Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Abortion as an economic issue

Abortion need not have any relation to fiscal policy to be the weightiest issue in American politics today, regardless of our current economic circumstances. But it does happen to be related, in a couple ways.

First, the state and federal governments spend a lot of taxpayer money promoting abortion. As Timothy Carney writes, there are "some fairly obvious overlaps [between economics and] the pro-life cause -- for instance, Obamacare's subsidization of abortion." There's also:
  • the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that subsidize Planned Parenthood (the leading abortion provider)
  • the taxpayer dollars that promote abortion overseas (after the Mexico City Policy was overturned)
  • the taxpayer dollars supporting the pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund
  • the $23 million we spent to pass a new constitution in Kenya that legalized abortion on demand
  • the millions we spend with Minnesota tax dollars to directly pay for elective abortions
  • the taxpayer dollars used to fund obsolete research that requires the killing of human beings in the embryonic stage of their development
That's a lot of money we could save, or put to better use. Our abortion-funding policies should be a concern for anyone worried about taxes, spending, deficits and bailouts. As Rep. Mike Pence said recently:
To those who say we should focus on cutting spending, I say, OK. Let's start by cutting all federal funding for abortion at home and abroad. ... You wanna find savings? Let's cut funding to research that destroys human embryos ... and let's deny funding to Planned Parenthood of America! We must not remain silent when great moral battles are being waged.
Second, abortion itself (killing our offspring, 1.2 million per year in the United States) predictably has an impact on society in many ways, including economically. "Abortion is an economic issue," Tom Glessner writes, because "America's most valuable natural resources are human beings who through the creative genius of the human spirit create innovative ways to overcome problems. Abortion has destroyed a large portion of this natural resource."

Glessner recommends this website to better understand the financial cost of abortion.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Video: Why human embryos are equal in value

Scott Klusendorf uses the SLED acronym to show that there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today, such that it would have been permissible to kill you at that earlier stage of development.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

NRLC commends House Republican 'Pledge to America' to repeal Obamacare and prevent federal funding of abortion

The following was released today by National Right to Life.

WASHINGTON -- The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nationwide federation of right-to-life organizations, commended U.S. House Republican leaders for including critical pro-life priorities in the "Pledge to America" action plan that is being released today.

The "Pledge to America" outlines a plan of action that the Republican leaders say they will pursue if Republicans win majority control of the House in the November 2 general election. The action plan includes a pledge to repeal and replace the recently enacted Obama health care law. It also includes pledges to "establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion," and to "enact into law conscience protections for health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals."

"We welcome the Republican leadership's commitment to repeal and replace the Obama health care law, which is a top priority for the pro-life movement because that law, when fully implemented, would result in the rationing of lifesaving medical treatments, and an array of federal subsidies for abortion as well," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. "In addition, a permanent government-wide prohibition on federal funding of abortion is long overdue, and we applaud the inclusion of that legislation in this action plan."

The legislation referred to is the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 5939), an NRLC-backed bill introduced by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) on July 29, which already has 175 co-sponsors.

"National Right to Life commends House Republican Leader John Boehner, Republican Whip Eric Cantor, Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), Congressman Peter Roskam (R-Il.), and the others who are responsible for producing an action plan that includes these critical pro-life components," Johnson concluded.

To go to the NRLC Abortion in Health Care index, click here.
To go to the NRLC Legislative Action Center, click here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'There must be another way'

"When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters. ... I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way."

-- Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, recalling looking at a human embryo through a microscope. Yamanaka created induced pluripotent stem cells as an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cell research.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Abortion undermines maternal health worldwide

Writing in the Washington Post, pro-life Congressman Chris Smith explains why abortion is not the solution to the problem of maternal mortality in the developing world. He also explains what measures we do need to take to protect the health of women and children.

The piece begins:
An army of health activists and world leaders will gather at the United Nations this week to review the eight Millennium Development Goals agreed to at the start of the century and to recalibrate and recommit to more effectively achieve them by 2015. The overarching and noble goal is reducing global poverty. But the most compelling and achievable objectives -- huge reductions in maternal and child mortality worldwide -- will be severely undermined if the Obama administration either directly or covertly integrates abortion into the final outcome document.
Read the rest.

Friday, September 17, 2010

In governor's race, who is the moderate?

"It's not time to go to the far left or the far right, but to reach the broad moderate middle," former Gov. Arne Carlson said recently. Which candidate in the race for Minnesota governor represents "the broad moderate middle" on abortion?

More than 12,000 unborn human beings are killed (for any reason) each year in Minnesota -- the leading cause of death in our state. They are butchered and treated in a way in which we would not contemplate treating animals. Thousands of pregnant women -- targeted by a wealthy abortion industry flush with taxpayer dollars -- face unexpected and difficult pregnancies and need support and alternatives to abortion.

Most Minnesotans know that this is bad stuff. Even many people who don't take the pro-life view acknowledge that abortion is a bad thing and think pregnant women in need should be supported. There's a lot of common ground on abortion -- a lot of common-sense measures that most Minnesotans agree with.

So it is remarkable that two of the three major candidates for governor -- Tom Horner and Mark Dayton -- are on the fringe of this issue, rejecting virtually all limitations on abortion.

For example, Woman's Right to Know ensures that pregnant women receive basic factual information prior to an abortion procedure and has helped reduce abortions in Minnesota. Horner says he opposes it (he considers this "driving a wedge," though the bill passed with large bipartisan majorities). Horner also supports requiring that every taxpayer help pay for other people's abortions (though when asked about it, he seemed pretty clueless).

Dayton is a faithful believer in unlimited abortion on demand, at every stage of pregnancy, funded with taxpayer dollars. He does not tolerate even the slightest limitations -- overwhelmingly supported by the public -- such as parental notification before a minor has an abortion, and the ban on partial-birth abortion.

Only Tom Emmer supports the kind of decent measures most Minnesotans support as a means of reducing abortions and helping women.

The case against killing human embryos

The Neuhaus Colloquium -- a group of scholars and intellectuals looking to carry on the legacy of the late Richard John Neuhaus -- has issued a lengthy statement on the ethical, political and scientific issues raised by President Obama's stem cell research policy. It is worth reading in its entirety. Below is the section dealing with the ethical issues, and offering an argument against the killing of human embryos for research.
Because of the failure of President Obama and his administration to do so thus far, we should consider carefully the ethical issues at stake in scientific experimentation that uses and destroys human embryos. That consideration can certainly begin from what the science tells us about the nature and biology of human embryos. And what it tells us turns out to be, in the president's own word, "inconvenient" for those who would treat human embryos as mere raw materials for research.

Following conception, from the single-cell stage of development onward, the human embryo is a discrete, living, self-directing, integrated, whole member of the human species who, if given the appropriate environment, will move along the seamless trajectory of biological development. From the beginning—and a fortiori at the blastocyst stage, when the embryo might be destroyed to derive embryonic stem cells—the embryo is a living, individuated organism. It is a whole and not a part.

Indeed, each embryo's constituent parts are integrated so as to advance the species-specific development of the whole being. Neither the facts of "twinning" (a rare process of regulation and restitution in which disaggregated blastomeres sometimes resolve themselves into a new organism) nor "natural embryo loss" (the seemingly high rate of embryonic deaths in utero before or shortly after implantation) calls into question the living embryo's status as an individuated whole member of the human species. Biologically, it is beyond dispute that he or she is a living organism from the very beginning—is, from the moment of conception, a human being.

These facts do not by themselves resolve the ethical question of the use of human embryos for research. We would not claim that science alone resolves moral questions. Rather, these facts inform our judgment of the moral standing of the embryo. They help us formulate the question that should guide public policy about the destruction of human embryos for research: Should human beings at the earliest stages of life be used as raw materials and have their lives ended for the sake of medical research, however promising that research might be?

This question could hardly be more important for a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. It gets to the heart of our commitment to the equal dignity of every human being. Biologically, the human embryo is as much a human being as any of us. But what does that fact mean, morally and practically? Is our equal humanity enough to merit some protection and regard—at least the minimal protection from being killed on purpose—or are we required to prove we have some other preferred set of capacities and abilities (which all humans possess to varying degrees in the course of their lives) to qualify for protection from harm? Do we refrain from mistreating fellow human beings because of what they can do, which excludes some, or because of who they are? Shall we treat the human embryo as less than human because that embryo would be more useful to us dead than alive? Or shall we treat our equal humanity as a vital brake on our ambitions, even when it comes at a price? Shall we limit our ambitions, even at a price to ourselves?

We believe these questions have a clear answer. Every human being deserves to be treated with the same basic level of concern and regard that we owe to all members of our species. At the very least, no innocent human being may be harmed intentionally to benefit others. To abandon this principle is to embrace an incoherent, indeed self-destroying, conception of equality. If equality means anything at all, it must mean that individuals deserve equal moral regard and legal protection in virtue of who they are, not because of their worth as judged (or assigned) by others according to their needs or wants.

The decision to treat some human beings as raw materials or instruments for the use of others—the fundamental decision embodied by the administration’s funding policy for embryonic stem-cell research—denies the equal dignity of every human being and insists that some deserve to be treated like human beings and others do not, for reasons that have to do not with the embryonic human beings involved but with the attitudes, desires, or needs of the rest of us. As a policy supporting such treatment with public dollars, moreover, it implicates us all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The absurdity of Obama's view

"If a politician in the 19th century took a position on slavery analogous to that of Obama and Biden on abortion, his claim would go something like this: 'I do not endorse slavery. I wouldn't own slaves. I think people should be free not to own slaves, if they wish. But I am pro-choice. I have been a consistent champion of the right to own slaves for the last ten years. And I will make defense of that right a priority in my presidency. Of course, I hope fewer people will feel the need to resort to that choice, and so as president I will put into place economic policies that will reduce the need for slave labor in agriculture and in factories. But, to ensure that slavery remains an option for white men who should, after all, be free to decide how to manage their own affairs, I am in favor of providing subsidies for the purchase of slaves by whites whose farms and factories are at risk because of the high cost of wage labor.' "

-- Patrick Lee

Thursday, September 9, 2010

'Each person is necessary' -- and its implications for abortion

I heard a thoughtful person -- who happens to be pro-choice on abortion -- say the other day that "each person is necessary."

That statement gives us a sense of the special dignity and importance that people have. And we recognize that importance by treating each other a certain way -- for instance, we don't kill people without extremely good justification. Each person is of inestimable worth.

The statement also made me think: What is it that is "necessary"? It's the person. It's me -- who I am -- that is necessary. And when did I come to be? Assuming a continuity of personal identity throughout the life of a human organism, what I am came to be at my conception, when a new physical organism came into existence.

What this means is that I am the same person as the embryo inside my mother's uterus who -- 25 years ago -- grew into a fetus who was then born and became an infant, and then a toddler, a child, a teenager and finally an adult. I am identical to who/what I was at each of the earlier stages of my development.

It follows that if I am "necessary," then the embryo I once was is necessary. So the "embryonic me" ought to be treated with the same kind of basic respect as the "adult me," and this seems to preclude killing the embryonic me by abortion for the reasons people have elective abortions. (After all, no one argues that my adult self may be killed for the reasons people have elective abortions.)

How could that thoughtful pro-choice person escape this conclusion? Either by denying that what is "necessary" is really me (that is, what I am as such is not necessary) or by claiming that I am separate from my body and that my living body can (and does, at least in the prenatal stages) exist without me, thus denying a continuity of personal identity. The latter option is philosophically implausible (subject to devastating criticism; see here and here), and the former seems to empty the statement "each person is necessary" of its powerful and intended meaning.

So I think it's reasonable to conclude that "each person is necessary" must include the unborn, who we should therefore treat with dignity and respect, just like everyone else.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tom Horner doesn't know what he's talking about

At a press conference, Independence Party candidate for governor Tom Horner said, "I don't believe that the kind of [pro-life] state laws that typically are passed are designed to reduce abortion. I think they are designed to drive political wedges."

I have three thoughts about this. First, Horner is implying something about the intentions of those who draft and advocate pro-life legislation. But I can say with certainty that he's wrong. If he was at all familiar with those of us involved in this effort, he would know that our only goal is to save lives.

Second, studies show that "the kind of state laws that typically are passed" reduce abortions and save lives. Horner obviously doesn't know this, but it seems to me that he should have at least bothered to look into the issue before basing his abortion position on a false claim.

According to Dr. Michael New (who studies the effect of abortion laws -- see here and here, for example), among the types of pro-life laws that have been passed in the post-Roe v. Wade era, bans on public funding of abortion are the most effective in reducing abortions. Ironically, in the same press conference, Horner specifically said he would not support such a ban. (Horner apparently did not know that we have taxpayer funding of abortion in Minnesota until reporters at the press conference told him.)

Informed consent laws also have a clear record of reducing abortions. Minnesota's informed consent law -- called Woman's Right to Know -- was passed in 2003; since then, when provided with basic factual information prior to an abortion procedure, more than 10,000 women have chosen life for their unborn children. Yet Horner also specifically came out against Woman's Right to Know.

Third, it seems a bit odd that Horner says he wants to reduce the number of abortions (in the press conference he said this repeatedly). Presumably one wants to reduce abortions because there's something wrong with abortion, and presumably what's wrong with abortion is that it takes the life of an innocent human being. And that seems as good a reason as any for government involvement, for it seems that, as a matter of basic justice, the state ought to protect its people from being unjustly killed. Yet Horner does not support such protection against abortion -- on the contrary, he wants the government to fund elective abortions, as if abortion is a public good.

What's clear is that Tom Horner doesn't know what he's talking about.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Minnesota scientist misleads on embryology

In a news story about the recent embryonic stem cell research court decision, Jonathan Slack, director of the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute, talks about the human embryo.
Scientists doing the research take a different view [than pro-lifers] of the status of the embryo as it exists before implantation when it adheres to the walls of the uterus.
Jonathan Slack

"To me and to most scientists, the pre-implantation human embryo is a ball of cells," Slack said.

The offspring of many of the cells in that microscopic ball are destined to become part of the placenta. And some carry multiple copies of their genetic material so that two, three or more individuals could be born if all of the copies were to survive.

"You don't have one human individual," Slack said.

"Scientists regard these balls of cells as much more akin to human cells grown in culture or blood banks, or organs intended for transplantation," he said. "They are genetically connected to humans but they are not human beings."
Slack should be fired, either for appalling ignorance about facts of biology or for skewing those facts to justify a controversial research practice.

The embryo is "a ball of cells" in the same way that I am a (much larger, differently shaped) clump of cells. But it's not just any ball of cells -- it's an individual organism whose parts are integrated and working together to bring the whole to maturity (radically unlike "human cells grown in culture or blood banks, or organs intended for transplantation"). The human embryo is unquestionably a member of the species Homo sapiens at the earliest stages of development.

In 1981 world-class embryologists testified before a U.S. Senate committee. The official Senate report reached this conclusion:
Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being -- a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.
The report added:
No witness [who testified before the committee] raised any evidence to refute the biological fact that from the moment of conception there exists a distinct individual being who is alive and is of the human species. No witness challenged the scientific consensus that unborn children are "human beings," insofar as the term is used to mean living beings of the human species.
One can quote embryology textbooks and dozens of scientific experts to make the same point. For example, Langman's Medical Embryology explains, "The development of a human being 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."

I suspect Slack thinks the fact that the early embryo's cells are still undifferentiated -- and that the early embryo is capable of twinning -- counts against the proposition that the embryo is a whole, individual organism. But that simply doesn't follow.

The evidence clearly shows that the embryo functions as its own organism. And the fact that a single organism can give rise to two distinct organisms -- much like a flatworm cut in half, or an animal or human being cloned via somatic cell nuclear transfer -- does not mean the original wasn't a unitary individual. Again, the scientific evidence says it is.

See this White Paper by Dr. Maureen L. Condic, as well as Embryo by Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen (Ch. 6 deals in detail with "new objections to the humanity of the early embryo").