Monday, August 31, 2009

Switching from pro-life to pro-choice

Following the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, some observers took note of his switch from pro-life to pro-choice earlier in his career.

I'm impressed by what Kennedy wrote in 1971, back when he was pro-life:
While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized -- the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.

On the question of the individual's freedom of choice there are easily available birth control methods and information which women may employ to prevent or postpone pregnancy. But once life has begun, no matter at what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire. ...

When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.
It seems to me that, generally speaking, pro-life converts are eager to articulate the pro-life position and discuss the reasons they changed their minds -- the reasons they were wrong in the past (e.g., Ronald Reagan, Dr. Bernard Nathanson). But those who switch the other way tend to be the opposite: they repeat pro-choice talking points, but don't even try to refute the oftentimes thoughtful, sincere and persuasive pro-life position they used to hold (e.g., Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Joe Biden).

Life lessons in Hollywood

Celebrity Kourtney Kardashian is pregnant and she explains to People magazine her decision to carry her child to term.
"I do think every woman should have the right to do what they want, but I don't think it's talked through enough. I can't even tell you how many people just say, 'Oh, get an abortion.' Like it's not a big deal." ...

Confused and concerned, Kardashian says, "I called my best friend crying, and I was like, 'I don't know what to do.' She said, 'Call your doctor, and at least find out the risks and stuff.' " So Kardashian discussed abortion with her physician, and then headed to the Internet to do further research.

"I looked online, and I was sitting on the bed hysterically crying, reading these stories of people who felt so guilty from having an abortion," she recalls. "I was reading these things of how many people are traumatized by it afterwards."

After scouring the Internet, Kardashian says she started to realize that an abortion wasn't an option for her. "I was just sitting there crying, thinking, 'I can't do that,' " she says. "And I felt in my body, this is meant to be. God does things for a reason, and I just felt like it was the right thing that was happening in my life."

Kardashian says she did some intense soul-searching. "For me, all the reasons why I wouldn't keep the baby were so selfish: It wasn't like I was raped, it's not like I'm 16. I'm 30 years old, I make my own money, I support myself, I can afford to have a baby. And I am with someone who I love, and have been with for a long time." ...

"My doctor told me there is nothing you will ever regret about having the baby, but he was like, 'You may regret not having the baby.' And I was like: That is so true. And it just hit me. I got so excited, and when I told Scott he was so excited."
It's wonderful that Kardashian has chosen life and that her reasons have been widely publicized. I hope women facing unexpected pregnancies will be positively influenced by her story. But I do wish she would follow through on the logic of her own implied views, which would mean embracing the full pro-life position -- that abortion ought to be prohibited by law.

Note that she speaks of "keep[ing] the baby," implying a baby already exists. Note also that she decided her reasons for having an abortion weren't morally sufficient. The only reason to think weighty reasons are necessary, it seems to me, is if abortion takes the life of a human being (a "baby"). And the killing of human beings is precisely the sort of practice that society should not allow.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Assisted suicide: People should be helped, not helped to die

Below is an unpublished response to a Star Tribune op-ed advocating the legalization of assisted suicide.

In her August 9 op-ed piece ("It's not moral to compel suffering"), the Rev. Trish Greeves argues for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

By not allowing the practice, she writes, we are "legally compelling someone to endure the pain and indignity of an extended terminal illness when they wish to make a different decision." She notes that euthanasia is often the right decision for animals, in order to prevent needless suffering; why should humans be any different?

But human beings are different: they have intrinsic value and ought to be treated accordingly, not like mere animals that may be "put to sleep." This does not mean we must sustain a patient's life by artificial means in all circumstances. Allowing a natural death is not the same as intentional killing.

In any case, research shows that the vast majority of euthanasia and assisted suicide requests are due to depression and anxiety that can be treated, not physical suffering. And current medical science is such that nearly all kinds of pain can be alleviated with the proper techniques.

Assisted suicide would set our nation on a very dangerous path. With its availability in the Netherlands, doctors sometimes fail to correctly diagnose mental illness; instead of getting proper treatment, patients are euthanized or allowed to commit suicide. And assisted suicide can lead to non-voluntary euthanasia when the "right to die" is extended to patients who are not competent.

Greeves forgets that people are people. They should be helped with their problems -- not helped to die.

Trailer for 'Blood Money,' new abortion documentary

This upcoming documentary film looks promising. It features a number of important pro-lifers, including Norma McCorvey (the "Roe" of Roe v. Wade), NARAL co-founder Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortion clinic worker Carol Everett, and Fr. Frank Pavone.

UN wants to equip kids for abortion advocacy

The U.N.'s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a 98-page report in June offering a universal lesson plan for kids ranging in age from 5-18, an "informed approach to effective sex, relationships" and HIV education that they say is essential for "all young people."
If the U.N. recommendations are adopted,
At 12, [kids will] learn the "reasons for" abortions — but they'll already have known about their safety for three years. When they're 15, they'll be exposed to direct "advocacy to promote the right to and access to safe abortion."
Indeed, in the U.N. report (page 42) one "learning objective" for 15-18 year old kids is to "demonstrate ability to argue for the elimination of gender role stereotypes and inequality, harmful traditional practices and gender-biased violence." That sounds good, but a "key idea" listed under this objective is "advocacy to promote the right to and access to safe abortion."

So the United Nations thinks every kid in the world should be equipped as an advocate for abortion rights at age 15. Kids ought to "demonstrate [the] ability to argue for" the pro-choice view.

That's very disturbing, of course. I think it highlights the importance of the pro-life community equipping its people -- young, old, everyone -- to be knowledgeable, persuasive ambassadors for the cause of human dignity. I'd like every pro-life teen to "demonstrate the ability to argue for" the pro-life position in a winsome, articulate way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guttmacher raises funds for bogus pro-abortion report

The following is a news release from MCCL Global Outreach.

MINNEAPOLIS — In a recent fundraising letter for the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, President and CEO Sharon L. Camp requests contributions to complete "Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress." The report will be issued before the end of the year with the purpose of promoting abortion globally.

"This document is going to be presented to policy experts and the general public as a legitimate report on the status of abortion and maternal mortality around the world, while in reality it is just more pro-abortion propaganda funded by pro-abortion donors," stated Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of MCCL Global Outreach.

Guttmacher began as the research division of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and later became independent. Its fundraising letter, dated Aug. 11, 2009, reveals the organization's true agenda: "Our evidence has paved the way for major policy reforms, from the liberalization of abortion laws to the introduction of new programs bringing post-abortion care to women."

The Guttmacher report is reminiscent of the days when U.S. tobacco companies would hire "researchers" to produce self-serving "studies" that showed smoking would not cause cancer. Guttmacher is involved in the same type of deception today regarding women's and babies' lives.

The simple, verifiable facts concerning abortion and maternal mortality are as follows:
  • The more abortions are performed, legal or illegal, the more women will die.
  • No abortion is "safe" because every "successful" abortion kills at least one human being.
  • Maternal mortality reduction is achieved through adequate health care infrastructure, clean water and a clean blood supply.
  • Abortion-on-demand laws do not reduce maternal morbidity rates.
"The various health policy experts around the world, including the World Health Organization, United Nations, and distinguished health ministers, must reject this coming report from the Guttmacher Institute as it smacks of the impropriety of pro-abortion donors buying pro-abortion statistics to advance a pro-abortion agenda," Fischbach explained. "Women and their babies deserve more from those who claim they want to build a better world for them."

A recent MCCL GO report shows that the reduction of maternal mortality is achieved through improvement of women's health care, not the legalization of abortion. The worldwide report is available for download in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.

For more information about MCCL GO, visit

Saturday, August 22, 2009 confirms abortion coverage, Obama wrong

We noted earlier that President Obama misled the nation when he denied that abortion would be covered and funded in his health care plan. Now has confirmed the truth.

From the summary:
Obama has said in the past that "reproductive services" would be covered by his public plan, so it’s likely that any new federal insurance plan would cover abortion unless Congress expressly prohibits that. Low- and moderate-income persons who would choose the "public plan" would qualify for federal subsidies to purchase it. Private plans that cover abortion also could be purchased with the help of federal subsidies. Therefore, we judge that the president goes too far when he calls the statements that government would be funding abortions "fabrications."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Aliens, 'District 9' and the pro-life view

Last weekend I saw the new science fiction movie "District 9" from producer Peter Jackson. R-rated and very unpleasant, the film nonetheless says something important and relevant to our current moral struggles.

"District 9" tells of a segregated community of aliens living in slum-like conditions on Earth. Some of these aliens are lethally experimented on for science and profit. Human agents kill gestating alien offspring by the handful ("abortions," they call them) to limit the alien population. Researchers plan to harvest valuable parts from a human who now has alien DNA.

The viewer knows that much of what goes on in "District 9" is wrong, and there are clear parallels in history. As one reviewer puts it: "It holds echoes of some of humanity's most shameful, legalized crimes against itself: Blacks in apartheid-era South Africa. Jews in Nazi Germany. American Indians in the early years of the United States. History shows us how frighteningly easy it can be to marginalize people who look or act differently from us."

Actions in "District 9" violate the equal dignity of persons (i.e., the pro-life view) -- the same principle at stake in past (slavery, the Holocaust) and current (abortion, embryo-destructive research) crimes against humanity.

This may seem odd because we typically describe that foundational principle as "human dignity" or "human equality" or the "sanctity of human life" -- and the aliens in "District 9" aren't human. So how is it that the pro-life position condemns atrocities committed against aliens?

Philosopher Francis Beckwith explains:
The pro-life position does not lead to what certain animal rights proponents call "speciesism," the belief that all human life is sacred and/or special simply because it belongs to the species Homo sapiens. Just as racism is arbitrary because color and ethnicity are irrelevant to assessing a human being's intrinsic worth, those who charge pro-lifers with speciesism argue that preference for the species Homo sapiens is just as arbitrary. But this charge is a red herring. For the pro-life position is based on the personal nature of human beings and the presence of that nature from the moment a human being comes into existence regardless of whether it has the present exercisable capacity for, or is currently engaging in, personal acts. Consequently if another species exists, whether in this world or in another (such as Klingons and Vulcans of Star Trek lore), which possesses a personal nature from the moment any of its individual members come into being, then pro-lifers would seek to have those creatures protected from unjustified homicide as well.
All human beings are persons by nature and thus are entitled to full moral respect and protection. It could be that there are persons of other species, like the aliens in "District 9" -- but we don't know of any.

Pro-lifer says 'hands off my body,' no contradiction

Paul Schmelzer at the liberal Minnesota Independent notes a recent comment from pro-life Rep. Michele Bachmann on the proposed health care plan:
Then comes Rep. Bachmann, whose logic about health care would seem to also apply to reproductive health. She told Sean Hannity on his Tuesday radio show that "people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress and let them know, under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions."

As Matthew DeLong puts it at our sister site in Washington, "Somebody call Planned Parenthood. Looks like they've got a surprising new spokesperson."
Pro-life advocates tend to avoid the "hands off my body" language altogether -- though there's nothing inherently wrong with it -- because it has been used for decades as a (fallacious) argument for legalized abortion.

Abortion proponents who read Bachmann's comments think she is employing a premise that also logically works to justify a pro-abortion rights position -- so they've caught her in a contradiction.

But that's certainly not true. Bachmann thinks government should cede to us a certain amount of personal autonomy over health care decisions. In fact, I'm sure she favors a great deal of personal autonomy in general -- but one thing the government should not allow is the killing of innocent human beings. No one should have the freedom to intentionally take innocent human life.

The "hands off my body" argument for abortion fails because it begs the question as to whether only one body is involved or two. Bachmann, and probably most pro-lifers, wants to allow (at least as a matter of public policy) people to do almost anything with their own bodies, but abortion is doing something (killing by dismemberment) to someone else.

The real contradiction, it seems to me, is that of left-wing pro-choice advocates who think women should have the freedom to kill their offspring but not the freedom to make their own health care decisions. What happened to "trusting women"?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Obama misleads on abortion funding in health care bill

The following is a National Right to Life press release.

Obama Says 'Government Funding of Abortion' is 'Fabrication,' But the White House-Backed House Bill Explicitly Authorizes It

WASHINGTON (August 19, 2009) -- In a conference call with supporters this afternoon, President Obama said that it is a "fabrication" to say that the legislation backed by the White House would result in "government funding of abortions," and that this is "untrue." The following comment may be attributed to Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the national federation of state and local right-to-life organizations:

Emboldened by the recently demonstrated superficiality of some organs of the news media, President Obama today brazenly misrepresented the abortion-related component of the health care legislation that his congressional allies and staff have crafted. As amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 30 (the Capps-Waxman Amendment), the bill backed by the White House (H.R. 3200) explicitly authorizes the government plan to cover all elective abortions. Obama apparently seeks to hide behind a technical distinction between tax funds and government-collected premiums. But these are merely two types of public funds, collected and spent by government agencies. The Obama-backed legislation makes it explicitly clear that no citizen would be allowed to enroll in the government plan unless he or she is willing to give the federal agency an extra amount calculated to cover the cost of all elective abortions -- this would not be optional. The abortionists would bill the federal government and would be paid by the federal government. These are public funds, and this is government funding of abortion.

In 2007 Obama explicitly pledged to Planned Parenthood that the public plan will cover abortions (see the video clip here). Some journalists have reported that Obama "backed off" of this commitment in an interview with Katie Couric of CBS News, broadcast July 21, but Obama actually carefully avoided stating his intentions -- instead, he simply made an artful observation that "we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care."

It is true that there is such a tradition -- which Obama has always opposed, and which the Obama-backed bill would shatter.

On August 13, NRLC released a detailed memo explaining the provisions of the pending bills that would affect abortion policy, with citations to primary sources. Many of the "factcheck" articles that have appeared in the news media in recent weeks reflect, at best, unsophisticated understandings of the provisions they purport to be explaining, and also give evidence of a weak understanding of Obama's history on the policy issues involved. The memo is downloadable in PDF format here:

More at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lives threatened by 'health care reform': What you can do

As written, the current "health care reform" proposal in Congress
MCCL has a new flier here on what you can do to stop these threats. Print off copies and post them around your church, neighborhood, etc.

NRLC has a new analysis of the rationing and euthanasia danger in the reform legislation, as well as a webinar on achieving health care reform without rationing.

Also, MCCL has posted a response to an article by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, who falsely claims that abortion would not be covered under the current health care plan.

The latest updates -- and Congressional contact information -- are at

Monday, August 17, 2009

When the death culture co-opts the Bible

In her recent op-ed arguing for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, the Rev. Trish Greeves includes this passage:
The inconsistency of this stance [that euthanasia is okay for animals but not for people] reminds me of Jesus saying, "Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:11-13.) In other words, why wouldn't we think that our Creator God wants as much for us as we give to the creatures in our care?
Are you kidding us, Rev.?

The analogy only works if one assumes that euthanasia of human beings is a "good gift" just as it is with animals. That is the very point Greeves needs to demonstrate. But she doesn't.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pregnant? Need help?

Pregnancy care centers offer services including free pregnancy testing, counseling, alternatives to abortion and many other forms of assistance. Some provide food, shelter, clothing and baby supplies.

Click here for a listing of pregnancy centers and their contact information.

Read the Minnesota Department of Health information on the risks and alternatives to abortion.

For Spanish speaking women: ¡InformaciĆ³n importante en espaƱol!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Making the 'easy' choice

Jay Watts at Life Training Institute reflects on the influence of coercion in many women's decisions to have abortions. Abortion seems so "easy" to our culture, a solution to the problem of unwanted, inconvenient unborn children who stand in our way. How can we build a culture of life when we -- mothers, fathers, friends, grandparents -- are so selfish?
Women, even young women, cannot technically be forced to get an abortion they do not want. They can however be threatened, bullied, lobbied, manipulated, and strongly encouraged. The father of the child can and often does threaten to leave her. The grandparents of the child can and often do threaten to kick the mother out of the house. Friends can and often do assure the mother facing an unexpected pregnancy that not getting an abortion will ruin her life, restrict her future, and make it impossible to live the life they want to live. For all of the talk about abortion empowering women I have seen plenty of young women harassed into abortions by those people they think love them the most. More than I care to recall.

As the story about Coach Rick Pitino's marital infidelity has come out and the fact that he paid for his mistress to abort the child that came as a result of their drunken tryst in a closed bar, it occurs to me that abortion seems so easy. It is such an easy answer for the unfaithful husband looking to cover his tracks. It is such an easy answer for the boyfriend not wanting to stop the party to be a father to his child. It is easy for the parents that see the future they dreamed for their child threatened by an unexpected grandchild. That is one of the hardest parts about convincing the world abortion is wrong. People can be intellectually convinced that the unborn are human beings of moral worth but when the chips are down and it is their life being affected abortion seems so easy.

You see, abortion is more than 1.3 million mothers per year in the U.S. paying a medical professional to surgically destroy their child. It is also fathers persuading the mothers to kill their children. It is often grandparents bullying their child to kill their grandchild. It is a culture and a society that sees a path that seems so easy and cannot help but continue to venture down that path no matter how many polls say that more people are pro-life than not. It is unimaginably evil and its dark shadow is cast over our culture well beyond the women, the doctors, the unborn, and the intellectual arguments on either side of the debate.

As is so often the case, the seemingly easy choice exacts a cost that is profound in ways we never imagined when we set ourselves to the path of least resistance. Before we know it, we are a generation and a culture that is killing our offspring at a chilling rate and stopping means admitting we have participated in the violent deaths of our own children and grandchildren.
There's hope. Note that we collectively reject killing newborn babies, toddlers and teenagers as a means of "bettering" our circumstances. Why are unborn children different? Because many in our society still do not see the unborn as bona fide, full-fledged, rights-bearing members of the human community (like newborn babies, toddlers and teenagers) -- even many who say that abortion is wrong.

When our culture fully understands that unborn humans, just like you and me, are valuable persons deserving of respect and protection, abortion will be recognized as a moral atrocity and be relegated to the ash heap of American history.

By the way, the prevalence of coercion in the abortion decision means that effective legislation combating it -- such as that proposed earlier this year by MCCL -- could save many unborn lives. You can find our coerced abortion brochure here.

'Trust women': an empty slogan

"Trust women" was a motto used by the late abortionist George Tiller. But there's absolutely no substance to it.

Consider a recent interview with late-term abortionist Warren Hern, in which Hern discusses the rare abortions he is not willing to perform. At a debate I attended some months ago, Minnesota abortionist David Baram said he refused to perform sex-selection abortions (though he did refer those women to other abortion providers).

Why aren't abortionists "trusting women" with these decisions?

Because the issue isn't about "trusting women" at all. It's about the morality of the act of abortion. Imagine someone using the "trust women" slogan to defend killing 6-year-olds, or "trust men" to argue for the legality of men raping women. It's absurd.

(HT: Jivin J)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crux of the health care debate

In his latest column, Cal Thomas says the nature of human beings is at the crux of the "health care reform" debate:
Underlying it all is a larger question: Is human life something special? Is it to be valued more highly than, say, plants and pets? When someone is in a "persistent vegetative state" do we mean to say that person is equal in value to a carrot?

Are we now assigning worth to human life, or does it arrive with its own pre-determined value, irrespective of race, class, IQ, or disability?
The question at issue when we consider health care rationing based on "quality of life" considerations is the same question underlying the controversy over abortion and embryo-destructive research. Do human beings possess intrinsic moral value? Are they valuable in themselves, simply by virtue of what they are, regardless of ability and the opinion of others?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Arguments for assisted suicide

Writing in the Star Tribune, a Minnesota pastor, Trish Greeves, argues for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

By not allowing the practice, she writes, we are "legally compelling someone to endure the pain and indignity of an extended terminal illness when they wish to make a different decision." She notes that euthanasia is often the right decision for animals, in order to prevent needless suffering; why should humans be any different?

Greeves adds: "A disproportionate share of total health care costs are expended on elderly patients in the final months of their lives, often involving expensive facilities and treatment to prolong their lives, even as the patients are praying to die. I wonder what percentage of health care costs could be saved, with no decrease in quality of care and an increase in personal choice, if laws in the other 49 states were changed to legalize carefully regulated physician-assisted dying similar to Oregon's Death With Dignity Act?"

So Greeves argues, first, that there is nothing morally wrong with voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide, and second, that legalizing assisted suicide makes practical sense (it will save us money).

I'll respond to Greeves directly in a future post. For pro-life responses to pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide arguments, see the resources below from the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics at National Right to Life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Every pro-life American must tell Congress: No abortion in health care

NRLC has put together a flier on the health care threat here. Download and distribute it at church meetings and other gatherings.

Pro-lifers must tell Congress that "health care reform" legislation must explicitly exclude abortion -- or else we could see the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on demand at all stages of pregnancy.

The latest updates are at

'A baby's first months: infinite possibilities'

Dave Andrusko discusses a new fetal development DVD from National Right to Life, perfect for pregnancy care centers, schools, church groups, etc.

"A Baby's First Months: Infinite possibilities" is a spectacularly breathtaking new DVD available from the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund. While there have been many attempts over the years to convey the beauty of the unborn child's development, "The First Months of Life" has immediately jumped to the front of the line.

"A Baby's First Months: Infinite possibilities" operates on many levels. First and foremost, because it is stunningly beautiful, the audience is immediately caught up. From the very first few minutes, the DVD establishes the parallel between the universe "out there" and the universe "within."

Subtly -- the word "abortion" is never used -- the viewer sees that from the moment of conception, the woman "is not alone." The only difference is that although she may not know she is pregnant for several weeks, nor feel her baby move until the second trimester, the marvelous engine of fetal development is busy chugging away.

Basic facts of fetology are woven into the narrative, as the camera cuts back and forth between incredible embryoscopic photos and the child's mother, who often times is shown gracefully exercising. Pregnancy is understood for what it is: a natural part of life that involves a child growing safely tucked within her mother.

Indeed, part of the genius of "A Baby's First Months: Infinite possibilities" is the manner in which it enmeshes the child within the web of her social connections. The unborn child ponders whether she will have her dad's large feet; or whether she will be pretty like her mom; or whether she will be a ballerina. The DVD's last shot is of the moon, with the child concluding, "Maybe I'll be an astronaut someday."

Without even realizing it, the viewer is receiving an education in fetology. And what an array of facts they are -- heartbeats per minutes, blood cells produced per day, and the billions of brain cells. We see close ups of the developing child, and it is impossible not to recognize the continuity of life from conception through birth up until natural death.

No wonder the narrator can liken the universe within to the universe we look up at each night.

Order the DVD.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Planned Parenthood means abortion (what Will Saletan doesn't understand)

William Saletan, writing at Slate, criticizes NRLC for opposing legislation to send more federal dollars to abortion provider Planned Parenthood. Saletan seems to think that NRLC and much of the pro-life movement must therefore oppose contraception. (NRLC and MCCL take no position on contraception, because the issue of preventing conception is, strictly speaking, not a right-to-life issue: no innocent human lives are at stake.)

But as Ramesh Ponnuru notes, "NRLC has openly opposed contraceptive funding when that funding flows to Planned Parenthood, the country's largest abortion provider. It reasons that money is fungible and therefore giving money to the group promotes abortion. NRLC thus supported the Pence amendment to hold contraceptive funding steady but redirect it from Planned Parenthood."

The truth, then, is simply this: Pro-life advocates oppose funding abortion -- either directly, or indirectly through subsidies for the nation's leading abortion provider/promoter.

More, taken from the January 2009 issue of MCCL News:
In both St. Paul and Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood approaches legislators every year to lobby for funding initiatives. The pro-abortion organization typically requests money for "family planning" or "pregnancy prevention" programs, but its primary agenda is clear: promote and provide abortions—and make a profit doing so.

Millions of state and federal dollars currently support and enable Planned Parenthood's gruesome work. This is despite the group's record revenue and $115 million surplus last year.

Taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood is more indefensible than ever. Pro-lifers must call on their legislators—at both the state and federal levels—to de-fund this abortion-providing organization.

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, "Planned Parenthood receives about $335 million a year—a third of its budget—from government grants and contracts." Ostensibly, this money is meant "to subsidize contraception, sex education and non-abortion-related health care for poor women and teenagers."

It is clear, however, that funding of Planned Parenthood's projects allows it to redirect other funds to its abortion services and abortion-promoting crusades. Government money keeps hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics open—clinics that perform, promote or refer for abortions.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota received $4.35 million from the government in 2007, and finished the year with more than $24 million in total revenues. These annual numbers have risen steadily in the last several years.

Unsurprisingly, the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood has also risen steadily. In Minnesota alone, Planned Parenthood performed 3,911 abortions in 2007—up dramatically from 3,015 in 2005 and 2,452 in 2000. In the last seven years, Planned Parenthood's abortion market share in Minnesota has jumped from 16.9 percent to 28.3 percent. It has been Minnesota's number-one abortionist since 2004.

Planned Parenthood cares very little about "reducing the number of abortions." Its agenda, rather, is to profit from doing just the opposite. Nationwide, Planned Parenthood's ratio of abortion clients to prenatal care clients is more than 20 to 1. For every adoption referral it gives, Planned Parenthood aborts 180 unborn children.

Confession of an ex-abortionist

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, co-founder of NARAL who personally performed 75,000 abortions, explains why he became a pro-life advocate:
It is clear that permissive abortion is purposeful destruction of what is undeniably human life. It is an impermissible act of deadly violence. One must concede that unplanned pregnancy is a wrenchingly difficult dilemma, but to look for its solution in a deliberate act of destruction is to trash the vast resourcefulness of human ingenuity, and to surrender the public weal to the classic utilitarian answer to social problems.

Although I am not a formal religionist, I believe with all my heart that there is a divinity of existence which commands us to declare a final and irreversible halt to this infinitely sad and shameful crime against humanity.
(HT: Stand to Reason)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Abortion kills human beings, should not be covered in health care 'reform'

The following MCCL letter to the editor was published on August 2, 2009, in the Grand Forks Herald.

In his recent letter arguing for the inclusion of abortion coverage in health care reform legislation, Richard Hanson shows deep confusion about the scientific facts of human embryology ("Health care reform should insure abortions," July 28).

As "Langman's Embryology," a standard text, explains: "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."

Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard Medical School adds, "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."

Indeed, at conception the egg and sperm cease to be, and a new organism—a distinct, living and whole (though immature) member of the species Homo sapiens—has come into existence, needing only the proper care and nutrients to proceed through the many stages of human development.

Given that abortion is the killing of this young, vulnerable human being (usually by dismemberment) and is opposed by a large percentage of Americans, it seems unfair to mandate funding of the practice through health care policy.

Please contact your elected officials in Washington and urge them to oppose any health care plan that does not explicitly exclude abortion.

AP confirms: Obama plan would allow abortion coverage

This is a big admission by the mainstream media. From NRLC:

As the Associated Press accurately reports in a new story below, the health care legislation being pushed by the Obama White House would cover elective abortions. Under the Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Kennedy, "the public plan -- and private insurance offered in the exchange -- would be allowed to cover abortion, without funding restrictions," the AP reports. Phony "compromise" language approved by a House committee, over pro-life objections (the Capps Amendment), would authorize the new government-run "public plan" to cover elective abortions, and also permit new federal premium subsidies to flow to private plans that cover elective abortions. "Under either the Senate bill or the House bill, the federal government would run a huge system of subsidizing elective abortion," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. For further information and documentation, visit the NRLC Legislative Action Center at

Read the AP story.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

'Hedging bets' on embryo research; ethical stem cells the way to go

I recently stumbled upon a stem cell research story in the August issue of U.S. News & World Report (titled "Stem cell diversification: Even as embryonic cells get a lift, experts hedge bets" in the print edition), available online here. I was encouraged to see that the article, written by Katherine Hobson, is frank about the scientific difficulties with embryonic stem cells and the recent breakthroughs in non-embryonic research. Some excerpts:
While the attention of the public and ethicists has been focused on embryonic stem cells, research into other kinds of stem cells ... has been advancing and, in some cases, exploding. "I have never been in a field that is moving at this pace," says Jonathan Chernoff, deputy scientific director at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Adult stem cells have been used in bone marrow transplants for 40 years, and trials ... are expected to expand their use. Meanwhile, many scientists predict that induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, created by turning back the biological clock of normal adult cells, will one day supplant embryonic stem cells.

But scientists still call embryonic cells the "gold standard" for stem cells, which is why they've been the subject of privately- and state-funded research while federal funds were restricted. It's also why researchers are excited about Obama's move to allow the government to fund research using lines of embryo-derived cells, as long as the embryos are left over from fertility treatments, not created solely for research purposes.
It makes sense that those with absolutely no ethical qualms about killing human embryos would see no harm in continuing with embryonic research even as alternatives advance. Why not? Something good could come of it. Still, the superiority of iPSCs over embryonic stem cells -- the same pluripotency (and thus the same potential benefits), but cheaper, easier to obtain and without the risk of immune rejection -- threatens to make advocating for more funding into embryo research irresponsible (apart from ethical concerns), it seems to me.

The story continues by explaining the benefits of adult stem cell research:
The earliest therapeutic breakthroughs are likely to arise from adult stem cells ... "In the short term -- say, the next five years -- most of the therapeutic applications from stem cells will be from adult stem cells," says Steven Stice, director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia. Their most likely uses: disorders of the blood and blood vessels, bone, and immune systems, he says.

A host of ongoing projects are testing adult stem cells. In one, researchers at the University of California-San Diego are studying whether stem cells derived from a patient's own fat cells might help treat multiple sclerosis. At UCLA, scientists are looking at using blood stem cells from melanoma patients to create immune cells that recognize and attack their disease. The cells may work in other ways than simply creating new cells to replace diseased ones. In the heart, for example, research suggests they increase blood vessel growth rather than create new heart muscle.

Or, they may lead to new drugs.

"The way stem cells [used as therapy] exert much of their power is to provide the chemical signal to turn on [existing but dormant] stem cells in the body," says Robert Hariri, chief executive officer of Celgene Cellular Therapeutics, which is studying possible treatments based on placental stem cells. So treatments could be derived from those cells, then used to turn on the body's existing stem cells.
... and the problems with embryonic stem cell research:
"[Embryonic stem cells are] the teenagers of stem cells; they have great potential, but we can't always get them to do what we want them to do," says Michael Reardon, chief of cardiac surgery at Methodist.

Guiding their differentiation -- their journey to becoming a specialized cell or tissue -- with a lab-made brew of growth factors and other chemicals is a big scientific challenge, and it's not the only one. "You want to be sure you can differentiate [the stem cell] into the therapeutic cells," says Judith Gasson, codirector of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center at UCLA. "Once it's differentiated, you have to get it to go to the right physical location in the patient -- the nervous system, pancreas, whatever. That's not necessarily going to be trivial." The new cell also has to be integrated into a diseased or damaged tissue, says Martin Pera, director of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Southern California. And how to do that, he says, "is an enormous black box at the moment." Even if scientists can accomplish that, there's no guarantee of a lasting therapeutic effect.
Moving on to induced pluripotent stem cells:
There are reasons for caution [about embryonic stem cells]. For one, embryonic stem cells can form tumors. And because the cells are biologically foreign -- like a transplanted organ -- recipients will need to take powerful immunity-suppressing drugs, which have a host of side effects, to prevent rejection.

It's that latter problem that makes scientists particularly excited about iPS cells, which would have the clinical potential of embryonic cells but can be created from a patient's own cells. Reprogramming an adult cell into an embryolike, more malleable state sidesteps the issue of immune rejection, not to mention the moral debate. It's also simple in concept -- adding just four genes to an adult cell can do the trick. But the virus needed to transport the genes into adult cells poses a cancer risk. In late April, scientists reported a breakthrough in mice: They induced pluripotency by inserting proteins, which don't require a virus to carry them, instead of genes, which do. In June, researchers said they'd accomplished the same thing with human cells.

Some scientists, including Geron founder Michael West, who's now CEO of the stem cell technology company BioTime, are betting iPS cells will eventually supplant embryonic stem cells. "But right now," he says, "iPS cells are less than perfect, and they're enough less than perfect that I don't know any scientist who feels they would be safe in humans as of today." For that reason, this is no time to scrap research on embryonic cells, he says.

It will be years, if not decades, before iPS cells can be refined enough to use in patients. But even if treatments are years off, Chernoff says iPS cells have another, more immediate use: to study the progression of a disease. Researchers could take normal and malignant cells from a pancreatic cancer patient, for example, turn back the clock on both, and then reprogram the cells to form pancreatic tissue. They could then monitor the cancer-derived cells to see what, exactly, goes wrong.
One conclusion doesn't make sense: "this is no time to scrap research on embryonic cells," says one scientist, because iPSCs are "less than perfect." But iPSCs are "less than perfect" only because they suffer the same problems as all pluripotent stem cells, including embryonic stem cells: differentiation problems and the formation of tumors. iPSCs are not "safe in humans as of today" for exactly the same reason embryonic stem cells are not safe in humans.

Currently, only adult stem cells are successfully treating patients. And the speculative potential benefits of embryonic stem cells are all available through iPSCs. I think the therapeutic justification for research with human embryos is now obsolete.

RU486 abortion drug has killed 29 women, company says

The world may never know how many thousands of women have been injured, or even killed, by the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug. The best worldwide guess is that 13 women have been killed as a result of the mifepristone abortion pill, but the maker of the drug in Europe is saying 29 women have died.

If the information given to the Italian Pharmaceuticals Agency (AIFA) by European abortion drug maker Exelgyn is correct, then twice as many women have died from the abortion drug globally than the pro-life community has thought.

Currently, eight women have died from using the RU 486 abortion drug in the United States, two in England, and one each in Canada, Sweden and France.

But, according to a report by the Italian news agency ASCA, Exelgyn provided the figure of 29 women dying from the abortion pill to the Italy Ministry of Health, which, in turn, gave the information to the AIFA drug regulatory agency.
The story continues:
Dr. Randy O'Bannon, the director of research for the National Right to Life Committee and one of the American authorities on the abortion drug, told that he can't confirm the Exelgyn figure of 29 deaths.

"It has always been difficult to get complete information on the deaths and injuries associated with the RU-486 method," he said Friday.

Typically, a death from the mifepristone abortion pill doesn't become public information "unless someone knows that a woman has had a chemical abortion and recognizes that her complications are related to that event" or "unless someone reports that to the distributor or manufacturer."

Abortion deaths may also become known if someone submits a report to a governmental agency or "someone goes to the press or the press uncovers and publicizes those incidents," O'Bannon says.

If none of those actions occur, "then no one knows and the industry goes on promoting the myth of these drugs' safety and more women's lives are put at risk."

"We can only wonder how high the number would be if we had all the information," O'Bannon said.
RU486 is a nonsurgical method of abortion used early in a pregnancy. When successful, the unborn child always dies -- but sometimes the mother dies as well. Learn more here and in this brochure.

A government takeover

Is the "public option" in health care reform legislation a Trojan Horse for a government takeover of the American health care system? President Obama now denies it, but his past statements -- and those of other Democratic leaders -- seem to admit otherwise.

Pro-lifers worry that a government-run system will lead to the rationing of care and result in euthanasia for the most vulnerable persons, as it has in other countries.

(HT: Michelle Malkin)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Is the unborn a mere 'blueprint'?

From a book John Holdren, the top science adviser to President Obama, co-wrote in 1973: "To most biologists, an embryo or a fetus is no more a complete human being than a blueprint is a building."

But Daniel Callahan (who supports legal abortion), quoted in Francis Beckwith's "Defending Life," explains:
It is ... unscientific to call an embryo or fetus a mere "blueprint." Blueprints of buildings are not ordinarily mixed into the mortar; they remain in the hands of the architects. Moreover, once a building has been constructed, the blueprint can be thrown away, and the building will continue to stand. The genetic blueprint operates in an entirely different way: it exerts a directly causal action in morphological development; as an intrinsic part of the physiological structure, it can at no point be thrown away or taken out.
The unborn isn't a blueprint for "building" a human organism; he or she is a human organism, fully programmed to develop himself or herself through the different stages of life. To say otherwise is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of living things.


In a section of Scott Klusendorf's new book "The Case for Life," he discusses the confusion about whether human embryos and fetuses are constructed (like buildings or cars) or whether they develop.
Embryos aren't constructed piece by piece from the outside; they develop themselves from within. That is to say, they do something no constructed thing could ever do: they direct their own internal growth and maturation, and this entails continuity of being. Unlike cars, developing embryos have no outside builder. They're all there just as soon as growth begins from within. In short, living organisms define and form themselves. An oak tree is the same entity that was once a shoot in the ground, years before it had branches and leaves.

Abortion as a human right

Some abortion advocacy groups call the "right" to abortion a human right. But the term "human right" suggests that it's a right one has by virtue of being human, and that means humans possess that right as long as they exist, at all stages of their lives.

So the right to abortion is something human beings have from the very beginning of their existence, which is at conception. Thus the abortion advocate faces this paradox: the unborn human being, by virtue of being human, has a right to have an abortion, but has no right not to be intentionally killed in the womb. (Amherst professor Hadley Arkes develops this point in "Natural Rights and the Right to Choose.")

There's a similar problem when abortion defenders invoke "human dignity" and "equality." If human dignity is possessed by all humans, then it is possessed by the unborn human beings who are killed by abortion. If human equality is real, then excluding one class of innocent human beings (the unborn) from legal protection is unjust.

It's revealing, I think, that abortion rights advocates tend to borrow pro-life principles when defending their own view.

Health care 'reform' votes coming after Labor Day

An update on the health care "reform" effort from NRLC:

The U.S. House and U.S. Senate are expected to vote after Labor Day on "health care reform" bills that, in their current forms, could produce the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.

The bills are being pushed hard by President Obama and by top Democratic congressional leaders, including pro-abortion House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.). However, growing public concerns about the bills caused sufficient resistance among some factions of Democrats that the leadership was forced to abandon the original plan of having floor votes on the bills in July. The House has gone into recess until after Labor Day, and the Senate will join them on about August 7. The August recess provides an excellent opportunity for concerned citizens to express themselves to their senators and House members while the lawmakers are back home taking the pulse of public opinion.

Read more, and be sure to contact your elected officials during the August recess. Urge them to oppose any health care legislation that does not explicitly exclude abortion.