Friday, February 26, 2010

All a-Twitter about abortion [Megan]

            Recently, Tampa native Angie Jackson decided to post her observations regarding her abortion on Twitter. Jackson tweeted (the use of which as a verb still disturbs me, but that is irrelevant) regular updates as the RU-486 (mifiprex) pills she took worked to terminate her pregnancy.

            Doing so was Jackson’s attempt to “demystify” abortion for other women. A self-proclaimed “anti-theist,” she was shocked when around one-third of the feedback she received was negative, even hostile. Sadly, portions of the so-called Christian response were not in any way befitting of ambassadors of Christ, but that is a separate issue.

            In a video blog on YouTube, Jackson talks about the ordeal.

            It is grossly apparent that Angie Jackson misses the crux of the debate.

            Her appeal is largely to autonomy. The assumption that the unborn is not a human being is unmistakable.

            “I am having an abortion…right now,” Jackson informs her audience.

“It’s basically like a miscarriage,” she says. She doesn’t clarify what she means, and such a claim demands clarification.  The terms “miscarriage” and “abortion” (as she is using it) exist on starkly different sides of a fence called “deliberate.”

            “It’s not that bad,” she says of the pill’s effects with a shrug. “It’s nothing compared to childbirth. Compared to labor. Compared to late-stage pregnancy.” (The last was included because Jackson’s prior pregnancy was considered high-risk. According to an ABC News article — a link to which is above — her doctor(s) told her a second pregnancy might be risky. She received an intrauterine device (IUD) to prevent a second pregnancy, but conceived anyway.)

            To borrow a tactic from Scott, she’s right. It’s not that bad compared to a difficult third trimester, certainly in comparison to labor and childbirth. IF THE UNBORN ARE NOT HUMAN.”

            “This is the best choice,” she says.

            She’s right — if the unborn are not human.

            “I just want to let everybody know that you too can have an abortion if you want one,” she says.

            She’s right — if the unborn are not human.

            “It’s okay.”

            “It’s not shameful.”

            She’s right — if the unborn are not human.

            “It’s not killing a child.”

            She’s rightif the unborn are not human.

            Jackson clearly cherishes her 4-year-old son.

            “He’s my world,” she claims with a smile.

            Her assumption that the unborn are not human blinds her to the realization that the differences between her 4-year-old and the 4-week-old embryo she was aborting as she made that video were only four — size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency (SLED) — none of which would justify terminating the life of the latter.

            The embryo is smaller. Jackson’s 4-year-old is smaller than she is, but no less valuable.

            The embryo is less developed. Jackson’s 4-year-old is less developed than an adolescent or adult male, but no less valuable.

            The embryo is in the womb. Jackson’s 4-year-old no-doubt moves or is moved from room to room and place to place on a regular basis — distances that far exceed a birth canal measuring only inches. His environment does not justify taking his life.

            The embryo is dependent. Jackson’s 4-year-old is no-doubt dependant on his mother or other adults for survival in his tender youth. Diabetics are dependant on insulin — but neither is less valuable because of their dependencies.

            Abortion may be mystifying to some. But a mystery, by definition, only remains a mystery until more is known.

            Jackson’s tweets shed some light on what an abortion via RU-486 feels like, but not on what abortion is.

            No matter what it feels like, abortion is a process that either takes the life of a human being unjustly, or it does not.

            The science of embryology has solved the mystery of when human life begins. The images on LTI’s web site go a long way toward solving the mystery of what kind of things the unborn are — the law of biogenesis confirms it.

            In fairness, if Angie Jackson believes the unborn are not human, her actions make sense with regard to acting in accordance with her belief. Wishing to chronicle the experience so other women would know what physical changes to expect with RU-486 makes sense. But believing a thing doesn’t make it true. Wishful thinking is just that — wishful thinking.

In examining Jackson's claims, we find ourselves at a familiar crossroads. As Greg Koukl points out, if abortion does not take the life of a defenseless human being, no justification for it is necessary. If it does take the life of a defenseless human being — and it does — no justification is adequate.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'll take some evidence suppression with my equivocation, thank you. [Jay]

About a week ago William Saletan of The Slate's Science/Human Nature department published an article discussing the Tebow ad aired during the Super Bowl. I had intended not to comment on it because the content is hardly worth the time to write about and ought to be beneath Mr. Saletan. I say “ought to be” because unfotunately more and more of this sort of sloppy rhetoric is showing up in his otherwise well thought out columns. Ultimately, I decided to write this post because I am teaching a class with Megan on the Christian worldview and we are discussing fallacies at the moment. This piece by Mr. Saletan provides a great opportunity to look at a couple of doozies.

Lets start with the title of the article, Focus on Your Family: The pro-life case for pregnancy termination. Hang on folks because as you can see we are in for a wild ride of equivocation. What does he mean when he uses the term “pregnancy termination?” The term "termination" brings to mind either abortion or miscarriage for me; the abrupt ending of the pregnancy through the death, whether intentional or undesired, of the baby. So read ahead and see what Mr. Saletan is referring to as “pregnancy termination.” He follows links provided at Focus on the Family and finds the first person accounts of two women named Laura Huene and Aimee Weathers. Both of these women had pregnancies that involved fatal abnormalities in their unborn children. Both women were advised to abort. Both women carried their children to 32 weeks at which time the risks to the mother outweighed the benefit to continuing pregnancy and their doctors induced labor.

Or in the equivocating article by Mr. Saletan, they terminated their pregnancies. Wow. In case you think I am overstating the impact of the title lets look at some of the gems from the article itself:

“Pam [Tebow] was willing to die, trusting God to take care of her family. Laura seems to have made a more practical decision. She had three children, and by expelling Pearl at 32 weeks, she survived to bear a fourth.”

“Aimee, like Laura, pushed her baby out well before term to protect her own health.”

“Induced delivery at 32 weeks isn't abortion. But it's a compromise. Sophie Ann lived nine minutes. Pearl, too, died quickly. We'll never know to what extent their prematurity shortened their lives. Their mothers, for all their love and devotion to life, couldn't save them. But Laura and Aimee could save themselves. By doing so, they could take care of their surviving children and give life to others.”

So the induced labor of Pearl at 32 weeks is an expulsion? Aimee pushed Sophie Anne out of her body? Do you see how his language is painting a different picture than the stories told by the mothers in question? They expelled children that posed a danger to them. They pushed them out to save their own lives and preserve their families. The terms are technically correct but used in such a way to further the equivocation. Early birth is pregnancy termination in that pregnancy ends at premature birth as is trivially true with all births I guess. But in this case the confusion of the terms only serves to support Mr. Saletan's specious point.

Which leads me to the second point. Mr Saletan is a very thorough and meticulous man in most articles. If there is information out there that strengthens his position and undermines his opponents he will winnow out every little detail to make certain that his readers are not being fooled by a deliberate suppression of evidence. That is why it is impossible for me to believe that he is as ignorant about birth at 32 weeks as he comes across in this piece and I am left to conclude that we have met fallacy number two on our journey. The direct suppression of evidence that would weaken his argument.

Lets look at another excerpt from the article:

"It's a beautiful story. But hold on. Thirty-two weeks is well short of full term. Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks from the last menstrual period, and any baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature. Delivery at 32 weeks is that much worse for the baby."

And lets look at a quote already mentioned above one more time.

“Induced delivery at 32 weeks isn't abortion. But it's a compromise...We'll never know to what extent their prematurity shortened their lives.”

Mr. Saletan provides a helpful link to a page that gives the general list of dangers that accompany preterm childbirth, but is there more to this story? Did our normally inquisitive journalist not ask this basic question, “Why would two different medical professionals independently pick 32 weeks as a threshold?” If you go to the bottom of the information page that Mr. Saletan offers they recommend that you visit the March of Dimes for more information. I did just that and found out the answer to that question.

You see at 32 weeks the survival rate for babies is 98%. Their skin is usually no longer translucent, they have often developed the ability to suck which means they could be fed with a bottle, and they are dramatically less likely to suffer brain bleeds. They do often need help with respiration and are at a greater risk of long term respiratory issues and learning disabilities than babies born later in pregnancy. But what is the baseline risk for those abnormalities?

Lets get some idea about how good medical professionals are at preserving life. Even at 26 weeks preterm birth (less than 1% of all preterm births occur prior to the 28 week mark), the survival rate for the babies is about 80%. This group is at the most risk for long term problems. About 25% will face long lasting disabilities and almost half will suffer more minor issues such as behavioral or learning problems. But look at those numbers again. Our medical professionals are so proficient and accomplished that about 75% of surviving babies born that early will NOT face long lasting disabilities (that is about 60% of all babies born at 26 weeks). And nearly half will not face the more minor issues affecting intellectual and emotional development (about 40% of all children born at 26 weeks).

When you are characterizing a mother's decision to induce labor at 32 weeks as a compromise in the same family as abortion, it might be helpful to present the full story. As Mr. Saletan is apparently unwilling to do so, here it is. A woman that carries a high risk pregnancy to 32 weeks and then induces labor has given her child a 98% chance at survival and dramatically increased their likelihood of avoiding the vast majority of preterm difficulties. She has entrusted her child at that point to medical professionals who use their considerable knowledge to attend to the health and well being of her child and have a remarkable track record of success. A woman that goes to the doctor to get an abortion has about a 100% chance of having her child killed by the medical professionals that use their considerable knowledge and surgical skill to tear and cut her unborn child to pieces and extract it from her womb. Does that clear up the distinction?

The most objectionable aspect of this article to me is his characterization of the women in question as having compromised their pro-life positions by inducing labor at 32 weeks. Yikes! Only someone that has suppressed all evidence that undermines this ridiculous assertion and so confuses his terminology could print this nonsense under the heading of "Science." It is instructive to us all to see how a couple of innocent (or not so innocent depending how you choose to interpret this) fallacies can muddy the waters of reason.

Mr. Saletan had a point to make. In order to support it he confused his terminology with the sloppy use of the word “termination” and he suppressed evidence that would undermine the credibility of his argument. He also outrageously insulted two innocent women, but on that count I guess we can cut him a little slack. He is clearly so confused that in suggesting these mothers made a choice that, in his mind, purposefully harmed their unborn/premature children to preserve themselves he apparently thought he was paying them a compliment. Sure his evaluation of their actions would horrify them, but he almost seems to admire the caricature of them that he has created. That is quite possibly the most disturbing thing about this flawed article.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

President Obama, You are no William Wilberforce [Jay]

President Barack Obama spoke today at the National Prayer Breakfast about the need to return to civility and see God in the faces of our political opponents. The president is by and large a brilliant speaker that commands attention and speaks with seeming insight and intelligence.

I emphasize the word “seeming.” Whenever any politician calls for a return to the good old days when people were civil to each other, politically or otherwise, I strain to find the mythical world they are referring to where civility and manners once reigned. In American history there has never been such a time. Immediately after the American Revolution that established our sovereign nation (hardly a civil parting from the British) George Washington was universally beloved and elevated to the presidency, but even he faced ugly editorials and political back biting from supposed friends.

In the presidential election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson and his good friend and newspaper editor Benjamin Franklin Bache engineered one of the ugliest and politically divisive negative campaigns our country has ever seen in an effort to unseat John Adams. A campaign that seriously injured the relationship of the previous friends and permanently embittered Abigail Adams toward Jefferson. Our national debates have included rebellions, wars, physical attacks within the congressional halls, lies, scandals, thievery, marches, riots, protests, and espionage. When we were not busying ourselves fighting foreign powers we were domestically hashing out immigration, slavery, reconstruction, suffrage, prohibition, the great depression, civil rights, and abortion. None of those issues are identified by the incredible spirit of civility they fostered among the political opponents or the people in general.

So as heartfelt as his appeal for civility may seem, President Obama needs to be honest about what he wants. He wants political opponents and pundits to lay off his presidency. He does not mind people being stirred up on a grass roots level as his ascension to the highest office was accomplished by tapping into a strong dissatisfaction with politicians. His own grassroots movement was the great wind of change. The Tea Party's grassroots movement is simple incivility.

The objector might say, “His campaign was built on hope and change and was not negative.” Well change from what? The bad guys that have ruined our country. The idiots who mismanaged our affairs. The evil “others” who messed all of this up and need to be removed. In order for candidate Obama to be a savior, there must be devils from which we need to be saved, and those are the “others” he so politely and routinely throws under the bus.

In the course of his speech, President Obama recalled the efforts of Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and William Wilberforce as examples of people who saw God in the faces of their enemies. Here is where President Obama's delusion is most apparent. He is so eager to cast himself in the light of those great men and see similarities in the resistance they faced that he misses the common thread that unites them and excludes him. It certainly was not their shared civility and gift of articulation.

Those men are remembered in high esteem because they refused to compromise basic principles in relation to the equality and value of all human life. They faced down injustice with courage and strength in the face of resistance that was well beyond common political incivility in declaring a whole race of human beings as less important than another. We honor them because we understand that it would have been easier for them to care less, but that the particular evils that confronted each of them demanded people of strength be willing to commit themselves to opposing those evils. Whether by design or in the course of those unfolding events, these men joined their lives to the struggle for freedom and equality for all time.

You do not join the ranks of those men by passing legislation that any old democrat at any time would champion if they held the presidency. You do it by recognizing that injustice and inequality are still present today and that a group of human beings are currently the victims of terrible inhumanity. The unborn human beings that are destroyed and exploited today, like all the powerless before them, are in need of men and women of courage to stand up and seek the recognition of their basic humanity.

President Obama could fight for them, but he seems more interested in finding a path that is paved with civility and good feelings. Unfortunately, history tells us that informing a society that we are morally corrupt in our treatment of fellow human beings, especially when the morally abhorrent treatment itself provides a seeming personal benefit, is not likely to invite the civility and support of our opponents. Just ask Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and William Wilberforce.

Given President Obama's track record on these issues, it would take one of the most startling political about faces ever witnessed to get him on the right side. This is a man who sees no contradiction in claiming that he is not qualified to address the humanity of unborn while implementing and supporting policy that expresses the most radical concepts of abortion on demand. That contradiction is maddeningly and obviously stupid. Such moral insensitivity is not likely to produce a man that will join the ranks of the great moral crusaders in history by confronting the great moral issue of our age while calling people to embrace what Lincoln referred to as the better angels of our nature.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

LTI Podcast #25 - The Super Bowl Commercial [Serge]

Life Training Institute Podcast #25 - The Superbowl Commercial

In this episode, Rich, Scott, Jay, and Bob discuss the upcoming commercial produced by Focus on the Family that will air during the upcoming Superbowl. We respond to some of the criticism that CBS has received for selling the time to Focus on the Family. Is it possible that the emotional appeal of this commercial may obscure the true pro-life argument?

Monday, February 1, 2010

From One Extreme to the Other [Elizabeth]

Pro-abortionists have long characterized us as religious freaks without the capacity for reason and logic. That narrow view was fulfilled last year by the actions of one man who hardly represents us.

It took jurors in Kansas 37 minutes last Friday to convict Scott Roeder of murdering Dr. George Tiller.

The judge in the case shocked the nation when he initially agreed to consider allowing the defense to pursue a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, since Roeder believes he righteously killed a “mass murderer under protection from the state.” After all, Tiller was ending the lives of the unborn — approximately 300 a year, and even through the third trimester.

Anyone familiar with LTI knows that we repudiate such heinous violence and reject anything that would work to undermine our cause. Extremists, like Roeder, are a minority, but they sometimes unfairly become the poster children for the pro-life movement.

Roeder is a man who once considered severing Tiller’s hands with a sword. He fantasized for years about ending the doctor’s career or life. The pro-life movement doesn’t want him to be elevated to the status of an idol. He needed God’s direction just as badly as Tiller did.

In fact, pro-life apologists have nothing in common with extremists like Mr. Roeder. Our purpose is to communicate the pro-life message in a God-honoring way. We take our cues from Jesus himself, who was irresistible and charismatic. He spoke truth, and some received that truth and allowed it to change the fabric of their lives. He changed the world with love.

February’s issue of GQ magazine featured an article “Savior vs. Savior” detailing the events leading up to that fateful day when Roeder’s and Tiller’s paths crossed.

The article starts off, “Both men believed they were doing right: Dr. George Tiller was one of the last men in America willing to provide late-term abortions. Scott Roeder was convinced that killing his kind was the duty of the righteous.”

It is human nature for us to justify our behavior and actions, especially if it’s something we believe in passionately. Both Roeder and Tiller clung desperately to their dogmatic beliefs until passion led them to forsake reason.

Roeder — a Messianic Jew — had been following the actions of Operation Rescue. But they weren’t doing enough. While they protested outside Tiller’s clinic, the doctor was ending lives inside.

There had been other attempts to stop Tiller’s practices in conservative Wichita, Kansas. There was a clinic bombing in 1986 and Tiller was shot in 1993 in both arms. That day he put a sign out front his clinic that read, “Women need abortions and I’m going to provide them.”

Tiller viewed what was taking place in response to his clinic as a war. He provided combat pay for employees and would generously reward them for their loyalty.

Roeder fed his hatred of Dr. Tiller for months, maybe years, prior to marching in the doctor’s place of worship — Reformation Lutheran Church — and shooting him once in the back of the head.

Roeder thought he was doing God’s work. Tiller said he was in the business of saving people. In the end, both men murdered for their own agendas. Instead of elevating themselves, both men needed a real Savior.

Pro-lifers will continue to fight the good fight, but we will do so with our words. We will put on the armor of God and battle the real enemy here. Somewhere along the way Roeder lost sight of one of the most basic and important of Christian principles — to hate the sin and love the sinner.