Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Bit of Experience [Jay]

In the film The Shadowlands, C. S. Lewis describes facing the fact that his wife Joy has cancer as merely coming up against a bit of experience. My father is on a respirator and has been unconscious for over a week. He abused alcohol his entire life and has been in decline for a year and a half, but the onset of this episode was so sudden and devastating that my family has been forced to confront the possibility of his imminent death. My cell phone is working a permanent groove into my head right now, and I seem to have little time to read and write about daily happenings in the world of bio-ethics.

That said, I wanted to share something. One of my sisters and I were discussing my father’s condition. The doctors had tried to ease him off of the respirator to see if he could breathe on his own, but his respiration rate accelerated and it became clear that without aid from the machine he would stop breathing all together. The doctor told me they would try again today and see if it went better. My sister asked me, “How many times will they do this?”

“What?” I asked in response.

“How many times will they try to take him off and fail before they stop trying?”

There it was. I write about this stuff all of the time and talk about it to the great irritation of anyone who disagrees with me, but now my family and I were sorting these issues out for real. I am the official next of kin on record, so ultimately the doctors will look to me to provide answers. How hard will we try to preserve his life? How long will we fight? What is left of the man I once knew?

The fact that I have so thoroughly thought these matters through is of great comfort to me right now. His physicians are not oracles who inform me when my father’s life ceases to be of value. It is easy to see how we can make that mistake, though. Some people in my family are not so prepared and they hang on every word the doctor’s utter as if it will settle the terrible question that haunts us all. “Is this the end?” I have tried to calm the storm of misinformation and competing diagnosis that fly through the ether in the never ending barrage of cell phone calls by assuring everyone, “The doctors can’t answer that yet. They are telling us all that they know, but they do not know everything.”

It is my opinion that we do a disservice to the medical professionals by asking so much of them in this area. They should be free to diagnose and treat my father. I am then free to hold his hand and pray for him. I can reassure him while he sleeps that no matter what he has done to his body through alcohol abuse, no matter what he has done to our relationship through the choices he has made, his son never ceased to love him. And I will continue to love and cherish him as long as I live.

Never have the stark differences between medical/scientific knowledge and spiritual knowledge been so painfully and glaringly apparent to me. The doctors and medical professionals will give me a full assessment of his physical condition and prognosis. Then we, my father’s family, will make our decisions. They have their job, and it ought not to include telling us when our loved ones cease to matter.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Consequences of Choice Absolutism [Serge]

This was a very thoughtful article in the Nation regarding the future of "reproductive freedom" in the wake of future technological advances. The author correctly identifies a real dilemma among those who believe that reproductive choice is absolute. What do we do when such individual choices begin to effect society at large? If so-called "reproductive choice" is an absolute right, then how do we deal with choices that are detrimental. His solution, shockingly enough for a pro-choicer, is government regulation of the process!

Current technologies such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis [PGD] and sperm sorting--and possible future technologies such as cloning and germline modification--will enable parents to make decisions that greatly affect gender balance, disease burdens, genetic diversity and the genes of humans themselves. In order to address these new possibilities adequately, we will need to find a way to regulate some choices while maintaining existing reproductive freedoms.
In the article he argues that choices such as sex selection, screening for specific genetic traits, or even the eradication of some genetic diseases should be regulated (which means prohibited) even if such choices can be performed via the process of sperm and ovum selection. In other words, a mother would maintain the right to kill her prenatal child, but would be prohibited from manipulating her and her partner's gametes to conceive a child without a certain disease trait. This is very interesting thinking. The author then begins to sound like a pro-lifer:

So what is the appropriate response to these current and future issues? The most reasonable solution is regulation. Progressives are understandably wary of regulating anything related to reproductive decision-making. But an unregulated fertility industry is even more unappealing. Certain unregulated individual reproductive choices in a market system could easily lead to undesirable societal outcomes, particularly because individuals would be unlikely to sacrifice perceived benefits to their children for the seemingly abstract concept of the common good.
Undesirable social outcomes? Common good? Restricting one's individual reproductive choices for the common good because individuals will be unlikely to make right choices? The whole concept of "reproductive choice" is thrown into the waste bin.

These are things that our side have been saying for years. Unrestricted reproductive choice has already resulted in significant social and societal changes that have harmed the common good. Trumping one's right to dismember their pre-natal human being as an absolute has resulted in the situation we have now.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Tour Through Fallacy Land [Serge]

I just got back from a great camping vacation with my family - so my apologies to the commenters that did not have their comments moderated for a while. Thanks also for Jay and his hard work here in our absence.

Jay linked to this post regarding the beginning of human life. It has always amazed me that those who purport to use rational science and reasoning to support their position often do so in fallacious means. In these paragraphs in the middle of his post, he uses three different logical fallacies.

For one, any time someone suggests life "begins" you know that you're no longer talking about a biological problem but a moral or theological one. It is not a biological problem as life does not "begin" with each round of human reproduction. Life is continuous. Sperm are alive, and eggs are alive, and life has been a continuous stream of living organisms begetting more living organisms since it began in some form some 1 billion years ago. The appropriate question isn't whether life "begins" but rather when should we care?...

Logical Fallacy: Equivocation

The phrase "life begins at conception" is basically an abbreviated version of "the life of an individual human organism begins at conception". It is true that life "began" a number of years ago, and no one in these bioethical debates questions that. The question is when an individual life begins. The author of the post must know this, but avoids the question by equivocating on the word "life".

But one could then argue, the fusion of the egg and a sperm is a "new" life. This isn't a great distinction either for a few reasons. For one, that would also make each egg and sperm that went through recombination and meiosis new life since they don't have a gene complement identical to their parent cells. So would cancer be "new" life. Just because something is new, doesn't create a valid argument, in my opinion, for its value or personhood.
Logical Fallacy: Straw man argument

This one is very common. The author assumes that the pro-lifer believes that it is the mere presence of "new" DNA which confers value or personhood on an entity. The problem is that no pro-lifer that I know of makes this argument. The presence of "new" DNA is neither a sufficient (as the author points out) nor a necessary (in the case of twins) condition for a new human organism. He is taking out an argument that we do not make, and avoiding the one that we do.

The best argument they have is that the embryo is a "potential" life - but is it really? Some 50% of fertilized eggs fail to implant, of those 50% that implant, the spontaneous miscarriage rate is about 10%. So 45% of the time fertilization might lead to a viable fetus. It is potential life, but there's already a great deal of waste of this kind of life that no one sheds a tear over - probably because they realize that it's not really a person being lost. Sperm and eggs then have potential of leading to a viable fetus too, what then makes the fertilized embryo more special? The higher probability of viability? What probability of forming a life then confers the value of personhood? Where is the threshold? Is wearing a condom then robbing sperm of their vital probability of making a new life equivalent to abortion? (some would say so - most would not)

Either way, an embryo that hasn't been implanted doesn't really represent a new person, as it only has about a 45% potential of becoming life.
Logical fallacy: Begging the Question

You may notice a straw man argument there also, but I'm sticking with the format. To beg the question is to assume something that you need to support with evidence. Here, the author simply assumes that an embryo that has not implanted is not "life" until it does implant. Not only does this assertion beg the question, it is demonstrably false.

I also wish to point out that he is using a horrendous argument. Lets say that someone is in a bad motor vehicle accident and he is given a 20% chance of surviving the night. He only has a 20% potential of being a live human organism in the morning. What does that fact say about his status at this time? Would anyone argue that the patient that they are working on is less than a human being because he does not have a great chance of not surviving? No way.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Life Does Actually Begin Part 1 [Jay]

Recently, I have read opinions that the beginning of biological life is either a fuzzy proposition or as Dr. Mark Hoofnagle asserts here is not a true beginning at all. I am still working on a response, but Wesley Smith posted a comment under this post at Second Hand Smoke that I thought was pretty right on all by itself. He is responding to a comment that “the beginning and ends of human life are not bright lines but complex processes.”

I am posting the comment in its entirety with Wesley’s permission:

The "complication" does not come from biology, but from philosophy, ideology. Biologically we know when a new human organism has come into being: it is upon the completion of the fertilization process in which the new organism has its own genome and is a unique, discrete, integrated individual. And don't talk twinning: That is merely one of the potentialities possessed by the unique organism for a period of time in its development. Indeed,if twinning occurs, then there are two unique organisms. But the capacity to twin does not mean that the embryo is not a living organism.

Death too is a biological process in which this organism ceases to operate in an organized, integrated fashion. In other words, even if there are still some cells that are alive, after death, it is not an organism any longer. (Thus, if you remove the heart and it keeps beating, this does not mean that the heart is a living organism. It is merely a heart that can beat for a time. Similarly, the fact that hair grows for a bit after life ceases, does not make the cadaver alive since it is not acting as an integrated organism.

We complicate what constitutes the beginning and end of human life for reasons of utility and ideology. (Ironically, this is generally done by people who claim the mantle of rationality and as defenders of science.) We want to be able to engage in ESCR, and so we say that embryos are really only pre-embryos that are mere chemical processing cell bundles. We want to harvest organs, so we say that a PVS patient is really dead.

But these arguments aren't scientific. Indeed, it is postmodern biology--a corruption of science--because the biological facts don't matter, or better stated, get in the way of what we want to do and get a good night's sleep. So, we adhere to the narrative instead of the facts.

The questions of birth and death, biologically, is not really all that complicated which is why I would trust a plumber with these matters far more than a Ph.D.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Out Till September [SK]

In addition to nursing a damaged knee back to health (an old basketball injury, I think), I've got to finish up some manuscript writing and catch up on some essential reading before my Fall speaking schedule carries me away. Thus, other than reading what Serge, Jay, and Bob have to say, I'll mostly be out of the blog zone until September 7.

Till then, be sure you pre-order Frank Beckwith's new book (available August 31) Defending Life. I think it will set the standard for every pro-life book that follows.

You can read a sample chapter here. (HT: Jivin J)

A Good Resource [Jay]

Here is a link to an animated slide show that demonstrates what the process for extracting the stem cells from an embryo and SCNT involves. Many people worry that those of us who are opposed to ESCR and SCNT only do so because we are hopelessly ignorant or idealogical. If they can educate us we will be more receptive to this field of research.

So look at the slide with the blastocyst sectioned to illustrate the trophoblast and the inner cell mass. They may fairly ask me, "Are you saying that mass, that clump of cells, is a human being deserving of rights? Does it look human? Does it possess the qualities that we associate with persons? It is a clump of cells!"

Here I think we hit a snag in differing world views. As I understand the natural rights that I have, they are unalienable and endowed to me by my Creator. My stance is "illogical" to the naturalist because all rights are assigned through government. The naturalist is asking me if I bestow rights on that clump of cells.

The answer is obviously not. I believe that all human beings have a natural right to life that neither I nor our government gives them. I believe that the lump of cells is a human being in the very early stages of development. I fail to see how the number of cells, cognitive ability, or relative size of an individual determines how I am to morally treat them as human beings.

So, yes. I do in fact look at the inner cell mass and the trophoblast and say that it is a human being. I have read several intelligent and articulate people who disagree with that belief, understood their arguments, and walked away from the experience still not convinced that the embryo is anything other than a human being. Many people have made clever arguments that it is not, but I have yet to hear much in the way of what exactly constitutes a human being if we disqualify the embryo.

Natural Rights v. Concocted Rights [Jay]

Mike @ Really?!! wrote this piece on what constitutes the source of our actual rights and how the programmatic and positive rights, those rights that are established by law to satisfy some injustice that we intuited, come afoul of our natural rights, as expressed in The Declaration of Independence. Full disclosure, Really?!! is my blog that I started to put everything that I do not feel fits the LTI Blogs stated purpose. It includes everything from the sublimely stupid and pointless to pieces like this one by Mike. Also, Mike and I discussed this piece prior to his writing it. Mike studied the social programs of F. D. R. and the basis of our rights as his thesis in his Masters program studies at the University of Virginia. He feels very passionately that the government of the United States ought to be restricted in its access and control of our personal lives.

After writing this piece on Planned Parenthood, I was terribly bothered by the clear conflict of the two different types of rights. It is obvious to me that programmatic and positive rights often sound good in theory, but can run afoul of other rights in enforcement and application. Lets grant Planned Parenthood only the noblest of intentions in protecting and preserving the prescribed Constitutional right of every woman to have access to safe abortions for the purposes of this discussion. Lets also set aside the issue of the unborn and their humanity for the moment as well. So stipulating, there is ample and mounting evidence that the “right” to abortion is hopelessly flawed in that the preservation and protection of that right forces us to sacrifice the right of young women not to be sexually abused by their fathers or older men. Even if PP operated out of the best intentions imaginable, we have to start to ask serious questions about what we are willing to throw away to protect the privacy rights of women in the area of abortion.

I will draw out two examples to compare. (1) The presumption of innocence in the criminal justice system that allows guilty men to go free in order to protect the innocent from unjust incarceration. (2) The absolute right to abortion and personal bodily autonomy that creates an environment where sexual abuse goes unreported or uninvestigated. Obviously, you could do a great deal of work on this subject so I will try for brevity here.

“It is better that 100 guilty men go free than 1 innocent man be incarcerated.” People that fled governments that abused their citizenry with unfair prosecution and punishment way out of proportion to the crimes built this ideal into our criminal justice system. If you have read Robert Zacks’s The Pirate Hunter, then you get to see a good example of when a government unfairly prosecutes someone without legitimate due process as is illustrated by the trial of Captain Kidd and others in the book. I challenge anyone to read this book and others that detail the abuses of the criminal justice system and not walk away with a renewed appreciation and understanding of the presumption of innocence. Do you want the government to be able to arrest you for a crime and suppress all of the evidence of your innocence? Can we imagine that people were executed for stealing the pants of rich men? Would we empower our prosecutors to change the legal process in the midst of the case to make it impossible for people to present a legitimate defense? No one wants guilty people to go unpunished for criminal actions. We just hate the idea of innocent men and women rotting in prison more.

Now, take this logic and apply it to abortion. “It is better that 100 young women be secretly sexually abused than for 1 woman to be forced to have a child she does not want.” Before someone’s head explodes at reading that and accuses me of being unfair please recognize the following:

(a) It is a fact that the presumption of innocence has allowed people to get away with crimes because of insufficient or unjustly collected evidence.

(b) It is a fact that the efforts to protect the right of every woman to have an abortion has created an environment where the circumstances of conception are a secondary issue, including when 15 year-old girls seek abortions and get them with no investigation into the circumstances.

The two negative and unintended consequences are unavoidable. In case (1), the sacrifice seems acceptable. People ought to be punished, but every person has the natural right to live free of tyranny and unjust prosecution. A guilty person going free is a miscarriage of justice. Prosecuting the innocent without due process is violation of their natural rights. Case (2) does not feel right. It does not sound right. That is because we see the natural right of women to live free of sexual abuse in competition with the “right” of a every woman to get an abortion. When the primary interest of our government or institutions becomes the protection of the invented right to abort the unborn, then the zealous protection of that right and provision of the service runs afoul of things that ought to be of greater importance. The overwhelming majority of abortions are performed for elective reasons. That means they are not necessary. It appears that we are unintentionally making it more difficult to investigate and prosecute sexual abuse to protect the rights of women to do something they do not HAVE to do. Women and children should NEVER be sexually abused. As much as it is possible, we OUGHT to ALWAYS seek to protect women and children from this morally impermissible action. Even if you wish to argue that abortion is morally permissible but not advisable, you have to honestly look at how the practical application of that belief is playing out.

I am not saying that abortion is immoral because it creates this environment. Abortion is immoral because it terminates the life of an innocent human being for elective reasons. Abortion on demand already runs terribly rough shod over the natural right to life of the unborn. That the concocted right to abortion is also bumping up against other rights that ought to be more vigorously defended is only further evidence that it is not a legitimate right at all.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wake me Up from the Planned Parenthood Nightmare [Jay]

Is it just me, or does Planned Parenthood seem like some kind of crazy nightmare sometimes? I have mentioned before that in my capacity as a fundraiser I look at the charitable giving trends of foundations and organizations. It is always disappointing when I find an otherwise fine organization sending large amounts of money toward an outfit as odd as Planned Parenthood. Lets go over some of the recent Planned Parenthood fun shall we:

In June, they demonstrated that it was entirely possible for a 15 year-old runaway to become impregnated by a 41 year-old dog trainer and go to Planned Parenthood to get an abortion without any red flags being raised and anything being reported. The 15 year-old was later found by the police “in a hidden storage space under a set of stairs.”

In May, they advised a pro-life activist that pretended to be a 15 year-old impregnated by a 23 year-old to lie about her age on her admission forms. They also agreed to forget the conversation disclosing the actual age.

A different counselor at a different facility assured the same activist that if she had to do it all over again, she would have gotten an abortion when she was 17. Gee, thanks mom! (World Magazine June 9, 2007 p62-63)

In May, a Cincinnati branch was sued because a girl that had been sexually abused by her father for 4 years was brought in for an abortion. After the procedure when her father could not be hovering over her any longer, she allegedly told a clinic worker of the pattern of abuse in an effort to get help. Response from Planned Parenthood?. NOTHING. (World Magazine June 9, 2007 p62-63)

Now, this Jill Stanek article on WorldNet Daily finally finds something that outrages the people of Planned Parenthood into action. On July 6, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt signed legislation into law mandating that the four abortion facilities in Missouri raise their clinic standards to the level of other medical practices. That is too much for this group to stand idly by and take. Planned Parenthood may be willing to look the other way and not ask questions when it comes to sexually abused children, but they will not just sit back and allow Missouri to demand they act like a medical clinic.

What are the “onerous” demands being made by Missouri? Read the article by Stanek and see. The list is so basic that it may astonish you to learn that Planned Parenthood claims it would cost them $2 million dollars to bring one of their facilities up to this standard. Stanek asks a fair question, how terrible is this place that it takes $2,000,000.00 to upgrade the conditions to minimal medical clinic standards?

We could tell Planned Parenthood stories all day, and they would be funnier if they weren’t the true stories of an abortion machine that is heavily funded, highly profitable, and often allowed access into public schools. It is a shame that they are also taxpayer supported and oddly protected from media scrutiny. Make no mistake, I use the word shame in the strongest sense of the word. It is perhaps telling that even the word shame no longer carries the negative connotation it once did.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What Happened to Editors? [Jay]

This opinion piece by Dr. Sarah Prager printed in the Seattle Post Intelligencer is another example of bad editorial control when it comes to publishing articles on issues concerning bio-ethics. Dr. Prager claims that post-abortion syndrome does not exist. Period.

I have no idea whether this opinion was solicited or whether Dr. Prager submitted her article for publication, but somewhere along the line a mistake in judgement was made by the editorial board of the Seattle PI. Let me explain. Suppose I want to submit an article to my local paper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Pause for laughter) All right, I submit my idea to the person responsible for screening such articles. I want to do a paper on the psychological effects of abortion on women. It is my belief (for the purposes of the illustration) that all women suffer from post-abortion stress syndrome and those that claim not to lie. It is my considered opinion and I do work in a ministry where other people counsel women who have previously had abortions. Should I be printed? Well what is the goal? If the goal is to offer the readers of the AJC expert or unusually informed opinions on subjects outside of the expertise of the journalists that comprise the editorial board then absolutely not. I do not work in this specific field of psychological study and my knowing people that do does not make me an authority.

Perhaps the editorial gatekeeper then considers the Op/Ed piece based on the strength of content alone. Dr. Prager does site specific studies that support her strong and unbelievably universal claim that , “Abortion does not cause women to sink into despair or suffer long-term psychological problems.” Doesn’t she? Does she?

Paragraph 1 – “You won't find a scientific or medical description of it anywhere because it is not real” (No citation given there)

Paragraph 2 – “There is a large body of medical literature proving that the majority of women who have abortions suffer no negative medical or psychological consequences.” (None there)

Paragraph 3 - “Research by the American Psychological Association supports that claim, finding that 76 percent of women report feeling relief after abortion while only 17 percent report feelings of guilt.” (Ah, research. Where I can I find that again?)

Paragraph 4 – “Pregnant women who make informed decisions about abortion are no different, and usually feel just fine about their choice.” (Okay, still looking for a citation)

Paragraph 6 – “Abortion does not cause women to sink into despair or suffer long-term psychological problems.” (That has got to be backed by…nope. Still nothing.)

Paragraph 7 – “In this case, the weight is on the side of extensive research, which has shown repeatedly that the syndrome doesn't exist.” (Extensive research. That is much more impressive than the word research flying solo earlier, but still no citation.)

So the editorial board has an article that makes a minimum of 6 strong assertions and supports these claims by the strength of the repeated use of the word “research” and some stray statistics from a person who is not by profession an expert in the field in question.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says, “Why not! Sure let’s run with it! You’re an abortion provider? Even better! No conflict of interest there. Don’t worry about giving us actual sources to support your claims. Your use of the word research is strong enough for us.”

Without getting into the issue of PAS, this is a bad move. That is providing the editorial board wants to offer informed opinions to the readers. If they just want to stir the pot a bit, then print whatever nonsense you want. Credibility is not as important as it used to be in journalism.

For the record, Dr. Prager, at best you are making an argument that PAS is not universally suffered by women who have abortions. I am surprised that a woman as supportive of "women's rights" is so quick to angrily dismiss the felt experiences of so many other women. You certainly do not have the material evidence to do so.

JivinJehoshaphat tries to help her by actually citing a source on her statistics, but he points out even there Dr. Prager is misleading or misled. Take your pick.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Where is Black Leadership on Abortion? Right Here! [Jay]

Dr. Alveda King, the niece of the late Martin Luther King Jr., is spearheading an effort to move the NAACP toward a pro-life position. I had previously addressed the disproportionate impact that abortion had on the black community in our country and wondered why more leaders, both spiritual and political did not champion this issue. Dr. King is doing something and needs to be supported. A quote from the article:

"The NAACP has always been about justice," said Dr. Alveda King, pastoral associate of Priests for Life, the nation’s largest Catholic pro-life organization. "Today, there is no greater injustice facing black people than abortion.”

And also:

“[T]he national leadership of the NAACP needs to address what abortion has done to the African American community and our nation as a whole,” stated King, “even if it means making some people in high positions uncomfortable."

The article names others involved in this push within the NAACP. There are people out there in every circle pushing the issue daily. This is encouraging and I joyfully post good news when it crosses my path.

Amnesty International’s Puzzling Neutrality [Jay]

This article by Ryan T. Anderson at The Weekly Standard discusses Amnesty International’s unpublicized resolution on abortion. They condemn any nation that does not provide an abortion alternative to women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest or to any woman whose life or health is threatened by the pregnancy as violators of human rights. If they categorize lack of abortion alternatives as a human rights violation, they are inescapably declaring that freedom to choose abortion is a human right. This is not neutrality on the issue of abortion and the life of the unborn.

I have had a hard time taking Amnesty International seriously for years now. My disillusionment began when I compared the lists of the United States' violations of human rights versus Cuba. It was a bit disturbing that AI seemed to view our nation as so much more dangerous to human rights than the Fidel Castro regime. This was several years ago, but I have never looked at the AI symbol the same since.

Anderson stresses the mistake that AI makes in declaring abortion a human right, however tacitly they are doing so. It undermines all of the coalitions that existed between them and the Catholic Church. In fact here is a snippet of the public announcement exchange:

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, the Council's president, Renato Cardinal Martino, said that "individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support," since "by pushing for the decriminalization of abortion as part of their platform, Amnesty International has disqualified itself as a defender of human rights."

Response (Partial and includes editorial comments from Anderson) from AI:

Amnesty International--unlike the Catholic Church--exists to "protect citizens including the believer but [it does] not impose beliefs." Its work--unlike religious believers'--is all about "upholding human rights, not specific theologies." Its argument--unlike the pro-life one--"invokes the law and the state, not God." The statement ended with a pompous lecture that warned the Catholic Church "not to turn away from the suffering that women face because of sexual violence and urged the Catholic leadership to advocate tolerance and to respect freedom of expression for all human rights defenders, including Amnesty International, just as Amnesty International will continue to defend the freedom of religion."

But they take no position on the life of the unborn. Yeah, right.

I will post more on a comment that Anderson makes in reference to the pressure that can be placed on women to get abortions by outside forces in cultures that protect abortion as “right.” This is something that has burned me for a long time as man at a CPC.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Pressure to Sell [Jay]

This article from ABC Science Online discusses the growing problem of poor women from nations with less restrictive laws on selling their eggs for research purposes being exploited to satisfy the incredible need that SCNT and embryonic stem cell research creates for usable eggs. I am always interested in the unintended consequences that can arise from the desire to cure and heal those afflicted with illnesses. Some horrible things have been done to people in the past in an effort to further medical science. I think it is a mistake to think that one must be intentional in their efforts like those of Mengele or the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Males to create a scenario that fosters injustice.

The focus of this article is on the dangers represented to women through egg extraction.

Waldby says in recent years there has been trafficking of ova from women in Eastern Europe.

One Romanian clinic has bought eggs from really poor women, she says.

"The clinic was paying them about US$200 a procedure, which is about two months' salary for these women."

One study found some women were repeatedly selling their eggs to pay for rent, clothes and even cigarettes, says Waldby.

In 2004, UK authorities banned the purchase of eggs from the clinic. There were concerns the clinic was not telling women about the risks involved, or looking after them when things went wrong, Waldby says.

Removing eggs involves multiple hormone injections and a surgical procedure.

Some of the Romanian women developed ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which involves painful abdominal inflammation, possible renal failure, infertility and cardiovascular problems, says Waldby.

Great news for the women in the U.S., though. Unlike Australia and the U.K., selling eggs is perfectly legal and potentially profitable:

She says at least one US company has been set up specifically to procure eggs for the biotechnology industry, paying women around US$4000 per "donation".

This is despite a US National Academy of Sciences recommendation against the use of purchased eggs for research.

The drive to create scientific advancement for the purposes of ending all sorts of illnesses is creating an environment that encourages poor people to sell parts of their body. They are so encouraged because people who have money will not donate them or sell them for whatever reason, and the poor, by nature of justifying that title, need money more than others. As a Christian, I have an inner alarm that goes off when I notice that something is disproportionately impacting the poor. We now have evidence that the current research environment is not only based on the principle that one innocent life can be unnecessarily sacrificed without consent to benefit another, but that additionally has the lovely unintended consequence of encouraging poor people to sell their eggs for profit without consideration of the represented physical risks. The promise of a beautiful disease free future delivered through SCNT & ESCR just sounds better and better all the time. Once we get done killing people and exploiting the poor, we will really have some good treatments.

Civil Disobedience, Rebellion, and Property Destruction [Jay]

In reference to the vandalism against George Tiller’s abortion facility in Wichita, Kansas, I asked the question, “Is this civil disobedience?” I will tell you that my considered reaction is still that this is vandalism pure and simple and not a tactic I am comfortable with in defending life. I e-mailed Wesley Smith of the Discovery Institute and Second Hand Smoke to get his reaction, as I know from a previous exchange that he has thought about this issue at length. His reply is posted below:

“Such acts are not civil disobedience. They are mere criminality. CD is when one openly violates the law and then openly accepts the legal punishment as an illustration that a law is unjust. Taking the law into one's own hands is mere vigilantism. It cannot be supported in a society based on the rule of law--no matter how odious the target.”

This echoes e-mails I have received as well as my own opinion. I have read quite a bit about various social and political movements in the past and various leaders of different protest groups. I have done focused studies on Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, and Malcolm X. (I define a focused study as having read multiple books and articles on a particular subject over a prolonged period of time, so that it was not a momentary interest) I share that so that my opinion can be cast into the context of someone who is familiar with how things have been done in the past.

So why ask the question at all? If I know that I am against such action, why give the impression that I may condone it as well. Let me be clear, I do not condone such action and think that those who vandalized the property ought to be punished under the law for what they did.

Now, here is the rub. The two things I am most uncomfortable about this vandalism are that it was done with the intent to (a) destroy property with (b) the hope of not being caught. Classic civil disobedience involves direct violation or open protest of an unjust law to bring the resulting punishment in an effort to demonstrate the injustice of the law in question. Gandhi illegally made salt from the Indian Ocean and was arrested. Black Americans were beaten and arrested for sitting at the counter of a restaurant or publicly gathering in protest. The peaceful submission versus the brutal enforcement of an unjust law draws the evil of the law in question out so that everyone can see it. Vandalism fails this test.

But what about pure rebellion? I can think of two situations in American history that are celebrated today which face similar objections as the vandalism of Tiller’s facility. (I have been alerted to the supposition that Tiller himself is behind this vandalism in an effort to destroy documents that would incriminate him in his current legal problems. Obviously, all of my discussion assumes that this is not the case and that the facility was vandalized by pro-life individuals) The Boston Tea Party and the Underground Railroad both have elements of (a) an attack on property and (b) the hope or effort to not be caught.

On December 16, 1773 a large group of American colonists dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded ships in the Boston Harbor and dumped 90,000 lbs. of tea into the water in protest of the favored tax treatment of the East India Company. Benjamin Franklin condemned the action and many people on both sides saw it as criminal destruction of property. But Gandhi reportedly saw a natural connection between his Salt rebellion and the Boston Tea Party.

During the days of institutional slavery in the United States, churches and civic leaders participated in the Under Ground Railroad, a system of secret hiding places for escaped slaves that served as stops along a route to Canada or sometimes Mexico. This was a highly criminal act, especially after the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. All of the operatives were working in secret. It seems the height of crassness to refer to the slaves as property now, but that is exactly what they were under U.S. law at the time. The Underground Railroad did not seek to destroy that "property" only to deny the "owner" what was not his right to own. It seems reasonable that historical perspective may be equally unimpressed with Mr. Tiller’s claims that his killing machine operated on private property.

I do not for one second equate this flooding with those two incidences of history, and you are free to offer in the comments why my comparisons are flawed in some manner that I have not noted.

I can immediately condemn this action as pure vandalism and criminal destruction of property, but I must also be willing to concede that such things have happened before. It was criminal. It was also non-violent. It did not threaten or harm the lives of anyone and it did stop the Tiller killing machine for a moment. I don’t like it. I am not comfortable with it. I do not condone it. And yet there is this nagging problem I must confess, my complete and total lack of outrage. I offer it as proof and evidence of nothing in evaluating the right and wrong of this vandalism. It just is what is.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Tiller's "clinic" flooded [Jay]

George Tillers “clinic” was vandalized. The vandals trespassed onto the property, drilled holes in the building, ran a hose to the roof and flooded the place. Is this civil disobedience? I believe Tiller is closed down today, no one was hurt, and the action did not represent a threat to surrounding establishments as fires and bombs do. I know it is vandalism, as I know the perpetrators, if caught, ought to be punished. The core principle of civil disobedience is the willingness to face punishment by violating or opposing unjust laws. I will post more on this later, but here is the link to the local news. Take it for what is worth.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Why the Last Name, Jay? [Jay]

If you care, I added my last name because I have a sincere distaste for anonymous attacks or comments and I finally decided that using only my first name was effectively anonymous. Not that the revelation of my last name will immediately send people all over the country slapping their heads and saying, "Jay is Jay Watts!" At least when I mention another person by name in my posts they can know the identity of the accuser. Also, I thought it looked odd the few times that other people have attributed quotes to me on other sites when they wrote “Jay @ LTI said…”

Jay Watts at LTI says, “That’s not cool.”

A Modest Proposal [Serge]

I was intrigued by this post at the RH reality blog addressing the problem of sex selection abortions in India (HT JivinJ). I am interested in reading all of the author's future posts on this topic, and her take is quite an improvement from that blog's past attempts at this topic. It seems the defender of abortion rights has a challenging set of principles to address that are very much opposed. For instance, the pro-abortion choice position states:

1. The fetus that a woman carries is not a human person.
2. Because of #1, the fetus has no rights, including the right not to be killed for any reason.
3. Therefore, women should have the fundamental right to procure an abortion for any reason they see fit.
4. Once they are born, human beings are human persons, and thus should not be intentionally killed for any reason.
5. Therefore, infanticide is wrong

The author also addresses the "overpopulation" problem in India, and surprisingly seems to support the coercive two child policies that have drawn much criticism. Not willing to compromise on her pro-abortion choice argument, she understands her dilemma in regards to sex-selection abortions. She states:

While the agency of the woman in choosing to keep or terminate a pregnancy is unquestioned, how does one deal with this if it means termination of a pregnancy because of sex? And this is truly the irony of the situation: an argument meant to empower women and their bodily sovereignty can so easily be used to hijack the idea of agency for the woman while also wiping out a fifth of the female population of the country.
I can't wait to see how she intends to reconcile these two opposing arguments. I don't believe it is possible. However, I have a proposal that I believe solves this dilemma. My solution is completely consistent with the pro-abortion choice position. It also addresses the other two issues here: it will help to avoid infanticide as well as help with the population problem in India. I believe this proposal is so consistent with the pro-abortion choice position that I challenge anyone to come up with an argument that does not use pro-life principles to refute it. It is very simple.

The government should encourage sex-selection abortions!

If sex selection abortions in India became more widespread, it would not only confirm a mother's right to choose abortion, but would also help "solve" the infanticide and population problems. Infanticide would be decreased because there would be no reason to wait until the child is born to get rid of them. A mother, after considering the personal and financial burdens of having a girl child, could kill her before she reached the "personhood" stage. The fact that she does not have identical burdens if she carried a male child should have no bearing on her choice. The so-called "need" for female infanticide would then be averted.

Similarly, the population issue would be addressed, not be coercive means, but by natural biology. With less women available to become mothers, there will eventually be a natural decline in births, and thus a natural decrease in population over time. Furthermore, the women who were lucky enough to survive the prenatal period would be free to have as many children as they wish - without government coercion of any sort. True reproductive freedom at last!

One may object to the social ramifications that would result from such a skewed male/female ratio, but I believe this objection would be out of bounds. After all, pro-lifers have for years pointed out the negative social ramifications from legal abortions, only to have our concerns dismissed in favor for the "fundamental right" for abortion. The same should apply here.

Of course, as one who is committed to the intrinsic value of human life, this "modest proposal" is abhorrent to me. Sex selection abortions are wrong for the same reason all other abortions and infanticide are wrong: they intentionally kill a innocent human being. However, I await to see how our opponents respond to this. Simply stating that "it is complicated" will not do.

Monday, July 2, 2007

What "Ban" are they talking about? [Jay]

I had a meeting last week with the Chairperson of the Board of Directors at the CPC at which I am employed. As is often the case with people who run companies, she was unexpectedly detained. As I sat in the waiting room and read a magazine about Georgia business, I came across an article about Dr. Steve Stice at the University of Georgia. Dr. Stice is one of the worlds most respected and accomplished scientist in the field of biogenetic research including cloning and embryonic stem cell experimentation. He is working with the University in conjunction with his private company to develop, among many other things, the first line of commercial products to sell to other labs that helps multiply the stem cells that are extracted from embryos into the billions.

In the article (disclosure, I forgot the publication and have had no luck finding it on the internet) Dr. Stice discusses the challenges of raising money to do this research in a conservative state like Georgia and the desire of his donors to see tangible results. He is quoted as saying that although they, his research team, are very excited about what they are seeing in the lab, the people financing this research are starting to tap their toes and look at their watches awaiting actual usable treatments. His response is that these treatments may be five or possibly ten years away.

Here is my point. The hysteria over President Bush’s recent veto and the “ban” on embryonic stem cell research does not mesh with the story that I read. Dr. Stice is working at the flagship school in the University System of Georgia, receiving all of the support that he needs to work at the highest level in his field and produce a series of accomplishments that make him the envy of other scientists the world over. The article said that the University of Wisconsin (another state school) was actually trying to lure him a way with an incentive package that would convince him to move his research and his private company there. I have serious moral and ethical concerns about some of what this man does, but I fail to see how the current research restrictions have hindered his abilities or cost people lives. Even one of the most successful and brilliant researchers in this field is admitting that the actual therapeutic products of this research are, at best, years away. That admission comes from the man who has patented and is now marketing a process of multiplying stem cells to answer the “terrible problem” that these researchers face in a shortage of usable human embryonic stem cells.

What ban? Why are people dying as a result of the veto? How can those who continue to carry on with this ridiculous rhetorical hyperbole get so many unchallenged opportunities from the media to sell this nonsense? The most disturbing fact of all is that the truth behind the hysteria is not the potential cures, although I am certain that is what motivates people like Michael J. Fox. More and more the actual impetus behind all of this is being clearly expressed. New Jersey is borrowing $450 million; Wisconsin is attempting to lure Dr. Stice, California is pulling out all the stops, and the Democrats and Republicans both are fighting for their constituencies because no one wants to fall behind in the race for profitable patents. Other nations, other states, other people will make more money than us and be ahead of the curve in this brave new world of bioengineering. That is why it is impossible to stop and ask the ethical questions before we wade into this mess. It is not the sanctimonious desire to see all illnesses cured. The scientists and politicians are acting like rabid fans of The Who at a general admission concert. There are prime seats to be had and you simply do not have a moment to spare and find out what that is you are trampling on as you fight for front row seats at the greatest show this week.

Hold at all Costs [SK]

I love visiting Civil War battlefields. It's my way of connecting with heroic men who put their lives on the line for ideas that mattered.

Next time you're discouraged doing pro-life work and want to retreat, you may want to ponder the exploits of Lt. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who on this date in 1863 made military history on a small hill known as Little Round Top.

Location: Gettysburg, PA.

Briefly, Chamberlain's 20th Maine was ordered to hold its position on the far-side of Little Round Top and to do so "at all costs." This was no easy task: His regiment, 1,000 strong less than a year prior, was now down to just over 200 men. Yet hold he must, because if driven from his position, the Confederates might seize control of the hill, thus obtaining a possible platform for reigning cannon fire down on portions of the Union line.

Without delay, Chamberlain's men took up defensive positions and within minutes were under fierce attack from much larger Confederate forces from the 3rd, 4th, 15th, and 47th Alabama brigades, as well as from the 4th and 5th Texas ones.

For nearly two hours, Chamberlain's men bravely repulsed charge after charge.

Then the unthinkable happened. They ran out of ammunition.

Chamberlain knew he couldn't retreat, so in one of the most gutsy moves in military history, he ordered his men to attach bayonets and charge the on-coming enemy. Caught totally by surprise, the Confederates either fled or surrendered. Thus, Little Round Top was saved (not only by Chamberlain, but also by regiments from New York and Pennsylvania who held their positions as well) and though some historians question the strategic importance of that small hill (wrongly, I think), none can challenge the bravery of the men who fought defending it.

(See the inspiring re-enactment of Chamberlain's charge from the movie Gettysburg here.)

May those of us standing for unborn human life take a lesson from history and strengthen ourselves with a good dose of Chamberlain's courage. Lives depend on it.

PS--the picture of Chamberlain's charge above is by Mort Kunstler and it's framed on my office wall.