Friday, November 29, 2013

Blogging Dellapenna in December [Jay Watts]

Throughout December and early January I will be rereading a few books. One of them will be the massive Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History by Joseph Dellapenna of Villanova University School of Law. I am preparing a talk for the 2014 SALT Conference in Montgomery, Alabama that will include some elements addressing our need to know the history of abortion in the United States in order to counter the largely fabricated narrative often offered to defend current abortion laws.

The central issue is always what are the unborn and what are our obligations (if any) to them. So any appeal that centers on arguing that people in the past didn't believe the unborn were fully human and that abortion has always been common fails to address the central issue. It is no more decisive than arguing that prior to the 18th century slavery was widely embraced and had been historically accepted so the African slaves must be a class of human life we are allowed to enslave.

That said, there is wisdom in understanding the world we live in within the context of the events of the past that brought us to this moment. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says: “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” We wrestle with moral issues that are rooted in ancient questions but feel altogether new because the medical science and technologies that raise the questions are novel.

Also, the hole in our knowledge begs to be filled. As a result, myths framed as history can thrive in the absence of a substantial response. As Hadley Arkes says in Natural Rights and the Right to Choose, we end up absorbing the premises of the other side. He shares a story about Lincoln's aggravation with General Meade celebrating driving the Confederate invaders “from our soil.” Lincoln was said to have responded, “Will our generals never get that idea out of their heads? The whole country is our soil.” Dellapenna points out in Chapter 1 that “even strongly anti-abortion authors like George Will have reiterated the new orthodoxy, presumably because this spurious history has become so thoroughly embedded in the popular culture that it has taken on the aura of unquestionable truth.”

Considering the emphasis Blackmun placed on the historical argument justifying the majority decision in Roe v. Wade, it is important to examine what Dellapenna calls the new orthodoxy and see if the history of abortion framed by men like Cyril Means and James Mohr corresponds to the best evidence that we have available. Admittedly, this will not answer the question of whether or not abortion is wrong, but it may help us to understand where we find ourselves and how we got here. If we discover that our past is a bit more brutal than we hoped, it certainly would not be the first time that this was true. And as Christopher Kaczor points out in The Ethics of Abortion, if we are justified in treating another class of human beings in this manner, in defining them as something less than us, then it will be the first time in history that we were right.

As I reread Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History, I'll simultaneously revisit Marvin Olasky's Abortion Rites and Arkes' Natural Rights and the Right to Choose. The blogging will follow Myths, but I'll frequently reference the others as well. I hope that this will serve to expose some fantastic work that others have done to correct the new orthodoxy while introducing many of you to books that have enriched my understanding of this issue.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Plan B Not Effective for Majority of Women [Serge]

I have been making the claim for many years that the evidence is clear that Plan B emergency contraception is less effective than frequently advertised.  When first made available, the manufacturer claimed that Plan B EC was about 90% effective in reducing unwanted pregnancy when taken after unprotected sex.  Later on, and very quietly, researchers admitted that the effectiveness is not even close to 90%.  In fact, here is the quote from researcher and senior fellow of the Guttmacher Institute James Trussell:

The risk of pregnancy for women requesting ECPs appears to be lower than assumed in the
estimates  of  ECP  efficacy,  which  are  consequently  likely to  be  overestimates.  Yet,  precise estimates of efficacy may not be highly relevant to many women who have had unprotected intercourse, since ECPs are often the only available treatment. A more important consideration for most ECP clients may be the fact that data from both clinical trials and mechanism of action studies clearly show that at least the levonorgestrel regimen of ECPs is more effective than nothing.
It turns out that Dr. Trussell was far too optimistic even in this assessment.  Now, it turns out that for many women, Plan B EC is not actually better than nothing

The European manufacturer of an emergency contraceptive pill identical to Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, will warn women that the drug is completely ineffective for women who weigh more than 176 pounds and begins to lose effectiveness in women who weigh more than 165 pounds... 
 These pills, which use a compound called levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancies, are the most effective morning-after pills available without a prescription. Other pills sold in the United States require a prescription, are less effective at preventing pregnancy, or cause side effects such as nausea or vomiting. Plan B One-Step, which retails for $50, is the only emergency contraceptive drug in the United States available to women of all ages without a prescription.
Emergency contraception advocates reacted to the news about Norlevo with dismay. "There's a whole swath of American women for whom [these pills] are not effective," says James Trussell, a professor of public affairs at Princeton and a senior fellow with the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank for reproductive health issues. 

Data for the years 2007 to 2010 show the average weight of American women 20 years and older is 166.2 pounds—greater than the weight at which emergency contraceptive pills that use levonorgestrel begin to lose their effectiveness. The average weight of non-Hispanic black women aged 20 to 39 is 186 pounds, well above the weight at which these pills are completely ineffective. A CDC survey published in February found that 5.8 million American women used emergency contraceptive pills from 2006 to 2010.
The advocates of Emergency Contraception have been pushing this medication women of all ages without prescription despite the fact that the evidence has been available for quite a while that it was not effective.  This is shameful.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wise Choices for Young Pro-Lifers [SK]

Per a request, a few thoughts on how young, highly motivated pro-lifers can lay a solid foundation for a lifetime impact...

1) Read more books and fewer blogs—At least twice a year, scale back social media and hit the books. To get the big picture and avoid some costly youthful errors, pick up Hugh Hewitt’s “In but Not of: A Guide to Christian Ambition to Influence the World.” Next, tackle J.P. Moreland’s “Love Your God with All Your Mind.” Then, move toward mastering the moral logic of the pro-life view. Begin with Kreeft’s “Unaborted Socrates,” Beckwith & Koukl’s “Relativism,” and my “The Case for Life.” Master those three titles. That is, read them many times over and mark them up so thoroughly they are almost unreadable. All pro-life Christians should master those titles. If you are thinking of pro-life apologetics as a vocation, devour Beckwith’s “Defending Life,” Kaczor’s “The Ethics of Abortion,” Lee’s “Abortion and Unborn Human Life,” and Arke’s “Natural Rights and the Right to Choose.” Again, re-read these gems until you master them. Then, re-read them again every year.

2) Take more speech classes—Mastering the pro-life position will make you smart. Public speaking will make you useful. Here’s the bottom line: Good speakers are not born. They are organized. They march into a speaking event knowing exactly what they will say, how they will say it, and why it matters to their audience. With a little sweat, you can be that organized. You don’t have to be cool or clever. But you do need training. Get it now, while you are young. My friend Marc Newman—a speech and debate professor—is a good place to start. Watch for his speaker's training seminar and be willing to travel to get there.

3) Consider grad school—Not because you need it to master the pro-life view (tackling a good reading list will do that), but so you can get past the gatekeepers who control access to the audiences we most need to reach. Now, you can certainly start speaking prior to finishing grad school—indeed, I know some excellent pro-life speakers who have no college degrees—but if you want to reach the widest audience possible, credentials help. While no Christian university that I’m aware of offers an applied bioethics degree aimed at equipping pro-life apologists for effective service (sad), that shouldn’t deter you from enrolling. Biola University and Houston Baptist University both offer excellent M.A. programs in Christian apologetics, with classes covering many of the worldview topics that surround the abortion controversy.

4) Aim to be a change agent not a celebrity—Mastering the pro-life position—both intellectually and rhetorically—will not land you a keynote address at the Southern Baptist Convention or World Youth Day, at least right away. But it may put you in front of the very audiences most at risk for abortion. Let’s be honest: Most people attending adult Christian conferences aren’t contemplating killing their unborn offspring. But three blocks over is a Catholic high school with 400 students, half of them secular. Two blocks beyond is an evangelical one filled with kids who struggle articulating a biblical worldview on a host of topics, including abortion. And in between are 20 church youth groups, almost none of which have ever featured a pro-life presentation. The keynote speaker at the Christian conference won’t be reaching those kids. But you might. There’s no better place to sharpen your speaking skills then a high school classroom. Get to know the teachers. While an all-school assembly may be out of reach, many teachers will let you speak to their classes if you present a good outline and demonstrate you can graciously handle questions. Later, you’ll get the assembly.

5) Deepen your intellectual skills outside of school—Consider attending Summit Oxford Study Center, run by my friend Kevin James Bywater. If you can’t attend Summit Oxford, spend two weeks at Summit’s student conferences in Colorado or Tennessee. You might also join us for the Clarkson Academy in London. In short, do something that broadens your horizons and ruins you for a normal life.

6) Find a good horse to ride—That is, pick a good mentor to help get you into the game, preferably a gracious but demanding pro-life leader who will make you read tons of stuff and force you to take reasonable risks. Forget all this silly talk about being a self-authentic individual. In your 20s and 30s, what you really need is someone to copy. You will never find your own voice until you master someone else’s. Once you find a mentor, copy his or her speeches, writing style, platform manners, etc. Indeed, you might get lucky and have a few mentors before you launch. Take them one at a time, though. I started with Gregg Cunningham, then Greg Koukl. I spent six years with the first and seven with the second. Both men were invaluable to me. Later you can become your own man/woman.

7) Get over your fear of support raising—I’ll put this bluntly. Pro-life groups are broke, nearly all of them. Most have little money to pay you. So what? Why should that stop you for getting paid to work full-time saving children? Learn to raise your own financial support like missionaries do. Yes, it’s scary. But ask yourself this question, courtesy of Gregg Cunningham: “Are any of the fears you have about support raising worth the price of human lives that could have been saved if you were fully funded?” Here at LTI, we’re offering support raising training in June at the annual Friends for Life Camp. Stay tuned for details.

8) Ask the right questions—and ask them often!

Wrong question: What can I do to be a pro-life rock star right now? 
Right question: What can I do now, in my youth, to lay a foundation for making a maximum impact after age 40 when my intellectual and speaking skills will be honed to a razor sharp focus and, through age and maturity, I’ve earned the right to be heard on a national level?

Wrong question: Will my generation of pro-life advocates end abortion?
Right question: Will my generation of pro-life advocates work harder and smarter than ones before and what can I do to make that happen?

Wrong question: How do I know if God has specifically called me to pro-life work?
Right question: Why do I need private revelation from God when I already have the clear command of Scripture to rescue those being led away to death?

[Edited to add #8]

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Advice to New Pro-Life Speaker [SK]

Short version of my advice:

First, grab the attention of your audience with a compelling introduction. Second, announce the topic of your talk. Third, tell your listeners why your topic matters. Fourth, announce your thesis and mention the main points you will cover supporting it. Move through these initial steps quickly to keep listeners riveted to the content. 

Longer version (edited letter--name changed):

Hi Bill,

Lots to like here. Your passion for the pro-life issue is incredible and comes through well on the recording. After listening to so many dull speakers, you are a breath of fresh air. Thank you for taking your subject seriously. Both in your speaking and writing, you convey a mastery of the issue from an intellectual standpoint, and this is sorely lacking in most presentations on abortion. Nice job!

My suggestions for improvement are limited to two main points that you'll have no trouble implementing:

Point #1—Talk less about yourself and more about why what you have to say matters to them (the listeners), especially early in the presentation

It's okay to grab their attention with an opening story (I do that), but make that story relate to them as quickly as possible. For example, listeners don't care about what you like and don't like, only why your remarks have significance for them. Right out of the gate, they must understand that what you are about to say is crucial and if they fail to listen, a price will be paid that will impact them personally. 

Back in 1996, Marc Newman gave me some advice on structuring my opening remarks that I follow religiously. First, I grab the attention of my audience with a compelling introduction. Second, I announce the topic of my talk. Third, I tell my listeners why my topic matters to them. Fourth, I announce my thesis and mention the main points I will cover supporting it. I move through these initial steps quickly to keep listeners riveted to the content. 

Let’s unpack those steps with more detail:

1. The introduction—March right in the front door of your talk with a short story or illustration that immediately draws listeners in. Put simply, you have about 90 seconds to convince the audience you are worth listening to, so make it count. Your story or illustration must relate to the content you’ll present and fit nicely with your thesis. It should also be simple. For example, you’ve heard me use an illustration from Omaha Beach—where on June 6, 1944, the first wave of Army rangers sustained horrific casualties because they dropped into deep tidewater and had few weapons with which to engage. My hunch is that you'll choose a different illustration next week, but remember this: If you think the audience won’t immediately grasp its significance, toss it for something else that is easily understood and relates better to your thesis for the night. Get after it!

2. Topic Statement—Tell listeners your theme for the evening. Make it clear and to the point: “My topic tonight is, “Equipped to Engage: Making a Case for Life on Hostile Turf.” Or, you might pose your topic as a question: “Tonight I want to ask a very specific question: How can you make a case for life when you’re under fire?” 

Note: If you are talking to a hostile or mixed audience, include a brief statement of goodwill after announcing your topic. Your combined topic and goodwill statement—aimed at setting a gracious tone for the evening—might look like this: “Tonight I’m going to address the topic, ‘The Case for Life.’ I realize abortion is a contentious issue that impacts some people personally. Rest assured, my purpose tonight is not to provoke controversy for controversy’s sake. Nor do I wish to condemn anyone. Rather, I’m just trying to get at the truth the best way I know how. So here’s what I propose. For the next 35 minutes, I’ll layout my reasons for thinking the pro-life view is persuasive. After that, I’ll open the floor for your questions and hear what you have to say. Fair enough?” That’s all there is to it. If you get too wordy here, you’ll sound apologetic or insincere, so keep your goodwill statement brief. 

3. Significance Statement—Immediately after announcing your topic, tell your listeners why it matters to them. Don’t skip this step! Envision taking your audience by the lapels and saying, “Listen to me! You must get what I’m about to tell you because if you don’t, this, this, and this will happen to you. But you can turn the tables and win if you listen up!” Following up on the example of Omaha Beach, I might say, “This topic of equipping yourself to engage on hostile turf is crucial to every Christian high school student listening to me right now. And here’s why: Seniors, in a few short months—and the rest of you, in a few short years—you will leave the safety of this Christian school and land on that beach known as the university campus. The minute that landing craft gate opens, you will find yourself confronted with ideas that run counter to everything you’ve heard about abortion. If you are not prepared, you’ll be outgunned and in way over your heads before you’ve memorized your class list.”

4. Thesis statement and rationale—Now you are ready to tell them how to engage. State in clear terms what you are going to argue: “Pro-life students can equip themselves to engage on hostile turf if they do four things: clarify the nature of moral reasoning, focus on the one question that really matters, make a persuasive case for life, and answer common objections.” 

Of course, you will want to plug in your own examples and thesis, but I think you can see how even with that minimal skeleton outline, I already have a workable structure for my talk, one that my listeners can quickly grasp. And by communicating up front what I'm going to say and why it matters to them, I draw them in. Although your talk had good ideas scattered throughout, I did not discern a visible structure on which you hung your material and made it relate to the overall thesis you were arguing. True, roughly six minutes into it, you did say that we must do something on the issue (a point you reiterated around the 15 minute mark), but then you went back to talking about yourself. A better plan is to announce your thesis early—“Anyone who believes in the humanity of the unborn and the inhumanity of abortion needs to do something”—and then immediately preview the main points you will drive home to make that case. 

In short, once you draw them in with a good intro, tell them why what you are going to say matters. Next, clearly articulate a thesis—something you will argue—then use personal stories to illustrate that thesis within the overall structure of the talk. Almost always, you should talk less about you and more about why your subject matters to them. March right in the front door and get to your point—quickly!

Point #2—and this relates to my first point—rethink using testimonies.

Truth is, I’m not a big fan of testimonies unless they are very short (3 minutes or less) and relate to the overall structure of the talk. In general, the pro-life movement spends way too much time on personal stories and not enough equipping people to argue our case. Stories appeal to some listeners, but when the evening is over, now what? How are those attending able to translate what they heard to those who don't agree with us? Answer: they're not! Rather than use a lengthy story about your personal journey to illustrate your pro-life work, let your training content and your delivery illustrate your mission/passion. Of course, you could still communicate a short personal example about your journey, but do it to help illustrate one of your main points, then move on. Short personal anecdotes work. Long testimonies are fraught with pitfalls and have limited training value.

Also, when you discuss graphic visuals, your tone should be personal, pastoral, and comforting—especially to those wounded by abortion. Speak directly to them, not about them. Give them the gospel as the antidote to post-abortion guilt. If you are showing abortion pictures (and you should), there is no need to describe the actual abortion procedures. As Gregg Cunningham points out, when you show pictures of abortion, abortion protests itself. Let the short 55-second clip do the heavy lifting for you.

Finally, if you are using your talk to invite donors to support your local pregnancy centers, you’ll want to relate your remarks to their work in a more compelling way. For example, if your topic is "Abortion and Moral Reasoning," use your significance statement to say something like this: “Some of you may think that Sharon and her staff are just about giving away baby clothes to young mothers. If you think that, you are mistaken. The stakes are way, way higher. Put simply, day in and day out, Sharon and her staff are engaged in an idea war for the hearts and minds of clients. In short, if that abortion-minded client believes that moral truth is a mere preference like choosing chocolate over vanilla, her child is in grave danger. And if she thinks that her child has no value unless she arbitrarily assigns it value, her child remains at risk. Make no mistake: These two questions—the question of truth and the question of human value—are in play in every counseling situation Sharon and her staff encounter.” Then, at the end of your talk, use the "Schindler’s List" example to encourage people to give like Oscar Schindler did. I remind them that Sharon, like Schindler, is giving her all to save lives. I end with this question: Are we taking our holocaust as seriously as Oscar Schindler took his? If so, we need to act like it and support the local pro-life pregnancy center.

All in all, this was a great start for you and lots better than my first talks. Unlike most speakers, you have all the natural gifts. Your passion is infectious. Your knowledge is stellar. The organizational and structural parts will come easy for you. Let me know if I can clarify anything further.

Glad to have you on board,

Note: updated for spelling and quote links.