Monday, April 30, 2007

Fire in the Fertility Clinic [Serge]

A good friend of mine e-mailed me this post that is meant to illustrate an ethical dilemma:

I just caught the end of today’s NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. The panelists were discussing stem-cell research, and this philosophical dilemma was posed to the lay-man caller by one of the scientists:

If there was a fire in a fertility clinic, and you had the choice to save either a six year old girl or 24 frozen embroyos, which would you choose?

This illustration which is quite common is meant to show that pro-lifers really don't believe what they claim - that all human beings possess intrinsic human value. If they did, then clearly they would choose the greater number of embryos over the smaller number of children. Is that true?

The problem with the analogy is the presupposition that our human value depends on whether some would choose to save us in a particular situation. In other words, our human value is not intrinsic, but is dependent on whether another human being desires to save us in a dangerous situation. It is easy to demonstrate that this presupposition is false. Let's change the scenario in which there is a fire in a jail that I was visiting with my wife (My wife was not in jail - we were visiting together - stick with me here :-)). I only have one option - I either can run to save her, or run to open the doors of 24 murderers. Regardless of the option that I choose (and I would almost certainly choose the former), what does it say about the human value of those left behind? If the majority of us would choose to save our wives, does that mean it is justified to intentionally kill the prisoners to use their organs - even if it does save someone else? That simply does not follow.

Allow me another personal example. I must admit that I have different emotive feelings about many of the patients that I have the honor of treating. Let's take three patients - one is a good friend of mine, one I have never met, and one has been sent to me by the ER after messing up his face in a drunk driving accident where he killed a child (yes, this has happened to me). Clearly, I have have very different feelings of worth for each one of these patients, but I am still expected to treat them as valuable human beings regardless of how I fell about them at this point in time. Their value, and thus the expectation of care is completely independent of how I feel about them. That is the way it should be.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Nice Music Find [SK]

Okay, I was watching some old Boston clips with my teenage sons (to show them what REAL rock and roll looked and sounded like), when I discovered that I, too, was on Youtube. It's not near as fun as the music clip, but pro-lifers may find it mildly amusing anyway (though one pro-abort commenter certainly didn't).

Back to the music, the Boston clip is awesome. The loss of lead-singer Brad Delp (to suicide) in March was a real shock to the rock music world. I'm saddened he never found the peace of mind he so desperately sought. (Delp was found dead in his bathroom with a note that read: "Mr. Brad Delp. J'ai une âme solitaire. I am a lonely soul.")

If only he could have found rest here, in these words:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Romans 5:1-2)

Something to think about as we approach Sunday worship services.

Serge Debates Abortion Doc in Missouri [Serge]

It almost didn't happen, but I just returned from a debate on abortion organized by the science club of Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia, Missouri. Dr. Jonas threatened to pull out of the debate at the last minute, but after I allowed him to see the video presentation prior to the event he agreed to the debate. I will give my own report soon, but the reporter for the local newspaper did a good job summarizing our main points:

While one debater said legal abortions save women’s lives, the other said abortion should be outlawed to save the lives of unborn children.

The Smith-Cotton High School science club sponsored the debate between Dr. Harry Jonas, a supporter of abortion rights, and Dr. Rich Poupard, who is anti-abortion. Jonas is a gynecologist who previously served as president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Poupard is a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon who is studying for a master’s degree in Christian apologetics and bioethics.

Jonas said the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age in Missouri before abortion was legal was botched illegal abortions. He described one of his first patients, before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, who died of an infection after she tried to use a coat hanger to abort her fetus.

Poupard showed a video of aborted fetuses at different levels of development.

“The unborn are members of the human family and thus should not be harmed without justification.” He said medical textbooks are clear on when human life begins: at conception.

About 100 people attended the event, a fundraiser for the science club and the fourth annual debate the club has hosted.

Jonas’ main points were that women should be able to decide whether to have an abortion on her own terms, that family planning and methods should be available to all who seek it, and that any legislation to ban abortion should have exceptions to protect a woman’s life, and her physical and mental health.

He said society “should uphold the idea that the health and life of the woman must take precedence over the life of the fetus.”

“Advocates for reproductive rights believe a woman is entitled to make her decision, and she must live with the consequences,” Jonas said.

Poupard analyzed how the differences between an unborn and newborn child affect the perception of their human value. He said size doesn’t matter, since a tall person is not more important than a short one. Development doesn’t matter, since a 5-year-old is no less human than a 30-yearold, he said. He said the environment didn’t seem to make much of a difference. When considering dependency, he said that patients in an intensive-care unit are completely dependent on machines, yet a human fetus is also completely depending on the mother.

Referring to civil rights, and how people used to discriminate based on skin color, gender or religious beliefs, he said, “we now discriminate based on size and level of development … We can and we must do better than that.”

In a rebuttal, Jonas said that religious beliefs are taking away access to abortions and birth control methods, and the issue has become “totally politicized.”

“We cannot glibly claim God’s will is involved in every conception” when rape and incest lead to pregnancy, Jonas said.

Since religious traditions have different views on the beginning of life, and human value, then women should have “the legal, moral, religious freedom to chose,” Jonas said.

Poupard said he wanted to stick with scientific reasoning, not religious arguments.

He said that his view on human life is inclusive, while Jonas’ was “elitist,” because it argues “there are some human beings that have value, and some that don’t.”

Friday, April 27, 2007

"Just kill them" is not a solution. [Jay]

Wesley Smith at Second Hand Smoke posted on this article in the Times Online about two British couples that are screening their embryonic children for genetic markers that indicate a dramatically increased chance for an aggressive form of adult onset breast cancer. The desire to make certain that their children are born free of this genetic predisposition is understandable. Read the following:

However, the first patients say that the technology will allow them to spare their children a devastating genetic inheritance. One couple in their twenties, who would only be named as Matthew and Helen, have lost three generations to breast cancer.

I read this and am aware that what is a sentence in a news article to me is a remembrance of repeated pain and struggle and loss to Matthew and Helen. What parent would not want to do all that they could to prevent their child from enduring breast cancer? Who would not want to spare themselves the possible pain of watching their daughter develop a terrible affliction and then endure aggressive medical treatment that can often psychologically define the patient for years to come? Why not stop it early?

Paul Serhal of the University College Hospital as quoted in the article:

Mr Serhal said that objections to screening ignored the harrowing family histories of the patients he is seeking to help, who have a chance to ensure their children avoid similar experiences. “We are talking about a killer that wipes out generation after generation of women,” Mr Serhal said. “You can have a preventive mastectomy, but this is traumatic and mutilating surgery that does not eliminate the risk.
“What we are trying to do here is to prevent this inherited disease from being a possibility in the first place. At least with these people’s children, we can annihilate the gene from the family tree.” Genes have also been identified that raise the risk of conditions such as obesity, heart disease and mental illness. However, more than one gene is usually involved and the HFEA will not currently approve screening for these.

Okay, lets return to the primary question here. What are the unborn? If they are innocent human beings then this article describes a grisly reality being ushered in from the most admirable and understandable sentiments. If they are innocent human beings then Matthew and Helen are actually killing a number of their children as a means of preventing them from enduring a possible future trauma, however likely that trauma is to occur. If they are innocent human beings the British government is sanctioning the destruction of human life to prevent the possible future suffering of that life.

As heartfelt as all of their intentions may be and as grounded as they me be in genuine human emotion, if the unborn are innocent human beings then the practice they are championing is grotesque. I am reminded of a letter written to President Elect Bill Clinton by Ron Weddington, a co-counsel on Roe v. Wade. The letter encouraged the fast tracking of RU-486 through FDA approval. Mr. Weddington encouraged abortion as a solution to poverty in the United States. He wrote this chilling closing to his terrible letter:

“And the poor? Well, maybe if we didn’t have to spend so much on the problems like low birth weight babies and trying to educate children who come to school hungry, we might have some money to help lift up the ones already born, out of their plight.
The biblical exhortation to ‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ was directed toward a small tribe, surrounded by enemies. We are long past that. Our survival depends upon our developing a population where everyone contributes. We don’t need more cannon fodder. We don’t need more parishioners. We don’t need more cheap labor. We don’t need more poor babies.”

These are entirely different scenarios you may argue. You would be wrong. Ron Weddington, Paul Serhal, and many others are advocating the destruction of human life as an answer to serious issues that we confront. When our Executive Director at my CPC was presenting our ministry to the staff of a local church here in Georgia, the pastor asked her, “What are we supposed to do with all of these poor babies then?” A pastor of a church believed that killing innocent human life was a legitimate tactic to confronting poverty? Killing our children is how we intend to eradicate genetic diseases? That is the best solution we have to offer?

If the unborn are not innocent human beings then do what you want. If they are, then killing people is not the proper solution to grave social and medical problems. Remember where that thinking has led us in the past. I understand our desire to not see our children hurt. I pray that my own children do not face disease. I pray that they are strong enough to endure the pain of growing up with mean little friends as well as praying that they are kind to others. I know that heartaches, pains, and sufferings are unavoidable for them. I guess I could just kill them now and spare them and me the pain of enduring it then. If the unborn are innocent human beings, that is exactly what is being recommended by those who champion this procedure.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hadley Arkes on the good and the bad. [Jay]

Hadley Arkes in this piece at the National Review Online discusses both the limitations of Gonzales v. Carhart and the possible upside to the decision as well as any writer that I have read in the past few days.

I think the point is well taken that if this decision lives in a vacuum, and it is the only judicial victory for the pro-life position over the next few years then it is a hollow victory. The upside is that it opens a door of opportunity to move the argument to the next position. I imagine it similar to the island hopping campaign of WWII in the Pacific theater. Taking Japan all at once was not the plan. Win one island and move to the next, all the while moving closer to the Japanese mainland and securing better strategic positions.

We just won a single island. If this victory is all we get it is not much. But if we launch our attack on the next island this less significant island becomes the base for our operation. It does not have to stop abortion. It just has to give us a plot of land closer to the ultimate target. I particularly like this portion of Arkes summation on the possible upside:

In the most curious way, then, a decision so narrow, so begrudging and limited, may invite a series of measures simple and unthreatening, but the kinds of measures that gather force with each move. We need to remind ourselves that we have seen such things before. We may recall, in that vein, the Emancipation Proclamation. It was limited, as a war measure. For Lincoln did not have the authority to strip people of what was then their lawful property in slaves. The Proclamation freed only those slaves held in areas that were in rebellion against the government. It did not cover the slaves held in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri. And yet ... it was understood instantly and widely in the country that this measure had an “anti-slavery impulse.”

The decision on Wednesday, in Gonzales v. Carhart, was severely limited and diminished in its practical effects. But rightly or wrongly, there may be a sense that the decision opens the doors now; that it invites legislators and political men and women to deliver themselves from the reign of judges, and set their hands to this task once again.

In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States of America arrogated the sole right to decide the national policy as it pertains to the issue of abortion. If this victory begins to chip away at that monopoly and offers opportunities for pro-life legislators to get active in a more meaningful way and engages all three branches of our government as well as the people that empower them, then it may be a great deal more than it appears at the moment. We can only keep working and pray.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pro-Choice Violence Versus Intellectual Honesty [SK]

[WARNING!!! Graphic language in quote #1 below]

Here are two quotes from abortion-advocates regarding the use of graphic abortion pictures. I'll let you decide which one is honest and reasonable.

Exhibit #1: "Pro-Choice" blogger Her Royal Kainess:

Apparently the crazies are out in full-swing today. Coming in from Union Station and walking to my job, I spotted a row of anti-abortion activists wielding their favorite favorite weapon - giant posters of bloody, dismembered fetuses. Good morning to you, too!

I know that there's a more rational way to deal with The Crazies (read: Conservatives), in the same sense that there's a more rational way to work through anger stemming from rape or an abusive childhood. You could work through it if you really tried. You could attempt to engage in intellectual debate, or accept the "different people, different perspectives" standpoint (even if those perspectives are oppressive and restrictive). But the way I look at it, no one is going to change anyone's views. I am not going to convince you that a woman should have the right to choose because, well, you are A Crazy. You are not going to make me decide Roe v. Wade is blasphemous because you made me retch in my coffee this morning.

Crazies just plain, old make me angry. I don't want to converse with them, I would rather just circle distantly around them like you do aggressive, screeching monkeys at th zoo, and fantasize about burying a machete in their head. FUCKERS. (italics added)
And Her Royal Kainess thinks we're the crazy ones?

Exhibit #2: Feminist and abortion-advocate Naomi Wolf, in The New Republic:

The pro-choice movement often treats with contempt the pro-lifers' practice of holding up to our faces their disturbing graphics....[But] how can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy. Besides, if these images are often the facts of the matter, and if we then claim that it is offensive for pro-choice women to be confronted with them, then we are making the judgment that women are too inherently weak to face a truth about which they have to make a grave decision. This view is unworthy of feminism.
In that same New Republic article, Wolf writes,

We stand in jeopardy of losing something more important than votes; we stand in jeopardy of losing what can only be called our souls. Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs, and evasions. And we risk becoming...callous, selfish, and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life.
Here's my suggestion for Her Royal Kainess: Before you call us crazy, why don't you do the hard work of actually advancing an argument? Here's my promise: make a good rational case for your abortion-choice view, and I WILL change my mind. I'm more committed to truth than I am ideology. But you'll have to do better than treat us to your violent pro-choice fantasies. It's so much easier to vent than to think, isn't it?

One more thing. If abortion is morally no big deal, as abortion-choicers insist, why are you so worked up about the pictures?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Framing the Debate [Jay]

This article in the New York Times online I think expresses some of the views many of us have about the ban being upheld. All of my favorite debaters, including Scott Klusendorf, will tell you that whoever frames the debate will ultimately win. Every politician that has ever run a successful campaign will tell you that the goal is to stay on your message and not allow your opponents to get you talking about what they want you to talk about.

First, I acknowledge that given the language of the decision and the alternative methods of abortion, the elimination of this procedure does not necessarily reduce the number of abortions in the United States at all. As Serge and Lydia discussed in earlier comments here, the overall landscape of the abortion world is relatively unchanged.

This decision does help us to start to frame the legal discussion in a new way. It opens up the opportunity shift the discussion from the “precedent trumps all” language of Planned Parenthood v. Casey to an evaluation of the current practices of abortion in the United States based on the morality of the procedures/lethal action against human fetal life. I specifically like this quote:

What the court really did, said Anne Hendershott, a professor of sociology at the University of San Diego, was reframe the debate about how abortion should be discussed.

The court did not talk about big concepts and issues like privacy, but about the small, gripping details of how abortion works, said Professor Hendershott, author of “The Politics of Abortion” (Encounter, 2006).

Focusing on such details, she said, is how so-called “incrementalists” are trying to chip away at the availability of abortion. These opponents try to make women, doctors and other health professionals talk more, in some cases a lot more, about the actual consequences and mechanics of abortion.

Getting past the editorial aspects of her determining the “big” concepts versus the small ones, the core issue is a strong point. For the first time the legal argument is shifting away from the question of “reproductive rights” and moving toward a new question. “What the heck are we doing?” Once that becomes the question, once we frame the legal debate on what are the unborn and what are we doing to them, we start to win

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Quote of the Day [Serge]

If any doctors are still confused maybe I can put it in even simpler terms: If the baby's whole head is sticking out, don’t kill her; if the baby's bottom half is sticking out and you can see where the umbilical cord, don't kill him. If you're still confused then you need to put down the head-crushing forceps. For while you might be evil enough to be an abortionist, you're too dumb to be a doctor.

Joe Carter - Evangelical Outpost

ACOG and Partial Birth Abortion [Serge]

Kyl asks in the comments:

How do we answer these claims “Ginsburg said the latest decision "tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists." And “Abortion rights groups as well as the leading association of obstetricians and gynecologists have said the procedure sometimes is the safest for a woman.”
The short answer is that Ginsberg is full of it, but that would not be effective. Here is ACOG's position on partial birth abortion.

Terminating a pregnancy is performed in some circumstances to save the life or preserve the health of the mother. Intact D & X is one of the methods available in some of these situations. A select panel convened by ACOG could identify no circumstances under which this procedure, as defined above, would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.
Note that this is a statement of fact. A select panel of a very pro-abortion choice medical organization could not find a single instance in which intact D&X was the only option. In other words, a physician is always able to find a different option if a mother's life is in danger. However, you know ACOG would not stop there...

An intact D & X, however, may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman, and only the doctor, in consultation with the patient, based upon the woman's particular circumstances can make this decision.
Fact: there is always an option to save the life or physical health of a mother in the tragic case of a life-threatening pregnancy other than partial birth abortion. However, there might be an instance in which a doctor prefers to deliver the fetus up to the neck before killing her. The second quote is not a finding of fact, but speculation that such a circumstance may someday exist.

The last part of the last sentence is very telling. Translation: "I'm the doctor - don't you dare tell me what I can or cannot do. If I believe that its better to kill the fetus just outside the womb as opposed to dismembering her inside of her Mom - then that what I should be able to do. If you need a reason - what part of I'm the doctor do you not understand?"

Don't be sidetracked by ridiculous statements like this one from the communications director of ACOG. It deserves an entire post by itself, but this is simply an ideological assertion without basis in fact. There is no scientific evidence that partial birth abortion is ever necessary or even the best option in saving the life or physical health of the mother. Even if there was, the law makes that a notable exception.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Partial Birth Abortion Ban Upheld!!!!! [Jay]

I assume that everyone will be posting their thought on this, but I wanted to make certain that we acknowledged this here.

I know it is one procedure, but look at the slippery slope that we can start moving down. For the first time our nation has said that it is wrong to perform a certain action against the unborn. It is wrong, therefore we don't do that.

Little by little we will win.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Very Dumb Defense of Rudy [SK]

From an email sent to NRO:
—Giuliani's absolutely right. Abortion is an issue government should never have got into in the first place. It has destroyed conservatism and allowed leftists like GWB to take over the GOP. While those of us who don't feel it's an appropriate issue for government can tolerate the "social conservatives" in the interests of a broad church it appears the reverse is untrue. Not a problem — in the long run a Giuliani GOP will pick up far more economic conservatives in the civilized bits of the US than it will lose social conservatives in the sticks, who have nowhere else to go. And at least we won't have to put up with GWB's sloppy spending, counterproductive Wilsonian crusades, incompetence and economic and scientific illiteracy.
First, go ahead and try to win without pro-life conservatives. Good luck finding enough country club GOPers to win the day.

Second, when people say the Federal government shouldn't get involved in abortion, I ask: "So you disagree with Roe v. Wade?" Truth is, the government is VERY involved in abortion. One branch of the federal government, the courts, has co-opted the issue from the other two branches--the executive and legislative--hence, denying the people any real voice on the issue. Did Rudy's defenders complain when the Court forced Roe on the electorate? Did they complain when a pro-abortion congress tried to legislate the Freedom of Choice Act in 1993?

Apparently, Rudy and his defenders think it's fine for the government to get involved as long as their side wins.

Doctors that I REALLY like! [Jay]

This article on the number of British doctors refusing to perform abortions and the resulting difficulties that it presents the governement's health care system is encouraging for many reasons. My favorite moment is this quote:

James Gerrard, a GP in Leeds, said: "Out of the six doctors in our practice, three of us object to abortion. I had made up my mind on abortion before entering the medical profession. I feel the foetus is a person and killing that foetus is wrong."

It is wrong to kill a human fetus, therefore I will not do it. It really is that simple folks. It is wrong, therefore we don't do that. Some very good doctors are doing a very good thing. We can only hope their numbers continue to increase.

Rudy, That was Very Dumb [SK]

From National Review:

Rudy to Pro-Lifers: Get Over It [Rich Lowry]

Wow. Rudy puts a Pete Wilson/Arlen Specter spin on his own candidacy:

Giuliani made his sharpest case for moving beyond social issues this weekend in Iowa, telling The Des Moines Register, "Our party is going to grow, and we are going to win in 2008 if we are a party characterized by what we're for, not if we're a party that's known for what we're against."

Asked about abortion, he said, "Our party has to get beyond issues like that."

Got that pro-life Republicans?

Me: If the GOP selects this guy after quotes like that (not to mention his flip-flopping on tax-funding, etc.), it will just go to show how weak the pro-life influence on the party truly is. Thank God he wasn't around in 1860.

Memo to Fred Thompson--You've just been handed a golden opportunity to energize the pro-life base. Let's see what you do with it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Power of Outrage [Jay]

I intended to continue this discussion of the emotional aspect of moral outrage by talking specifically about the disparate emotional responses to the brutal murders of (1) one of my own children, (2) one of my nephews, (3) a child in Atlanta, (4) a child in the Sudan, and (5) an unborn child at our local abortion mill here in Cobb County, GA. I think that I may be tempted to further explore that at a later date, but briefly, I do not think that my emotional response to (1) and (2) are fueled by an emotional component to moral outrage as they are familial bonds and the resulting pain of loss. Even if there were morally justifiable reasons to murder my child or nephew, I would still be terribly impacted by there loss. I am not emotionally responding to a violation of my values in this case. I am emotionally responding to the loss of loved ones. My son being the greater loss because I love him differently than I do almost any other human being on the planet. I accept any plausible explanation anyone wants to offer as to why I respond differently to the identical immoral treatment of the other three. My rejection is in the idea that the current disparate responses are a necessary condition that can not be overcome. I accept that it is the way things are, I reject that it is the way things must be. I will focus the meat of this post on why I think that this is important to our ultimate victory over legalized abortion in the United States.

I think that I will try to state my position in a simplified form. Here are three different statements:

1 - We CAN end legalized elective abortion in the United States.
2 - We OUGHT to end legalized elective abortion in the United States.
3 - We MUST end legalized elective abortion in the United States.

Statement 1 speaks to the possibility of the endeavor. We have historical precedent in our country of righting wrongs and changing societal beliefs and prejudices toward people groups. In addition, we know that slippery slopes run potentially in both directions as Greg Koukl explains in this piece on partial birth abortion. If we can gain small legal victories we can start a slope that runs in favor of the unborn. Again, we have precedent in our nations history and in England as well (see Amazing Grace) to support our belief in the truth of the first statement. Ending legalized abortion in the United States is possible. We can do it!

Statement 2 addresses our intellectual arguments. What are the unborn? If they are human beings then we have a moral obligation to treat them as such. The LTI "Case for Life" page here develops these arguments more fully. Greg Koukl said:"If the unborn are not human, no justification for elective abortion is necessary. But if the unborn are human, no justification for elective abortion is adequate."

If they are human and we value all human life then we ought to end legalized abortion in the United States. We are morally compelled to take action because the legal killing of innocent human beings for elective reasons is a moral crime and a violent injustice.

Statement 3 addresses the urgency. Here is where I argue that we are at our weakest. One may wish to argue that we are less strong on number 1 than we once were, but I am certain that we can do this and that victory is possible. We are very strong on 2. The reason why we are weak on 3 in my opinion is NOT that we are unfeeling uncaring well meaning people. I firmly believe that we are handicapped in this fight in the emotional aspect of our moral outrage because of two reasons. (A) We are not the unborn. (B) The unborn can not defend themselves. Simply put, those who are actually the victims of tyranny tend to be more upset than anyone else about it.

I will again turn to a quote from Frederick Douglass, “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” Douglass is speaking to the very core of the issue I am discussing. The unborn can do nothing but quietly submit, and you see the resulting horror they are subjected to as a result. They are vacuumed to death, sliced into pieces, torn apart limb by limb, chemically burned and suffocated, their skulls are pierced and their brains sucked out, they are experimented on, their body parts are sold, and they sacrificed because they may be of some possible future benefit to others. They can not speak out and so they are the perfect victim.

The victims of tyranny are just more interested in the immediate end to their condition than the rest of us. To illustrate that point I want to give you an extended quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail addressing the urgency of the movement:

“Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was well timed in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word Wait It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This Wait has almost always meant 'Never. We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that justice too long delayed is justice denied.

We have waited .for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, Wait. But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean? ; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading white and colored ; when your first name becomes nigger, your middle name becomes boy (however old you are) and your last name becomes John, and your wife and mother are never given the respected title Mrs. ; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodiness then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”

My fellow pro-lifers, our movement lacks this key emotional aspect. That is why I feel we are burdened with the responsibility to emotionally connect with the unborn at a higher level than we are now doing. The tyranny that dominates the unborn in this culture will never be thrown off with the cry of “no longer” from the unborn. We know that we can stop it, we know that we ought to stop it. Now all that is left is to convince a sufficient number of people that we MUST STOP IT NOW. It is not a problem for tomorrow. That urgency seems rooted in our emotional connection to the victims of this horror. I think that we need it to win the day.

Mr Douglass also said, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” We must set the limit now and push the culture back down the slippery slope that embraces the humanity, value, and love of the unborn. That is a gargantuan task. One that if we are properly convinced and motivated we can accomplish.

Adult Stem Cells Still Going Strong [Jay]

This article in the Times Online reports another case of promising results from treating diabetic patients with their own stem cells. Even though no embryonic stem cells were used the reporter felt the need to include the following:

Previous studies have suggested that stem-cell therapies offer huge potential to treat a variety of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neuron disease. A study by British scientists in November also reported that stem-cell injections could repair organ damage in heart attack victims.

But research using the most versatile kind of stem cells — those acquired from human embryos — is currently opposed by powerful critics, including President Bush.

How can we not assume that these people are operating with an agenda? They try to make pro-lifers look like we are universally anti stem cell research without noticing the distinction between adult and embryonic and cord blood research. In articles that demonstrate the success of adult stem cell therapies, they will not acknowledge that we champion those studies. They continuously underplay the success of the adult stem cells versus the embryonic stem cells. How can we surmise anything other than that this is intentional?

Notice the comments at the bottom, though. Just keep talking and the truth gets out little by little.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Human Hens"? [Bob]

Cathy Ruse, a Senior Fellow of Legal studies at the Family Research Council, puts abortion-choice feminists on the defensive today in her Washington Times column, "Human Hens and Stem Cells." While we rightly focus on the moral issue of destroying human life with ESCR, Ruse offers specifics about the effects the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (S. 5) would have on women themselves.

Ruse points out that only a small fraction of the so-called "leftover" embryos would ever have any chance of actually being made available for research and that this fact has severe repercussions. "Only 2.8% of the estimated 400,000 frozen embryos have been designated by their parents for use in research ... this small fraction could only produce 275 new embryonic stem cell lines at most." Because the industry would require millions of embryos, Ruse calls this bill...
a farce: [it] is not about getting tax funding for several dozen stem cell lines; it's about laying the groundwork for cloning human embryos for research, the only way the biotech industry can get a virtually unlimited supply of embryos.

[the bill] is a deceptive bait-and-switch campaign to get big biotech into the taxpayers' pockets and to lay the groundwork for massive cloning of human embryos.
In fact, researchers don't really know how many eggs would be needed to establish even a single stem cell line. The 2004 case in South Korea exposed the fraudulent claims of a scientist there who failed to create a single line after obtaining 2,221 eggs. The demand inherent in attempting to manufacture the millions of embryos needed would inevitably lead to the exploitation of young women -- examples of which are already available and serve to expose the dangerous nature of the practice toward those women.
  • Advanced Cell Technology has already admitted to paying young women $4000 for their eggs
  • Ads in California and Massachusetts college papers offer $5000/surgery
The risks associated with ovarian stimulation and extraction and Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome include respiratory distress, kidney failure, ovarian torsion and can lead to infertility, blood clots, stroke, heart attack and even death.

In other words, ESCR is not just morally unacceptable for the destruction of human life inherent in its practice, it is also morally unacceptable for the insidious danger it poses to the women who would be given incentive to support it.

Meanwhile Senators Norm Coleman (MN) and Johnny Isakson (GA) have offered alternative legislation (S. 30) that purports to:
    (1) intensify research that may result in improved understanding of or treatments for diseases and other adverse health conditions; and

    (2) promote the derivation of pluripotent stem cell lines without the creation of human embryos for research purposes and without the destruction or discarding of, or risk of injury to, a human embryo or embryos other than those that are naturally dead.
where "naturally dead" is defined as:
having naturally and irreversibly lost the capacity for integrated cellular division, growth, and differentiation that is characteristic of an organism, even if some cells of the former organism may be alive in a disorganized state.
Though I am unqualified (and therefore reluctant) to attempt to decipher the political-speak implications of that definition, it does seem that S. 30 could possibly offer and acceptable alternative to S. 5. Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, claims that the alternate bill...
includes a proposal to study the feasibility of banking amniotic and placental stem cells, modeled on the banking of bone marrow and cord blood stem cells that have saved the lives of patients with dozens of conditions. S. 30 also funds research in new techniques for deriving embryonic or embryonic-like stem cells without harming embryos
and "urge[s] support for that legislation as 'medical progress that we can all live with.'"

The jury is still out on whether or not there is any hope for success in "deriving embryonic or embryonic-like stem cells without harming embryos." But in the mean time, let me be clear. Though the peripheral issues Cathy Ruse exposes should carry weight with feminist pro-abortionists, they are not morally equivalent to defending the core issue -- the human personhood of the embryos researchers seek to destroy. That is the primary argument against ESCR. And that is why S.30 appears to be a morally superior piece of legislation.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Headlines Versus Reality [SK]

When it comes to abortion debates, journalists are often predictible. The headlines almost always go like this: "Speakers spark anger, controversy" or "Debate turns heated, students offended." This seems to be the case even when the exchange is polite and involves no personal attacks against a speaker.

The coverage of my debate with Nadine Strossen is a case in point. Here's the headline and first paragraph from the campus newspaper:
Pro-life, pro-choice debate heats up at GVSU
Opinions flare as lectureers express views during fire and ice week

Despite the below freezing temperatures, tempers sparked as Scott Klusendorf, President of Life Training Institute and Nadine Strossen, President of the American Civil Liverties Union, debated the polarizing topic of abortion.
What? Tempers sparked? When, exactly?

True, Nadine and I disagreed strongly over the substance of our respective cases, but neither of us exhibited anything close to a temper outburst. Ironically, this same story quotes a student who totally undercuts the journalist's own headline:

"I thought both speakers made some good points and I was glad everything stayed calm," said Charlene Boyd, a student who attended the debate. "When I left I felt better educated on both sides' main points."

I guess well-mannered debates that educate people don't make for good headlines.

(For content related analysis of the debate, see here and here)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Fetal Surgery Clarifications [Serge]

Eeks. Sometimes in an effort to quickly post in between patients, I am not as clear nor as precise as I would like to be. In my efforts to explain and post the fetal surgery video, my brevity may have been confusing. I also forgot to link to Prolifeblogs - which I have since corrected.

1. I did not see the episode of House and am quite happy that a TV show displayed the humanity of the unborn even if it may have stretched the truth a bit to do so. This happens often in TV - so much watching certain shows with someone with medical knowledge can ruin the experience. I did record and watch 24 on Monday, and I was about to scream at the TV if President "Waynewreck" Palmer asked for another dose of "adrenaline" to make him feel better. I use epinephrine every day, and I know the effects quite well.

2. I was responding to this post on prolifeblogs in which there was discussion regarding the initial picture of Samuel. Unfortunately, the description of the picture as given by some pro-lifers was labeled "inaccurate" by the urban legends website. I do believe we need to be careful to not exaggerate the characteristics of the unborn in order to "show" their humanity. To do so almost implicitly accepts the functionalism of our opponents. "Look, a 23 week old fetus can grab a surgeon's glove!". If we exaggerate, we either can be accused of using false information, or set ourselves up for defeat if our opponents can show that we are wrong. Never the less, it is unnecessary. I have shown lots of people a longer version of that video from TLC, and everyone that has viewed it has been amazed at our ability to perform surgery on a second trimester fetal human being. No "hand grab" is necessary. At the same time, it is reasonable to assume that the grasping reflex is present in a child of this age, so the kid could be "grasping" the glove.

3. As someone trained in anesthesia, I did not express the nuances of maternal-prenatal anesthesia very well. Most anesthetic agents pass at least somewhat through the placental barrier, so a fetus that is undergoing fetal surgery will have some form of anesthetic on board. Even if a human at that level of development could willfully grab onto the surgeon's glove, they probably would not due to the effects of the inhalational anesthetic. However, due to the imperfect transmission of the anesthetic to the child and the differences in the child's physiology, the child almost certainly would not have enough anesthetic on board to be considered under general anesthesia. In fact, when perform fetal surgery for spinal bifida, the neurosurgeon will inject some local anesthetic in to the site before making the incision. This is to ensure that the child does not feel pain and to avoid the little guy moving during the procedure: an important consideration when working by the spinal column.

In other words, the child would be sedated from the anesthetic but possibly still able to feel pain. This is why the early claims by those who perform partial birth abortions that the child would feel no pain from the anesthetic were shown to be incorrect.

Debate Recap Part 1 [SK]

I enjoyed my exchange with Nadine Strossen, President of the ACLU. I agree with Jivin: Though passionate about her views, her debate manners were pleasant and engaging, a nice change from what I saw with Kathryn Kolbert.

I framed the debate as follows (paraphrase):

Actually, the issue that divides Nadine and I is not that she is pro-choice and I am anti-choice. Truth is, I am vigorously "pro-choice" when it comes to women choosing a number of moral goods. I support a woman’s right to choose her own health care provider, to choose her own school, to choose her own husband, to choose her own job, to choose her own religion, and to choose her own career, to name a few. These are among the many choices that I fully support for the women of our country. But some choices are wrong, like killing innocent human beings simply because they are in the way and cannot defend themselves. No, we shouldn’t be allowed to choose that. So, again, the issue that separates Nadine and I is not that she is pro-choice and I am anti-choice. The issue the divides us is just one question, What is the unborn?

Let me be clear: If the unborn is a human being, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own inherent moral worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, killing them through elective abortion requires no more justification than having your tooth pulled.
I finished my opening case by laying out a scientific and philosophic defense of the pro-life view. I argued scientifically that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. Philosophically, I argued the unborn differs from an adult in ways that are morally insignificant.

I then reiterated my challenge: If Nadine can demonstrate that the unborn are not human, I see no reason whatsoever to oppose even partial-birth abortions.

Nadine tried to redefine the terms of the debate with an appeal to reproductive freedom. To summarize her case, reproductive freedom means the ability to choose whether or not to have children. That freedom is necessary if all persons are to lead lives of self-determination, opportunity, and human dignity.

Notice the question-begging nature of her claim. She simply assumes, without argument, that the unborn are not human beings. Would she make this same claim for human freedom and self-determination if her neighbor suggested killing toddlers as well as fetuses?

In short, I was willing to buy her argument for freedom and self-determination--but only after she demonstrated that the unborn were not human beings. I agree with Frank Beckwith: It won't work to say we should be a society that supports choice when the very question who is part of that society, that is, whether or not it includes th unborn, is itself under dispute. Nadine needed to make a case against the humanity of the unborn.

For the most part, she didn't take my challenge.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Please do not celebrate this House [Jay]

I understand why so many of my friends in the pro-life movement are happy about the episode of House this week. I really do. I am so clear on why it was a positive ending that I hate to be a stick in the mud and say that the producers of House have not taken a pro-life stance even when they produce a show that appears to have elements that agree with the pro-life stance. In fact I might even go so far as to say that this show was a pro-choice episode.

First, the priority on saving the child was predicated on the fact that (a) the mother in question would not consent to any treatment that would threaten her unborn child and (b) Dr. Cuddy’s empathy for the mother’s desires given her own age and trouble becoming pregnant through artificial insemination. House was fighting against the mother’s desire to have the child, not a recognition of the inherent humanity of the unborn. The fetus was wanted and therefore a baby.

Second, the diagnosis that House worked under had determined that the child was impossible to save and that continued treatments in an effort to save the baby would kill the mother and the child. The narrative, which is fictional, proved that this diagnosis was flawed. The idea that reckless medical care should be taken that risks the life of both the mother and the baby when we are certain that the baby is going to die is not a pro-life position as far as I know. It made for compelling television, though.

House has overseen two previous abortions, one earlier this year when he bullied a rape victim for a painfully long hour to do the “right” thing and kill the child. This show is a pro-choice manifesto. Children of rape ought to be killed in this world. Minors who are pregnant ought to be allowed to have an abortion without the consent of their parents in this show. And wanted babies deserve treatment.

When we get too excited about these things it demonstrates to me how desperate the situation is. We are so thirsty for a culture that has fully embraced the legalized killing of thousands of unborn human beings every day to show some signs of contrition that we jump at shadows. In my opinion, this episode was not our friend. It was moving and I am happy that the fictional baby lived because I am a sap just like every one else. The show does not represent my beliefs, and I will not celebrate it anymore than I would a pro-choicer telling me that they think some babies are worth saving. Not all mind you, but some. Whoopee!

We are better than this. Our arguments are stronger than this. We can do better than this nod in our direction, if it could be characterized as such. We can stop abortion. I believe that with all of my heart. When secular shows celebrate the full humanity of the unborn regardless of the mothers feelings about the baby or the circumstances of conception and Americans begin to daily engage this issue like the moral horror that it is we will be appropriately giddy. This is too little and too flawed to be too happy about.

Debate Update [SK]

Jivin J has reviewed my debate with ACLU President Nadine Strossen. I will post my own comments on the event after I get home, suffice to say that we did negotiate a slightly better format and I felt the event went very well for the pro-life side.

More to come....

Fetal Surgery on Video [Serge]

It seems House played an episode last night that featured fetal surgery. This has started a bit of a debate on Pro-life blogs whether or not a fetus would reach up and grab a surgeon who entered into her mother's uterus during surgery.

It doesn't take much reflection to understand that a fetus under anesthesia during surgery would not have the ability to "reach and grab" the hand of the surgeon. To be conclusive here is a video of fetal surgery on TLC a few years ago. It seems clear that the child is anesthetized and unable to reach and and grasp the surgeon, even though they did pose a "hand in the surgeon's glove" picture.

Giuliani, Abortion and Funding Constitutional Rights [Serge]

This is disturbing on so many levels:

Setting aside for a moment Rudy's "personally opposed" argument, he seems to be claiming here that the government has a responsibility to pay for a citizen's expression of their "rights". If the government does not pay for the abortion, then they would be "depriving" someone of their constitutional rights.

Clearly, Rudy's poor reasoning does not end with the abortion issue. Does he feel the same way about the second amendment, which is actually in the Constitution? If the government does not pay for guns for those who could not otherwise afford them, are we "depriving" them of their Constitutional rights? Is he is in favor for providing weapons to some individuals at tax-payer expense for certain circumstances?

Let's pray that the situation discussed frequently on this blog does not occur.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Will There be a Debate? [SK]

I'm scheduled to debate Nadine Strossen (President of the ACLU) at Grand Valley University tonight. Event organizers went out of their way to advertise it as a debate.

Question is, will it be a one?

Prior to every debate, I submit to debate organizers a standard format that looks like this:

1. Each speaker gets 20 minutes to present his/her opening arguments
2. Each speaker gets 7 minutes to cross-examine his/her opponent
3. Each speaker gets 10 minutes to offer a rebuttal to his/her opponent's opening arguments
4. Each speaker gets 5 minutes for a closing speech
5. Each speaker will address 10 questions from the audience

Including the questions from the audience, the entire debate format is about 90 minutes, which leaves ample time for each speaker to make a case, challenge his/her opponent's case, and clarify arguments through cross-examination. In addition, each speaker may present whatever materials he or she wishes and everyone gets equal time to make their points.

Despite repeated phone calls and emails aimed at confirming the format, we (The LTI staff members) heard nothing until late yesterday afternoon--one day before the scheduled debate. (The delay was not the fault of the pro-life students helping to organize the debate, but someone else allegedly responsible for setting the agenda for the evening.) We've now been told the formal part of the debate will last only 40 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of questions from the audience.

Perhaps there's a reasonable explanation for the delay in communicating the format, but if that format prevails, we no longer have much in the way of a robust debate, but rather joint pro and con presentations, with little chance for rebuttals and questioning. Perhaps things can be changed for the better, but if not, those attending might get a whole lot less out of the evening than they bargained for.

Let's hope we can negotiate a better format.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Yes, There Are Other Advantages [Bob]

To follow up on Scott's post yesterday, the actual press release from the American College of Cardiology lists the following as the "unique advantages" of the mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy as follows:
MSCs have a number of unique advantages: they can be taken from genetically distinct donors, are easy to prepare, and have a tendency to collect within injured areas
Apparently it is not worth mentioning that these are adult bone marrow stem cells and, as such, offer the additional "unique advantage" of not requiring the practice of embryo destruction to obtain them.

Meanwhile, a parallel German study shows that ...
... researchers at Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf, Germany, used adult bone marrow stem cells to regenerate healthy liver tissue, enabling patients to eventually undergo a surgical resection.

A study published in the April issue of the journal Radiology quotes Günther Fürst, M.D., co-author and professor of radiology: “Our study suggests that liver stem cells harvested from the patient’s own bone marrow can further augment and accelerate the liver’s natural capacity to regenerate itself.”

The study involved 13 patients with large central liver malignancies, unable to undergo surgery and compared the use of a portal vein embolization (PVE), a technique currently used to help regenerate liver tissue, with a combination of PVE and an injection of bone marrow stem cells. (LifeSite News)
Again, no mention of, or any admission that, these studies not only show more promise than ESCR, but that they avoid its ethical objections.

Monday, April 2, 2007

How is it Working in Germany? [Serge]

I have always believed that the sentiment expressed by this bumper sticker (available at the NOW website) is one of the most gruesome thoughts that humans have expressed. It assumes that human value should hinge on the feelings that one human being has for another, specifically whether or not the child in question is "wanted". The assumption is that if we could just rid ourselves of those children that suffer from the disease of being "unwanted", we would show great value to the children that survived the purge. It is horrific, gruesome, and simply wrong.

The lessons that we can learn from Germany did not end in 1945. Germany has liberal positions on sex education, contraceptive access, and abortion. In fact, this is what advocates for youth (a liberal organization pushing more sex ed) had to say about the policies in Germany regarding sexuality:

The German government regulates insurance, and 90 percent of households have compulsory health insurance. Private insurance is available for the remaining ten percent of households with very high incomes. Even though patients must meet co-payment fees, these fees remain substantially lower than those in the United States. In addition to subsidizing health care for almost all of its residents, the German government provides generous support for sexuality education, family planning, and contraceptive services.33 Most Germans believe that sexual expression is a basic need and a normal, healthy part of personality development. Germans believe that sexuality is to be handled responsibly. German residents enjoy access to condoms and contraception with few barriers.

Oral contraceptive pills, IUDs, barrier methods, and sterilization are covered by insurance and are free of charge to women ages 20 and under.34 Adolescents need not visit a physician to get contraception.23 Germans view contraceptive use as indispensable to sexual intercourse,34 and many German adolescents effectively use contraceptive methods. Some 63 percent of German teens use oral contraceptives and 57 percent use condoms.4 Condoms are widely available in pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants, clubs, and in vending machines in most public rest rooms. In general, Germans view contraceptive use as the way to avoid abortion.35 Parents, schools, and communities support teens' use of protection when they become sexually active.

In 1996, Germany legalized abortion within the first trimester and with "proper counseling" which emphasizes the life of the fetus but leaves the final decision to the woman. Second trimester abortion is not permitted unless pregnancy endangers the mother's life. Abortion is also covered by the national health plan and counseling is required three days prior to the procedure.36 German law requires parental consent for abortions in women under age 18, but doctors may perform abortions for women as young as 14 who fully understand the ramifications of the procedure.35

In other words, Germany provides most everything that pro-abortion choice groups believe will increase the "wantedness" of children.

How about social benefits for mothers who wish to work and still raise children? In response to declining birth rates, the German government has implemented a plan so generous that some mothers were trying to avoid labor at all costs in order to have their children in 2007 in order to qualify. The government pays for maternity leave for over a year!

You would believe that children in Germany would be the most "wanted" than most any other country. There is also a very strong pro-family component in Germany. My son and I frequently play "German-style" boardgames that are extremely popular in that country to bring families together. It seems all is well, except for that little infanticide problem...

Desperate mothers are being urged to drop their unwanted babies through hatches at hospitals in Germany in an effort to halt a spate of infanticides that has shocked the country.

At least 23 babies have been killed so far this year, many of them beaten to death or strangled by their mothers before being dumped on wasteland and in dustbins.

Police investigating the murders are at a loss to explain the sudden surge in such cases, which have involved mothers of all ages all over the country.

Clearly, they have not found the answer.

The problem is not that children are unwanted. None of us had any control over the circumstances of our conception, and I believe many reading these words were initially "unwanted" by their parents. What has changed in the meantime is the notion of human value. We no longer recognize that human beings are valuable regardless of whether they are wanted or not. When human beings are seen as mere instruments of another's pleasure, or the means by which more benefits can be gained, they cease being viewed as valuable intrinsically. When we turn our eyes at their destruction in the name of women's rights, there is a price to pay. We are already far down that slippery slope. Paying off mothers and special drop-boxes will not fix the problem.

Stem Cells Repair Heart Disease [SK]

...but you'll need to read deep into the story before you finally learn that embryos had nothing to do with it:

By using chemical and physical nudges, the scientists first coaxed stem cells extracted from bone marrow to grow into heart valve cells.
Yep, score another one for non-lethal adult stem cell research!