Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Will on Questions for Kagan [Jay]

George Will had a Washington Post Op-Ed piece on questions that ought to be posed to Elena Kagan by the Senate Judiciary Committee in her confirmation hearings to become the next Supreme Court Justice. I really like the list, but the last two seemed appropriate for our blog:

-- You have said: "There is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage." But that depends on what the meaning of "is" is. There was no constitutional right to abortion until the court discovered one 185 years after the Constitution was ratified, when the right was spotted lurking in emanations of penumbras of other rights. What is to prevent the court from similarly discovering a right to same-sex marriage?

-- Bonus question: In Roe v. Wade, the court held that the abortion right is different in each of the three trimesters of pregnancy. Is it odd that the meaning of the Constitution's text would be different if the number of months in the gestation of a human infant were a prime number?

Hat Tip to kpolo for the heads up on this.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Break Point Post [Jay]

From Break Point at post entitled Unclear on the concept:

In an article on pro-life women and feminism, columnist Kathleen Parker wrote, "I'm libertarian-leaning enough to insist that government should have no role in determining what anyone does with his or her body -- as long as no one else is hurt."

Seriously. You read that correctly. She actually wrote, "as long as no one else is hurt."

About abortion.

And this lady is supposed to be a conservative intellectual. If this is what truly passes for intellectualism in the conservative movement, we are in very deep trouble.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Unethical opposition? [Megan]

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says he will support embryonic stem cell research if he is elected Wisconsin's next governor.
A direct quote from a recent short article:  "Barrett says it's wrong for opponents of embryonic stem cell research to suggest the work is unethical." No further explanation was offered.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Re: The Problem with Left-Wing Evangelicals [Scott K]

In response a video clip featuring left-wing evangelicals listing their top moral issues (not one mentioned abortion), Jo Jo Ruba posted this reply on my Facebook page:

Here's another take Scott: The problem with the left, even the Christian left, is that they confuse the problem with the solutions.

Of course we should care about the poor, clean water and the rights of others around the world. But it is not the national government that can solve those problems - the best solution still lies in education, a change in values and a change in day to day priorities by individual citizens. For example, the US Government can't ban poverty or stop the sex trade of young girls in Thailand. That is the job of local citizens or the gov't of Thailand!

However, the US gov't CAN ban the killing of unborn children within its own borders - that is why pro-lifers have always sought a moral and political solution to that problem. Unlike poverty or environmental degradation, no one is proposing legalizing those evil acts. Everyone is already in support of helping the poor or putting an end to child slavery.

In contrast, with abortion a whole industry has been created to defend the legal killing of unborn children in your country and mine.

It is the government's responsibility to protect the innocent. That goes all the way back to ancient civilizations, including the Jewish one as indicated in the OT. Even Martin Luther King Jr said "The law can't make white people like me but it can stop them from lynching me."

This is why Christians who are involved in the public arena must be willing to single out abortion - it is the only one where the people and its government are tacitly complicit in the killing of its own people.

Frankly, if Christians don't think the killing of unborn children merits even a mention in an interview, then they not only misunderstand the moral gravity of the situation but they have failed to live up to their mandate of loving their neighbour as themselves.

Our response as Christians must be different to abortion because the political and social forces and the solution to it, is different than the other issues mentioned. Our response must be different because if Christians cannot show Christ's love to the unborn, who will?

Monday, June 14, 2010

See it and Weep [Scott K]

When a panel of hip evangelicals thinks "educational inequity" is a grave moral evil, while dismembering a living human fetus is not worth mentioning, we are in need of some deep soul searching...and better leadership.

Veto in Florida [Megan]

            A recent New York Times article reported that Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoed an abortion bill similar to Oklahoma’s — one that would require most women to pay for an ultrasound and detailed description before having an abortion procedure. Crist’s veto letter reflects a middle-of-the-road stance, which makes sense after the governor dropped his Republican Party affiliation in April to run for a U.S. Senate seat party affiliation-less. Still, his reasons point to faulty thinking.

            According to the article, Crist opposed mandatory sonograms because the legislation “places an inappropriate burden on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.” As Scott would say:  “I agree — IF the unborn are not human.” If they are, the termination of a pregnancy is not a decision anyone is free to make, with or without an ultrasound.

            Crist expressed his personal views, describing himself as “pro-life,” but stressed that his personal views — to quote the article’s paraphrase of Crist’s view — “should not result in laws that unwisely expand the role of government.”

            But if Crist opposes abortion because it unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being, protecting unborn life should be understood as a wise — nay, necessary —role of the government. Two questions could be asked of him:  “Why do you personally oppose abortion?” and “What exactly is the role of government?”

            Crist mentioned women’s “right to privacy” in passing according to the article. But again, if he opposes abortion for the reason above, what does “privacy” have to do with it? Privacy has no bearing on whether or not it is wrong to perform other acts, like child abuse, stealing or rape.

            Crist closed by claiming that the measures taken by the legislation do not “change the hearts” of women as to whether or not to terminate their pregnancies, and that such a change of heart determines whether or not a new life is welcomed — lovingly — into the world. If a thing is (objectively) wrong, one’s (subjective) feelings about it do not make it right. No one would look down on a Charlie Crist, or anyone else, for attempting to dissuade a sociopath from murder. Furthermore, it is not okay to take anyone’s life unjustly on the off-chance that doing so might protect them from future heartache, such as the possibility they may not be loved by their parents. Though that reality is terribly sad, it does not justify abortion.

            Lastly, the writer misses the issue altogether with his own assessment:  “Compassionate conservatives and parents of all persuasions may be hard pressed to disagree.” His assertion assumes that the unborn at the center of the controversy are not human.

            The humanity of the unborn is central. And if anyone disagrees on that point, they’ve moved into the realm of science, where they can settle their disagreement by consulting the nearest embryology textbook.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Depends on what you mean by "people" [Megan]

Peter Singer's recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, "Should This Be the Last Generation?", explored whether or not it would be "good" to bring more people "into existence" given the circumstances of the world today.
The piece itself was clearly meant to be thought-provoking, and Singer does end on a positive note — one that is hopeful of the next generations making changes for the better for the environment and the world at large.

What concerns me most is what Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, has proposed elsewhere — that "personhood" is not even attained by human beings until a period after birth, and is actually extended to a number of other species based on self-awareness. Though he begins by using language like "to bring a child into existence," he later writes: 

"Is a world with people in it better than one without? Put aside what we do to other species — that's a different issue. Let's assume that the choice is between a world like ours and one with no sentient beings in it at all. And assume, too — here we have to get fictitious, as philosophers often do — that if we choose to bring about the world with no sentient beings at all, everyone will agree to do that. No one's rights will be violated — at least, not the rights of any existing people. Can non-existent people have the right to come into existence?"

What I understand Mr. Singer to be proposing is that all the "sentient beings" (aka "persons") should be able to get together and decide not to reproduce, as to rid the world of sentient beings. If such a consensus were reached, "no one's" rights would be violated in carrying it forth.

Maybe so.

But the problem comes from the exclusion of the unborn, newborns, the comatose, and patients in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease (to name a few) from what Singer has defined elsewhere as "people."

I'm left with a few questions, not the least of which are:
If newborns are excluded from the decision, what happens when they cross the invisible barrier into "sentient"? Do they then jump on the wagon?

And  — "to get fictitious" — how might "persons" like dolphins and chimpanzees reach such a consensus?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Further thoughts [Megan]

            After my last post, I took some time to read over the Oklahoma bill that will require abortion providers to both perform an ultrasound and give an oral, detailed medical description of the embryo or fetus before performing an abortion. Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the bill, but his veto was overturned by the Oklahoma Legislature.

            What interested me most was Gov. Henry’s veto letter.

Gov. Henry's primary objection to Oklahoma's HB 2780 was that the bill "lacks an essential exemption for victims of rape and incest." The only exemptions from an ultrasound-and-detailed-description would be abortions in the cases of medical emergencies (defined as actions to prevent the death or 'irreversible impairment of a major bodily function' of the woman).

            Gov. Henry continues, "By forcing the victims of such horrific acts to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the procedure after they have faced the unspeakable trauma of rape or incest, the state victimizes the victim for a second time." And, "HB 2780 represents an unconstitutional attempt by the Oklahoma Legislature to insert government into the private lives and decisions of its citizens."

            Both of Gov. Henry's objections beg the question. In both objections, the governor assumes that the unborn are not human.

            Though he readily views women who have been raped or impregnated incestuously as victims — and they certainly are — there is no mention of the victimization of the unborn, whose lives are ended unjustly by abortion.

            Neither does the governor include the unborn as "citizens."

            Back to basics:  If the unborn are human — and they certainly are — then taking their lives is not a choice that anyone is free to make.


Friday, June 4, 2010

A step in the right direction [Megan]

A recent New York Times article explored the affects of mandatory ultrasounds performed by abortion providers. Currently three states — Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi — require abortion providers to perform ultrasounds so that women have the choice of seeing inside their wombs before they decide whether or not to terminate their pregnancies.

Sixteen other states have similar legislation, most requiring abortion providers to at least offer the opportunity to view the unborn if an ultrasound is performed as part of the preparation for an abortion procedure. 

Oklahoma lawmakers have taken it a step further. In late April, the Oklahoma Legislature overrode Gov. Brad Henry's veto, enacting a law that not only requires an ultrasound, but a detailed medical description of the embryo or fetus.
Abortion advocates strongly oppose the law, claiming that the ultrasounds do little to sway women's decisions to abort and are insulting to women's ability to make informed decisions. A detailed description adds further insult, they claim.
But it is clear that some decisions are not as "informed" as they may think, even after viewing the ultrasound.

The article reports that in some instances, viewing the ultrasound encourages the decision to abort. The writer quotes one women for whom this was the case:  "'It just looked like a little egg, and I couldn’t see arms or legs or a face,' said Tiesha, 27, who chose to view her 8-week-old embryo before aborting it at the Birmingham clinic. 'It was really the picture of the ultrasound that made me feel it was O.K.'"

Tiesha assumed that what she was viewing was not a human being based on its physical appearance in an early stage of development — never mind the fact that if arms, legs, or a face are requirements for humanity, there are many people who do not qualify. I don't think this woman would advocate taking the lives of amputees, burn victims, or others missing limbs or facial features and feel like "it was O.K." based on their appearances.

Viewing an ultrasound is a half-step in the right direction. As the article indicated, even among women who choose to see the ultrasound, some remain unclear about what they're viewing. 

I think the Oklahoma legislation is a full step in the right direction as far as informing women of exactly what the decision to abort puts to death.

Still, such legislation dances around the heart of the matter. If the state's government is going to such lengths to lessen the number of abortions, they must find something wrong with it. The next question should be as simple as it would be in a one-on-one conversation in which one party says, "I oppose abortion, but..." 

"Why do you oppose it?"

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lee & George on Fertilization Confusion [Jay Watts]

Robert George and Patrick Lee have written a response to a new argument against the following position:

At fertilization, the ovum and the sperm cease to be and something new comes to be — an organism (the embryo) whose genetic constitution and epigenetic state orient and dispose it to develop in the direction of maturity as a member of the species.

This seems an uncontroversial statement to me, but when people think they can benefit by destroying life they craft some interesting arguments to justify their actions. So, the new argument is that if the technology exists to extract the sperm after it has penetrated the egg then the union of the egg and sperm cannot be the beginning of life.

The article is brief and needs to be read, but I will give away the ending for those in a hurry. The process of penetrating the egg irreversibly changes the sperm such that whatever could be extracted after the fact cannot be meaningfully considered a sperm cell. At best, you are claiming the capacity to interrupt the fertilization process and not redefine the new life that exists at the completion of fertilization. Once fertilization has occurred a new single cell human life exists with a distinct genetic identity and orientation and disposition “to develop in the direction of maturity as a member of the species.”

Meaning that the new human life has begun and will move through the stages that all human life must move through during the aging process. An embryo becomes a fetus becomes a newborn becomes a child and eventually becomes an adult who posts blogs and argues that his human brothers and sisters in the earlier stages of our development ought not to be destroyed because their deaths profit the rest of us.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Student responses following worldview class [Megan]

            I wanted to share a few of the students’ end-of-the-year comments from the Christian Worldview class Jay Watts and I taught this semester. I’ll let them speak for themselves:

 “I liked learning how to defend Christianity, learning how it’s true.”

“I learned that Christianity is more than just ‘because the Bible says.’ It matches up perfectly (with reality). And now I can back stuff up.”

“You have faith, but can back a lot of things up with fact. It’s not just a relationship.”

“I feel like I have more tools in my belt. I can talk with others and see what they believe, and talk about what I believe.”

“I’m excited to go to college. I won’t just sit there when others ask my about my beliefs. I can talk intelligently and give an answer.”

            The students were asked to share something they’d learned this semester that impacted their thinking about Christianity. The following are a few of those responses:

 “Truth excludes.”

“God isn’t an old guy with a beard.”

“The Trinity is complex.”

“God is immutable.”

“God reveals himself in general and specific ways.”

“Thinking about God is endless.”

“We know about God because he wants us to know about him. It’s all because of him.”

“God knows everything that’s happened, and all the possibilities of what could happen.”

            Jay and I wrapped up the semester with an oral exam — after all, these young people need to be able to articulate this stuff. Their reactions to Jay’s questions and “objections” were completely different than they were last September when he challenged their beliefs on the first day of class to give them a taste of what they’d be learning. Instead of being flabbergasted into silence, they were asking questions, picking out fallacies, and responding with intelligent arguments. By no means were they able to pick out all of the fallacies and come up with all of the (big) words to respond, but they were able to make a stand and hold their own, and even help one another out from time to time.

            They have truly grown into thinking Christians