Abortion vs. Sacrificial Living

Does having a child mean your life is over? In this devotional message from Dr. John Ferrer we see how pro-life Christians can counteract abortion-choice culture with the knowledge that sacrificial living is the only way to TRULY live. 

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Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'”
Matthew 16:24-25, NASB

Abortion isn’t just a surgical procedure. It’s not just an action, a choice, or a policy. It’s also a culture. Abortion-choice culture is a range of institutions and actions driven by a specific set of ideas about women, sex, motherhood, children, family, and liberty. Somewhere packed inside that culture is a set of expectations about what “normal” women and families should be like.

Rachel Jankovic, a mother of seven children, is decidedly abnormal. She writes:

Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers. All this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen.

The truth is that, years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time on.

If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children. (source: “Motherhood is a Calling,” DesiringGod.org)

Jankovic is happily wed in Christian marriage, to her first husband, and with her seven children, she is a walking testimony to the glory of biblical Christian family. She’s a countercultural hero. And she’s not the only one to recognize how abortion-choice ideas have saturated popular culture.

Abortion ideology tells women their life is over once you have kids. It says that children are more burden than blessing, marriage is disposable, and sex is just a leisure activity with no strings attached.

Abortion-choice culture is hostile to many
of the central values of Christian living.

Another woman, Frederica Mathewes-Green arrived at the same conclusion but she began her journey on the inside of that culture, as a vocal pro-choice advocate. Speaking of her days advocating for abortion choice, before Roe v. Wade, she says:

We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad. . . . there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting.

A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.” For everyone around the pregnant woman, abortion looks like the sensible choice. A woman who determines instead to continue an unplanned pregnancy looks like she’s being foolishly stubborn. It’s like she’s taken up some unreasonable hobby. People think, if she would only go off and do this one thing, everything would be fine.

But that’s an illusion. Abortion can’t really “turn back the clock.” It can’t push the rewind button on life and make it so she was never pregnant. It can make it easy for everyone around the woman to forget the pregnancy, but the woman herself may struggle. . . . life stretches on after abortion, for months and years — for many long nights — and all her life long she may ponder the irreversible choice she made.

This issue gets presented as if it’s a tug of war between the woman and the baby. We see them as mortal enemies, locked in a fight to the death. But that’s a strange idea, isn’t it? It must be the first time in history when mothers and their own children have been assumed to be at war. We’re supposed to picture the child attacking her, trying to destroy her hopes and plans, and picture the woman grateful for the abortion since it rescued her from the clutches of her child. (Source: “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped making Sense,” National Review)

Mathewes-Green goes on to say that abortion culture isn’t just mistaken, it’s layers of violent oppression against women. She first realized this after viewing a recording of an abortion. Before the days of sonograms, people still thought 19-week old children in utero were just inchoate globs. She wasn’t sure what to expect in a chemical abortion. The abortionist inserted the needle into the middle of the mother’s abdomen, into the baby’s chest. The syringe was still for a few moments. Then it moved, vigorously. The tiny child was struggling against the needle, struggling for life.

There I was, anti-war, anti-capital punishment, even vegetarian, and a firm believer that social justice cannot be won at the cost of violence. Well, this sure looked like violence. How had I agreed to make this hideous act the centerpiece of my feminism? . . . . Once I recognized the inherent violence of abortion, none of the feminist arguments made sense. (Source: “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense,” National Review)

These two women are coming from very different paths, yet arriving at the same conclusion. Popular culture is saturated with the abortion-choice ideology, and that spells violent harm to women and their families. They both came to understand that . . .

Pro-life is Pro-woman.

Jankovic offers additional clarity on the subject, from a Christian perspective. Recognizing the opposition that pro-life Christians face in an abortion-friendly  culture she says:

Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates because you represent laying down your life for another . . . Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying. Strangely, it is that fear that drives the abortion industry: fear that your dreams will die, that your future will die, that your freedom will die — and trying to escape that death by running into the arms of death.

Jankovic might sound like she’s surrendering too much ground to abortion culture as she admits that women are deathly afraid of losing their individual identity in motherhood. Women are, justifiably, scared about the prospect of “dying” to themselves. Abortion sounds like it would make sense, in light of those fears. But she’s not done yet.

There’s more to the story
when Christ is the main character.

“Christian[s] should have a different paradigm”, Jankovic says,

We should run to the cross. To death. . . . Death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, ought to know what follows death. The Christian life is resurrection life, life that cannot be contained by death, the kind of life that is only possible when you have been to the cross and back. The Bible is clear about the value of children. Jesus loved them, and we are commanded to love them, to bring them up in the nurture of the Lord. We are to imitate God and take pleasure in our children.

The prospect of motherhood, pregnancy, and childbirth is really scary. Choosing life, especially with big families, can be terrifying because it’s wildly countercultural. But in the face of these fears we don’t have to surrender, like cowards, to popular culture. We don’t have to retreat to abortion and kill our young like captured POW’s. No, we can be heroes for our children, laying down our lives in sacrificial living. And we do this not by our own strength. We draw strength from the risen Christ. Our life in Christ is resurrection powered. We can gladly lay down our lives for our loved ones because “whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it.”

Sources:

Rachel Jankovic,” Motherhood is a Calling,” DesiringGod.org, 14 July 2011.

“Frederica Mathewes-Green, “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense,” National Review, 22 January 2016.

 

*This devotional was first delivered at Pella Pro-Life in Pella, Iowa on June 20, 2019, by John D. Ferrer.

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Fact-checking the Fact-Checkers for Abby Johnson’s “Unplanned”: Reviewer’s Fault-Finding Mission Falls Flat


Fact-checkers need to be fact-checked sometimes. A recent Huffington Post article by Melissa Jeltsen is no exception. Delicately titled, “The Anti-abortion Movie ‘Unplanned’ Is Loaded With Dangerous Lies: So HuffPost Talked to an OB-GYN to debunk them.” (17 April 2019). This is a flagrant “hit-job” against the controversial pro-life movie, Unplanned about Abby Johnson’s voyage from Planned Parenthood director to pro-life advocate. Abby has been enemy #1 for Planned Parenthood before, so this is familiar territory.

The question however, is not whether the writer Jeltsen or her interviewee are biased, progressive, abortion-lobbyists, liberal-democrat, or any of that. The big question here is whether she’s telling the truth. The truth is the truth, no matter the source.

But it doesn’t hurt to know the source for controversial claims, and this article has a lot of them. HuffPo sought an expert voice to give a negative review of the movie. Enter Dr. Jen Villavicencio, an Ob-Gyn and abortion provider. HuffPo is unabashedly liberal-progressive, and Dr. Villavicencio, is financially and vocationally tied to abortion practice. This article was never intended to be a “fair and balanced” review of the movie. There are layers of bias here. While that fact doesn’t falsify this article, it doesn’t lend any credibility either. Responsible readers should give pause before swallowing what Villavicencio is feeding them.

But again, the question is not whether this report is biased, pro-choice, or partisan. The question is whether Dr. Villavicenio is telling the truth.

If only she were telling the truth. Let’s look at her major claims and test them for accuracy.

1. “A fetus unrealistically appears to struggle for its life against an abortion”

She’s referring to the suction-abortion procedure, in the film, for a 13 weeks pregnant mother. Now, she’d have a hard time making this claim with reference to late-term abortions, since viable children-in-utero have survived premature birth as early as 21.5 weeks, and they, indisputably, respond to stimuli and reflect a pain response. Only 1st and early 2nd trimester abortions could realistically fit within this sweeping claim.

Still, there are a couple problem here. First, the fetus is a human fetus, that is, a biological human. We have not slipped from human abortion to generic undifferentiated animal abortion of whatever kinds. Leaving out the “human” in “human fetus” is dehumanizing. It’s not false but it is misleading in the sense of biased rhetoric, and that’s worth noting.

Second, the fetal human is a male or female (or, in rare cases, intersex), but not an “it.” Again, it’s dehumanizing to treat the fetal human like a mere object (an “it”) instead of subjective pronoun (he/she/him/her).

Third, and to the author’s point, it is realistic to portray the fetal human, at 13 weeks, reflecting the known neural and motor development of human fetuses at that stage. The film does that. Now, Dr. Villavicenio seems offended that fetal movement, responding to environmental stimuli, can give the appearance of self-awareness and some conscious struggle for survival. But, the facts of the matter are that fetal children, at that stage of development, have a brain and nervous system, and they are capable of a wide range of movements, on their own, and even have a sense of touch. Being touch-sensitive, they can respond to environmental stimuli whether it’s the mother touching her belly, or an abortion-surgeon using a canella to vacuum him out of the womb.

2. “According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [ACOG], a fetus does not have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least 24 weeks of gestation.”

The ACOG, which is an abortion-choice organization, does make this claim. But they are mistaken. Its common practice now, among fetal surgeons, to administer anesthesia to both child and mother before procedures. The reason is simple, children-in-utero exhibit a pain/stress response during surgery that raises complications, unless they are anesthetized. The child benefits from anesthesia the same way the mother does; it reduces pain.

The 24 weeks gestation claim, is outdated too. In the past, 24 weeks was thought to be the cut-off for fetal viability. But, since premature babies have survived as early as 21.5 weeks, we know from direct experience with born children that they reflect all the features of pain-sensitivity.

Fetal humans have pain receptors throughout their bodies by 8 weeks gestation and have the same response to pain stimuli at 20 weeks as adults have, with beta-endorphins, cortisol, and noradrenaline.

Now, critics eagerly dispute whether that child is experiencing pain or just acting that way. But that’s disingenuous because it veers from medical science into philosophy of mind, without signaling a lane change. Philosophers love to argue about “the problem of other minds,” and whether anybody can know (with certainty) that other minds exist. It’s a pet argument for skeptics to haggle over. They argue, for example, that a person may act like he’s feeling pain but since we can only see his actions, not his pain-experience, we’ll never know if he experiences pain or if he has any experiences at all.

To my knowledge, that argument is not a serious facet of medical science, nor should it be. We are on much safer ground, in bioethics, granting that individuals who have physiological pain responses are in pain. We don’t need to detour into a sophisticated argument about minds, consciousness, or personhood. We’re just talking about physiological pain, and fetal children can feel that somewhere between 8 and 20 weeks gestation.

3. “Planned Parenthood is falsely depicted as a for-profit abortion business”

This one is kind of funny to me. Planned Parenthood does sell abortion services. They aren’t doing it for free. Plus, the movie admits that Planned Parenthood is officially a non-profit organization.

And anyone who’s worked with non-profit and not-for-profit organizations understands that they still have to generate income just to stay afloat.

It’s naïve to think that just because Planned Parenthood has a non-profit tax status, that they are simply a self-effacing charity group, entirely blind to the allure of profits and financial growth. Now, Planned Parenthood maintains enormous financial sway, politically and culturally, as the leading figure in the abortion-choice lobby. And abortion-choice lobbyists are firmly entrenched on Democrat battle lines. So, there is a lot of money invested in keeping Planned Parenthood afloat. But even if Planned Parenthood weren’t a billion dollar company, there is nothing false or dishonest about describing planned parenthood as a for-profit operating model even if they are non-profit in their tax status.

4. “Abortion makes up only 3.4 percent of its services, according to its most recent annual report. “

Yes, their most recent report says abortion is 3.4% of their services. But this twisted statistic is dishonest. Abortion is their primary service, it’s their means of revenue, and it’s the main reason people go to the clinic – they think they might be pregnant, and they are considering abortion. Abortion services are not 3.4% of their revenue, or 3.4% of what they advocate and lobby for, or 3.4% of their focused attention. But with some statistical gymnastics, they can produce a nice, small number so that Planned parenthood looks like it’s mostly just a walk-in healthcare clinic for women. But, Washington Post fact-checker debunked this “3% statistics. And Slate Magazine calls it the “most meaningless statistic ever.” Rich Lowry, writing for the New York Post, explains how this number is so misleading.

“By Planned Parenthood’s math, a woman who gets an abortion but also a pregnancy test, an STD test and some contraceptives has received four services, and only 25 percent of them are abortion. This is a little like performing an abortion and giving a woman an aspirin, and saying only half of what you do is abortion.

Such cracked reasoning could be used to obscure the purpose of any organization. The sponsors of the New York City Marathon could count each small cup of water they hand out (some 2 million cups, compared with 45,000 runners) and say they are mainly in the hydration business.

Or Major League Baseball teams could say that they sell about 20 million hot dogs and play 2,430 games in a season, so baseball is only .012 percent of what they do.” (Para. 11-13)

5. “Abortions are sensationalized like a horror movie”

Abortion is horrifying, that’s true, but that’s realism, not sensationalism. The movie is actually pretty tame compared to actual horror movies. I was expecting more images of dismembered babies, and far more blood than the movie had. I remember only a couple scenes that had any significant blood in it. One was a pill abortion where the mother had significant bleeding, but that’s an accurate description of known side effects of pill abortions. They didn’t need to exaggerate. Realism is horrifying enough.

The other bloody scene was of a teenager who hemorrhages during an abortion, and the surgeon has to act fast to stop the bleeding. She doesn’t die, but she loses a lot of blood. There’s no serious dispute about whether severe bleeding is a complication that sometimes happens in abortions.

6. “Abortion is inaccurately depicted as extremely dangerous.”

The movie does focus attention on the negative outcomes of abortion, including medical risks, complications, family issues, and so on. But it’s still honest about all of these. Abortion is extremely dangerous since it has a fatality rate of 100% for all children-in-utero. And, since it’s an elective procedure, none of its side effects, risk factors, and potential complications are necessary conditions of pregnancy.

It’s dishonest to act like abortion doesn’t have any risk of serious complications like bleeding, punctures, cuts, organ damage, cervical damage, or infection. I’m not saying these happen all the time, and neither does the movie say that. But abortion does have serious risks.

Now, we don’t exactly know how often women have serious complications short-term or long-term with abortion since the whole field is notoriously private. Women often hide past abortions, even in their medical history. Plus, there is no formal required reporting for abortion complications. So, when you read stats like: “only 4 women died of [abortion] complications” (para. 21)– you should know that that statistic doesn’t mean very much. Hospitals aren’t required to say that a woman died from an attempted abortion; they can just as easily report it as death from pregnancy complications. That reporting bias makes insurance payouts easier and helps spare the family some embarrassment.

7. “Abortion clinicians are portrayed as villains and monsters”

Some are portrayed that way, some aren’t. Abby Johnson does tell about her own, direct, experience with clinic directors and representatives and she was even taken to court by Planned Parenthood. But she won the case because she was telling the truth. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for some people to take on the “villain” role in the workplace. Abby had a boss, in the movie, who was clearly the “villain” in the movie. This phenomenon isn’t unique to abortion clinics, it’s liable to happen at any big company that fosters competition and rewards ambition. It would be unreasonable and dishonest to present all abortion-clinicians in a positive light.

Meanwhile, this movie was actually pretty gracious in the way it portrayed abortion-clinicians. For one thing, the main character spent most of the movie employed with Planned Parenthood. The storyline revolved around her good intentions, her struggle through abortion-choice ideology, her sympathy for struggling mothers, and her passion for helping abortion nurses. Most of her coworkers were jovial, likable characters who were just doing what they thought was right – working for Planned Parenthood. The movie’s treatment of clinic workers has proven so compelling and persuasive that as many as 94 clinic workers left the abortion-business after watching Unplanned.

8. “Prayer has magical properties, can stop abortions.”

The movie didn’t claim this, not explicitly at least. The statement refers to a claim by Abby’s character who says that when protesters are praying outside Planned Parenthood clinics, the rate of abortions that day goes down. But, right after this statement, she explains that patients driving to the clinic drive around and around the clinic to avoid being seen, but the prayer protesters are there watching. So potential patients just eventually just drive away, leaving the clinic and missing their appointments.

Now, the movie features some “prayer warriors” in the form of Shawn and Marilisa Carney, leaders in the Forty Days for Life movement. They have a powerful influence on Abby Johnson, eventually helping her to leave planned parenthood and mobilize as a pro-life advocate. So, there is definitely a pro-life message that’s focused on prayer. But they aren’t making any claim that prayer has magical properties. The main characters are all Christians anyway, and so the real “power” behind prayer isn’t magic, or luck, or will-power. The power behind prayer is God. If Christianity is true, and prayer works, then that prayer works because an intelligent personal God heard and responded to those prayers, that’s not magic, that’s just how communication works.

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Crisis of Conscience: 11 Reasons Why Senate Democrats Didn’t Vote to Protect Newborns

Yes, Democrats blocked a bill that would protect infants who survived botched abortions. Yes, that ties abortion-choice into child-abuse, ablism, mercy-killing, and infanticide. No, it does not necessarily mean Democrats hate babies or want more abortions. But it still isn’t clear why they voted that way. In this post, I explore possible reasons why Democrats would risk such bad publicity and vote against basic protection for abortion-survivors.

Image result for infanticide

On Monday (2.25.2019) forty-four Senate Democrats voted down the “Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act”. This bill would require that any children that are born, surviving abortion, must be treated as persons and cared-for as patients. This vote killed the bill, at least as long as Democrats have the Senate majority. Republicans needed 60 votes to break the standing filibuster. Democrats had been stalling for weeks. But even with 3 swing votes from across the aisle, there were only 53 total votes. The bill failed. In total, 44 democrats voted against the bill, including all seven Democrat presidential candidates:

  • Cory Booker
  • Sherrod Brown
  • Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Kamala Harris
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Bernie Sanders
  • and Elizabeth Warren

Media Blackout

Now, if you get all your news through mainstream media you might not have known about this infanticide-friendly outcome. And you wouldn’t know it happened at the hands of Senate Democrats. That’s because mainstream media continued its blackout of pro-life friendly news. The media blackout over the Kermit Gosnell trial, and the annual March for Life, was in full effect with this unsightly outcome for abortion-choice politicians. Conservative media streams lit up like Christmas over the news because it’s bad press for Senate Democrats. But liberal-leaning media largely ignored it. Dems can boldly vote this way  “because the media will let them get away with it.” Fortunately, mainstream media isn’t the only avenue for news these days. The truth comes out, eventually

But, bad press or not, voting down a bill that would prevent child-abuse, ablism, and infanticide is still a head-scratcher. What were they thinking? How could they do this? Why would 44 Democrats vote down a bill that would protect living, born, children?

Bill Sasse vs. Ralph Northam

One would think a strong stance against child-abuse, ablism, and infanticide would draw unanimous consent. The bill’s founder, Senator Bill Sasse (R-NE), championed this bill precisely for that purpose, to establish unanimous agreement that, whether pro-choice or pro-life, we can all agree that born children deserve basic care and protection even if they survived a botched abortion.

This bill would, at least, be a gesture of defiance against statements like that of Virginia governor Ralph Northam that ambiguate precisely where we need moral clarity the most. Defending a late-term abortion-choice bill, Northam said of late-term abortions, medically complicated deliveries that, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired.

Now, Northam may not have intended his words to sound as scandalous as they did. But, at minimum, he stated his support for late-term abortion access – even till the moment just before birth. He left open any legal loopholes that may threaten children who survive abortion (i.e., unreported child-abuse, passive euthanasia, negligent homicide, etc., unreported murder). And he explicitly refused to mention the humanity of those fetal humans.

Republican Motivations

Republican motivations aren’t too hard to figure out. Their pro-life platform fits well with the bill’s strong stance against abuse, infanticide, and ablism.

Republicans may have also been grandstanding, seizing on the radical leftward swing of Democrats. Republicans can pick up some moderate voters who don’t want to follow the Dems towards a social-democrat platform (incl., socialized healthcare and unrestricted abortion access). Anti-trumpism has swelled the sails of the Democrat fleet, so much so that Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a groundswell of social-democrat voters have found a home in the Democrat party. The left is pulling farther left.

But, as the Democrat establishment is reaching for voters on the radical left, they may have overextended themselves, marginalizing their moderate-liberal base. Democrat overreach smells like opportunity for Republicans. Enter the Born-Alive bill.

Most Americans would have no problem with the Born-alive bill, since most Americans now identify as pro-life, wanting heavy restrictions on abortion or even banning it after fetal-viability. Contrast that with the Democrat party which is pushing for unrestricted full-term abortion access in New York, Vermont, and Rhode Island. There are probably more “unrestricted abortion” bills coming down the pike too.

This spate of radical pro-choice bills seem to be (1) doomsday prepping their Democrat states in the event of a pro-life apocalypse (i.e., Roe v. Wade overturned). And (2) they’re aligning their political actions with resource channels from the abortion-choice and feminist lobby. 2019 is a big fundraising year for the anti-trump campaign season. Democrats can help secure precious campaign contributions and public endorsements with big pro-choice political gestures.

All that means Republicans come out winners on this Born-Alive bill. Even though the bill was sidelined by a Democrat “No” vote, it’s a symbolic victory for Republicans for exposing the radical left-wing swing among Senate Democrats. Dems showed more solidarity than humanity on this vote. And it gave Republicans a chance to pat themselves on the back for their pro-life humanitarianism.

Democrat Motivations

The Republican reasoning doesn’t seem to complicated. But the motivation for Democrats is not as easy to understand. I’ll try to give the Democrats the benefit of the doubt, even though we all know that a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted whenever politicians are talking, whether Democrats or Republicans.

1. Consistency: Opposition to all things Republican.

Perhaps Democrats generally oppose any Republican bill. If it’s a bad bill, they can stand against it on principle. If it’s a good bill, then they can have a Democrat write and propose something just like it and then focus on supporting that one. Score: Dems 1, Repubs 0. We live in painfully partisan times and Dems and Repubs could both be doing this. Democrats were already filibustering the bill. They were stringing it along so it would never get a chance for a final vote. But, things escalated when a motion was made for cloture (limiting the time of debate so a final vote could happen). Monday’s vote rejected cloture, extending the filibuster, effectively aborting the anti-infanticide bill.

2. Solidarity: Unite or die

Second, another motivation is solidarity. To be fair, three Democrats did stray from the party line voting the other way: Doug Jones (AL), Joe Manchin (WV), and Bob Casey (PA). But 44 other Senate Democrats stood their ground and voted to reject cloture so the filibuster would win. Needing 60 votes to break the filibuster, Republicans could only pool 53 votes. Solidarity is a strong-suit for Senate Democrats.

3. Abortion-choice: On demand and without apology

Third, senate democrats apparently saw this bill primarily as an anti-abortion measure. According to New York Times columnist Denise Grady, they thought “the bill was aimed at discouraging doctors from performing legal abortions.” Discouraging abortions would, normally, be a good thing if Democrats wanted to keep abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” But with recent trends, Democrats are favoring, “abortion on demand and without apology.” That is, unrestricted abortion access.

In reality, the bill wasn’t discouraging doctors from legal abortions but discouraging doctors from botching abortions, and if they did botch an abortion, they would be required to act as healthcare providers now that there’s a new patient under their care. Legally speaking, born children are already legal persons. Nevertheless, Democrats defended their no-vote with typical buzzwords: “Women’s health,” “her body, her choice,” “private decision between a woman and her doctor,” and scolding “government intrusion” in women’s health decisions. I’m not mocking the kernel of truth in each of these phrases, but the way they are thoughtlessly used, without nuance, and without maturing with the times these talking points sound like a public speaker who hasn’t updated his material since the 1980’s.

Plus, these responses ring hollow when it’s no longer a “private” one-on-one decision between a woman and her doctor. There’s a crying newborn baby interrupting that private conversation between her mom and the doctor. The time for abortion has passed once the child is born, so the typical “abortion” rhetoric doesn’t fit. Neonates are legally protected as distinct persons from their mothers. So “women’s health” should now include female babies. And the conversation must shift to include basic protections against infanticide.

4. Mistaken Identity: Abortion on Demand and . . . hey wait! What?

Fourth, Democrats failed to appreciate how this bill isn’t really about abortion, it’s about infanticide. All the public discussion about this bill, now, keeps mentioning “infanticide.” But as long as Senate Democrats were directing the conversation they could recast this bill as a covert anti-abortion bill. Now, to be fair, failed-abortions set the context for this bill, but this bill is still about infanticide. It offers at least a representative stance interrupting any abortion-provider who might be tempted to cover the tracks of his malpractice by committing infanticide.

5. Allegiance: Planned Parenthood said it first.

Fifth, senate democrats may have been allying with their well-known sponsors in Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby. Planned Parenthood representatives have gone on record supporting the infanticide option, as long as that is the decision between the mother and her doctor.

6. Defensive Medicine: Is it malpractice if the child survives?

Sixth, Democrats were likely protecting the interests of abortion-providers concerned about medical malpractice issues. It’s bad enough when clinicians can get sued over a bad root canal or a misdiagnosis. But malpractice suits can get downright absurd when the physician isn’t doing healthcare but deathcare, surgically harming and destroying an otherwise healthy, innocent, human being. If the surgeon fails to complete the abortion the mother is left with a living, and likely mutilated, baby, like some live-action guilt trip constantly reminding her that she tried to kill her baby. The psychological and emotional trauma for the mother is bad enough with the abortion and it could be even worse if the fetal victim carries the physical scars of a botched abortion for the rest of his or her life. Of course, the physician looks like a hack if he botches such a straightforward procedure as abortion.

7. Redundancy: Infanticide is already illegal

Seventh, perhaps the most rationally compelling reason democrats offered for their vote is that there are already laws against infanticide. Indeed, there are. Perhaps the most famous one, passed in 2002 is the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (HB 1275). But, one of its founding authors, Dr. Robert George, says the 2002 bill “has no teeth,” since all the enforcement measures were struck from the bill, watering it down till it was just an ineffectual symbol. It lacks any language about punishments, reporting, and oversight. Not surprisingly, it’s never been used in prosecuting anyone for infanticide. Dr. Larry Cates explains the simple reason: “No one is so naive as to think there is reliable voluntary reporting of live births in the present climate.

Plus, the 2002 bill does not specify abortion-survivors even though they constitute a special case. Clinical conditions cloak abortions in secrecy. As long as there is no required reporting, no mandated punishment, and no explicit enforcement, clinicians have no compelling legal interest to protect the life of children who survive abortion. Quite the opposite, they have a strong motivation for infanticide, preferably without letting the mother know they botched the abortion in the first place. She paid to get rid of a child, so that’s what she gets. Any failed procedure is an open door for a malpractice suit.

8. Euthanasia/Eugenics: Put them out of their suffering.

Eighth, this vote also exposed how abortion-choice ideology flows seamlessly into euthanasia (“mercy killing”) and eugenics (selective breeding). Defenders of late-term abortion have often resorted to euthanasia and eugenic-abortion to justify killing unwanted children-in-utero. Fetal abnormalities, handicaps, and in the case of abortion-survivors, severe injury, can put children in a great deal of pain, sometimes for the rest of their lives. But those lives are still not our possession to destroy at will. And both euthanasia and eugenics are “playing God.” Plus, they reek of “ableism.” 

By the way, there’s a straightforward way to reduce all suffering and eliminate all birth defects, diseases, and deformities from the population. Just kill everyone. It’s no more reasonable to apply that vicious logic in smaller doses – killing only some people. Even if euthanasia and eugenics were bolstered by good intentions they are still bad ideas. The road to hell is equally paved with bad ideas and good intentions. 

9. Symbolism: Republican anti-abortion grandstanding

Ninth, perhaps senate democrats considered this bill to be more symbolic than practical. It has become a rallying cry for pro-life conservatives to show their support for children inside and outside the womb. But, even if this bill is symbolic, it still symbolizes the humanitarian and life-affirming culture we should all uphold, regardless of our political stripes. Plus, this bill isn’t merely symbolic since there’s a substantial number of abortion survivors (see #10 below). If they are too injured to survive for long, this bill would still ensure they receive comfort care to reduce their suffering (without artificially hastening their death). And if the child might survive, this bill would ensure they get reasonable care just like any other human patient would receive. This bill promotes equal opportunity and equal access, regardless of disability or circumstance. Children deserve our loving care.

10. Rarity: These cases are so rare, we don’t need a law for it.

Tenth, some sources tried to minimize this problem claiming it’s so uncommon that this bill would be a wasted effort. Late term abortion is so rare, according to the Wall Street Journal, that only 1.3% of abortions happen after 24 weeks, so the chances of a child surviving a late-term abortion are vanishingly small. But, there’s a problem with that number. “1.3%” sounds like an inconsequential number, but with roughly 1,000,000 total abortions per year, 1.3% is still 13,000 abortions. If even 1% of those result in live births, by accident, then that’s 130 children who would have been protected by this bill.

To put that in perspective, imagine if a Republican banner issue like the border wall led to the deaths of 130 unclaimed immigrant children. Now imagine that Republicans had just voted against the most basic medical care for those suffering children. We’ve already seen capital hill democrats rally around the health and family concerns for undocumented children. And the death toll hasn’t come close to 130.

But studies have shown that the estimated 130 children is probably far too small. When there’s a fetal anomaly, and the abortion is after 16 weeks, as many as 1 in 30 abortions resulted in a live birth, and after 23 weeks, it’s 1 in 10 abortions. By this measure, failed abortions generate as many as 900 live-births per year.

In countries with socialized medicine – which are more likely to keep exact records for the sake of Government oversight – the UK reported 66 abortion births back in 2008 and Canada reported 491 abortion-surviving births in 2013. In the U.S., undercover investigators have documented abortion-providers admitting that children sometimes survive abortion after a failed abortion and are left to die from neglect.

11. Cognitive Dissonance: Harmonious Wrongs Sound Better

Perhaps the saddest and most contemptible reason for voting against the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is that it harmonizes with radical abortion-choice ideology.

Cognitive Dissonance refers to that discomfort people feel when experience disagreement in their beliefs and/or behaviors. We desperately want to resolve that conflict so our beliefs and behaviors can all agree with each other. For Democrats, abortion-choice policy is a gateway to cognitive dissonance. Unrestricted abortion access has been a growing banner for the Trump-era Democrat party, but to make that policy fit with Democrat ideals they will have to surrender any fundamental commitment to:

  • Racial equality – “unrestricted access” allows race-based abortion
  • Gender equality – “unrestricted access” allows sex-selective abortion
  • Anti-Ablism – “unrestricted access” allows ability/handicap-based abortion.
  • Anti-Abuse – “unrestricted access” allows late-term abortions after the point when children-in-utero can feel pain.
  • Anti-Torture/Cruel-and-Unusual harm – “unrestricted access” permits late-term dismemberment abortions.
  • Anti-Eugenics – “unrestricted access” allows killing “defective” babies so they never grow up and reproduce.
  • Anti-Euthanasia – “unrestricted access” allows “mercy-killing” so the child never has to suffer the pain of a cleft palet, a club foot, or any other birth defect, injury, or developmental disorder.
  • Anti-death penalty – abortion administers a capital punishment without any capital crime; it’s the death penalty without due process, criminal conviction, or even any moral wrongdoing on the part of the victim.
  • Fetal heartbeat or brainwaves – the right-to-life cannot begin at the fetal heartbeat or first brainwaves since those begin around week 6 of pregnancy.
  • Viability – the right-to-life cannot begin at viability, since that’s around 21-22 weeks.
  • Fetal-pain – the right-to-life cannot begin at the moment when the child can feel pain (conservative estimates place this at 8-20 weeks) since they can feel pain in-utero.

Capping it all off, the Democrat “no” vote is a stark reminder that the birth-canal does not magically confer some new life, or new humanity, on the child. For the children in question, birth is an arbitrary dividing line between viable humans in the womb and viable humans out of the womb. If it’s legal to kill child-in-utero at 40 weeks gestation, just before delivery, then it’s ghoulishly consistent for abortion doctors to commit negligent homicide towards a feeble, mutilated, abortion-survivor at 22 weeks. The mother wanted to get rid of her baby, so that’s what she gets.

Voting “No” on the abortion-survivors act is consistent with the Democrat pillar of liberal abortion-choice policy. But it’s a stark contradiction with purported Democrat values of compassion, empathy, humanitarianism, and equality.

A Crisis of Conscience

Democrats stand at a crossroads. Liberal Abortion choice policy threatens to split the party wide open, exposing gross betrayal of the party’s humanitarian values with a litany of evils (incl., infanticide, child abuse, and ableism). But, the party can’t solve this problem without difficulty. They are close comrades with liberal-feminism and are financially entrenched within the abortion-choice lobby. This tension puts a big question mark on the Democrat party. What do they value more: robust humanitarian ethics, or unrestricted abortion-access?

As long as Democrats suppress this crisis of conscience, stifling their cognitive dissonance, we can expect them to keep celebrating radical abortion-choice policy even to the point of voting down by bills protecting born children.

But I suspect many Democrats are genuine humanitarians. If Democrats are not just exploiting emotions to win political games, if they are willing to earn their virtues before virtue-signaling for political points, if they are serious about their humanitarian values even to the point of breaking ranks with their party, then they will have to match their politics with the humanitarian values they so loudly proclaim. Voting “No” on this bill leaves Democrats dangerously exposed. Now, they have to explain away their refusal to protect these living, breathing, post-birth children from infanticide.

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59 Reasons Why Men Need To Speak Out About Abortion

If you are a pro-life man, like me, then you’ve heard a hundred times that men need to shut up about abortion. Apparently, we men have no right to talk about abortion unless, perhaps, we’re voicing pro-choice solidarity. #girlpower

Why should men be silent? – The “No Womb, No Say” Position

Just being honest here, some men probably do need to shut their pie hole, but that’s because they’re lying, manipulative, idiot, blowhards. I’m sure you’ve met a few of those. Fortunately, that’s not every man. Some men have a word worth hearing. They can even have a timely word of protest against abortion. Sadly, a lot of people still believe that men have no right to protest abortion. This is the “no womb, no say” position.

Now “no womb, no say” is all sorts of wrong, but it’s not entirely wrong. We have to admit a kernel of truth to this popular maneuver. According to Captain Obvious, “Men can’t get pregnant.” Men don’t know what it feels like to be pregnant, carry a child to term, or have an abortion. We’ll never squirt out a seven-pound chunk of living flesh unless we have an organ removed. Abortion directly impacts women in the most intimate way. But, for men, it’s always indirect and it’s never as intimate.

There’s also a history of sexism getting in the way of things. Even today, it’s not hard, to find dark alleys, studios, and industries where women are treated terribly. Liberals and conservatives can debate about the extent of that problem, but we can all agree that there have been many cases of genuine sexism against women. We can also agree that one of the key reasons for the Roe v. Wade (1973) ruling was based on equalizing rights for women. Today, most all of us can agree, across political aisles and in every sector of society, that women have (or should have) an equal or greater voice on the subject of abortion.

But no one, in good conscience, should grant that women have the only voice on abortion. Given the scale of abortion (60 million in the U.S., 1.5 billion globally), and it’s profound and lasting effects on families, communities, nations, and the whole world, it is unconscionable to exclude fully 50% of society from that pregnant conversation. Here are…

59 Reasons Why Men Need To Speak Out About Abortion

  1. If men can make abortion-choice policy they can unmake itseven old white guys legalized it nationally in Roe v. Wade (1973), and four white guys and one black guy just might overturn it if the stars align just right. If the men on the supreme court were to refuse to comment on abortion in pertinent cases, that would amount to a miscarriage of justice and dereliction of duty.
  2. Men played a huge role in creating abortion-culture, we owe it to society to clean up our mess – Men at have been known to support abortion policy, coerce women into abortion, abuse women, abandon families, and do various things that pressure women into having an abortion. Not all men are doing this, but all men should be working to undo the mess we’ve made.
  3. Men can protest abortion just as non-slaves can protest slavery, and white people can protest racism– if we don’t have to be black or a slave to oppose racism and slavery, then we don’t have to be women to oppose abortion. Bear in mind, abortion-choice policy currently permits race-based and gender-based abortion. So abortion is not just analogous to racism and sexism, abortion policy is racist and sexist. And everyone should oppose those things.
  4. Men can support the pro-life cause just like they supported women’s suffrage (voting) – Early feminists (A.K.A., First Wave), were committed to women’s suffrage and openly rejected abortion. They argued that it would lead to exploitation and violence against women. Men can unite with the better parts of feminism by agreeing with voting rights, and opposing abortion, just like they did.
  5. For men to comply with abortion-choice policy is suspiciously self-serving – Man-boy syndrome is real folks, and abortion is a factor. The latest numbers on marriage show our marriage rate is declining. Traditional marriages haven’t been faring too well since the sexual revolution, and definitely since Roe v. Wade (1973). Yet across world history, the most effective means for civilizing males on large scale is with marriage and fatherhood. Abortion-choice culture makes it easier to avoid both. In the old days, unplanned pregnancy led to a shotgun wedding. That’s not the best way to do things, but at least no one died from it. Now, abortion-choice interrupts the ceremony, “Stop the Wedding! She’s not pregnant!” Plus, abortion-choice is also portrayed as liberation for women, like it’s some great equalizer, empowering women to be on level ground with men in society. In reality, abortion standardized a roving “masculine” sexuality that never served well for women’s flourishing. Women have been lamenting ever since 1973 how much harder it is to find a good man who’s willing to settle down and start a family. Why on earth would a man settle down and start a family when his aggressive, roving, independent nature yearns to spread his seed wherever he can and virtually nothing in society discourages him from doing so? It’s not like he needs to procreate a boy child to inherit his kingdom, or have a gaggle of kiddos to help him run the farm. Abortion did not dignify feminine distinctives of child-birth and motherhood. Instead, it weaponized maternity, aiming the kill shot at their own child-in-utero. Meanwhile, non-committal man-boys can slink into the night without even a paternity suit to reel them back in. Abortion-choice works like a “get out of jail free” card for all the immature, predatory, and boyish males who think marriage and fatherhood are prison.
  6. Abortion is not just a women’s issue – the fallout from abortion isn’t limited to women, so it’s not just a “women’s issue.” It’s an “everyone issue.”
  7. Abortion kills males too (in utero) – Its effects aren’t limited to women
  8. Abortion impacts family court and paternity rights – Its effects really aren’t limited to women.
  9. Abortion hurts boyfriends, lovers, and male friends – It still isn’t limited to women.
  10. Abortion can traumatize fathers and grandfathers too – Did I mention it’s not limited to women.
  11. Abortion can traumatize brothers, sons, and extended male family – Yup, it’s not limited to women.
  12. Abortion can traumatize male medical professionals – Yet again, if you haven’t gotten the picture yet, its effects aren’t limited to women.
  13. Abortion can hurt marriages and families – Oh yeah, the effects aren’t limited to women.
  14. Abortion can harm churches, neighborhoods, and communities – Ditto.
  15. Abortion can damage the moral health of culture, society, and whole nations – Ditto times two.
  16. Some abortion survivors are men – Ditto times three. It would be patently absurd to claim that a man who has been maimed by a botched abortion, like Nik Hoot, has no right to speak against abortion. People who’ve been harmed by abortion have a vested personal interest in trying to protect others from abortion.
  17. As long as abortion is about human rights then all humans have a rightful voice on the matter – Abortion is about women’s rights, but it’s also about human rights broadly since it presses the question about when exactly do developing humans in utero acquire human rights.
  18. Female-led Organizations like Live Action , Eagle Forum, and Silent No More, encourage men to speak up on the issue – There is no unified voice, from women, telling men to shut up about abortion. Quite the opposite, females who are mobilized vocal and influential can be found encouraging pro-life men to speak up.
  19. Many other women don’t want men to be silent on abortion – Feminists are divided on several issues, including this one. Some women are happy to let a gentleman open their door, carry their groceries, and speak out against abortion. Often these women are quite liberated, empowered, and flourishing without any concern whatsoever about patriarchal oppression or toxic masculinity. They are too busy enjoying their family and exercising their freedom to be bothered with p*ssy hats and progressive politics. Maternal feminists, like Christina Hoff Sommers, typically appreciate the role of active, vocal, and even protective men in their lives, especially when it comes to issues as big as abortion.
  20. Medical experts, on abortion, are often menSilencing them amounts to willful ignorance. They are worth hearing.
  21. Legal experts, on abortion, are often men – Ignorance is bad. Male experts are worth hearing.
  22. Scientific experts, on abortion, are often men – Ignorance is still bad. And male experts are still worth hearing.
  23. It’s an overreach – Neither women, nor men, have the right or the authority to demand each other to collectively shut up about anything.
  24. Men can offer relational and emotional support – When a pregnant woman wants to choose life so long as she can find some encouragement from a trusted male friend or family member, in that case, the “no womb, no say” position muffles those men, leaving that woman less support in their time of need. Women often see trusted male friends as allies, not enemies. So they welcome a male perspective as words from a trusted friend.
  25. If men can help a woman have an abortion, then they should at least be able to help her not have one – Demanding that men show support or stay out of it, even at the expense of their conscience, is to demand that they be cowards, immoral, or both. Civilized society should not wish for men to be immoral cowards.
  26. Some women don’t want to make the abortion-decision for themselves – I’m a married man, and I grew up with a mother and sister. And I can testify, from experience, that sometimes women want the most trusted man in their life to make the decision on her behalf. Maybe some women aren’t like this. But many women are. They don’t just want a strong, wise, and loving man who will step in for the big decisions, they yearn for a man like that. The “no womb, no say” position handicaps those women by demanding that all the men in their lives stay silent, even if they are strong, wise, loving, and great decision-makers for the family.
  27. Truth doesn’t have a sex/gender – If something is true about abortion, it’s still true even if a man says it. Moral facts are still the facts, no matter if a man or a woman is speaking.
  28. Men have access to moral facts just as much as women do – just as moral facts don’t care what sex/gender you are, knowing moral facts is likewise open to men and women.
  29. There are sex/gender-neutral reasons for doubting the “my body, my right” argument undergirding this “women only” mentality – It’s never been clearly shown, legally, that the right of privacy includes the privilege of intentionally killing one’s own, innocent, non-threatening, non-combatant, child-in-utero. Also, Roe v. Wade was argued on the belief that we are not sure when biological human life begins but that question has long been settled: new human life begins at conception. Moreover, the “my body, my right” argument promotes extremism, and contradicts normal guardian responsibilities. If the bodily autonomy isn’t enough to even justify abortion, then it’s not enough to justify silencing all male voices on abortion either.
  30. “No womb, No Say” is sexist against men – The “no womb, no say” position is blatant sexism, discriminating against millions of people because of their sex/gender. It’s not the tame kind of discrimination either, like when employers discriminate against job applicants who are lazy incompetent nitwits. We’re talking about the lame kind of discrimination, attempting to restrict freedom of speech marginalize men even if when the man was permanently handicapped in a botched abortion, or when he’s been traumatized by watching, assisting, or conducting an abortion, or if they’ve walked their wives through the long-term side effects of a past abortion.
  31. Abortion-Choice Policy Promotes Sexism against women – Not only is the “no womb, no say” position sexist, but abortion choice policy itself is sexist. Sex-selective abortion is currently legal, and that means girls in utero are sometimes aborted just because they are girls. Abortion also has a bad history of promoting negative health outcomes for women. Abortion itself is a violent act against women, especially when the mother’s “consent” is blurred with heavy pressure from parents or partners. And perhaps the most glaring problem sexism in abortion is how it enables irresponsible and selfish males to exploit women. They can “love ’em and leave ’em”.
  32. It’s hypocritical to encourage pro-choice men to speak up and prohibit pro-life men from doing the same – NARAL, URGE, and other supporters of the “Bro Choice” movement encourage men to speak up so long as they are supporting abortion-choice.
  33. It’s hypocritical to accept the verdict of Roe v. Wade (1973) and then say that men shouldn’t have a voice on the issueSeven out of nine old white guys, on the supreme court, decided that abortion should be legalized across the nation.
  34. If pro-choice advocates tried to undo the hypocrisy, and still keep men silent about abortion, they would have to reject what men have already said on abortion – besides just the Roe v. Wade ruling, if male voices were muffled then that would have to reject the established insights from men in the past, regarding abortion, including expert testimony from doctors, judges, scientists, attorneys, pollsters, technicians, politicians, academics and scholars.
  35. “No womb, No Say” is a veiled attempt to stifle opposition – Pro-choice powers don’t really want men, generally, to be silent, they want pro-life men to be silent. It’s not a matter of ethics and rights, it’s a matter of convenience. It’s easier to advance a pro-choice agenda if roughly half of the opposition is silent.
  36. It takes two to tango – men are half of the pregnancy equation. Having a role in creating the child, it’s not clear why men would have no role when it comes to the (preventing the) fate of the child. Ideally, childbearing should be a team effort and not a lone burden for women.
  37. The Good Samaritan Rule – Morally we’re responsible to do the good that we can do. Tim Brahm of Equal Rights Institute explains this point with a story about watching a depressed woman attempt to drown her newborn child, then Brahm says, “Now, I’m a man. I’ve never been pregnant. I’ve never been a mother. I will never know what she is going through. . . But even though I can’t understand what she’s going through, shouldn’t I try to do something to save that kid?” Good question!
  38. Some women cannot get pregnantBy the logic of “no womb no way” those women would be denied a voice on the abortion issue.
  39. Men have freedom of speech, just like women doIf women can speak out about prostate cancer, and they have every right do so, then men can speak about abortion. The first amendment works either way.
  40. Abortion contradicts paternity rights – It is legally inconsistent for women to be able to ‘walk away from a pregnancy (abortion), while men are denied that right. Instead, men can be forced to pay child support even when they didn’t want to be a father. This inconsistency might be unjust, and so, men have reason to speak up.
  41. Men should use their privilege in society to offer solidarity with good causes – Supposing that men have a lot privilege in society, we therefore have a moral duty to exercise our privilege in support of good. Fighting against the deadliest act against fellow human beings in world history is a worthy candidate.
  42. It’s good to defend those who can’t defend themselves, regardless of sex/gender – Their silent scream cannot be heard, so people with a voice need to speak up for them. Men and women alike can intercede for the voiceless.
  43. Abortion is an intersectional issue so that silencing men is too simplistic to represent it fairly – There are several different inequalities tied into abortion-choice policy. There are potential inequalities between men and women. But we can also point to inequalities along racial lines, or health, age, and so forth. Some of the most influential and expert witnesses for age discrimination, ableism, and racism are males. Silencing males on the issue of abortion restricts the voices protesting ableism, ageism, and racism. Another way to make this point is that if every “privileged” group was disqualified from speaking about abortion, then only elderly, infertile, handicapped, black, Muslim, lesbians would be allowed to speak about abortion.
  44. Men can help deter the jerks who pressure women towards abortion – Male influence can be positive or negative. It’s true that some males are horrible human beings: abusive, predatory, deviants, who exploit women, and coerce them into abortion. These jerks need every societal corrective we can throw at them – police, prosecutors, jailers, therapists, etc. But often they descend into deviancy for lack of a healthy father figure or positive male friends. When decent men are involved as Big Brothers, for example, they can help counteract many of the factors driving women to abortion, such as coercion, poverty, abuse, abandonment, etc. That won’t work in all cases, but it will work for some. Decent upstanding men can help create a family friendly pro-life culture just by modeling redemptive manhood.
  45. Men can work with women in teaching a family-based model of pregnancy – It’s no surprise that most women seeking abortion are not married or even in a healthy stable family. Healthy stable families are a historically well-established way to raise up the kind of people who don’t have unplanned pregnancies. Men and women together can promote healthy marriage, and parenting as a means of curbing abortion.
  46. Men are justified in wanting to defend women from harm if chivalry is dead it’s because feminism killed it. But good men can always resurrect it, especially if it means protecting women from the violence in and around abortion.
  47. Men can speak up through their actions – Male culture is more than words. A healthy masculine voice is not just spoken, it’s modeled. Raising a child is hard work anyway, but it gets even harder when men don’t step up as fathers, friends, and husbands. Far too many men already lack the maturity, courage, and commitment to come alongside the women in their lives to help them choose life. Sometimes the most powerful words we can share about abortion are voiced in silent strength and quiet commitment.
  48. Fathers should be able to talk with their daughters about abortion – Fathers have a natural right and responsibility to raise their daughters, and that includes talking about sex, love, marriage, parenting, and of course the immeasurable value of human life.
  49. Husbands should be able to talk with their wives about abortion – healthy marriages should share decision making, and work as a team in their family planning. Silent men would be a disservice to wives who are wanting the support and input of their husbands.
  50. Brothers should be able to talk with their sisters about abortion – Healthy sibling relationships are another family tie where guys can have the rapport with their sisters to talk about important things like sexual health, pregnancy, and abortion.
  51. Women should be free to get counsel and advice from males – Male counselors, religious leaders, and caring friends can be a tremendous help for women in a crisis pregnancy. If men are supposed to shut up about abortion then they are handicapped in their ability to help.
  52. Silent men are a waste of resources –Disenfranchised males can be incredibly dangerous. Every society has an enormous burden in deciding what to do with the boys. When boys don’t have to mature, settle down, or become gentlemen to be accepted in society, then they will tend to settle for adolescence, never marrying, never committing to fatherhood, slinking towards addiction, apathy, violence, and crime. The problem isn’t as simple as “toxic masculinity.” Males are a resource in society; they can spoil if neglected and explode when broken. But when they are mobilized and directed towards human flourishing they are an irreplaceable source of innovation, defense, and development. With the issue of abortion, men can be incredibly useful. Besides lending strength, compassion, and service, they can have insights, research, and sage counsel to help struggling mothers in their time of need. It would be a pity to lock away all those resources just because of casual pro-choice rhetoric.
  53. Excluding men reduces diversity – We can learn a lot if we listen to a diverse array of voices sharing insights into issues that matter. Silencing all (pro-life) men artificially restricts that diversity.
  54. Men who care about the health and direction of the nation should speak up about abortion as it ties into our founding principles as a nation, i.e., an equal right to life from our creation onward – It has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The benefits of a free and humanitarian society will not defend themselves. We the people have a duty, as citizens, to protect the better parts of our society, and that includes the notion of “equal rights.” The Declaration of Independence says, “all men [humans] are created equal . . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . . life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Our founding fathers didn’t know, at that time, that the biological moment of creation is at conception. And if we are going to avoid infusing some spiritually weighted notion about souls, then we have to legally treat that moment of creation as a biological question – the moment of conception, the onset of biological human life. See more about this point in my debate at UT-Arlington (TX).
  55. It’s not humanitarian to restrict whole demographics from discussing a human rights issue – the history of human rights legislation has, for the most part, been a gradual unveiling of our equal rights as human beings. But that process has had many pitfalls and perils. We cannot trust that any one group will safely lead the way without vital corrections arising from other groups. In this way, all of us are part of an ongoing conversation about the nature, extent, and grounding of our human rights. There is no settled and final conclusion, whether in the court of law, in the class room, or in the science lab, dictating that men need to stay out of the abortion issue. It would contradict our humanitarian values as a nation to silence whole sectors of humanity because of their race, age, sex/gender.
  56. Silencing men is close-minded – No one on earth is 100% right all the time. We should be open-minded enough to where we can keep learning and correct our mistakes. Silencing an entire demographic does not signal open-mindedness. It’s dogmatic and close-minded
  57. Silencing men forces weird results with the LGBTQ movement – Do biological females lose their right to speak if they identify as a male? What if they have been pregnant before, but still identify as a male? What if a biological male identifies as a female, does that person get their voice back?
  58. “No womb, no say” discriminates against intersex people – Some people are born with male and female sex organs. They are not strictly male or female, biologically speaking. Yet, the “no womb, no say” argument operates on a simple binary notion that women can speak up but not men. What about intersex people? To my knowledge, intersex people are typically infertile but there may be exceptions that I’m not aware of. We are guaranteed to distort the issue if we frame an issue as a binary/dichotomous when it has three or more parties involved (male, female, and intersex).
  59. Silent men have done enough damage already – Far too many men are passive, wimpy, indifferent loafers too selfish and scared to protect, support, and honor the women in their lives. So it’s no surprise when those women end up having an abortion because they never had the support network they needed. No gentleman stepped in as a husband, a brother, a friend, or a father, to lend the support she needed to choose life.

These are just the first 59 reasons I could come up with. But that’s more than enough to prove that “no womb, no say” is a myth. Silencing men is a popular pro-choice tactic designed to smother opposition and shame men into silence. It’s worked well over the years. Perhaps if more men had stepped into the mix with a gentle voice of concern or a careful word of wisdom, then we might not be in this predicament, staring at an abortion total that dwarfs the holocaust ten-fold, literally. Men, your voice matters. Don’t just stand quiet on the sidelines hoping that your wives, sisters, daughters, and female friends will all do the right thing. Speak up! A word of compassion and truth just might make the difference between life and death.

*****

If you are pro-life and you would like to discover your voice, or if you are eager to speak but you aren’t sure what to say, then you can get some great conversation training with the organization I work with, Equal Rights Institute (ERI). Just because you have a voice doesn’t mean you know how to use it. That’s why groups like ERI exist, we want to help pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly, and argue persuasively.

 

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Free Pro-Life Advocate Training

Image result for care-netIf you are serious about defending the unborn, protecting the most defenseless members of our families, and preserving the right to life, then please consider signing up for this free 6-session course series from Care-Net. You’ll get a study sheet and videos for each suggest, as they walk you through the history of abortion in America, the key arguments for and against abortion, and give some important strategies for taking a life-affirming stance in your home, at your church, in your community, and wherever you go. You too can be confident in your ability to defend the unborn: Care-Net’s Pro-Life Advocate Training

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Three Steps Needed to Make the Case for Abortion

Abortion-choice policy is a fiery debate. As with any hotly contested issue, this debate gives off a billowing plume of smoke clouding the air with ambiguity and confusion. In the interest of clearing the air, and clarifying the abortion debate a little bit, I would like to distill three different criteria on which abortion can falter: (1) the right to life criterion, (2) the right to kill criterion, and (3) the social policy criterion. Each of these criteria must be resolved for there to exist an ethically justified abortion-choice policy.

Distinguishing these three criteria can help identify which arguments work, and to what degree they succeed or falter. It is possible that an abortion-choice advocate offers evidence for one or two of these, thinking they’ve made their case for abortion-choice policy, but they fail overall by neglecting the third criterion. Or a person may intend to defend only one level at a time but may need to clarify that they know this defense isn’t adequate in itself since two others criteria need proving. Overall, it’s fine to deal with one at a time, but these logical pieces eventually need to combine so that all three aspects are resolved. Otherwise, I’d suggest, “abortion-on-demand” policy isn’t justified.

Criterion #1: Disprove the Right to Life

The first, and primary focus of many pro-life and pro-choice people regard the status of the unborn, notably whether the fetal human is the kind of thing with a “right to life.”[1] At this level, both sides typically divide in their answer to the question:

“What is the status of the unborn?”

For abortion-choice policy to be permitted, the status of the unborn must be low enough to where he or she lacks any compelling right to life. This “right” may be a human right to life, a natural right to life, a civil right to life, or some other kind of “right to life” comparable to that of pets, endangered animals, rare plants, and so on. The “human right to life” is probably the most common avenue for arguing this point, but it doesn’t appear to be the only option. At this point, it may be important to remember that some of the earliest organized child-abuse laws were first introduced by way of “animal cruelty ” laws; surely, one’s children deserve at least as much protection as a stray animal[2]. In this vein, the abortion-choice camp needs to show that the “fetus” is not “human” in the relevant sense, and is not even “animal” in the relevant sense.

According to this “right to life” criterion, the abortion-choice advocate needs to disprove the right-to-life (for fetal humans) outright, or show that the mother’s interests have more leverage than any would-be “right-to-life” claim for the unborn. The pro-life advocate should likewise attempt to prove the opposite, that there is a right to life that has moral leverage against the mother’s privacy claims. Now, for reasons established elsewhere, I’d suggest we are justified in giving human life the “benefit of the doubt” (the “life bias”) such that if there’s any reasonable doubt about whether killing a (biological) human is justified, then “if you don’t know don’t shoot.”

If there exists a right to life then abortion is not clearly justified since the mother’s right of bodily autonomy (supposing she has that right) is now a competing claim, and abortion-choice is pressed with a principled dispute. Some people, such as Judith Jarvis Thompson, argue that the fetal right to life is not sufficient for banning abortion, but then again, we may counter that neither is disproving the right to life sufficient for permitting abortion.

Thompson’s objection aside, the right to life appears to be the more basic right–compared to the right of autonomy–insofar as all other basic human rights entail that the rights-bearing individual is already alive. If the individual does not have the right to retain his or her own life, then to that extent, he or she is not guaranteed the rights to liberty, the pursuit of property, the pursuit of happiness, and so on. If the fetal human is believed to have no innate human right to life, then all those other opportunities can be stolen and destroyed in an instant–without violating any rights–by killing that individual. Liberty and happiness imply living, but one may live without liberty and happiness. While liberty and the pursuit of happiness entail life, life does not entail the other two. In this way, life is a more fundamental right than liberty or the pursuit of happiness. Put another way, only living beings have the opportunity to exercise bodily sovereignty / autonomy / liberty / privacy. Hence, autonomy presupposes life as an underlying moral basis for any other rights claims. In this way, the abortion-choice camp suffers a questionable grounding unless and until it can be shown that fetal humans do not clearly qualify for any provisionary, probable, or proven right-to-life.

Criterion #2 Prove the Right to Kill

In addition to the status of the unborn, abortion-choice policy also requires that the act itself and the acting agent are justified; that is, they need to show that there exists a maternal right to kill the unborn.  Most of the abortion debate seems to hover over the first criterion and doesn’t mature beyond that level of argumentation. So, this additional aspect is often forgotten. Many presume that if the child has no legally protected right to his or her own life, and the mother has a general right to do what she wants with her body, then she should be (morally) able to kill her unborn child-in-utero. However, we cannot rush to this conclusions since the abortion could be an unjustified kind of killing on other grounds besides the claim of “right to life.”

We may call this the “right to kill” criterion. And in some regards, it’s a fairly sensible notion as we recognize this kind of distinction elsewhere. The crux of the issue is that a thing may lack any special protection, in itself, yet someone else lacks the right to act against that thing. A  public baseball field may be a general privilege to the whole community, and people in the community can use it, scuff it up, mar its surface lightly. And so forth. But if a person got into a particularly heated argument with an umpire, and committed criminal assault, he may have a restraining order prohibiting him from getting within 100 yards of that baseball field. In this case, there can exist general permission which the individual, because of his own behavior, is restricted in his legal options. In this case, he did something illegal–criminal assault. Pregnancy isn’t illegal, so this analogy is somewhat limited. However, it does show that there can exist a general legal and ethical permission for something, nevertheless, some individuals are disqualified from partaking.

Suppose you were to go to a museum, and there’s a beautiful artifact that you’d like to touch. Because you are a museum guest, and it’s under a glass case, you are not allowed to touch it. But it so happens that the piece isn’t very fragile and the museum staff are all allowed to touch it since they understand the protocol for handling artifacts and they can safely touch the piece without damaging it. In this example, the artifact has no intrinsic status as a “do not touch” item, since some people may touch it. But some people are still prohibited from touching it. Let us suppose further, that you want to touch it and destroy it. Perhaps it offends your sensibilities somehow and you find it so profane that you believe it is unworthy of existence. Now, since you are just a museum patron you are not only restricted from touching it, unlike the museum staff, you are also prohibited from destroying it. Presumably, only the owner of that artifact has a right to destroy it. In this way, not even the staff have permission to act on that artifact to destroy it. Only the owner of that artifact has the right to destroy it.

In this illustration, we see that there can exist levels of legally and ethically permissible actions on an object, even if the object itself does not possess an unqualified “right to exist” (the inorganic equivalent of “right to life”). The museum patron is only allowed to look at it, the museum staff are allowed to look at it and handle it, and the owner of the artifact can look at it, handle it, and even destroy it if he or she wants to.

At this point, one may try to object saying, “Ah! But the fetal human is the mother’s child, that thing is hers. The fetus is her possession.” But, that distinction breaks down since the pregnant mother is not the owner but the carrier. She has custody of her child, she is not a master over a slave. Human lives are special like that since the mother and father can, in some literal sense “create” the child-in-utero, yet even the “creators” cannot rightly “own” that human life. Parenthood isn’t the same as property-ownership. Human lives aren’t property like that. We fought a war to prove that humans aren’t property. Children-in-utero may be family, wards, or something like that, but they aren’t chattel property that can be rightly destroyed at a whim. In this regard, we cannot assume that abortion would be justified as long as the right to life is unproven.

Restating the importance of this criterion: Even if the right-to-life were disproven, suspended, discredited, or otherwise dismissed, abortion-choice could still collapse if there is no concurrent right-to-kill.

Criterion #3: Prove that it’s Morally Sound Social Policy

There remains an additional level of proof required for the abortion-choice advocate. Besides discrediting the right to life, and demonstrating the right to kill, it must also be vindicated at a societal level.

Abortion is not a strictly “personal” decision as if it only affects one human being. Abortion is fundamentally societal in nature, always affecting more than one biological human being at a time (the mother with child), and so it demands the relevant level of justification for a societally weighted act. It could be that abortion makes good moral sense on an abstract level, or on the level of small-scale, private, and exceptional cases, but is wholly unfit for widescale permission as a social policy. Perhaps abortion is justified in principle or only in limited practice, but when considered as a policy it is disqualified. It could be that no morally feasible public policy could sustain it. In this way, it could make good rational sense for a person to be “personally pro-choice, but publically prolife.” Usually, those are switched and people think that pro-choice policy is the more tolerant, compassionate, or responsible default. But if abortion-choice ideals are too impractical, or they’re laden with too many side-effects and trade-offs, then abortion-choice policy may still not work.

Public policy is tricky, and good intentions, decent goals, and smart ideas can all fail to coalesce in workable policy. Good intentions have never been enough to constitute smart actions. Sometimes there’s no impropriety involved, and they have the best intentions, but the policy just doesn’t quite work for some reason or another. With abortion-choice policy, we have plenty of reasons to question whether it’s a serviceable policy. Besides the objections we could raise from #1-2 above, where rights to life might be violated, or killing might be unjustified, there may be other problems at a societal level which undermine the prospect of a morally feasible abortion choice policy.

For example, abortion could play an unseemly role in institutional racism. Since the abortion rates of black Americans are disproportionately high for that population, we have reason (prima facia) to question such practice when it generates such imbalanced outcomes. Abortion plays an ugly part in the history of eugenics, having lingered in its early years as a means of “improving the stock” back when “scientific racism” was fashionable and black people were thought to be genetically inferior to white people. Today “eugenic abortion” is something of a dirty word, but it’s quite prevalent in the form of aborting fetal humans with down syndrome and other genetically testable diseases. Abortion is a societal issue, and not just a “private” or “personal” matter. And historically, it’s not a hard case to show that abortion bears upon public health. So there’s a public health motive to consider within abortion-policy.

We may likewise consider reports of trauma, exploitation, and malpractice, regarding the conduct of abortion clinics, surgeons, and staff. We could go further and question whether abortion fosters a culture of death, especially since it is death-profiteering. In this way, we can question whether it’s ethically sound policy to permit an industry which generates direct monetary benefit from killing innocent non-threatening human beings.

Consider another field that deals with death. We’d have a problem if the military were in the practice of intentionally killing unarmed, non-threatening, non-combatant civilians on purpose and unprovoked. Yet, the military is that rare industry that, plainly stated, is in the business of killing. We may tolerate military killing under the general premise that some sort of defense system is necessary for international and homeland security for the United States. However, abortion is not so clearly justified since fetal humans aren’t enemy combatants. They are not declaring war, forming an axis of evil, or carrying out terrorist attacks. Fetal humans are legally and morally innocent so, they can’t be relevantly compared to capital criminals who receive the death penalty through the due process of the judicial system. If the standards of a capital crime cases were applied to every prospective abortion (i.e., fetal humans are innocent until proven guilty, unanimous jury decision, reasonable doubt criteria, etc.), it’s doubtful that any abortions except the most tenuous cases could render a sentence of death-by-abortion.

Only in rare cases do fetal humans pose a mortal threat to the mother’s life, in utero. Even if we allow abortion in cases of “self-defense,” that would only address one or two percent of all abortions. That would hardly suffice to justify a liberal abortion-on-demand policy. So that exceptional case is just not enough proof to resolve the social-policy criterion.

But the social policy criterion can be elaborated further. We’ve already noted how every (completed) abortion kills a homo sapiens at the hand of one (or more) people. That makes it a social action, in that at least two members of the human race are involved. Besides the pregnant mother and her child-in-utero, however, there are other people typically involved including the seminal father, whether or not he’s “in the picture.” There may also be the woman’s close family and friends. The abortion-surgeon and clinic staff may also be involved. Even at the smallest level, abortion is still a societal act. It involves more than one human being. It would be naive, and simplistic, to think of abortion in strictly isolated and individualistic terms since abortion is never a strictly individual action, it’s an act between at least two human beings. And this kind of action is permanent and drastic so that one biological human being is destroyed entirely. He or she is not just denied citizenship, or incarcerated, or suffering from character assassination. Abortion issues in his or her fatal demise.

Now we can all agree that individual liberty, personal freedoms, and bodily autonomy are all an important part of a robust democratic society. Nevertheless, when an action bears heavily upon society, and especially when it brings about the fatal demise of one of it’s members, then society is literally and physically impacted. Its membership is reduced. It’s clinics have one more fatality. It’s families have one less member. It’s health-care statistics (should) shift accordingly. Normally we would (rightly) regulate and restrict other industries that trade in actions intentionally killing human beings (i.e., we have many restrictions on assisted suicide banning in most states; we have many boards and organizations overseeing the medical industry to prevent deadly malpractice; we have many levels of oversight for the military). It makes great sense then to question whether abortion qualifies as an ethically sound practice within modern medicine. Social policy cannot exactly green-light a surgical procedure that contradicts the first principles of medical ethics: “Do no harm,” and “Do good.”

Of course, abortion in first-world countries is not measured by counting on one hand either. Abortion practice doesn’t submit to “atomistic” thinking when the abortion rate is enormous. The rates are in the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, and in some cases, hundreds of millions. At this level, it would be ridiculous to consider abortion strictly in terms of personal liberty, individual rights, or some atomized rubric. Abortion-choice is a gargantuan societal phenomenon, wherever it has been permitted on wide scale. As such, we are justified in demanding that abortion-choice advocates show that it’s a credible concept at the level of social policy.

Rebuttal and Summary

At this point, one may be thinking that the case so far sounds stilted in the pro-life direction. Perhaps, the pro-choice advocate would embrace this demand for evidence so long as the pro-life advocate has to do the same. Admittedly, I have my own biases here. But I think there are rational grounds for treating these criteria with a double-standard. Whoever is making a claim has their own burden of proof. In that way, the pro-life and pro-choice sides both have their burden of proof. But, admitting that there’s some burden of proof on both sides, I’d suggest that the burden is heavier for whoever is arguing for permission to intentionally kill innocent biological human beings. I have argued this “life bias” elsewhere so I will not rehash it here. But suffice it to say that our normal, intuitive, and deeply held belief that human life merits protection over destruction has a hard-fought history in natural law ethics, and human rights legislation.

Summarizing the argument we see that abortion could be justified if it can be shown that

(1) the fetal human lacks any right to life of himself (disproving the right to life)

(2) there exists, for the agents conducting the abortion, moral permission to kill the fetal human ted (proving the right to kill)

(3) and the act is otherwise ethically permissible were it to be practiced widely, that is, to a reasonably full extent at a societal level (qualifying for social-policy)

The first criterion addresses the status of the unborn and demands one disprove the right to life. The second criterion addresses the act itself and the acting agent, demanding one prove the right to kill. The third criterion addresses the societal context demanding one prove that abortion-choice qualifies for social policy. I don’t believe abortion-choice policy satisfies all these criteria, and I definitely don’t think it does a better job responding to these concerns than does the pro-life position.

 

Endnotes

[1]Notice, here I’m not strictly identifying the fetal human within the concept of “human rights.” The right to life is normally, but not necessarily, understood as a <em>human </em>right. It could be that there exists a natural right, an implicit civil right (somehow betrayed by abortion-on-demand policy), or some other basis for a “right to life” besides one’s humanity. I’m not making that case here, one way or the other.

[2]Etta Wheeler, a missionary and (proto)social worker in Hell’s Kitchen, New York took on the case of Mary Ellen Wilson, 10 years old at the time of the trial. With the help of pro-bono lawyers they won an 1874 case in the New York Supreme Court arguing on the grounds that humans are at least animals, and the abuse Mary Ellen endured would be illegal against any domestic animal. Wheeler later adopted Mary Ellen. That same year, in 1874, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was born, in part, because of that victory.

 

Posted in Abortion Laws, Abortion Practices, History of Abortion, Kinds of Abortion, Philosophy of Abortion, Terms and Definitions | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Simple Answer to a Burning Question

If you were inside of a burning fertility clinic, and you had to choose between saving a toddler versus saving 1,000 frozen embryos, which would you pick?

This is the thought experiment renewed in popular conversation by comedian, writer, and social commentator Patrick Tomlinson. The short answer to his thought experiment is:

“All else being equal, pro-lifers can rightly choose to save the toddler, even though they are well within their moral rights to choose to save the 1,000 embryos. Either way, the thought experiment entirely bypasses the most relevant factor in abortion, that human embryos are human, and may still qualify for at least a modicum of moral respect sufficient to protect them from elective, non-dilemma, abortion-choice. The burning lab scenario does a marvelous job of illustrating what pro-lifers and pro-choicers tend to agree on already, that there are real-world differences between human beings across their different stages of development. Now, whoever set the lab on fire, that person is clearly in the wrong presuming they weren’t forced to do so. So, it is likewise wrong to kill innocent, defenseless, human beings (embryonic or otherwise) without some fancy fire-dilemma forcing that choice.”

That’s the short answer, but to understand it better you may want to keep reading.

Don’t Go Starting Fires

What we have here is a fairly sophisticated philosophical thought-experiment which is handled fairly poorly. Tomlinson is not adding much light to the issue; it’s more like rhetorical arson. He’s starting a fiery debate.

With no disrespect to Tomlinson, a good thought experiment like this one should generate new insights, fostering discussion, curiosity, and perhaps even breakthroughs in our understanding. Tomlinson, however, has been demanding that pro-lifers give a straight-forward A or B answer, with no explanation. He’s treating an open thought-experiment like it’s a closed question. Instead of stating one’s reasoning – and that’s where the real meat of the argument is found – he’s restricting responses from pro-lifers to (A) the 5-year old child or (B) the 1000 embryos.

I’m going to respond below, with a bit of academic rigor, to Tomlinson’s argument. But, a lot of what follows below would equally apply to stronger and more sophisticated variations of this argument were someone to also apply it directly to abortion as Tomlinson has done. Just because his treatment of this thought experiment is faulty, doesn’t mean the illustration is worthless. It’s actually a very good illustration, for what it’s worth, but it is not well suited as a straight-forward pro-choice argument.

Also, if you are looking for a practical response to this line of argument as you might encounter it in a casual conversation in the cafeteria, or over a poker table, then I recommend you follow the advice of Tim Brahm of Equal Rights Institute in “Four Practical Tips for responding to the Burning Fertility Clinic.” I’m doing a formal, academic, response here. It’s informational. But Tim’s article is practical. If you want to hear more voices on the subject you should also check out responses from Robert George, Gregor Damschen and Dieter Shonenecker, Ben Shapiro, Clinton Wilcox, and Matt Walsh.

(1) It a Logical Breakdown

Logically, it commits the error of “non sequitur,” meaning it does not follow. In this case, it does not follow that picking A or B requires that a person hold a particular stance on abortion. An un-implanted embryo has no developmental future without artificial insemination, but the thought-experiment does not offer any details about whether those embryos will be implanted or whether any of them will succeed. In Tomlinson’s version of this thought experiment, we are asked to make a decision without critically important information. But, if we lack critical information for making that decision, then we can decide either way and rightly plead ignorance in the court of moral opinion. If we don’t know whether those embryos have a probable future, an unlikely future, or no future, then there’s no clear “pro-life” or “pro-choice” label that fits a simple choice of A or B.

Before Tomlinson can demand that pro-choicers choose A and pro-lifers choose B, he needs to prove that those are the only internally-consistent options for those groups. Without that demonstration, however, his conclusion does not follow from the premises.

(2) It’s a Disanalogy

Tomlinson’s use of this experiment is also a disanalogy. It is not a good illustration for the point Tomlinson is trying to make. A good analogy will clarify something unfamiliar by comparing it with something familiar. A bad analogy, however, fails to clarify that thing often by comparing two things in terms of critical differences where they aren’t very similar.

The abortion debate is critically different from the burning lab illustration. Abortion is not about saving humans from accidental or environmental peril (like a fire), but about intentional peril. The burning lab illustrates a true dilemma, and it’s a fine illustration for what it’s worth, but in pregnancy, no one has to die. The “dilemma” is between killing and not killing anyone. There’s no accidental peril, akin to a fire, bearing down and threatening innocent humans. The struggling mother does not have to choose between which life to destroy, but rather choose between having her child-in-utero killed or spared. In this way, the analogical argument breaks down because Tomlinson’s argument leaves out the most critical factor, intentional killing.

In other words, the strength of Tomlinson’s analogy is that it’s far-removed from abortion. The closer the thought-experiment is to an abortion-situation, the more we find the difficult dilemma dissolves into an obvious decision – Don’t kill human beings. Now, I don’t want to stretch the analogy too thin. Tomlinson probably isn’t trying to create a neat clean argument from analogy. But if he is going to reduce this thought experiment to a straightforward “proof” for abortion-choice, then he is arguing by way of analogy, even if he’s doing it loosely and presumptuously. Analogical arguments only work if they responsibly illustrate the relevant similarities. His argument doesn’t really do that.

(3) It fails by Contrary Analogy

Using Tomlinson’s parameters, we can clarify one ambiguity in his storyline in a way that flips the script. What if those 1,000 embryos are the only remaining viable human offspring in the world? If it is the case that saving them saves the human race, and letting them die in the fire destroys them, then it is clear that the moral choice (all else being equal) is to save humanity, even at the expense of the 5-year old.

This analogical rebuttal makes it clear that Tomlinson has left the door wide-open by leaving critical details ambiguous in his argument. I’m not trying to contort the thought experiment into something it’s not. I’m only showing that there are possible reasons why a person could choose either A or B, depending on background information, and be morally justified in that choice.

(4) This argument implicitly undermines abortion, casting it as arson.

Since Tomlinson’s version of this thought experiment is aimed at the abortion debate, then he may need to specify who starts the fire. In abortion, the efficient cause for abortion is the mother. Typical pro-choice logic dictates, “Her body, her choice.” She’s the one choosing to terminate the life of her pre-born child. Regardless of whether the man in the lab chooses to save the toddler or the embryos, the fire is the material cause that killed innocent human life, but the arsonist is the one responsible for the death of A or B. This thought experiment, taken at face value as an argument for abortion, seems unduly harsh on the abortive-mother. She is “starting the fire” so to speak.

Moreover, abortion-choice is just that, a choice, it’s not required. If the fire is likewise optional, then the arsonist is morally culpable for starting a needless fire that killed human embryos. Even when pro-choicers deny the “personhood” or “moral equality” of those embryos, “arson” is still wasteful, malicious, and destructive. In this way, abortion can still be the wrong choice even without any agreement on the moral status of embryos.

(5) It’s a False Dilemma

Tomlinson treats this thought-experiment like A is the pro-choice answer and B is the pro-life answer – a straightforward dilemma. He reinforces this framing by deleting disagreeing explanations from the thread. This framing, however, is a false dilemma. A person may choose instead to risk dying, hoping for a miracle, as he tries to save both. That option is enough to show this isn’t a true dilemma – perhaps martyrdom is morally superior. I’m not making that martyrdom case here, but it’s another option. There are other options too, mentioned below, which further complicate this scenario.

(6) There can be pro-life motivations for choosing A or B

Even if we restrict our choices to (A) the 5-year old child or (B) the 1000 embryos, there are pro-life reasons why a person could choose either. But unless Tomlinson engages with the reasoning behind these choices, he will never know what someone’s choice is saying about their views on abortion. A pro-lifer may affirm saving the 1000 embryos for the sake of protecting more human lives, or he or she may save the 5-year old child in the same way that a triage doctor ascribes a higher priority to the one with the greatest chance of survival; a healthy 5-year old child may have a greater chance of survival that all 1,000 frozen embryos. None of the embryos have a legally protected future unless and until they are implanted and only if the in-vitro process succeeds.

Robert George, explains other reasons why we might be justified picking one toddler over 1,000 frozen embryos.

The five-year-old will suffer great terror and pain in the fire, but the embryos will not. Moreover, the family of the five-year-old presumably loves her and has developed bonds of attachment and affection with her that will mean much greater grief in the event of her death than in the event of the death of the embryos. While these concerns would not justify killing, they can play a legitimate role in determining how we may allocate scarce resources and, in some cases, whom we may or should rescue. (George 2017, para. 7)

Furthermore, George goes on to explain how it is not enough just to count the numbers, judging 1,000 embryos greater than 1 toddler.

Often, the (or at least a) morally correct decision cannot be made just on the numbers—a point that even utilitarians are willing to acknowledge. And so, for example, it is morally relevant in some cases where choices of whom to rescue must be made that a person we could save is (for example) our own son or daughter, even if saving him or her means that we cannot save, say, three of our neighbors’ children who end up perishing in the fire from which we saved our own child. (George 2017, para. 7)

It should be clear that there are more factors involved than simply “counting” embryos to toddlers. And these other factors mean pro-lifers can be justified in picking A or B.

(7) There can be pro-choice motivations for choosing A or B

Likewise, a prochoice person may choose A or B, depending on their reasoning. He may choose to save the 5-year old because he thinks the embryos lack any right to life, a conventional pro-choice belief. Or he may save the 1000 embryos because his own child is in there somewhere, and he wants to preserve his offspring regardless of any ‘right to life’ consideration. Or, he may think the 5-year old is a bratty kid with a poor prospect of flourishing in life, meanwhile, he sees the 1,000 embryos as brimming with potential.

(8) It’s a Misapplied Illustration – it doesn’t fit the abortion issue because it wasn’t originally about abortion.

Building on the previous points, if pro-lifers and pro-choicers can both choose A or B, then this thought experiment isn’t pointing strictly to a pro-choice conclusion, like Tomlinson seems to think. It can point either way, it’s ambiguous.

This ambiguity isn’t surprising because the thought-experiment wasn’t originally about abortion. To my knowledge, it was first formulated by George Annas (1989), and reiterated by Michael Sandel (2005), to illustrate a point about embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. Sandel uses this thought experiment to argue that embryos do not have “equal moral status” with children-ex-utero (pg. 245). While this may sound bad for the prolifer, he explains one paragraph earlier that “one need not regard an embryo as a full human person in order to believe that it is due a certain [level of] respect. Personhood is not the only warrant for respect” (pg. 245). Remember, Sandel isn’t talking about abortion here. We could grant his point, for the sake of argument, and remain pro-life by affirming that human embryos deserve real, albeit lesser, protections so they are never killed by elective abortion. A pro-life position fits his argument just fine since he’s trying to show, what many pro-lifers and pro-choicers readily admit, that there are relevant practical differences between human embryos and toddlers. To be sure, this finer point, about the valuational difference between toddlers and embryos, is important to the abortion debate. It does not, however, embody the abortion-debate like Tomlinson seems to think it does. Pro-lifers can, and do, grant practical inequalities but assert that both A & B have a right to life. Pro-choicers can likewise grant practical inequalities while denying that B has a right to life.

(9) Ethics of Care can clarify, for pro-lifers, moral differences between the toddler and the embryos

Some commentators use the language of an “emotional decision,” saying that we may choose to save the child because of “emotion” (ex., Walsh, para. 5). This terminology, however, can be misleading because it can sound like truthless irrational feelings are determining our moral decisions. Emotions do not exactly have the reputation for pristine moral logic. Plus, if we suggest that it’s an “emotional decision” we risk blurring our moral sentiments or ethical intuition with our irrational passions. It may be that our conscience weaves deep within our emotional life, and while it often feels like emotions, it still points reliably (for most people) toward moral facts. I don’t want to dismiss the value of emotions, but people mean a lot of different and confusing things when they say “emotions,” and there is some literature suggesting that our common understanding of emotions as “irrational passions” is deeply flawed (see Martha Nussbaum, and Robert C. Solomon). I’d suggest a better frame of reference might be Ethics of Care.

Ethics of Care is a system of ethics developed by Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings around 1984. This system of ethics specifies a relational, compassionate, and subjective approach to our ethical choices. Think of a nurse’s care for a patient as opposed to a scientist’s treatment of a test subject. While the scientist tends towards cold objectivity, fair and balanced treatment, and impersonal distance; the nurse cares for her patient in a sensitive, responsive, and relational way. She may even value her own patients more than anyone else’s patients. Ethics of Care offers a marvelous insight into the world of ethics by pointing out that we can have different, justified, ethical judgments based on our relationships. A mother has a greater ethical pull towards her children as opposed to the neighbor’s children; an American may have greater ethical concern for fellow Americans than for foreigners; a man may care more about his wife than about any other person in the world. These critical differences are not implying that some humans are more innately valuable than others. Instead, these differences point out a complex and subjective landscape where relationships really do matter in ethics. Now, I’m not suggesting we embrace the entire framework of Ethics of Care. Ethics of Care is often criticized (rightly I think) for its surrender to relativism and liberal feminism. We can, however, find some important insights here for the burning laboratory thought experiment.

Embryos have no inter-personal capacity for relationship with anyone yet. Even if we grant the typical pro-life view that they are persons, they are still not the sort of mind-will-emotion persons with whom we can share interpersonal experiences. They lack that sort of interpersonal capacity, and so they are relationally isolated at that stage in their lives. Furthermore, they have no familial relation except for anonymous donors. The embryos, by no fault of their own, are cut-off from the meaningful relationships that lend normal and rightful ethical responsibilities within their caring community. Many of our ethical decisions fall along relational lines, helping out a friend, but declining to help a stranger; feeding my own children, but not feeding the neighbor’s children. If I have one meal to offer, and it’s going to my wife or a stranger, and both are equally hungry, then my wife get’s the meal. There’s no immorality in that decision. In the burning lab scenario, the 5-year old child has more relational and interpersonal ties to the world than, presumably, all 1,000 embryos. We may be perfectly justified in asserting an ethic of care, and saving the 5-year old instead of the embryos, just as a mother is more justified and responsible in caring for her child instead of someone else’s child.

(10) Argument by “worst-case scenario” is a bad strategy

The burning lab illustration is susceptible to “worst-case” reasoning. By “Worst-case reasoning” I’m referring to the tendency to distort and exaggerate something by focusing on the worst-cases. It would be a bad policy to always stay indoors because bad weather could harm you; or never talk to any strangers ever, because of “stranger danger;” or never eat vegetables because of botulism. Sure, we can find worst-case scenarios where people slipped on ice, or they talked to the wrong stranger, or they got botulism from a salad. But these are not sufficient evidence to justify a universal policy about those things. Worst-case reasoning errs by generalizing too widely on the basis of scary extremes. The burning lab illustration doesn’t work with a genuine “worst-case,” since that scenario has probably never happened in the history of the world. Instead, the burning lab scenario invents a worst case scenario, out of thin air, to create an emotionally charged dilemma. This scenario can have some emotional pull (including irrational reactionary passions). But since this worst-case never really happened, and may never happen in the future, it doesn’t tell us a whole lot, practically, about whether the abortion-industry is wholesome enough to merit our public support. It doesn’t tell us whether there may be other reasons to oppose abortion. It does not tell us about the majority cases, the ones that don’t fit the “worst case” framing. Most abortions are miles removed from the “worst cases.” They are often regrettable situations but aren’t a dilemma between saving one life or saving more. The vast majority are not rape pregnancies, nor do they have extremely deformed or handicapped children-in-utero. Most abortions are fairly mundane elective abortions where the woman did not value her child’s life enough to refrain from destroying him or her in-utero.

In the abortion debate, the “burning lab” illustration is somewhat rare. The more popular worst cases scenarios tend to be: (1) rape-abortions and (2) perilous pregnancies where the mother’s life is in danger. Now, if these objectionable cases are addressed in a calm, and respectful manner they can be a perfectly legitimate line of inquiry into the ethical pros and cons of abortion-choice policy. However, there’s a quick way to tell whether a person is sincerely arguing on this basis, or whether they are using worst-case reasoning as a smoke-screen to obscure other motivations behind their position. I like to make an offer:

“Would you lend your support to a general ban on abortion, that makes exceptions for women who have been raped and for women in perilous pregnancies? I’d support that law, since I want to save lives for mothers and their children alike. Would you support that?”

I have yet to find an abortion-choice advocate who has lent their support. But after that point, they stop mentioning rape and perilous pregnancies. When they were mentioning the “worst case scenarios,” I think, they were drawing attention away from the other kinds of abortion, sometimes known as “convenience abortion,” that they also support. They did not want the argument to veer in a direction where they are left defending women who refuse to use contraceptives because their boyfriend doesn’t like condoms, or they are left saying that it’s ethically permissible to tear apart an innocent squirming human being limb from limb.

With the burning lab illustration, this “worst-case reasoning” helps distract attention away from the gut-churning images of actual abortion. Abortion and the abortion industry are really ugly. I can understand why abortion-choice advocates would not want to spend much time looking honestly at it. But, the “worst case reasoning” is a bad habit risking distortion, distraction, and even dishonesty.

(11) Hard Cases Make for Bad Laws

It has often been said that hard cases make for bad laws. They make for bad laws because they point to the exceptions and the dilemma scenarios, leaving the law ill-equipped to address the more general and common cases. Imagine if all cars were banned because less than one percent of driving trips crash. Imagine if cocaine were legalized in all cases because a doctor finds an unusual medical benefit when it’s used to treat a rare disease. Imagine if a clothing company instituted a new policy halting production on all 2-legged trousers and instead reverted to 1-legged trousers because there are people who have only one leg. Imagine if all convicted pedophiles were permitted to work in daycare centers because 2 or 3 convicted pedophiles have been successful daycare workers without incident. Hard cases, exceptional cases, and anomalies make for bad laws.

In this case, the burning lab experiment suggests an unusual burning laboratory scenario which, quite possibly, has never occurred in all of world history. This situation is just a thought experiment, but it’s theoretically possible. It’s not so outlandish that it could never happen. However, it’s still a “hard case,” a ripe ethical dilemma that philosophy classes can argue over for weeks on end. And since, those philosophy classes, and them able-bodied philosophical scholarship beyond them, are firmly divided on how to navigate or interpret this scenario, then we can be assured that at the level of public policy, we would not be wise to try to use this thought experiment as a central pillar supporting a universal law in favor of abortion, i.e., abortion-choice policy.

Some of the “hard cases” border on absurdity, with strange and abstract thought experiments that effectively separate the argument from any chance of approaching a realistic deliberation on the legitimacy of abortion, for example, as dismemberment killing, or other “unsightly” aspects of abortion-practice. I’ve personally heard people argue for abortion choice policy by way of thought experiments about: (1) men getting pregnant, (2) alien invasion, (3) forcible organ donation/sharing with a concert violinist, (4) floating airborne “people” seeds, and now a (5) burning in-vitro laboratory. Other lines of argument are more mundane, such as the (6) streetcar dilemma, and the (7) acorn analogy. Each of these scenarios has it’s own purpose and could be used in a fair and rational way. However, these are often used as a diversionary tactic, to force the abortion debate into the stratosphere, 2 and 3 degrees removed from the ugly reality of deliberate killing of one’s child-in-utero. It’s a strategic disadvantage for abortion-choice advocates to let the conversation linger around the unsightly reality of destroyed fetal humans. The pull toward abstraction and “worst-case scenarios” helps to justify abortion-choice policy by diverting attention away from the common-case scenarios where the choice is between convenient killing or compassionate life-saving.

These worst-case scenarios also help justify abortion-choice policy by slicing out critically relevant factors that weigh against abortion-choice. With the burning lab scenario, no abortions are in view, no motherhood is mentioned, and no family relations are anywhere to be found. By removing all these factors, the thought experiment is simpler, but it’s so austere that it may have eliminated all the critical differences that “make all the difference.” This method of argument is kind of like saying, “Ballet and bowling are basically the same sport, if you focus on what they have in common.” Tomlinson has created a “worst case scenario” that is not much like abortion at all

 

(12) The Game is Rigged

At this point, it should be clear that Tomlinson is not offering an open discussion, an academic debate, or a genuinely intellectual exchange here. This “controlled conversation” is more like pseudo-intellectual showmanship. The effect is more heat than light.

Furthermore, Tomlinson is doing his own pro-choice camp a great disservice by feigning an intellectual debate when instead it’s more like a Fordian choice, “You can have any color car you want, as long as it’s black.” For Tomlinson, it’s “You can oppose abortion-choice any way you want, as long as you’re supporting it.”

This thought experiment is not new and it’s not a “grand slam” like Tomlinson seems to think. It’s not even terribly relevant to abortion, not directly at least. This clever thought-experiment can help reveal the murky circumstances of bioethical dilemmas, but it doesn’t really tell us much about the ethics of elective abortion.

If you’d like to see some of the original versions of this thought experiment see George Annas (1989), Michael Sandel (2003), and Dean Strettan (2008), all cited below. You may also want to read Frank Beckwith’s Defending Life, where he mentions this thought experiment in a wider context of abortion-choice arguments (2008, pg. 169). See also, Robert George’s Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (2008, pg. 216) for a more expansive treatment.

Sources:

Annas, George. “A French Homunculus in a Tennessee Court,” Hastings Center Report (1989), 20-22.

Brahm, Tim. “Four Practical Tips for Responding to the Burning Fertility Clinic,” Equal Rights Institute (27 October 2017), accessed 29 October 2017 at: https://blog.equalrightsinstitute.com/four-practical-tips-responding-burning-fertility-clinic/

Damschene, Gregor and Dieter Shonecker, “Seven Embryos or Saving One child: Michael Sandel on the Moral Status of Human Embryos,” Ethics and the Life Sciences in the Philosophy Documentation Center (2006), 239-45, accessed 7 November 2017 at: https://philpapers.org/archive/DAMSSE

George, Robert and Christopher Tollefson, Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (New York: Doubleday, 2008).

George, Robert, and Christopher Tollefson, “Embryos and Five-year Olds: whom to Rescue,” The Witherspoon Institute, 19 October 2017. Accessed 29 October 2017 at: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2017/10/20332/

Nussbaum, Martha. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, Upd. Ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ., 2003).

Sandel, Michael, “The Ethical Implications of Human Cloning,” Jahrbuch fur Wissenschaft und Ethik, Vol. 8 (2003), 5-10, accessed 29 October 2017 at: https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/sandel/files/ethical_implications_of_human_cloning.pdf

Solomon, Robert C. Not Passions Slave (Oxford: Oxford Univ., 2007).

Stretton, Dean, “Critical Notice–Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice by Francis J. Beckwith,” [book review], Journal of Medical Ethics, 34, no. 11 (2008), 793-7

Walsh, Matt. “Here’s The Reason Why Pro-Aborts Rely on Worst Case Scenarios to Argue Their Point,” DailyWire (17 October 2017), accessed 29 October 2017 at: http://www.dailywire.com/news/22380/walsh-heres-reason-why-pro-aborts-rely-worst-case-matt-walsh#exit-modal

Wilcox, Clinton. Response: “Thought Experiment: The Burning IVF Facility,” Prolife Philosophy (self-published; 5 July 2012), accessed 7 November 2017 at: https://prolifephilosophy.blogspot.com/2012/07/thought-experiment-burning-ivf-facility.html?m=1

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