Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nehring's Loving a Child on the Fringe: Part 1 (Jay Watts)

This article by Christina Nehring on raising a child with Down syndrome is marvelous. (Loving a Child on the Fringe)  I want to limit my comments to very specific elements both out of respect to how well written the piece is as well as my hope that you will also read her full article about her daughter Eurydice.  This is my first of two posts on this.

In addressing the conclusions of author Andrew Solomon in his book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity about the challenges of raising children including those with special needs as well as Peter Singer's utilitarian evaluations of life she writes the following:

Am I “cheerily generalizing” as Solomon says of other Down syndrome parents, “from a few accomplishments” of my child? Perhaps I am. But one thing I’ve learned these last four years that possibly Solomon has not: All of our accomplishments are few. All of our accomplishments are minor: my scribblings, his book, the best lines of the best living poets. We embroider away at our tiny tatters of insight as though the world hung on them, when it is chiefly we ourselves who hang on them. Often a dog or cat with none of our advanced skills can offer more comfort to our neighbor than we can. (Think: Would you rather live with Shakespeare or a cute puppy?) Each of us has the ability to give only a little bit of joy to those around us. I would wager Eurydice gives as much as any person alive.

I am so jealous of that paragraph and to paraphrase the singer/writer Jimmy Buffet talking about the song Southern Cross, dang I wish I wrote that. It echoes the wisdom of The Book of Ecclesiastes and gets to the heart of a real fear that drives abortion. My life as I planned it and see it will not reach its important ends should an unwanted child or a child that is not all I wish it to be in its capacities be introduced to my narrative. My future as I plan it is better than any other possible story for me and better for us all. Hogwash. Neither I nor my plans are so important that adjusting my understanding of either one of them threatens the greater good. A generous dose of Ecclesiastes articulated humility and perhaps an occasional listening to Dust in the Wind by Kansas may treat the vanity that plagues us.

My friend and minister Pat MacPherson tells me that, despite my emphasis on the identification of the unborn as human and determining what makes human life valuable, what bothers him most about abortion is the lack of faith represented in the decision to abort. We simply refuse to believe that our lives can be different from what we planned and still be something we love.

Everyone that I talk to that has a relative living with Downs syndrome repeats Ms. Nehring's view that the relationship changed more than her professional and personal circumstances, it changed her. The fear that our vision for our future will be abandoned loses sight of the possibility that the future us wouldn't have wanted that life anyway. If you asked 21 year-old, hard partying, atheistic, and pro-choice Jay if he would be happy as a 41 year-old Christian with a wife, three kids, and working in pro-life ministry he would have very colorfully and rudely retorted absolutely not. Yet here I am and deliriously happy. Nehring admits that had she known Eurydice had Downs she probably would have aborted her, and yet there she is writing this article about her unexpected fulfillment.  We simply don't have the omniscience to judge such things either way. We certainly lack sufficient knowledge to justify ending an innocent human life to secure a possible future we believe at this moment will make future us happy.

Not all frustrations are bad.  I am reminded of C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. While chronicling his experience dealing with the loss of his beloved wife, he articulates his fear that she will become something in memory that she was not in life. He lost the part of Joy that was continuously not what he expected. He writes:

All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. That is, in her foursquare and independent reality.

When she conformed to what he wanted her to be in his memory, Joy ceased to be Joy. The real Joy was messy and argumentative and independent. In fact, those were the very qualities he loved and most mourned losing. His point that all reality confronts us, frustrates us, and demands that we adjust is well taken. As is the recognition that we should cherish that aspect. Our dreams are as perfect as we can imagine them to be and a great motivator for our actions, but our waking hours are lived in an imperfect reality that opposes us. That opposition is not necessarily bad and is sometimes the best thing for us. It cultivates in us strength, character, and perspective that under easier circumstances would forever be lacking.

Our disturbing habit of pronouncing whole groups of human life as being excess or unneeded because of our fear that they would interfere with our plans reminds me again of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (I wrote more about that here in Scrooge and the Pro-Choice Christians). The line from the Ghost of Christmas Present bears repeating. After throwing Scrooge's callous remark about surplus population back in his face, the spirit says the following:

Man... if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, and what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child.

We need to hear stories about love and happiness found through relationships with people identified more often with struggle and suffering. We need to be reminded that unexpected joy runs rich and deep. Life is not beholden to us to play out as we script it in our dreams, and we are all the better for it.

The next post will address her recognition that her daughter is not her baton bearer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day #10 Pro-Life Apologetics Article: Does Bodily Autonomy Justify Abortion? [SK]

Rich Poupard says no.


The bodily autonomy argument and their defenses of it fail for at least four reasons. First, the argument fails to account for situations in which a mother harms but does not kill her child; given its logic, it would affirm a mother’s decision to intentionally take a medication that will cause birth defects in her child, for example. Second, the argument assumes that prenatal parental responsibilities are largely voluntary. Third, the analogies used to support the argument fail to take into account the difference between diseased and healthy physiological states. Fourth, the argument results in absurdities if taken to its logical conclusion. Taken as a whole, then, the bodily autonomy argument does not give us justification to jettison our deepest moral intuitions that mothers should not intentionally kill their offspring, whom proponents of this argument concede are rights-bearing individuals. Intentionally killing human fetuses in the act of elective abortion thus remains a great moral wrong.

Rich has follow up posts here and here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 9 Pro-Life Apologetics Article: Bob Perry on Margaret Sanger [SK]

No Gods no Masters
Christian Research Journal, Vol. 33, #4, 2010


When pro-life Christians attempt to defend their viewpoint with arguments such as,
“Abortion may have killed the person who would find the cure for cancer,” they have just stepped
directly into the mire of Sanger’s consequentialism.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Rethinking Post-Abortion Testimonies [SK]

From an earlier discussion today:

I think pro-lifers need to modify their emphasis on post-abortion testimonies. First, "I regret my abortion" is the easiest pro-life pitch to refute. That is, all the other side has to do is put up a woman who says, "I don't regret mine."

Second, a heavy emphasis on post-abortion testimonies often works against the Christian tradition. Christianity entails confessing your sins, then forgetting them in light of the grace given us. Was it not St. Paul who admonished us to "forget those things that are past" and "press-on" to know Christ? What's wrong with telling a post-abortion woman (or man) who trusts Christ,  "you've confessed your sin and God has forgiven you--not in part, but in whole. Your abortion no longer defines you. Your adoption into the family of God does. You are free to move on."

Third, there's a plausible danger that subjective testimonies will dictate pro-life policy. For example, I've seen some (by no means, all) post-abortion pro-lifers object to graphic depictions of abortion on grounds that the images are mean-spirited. Never mind that pictures work; all that matters is that we not make people feel bad. As Gregg Cunningham points out, our movement is toast "when we care more about the feelings of the born than we do the lives of the unborn."

Finally, how do the husbands feel? In most cases, post-abortion testimonies involve a previous relationship, not a current spouse. If the wife's ministry centers on retelling what she did with her ex, how does that help the current marriage relationship move forward and flourish?

The Christian gospel is the fantastic news that God the Father declares guilty sinners righteous in virtue of another--the sinless Lamb of God. Isn't it time we focused more on that blessed declaration and less on our own canceled sins?

For more, see here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More than Words: A Simple Exercise [Megan]

Reading a Frank Beckwith article ("The Explanatory Power of the Substance View of Persons" Christian Bioethics 10.1 (2004):  33-54. ), I came across a following helpful, clear, four-part definition that Beckwith cited:

"W. Norris Clarke offers a four-part definition of what constitutes a human substance: 

(1) it has the aptitude to exist in itself and not as a part of any other being; (2) it is the unifying center of all the various attributes and properties that belong to it at any one moment; (3) if the being persists as the same indivi- dual throughout a process of change, it is the substance which is the abiding, unifying center of the being across time; (4) it has an intrinsic dynamic orientation toward self-expressive action, toward self-communication with others, as the crown of its perfection, as its very raison d’être . . . (1991, p. 105)"

In your free time today, perhaps during a commute or while you're eating lunch or enjoying a cup of coffee (also known at my house as "a cup of deliverance"), try a simple thinking exercise. Read the definition in full. Then, think of either yourself or someone close to you (it is easy for me to think of one of my children). Read each part of the definition, and reword it so as to describe the person on your mind.

For example:  I read, "It has the aptitude to exist in itself and not as a part of any other being." Then I thought of my 6-year-old daughter, Neely, and said to myself, "Neely exists in and of herself. She is not a part of me or anybody or anything else." I did the same for each part of the definition.

Next time you're in a public place, look around and find a stranger, and recall your rewording of the definition. Apply it to someone else.

Doing this, though it may seem simplistic and elementary, will help you formulate ways to communicate these truths in the future. It will also transform your thinking about the matter from academic wording that's "out there," to someone near and dear, and to each and every person around you. Including the unborn ones.

Day #8 Pro-Life Apologetics Article [SK]

Patrick Lee & Robert P. George, The Wrong of Abortion


Human beings have the special kind of value that makes us subjects of rights in virtue of what we are, not in virtue of some attribute that we acquire some time after we have come to be.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day #7 Pro-Life Apologetics Article [SK]

Maureen Condic, Life: Defining the Beginning by the End


From conception forward, human embryos clearly function as whole living organisms. They are not mere collections of cells like those on a corpse, but are "living creatures with all the properties that define any organism as distinct from a group of cells; embryos are capable of growing, maturing, maintaining a physiologic balance between various organ systems, adapting to changing circumstances, and repairing injury. Mere groups of human cells do nothing like this under any circumstances."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Brief Advice to a First-Time Debate Participant [SK]

What follows is a re-post of comments I left on a friend's Facebook page. She bravely defended the pro-life view at a regional atheists conference. My hat is off to her.  Like those attending the conference, she's an atheist--but a pro-life one. She was concerned about the nasty comments left on the Youtube clip of her debate. 

Three thoughts: First, atheist trolls on the internet will not allow one of their own to wander off the reservation. You did that by taking a pro-life position. Thus, you are hated. Second, you need to get past reading what trolls say. They are not scholars, but bullies who try to win through ridicule and intimidation. Let them go. Third, analyze your debate objectively not subjectively. Comments on Youtube or Facebook, pro or con, are usually nothing more than an internet pep-rally for one side or the other. Instead, ask yourself these questions:

1. Did I present a solid case for the pro-life view that’s clear, concise, and memorable?
2. Did I do it in a winsome manner?
3. Did I restore meaning to the word “abortion” by carefully using images that depict it?
4. Did I frame the debate around one question, “What is the unborn?”
5. Did I handle objections persuasively, yet graciously?

My educated guess, without having seen the tape (I will look at it soon), is that you easily hit within the 70% range on all of those questions.

After running your own presentation through those five questions, run your opponent’s presentation through them. That, alone, should bring clarity. Assume the crowd liked him better than you. Assume further that the majority of those present think he won. Was that because he had better arguments or because he rhetorically capitalized on having sympathetic listeners?

Sure, there is room to improve—there always is—but that’s not the same as saying you lost. I’m certain you had better arguments. You just need to work on swifter responses to his. Welcome to the debate world! We’re all working on that on-going challenge!

Finally—and I say this gently and with affection—this fight for human equality is not about you. It’s certainly not about me. It’s about the unborn humans we’re trying to defend. I’m not surprised in the least that you are taking heat. Pro-life work entails suffering! However, just because our ideas are unpopular does not mean they are not right. True, as a theist, I have more resources at my disposal to make sense of suffering. I’m convinced that God did not put me here for comfort but for his glory. It’s His story, not mine. I should expect trouble and heartbreak and I've seen my share of both. And there's more to come. Indeed, with two sons in the military, I’m just one doorbell ring away from devastating news. But I press on knowing my work has purpose in a larger cosmological story.

With kind affection, SK

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 6 Pro-Life Apologetics Article [SK]

Matthew Lu, Part 2: Potentiality Rightly Understood


From the beginning of its existence a human being is always already a person because personhood belongs to it essentially as an instance of that natural kind. The second of a two-part series.

Day #5 Pro-Life Apologetics Article [SK]

Matthew Lu on Potential Misunderstandings (Part 1)


Abortion-choice advocates confuse active potential with passive potential, and thus misconstrue the nature of the human fetus. For example, a piece of lumber has the passive potential to become a table--provided it's acted upon from the outside. The unborn, however, have the active potential to develop themselves into a more mature stage of the kind of being they already are. No outside builder is necessary.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Daily Pro-Life Apologetics Article, Day 4 [SK]

O. Carter Snead, Protect the Weak and Vulnerable: the Primacy of the Life Issue


Public officials—especially the President—are obligated to protect the intrinsic equal dignity of all human beings, regardless not only of sex and race, but also without regard to age, size, condition of dependency, vulnerability, or the esteem of others. Abortion and embryo-destructive research are profound and lethal violations of this principle of equality to which the law (and the President) must respond.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Future of the Pro-Life Movement [SK]

Surrender is not an option. My Issues, Etc. interview (11 min.)

Daily Pro-Life Apologetics Articles [SK]

Over at my Facebook page, LTI is posting a daily link to a pro-life apologetics article. I thought we'd catch you up here:

 Here is the latest: Robert P. George: Embryo Ethics

Synopsis: We should resolve our national debate over embryo-destructive research on the basis of the best scientific evidence as to when the life of a new human being begins, and the most careful philosophical reasoning as to what is owed to a human being at any stage of development.

If you missed the first two days, here are the links:

 Day 1: S. Klusendorf, Dead Silence: Must the Bible Say Abortion is Wrong Before We can Know that it's Wrong?

Synopsis: The case for elective abortion based on the alleged silence of Scripture is weak. First, the Bible’s silence on abortion does not mean that its authors condoned the practice, but that prohibitions against it were largely unnecessary. The Hebrews of the Old Testament and Christians of the New were not likely to kill their offspring before birth. Second, we don’t need Scripture to expressly say elective abortion is wrong before we can know that it’s wrong. The Bible affirms that all humans have value because they bear God’s image. The facts of science make clear that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are unquestionably human. Hence, Biblical commands against the unjust taking of human life apply to the unborn as they do other human beings. Third, abortion advocates cannot account for basic human equality. If humans have value only because of some acquired property like self-awareness, it follows that since this acquired property comes in varying degrees, basic human rights come in varying degrees. Theologically, it’s far more reasonable to argue that although humans differ immensely in their respective degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature made in the image of God.

Day 2 :Francis Beckwith, The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law

Synopsis: The Court in Roe said that the right to abort was contingent on the status of the fetus--that is, whether or not it was a living human being. Given the Court said that it did not know when life begins, doesn't it follow the court also doesn't know when, if ever, a right to abortion exists?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bodily Rights and Adoption [Serge]

I'm now going to address some of the objections to my obligatory parental provision argument detailed in this post.  One line of argument is to deny that obligatory parental provisions exist.  Due to the fact that a mother has the right to give her child up for adoption, all parental provisions are in some ways voluntary.  Since a mother after a child is born can voluntarily refuse to provide for her child by exercising her right for adoption, a pregnant mother should be able to do the same prior to birth.  Unfortunately, since the only way the mother can exercise this right is to procure an abortion, this should be allowed.

How do we respond to this?  I believe the answer lies in the nature of the adoptive process itself.  In other words, why does the process of adoption exist in the first place?  Does adoption protect the right of mothers to not provide obligatory care for their children, or is there another reason why adoption is tolerated if not promoted?

The answer is clear: adoption exists because our culture recognizes that although it is ideal for a child to be raised by their biological parents, situations do exist whereby that does not occur.  For that reason, and for the mercy and beneficial care of children, we allow parents to gift their child for adoption.  When a mother allows her child to be adopted, she is not exercising any "right" that she has to not provide for her children.  Such a right does not exist.  Instead, our society has developed a system (although imperfect) to provide for children whose parents are unable or unwilling to care for them for the benefit of the child.

We cannot use a system that has been developed for the benefit of children that may not be desired in order to justify the intentional killing of a child that may not be desired.  In fact, the opposite is the case.  The process of adoption shows that our society can make a system to provide and care for children when their parents are unwilling or unable.  Does this support a mother's right to kill her offspring?  Absolutely not.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Logical Conversation about Activist Voting [Jay Watts]

I'm going to take a run at a conversation about pro-life voting or activist voting in general without addressing specific candidates.  I am also going to open unmoderated comments on this one post to allow people to criticize or correct any mistakes or just to dialogue on the issue.  Be respectful or your posts will disappear. ;-) [Because I am now onto other things, the comments are now back under moderation.  Will check as often as I can]

Does this make sense?

1) I hate X.

2) Candidate N sees X as a good that ought to be provided at lower costs and more accessible than it already is.

3) I decided to support Candidate N because I believe his policies will most limit or reduce X.

On its face the preceding seems to lack any logic at all. If the Candidate pursues policies that are opposite of my goals as it pertains to X then his policy goals cannot be the reason I vote for him. Let's see if we can tweak it a little and make more sense of it.

1) I hate X

2) Candidate N sees X as a good that ought to be provided at lower costs and more accessible than it already is.

3) Candidate N is part of a Political Party Y that opposes X as a matter of their party platform, therefore the presence of Candidate N increases the political power of Party Y.

4) Party Z is the opponent of Party Y and sees X as a good that ought to be provided at lower costs and more accessible than it already is. That is a part of their party platform.

5) The presence of Candidate N's opponent strengthens the political power of Party Z.

6) Parties Y and Z potentially have far more collective power than any individual representative of their party.

7) I decided to support Candidate N to limit the power of Party Z.

This has some logic behind it. It seems a good explanation as to why in some cases it may make more sense strategically for a pro-life voter to endorse a pro-choice republican. I would say the rationale as it is constructed there would be less valid if Candidate N were running for President of the United Sates because the candidate can directly impact the platform in a way others can't.

It also seems clear that the point of contention is whether or not point (6) is true. Every other point is merely a matter of my beliefs, determining a biographical fact about Candidate N, or a matter of documented facts about the parties in question.

One could add that they are under no moral obligation to vote for one of the two parties or to vote at all. If that is the case, then it is possible that Party Z benefits from the inaction of others. To what degree are we responsible for the consequences of our inaction? If you knew that 100,000 conservative Ohio voters intended to not vote or vote for a third party candidate would you see them as contributing to the reelection of the President? If you knew that the same number of progressives intended to sit out the election would you see that decision as contributing to the defeat of the President? Don't pro-lifers make all sorts of arguments that inaction is morally condemnable? What makes that inaction morally problematic and voter inaction morally preferable?  I know one friend that has very strong opinions on the moral nature of casting a vote, and I am willing to be convinced on this issue by any side with a good argument.

Based on the expanded rationale, if Candidate N is actually a member of Party Z then there is absolutely zero logic in voting for Candidate N in hopes that it will reduce X. The idea that the best way to reduce X is to endorse and aid in empowering a collective group that embraces X as a good is nothing less than deluded wishful thinking.

The argument that restrictive laws in and of themselves increase abortion rates is demonstrably false on its face. Unless you think that contrary to everything we know there were more abortions in the United States prior to enacting the most permissive abortion laws possible in 1973. For more info on that, check this old post out.

I will post later on the idea of reducing abortions and the various things that can mean.  See What the Contraceptive Choice Study Really Shows for Serge's recent post on contraceptives reducing abortion.