Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Obama's overseas abortion agenda

Yesterday I quoted from Rep. Chris Smith's recent speech to the NRLC Convention. Below is another excerpt, which I think is worth highlighting for its excellent summary of President Obama's pro-abortion agenda worldwide.

A few days after his Inauguration, Mr. Obama rescinded the Mexico City policy, a pro-life Reagan-era executive order, that ensured that the over $545 million in population control funds appropriated by Congress each year (for FY2010, $648 million) only went to foreign nongovernmental family planning organizations, that did not promote, lobby or perform abortions as a method of family planning.

As a result of Obama's new policy, pro-abortion organizations are now flush with cash and will continue to get hundreds of millions of dollars annually to push abortion around the world, all of it decoupled from pro-life safeguards.

I'm here to tell you that the prejudice and bias against unborn children by this Administration is stunning--I've been in the Right to Life movement for 37 years, and I've never seen an Administration so biased against little kids.

For example, at a Congressional hearing in late April, I asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton how she could have said in a speech to Planned Parenthood that she was "in awe of Margaret Sanger." The Secretary said that "Margaret Sanger's life and leadership was one of the most transformational in the entire history of the human race and that Sanger's work both here and abroad was not done."

I pointed out that Sanger's legacy was indeed transformational, but not for the better if one happens to be poor, disenfranchised, weak, disabled, a person of color, an unborn child, or among the many so-called undesirables, that Sanger would exclude and exterminate from the human race.

Sanger's prolific writings drip with contempt for those she considered unfit to live. I have actually read many of Sanger's articles and books. She was an unapologetic eugenicist and a racist who said, "The most merciful thing a family does for one of its infant members is to kill it."

She also said on another occasion, "Eugenics is … the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems."

In Sanger's book, "The Pivot of Civilization," chapter five is entitled, "The Cruelty of Charity." In that chapter, she makes a shockingly inhumane case for the systematic denial of prenatal and maternal health care for poor pregnant women.

Sanger said, and I quote in pertinent part, "Such benevolence is not merely superficial and nearsighted. It conceals a stupid cruelty" and leads to "deterioration in the human stock" and "the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents and dependents."

I told Secretary Clinton that it was extraordinarily difficult to understand how anyone could be in awe of Margaret Sanger, a person who made no secret whatsoever of views that were antithetical to protecting fundamental human rights of the weakest and the most vulnerable, and could suggest that Sanger's work remains undone around the world.

I also asked our Secretary of State whether the Obama administration was seeking in any way to weaken or overturn pro-life laws and policies in African and Latin American countries, either directly or through multilateral organizations, including and especially the United Nations, the African Union, or the Organization of American States. And I also asked her whether the United States' definition of reproductive health includes abortion.

In a radical departure from President Bush, Secretary Clinton said that the Obama Administration was "entitled" to advocate abortion anywhere in the world. "Entitled"!

Secretary Clinton went on to unilaterally redefine the term "reproductive health" to include abortion, even though that definition isn't shared by the rest of the world especially in Latin America and Africa. That is important, because the term "reproductive health" is found in numerous UN consensus documents and action plans and in the laws of countries worldwide.

Thus it is abundantly clear, a new, dark chapter in the Global push for unfettered abortion has commenced. On March 31st, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Population, Refugee and Migration Bureau, told the UN that the U.S. Government now seeks to achieve universal access to reproductive health and the promotion of reproductive rights. In light of the Secretary of State's statement, that clearly means the U.S. is pushing universal access to abortion on demand.

Just two weeks ago, I offered an amendment to ensure that the new Global Office on Women's Issues at State promotes women's rights, not abortion. I lost 22 to 17 in the Foreign Affairs Committee and was barred by the Democrat leadership from even offering it on the Floor of the House when the measure was considered. The underlying legislation passed the House and is now pending in the Senate.

In light of his coordinated attack overseas, we must do a better job of warning nations in Africa and Latin America in Asia and even Europe that the Global War on Abortion is at their doorstep.

Then there is the Obama abandonment of women in China. No only did Secretary Clinton say America's traditional concern for human rights in China wouldn't "interfere" with other issues like peddling US bonds to Beijing, but our government is now funding organizations that brutally oppress Chinese women.

Despite the fact that the UN Population Fund has actively supported, co-managed, and white-washed the most pervasive crimes against women in human history, President Obama donated $50 million to the UNFPA. In three weeks, the House will look to increase that to $62 million in 2010.

(In 2008 under President Bush--the US State Department found once again that the UNFPA violated the anti-coercion provision of Kemp-Kasten and reprogrammed all funding originally earmarked for the UNFPA to other projects including maternal health.)

China's one-child-per-couple policy relies on coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, ruinous fines in amounts up to ten times the salary of both parents, imprisonment, and job loss or demotion to achieve its quotas.

With both the UNFPA and the Obama Administration enabling, China's barbaric government policy has made brothers and sisters illegal in much of the country.

Women are told when--and if--they can have even the one child permitted by law.

Unwed mothers--even if the baby is her first--are forcibly aborted. Women are severely harmed emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Chinese women are violated by the state. The suicide rate for Chinese women--about 500 a day--far exceeds suicide anywhere on earth.

Then there are the missing girls--about 100 million--victims of sex selection abortions. This gendercide is a direct result of the one child policy.

According to the Times of London, several days ago, the world's richest and most famous including Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, David Rockefeller Jr., George Soros and Oprah Winfrey met in London and decided population control was the world's most urgent priority. Population control blames children for bad governance and the misuse and misallocation of resources. If you want to know where that worldview takes us, just look at China.

Undercover Planned Parenthood videos reveal stunning moral bankruptcy

College student Lila Rose and her group Live Action today released the sixth undercover video in their series exposing Planned Parenthood's tendency to cover up statutory rape, break the law and urge abortion in order to make a profit.

From the press release:
A Planned Parenthood counselor in Birmingham was caught on hidden camera telling an alleged 14-year-old statutory rape victim that the clinic "does sometimes bend the rules a little bit" rather than report sexual abuse to state authorities. This is the seventh Planned Parenthood clinic implicated in a multi-state child abuse scandal involving the deliberate and unlawful suppression of evidence of statutory rape.

Lila Rose, 20-year-old UCLA student and Live Action president, went undercover at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Birmingham and told a counselor that she was 14-years-old, pregnant by her 31-year-old "boyfriend," and needed a secret abortion so her parents would not find out about her sexual relationship with the older man.

After telling the counselor that her "boyfriend" is 31, Rose asks, "Is it a problem about my boyfriend?" The counselor, identified as "Tanisha" in the video, responds, "As long as you consented to having sex with him, there's nothing we can truly do about that." Rose then says that her boyfriend "said he could get in big trouble," and Tanisha acknowledges that "he could, especially if your parents find out that he's 31." She then tells Rose that the clinic manager, OB/GYN Dr. Desiree Bates, "sometimes does bend the rules a little bit" and states that "whatever you tell us stays within these walls" and "we can't disclose any information to anybody."

Alabama Code 26-14-3 requires health professionals to disclose suspected cases of sexual abuse to state officials immediately.

"The law is explicit about a healthcare provider's duty to report, yet Planned Parenthood pretends they cannot say anything," Rose notes of the investigation. "Planned Parenthood increases its business and influence by circumventing state reporting laws, but inflicts terrible harm upon the vulnerable young girls sent back to statutory rapists."

In the video, Tanisha also seems to tell Rose that a signature from an "older sister that's over the age of 18" or someone "with the same last name" could function as a substitute for parental consent so Planned Parenthood could perform an abortion on a minor. Alabama Code 26-21-3 specifies that the written permission of either a parent or legal guardian is necessary before a minor may obtain an abortion.
MCCL wrote about Live Action's video series in a 'Planned Parenthood Watch' article in the March 2009 issue of MCCL News:

In recent months, Planned Parenthood's "counseling" practices have come under fire like never before. America’s leading abortion provider has been caught on video repeatedly urging minor girls to lie about statutory rape and to bypass their states' parental involvement laws.

The investigative effort was initiated by a student pro-life group called Live Action (liveaction.org). As part of the group's "Mona Lisa Project," 20-year-old president Lila Rose—a history major at UCLA—went undercover as "Brianna" at various Planned Parenthood clinics. According to Live Action, the investigations "document how secret abortions keep young girls trapped in cycles of sexual abuse."

In Bloomington and Indianapolis, Ind., Planned Parenthood clinics, Rose pretended to be a 13-year-old who had been impregnated by a 31-year-old man—a felony under Indiana law.

In both cases, video shows that Planned Parenthood staff counseled the girl to travel across state lines in order to obtain a secret abortion, circumventing Indiana’s parental notification requirement. In both cases, the alleged child rape went unreported by the clinic (a violation of state law).

An Indianapolis clinic employee stated, "We don't really care about who, what, the age of the boyfriend." Rose was then referred to a "counselor" who said, "I don't care how old he is." When Rose told the counselor that her mother would be upset about the 31-year-old boyfriend, the counselor advised: "The surrounding states don’t have parental consent. I can’t tell you any more."

At the Bloomington clinic, a nurse warned Rose that her sexual relationship "could be reported as rape. And that's child abuse.

"I didn’t hear the age. I don’t want to know the age" of the older man, she said. Instead, the nurse instructed Rose to lie about the father’s identity: "You've seen him around, you know he's 14, he's in your grade, whatever."

"Okay, so that's that problem, solved," the nurse continued. "Now, I’m going to give you a piece of paper here. Because I cannot tell you this. But I can show you this." The nurse then circled the listing of an out-of-state abortion clinic where Rose could undergo a secret abortion.

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter has agreed to investigate Planned Parenthood of Indiana; some clinic employees were fired in the wake of the scandal.

"We have more videos documenting this pattern of law-breaking within Planned Parenthood," says Rose. "There are actual cases all across the country where their failure to follow state statutes has allowed predators to continue their sexual abuse of young girls."

Undercover videos yet to be released show Planned Parenthood employees "repeatedly giving medical misinformation and engaging in manipulative counseling in order to have the girl choose abortion," Rose adds.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America kills (and profits from the death of) hundreds of thousands of unborn human beings every year. The Mona Lisa Project is revealing the disturbing and unlawful lengths the organization goes to keep it that way.

(HT: Jill Stanek)

Annual abortion report due July 1 from MN Department of Health

MCCL will provide an analysis of the Report to the Legislature: Induced Abortions in Minnesota for the year 2008, shortly after its anticipated release on Wednesday, July 1.

The annual abortion report is released each year on July 1 by the Center for Health Statistics, Minnesota Department of Health, as required by legislation passed in 1998. This report will cover abortions performed in Minnesota in 2008.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Why pro-life? Part 2: Science and the unborn

Note: See the original post in this series.

The pro-life position is that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being and ought to be prohibited by law. The argument may be simply formulated as follows:

1. It is morally wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being;
2. Elective abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being;
3. Therefore, elective abortion is morally wrong.

If the two premises are true, the conclusion logically follows. Premise (1) is a basic moral principle; Premise (2) is a factual, biological claim. In this post I'll defend Premise (2).

A new organism at conception

Human reproduction occurs when a male gamete (a spermatozoon or sperm) penetrates and fuses with a female gamete (an ovum or egg) to form a single cell. This union is called fertilization (because the egg is fertilized by the sperm) or conception (because a new organism is thereby conceived). The successful completion of the fertilization process results in the coming into existence of a new, one-celled human organism—the beginning of the life of a new individual. At this one-cell stage, the organism is called a zygote.

In a detailed scientific analysis of the beginning of human life, Dr. Maureen L. Condic concludes:

Based on universally accepted scientific criteria, a new cell, the human zygote, comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion, an event that occurs in less than a second. Upon formation, the zygote immediately initiates a complex sequence of events that establish the molecular conditions required for continued embryonic development. The behavior of the zygote is radically unlike that of either sperm or egg separately and is characteristic of a human organism. Thus, the scientific evidence supports the conclusion that a zygote is a human organism and that the life of a new human being commences at a scientifically well defined "moment of conception." This conclusion is objective, consistent with the factual evidence, and independent of any specific ethical, moral, political, or religious view of human life or of human embryos.
Testimony from leading scientists and embryology textbooks confirm that conception marks the beginning of a new human life.

"Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a singe cell—a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual."
The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (2008)

"In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual. ... Fertilization takes place in the oviduct … resulting in the formation of a zygote containing a single diploid nucleus. Embryonic development is considered to begin at this point …. This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development."
Essentials of Human Embryology (1998)

"It needs to be emphasized that life is continuous, as is also human life, so that the question 'When does (human) life begin?' is meaningless in terms of ontogeny. Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed."
Human Embryology & Teratology, 2nd ed. (1996)

"The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote."
Langman’s Embryology, 5th ed. (1993)

"It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive. … It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception, when egg and sperm join to form the zygote, and this developing human always is a member of our species in all stages of its life."
Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard University Medical School

"To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention; it is plain experimental evidence."
Dr. Jerome LeJeune, University of Descartes
Discoverer of the Down syndrome chromosome

"The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter—the beginning is conception. This straightforward biological fact should not be distorted to serve sociological, political, or economic goals."
Dr. Watson A. Bowes, University of Colorado Medical School

"I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception. ... I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life. ... I am no more prepared to say that these early stages [of development in the womb] represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty ... is not a human being. This is human life at every stage."
Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni, University of Pennsylvania

"I think we can now also say that the question of the beginning of life—when life begins—is no longer a question for theological or philosophical dispute. It is an established scientific fact. Theologians and philosophers may go on to debate the meaning of life or purpose of life, but it is an established fact that all life, including human life, begins at the moment of conception…. I have never ever seen in my own scientific reading, long before I became concerned with issues of life of this nature, that anyone has ever argued that life did not begin at the moment of conception and that it was a human conception if it resulted from the fertilization of the human egg by a human sperm. As far as I know, these have never been argued against."
Dr. Hymie Gordon, Mayo Clinic

In 1981 a U.S. Senate judiciary subcommittee held hearings on the question of when human life begins. World-famous medical experts, including several of those quoted above, were asked to testify. The Official Senate Report reached this conclusion:

Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being—a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.
The subcommittee also noted that "no witness [who testified before the subcommittee] raised any evidence to refute the biological fact that from the moment of conception there exists a distinct individual being who is alive and is of the human species. No witness challenged the scientific consensus that unborn children are 'human beings,' insofar as the term is used to mean living beings of the human species."

Four features of the unborn

Four biological features of the unborn human (from conception onward) are important to his or her status as a full-fledged human being. First, the unborn is a genetically and functionally distinct entity, separate from (though dependent on and resting inside of) the mother. Her growth and maturation is internally directed, and she has her own unique genetic fingerprint (a genomic sequence of 46 chromosomes, 23 inherited from each parent) that is different from any other cell in the mother's body. The unborn develops her own brain and central nervous system, and she may have a different blood type and sex than the mother.

Second, the unborn is living. She meets all the biological criteria for life: metabolism, cellular reproduction and reaction to stimuli. In addition, she is visibly growing at a remarkably fast rate.

Third, the unborn is human, a member of the species Homo sapiens. Each being reproduces after its own kind, so the offspring of human parents can only be human. Moreover, the unborn carries DNA with a recognizably human genetic signature. She may not seem to "look" human (at least in her earlier stages), but in fact she looks exactly like a human at that level of human development. Notes Gregory P. Koukl, "Living things do not become entirely different creatures in the process of changing their form. Rather, they develop according to a certain physical pattern precisely because of the kind of being they already are."

Fourth, the unborn is a whole organism, not part of another living thing. Her complete genetic makeup is established at conception, determining to a large extent her physical characteristics (sex, eye color, skin color, bone structure, etc.). Explains Francis J. Beckwith, "At conception, the 'genotype'—the inherited characteristics of an individual human being—is in place and it plays the same role in the human organism as it does in all living organisms: it is highly complex information that instructs the unfolding of the organism's intrinsic potential. The conceptus, from the very beginning, is a whole organism, with certain capacities, powers, and properties, whose parts work in concert to bring the whole to maturity." The unborn is a unitary, self-integrating entity, needing only the proper care and nutrients to proceed through the various stages of human development.

After conception, the growth of the unborn human being is rapid. By 24 days, the heart is beating regularly; at 43 days, electrical brain waves can be recorded; at seven weeks, the unborn human has the appearance of a small infant, with complete fingers, toes and ears. In the ninth and tenth weeks, the unborn child squints, swallows and retracts his or her tongue. At four months, the baby is swimming, kicking and turning somersaults.

Common confusions

Three clarifying points should be made. First, it is important to note that sometimes the term "human being" or "human" is used in a different sense than in which I use it here. Often it is used in a social, cultural or moral sense, rather than a scientific, biological one. For the sake of clarity in this discussion, I will use the term "human being" to mean an individual, living member of the species Homo sapiens. That's what the unborn (and you and I) is biologically. The question then becomes the moral status of that young human being -- whether he or she counts as a "person" and should be included in the moral community. (That's the subject of Premise (1), and my next post in this series.)

Second, pro-choice advocates often say that "no one knows when life begins." But as has already been made clear, this is plainly false. There is a dispute as to when, precisely, in the fertilization process the new organism has come into existence, but there is no doubt that upon completion of fertilization a new human organism exists—and it is this organism, at a later stage of prenatal development, that is killed by abortion.

The real debate isn't about when life begins, but about the value of life at its different stages.

Moreover, ignorance about when life begins is actually a good reason against abortion. Consider an example used by Scott Klusendorf. "What would we think of a structural engineer who blew up an old building without first making sure no one was inside?" he asks. "Yet that is exactly what some suggest we do. They say, 'We don’t know if the unborn are human, but we are going to kill them anyway.'"

Third, there is frequently confusion about the status of the unborn as a whole organism. Some liken the unborn to the sperm or egg, or to a patch of skin cells or a strand of hair—living human tissue, perhaps, but certainly not a human being. But as I mentioned in more detail earlier (and Dr. Condic clearly explained), the unborn is a whole organism, not part of another living thing. Sperm, eggs and skin cells are mere parts of a larger organism -- they themselves are not self-integrating entities whose parts work together to bring the whole to maturity, as is the unborn human from the zygotic stage onward.

Bottom line

It is clear that Premise (2) is correct. Abortion, by definition, is the intentional killing of the unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the species Homo sapiens.

Rep. Chris Smith on the Abortion President

The following is an excerpt from Rep. Chris Smith's remarks to the 2009 NRLC Convention.

Thus far, 2009 has been tough in Congress. Not surprisingly, in the last five months, the pro-life cause has suffered a string of setbacks imposed by Mr. Obama.

At a time when the country--the world--needs compassionate moral leadership that is inclusive of all regardless of age, sex, race, disability or condition of dependency, Mr. Obama has earned the dubious title of the Abortion President.

He talks inclusion, but practices exclusion. His deeds speak louder than his words.

With all his gifts and charisma, it is tragic beyond words that Mr. Obama has chosen to promote the culture of death and in record time has made the White House the wholly owned subsidiary of the abortion lobby. For a man who has been given so much to then deny the right to live--to exist--to those who have so little is, well, unfair and tragic. He has done much harm--and is capable of inflicting much more. Thus through prayer, fasting and smart work we must absolutely resolve to stop his misguided abortion agenda.

This can and must be our finest hour.

At precisely the same time as President Obama continues to assiduously assure Americans, including graduates at Notre Dame last month, that he wants to reduce abortion at home and abroad, his administration is aggressively seeking to reverse virtually every modest pro-life law ever enacted or policy promulgated since Roe v. Wade, via health care restructuring, executive orders, reinterpretation of existing policy, support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) and by repealing funding riders.

In like manner, overseas, the Abortion President has devoted huge resources and is expanding an enormous amount of political capital in the nefarious business of toppling pro-life laws in sovereign nations.

The Abortion President is the master of the art of misdirection. From his speeches we hear soothing, pretty, mesmerizing words loftily summoning us to common ground--common burial ground that is.

Obama's talk of common ground is a trap--a snare--for the gullible and for the nominally pro-life who have emerged as the newest enablers. Of course common ground rhetoric isn't new at all. In the end, it all boils down to appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars of additional taxpayer funds to groups like Planned Parenthood--a group as Randy O'Bannon reminded us today at his workshop--killed over 305,000 children in 2007 alone, pushing a few non-controversial pro-life positions like the adoption option all the while seeking to nullify authentic abortion reducing policies--the real common ground--including public funding bans, women's right to know laws and parental notice statues. Both the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute and pro-life advocates actually agree that prohibitions on taxpayer funding for abortion significantly reduce the number of abortions.

According to the Guttmacher Institute 18-35 percent of Medicaid patients who would have had an abortion carry their babies to term when Medicaid funding is not available.

Similarly, a recent study found that when laws requiring one parent's consent before a minor girl obtains an abortion were enacted, the minor abortion rate was reduced by 19 percent, and by 31 percent when parental consent from both parents was required.

Yet the Abortion President wants to obliterate these policies.

Clinton tried to sell common ground. Gore used it as well. And now our Abortion President is presenting it to the nation as if he invented it. It's a trap.

Read the rest of Rep. Smith's remarks.

Friday, June 26, 2009

We need answers from U of MN about human cloning

The following is an MCCL op-ed piece published today, June 26, in the Pioneer Press. It is the latest in our dispute with the University of Minnesota over human cloning and embryo-destructive research.

A report earlier this month on the accusations of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life against the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute ("University of Minnesota says stem cell research complaint isn't valid," June 3) badly confuses MCCL's two charges: that the university is pursuing human cloning and that its embryo-destructive research violates Minnesota law. Let me explain our dispute with the university in order to clarify MCCL's concerns and set the record straight.

On May 26 the U's Wendy Burt, Academic Health Center director of public and community affairs, wrote a letter to MCCL denouncing as "absolutely false" our assertion that the university "is believed to be pursuing human cloning for research purposes." She asked that we remove that claim from our literature and issue a retraction visible to our members and the community.

In MCCL's May 29 response to Burt, we made two distinct points. First, we showed that our claim about the university's interest in human cloning is fully warranted, and in fact understated. The U's own Dr. Frank Cerra, senior vice president for health sciences, told the Higher Education Conference Committee on May 4 that "therapeutic cloning ... is really at the core of much of what we do."

Indeed, in her letter Burt said only that the university "is opposed to reproductive cloning," never mentioning the so-called "therapeutic cloning" that is at issue. Both therapeutic and reproductive cloning use the same technique, somatic cell nuclear transfer, to produce a new human organism; therapeutic cloning kills and harvests this young human for his or her useful parts, while reproductive cloning allows him or her to be implanted in a woman's uterus in order to continue growing.

A few weeks ago, Minnesota's higher education appropriations bill was signed into law, and it included an MCCL-backed provision banning the use of state funds for human cloning at the university. In an April 22 letter to Sen. Sandy Pappas opposing the provision, Cerra wrote: "This bill will stifle important and ongoing University of Minnesota research."

If we are to take Cerra at his word, we must conclude that the Stem Cell Institute not only is pursuing human cloning but also had been using state dollars to fund such research.

According to a Pioneer Press report on June 3, "University spokeswoman Mary Koppel said (Cerra's) comments (to Pappas) referred to earlier versions of the bill that were broader in scope." But the original House and Senate versions were no broader than the bill as signed into law; it was always and still is a very narrow prohibition on the use of state funds for human cloning (i.e., somatic cell nuclear transfer), precisely defined.

Koppel also said, "This (cloning funding ban) just sort of codifies what we already have in place." But it is unclear why the university actively campaigned against the ban if the school agreed with it, or if the ban would have no effect on university research.

If the university is not pursuing human cloning for research purposes, will it condemn as false Cerra's testimony on behalf of the U that "therapeutic cloning ... is really at the core of much of the work we do"? If the university is pursuing human cloning, will it apologize for misleading the public and for its slander of MCCL?

The second point in our May 29 letter to the university pertains to the Stem Cell Institute's ongoing embryonic research in general. Minnesota Statute 145.422 prohibits "the use of a living human conceptus for any type of scientific, laboratory research or other experimentation except to protect the life or health of the conceptus."

The destruction of human embryos for embryonic stem cell research seems to violate this longstanding law, yet the university has refused to provide any legal rationale for its conduct.

The June 3 article mistakenly suggests that MCCL is accusing the university of violating the new ban on funding of human cloning, which has not even gone into effect; in truth, MCCL contends that the university is breaking Minnesota Statute 145.422.

We again call on the university to address this charge.

With regard to their rhetoric concerning human cloning and their apparent dismissal of state law, university leaders have much for which they need to answer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Planned Parenthood richer than ever, thanks to abortion and taxpayers

In each issue of MCCL News, we run a feature titled 'Planned Parenthood Watch,' spotlighting the practices of America's leading abortion provider. The following is taken from the May issue.

According to the latest annual report of the nation’s largest abortion provider, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) performed more abortions than ever—305,310—in 2007. The organization also raked in record revenues, bolstered by hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

PPFA increased its abortions by 5.4 percent in 2007 over the previous year. The number of abortions performed annually in the United States has declined steadily in recent years, yet Planned Parenthood has performed abortions on more women year after year. The abortion provider increased its abortions by an astonishing 64.5 percent from 2000 to 2007.

PPFA has perfected a wildly successful business strategy. Its revenues grew to a record $1.038 billion in 2007, enriched by $349 million in taxpayer dollars in the form of government grants and contracts. Planned Parenthood ended its fiscal year on June 30, 2008, with a staggering $1.2 billion in assets—another record. Applying the average cost of a taxpayer-funded abortion in Minnesota in 2007 ($404), PPFA took in at least $123 million from abortions in 2007.

Planned Parenthood is in the business of profiting from persuading women to have abortions, and it uses this wealth to promote the killing of unborn children at every turn.

PPFA reported 10,914 prenatal clients and 4,912 adoption referrals nationwide in 2007; both numbers represent a fraction of one percent of the total number of clients served that year. The message is clear: Planned Parenthood supports the choice of abortion to the near exclusion of all other options available to pregnant women.

In spite of these grim facts, the Obama administration has greatly expanded its funding of Planned Parenthood and other abortion-promoting organizations. Such funding is an immense blow to the cause of protecting innocent human life.

Much more information on Planned Parenthood is available here.

Why pro-life? Part 1: Clarifying the issue

Note: See the original post in this series.

The 2002 American Heritage Science Dictionary defines abortion as the "induced termination of pregnancy, involving destruction of the embryo or fetus." Find out what abortion actually entails here.

There are 1.2 million abortions in the United States every year, and there have been approximately 50 million legal abortions since Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973 instituted abortion on demand at every stage of pregnancy.

How, then, should we proceed in thinking about the ethics of this practice? Greg Koukl offers this illustration:
Imagine that your child wakes up when your back is turned and asks, "Daddy, can I kill this?" What is the first thing you must find out before you can answer him? You can never answer the question "Can I kill this?" unless you've answered a prior question: What is it? This is the key question.

Abortion involves killing and discarding something that's alive. Whether it's right or not to take the life of any living thing depends entirely upon what it is. The answer one gives is pivotal, the deciding element that trumps all other considerations.
Abortion is the killing of something. And in order to determine whether it is right or wrong to kill anything, we must first know what it is that we are killing.

Thus the morality of abortion depends upon the moral status of the entity that abortion kills, the unborn. (Some academics use a sophisticated argument from bodily autonomy to reject this point; their argument will be critiqued in a later post in this series.) As Koukl puts it: "If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate."

But we can be more precise in how we present the issue. Specifically, there are really two key questions, and the answers to these questions make all the difference. The first is a scientific, biological question: Is the unborn a human being, a living member of the human species?

The second is a moral or philosophical question: If the unborn is a human being, how should we treat him or her? We can formulate the question differently: Do all human beings have a right to life, or only some? Do human beings possess intrinsic moral value? Are they valuable in themselves, simply by virtue of what they are, or do people have worth and dignity because of certain functions or acquired properties that some humans have and others do not?

In the next post in this series, I'll introduce a basic pro-life argument.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NRLC Convention highlights

Highlights from the 2009 NRLC Convention are here, including two videos on health care reform and current legislation.

What is abortion?

People talk about abortion all the time, but for many the word has lost its meaning. What does an abortion entail?

Abortion is the "induced termination of pregnancy, involving destruction of the embryo or fetus," according to the 2002 American Heritage Science Dictionary.

Suction curettage or suction aspiration is the procedure used in most first-trimester abortions. It is typically used to abort unborn children between 7 and 14 weeks gestation. The abortionist inserts a powerful suction tube with a sharp cutting edge into the mother’s womb through the dilated cervix. The suction and cutting edge dismember the tiny human while the vacuum sucks the body parts into a collection jar.

The state of Michigan’s Department of Community Health describes the procedure as follows:
After dilation, a plastic tube about the diameter of a pencil is then inserted into the uterus through the enlarged cervix. The tube is attached to a pump which then suctions out the fetus, the placenta and other uterine contents. After the suctioning, the physician may find it necessary to use a curette (a sharp, spoon-like instrument) to gently scrape the walls of the uterus to make sure all the fragments of the fetus and placenta have been removed from the uterus.
Dr. Warren Hern, an abortion provider and physician, explains that during the suction process "the physician will usually first notice a quantity of amniotic fluid, followed by placenta and fetal parts, which are more or less identifiable." The collection jar is examined to make sure that all fetal parts are accounted for.

Dilation and evacuation (D & E) is the primary second-trimester abortion method, typically used to abort children at 14 weeks gestation and older. Forceps are used to grasp parts of the child (such as arms and legs) and extract them from the womb, tearing the child into pieces. It may be necessary to crush the baby’s head in order to pull it through the vaginal canal. The placenta and any remaining uterine contents are then suctioned out through a tube.

Dr. Hern notes that "the procedure changes significantly at 21 weeks because the fetal tissues become much more cohesive and difficult to dismember. ... A long curved Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the fetus."

Afterward, the dismembered fetal body parts are reassembled on a tray in order to determine if any parts are left in the uterus. Dr. Anthony Levatino, a former abortionist, describes performing the D & E procedure as follows:
Imagine for a moment that you are a "pro-choice" obstetrician-gynecologist as I once was. Your patient today is seventeen years old and she is twenty weeks pregnant. At twenty weeks, her uterus is up to her umbilicus and she has been feeling her baby kick for the last two weeks. If you could see her baby, she would be as long as your hand from the top of her head to the bottom of her rump not counting the legs. Your patient is now asleep on an operating room table with her legs in stirrups. Upon entering the room after scrubbing, you dry your hands with a sterile towel and are gowned and gloved by the scrub nurse.

The first task is remove the laminaria that had earlier been placed in the cervix to dilate it sufficiently to allow the procedure you are about to perform. With that accomplished, direct your attention to the surgical instruments arranged on a small table to your right. The first instrument you reach for is a 14-French suction catheter. It is clear plastic and about nine inches long. It has a bore through the center approximately 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Picture yourself introducing the catheter through the cervix and instructing the circulating nurse to turn on the suction machine which is connected through clear plastic tubing to the catheter. What you will see is a pale yellow fluid the looks a lot like urine coming through the catheter into a glass bottle on the suction machine. This amniotic fluid surrounded the baby to protect her.

With suction complete, look for your Sopher clamp. This instrument is about thirteen inches long and made of stainless steel. At one end are located jaws about two-and-a-half inches long and about three-quarters of an inch wide with rows of sharp ridges or teeth. This instrument is for grasping and crushing tissue. When it gets hold of something, it does not let go.

A second trimester D & E abortion is a blind procedure. The baby can be in any orientation or position inside the uterus. Picture yourself reaching in with the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can. At 20 weeks gestation, the uterus is thin and soft so be careful not to perforate or puncture the walls. Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard—really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about 4 to 5 inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.

The toughest part of a D & E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see a pure white gelatinous material issue from the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. If you have a really bad day like I often did, a little face may come out and stare back at you.
Read about more abortion methods.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

UnChoice: Coercion and abortion

The Elliot Institute has put up a Web site -- called Abortion is the UnChoice -- exposing the coercion that is often present in women's decisions to have abortions.
Few people know about widespread unwanted, coerced or even forced abortions in America ...

Few fully understand its heartbreaking, even deadly, aftermath for teens and women of all ages — especially when the abortion was unwanted or even forced, or if family, friends and even experts have dismissed the injustice ... denied the grief ... or failed even to acknowledge the mothers who died from pregnancy-related violence or in the aftermath of abortion.

For decades, many women were denied help when they needed it most or given false or misleading information from trusted health care providers, parents and even pastors. Some were told there was no available help. Others were deceived about fetal development and kept in the dark about alternatives, even though studies indicate the majority felt rushed and uncertain, or pressured by others. Few were screened for evidence of unwanted, coerced or forced abortion. Now, many are expected to absorb the significant, heartbreaking, and even deadly aftereffects alone.
MCCL has material on coerced abortions here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

'Public option' in health care will lead to government-run system

The president and his allies in Congress are pushing to include a "public option" or "government option" in health care reform. George Will writes:
Why does the president, who says that were America "starting from scratch" he would favor a "single-payer" -- government-run -- system, insist that health care reform include a government insurance plan that competes with private insurers? The simplest answer is that such a plan will lead to a single-payer system.

Conservatives say that a government program will have the intended consequence of crowding private insurers out of the market, encouraging employers to stop providing coverage and luring employees from private insurance to the cheaper government option.

The Lewin Group estimates that 70 percent of the 172 million persons privately covered might be drawn, or pushed, to the government plan. A significant portion of the children who have enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program since eligibility requirements were relaxed in February had private insurance.

Assurances that the government plan would play by the rules that private insurers play by are implausible. Government is incapable of behaving like market-disciplined private insurers. Competition from the public option must be unfair because government does not need to make a profit and has enormous pricing and negotiating powers. Besides, unless the point of a government plan is to be cheaper, it is pointless: If the public option conforms to the imperatives that regulations and competition impose on private insurers, there is no reason for it.
So the government health insurance option, competing with private insurance, could drown out the competition and leave us with essentially a government takeover of the health care system. And that will lead to rationing and euthanasia.

Why pro-life? A case against abortion

Update: Part 1: Clarifying the issue, Part 2: Science and the unborn

Today I'm launching a series of posts entitled "Why pro-life? A case against abortion." My aim is to provide a fairly comprehensive, easy-to-read defense of the pro-life position. I hope the series (1) equips pro-lifers to better articulate and defend the pro-life view in their conversations and interactions with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, fellow students, etc.; and (2) challenges pro-choice advocates and those who are unsure or apathetic about abortion to honestly assess the arguments presented here.

First, I'll clarify what it is that is at issue -- what abortion is, exactly, and how we ought to go about thinking about the ethics of this practice. Next I'll present a basic pro-life argument, using scientific, moral and legal premises -- all of them defended -- to show that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. Then I will address the major kinds of pro-choice arguments, demonstrating how each of them is flawed, and respond to a number of important individual objections to the pro-life position.

Finally, I'll summarize the pro-life case and briefly apply the pro-life view to other issues in which the human right to life is at stake, such as euthanasia and embryo-destructive research.

The first post in the series is coming shortly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why political parties should be proudly pro-life

Hadley Arkes writes that in a recent speech Newt Gingrich seems to be trying to distance the Republican Party from the abortion issue.

"Newt has made it clear that when it comes to leading the Republicans back, their appeal to the broad electorate should not mention [the] vexing [issue] of abortion," says Arkes. "The lesson that Newt is now imparting [is] that these issues, in the scale of things, are just not all that important."

But this strategy seems mistaken in two ways: (1) as a political matter, the pro-life view is a winning issue for the Republican Party and any party that embraces it; (2) as a matter of principle, the pro-life position is so foundational and so important that for any party or politician to disregard it seems irresponsible.

With regard to (1), Arkes writes: "The political embarrassment for Newt is that these issues are net winners. The pro-life side, when taken up by candidates, has generally produced an advantage of about five percent at the polls." Indeed, NRLC President Wanda Franz notes: "In a [2008] post-election poll commissioned by NRLC, 34% of respondents said their vote was affected by the abortion issue: 25% voting for pro-life candidates and 9% voting for pro-abortion candidates, making for a 'pro-life difference' of 19%."

With regard to (2), Arkes says: "But beyond the political calculations, what about the question in principle? Why would the issues of ... the destruction of 1.2 million innocent lives each year in abortion be reckoned as somehow matters of lesser moment, secondary or peripheral in importance—or not even worth mentioning?"

It shouldn't be. Read the rest of Arkes' piece.

A need to better articulate, defend pro-life position

The following originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of MCCL News.

By Paul Stark

I attended an abortion debate at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis last month. Stephanie Gray, a young and articulate pro-life apologist, presented a careful argument for her view that abortion unjustly kills an innocent human being.

She showed that from conception the unborn is a distinct, living and whole human organism; that abortion is the killing of this young human being before he or she is born; and that differences between unborn and already-born humans are not relevant in a way that would justify killing the former for elective reasons. Her logical argument used the scientific facts of embryology coupled with basic moral reasoning about human value to arrive at the inescapable conclusion that abortion is a grave moral wrong.

Gray's opponent was Dr. David Baram, a physician, professor and long-time abortionist. Dr. Baram spent little time in his initial presentation talking about the ethics of abortion. In fact, he didn’t offer an actual argument for the moral permissibility of abortion at any time throughout the evening. What he did discuss was abortion history, his personal story and the alleged horrors of illegal abortion prior to Roe v. Wade.

But I wanted Dr. Baram to address the crux of the issue, not obfuscate it. During the question and answer period, I asked him to identity and then justify some morally significant difference between unborn humans and humans who have already been born, such that we may kill the former but not the latter for the same reasons (be they social reasons, economic, etc.).

He didn't answer my question. Instead, he repeated a line he had used throughout the night: "Abortion is a woman's decision."

This rhetoric begs the question, for it assumes the very point Dr. Baram needed to prove—namely, that the unborn is not a valuable human person. After all, murdering one’s toddler is not "a woman's decision." The question at hand is whether the unborn, like the toddler, deserves full moral respect and ought not to be killed for the convenience or benefit of another. Dr. Baram didn't argue for his position on this question, as Gray thoughtfully did; he just assumed it.

The debate, the plethora of questions asked of the two participants, and online comments following the debate (in response to a letter to the editor I wrote, published on the Minnesota Daily’s Web site) all renewed a conviction I hold more firmly than ever: that average pro-life citizens must be better equipped to articulate and defend the pro-life position in the public square and with friends, family, coworkers and neighbors.

There is an enormous amount of confusion, poor thinking and ignorance that remains prevalent in the abortion debate as it plays out among regular people. This is undeniable. And each time we engage others on this issue, we have an opportunity to set the record straight, to clarify the issue and to change minds.

"Pro-lifers could do well … to master [pro-life] arguments and [present] them in ways that are attractive and winsome and intelligent," Dr. Francis Beckwith (author of "Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice") told me in an interview published in the March issue of MCCL News.

"Most political views are changed not just over television commercials or programs but at the kitchen table. Students in colleges and universities being able to talk in their dorm rooms to their friends—that’s where I think people change their minds," Dr. Beckwith said.

Of course, many people are not reachable with facts and arguments. Dr. Baram is a good example, and so are the fiercely ideological abortion advocates who shouted at Gray from the crowd. (Some, I should note, reject the pro-life position for emotional, psychological or spiritual reasons; these individuals can be reached, but an entirely different approach is probably required.)

But there is a great "mushy middle" in this country that will likely make the difference between a darkening culture of death and one that is more respectful of human dignity. These citizens may not have thought much about the issue or about the implications of what they already believe. Often there is some intellectual obstacle preventing them from embracing the pro-life position and responding to that truth accordingly.

"Abortion may be the wrong choice, but we shouldn't force our morality on others," some say.

"An embryo looks like a clump of cells—it has no brain, no feelings and no awareness of its own existence."

"What about pregnancies that are a result of rape or incest? Surely, not allowing abortion in these cases is inhumane."

"Making abortion illegal won't stop women from getting them, but it will make abortions more dangerous—women will die, just as they did prior to Roe v. Wade."

Are pro-lifers prepared to address these claims?

Removing intellectual obstacles and eliminating confusion is integral to building a pro-life culture in which abortion is unthinkable. "People are persuaded by arguments," Dr. Beckwith said. "But it doesn’t often happen just like that. It comes from conversation, from thinking things through."

That's why every pro-lifer, I believe, must equip himself or herself with the knowledge and understanding to persuasively articulate the moral logic of the pro-life view and to demonstrate the flaws in pro-abortion rhetoric. We are all ambassadors for our cause—justice for the most vulnerable among us.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blogging from the year's premier pro-life convention

Dave Andrusko is blogging from the National Right to Life Convention in Charlotte, which runs through Saturday.

As Frank Pavone writes on his blog:
Hundreds of pro-life activists will gather from around the country to sharpen their skills in talking about abortion, lobbying for pro-life laws, electing pro-life candidates, and healing those wounded by abortion.

Just as important, these pro-life people strengthen one another with their sharing of information, experience, and encouragement.

The National Right to Life Committee is one of the most respected and effective lobbying groups in the United States, as acknowledged by supporters of abortion as well as opponents. National Right to Life has also played an irreplaceable role in getting pro-life candidates elected to public office, and then keeping them pro-life once they get there.
Watch here and here for the latest news and updates from this big pro-life event.

Why a medical student wants to perform abortions

In the Washington Post, a medical student writes that although she used to be against abortion (her parents are conservative Christians), she is now strongly pro-choice and even plans to perform abortions. This kind of story is heartbreaking. It's clear in her piece that the author, Rozalyn Love, has arrived at her position because of emotion rather than clear thinking -- and that's a danger pro-lifers need to be able to confront.

This is how Love begins:
If I'd passed her on the street, I probably wouldn't have known her. Her gait is a bit stiff and her left eye somehow different from her right. She's not famous, exactly, but some people might know her name: Emily Lyons. She's the nurse who survived the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala.

I was 14 years old when that clinic was bombed, killing a police officer and spraying Emily's body full of hot nails and shrapnel. Back then, I lived in a small Alabama town, went to church every Sunday and was adamantly opposed to abortion. But by the time I met Emily last year, I was president of the Birmingham chapter of Medical Students for Choice, a group supporting abortion rights. Watching her walk slowly into our fundraiser on her husband's arm -- a woman who'd endured more than 18 operations -- I thought of all she'd been through and knew that I'd come to the right decision in my support of reproductive rights.

That conviction only became stronger after I read that Kansas physician George Tiller had been shot and killed in the lobby of his Wichita church a week ago.
Love is suggesting that the 1998 bombing and Tiller's murder count in favor of the pro-choice position, but it's unclear to me how that is the case.

Perhaps she is blaming the pro-life movement for these actions, but that would be absurd. Pro-life organizations (comprising probably the most peaceful social justice movement in history) uniformly and immediately condemned Tiller's murder, as they have condemned other acts of abortion-related violence.

Perhaps she thinks pro-life rhetoric contributes to such violence, but this, again, makes little sense. Just as pro-life advocates tell the truth about abortion, Martin Luther King Jr. told the truth about racial injustice. Although King was committed to peace, some blamed his truth-telling for the violent actions of others, a charge King addressed in his famous letter from the Birmingham jail.

A day or two after Tiller's murder, a U.S. military recruiter was murdered. But no one blames the strong rhetoric of anti-war groups for the actions of a few crazy radicals. Media commentators and politicians who have called George W. Bush a "terrorist" would not be held responsible for attempts on Bush's life.

In any case, the violent actions of a few have no bearing on whether or not the pro-life position is actually true -- i.e., whether abortion is the unjust killing of an innocent human being.

Love continues:
I also served as a counselor for a volunteer organization that helps victims of rape. I sat in hospital rooms with young women who would look at me and say, "I can't be pregnant. I just couldn't carry his baby." I could feel their desperation.
Rape and incest are horrible crimes, but what about the more than 99 percent of Minnesota abortions that are not due to rape or incest? Those are the abortions Love needs to defend. See this post for a pro-life response to abortion in cases of rape and incest. (A proper application of the pro-life view shows that abortion in cases of rape or incest is still unjust, and in any case, studies reveal that abortion usually does nothing to alleviate the pain of a rape victim and in fact makes things worse.)

Love continues, getting to the meat of her position:
I agree that ending an unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy. When I advocate for reproductive rights, for choice, I don't claim that abortion is morally acceptable. I think that it's a very private, intensely personal decision. But I was stunned when one of my professors, a pathologist and a Planned Parenthood supporter, told me that decades ago, entire wings of the university's hospital were filled with women dying from infections caused by botched abortions. It's clear that women who don't want to be pregnant won't be deterred by limited access to providers or to clinics. And I believe that it's immoral to let them die rather than provide them with safe, competent care.
If I understand Love correctly, she thinks abortion is a tragedy and may even be morally wrong. But this morally wrong act should be legally permitted by the state, for two reasons: one, "it's a very private, intensely personal decision"; and two, prohibiting abortion would have terrible consequences for women, i.e., they would suffer and die from dangerous, illegal abortions.

The first reason begs the question as to the moral status of the unborn entity killed by abortion. Clearly we should not permit the murder of 4-year-olds because "it's a very private decision." Love is assuming that the unborn is not a valuable human person deserving of respect and protection, like the 4-year-old; but that is the very question at issue.

Her second reason is the popular "back alley" or "coathanger" objection. A number of points should be made: The legal status of abortion does have a significant effect on the number of abortions; the statistics regarding women who died from illegal abortion were wildly exaggerated (39 women in the United States died from illegal abortion in 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade, and 24 died from legal abortion); abortion became safer for women not because it was legalized, but because of the advent of modern medicine and better techniques, etc. -- so women would not suddenly start dying were abortion to be prohibited.

Fundamentally, the back-alley argument fails because it, too, begs the question: it only makes sense if abortion doesn’t unjustly kill an innocent human person, which is exactly what a pro-choice advocate needs to establish. After all, if the unborn is a valuable human person, the back-alley argument essentially says: "Because some people may die attempting to illegally kill their children, the government should make it easy and legal for them to do so."

Undoubtedly, laws prohibiting rape make life much tougher for a rapist. But no one argues that we should repeal those laws so the rapist doesn’t have to risk his well-being and future every time he rapes an innocent woman. As pro-choice philosopher Mary Anne Warren acknowledges, "The fact that restricting access to abortion has tragic side effects does not, in itself, show that the restrictions are unjustified, since murder is wrong regardless of the consequences of forbidding it."

Love continues:
As I continue my education, my views on abortion are still evolving. Take late-term abortions. When I first heard about them, I was horrified. I remember the flyer I saw at a pro-life event that described the procedure: It claimed that when the baby's head emerges, the doctor jabs a pair of scissors into the back of its neck, severing the spinal cord. Even after I became pro-choice, this crossed a line for me. But later, I learned that this description was misleading and graphically politicized.
Here Love has her facts wrong. She equates "late-term abortions" with partial-birth abortions, but partial-birth abortion is just one particular procedure. She says she "learned that this description [of partial-birth abortion] was misleading and graphically politicized," but if she is referring to the standard description used by pro-life groups (which is not as she describes), she is simply mistaken. Dr. Martin Haskell is the creator of the technique, and he explains it himself: "The surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull or into the foramen magnum. Having safely entered the skull, he spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening. The surgeon removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter into this hole and evacuates the skull contents."

Regardless, I wonder why partial-birth abortion could, theoretically, "cross a line" for Love, given that she thinks abortion should be permissible because of privacy and the dangers of illegal abortions. Do those reasons not still apply to partial-birth abortion? How does the technique matter?

I also wonder if she realizes that the standard second trimester abortion procedure, dilation and evacuation (D & E), is certainly more gruesome than partial-birth abortion.

The bottom line is that Love's piece is long on stories that pull at the heartstrings and short on moral reasoning. She lets emotion and feelings obscure poor thinking.

Health care reform: rationing, abortion coverage threaten right to life

As Congress and the president consider health care legislation, we've explained how single-payer or government-run systems lead to the rationing of care, which in turn (given a prevailing "quality of life" ethic) leads to the euthanasia of elderly and disabled patients.

A second potential danger of the impending health care reform is that it may be used to fund abortions. The following is from NRLC.

Democratic congressional leaders, who are currently in control of both houses of Congress, are working with the Obama White House behind closed doors to craft "health care reform" bills -- legislation that Barack Obama has already pledged will incorporate expansive pro-abortion provisions.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on this "health care reform" legislation as early as July -- within weeks after it is formally unveiled.

NRLC and other pro-life analysts believe that the impending legislation will contain provisions that will amount to a federal mandate for insurance coverage of abortion on demand -- funded by government-mandated premiums. The plan is also likely to open the door to tax-funded abortion on demand for low-income citizens.

On July 17, 2007, during Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, he appeared before the annual conference of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Speaking of his plans for "health care reform," Obama said, "In my mind, reproductive care is essential care, basic care, so it is at the center, the heart of the plan that I propose." Under his plan, Obama explained, people could choose to keep their existing private health care plans, but "insurers are going to have to abide by the same rules in terms of providing comprehensive care, including reproductive care ... that’s going to be absolutely vital."

Regarding Obama’s statements, the Chicago Tribune reported: "Asked about his proposal for expanded access to health insurance, Obama said it would cover 'reproductive-health services.' Contacted afterward, an Obama spokesman said that included abortions." ("Democrats Pledge Support for Wide Access to Abortion," by Mike Dorning, Chicago Tribune, July 18, 2007.) The Obama campaign elaborated on this commitment to mandate abortion coverage on other occasions.

"The pro-abortion movement sees federal 'health care reform' legislation as a golden opportunity to force-feed abortion into every nook and cranny of the health-care delivery system," explained NRLC Federal Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. "Their goal, as they sometimes put it, is to ‘mainstream’ abortion."

If Obama and his allies succeed, "the result will be a very large increase in the number of abortions performed in America," Johnson said.

Take action now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sotomayor's abortion ties and the importance of judicial philosophy

A Washington Times editorial catalogues the evidence that Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, believes the Constitution contains a right to abortion. Dave Andrusko at NRLC also has thoughts here.

The overriding issue with a Supreme Court nominee is his or her judicial philosophy. What is dangerous is a justice with an activist or "living Constitution" philosophy, by which he or she may stray from the actual meaning of the law and the Constitution in order to bring about desirable (for the judge) public policies.

This is the approach that resulted in the disastrous Roe v. Wade decision, in which the Court, in effect, invented a "right" to abortion never before found in the Constitution, and which (together with companion case Doe v. Bolton) wiped away the democratically-decided abortion restrictions in every state and imposed a nationwide policy of abortion on demand at every stage of pregnancy.

A justice's role is to interpret and apply the law, not remake it, so a good nominee will be faithful to the original meaning of the Constitution, understood in its text and history. Deviating from this role undermines our system of government, because the judiciary thereby usurps legislative power from the legislative branch. The will of the people is discarded because a few judges disagree with the policy.

A judge's views on policy issues should be irrelevant to his or her work as a judge -- judges ought to merely interpret and apply the law, impartially.

Judicial activism is rightly unpopular with Americans. Pro-lifers, and anyone committed to the proper, Constitution-abiding role of the judiciary, should use this nomination to highlight the contrasting views of the proper role of the Court.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The abortion/breast cancer link

Check out these frequently asked questions about the link between abortion and breast cancer. A lot of good information.

An excerpt:
Opponents of the abortion-breast cancer link do not challenge the biological reason for the link. They challenge the evidence showing a statistical correlation -- the epidemiological research.

Epidemiology is the study of disease trends in large populations. By itself, epidemiology cannot establish whether or not a cause-effect relationship exists, but it can be used as one more piece in the puzzle that supports a cause-effect relationship.

Seventy epidemiological studies have been conducted in Asia, Europe, Australia and the U.S. since 1957. Eighty percent of these studies report risk increases for women who had abortions.

The National Cancer Institute specifically commissioned a study by Janet Daling and her colleagues. She reported that, "Among women who had been pregnant at least once, the risk of breast cancer in those who had experienced an induced abortion was 50% higher than among other women." "Highest risks (more than double) were observed when the abortion was done at ages younger than 18 years ... or at least thirty years of age or older."

Daling et al. identified several high-risk groups, i.e. teenagers who have abortions before age 18, women with a family history of the disease and women 30 years of age or older.

Professor Joel Brind of Baruch College and his co-authors at Penn State conducted a scientific review and meta-analysis of 23 studies. They found 18 that reported risk increases. They reported a 30% risk increase for women who have abortions after the birth of a first child and a 50% risk increase for women who have abortions before the birth of a first child.
Read more.

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Does legalizing abortion protect women's health?

Assessing the argument for expanded abortion access around the globe

MCCL's brochure on the maternal mortality argument used by international pro-abortion groups is now available online here. Past posts on this subject here (MCCL presented the report at a Geneva World Health Assembly meeting last month).

The first few paragraphs:

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 42 million abortions worldwide each year, and 20 million of these are clandestine or illegal. According to WHO, unsafe abortion causes about 65,000 to 70,000 maternal deaths each year, 99 percent of which take place in the developing world.

Based on these figures (which are largely questionable and unreliable), some groups argue that repealing laws prohibiting or restricting abortion would prevent many women from dying or being harmed as a result of dangerous, illegal abortions. "The legalization of abortion and the provision of family planning services dramatically cut abortion-related deaths," claims the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

But this conclusion is contrary to the available evidence. The lack of modern medicine and quality health care, not the prohibition of abortion, results in high maternal mortality rates. Legalized abortion actually leads to more abortions -- and in the developing world, where maternal health care is poor, this would increase the number of women who die or are harmed by abortion.

Read the rest.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Universal health care is not free

There are many positive aspects to the American health care system. In fact, Minnesota has been ranked the healthiest state in the nation 11 out of the past 18 years. Even so, there are many people advocating a massive overhaul of our system to provide so-called universal health care. No one opposes covering everyone; the real question is, how can we best do it?

Those who think that the "sky is falling" in the health care arena argue that the only way to ensure that health care costs are contained and that all individuals have access to affordable health care is to put the government in charge. They claim that if the government ran the health care system, set the prices and paid all the bills, then everyone would get what they wanted and needed when they needed it, and it would be free!

Read more.

Government-run health care always becomes rationed health care: Why pro-lifers care.

Health care is possible without rationing.

LeRoy Carhart's bizarre rationale for abortion

From a Washington Times column by Julia Duin:
On Monday, I interviewed Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of several physicians who assisted Dr. Tiller in Wichita, Kan. He and his wife, Mary, told me they are United Methodists. At one point, he added, he considered becoming a Methodist minister.

Instead, he ended up in Dr. Tiller's office, face-to-face with cases such as a suicidal rape victim who was 30 weeks pregnant. He aborted that fetus.

"At 30 weeks?" I asked. (My daughter was born at 32 weeks.) At that point, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice President Carlton Veazey interjected that women have a God-given right to make such decisions about their lives.

Doesn't the fetus have the same moral rights as a born woman, I asked.

"God gave that fetus a 'guardian ad litem' when he chose the mother that fetus is born with," Dr. Carhart responded. "That mother, I feel, has been charged by God to make the right choices for that child during its unborn and early born years."

So, Veazey says that "women have a God-given right to make such decisions about their lives." But clearly women don't have a God-given right to decide to murder their six-year-olds. Veazey is assuming that the unborn is not a valuable human person, like the six-year-old. But that's the very question at issue.

Well-known late-term abortionist Carhart says: "God gave that fetus a 'guardian ad litem' when he chose the mother that fetus is born with. That mother, I feel, has been charged by God to make the right choices for that child during its unborn and early born years."

Sounds good. But strangely, Carhart apparently thinks this justifies abortion. To see the problem, insert the word "toddler" in place of "fetus":

"God gave that toddler a 'guardian ad litem' when he chose the mother that toddler is born with. That mother, I feel, has been charged by God to make the right choices for that child ... "

Therefore, a mother should be allowed to kill her toddler for any reason. What!?

If the unborn killed by abortion is morally on par with the toddler (i.e., a valuable human being with a right to life), then Carhart's statement doesn't work to justify abortion, just as it doesn't work to justify killing a toddler. It only can make sense given the opposite conclusion about the moral status of the unborn -- that the unborn is nothing morally significant and therefore can be killed for the convenience of another.

Thus Carhart, like Veazey, is committing an elementary fallacy called begging the question -- assuming the very point one needs to prove. Carhart and Veazey need to show that the unborn is not a rights-bearing human being deserving of respect and protection, like you and me. But instead of offering an argument for this position, they assume it with their rhetoric.

See here about abortion in cases of rape.

Friday, June 12, 2009

MCCL celebrates 41 years of saving lives

Many people are alive today because of MCCL's lifesaving efforts.

The following news release was issued on June 12, 2009.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) today celebrates 41 years of dedication to protecting and defending human life. Many hearts have been changed, protective laws passed and lives saved due to the tireless labor of MCCL volunteers and contributors throughout the decades.

“I am so proud of the dedicated, compassionate work of our grass-roots members,” said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. “MCCL is one of the most effective pro-life organizations in the nation, thanks to these activists. They are steadily transforming our state’s culture to one that respects and protects all innocent human life at every stage.”

MCCL has taken a three-pronged approach to advancing its pro-life mission. First, citizens are continually educated on the threats to human life posed by abortion, euthanasia, infanticide and embryo-killing experiments. People are then mobilized to become active pro-life citizens who in turn work to educate others and to support passage of lifesaving laws. Third, MCCL members work to establish legal protection for vulnerable lives.

From a handful of pro-life activists in 1968, MCCL has grown to include more than 70,000 member families and 240 chapters across the state. Together they deliver pro-life educational messages through booths at all 94 county fairs and Student Day at the Capitol, call for protective legislation at the annual Jan. 22 MCCL March for Life and as citizen lobbyists, work with public officials to pass legislation protecting the right to life, and much more.

MCCL’s innovation and leadership have led to passage of the nation’s first Parental Notification law in 1981, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and became model legislation for other states. MCCL also has been instrumental in passage of Minnesota’s Human Conceptus law (1973), Baby Doe provisions to protect disabled infants (1985), Fetal Homicide law (1986), tightened law on assisted suicide (1992), Woman’s Right to Know law (2003), Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act (2005), Positive Alternatives (2005) and a ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning at the University of Minnesota (2009). MCCL also brought national attention to the brutal partial-birth abortion method when it was uncovered in 1993.

“It is a testament to our effectiveness that the abortion issue is still front and center in Minnesota,” Fischbach said. “MCCL’s member volunteers refuse to allow the abortion industry to destroy the dignity and sanctity of human life, no matter how small or vulnerable. We will continue to compassionately fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.”

MCCL is Minnesota’s oldest and largest pro-life organization. For more information about MCCL, visit http://www.mccl.org/.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why pro-lifers care about health care

The pro-life movement cares about the health care issue because current health care proposals would inevitably lead to rationing, which in turn leads to the euthanasia of some elderly and disabled persons.

MCCL was founded to protect the right to life of all vulnerable human beings from conception to natural death. We have fought as diligently against euthanasia and infanticide as we have against legalized abortion.

Unfortunately, government’s frequent attempts at so-called "cost containment" in health care inevitably lead to involuntary euthanasia and rationing. From the pro-life perspective there are several elements of health care reform that are essential to ensure that rationing does not occur.

Read more.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pro-embryo research rhetoric misses the point

In the largely inaccurate Pioneer Press article on the MCCL-University of Minnesota exchange, there's this telling (and very common in news articles) passage:
Abortion opponents are also against the creation of new stem cell lines from human embryos, because potential human lives are destroyed in the process.

U researchers counter that embryonic cells may unlock treatments for diabetes and cancer.
Putting aside the scientifically flat-out wrong phrase "potential human lives" (whatever that means), note the two competing claims. Pro-lifers are against embryo-destructive research because it involves the killing of innocent human beings; embryo research advocates respond by talking about the potential medical benefits of that research. But something doesn't make sense here.

If we're talking about the killing and harvesting of valuable human persons (say, all the people of a particular racial or religious group), then clearly just appealing to the potential benefits for the rest of us would not justify that moral atrocity. The embryo research advocate is presupposing that embryo killing is NOT the killing of valuable human persons -- but that's the very position he needs to defend.

Pro-lifers argue that the human embryo is a rights-bearing human being worthy of respect and protection; it is incumbent on our opponents to argue that the human embryo is not worthy of such respect. That (the moral status of the embryo) is what the debate is all about. But as the article reveals, embryo research advocates will often just assume their view, not argue for it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Congressional bill would promote abortion worldwide

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) are opposed to the State Department authorization bill (H.R. 2410), which is scheduled to come to the floor of the House of Representatives during the week of June 8. NRLC and MCCL urge you to contact your Member of Congress to vote against H.R. 2410 if it does not include the Smith Amendment.

H.R. 2410 (Section 334) would establish an Office for Global Women’s Issues, headed by an official with the rank of ambassador-at-large, charged with promoting “women’s empowerment internationally.” Questioned by Foreign Affairs Committee members on April 22, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared, “We are now an administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care,” and that “reproductive health includes access to abortion.” As Secretary Clinton put it during her exchange with Congressman Chris Smith, “You are entitled to advocate ... anywhere in the world, and so are we.”

At the May 20 markup, the Foreign Affairs Committee rejected, on a party-line vote, an amendment offered by Mr. Smith to prevent the proposed new office from engaging in efforts to alter the laws of foreign nations governing abortion. Mr. Smith intends to submit a similar amendment to the Rules Committee, and NRLC and MCCL support this amendment. If the Smith Amendment is made in order and adopted by the House, NRLC and MCCL will withdraw opposition to H.R. 2410 and will be neutral on the question of final passage.

But if the Smith Amendment is not adopted, we must oppose passage of H.R. 2410, because the bill will further empower the Obama Administration to pursue its agenda of undermining the pro-life laws of sovereign nations. To the extent that the Administration succeeds in such efforts, it will greatly increase the number of abortions all around the world.

Contact your Member of Congress about this dangerous legislation.

Friday, June 5, 2009

MCCL-U of M exchange over human cloning, illegal embryo research

As we explained in a news release on Tuesday, the University of Minnesota recently charged MCCL with making "false statements" about the University -- specifically, our claim that the University's Stem Cell Institute is "believed to be pursuing human cloning for research purposes."

We responded by noting testimony from U of M leaders that seems to indicate that the University is, indeed, pursuing human cloning. If anything, our modest claims about the U of M were understated. It is clear that someone at the University is not telling the truth.

In our response, we also called on the University to explain how its ongoing embryo-destructive research is compatible with MN Statute 145.422, which prohibits such research. The U of M has not provided any legal rationale for its conduct.

Our exchange with the U of M has been covered on LifeNews.com and at National Right to Life, and elsewhere. There were also misleading stories in the Pioneer Press and the Minnesota Independent. The former is blatantly inaccurate in claiming that MCCL's allegation is that the University is violating the new ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning; our actual claim is that they are violating Statute 145.422. Their violation of state law and their pursuit of human cloning -- the two main points we covered in our response to the University -- are distinct topics.

I'll post some more corrections to the Pioneer Press piece later, and we'll continue to update as the MCCL-U of M story continues.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In economic downturn, one positive -- abortion provider program shut down

NARAL (NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Foundation) and Pro-Choice Resources have shut down their Abortion Provider Expansion Project (APEP) due to "budget constraints."

APEP was started in 2002 to work with medical students, nurses and health care workers to encourage them to get involved in the abortion industry. It is certainly great news that the funds have dried up for this type of training for those going into the health care field.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Press Release: MCCL to U of M: Stop pursuing human cloning

The following news release was issued on June 2, 2009.

MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) has called on the University of Minnesota to cease its pursuit of human cloning and to end its violation of state law through its ongoing destruction of human embryos. The MCCL statement is in response to a letter in which the University accuses the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization of not telling the truth about the University’s cloning and embryo-killing experiments.

“MCCL’s statements regarding the University of Minnesota’s pursuit of human cloning and its embryo-destructive research have always been accurate,” said Scott Fischbach, MCCL Executive Director. “The University’s letter only serves to highlight its own dishonest portrayal of its efforts to clone human beings.”

The University’s Wendy Burt, Academic Health Center director of public and community affairs, said recent MCCL news releases in question were “absolutely false” in stating that the University’s “Stem Cell Institute is believed to be pursuing human cloning for research purposes.” The MCCL news releases discussed state legislation to ban taxpayer funding of human cloning at the University. Dr. Frank Cerra, the University’s senior vice president for health sciences, wrote in an April 21, 2009, letter to Sen. Sandy Pappas: “This bill will stifle important and ongoing University of Minnesota research” (emphasis added). Cerra testified in a Higher Education Conference Committee meeting on May 4, 2009, that “therapeutic cloning … is really at the core of much of the work we do.” He also said that “therapeutic cloning has great value.”

Read the rest of this story.

Monday, June 1, 2009

MN Independent gets cloning facts wrong

In a recent article about MCCL's legislative successes this year (full funding for Positive Alternatives, a ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning), the Minnesota Independent included this inaccurate passage:
The “human cloning” that MCCL opposes is not the actual cloning of people, but the process of inserting genetic material into an egg to create stem cells and potentially create new organs for transplant. The process is called somatic cell nuclear transfer and there are currently no human trials of the procedure.

No entities in Minnesota, or the United States for that matter, are known to be attempting to clone whole human beings.
In reality, somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is the technique used to clone whole organisms. The nucleus of a donor's somatic cell is inserted into an enucleated egg to create a new embryo, an organism which is genetically virtually identical to the donor. In "therapeutic cloning," the young human is then killed in order to harvest his or her stem cells for research or (potentially) medical applications. (SCNT does not "create stem cells," as the author says; it creates a new human being who possesses stem cells, which we may extract by killing him or her.) In "reproductive cloning," the young human is impanted into a woman's uterus and allowed to continue to grow.

Apparently, the author thinks that only "reproductive cloning" counts as "the actual cloning of people," even though both types of cloning use the same technique, SCNT, to produce a new human being.

The second paragraph is also false. Research institutions around the world, including the University of Minnesota, are working on human SCNT for research purposes (therapeutic cloning). Thanks to legislation signed into law last month, Minnesota state funds cannot be used for this practice.