Thursday, December 23, 2010

What Christmas tells us about human dignity and equality

Carson Holloway in Public Discourse writes:
I would suggest that the ethical core of Western Civilization—or at least a key principle by which it distinguished itself from what it regarded as savagery and barbarism—is respect for the dignity of humanity and of the individual human person. This is the moral principle underpinning the more obvious institutional characteristics such as the rule of law, constitutionalism, limited government, and division of social authority among various centers of power. All of these expedients share a common aim: limiting the power of some people over others, and especially limiting the power of the strong over the weak. This aim in turn is informed by the sense that all people deserve such protection, that they all possess a certain dignity that ought not be abused.

The celebration of Christmas has been a powerful teacher of the dignity of the human person. For Christians, Christmas is the feast of the Incarnation—the celebration of the moment when God became a man in order to live among men. It shows that God thought of human beings as worthy of being saved, and that he sought to save them by taking on humanity in a perfected form, thus opening the way to their own perfection. Christian belief in the Incarnation is thus inseparable from belief in the objective, and even transcendent, value of the human race as a whole, and of each human person as an individual.

Belief in the Incarnation further implies a certain egalitarianism that has also been important to Western Civilization. According to Christian teaching, all are sinners, and none can claim to be fundamentally superior to others in this important respect. Conversely, and more positively, God wanted to save all people, of all ranks, from their sins and to open the way to a lofty destiny for them all. Thus the Christian understanding of the Incarnation has been important in fostering the West's sense that, whatever social order may require in terms of hierarchy and rank, there is an irreducible moral equality of all human beings: all are owed a certain respect, even the lowliest among us.

Moreover, the story of the Incarnation, the Christmas story, emphasizes this equality and powerfully presents it to the imagination. As the story goes, the God who became man chose to be born into a family of no outstanding social importance, one supported by a man who had to work with his hands. Jesus was born in circumstances of poverty, and his birth was first announced not to the princes of the earth but to the ordinary shepherds to be found at hand. As he grew to manhood and carried out his public mission, Jesus chose to continue to live, work, and teach primarily among the common working people of the world. According to the Christian story, God teaches not only by his doctrines but by his actions that all men are equal in their fundamental human dignity.
Read the rest of Holloway's piece.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Abortion and the unborn baby Jesus

Frances Kissling, a leading pro-choice advocate and former president of Catholics for Choice, writes on a Washington Post blog about this ad (right), which shows an ultrasound of baby Jesus.

"When I saw the 'Here He Comes' [sic] ad which showed the baby Jesus waiting inside his mother's uterus in a 3D sonogram I just burst into happy laughter," Kissling says. "I want one to hang on my wall. I want it to be my Christmas card."

She continues:
And then, some silly people who are obsessed with abortion tried to spoil a good thing. Pro-life Wisconsin decided to be the grinches who stole Christmas. The [sic] wanted to interpret these joyous billboards as an anti-abortion message and instead of allowing people to feel the joy and inspiration and holiness that the birth of Jesus' [sic] symbolizes they wanted us to think about abortion.

This happens every Christmas. It's a tough time for supporters of abortion rights who have just as much excitement and take just as much joy in expecting a baby in their family as does everyone else, but end up feeling defensive and grumpy about the baby Jesus being hijacked for political gain. ...

Well, I'm hoping that those of us who are pro choice here in America will allow ourselves to enjoy this modern depiction of the baby Jesus awaiting entry into the world in his mom's uterus. It's a great and happy and anticipatory message. Mary and Joseph, certainly a nontraditional family and their precious baby boy are a perfect symbol for the complex modern world in which we live.
I'm certain that the Wisconsin pro-life group does not want to prevent people from "feel[ing] the joy and inspiration and holiness that the birth of Jesus' [sic] symbolizes." (On the contrary, I imagine.)

But they are trying to make an additional point, which is this: the fact that Jesus was once a fetus growing in his mother's womb should give us pause about our nation's widespread practice of abortion (1.2 million abortions per year). Accepting the ultrasound image as "Jesus," as Kissling does without hesitation, entails that Jesus was once a fetus identical to his later, adult self, and that to kill that fetus by abortion would have been to kill Jesus. By extension, all human beings are the same beings as the fetuses from which they developed, just as they were once also newborns, toddlers, adolescents, etc. To have killed the fetus growing in my mother's womb 25 years ago would have been to kill me.

So Kissling presumably agrees that there is a continuity of personal identity throughout the different stages in the life of a human being -- that to kill the unborn Jesus, or the unborn me, really would have been to kill Jesus, or me. And yet her pro-choice position says that would have been morally permissible.

That's a tough pill to swallow -- hence the effectiveness of the ad. Presumably, Kissling would have to argue that having a right to life is a non-essential property that a human being acquires at some point in his or her life, perhaps by virtue of developing certain mental functions or by being "wanted" by others. This view doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

It's also not biblical. The story of the unborn John the Baptist "leap[ing] for joy" in the presence of the unborn Jesus (Luke 1:41-44), as well as other passages in the Bible (e.g., Psalm 139:13-14, Psalm 22:10, Isaiah 49:5), highlight not only the continuity of identity throughout the life of a human being, which Kissling concedes -- they also suggest that human beings have their special dignity and importance from the time they come into existence, simply by virtue of the kind of thing they are: persons made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). That's why "shed[ding] the blood of man" is condemned (Genesis 9:6) -- not just some men, but all men (humans). It follows that abortion is a grave moral wrong.

As thinking, rational creatures, we ought to pay attention to (rather than thoughtlessly dismiss) the implications of our own assumptions.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From suffering to joy: Rape victim discovers courage and love in the midst of pain

The following is from the December 2010 issue of MCCL News.

By Bill Poehler

Drugged and raped. The words elicit disbelief, anger, compassion and a cry for justice. Rape victims rarely share their experience publicly. This is one teenager's story of courage and hope.

Amanda had completed her U.S. Army Reserve training and was ready for her deployment to Afghanistan in September 2009. At age 18, she was excited to fulfill a dream of serving her country. At a St. Paul party in August, she felt dizzy and sick after drinking a wine cooler, so she lay down in a friend's bedroom.

A half-hour later a guy entered the room and came after her. Amanda pleaded with him to leave, crying, "Stop! Stop!" But she was frozen.

"I was trained to kill, but I couldn't move," she recalls.

In the days that followed, Amanda told no one about the rape. But she felt something had changed. She took one drug store pregnancy test after another. Most were positive. Desperate, she went to urgent care, where her pregnancy was confirmed.

Amanda held strong pro-life convictions. She had written high school papers defending the pro-life position. But she had always viewed rape and incest as special situations.

So Amanda decided to get an abortion. She needed to fulfill her duty to her Army Reserve unit. She needed to get on with plans for her life. She made an appointment, but never got there.

Eight days before her scheduled abortion, Amanda was rushed to the emergency room with symptoms of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. She was given a sonogram and reassured that her pregnancy was normal. It was then that Amanda saw her little unborn child on the ultrasound monitor for the first time.

"I fell in love at that moment," she says.

One image changed everything. What Amanda had thought of as a product of rape that she could not handle suddenly became her child growing inside her. She saw beyond the circumstances of the conception to the reality of her own motherhood.

A heavy weight was lifted as Amanda made a firm decision to give life to her unborn baby. But the challenges were not over.

She contracted the H1N1 virus in November. Amanda was told that one or both of them would likely die.

"The doctor said there was still time to do an abortion to save my life," she says. "But I had already decided not to abort my child, so I left it in God's hands."

The weeks and months ahead were difficult. Amanda was hospitalized 13 times. She suffered pre-term labor seven times. Her boyfriend—the "love of her life"—left her. She suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the rape and became suicidal.

But Amanda persevered through all of these because she loved her little boy.

"If I could take a bad experience and find good out of all of it—that's what I did," she explains.

The day finally came in March 2010 when Kaiden, Amanda's baby boy, was born. "I can't believe something so beautiful could come from such an ugly, horrible situation," she said tearfully to her family and friends who were with her.

The rapist had taken her deployment, her boyfriend and her self-worth, but not Amanda's belief in the sanctity of human life. That conviction carried her through suffering to joy. Kaiden has been a powerful source of healing for her.

"Now I know what a mother's love is. I can't describe it, and I never understood it before," she says.

Mother and child are living with Amanda's loving family, who help care for Kaiden while Amanda works full time. She will begin attending college in January.

Amanda shares two profound lessons from her experience. First, she finally has realized that being raped was not her fault. She could have made different choices that night, but nothing she did would have ever justified what was done to her. Second, life is precious, regardless of circumstances.

"The gift of life is bigger than me—than anything," Amanda says.

What would she say to someone who questions her decision?

"I would show them my child," she says. "I can't imagine my life without him. He is the greatest joy and the greatest love I have ever known. It's hard being young and not knowing if I will ever find someone … but I would not change anything that has happened to me.

"Now I know what real love is."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doe v. Gomez: 15 years of state-sponsored abortion

The following MCCL news release was issued today, Dec. 15.

ST. PAUL — More than 50,000 unborn babies have been killed in Minnesota with taxpayer funds since a Dec. 15, 1995, Minnesota Supreme Court ruling required taxpayers to fund abortions, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (MDHS). The Doe v. Gomez ruling established the most extreme abortion-on-demand policy in the nation.

"The Doe v. Gomez ruling by a handful of extremist judges has been disastrous for Minnesota women and their babies," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "On this 15th anniversary of the decision, Minnesotans continue to believe it is not the mission of the state to abort thousands of innocent unborn children each year, yet that is exactly what is happening under this radical ruling."

The Supreme Court's Doe v. Gomez decision established a new state constitutional "right" to abortion on demand. This supposed right would remain protected by the state Constitution even if Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion in the United States, were to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Doe v. Gomez allows abortions for reasons such as "stress" or "discomfort." It forbids the state to "interfere" in any way with a woman's "decision-making" about abortion.

Doe v. Gomez also obligates the state—and thus, taxpayers—to pay for abortions, something not required by the U.S. Supreme Court. From June 1994 through 2008, state taxpayers paid more than $15.6 million for 50,869 abortions, according to MDHS. In 2008 alone (the most recent statistics available), state taxpayers paid $1.5 million for 3,754 abortions (MDHS). The state does not report how many women have died from these abortions.

While the total number of abortions in the state is declining slightly, taxpayer funding of abortions has risen nearly every year since 1995. Minnesota taxpayers now pay for almost 30 percent of all abortions performed in the state.

"This is not the will of the majority of Minnesotans, who oppose abortion on demand, and it is not the function of state government to fund the destruction of its most powerless innocent citizens," Fischbach said. "The Court took away the people's right to decide whether they want abortion on demand in the state and whether they should be required to pay for others' elective abortions. It's time for change in Minnesota."

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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Human Rights Day: Speak up, stop discrimination

The following is a news release from MCCL Global Outreach.

Friday, Dec. 10, 2010, was Human Rights Day as declared by the United Nations. This year's theme was "Speak Up, Stop Discrimination." It is a fitting theme for those of us who work tirelessly in the pro-life movement to protect women and their unborn children from the discrimination and violence of abortion.

The following statement may be attributed to Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of the Global Outreach division of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life:

"There is no greater form of discrimination than to end another human being's life because that human being is unwanted, imperfect or unloved. We must work toward the day when each and every human being is empowered with their full human rights – the paramount of which is life itself.

"The greatest educational system we can build will never teach the unborn child killed by a saline abortion. The greatest roads ever constructed will never be traveled by a disabled person who is denied nutrition and hydration. And the most advanced health care facility will never treat an elderly person abandoned in neglect. Human life itself is the genesis of all rights. It is only with a secured right to life, to be born, from which other rights can flow.

"On this important Human Rights Day of 2010 let us come together as compassionate human beings, understanding of each other's plight, to protect one another.

"Let us remember and call to mind The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10th, 1948, which states in Article 3, 'Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.'

"Let us also recall from the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (Nov. 20, 1959) that 'the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.'"

MCCL GO is a pro-life global outreach program of the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Education Fund with one goal: to save as many innocent lives as possible from the destruction of abortion. Learn more at

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let’s be clear: What is killed in an abortion? Learn how to clarify the issue

The following is from the December 2010 issue of MCCL News.

Choice, privacy, reproductive freedom. Bodily autonomy. Rape, incest. Teen pregnancy, economic hardship. Back-alley abortions. Overpopulation. Crime and child abuse.

These are some of the things people talk about when they discuss the ethics of abortion. But none of them is relevant to deciding whether abortion is morally right or wrong. Author and speaker Greg Koukl uses a helpful illustration.

"Imagine that your child walks up when your back is turned and asks, 'Daddy [or Mommy], can I kill this?' What is the first thing you must find out before you can answer him? You can never answer the question 'Can I kill this?' unless you’ve answered a prior question: What is it? [A cockroach? Sure. His baby sister? Hold on a minute!] This is the key question.

"Abortion involves killing and discarding something that's alive," Koukl continues. "Whether it's right or not to take the life of any living thing depends entirely upon what it is."

The morality of abortion hinges on the nature of the entity that abortion kills, the unborn (i.e., the human embryo or fetus). As Koukl puts it, "If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate."

It should be apparent that most pro-choice rhetoric completely misses the boat. Women have a "right to choose" to do many things, but if the unborn is a valuable person, she has no more right to kill him or her than to kill her toddler. The question at hand is whether the unborn, like a toddler, deserves full moral respect and ought not be killed for the convenience or benefit of others.

For every argument or reason given in defense of abortion, ask one question: Would this rationale work to justify killing obvious examples of rights-bearing persons, like newborn babies, toddlers, teenagers and adults? If not, then the pro-choice advocate is assuming that the unborn is not a valuable person like you and me—that is, he is assuming the very conclusion he should be defending. This is a logical fallacy called begging the question.

The real issue is the moral status of the unborn entity who is killed by abortion. Is the unborn a human being (a scientific question)? If so, how should we treat him or her (a moral question)?

The pro-life argument, in brief, runs as follows. From conception the unborn is a distinct, living and whole (though immature) human organism—a member of the species Homo sapiens at a very early stage of his or her development. We know this from the science of embryology.

Morally, no relevant difference exists between human beings before and after birth. Unborn humans differ from older humans (like newborns) in size, level of development, location and degree of dependency, but none of those differences are significant in a way that would justify killing the former.

Rather, human beings have moral value and a right to life by virtue of the kind of thing they are, not because of acquired characteristics or abilities that some human beings have and others do not, and which we may gain or lose throughout our lifetimes.

It follows that all human beings, including the unborn, are equal in having basic dignity and a right not to be unjustly killed. So elective abortion is wrong.

How do pro-choice advocates respond? Usually with the kind of question-begging rhetoric discussed above. Always clarify the issue—the moral status of the unborn—and use science and simple moral reasoning (above) to point them to the truth: Abortion unjustly takes the lives of innocent human beings, and it should not be permitted.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The historical struggle to protect children

"The study of history ... shows us that abortion law [laws against abortion] is simply another chapter in the struggle by society to protect its children from abuse by their parents. The point is worth emphasizing: abortion is not merely similar to infanticide, it is infanticide. This is more than merely a rhetorical flourish. History demonstrates that abortion was a direct replacement of the prior practice of infanticide, and infanticide is merely the most egregious form of child abuse. One should no more applaud a woman's right to privacy in making the abortion decision than one would acclaim a woman's right to privacy in deciding to abuse her three-year-old physically and irreparably. ...

"Viewed in the context of the history of infanticide, attempts to suppress abortion are neither aberrations nor based on unworthy motives. Rather, the crusade against abortion is integral to, and the highest expression of, a crusade against child abuse and in favor of feminism."

-- Joseph W. Dellapenna, Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law

Silent no more: Colleen from Minnesota

Monday, December 6, 2010

Take a stand

"It is inevitable, till man be far more unfeeling and untrue to his convictions than he has always been, that a great wrong asserting itself vehemently should arouse to no less vehement assertion the opposing right. The only wonder is that there was not more of it. The only wonder is that so few were swept away to take by an impulse they could not resist their stand of hatred to the wicked institution."

-- The Rev. Phillips Brooks, speaking of slavery in his eulogy of President Abraham Lincoln, April 23, 1865