Friday, February 28, 2014

Cecile Richards' Morally Repugnant Belief [Clinton Wilcox]

It's definitely not news that Planned Parenthood is anti-science. There is, of course, this video, in which a group of individuals affiliated with and trained by Planned Parenthood, in an actual debate, declared that they were "not going to try to use science or evidence," and that the science is all opinion. Oddly enough, at a pro-life outreach I once asked a Planned Parenthood affiliate who was counter-protesting what she would say if I told her that the earth is actually 6,000 years old and that an old earth was just her opinion? She didn't have an answer to that. Funny that an old Earth and evolution are scientific fact, but suddenly when you're talking about when human life begins, the science is "unreliable" and "science has been wrong before." (Note: I'm not interested in debating evolution; I am merely using this as an example of Planned Parenthood's inconsistency when it comes to science.)

There's also this video, in which a representative of Planned Parenthood actually endorsed infanticide. If a baby is born alive after an abortion, it is, apparently, up to the will of the parents whether or not to snuff out the child's life. This is a born child. She feigns ignorance throughout the video, but the two gentlemen understood completely what she was justifying and they couldn't believe their ears. Funny how people who believe it is a woman's right to an abortion apparently are completely ignorant of what it is they are killing. And if they are ignorant of what they are killing, they ought not kill it.

The latest in anti-scientific and morally repugnant statements uttered by a Planned Parenthood employee or representative was from Cecile Richards, herself, who contends that human life begins when the mother says it does. This flies in the face of obvious scientific facts. In fact, Alan Guttmacher wrote in 1933, a full forty years before Roe v. Wade was even passed, that the fact that human life begins at fertilization "...all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn't part of the common knowledge" (Life in the Making: The Story of Human Procreation, New York: Viking Press, 1933, p.3). This also flies in the face of common sense. A simple reductio will show the moral repugnance of this belief. If the mother chooses when life begins, then there's no reason to stop at birth. If the mother can choose when her child's life begins, then she should be able to kill her toddler, her adolescent, her teenager for stepping out of line. The fact, alone, that the child is still attached to the mother does not give her carte blanche to just arbitrarily decide when her child's life begins.

There are many reasons why Planned Parenthood needs to be opposed and held accountable for actions, the most important of which is that they are killing innocent human children en masse. In order to justify killing these children, they are forced to make themselves believe all sorts of ridiculous things about science, about the human person, and about ethics. I don't think pro-life people have anything to fear. The science is clearly on our side.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Pro-Choice Writer at Calvin College [Clinton Wilcox]

Jonathan Hielkema, a student at Calvin College, a Christian college in Michigan, has posted an article he wrote called Pro-Choice at Calvin. I'm not very familiar with the college, but it seems that Calvin College has failed this student, not just because they haven't instilled proper theology in Hielkema, but also because they haven't taught him how to think critically. There are good arguments for the pro-choice position, but Hielkema doesn't seem to be aware of any of them, instead appearing to content himself with sophistry and denying science.

One glaring problem is that Mr. Hielkema doesn't seem to be very gracious with his brothers and sisters in Christ in Calvin College Students for Life, preferring to refer to them as "anti-choice" (which is just a ridiculous non-sequitor) rather than the more accurate "pro-life." I would imagine that Hielkema is also anti-choice -- when it comes to things like rape, murder, and theft.

I believe that universities, especially Christian universities, should be hotbeds of intellectual activity, and people should be free to express their doubts and differing opinions. But they should do so gracefully, especially to fellow believers. Hielkema's article would be right at home at other pro-choice sites like Jezebel or RH Reality Check.

So how can I claim that Hielkema is deficient in critical thinking? Take this paragraph, for example: "Argumentation is not likely to change anyone's mind unless they are already wavering, but persuasive use of evidence and skillful storytelling are both useful tactics in defending abortion."

Come again? The whole point of a logical argument is that you investigate it, and if sound, you are intellectually obligated to accept the conclusion. Argumentation won't change a closed-minded person's mind, but someone who is trained to follow logic where it leads should be convinced. Then he says that persuasive use of evidence is a useful tactic in defending abortion, but one might wonder if he really believes this, as he completely ignores the scientific evidence that human life begins at fertilization.

He continues, "Facts, while indispensable, are not sufficient, and need to be contextualized and used to maximum effectiveness in an argument. These have to be paired with a strong ethical argument as well."

By this point, one might wonder if Hielkema is even aware of what the pro-life argument is. I'll give you a very simple iteration of it: Premise one, it is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Premise two, abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. Conclusion, therefore, abortion is wrong. How much more of a strong ethical argument can you get than abortion is murder and murder is wrong? Here are even more arguments against abortion.

"For instance, merely citing the fact that countries with more restrictive abortion laws see just as many abortions as more permissive countries is useful, but it is useless by itself if the person opposed to you believes laws should reflect their idea of morality...If you don't have a framework for criticizing their reasons why abortion is wrong, you won't be as persuasive."

No, I would point out that Hielkema's argument criticizing my argument is a red herring, which is a logical fallacy. Whether or not making abortions illegal lessens the instance of them is irrelevant, because it doesn't refute the pro-life argument. Plus, notice how he doesn't even give us any evidence that his claim is correct. In fact, the number of abortions increased dramatically in the United States after abortion was legalized in 1973. Pro-choice people seem to believe that women can't be law-abiding citizens.

However, even if it wasn't true, and it didn't lessen the instances of them, it is irrelevant. Even if making rape and murder illegal didn't lessen the instances of them, it is still right to make the acts illegal because we have to respect human dignity, and those who commit these acts need to be punished. Until Hielkema can actually refute the pro-life argument that the unborn are innocent human beings and killing them is wrong, then he doesn't have a leg to stand on, to say nothing of the fact that he believes the very thing he is critiquing -- that the laws should reflect his idea of morality. There's nothing wrong with that, but Hielkema has not done the work of supporting his view of morality.

Hielkema calls the pro-life argument, that the unborn are human beings, an assertion. This would be news to embryologists, who consistently agree that the unborn are human beings from fertilization (see the linked article, above). Hielkema has decided to ignore science and any semblance of common sense, instead arguing that the unborn have no life of their own, but exist only with permission of the parent. First, the unborn is a living organism -- it has a life of his own. But the argument that the unborn only exists with permission of the parent is absurd. If we take it to its logical conclusion, parents should be able to kill their children at any point up until they move out and support themselves. This is simply absurd reasoning, in every possible sense of the word "absurd." Pro-life people are very much concerned with the difficult situations that a woman may find herself in, but these situations do not justify killing her child. For example, suppose a woman gave birth but when her child is two years old, she loses her job and now no longer can support her family. Does she have the right to kill her two-year-old child to make it easier to feed her older children? Of course not. So we also can't justify killing a child in the womb for that reason. Hielkema's response here is simply question begging.

Now in some rare instances pregnancies do become life-threatening, and in these situations an abortion, provided the child is not yet viable, is permissible. But a woman can not have an abortion in the off chance that the pregnancy may become life threatening. If she could, then we could also allow a parent to kill her two year old child in the off chance that he may grow up to kill his parents (which is rare but has been known to happen). Presumably Hielkema believes in God, he should understand that the female body has been designed (by God) to facilitate pregnancy.

Hielkema goes on to assert that some 5,000 to 10,000 women a year were killed by illegal abortions. This is a well-known fabrication, an outright lie that was told in order to get abortion legalized. But one of the pioneers of legalized abortion, Dr. Bernard Nathanson in his book Aborting America (New York: Doubleday, 1979), p. 193, had this to say: "It was always 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year. I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did, too, if they stopped to think of it. But in the morality of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?" In fact, in 1972, the year before abortion was legalized in the United States, how many women died from illegal abortions? According to the U.S. Bureau of Vital Statistics Center for Disease Control (as cited in Dr. and Mrs. J. C. Wilke, Abortion: Questions and Answers, rev. ed.), due to the advancement of medical technology only 39 women died from illegal abortions. Legalizing abortion doesn't make it safer, advancements in medical technology and antibiotics has made it safer (which is misleading in itself, as abortion is deadly to the child).

Hielkema really isn't even trying in this article to make a cogent argument. He uses the tired old tripe that pro-life people are sexist (apparently because it's not sexist to claim that women need to become like men to be equal to them) and racist (despite the fact that abortion is one of the biggest killers of people of color). But hey, when you don't have an argument, demonize the opposition. The argument that poor women won't be able to afford abortion while rich women will is another question begging argument, since if abortion truly is murder, then we shouldn't legalize it just so poor women can do it, too. We should make it illegal so that rich women can't legally do it.

Hielkema asserts that abortion is a necessity and a right, but I would wager he doesn't have a very good grasp of what rights actually are. Rights, as outlined in our Declaration of Independence, are inalienable and endowed on us by our Creator, the same Creator Hielkema probably believes in, and among these are the rights to life (the most important one), liberty, and property (the original terminology). No one has a right to kill anyone unjustly. In fact, a true discussion of rights leaves an unresolvable dilemma for pro-choice people.

Again, Hielkema's article (despite his assertion, without evidence, that the pro-choice position is more moral and correct) is nothing but an exercise in futility. There's not a single compelling argument that he gave, despite his constantly trying to hammer it in that they are. Repeating yourself does not add weight to your arguments.

Not only has he engaged in complete sophistry, but his position is untenable when you honestly look at the Scriptures. God has revealed that first, we are not to murder, and that human beings are made in God's image. The unborn share our common human nature as those made in the image of God. Arguing that we can kill those made in God's image, especially in light of Jesus' teaching about the Good Samaritan and how much Jesus loved and cherished children, is folly, simply incorrect, and borderline blasphemous.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Clarifying Confusion about OCPs [Serge]

Over at Soulation (a great site, btw), a commenter named Marie has responded to some of my writing here as well as a recent interview that I had with Life Report regarding the mechanism of action of certain contraceptives.  I thought I would respond here in order to help others who may also be confused regarding this, well, complex and confusing issue.  Marie's response is very long, so I will be responding to specific quotes.  Her entire response can be found here.  I wish to remind everyone that we are discussing the ethical implications of contraception, but the medical mechanism of action.

 and since we know that the progestin in the pill is a synthetic form of progesterone which does not act like natural progesterone to prepare the uterus for implantation, it ends up working like a slower, low dose mifepristone. Yes, mifepristone has double the binding site affinity as normal progesterone and progestins and therefore it works much more harshly and quickly, but they are both "progesterone Narcan" as far as filling progesterone receptors but yet blocking the function of the woman's natural progesterone to prepare the uterus for implantation. A woman's own progesterone works best to prepare the uterus and maintain a pregnancy, that's why so many doctors and others have switched to bioidentical progesterone for treating infertility/miscarriage/menopause.

The assertion here is that LNG, the progestin found in Plan B, works as a competitive antagonist for progesterone receptors like Narcan works for opioid receptors.  She doesn't provide evidence for this, and I believe there are at least three reasons why it is very unlikely.

First, the amount of progesterone secreted by the corpus luteum after ovulation is far greater than that exogenous progestin absorbed by taking Plan B.  The notion that the small amount of oral progestin that effects the endometrium would overcome the huge surge of natural progesterone secreted in the luteal phase of the cycle is highly unlikely and would need evidence to be compelling.

Second, if LNG acts as a "weak" mifipristone (RU-486), then it should also have the effect of exhausting the progesterone receptors after inplantation has occurred.  In all studies, LNG has had no effect on pregnancies after implantation.  Why not?

Third, and I believe most compelling, is that other progestins are used in order to treat luteal insufficiency.  When a women does not produce enough progesterone during the luteal phase of her cycle it has been shown that progestins have had a positive effect on preventing spontaneous miscarriage.  It is true that bioidentical progesterone has been shown to be the best supplement for the insufficient natural progesterone in these patients (not surprisingly), but synthetic progestins did not have a negative effect, but a positive one.

In short, the assertion that the LNG in Plan B acts as a competitive antagonist is not only not supported in the literature, there is a number of reasons see that the evidence shows it is highly unlikely.

I'll respond to Marie's other comments in a future post.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What about the FDA Information? [Serge]

Note: This is a post that I made over seven years ago.  A number of readers recently emailed me the same question.  I have updated the post with some new information and added a bit to the end.  The original post is here.

An e-mailer recently asked about the fact that the FDA does list prevention of implantation as a potential mechanism of action of Plan B. You can see that in the FDA certified package insert here. Does the FDA know something that we don't?

The FDA relies on information provided by the manufacturer for the mechanism of action of any medication (they do not do their own research).  In short, the manufacturer has a responsibility to list any possible mechanisms of action for any medications. Since there is an open question in the literature regarding the mechanism of Plan B, and since post-fertilization events are listed as one possible mechanism, it is not surprising (nor particularly helpful) that interruption of implantation is included as a possible mechanism of action.

In other words, the fact that the manufacturer mentions this as a possible mechanism is evidence that the question is an open one that we have no definitive answers to. Therefore, the presence of this information by the FDA does not trump the most recent literature on the topic. In fact, the opposite is true.

I can illustrate this in another way that does not directly address the mechanism of action of PlanB. The manufacturer makes this claim on the packaging of Plan B that the FDA agreed to:

How effective is Plan B® One-Step?
The sooner you take Plan B® One-Step, the better it will work. Take Plan B®
One-Step as soon as possible after unprotected sex. If it is taken as soon as
possible within 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex, it will significantly
decrease the chance that you will get pregnant. Seven out of every 8 women
who would have gotten pregnant will not become pregnant. 
I have noted in a number of posts beginning over 7 years ago that this claim is completely wrong.  There is no one aware of the research on Plan B who believes that it is over 87% effective.  In fact, recently we have discovered that for many, many women the effectiveness is essentially zero.  This is not new information - the FDA has very little incentive to stay current with the most recent research once a drug is on the market.

Here's the bottom line: the FDA is allowing the manufacturer of Plan B to claim that it can be almost 90% effective based very old data. These studies have been shown to be inaccurate due to its crude way of estimating ovulation.  Yet there it is on the packaging being readied for OTC sale.

Still confident in the FDA information now? There is significant reason why we should not be. In any event, it should be clear that the information given by the FTC does not refute more recent scientific studies.

Lastly, I wish to mention that the FDA really does not concern itself with mechanism of action.  Essentially, when a drug seeks FDA approval, it has to show that it is both safe and efficacious.  In other words, it does what it claims to do and doesn't do anything else too dangerous.  (As we can see, it sometimes fails in either one or both of these goals).  If a drug can show these two things, it is unimportant to indicate its mechanism of action.  In fact, for many drugs that we use, including the majority of the anesthetic drugs we use, we do not know the exact mechanism of action.