Friday, July 31, 2009

An unethical approach to unethical research

The University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute is killing human embryos for embryonic stem cell research. According to testimony at the state Capitol, it is also pursuing human cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer) to produce new embryos for such research. But the University contradicted itself in an exchange with MCCL over its interest in human cloning, and the school has refused to respond to MCCL's public call for clarity and honesty.

On the Stem Cell Institute's Web site, I found a few remarkable statements.

"The University understands that some may have concerns about this research and is prepared to engage in a dialogue about the legal, ethical, and moral issues of this research."

Really? Why hasn't the University responded to our ethical and legal concerns -- expressed in a letter to the University, a press release and a Pioneer Press op-ed -- about some of the research being conducted? MCCL is comprised of more than 70,000 member families across the state of Minnesota who deserve some "dialogue" from the state's largest public institution of higher education.

"We take these issues very seriously at the University and work diligently to ensure all research is conducted respectfully, in full accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, and respect for the moral and ethical questions surrounding the research."

Yet the University has not bothered to provide a legal rationale for (embryo-destructive) research that, on its face, is illegal under Minnesota law.

"Precisely because the University is a public institution, dedicated to the free and open pursuit of ideas, this research should take place here."

Surely the University's status as a public institution means that it is accountable in some ways to the taxpayers who help fund it. Should the ethical objections of thousands of Minnesotans with regard to a highly controversial research practice (a practice former National Institutes of Health head Bernadine Healy says is scientifically "obsolete" in any case) have any influence on whether the University, as a public institution, engages in that research?

The University falsely accused MCCL of making "false statements," was corrected in a factual response that also called the University on its dishonesty over cloning and its dismissal of state law, and then didn't bother to apologize or even engage in a discussion with its critics. Whether or not the University's embryo research is moral or legal, most of us can agree that the school's approach to and defense of such work has been ethically problematic.

Pregnant? Need help?

Help is available wherever you are.

See here for stories of women and families helped by pregnancy care centers funded in part through the Positive Alternatives program.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The overpopulation myth and abortion

Concerns about overpopulation have long been used as an argument for allowing or promoting abortion. Today this argument is used mainly at the global level to support an international abortion agenda pushed by the United Nations Population Fund and others.

(President Obama's science czar, John Holdren, offered the overpopulation argument back in the 1970's.)

Population control as a justification for abortion clearly begs the question as to the moral status of the unborn. If the unborn are valuable human persons, then killing them because we think the planet is too crowded is certainly wrong, just as killing off other segments of our population for the same reason would be wrong.

In any case, overpopulation is a myth.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Anti-life candidate announces run for MN Congressional seat

The following is a news release issued on July 29, 2009.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's largest and oldest pro-life organization, responded to State Senator Tarryl Clark's announcement this morning of her candidacy for the United States House of Representatives, 6th District. As a member of the Minnesota State Senate, Sen. Clark has accumulated a solid anti-life, pro-abortion record.

"Minnesota's 6th Congressional District is very pro-life," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "Sadly, Senator Clark has a long record of voting against pro-life initiatives."

Sen. Clark has had 16 opportunities to vote on life issues while in the Senate. Her record is 1 pro-life vote, 2 missed votes and 13 anti-life votes:
  • One pro-life vote in support of funding for Positive Alternatives (2007)
  • 13 votes against the pro-life position, by category:
    -- Positive Alternatives: 3 (2007)
    -- Taxpayer funding of abortion: 2 (2007, 2009)
    -- Taxpayer funding of saline abortion: 2 (2008)
    -- Cloning, stem cell issues: 4 (2007, 2008)
    -- Taxpayer Protection Act (deny funds to abortion organizations): 1 (2007)
    -- Procedural: Voted to remove health care portions of omnibus bill to avoid having vehicle for pro-life Abortion Regulation Act (2006)
  • Missed votes: 2
    -- Taxpayer funding of saline abortion (2008)
    -- Prohibiting forced abortion in surrogacy agreements (2008))

"The voters in the 6th Congressional District need to know that Tarryl Clark is a radical anti-life candidate," Fischbach said. "Senator Clark has voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions—even cruel saline abortions!"

"From now until the election in 2010, MCCL will work tirelessly to make sure the voters know that it is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann who is willing to stand up and fight for the innocent unborn and their mothers, while Tarryl Clark supports even the most gruesome taxpayer funded abortions," Fischbach added.

MCCL has more than 70,000 member families and 240 chapters statewide. For more information about MCCL, visit www.mccl.org.

What does President Obama really believe about the value of human life?

President Obama has talked about the importance of "vigorous debate" and "thoughtful dialogue" on weighty issues like abortion and embryo research, but his actions indicate that he has no interest whatsoever in a thoughtful investigation of these matters. (His recent disbanding of the President's Council on Bioethics is one good example.)

So what does the president really believe about the value of human life? Philosopher Patrick Lee comes up with six possibilities consistent with Obama's radically pro-abortion record, none of which hold up under scrutiny, as Lee shows.

The president's true position, Lee guesses, is this: "I don't care when life begins; I do not care at all about individuals that can't be (directly) seen, that are too small, or look very different from us." This is probably the least thoughtful and defensible of the six options, and suggests that the president hasn't bothered to give significant thought to the issue.

Lee concludes: "Each of the positions that might justify his actions has insuperable logical and/or philosophical difficulties. It is time to have some of that vigorous debate Obama claims to favor."

If only the president had a bit more intellectual curiosity.

Health care reform plan promotes euthanasia

We've talked repeatedly about how the health care "reform" plan in Washington threatens to greatly expand access to abortion. But the legislation threatens the right to life in at least one other way: it seems to promote the euthanasia of elderly and disabled persons.

From a statement released by House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI):
Section 1233 of the House-drafted legislation encourages health care providers to provide their Medicare patients with counseling on "the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration" and other end of life treatments, and may place seniors in situations where they feel pressured to sign end of life directives they would not otherwise sign. This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law. At a minimum this legislative language deserves a full and open public debate -- the sort of debate that is impossible to have under the politically-driven deadlines Democratic leaders have arbitrarily set for enactment of a health care bill.

This provision of the legislation is a throwback to 1977, when the old Department of Health Education and Welfare proposed federal promotion of living wills for cost-savings purposes described as "enormous." At that time, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago decried this effort by saying: "The message is clear: government can save money by encouraging old people to die a little sooner than they otherwise would. Instead of being regarded with reverence, and cherished, human life is subject in this view to a utilitarian cost-benefit calculus and can be sacrificed to serve fiscal policy and the sacred imperative of trimming a budget."

With three states having legalized physician-assisted suicide, this provision could create a slippery slope for a more permissive environment for euthanasia, mercy-killing and physician-assisted suicide because it does not clearly exclude counseling about the supposed benefits of killing oneself.

Health care reform that fails to protect the sanctity and dignity of all human life is not reform at all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

MCCL calls on Klobuchar, Franken to reverse votes on Sotomayor

Nominee worked to advance pro-abortion agenda

The following news release was issued on July 28, 2009.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's largest and oldest pro-life organization, called on Minnesota's two U.S. senators today to reverse their positions and vote against the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. As members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken voted today to confirm the nominee; the full Senate will vote on Sotomayor next week.

"While Judge Sotomayor served on the governing board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), the PRLDEF was actively involved in litigation that attempted to advance the abortion agenda," MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach stated in letters sent to the senators. "In fact, briefs that were filed by PRLDEF at the time urged the Court to regard abortion as a 'fundamental right.'"

Legalized abortion in Minnesota has led to the deaths of more than 500,000 innocent unborn children since the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. The Roe v. Wade decision, supported by seven of the nine men on the court at the time, was called "an exercise of raw judicial power" by dissenting Justice Byron White.

"Women and unborn children in Minnesota have suffered long enough from the devastating results of Roe v. Wade and deserve a United States Supreme Court that will protect them from an aggressive abortion industry," concluded Fischbach.

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

Is abortion a religious issue?

Nancy Northup, president of the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, recently said: "The enduring [abortion] divide represents the reality that there are fundamental religious differences on the issue of abortion that do not exist on, say, campaign finance or even on health care." (HT: Jill Stanek)

Is abortion a religious issue? Not really. Here's what the debate is really about, from the December 2008 issue of MCCL News.
Our opponents commonly dismiss the pro-life position as a "religious belief" that should not be expressed in public policy. Does this criticism carry much weight?

No. Though many advocates on both sides (e.g., myself, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice) have religious ideas and motivations that inform their views, abortion and embryo research are not particularly religious issues. Let me explain.

There are two overriding questions to ask when we assess the ethics of these practices. First, a scientific question: Is the embryo/unborn a human being? Second, a moral question: If so, how should we treat him or her?

Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who supports abortion on demand, said during the presidential campaign that his view that "life begins at the moment of conception" is "religiously based" and "a matter of faith." But the biological facts of conception are not a religious matter.

As Dr. Maureen L. Condic concludes in a recently published White Paper entitled "When Does Human Life Begin? A Scientific Perspective":

"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."

Indeed, the debate is not about the science—we know, as a matter of fact, that abortion and embryo-destructive research kill living members of the human species. Rather, the controversy is really over the second question: How should we treat these young human beings? May we kill them for our convenience or possible benefit? This is a human rights question, and how we answer it reflects our view of human value and dignity.

One side contends that every member of the human family—young, old, big and small—is valuable and deserving of protection as a matter of basic justice; the other side argues that some humans qualify for moral respect and protection (usually by virtue of certain functions or acquired properties) and other humans do not.

That is the crux of the issue. Like many important public policy debates, religion may be a factor in the opinions of those involved, but it need not be. And one way or the other, the government cannot help but take a stand: abortion and embryo-destructive research are either permissible or impermissible. Either unborn humans have rights that society ought to respect, or they don’t.

Attempting to disqualify one position (pro-life) from public consideration—by branding it "religious"—is arbitrary and intellectually dishonest. It’s a fallacious and unfair tactic, and to win this debate, pro-life advocates must not stand for it.

Largest pro-life group opposes Sotomayor for Supreme Court

National Right to Life has now officially come out against the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a letter to members of the Senate, NRLC explains:
Because the available evidence strongly suggests that once on the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor will seek to nullify abortion-related laws adopted through the normal legislative processes of our democracy, consistent with the extreme legal theories with which she was associated before being appointed to the federal bench, National Right to Life urges all senators to vote against her confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Read the full letter for the reasons for pro-life opposition to Judge Sotomayor.

Surprise! Funding abortion means more abortion

There's a reason pro-life advocates are so concerned that federal health care "reform" legislation will include funding for abortion. When abortion is paid for by the government, the number of abortions goes up.

Dr. Michael New has extensively documented the life-saving effect of laws restricting the taxpayer funding of abortion. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, in a recent report, arrives at the same conclusion.
The Guttmacher Institute recently released a literature review about the effects of restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortion. Overall, the results indicate that there is a very strong consensus among both public-health researchers and economists that public funding restrictions lower abortion rates. The Guttmacher literature review contains citations to 20 academic studies documenting this. These studies analyze data from a range of sources including surveys and aggregate data from the federal, state, and local level. Conversely, Guttmacher identifies only about four studies which show that the effects of public-funding restrictions are inconclusive.

In fact, NARAL has complained that the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal Medicaid funding of most abortions) "forces about half the women who would otherwise have abortions to carry unintended pregnancies to term and bear children against their wishes instead." Many, many people are alive today who would have been killed in utero were it not for the Hyde Amendment -- likely somewhere between one and two million people, according to National Right to Life.

A new report from the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights includes a few revealing statements on this subject. For example: in calling for the repeal of federal funding restrictions on abortion, the Center complains, "A significant percentage of poor women, unable to afford and access the service, forgo abortion altogether." When the funding isn't there, some women just don't have abortions.

If the president and Congressional leaders were truly committed to "common ground" and reducing the number of abortions (as President Obama assured the pope), they would take abortion funding out of health care. As it stands, the health care "reform" plan promises to significantly increase the number of dead babies in this country.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Teaching the pro-life view to 2nd graders

Scott Klusendorf explains how he made a case for the pro-life position to his daughter's 2nd grade public school class.
Here's how I began: I held up a parchment copy of The Declaration of Independence (which the class had studied a bit) and read the following: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men."

I then asked, "What makes us equal? It can't be our body size, because some are larger than others. It can't be our intelligence, because some have good report cards while others have bad. It can't be our bellybuttons because some point out rather than in. So what makes us equal?"

From all over the room, tiny voices shot back "We're all human!" Exactly. The only thing we all share equally is our humaness.

I then held up my book The Case for Life. The cover shows a picture of two tiny feet. "What's this?" Without a moment’s delay, kids all over that room shouted, "a baby in the mommy's tummy."

"Right. And what kind of baby is this?" Again, there was no delay. "It's a human baby."

Right again. "But how is this human in the picture different than us?" Hands shot up everywhere. "It's smaller." "It looks different." "It can't talk yet." "You can't see his eyes yet."

"True. Do you think that any of those differences mean the baby in the picture is less human than any of us?"

A resounding chorus of voices shot back, "No!"

Notice the kids didn't need a doctorate degree to grasp the obvious truth about our common human nature. I made a case for human equality (and thus, a case for the pro-life view) without mentioning the word abortion. More importantly, they understood perfectly what I was driving at.

Admittedly, I was having a blast with these kids. At the same time, they were teaching me an important lesson. The pro-life movement must find ways to reach kids earlier, before the surrounding culture talks them out of what they already know to be true. In many ways, these youngsters had better moral reasoning skills than many college students I meet!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pending federal legislation would significantly increase number of abortions

Last night over 36,000 people took part in a live webcast highlighting the abortion mandate in current "health care reform" legislation. From StoptheAbortionMandate.com:

  • The current health care reform proposals, if enacted, would result in the biggest expansion of abortion since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision imposed abortion on America in 1973.
  • Washington D.C. bureaucrats and abortion industry lobbyists are trying to force YOU to pay for abortions through your tax dollars as part of their proposed trillion-dollar health care takeover -- even though recent polls show that 71% of Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion.
  • This political power-grab is an effort to implement one of the cornerstones of the "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA), and could lead to a massive taxpayer-subsidized abortion industry bailout – something that American families do not support and cannot afford in these tough economic times.
  • Under the proposed health care takeover, virtually every American would be forced into a health plan that mandates abortion coverage; if the healthcare reform law does not clearly state that abortion is excluded, abortion automatically becomes a minimum required benefit.

It is imperative that our elected officials include language to explicitly exclude abortion from any health care reform proposal or bill. Our Representatives and Senators must keep abortion out of health care!

How you can make a difference:

1. Pray
2. E-mail and write letters to your representative and 2 senators at: www.StopTheAbortionMandate.com/email
3. Call the Washington office and the local office of your representative and 2 senators; instructions at: www.StopTheAbortionMandate.com/call
4. Spread the word! Distribute this flier to everyone you know and use Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail samples at: www.StopTheAbortionMandate.com/share
5. Write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper using samples at: www.StopTheAbortionMandate.com/editor

The latest updates are at nrlactioncenter.com.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pro-life nurse forced to assist with late-term abortion

At a federally-funded New York City hospital on May 24, 2009, a pro-life nurse was forced to assist with a late-term D & E abortion, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Alliance Defense Fund.

Alliance Defense Fund attorney Matt Bowman explains, "Requiring a devout, Catholic nurse to participate in a late-term abortion in order to remain employed is illegal, unethical, and violates her rights of conscience."

Indeed, the incident clearly violated a federal law protecting the conscience rights of pro-life health care workers. Earlier this year, the Obama administration began the process of rolling back a Bush regulation that enforced those conscience protections.

Stop the Abortion Mandate

Tonight pro-life groups are coming together to host a live webcast on the threat of abortion funding in the current "health care reform" legislation. Speakers will include Douglas Johnson from NRLC, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Charmaine Yoest, Frank Pavone, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Wendy Wright, Kristen Day, Day Gardner and Congressman Chris Smith.

Register to participate in the discussion.

See the latest about the health care effort -- and take action -- here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

MN Women's Right to Know law

In the landmark 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld laws requiring that women be offered factual information about abortion complications and alternatives prior to undergoing the procedure. Minnesota's Woman's Right to Know law (passed in 2003), styled after the Casey decision, is considered the best of all 22 similar state laws, and we are the first state to ensure that women receive scientific information about fetal pain suffered during abortion.

The Woman's Right to Know law requires that 24 hours before an abortion takes place, a woman be given the following information:

1) the particular medical risks associated with the particular abortion procedure to be employed;
2) the probable gestational age of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed;
3) the medical risks associated with carrying her child to term;
4) for abortions after 20 weeks gestational, whether or not an anesthetic or analgesic would eliminate or alleviate organic pain to the unborn child caused by the particular method of abortion to be employed and the particular medical benefits and risks associated with the particular anesthetic or analgesic. A physician must also provide the woman with any additional costs associated with the administration of an anesthetic or analgesic.
5) that medical assistance benefits may be available for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care;
6) that the father is liable to assist in the support of her child even in instances when the father has offered to pay for an abortion; and
7) that she has the right to review materials made available by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) launched its initial Web site and published a Woman's Right to Know handbook, "If You Are Pregnant," providing women with vital abortion facts. The site and handbook feature beautiful images of unborn babies throughout the 40 weeks of gestation. Minnesota adoption agencies and centers offering alternatives to abortion are listed. Women are informed about abortion risks and complications, methods of abortion, fetal pain, the birth father's responsibilities and more. Free copies of the color handbook -- including large print, Braille and cassette tape versions -- are available.

Learn more.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The state of abortion law in America today

During Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, Sen. Tom Coburn asked her about the state of abortion law in America today -- and Sotomayor answered incorrectly (or at least very misleadingly).

In a new piece published in Public Discourse, Matthew Franck explains in detail the actual state of U.S. abortion law, imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton and subsequent rulings: abortion must be allowed for any reason at any stage of pregnancy.

Franck's entire analysis is well worth reading.

Study shows unborn babies have memory

From the Washington Times:
The unborn have memories, according to medical researchers who used sound and vibration stimulation, combined with sonography, to reveal that the human fetus displays short-term memory from at least 30 weeks gestation - or about two months before they are born.

"In addition, results indicated that 34-week-old fetuses are able to store information and retrieve it four weeks later," said the research, which was released Wednesday.

Scientists from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Maastricht University Medical Centre and the University Medical Centre St. Radboud, both in the Netherlands, based their findings on a study of 100 healthy pregnant women and their fetuses with the help of some gentle but precise sensory stimulation.

On five occasions during the last eight weeks of their pregnancies, the women received a series of one-second buzzes on their bellies with a "fetal vibroacoustic stimulator," a hand-held diagnostic device used to gauge an unborn baby's heart rate and general well-being.

The baby's responses - primarily eye, mouth and body movements - were closely monitored over the weeks with ultrasound imaging to gauge "fetal learning" patterns. The researchers found that the babies acclimated themselves to the sounds and vibrations to the point that they no longer bothered to respond - a process known as "habituation."

"The stimulus is then accepted as 'safe' " by the babies, the study said.

The team also found that the tiny test subjects actually improved these skills as they grew older, with those who were 34- or 36-weeks old clearly showing that they had become familiar with the hum outside the womb.

"The fetus 'remembers' the stimulus and the number of stimuli needed for the fetus to habituate is then much smaller," the study said.

"It seems like every day we find out marvelous new things about the development of unborn children. We hope that this latest information helps people realize more clearly that the unborn are members of the human family with amazing capabilities and capacities like these built in from the moment of conception," said Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund.

A call to NARAL Pro-Choice America for comment on the implications of the research was not returned.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More on abortion expansion via 'health care reform'

The following is taken from a new NRLC press release.

WASHINGTON (July 20, 2009) -- A report in today's New York Times ("Health Bill Might Direct Tax Money to Abortion," by Robert Pear and Adam Liptak) puts a spotlight on the Obama Administration's attempts to secure sweeping abortion coverage mandates and abortion subsidies in the health care bills currently under consideration in the Congress.

Referring to Senator Kennedy's unnumbered bill, which was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on July 15, and to the House Democratic Leadership's "tri-committee" bill (H.R. 3200), Johnson said, "These bills would result in federally mandated coverage of abortion by nearly all health plans, federally mandated recruitment of abortionists by local health networks, and nullification of many state abortion laws. They would also result in federal subsidies for abortion on a massive scale."

An NRLC analysis of H.R. 3200 explains in detail why general provisions such as those contained in the two bills will invariably be construed, by administrators and by the federal courts, to require coverage of elective abortion, unless Congress explicitly excludes abortion.

The NRLC analysis also explains why the "Hyde Amendment," a year-to-year patch on the federal Health and Human Services appropriations bill, would not prevent massive federal subsidies for elective abortions under H.R. 3200 or the Kennedy bill.

The NRLC analysis and other key documents on the issue are posted on the NRLC website at http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/Index.html.

Read the rest.

Efforts to deny biological status of human embryos fail

Though the biological status of the human embryo as a full-fledged member of our species is well established, some who advocate for embryo-destructive research or abortion continue -- despite all scientific evidence to the contrary -- to make creative arguments for the view that the human embryo is not really a human being, biologically speaking.

Ronald Bailey is one such person, and he recently made yet another attempt to deny what the facts of human embryology tell us. But three top-notch pro-life scholars, scientist Maureen Condic and philosophers Robert George and Patrick Lee, show how Bailey's position is clearly faulty. The bottom line:
In various places we have made explicit what is generally assumed in biology: If an organism has all the internal resources, along with an active tendency or disposition, to develop itself to the stage where it performs the functions specific to an organism of a certain kind, requiring only a suitable environment and nutrition for that development, then it is an organism of that kind, at an immature stage of its life cycle. Only thus can one recognize a chrysalis as an immature member of Lepidoptera, or a tadpole as an immature member of a frog species. Human embryos, whether they are formed by fertilization (natural or in vitro) or by successful somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT — i.e., cloning), do have the internal resources and active disposition to develop themselves to the mature stage of a human organism, requiring only a suitable environment and nutrition. In fact, scientists distinguish embryos from other cells or clusters of cells precisely by their self-directed, integral functioning — their organismal behavior. Thus, human embryos are what the embryology textbooks say they are, namely, human organisms — living individuals of the human species — at the earliest developmental stage.
The real question in the debate over research with human embryos isn't their biological status (what they are), but their moral status (how they ought to be treated). Are they valuable, rights-bearing persons deserving of respect and protection, like you and me?

'Abortion and racism are evil twins, born of the same lie'

Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who had two abortions of her own, makes a case against abortion and asks all of us to join her in "the civil rights movement of our century -- the right of every one of every race to live."

She notes that abortion affects the black community disproportionately.
Abortion has taken a gruesome toll on the black community, killing more than AIDS and crime combined. Some 14 million black babies have been aborted since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all stages in all 50 states. That's equal to one-third of the number of blacks living today.

By the abortion industry's own statistics, black women are 4.8 times more likely to abort than are non-Hispanic white women. Blacks comprise about 13 percent of the population, yet have 37 percent of all abortions.

When dramatic racial disparities like these appeared in employment and education, it was enough to conclude that institutionalized racism and discrimination were present in our corporations and colleges. Why should we apply a different standard to the abortion industry?
Abortion and racism, King shows, spring from the same lie. Both deny fundamental human equality by setting a particular class of human beings aside to be treated as less than human.

Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It's a self-centered falsehood that corrupts our minds into believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated. So it is with abortion.

Racism oppresses its victims, but also binds the oppressors, who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become prisoners of those lies. They cannot face the truth of human equality because it reveals the horror of the injustices they commit. While victims die physically, practitioners die spiritually. So it is with abortion.

Racism is a way to gain economic advantage at the expense of others. Slavery and plantations may be gone, but racism still allows us to regard those who may keep us from financial gain as less than equals. So it is with abortion.

King concludes:

Abortion targets blacks disproportionately, but it affects everyone. And as my uncle, Martin Luther King, wrote from the Birmingham jail, "[i]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Abortion is an attack on the family and the humanity that unites us all.

My Uncle Martin also wrote: "The Negro cannot win if he is willing to sell the future of his children for his personal and immediate comfort and safety." Those words are still true today. After all, how can the dream survive if we let them take our children?

Vote coming soon on biggest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade

Congressional Democratic leaders are aiming to bring massive "health care reform" bills to the floor of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives during the last week in July -- bills that National Right to Life says "would result in the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade."

On July 15, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved a massive bill sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) on a 13-10 party line vote. A similar bill, H.R. 3200, backed by the House Democratic leadership, was approved by two House committees, with a third committee set to vote on it on or about July 21. The White House supports the Kennedy bill and H.R. 3200.

"The Kennedy bill and the House Democratic leadership bill would result in the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. "These bills, which President Obama is pushing hard, would result in federally mandated coverage of abortion by nearly all health plans, federally mandated recruitment by abortionists by local health networks, and nullification of many state abortion laws. They would also result in federal funding of abortion on a massive scale. The pro-life movement needs to go to Condition Red on these bills, because they pose a mortal threat to the unborn and they are on a fast track to enactment."

Before approving the Kennedy bill, the Senate HELP Committee rejected a series of NRLC-backed amendments offered by pro-life Republican members of the committee. Specifically, the committee's Democrats (with the exception of Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.) voted down an amendment by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) to prevent health plans from being required to pay for and provide access to abortions, an amendment by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to prevent federal funding of abortions, and an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.) to prevent nullification of many state laws regulating abortion. The pro-abortion majority even rejected a second Coburn amendment to protect the right of health-care providers to refuse to participate directly in providing abortions.

Similar pro-life amendments were voted down in the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee, as only a few Democrats joined the committees' minority Republican members in support of the unsuccessful amendments.

On July 20 or 21, the House Energy & Commerce Committee is expected to consider similar NRLC-backed pro-life amendments, proposed by Congressman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mi.). The members of this committee are listed here.

The imposition of sweeping pro-abortion mandates as part of “health care reform” is currently the top priority of many pro-abortion organizations, such as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). These organizations are pushing for the abortion mandates both in public statements and in less visible lobbying efforts. In April, the president of PPFA said that her organization intends to use the health care legislation as a "platform" to guarantee access to abortion to "all women." Likewise, the National Abortion Federation, an association of abortion providers, said, "NAF supports health care reform as a way to increase access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion care, for all women."

A third version of health-care restructuring legislation is still being written, behind closed doors, by members of the Senate Finance Committee. On July 1, both PPFA and NARAL sent out national legislative alerts expressing alarm that some Republican Finance Committee members were pressing for bill language to exclude abortion from the scope of the mandates and subsidies in the Finance Committee proposal. Also on July 1, the Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), sent out an alert to that organization's e-mail list headed, "Urgent! Access to Abortion Services Threatened." The alert said, "Let there be no mistake, basic healthcare includes abortion services. . . . Reproductive healthcare, including abortion services, is an essential component of women's health, and we must act now to make sure women get a fair shake in the final healthcare reform bill." (RCRC is made up of a number of religious bodies, including the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church USA, and United Church of Christ.)

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." [emphasis added] 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."

For additional documentation and background information about how "health care reform" bills could have a drastic impact on abortion policies, click here.

Take action by contacting your Congressional representatives here.

Sunday, July 19, 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, July 16, 2009

'Potential life' requires potential abortion

I mentioned in the last post the common claim that the unborn human being is mere "potential life." This is false, of course, because something is either living or it's not -- and the unborn meets all the biololical criteria for life. Moreover, the unborn is a distinct, individual organism of the human species who is growing at a remarkably fast rate. Dead things don't grow.

I ran across this short commentary by Greg Koukl (to which I linked earlier). Koukl says it best.
A common way to dehumanize the unborn in order to justify abortion is to refer to pregnancy as "creating potential life." Calling an unborn child a "potential life" is just a clever rhetorical trick. There is no such thing as creating a "potential life."

Think about it. First, you could potentially create life, that is, create a potential for life. When a man and a woman get married and have sex there's potential in their conduct for life to be created. Second, you could create a life with potential, one that has the possibility of developing into something good or noble. But that's the end of your options. You either potentially create a life or you create a life with potential. You never create a potential life.

It's like saying, "I just had a potential thought." What could that possibly mean, you just had a potential thought? You either had a thought or you didn't. And your thought has some potential for the future or it doesn't. But you never have a potential thought.

In the same way, pregnancy doesn't create a potential life. If so, then the problem of that potential life could be solved simply by having a potential abortion. Since a real abortion is needed to end pregnancy and not a potential one, a real life must be involved, not a potential one.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The reasons for abortion do not justify killing human beings

In a Salon.com article from last month, pro-choice advocate Frances Kissling writes that she has come to believe that in some circumstances a pregnant woman shouldn't be allowed to have an abortion. Sex-selection abortions, for example.
I think it's important for us to be able to say: When a fetus reaches the point where it could survive outside the uterus, is healthy, and the woman is healthy, and she has had five months to make up her mind, we should say no to abortion. One can and should have compassion for the woman or girl who seeks to end a pregnancy at that late date, but absent severe fetal abnormality, a threat to her life or a clinical diagnosis of serious mental or physical health consequences of continuing the pregnancy, I believe we should say: "I am so sorry. You waited too long. I know this is a difficult decision for you to bear, but we cannot give you an abortion. I will help you any other way I can, but I cannot perform an abortion."

Some recoil from this conclusion. What about the teenagers who denied their pregnancy out of fear or shame, or the unfulfilled desire that their boyfriend would marry them, or just ignorance of their body? The very young ones will meet the definition of physical danger; older adolescents may not. Some may have clinical mental health problems, but President Obama was correct during the campaign when he said "mental distress" without clinical dimensions is not a justifiable reason for late-term abortion.

Nor are those cases where women's social circumstances changed late in the pregnancy -- they lost their job or were abandoned by partners. These are terrible things, and we need to do whatever else we can to help those women continue their pregnancy, keep the baby they once wanted or give it up for adoption. There is a point when our respect for potential life, for that individual fetus, should outweigh a woman's desire, even need, not to be pregnant.
It's certainly good news that she is willing to accept restrictions on abortion -- the kind of "common ground" that actually saves lives. What is interesting, though, is that in her defense of those limitations she frankly concedes that all the reasons given for elective abortion do not justify killing the unborn if he or she has a particular moral status -- in her view, the value of "potential life" (a horribly misleading phrase).

Those reasons are equally insufficient for abortion at any stage of pregnancy as long as the unborn maintains that same moral standing. Indeed, Kissling says what pro-lifers say: "One can and should have compassion for the woman or girl who seeks to end a pregnancy, but ... I believe we should say: 'I am so sorry. You [chose to have sex and now, as a consequence, you are carrying an unborn child]. I know this is a difficult decision for you to bear, but we cannot give you an abortion. I will help you any other way I can, but I cannot perform an abortion.' "

So Kissling essentially concedes that the permissibility of abortion depends upon the moral status of the unborn, and that the reasons given for abortion (mental distress, social circumstances) are beside the point. (Her own view is that there is a point late in pregnancy, presumably when certain developmental milestones have been reached, when the unborn begins to command our full respect regardless of the wishes of the mother; pro-lifers take a different position, arguing that human beings have worth and dignity by virtue of what they are rather than the accidental properties they have acquired, so every member of our species is entitled to equal, fundamental respect.)

Given that moral clarity, I think it's unhelpful that she then goes on to frame the abortion issue as one of competing values (woman v. unborn child), saying that pro-choice advocates should not "follow the example of those opposed to abortion and present only one value." As Kissling's own writing indicates, it's not so much an issue of "competing values" as it is a question of the moral standing of the unborn entity who is killed by abortion. Kissling herself agrees that if the unborn is due a certain degree of moral respect (as "potential life"), killing him or her is morally impermissible.

So why confuse the issue?

Does PETA's abortion view make sense?

In a piece published on LifeNews.com, Thomas Glessner writes about the abortion view of PETA (the animal-rights organization).
On June 16 during an interview on CNBC President Obama swatted at and killed a fly. The matter was treated with good humor by most. I, for one, wanted to say "Nice shot Mr. President." However, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) felt differently and publicly chastised the President for his apparent cruelty to the insect.

"We support compassion for even the smallest animals," says Bruce Friedrich, VP for Policy at PETA. "We support giving insects the benefit of the doubt." Friedrich says PETA supports "brushing flies away rather than killing them." Later PETA sent to Obama a fly catching device that traps flies and then allows for their safe release back into nature.

Upon hearing of the compassion PETA has for the smallest of creatures I wondered what position they took on abortion. After all, if this organization believes in the protection of the lives of flies surely they would be adamantly opposed to the killing of the unborn. Hence, I immediately did a search on the Internet to find an answer to my question. I found out that PETA's compassion for unborn human babies falls far short of its compassion for flies.
PETA's position statement reads:
PETA does not have a position on the abortion issue, because our focus as an organization is the alleviation of the suffering inflicted on nonhuman animals. There are people on both sides of the abortion issue in the animal rights movement, just as there are people on both sides of animal rights issues in the pro-life movement. And just as the pro-life movement has no official position on animal rights, neither does the animal rights movement have an official position on abortion.
Glessner continues:
Now let me understand this clearly. To PETA the life of a fly deserves to be respected and must be treated with dignity, but the life of an unborn child subject to abortion is apparently of no concern. One can be a member of PETA and support the killing of the unborn as long as that person supports the right to life of a fly.

Even if one believes that humans are no more than a higher evolved form of animal life they must surely oppose the killing of unborn children if they oppose the killing of flies. But this logic escapes PETA.
PETA is implying, I think, that a consistent, committed animal rights activist (one committed to "giving insects the benefit of the doubt") may at the same time reasonably support the killing of unborn human beings.

Whether that's true depends on one's underlying view of what it is that makes a being valuable and deserving of moral respect. Many contemporary bio-ethicists (and most pro-choice philosophers) advocate what Wesley Smith calls "Personhood Theory," whereby an entity possesses worth and dignity (i.e., is a "person") by virtue of certain acquired properties or functions that are deemed morally relevant (e.g., self-awareness, ability to feel pain). Any being lacking the requisite properties (regardless of species) is disqualified from basic protection.

But even according to these functional criteria, a fully-developed fly likely would not qualify for more protection than an unborn human at most stages. So I agree with Glessner: It's hard to make sense of PETA's position.

Perhaps a more mainstream animal-rights advocate -- one with no problem killing flies -- could, relying on Personhood Theory (which, I must point out, is deeply flawed and contrary to the view of human value that undergirds the pro-life position), construct a consistent position supporting both protection for most (adult) animals and the right to kill the unborn human. But I think it's fair to say that PETA's position is not coherent.

I'll be discussing personhood and what makes humans valuable in an upcoming post in my Why Pro-Life? series.

Abortion in health care 'the last thing Obama needs'

More attention is being paid to the provisions in the current health care reform legislation that would expand access to abortion on demand.

Even Chris Matthews is complaining, saying that the abortion coverage "could be the straw that breaks the camel's back" on the health care effort. The consensus among Matthews' guests was that including abortion in the legislation is politically damaging.

Matthews, an abortion advocate and Obama lover, added this bit of common sense: "[Obama] goes over to see the Pope and says they're going to reduce the number of abortions, and then that same week he pushes to subsidize abortion? You can't do that!"

Take action to stop a major increase in abortions through "health care reform."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nursing student makes case for abortion-breast cancer link

Nursing major Anne Marie makes a case for the abortion-breast cancer (ABC) link on jillstanek.com, excerpted from her research paper.

"The heart of the ABC link ... lies in the increased proliferation of Type 1 and Type 2 lobules, without gaining the protection of the cancer-resistant Type 3 and Type 4 lobules," she explains.

Read the rest.

What the judiciary debate is really about

Princeton Professor Robert George explains the crux of the debate over the American judiciary in an interview in the Wall Street Journal.
"According to one theory of jurisprudence," says Mr. George, "the judge may not bring his own moral beliefs or personal feelings to bear on his rulings on what the law is. This is the view held by people like Scalia and Alito and Roberts."

This means that a judge who is personally pro-life can uphold a pro-choice law -- and a judge who is personally pro-choice can uphold a pro-life law. What matters is the law, not the personal feelings. When judges follow this path, they take some of the heat out of culture wars. That's because those who want to change the law -- pro-life or pro-choice -- have to do it the way our Founders intended: through their elected representatives.

"The other theory of jurisprudence," the professor told me, "holds that the judge has a responsibility to bring his or her moral beliefs to cases. This is famously defended by scholars such as Ronald Dworkin, and practiced by judges such as William Brennan and John Paul Stevens."

"Among the many problems with this view is that it leads inexorably to the politicization of the judicial process. If someone expects us to accept this theory as a legitimate judicial philosophy, then he or she has to be prepared to answer questions about what his or her moral beliefs or personal feelings are -- and where they come from."
Judges ought to faithfully apply the law as it is, not remake it according to their own preferences -- that's the job of the legislative branch of government.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ginsburg comment reflects eugenic roots of pro-abortion movement

Justice Ginsburg made some interesting comments recently in an interview with the New York Times Magazine. Here's the most controversial: "Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe [v. Wade] was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion."

Whatever we might say about Ginsburg's own views on eugenics and abortion (Jill Stanek and Wesley Smith discuss it), it seems that she thought that a pro-eugenics mentality was at least in part behind the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion on demand.

The comment calls to mind the disturbing history of the movement for abortion rights, including Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, a racist and eugenicist.

Update: Jonah Goldberg discusses Ginsburg and eugenics.

Was Roe v. Wade a constitutionally sound decision?

The Senate hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor began today. Lurking in the background of every Supreme Court confirmation hearing is the question of whether the Court's Roe v. Wade ruling was properly decided, or whether it should be overturned. Roe (and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton) effectively legalized abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy.

Here's what a few notable commentators have said about the decision. Keep this in mind when pro-choice senators speak as if Roe is sacred.

The late, eminent legal scholar John Hart Ely, who supported legal abortion: Roe "is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be."

Harvard law professor Archibald Cox: "Neither historian, nor layman, nor lawyer will be persuaded that all the prescriptions of [Roe] are part of the Constitution."

Dissenting Justice William Rehnquist: "To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment."

Edward Lazarus, former clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe: "As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible. … Justice Blackmun's opinion provides essentially no reasoning in support of its holding. And in the … years since Roe's announcement, no one has produced a convincing defense of Roe on its own terms."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Interview: faulty foreign abortion data

MCCL has dealt a lot recently with the faulty argument used by international pro-abortion groups that legal abortion is necessary to combat maternal mortality in the developing world.

Here is an interview on the problems with international abortion data with Donna Harrison, MD, a diplomat for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and president of the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. An excerpt:
Q: Does it matter very much if the numbers are not accurate? Governments do have to address all aspects of maternal health, including abortion, don't they?

Donna Harrison: Actually, it matters enormously because of the implications for planning national policy. If a country finds that a large percentage of maternal deaths happen from a lack of skilled birth attendants at delivery, and a very small number come from induced abortions, then it becomes clear that funding should be directed to skilled birth attendants and not to abortion agencies.

But if a country where abortion is illegal uses methodology which allows spontaneous abortions to be counted as induced abortions, a falsely high number of maternal deaths may be attributed to "unsafe abortions." The country will then be under international pressure to legalize abortion, on the assumption that it would result in the immediate lowering of the hospital admissions owing to abortion, and the associated costs.

As we have seen, however, this reduction would be more apparent than real, since adverse outcomes of planned and legal abortions might not be counted.

NIH guidelines on embryo research: worst may be yet to come

The final guidelines for federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research have been released by the NIH, and as expected they allow funding for research that requires the killing of human embryos (the guidelines may have other problems as well). The NIH apparently ignored the input of tens of thousands of Americans who objected to funding embryo-destructive research:
In a telephone briefing with the media July 6, the day before the final guidelines took effect, NIH acting director Dr. Raynard S. Kington said 30,000 of the approximately 49,000 comments received by NIH during a monthlong period of public comment opposed any federal funding of such research.

But those responses were "deemed not responsive to the question put forth," Kington said. "We did not ask them whether" to fund such research, "but how it should be funded."
Fortunately, the rules (for the time being) do not allow funding for research with human embryos created by cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer) or other means specifically for use in destructive research.

But as Wesley J. Smith notes, researchers are not and never were content with so-called "excess" embryos left over from in vitro fertlization; rather, the goal has been the production of embryos by cloning specifically for use in research and (potentially) medical treatments.

So the current NIH policy is a first step. A push for funding of destructive cloning research, and the elimination of the Dickey Amendment, is likely on the way.

Below is MCCL's comment submitted earlier this year to the NIH.
The stated purpose of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) draft guidelines is, in part, "to help ensure that NIH-funded research in this area is ethically responsible [and] scientifically worthy." Embryonic stem cell research, for which the draft guidelines allow federal funding, is neither ethically responsible nor scientifically worthy. First, it requires the prior killing of human embryos—distinct, living and whole organisms of the human species at the embryonic stage of development—in order to harvest their stem cells for experimentation. It treats the youngest and most vulnerable members of the human family as mere raw material that we may use for our own ends. The NIH guidelines would incentivize the ongoing destruction of nascent human life and force taxpayers to fund it.

Second, research with non-embryonic stem cells has already resulted in numerous medical benefits for human patients, and the exciting development of induced pluripotent stem cells has rendered obsolete any therapeutic justification for research with human embryos. (Indeed, Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH, wrote on March 4, 2009, that "embryonic stem cells … are obsolete.") Diverting federal taxpayer dollars into morally dubious, scientifically problematic and increasingly unnecessary research—research opposed by a significant portion of the American public—is surely not a wise use of government resources. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), comprised of over 70,000 member families across the state of Minnesota, respectfully asks that the decision to fund this research be reconsidered.

We applaud the NIH guidelines, however, for prohibiting federal funding of research using embryonic stem cells derived from embryos created specifically for destructive research. Creating new human beings (by human cloning or other methods) solely for the purpose of killing them for their useful parts is radically at odds with the moral convictions of the vast majority of Americans. MCCL strongly urges that this NIH prohibition remain in place.

Stop the abortion agenda

NRLC has a (relatively) new blog at www.stoptheabortionagenda.com. It ought to be visited regularly, especially for the latest on federal legislative developments like the current health care reform effort.

From the site:

"The pro-life movement is bracing for battle as a new Congress convenes with pro-abortion Democrats in majority control in both houses, poised to work with incoming President Barack Obama to push an expansive pro-abortion agenda.

"The intent of this site is to attract and alert users to important, abortion-related legislation and to get them actively involved in spreading the word that the abortion agenda can and must be stopped."

Abortion funding in health care reform

From NRLC's latest legislative action alert:
The Obama White House and Democratic congressional leaders are pushing for votes in late July on massive "health care reform" bills that contain sweeping mandates to expand access to abortion on demand, override state abortion laws, and establish federal funding of abortion.

These bills pose one of the greatest threats to pro-life policies since the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in 1973.

Two Senate committees and three House committees are nearing the end of the process of crafting "health care reform bills" that would, among other things, result in mandatory insurance coverage of abortion on demand, federal subsidies for abortion, and mandated local abortion facilities. These bills will also allow the nullification of many state limitations on abortion.

The full House is expected to vote on its version of the bill at the end of July. Senate floor action could occur shortly thereafter.

So far, key Democratic lawmakers have unveiled two different health-care restructuring bills. The first, introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), started out over 600 pages long, and is currently going through the amendment process in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The second bill -- called the "Tri-Committee chairmen's bill" or the "House Democratic leadership bill" because it was jointly released by the Democratic chairmen of the three House committees with jurisdiction -- is over 800 pages long.

Both of these bills would empower panels of federal officials to mandate coverage of abortion on demand in virtually all health plans. Both of these bills would also result in massive federal subsidies for abortion on demand. Both of the bills would empower federal officials to order expansions of abortion providers in many areas of the country (referred to by pro-life analysts as the "abortion clinic mandate"), and to override at least some state abortion regulations. And they do all this without ever mentioning the word "abortion."
Pro-lifers must oppose any federal "health care reform" legislation that does not explicitly exclude abortion. Take action here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

When can an unborn baby feel pain?

Using live-action ultrasound images, neonatologists and nurses have seen babies at 20 weeks gestation and earlier react physically to outside stimuli such as sound, light and touch. In fact, the sense of touch is so acute that even a single human hair drawn across an unborn child’s palm causes the baby to make a fist. Surgeons entering the womb to perform corrective procedures on tiny unborn children have seen those babies flinch, jerk and recoil from sharp objects and incisions.

When is the unborn child first capable of feeling pain? This question of fetal pain has become a hot topic in the abortion debate. According to Dr. Steven Calvin, a perinatologist at the University of Minnesota, "The neural pathways are present for pain to be experienced quite early by unborn babies." Dr. Calvin observes pain responses while performing surgery on unborn children in the womb. "When we poke a fetus at 12-14 weeks to clear a bladder infection, they move away," he explains.

Anatomical studies have documented that the body’s pain network—the spino-thalamic pathway—is established by 20 weeks gestation or earlier. An unborn child at 20 weeks gestation "is fully capable of experiencing pain. ... Without question, [abortion] is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant subjected to such a surgical procedure," says Dr. Robert J. White, a professor of neurosurgery at Case Western University. According to Dr. Paul Ranalli, a neurologist at the University of Toronto, "At 20 weeks, the fetal brain has the full complement of brain cells present in adulthood, ready and waiting to receive pain signals from the body, and their electrical activity can be recorded by standard electroencephalography (EEG)." Moreover, notes Ranalli, this is a "uniquely vulnerable time, since the pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop." As a result, unborn babies at 20 weeks gestation probably feel pain more intensely than adults!

Even abortion advocate Dr. David Birnbach, president of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology, testified before the U.S. Congress that "on occasion we need to administer anesthesia directly to the fetus, because even at these early gestational ages the fetus moves away from the pain of the stimulation."

Read more.

'Once or twice in a century an issue arises ...

... so far-reaching in its consequences, and so deep in its foundations, that it calls every person to take a stand." -- John Noonan

That issue is abortion.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Do pro-life policies reduce abortions? Absolutely

In the recent coverage of the 2008 abortion decrease in Minnesota, what I found most interesting was this passage from an AP story:
Wendy Hellerstedt, a professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health who studies reproductive issues, said the declines may be explained by state policy changes in the past few years that deter abortions.

For example, she said, Minnesota now requires the notification of parents before minors can get an abortion. In addition, she said, all women now must receive state-specified counseling that discourages abortion, and they must observe a 24-hour waiting period.

"There has been an escalation of policies that limit access," Hellerstedt said.
It's not uncommon to hear that pro-life legislative efforts don't really affect abortion numbers. That's simply not true, as the U of M professor concedes. Dr. Michael New and others have demonstrated convincingly that modest pro-life policies -- such as parental notification requirements and (especially) limits on taxpayer funding of abortion -- reduce the number of abortions and save many innocent human lives.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Planned Parenthood reacts to abortion decrease

From the Star Tribune:
Officials of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and the Dakotas see the report as "absolutely good news for the health of women across Minnesota," said spokeswoman Kathi Di Nicola. "The best way to sustain those reductions is to continue to provide affordable birth control" and sex education to the state's women.
From the Minnesota Independent:
"The overall decline in abortion in nearly every category is positive news and a goal that PPMNS works toward every day in our clinics across the region," [Di Nicola] said.

While MCCL is openly hostile to PPMNS, Di Nicola offered an olive branch in working to reduce abortions in Minnesota through education and contraception.

"We again call on groups like the [sic] MCCL to join with us in taking tangible, common-sense steps to prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion in Minnesota," she said.
I wonder why Planned Parenthood sees a decline in abortion as "absolutely good news" given its view that abortion is not only morally unproblematic, but also a Constitutional and human right that should be funded with taxpayer dollars.

Moreover, if a decline in abortions is "a goal that PPMNS works toward every day," how did Planned Parenthood manage to increase its abortions to a record 3,948 last year while the total number of abortions went down 6.5 percent? Planned Parenthood now performs 30 percent of abortions in Minnesota, its largest percentage since abortion reporting began in 1998. Planned Parenthood performed nearly 1,200 more abortions than the next largest provider.

Of course, none of this should be surprising: Planned Parenthood is a business that profits greatly by performing abortions. It's only surprising that the group can get away with claiming it wants to decrease the number of abortions.

One online comment on the MN Independent story puts it well: "It must be good news for them to see that abortions overall are decreasing, so they can say their efforts to reduce them are working. Except they also get to increase their abortions while everyone else's decrease. I guess they really CAN have it both ways!"

The Independent article claims: "While MCCL is openly hostile to PPMNS, Di Nicola offered an olive branch in working to reduce abortions." If Planned Parenthood were really interested in common ground and reducing the number of abortions, it would join with us in supporting common-sense, modest, widely-supported legislative efforts such as parental notification and informed consent requirements, bans on taxpayer funding of abortion, sex-selection abortion, etc.

But Planned Parenthood won't accept any limits on abortion. Its work is aimed at performing more and more abortions, even as abortions statewide decline.

Abortions drop six percent as women embrace Positive Alternatives

Sharp decline indicates women finding help they need to choose life

ST. PAUL — Deaths from abortion decreased 6.5 percent in Minnesota last year, according to a state report released today. The dramatic drop—895 fewer babies were killed than in 2007—demonstrates the success of the Positive Alternatives program in empowering pregnant women.

The 2008 Abortion Report shows a total of 12,948 abortions were performed in the state in 2008, compared to 13,843 the previous year. The 2008 total is the lowest number on record since 1975 and is also the lowest abortion rate (11.2 per 1,000 females age 15-44) since 1975.

"We are very pleased to see that the Positive Alternatives program is helping more and more women to reject abortion, and decreasing the number of babies aborted in our state," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "The program’s simple, effective approach is to provide real help to women considering abortion, so that they know they have life-affirming options. We want every pregnant woman to know that we will help them every step of the way, and that no one should ever force them to have an abortion."

The 645 abortions performed on minor girls last year was a decrease of 11 percent and represented less than 5 percent of all abortions. This is the lowest number of abortions on minors ever recorded in Minnesota. Abortions also fell in every racial category. Abortions declined every month compared to the prior year.

Even though the number of abortions was the lowest in 33 years, Planned Parenthood managed to increase its abortions last year to a record 3,948. Planned Parenthood performed nearly 1,200 more abortions than the next largest provider. It now performs 30 percent of all abortions in the state—its highest percentage ever.

"Planned Parenthood will try to take credit for the drop in abortions, but its growth curve reveals the organization’s true intent," Fischbach said. "Through its aggressive marketing of abortion to teenagers, minorities and low-income women, Planned Parenthood has achieved its business goal of performing more abortions than ever."

Other increases in 2008: Chemical abortions using the dangerous and sometimes lethal RU486 drug rose to 17 percent of all abortions; taxpayer-funded abortions rose to 29.8 percent of all abortions; and the number of post-abortion complications increased from 99 to 132, including a 38 percent increase in incomplete abortions.

The total number of reported abortions performed in Minnesota since 1973 is 543,262.

The following points are additional information concerning "Induced Abortions in Minnesota, 2008, Report to the Legislature," released July 1, 2009, by the Minnesota Department of Health:

The 6.5% decline in abortions was the third largest annual percentage drop since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion on demand. Abortions dropped 7.7% in 1993; abortions dropped 7.5% in 1983

40% of women who received an abortion in 2008 had at least one prior abortion. A total of 923 women reported they had had 3 or more prior abortions

5 women who sought abortion services opted instead for perinatal hospice because they were informed of the option through the Woman’s Right to Know informed consent law. Perinatal hospice is a life-affirming program for women facing devastating diagnoses of fetal anomalies

28.9% of all abortions were taxpayer funded in 2008—this is the highest percentage since the Minnesota Supreme Court’s 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision required taxpayers to pay for elective abortions. Self-funded abortions are at their lowest level since state abortion reporting began in 1998

Planned Parenthood performed an average of more than 10 abortions every day in 2008, for a total of 3,948. The provider increased its abortions by 1% while total abortions decreased 6.5%

Planned Parenthood now performs 30% of abortions in Minnesota, its largest percentage since abortion reporting began in 1998. It has been the largest provider since 2004

Abortionists:
  • 103 different people performed abortions in 2008, a significant increase from the previous record of 89 in 2006
  • 8 physicians each performed more than 600 abortions last year
  • Minnesota’s seven abortion clinics performed more than 99% of all abortions in 2008
Abortions performed on minors (under age 18) declined 11% to 645 from 724 in 2007. With very few exceptions, abortions performed on minors have been declining steadily since 1987. In 2006, abortions on minors spiked 16% after Planned Parenthood opened two feeder clinics in Twin Cities suburbs and marketed its services to minors

Race and abortion: African Americans—4% of population, 23% of abortions; Asians—3% of population, 7% of abortions; Caucasians—90% of population, 61% of abortions; Hispanics—3% of population, 6% of abortions

Chemical abortions (RU486) accounted for 17% of the 2008 total, up from 13% in 2007

Rape, incest or "continued pregnancy will cause impairment of major bodily function" combined represented less than 1% of all abortions in 2008.

Reasons women gave for their abortions (more than one reason could be given):
  • Less than 1% for rape, incest, "impairment of major bodily function"
  • 72% “does not want child at this time”
  • 33% economic reasons (down 4% from 2007)
Complications:
  • 20 occurred during abortion procedure (6 cervical lacerations, 8 hemorrhage, 6 other)
  • 132 occurred after abortion procedure (up from 99), due to increase in "incomplete termination of pregnancy (retained products of conception requiring re-evacuation)"; these incomplete abortions rose from 47 to 65
MCCL is Minnesota's oldest and largest pro-life organization. For more information about MCCL and abortion, visit www.mccl.org.

News Release: Number of abortions in Minnesota down for second straight year

Positive Alternatives program is saving lives, empowering women to complete pregnancies

ST. PAUL — Abortion numbers fell for the second straight year in Minnesota following the launch of the Positive Alternatives grant program, according to the latest report on abortion issued today by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) credits the grant program for reducing abortions since its inception.

"This report demonstrates that Positive Alternative is working for women and their unborn babies," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "Along with the recent Gallup poll showing the majority of Americans now self-identify as pro-life, it is more evidence that women and society in general are turning away from abortion and embracing the life-affirming resources available for both mother and child."

The annual Abortion Report shows a total of 12,948 abortions were performed in the state in 2008, compared to 13,843 the previous year. The 2008 total is the lowest number on record since 1975; abortions jumped by five percent in 2006 after four years of gradual declines. The full reports for 2008 and prior years are available at the MDH Web site.

Positive Alternatives was passed by the Legislature in 2005 to establish a grant program through the Minnesota Department of Health. Grants are given to life-affirming organizations offering essential services in the following areas: medical attention for the woman and the unborn child, nutritional services, housing assistance, adoption services, education and employment assistance, child care assistance, and parenting education and support services. A total of 37 organizations received $4.75 million in two-year grants in 2006. Another 31 organizations received $4.7 million in the second round of two-year grants awarded in July 2008. Positive Alternatives was fully funded by the 2009 Legislature.

A MDH report last year showed that more than 12,000 women statewide were helped through the Positive Alternatives program in its first two years (July 2006-June 2008). The fact that nearly 13,000 pregnant women last year still believed that abortion was their only option underscores the enormous need for women to find alternatives to abortion.

"It is crucial that every pregnant woman know that she does not need to have an abortion," Fischbach said. "No woman should ever feel forced into an abortion—not by a parent, boyfriend, abortionist or anyone else. Caring people and effective services are available to help women successfully face the challenges of unexpected pregnancy without resorting to abortion.

"We will help pregnant girls and women every step of the way," Fischbach added. "No one needs to believe that abortion is her only option."

MCCL is Minnesota’s oldest and largest pro-life organization with more than 70,000 member families and 240 chapters across the state. For more information about MCCL, visit www.mccl.org.

MCCL will issue a more in-depth news release later today.