Wednesday, May 17, 2017

So Joss Whedon Made a Planned Parenthood Propaganda Film... [Clinton Wilcox]

There's no doubt Joss Whedon is a great director. I have the entire Firefly series on DVD and I'm a huge fan of the Avengers movies (and I have friends who sing the praises of his other shows, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse). However, in a bizarre turnaround, Whedon has set his sights on promoting Planned Parenthood by filming a three-minute short film called Unlocked. The film, of course, is well-made, but it doesn't make any sense.

The film essentially opens displaying three situations, a woman suffering with cancer, a couple who contracted an STD, and a girl who finds herself pregnant but was recently accepted to college. These three people were unable to go into Planned Parenthood because it was closed. The film essentially plays in reverse, so you see the outcomes of these three situations before you see them start. It's a creative way to film the project, but again, the project, itself, is divorced from reality. Then the video starts playing forward and these people can suddenly enter Planned Parenthood because it opens, where smiling clinic workers give information, cancer screenings, and birth control pills to anyone who wants it. Of course what the film doesn't show is that even if Planned Parenthood is closed, there are other health centers that serve low-income women who can pick up the slack. As of 2015, there are 20 community health clinics for every Planned Parenthood in the United States.

Of course, the film doesn't focus on the abortions, the film just focuses on the other services that they provide. No one likes to focus on the abortions, despite the fact that abortions are more important to Planned Parenthood than providing health to women. When Trump offered Planned Parenthood an ultimatum, they opted to continue providing abortions, even if it meant losing federal funding. Not to mention that whenever the government has threatened to stop funds going to Planned Parenthood in their bills, they redirect that funding to other health centers. No woman would need to stop being seen if Planned Parenthood were to close up its doors.

On the page where you can view the video (and sign a petition to stand with Planned Parenthood), their words are apt: "'s our responsibility to use our superpowers to slay." Of course, Planned Parenthood's "superpower" is for stronger people to exercise power over weaker people and slay them because those weaker people are in the way of something they want, namely unrestricted sex, financial freedom, etc.

In Whedon's own words, "UNLOCKED is about what a world without Planned Parenthood would look like, which is truly dire." All it does is show how duped he is by Planned Parenthood's talking points. It doesn't make any sort of argument, it just assumes that without them no one is going to be able to find the healthcare that they need, never mind the fact that our government has now given us socialized healthcare, so what excuse is there now for not having healthcare? It also assumes that people will never be able to get sex education, despite the fact that all public schools have a sex education program.

This is an abortion-choice propaganda piece, nothing more. Unfortunately neither Joss Whedon, nor Planned Parenthood, believe women are capable of succeeding without killing their children. How degrading to women to be told that you can't succeed if you are doing exactly what sets women apart from men, getting pregnant and bearing a child. It's disguised misogyny. The question posed at the end is "what world do you want?" My answer is I want the world where Planned Parenthood isn't killing hundreds of thousands of unborn babies every year.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Quick Thought On the "Inconsistency" Objections

During some pro-life outreach in Los Angeles this past week with the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, one of the common objections that kept being made again and again was that pro-lifers were "inconsistent" for opposing abortion while not giving support to some particular option on a social issue.

Take the issue of aid for foreign refugees for example. One angry protestor at our outreach was shouting "I'll bet you aren't helping any refugee kids! And you call yourselves 'pro-life'!"

The problem with highlighting these "inconsistencies" is that in many (if not all) cases abortion is not entirely parallel with the other issue being mentioned. For example, here is the pro-life argument, in a syllogism (a formal argument):
Premise 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
Premise 2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is wrong.
Since the question "Does abortion kill a human being?" can be answered through the science of embryology by determining whether or not there is a human being present in the womb during abortion, then anyone who objects to this argument must use the science of embryology and fetology to answer that question. Similarly, they must also use philosophy and moral reasoning to demonstrate (conclusively) why any difference between two separate human beings can be used to justify killing one but not the other, and why that particular difference is the one we should acknowledge, both in our laws and our moral decision making.

The problem with comparing other social issues to abortion and thus calling those who oppose abortion "inconsistent" is that many of the issues that are typically mentioned tend not to be an issue over who or what we are going to purposely kill. In fact, many are just the opposite. For example, the debate over giving aid and shelter to foreign refugees is not about whether or not it is morally permissible to kill refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. (If it was, those opposed to abortion would most assuredly speak out against the act). Rather, it concerns what the best way the U.S. government should provide aid to foreign refugees while also maintaining the security and safety of American citizens.

Likewise, attacking pro-life conservatives for calling themselves "pro-life" while taking a non-Leftwing stance on the healthcare issue is just as absurd. Republicans who oppose abortion are not opposing socialized healthcare because they are trying to kill those who "need" socialized healthcare; rather, they do so because they think there are better alternatives. The debate over healthcare is how to fix a damaged system in the most effective and moral way possible.

Instead of arguing for why abortion is permissible, the abortion-choicer just engages in a lazy Ad Hominem slander of those they disagree with. Even if the slander happens to be true, if the argument against abortion succeeds, then anyone committed to truth and moral goodness should oppose abortion.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Response to Preston Yancey [Serge - Dr. Richard Poupard]

I read with interest this article in the Washington Post by Preston Yancey. It is the latest in a seemingly never-ending stream of articles claiming that those who are dedicated to oppose the intentional killing of defenseless human beings aren't really "pro-life" unless they also support (enter government program here). In his case it is opposing recent changes to the Medicaid program.

I am an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and have seen patients with rare but devastating diagnosis of craniofacial microsomia. I am very well aware of the needs that those with a very severe case of CM. My heart goes out to this family and I am very happy that they have found the care they need for precious Jack. My pro-life convictions state that every human being is valuable, regardless of any physical or mental disability. I hope that care continues and will fight to ensure that it does.

Yancey then tries to argue against the changes that have been made in medicaid. First - a point of agreement. It is not true that medicaid is for "lazy, uneducated, or selfish people". In fact, when my daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of one, we were eligible to enter into a state run program run by medicaid for her diabetic supplies (we ultimately did not - which is another story about govt for another time.) We should strive to end this ugly stereotype. I also am against the death penalty and believe that animals should be raised and slaughtered ethically. Agreement!

Then he makes his central point:

I want to believe better of the pro-life community. I want to believe they care about Jack’s long-term health and not just the fact that he was born. I want to call them pro-life, not antiabortion. But the conversations (or the silence) around health care makes us wonder.

He seems to imply that there is not waste in the system, or that some do not take unfair advantage to this and other entitlement programs. Mr. Yancey - if this is your point, you are simply wrong. We can agree that patients like Jack should be covered, but also there is a way to decrease the amount of inefficiency in the system. That way more resources go to those in need - which seems consistent with the Christian (and, of course, pro-life) ethic.

Is the current state of medicaid the best most efficient way to deliver care to those in need? You did not mention that Jack's medicaid benefits will not change (unless you get off and then back on medicaid) under the recently passed house plan. Right now 75% of the beneficiaries of medicaid are children or young adults, while they receive only 33% of medicaid funding. Is this really the best we can do?

So, you can be pro-life and not necessarily support every increase in government participation in health care. To argue otherwise is simplistic and frankly lazy. I am very glad that Jack is in this world and receiving the care he needs. Since human value does not stem from our abilities, but our image of our Creator, we should care for all in need. I also believe that we have a responsibility to do so in as efficient and effective manner as possible. It is theoretically possible that the present medicare system is the best one we can create - but that would necessitate an actual argument. We certainly did not get one here.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Review: Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Dr. Willie Parker [Clinton Wilcox]

Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Dr. Willie Parker is a new book defending abortion rights by an African-American doctor who is a self-proclaimed "Christian" (the reason for the quotes around Christian will become evident below). For all the lip service Parker says about rationality and wanting to approach the issue rationally, I've rarely read a more irrational defense of abortion rights.

Doctor Parker is, having grown up a poor black kid with all the struggles that brings with it, adamant about protecting the rights of women by ensuring that they have the "right to abortion." Unfortunately, what Parker doesn't understand is that by dehumanizing the unborn, he is doing exactly what white people used to do to black slaves, dehumanizing them so that they can justify killing them because they're in the way of what bigger and stronger people want. He actually says, unironically, that "A fetus is not 'a person.' Is it not, therefore, entitled to the rights of 'a person'" (p. 154). I bet Parker is glad white people aren't saying that about black people any longer.

This is going to be a fairly lengthy review. Parker has said a number of things that I should respond to. I'm going to split it up into four sections and show the various reasons his book is so irrationally argued: First, I'll show how he has contradicted himself in several places, even sometimes in the same paragraph. Then I'll respond to some of his pseudo-scientific arguments against the humanity of the fetus. After that, I'll respond to some of his pseudo-biblical arguments for abortion. Then finally I'll show why Parker is not a Christian in any meaningful sense, based on some of the statements he makes in his book.

A few preliminary notes. Parker's book commits a couple of critical errors. He has no table of contents in his book, and he doesn't source any of the information he uses. Absolutely none. He does occasionally allude to another source that might support something he is saying, but he doesn't actually source anything. As such, I can't look up his information to know whether or not he's telling the truth on any of it. Additionally, Parker has failed the ideological turing test. Badly. He tries to tell his abortion-choice readers what pro-lifers believe and think. He tries to put on an air of charitability, but in reality he doesn't know what he's talking about. Parker never responds to any of the scientific arguments pro-life people make. Instead, he continually insists the only reason pro-life people are opposing abortion is because they want to control womens' bodies (which is an all-too-common claim) and because they want white women to have as many babies as they can to continue being the dominant race in the United States (this is seriously an assertion he makes in his ninth chapter, titled "Black Genocide and the White Majority"). I guess black people and other minorities are invisible to Parker unless they worship at the altar of abortion rights.

Despite the subtitle to Parker's book, it's mainly an autobiography. He really presents no "moral argument" throughout the book other than "I grew up in a difficult situation, so I need to give women abortions to help them through their difficult situations." Other than that, he does present a few arguments from science and Scripture that I'll be getting into in their respective sections. The only other thing worth mentioning is that he claims certain people, like Martin Luther King, Jr., as his heroes and thinks of them in his fight for "abortion rights." Of course, he completely ignores the fact that King, a Baptist minister, opposed same-sex marriage and opposed abortion. But let's not let facts get in the way of polemics.

I'm not going to talk about literally everything in the book, but I'll hit most of the highlights.


Let's start off by talking about how Parker claims to want to help these women. He constantly talks about the poor women who come into his clinic, who can't afford to go elsewhere. He decries the fact that pro-life legislators have passed pro-life laws to make it "more difficult" to get abortions, but there are still abortions that Parker won't do (those after viability). These pro-life laws cause the woman to delay, and then not be able to get an abortion from him because of it. Of course, Parker seems to think that the only help these women need are abortions. But if he really wants to help them, why won't he offer to drive one of these women to another clinic, or give them some money for transportation and to stay in the hotel? He claims to want to help women, but the only help he wants to offer them is to kill her child.

His next contradiction appears early on (p. 10). He says that [one of] the underlying assumptions behind these pro-life laws is that their doctors can't be trusted to tell them the truth, when in the paragraph immediately preceding that he fully admitted that he refuses to tell them simple things such as "abstinence is the surest way of birth control."

In chapter two, he describes a doctor he gives the pseudonym Dr. Sweet as a lovely person, having a "gentle, nonconfrontational demeanor." A couple of paragraphs later, he describes this sweet, nonconfrontational, lovely person as waging a war on abortion rights.

There are, of course, others. But one of the most glaring contradictions occurs on p. 195. Parker writes that he will not perform abortions after the point of viability, but since he doesn't believe morality is absolute, he will refer out for them. He tells of a mother who is seeking an abortion for her daughter, so Parker referred them to clinics in Colorado and New Mexico. Then he writes, "I did not tell them that the doctors in those places would probably not perform the procedure because, at twenty-eight weeks, patient preference -- or 'I messed up' -- is not a medical indication. It is not my role to block anyone from pursuing their interest or to withhold information." At this point I was asking myself if he even pays attention to himself. In the span of two sentences he says he doesn't withhold information from anyone right after informing us that he withheld information from a mother and daughter seeking an abortion.

Arguments from Science

Let's now talk about Parker's pseudo-scientific claims. Parker doesn't believe the fetus is equal to a baby or a child because it can't survive outside the uterus since it can't breathe, nor can it form anything like thoughts. Of course, he never justifies why these things are necessary to be equal to us older people; he just assumes it. The only reason the fetus can't breathe or form thoughts is because it is too young to do so. And of course, the fetus does breathe, it just breathes via the umbilical cord, not through its nose. It is still taking in oxygen. Then he says that despite what "the antis" say (his not-so-nice term for pro-life people), a fetus can't feel pain up until 29 completed gestational weeks. He says this is the scientific consensus, though he doesn't give any source to support his claim.

Chapter eight is where Parker really tries to offer a more extensive scientific case. He first starts off by stating that no one (not doctors, legislators, etc.) judges or shames cancer patients for their decisions, even if those decisions lead to death. This really shows Parker's inability to understand the other side, because of course there's a difference in performing an act that one foresees may be detrimental to him- or herself (such as refusing cancer treatment to remain lucid as long as possible, even though getting treatment may extend her life) and performing an act that results in the death of another human being (i.e. having an abortion).

Parker goes on to state that the political conversation around abortion has "obliterated truth and crushed any nuanced understanding of what it means to live a human life" (p. 143). By this he means that pro-life people are too black and white by arguing that human life begins at fertilization. Parker doesn't believe we can pinpoint when human life begins because "life is a process" (and of course, he completely ignores the fact that his own argument means that he can't even prove a human infant or the woman he gives the abortion to is alive, since he makes no attempt to tell us when human life begins).

Parker tries to put himself forth as an authority on when life begins, but as an astronomer is not an authority on evolution, nor is a biologist an authority on what the atmosphere of Mars is composed of, Parker is not an authority on whether or not embryos are human beings just because he has scientific training -- embryologists are, and they consistently agree, without significant controversy, that human life begins at fertilization. Parker's a pretty lousy doctor if he doesn't even know this basic biological fact. Of course, he dismisses the idea that "life begins at conception" as a "deeply held religious belief" and doesn't even attempt to interact with the scientific arguments pro-life people give for that view. He then appeals to Justice Blackmun's ruling in Roe v. Wade, though, of course, Blackmun's ruling was not scientific in nature -- it was philosophical (and bad philosophy, at that). I bet Parker would not accept as an argument for young-earth creationism that "scientists, philosophers, and theologians all disagree on the age of the earth, so neither should we take any particular stance on what the age of the earth is." But this is exactly the kind of reasoning Blackmun used in Roe, and Parker apparently finds it quite convincing.

Parker also repeats the myth that abortion was illegal in common law to protect the life and safety of women. This is a false narrative (though Parker doesn't seem very interested in refuting false narratives if they agree with his). As Joseph Dellapenna showed in his book Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History, abortion was illegal in common law to protect the life of the fetus, not to protect the health of the mother. A stark difference is that Dellapenna has provided many, many sources to support his claims, and Parker doesn't offer a single one to support his.

Parker then tries to argue that life is a continuous process -- the man and woman are alive, the sperm and ovum cells are alive, and the resulting zygote is alive. This is, of course, not new information, nor is it particularly interesting. Of course life is a continuous process. But there is a zero point at which the sperm and ovum cells cease to exist and a new, genetically distinct human organism arises in its place. This is the consensus among embryologists, even abortion-choice embryologists. Parker mistakenly thinks this shows that there's no point at which the "switch for life is flipped on," so to speak. But Parker is wrong. He even tells his readers on p. 181 of his book, "Life is a process. Your life is a process." Considering this is the main reason he denies human embryos and fetuses are alive, to be consistent he must not believe anyone reading his book is alive.

He next speaks of embryos that implant but fail to thrive, resulting in miscarriages. Aside from the fact that, again, he doesn't source his claim that as many as one in five embryos fail to thrive, he seems to indicate that an embryo's failing to thrive means that it isn't a "life." Of course, many infants fail to thrive, as well. Perhaps Parker would be okay with infanticide, since his scientific argument would also show that infants are not "lives" based on his ridiculous criteria.

Arguments from Scripture

Parker fancies himself as a modern day Apostle Paul (though he doesn't seem to accept Paul's admonition not to forsake the assembling together, as had become the habit of some). On page 15 of his book, Parker talks about the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus told the people who wanted to stone her "if any of you are without sin, go and cast the first stone." Of course, what he fails to mention is that Jesus also told her "go and sin no more." In other words, "leave your life of adultery." Parker's Jesus is a Jesus who does not judge the sins of man (boy is he in for a shock). Additionally, on page 69, Parker tells us he offers a counternarrative to the disapproval of Christianity: "...that God gave every woman gifts and the agency to realize those gifts, and that nothing about choosing to terminate a pregnancy or to delay childbearing puts a woman outside of God's love." Of course, this "modern day Apostle Paul" also seems to have forgotten that Paul wrote, in Romans, "Shall we sin so that grace can abound? Certainly not!" Parker is no philosopher. He doesn't seem to understand that having the volition (the agency) to do something does not mean that we are justified in making any choice we make just because we have it.

Parker, himself, repeats the oft-asserted claim that Christianity is sexist. He claims that Christianity "threw Eve under the bus" (a slogan he repeats several times throughout the book), and while it's true Adam tried to blame Eve for his sin, what Parker conveniently leaves out is that Adam was punished for sinning, just like Eve was, and Jesus proclaimed that it would be through a woman that Christ would eventually conquer Satan. However, as David Marshall points out, Christianity does not oppress women; just the opposite. It has always been the great liberator of women (see his article here and the subsequent parts in this series for evidence for that claim). Just a couple of examples: it was Christians who discouraged female infanticide in the early Roman world. And let's not forget that it was Jesus, in the Scriptures, who opposed Jewish societal etiquette and talked to women (such as the Samaritan woman at the well).

Parker reinterprets Martin Luther King, Jr.'s sermon I've Been to the Mountaintop and his discussion of the Good Samaritan. This is not unique to Parker; abortion-choice philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson also abused the Good Samaritan tale to justify her stance on abortion rights. Parker sees himself as the "good Samaritan" in performing abortions on women he thinks are in need of them.

In chapter seven, Parker attempts to make a more detailed Biblical case for supporting abortion rights. He argues that the Bible does not contain the word "abortion" in it. Of course, this is just the old argument from silence fallacy. The Bible not expressly condemning it does not mean the Bible condones it. What we do have is one of the earliest Christian documents, The Didache, expressly forbidding both abortion and infanticide, so to claim that Christianity is consistent with support for abortion is historically and theologically confused. The Bible also says "you shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13, Deut. 5:17), that child sacrifice had never even entered God's mind to command (Jer. 19:5), and that Jesus had high regard for children (Matt. 18:6, Matt. 19:14). That God would support abortion to make our lives easier is a concept that is foreign to Scripture.

He also goes on an irrelevant tirade over how "misogynistic" he feels the Bible is. As this is irrelevant, I won't go into defending the Scriptures here. But needless to say, while there are many difficult passages, the Bible is ultimately not a misogynistic, racist, etc., book. Parker is simply ignorant about why these rules he decries in the Old Testament were necessary (e.g. the fact that they didn't have advances in hygiene like we do, so they were told to avoid having sex with women who were menstruating). He also admits that in the Bible, bearing meany children was "a woman's most important job". While it's laughable how ignorant and extremist Parker is about Scripture, his claim here that having children was very important for women to do contradicts his other claim that the Bible's silence on abortion is confirmation that it is moral.

He refers to the passage in Exodus in which if two men are fighting and hit a pregnant woman, if her child dies the offender is to pay the husband a fine. He uses this to illustrate that the loss of the fetus was not a capital crime. I have responded to this passage elsewhere, but briefly, what is in mind here is not miscarriage, but premature birth. If the two men are fighting, the baby is born prematurely, and there is no further harm, the man must pay the husband a fine. But if there is loss of life (either the mother's or child's), then the offender was to be put to death.

Parker also alleges that throughout Jewish Scripture, a fetus becomes human only when its head emerges from the birth canal. Aside from not supporting his claim with any sources, this is absurd on the face of it. It may be different in other Jewish texts, but at least in the Torah, the same word for "child" is used to refer to either unborn or born children. The text makes no differentiation between children.

Parker does decry pro-life people using Jeremiah 1:5 as evidence that human life is present in the womb, and he dismisses it with an amusing instance of poisoning the well: he says they use an "obscure verse" from the Book of Jeremiah. Considering the Book of Jeremiah was written by the scribe of a major prophet, in what sense was Jeremiah's book "obscure"? Of course, he doesn't seem to understand that pulling one passage out of Exodus regarding a law of how to treat two men fighting around a pregnant woman is much more obscure than pulling a verse out of Jeremiah in which God tells Jeremiah he's been consecrated to be God's prophet.

Parker is Not a Christian in any Meaningful Sense

Parker simply worships a god of his own creation. Throughout the book, he uses phrases such as "the god I worship", or "the god I believe in". This is likely because he doesn't believe there is any right interpretation of Scripture (p. 127) and that there is no such thing as absolute morality (p. 195). However, Parker's beliefs land him square outside of orthodoxy, meaning that he is not a Christian in any meaningful sense. Of course, this won't prevent people like Gloria Steinem and Cecile Richards from holding him up and saying, "see, you can be a Christian and support abortion." As Parker proves in his book based on his rejection of it, you can't be an orthodox Christian and support abortion.

On page 55 of his book, Parker writes the following: "God is love, and God does not judge; but God's people can become overly pious and haughty, and they can become inflexible." It is astounding that anyone who thinks himself a Christian can believe that God doesn't judge. Would you try to tell that to Ananias and Sapphira? To Tyre and Sidon? To Sodom and Gomorrah? To the Canaanites? To the Amalekites? The list goes on and on. Hebrews 9:27 states, "It is appointed for man to die once, and after this comes judgment." All over Scripture we're told that God will judge the quick and the dead. What Bible has Parker been reading? It's also worth noting that despite the fact Parker thinks God doesn't judge, and he condemns pro-life people as being "overly pious and haughty," Parker has no qualms with judging pro-life people ten ways to Sunday, going so far as to bear false witness against pro-life people (but maybe he doesn't think the Ten Commandments are very important, either).

Chapter 13 is really where Parker talks more about his views on Christianity. He says he was in "recovery from organized religion" (so much for being a modern-day Paul). He did join a Quaker church because among other things, he liked the fact that Quakers have no formal doctrine or creed, and no one is in charge in their meetings. I guess being an abortionist is easier when you don't have to believe you're doing anything wrong.

I really shouldn't have to explain why his further statements about God are just theologically confused. He makes a statement on p. 204 that "If God is human and humans are of God, then God has to love everything about us, and we have to love all that belongs to God." He's not clear about what he means. God isn't human, of course -- he's divine, immaterial. Does he mean Jesus? Even then, his statement doesn't follow because Jesus became one of us specifically to lead us out of a life of sin. God doesn't have to love everything about us. He's not even obligated to love us. It's because of his love that he wants us to stop sinning and spend eternity with him. God doesn't love us because we're lovable, we're lovable because God loves us.

He goes on to state that "I began to understand that I had to find a thinking person's religion or abandon God entirely," and by that he obviously means "I had to find a religion that wouldn't judge me for my immoral acts, even killing unborn children." Some of the most brilliant people who have ever lived have been Christians. There were a long line of physicians before Willie Parker who were followers of Jesus and treated all human life, even unborn human life, as if it is sacred.

I could go on and on, but this is enough to show how irrational Dr. Parker actually is in his defense of abortion rights and his performing abortions. This is really only the tip of the iceberg of what's wrong with Parker's book. On p. 29, he writes the following: "The living, breathing women who carried those fetuses in utero were cast as less than fully human -- either as criminals, on the one hand, or mentally incompetent on the other -- and thus not in possession of any rights at all." In this sentence, he seems to be stating that criminals and the mentally incompetent are less than human and not deserving of rights. This is barbaric. I hope he didn't mean what he actually wrote, which would just make him a sloppy communicator, not a barbaric person.

Unfortunately Doctor Parker is completely oblivious to the plight of the unborn throughout this book. The First-Wave Feminists understood that as women were treated as property, it was shameful for any woman to then treat her own child as property to be disposed of as she saw fit. Unfortunately Doctor Parker didn't get this memo, as despite how black people have been treated in our country, he is perfectly willing to dehumanize the unborn because they are in the way of something they want, be it not being pregnant, financial freedom, etc. He has the audacity to frame his fight for "abortion rights" in the language of civil rights, despite the fact that he kills innocent human children. His own lack of self-awareness is astonishing.

Doctor Parker's book is garbage. It is not worth reading, so save your money. The best defense of abortion in print is still David Boonin's A Defense of Abortion. Considering the poor level of critical thinking abortion-choice activists tend to be at, I don't see this changing any time soon.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"How I Lost Faith in the Pro-Life Movement" Part 1

I came across this article recently through a Facebook post, and reading through the points the author makes, I decided it was a good idea to give a response to the points that she makes throughout her post. While the article itself was written nearly five years ago, it does bring up some objections that I would like to answer here. Many of the points that are listed in the article are common talking points brought up in discussions of abortion, and so it is helpful to understand how to answer them.

Overall, the article fails to refute the pro-life argument (P1: It's wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. P2: Elective abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. C: Therefore, elective abortion is wrong.) and instead turns into a lazy mischaracterization of the pro-life movement as a whole, and pro-lifers who are politically conservative in particular.

The author begins by explaining her history with the pro-life movement:
"The spring of my sophomore year of college I was president of my university’s Students for Life chapter. The fall of my junior year of college I cut my ties with the pro-life movement. Five years later I have lost the last shred of faith I had in that movement. This is my story."
The first question I'd have to ask is whether the summer is a good enough length of time to have actually researched and come to a solid conclusion about the arguments for and against the pro-life view. Given some of the points that are made in the article, that doesn't seem to be the case.

The article talks about how the author, after growing up in an evangelical household where abortion was a major "political" issue, but while she was in college, she began to "question" her pro-life views.

She goes on to explain that it was a result of an article in the New York Times, detailing the issue of abortion's legality and it's rate of occurrence:
I was flabbergasted upon reading this. I followed the link to the summary of the study, printed the entire thing out for reading over lunch, and then headed off to class. As I perused the study over a taco bowl in the student union later that day I wondered why I had never been told any of this. I was shocked to find that the countries with the lowest abortion rates are the ones where abortion is most legal and available, and the countries with the highest abortion rates are generally the ones where the practice is illegal.
There does seem to be a growing skepticism of the ability to limit the right of criminal occurrences through an outright ban. The two most common issues where this skepticism prevails are the issues of drug enforcement and abortion. Of course, one needs to keep in mind that correlation is not causation. Just because abortion may be illegal in a particular country, this does not mean that outlawing abortion is the primary cause of higher abortion rates. A lack of effective law enforcement, cultural attitudes about abortion, and other factors need to be considered before it is simply assumed that banning abortion does no real good in the long run.
I learned that all banning abortion does is make abortion illegal – and unsafe. I found that almost 50,000 women worldwide die each year from unsafe abortions, and that many more experience serious injury or infertility. These deaths happen almost entirely in countries where abortion is illegal – and thus clandestine. In fact, when abortion was made legal in South Africa, the number of abortion related deaths fell by over 90%.
There is an obvious question begging here: Abortion became safer for whom, exactly? Did it become any safer for the unborn? The World Health Organization reports that around 40-50 million abortions occur annually worldwide, nearly 1,000 times the number of deaths worldwide from "unsafe" abortion.  If the unborn are human beings, just like the rest of us, then the author is in the very awkward position of having to argue that it is far better to intentionally sacrifice 1,000 innocent human beings in order to protect just one from an accidental death. That's absurd.

It is certainly a tragedy whenever someone loses their life in an abortion: Either a mother or her child.
Arguing that we need legal abortion to keep it "safe" is the equivalent of arguing that women have an inherent right to be kept safe from harm that may result accidentally, while committing an immoral act intentionally. The only way this would be worth considering is if abortion is no more than an elective surgery to remove an unwanted tissue mass, which is precisely what the abortion choice movement needs to argue is what happens during abortion.

The other "objections" the author brings up end up faring no better, as I will discuss in my next post.

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, " 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.