Friday, May 28, 2010

The danger of health care rationing

The following is from the April/May 2010 issue of National Right to Life News. Written by NRLC President Wanda Franz, it explains the pro-life concern with health care rationing and the effect of the new health care overhaul.

By Wanda Franz, Ph.D.

The National Right to Life Committee is committed to protecting the lives of innocent persons from conception to natural death. Thus, our mission ranges from defending the unborn from abortion to protecting older people and those with disabilities from euthanasia. One form of involuntary euthanasia occurs when people are denied health care that they need to save their lives.

Denial of lifesaving care occurs when rationing of health care is imposed in order to cut costs. Such cases of care denial have been reported in many countries with government-run health care programs, especially those in Canada and England. Care is rationed by simply denying the use of expensive newer drugs and denying or delaying therapies -- especially for elderly patients. Data from Canada and England indicate that the survival rates for many illnesses are much lower than in the United States where the drugs and therapies are readily available.

One of the worst fears of the elderly is that they will not be able get the medical care they need because it isn't considered "cost-effective" by someone else. This has never been a widespread problem in the United States. However, is that about to change? Do pro-lifers have to worry not only about the lives of the unborn but also their own? Is our health care system about to change for the worse? The passage of the Obama Health Care Reform unfortunately has made the answers to these questions a definite "yes."

NRLC's Powell Center for Medical Ethics has been warning about this potential threat during the entire debate on the bill. "Over-promising plus under-funding forces rationing," says the Director of the Center, Burke J. Balch, J.D. The history of government-run health care programs in other countries has demonstrated that they are not financially sustainable. Sooner or later such programs run out of money. As funding is limited, rationing is imposed to save money.

We already have evidence for this in the United States. Massachusetts instituted universal health insurance coverage in 2006 with subsidies for the low-income uninsured so they could afford the mandated policies. Already, the state is finding that the expected savings did not materialize. It appears that costs were larger than predicted; and the system ran out of money sooner, rather than later. Under normal circumstances, people would simply begin to pay more, out of their own pockets, to get care that the government program could not provide. Or, alternatively, they would make their own considered decisions about what forms of health care they would like to have.

We are already doing that with Social Security pensions. Most people recognize that they will not be able to live comfortably on Social Security benefits alone, so they seek other pensions or make additional retirement investments for themselves to cover the gap between what Social Security provides and what they actually need or would like to have.

When it comes to health care, "progressives" find the equivalent solution unacceptable. It creates a "two-tiered" system, they protest: a system that would provide government-mandated care to one class of people and better care for those who are well-insured or are willing to spend their own money for it. That arrangement strikes the "progressives" in and out of government as "unfair."

What is the "progressive" solution? Prevent those who would want to buy better care from doing so. In Massachusetts, the current governor has introduced a bill that would limit what anyone can pay for health care. If you limit what people can pay for things, they will only be able to buy a limited product. Thus, if this bill passes, Massachusetts will have a system where everyone will have equally poor care. This is rationing and this is what we are facing in America. President Obama called it "bending the cost curve."

How would the Health Care Reform Bill "bend the cost curve"? It uses the same approach as that of the governor of Massachusetts. The Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics reports that "Section 3209 of the health care bill ... effectively allows federal bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services of the federal Department of Health and Human Services to bar senior citizens from adding their own money, if they choose, to the government contribution in order to get private-fee-for-service Medicare Advantage plans less likely to ration lifesaving treatment."

The Medicare Advantage plans were part of a legislative package passed in 2003 with the encouragement of the National Right to Life Committee. In a complex, indirect way, Section 3209 of the Health Care Reform Bill will change the old law to make it possible for the federal government to follow the Massachusetts example at any time it wants. It took the bureaucrats of Massachusetts only a few years to seek to impose rationing. How long will it take the federal government?

There is a second way that the Health Care Reform Bill rations health care. It creates an 18-member "Independent Payment Advisory Board" that will provide suggestions every two years for limiting what everyone spends on health care. Government bureaucrats will then have the authority, based on its recommendations, to set "quality and efficiency" standards that doctors will be forced to follow. Your health care will ultimately be determined by the government, not by doctors, when this section of the bill goes into effect after 2015.

When you go to your doctor, he normally will give you a list of possible treatments. Then, however, he will face sanctions if he offers those that are not allowed by the government-imposed "quality and efficiency" standards. Even if he believes that an "unapproved" treatment would be the best for your particular case, his hands will be tied. He will not be free to make only the medically appropriate treatment decisions. Instead, every medical decision will also be a political decision.

This is today's reality. The law legitimizing these practices has been passed. This law will lead to involuntary euthanasia in the "Land of the Free" -- supposedly free. We must work to repeal the new Health Care Reform Law not only to prevent government funding of abortions, but also to prevent government-sanctioned denial of health care when our own lives are at stake. Please join us.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tools of death

What instruments are used to perform abortions? Curettes, forceps, syringes. Priests for Life has photos here. Many more photos are in the Grantham Collection here.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Thumbs up

See story here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

We are social creatures, have obligations toward each other

The pro-rationing/euthanasia/assisted suicide idea that burdensome people can have a "duty to die" reflects (in part, I think) a dangerous "quality-of-life" view of human value (the kind of view in play whenever we set aside a class of human beings to be excluded from respect and protection based upon morally trivial characteristics). But it also reflects a dangerous view about human society and the obligations we have toward each other.

That's what distinguished author, thinker and economist Thomas Sowell writes about in a recent column.
Talk about "a duty to die" made me think back to my early childhood in the South, during the Great Depression of the 1930s. One day, I was told that an older lady -- a relative of ours -- was going to come and stay with us for a while, and I was told how to be polite and considerate towards her.

She was called "Aunt Nance Ann," but I don't know what her official name was or what her actual biological relationship to us was. Aunt Nance Ann had no home of her own. But she moved around from relative to relative, not spending enough time in any one home to be a real burden.

At that time, we didn't have things like electricity or central heating or hot running water. But we had a roof over our heads and food on the table -- and Aunt Nance Ann was welcome to both.

Poor as we were, I never heard anybody say, or even intimate, that Aunt Nance Ann had "a duty to die."

I only began to hear that kind of talk decades later, from highly educated people in an affluent age, when even most families living below the official poverty level owned a car or truck and had air-conditioning.

It is today, in an age when homes have flat-paneled TVs, and most families eat in restaurants regularly or have pizzas and other meals delivered to their homes, that the elites -- rather than the masses -- have begun talking about "a duty to die."

Back in the days of Aunt Nance Ann, nobody in our family had ever gone to college. Indeed, none had gone beyond elementary school. Apparently you need a lot of expensive education, sometimes including courses on ethics, before you can start talking about "a duty to die."

Many years later, while going through a divorce, I told a friend that I was considering contesting child custody. She immediately urged me not to do it. Why? Because raising a child would interfere with my career.

But my son didn't have a career. He was just a child who needed someone who understood him. I ended up with custody of my son and, although he was not a demanding child, raising him could not help impeding my career a little. But do you just abandon a child when it is inconvenient to raise him?

The lady who gave me this advice had a degree from the Harvard Law School. She had more years of education than my whole family had, back in the days of Aunt Nance Ann.

Much of what is taught in our schools and colleges today seeks to break down traditional values, and replace them with more fancy and fashionable notions, of which "a duty to die" is just one.

These efforts at changing values used to be called "values clarification," though the name has had to be changed repeatedly over the years, as more and more parents caught on to what was going on and objected. The values that supposedly needed "clarification" had been clear enough to last for generations and nobody asked the schools and colleges for this "clarification."

Nor are we better people because of it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The pro-choice plan to 'reduce the need for abortion'

Pro-choice advocates frequently say they want to "reduce the number of abortions," and that this can be accomplished not by enacting actual legal restrictions (however modest), but by implementing liberal policy ideas such as government-run health care, an enlarged welfare state, comprehensive sex education in schools and greater availability of contraception. Traditional pro-life legislation should be abandoned in favor of this new agenda, which will lessen the "need" for abortion and address the "underlying causes."

There are two problems here. One is an empirical, factual problem: Research shows clearly that standard pro-life legislation (legal restrictions, bans on taxpayer funded abortion, informed consent laws, parental notification requirementssignificantly reduces the number of abortions, while the impact of the pro-choice politician's preferred policies (over-the-counter emergency contraception, welfare spending, etc.) on abortion rates is dubious at best. Some argue that such policies actually work to increase the number of abortions, at least in the long term. (To be clear, MCCL takes no position on issues like sex ed and contraception.)

So if we really want to reduce abortions, as pro-choice politicians like Tom Horner and President Barack Obama claim, then pro-life legislation -- the kind supported by MCCL and National Right to Life -- is the way to go.

Second, there's a philosophical problem with this approach. As Francis Beckwith writes in a recent essay:
While pro-life activists have worked tirelessly over the years to reduce the number of abortions, a numerical reduction is not the point of their activism. The point is that all members of the human community, including the unborn, are entitled to the protection of the laws. "Reducing the number of abortions" could occur in a regime in which this principle of justice is denied, and that is the regime that President Obama wants to preserve and extend.

This is a regime in which the continued existence of the unborn is always at the absolute discretion of those who possess the power to decide to kill them or let them live. Reducing the number of these discretionary acts of killing simply by trying to pacify and/or accommodate the needs of individuals who otherwise would procure or encourage abortion only reinforces the idea that the unborn are subhuman creatures whose value depends exclusively on someone else's wanting them or deciding that they are worthy of being permitted to live. So, in theory at least, there could be fewer abortions while the culture and the law become increasingly unjust.

Consider this illustration. Imagine two men in nineteenth-century America having a discussion about reducing the number of slaves. One man says he is not interested in giving slaves full citizenship, but he would like to see a reduction in the number of people brought to this country to be slaves. The other man says that he, too, wants to reduce the number of slaves, but he proposes to do it by freeing the slaves and giving them the full citizenship to which they are entitled as a matter of natural justice.

Which man is really "against slavery" in a principled sense? The first wants to reduce the number of slaves, but only while retaining a regime of law that treats an entire class of human beings as subhuman property. The second believes that the juridical infrastructure should be changed to reflect the moral truth that slaves are human beings made in the image of God, who by being held in bondage are denied their fundamental rights.

Just as calling for a reduction in the number of slaves is not the same as believing that slaves are full members of the human community, so, too, calling for a reduction in the number of abortions is not the same as believing that unborn babies are full members of the human family—regardless of their size, level of development, environment, or dependency.
It would seem strange to focus on reducing the "need" for a man to abuse his wife, or to merely address the "root causes" of abuse (e.g., psychological issues) while keeping the practice legal. It is equally strange to talk that way about abortion if abortion is, indeed, the unjust killing of an innocent human being. Basic justice demands protection by law for every segment of the human family.

So it seems that legal restrictions are necessary both to save lives from abortion and because the pro-life position entails that unborn human beings be protected by law as a matter of basic justice.

Now, what about those who do not take the pro-life position? It makes sense that they would reject pro-life legislative efforts to restrict abortion. But why do they still want to "reduce the number of abortions" if abortion is morally unproblematic? I think, ironically, the only good reason to want to reduce abortions (namely, that abortion unjustly kills innocent human beings) is also the reason we ought to enact legal restrictions, and why the pro-choice alternative discussed above (liberal policy ideas) is wholly unsatisfactory.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Does Tom Horner support rationing of your health care?

The following MCCL news release was issued today, May 19.

MINNEAPOLIS — In the January 3, 1997, edition of Minneapolis-St. Paul City Business, Tom Horner made the following statements regarding the health care issue and managed care:
"What they (MCCL) set out to do could have a dramatic impact in 1997," said Tom Horner, of the Bloomington-based public policy firm Himle Horner Inc. "The involvement of the pro-life community makes the end-of-life decisions much more of a political debate than an individual issue or medical concern."

"What will start to emerge is the recognition that there has to be a move away from the fee-for-service," Horner said. "And more and more people will have to be moved into managed care with some limitations, and that is going to be a pretty difficult task."
The voters of Minnesota need to know whether Independence Party candidate for governor Tom Horner still wants to take away their right to use their own money to save their own lives by eliminating fee-for-service medical care. Horner's position in favor of "moving away" from fee-for-service and into "managed care with some limitations" simply means health care rationing—the denial of care to those who need it. Even Pres. Obama's health care overhaul doesn't go that far!

Last week, Horner solidified his pro-abortion stance by announcing his support for taxpayer funded abortions and opposition to Woman's Right to Know, which provides women with factual information about abortion risks, complications and alternatives. But denying lifesaving medical care to vulnerable people takes his anti-life convictions to a deeper level.

MCCL has long held a position in favor of fee-for-service medical care as an option for individuals to secure the medical care that they want and need—using their own money.

It's time for Tom Horner and his campaign to stop tweeting and spinning around the issues. His radical support for abortion and health care rationing makes Horner's candidacy unacceptable to the people of Minnesota.

An offer to Planned Parenthood: Let the most persuasive case win

"I appeal to the [abortion] clinics to take me up on a sincere offer. I promise to help them find [a pro-life] abortion alternative center in their area that will allow a pro-choice clinic employee or volunteer to present to each client the best case for abortion. The client will then weigh the information given by the abortion alternative center against that given by the abortion clinic and make her own decision. This will assure true informed consent, leaving women to make their own choice about whether or not to abort.

"All that we require in turn is that the abortion or Planned Parenthood clinic do the same thing -- allow one employee or volunteer from an abortion alternative center to present to each client the facts about fetal development, visual aids showing what abortion is, psychological and physical risks of abortion, and the availability of abortion alternatives. The pro-lifer may also offer a free sonogram or ultrasound so she can see for herself who or what is inside her. The woman -- not the counselors from either side -- will make her choice.

"Isn't that what the pro-choice movement says it wants -- women informed and free to choose? Isn't that a fair arrangement? I know lots of abortion alternative centers that would gladly agree to this. But in the eight years I've been making this offer, I have yet to hear of a single abortion clinic or Planned Parenthood clinic that would. I invite any of them to take me up on the offer."

-- Randy Alcorn (Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments, pp. 287-88)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Star Tribune responses to MCCL op-ed

Last week, an op-ed written by MCCL's Bill Poehler was published in the Star Tribune, discussing taxpayer funded abortion, the recent pro-abortion health care overhaul and Planned Parenthood's abortion agenda.

Rhonda Degelau, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers, took issue with MCCL's claim that the new health care law allows for federal funding of abortions at community health centers (CHCs). While I applaud Degelau for presumably not wanting to be involved in abortion -- and her organization probably does a lot of important work at CHCs -- she is mistaken about the effect of the law. It certainly does open the door to direct abortion funding; see here, as well as this letter from Prof. Robert Destro, an expert on abortion-related litigation.

Then, last Friday, Dr. Andrew Good wrote an op-ed response to the MCCL piece. He claims that "a presidential order is in place prohibiting federal funds [through health care reform] from being used for abortions in community health centers."

It's true that President Obama signed an executive order, purportedly to prevent federal dollars from being used to fund abortions. But experts agree that it has no force and will do nothing to prevent abortion funding. Dr. Good is simply misinformed.

He continues: "It's important to note that the [sic] MCCL has never in its history recommended a plan to prevent unintended pregnancy beyond abstinence. It has never provided preventive health care to those in need."

Here Dr. Good seems a bit confused. MCCL doesn't get involved in sexual ethics at all, nor do we provide health care; that's not the kind of organization we are. We are a pro-life organization, dedicated to educating people about the dignity of human life and working to ensure legal protection for innocent human beings at every stage of development.

Dr. Good goes on to imply that Planned Parenthood's work reduces the number of abortions. But this is bizarre, since Planned Parenthood is the leading performer of abortions in the state. And the facts tell a different story. The number of abortions performed each year by Planned Parenthood keeps increasing, even as total abortions in the state go down. And the more money it receives from the government, the more abortions it performs and the more its revenues increase -- abortion is a business, after all, and a profitable one.

That's why government funding of Planned Parenthood must be stopped.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How abortion is like rape

From David C. Reardon, Ph.D. (Victims and Victors, p. 15):
[M]any women report that their abortions felt like a degrading form of "medical rape." This association between abortion and rape is not hard to understand.

Abortion involves a painful intrusion into a woman's sexual organs by a masked stranger who is invading her body. Once she is on the operating table, she loses control over her body. If she protests and asks the abortionist to stop, chances are she will be either ignored or told: "It's too late to change your mind. This is what you wanted. We have to finish now." And while she lies there tense and helpless, the life hidden within her is literally sucked out of her womb. In both sexual and medical rape, a woman is violated and robbed. In the case of sexual rape she is robbed of her purity. In the case of medical rape via abortion, she is robbed of her maternity.

For many women this experiential association between abortion and sexual assault is very strong. It is especially strong for women who have a prior history of sexual assault, whether or not the aborted child was conceived during an act of assault. This is just one reason why women with a history of sexual assault are likely to experience greater distress during and after an abortion than are other women.

[R]esearch shows that after any abortion, it is common for women to experience guilt, depression, feelings of being "dirty," resentment of men, and lowered self-esteem. These feelings are identical to what women typically feel after rape.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Horner claims to 'oppose' abortion

In response to yesterday's discussion of gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner's pro-abortion position, Horner's campaign manager, Stephen Imholte, posted this a few hours ago:
Horner has offered a clear position. He opposes abortion and would reduce abortions through more effective sex education with an emphasis on abstinence, access to health services including contraception and dealing with the underlying issues such as poverty.
So he "opposes abortion," but presumably would oppose any kind of limitation on the practice -- even common-sense legislation like Woman's Right to Know, which provides basic informed consent information prior to an abortion procedure. He wants to "reduce abortions," but plans to maintain taxpayer funding of them, which studies show leads to significantly more abortions.

In what possible sense does Horner "oppose" abortion? Most people who oppose abortion do so because they believe it unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. Does Horner agree? (A "clear position" would be nice here.) If so, it seems to follow (given our common understanding that government should protect its people from being killed) that abortion should not be allowed -- that unborn human beings, like the rest of us, deserve the protection of the law as a matter of basic justice.

But clearly Horner doesn't agree with that. So it seems fair to conclude that Horner doesn't "oppose" abortion in any meaningful sense at all -- on the contrary, he wants to fund it with public dollars, as if abortion is a societal "good."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Horner's credibility is on the line

In response to MCCL's news release highlighting his pro-abortion position, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner said this via Twitter:
"MCCL misstates my positons [sic], then attacks me. An organization sacrificing its credibility doesn't reduce abortions, it just reduces trust." (Horner2010, May 11, 2010)

But according to news reports, here's what Horner said yesterday (emphases added):
"While saying that others could affix the labels of 'pro-choice' or 'pro-life,' Horner spoke of reducing the number of abortions -- comprehensive sex education, including abstinence-based -- and said as governor he would not have signed the Woman's Right to Know abortion provision." (T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol reporter)

"He [Horner] said it's up to the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress, not a governor, to decide whether abortion is legal." (Bill Salisbury, Pioneer Press)

"Horner also said he ... would continue to allow public funding of abortions." (Tom Scheck, MPR News Q)
And that's exactly what we reported in our press release. The facts are what they are. As MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach put it, "If a candidate opposes Woman's Right to Know and wants to force taxpayers to buy other people's abortions, he is clearly not 'in the middle' on the abortion issue—he is pro-abortion."

(HT: Minnesota Democrats Exposed)

Tom Horner, candidate for governor, is pro-abortion

The following MCCL news release was issued today, May 11.

MINNEAPOLIS—Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner spent yesterday attempting with all his might to spin a position on abortion that could not be labeled pro-life or pro-choice. He was successful: his real position is 100 percent pro-abortion.

Horner stated that he would not have signed Minnesota's Woman's Right to Know law providing basic informed consent information prior to an abortion procedure; that he supports taxpayer funded abortions; that he does not believe the office of governor should have anything to do with protecting unborn human beings; and that the abortion issue should be handled exclusively on the federal level.

"As a political spin doctor, you would think that Tom Horner could have come up with a better abortion position than 'I won't be labeled,'" stated Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of MCCL. "If a candidate opposes Woman's Right to Know and wants to force taxpayers to buy other people's abortions, he is clearly not 'in the middle' on the abortion issue—he is pro-abortion."

At his press conference Horner was joined by former Congressman Tim Penny, a notorious abortion flip-flopper, and former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger, whose politics could best be described as erratic since leaving the U.S. Senate in scandal. Horner also announced the support of longtime abortion supporter Sally Pillsbury.

Horner joins the other pro-abortion candidates—DFL'ers Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Matt Entenza and Mark Dayton—in seeking to replace pro-life Gov. Tim Pawlenty. It is only Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer who has a 100 percent pro-life record.

"Tom Emmer is the only major candidate for governor who understands the importance of supporting unborn children and their mothers in our state," Fischbach added. "All of the other candidates support a radical pro-abortion agenda, including forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Obama nominates Elena Kagan to Supreme Court

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of right-to-life organizations in all 50 states, issued the following statement regarding President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that is being vacated by Justice John Paul Stevens. This statement may be attributed to NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.
On April 21, 2010, President Obama used thinly veiled code language to communicate his clear intent to choose a nominee who would be hostile to legislative attempts to protect unborn humans. The President stated that he wanted someone "who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account ... women's rights," and that this was going to be "very important" to him as he viewed our "core Constitution" as protecting the "bodily integrity" of women.

In light of the President's stated intent, senators have an obligation to probe whether Elena Kagan will tolerate limits on abortion, enacted through normal democratic channels, or will seek to impose extreme pro-abortion views by judicial decree. Ms. Kagan herself argued forcefully in 1995, in a lengthy book review published in the University of Chicago Law Review, that such inquiries by senators are a legitimate and necessary part of the confirmation process.

In the most recent Supreme Court ruling dealing with abortion and the rights of unborn children, Gonzales v. Carhart, on April 18, 2007, a five-justice majority upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Yet on that occasion, four justices in dissent -- including Justice Stevens -- argued for a constitutional doctrine that would have invalidated the ban on partial-birth abortions and also, by implication, condemned virtually any other law or government policy intended to discourage abortion. If the dissenters' position became the position of the majority of the Supreme Court, various types of laws that have been deemed permissible under Roe v. Wade could be invalidated by judicial decree, perhaps including the Hyde Amendment (restricting government funding of abortion) and parental notification laws. It is appropriate and necessary for senators to inquire into whether Ms. Kagan would embrace the extreme, results-oriented doctrines enunciated by the dissenting justices in that case.

(Since the Gonzales case was decided, dissenting Justice David Souter has been replaced by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Most analysts believe that Sotomayor would be very likely to join the pro-abortion bloc when such issues are revisited in the future.)

There are troubling indications that Ms. Kagan generally favors an activist, results-oriented approach to constitutional law. For example, in her 1995 law journal article, she wrote, "The bottom-line issue in the appointments process must concern the kinds of judicial decisions that will serve the country and, correlatively, the effect the nominee will have on the Court's decisions. ... If that is too results oriented ... so be it.” She also wrote that "it should be no surprise by now that many of the votes a Supreme Court Justice casts have little to do with technical legal ability and much to do with conceptions of value."

Regarding Ms. Kagan's specific views on the Court's past abortion-related rulings, there is little on the public record. But Ms. Kagan may have betrayed a possible personal animus towards the pro-life movement in a 1980 essay lamenting Republican gains in the 1980 election, in which she referred disparagingly to "victories of these anonymous but Moral Majority-backed [candidates] ... these avengers of 'innocent life' and the B-1 Bomber." Was Ms. Kagan so dismissive of the belief that unborn children are members of the human family that she felt it necessary to put the term "innocent life" in quote marks, or does she have another explanation? Would she be able to set aside any animus she has towards those who fight to protect innocent human life, when reviewing laws duly enacted for that purpose?

What you should know about Planned Parenthood, taxpayer funded abortion

The following op-ed was published today, May 10, in the Star Tribune. It is written by MCCL Communications Director Bill Poehler.

Abortions are being done on your dime
By Bill Poehler

Last week's announcement that Planned Parenthood will build a large new abortion center in St. Paul's Midway neighborhood brings to light the contentious issue of government funding of elective abortions. While it is true that Planned Parenthood will use private donations of approximately $18 million to construct its new complex, its day-to-day operations will continue to rely heavily on taxpayer funds.

Many Minnesotans still do not realize that they fund abortions every day simply by paying state taxes -- sales tax, income tax and other taxes. This is the result of the Minnesota Supreme Court's 1995 Doe vs. Gomez decision, in which the court "found" a right to taxpayer-funded abortion in the state Constitution. Since the ruling, abortion centers have been reimbursed with $15.6 million for 50,000 abortions, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. In 2008, the most recent figures available, taxpayers paid $1.5 million for 3,754 abortions. Roughly 99 percent of these abortions are elective, meaning they are performed for reasons other than to save the mother's life, or in cases of reported rape or incest.

In addition to direct abortion funding, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the nation's largest abortion business, received a staggering $349 million in taxpayer dollars in the form of federal and state government grants and contracts in 2007 (latest figures). Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota received $5.26 million from federal, state and local governments in 2008.

Abortion providers are poised to receive even more federal funds under President Obama's new health care overhaul, which PPFA hailed as "a huge victory." Not only does the law subsidize health plans that cover abortion, it also opens the door to direct federal funding of abortions at community health centers, or CHCs. The law appropriates $11 billion over five years to approximately 1,250 different CHCs; on its website, Planned Parenthood says that 850 CHCs are run by Planned Parenthood affiliates.

There are no restrictions to prevent that money from paying for abortions, according to legal experts, including Columbus School of Law Prof. Robert A. Destro, who is an authority on abortion funding, who helped to write the amicus brief filed by 218 members of the U.S. House of Representatives in Harris vs. McRae (1980), and who has written: "The history of abortion funding litigation since Roe v. Wade in 1973 demonstrates conclusively that the Secretary [of Health and Human Services] will be forced by the courts to pay for abortions with the CHC money appropriated by the Senate health care bill."

This is true, primarily because the CHC funds are a direct appropriation in the health care bill itself and will not flow through the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. These funds would not be covered by the Hyde Amendment, which only prohibits use of annual HHS appropriations to fund abortions.

Indeed, the Reproductive Health Access Project and the Abortion Access Project have produced an "administrative billing guide" to help CHCs integrate abortion into their practices within the confines of federal and state restrictions.

The sad truth is that this will lead to more abortions performed on low-income and vulnerable women. Statistics show that when public funding of abortion is instituted or expanded, the numbers of abortions increase very significantly. A study by the Guttmacher Institute, a prochoice research organization, found that the abortion rate among Medicaid recipients was more than twice as high in those states that publicly funded abortion through Medicaid.

The bottom line is that abortion is about money. Abortion, which ends the life of a developing human being, is now the most common surgical procedure in the United States. It has become an enormously profitable enterprise, marketed to ethnic and immigrant populations in their native-language newspapers; to students and young people as the solution to the "problem" of pregnancy, and to women everywhere as their absolute "right" without regard for the life that is destroyed.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

MN House votes to ban sex-selection abortion funding

The following MCCL news release was issued today, May 5.

ST. PAUL—A large majority of the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to ban taxpayer funding for sex-selection abortions yesterday. Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, offered the amendment during a lengthy floor session on the House Health and Human Services omnibus bill. The 79-54 vote was one of a series taken on amendments to protect unborn children and their mothers.

"Tuesday's vote to ban public funding for bizarre sex-selection abortions was both an admission that these abortions are being performed in Minnesota, and strong agreement that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for them," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "We already know that thousands of abortions are performed in our state every year as a backup method of birth control. Aborting an unborn child because of its sex is shockingly contemptuous of the unborn child's humanity."

House members also passed a cap on taxpayer funded reimbursements for abortions. Minnesotans have been forced to fund thousands of elective abortions every year since the Minnesota Supreme Court created a right to taxpayer funded abortion in its 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision. The funding cap, authored by Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph, reduces payments to abortionists by three percent.

Several other efforts by state representatives to protect unborn babies and their mothers failed. Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault, offered an amendment to ban taxpayer funding of cruel saline abortions, in which the unborn child is burned and poisoned to death in the womb. The pro-life effort failed on a 66-66 tie vote. An amendment to reauthorize the Minnesota Department of Health to license and regulate abortion centers failed on a 64-68 vote. There are no current regulations of abortion centers. The measure was authored by Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague.

Two amendments addressed the new federal health care overhaul. Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, proposed that citizens be allowed to opt out of abortion coverage in their health insurance policies, lowering premiums. Rep. Gottwalt offered language to prohibit insurance policies available under the new exchange from offering abortion coverage. Both efforts failed on close votes.

Organizations that provide, promote or refer for abortions would be prohibited from receiving state family planning grants under an amendment offered by Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall; it failed, 62-72. Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, sought to require abortionists to keep medical records on abortion clients for 15 years. Her measure lost on a germaneness vote.

"MCCL continues to work diligently with state lawmakers to establish greater protections for innocent unborn children and their mothers," Fischbach added. "Abortion is the greatest injustice of our time, and the people of Minnesota are working to end this injustice through changing hearts, minds and the law."

Should abortion be 'rare'? Only if it's wrong

Aimée Thorne-Thomsen from the Pro-Choice Public Education Project says that making abortion "rare" isn't the point. On the standard pro-choice view, I think she's right: Abortion is like having a tonsillectomy -- morally untroubling. As many people who want or need one should have one. No one says we should work to reduce the number of tonsillectomies.

On the other hand, if it seems to us that there should be less abortions -- if, as pro-choice politicians (such as President Obama) like to say, we should work to "reduce the number of abortions" -- then perhaps there really is something wrong with abortion.

And if there's something wrong with abortion, then it seems strange to nevertheless consider abortion a "fundamental right" (as Obama and other abortion supporters do), a practice we should allow for any reason, at all times, and even fund with taxpayer dollars.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Planned Parenthood to build new abortion center in St. Paul

The following MCCL news release was issued today, May 3.

ST.PAUL -- Planned Parenthood announced plans today to build the state's largest abortion center in St. Paul's Midway neighborhood, home to Hamline University, Concordia University, growing ethnic populations and the future Central Corridor light-rail line. Already Minnesota's largest abortionist, Planned Parenthood expects to greatly expand its business under the new Obama health care law.

"We're not surprised to see Planned Parenthood position itself to receive millions more taxpayer dollars under President Obama's new health care mandates," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "Obama's intent has always been to pour much more public money into Planned Parenthood, and the Minnesota affiliate is poised to build an enormous receptacle for that money."

Planned Parenthood Minnesota's 46,000-square-foot building project is part of the national organization's strategy of building massive abortion centers in major urban areas. Its 78,000-square-foot Houston center, for example, set to open May 11, is being called the largest abortion center in the Western Hemisphere. Similarly colossal centers have opened in Chicago and elsewhere.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America hailed the passage of Obama's pro-abortion health care overhaul as "a huge victory." The nation's largest abortion business raked in a record $1.038 billion in revenues in 2007 (latest figures), including a staggering $349 million in taxpayer dollars in the form of federal and state government grants and contracts. Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, which includes 25 Minnesota "feeder" clinics to send women to St. Paul for abortions, received $5.26 million from federal, state and local governments in 2008.

The new health care law offers it even more. Not only does the law subsidize health plans that cover abortion, it also opens the door to direct federal funding of abortions at so-called Community Health Centers. The law appropriates $11 billion over five years to approximately 1,250 different Community Health Centers, and there are no restrictions to prevent that money from paying for abortions. On its website, Planned Parenthood claims that 850 Community Health Centers are run by Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Statistics show that the more money Planned Parenthood takes in, the more abortions it performs.

"Planned Parenthood is all about money, and its new abortion center is being positioned to take in many more millions of taxpayer dollars for abortions," Fischbach said. "It is a tragedy to see Planned Parenthood driving up its revenues at the expense of innocent unborn children and their mothers."

Peter Kreeft and David Boonin debate the ethics of abortion

Last Friday, April 30, I attended a debate at the University of Minnesota between two prolific philosophers, Peter Kreeft and David Boonin, on the ethics of abortion. Kreeft is a philosophy professor at Boston College and the author of many books including "The Unaborted Socrates" and "Three Approaches to Abortion." Boonin is a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado and the author of "A Defense of Abortion," which is probably the best comprehensive philosophical defense of abortion. Kreeft and Boonin have debated each other before, at Yale University and at the University of Colorado.

Kreeft offered a basic, three-premise pro-life argument. First, a moral or philosophical premise: all human beings have a right to life. Second, a scientific premise: the unborn is a human being. Third, a legal premise: the law should protect fundamental human rights, such as the right to life. From these three points, it follows that killing unborn human beings by abortion is wrong and should be prohibited. You can read Kreeft's excellent case in online essays here and here.

Kreeft added a final argument from uncertainty: If we are still uncertain whether the unborn is a human being with a right to life, then it only makes sense that we should oppose abortion. I've discussed this argument here.

Boonin -- who I should mention was kind, gracious, articulate and extremely intelligent, perhaps the best abortion defender out there -- surprised me by conceding, from the outset, Kreeft's three premises. In other words, he assumed, for the sake of argument, that the unborn is a valuable human being with a right to life, but then argued that abortion in most cases is still morally permissible. I've called this the sophisticated argument from bodily autonomy. (Boonin makes this argument in his book, but he also argues at length that the unborn throughout most of pregnancy does not have a right to life. It is interesting that in the debate he opted to focus solely on the former argument.)

Here's how he summarized the key claim, which he defended using a thought experiment supposedly analogous to an unwanted pregnancy: "The right to life is not the same as the right to be kept alive by another person." So, while the unborn may have a right to life, that right does not entail a right to use the pregnant woman's body as a life support system. So "disconnecting" the unborn by abortion is permissible.

I think philosopher Francis Beckwith, in "Defending Life" (p. 172-199), does the best job of tackling Boonin's specific version of this argument in detail and showing why it doesn't work to justify abortion. I've addressed the general argument myself here, and you can read some of Beckwith's critique here (start at p. 189).

What struck me in the debate is that Boonin conceded a moral difference between active killing and witholding care, and seemed to agree that his argument would only justify abortion methods that do the latter. He pointed to hysterotomy as an example. But hysterotomy abortion, as far as I know, is incredibly rare, practically nonexistent. The main first trimester abortion method, suction curettage, and the main second trimester method, dilation and evacuation, are both clear examples of active killing. It seems that, by Boonin's own admission, his argument, even if it worked, would not justify the vast majority of abortions.

Boonin acknowledged that the debate over abortion has largely turned (rightly, in my view) on the moral status of the unborn, which his argument attempted to sidestep. And he acknowledged that his embrace of the argument is a minority position, one even rejected by many fellow pro-choice philosophers (who argue for the permissibility of abortion on other grounds, focusing on the status of the unborn).

I don't see his argument ever really catching on, and not just because it's abstract and uses weird analogies, but because it's radically contrary to our basic intuitions about the nature of pregnancy and the parent-child relationship.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Aborted baby left to die, survives for two days

In a labor induction abortion (used later in a pregnancy), labor is induced and the unborn child is expelled from the mother. This usually results in a dead baby (killed by the force of the contractions) or a baby too young to survive outside the womb. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, "There is a small chance that a baby could live for a short period of time [after the abortion] depending on the baby's gestational age and health at the time of delivery."

Sometimes babies who survive these abortions are simply neglected and left to die -- a practice that is more accurately described as infanticide. (The Born Alive Infants Protection Act, opposed at every turn by now-President Barack Obama, was designed to fix this problem by ensuring protection for any already-born human being.) An April 28 story from Italy shows that "live birth abortion" is still very much a horrifying reality:
The mother, pregnant for the first time, had opted for an abortion after prenatal scans suggested that her [22-week old unborn] baby was disabled.

However, the infant survived the procedure, carried out on Saturday in the Rossano Calabro hospital, and was left by doctors to die.

He was discovered alive the following day – some 20 hours after the operation – by Father Antonio Martello, the hospital chaplain, who had gone to pray beside his body.

He found that the baby, wrapped in a sheet with his umbilical cord still attached, was moving and breathing.

The priest raised the alarm and doctors immediately arranged for the infant to be taken to a specialist neo-natal unit at the neighbouring Cosenza hospital, where he died on Monday morning.

Italian police are investigating the case for "homicide" because infanticide is illegal in Italy.
Jill Stanek, who uncovered the infanticide of abortion survivors while working as a nurse at an Illinois hospital, says the practice is still happening here in the United States.
The [Italian] story was heartbreaking, more so because I know without a doubt babies his age are surviving their abortions every day across America and getting similar treatment. I would even venture to say this is a worldwide epidemic.

For instance, only last week I spoke at length after a pro-life event with an L&D RN who told me babies survive their abortions at her hospital, and doctors pressure nurses to give them 0-0 APGAR scores, in other words, chart that the babies were born dead when they were not. ...

We have a Born Alive Infants Protection Act that is not being enforced, incredibly frustrating and painful.
The baby in the photo above, of Minnesota, was born prematurely at 21 weeks -- younger than the Italian baby left to die -- and is now a healthy child.