Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Making A Pro-Life Case in Three Easy Steps

During some recent pro-life outreaches at a couple of local universities, many of the people we would talk to would strongly object to the idea of the unborn being classified as living, distinct, and whole human beings. Quite a few of the objections range from the skeptical ("We cannot say for sure when a human life begins") to the scientific ("A human life is not present during the early part of pregnancy, but sometime later.")

In response to these objections, pro-life apologist Steve Wagner has developed a three-question tool that can be used to help provide an argument that the unborn are fully valuable human beings just like the rest of us, but in a non-aggressive and engaging way. It is called the "Ten Second Pro-Life Apologist":

1. "If something is growing, then isn't it alive?"
2. "If something has human parents, then isn't it human?"
3. "And living humans, or humans like you and me, are valuable, aren't they?"

This tool is very effective at helping keep a conversation about abortion on track by directing it towards answering the question: "What are the unborn?"
"If something is growing, then isn't it alive?"
During his debate with Dr. Nadine Strossen at Oregon State University last year, Dr. Mike Adams made a point similar to this in response to a comment made by Dr. Strossen during the cross examination. Strossen had remarked that it wasn't possible to know when a human life was present, to which Dr. Adams responded, "But Nadine, dead things don't grow." It was obvious to the audience that a living being was present from the very beginning of its own existence.

Now, sometimes there is pushback against this idea, to which I ask a follow-up question, "Well, do you know of any non-living beings that can grow and develop over time?" To this, the answer is usually no. My response is typically along the lines of, "Well, then it seems that the unborn entity that is in question is alive, right?" One student (rightly) pointed out that not all living things share the same value. After all, it isn't a crime to mow the lawn or use a mousetrap. This is a good set-up for another question:
"If a living being is conceived by human parents, then isn't it a human being?"
This is a good follow up, as it begins to focus on the kind of thing that the unborn entity in question really is. It seems odd to think of two human parents being able to conceive offspring that are not human but can somehow later become human simply by developing to a particular point in time. In other words, I am a human now, but not when I was younger? That doesn't sound right. Furthermore, the unborn human possesses a genetic structure that is unique to that human being. That genetic structure is what will differentiate that human being from other human beings throughout his or her lifetime. With this in mind, we can discuss the last question.
"Living humans, or humans like you and me, are valuable, aren't they?"
This question helps to bring the key issues of the abortion debate into focus: Is it permissible to kill the unborn? That depends on what the unborn are. This question can also be a great stepping stone into talking about the SLED test, and can help continue a conversation in a meaningful direction. It can also help establish common ground in the conversation. Nearly everyone I have talked to, with a few exceptions, have admitted that they really do care about human rights.

The Ten-Second Pro-Life Apologist tool is a great resource in helping to stay in the "driver's seat" of the conversation, and can help someone think through the issues involved.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Zero Reasons a Fetus is Absolutely Not a Person [Clinton Wilcox]

Edit: Special thanks to Rich Poupard, a physician on staff with Life Training Institute for reading over my article and providing me with helpful suggestions to improve two of my responses. I have updated the answers to questions seven and eight based on his comments.

A friend posted an article on Addicting Info to my Facebook wall titled 14 Reasons a Fetus is Absolutely Not a Person, written by one Wendy Gittleson (who has obviously never seen the inside of a logic textbook and has no sense of shame). This article will be a bit polemical, mostly because of her undeserved arrogance and the fact that her article doesn't even come close to doing what her headline alleges she is going to do. Seriously. Just take one look through her 14 questions (they are not arguments), and you'll notice one glaring omission: none of these 14 questions offer any sort of argument for why the fetus is not a person. They are merely hypothetical questions one might pose to a proponent of fetal personhood (such as myself), and some of the questions are incredibly dumb. Only one question is actually legitimate. But none of these are arguments that support the proposition "a human fetus is not a person." Ordinarily I'd pay no mind to this article and I would consider it not worth my time to respond to. But it was posted to my Facebook wall and another friend encouraged me to respond because there might be people who are actually taken in by this garbage. And I'll be doing this completely sober. Pray for me.

Gittleson starts off by decrying the fact that conservatives want to "shut down medical care for 4.6 million women" because they want to defund Planned Parenthood. Of course, this is a strawman argument against pro-life people, to say nothing about its being a red herring. If Planned Parenthood didn't kill hundreds of thousands of children every year, we'd probably be leaving them alone. However, bills that go out to defund Planned Parenthood will redirect the money given to them to other healthcare providers for women. No woman need be deprived of healthcare if Planned Parenthood goes under. Of course, what abortion-choice advocates like Gittleson really care about is not healthcare for women but access to abortion. She is using healthcare as a smokescreen.

Next, she engages in a complete non sequitur. She alleges that because conservatives love to make money, if we really believed the fetus was a person "cottage industries" would spring up. She doesn't expand on this so it's difficult to understand what she means here. For some reason, because "cottage industries" aren't springing up, she takes this to mean that conservatives don't really think a fetus is a person. I actually think fetuses are persons because there is good reason to accept them as persons.

So now come Gittleson's questions that allegedly "prove" that fetuses are not full people. Brace yourselves.

14. If a fetus is a person then why don't they issue conception certificates?

One possible reason is because one's conception is notoriously difficult to pinpoint (when reproduction is achieved naturally). This is why when doctors date a pregnancy, they date it from the woman's last menstrual period (LMP). No matter where they go, LMP gives doctors one system that provides a standard convention.

Additionally, this is a societal convention, not based on the status or lack thereof of the fetus. It's also true that pregnancy is a tumultuous time in the life of the unborn human being, and the survival of any given embryo/fetus is not 100% certain (as miscarriages happen, though not likely as often as abortion-choice people think they do). Another reason we issue birth certificates could be because that's when the survival of the human being is much more stable.

To reiterate, this is a societal convention which says nothing about the moral status of the embryo/fetus and either way, society could just as easily have decided to give out conception certificates (based on an approximation of conception date or based on LMP) rather than birth certificates.

13. If a fetus is a person then why do they go to an OB/GYN for medical care instead of a pediatrician?

Because dealing with a fetus requires a different set of skills than dealing with an adolescent. You can't just take the fetus in and say, "here, check her temperature." The fetus is in the woman's body, meaning that it requires a different set of skills (e.g. removing the fetus from the womb if surgery is needed to be performed) and a different set of equipment which requires training (e.g. the ultrasound machine). There's also the fact that OB/GYNs are equipped to help a pregnant woman through pregnancy. The OB/GYN monitors the woman's pregnancy and can refer out to other specialists if something comes up.

12. If a fetus is a person then why can't we claim it on our taxes?

Another societal convention. See number 14.

11. If a fetus is a person then why do we count age starting from birth?

Another societal convention. See number 14. Additionally, some Asian cultures do count your time in the womb and start you out at one year old when you're born. Will you accept that as evidence that the fetus is a person?

10. If a fetus is a person then why is it often kept a secret for the first three months?

Again, for the reason that pregnancy becomes progressively safer as it progresses, so women tend to want to keep it secret in case they lose the embryo. Plus, I've known couples to announce it as soon as they were told. It differs from couple to couple.

9. If a fetus is a person why does "God" kill so many of them?

God doesn't kill any of them. God isn't up in Heaven playing Asteroids with human embryos. Embryos die naturally, just as all human beings die naturally. Some just die sooner rather than later. But conceived embryos have a 100% death rate.

8. If a fetus is a person then why doesn't it eat its own food?

Probably because it doesn't have access to its own food. The womb, her skin, and other internal stuff is in the way.

In fact, there's a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, in which a woman has severe morning sickness, characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. This can result in the mother needing to stay in the hospital and be fed intravenously through a technique called Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). While she is undergoing TPN, the mother cannot eat her own food. She takes in nutrient through an IV. So if Gittleson's criterion for personhood is correct (that one must be able to eat her own food), then while undergoing TPN the pregnant woman is no longer a person. This is clearly an absurd standard to meet for personhood.

7. If a fetus is a person then why does medicine put the life of the mother before that of the fetus?

This is simply incorrect. Medicine doesn't put the mother first. In all contexts outside the abortion context, the life of the fetus is treated with tremendous respect. If the child is wanted, he is always treated as a second patient. This means that certain medical procedures that would be perfectly fine if she wasn't pregnant can't be considered if she is (e.g. if a woman needs a tooth pulled, if she is pregnant the doctor won't put her under because the life of the fetus, the second patient, must be taken into consideration). There are times in which the life of the baby is put ahead of the comfort of the mother.

6. If a fetus is a person then why can't it live outside the womb for several months?

Because it is still developing. For the first nine months the embryo/fetus requires the environment of the uterus because he begins life in the fallopian tube. He has to develop to the point where he can survive outside the womb before he can survive outside the womb. You might as well ask "if astronauts are persons, why can't they survive in the vacuum of space without an EVA suit?" To which I would reply, "go outside and play. You've had enough internet for today."*

5. If a fetus is a person does that mean a pregnant woman is two people? Can she drive in the carpool lane? Can she buy two items when a store advertises "one per customer" sales?

That's three questions. You cheated!

No, a pregnant woman is one person, as one thing cannot be identical to two things (this is basic philosophy). The fetus in her womb is a second person. Again, it's a societal convention that she can't drive in the carpool lane. Society could just as easily allow fetuses to count, if it wanted to. Also, store owners could count fetuses, if they wanted to. It's up to them. Trying to call pregnant women "two persons" as a response to fetal personhood is just metaphysically confused.

4. If a fetus is a person, why would a politician even consider a rape or incest exception?

This is the one legitimate question of the bunch.

You'll have to ask them. I disagree with them on this point. I don't hold an exception for rape or incest because I don't believe killing a human being is an acceptable response to a difficult situation, even one as tragic as rape. As even some abortionists recognize (e.g. Warren Hern in his textbook Abortion Practice), a rape victim just isn't served by the abortion clinic; she needs to be referred for proper counseling. But even so, the fact that some politicians are inconsistent on this point is not an argument that fetuses are not people. At best, it's an argument that politicians are inconsistent.

Not all pro-life people agree on the rape exception. Here's a good article written by Monica Snyder of Secular Pro-Life defending the rape exception, that even pro-life people would do well to read to understand this viewpoint. To provide balance, here's an article I have previously written arguing against the rape exception.

3. If a fetus is a person, why is no one (I shouldn't speak too soon) suggesting the death penalty for women who have abortions?

For a few reasons: 1) Despite what you think about pro-life people, no pro-life person wants to see a post-abortive woman die (there may be some exceptions from extremists, but this is a good generalization about pro-life people). 2) Because abortion is currently, unfortunately, legal, and capital punishment is a penalty for criminals. 3) Not all pro-life people support capital punishment.

2. If a fetus is a person then why is the smallest clothing size "newborn?"

I'm no genius, but I'd wager the fact that they can't wear clothes has something to do with this one.

Also, the smallest clothing size is preemie, not newborn.

1. If a fetus is a person then why aren't adoptions finalized until after the baby is born?

Probably because the baby can't be given to the couple until after the baby is born.

I could have probably teased some of these out more, but I just wanted to give a brief response to each of these questions.

She ends her article by asserting, "...to take away that right to make that decision is to say that not only are fetuses people, their personhood takes precedence over the personhood of the woman and that is indefensible." Of course this says nothing of the sort. The reason we take some choices away from people is because some choices should not be legally permitted. One could just as easily say that by taking the choice to rape a woman away from a man is to say that not only are women people, but their personhood takes precedence over the personhood of the man and that is indefensible. Of course this is absurd reasoning. What it says is that because women are people, we are obligated to respect their rights and their dignity as human beings. I cannot justify an act that would harm or kill someone else, even in the name of bodily autonomy. So if fetuses are people, bodily autonomy cannot be used to justify killing them.

So there you have it. Do you feel pro-choice yet? No? Neither do I. This article is just filled with absurdly poor reasoning, and the fact that someone would write it and share it as a serious attempt at justifying their position shows how badly proper training in logic is needed in our culture.

*There's an obvious difference here in that astronauts are not meant to survive in the vacuum of space but human embryos/fetuses are meant to survive in the world outside the womb once they develop enough. But the soundness of the analogy is in the fact that as embryos/fetuses require a certain environment in which to survive, so do astronauts require a certain environment in which to survive. Appealing to the fact they can't survive in an environment they can't survive in is not a good justification for denying them personhood in that environment.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Is Bodily Autonomy Unlimited?

I would like to continue the discussion regarding the arguments from "Bodily Autonomy" by discussing another issue that needs to be addressed: If bodily autonomy is absolute, then we cannot limit it.

During his debate on the UK radio show Unbelievable, LTI president Scott Klusendorf brought the following point up in response to the argument posed to him by abortion-choice activist Mara Clarke: She phrased her objection to the pro-life view by highlighting the rights that women have in regards to their own bodily autonomy. Scott responded by pointing out that if bodily autonomy is absolute, then it cannot be limited, even when it becomes clear that allowing a woman to do so will result in harm. Scott highlighted the dangers in taking thalidomide and the severe birth defects that have resulted from pregnant mothers taking the drug to alleviate their morning sickness. Given that we think the laws restricting the use of thalidomide are perfectly just, then it must be that even the "right" to do what one wants with their body isn't unlimited.

In his video on the subject of abortion, conservative thinker Dennis Prager asks several questions that further illustrate the problems associated with an "anything goes" mentality regarding bodily autonomy.

One problem that Dennis points out is that this view means that there would be no abortion that could be considered immoral. To cite one example: would it be wrong for a mother to have an abortion if she was carrying a girl and she wanted a boy? In his book Abortion Practice, Dr. Warren Hern, one of the leading abortionists in the United States, cites an example of when a patient came to him seeking an abortion because she was pregnant with a boy instead of a girl. Even Dr. Hern, who provides second and third trimester abortions, expressed concern at the idea of abortion solely because the child is the wrong sex. He writes, "Even though I had begun by being totally opposed to abortion for this reason, she persuaded me that, in her mind, abortion was the only choice she would accept for this pregnancy for her own mental health as well as for the welfare of her family." (Hern, p. 85). Many of the people I have spoken to at pro-life outreaches on campus have felt troubled by this idea and have shown strong resentment to the idea of allowing abortion for something as trivial as what sex the child should be.

One other example that Dennis gives is a hypothetical genetic test that can determine whether a child will be born either straight or gay. Dennis asks an important question: If abortion is solely the choice of the mother (or both parents), then would abortion of a child of an undesired sexuality be wrong? At what stage of life will it suddenly become wrong to terminate the life of that child because he may possess a characteristic his parents don't want him to have? Does it really make sense to allow the bodily rights of one person to supersede the right to live of another? It seems that issues of bodily autonomy aren't entirely relevant, then, to the issue of abortion, as many would agree that there would be times when abortion should not be tolerated.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Can Men Discuss Abortion?

"You're a man! You can't speak on abortion!"
This assertion is so laughably bad, I would prefer to ignore it. It is another example of the Ad Hominem fallacy that is commonplace in heated topics like abortion. However, I have heard a more sophisticated version of the idea, so I figure that it is time for another response.
In conversations about abortion, many have approached me and asked how exactly I am able to understand and oppose abortion, since I will never be pregnant. While it is true that I will never be pregnant, that doesn't mean that I am incapable of coming to the correct conclusion on the ethical and legal implications of the abortion issue, and that there is no good reason to oppose the practice. After all, arguments don't have reproductive organs. People do. Since having a certain set of organs does not cause someone to come to the wrong conclusion on any other issue, then this issue must be no different.

Furthermore, there are many women who oppose abortion, and will use the exact same arguments that men do. Are we going to have to assume that if a woman makes an argument against abortion(P1. It's wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. P2. Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. Therefore, abortion is wrong) then the argument is sound; but if a man makes the same exact argument, then the argument is unsound, simply because he will never become pregnant? What if a woman who cannot become pregnant made the same argument? Is it invalid, because she will never experience pregnancy?

Underlying the objection is a general belief that personal experience is what defines moral truth. I have been hearing this idea promoted more and more at my university. The concept seems to assume that unless I cannot experience a particular ethical dilemma(such as abortion), then I am not capable of reasoning on the issue. This recently was brought to my attention by an in-class discussion on the issue of abortion itself:
A student had made an observation that if men were capable of becoming pregnant, then the abortion debate would have been ended years ago. When I replied by pointing out that not being able to become pregnant does not immediately invalidate the argument that abortion is a moral wrong, the response was that since I am a male in a "patriarchal" society, then I am unable to understand the ethical issues surrounding abortion.

The first response would be: So what? Since when does being in a "patriarchal" society suddenly(almost magically) validate the intentional killing of innocent human beings? Furthermore, even if American society is radically opposed to the rights of women as human beings, why is the appropriate response to one injustice to simply add another injustice to the culture? Since sexism and gender discrimination are wrong, because they are intentionally denying a fundamental right to a human being(based on the sex organs they posess) then abortion is wrong if it denies a fundamental right to a human being(based on the differences outlined in the "SLED" acronym).

The second response would be:"Could the unborn still be human, and therefore bearing the same intrinsic dignity that you and I bear, regardless of who runs our society?" The underlying assumption behind objections of "patriarchy" is that men don't experience the same struggles as women, and are therefore unable to reason correctly about moral issues that may affect women generally more than men. Unfortunately, this is also flawed. Behaviors like discrimination or sexual harassment are wrong, regardless of who is experiencing the mistreatment. Likewise, as human beings, we are capable of reasoning on moral issues, regardless of what gender we happen to be. To conclude otherwise is to affirm that sexual prejudice is a non-issue, by only considering ideas valid if they are promoted by those of the same sex, and not based on the reasoning behind the ideas themselves.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Thinking Clearly Regarding Fetal Organ Donation and Human Value [Clinton Wilcox]

A while ago I came across this letter from a dad whose unborn daughter, Eva, had a debilitating disability and would die a few days after birth. Of course, it's a very difficult situation to go through. No parent ever wants to outlive their son or daughter. However, the circumstances regarding their decision to bring the child to full term, while it appears noble on the surface, actually doesn't respect the inherent dignity of their child.

Listen to what Eva's father says:
We made our choice to carry Eva to full term for a lot of reasons, but the first and foremost was to donate her organs...It was just a practical endgame that in our minds, before we came to the realization Eva is alive and our daughter deserves to meet her mama and daddy, gave us a purpose to continue on. Donating was on Keri's mind from darn near the second we found out and while the experience of holding and kissing our daughter will be something we cherish forever, the gift(s) she's got inside that little body of hers is what really matters. Keri saw that almost instantly...
The first and foremost reason to carry Eva to term is not because she's a valuable human being, or because she deserves to meet her mom and dad. It's simply for her organs. In fact, Keri, Eva's mom, asked if they would be able to donate the child's organs "if they carried her to term." In other words, if they don't abort her, could she donate the child's organs? This child is not seen as an intrinsically valuable human being -- this child is being kept alive, first and foremost, for her organs. They are not respecting Eva's inherent dignity as a valuable human being. What they see are her organs.

Additionally, the child's inherent dignity is not being respected because she obviously cannot consent to having her organs donated. If a woman died in a plane crash and gave no prior acknowledgement that she would have wanted her organs donated, then doctors would be ethically bound not to remove her organs, even if there were others who needed them. Now, in cases where the person didn't consent to donating organs before they died, the doctors can get consent from the family members if the family members believe that's what she would have wanted. But since Eva has not obtained the level of rational cognizance necessary to understand what organ donation is and properly consent to having it done, given all the information, there is no way to know that Eva would have wanted her organs donated after she died.

Treating a child as valuable mainly because of her organs is a clear case of violating a child's inherent human dignity. The ethical thing to do would be to allow the child to be born and die naturally. She has a right to meet her mom and dad, and she has a right to be born. She also has the right to have her dignity respected regarding the harvesting of her organs after birth.

We all want our lives to have meaning, and we want our children's lives to have meaning. The problem is that in a case like this, they are trying to give meaning to the child based on what she can do -- donate her organs -- and not recognizing that the child already has inherent dignity as a human being made in the image of God.