Thursday, May 31, 2007

Not Religious, Moral [Jay]

More and more I hear arguments like the following:

1 – IVF is expensive so for most families it is necessary to create many embryos initially to guard against the known rate of implantation failure. Would you tell these people that they can not produce the appropriate number of embryos and risk their resources without any protection because of your religious beliefs?

2- Women want to have babies and IVF and fertility drugs give them a chance to do so when biology and age are conspiring against them. Would you deny a woman the right to have her child? Would you force her to carry and deliver multiples at great risk to herself and her unborn children rather than have a reduction performed because more embryos than expected survived based on your religious beliefs?

Here is the problem with these arguments and others like them. As per usual, these arguments only hold water if the unborn are not innocent human beings. If the unborn are fully human then we have to ask ourselves some tough questions about how we live. Let me see if I can construct a good model to understand this:

Behavior “B” often leads to Consequence “C.” Consequence “C” necessitates procedure “P.”

This seems to be what they are arguing. Sex, fertility treatments, IVF, and whatever else you want to plug in often produce unwanted consequences and those consequences necessitate certain procedures. But is this accurate? Let’s tweak it a bit. Is “P” necessary? I think that is obviously wrong to say that abortion and reductions are necessary (meaning there are alternative options that make it not "the only possible option") but even if “P” was not necessary and merely the easiest option there is still a problem. If the unborn are innocent human beings, then to terminate that life for elective reasons is objectively immoral.

“B” often leads to “C.” “C” is most easily dealt with by immoral procedure “IP.”

I am not appealing to the Bible to establish the immorality of “IP.” I have not said it is unchristian to perform reductions and abortions. I have made the claim that terminating innocent human life for elective reasons is objectively immoral. You can make a case why it is not objectively immoral to terminate the lives of innocent human beings if you wish, but I warn you that you lose the moral force to condemn every act of barbarism in the history of the world as objectively wrong. The Holocaust, Soviet Gulags, Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, and Rwandan Genocide are all ultimately reduced to alternative methods of population control if taking innocent lives is not immoral. You can also try to make the case that the unborn are not innocent human beings. This, of course, leads us back to the central question, “What are the unborn?” (Look here for more on that argument)

Also notice I am not saying that “B” is necessarily immoral. The act of taking fertility drugs or pursuing IVF does not have to be inherently immoral, but the conditions these actions create are the issue. If we know that “B” often leads to “C” which strongly leads to “IP,” then we need to think about “B.” If the “IP” in question is the killing of innocent life for elective reasons, then the more strongly “C” is associated with “IP” the more it becomes imperative to address not “IP” but “B.” If a morally neutral act is consistently leading to a later immoral procedure, especially something as serious as the elective destruction of innocent life, then it is not religious to conclude that the best way to avoid “IP” is by reducing “B.”

Clear as mud, right? Let me dress it up a bit. We know that doing something like a morally neutral act of taking fertility drugs produces a high risk of multiples. Further we are told that multiples are dangerous to the mother and her babies, and reductions make it possible for the mother to carry a safe number of children to term. Reductions as a practice are the intentional destruction of innocent human lives for an elective reason. Further, the possible need to perform a reduction is foreknown prior to the use of the fertility drugs which eliminates the idea that it is an unintended or unforseen consequence. Then it is not only the practice of reductions that must be questioned. We have to ask if we ought to be using fertility drugs so liberally as well. Not because I would force people to not have their own children through religious rule, but because even an understandable and emotionally valid desire can cause situations that too often lead to immoral practices. You can not balance the families desire to have children against the situational need to kill some of their children created by that heartfelt and understandable desire. It is important that we do not unnecessarily and repeatedly create situations where we feel compelled to kill life as a result of elective behaviors. The more strongly the need for reductions is argued the more it calls into question the morality of fertility treatment. If the need for reductions is overstated then stop killing innocent babies for less than necessary reasons.

Fertility drugs and IVF provide an opportunity for people to have families that would not exist without these options. With that comes the awesome responsibility to police ourselves. People are becoming a commodity. Easily bought and easily disposed of. It is not religious to ask that we look at what we are doing and consider if we can not be more careful in our zeal to create more children. It is common sense and solid moral judgement.

HT: Serge

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cannes Top Award [Jay]

The Cannes Film Festival has awarded the Palm d’Or to “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.” The film is described in this CNN article as “a harrowing portrait of an illegal abortion in communist-era Romania.”

I am including a link to a review of the movie, which encompasses all that I know about the content of this film. The entertainment industry loves abortion films. The strange thing is why they love it. I have seen the TV shows House and Everwood both take their shot at the issue, as well as movies like Cider House Rules and there always seems to be an element of heroism involved in being able to perform abortions. It is an ugly job, but someone has to be able to step up and perform this grim task. The language describing the choice of abortion for women seems so confusing to me. It is so hard to make this decision. Gut wrenching, soul searching, and painful. In the movie and entertainment industry getting an abortion seems like a matter of courage and even the ultimate source of conflict in this newest offering. Recently my wife and I were watching a certain blockbuster film (unrelated to abortion) and she leaned over and asked me, “Who am I supposed to be rooting for?” This question is magnified for me with this film in question. Do I go to this movie and root for the young girls to fulfill their quest for an abortion? Is it just the same old story? Abortions are terrible, but they have to be done and you have no right to interject yourself into this decision. In fact, see what happens when you make it hard for women to get abortions? Is this the message I am supposed to receive here? Is this the "harrowing" award winning and emotionally powerful point?

I will in all likelihood never see this film. Time is too precious to watch a film where the ultimate payoff is that “She finally got her abortion.” I am getting more and more curious about the fascination with the “heroic” elements of abortion, though. Why so much emotion from those who see this as the destruction of soulless valueless tissue? Would Jane Fonda ever award the Palm d’Or to a film about the heroic journey of a Romanian college student to have her tooth illegally extracted? If not, then why is this different for them? If they think that the unborn are human beings and so the decision is very hard, how can they possibly think that killing innocent human beings is heroic? Curious.

I would worry less if I thought that movies and entertainment were not incredibly more effective at conveying information, false or not, to people in our culture than reasoned argument. Look at the hysteria over Farenheit 9-11, The DaVinci Code, and An Inconvenient Truth. No amount of after the fact debunking of bad science and history ever fully stems the tide of the initial emotional responses. Pro-lifers need to be more keenly aware of how cleverly abortion is framed through these programs. The message is strong. It is hard, difficult, terrible, and a personal choice. I am certain our arguments are better than theirs. I am terribly afraid that their movies and TV shows are better than ours. I know they are more widely seen and awarded. It is hard to measure how much this effects the whole terrain of the debate, but it must not be dismissed as irrelevent.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Abortion and the Black Community [Jay]

Last night I had the opportunity to teach a break out session in our CPC’s Prenatal Parenting Class. It was a tough audience of roughly 10 men that came to the class with the mothers of their children. Our Director decided we should try to do a “Dad Session” with them. It may strike some of you as hard to believe that my public speaking is often characterized as passionate and a bit confrontational. (I will wait a moment while you all recover from the shock of hearing that) I tried to stay on focus and leave the men with a few basic ideas. They will have a tremendous impact, positive or negative, on their children whether they want to or not. Loving our children and participating in their lives is the best way to equip them to deal with the challenges of life. God loves them and their children. (Of course of all of the info I gave them the God part made them the most uncomfortable)

What the heck does any of this have to do with bio-ethics and life issues you ask? Well after I finished, one of the men came over to talk to me. He was a black man, about 40ish, in normal casual wear and very articulate. He told me he was a counselor and worked in a ministry trying to help the black community in our area break some of the destructive life patterns that persistently passed from generation to generation. As he ran through statistics he started to talk about the number of abortions in the black community of the United States and asked me why the black church leaders will not speak out. I told him that they were not the only Christian leaders afraid to say something on Sunday or in public about the issue of abortion, but he would have none of that. The thing that struck me the most was a moment while we were discussing figures. I knew of or was familiar with every statistic that he shared, but there was something about the look in his eyes as he relayed them. “Black women are three times more likely to get an abortion and represent 1/3 of all surgical abortions in the United States though we are around 13% of the population. I have read that 47% of black pregnancies end in abortion, so that is half of our children we have killed right there.” The last sentence absolutely stopped the conversation. He looked at the floor for a moment overwhelmed with emotion. His eyes were all at once pained and enraged.

I often appeal for passion and outrage on the issue of abortion, and this conversation reminds me why it is so important. I will supply links on this post to sites that give statistics for you to sort through if you wish, and if any of the other guys have other resources I invite them to put them down as well. This should give you the chance to evaluate the numbers yourself as much as possible. Any way you evaluate them, the statistics as it pertains to the black community are heartbreaking. The numbers were just numbers before last night, though. A man who loves the black community and is fighting to save and transform this culture changed that. I am haunted by that moment and the look in this man's eyes. “So that is half our children we have killed right there.” His people are being killed from within, and he can not understand why the leaders of his community refuse to say something. I had no answer that satisfied him.

Links: Abort.73 on minority statistics, Black, an article in 2003 from NRO’s Anne Hendershott asking the same question of black leaders, Georgia Right to Life on the numbers locally here in GA for 2005.

The Barbarism of Selective Killing (Reduction) [Serge]

I just finished reading this article in the Washington Post about the procedure termed "selective reduction". With all that I read about bioethics, it takes a lot to make me outraged. This article, and the entire thought process behind this procedure, has certainly done so. Let me make myself clear - between the tortuous reasoning that the Moms in the story use to justify killing their child, to the complete moral bankruptcy of the "physician" in the story, to the general acceptance of this procedure which is actually morally worse than most elective abortions, I am completely dumbfounded. We need no further evidence of the presence of evil in this world than allowing a physician to not only intentionally kill a child, but to justify doing so in order to preserve "life".

First, the we have to remember that the vast majority of these procedures are performed on women who have undergone IVF. In other words, these are not human beings that are the unintentional result of a sexual experience. These are children that were intentionally created and intentionally implanted into the mother, at great expense, I may add. Furthermore, if it is deemed that a woman can only safely carry two "kids" (a word the doctor used as he was killing one), than the option exists to only implant two embryos. In our quest to give parents exactly what they want, and to increase the "success" rate of the IVF clinic (who can then advertise that rate on the internet), we take an action which places a child at lethal risk.

Morally speaking, when you undergo an action which has known and predictable consequences that puts another human being at risk you have an obligation not to kill that human being that you have intentionally put at risk. This seems very straightforward, but it seems the practitioners of IVF and selective reductions, as well as the mothers who have consented to this procedure, believe that their desires (first to have a child, and then to have only the number they want) trump the life of another human being. And there is no mistaking from the article that both the doctor and the parents know exactly what they are killing.

I found it interesting that the doctor also considers himself a geneticist. His version of genetics allows him to weed out undesirable traits - like when a couple wants a boy and a girl. He also gets to seek for genetic anomalies - not to see which child he is going to kill (this decision has already been decided), but to make the parents feel better for killing a child with a handicap. This is the practice of eugenics without the nuance of Lebensunwertes Leben.

Unlike many of the girls and women who seek help at clinics like Jay's, who are often scared, young, and confused regarding their situation, these parents are seen in major medical centers with high-tech equipment and specialist physicians. They tend to be older and more affluent to be able to afford IVS. They may have suffered infertility problems for a while (which is very difficult). However, in their desire to have what they really want, they have placed themselves in a situation in which they and their children are in danger. Furthermore, their decision to intentionally kill one or more of their children in order to "fix" the situation they have chosen for themselves is barbaric, incredibly selfish, and very evil. The intentionality of the life that they brought into this world, as well as the callousness of how they choose to snuff it out, makes their "choice" a far more immoral one than most elective abortions. Our culture's tolerance of this procedure in some of our most recognized medical centers is extreme evidence that we have completely jettisoned moral obligation for our own desires. God help us.

HT: JivinJ

Update: Amy Hall at Stand to Reason posts about the same article here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

10 Questions for Secular Critics [SK]

In today's Boston Globe, Dean Barnett makes a laudable attempt to defend his pro-life views with strict secularism, but his piece, while making some good points, ultimately gives up too much ground to his own secular critics.

Barnett writes:
I'm proudly Jewish, but not at all religious. Quite frankly, I'm the very picture of the Chinese food-eating secular Jew who drives some of my more devout co-religionists batty. But I'm pro-life, and adamantly so. Unlike the often erroneous stereotype of the pro-life citizen, I didn't arrive at my position as a matter of religious faith. Rather, my conclusions flow strictly from logical inquiry. The big moral question regarding abortion is, "When does life begin?"
That last sentence is a category mistake. The question of when life begins is not a moral inquiry, but an empirical one. That is, science, not morality, tells us when human life comes to be while morality (metaphysics) tells us how we should value it.

Barnett continues:

You might expect that since I'm pro-life, I would argue that life begins at conception. Actually, that's not quite right. In answering the question of when life begins, the best I can do is say "I don't know." Life may begin at conception. It may begin during pregnancy. Or it may begin at childbirth. While I have a feeling that life begins at conception, I certainly can't prove it. The only people who can say with absolute certainty and total conviction when life begins do so as a matter of faith or belief, not as the inevitable result of a logical process.
His skepticism here is unwarranted. Scientifically, pro-lifers contend that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. True, they have yet to grow and mature, but they are whole human beings nonetheless. Leading embryology textbooks affirm this. (See here and here and here.) In short, pro-lifers have much more than personal feelings or blind faith to back up their claims.

Barnett's main point, however, is true as far as it goes: If skeptics don't know when life begins, the only reasonable default position is the pro-life one:

Because we don't know where life begins, the only logical thing to do is to err on the side of caution -- the side of life. In other words, because an abortion might take an innocent life, it should be avoided. It should also be illegal in most cases.
Yes, but can a truly secular ethic say why human life has value in the first place such that we should err on the side of caution? Can it say why unjustly killing the innocent is evil and not good? And if it truly is evil, doesn't that imply the existence of objective moral rules--rules which, if they are to have any moral force at all, must come from a moral-law giver? Barnett never tells us. Indeed, that's the gaping hole in his argument: While he arrives at the correct moral conclusion, he must cheat to get there.

If I were to revise Dean's piece, here are the 10 questions I'd use to provoke thoughtful, abortion-related discussions with secular critics:

1) What counts as real knowledge? Suppose the pro-life view was inherently a matter of theology, or, as some say, "faith." Why should anyone suppose that religious truth claims don't count as real knowledge? What's the argument for that metaphysical claim? There is none. It's simply presupposed. (For more on theology as real knowledge, see my post here.) Moreover, note that "faith" in the context of secular thinking counts only as an irrational leap into subjective experience. But do informed Christians really think that? As my friend Greg Koukl points out, true biblical faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but knowledge (trust) based on evidence. Greg cites many scriptures to support this very point. (Go here to see examples.)

It is true, of course, there are many secularists who do not accept the arguments for rational theism. So what? As Ed Feser points out, "all that shows is that arguments for the existence of God are no different from every other argument in philosophy, including arguments for atheism, or arguments for abortion and same-sex marriage for that matter: they are controversial, matters about which intelligent people can and do disagree. Do secularists demand that those in favor of legalized abortion and same-sex marriage refrain from advocating their positions in the public square simply because their arguments are nowhere near universally accepted?"

2) What is the pro-life case and why, exactly, is that case mistaken? The secular atheist is just plain wrong that pro-life advocates provide no reasonable defense for their views. Sure they do. Problem is, many secularists take no time to actually engage pro-life arguments; they simply dismiss them as "religious ideology." However, this dismissal does not constitute an argument and it ignores the sophisticated case pro-life philosophers present in support of their position. Scientifically, as noted above, pro-lifers contend the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human organisms. "Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm ... unites with a female gamete or oocyte ... to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." (Keith L. Moore, Ph.D. & T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 6th ed.)

Philosophically, pro-lifers argue there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today. Differences of size, development, and location are not relevant in the way that abortion advocates need them to be. For example, everyone agrees that embryos are small—perhaps smaller than the dot at the end of this sentence. But since when do rights depend on how large we are? Men are generally larger than women, but that hardly means they deserve more rights. Size does not equal value. Pro-lifers don't need Scripture to tell them these things. They are truths even atheists and secular libertarians can, and sometimes do, recognize. Yet rarely do strict secularists present principled arguments explaining why pro-life advocates are mistaken on these points.

3) How does it follow that because the pro-life view is consistent with a particular religious viewpoint (such as Christian theism, Conservative Judaism, or Islam) that it can only be defended with arguments exclusive to that viewpoint? Nearly all Americans would agree it’s wrong to kill toddlers for fun and they don’t need a course in church doctrine to apprehend that truth. At the same time, few people can present a completely secular argument detailing why abusing toddlers is wrong. But that hardly stops them from recognizing this moral truth, even if they can’t articulate their reasons in exclusively secular terms.

4) Why is the claim that an embryo has value any more religious than saying a 10-year old has value? Ramesh Ponnuru writes: “The pro-life argument on abortion is that eight-week old fetuses do not differ from ten-day old babies in anyway that would justify killing the former. A lot of people believe that God forbids the killing of ten-day-old babies, and many would be unable, if pressed, to give a persuasive account of non-theological reasons for holding such a killing to be wrong. We do not take the opposition to killing babies to be therefore an essentially religious view.”

5) How can a strictly materialistic (secular) worldview explain why anything has value or a right to life? According to the materialism, everything in the universe—including human beings and their capacity for rational/moral inquiry—came about by blind physical processes and random chance. The universe came from nothing and was caused by nothing. At best, human beings are cosmic accidents. In the face of this devastating news, secularists simply presuppose the dignity of human beings, human rights, and moral obligations. But on what naturalistic basis can human rights and human dignity be affirmed? Put simply, I don’t see how materialism can account for the rise of intrinsically valuable moral agents.

6) How can secular materialism account for moral oughtness? Remember, according to materialism, we start from nothing and, through a series of chance happenings, end up with a world of individuals who feel obligated to act a certain way. How did we get from is to ought? And what gives our moral intuitions their oughtness? Gregory Ganssle writes that what’s striking about our universe is not only that it sustains life (which is improbable enough), but that it sustains the sort of life to which moral truths apply. Materialism has no plausible explanations for this. Indeed, if the universe is the product of blind chance, we end up with “a set of necessary moral truths that are, so to speak, waiting around. There is nothing at all to which these truths apply and there is no guarantee that they will ever apply to anything.” Somehow (luckily) a totally accidental process lasting 20 billion years or so produces moral creatures —”creatures that exactly match the moral truths that have been waiting in the wings throughout the whole show.” Such a claim is highly suspect. (See Gregory Ganssle, “Necessary Moral Truths and Their Need for Explanation,” Philosophia Christi, Vol. 2, #1, 2000.)

7) Are you saying religious conservatives should be denied a voice in the public square? If not, what exactly is your point? The “imposing religion” objection is not really an argument, but a ramrod used to silence all opposition to abortion. Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon rightfully asks why citizens should have to withhold their moral views on abortion but not on other issues where they do not hesitate to advance religiously grounded moral viewpoints—such as the Vietnam War, capital punishment, civil rights, and relief of poverty? Strange though it may seem to liberal √©lites, most religious conservatives I know don't want a theocracy or “Christian” nation that imposes theological doctrines. What they want is a more just nation, one where no human being regardless of religion, gender, size, level of development, location, or dependency is denied basic human rights. They also want judges who respect the rule of law rather than legislate from the bench. Given a choice between a "Christian" President who works against justice for the unborn (like Jimmy Carter, yikes!) or an agnostic one who promotes basic human rights for all, including the unborn, religious conservatives should opt in mass for the agnostic. (Yes, that means I don't care a straw if Mitt Romney is Mormon.) In other words, religious conservatives are more concerned about a candidate’s worldview and judicial philosophy than they are his theology and doctrine. Thus, we're not imposing our views on anyone. We're proposing them in hopes our fellow citizens will vote them into law. That's called democracy.

8) Can you show me an argument for abortion rights that doesn't assume some transcendent grounding point? Here's the problem for the strict atheist: Where does the right to an abortion come from? If it comes from the State, he really can't complain if the State decides to revoke that right. After all, the same government that grants rights can take them away. However, most abortion advocates think the right to abortion is fundamental, meaning it's grounded in something that transcends the workings of human government. Yet how can transcendent rights of any kind exist without a transcendent source of authority that grants them? (Jefferson recognized this problem and promptly grounded human rights and human equality in the concept of a transcendent creator.) Of course, this by itself does not prove that Christianity, Judaism, or any other world religion is true, but it does seem to rule out atheism as an adequate starting point for basic human rights. In short, I don't see how my secular critic can get his own claim for fundamental abortion rights off the ground without borrowing from the very theistic worldview he so despises.

9) Why is it okay for you to do metaphysics but when I do, you scream foul? The abortion-choicer's own position, like the pro-lifer’s, is grounded in prior metaphysical commitments. As Francis J. Beckwith explains, the nature of the abortion debate is such that all positions presuppose a metaphysical view of human value, and for this reason, the abortion-choice position is not entitled to win by default. At issue is not which view has metaphysical underpinnings and which does not, but which metaphysical view of human value does a better job of accounting for human rights and human dignity, pro-life or abortion-choice? The pro-life view is that humans are intrinsically valuable in virtue of the kind of thing they are. True, they differ immensely with respect to talents, accomplishments, and degrees of development, but they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature. Their right to life comes to be when they come to be, either at conception or at the completion of a cloning process. The abortion-choice view is that humans have value (and hence, rights) not in virtue of the kind of thing they are, members of a natural kind, but only because of an acquired property that comes to be later in the life of the human organism. Because the early embryo does not appear (to them) as a human being with rights, destroying embryos or fetuses through abortion or medical research is perfectly fine.

Notice that the abortion-choicer is doing the abstract work of metaphysics. That is, he is using philosophical reflection to defend a disputed view of human value in his quest to defend elective abortion. In short, the attempt to disqualify the pro-life view from public policy based on its alleged metaphysical underpinnings works equally well to disqualify his own view.

10) How can secular materialism account for minds and ideas? Put simply, atheists have difficulty explaining the emergence of non-material minds from purely physical processes. That is to say, they must show how consciousness arises from unconscious brain matter. John Searle writes that the leading problem in the biological sciences is the problem of explaining how neurobiological processes cause conscious experience. If that were not bad enough, materialism must also explain how these non-material minds cohere with the physical states of the brain. The interaction between non-material minds and physical bodies suggests design.

At the same time, materialism cannot account for rational oughtnesss. It suffers from an idea problem that renders it self-refuting. Writes Stephen Barr in his book “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith” (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003): “If ideas are just patterns of nerve impulses, then how can one say that any idea (including the idea of materialism itself) is superior to any other? One pattern of nerve impulses cannot be truer or less true than another pattern, any more than a toothache can be truer or less true than another toothache.” Robin Collins underscores the significance of this, namely, that human judgement and evaluation—needed to determine truth and error—(including the truth or error of materialism) presuppose a world of moral meaning that transcends the physical-material world. In short, the very effort to argue for materialism ends up refuting it.

To sum up, a theistic universe better explains human rights and human dignity. For the theist, humans have value in virtue of the kind of thing they are, creatures who bear the image of their maker. At the same time, objective morals make sense because they are grounded in the character of an objective moral law giver. Secular atheists, meanwhile, have difficulty offering a substantive ontological foundation for human dignity, human rights, or moral obligations. As Paul Copan points out, they can certainly recognize moral truth epistemologically, but they can’t ground their moral claims ontologically. In short, they can’t really tell us why we ought to behave rightly on abortion or any other moral issue. Nor can they plausibly account for basic human rights, like the right to life or even the alleged right to an abortion.

These questions deserve wider discussion and hopefully Mr. Barnett will consider them in a future post.

HT: Real Clear Politics

Driving Guilt Free on the Cheap [Serge]

I have been in a bit of a dilemma recently. I live in Michigan, where a four wheel drive vehicle is almost a necessity in the winter, especially when making the 30 minute trip to my satellite office. However, the old Mountaineer that I had been abusing is no longer big enough to carry my entire family. We also recently invested in a family camper, which needs a big vehicle to tow.

My solution was to buy a Ford Expedition. Although I was prepared to swallow hard and take the financial hit at the gas pump, I was racked with guilt regarding the increased carbon footprint that my family and I would have. First, we were blessed to have four carbon producing offspring that according to this report will wreak havoc on the planet. Now we are increasing our carbon output by driving a truck that can carry them all (although that V8 engine accelerates like a dream! oh, sorry, I shouldn't have mentioned that).

I have found the solution! I have obtained a large number of carbon offsets through this site. I have the certificates to show that I can now ride guilt free understanding that my excessive CO2 production will be offset by some other poor soul, in the form of trees, or something. Granted, it's not like I own a 28,000 sq. foot house or have an electric bill that is 20 times the national average, but I still wish to do my part.

Monday, May 21, 2007

When Mr. Fix-It Won't Do [SK]

Av8tor Bob has hit the big time with this excellent piece in Christianity Today.

The topic: miscarriage:
Main point: The pain of miscarriage may be worse than you think and you can't just fix it. Bob writes:

I had it wired. I read the books. I attended the seminars. I had t-shirts, even a lapel pin, that touted my proud claim to be a "Promise Keeper." The second line of my personal Life Purpose Statement was a bold pronouncement that I would support and encourage my wife in all ways and love her "as Christ loved the church." We'd already ridden the emotional roller coaster of pregnancy together three times and had three wonderful boys to show for it. So when the happy-go-lucky lady I'd always known dissolved into a sobbing mess one day, I didn't even flinch. I was ready to take care of things.

Her shoulders hitched as she tried to force out words that blindsided me. "I … I was pregnant … but I lost the baby."

She'd found out she was pregnant four weeks into her first term, but wanted to surprise me with the news during a weekend getaway we'd planned to take in another two weeks.
Bob then contrasts his own reaction to that of his wife's:

My wife's miscarriage occurred less than six weeks into the pregnancy, yet she had narrowed down possible names for the baby. She'd decorated the nursery in her mind. She'd already welcomed the new addition to our family. I, on the other hand, felt a detached loss for someone I never knew. Not having felt the depth of her joy in anticipating the new arrival, it was difficult to instantly share her despair.
Bob concludes with three suggestions for loving husbands:

1) You can't understand your wife's pain
2) You can't fix it
3) Your wife needs to know you're grieving too

Read the whole thing. For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, Bob will be interviewed on the John and Stephanie Show (Word 101.5 FM) at 5:00 PM (EDT) May 30th.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lydia McGrew on Genetic Screening [Jay]

Lydia McGrew wrote this comment at Second Hand Smoke in response to Wesley’s post on the liscensing from the British government to screen embryos for a genetic condition that leads to severe squinting which I posted on as well here. I am posting the comment unaltered and in its entirety with her permission. I think that given Lydia’s obvious intelligence and accomplishment this really puts into perspective the insanity of this type of screening to avoid possible future manifestations of an "undesirable" genetic trait.

Apologies if I've said this before: I have a minor genetic anomaly known as Chotzen syndrome. Feel free to look it up. It's no biggie. It has some cosmetic effects and some functional ones, the latter being chiefly a propensity to deafness (though I am not deaf) and vision problems. Phenotypical manifestations vary widely, and some children require skull surgery to separate early-fused skull sutures to allow room for brain growth. But often that is not the case, as it was not for me or my children. The gene is dominant, and each child of a person with the anomaly has a 50% chance of having it. Funny facial looks are one of the chief symptoms, resulting from asymmetries in skull suture fusion. Sometimes one eye is notably lower than the other.

I am adopted and grew up not knowing why my face looked somewhat funny and why I was so short (another manifestation). It never even crossed my mind that there might be some specific "syndrome" that this manifested. My health was excellent, and I married and already had one beautiful child before finding my birth mother and being told about Chotzen syndrome. At that point I took a closer look at my lovely 4-year-old and said, "By golly, she has really high webbing between these fingers. I guess she did get the gene but it's hardly manifested at all in her." I think this is almost certainly correct. So I did a little research, realized it's no biggie, shrugged my shoulders and got on with life, including two more lovely children. The tops of their heads have funny shapes, and the third one has a low eye, like I do. They are all intelligent and happy. None required skull surgery. Nothin' to it.

But when I was first researching it, I had a conversation with a facial surgeon about what he'd seen clinically with it. After saying that people with it usually have a "very high quality of life," he _then_ came out with the suggestion that I could, if I wished, conceive in vitro and have embryos screened. It blew my mind. Here was this fellow essentially saying that I should try to make sure that someone like me or like my daughter would be bio-incinerated rather than born. Just "if I wanted to."

Designer babies, indeed.

HT: Second Hand Smoke

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Apparently Both Sides Are Wrong [Jay]

Whilst I was roaming around the blogosphere earlier today, I stumbled upon this post at RightReason by Bill Vallicella where he tries to give Rudy Giuliani a huge benefit of the doubt and grant a reasonable explanation for his inconsistent public statements regarding abortion. (A side note, there was something fascinating in reading some truly gifted scholars try to formulate an intellectually honest position to go with RG’s erratic attitudes toward abortion) In one of the later comments a person posted a website as a source for alternative positions on the issue. is a site where a writer gives a Libertarian party position on abortion, and goes to great length to characterize anyone who holds a strong opinion either way as irrational. He also holds the opinion that the abortion debate is a political cancer that serves to divide our nation and it appears the whole world while forcing “rational people” to choose one of two equally irrational positions. Scott suggested I post on this and my brain practically froze up. Where to start on all of this material? Too...many..options.(imagine that last line in the best Captain Kirk impersonation) Lets try to approach some of the ideas in play and leave the source out of it.

ITEM #1: People who claim that abortion is a terrible thing that ought to be a legal choice for women.

Why is it terrible? Why should it be legal to get an abortion for elective reasons? And if you find that these two positions are irreconcilable is it still “irrational” to choose to advocate one side over the other? Presumably, it is terrible because the unborn are innocent human beings that are being killed for elective reasons. Presumably, it ought to be a legal option to preserve the freedom of a woman to make decisions about her body. But if the unborn are innocent human beings then the question is ABOUT a woman’s right to terminate innocent human life that is not her own body. Do we restrict freedom of choice to protect innocent human life elsewhere? So if the unborn are innocent human beings, then legal protection of their lives is not forced “slavery” but a common governmental practice. If they are not innocent human beings, then the woman’s freedom of choice is no more an issue than her choice of having teeth removed. To stake the moderate position that the unborn is some kind of proto-human or potential human that it sure is awful to have to kill, but “hey, women gotta do what women gotta do” is not intellectually superior. It is not rational. And until you answer the question of what exactly the unborn are if they are not human, it is not a legitimate option. You want to redefine the nature of the unborn to open up the options of what we can do to them, then redefine them. Explain what they are that killing them is a moral option. And for the record, renaming them is not the same thing.

ITEM #2: The abortion debate is intractable at best and causes such ill will it would be better to work together to end abortion through common ground?

Why would those who DO NOT think the unborn are innocent human beings that deserve protection under the law want to end or even limit the practice of elective abortion? Why would they seek another option? Abortion is the easiest option and if the unborn are not innocent human beings it is not a moral issue at all. You would not limit tonsillectomies so why limit abortions? If the unborn are innocent human beings, why would I ever advocate someone’s legal right to kill innocent human beings? What goal is there that makes the needless death of millions of humans an acceptable loss to reach? Political and social peace? The desire of people who are irritated by this fight to be left alone and watch reruns of “Friends” in peace? You have to demonstrate how preserving the peace is of greater moral importance than the preservation of innocent life. Then and only then will making certain that we all “feel good” be of the first order of importance.

ITEM #3: Abortion is like poverty and drug abuse, it can not be stopped by the government.

This post by Scott is about perfect and can not be improved upon here. I will only add one question. If that argument is true then I presume that the number of abortions were constant pre legalized abortion in 1973 and post Roe v. Wade. If they are not, (89,000 - 210,000 annually jumped to 1.5 million in 5 years) then someone needs to supply a rational explanation as to why making it legal dramatically increased the number of abortions in the United States and why the revocation of that ruling and renewed legal restrictions would not serve to decrease the practice. Otherwise, that argument is vacuous and not supported by facts. (Hint, it is vacuous and not supported by facts) Read Scott’s piece which pretty much gives you all you need to know about that. Abortion is NOT a force of nature that can not be contained. It is the immoral action of a nation of people that have been told for 35 years that the government endorses this practice without restriction. That can be changed.

Human Nature Up for Grabs [SK]

Human-animal embryo creation gets the green light in Britain.

The government has overturned its proposed ban on the creation of human-animal embryos and now wants to allow them to be used to develop new treatments for incurable diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's....Scientists would be allowed to grow the embryos in a lab for no more than two weeks, and it would be illegal to implant them in a human.
The story concludes with this misleading statement:

But the new proposal would not allow the creation of "true hybrid" embryos, which would involve fertilising a human egg with animal sperm or vice versa.
Truth is, you can create human-animal hybrids without animal sperm or human eggs (or vice versa). The story itself mentions one of those ways--removing the nucleus of an animal egg and replacing it with a human cell--otherwise known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or cloning.

Gee, thanks. What a swell story to ponder as I leave for a short vacation.

HT: Drudge

GOP Base Betrayed, Again [SK]

That's how Kate O'Beirne described the new immigration deal, which grants amnesty to lawbreakers:

I just talked with a veteran conservative activist whose group doesn't engage on the immigration issue but who is glum about the expected reaction of the conservative grassroots to the immigration deal. "We'll all be hurt. They'll just stay home," he predicted. "They'll figure they didn't support Republicans in order to federalize education, create a big, new entitlement programs, and grant amnesty to illegals."
Kathryn Jean Lopez is already getting email confirming this sentiment:

Death Ride of the Republican soon as I email this, I'm figuring how to change my California voter registration over to independent. I'm done....

If the current bill passes, I can assure you that hordes of Republican supporters (like me) will not support the nominee in 2008. Say hello to President Hillary.
All the GOP needs to do now is cave on funding destructive research on human embryos and the demolition of the party will be complete.

Congratulations, Steve Wagner! [SK]

He'll marry the lovely Rebeccah Pedrick this Saturday, May 19. Steve is a dedicated pro-life apologist and I couldn't be happier for him.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Debate Proposed by Attention Seeking Media Hound: Flatly Turned Down by Respected Statesman [Serge]

I'm obviously talking about Michael Moore and Fred Thompson here. Great response from Fred.

Planned Parenthood Cares Deeply about California Law [Serge]

Not the law which compels health care workers to report evidence of statutory rape. In fact, this video report by an 18 year old girl reveals a PP worker telling a patient who stated she was 15 to lie about her age in order to have an abortion so she could continue her relationship with a 23 year old.

Planned Parenthood: "If you're 15, we have to report it. If you're not, if you're older than that, then we don't need to."

15-year-old: "Okay, but if I just say I'm not 15, then it's different? So I could just say…"

Planned Parenthood: "You could say 16."

15-year-old: "I could say 16?"

Planned Parenthood: "Yes."

15-year-old: "Okay, yeah. So I would just write 16?"

Planned Parenthood: "Well, just figure out a birth date that works. And I don't know anything."

No, PP has threatened this whistle-blower with legal action for, of all things, violating California laws about invasion of privacy. Their attempt to intimidate this young woman for exposing the truth is vile, disgusting, and a clear indication of their contempt for the truth. Thankfully, it appears that the media exposure that this report will receive will continue to expose them for what they really are.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Difference of Degree [Jay]

This article in the the May 5 issue of World Magazine about forced abortions in the Guangxi Province of China is one of the most horrible examples of when a desire to protect society becomes more important than the value of protecting life. The Chinese incentives to encourage families to have only one child extend to seizing pregnant women guilty of unauthorized procreation and terminating the lives of their unborn children. According to this article, 60 women in 24 hours including one who was 9 months pregnant.

I want to share an extended excerpt from this story. It is truly horrible:

But Wei will need more than get-well gifts to heal from her April 17 ordeal that began around 9 a.m. when 10 Population and Family Planning Commission officials arrived in three cars at her home. During a phone call to the couple's house a week later, Wei's husband Liang told WORLD the officials announced that they would make Wei have an abortion, since the couple had ignored a written warning they received in March to abort the baby voluntarily.

At that time, Liang told WORLD, the couple thought the "penalty" mentioned for having an unauthorized second child would be a fee, as is sometimes the case. Instead, the officials came to their house, stuffed Wei into a car, and drove her to Youjiang District People's Hospital.

At the hospital, officials made Wei lie down in a makeshift bed in a corridor filled with about 20 other distressed women at all stages of pregnancy about to endure forced abortions. Some wept. Next to Wei was 19-year-old Ce Haigan, who was nine months pregnant. She was there because she had no permission to marry her 21-year-old boyfriend—or, by extension, to become pregnant. Another pregnant woman in the corridor resisted. Officials shoved her into a private room.

Soon the 10 officials also herded Wei into a private room. Her husband followed...By 11 a.m.—two hours after the couple was forced to leave their home—the procedure had taken place. It took three injections. The first was for inducing labor. A doctor felt Wei's abdomen for the baby's head, and injected its skull. The second injection contained poison. A third injection also followed, though Liang says he could not remember its purpose. A friend familiar with the medical procedure later told him that multiple injections are necessary when the pregnancy is so far along, well into the third trimester.

I do not have to explain what is so horrible about this story, and there is much more than just this excerpt. The thing that struck me as I meditated on this article for the last few days was that the American that holds to the “pro-choice” position, if they truly believe the arguments they champion, reads this story very differently. The only aspect that can be truly troubling is the loss of freedom of choice represented. The procedures to kill these children are no more gruesome than the acts of violence they characterize as constitutional rights here in the United States. The fact that Wei was forced to do this can be the only troubling aspect of the article.

The difference in position from the American “pro-choice” advocate and the Chinese government is one of degrees, however unpleasant that idea may be to those who hold these views. If a woman wanted to use her freedom and autonomy to take her pregnant body to an abortion provider against the wishes of the father of the baby and the grandparents of the baby and have the unborn child brutally killed, “Pro-choice” Americans would support her right to do so without exception. The reasons for doing so are no different than the Chinese government’s reasons. The only argument is who gets to make the decision. The woman or the government? Both parties agree that the life of the unborn is of secondary importance to economic pressures and possible future hardships as a result of the unborn life being allowed to be carried to term. Both agree that people who are already born are more important than those who have yet to be born. Both agree that killing innocent human life is a solution to their problem.

The pro-life position is of a different kind to the Chinese government's policy. The “pro-choice” position is a difference of degree. If they truly believe what they champion, then much of what moves us in this story leaves them completely unaffected. I am praying that is not true.

Support for Roe? [SK]

From National Review:

After a brief education about what Roe v. Wade really means, public support for overturning Roe and restoring abortion policy to the democratic processes dramatically increases. That's what a recent poll jointly commissioned by the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Judicial Confirmation Network shows.
Get the poll results here.

Summary memo from Ed Whelan here.

My Pro-Life Story [SK]

"How did you get involved in pro-life work?"

I get asked that question all the time, but I've never written about it. After three people asked this weekend, it's time to post something. Here's the very short version.

It all began in 1990. While serving as an associate pastor at a Los Angeles area church, I attended a pro-life talk for clergy given by Gregg Cunningham, Executive Director of the Center for Bioethical Reform. Though less than 10 of us attended, Gregg gave a compelling pro-life talk that included a showing of the video Hard Truth, which graphically depicts abortion.

The pictures blew me away. I had always been philosophically pro-life, but truth be told, my behavior didn't match my rhetoric. I felt badly about abortion but did little to stop it. The images changed all that.

Six months later, I left my post at the church and began making pro-life presentations in local venues. I jumped right into the deep end: My first two events were 1) an assembly at a public school--where I showed the abortion pics--and 2) a university debate with a pro-abortion attorney from the ACLU. By the end of that same year, I was working with Gregg as Director of Education for CBR, a position I held until Summer of 1997.

From October of 1997 until December of 2004, I served as Director of bioethics at Stand to Reason. While Gregg Cunningham taught me to debate and speak passionately, Greg Koukl, STR's President, gave me a seven-year clinic in clear thinking. The principles Greg teaches in Tactics in Defending the Faith should be standard issue for Christian apologists, including those defending the unborn.

In January of 2005, Steve Weimar and I launched Life Training Institute. Unlike STR's focus on Christian apologetics from an evangelical perspective, LTI, because it's specifically a pro-life organization, is more ecumenical. While we think theological distinctions between denominations are important and should not be minimized (we're both Protestants), we're glad to help anyone who's concerned about the unjust taking of unborn human life.

Friday, May 11, 2007

More Strawman Tactics [SK]

I got this response from a reader not happy with my reply to Enyart:

Why don't most of these ministries link to the [SCOTUS ruling on PBA] when they are glorifying it? CRTL does in their summary so you can read it for yourself. It has been 40 years of child killing in Colorado, I ask you what is wrong with evaluating strategy?
The problem isn't with evaluating strategy. Everyone agrees we need to do that from time to time. The problem is that you, Enyart, and James C. have yet to state what your exact strategy is, why you think you can reasonably implement it at this time, and why those of us who support an incremental approach are to blame for millions of deaths. You make lots of strong claims and support none of them. That's the problem.

Moreover, we are not "glorifying" in the SCOTUS ruling (another strawman on your part). We are making sober judgments about what can be done in light of it. If Enyart's point had been more modest--"Hey folks, not everything is rosy with SCOTUS and PBA and we've got lots of work to do"--I'd be the first to agree. No one that I know in the pro-life movement thinks we've won a major victory. And yes, we all recognize a majority of judges went to great rhetorical lengths to insist that abortion rights remain secure.

But it doesn't follow from this nothing good can come from the decision. True, we shouldn't glorify the SCOTUS ruling; instead, we should make sober judgments about what can be done in light of it. For starters, we must distinguish between the language of the judges (i.e., their legal blatherings) and the actual premises they put in place with their ruling, premises which can be a help to us in the future. For example, the Court ruled the Federal PBA Act 1) is not void for vagueness, 2) does not impose an undue burden, 3) does not require a "health' exception, and 4)is not facially invalid--meaning the Court is no longer inclined to have special ad-hoc rules favoring those who challenge abortion regulations.

As I said in my initial reply to Enyart, point #4 is most important in my view. Hadley Arkes explains its significance:

In a piece last January in First Things (“The Kennedy Court”) I anticipated that Kennedy would try to resolve the case in the most limited way by simply rejecting the decisions in the lower courts to strike down a law on abortion in a “facial challenge.” In most cases, a facial challenge will be accepted only when there appear to be no conceivable circumstances in which the law could be constitutional. With laws on abortion, however, the situation is inverted: The federal judges have been willing to enjoin the enforcement of these laws in facial challenges if there is any conceivable circumstance in which the law might be unconstitutional. Kennedy has now made it clear that this inversion of the law has been ended, and that is no small point: It means that laws on abortion will be allowed to work, to have their effect; that they will not be struck down flippantly on the basis of airy speculations offered by people who object to having abortions restricted. The laws would not be challenged then unless there is a concrete case of someone actually denied an abortion that could clearly be tested.
As Arkes points out in another piece, big results often follow from small legal victories.

Finally, the reader says we need to re-evaluate strategy--by which I think (based on previous emails) she means incremental strategy. Fair enough. But before you blame that strategy for millions of deaths, you better step up and refute the mounting evidence suggesting that very strategy is saving lives, not losing them. For a summary of that evidence, go here and here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Straw Men and Ad Homimem Attacks Do Not Make a Debate [Serge]

In the comments following Scott's post here, Bob Enyart challenged Scott to a debate on Theology online regarding pro-life strategy. Both Pastor Enyart as well as commenter james c have been given numerous chances to respond to Scott's post, and both have declined.

Jay has given some excellent responses that I don't think I can improve on, although I will add a few comments at the end:


I appreciate your passion for this issue, but I caution that your comments have no spirit of debate. Why would anyone want to debate in a forum where one side is accusing the others of a failed strategy that you seem to hold responsible for all of the deaths by surgical abortion?

Point 1 - Bob claims in his literature that Dr. Dobson once held a position that he agreed with. Dr. Dobson amended his own tactics, to the displeasure of you and Bob. But why did he amend those tactics? You accuse him of falling away from the “Godly strategy” and into a heretical form of legal positivism. The moral debate over that position aside, I have yet to hear you articulate how that former position was yielding positive results prior to Dr. Dobson's apparent switch in strategy.

Point 2 –As you have yet to express your tactical plan, I can only assume that you champion the civil disobedience approach of Operation Rescue given your association with that organization. As Rescue has been active the entire time, how do you account for the failed advancement of the cause under those tactics. The incremental approach is only one tactic that is being used. Other tactics have either equally failed or equally share in the successes, of which you claim there are none.

You have yet to address the points that Scott made in a post that already exists. No need to wait until a formal debate to articulate your position beyond accusing others of miserable failure and laying the entire body count of abortion on those who are fighting in a manner that you disapprove. It is not constructive and it fails to intellectually address any point of stated contention. It will be much easier to assess and understand your claims that Scott is all wrong and that you and Pastor Enyart champion superior tactics when you present your actual positions.
Also read Jay's other comment, which is excellent and is only omitted here for the sake of brevity.

Ad hominem arguments are one's that do not address the points that have been made, but instead attempt to paint one's opponent in as poor light as possible. Unfortunately, it seems that this is the tactic that both Bob and James have chosen to use in their interactions here. Furthermore, it is instructive to check out this page regarding the rules at Theology Online
4. Thou SHALL NOT call other TOL members names without cause. Appropriately identifying the wicked is not only allowed but encouraged.
One should always be able to make their argument based on the substance and not having to resort to name calling of any sort. The fact that this is not only tolerated but encouraged by this forum says a lot about it. Furthermore, "identifying the wicked" by name calling is a very interesting Christian concept. As human beings affected by sin, we are all in a sense "wicked". Identifying each other as such may be accurate but I'm not sure that what they are talking about. Human beings also have views and ideas that, in themselves, are wicked. It is very important to identify and refute such views, but that is most effectively done by confronting them and using evidence and logic to challenge them. Name calling is not only not necessary, but is often fallacious.

Scott is his own man, but agreeing to debate an individual who seems reluctant to respond logically regarding the points that we have already addressed, and is prone to misrepresenting his opponents views and encouraging "name calling" in their forum, would not be fruitful. Maybe I will be defined as wicked by that forum, and those members will be encouraged to call me names identifying me as such, but I am committed to the search for truth. I sincerely hope they are also, and welcome more interaction on this forum with them.

Why Reduce Abortions? [SK]

William Saletan writes, "It’s time for the abortion-rights movement to declare war on abortion…"

How, by talking bad about the procedure as you fight every reasonable restriction against it?

Isn't this a little like the tobacco industry declaring war on smoking? It sounds great until you actually try and ban the sale of cigarettes. Only then will you discover just how pathetic (and empty) the declaration truly is.

Other People's Pictures [SK]

At a pro-life presentation last year, an evangelical pastor was quite willing to let me show graphic depictions of abortion to his church youth group but refused to allow those same pictures in the adult worship service at which I was speaking. He was genuinely glad the kids were seeing abortion for what it was, but no way was he going to allow adults to view those same images. "Our people are different and your pictures won't work."

Well, I heard those same exact words today, from another group of spiritual leaders.

I call this the "our people are different syndrome" and it's the most common excuse used by gatekeepers afraid to show abortion for what it is. I remember three years ago a major Christian journalist chiding the media for not showing pictures of abortion--saying, in essence, "why won't you show the truth?"--while, at the same time, he and his wife served (at various levels) a major pro-life organization that categorically rejects the use of those same pictures because they are (allegedly) inappropriate for Christ-honoring pro-life ministry.

Meanwhile, Steve Weimar tells how pastors in the Colorado Springs area once jumped on board to vocally support a graphic pro-life film on the local FOX affiliate but many of these same clergy refused to show the film to their people. The pictures were fine--just not for folks attending their worship services.

This, despite the fact that one in five women who abort identify themselves as "born-again, evangelical" Christians. This despite the fact that these same pastors were quite willing to bus truckloads of their own people to view Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"--arguably one of the most graphic presentations ever put on screen.

But when it comes to abortion, God forbid our pulpits take the lead in showing truth. We're told churchgoers are too weak to handle looking at unjustice--unless they happen to see it on FOX.

Equip Yourself to Defend Life [SK]

Want to make a case for Life?

Steve Peroutka, Chairman of The National Pro-Life Action Center, interviews me about that question in this video clip.

Here's an edited description of the interview:

Scott states: “We live in a culture today where people think that religious and moral truth claims don’t count as real knowledge. Therefore, when a Pro-Lifer says “Hey, I think elective abortion is wrong because it takes the life of a defensless human being,” our secular critics hear “Hey, he doesn’t like chocalate ice cream, but I happen to like it. Who is he to impose his preference on me?” In other words, they mistakenly think that we’re talking about something we like or dislike rather than something we believe is right or wrong in an objective moral sense. So our job is to clarify the moral logic of the Pro-Life view.”

Note: Scroll down for the video player. To save it to your hard drive, right click on the video screen and select "save target as."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

That Slope Sure is Slippery [Jay]

A friend of mine e-mailed this story in the Telegraph about the most recent move by the British medical community to selectively screen embryos for genetic defects that could present a problem in the life of the human being in question. The latest development is the request to screen out embryos that exhibit a genetic predisposition toward congenital fibrosis of the extramacular muscles which would cause a severe squint and necessitate several corrective surgeries. As quoted in the article:

“The businessman he is treating has undergone six operations with only marginal improvement.”

I posted on this idea of screening embryos to address serious medical condition as “cure” for genetic diseases and drew a comparison to those who champion abortion as an effective means of addressing poverty. What strikes me as alarming is how fast the definition of “problem” has moved from an embryo exhibiting a lethal disorder, to an embryo exhibiting the possibility of a future disorder or predisposition towards health problems, to possible genetic flaws that cause emotional trauma but are not life threatening.

This quote is particularly troubling:

“A spokesman for the HFEA said: "We give consideration to any couple who come to us through a clinic.

‘We judge each case on its merits, and it would depend on the severity of the case and the effect on the family. The experience of any parent living with a condition would be taken into account."

Here is what they are saying. If an embryo exhibits a possible predisposition toward a genetic disorder or trait that they share with their parent, and the parent emotionally struggled with this characteristic, the doctors will “screen out” that embryo so that the future child does not have to suffer as their parent did. This is not good.

Wesley Smith posted on this as well and he points out the selective breeding aspects of this new eugenics. I knew a woman who bred champion boxers. When an “all white” boxer was born the standard practice was to kill the newborn puppy to prevent the mutation spreading and to guard against the future health problems associated with “all whites.” This is exactly what we are doing with this process. We are just doing it to a very early embryonic human being as opposed to a newborn puppy. The slippery slope is moving fast.

There is one important distinction that has to be maintained. The vast majority of selctive breeding is through hand picking the dogs that exhibit the traits you wish to see in the next generation and mating them. Embryo screening is looking at the genetic structure and predispositions of embryonic humans and terminating the lives of the ones that do not measure up. That is what the terms "screening" and "discarding" mean. What the heck, they never knew they were human beings so we can do what we want right? They were small and only a few days into their life, so they do not count. We are doing them a favor by killing them early before they become aware how bad their lives are. Ask any physically challenged individual and they will tell you they would rather not be alive, right? Human beings only matter when they are older, larger, and less flawed. That is so obviously superior to allowing sick children to be born and have to suffer. Especially when the parent knows how bad life can be with the disorder in question. God help us.

I would like to contrast this reality to an opinion voiced in an article I found written in November of 2004 on MedicineNet. The quoted text from this article:

"The use of the technology to prevent disease is wonderful. ... When you're preventing lethal and horrible disease in children, it's a good use," Art Caplan, PhD, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics, tells WebMD.

"But when you get into hair color and freckle selection, that's a whole different story," Caplan says. "In our market, whatever you can pay for, you can do. We don't have [a regulatory agency] here to stop us from going where money and bias can take us. The prospect for a slippery slope has been handled in England because they have built stairs."
(Emphasis Added)

It sure does look like it has been handled. There is no slippery slope in England to worry about.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Dr. Francis Beckwith's Return to Rome [SK], without question, the biggest weekend news in the theology/apologetics world.

Beckwith, who until May 5 was President of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), resigned his position after disclosing his return to the Roman Catholic Church.

Frank describes his transition as follows:

During the last week of March 2007, after much prayer, counsel and consideration, my wife and I decided to seek full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. My wife, a baptized Presbyterian, is going through the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). This will culminate with her receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. For me, because I had received the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation all before the age of 14, I need only go to confession, request forgiveness for my sins, ask to be received back into the Church, and receive absolution.
Although the ETS board had yet to ask Frank to step down, he concluded it was in the best interest of the organization to resign his post now rather than wait for his term to expire.

Let me be clear that the LTI site is not a theological blog (we deal primarily with bioethics), so I will limit my thoughts to these three points:

(1) Frank remains my friend and colleague and I look forward to our continued work fighting to protect innocent human life. Though I am not clear on the theological reasons for his move (he's yet to fully explain them), his contribution to the arena of Christian worldview and apologetics is enormous and I don't expect that to change. No one, for example, has done more to put the pro-life view on solid intellectual footing than Frank. I hope my fellow evangelicals will treat him charitably even as they carefully examine (as they should) the theological reasons for his shift.

(2) As for myself, I'm strongly committed to the five Solas of the Protestant Reformation:

Scripture alone
Christ alone
Grace alone
Justification by faith alone
For the glory of God alone
Since I was asked earlier today to comment specifically on justification by faith alone (in light of Frank's move), here's what I affirm. Justification is a legal declaration by God the Father whereby my sins are pardoned and Christ’s righteousness is applied to my account. Justified sinners are not made righteous with an infusion of holiness; they’re declared righteous solely because of the sin-bearing work of Christ on their behalf. Justification is about my status before God: I am no longer condemned because Jesus, as my substitute, both paid the penalty for sin and lived the life of perfect obedience God requires. Put differently, justification is a matter of imputation: My guilt is imputed to Christ; His righteousness is imputed to me. William Hendrickson explains:

“Justification is that act of God the Father whereby he counts our sins to be Christ’s and Christ’s righteousness to be ours (2 Cor. 5:21). It is the opposite of condemnation (Romans 8:33). It implies deliverance from the curse of God because that curse was placed on Christ (Gal. 3:11-13). It means forgiveness full and free” (Romans 4:6-8) .
Who, then, can bring a charge against God’s elect? Paul’s answer is clear: No one can. For it is God who justifies (Romans 4:5; 8:33). It is His gift, completely undeserved, so that no one can boast. In short, we can’t add to our justification. It’s already a finished work.

(See, for example, Romans 3: 26,28; 4:5; 8:30, 33. For the sources used in the above parapgraphs, see Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999, pp. 968-973; James R. White, The God Who Justifies, Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001, pp. 31, 63-123; Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000, pp. 722-732; John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to fight for Joy,Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004; William Hendrickson, The New Testament Commentary: Galatians, Grand Rpaids: Baker, 1989, p. 98.)

(3) As I've repeatedly stressed on this blog, 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 one 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. Thus, even if I disagree with Frank's theology (and I probably will), there is absolutely no reason for me or any other evangelical to stop working with him to promote social justice in the culture.

That's all I have to say for now. If you want more evangelical responses to Beckwith's decision, you can check out Frank's blog, this piece by Carl Trueman, and postings at Triablogue.

Update 5/7: Stand to Reason also has a post here.

HT: Justin Taylor, James White

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Enyart's Straw Man [SK]

Nice post on PBA. I especially like your reply (in the comments section) to readers who champion the Enyart piece. Like you, I am not impressed with his take. The biggest problem is he attacks a strawman. Almost no pro-life leader I know ever said the PBA ban, by itself, would reduce abortions. Rather, we supported it because 1) It puts important premises into our legal system that need to be there for future legislation, and 2) It's a great public education tool that brings home the inhumanity of the abortion act. Both those things are needed if we are to progress further.

Regarding #1 above, the three most important from my perspective are these:

A) For the first time ever since Roe, the Court upheld a law which restricted abortion, though I agree the law does little to protect unborn children right now. Still, the upholding of ANY restriction is an important first step legally. Prior to 1998, 30 states passed laws prohibiting PBA. In all but two states, federal judges threw out the restrictions as unconstitutional. Now, with this most recent SCOTUS decision, state lawmakers will once again be emboldened to propose new limits on abortion.

B) The upholding of the ban suggests the right to an abortion is not absolute, nor can it be supported as such by appealing to the Constitution. That sends an important message to state legislators around the country.

C) For the first time, the Court upheld a bill that did not contain a "health" exception. (The bill had a "life" exception--a very different thing.) Thus, the Court chipped away at the ruling in Casey, Carhart, and Roe/Doe. Perhaps even more importantly, the Court rejected the "possible worlds" argument put forth by pro-aborts. That argument simply said that if ANY possible (not plausible) objection could ever conceivably be raised regarding the Constitutionality of an abortion restriction, that restriction should be thrown out. Up till now, that's exactly what the federal courts have done. Not any more. That's a nice step forward for our side. (Hadley Arkes says more about that in his excellent NR piece.)

Regarding #2, our opponents hate PBA legislation precisely because it works against them, not for them. They've said so from the start of the PBA debate. Pro-abortion columnist Anne Roiphe writes: "The anti-abortion forces will again display horrible pictures of the technique, which they call partial-birth abortion. Although few in the abortion rights movement take this approach seriously, it has emotional resonance and erodes public support for all abortion." (“Moment of Perception,” New York Times, September 19, 1996.)

She's not the only one to fear the visual impact of the debate. "When someone holds up a model of a six-month-old fetus and a pair of surgical scissors, we say 'choice' and we lose," writes feminist Naomi Wolf. (“Pro-Choice and Pro-Life,” The New York Times, April 3, 1997.) Later, in a 1998 article in George Magazine, Wolf states: "The brutal imagery, along with the admission by pro-choice leaders that they had not been candid about how routinely the procedure was performed, instigated pro-choice audiences' reevaluation of where they stood." As a result, "the ground has shifted in the abortion wars." ("The Dead Baby Boom," George Magazine, January 27, 1998.) Cynthia Gorney, author of Articles of Faith, a book about the abortion wars, says that serious damage has been done to the pro-abortion side. "One of the dirty secrets of abortion is it’s really gruesome, but nobody would look at the pictures. With partial-birth, the right-to-life movement succeeded for the first time in forcing the country to really look at one awful abortion procedure." (Cited in Larry Reibstein, “Arguing at a Fever Pitch,” Newsweek, January 26, 1998.)

The quotes from Wolf, Rophie, and Gorney are critically important. The abortion rights people are conceding their weakest point and we should listen. They are terrified of any debate over abortion procedures. That's not the ground they want to fight on. (If anyone doubts abortion-choicers hate anything that visualizes abortion, look no further than Serge's recent debate in KC.)

If Enyart, et al, haven't seen "Amazing Grace" (the story of William Wilberforce), they should. There's a great scene where Wilberforce wines and dines some members of parliament, then takes them on a cruise up the river to see a slave ship. The sight and smell were revolting and sickened everyone. Though his incremental approach had years to go before achieving ultimate success, Wilberforce's visit to the slave ship--a modest first step that didn't save one slave that day or even the next--eventually helped right the British Ship of State.

I think we're doing the same thing here with PBA.

Ultrasounds and Informed Consent [Serge]

JivinJ posted this in regards to the pro-abortion response to William Saleten's article. Ex-Edwards campaigner Amanda Marcotte has this to say about the concept of informing a woman about what she is about to undergo:

If you don’t know that an abortion removes a fetus from your body, why on earth would you be getting one? As a general rule, when you request that a doctor relieve you of an unwanted intrusion, you have a fairly good idea of what that intrusion is. Is there a danger of people getting cavities drilled who don’t know what a cavity is and what it does to your teeth? I think that most of us are even more familiar with the process of pregnancy, what it does, and what the results are than we are of cavities, yet no one is suggesting that we need to have dentists show pictures of the cavity to us and ask us if we really understand what’s happening when it gets drilled.

But men get cavities, so that sort of thing would be insulting to their intelligence and sense of self-determination.
Well, I don't fix cavities, but I very frequently perform third molar surgery, a procedure which has a good number of similarities to the abortion procedure (except for that intentional killing of a human being thing.) I perform surgery on both men and women, so her charge of sexism in regards to what is shown to a patient does not apply.

It seems reasonable to believe that the decision to have an abortion is more serious than the decision to have your wisdom teeth out. Marcotte assumes that we simply assume that patients know what a dental procedure is and the only reason women are being informed of their abortion is that we believe they are unintelligent. Well, you can be the judge.

Every single patient who is referred to our office is first scheduled for a consultation appointment. During this appointment, they fill out their paperwork, have a digital x-ray taken, and then view a 15 minute flash presentation about their upcoming surgery. This presentation is (a sample of which is here) goes through in detail regarding the surgical procedure, reasons for the procedure, potential risks both of having the surgery and not having the surgery done, as well as general descriptions with diagrams of the surgery itself. After viewing this, I examine the patient, and their x-ray is shown to them in detail. I discuss their particular anatomy and some of the potential risks in undergoing wisdom teeth surgery. We then talk about anesthesia and then they make their appointment for surgery (which is always on another day for elective cases.)

I have never met anyone who thought the process was "insulting to their intelligence" (regardless of their sex) . In fact, most patients are very happy to have that information. Many replay the presentation at home. Very rarely, I will have a parent ask that their child not view the video, because they do not wish to have their child "scared" about what I am going to do. My response is that if someone is old enough to have the procedure done, they are old enough to know what is going to happen to them.

The question is this: if abortion is a far more serious decision than having wisdom teeth out, should we not expect abortion doctors and those involved in this procedure to be even more diligent in giving their patients information regarding their upcoming procedure? If not, why not? Requiring doctors to offer viewing an ultrasound to a patient is a helpful first step.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

PBA, Ultrasounds, and the Left [Jay]

This article by William Saletan posted at The Slate on Saturday and published in the Washington Post on Sunday demonstrates the possible fruits of Gonzales v. Carhart. It is important to note that Saletan is a “pro-choice” journalist who can not be accused of pumping up the possible ramifications of the recent SCOTUS decision to celebrate a non-victory for the pro-life movement. Some claim that Gonzales v. Carhart is worse than nothing, while others are cautiously optimistic that this provides the opportunity to engage this issue with a new judicial terrain. Conversation has been started on the judicial level, and that fact could very well lead to good things.

The threat to Roe v Wade is not lost on Saletan, and he is a man who has thought and written a geat deal about this issue. The Supreme Court declared that partial birth abortion, or infanticide if you are a Greg Koukl fan, is too terrible to allow. Ginsberg asks what is the difference between PBA and the alternatives that remain protected?

"[T]he notion that either of these two equally gruesome procedures … is more akin to infanticide than the other, or that the State furthers any legitimate interest by banning one but not the other, is simply irrational," she wrote.

Ahhh, that is the question isn’t it? What is the difference? We want that question hanging in the air. Once we say that one procedure is so terrible that it must not be allowed the questions come naturally. If PBA is so terrible, what about the alternative procedures?

Saletan points out the power that ultrasound bills could have in this fight:

Partial-birth abortions, the court reasoned, could be banned because they occur outside the woman's body. Other abortions need not be outlawed, since the womb conceals them.

Ultrasound dissolves this distinction. It offers to make every fetus and every abortion visible. It forces the court to renounce either the partial-birth ban or the right to abortion.

If our arguments are sound then discussion and information are on our side. We want dialogue. We want serious questions about science and philosophy being asked in every branch of the government as well as in the media and at the water cooler at work. Honest discussion and factual information are our allies. Saletan again:

Pro-lifers are often caricatured as stupid creationists who just want to put women back in their place. Science and free inquiry are supposed to help them get over their "Love affair with the fetus." But science hasn't cooperated. Ultrasound has exposed the Life in the womb to those of us who didn't want to see what abortion kills. The fetus is squirming, and so are we.

As to the objections that the ultrasound bills unfairly guilt women?:

Critics complain that these bills seek to "bias," "coerce," and "guilt-trip" women. Come on. Women aren't too weak to face the truth. If you don't want to look at the video, you don't have to. But you should look at it, and so should the guy who got you pregnant, because the decision you're about to make is as grave as it gets.

I can not explain why the decision is so grave in his mind if the unborn are not human beings, but this is the type of material that you want to be able to quote when pro-aborts argue with you. Supportive statements from those who agree with the pro-abort position. For those still convinced that Gonzales v. Carhart is somehow meaningless pay attention to those who want to protect legalized abortion on demand. They are trying to tell you something. They are troubled by the shift of the judicial winds, and that is good news for those of us that want to see this horror behind us.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Why Should We Limit Abortions? [Serge]

As I was preparing for the debate last week, I realized that virtually all of the sources that I was using to support my argument came from either neutral or pro-abortion choice sources. One of the most powerful arguments that I presented that was not answered by Dr. Jonas did not come directly from me, but from Catholics for Free Choice President Francis Kissling. Francis asks this important question in Salon Magazine:

If abortion is a morally neutral act and does not endanger women's health, why bother to prevent the need for it? After all, the cost of a first-trimester abortion is comparable to the cost of a year's supply of birth control pills -- and abortion has fewer complications and less medical risk for women than some of the most effective methods of contraception.
I asked this question right after Dr. Jonas claimed that women's reproductive rights were being threatened because there were less and less physicians willing to perform abortions. If women's rights can be strengthened by having more physicians performing abortions, then why attempt to make them rare? Is it a problem if a woman simply chooses to forgo contraception and chooses to have an abortion every year? If it is a positive expression of her rights, why not? How about women who have abortion for sex selection? How about abortion to increase one's athletic prowess, as East German women were reported to do?

If abortion is a morally neutral act, why are these situations not celebrated? If the right of abortion is an absolute right, and one that women's rights are intrinsically hinged upon (as we continually hear after Gonzalez v Carhart), why question these situations?

Maybe one day I'll hear a coherent answer to this question.