I stick to a scientific and philosophical case for the pro-life view (as I will when I debate the head of the ACLU in Grand Rapids in April). I reject the notion that one must quote Scripture or cite the gospel when making a case for the lives of the unborn. We don't demand that Christains cite Scripture when making an insurance presentation, so why must pro-lifers do it when making abortion presentations?

Truth is, secular people think religious truth claims don't count as real knowledge. If I make my case with Scripture, they dismiss me out of hand. So, I'll engage them with arguments they cannot easily dismiss and then politely say, "Where am I mistaken?"

That's not to say I'll run away from addressing my Christian worldview (or the gospel) when asked or when it's otherwise appropriate. But my primary purpose in that secular environment is to make a case for the lives of the unborn.

In Christian schools and churches, I almost always link the two (gospel and pro-life). And I do it joyfully. I use persuasive pro-life apologetics to convince listeners that abortion is wrong and a cross-centered gospel to point them to Christ. (You can hear a sample of that if you listen to my presentation at Cedarville University last month. Or, you can hear my pro-life sermon from St. John's First Baptist Church.) But sometimes--even in secular contexts--I use pro-life apologetics to get people moving toward the gospel. Specifically, I've found that discussions on abortion help reawaken people's moral intuitions. A skilled Christian apologist knows how to exploit this for the sake of the gospel. For example, once the guy seated next to me on the plane concedes that right and wrong on issues like abortion are real things and not just matters of personal taste, he’s now ready for me to ask, "So where do these moral rules come from?" They can’t just exist in a vacuum. If objective morals exist so does an objective moral lawgiver. Ergo, theism. At this point, it’s very easy to follow Greg Koukl’s lead and ask, "Have you ever committed moral crimes? And do you think that people who commit moral crimes deserve to be punished?" Now we are off to the races. I may not close the deal, but I will get my listener thinking about his moral culpability within the context of a Christian worldview.

Allow me to share a final anecdote. When I made a case for the pro-life view at the University of North Carolina Law School in October 2004, a young female professor responded (in front of her students): “I did not come to this talk with the same pro-life views you hold. In fact, I came here today expecting an emotionally charged religious presentation. Instead, you gave one of the most compelling arguments I have ever heard. Thank you.” True, she didn’t fall on her knees and confess Christ on the spot. But now she’s begun wrestling with Biblical truth. To use a baseball example, you don’t have to hit a home run with every conversation. Sometimes just getting on base is enough. Or, to cite Greg Koukl yet again, try dropping a pebble in their shoe. Give 'em something to think about that will wear on them for a while. You'll certainly do that whenever you clarify the moral logic of the pro-life view.

But again, let me clear. I don't believe I'm required to present the gospel everytime I speak. The pupose of pro-life advocacy is not saving souls eternally, but saving innocent human beings from the butcher's knife.

But I do take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

What's the Fire Department For? [SK]

Some Christians seem to think the pro-life movement is "unfaithful" unless it puts a theologically correct gospel at the center of its mission.


Is the fire department "unfaithful" when it spends time putting out fires rather than preaching the gospel?

Clearly, the purpose of the fire department is not theology, but rescue. Its job is to save lives. The same is true of the pro-life movement. Our primary goal is not to save souls, though many of us rejoice when it happens. Our mission is to protect lives. We don’t need a theological litmus test to do that.

True, Evangelical Christians committed to sound doctrine must distinguish themselves theologically from those who reject fundamental truths of the Protestant Reformation. Theological unity must never come at the expense of those truths. However, cultural reform efforts like the pro-life movement are not primarily about doctrine, but social justice. To work, they must be broad and inclusive.

Historically, for example, social reform efforts designed to abolish slavery and establish civil rights for all Americans were led by large ecumenical coalitions that, despite their theological differences, committed themselves to a common goal: establishing a more just society. The same is true of abortion. While rejecting religious pluralism (the belief that all religions are equally valid), we must work closely with those who oppose the destruction of innocent human life, regardless of their religious persuasion.

CPCs: What Are We Here For? [SK]

I've worked 17 years as a full-time pro-life apologists and I've seen both Christian and non-Christian pregnancy centers save lives.

My concern is not that some centers do evangelism, but where they place that objective in evaluating their work. For example, I once spoke at a fundraiser for a CPC (I do about 25 of these banquets each year) where the board chairman opened the evening with this statement: "We are not here to stop abortion. We are here to present the Gospel to women."

That's fine, but if a CPCs primary mission is evangelism, it should become a church or evangelistic organization with a pro-life statement of faith.

But if its stated goal is to reach abortion-minded women in hopes of dissuading them from abortion (which is what CPCs were originally designed to do in the first place), success or failure is not based on how well we share the gospel, but how many lives we save given the resources at our disposal.

Make no mistake: I'm not saying it's an either/or proposition--that is, save lives or do evangelism. It can be both, depending on the stated mission of the center.

But we shouldn't conclude that 1) all centers must do evangelism to effectively save lives, or 2) evangelism should become our primary focus.

Bottom line: If a CPC is doing a great job at evangelism but not a great job saving lives, it needs to rethink its primary mission.

Bad Thinking About Laws and Hearts [SK]

Frank (not Beckwith) thinks passing pro-life laws is a bad idea:

Making more rules will only cause greater rebellion. But attacking the heart will prevent a need for more rules. The heart won't want to follow the rules unless it is changed.

To which Whitney replies:

Amen. Only the gospel will change their hearts, not outlawing abortion.

So much confusion here. True, those with changed hearts don't need laws, but how is that an argument against Christians spending significant resources banning abortion? As Steve Hays points out, the fact that many have hard hearts is a presupposition of civil law, not an argument against it. Since we can’t appeal to their conscience, we resort to the force of law to restrain immorality. That is to say, the purpose of legal reform is not necessarily to change the hearts of unregenerate men, but to restrain evil acts by heartless individuals.

Martin Luther King Jr. put it well: "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’s pretty important." King’s overall point is worth seeing in context:

"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."
Moreover, history often demonstrates that just laws function as a moral teacher that, over time, helps change hearts for the better. As Hadley Arkes points out in "First Things," prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, popular opinion in southern states overwhelmingly opposed desegregation and other anti-discrimination efforts. Within five years of passage, however, public opinion had shifted dramatically, with better than sixty percent favoring the new laws. Clearly, the law served as a moral teacher that helped mold public opinion.

True, moral improvement brought on by good laws cannot mitigate man’s judicial guilt before God--our good deeds can never atone for our bad ones; only Christ’s finished work on the cross can do that--but it can limit evil behavior that results in the destruction of innocent human lives and that's reason enough to justify Christians engaging the political process.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Raise your hand if you hate abortion! [Jay]

We are off to the races with Republicans that have never been a true friend to the pro-life movement making it clear that they want our votes. Here is the latest from Senator McCain.

I am encouraged by this in one respect. The candidates seem to believe that our votes(the pro-lifers vote that is) are important to their winning the party nomination. As we all know, they must be reacting to polling data that demonstrates at this point that they can not afford to alienate us. So John, Rudy, and Mitt all coming out as abortion haters is positive in that respect, whether you question there sincerity or not. It is interesting how Rudy and John both focus on the Roe/Doe decisions and not the morality behind elective abortion, but that is for another day.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Glorious Day [SK]

...Pitchers and catchers report for training.

Not Very Helpful, Rudy [SK]

Rudy Giuliani on Larry King:

"I am pro-choice, but I am also, as you know, against abortion. Hate abortion. Never liked it.''

Rudy, it's not about what you like or dislike. Maybe you do and maybe you don't like abortion. Either way, you're not telling me much. I might like the idea of stealing my father-in-law's Corvette, but morality tells me I shouldn't do it and and I support laws aimed at stopping those who would do it.

It's hard to take you seriously when you sound identical to Mario Cumo. If you're planning a big run to the right to appease social conservatives, this isn't helping your case one bit. Unlike you, these voters understand the difference between saying something tastes bad and saying it is bad.

Here's a suggestion: Take a look at this 3 minute video clip and then tell us why it merely offends one's taste.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Incrementalism one more time [Jay]

This is my last comment on an exchange that correctly warns against the danger of pragmatism leading to compromise. I am posting this here to give both the concern and my response proper airing. I do think that we need to be very careful about compromising our principles for pragmatic reasons. I just do not think that this scenario qualifies as moral compromise and I defend my position below.

You and I agree on so much. I think our fundamental difference here is on how we view (1) my accepting their compromise and (2)my compromise of message by accepting their compromise.

If I say all elective abortion is morally wrong, and they say all elective abortion is morally acceptable we have two clear perspectives that are equally uncompromised. They then say to me that 95% or so of abortions are not morally acceptable and ask if I will support measures to make that statement a matter of public policy. I say all elective abortion is morally wrong, but I support your move toward my moral position.

Here we disagree. You assert that my moral position is compromised by a pragmatic decision to support the end of 95% of legalized abortions. That because I would not demand that they propose legislation that could not pass that fully agreed with my moral message I have failed to uphold the moral purity of our cause. That compromise will undermine our ability to fight the moral battle for the remaining 5% because I have confused the issue by "agreeing" that women have a right to kill babies that are a result of hard cases. If I have incorrectly stated your opinion please correct me.

What I am saying is that legally they now have the right to kill 100% of the unborn children that they wish to for whatever reason they wish to give. I am not asserting that they have a natural or moral right to do so, but I recognize that they have a legal right to do so. You and I know that this is unjust, but it is the law of the land none the less. When they say we will protect only the rights of women on the hard cases, they mean the legal right which is already in existence. I am not compromising our moral purity by ageeing to measures that will save lives. They, on the other hand, now have a morally compromised message that differentiates on semantics only. The pro-aborts know this full well which is why they are reduced to fighting all legislation tooth and nail to prevent someone, for example, being punished additionally for causing the death of an unborn child while assaulting a woman or to protect partial birth abortion. The legal message becomes fractured and inconsistent. My message and moral stance never changes and we have enacted legislation that saves lives.

In fact, this is what we do, and by we I mean all of us in the pro-life movement, every day. Sidewalk counselors, pregnancy centers, apologists, activists, and ministers. Every women that we are able to convince not to go through with it, every victory that we can get on a local level, every bill or law that we can propose to stop the abortion machine is based on one principle. We save as many as we can as often as we can. Not one of them is given their just protection under the law and so we use every means at our disposal to change that.

This incrementalism is only an extension of that principle. I can not see how it represents a moral failing on my part. I know that you want every child protected just as I do. The message is uncompromised. The tactic is every child we can save we will save until the killing stops.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

That was quick. [Jay]

The Marcotte saga is over. She is hired and now she has resigned. Her comments in this article demonstrate that she still does not get it.

Do you think this whole thing is likely to curb her habit for foul-mouthed rants? I would like to thank the Catholic voters for this one especially Bill Donohue. It is only a shame that Mr. Edwards lacked the integrity and class to not hire this woman in the first place.

The problem is that there are apparently two Americas to Mr. Edwards. One that deserves the most vile and vitriolic attacks from a woman incapable of taking a stance without using language inappropriate in any context and one that agrees with him politically. Classy, John.

Friday, February 9, 2007

They Think We're Really, Really Stupid [Serge]

A letter to the Edward's campaign.

Of all the well documented statements that your new blogger has made, I believe this one is the most offensive:

My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact.
Now I'll be honest here. I realize that in the political world there will be times that a candidate's campaign will stretch the truth. That actually doesn't bother me. What does bother me is when someone hands me a lie that is so badly derived that it insults my intelligence. In other words - if you are going to lie, at least do it in a way which is not so transparently obvious. We are really not that stupid. Really.

By the way, if the worst occurs and you are elected president, you will be in charge of appointing a Supreme Court Justice. What does the fact that your campaign did not read Marcotte's blog before hiring her say about your decision making capacities?

By the way, nice house.


Jay on Incremental Legislation [SK]

Sorry, Jay, this was too good to be left (potentially) unread in the comments section:

My argument is that all elective abortion is immoral. My goal is to see it all eliminated. The execution of that goal is my job.

"Will you, Jay, support a law that makes it illegal to perform 95% or so of abortions in Georgia, but continues to protect the rights of women to abort in the hard cases?" If asked that question I must first ask two questions of myself, (1) does supporting the legislation that acknowledges that 95% or so of all abortions are illegal and immoral compromise my moral stance? It does not appear to do so to me. My approval of the incremental, or in this case massive movement of the government in the direction of my moral stance does not qualify as a defeat for my moral stance or principle. Question 2, have we done the work to convince the people necessary to move legislation that completely agrees with my moral stance that "the hard cases" are not moral exceptions? If the answer to the second question is no, then the solution appears to me to renew my efforts to more effectively sway them to embrace my complete moral argument.

It is not clear to me that this is compromising my moral stance.

I think that there are two seperate components that we are addressing. Our message is consistent. I have never heard Scott, Greg Koukl, Frank Beckwith or any other who favors the incremental approach compromise on the complete humanity of the unborn or immorality of killing human beings in hard cases as a part of their message. What they suggest is that we accept legisaltion that represents a compromise from the other side for the purposes of saving lives. The law is compromising, not us. The law is 100% on the side of the pro-abort postion right now. Movement in the direction of my moral stance represents compromise on its part, not mine. The government of the United States will be admitting that it was not right about the humanity of the unborn and the legality of killing them, while I will continue to stay on message. Only now, Georgie will not allow 95% or so of abortions that they did previously endorse by law.

So I say yes. I will support that legisaltion while maintaining my moral stance and clarity of message. If a pro-abort wants argue whether this is hypocritical of me, bring them on. I am prepared to defend this position and keep the message on the unborn that remain unprotected by law.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Why vicious? [Jay]

This was written in a comment to Scott under an earlier post:

The debate is on -- and it's already vicious -- between Operation Rescue which is willing to support an "abortion ban" which nevertheless upholds the "right to abort rape babies" and a growing number of no-compromise groups such as ALL, Operation Save America and Colorado Right to Life.

It IS a matter of principle. It CANNOT be a matter of politics, because the politics negates the principle. Principle -- "the RIGHT to life" -- is the strongest tool we have in our arsenal to soon effect a total end to abortion in at least some states, if not nationwide.

Remember how we got rid of slavery -- by agreeing as a country that we could not allow slavery in ANY circumstances.

I wanted to address a few things in this comment, but I want it to be clear before I start that my motivation is not to stir up more antipathy but to quash it.

First of all the reference to how we rid our nation of slavery is factually inaccurate. Political coalitions existed between those who believed slavery was an affront to God, those who believed slavery was anti-capitalist and bred laziness, and those who wanted to control the spread of slavery so as to control the increasing political power of the slave holding states to name a few. Within the most ardent abolitionists there was division over whether violent force should ever be used to free slaves or whether slave owners themselves were “victims” of the system of slavery and in need of spiritual liberation not violent overthrow. We can not imagine that the anti-slavery movement was monolithic. We ought not to be surprised that the pro-life movement is not monolithic. It is the way we advance. People often are convinced in part before they are convinced in whole.

The primary purpose for my post is to address the issue of the viciousness of the debate as it was characterized. What possible gain can be had by the people that agree on the sanctity of life turning our frustration and passion on each other? If this is indeed a movement based on principle and we, the pro-lifers, are asserting a higher ground of principles, how do we demonstrate that higher ground by impugning the passion or commitment of our fellow pro-lifers? How do we assert the dignity of all human life while belittling the intelligence of those who share our goal but differ with our tactics? The battle is for the lives of the unborn. The battle must not become about who loves the unborn more. I was once warned by a wise friend that we are in grave danger when we start to believe that no one else truly understands the issue. That only I or my group “gets it.” We have to figure out the best way to confront abortion, and when others differ with us, we act within our conscience and make our case. If they continue to differ then we take divergent paths and recognize that we still want the same thing.

I agree that this is a moral issue, and so we are forced to confront it with moral and principled clarity. Whether we are incremental or “no compromise” in our tactics, we had better operate with more dignity and less viciousness. We are not so strong a force that we can afford to tear each other apart.

Ectopic Pregnancy and Abortion [Serge]

A frequent question that is asked of pro-lifers is if we support abortion in the case where a mother's life is in physical danger from her pregnancy. Most often, this occurs due to an ectopic pregnancy, which is a condition in which a human embryo implants somewhere other than the mother's uterus. 98% of the time, this occurs in the Fallopian tube, where the growing child has no chance of survival, and the mother risks death if the Fallopian tube erupts. For that reason, this is a case in which it is better to save one life than to lose both of them. Removing the child, which does kill her, (which is a very different procedure than a suction abortion) is permissible in my view.

I was somewhat surprised to read about the position of the American Life League (ALL) regarding ectopic pregnancy. They also believe that treatment of EP is permissible, but only in a way which causes additional risk for the mother. Here is their statement:

Using the Thomistic Principle of Totality (removal of a pathological part to preserve the life of the person) and the Doctrine of Double Effect, the only moral action in an ectopic pregnancy where a woman's life is directly threatened is the removal of the tube containing the human embryo. The death of the human embryo is unintended although foreseen. Put another way, if there were a way to save both lives, which, of course, are of equal value, one would be obliged morally to do so. At this time, this is not possible.

It is acknowledged that it has become commonplace even in Catholic hospitals to open the tube and "suction out the human embryo" or administer methotrexate either via mouth or laparoscopy. Both of these procedures directly attack an innocent human life and are intrinsically immoral and never can be justified. In fact, they violate the Fifth Commandment, which under all circumstances prohibits a direct attack on innocent human life. There are absolutely no exceptions to the 5th Commandment as described.

While removing the tube containing the human embryo results in the death of a human being as does suctioning out the human embryo or administration of methotrexate, one cannot ethically conclude that all the actions have the same intended end result. The reason for this is that the "means" used to accomplish the "end" are not the same.

Refusal to make this distinction results in a Machiavellian approach employing any "means" to the "end" including the direct assault on the human being intended to result in his death. While it is acknowledged that removal of the tube containing the human embryo may result in sterility, it is not morally justified to directly attack human life by suctioning out the human embryo or administering methotrexate even though fertility is preserved.

Once again, it is important to remember that this child, although undeniably fully human and having intrinsic value, has no chance of living. I agree that if we could save both, we should do so. However, there is no chance that that can occur with today's technology.

Granted that the child cannot survive, it is standard surgical technique to treat a pathological process as conservatively as possible with as little damage to the surrounding tissues. In other words, if there are multiple ways to treat a certain pathology, the surgeon should consider which technique leaves the (God-designed) anatomy functioning as normally as possible.

In the ALL analysis, a surgeon has a moral obligation to perform this procedure in a way which can cause greater anatomical harm to the mother in order to avoid "directly touching" the child. They acknowledge that the end result for the child is the same, and although a salpingectomy has a greater chance of tubal mis function, it should be done.

I do not see how this makes sense.

If the child is doomed, why not perform the procedure that saves the mother in the safest way possible, which leaves her anatomy as untouched as possible? Why does it mitigate the child's death, which is an undeniable but unavoidable tragedy, by causing more harm to the mother?

What if I were attempting to save a very large man from drowning, and he unfortunately panics and pulls me down with him. Assume that there is no way he's going to make it. It seems via this analysis, it would be wrong for me to push him away in an effort to save my life, for this would be a direct action which causes him to go further under the water directly resulting in his death. However, it seems it would be permissible for someone to amputate my arm that the man had grabbed on to, for this would not directly result in his death. Of course, in both cases, he still died, and in the first, I would retain use of both arms. But according to this analysis, the second case would be morally preferable.

I'm interested in comments if I misunderstand this viewpoint, but if I have got it correct, I believe that ALL should seriously reconsider their point of view.

HT: JivinJ

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The STD Cultural Shift [Serge]

In thinking about the HPV vaccine, I wished to note the significant change in how we deal with STDs that have occurred in the last few years. In many ways, it reflects the continued cultural shift that have occurred in the area of human sexuality. Specifically, it reflects the shift from personal responsibility and public health to a radical individualism in regards to sexual activity.

STDs are not new, but the way we prevent them is very different. In the past, there where two strategies that were effective in stopping the spread of STDs. First, we understood that as a behavioral issue, personal responsibility to avoid dangerous sexual activity was most important. This message is clear via this poster from the WWII era. Contracting an STD was downright Unamerican!

At a public health level, we used a technique known as contact tracing. If someone was diagnosed with syphilis, they were required to inform their most frequent sexual partners. Often, public health departments helped in the reporting process. Those exposed to STDs could be examined and treated before an epidemic could occur. This strategy has been highly effective in treating other communicable diseases like tuberculosis. I still receive a TB test every year as a requirement for hospital privileges.

Over time, the STDs that we encountered have become more virulent and dangerous. Herpes cannot be treated, and little needs to be added in describing the HIV epidemic. Ironically, as the diseases we encounter became scarier, we allowed ideology to change the way we see and treat these diseases. Instead of educating in the way of self control and personal responsibility, we decided that limiting sexual activity was an impossible task. For that reason, we settled for "safe sex" techniques which limits but does not prevent infectious outbreaks. Instead of informing sexual partners of the risk they were taking, a thin layer of latex was thought to do the trick.

As surprising as that was, the change in the realm of public health was even more alarming. It was decided that an individual's rights to "private" sexual activity always trumped the public health risks. Instead of educating an HIV patient on contacting their sexual partners, this was now determined to be none of the doctor's business. In fact, in order to protect the privacy of one who is diagnosed with HIV, physicians were unable to discuss the diagnosis with other health professionals. We are to treat everyone as equally potentially infectious, whether it be an IV drug user or a five year old child. "Universal precautions" replaced the methods we use to identify and treat every other deadly infectious disease.

It doesn't matter that contact tracing could save many more lives than our current strategy. The individual's rights to do whatever they wish to with their genitals without judgment or exposure is more important to our culture than saving lives. I see no evidence that this is changing, and I believe it is difficult to underestimate the negative effect that it will continue to have on our culture.

Clear Thinking about the HPV Vaccine [Serge]

My feelings about this vaccine have not been solidified at this time, so my thoughts are provisional. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of any "mandatory" vaccine, even if there is a way for a parent to opt out. However, the question I wish to explore is whether the pro-life community should oppose making this vaccine available to parents who wish to have their daughters vaccinated. I also am well aware that many are uncomfortable with the whole idea of vaccinations, so for the sake of this discussion I will assume the vaccine is safe and effective.

First, a description. The HPV vaccine protects against four subtypes of HPV. Two subtypes are known for their association with cervical cancer, and two are associated with genital warts (these are subtypes 6 and 11). When present genitally, these lesions are almost always contracted through sexual activity. However, there are other lesions associated with subtypes 6 and 11 that are not contracted sexually. For example, I frequently remove oral papillomas, which are caused by 6 and 11 and are not contracted sexually (they are frequent in children).

Ed makes this argument in the comments:

We are facing one of those issues in Colorado. For instance, we have a "pro-life" legislator sponsoring a mandatory HPV vaccination bill which will inevitably increase early sexual activity (by making kids feel even more invincible), and thereby also unwanted pregnancy and abortion. He scoffs at the connection, but it's obvious to those of us who see the "life-cycle" of the abortion mindset in young people.
I do not find this argument compelling. I do not believe that teenage sexual activity will increase due to this vaccine. This argument assumes that there are a number of teen girls are staying sexually pure solely in order to avoid HPV. If they are vaccinated, then they will see no reason to be pure, so they will engage in sexual activity thus increasing their risk of pregnancy and subsequent abortion.

The problem is this: where are these girls? I'm not sure any girl is avoiding sexual activity solely to avoid HPV. In fact, I believe that most girls are unaware of HPV, including its method of transmission (which can be skin to skin) and association with genital warts and cervical cancer. If this is the case, I cannot see why these vaccinations will give them the feeling of vulnerability.

Like most health professionals, I have been vaccinated against Hep B, which is spread like HIV and is frequently contracted sexually. My staff have also been vaccinated, and I don't believe the fact that they have been vaccinated have increased their "invulnerability" to sex. I just don't see it.

If the pro-life community chooses to require opposition to this vaccine as a requirement for endorsement, we need far better arguments than this one. At this point in time, I'm not sure a better one exists.

Update: It looks like Eugene Volokh has also chosen this topic to blog about. His analysis is here.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

A, B, C, or D? (AKA SK’s can of worms) [Jay]

As a member of a 501(c)(3) I will change the names on this hypothetical to protect the job of this writer. Boris is the man, Doris is the junior Senator from New York. (Oops, did I give something away?)

The first problem I have with this scenario(RE: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO VOTE PRO-LIFE? [SK]) is that if Boris and Doris are facing each other in the next general election we are in terrible trouble. Let me explain my concern. Conventional wisdom in primary elections is to energize the voting base and secure the support of the true believers. For the Republicans, this means you do not get out of the primary without some support from the pro-life evangelicals. But Boris did? Boris secured the party nomination without promising to protect the lives of the unborn. That means that the political strength of the pro-life movement is exposed as insufficient to sway a primary.

The general election is about running to the middle to secure the small percentage of votes that are actually up for grabs. If Boris got through without the support of pro-life voters, we do not represent a “voting block” threat to him in the general election. So the idea that we could punish him and the Republican party is out the window. Doris is a nightmare across the board on issues I care about so it will be a frosty one in Gehenna before this chap taps the computer screen for her. The live options are vote Boris, vote third party, or do not vote.

I could attempt to secure some measure of assurances from him about what he would do in given scenarios, but the truth is Boris thinks that it is moral to terminate the lives of innocent human beings for elective reasons. He can not represent me. This is a personal decision, not a moral judgement on how my brothers and sisters in the pro-life movement may or may not tactically maneuver. Scott was dead right in stressing that we all have the same goal. Zero abortions and full protection of the unborn. I know that Scott is pouring his life out in service to our nation and the humanity of the unborn, so it is wrong headed for tactical differences to result in one side impugning the passion or dedication of the other.

I am reminded of Frederick Douglass and Lincoln again. Douglass knew that in order for slavery to end the abolitionists (no compromise, moralist) would have to form broad coalitions with anyone and everyone who was working to undermine the institution of slavery including anti-slavery Republicans. Lincoln hated slavery, but he was not the ideological zealot that Douglass was. Anti-slavery forces saw the spread of slavery as a threat to the Union and a source of power for the increasingly demanding Southern sates. I read where many historians were confused by Douglass pulling his support on the eve of the victory of the first true anti-slavery president of the United States after speaking in support of Lincoln and working within the broad coalition. His statement was simple. “I can not vote for Mr. Lincoln.”

History proved Lincoln to be the man that our country needed to expel the evil of slavery, but Douglass did not have that vantage point. Neither do I. I do not claim to know what Mr. Douglass felt. All I know is that in the midst of all of this I can only vote my conscience and pray. I can not vote for Boris. Not because I care more than anyone else about abortion or because abortion bothers me more than anyone else. I just can’t.

I believe the incremental approach is our only choice. I believe in broad coalitions of all who hate abortion and seek to end its tyranny in the United States and all over the world. Inside the voting booth, however, I am just Jay trying to figure out what I am supposed to do. I can not vote for Boris and I will not vote for Doris. I guess that I am sitting this one out, because writing it in is the same thing. For the record, I think Scott and Dr. Beckwith are right.

When Compromise Isn't Good [SK]

Melinda Penner writes about a disturbing Pew Research poll released last year. Bottom line: The poll shows that most Americans, including most Christians, don't understand the fundamental questions at the heart of the abortion controversy. Sixty-six percent of American and 6 out of 10 Christians prefer compromise and a "middle ground."

These poll answers are not short-term, tactical moves to save some lives until we can save more. These are final answers.

As Penner writes,
There is no middle ground when the question is whether a human being is being killed. How many human beings should the compromise allow to die? What middle ground do Christians suggest we settle on? It's an either or question: a baby dies or doesn't die. There is nothing in the middle.

Should we compromise on the question of how many children we should allow to be sexually molested? Should we find middle ground on how many abused children we'll put up with? Of course not. It comes back to the same issue: What is the unborn? And if she is a human being, doesn't the right to life belong to her? If the unborn is not a human being, then why have any restrictions? Compromise doesn't make sense on either side of this debate. Compromise isn't an answer for the unborn....

It's pathetic that a majority of Christians could contemplate that there is a middle position on abortion. Will pastors who fear controversial issues look at this number and resolve to preach and teach on this issue when 60% of the people sitting in their pews think there's some number of dead unborn babies we can tolerate? How can Christians, who should believe in the divine image every human bears, condone "middle ground." They have no idea what is at stake.

Links: Moral Ideals and Political Realities [SK]

Our opponents understand that incrementalism works. Having first established a right to doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, Switzerland will now allow it for mentally ill patients.

Meanwhile, Troy Newman of Operation Rescue makes good sense of the South Dakota defeat. Here's the question he tackles: Pro-lifers tried to enact a total ban on abortion and lost. So what's next? Do we do nothing legislatively (since we cannot get everything we want) or should we support a less than perfect ban that saves some lives but not all? Troy nails it: We should strive to save as many lives as possible given current political realities. He's worth quoting at length:

The theory (and utmost desire) of the pro-life movement is to save 100% of all abortion-bound babies. This was soundly defeated. But realistically, we could save 99% of the babies who are “headed for the slaughter” by passing an “imperfect” ban bill. While we can’t save them all, we can save the vast majority. If it is within our ability to save even ONE innocent life unjustly scheduled for death, we are morally obligated to do it.

Some pundits wronging hypothesize that what I am endorsing is akin to lining up ten uncondemned people, and then choosing which ones I will murder. This is, as my friend Randy says, “Stinkin’ thinkin’” and turns logic and reality on its ear.

A better analogy that is closer to the reality of the situation is that we have a hypothetical ten people who are all condemned to an unjust death, and I do everything I can do to save as many as possible.

To put it in WWII lingo, if I were Oscar Schindler, rescuing 100 Jews from Auschwitz, I would not be responsible for condemning the millions of Jews I didn’t save. They had already been condemned by the Nazis.

If circumstances remain unchanged, there will be about 1.3 million babies murdered this year by abortion. The US Supreme Court decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton have already condemned them. Yet the pro-life movement will attempt to save some of them through education, counseling, and legislation. But just because we can’t save them all, it doesn’t mean we killed the ones we couldn’t save.

If the [modified]South Dakota legislation passes and is enacted without legal challenge, it would statistically save about 870 babies a year, while failing to protect one baby every four years. I view this as a win, a victory, and certainly a life-affirming law for the 870 babies who will be protected from the butcher’s knife year after year after year.

Therefore, when well-intentioned pro-lifers oppose an imperfect piece of legislation, they need to be careful on what side of the aisle they stand. Planned Parenthood and the abortion cartel, (no matter what their November rhetoric was), will strictly oppose a limited ban on abortions. Will good-hearted pro-lifers side with the abortionist because their “perfect bill” can’t be passed?

Again, our philosophical position is to save every baby. But as a realist, we know that is impossible under the current circumstances. If those we can save, we should. As our mission statement says, “We are here to rescue the baby sentenced to die today.” That baby does not have time to wait for perfect legislation.
Finally, Frank Beckwith has a nice piece on balancing moral concerns with political realities. Summary: Pro-lifers need to be politically smart or risk losing any hope for legally protecting the unborn.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Logic and Legacy of Roe v. Wade [SK]

Francis Beckwith tackles that theme in the Liberty University Law Review.

Absolute Bodily Autonomy? [SK]

If you think women have it, it's hard to disagree with the gal in this post.

HT: Wesley J. Smith

What Does it Mean to Vote Pro-Life? [SK] the question Jay's excellent posts (see here and here) got me thinking about. I'd love to hear Jay, Serge, Bob, and any of our readers take a shot at it.

Here are two teasers to get the discussion started.

1) Suppose you are asked to sign a "pro-life pledge"--as I was a few years back. The pledge reads (paraphrase) "I will never vote for a congressional candidate that is not pro-life."

Do you sign?

2) Suppose at the executive level, it's Rudy versus Hillary in 08. Rudy consistently says that while he personally supports a woman's decision to choose abortion and would sign congressional bills supporting that decision, he's convinced the Court overstepped in Roe. In fact, he calls the decision "an exercise of raw judicial tyranny unworthy of a Court dedicated to interpreting the law rather than making it." He cites Alito, Roberts, Thomas, and Scalia as models of judicial restraint. Thus, he's fine with gutting Roe or even abolishing it. But if Congress then wants to federalize abortion rights at the legislative level, he'll support that effort even if the bill's provisions are every bit as permissive as Roe's.

Hillary, meanwhile, insists she'll only appoint judges who can be counted on to uphold Roe.

What's your pick? A) sit the election out, B) pick a write-in candidate with no hope of winning, C) limit the damage by going with Gulliani, D) vote for Hillary to teach the Republicans a lesson.