Tuesday, December 15, 2009

LTI Podcast #23 - The "Cool"cast Part 1 [Serge]

LTI Podcast #23 - The "Cool"cast part 1 After determining that Rich lacks the coolness that such an episode demands, Jay takes over hosting duties and is joined by special guests Megan Almon of LTI and Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason. They discuss the concept of "cool" and how it applies to the pro-life movement today.

In what is clearly the most uncool segment of this "cool"cast, Rich also comments on a recent article claiming that believers tend to make God in their own image when considering their moral beliefs.


Monday, December 7, 2009

LTI Podcast #22 - The Stupak Amendment [Serge]

Life Training Institute Podcast #22 - The Stupak Amendment

The Stupak amendment is being hailed as a great pro-life victory - but is it possible that pro-lifers just enabled one of the worst bills ever to pass the House of Representatives? Scott returns to the roundtable with Rich and Jay to discuss this and other issues related to Obamacare.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Worldview Course for High School Students [SK]

Since August 31, Jay Watts, Megan Almon, and yours truly have been teaching a one-year course in apologetics at a Christian school co-op. Here's a rough outline of what we covered this semester (we modified a few things to match student ability), along with a peak of what is coming next semester.

Semester #1: Foundations--Five Questions to Answer Before College
(Scott Klusendorf, Jay Watts, Megan Almon)

Books: Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture; Ken Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth Claims to the Worldview Test; Jonathan Morrow, Welcome to College: A Christ Follower's Guide for the Journey.

Introduction (August 31): Jay Watts sets the stage w/ a role play (“Jay the atheist”)

Question I:. What Makes Humans Valuable? Resolving Debates over Abortion, Embryonic Stem Cell Research, and Cloning.

Session #1: Clarifying the Debate Part 1 (Case for Life, introduction and pp. 19-47)

Session #2: Clarifying the Debate Part 2 (CFL pp. 50-88)

Session #3: Establishing a Foundation Part 1: Name my Claim (CFL, pp. 91-110)

Session #4: Establishing a Foundation Part 2: Does God Matter? (CFL, pp. 111-133)

Session #5: Establishing a Foundation Part 3: Is the Bible Silent? (CFL, pp. 135-145, 205-224)

Session #6: Answering Objections Persuasively Part 1: Columbo Tactic (CFL, pp. 149-171)

Session #7: Answering Objections Persuasively Part 2: Bad Ways to Argue (CFL, pp. 173-201)

Question II: Is Truth True? Why Relativism and Postmodernism Can’t Explain Our World

Session #8: The Case Against Post-Modernism (Handout plus Welcome to College, pp. 19-59)

Session #9: The Case Against Relativism (Handout plus WTC, pp. 62-70, 111-116 and Koukl/Beckwith "Relativism" DVD)

Question III: How Do I Get Out of the Hotseat?

Session #10: Columbo Tactic Revisited Part 1 (Handout and workbook provided by teacher)

Session #11: Columbo Tactic Revisited Part 2 (Handout and workbook assigned readings)

Question IV: Does God Matter? (Or, Am I Just Matter?—And Why Does it Matter?)

Session #12: Debate: “Does God Exist?” Part 1: Craig vs. Hitchens (WTC, pp. 97-125, 143-149)

Session #13: Debate: “Does God Exist?” Part 2: Craig vs. Hitchens (Handout)

Question V: Resurrection: Fact or Fiction?

Session #14: The Case for resurrection--Did Christians borrow the idea of resurrection? (WTC pp. 127-142, CFL pp. 125-30)

Session #15: What 1 Cor. 15 Teaches us About Resurrection

Here's a sneak preview of the reading topics for next semester:

Semester #2: Confident Christianity: Can My Faith Compete in the Real World? (That Is, How Does it Stack Up Against Other Worldviews?)

The Big Idea: In addition to teaching the basic rules of logic, Ken Samples explores the Christian worldview then evaluates it in light of four competing views: 1) naturalism, 2) postmodernism, 3) pantheism, and 4) Islam. He uses up to 9 distinct tests to assess each worldview:

1. Coherence test: Is this worldview logically consistent?
2. Explanatory power test: How well does this worldview make sense of reality?
3. Existential test: Does this view adequately address the internal needs of man?
4. Balance test: Is this worldview properly balanced between simplicity and complexity?
5. Correspondence test: Does this worldview correspond with empirical facts and a person’s experience in the world?
6. Verification test: Can the central truth claims of the worldview be verified of falsified?
7. Pragmatic test: Does the worldview promote relevant, practical, and workable results?
8. Cumulative test: Do multiple lines of evidence support this particular worldview?
9. Competitive competence test: Can this worldview successfully compete in the marketplace of ideas?

Table of Contents:

Part 1: Developing a Worldview Perspective:

1. Shades of Reality (What is a worldview?)
2. Testable Truth (How to evaluate worldviews)
3. Logic 101 and Christian truth
4. Straight thinking (How to avoid fallacious thinking)

Part 2: Exploring the Christian Worldview:

5. A Christian Vision of Truth, Knowledge, and History
6. A Soldier’s Creed (Essential Christian doctrines)
7. God’s Written Word—Scripture (How we got our Bible, etc.)
8. The Historic Christian View of God
9. God’s World—Creation and Providence (and why those ideas impact everything else)
10. The Historic Christian View of Man
11. The Historic Christian View of Moral Values

Part 3: Evaluating Worldview Competitors:

12. Naturalism: A Secular Worldview Challenge
13. Postmodernism: A Skeptical Worldview Perspective
14. Pantheistic Monism: An Eastern worldview Perspective
15. Islam: A Radical Monotheistic Challenge
16. Testing the Christian Theistic Worldview

In addtion, we'll do selected readings from Jonathan Morrow, Welcome to College: A Christ Follower’s Guide for the Journey (Grand Rapids: Kagel, 2008):

1. Preparing for Campus Life
2. Think Christianly: Cultivating a Christian Worldview
3. Getting Theological: Knowing and Loving God
4. Blinded by Faith?
5. Can we Know Anything at All?
6. Wanted—Seekers of Truth
7. A Moral Disaster: Why Moral Relativism is a Bad Idea
8. True Tolerance: Tolerance Just Ain’t What it Used to Be
9. How to Read the Bible (Supplement w/ Koukl’s booklet)
10. Can I Trust the Bible?
11. Knowing vs. Sharing Your Faith
12. No Apologies Needed
13. The Existence of God: God is There and is not Silent
14. Do All Roads Lead to God?
15. The Problem of Evil and Suffering
16. Thirty One Flavors of Jesus
17. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?
18. Science Rules!
19. Designed or Not Designed?
20. Dealing with Doubt
21. Good News to Share

(We’ll also consider selected readings from chapters 22 through 42 as needed, as well as supplemental STR and Reasonable Faith material.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Surrender is Not an Option: The State of the Health Care Debate [SK]

Regarding last Saturday's Senate vote to allow debate on Reid's health care bill, I posted the following over at the blog of Doug Groothuis:

I share your frustration, but the legislative battle is by no means lost. As former Senator Rick Santorum points out, the vote to move forward with debate was inevitable. No majority party is ever going to deny their leader the chance to debate his very own bill. I agree with Santorum: Conservatives put way too much emphasis on this one vote, thus demoralizing our troops when debate was allowed.

However, just because members vote to allow debate does not mean they will vote to close it. In this case, four members of Reid's own party are on record saying they will not vote for cloture on the current Senate bill and Lieberman has said "no way" will he allow a public option. Meanwhile, liberal Dems are saying they will scuttle the bill if it doesn't have one. To make matters worse, Ben nelson has said "no" to any bill that allows abortion funding while many of his lefty colleagues have said "no" if it doesn't. Thus, Reid has a real mess on his hands.

Personally, I think Lieberman is the key. If he is telling us the truth that a public option in any form is unacceptable, the current bill is dead. Nelson might be swayed into going along with a Capp's style amendment (which, unlike the Stupak language, does NOT foreclose on abortion funding, but pretends to), but that still leaves Reid with the Lieberman problem on his right, and the fanatical lib problem on his left.

But let's suppose the bill does get out of the Senate. You still have 19 Dem House members on record saying they will vote against it if the Stupak language is removed. That's precisely why Pelosi had to allow it in the first place.

In short, this thing is not over. Surrender is not an option. Please pass the word along.

PS--Doug's blog is stellar, so please check it for updates.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Fat Chance

One of the most promising scientific advancements of the last few years in any area of research has been the success of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPS). We have talked about it (here) before but, as a reminder, IPS harvests adult skin cells from the patient who requires therapy and induces those cells to return to pluripotency -- a state from which they can be coaxed into becoming almost any other kind of cell. The therapeutic value of pluripotent cells is enormously encouraging.

The beauty of this kind of research is that it honors the concerns of everyone involved in the debate on stem cell research. Not only does IPS show therapeutic promise but, more importantly, it does so without causing the morally troubling destruction of human embryos. For that reason IPS truly is the kind of win-win solution that anyone concerned about bioethical issues should be seeking.

And the future just got brighter.

In August, Stanford University surgeon Michael Longaker and cardiologist Joseph Wu teamed up to induce pluripotent stem cells from a quart of fat they had extracted from a liposuction patient. That’s right, these two researchers found a way to turn fat into a stem-cell therapy. Not only so, but transforming the fat cells into IPS cells took just 20 days -- as compared to the 8 weeks it took to do the same from skin cells -- and the process yielded 20 times the number of IPS cells.

Here’s what bothers me about this story: I read about it in the December issue of Popular Science magazine.

With the exception of a one-paragraph blurb in U.S. News and a short news release from Reuters, I could not find any mention of this breakthrough in the mainstream news media. I certainly did not hear or see any politician from either party tout it as a new way to seek common ground on the bioethical battlefield. There have been no news conferences called to announce federal funding for a program that will seek to promote this kind of therapy. I haven't even heard funding of this research offered as an amendment to the health care bill.

It is a mystery to me how anyone who is dedicated to promoting cures for disease, who cares at all about the destruction of human embryos, or who is truly seeking any kind of "common ground" where these issues are concerned, could fail to revel in a story like this one and shout about it from the mountaintops.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Life Training Institute experienced many changes in 2009, but most of that change was felt behind the scenes. Starting on January 1st of 2010, the growth will be visible for everyone to see.

Scott has a vision for a larger ministry, and we are striving to meet this challenge. In addition to all of Scott's materials currently available, the new site will be adding full articles in response to questions and updates from the road on presentations and debates. Dr. Rich Poupard (aka Serge) will continue to produce LTI Podcasts, and we are working on plans to build on those with a series focused on an evaluation of the pro-life movement through articles and panel discussions by the LTI team and some special guests. We will also be growing the list of available LTI speakers to include Dr. Rich Poupard, Bob Perry, Megan Almon, and the new Vice President of Development & Communications Jay Watts (that's me).

All of these changes are implemented for one purpose; to serve our community, the church, and the body of Christ by committing ourselves to a fuller realization of the mission of LTI.

We are excited about what the future holds for this ministry. One thing is for certain, under Scott's continued leadership we will strive to produce quality resources for those who are called and convicted to defend the value of all human life.

Friday, November 6, 2009

LTI Podcast #21 - Sex, Lies, and Abortion Part 2 [Serge]

LTI Podcast #21 - Sex, Lies, and Abortion Part 2 In this podcast, Rich, Jay, and Bob continue their discussion about Dinesh D'Souza's article in Christianity Today. Are pro-lifers afraid of sexuality? We also get support for continuing to emphasize the humanity of the unborn from an unlikely source. Rich continues his series on cognitive dissonance by investigating informed consent by minors. You need your parent's permission to leave a school in California to get a beverage, but do not need it to leave campus to get an abortion.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Truth-ly Loving Encounter [Megan]

            The thing about defending the pro-life view is that it’s something you have to always be prepared for, because opportunities present themselves — more times than not — out of the blue.

   Yesterday, it was in a car following lunch with classmates. “Abortion” was spoken, and the assertions began. The first went something like this:  “I already know what I think. It is up to a woman to make that kind of decision, and I’m not going to demonize her for making it.”

            Because I knew this individual to be a professing Christian studying to be a minister, I was surprised to hear that from him.

            My reply was quick, and because I knew him, I felt a little more comfortable making an assertion of my own — thus bearing the burden of proof myself — instead of beginning with a question. I said something to the effect of:  “I agree it’s wrong to demonize someone for making a difficult decision, but I don’t agree that that kind of decision is one that anyone is free to make. The issue is the humanity of the unborn, and it’s wrong to take any human life without justification.”

            He countered with an appeal to his upbringing, a series of tragic circumstances and being passed from foster home to foster home. He said he’d kept up with several individuals he’d grown up with who had been unwanted at birth, and who had fallen into grim realities such as drug and sex trafficking. He then tried to say that such a reality could be avoided with the ability to choose abortion.

            I could have (tactically) asked him to clarify what he meant by this, or (since I’d already set the precedent for the conversation by centering it on the humanity of the unborn), I could have asked what his background and present situations of those he knew had to do with whether or not it’s okay to take a human life. But — again, since I knew him — I felt very comfortable taking a more direct approach. I simply repeated back to him what he said to me.

            Something like:  “Let me see if I understand. You’re saying that on the off chance a child might come into the world unwanted, or might wind up being involved in tragedies like drug and sex trafficking, we should just avoid such possibilities by killing them at the outset?”

            “No! That’s not what I’m saying at all,” was his quick response.

            But instead of explaining, he switched his approach once again, with something like:  “I just think that if Christians are so concerned about saving these unborn children, they should me more open to adoption.”

            Once again, the topic had veered from whether or not the unborn is human. Interestingly enough, such an assertion points to the fact that they are human, and deserving of parents who want them.

            I did not want this man to think I did not consider his background valid and reason to be concerned for children who wind up in such tragic situations. I told him as much. But I couldn’t leave it at that. Let me give my response, then I’ll explain why.

            I said, “I agree with you. Adoption is a good thing that I wish more families would consider. But I don’t really see how that is relevant to our conversation.”

            The conversation ended shortly after, and we parted amicably. I hope, at the very least, he won’t be so quick to assert women’s “right to choose” abortion next time.

            To be in a situation like this — one in which someone brings up something intensely personal and difficult — makes it hard to trudge forward, looking someone in the eye, with the objective truth. If you’re a “soft-hearted” person like me, it’s hard to see anyone frustrated or vulnerable in any way, especially when the subject matter is already uncomfortable for either of you.

            I wanted to speak of what helps me in situations like that. Two words:  truth and love.

            Both truth and love flow directly from God as parts of His nature. But a proper understanding of what that means — the fact that these things deal with God’s nature — shows us that truth and love should not be mathematically expressed when it comes to God. In other words, He is not 50 percent truth, and 50 percent love. He is FULLY both. To say that, however, points to God being 100 percent love and 100 percent truth. That doesn’t make much sense — unless you understand it is, in fact, one of the many paradoxes (two truths that are seemingly contradictory) that make up Christianity and much of reality. Thus, as philosopher and theologian Dr. William Lane Craig said, it might be more fitting to say that God is TRULY truth and TRULY love, much in the same way that God’s Kingdom is already here (introduced through Christ, “The kingdom is in you”) and not yet here (thus we are to pray, “Your kingdom come...on earth as it is in Heaven”).

            My point is, pointing out truth to my friend was a greater act of love than letting him continue on in a false reality of inconsistent ideas.

            To see truth and love in “equal” measure, as both flow from God’s character, helps us as Christians to better be like Christ to others. Sometimes revealing truth, even when it’s difficult, is the most loving thing you can do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Case for Life Website

Scott's book The Case for Life now has it's own revamped website. It's simple, clear, and easy to navigate.

Stop by for a visit.


LTI Podcast #20 - Sex, Lies and Abortion Part 1 [Serge]

Rich, Jay, and Bob discuss a recent article by Dinesh D'Souza regarding pro-life strategy. Should we continue to educate others on the humanity of the unborn, or should we go "back to the drawing board" and speak out about sexual libertinism? How about both? Rich also comments on an article in the medical literature about the emotions that a woman doctor has when performing second trimester abortions.


Dinesh's article can be found here. Dr Harris' article is reproduced here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tonight's Debate with Nadine Strossen at UNC [SK]

Good debate tonight at The University of North Carolina with Nadine Strossen, former President of the ACLU. I like Nadine and we get along just fine, though of course I think she's mistaken on the issue at hand.

There were no substantial surprises in this debate, though as you will see below, I did alter my rebuttal speech a bit from our previous encounters.

As true in our previous three debates, Nadine tried to frame the debate with an appeal to reproductive freedom. To paraphrase her case, reproductive freedom means the ability to choose whether or not to have children according to one's own personal religious beliefs. That freedom is necessary if all persons are to lead lives of self-determination, opportunity, and human dignity. She repeatedly stressed our need to work together to reduce the high number of abortions, by which she meant pro-lifers should support tax-funded birth-control programs.

As I point out in The Case for Life, Nadine's claim is question-begging. She simply assumes the unborn are not human beings. Would she make this same claim for human freedom and self-determination if the debate were about killing toddlers instead of fetuses?

Thus, I began my own opening speech, as I often do, by saying the following (paraphrased for brevity):

Men and women, I agree completely with everything Nadine just said. She's right that abortion is a personal, private matter that should not be restricted in any way. She's right that we shouldn't interfere with personal choices. She's right that pro-lifers should stay out of this decision. Yes, I agree completely IF. IF What? If the unborn are not human beings. And if Nadine can demonstrate that the unborn are not members of the human family, I will concede this exchange and so should everyone else who is pro-life.

Contrary to what some may think, the issue that divides Nadine and me is not that she is pro-choice and I am anti-choice. Truth is, I am vigorously "pro-choice" when it comes to women choosing a number of moral goods. I support a woman’s right to choose her own health care provider, to choose her own school, to choose her own husband, to choose her own job, to choose her own religion, and to choose her own career, to name a few. These are among the many choices that I fully support for the women of our country. But some choices are wrong, like killing innocent human beings simply because they are in the way and cannot defend themselves. No, we shouldn’t be allowed to choose that. So, again, the issue that separates Nadine and I is not that she is pro-choice and I am anti-choice. The issue the divides us is just one question, What is the unborn? Let me be clear: If the unborn is a human being, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own inherent moral worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, killing them through elective abortion requires no more justification than having your tooth pulled.

In short, I was willing to buy her argument for freedom and self-determination, but only after she demonstrated that the unborn were not human beings. I then argued scientifically that the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings, and that differences between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today do not justify killing you at that earlier stage of development. (You can read more about that case here and here.) I also showed this video.

During my rebuttal speech, I gave the audience three key reasons why Nadine's overall case was not persuasive.

1. She assumes the unborn are not human, but doesn’t argue for it.
2. Her appeal to moral and legal neutrality is not neutral.
3. She provides an insecure foundation for human rights

1) She assumes the unborn are not human.

A. Let me make an observation. I laid out a scientific case and Nadine responded with an appeal to religion. She said religious leaders don’t agree on whether the unborn is a human being. She even cited the YWCA to prove her point. This is flawed thinking for 3 reasons:

1. It’s a category mistake. That is, the question of when life begins is not a religious question, but an empirical one. To get the answer, we don’t go to the Bible or church tradition, we go to the science of embryology. And the science is clear: From the earliest stages, each of us was a distinct, living, whole human.

2. How does it follow that because people disagree, nobody is right? People once disagreed on whether the earth was flat or round, did follow nobody was right? They also disagreed on slavery, but it didn't follow there were no right answers. As Hadley Arkes points out, the absence of consensus does not mean an absence of truth.

3. If we don’t know if the unborn are human, we shouldn’t kill the unborn because we might be taking a human life. As Ronald Reagan allegedly once said, "If you are out hunting and see bushes rustling in front of and you are not sure if it's the deer you've been after or your best buddy, are you going to open fire?" Not unless you are Dick Cheney! (That got a big laugh.)
B. At the same time, Nadine says we should work together to reduce the need for abortion. But why? If there is nothing wrong with abortion, who cares how many there are? But if elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a human being, that’s a very good reason to legislate against it.

Of course, Nadine says our public policy should focus more on reducing the need for abortion by getting at the underlying causes rather than legislating protection for the unborn. I find this an odd claim. Suppose I said the “underlying cause” of spousal abuse is psychological, so instead of making it illegal for husbands to beat their wives, the solution is to provide counseling for men.” There are “underlying causes” for rape, murder, theft and so on, but that in no way makes it “misguided” to have laws banning such actions.

C. But most importantly, notice how many of Nadine’s comments simply assume the unborn are not human. She doesn’t argue for this, she simply assumes it. We call this begging the question, and it’s a logical fallacy that lurks behind many of her claims. Here are 4 examples:

1. “Laws against abortion impose religious beliefs on others.” Setting aside for the moment that the claim the fetus has a right to life is no more religious than saying it doesn’t, would Nadine argue this way if we were talking about killing toddlers? Never. Only by assuming unborn are not human does her reply work. But that is precisely the point she must argue for and so far hasn’t.

2. “We must respect freedom of conscience that allows women a right to choose.” Well, maybe. But choose what? But what if the topic were locking teenagers up until age 30? (Some of you are tempted.) Would Nadine argue for freedom of conscience for those parents who wish to unjustly incarcerate their kids? Again, only by assuming the unborn are not human can we argue denying them a right to life based on conscience.

3. “Our individual principles of morality cannot control our judicial decisions. Our obligation is to liberty.” Is that true or just her individual moral view? But again, notice she assumes the unborn are not human. Would she argue for individual liberty if the choice before us was the right to kill toddlers? Again, only by assuming the unborn are not human can she argue this way. But that’s a point she must prove, not merely assume.

4. “The State should not enter the private realm of family life.” Really? What is a family wants the right to rough up a toddler in the privacy of the bedroom. Should we allow this in the name of respecting the private realm of families? Only by assuming the unborn are human can we justify taking the lives of the unborn in the name of privacy.

2) Nadine’s appeal to state and moral neutrality is not neutral.

A. Very simply, state neutrality is impossible. The law either recognizes the unborn as valuable human beings and thus protects them or it does not and permits killing them. By agreeing that human embryos are fitting subjects for abortion, the federal courts are taking a public policy position that the unborn do not deserve the same protections owed toddlers or other human beings. This is hardly a neutral position; it’s an extremely controversial one with deep metaphysical underpinnings. Why, then, is it okay for Nadine to legislate her own view on the status of human embryos but not okay for pro-lifers to legislate theirs?

B. Nadine’s appeal to moral neutrality also is not neutral. Notice what she says. “Our individual principles of morality cannot control judicial decisions. Our obligation is to liberty and we must respect freedom of conscience.” Really? Is that morally true or just her individual principle of morality? It’s like she’s saying morality is personal, but here’s some objective rules everyone must follow—“We must respect freedom. We must respect conscience. We have an obligation to liberty.” Says who? Notice she seeks to impose, through law, her own controversial view of morality on pro-lifers who disagree.

Now let me be clear! I have no problem with grounding our laws on objective moral principles. Indeed, if we don’t, law is reduced to mere power. However, what I do take issue with are those who pretend they are neutral regarding morality and the law. No they are not. Nadine wants to legislate her position every bit as much as I want to legislate mine. There is no neutral ground here. Everyone takes a position. And I am fully prepared to accept Nadine’s position on abortion if she can demonstrate the unborn are not human. But a faulty appeal to neutrality just won’t do the trick.

3) Nadine provides an insecure foundation for basic human rights.

She cites the infamous Mystery Passage in Casey by Justices O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." That is, human nature is not fixed, but determined subjectively. But if that is true, there can be no fixed rights that arise from that nature, including a fixed right to an abortion. So why can’t a future Court just arbitrarily decide that women don’t have a right to an abortion? The Court didn’t say.

So what are left with? The Court has affirmed the right of a person to define his own concept of existence, the meaning of the universe, and the meaning of human life. But, writes Hadley Arkes, “was there any reality or truth attaching to him? And what was there about him that commanded the rest of us to respect these decisions he reached about himself and the universe?” Why can’t we just make him up to be someone who has no rights if that fits our own concept of meaning and human life? In short, the Court’s infamous “mystery passage” assumes the very thing it denies. By demanding that we respect a person’s judgment about human life and the meaning of the universe, the Court assumes that the human being in question actually exists, whether my own concept of the universe admits him or not.

With that, you have the main points we covered.


Un-settling Law [Elizabeth]

Is the right to an abortion settled law?

Our newest U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said so during her confirmation hearings in July.

Hadley Arkes, a professor and pro-life advocate, explores this issue in his book, Natural Rights & the Right to Choose. He argues that the majority of Americans think that when a law has been in place for some time, it cannot be revisited.

But, citizens need to be reminded that slavery was once considered settled law.

On October 1, The New York Times published the article “Support Appears to Drop for Abortion Rights” after the Pew Research Center released findings from a recent poll.

While a 2008 Pew poll found that those in favor of keeping abortion legal outnumbered opponents, 54 percent to 40 percent, the new Pew poll suggests that that gap has narrowed. Now, 47 percent of those surveyed said abortion should be legal in all or most cases — a difference within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

According to the article, the study did not find the reason for the shift in opinion, which has occurred since the election of President Barack Obama.

“The size of the shift is modest, but the consistency with which we see it occurring and the implications it has for the overall dynamics of the debate make it significant,” said Gregory Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

And yet, the poll also found that only 15 percent of respondents said abortion was a critical issue, compared with 28 percent in another survey conducted in 2006, according to the article.

Could it be that these respondents — many of whom don’t think abortion should be legal — don’t think it’s a critical issue because they subscribe to the belief that the law is settled?

Here’s what I took out of the poll results: We have an opportunity here to capitalize. The health care debates and the words of our president have forced Americans to reevaluate the issue of abortion.

The political climate is perfect for pro-lifers to reenergize with a common goal. More people are getting involved in politics because of issues like health care that have created polarization among Americans.

But, with more people paying attention, much more can be done. Talk to people. Communicate our message persuasively one person at a time.

Maybe Arkes is right, while we may not be able to overturn Roe v. Wade, we can certainly seek out middle ground and get the ball rolling by pushing for legislation that would make late-term abortion illegal.

After all, this isn’t an all-or-nothing type of issue. With every unborn child we save from abortion, we fulfill our purpose.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pro-Life Math, or How To Shut Down Dialogue REALLY Fast [Josh Brahm]

I had the privilege of joining with a pro-life exhibit at the College of the Sequoia’s this week. Some pro-life activists from Sacramento put together a small display, similar in many ways to Justice For All’s wonderful exhibit, brought it to COS and invited me to dialogue with the pro-abortion-choice people there.

Overall, it was a great day with many fruitful conversations. I want to share one memory that stuck in my mind. While I was talking with one of the pro-life volunteers, I overheard one of the younger pro-lifers engage with a frustrated pro-choicer. We’ll call the pro-lifer “Charlie,” since I’m not here to embarrass him, and overall he did a wonderful job at the exhibit, and I expect great things from him in the future. He could have just handled this particular confrontation a bit better.

The pro-choicer made a comment along the lines of, “I don’t like abortion, but if it’s made illegal, women will be hurt in back-alley abortions.”

Charlie’s response? “So you think we should legalize murder?” (Add a hint of combative attitude to the tone, and you’ve got the picture.)

Now, I know where Charlie was going with this - he wanted to explain that we shouldn’t make or keep immoral things legal to make the crime safer for the felon. For example, we wouldn’t make murder legal to make things easier and safer for murderers, because murder is wrong. Unfortunately, our pro-choice friend who had probably never explored that logic, misunderstood where Charlie was going with this.

Instead, he responded, “Now, that’s called a strawman argument. That has nothing to do with what I just said.”

So to be clear, Charlie hadn’t made a strawman argument; he just wasn’t very clear in his argumentation.

I wasn’t able to hear all of Charlie’s response, but it was basically a second try at responding to the original pro-choice objection, and it still had that same combative tone. Then the pro-choicer starts talking about red herrings. He obviously wasn’t getting it, and he stormed off before I could catch him to continue the discussion.

Several hours later I was eating lunch with Charlie and another young volunteer, when the subject of effective dialogue came up.

I started by explaining how sometimes we hear an argument that we’ve heard over and over, like the back-alley thing, and we want to zero in for that “gotcha” moment. I added, “But in one-on-one conversations, we need to remember to take people slowly through our argument, making sure we make a clear case, and avoid asking pointed questions that will make the person feel defensive.” As Steve Wagner brilliantly put it in one of his recent newsletters, sometimes it’s more important to have “I get you” moments than “gotcha” moments.

Charlie responded that it can be easy to lose track of where you’re going. I agreed, and responded that we need to be careful not to get pulled down rabbit trails. I said,

“This morning you spoke with someone who was concerned about back-alley abortions. Now, that’s a legitimate concern that we should be willing to talk about. While I think it will be a lot rarer than some people say, I do think that illegal abortions will probably happen in one form or another, and it’s a valid concern worth discussing. So, stay focused on that for a while.

Sometimes I start by explaining that while illegal abortions happened before Roe vs. Wade, the vast majority of them were performed in doctors’ offices, not back alleys. That’s according to the former medical director of Planned Parenthood. Also, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the co-founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), admitted to exaggerating the statistics about how many women were dying from illegal back-alley abortions!

Sometimes it’s after explaining this that I’ll bring in the more important point: As Scott Klusendorf has said, this argument begs the question. It assumes that the unborn are not human, or else the pro-choicer is saying that because some people will die attempting to kill others, the state should make it safe and legal for them to do so. That just doesn’t make sense.”

So to sum up:

A gracious answer +
knowledge of the issue at hand +
common ground questions
pointed questions
will often =
fruitful dialogue

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pro-Abortion Choice Tolerance at McGill University

It used to be that a university campus was a place for a thoughtful dialogue about the most important issues of the day. It seems like that is not the case for neighbors to the north. A presentation by Jojo Ruba of the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform was interrupted for two hours while "tolerant" pro-aborts chanted children's songs (a fantastic irony if there ever was one) and blocked the screen. Here is a video of the beginning of the presentation.

I interviewed Jojo for the LTI Podcast #8&9. You can find them here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Making N.I.C.E. [Bob]

In the third installment of his Space Trilogy series, That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis' main character (Mark Studdock) was seduced with the promise of joining the inner ring of a powerful English society that used questionable tactics to establish an "efficient" state bureaucracy run by controllers who saw themselves as being a cut above the rest of the world. The name of the society Mark yearned to join was the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments -- N.I.C.E.

Lewis described N.I.C.E. as:
"the first fruits of that constructive fusion between state and laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes for a better world. It was to be free from almost all the tiresome restraints ... which have hitherto hampered research in this country. It was also largely free from the restraints of economy ..."
This, in fictional form, was the epitome of what Lewis feared would become a socio-political reality. Some of his reviewers begged to differ. The New York Times described That Hideous Strength as "superlatively nonsensical excitement, challenging implications," while Time magazine called it a "well-written, fast-paced satirical fantasy." That was in 1946.

Fast forward to 2009.

John C. Goodman, writing in National Review (September 21, 2009), reports on the contemporary British health commission:
"which currently recommends against any treatment that costs more than $45,000 to save a year of life. Because of [the commission], British cancer patients are denied access to drugs that are routinely available in the U.S. and on the European continent, and thousands die prematurely."
The name of the commission is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, but the Brits refer to it by the more commonly recognized acronym: N.I.C.E.

I wish I could make this stuff up. In fact, when I read it I assumed that Mr. Goodman had made it up. He didn't. But the creepy stuff doesn't stop there.

The reason Mr. Goodman cited this fact was because N.I.C.E., according to former Senator Tom Daschle, is the model on which we should base American health care reform. He says so in his book, Critical: What We Can Do About The Health-Care Crisis. And, barring the inconvenience of paying those pesky income taxes that only those of us who are not driven to work in a limousine should have to bear, the good Senator would have been the one overseeing our American N.I.C.E. guys. Instead, we have HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who, under the plan being offered, will not only fill that role but also be the one to decide which pool of federal funding may, or may not (?), be used to fund abortions.

So, yes, Sarah Palin's hyperbolic comments about "death panels" in the health care reform bill being considered were not accurate. But that said, and given the ideology and bureaucratic impulses of our current cast of political characters, does anyone truly doubt that, as Jay and Serge pointed out in Podcast #19, there will be rationing? When resources are limited and controlling costs is the reason the reform is being pushed in the first place, this will be the inevitable result. Someone will be charged with responsibility of deciding who gets what. Someone like Mark Studdock.

And that is a hideous strength for anyone to wield.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Parable for The Church of God In Christ [SK]

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC), which claims to be pro-life, has issued a statement calling on all denominations to do the right thing and support President Obama’s health care reform plan. (Note: The President doesn’t have a plan of his own. What the COGIC really means is House bill HR 3200, which the President supports.) The writers of the statement demonstrate a genuine and laudable concern for the poor who cannot afford medical coverage. However, to the surprise of many pro-life advocates, the drafters of the statement take the President at his word that abortion will not be funded in a health care bill. They call on Christians of good will to set aside their political views and support the President’s reform efforts, which they insist are Biblically mandated.

I don't question the good intentions of those drafting the statement. And unlike some, I don't question their pro-life sentiments. But are Biblically informed pro-lifers unreasonable to remain skeptical of the President's plan? Consider the following parable.

It’s 1860. The President of the United States is pushing a controversial economic recovery package that will provide government subsidies to plantation owners struggling to make ends meet. The President has a point: Statistics show that 400,000 southern farms are without an economic safety net and thus face bankruptcy or foreclosure in the near feature. Should that collapse happen, mounting personal losses would adversely impact the national economy. To press the point further, the President invokes Biblical commands to love our neighbors and recruits sympathetic clergy to convey that view to the faithful.

There’s a rub, however. Although the President denies it, multiple sources—both independent and political— confirm that his economic recovery plan would allow government funds for the purchase of slaves. Collectively, the nation’s newspapers—universally sympathetic to the President’s views—come to the same conclusion though it bears little on their eager support for the plan. Meanwhile, congressional members who support slavery have commanding majorities in both the House and Senate. They see the practice as essential to any recovery plan. The President’s political position is near impregnable: He doesn’t need a single vote from the opposing party to pass his plan. Moreover the speaker of the House insists that any plan for economic recovery must fund the purchase of slaves as a necessary part of jumpstarting the Southern economy. If need be, he’s prepared to force a straight party line vote to get the desired result. All indications are he can deliver on his promise. Indeed, the legislative committee considering the President’s recovery plan voted down every single amendment that contained specific language forbidding the use of funds for slavery.

As for the President, his views on slavery are undeniable. While a senator in the Mississippi state house, he thrice voted to deny legal protection to any slave who escaped his master and sought refuge in a neutral territory. As a Presidential candidate, he emphatically assured the nation’s leading pro-slavery group—Planned Laborhood—that his first act as President would be to sign the Freedom of Ownership Act, which would overturn all meaningful restrictions on slavery. He repeatedly stated that slave ownership was an essential economic right. During his first week as President, he issued an executive order funding the acquisition of slaves in foreign countries. One month later, he overturned existing funding restrictions on using slaves for medical experiments.

Despite these facts, the President—without a shred of evidence—calls anti-slavery advocates opposing his plan liars. In an unprecedented move, he submits a written speech to Congress insisting that his plan does not fund the acquisition of slaves, though again he does nothing to refute the specific charge—attested to by multiple sources—that his plan does in fact do just that. Two weeks later, he gets a valuable assist when The Southern Baptist Convention signs a statement urging clergy of all faiths to follow its lead in endorsing the President’s plan. The White pastors drafting the statement insist they are anti-slavery, but take the President at his word that the practice will not be funded.

Their statement reads in part as follows:

"Based on our understanding of the Holy Scriptures it is not only our mandate to encourage men and women to come into right relationship with their Creator, but also to proclaim and advocate justice and compassion throughout all creation.

'Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy.'
Prov 31:8-9 NKJV

We are here today to speak on behalf of millions of Americans who cannot afford or obtain adequate economic provisions. In this the richest country in the world 400,000Americans are without an economic safety net. Because of this, they and their children face untold hardship and unnecessary suffering. Millions more will soon face similar challenges. In the midst of this crisis, they face limited economic opportunities that leave them exposed and unable to meet the needs of their families.

The Southern Baptist Convention calls upon the other major White denominations, and our brothers and sisters of all races in their major denominations and the rest of the faith community to set a moral example which moves our country beyond the noise of racial division and partisanship by supporting the President’s courageous initiative to address this vital issue. People of faith all over this country have a responsibility to stand for the millions who suffer from a lack of adequate provision by pleading the cause of the needy, and raising their voices in support of the President’s economic reform agenda.

Question: Would any rational person today consider anti-slavery Christians unreasonable for distrusting the President and Congress on this?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

LTI Podcast Episode 19 - Death Panels [Serge]

LTI Podcast #19 - The Death Panel Episode Rich and Jay have a roundtable discussion responding to Sarah Palin's "death panel" charge. Is she guilty of crass Republican propaganda, or does she make a valid point about a possible consequence of health care rationing? Rich also continues his series about the medical literature discussing the impact of RU-486 on abortion access in the United States. Was the introduction of RU-486 a decade ago a game changer or has it had little effect?


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fair and Balanced? [Elizabeth]

You may or may not have heard the news that a pro-lifer was gunned down in Michigan Friday by a man who said he was offended by the activist's anti-abortion material. Harlan James Drake, 33, was arrested Friday and has been criminally charged with the murder of 63-year-old Jim Pouillon.

I learned of the tragic, senseless crime from a coworker. I did not, however, find out about it through conventional media. I hadn't seen the story on the web (late in the day it appeared on CNN). I watched the nightly news and there wasn't a mention of it. In fact, no one seemed to be talking about it — and perhaps it's because recaps of the 9/11 memorials dominated headlines.

And, perhaps not.

When a deranged pro-life assassin murdered George Tiller, the world sat up and took notice. Suddenly, pro-lifers were dangerous and our entire movement was promoting similar acts of intolerance and violence.

Quite contrarily, headlines in the coming days won't be pondering whether hate crimes by pro-choicers are on the rise. Unfair generalizations won't lead talking heads to conclude that the pro-choice movement has become irrational and dangerous.

In a letter to the editor published in the Sept. 5 Washington Post, Dr. Willie J. Parker addresses the "fear of harassment" that he says is keeping some doctors from performing abortions. He promises to stand defiantly to "give women the care they need." Parker even cites the parable of the good Samaritan as his reason for seeking abortion training in 2006. He challenges others to stand firm with him.

Newsweek published a several-page spread on Dr. LeRoy Carhart — one of this country's few remaining late-term-abortion providers. In it, Carhart was called "the abortion evangelist." The article details why Carhart will never stop doing abortions, though he says he's a target for anti-abortion violence.

Numerous other media outlets have lined up to interview Carhart about his bravery in the face of adversity.

What are they rallying against? Are there untold numbers of radical pro-lifers banning together to stop these abortionists at any cost? Or are we being unfairly demonized by the media?

In Ann Coulter's "49 Million to Five" column written in the wake of the shooting of late-term abortionist George Tiller, Coulter says that, in a country that is more than 50 percent pro-life — and 80 percent opposed to late-term abortions — only five abortionists have been killed since Roe v. Wade was passed into law in 1973.

If that's true, then why is the media coverage and the rhetoric biasing the public to our cause? From where did these irrational conclusions emanate?

One thing's for sure — there's a double standard in America.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another thought... [Megan]

Great blog, Serge. Thanks for shedding light on that issue. I couldn’t help but notice — to draw out the “cognitive dissonance” a bit further — that in this case, the government is advocating the preservation of life based on the level of brain development, while many justify taking the lives of the unborn on the same grounds.

Cognitive Dissonance in the American Medical Association [Serge]

I've been detailing some examples of cultural cognitive dissonance during my series on the LTI podcasts. However, here's an example of significant dissonance within the largest medical association in our country. The question at hand is whether or not the adolescent brain is capable of making informed decisions that they can be responsible for.

In 2004, the AMA wrote an amicus brief in which they claimed that adolescents, even those that are 16 or 17 should not be eligible for the death penalty because their brains are not as developed as an adult's brain:

The adolescent’s mind works differently from ours.
Parents know it. This Court has said it. Legislatures have
presumed it for decades or more. And now, new scientific
evidence sheds light on the differences.

Scientists have documented the differences along several
dimensions. Adolescents as a group, even at the age of 16 or
17, are more impulsive than adults. They underestimate risks
and overvalue short-term benefits. They are more susceptible
to stress, more emotionally volatile, and less capable of
controlling their emotions than adults.

In short, the average adolescent cannot be expected to
act with the same control or foresight as a mature adult.
Behavioral scientists have observed these differences for
some time. Only recently, however, have studies yielded
evidence of concrete differences that are anatomically based.
Cutting-edge brain imaging technology reveals that regions
of the adolescent brain do not reach a fully mature state until
after the age of 18. These regions are precisely those
associated with impulse control, regulation of emotions, risk
assessment, and moral reasoning. Critical developmental
changes in these regions occur only after late adolescence. (emphasis mine)

The AMA notes that parents know that adolescents do have the decision making capacity as adults do and therefore are unable to make an informed decision. For that reason, the AMA believes that a 17 year old who decides to kidnap their neighbor and brutally torture and kill them should be immune to capital punishment.

However, there is an area in which the AMA believes a 15 year old girl not only has the capacity to make an informed decision that she can take full responsibility for, but that she also has the capacity to decide when her parents need to be informed of this decision. Of course, this is in the area of abortion. Their ethics paper on the topic is from 1993, but is still the prevailing opinion in the AMA:

Physicians should not feel or be compelled to require minors to involve their parents before deciding whether to undergo an abortion. The patient, even an adolescent, generally must decide whether, on balance, parental involvement is advisable. Accordingly, minors should ultimately be allowed to decide whether parental involvement is appropriate. Physicians should explain under what circumstances (eg, life-threatening emergency) the minor’s confidentiality will need to be abrogated.

Physicians should try to ensure that minor patients have made an informed decision after giving careful consideration to the issues involved. They should encourage their minor patients to consult alternative sources if parents are not going to be involved in the abortion decision.
Let's see if I have this correct. Because of the fact that their brain is unable to process information like an adult, and that their brain physiology makes them prone to emotional decisions without the ability for critical thinking, teens should not be held responsible for capital punishment if they murder their neighbor. However, even younger teens, who find themselves in a highly emotional, crisis state of an unintended pregnancy, have the capacity to make a decision without parental involvement that can effect them for the rest of their lives. They are the ones that should make the sober decision of involving their parents in what may the one of most important decisions they will ever make, and one that many girls before them have grown to regret.

HT: I first read of the brief on capital punishment in Miriam Grossman's excellent book "You're Teaching My Child What?: A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child" available here.

Busting Myths About Abortion & Health Care Reform – Part 3 & 4 [Josh Brahm]

Myth: The recently introduced Capps Amendment forbids abortion.

Fact: Read it. It does nothing of the sort.

The “Capps Amendment” is a phony compromise that was offered by Rep. Capps, who has voted against pro-lifers 100% of the time during her 11 years in the House. The Capps Amendment says private health plans wouldn’t have to cover abortion, but the public option could if the Health and Human Services Department wanted it to. For those of you familiar with the Secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, you can see how that’s not a compromise at all. It’s just more word games. As Doug Johnson writes, “In other words, abortionists would send bills to the federal insurance plan and receive payment checks from the federal treasury.”

Myth: Pro-lifers are overreacting because under the Capps Amendment, it won’t be taxpayer dollars paying for abortions, it would be the premiums paying for abortions.

Fact: The tax-payer money as well as the money from premiums would go in one big pot. Money from the pot would go to pay for abortions. I don’t buy the idea that the government will be earmarking in this issue based on the sources of the funds, as a brief study of federal finance history shows they have rarely done in the past.

In other words, it’s like United Way. If you donate to United Way, your money goes into a big pot, and then United Way chooses how to distribute the money in the pot.

Even if somehow the government did distinguish the money, you’d still have the issue of churches or pro-life groups that choose to use the public option, or can’t afford a more expensive option paying premiums, who would pay for abortions.

All that to say, there won’t be a simple solution available, like writing “not for abortions” in the memo of your check to the government.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some thoughts on human worth and 'taboo' things [Megan]

Last week I stood before a group of teens and gave a presentation on abortion.

It was the first time I stood before a group of students I’d never met and talked about an issue with which many of them were unfamiliar prior to preparing for the day’s class. They weren’t exactly chatty — How many young people are when you’re zeroing in on a subject that society considers taboo? — but they were attentive, respectful and seemingly thoughtful about the points raised.

Looking out at their furrowed brows in a room silent enough to hear a pin drop, I was reminded of my reasons for standing in front of them. The reminder fanned to flame my purpose for being there, for talking about uncomfortable issues, for telling others things they oftentimes don’t like to hear.

I am a Christ-follower. As such, I am — among many other things — considered an ambassador, a representative of the one who sent me. As a Christ-follower, I am a representative of God. What a weighty responsibility! When I speak, I speak for the Father.

As one who addresses the world around me on behalf of Christ, it is imperative that I recognize what is important to Him, and to make what is important to Him important to me.

Even an elementary understanding of the Bible leaves one realizing — whether that individual is aware of it or not — that human beings are extremely important to God. God created human beings in His image. I can’t explain that fully. No one can. But I don’t have to. Simply grasping that the almighty Sovereign made us with some speck of likeness to Himself is enough to make us — each and every one of us — extremely valuable. And in all our uniqueness, that speck of our Creator that exists in every human being gives every single one an equal measure of value.

How valuable are we? That’s another one I can’t quite respond to with a concise answer. There are simply no words, no flowery adjectives or gut-wrenching verbs that can express the gratitude and awe of the price paid for human beings to receive life a second time. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

I have always wondered why the author of John’s gospel used that funny word, “begotten,” in the middle of what is probably the most well-known verse associated with Christianity. I’ve always thought it a funny word. It was only recently I realized the magnificence of that word choice and what it reveals to the reader.

Basic biogenesis tells us that things reproduce after their own kind. In other words, our God of order made this world so that frogs beget frogs, cats beget cats and human beings beget human beings. This law is very helpful as we navigate issues regarding what kind of “things” the unborn are. This verse tells us that Jesus is “begotten” of God. What kind of “thing” does that make Jesus? And how many of that particular thing is there? (Answers:  God, and ONE)

This verse is a clear indication of the deity of Jesus, one of the three persons that make up our great God.

What understanding does this nugget of truth from Scripture leave us with? Quite simply — however inadequately expressed by words — God Himself, the one true GOD that was and is and always will be, valued human beings enough to die in the person of His son so that we could live. Forever.

So, yeah, human beings are important to Jesus.

And think about this:  Human beings, whether they believe Christianity is true or not, are all hard-wired with the traits that come from bearing some image of their maker — an understanding of absolute rights and wrongs, an appreciation for beauty, a dire need for purpose, and a gut-level disturbance upon witnessing obvious injustices involving other human beings.

I believe it is that disturbance that makes an issue like abortion — an injustice of the worst kind involving innocent, valuable human beings — “taboo.” It’s the reason the word itself stirs up "defensive" emotions on either side of the issue. (Note: This raises the question, "What are you defending?" In light of what's been presented, it's either innocent human life or the right to choose to take a life — to honor God or to play god.) It’s the reason pro-abortion advocates dislike images depicting abortion as much as pro-life advocates do. It’s precisely the reason Christ-followers should be disturbed enough to stand in defense of human beings who, in the case of abortion, cannot fight for themselves.

That knowledge — both of human value and of who Christ is and what He has done for me, the human beings I’m fighting to defend, and all of those around me willing to recognize and trust Him — is what kept me talking in spite of the silence. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Observation About Obama’s Health Care Speech [Josh Brahm]

I know everyone is talking about President Obama’s speech last night, and several organizations have done a wonderful job debunking some of the things he said. In particular, they’ve cleared up the recycled myth that abortion will not be covered under the current plan. We’ve already busted that myth on this blog.

I wanted to make an observation from last night that I haven’t really heard anyone bring up yet. President Obama has started a pattern of dismissing (and occasionally attacking) his opponents, instead of refuting their arguments. He listed several concerns last night that citizens have raised about abortion and “death panels”, among other things, and as he responded to most of those concerns, he simply dismissed them. “That’s a lie,” he would say, and most of the Democrats in the room would stand and applaud.

He never said, “You know, some well-meaning people have misunderstood or misread the bill, and think that abortion would be covered under the new plan. Actually, that view is mistaken because we are not going to include abortion under ‘family planning services’ or ‘reproductive health.’” THAT would have gotten my attention, because he would have been refuting our argument. It would have given us something to research so that we could double check the accuracy of our views, which is a good thing, because sometimes we’re right, and sometimes we’re wrong.

But, he didn’t do that. He just called us “liars,” and declared to the country that we are using dishonest “scare tactics” for political gain.

That’s not good enough. Any person of good will – but ESPECIALLY the President of the United States – should look honestly at the facts behind any claims, and then either refute them or concede the point.

I’m frustrated that President Obama continues to mislead, (whether intentionally or unintentionally,) on abortion in health care reform, but it means we just need to keep educating about it. It’s amazing to me that Obama still insists abortion won’t be covered, especially when even FactCheck and the Associated Press has brought clarity to those issues.

I want to add one more thing. Pro-lifers have good reason to feel passionately about this debate and while we should not give up. However, we should also maintain composure and treat the other side, especially our Commander-in-Chief, with respect. I believe Congressman Joe Wilson was way out of line in shouting at Obama during his speech. There is a certain protocol to that kind of presidential appearance, and heckling isn’t a part of it. This wasn’t a “Questions to the Prime Minister” convention where you see similar debates as you saw in House of Parliament meetings in “Amazing Grace.” This was a presidential address.

I’ve been equally ashamed of the way some people have treated their congressmen and women at town hall meetings. I remember one instance where Sean Hannity asked a particularly loud conservative woman who shouted at Sen. Arlen Specter at a town hall what she thought about Specter’s answer to her rant. Her response? “Honestly you know after I asked the question I was so, just, I don’t know, I didn’t hear half of what he said to be honest with you.”

Wonderful. So we shout at our congressmen on TV, but don’t even listen to their response, and then brag about it on Fox News! And we wonder why the other side thinks we’re “radicals…”

We should stand up for the truth, debunking when anybody, even the President, makes a mistaken claim about health care reform. But we should do it with respect and integrity. We shouldn’t make it so easy for the other side to simply dismiss us as crazy people. Instead, we should force them to examine our arguments, so they can decide for themselves.

I chuckled to myself when Obama said that he would call out people that made false claims about health care. In a statement after last night’s speech, Obama added, "I do think that, as I said last night, we have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name-calling, without the assumption of the worst of other people's motives."

Perhaps President Obama should listen to his own advice, and stop assuming the worst about the good citizens of this country who are legitimately concerned that the current health care reform bill will increase the national abortion rate. I don’t know about you, but that’s change I can believe in.

Busting Myths About Abortion & Health Care Reform – Part 2 [Josh]

Myth: President Obama backed off of his position on including abortion in the health care reform in his 7/21/09 interview with Katie Couric.

Fact: Read the quote carefully:

“I’m pro-choice, but I think we also have the tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care. My main focus is making sure that people have options of high quality care at the lowest possible price.”

As National Right to Life’s Douglas Johnson pointed out in a recent conference call, Obama wasn’t backing off from abortion. He simply recognized that we haven’t traditionally financed abortion at the government level! There have been exceptions to this rule, but most state Medicaid programs only cover abortions for rape, incest or life of the mother exceptions, under the Hyde Amendment. (The NRLC conference call is not online yet, but will be soon at StopTheAbortionAgenda.com)

It’s clever word play, and it was enough to fool many media outlets. (or they were just covering for their boyfriend again.) Either way, it’s not enough to fool us. I have no reason to think his views on abortion and health care have changed since he spoke at Planned Parenthood’s event two years ago.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Practical Apologetics: Doing Our Best versus Getting the Last Word [Dan]

Dan Hannon has an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University and is on staff at the Pennsylvania State University Center for Molecular Toxicology and Carcinogenesis. I found his thoughts below helpful after a conversation on abortion went south on me. --SK

I recently had an opportunity to talk with a co-worker and present to him—at least in part—a case for the pro-life position. I say in part because we really couldn’t get past the science part of the discussion and into the philosophical reasons why we shouldn’t unjustly take the life of an unborn child. This was the second time we had discussed abortion.

In a previous conversation, my pro-choice colleague had focused more on the degree of dependency defense, and I had been unable to adequately respond to his challenges. Some time after that, I had heard Scott present the case for life through a series of podcasts, and I felt much better equipped to answer my co-worker’s arguments. And since he is very open to discussions and debate over sensitive issues such as politics, abortion, and euthanasia, I thought I’d have another go at him.

Unfortunately—and for no weakness in the pro-life position itself—the second conversation didn’t go as well as I’d hoped either. But this time, it wasn’t because I was unprepared. It was because we could not agree on the facts in question. This time, the debate had shifted, and his objection was that he didn’t consider the unborn to be human.

“If it’s not human, what is it?” I asked, shifting the burden of proof back to my office mate. He countered that it was not a human being, or at least he didn’t consider it one until the point of implantation. I pressed him on the point that implantation has no greater significance in declaring the unborn human than any other point in the pregnancy. Moreover, I cited that the science of embryology declares the unborn to be human from conception. “So you are willing to reject the established view of embryology on this point?” I asked. “Yes,” he said.

We had further discussion including whether the embryo is “living,” but at this point you can see where the conversation was going—nowhere, since we couldn’t agree on the facts—and what I was up against. I can’t say this turn in the discussion was entirely unexpected, since in previous talks it became evident to me that my counterpart was a relativist. He freely admits that the point where he thinks abortions should be illicit—he actually has one—is arbitrary and is his personal preference. He also related that he cannot decide why he doesn’t have a problem with early-term abortions—whether he thinks the unborn are not human or whether he has no problem with aborting a human being.

Needless to say, I came away almost as disappointed with this conversation as I had the previous one, though it was a valuable learning experience. We can have the case for life down cold—not that I myself have it mastered—but come away from a discussion having made what seems to be no discernible progress with a person. In cases like my co-worker, relativism, apathy, and emotional/personal barriers seem to trump rationality. Though it can be discouraging, sometimes we have to be satisfied with the job we have done even if it appears to be a fruitless effort; we present the most thoroughgoing case that we can, and we must be satisfied knowing we have done our best.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Busting Myths About Abortion & Health Care Reform – Part 1 [Josh]

I’ve been watching a lot of Mythbusters episodes lately. I love this show, because it’s entertaining, I’ve already heard a lot of the myths they feature, and most importantly, I want to know the facts at the end. So today I get to play Adam Savage for a day and bust some myths about abortion and health care reform. After spending hours and hours of dedicated research looking at what has been said by many pro-life and pro-abortion-choice organizations, as well as more independent groups like FactCheck and Politifact, I’ve found a few myths commonly heard in this debate to bust.

Myth: Abortion won’t be included in the health care reform program since the word “abortion” isn’t in the bill.

Fact: That statement is completely disingenuous. As Elizabeth rightly pointed out in her first post, just because the word “abortion” isn’t in the bill doesn’t mean it would be excluded from being covered. Based on legal history and the understanding of how abortion advocates define “reproductive health,” we can be pretty sure that if “reproductive health” is covered, abortion will be too.

It’s very interesting to me when Planned Parenthood’s website makes a statement like this:

“Nothing in any of the current health care reform bills mandates abortion coverage — or any other type of health care procedure,”

when just 5 paragraphs earlier on the same webpage, PP says,

“All versions of the health care reform bill would expand coverage, protect women's access to reproductive health care, and allow women to continue to see the health care providers they know and trust (like Planned Parenthood).”

Planned Parenthood isn’t the only abortion advocacy group that seems to agree that abortion would be covered under the health care reform bill:

President Barack Obama: "Well, look, in my mind reproductive care is essential care, basic care so it is at the center, the heart of the plan that I propose...insurers are going to have to abide by the same rules in terms of providing comprehensive care, including reproductive care...that's going to be absolutely vital." Source: During Q&A session at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund Event on July 17, 2007.)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "Reproductive health includes access to abortion...We are now an Administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care." Source: In front of House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 22, 2009. YouTube video here.
National Abortion Federation: "NAF supports health care reform as a way to increase access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion care, for all women." Source: NAF website.
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice: "Let there be no mistake, basic healthcare includes abortion services."
Source: An email action alert regarding health care reform issued July 1, 2009 from RCRC President Reverend Carlton W. Veazey.
NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League): "(I)f, indeed, we can advance a panel or commission, then I am very optimistic about reproductive health care being part of this entire package." Source: NARAL President Nancy Keenan spoke to the American Prospect about the health care debate.
RHRealityCheck: "health reform is the issue to insist upon for Obama for his first term--he needs the victory. ‘He needs us. Public option is key, and using "medical standard of care" in language instead of listing reproductive services that will siphon off votes." (sic) Source: A RHRealityCheck blogger wrote this about what Wendy Chavkin, former Board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health said in a forum.

Of course, if that’s not enough evidence, than check out FactCheck, TIME magazine, Obama supporter Jim Wallis and the Associated Press confirming that the current health care reform bills include abortion coverage.

Reproductive health care, in the minds (and pens) of the current administration includes abortion access.

Welcome Josh Brahm [Jay]

The LTI Blog would like to welcome Josh Brahm to the Life Training Institute blog roll. Josh currently serves as the Director of Education and Public Relations for Right to Life of Central California and he formerly served as Education Director of Georgia Right to Life. Facebook, YouTube, & Twitter users will probably be familiar with his Life Report show where they tackle a variety of subjects concerning the sanctity of human life in an effort to equip their audience to engage those with opposing views in a productive dialogue. Josh will provide guest articles specifically for the LTI Blog as his schedule allows and we are thrilled to have him contributing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

LTI Podcast #18 - Obamacare and Abortion [Serge]

On this podcast the LTI team address Obamacare and abortion. We have a roundtable discussion with Rich, Scott, Jay, and Bob regarding federal funding for abortion under the proposed health care reform legislation. Will this bill change the federal government's longstanding doctrine of not providing federal money for most abortions? Or can we trust Obama when he states it will not?

Also, Rich continues his series regarding the medical literature when he addresses a recent article in the Journal Contraception regarding emergency contraception. Now that the experts agree that it is not effective in reducing unplanned pregnancy, should practitioners "give up" on the medication? The answer may surprise you.

http://media.libsyn.com/media/serge13102/LTIPodcastep18.mp3 or subscribe with Itunes at http://serge13102.libsyn.com/rss (click the advanced tab, click "subscribe to podcast", and then copy and paste the bolded url into the field).