Thursday, March 31, 2011

More human cloning confusion in the media

In a news story today, the Pioneer Press follows the Star Tribune's awful example in reporting on the human cloning ban legislation.

Early on, the story says that the measure "bans embryonic stem cell research into disease prevention as part of a ban on human cloning." Well, no. It bans human cloning, which (if successful) produces cloned embryos that theoretically could be used for embryonic stem cell research. But it doesn't ban embryonic stem cell research. None of the current research in Minnesota, embryonic or otherwise, would be affected.

The author later writes:
Perhaps the most controversial item in the otherwise financially focused bill was a recent addition of language from a separate bill that purported to ban human cloning, making any effort to duplicate a human being, living or deceased, a felony.

There's no question the bill does that, but no one, neither Democrats nor reputable research institutions, say they disagree with that part, known as "reproductive cloning."

University of Minnesota officials say they support a ban on reproductive cloning. But the bill as written also would halt therapeutic cloning techniques that could produce promising new treatments from embryonic stem cells, said U spokeswoman Mary Koppel.
First, the bill would make human cloning a misdemeanor, not a felony.

Second, the author is confused about human cloning. He seems to think that "duplicating a human being" is "reproductive cloning," but "therapeutic cloning" is something different.

What the legislation bans is the cloning process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which results in a new human organism who is genetically virtually identical to the donor of genetic material. SCNT is used in both "reproductive" and "therapeutic" cloning. The difference is whether the cloned embryo is allowed to develop toward maturity (reproductive cloning) or is killed in order to derive stem cells for research (therapeutic cloning). The bill under debate simply bans human cloning (SCNT), period.

Third, the bill could not possibly "halt therapeutic cloning techniques" because no such research is currently happening in Minnesota. Both the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic have said that they are not involved in therapeutic cloning. (If cloning could produce "promising new treatments," why aren't they involved? I have written about cloning's therapeutic potential, or lack thereof, here and here.)

The story continues:
The federal government currently provides funding for embryonic stem cell research based on just a few stem cell lines; other states and private groups, meanwhile, are funding research based on other embryonic stem cells. The proposed legislation would prevent the university — or anyone else — from participating in any of these research projects, Koppel said.
If Koppel said that, she was either lying or terribly misinformed. The bill would only prevent participation in any research projects involving human cloning (SCNT). None of the current University of Minnesota research projects involve SCNT, and none of the federally funded embryonic stem cell research projects involve SCNT.
The U has scheduled an event Thursday near the Capitol in which patients with Type I diabetes, Duchenne's muscular dystrophy and a lethal skin condition called epidermolysis bullosa will speak out against the legislation.
All of the patients at the event who have received stem cell treatments were treated with uncontroversial adult stem cells, the only kind that has successfully treated patients, and the kind that is championed by MCCL and others who hold the pro-life view. The bill would not affect that research at all. The example of these patients is not relevant to the actual bill under consideration.

In an older post I included this photo (to the right) of a young patient successfully treated at the University of Minnesota using adult stem cells. His story highlights the potential of adult stem cells to help people. It does not tell us anything about human cloning, or about embryonic stem cell research, which have had no therapeutic success.

MCCL statement regarding today’s University of Minnesota news conference on cloning legislation

"The stories of young people being helped by the University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute are very compelling. All Minnesotans want cures to be found. It is important to note than none of the patients who shared their stories today were helped by human cloning. The legislation that is currently under consideration would in no way affect existing adult or embryonic stem cell research. The proposed ban on human cloning does one thing — it bans human cloning. Numerous countries across the globe have done the same thing, and the United Nations has also called for a ban on all forms of human cloning. We repeat our call for research to be done at the U of M that is ethical and life affirming."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Star Tribune gets everything wrong about human cloning

It is difficult to point out all that is wrong with the Star Tribune's coverage today of the MCCL-backed human cloning ban (currently before the state Legislature). The reporter, Jenna Ross, is uneducated and obviously not qualified to be writing about this subject. Here are some of the mistakes in the order they appear.

The story starts by claiming that the bill would make human cloning a felony. False. The bill would make human cloning a misdemeanor. (Read the bill!)

Ross then writes:
The bill's advocates say it would still allow stem cell research that does not rely on destruction of embryos, including adult stem cells.
Actually, the bill would still allow not just research that doesn't destroy embryos, but also research that does rely on the destruction of embryos. All of the current embryonic stem cell research happening in the state would be unaffected, because it does not involve human cloning (according to testimony from the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute).

Embryonic stem cell research (which requires the destruction of embryos) is not the same thing as human cloning, which is what the bill prohibits. Human cloning (via somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT) is one possible way of producing embryos for use in research, but all the embryos currently used for research in Minnesota were not produced by cloning. Ross continues:
Opponents say the bill's language -- banning "human cloning" -- is purposely deceptive ...
Our use of "human cloning" -- using SCNT to produce a genetically virtually identical human organism, as precisely defined in the legislation itself -- has been the standard use. It is opponents of the bill who are shamelessly misleading by redefining cloning so that it includes only so-called "reproductive" cloning -- that is, allowing the resulting cloned embryo to live and grow, rather than kill it for research (so-called therapeutic cloning).
The U emphasizes that it has not and will not attempt to clone a human being, a process called reproductive cloning. Think Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal. "We have been crystal clear on this," said Dr. Aaron Friedman, the U's vice president for health sciences and medical school dean.
Again, the University has redefined human cloning. The University does support cloning human beings -- it simply opposes letting them live very long. Dolly the sheep was cloned by exactly the same technique that this bill prohibits.
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life's broader definition of "human cloning" also includes one kind of stem cell research called therapeutic cloning. In that process, a scientist would extract stem cells from a 5-day-old embryo and then destroy it in a test tube. This bill would ban that too.
The author seems hopelessly confused. Destroying an embryo for its stem cells is not the same thing as therapeutic cloning. Cloning is simply one possible means of creating an embryo for use in destructive research. Generally embryos destroyed for their stem cells are not produced by cloning, but are the result of in vitro fertilization. The bill does not affect this research.
But "there are reasons why I might want to do [therapeutic cloning] in the future," said Dr. John Wagner, clinical director of the Stem Cell Institute, who uses adult stem cells to treat a fatal skin condition in children. Therapeutic cloning offers the possibility of merging a patient's cells with embryonic cells, so there's less risk of rejection, he said.
"Merging a patient's cells with embryonic cells"? Perhaps Dr. Wagner didn't explain it very well. Therapeutic cloning offers the possibility of producing embryonic stem cells genetically matched to the patient, so theoretically there might be no rejection problems. Why are they genetically matched? Because they are derived from the embryo, which is a genetic clone of the patient.

What Dr. Wagner has not explained is what possible benefits therapeutic cloning could offer that (ethically uncontroversial) induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) do not also offer. Indeed, iPSCs seem superior: they are also pluripotent (functionally identical to embryonic stem cells) and genetically matched, but they already exist, they are less expensive, and they are easier to produce. This is why some leading scientists like Dr. Ian Wilmut have switched from therapeutic cloning to iPSC research. And I imagine this is why the University of Minnesota is currently working with iPSCs but not with therapeutic cloning.
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life argues that scientists should abandon embryonic stem cells in favor of adult stem cells -- in particular, a process of reprogramming adult stem cells to mimic the flexible properties of their embryonic counterparts.

"In adult stem cell research, money is flowing like a river," Scott Fischbach said. "Money going into embryonic stem cell research is resulting in nothing but dead embryos."

But researchers argue that those methods are far from ready and might never work for certain diseases.
Actually, the process (for iPSCs) is to reprogram regular adult cells, not stem cells, to make them into pluripotent stem cells, just like embryonic stem cells. iPSCs seem to make obsolete the therapeutic justification for embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning.

It's true that iPSCs, like embryonic stem cells, have not succeeded in treating anyone. But "iPSC research" does not equal "adult stem cell research," as the author apparently believes. Adult stem cell research is the only kind of stem cell research that actually is ready and actually has successfully treated medical conditions -- dozens of them. It is therapeutic cloning, and embryonic stem cell research more broadly, that is "far from ready and might never work."

A reporter should not write a story when she knows so little and gets so much wrong. And the Star Tribune is terribly at fault for publishing this.

Monday, March 28, 2011

'Analyzing the effect of anti-abortion state legislation'

The scholarly journal State Politics & Policy Quarterly has published a new study entitled "Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era."

The report, which is discussed in U.S. News & World Report, is the latest work from Dr. Michael J. New, the leading researcher on the effects of abortion legislation.

From the conclusion (citations omitted):
The number of abortions that were performed consistently increased throughout the 1970s and the 1980s. However, between 1990 and 2005, the number of legal abortions declined by 22.22 percent. ... [O]ne factor that played a role was the increased amount of anti-abortion legislation that was passed at the state level.

Indeed, the Supreme Court's decisions in both Webster and Casey and the electoral success of anti-abortion candidates at the state level resulted in a substantial increase in the number of restrictions on abortion. By 2005, more states had adopted parental involvement laws and informed consent requirements. A comprehensive series of regressions provides evidence that these laws are correlated with declines in in-state abortion rates and ratios.

Furthermore, a series of natural experiments provides even more evidence about the effects of these restrictions on abortion. States where judges nullified anti-abortion legislation were compared to states where anti-abortion legislation went into effect. The results indicate that enforced laws result in significantly larger in-state abortion declines than nullified laws. Other regression results indicated that various types of legislation had disparate and predictable effects on different subsets of the population. For instance, parental involvement laws have a large effect on the abortion rate for minors and virtually no effect on the abortion rate for adults. These results provide further evidence that anti-abortion legislation results in declines in the number of abortions that take place within the boundaries of a given state.
The upshot is this: If we want to reduce the number of abortions (a goal most pro-choice advocates claim to support), we should elect politicians who support pro-life measures, and then lobby them to enact those measures into law. That is what we have done are are continuing to do here in Minnesota in order to reduce abortions and save lives.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A tale of two abortion defenders

Contrast two pro-choice debaters (both debating pro-life speaker Stephanie Gray).

The first, abortionist David Baram, entirely fails to engage the crux of the matter -- the moral status of the being who is killed by abortion. He relies on storytelling and question-begging rhetoric that does nothing to actually establish his position or refute that of his opponent. Pro-choice activists in the audience seem somewhat pleased, however, because his rhetoric matches their own (and that of NARAL, Planned Parenthood, et al.).

The second, philosophy professor Mark Mercer, concedes the biological fact that the unborn is a living member of our species -- a human being -- and that abortion is the killing of that young human. He correctly dismisses the fallacious pro-choice rhetoric (about "choice," etc.) Baram and others use. This alienates his supporters in the audience. Mercer instead offers a serious argument for the permissibility of abortion, proposing criteria for "personhood" and concluding that human beings do not acquire full moral worth until about 18 months after birth.

The pro-choice reaction to Mercer is revealing:
"You didn't even attempt to make any arguments that would convince anybody of anything," said one activist. "You did not represent the pro-choice position at all."
But Mercer, unlike Baram, offered a legitimate argument for the pro-choice view. Mercer, unlike Baram, was thoughtful (and I respect him for it).

The differing crowd reactions reflect, I think, the intellectual state of the pro-choice movement, its aversion to thinking clearly about the abortion issue (see Schultz, David), and of course the horror of conceding the logical implications (e.g., infanticide) of the pro-choice position's denial of fundamental human equality.

International Day of the Unborn Child

The following is a news release from MCCL Global Outreach (GO).

Citizens around the globe will celebrate the International Day of the Unborn Child on Friday, March 25, 2011. It is a day to recall the remarkable journey of life each member of the human family has taken, or been prevented from taking by the act of abortion.

Initiated by Pope John Paul II to coincide with and to honor the Feast of the Annunciation, the March 25 event has grown into a day of celebration and remembrance for all unborn human beings. It is a time to celebrate human dignity and the amazing world of the developing child yet to be born.

Countries all around the world will hold special observances, rallies, marches and events on the International Day of the Unborn Child to again call for legal protection of the most fundamental human right of all — life!

In 1993, El Salvador became the first country to officially celebrate a "Day of the Right to Be Born." Subsequently other countries have begun official celebrations for the unborn, including Argentina with "Day of the Unborn" in 1998, Chile with "Day of the Conceived and Unborn" in 1999, and also in 1999, Guatemala's "National Day of the Unborn." Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic and Paraguay are all nations that now celebrate a day for the unborn child.

"It is important in 2011 to recall how much we have learned about the intricate world of the unborn child," said MCCL GO Executive Director Scott Fischbach.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s when many countries were legalizing the killing of unborn babies, medical science concerning the unborn child was archaic. Current developments include intrauterine surgery, ultrasound, neo-natal intensive care, fetal heart monitoring and much more. We also know now that the unborn child has sleep and wake cycles, feels emotions, can cry in the womb and also has the ability to feel pain.

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

Legislation advances to prevent cloning, protect pain-capable unborn children

ST. PAUL — Legislation to prevent human cloning and to protect unborn babies capable of feeling pain advanced this week at the state Capitol in St. Paul. Hearings on the pro-life measures enabled Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) to explain the purposes of the bills.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S.F. 649 and H.F. 936, would prohibit abortions after the point in pregnancy at which an unborn child can feel pain, which medical evidence demonstrates is (conservatively) 20 weeks from conception. It is based on a landmark Nebraska law enacted last year, which has not been challenged in court. The bill was heard by the House Civil Law Committee on Monday, March 21.

During her testimony, MCCL Legislative Associate Andrea Rau first held up a diaper intended for a newborn, then a preemie diaper less than one-fourth the size of the first one. "These are the diapers used for babies who are born at 20 to 22 weeks — the same age of the unborn babies this legislation would protect," she explained.

Carolyn Jackson, a lobbyist who testified on behalf of the Minnesota ACLU, declared that her organization "believes that life begins at birth," and therefore the unborn child does not deserve the protection the bill would provide. The ACLU position contradicts both science and the law, which affirm life in the womb. Modern medical textbooks state that a unique human life begins at the moment of conception. And previous U.S. Supreme Court and lower court decisions recognize states’ compelling interest in protecting the lives of unborn children precisely because they are alive and human.

Hearings have not yet been scheduled for the Senate version.

The Senate Higher Education Committee passed the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, S.F. 695 and H.F. 998, on Monday. The legislation would would ban human cloning in Minnesota in order to prevent the production and destruction of human beings for experiments. A ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning was added to the Higher Education appropriations bill on Wednesday by committee members.

In addition, MCCL recognizes today as the International Day of the Unborn Child. Nations across the globe, including those in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa, are holding special marches and festivals to celebrate and call for greater protections for unborn children.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New bill reflects empathy toward those in pain

MCCL Legislative Associate Andrea Rau testifying in favor of Minnesota's Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Should human cloning be banned? Is the embryo an organism?

To no one's surprise, the University of Minnesota is opposing the MCCL-supported ban on human cloning -- a ban not on embryonic stem cell (or any kind of stem cell) research, but simply on cloning human organisms (probably for the purpose of using those clones for destructive research). "[The bill] won't change any actual research that we're doing now, but it might prevent me from doing research in the future," says one U of M stem cell researcher.

In other words, while the U of M isn't currently working on so-called "therapeutic cloning" -- using the somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) process to create new organisms of the human species at the embryonic stage of development, in order to then kill them for research -- it may want to do so in the future. So the University is opposing the ban.

Cloning proponents say it could result in medical treatments for patients. Two points in response: First, therapeutic potential is beside the point if pro-life advocates are correct that embryo destruction is the unjust killing of a valuable human being. For one may not kill and harvest the parts of some innocent people for the possible benefit of others.

Second, what potential therapeutic benefits could be gained by cloning that could not be gained (easier and less expensively) using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)? Isn't this why the University is currently working with iPSCs, but not cloning, and why so many cloning advocates have switched to iPSCs and other alternatives? ("It turns out the technique [human therapeutic cloning] was of no practical relevance," explained MIT biologist Rudolf Jaenisch just recently.) Of course there are difficulties with iPSCs, but they are the same as those with embryonic stem cell research using cloned embryos. And neither option, nor embryonic stem cell research in general, has actually resulted (or may ever result) in treatments for patients -- unlike adult stem cell research, with which the U of M has had real success.

A patient treated at the University of Minnesota using
uncontroversial adult stem cells, the only kind that has worked 
One more claim is worth addressing. U of M scientists have justified the killing of human embryos by obscuring the facts of embryology. "I think it comes down to what you think an embryo is. We are talking about eight cells here," says one. Another U of M researcher calls pre-implantation embryos "balls of cells" akin to "human cells grown in culture or blood banks," and says: "You don't have one human individual."

These researchers are claiming that the early human embryo is not yet biologically a human being -- a living organism of the species Homo sapiens. But obviously the embryo is living and human. So, I take it they are claiming that the embryo is not itself an individual organism, an integrated whole that develops itself to maturity.

But, first, this is not the scientific consensus, as a U.S. Senate subcommittee concluded: "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." Embryology textbooks are also clear. 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."

Second, the evidence clearly shows that the embryo does function as an organism from the very beginning. For example, detailed analyses are offered in this White Paper by Dr. Maureen Condic, and in Embryo by Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen (Chapters 2, 6 and 7). As Condic notes, "From the moment of sperm-egg fusion, a human zygote acts as a complete whole, with all the parts of the zygote interacting in an orchestrated fashion to generate the structures and relationships required for the zygote to continue developing towards its mature state."

Here is just one specific consideration -- borrowed from Robert George -- that I would put to University of Minnesota researchers: If each of the early embryo's cells are independent (and not part of a coordinated whole), why don't such cells regularly develop on their own? They function together from the very beginning, showing that the embryo is a single, unitary organism, whether or not twinning later occurs. Indeed, this organismal behavior is how we can tell that an embryo is in fact an embryo, and not just some other growth of cells.

From the zygote stage forward, the unborn entity directs his or her (sex is genetically determined) own continuous development into an embryo, a fetus, a newborn baby, a toddler, a teenager, etc. Only living organisms can do that.

Moral responsibility and choice

Law professor David Schultz recently testified against two MCCL-backed bills in the Minnesota Legislature. On his blog, he writes that "MCCL [doesn't] trust women" (and other question-begging claims). One passage is so confused that I want to specifically address it:
I find it interesting that this group [MCCL] talks about ethics. One can only be held morally responsible if one has a choice. Their aim is to take choice away. With no choice there is no moral responsibility. Hmm.
This is quite remarkable coming from a law professor who presumably has developed basic critical thinking skills. People are indeed morally responsible for the choices they make, but clearly that fact does not require anarchy (no government), as Schultz's logic suggests. The truth of moral responsibility does not preclude a role for government to regulate behavior, such as by prohibiting rape and murder; in fact, it helps account for why government must exist -- to restrain the wicked, ensure justice, etc.

Try inserting into Schultz's comments an example other than abortion:
I find it interesting that this group [those who want to prohibit spousal abuse] talk about ethics. One can only be held morally responsible if one has a choice. Their aim is to take choice away [namely, the choice of whether or not to abuse one's spouse]. With no choice there is no moral responsibility. Hmm.
Prof. Schultz would surely agree that spousal abuse is something that should not be allowed. But then the issue isn't "choice," is it? The issue is whether abortion is the sort of practice that should not be permitted, like spousal abuse. Schultz's "defense" of permitting abortion is utterly irrelevant to the question of whether or not we should in fact permit abortion.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tragic fetal diagnoses: What it means to be loved

A new song by singer/songwriter Mark Schultz:

Pro-life legislation update: Senate panel approves cloning ban

The following news release was issued on March 18.

ST. PAUL – Legislation to protect human life advanced this week at the Minnesota Legislature as five hearings were held on measures backed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's oldest and largest pro-life organization. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act, S.F. 695 and H.F. 998, was approved by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committee yesterday on an 8-5 vote and referred to the Higher Education committee.

"Leading researchers and scientists, including Ian Wilmut, the maker of the clone Dolly the Sheep, and many others have turned against human cloning," said MCCL Legislative Associate Andrea Rau. "They have found that cloning of animals does not work very well and other new techniques offer much more promise in providing practical applications."

In 2005, the United Nations adopted the U.N. Declaration of Human Cloning, which called upon member states "to adopt all measures necessary to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of life."

The ban on human cloning was also approved this week by both the Senate Health and Human Services and the House Judiciary Policy and Finance committees on March 15 on voice votes. The lead authors are President of the Senate Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, and Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake. The Senate Higher Education committee will hear the legislation on Monday at 3:00 p.m.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S.F. 649 and H.F. 936, was passed by the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee on March 16 on a voice vote. The initiative would prohibit abortions after the point in pregnancy at which an unborn child can feel pain, which medical evidence demonstrates is (conservatively) 20 weeks from conception. Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, are the lead authors. The House Civil Law committee will take up the bill on Monday at 12:30 p.m.

A third measure, to ban taxpayer funding of abortion, S.F. 103 and H.F. 201, was passed by the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee on March 15, 13-4. The lead authors are Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, and Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover. Additional hearings on the bill have yet to be scheduled.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Panels approve three pro-life bills to address abortion, human cloning

The following news release was issued yesterday, March 16.

ST. PAUL — Three protective bills backed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) have been approved by committees in the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives this week. The legislation seeks to protect human life from abortion and cloning.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S.F. 649 and H.F. 936, would prohibit abortions after the point in pregnancy at which an unborn child can feel pain, which medical evidence demonstrates is (conservatively) 20 weeks from conception. It is based on a landmark Nebraska law enacted last year, which has not been challenged in court. The House Health and Human Services Reform Committee
approved the bill this afternoon on a voice vote.

"Not only do unborn children at 20 weeks after conception have the physiological systems in place to perceive pain, they also move away from painful stimuli and they have increased levels of stress hormones coinciding with when one would expect them to feel pain," MCCL Legislative Associate Andrea Rau testified before the panel.

The Human Cloning Prohibition Act, S.F. 695 and H.F. 998, has been approved on two voice votes. The House Judiciary Policy and Finance and the Senate Health and Human Services committees passed the bill yesterday, which would ban human cloning in Minnesota.

Rau noted that legislators passed a ban on funding of human cloning in 2009, establishing a policy opposed to the practice. "The state has already made clear that it does not support or encourage human cloning. This bill takes the next logical step and prohibits cloning, not just the funding of it with tax dollars," Rau said.

A third measure, to ban taxpayer funding of abortion, S.F. 103 and H.F. 201, was passed by the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee yesterday, 13-4. Long an objective for pro-life Minnesotans, the legislation would prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion. Minnesota taxpayers paid $1.5 million to the abortion industry for 3,754 abortions in 2008, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (latest figures).

A March 2010 poll of Minnesota's 8th Congressional district found that 73 percent of registered voters oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortions.

"Some may argue that it is discriminatory not to provide low-income women with a taxpayer funded abortion," MCCL Legislative Associate Jordan Marie Bauer testified. "However, federal courts have disagreed with this notion. In fact, for decades, the federal government has forbidden most taxpayer funded abortions."

Each of these bills will be heard by subsequent committees in the House and Senate.

"The 2011 Legislature rightly recognizes that safeguarding vulnerable human life must be a priority and a guiding principle for elected officials," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "MCCL is pleased that state lawmakers are advancing mainstream measures to protect life."

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Imposing a choice

Some people say they don't want to "impose a particular choice" (as one lady put it to me recently) on a woman who is pregnant. That's what it means to be pro-choice, they say.

But these people have no trouble "imposing" a particular choice on those who would consider killing their newborn babies, or their money-sucking teenagers, or their "burdensome" grandparents.

Why? Because the choice to kill an innocent human being is wrong, and it cannot be allowed in a decent society.

The question of abortion is not a question of whether to impose a choice. It is a question of whether the living, growing thing brutally killed by abortion is a valuable human being who deserves respect and protection, like teenagers and grandparents, and you and me. It is the question of whether the unborn is one of us.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

'Journalism' at its worst: Andy Birkey, cloning and ESCR

Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent reports on the human cloning ban just introduced in the state Legislature. The premise of his story is that (as he explains in the first sentence) "under the guise of banning 'human cloning'" the bill would actually "ban embryonic stem cell research."

Seriously? Birkey, out of embarrassing (and easily rectified) ignorance, thinks embryonic stem cell research always requires somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning), concludes that the legislation must therefore be based on a deception, and then writes a "news story" based on that conclusion.

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a cloning process that creates a new organism genetically (virtually) identical to the donor of the somatic cell. Many people have advocated using SCNT for "therapeutic" or "research" purposes, which would involve killing the resulting human embryo for its stem cells.

But cloning isn't the typical means of acquiring embryonic stem cells for research. The primary source of embryonic stem cells has always been so-called "leftover" embryos donated from in vitro fertilization clinics. The alternative possibility of using SCNT created excitement among some researchers (about 10 years ago, before it failed to pan out as hoped) because in theory it could lead to pluripotent stem cells genetically matched to the patient (who donates the somatic cell), thus avoiding the normal embryonic stem cell problem of immune rejection.

So: SCNT is closely related to embryonic stem cell research, but it is not the same thing. Most embryonic research has not involved SCNT (in fact, proponents of embryonic research have often argued by disassociating themselves with SCNT and swearing that they are only interested in using "leftover" embryos). Some scientists -- including some at the University of Minnesota -- thought using SCNT could help advance embryonic stem cell research and (potential) treatments, but that has not happened. (Embryonic research as a whole has been a bust, while ethical alternatives have resulted in dozens of treatments for human patients.)

The new bill in the state Legislature would ban human cloning -- the use of SCNT to create new, living members of the species Homo sapiens, probably in order to then kill them -- not embryonic stem cell research.

State ban on human cloning proposed by lawmakers

The following is an MCCL news release.

ST. PAUL — Human cloning would be banned in Minnesota under a bill introduced today at the Capitol. Backed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's oldest and largest pro-life organization, the ban has been sought ever since the University of Minnesota's attempts to clone human beings came to light several years ago.

"Human life must be treated with dignity, not as mere raw material for experimentation," said MCCL Legislative Associate Jordan Marie Bauer. "This bill will ensure that living members of our species are not created for the purpose of dissecting and destroying them."

The ban on human cloning, H.F. 998, is authored by Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake. The Senate version of the bill is expected to be introduced on Thursday, March 10, with Senate President Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, as lead author.

Previous attempts to ban human cloning gained traction among lawmakers and citizens, but fell short of the votes needed to become law. The Legislature passed a ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning in 2009, which was signed into law by prolife Gov. Pawlenty. That ban needs to be re-authorized in 2011, unless cloning is banned outright.

Human cloning is a technique that combines an enucleated egg (nucleus removed) and the nucleus of a somatic cell (e.g. skin cell) to make a human being in the embryonic stage of development, according to the National Institutes of Health. Somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT, is the scientific term for cloning. SCNT can be used for "therapeutic" or "reproductive" purposes, but the initial process that combines an enucleated egg and a somatic cell's nucleus is identical. Human cloning could in theory provide a means of large-scale production of human embryos for experiments, conjuring up disturbing images of embryo farming to manufacture and supply laboratories with raw human material.

Many eminent stem cell researchers are turning away from human cloning in favor of alternatives that offer greater therapeutic promise. Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute conducted embryonic stem cell research on mice for years before abandoning it. "With nuclear transfer you never get normal embryos," Jaenisch told The Scientist magazine. He said SCNT is "of no practical relevance" and that he would never use it in dealing with human embryos. Prof. Ian Wilmut, who cloned Dolly the sheep, has decided to give up his efforts to clone human life. A group of eight scientists published an article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings calling for a rejection of human cloning, describing it as "an abuse of scientific freedom, not its realization."

"No amount of supposed benefit can ever justify human cloning's utilitarian treatment of life," Bauer said. "MCCL applauds this move by legislators to protect human life from replication, manipulation and destruction."

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

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On pain bill, abortion defenders appeal to the hard cases

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature on Monday. The bill would prohibit abortions after the point in pregnancy at which the unborn child is capable of experiencing pain, which is (conservatively) 20 weeks.

Abortion defenders responded, in part, by appealing to the very rare "hard case" pregnancies for which abortion would no longer be permitted. NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota told the Star Tribune that abortions after 20 weeks "often involve fetuses with fatal medical conditions." The group's executive director, Linnea House, later blogged:
I worry about the young rape victim, too ashamed to admit she's pregnant until it's too late. I worry about the incest victim, desperately trying to raise the money for her abortion care so her family doesn't find out. I worry about the couple with a wanted pregnancy that learns something has gone terribly wrong and that an abortion is the best option to ensure they can have children in the future.
If the unborn entity dismembered and killed by abortion is a valuable human being, as pro-life advocates thoughtfully argue, then the horrible crimes of rape and incest do not justify abortion. Moreover, research shows that a rape victim's psychological and emotional well being is is not helped -- but rather worsened -- by the violence of abortion.

Regarding bad fetal diagnoses, a total of 160 women having abortions cited "fetal anomalies" in 2009 (about one percent of all abortions), according to the latest abortion report from the Minnesota Department of Health. Many of these probably did take place at or after 20 weeks.

But clearly one's moral worth does not depend upon ability or disability -- killing a human being for an "anomaly" is the worst sort of discrimination. Unborn children who will likely soon die should be treated like any other human being who will soon die: Perinatal hospice care is a wonderful option. The painful killing of abortion is not.

Linnea House is wrong to claim (as I think she does above) that women could face health risks if the Pain Capable legislation is enacted. The bill makes exceptions for when abortion is deemed necessary to save the life of the mother or to avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a bodily function. Regardless, it's not clear how intentionally killing an unborn human being (as opposed to, for example, inducing premature labor to protect the health of the mother, with the intention of also caring for the child) is ever medically necessary.

House told the Star Tribune, "This ban is a cruel attempt by anti-choice forces to curb access to care for women in the most desperate of circumstances."

But no one wants to curb access to good care -- physical, psychological, etc. -- for women. We want to curb access to the violent and deadly act of abortion, which is the antithesis of good care.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The myth that Planned Parenthood helps reduce abortions

I've already written about why Planned Parenthood should be stripped of federal government funding: (1) taxpayers should not be forced to support the abortion industry; (2) Planned Parenthood has shown itself to be thoroughly corrupt (including consistently aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking); (3) Planned Parenthood does not need taxpayer dollars to offer its non-abortion services, and in any case those services are better provided by other organizations, to which funds will be re-directed if only Planned Parenthood is cut off (via the Pence Amendment).

Planned Parenthood and its defenders claim that the abortion provider actually helps reduce abortions by promoting contraception and sex education. I've heard members of Congress boldly (and ridiculously) say this, presumably without first looking at a shred of evidence -- because all the evidence suggests the opposite.

As taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood has risen dramatically in recent years, the number of abortions the group performs has risen at a correspondingly dramatic rate. In 2009 (the last year for which we have data), abortions at Planned Parenthood increased to a new record for the 15th consecutive year. More funding has meant more and more abortions at Planned Parenthood, defying the nationwide trend of less abortions (after a peak of 1.6 million abortions per year in the U.S. in 1990, we are down to 1.2).

This should be no surprise. To subsidize Planned Parenthood is to subsidize a highly-profitable industry that makes money by selling the product of abortion. What did people expect? "[Planned Parenthood's] primary focus is abortion and it is big business," writes former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson. She continues:
In 2009, Planned Parenthood had $1.1 billion, and $63 million left over after expenses (see page 29 of its annual report).

No wonder Planned Parenthood has established an organization called the Consortium of Abortion Providers, the primary goal of which is to turn every nonabortion Planned Parenthood clinic into an abortion-providing clinic. Planned Parenthood also recently issued a directive mandating that all of its affiliates provide abortions by 2013.
Planned Parenthood defenders respond that under the Hyde Amendment, (almost) no federal money can (directly) pay for abortions. But by heavily funding the nation's leading performer of abortions, federal money at least indirectly supports abortion on a large scale. This is absolutely clear. Johnson explains:
[O]f course taxpayer money helps to finance abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics. ...

Think for a moment how much it costs to pay for someone to perform the abortion, other medical staff for support, their health benefits packages and malpractice insurance to cover all of them, and then multiply it by more than 650,000 [the number of Planned Parenthood abortions in 2008 and 2009].

As clinic director, I saw how money received by Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics all went into one pot at the end of the day -- it isn't divvied up and directed to specific services.
Couldn't Planned Parenthood's birth control efforts counteract its abortion promotion? The numbers show otherwise (see above). Liberal pundit Kirsten Powers, who worked in the Clinton administration, exposes the "birth control myth" in a recent column. She writes:
During the recent debate over whether to cut off government funding to Planned Parenthood, the organization claimed that its contraceptive services prevent a half-million abortions a year. Without their services, the group's officials insist, more women will get abortions.

I'll admit I bought the argument—it makes intuitive sense—and initially opposed cutting off funding for precisely that reason.

Then I did a little research.

Turns out, a 2009 study by the journal Contraception found, in a 10-year study of women in Spain, that as overall contraceptive use increased from around 49 percent to 80 percent, the elective abortion rate more than doubled. This doesn't mean that access to contraception causes more abortion—though some believe that—but that it doesn't necessarily reduce it.

In the U.S., the story isn't much different. A January 2011 fact sheet by the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute listed all the reasons that women who have had an abortion give for their unexpected pregnancy, and not one of them is lack of access to contraception. In fact, 54 percent of women who had abortions had used a contraceptive method, if incorrectly, in the month they got pregnant. For the 46 percent who had not used contraception, 33 percent had perceived themselves to be at low risk for pregnancy; 32 percent had had concerns about contraceptive methods; 26 percent had had unexpected sex, and 1 percent had been forced to have sex. Not one fraction of 1 percent said they got pregnant because they lacked access to contraception. Some described having unexpected sex, but all that can be said about them is that they are irresponsible, not that they felt they lacked access to contraception.

Lack of knowledge of contraception also isn't a reason that American women get abortions. Guttmacher reported that only 8 percent of women who undergo abortions have never used a method of birth control.

But what is truly astonishing about the Guttmacher statistics is that they are completely unchanged from a decade ago.

In the year 2000, Guttmacher experts reported: "Forty-six percent of women [seeking abortions] had not used a contraceptive method in the month they conceived, mainly because of perceived low risk of pregnancy and concerns about contraception. More than half of women obtaining abortions in 2000 (54 percent) had been using a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant."

These are exactly the same as the 2011 numbers.

Over this time period, the U.S. government has funneled billions of dollars to Planned Parenthood, in large part because the organization claims to provide services to avoid unplanned pregnancies—a laudable goal. Yet despite a robust budget—Planned Parenthood reported a total annual revenue of $1.1 billion in its last financial filing—the organization has done absolutely nothing to change the fundamental dynamics of the United States' abortion rate. ...

To preserve its federal subsidy, Planned Parenthood continues to claim that without its contraception services the abortion rate will go up. This deception smacks of a fleecing of taxpayers in an effort to promote an ideological agenda, rather than a sincere effort to help women plan families. ...

Planned Parenthood officials are allowed to believe whatever they want and to pursue whatever goals they choose. But their dishonesty in how they present their organization to the public, along with ignoring basic statistics about their area of expertise, makes you wonder what else they are hiding. It's also hard to deny that they are at core a blindly ideological organization, not a run-of-the-mill charitable nonprofit.

Whatever you think of abortion rights, this is not the kind of organization that taxpayers should be funding.
Update:  Powers made an error in her column, which she has addressed. But her conclusion is still well supported. "In fact, a look at the existing research on contraception use and abortion rates indicates that Powers's argument was stronger than she probably realizes," explains Dr. Michael New. Read his analysis.

Defunding Planned Parenthood makes fiscal sense

Grover Norquist and Marjorie Dannenfelser write:
When the House of Representatives voted two weeks ago to end federal grants and contracts for Planned Parenthood, it was doing more than merely expressing congressional revulsion against a notorious and scandal-plagued organization. It was deciding that American taxpayers should not be saddled with even more outrageous debt to fund an extraordinarily wealthy nonprofit.

As a consequence, what is now at stake in the funding fight over the nation's largest abortion business is not just a dispute over social policy. It's not even just a dispute over an organization that has been a sacred cow for decades. It's about a whole herd of sacred cows. In fact, it's about the whole farm: If a new Congress elected on a pledge to halt skyrocketing spending and deficits can't cut the gold-plated panjandrums at Planned Parenthood, it can't cut anything. ...

Planned Parenthood should be at the head of the cut list. To begin with, as Chuck Donovan at the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, Planned Parenthood is awash in net income. From 2002 to 2007, the national organization and its affiliates took in $388 million more than they spent on programs and services. No doubt the group lost some of that money in the same kinds of investments that disappointed the rest of us, but that has not prevented it from paying its president more than $337,000 in annual salary and tens of thousands more in benefits and allowances. ...

Planned Parenthood is a prime cut for reasons that should matter to conservatives on other grounds. Over the past few years, as the investigative group Live Action has documented, Planned Parenthood has shown it will accept donations offered up on racist grounds. They routinely fail to obey the law on statutory rape reporting. And now we know that their clinics across the country will condone and cooperate with child sex trafficking. We ask again: If a sparkling new Tea Party Congress won't cut off this bunch, what will it cut?

Mike Pence's battle [to defund Planned Parenthood] is not just another social-issue skirmish. It's a test of economic and budgetary seriousness. March 18 and a second continuing resolution are looming. Planned Parenthood must be privatized. Economic and social conservatives agree — this one is non-negotiable.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dog euthanasia vs. people euthanasia

Our 15-year-old dog was "put down" a few days ago. This caused me to reflect on the differences between dog euthanasia and people euthanasia. The former is permissible -- even humane and perhaps morally required -- but the latter, pro-life advocates contend, is a serious moral wrong.*

What's the difference? I won't dig deep, but we all know through moral intuition that killing a person is never the same as killing a dog. People are people, and dogs are dogs.

Dogs and other animals ought to be treated humanely and compassionately, but this does not preclude intentional killing (even animal rights activists agree with animal euthanasia). Human beings, on the other hand, by virtue of the sort of entity they are, have a profound and inherent dignity such that it is prima facie gravely wrong to kill them. It degrades that dignity to treat a human being as one would treat an animal at the end of life. It degrades that dignity to value human beings for what they can do rather than who and what they are.

That's why stories like this one -- in which a woman recounts helping her friend kill himself -- should make us sick. That's why suicide as a "solution" to life's troubles is inescapably sad and tragic, never an act to celebrate. Human life is different. Human beings matter more.

(* I define euthanasia here as the intentional killing of a patient by act or omission for his or her alleged benefit. This does not include, for example, allowing a natural death by withholding artificial treatment from a terminally ill patient.)

Lawmakers seek to prohibit abortions of unborn babies who can feel pain

The following news release was issued today, March 7.

ST. PAUL — Legislation to stop abortions after the point at which the unborn child can feel pain was introduced in the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives today. The measure would prohibit the killing of innocent unborn children at 20 weeks from conception.

"For far too long, Minnesota's abortionists have been inflicting unconscionable suffering on unborn babies by killing them when they are already extraordinarily developed and pain-sensitive," explained Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "It is illegal to treat animals in such a brutal way; this bill will finally protect unborn children at 20 weeks and older from the torturous pain of abortion."

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S.F. 649 and H.F. 936, is authored by Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville. The initiative is modeled after a law passed in Nebraska last year, which prohibits abortions after 20 weeks from conception. The Nebraska law has not been challenged in court by the abortion industry.

Overwhelming anatomical, behavioral and physiological evidence confirms that the developing unborn child is capable of experiencing tremendous pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization. This evidence did not exist when the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision removed all protections for unborn children and established abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy.

The most common abortion procedure used at 20 weeks is dilation and evacuation (D & E), which involves dismembering the unborn child. The abortionist uses forceps to tear apart the fetus in the womb, then reassembles the arms, legs, torso and head to ensure that no parts of the unborn child's body have been left inside the woman.

"People on both sides of the abortion debate should agree that the gratuitous suffering of the unborn child is incompatible with a humane and civilized society," Fischbach said. "MCCL calls upon all state legislators to support the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act."

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

Friday, March 4, 2011

Abortion and the soul

I know of two ways in which people bring the idea of the soul into arguments about abortion. Note that in both cases the soul is mentioned in order to argue in favor of the permissibility of abortion.

First, some (usually non-religious) people dismiss the pro-life position from public consideration by claiming that it rests on the "religious" view that an unborn human being has a soul. But no one dismisses my opposition to murdering teenagers on the grounds that it rests on a "religious" view that teenagers have souls. Pro-lifers oppose killing the unborn for the very same reason they oppose killing teenagers -- because the victims are human beings, and it is wrong to kill innocent human beings. No appeal is made to souls or religion (although I do not believe that such an approach is automatically illegitimate).

The nature of the human person does play a crucial role in determining the ethics of abortion -- it plays that same role in determining the ethics of any kind of treatment of human beings -- but all sides of the abortion debate necessarily reflect a particular metaphysical perspective. Arbitrarily ruling one side out of bounds is not legitimate.

Second, some (usually religious) people claim that the unborn does not yet have a soul and therefore abortion is permissible. Such thinking seems to have its roots in biologically antiquated (literally) embryology. But it is hard to make sense of this view today. Presumably the proponent believes that at some point in her continuous growth and development (when, exactly, and why?) a human organism becomes "ensouled," which is presumably a supernatural act of God. Some living members of our species do not yet have souls (and some perhaps no longer have souls?), and we may kill them. Anyone who advocates this view should provide reasons to think it is true. I don't know of any.

Especially for those "ensoulment" theorists who are Christians of some kind, this view is bizarre and impossible to justify biblically. Nothing at all in the Bible suggests that there could be such things as "soulless" human beings whom we may therefore kill. On the contrary, the Bible says God made man (human beings) in His own image -- not some men, but all men. This is affirmed by many passages that imply that I am identical to my prenatal self, and that God cares about human beings in the womb. If my soul is my immaterial self -- me -- then biblically that soul has existed from conception, because the Bible implies that I have existed from conception (e.g., Psalm 51:5, Luke 1:41-44, Psalm 22:10, Job 31:15).

(Apparently the Catholic Church is agnostic on the precise moment of "ensoulment," but holds that it is irrelevant to the ethics of killing an unborn human being, which is a serious moral wrong.)

The problem of abortion in health care -- and how to solve it

The following is written by Doug Johnson, Legislative Director at National Right to Life.

Innumerable polls show that the great majority of Americans reject the notion that abortion should be regarded as a routine part of "healthcare." For example, a 2010 Zogby/O'Leary poll found that 76 percent of Americans said that federal funds should never pay for abortion or should pay only to save the life of the mother.

Until the 2009-2010 Congress, federal law for the most part reflected this majority opinion. The Hyde Amendment, for example, annually prohibits any funds that flow through the Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill from funding either abortions or managed care plans that cover abortion (except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape and incest). Another example: For decades, the hundreds of private health plans that participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program have been prohibited from covering elective abortions.

During the 111th Congress, the House of Representatives initially acted to apply these same principles to legislation to restructure the healthcare system. In November, 2009, the House voted 240 to 194 in favor of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which would have prohibited federal subsidies for elective abortion in any component of the healthcare legislation.

Regrettably, the bill later muscled into law by President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid -- the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (PPACA) -- contained no such language. Instead, we find an array of abortion-expanding provisions, concealed behind a hodge-podge of artful exercises in misdirection, bookkeeping gimmicks, loopholes, and provisions that are rigged to expire.

President Obama tried to further cloak the abortion-expansive provisions of the bill with a hollow executive order -- a document that was dismissed by the president of Planned Parenthood as a "symbolic gesture."

Last July, while implementing the very first major component of the law, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan program, HHS happily approved state-submitted plans that explicitly covered elective abortions. When National Right to Life threw a spotlight on this development, the administration made a discretionary decision to exclude abortion from the program, although nothing in the PPACA prohibited such abortion coverage.

Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union said, "What is disappointing is that there is nothing in the law that requires the Obama administration to impose this broad and highly restrictive abortion ban." Nancy-Ann DeParle, the head of the White House Office of Health Reform, assured the pro-abortion activists that the discretionary decision to exclude abortion from the PCIP program "is not a precedent for other programs or policies" under the PPACA.

You can bet on that. The PPACA explicitly authorizes refundable "tax credits" (essentially, entitlement payments that are not related to actual tax liability) to purchase health plans that will cover all abortions -- a sharp break from the principles of the Hyde Amendment. The PPACA authorizes the Office of Personnel Management to administer "multi-state" plans that are implicitly authorized to cover elective abortions. The PPACA provides $9.5 billion in funding for community health centers, which pro-abortion activists have targeted as new abortion-providing sites, without any restriction on the use of these funds for abortion. And the list goes on.

These abortion-expansive provisions would be corrected by enactment of the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358), sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.). The bill is closely patterned on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment -- indeed, Prof. Sara Rosenbaum of the George Washington University School of Public Health, testifying against the bill, acknowledged, "I would say this bill would bring health reform into line with what originally was Stupak-Pitts."

The bill also contains important safeguards to prevent health care providers from being penalized for refusing to participate in providing abortions. Such protections are badly needed in the face of accelerating campaigns by groups such as the ACLU and the National Health Law Program to force individual and institutional healthcare providers to choose between providing abortions or abandoning the healing arts.

What is ultimately needed, however, is a clear, comprehensive, uniform policy to prevent federal subsidies for abortion. This would be provided by enactment of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-Il.), currently with 208 cosponsors. The House Judiciary Committee will mark up H.R. 3 on March 3.

Opponents of these bills have frantically sought to manufacture diversionary issues, such as the claim that the Smith-Lipinski bill contains tax hikes (imaginary), or that the Pitts bill would somehow discourage insurers from covering treatments for injuries caused by abortions (utterly baseless). The core policies contained in these bills have already been in effect for decades for the FEHB program, Medicaid, the military and most other federal health programs, and experience belies the imaginative claims to the opponents.

During the initial congressional debates over federal funding of abortion during the 1970s, the pro-abortion side engaged in similar scare tactics -- claiming, for example, that the Hyde Amendment would result in a huge increase in abortion-related morbidity and mortality. Instead, there was no measurable increase at all -- but, as I noted in recent congressional testimony, another dramatic effect did occur: Well over one million Americans are alive today, who otherwise would have died in federally funded abortions.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, this is a "tragic result." But anyone who advocates "abortion reduction" -- a goal to which even President Obama has given lip service -- should embrace the Pitts and Smith-Lipinski bills to codify and extend the principles and the lifesaving effects of the Hyde Amendment.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A former insider exposes the abortion industry

Texas pro-life activist Carol Everett spoke at the University of Minnesota last night. Everett's past involvement with the abortion industry is detailed in her book Blood Money: Getting Rich Off a Woman's Right to Choose.

Everett had an abortion herself in 1973, and subsequently entered into a long period of self-destructive behavior. Eventually she got involved in the abortion industry, where she saw the promise of making a lot of money. She started two abortion clinics, where she was owner and director, and planned to open more. She mastered the art of selling abortions to women using careful sales scripts (she says her over-the-phone "counselors" were really "telemarketers"), manipulation and out-right lies. Despite the pretend emphasis on birth control and related services, "We only sold one product," Everett says -- abortion. Women were intentionally given low-dose birth control that predictably resulted in pregnancy.

Everett's clinics sold abortions to women who weren't even pregnant (performing fake suction "abortions"), a practice that was exposed by an undercover local TV news crew. Why did the abortionists lie? Because they profited handsomely from each abortion, and Everett and her clinics took in a good percentage. (And, Everett says, abortionists tend to be the least qualified, most scummy members of the medical profession.)

Abortion instruments weren't properly sanitized between abortions, so as to maximize the number of abortions the clinics could pack into a day. When a woman was harmed by an abortion, no one called the ambulance -- because that would be bad publicity. Nor did they rush the injured woman to the nearest hospital. They drove her to whatever facility would best help them cover it up.

During her time as an abortion entrepreneur, Everett oversaw the killing of about 35,000 unborn children. She calls abortion "the largest unregulated legal industry today." The lack of regulation has had horrifying consequences, for both women and children. We see those consequences in Pennsylvania, in Texas, in Planned Parenthood clinics across the country.

Minnesota abortion clinics remain unregulated and uninspected.