Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Video: A mother's letter to her aborted child

The following video was created by a high school student, using the text of an actual letter written by a post-abortive woman to her unborn child.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Does having a brain make one a person? Does sentience?

Someone said recently that a human fetus cannot be considered deserving of full moral respect until he or she develops a central nervous system and cerebral cortex. But imagine a rational, intelligent alien race whose physiology is radically different than ours. These aliens are clearly persons who ought to be treated as such, but they do not have brains or nervous systems.

The abortion defender clarified that it is not the nervous system or brain itself that matters morally, but what it allows someone to do: experience pain and pleasure (i.e., have a kind of sentience, the capacity for pain/pleasure). But imagine again an alien race, this time one that -- though in every other way like us -- cannot experience feelings. (Think, to use an imperfect example, of the Vulcans of Star Trek.) Or imagine a person whose brain has been surgically altered to prevent the experience of pain and pleasure. Or consider people with congenital insensitivity to pain, a real condition. If these people are nevertheless people, beings who ought not be killed without just cause, then sentience is not necessary for one to be a person with a right to life.

Moreover, many non-human animals (probably including some insects) have a capacity to suffer pain and enjoy pleasure, but that fact does not necessarily preclude killing them, for they do not have the moral status of persons. So sentience seems neither necessary nor sufficient for a being to have full moral worth.

In addition, some people have more sentience than others, and a person can become more or less sentient. As Christopher Kaczor observes, "The kung fu master can put his arms around a burning cauldron ... The proverbial princess cannot stand the pea under her multiple mattresses." If moral worth depends on sentience, then some people are more valuable than others, and a person can become more or less valuable and deserving of respect.

Consider a clear-cut example: A man gets in a car accident and suffers permanent brain damage, but not enough to prevent him from functioning as a typical member of society. Nevertheless, some of his mental faculties have been slightly diminished. If those mental faculties are what confer moral worth, then he has become less valuable and less deserving of protection from being killed.

If this conclusion is false -- as anyone committed to the basic equality of all persons must hold -- then it is not true that moral worth depends upon having sentience, much less a brain or central nervous system. (Go here to learn about the only rationally sustainable basis for moral worth.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Planned Parenthood tells 17-year-old it doesn't offer prenatal care

At the blog of Bound4Life, Susan Tyrrell tells the story of a 17-year old girl named "Addison" who became pregnant. Addison's parents sent her to Planned Parenthood, an organization they knew little about. (Presumably, it helps one "plan parenthood," right?) Tyrrell writes:
After a home pregnancy test told her she was pregnant, Addison and her fiancé headed to the Houston Planned Parenthood for a blood test. There were no freebies for uninsured Addison here; her fiancé had to pay $70 for the blood test, and they told her the charge first thing, she says. But that wasn't the part that drove her off.

After sitting in the waiting room for two hours, Addison was not allowed to have her fiancé come back with her for the test, despite telling them she was uncomfortable and hated needles. He had to stay in the front waiting room while Addison was taken to a back room, then an exam room where she waited another hour before a Planned Parenthood employee came in with a list of questions for her, asking how many sexual partners she had, details of her sexual relationship with her fiancé, and other things. Then she asked Addison the magic question.

"Do you want to have an abortion if you're pregnant?" When Addison told her no, the woman said: "Well, you are only seventeen. You really need to make sure you're ready for parenting and consider abortion."

But Addison was opposed to abortion, and it had ever even occurred to her to consider abortion.

When they called later to confirm she was pregnant, they said, "We know you said you didn't want an abortion in your visit today, but we wanted to make sure that is still the case?"

"I said I did not want an abortion and hung up," Addison says. But she called back for help:

"The same day I called them and told them that I had a blood test and it confirmed pregnancy, and I needed to see if I could see a doctor about prenatal care and what I could and couldn't do, and what would keep the baby healthy. They then told me that unless I had a sexually transmitted disease or wanted an abortion that they could no longer help me. I said so y'all do not help pregnant women? They told me no that they didn't have doctors for pregnant women."

Sadly, Addison discovered that the 6-story building that advertised itself as a women's health center and claimed to care for uninsured women was really there for abortion, STD treatment and birth control.

She says she thought to herself, "I thought this was Planned Parenthood, not once-you're-pregnant-we-can't-help-you."

Ultimately, she ended up at a hospital with cramps, and found out she was 10 weeks along instead of the 4 she thought, but the baby didn't make it. Addison lost her baby to a miscarriage later that month.

Addison grew up fast last month. Not only did she find herself a pregnant college freshman at 17, but she found out behind the name Planned Parenthood were a bunch of folks who only wanted her to plan her parenthood if it meant killing her baby. All the ads about health care for uninsured women went right out the window. "Choice" to these workers really meant "Choose to abort your baby or choose to stop seeing us for treatment."
Read the entire story, which, Tyrrell points out, is far from an isolated event.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Regions Hospital in St. Paul to stop performing abortions

Regions Hospital in St. Paul announced yesterday that it will stop performing abortions after Dec. 9. The hospital performed 545 abortions last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Health -- a number that has dropped in recent years consistent with a statewide trend of fewer abortions. From the Pioneer Press story:
Regions said the closure is consistent with a broader trend of moving services to non-hospital settings. Hospital spokesman Jeff Shelman said he would not comment on whether the hospital bowed to pressure from anti-abortion groups that have protested the service at Regions over the years. ...

"A lot of folks within the pro-life community would not access the good things that Regions does, because (the hospital is) also involved in abortion," said Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a group that opposes abortion rights.
This is clearly great news, even though other abortion providers will try make up the difference. Planned Parenthood, in particular, is set to open a huge new abortion center in St. Paul. From the story:
"Community-based providers are available for women seeking confidential abortion care services," said Chris Boese, vice president of patient care at Regions, in a news release. "We're confident that patients will find the care they need from providers in our community."

The closure comes as Planned Parenthood of Minnesota -- the state's largest abortion provider last year -- is scheduled to open a new facility next month on University Avenue in St. Paul. The decision by Regions should not create an access problem for local women, said Jen Aulwes, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood.

"We're really confident that women are going to be able to get the services they need," Aulwes said.
In addition to its new abortion center, Planned Parenthood has begun doing "webcam" abortions at its Rochester, Minn., clinic -- another means of increasing abortions and counteracting the pro-life trend in our state.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why pro-lifers should be thankful

President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an official national holiday on Oct. 3, 1863. In the midst of the horror of the Civil War, precipitated largely by the great evil of slavery, Lincoln (quite amazingly) wrote:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. ...

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.
Despite the continuing scourge of abortion and occasional setbacks to our cause, pro-life advocates have every reason to be thankful on this Thanksgiving. We should be grateful for many lives saved, hearts and minds changed, and pregnant women in need helped. We should "commend to His tender care" unborn children and all those affected by the tragedy of abortion, and "fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it ... to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union."

And we should give thanks for the breathtaking privilege of working for the great cause of justice of our time. We stand for human rights and equality and against the unjust killing of more than one million innocent human beings in our nation every year. It is an honor.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Geron abandons embryo-killing FDA trials

By Scott Fischbach

We live in such a loud and noisy world that sometimes the news that is most important gets lost. In recent weeks some major developments have been taking place in the battle to protect living human embryos from so-called scientists who want to dissect and kill them.

If you remember back to the last Minnesota legislative session, officials with the University of Minnesota released a phony report claiming that creating and killing human embryos would become a great cash cow for our state. I laughed out loud when I read the U of M's phony claims, but there were some in the media and a few in the Legislature who actually believed them!

The U of M's scheme to fame and riches was to dissect and kill living human embryos and clones, own the patents to the genetic material and sell them at great profit to grow a whole state industry built on the deaths of the innocent embryos. In addition to fame and riches, the U of M claimed it would create cures for just about anything and everything that has ever afflicted humankind. Honestly, the story the U of M spun rivaled some of the best that Disney has ever offered.

Enter reality. No one has ever been cured of anything by killing human embryos. Killing human embryos kills human embryos — that is all it does. No cures, no cash, no fame and no glory … just dead human embryos. Four days ago the first FDA-approved clinical trial on stem cells derived from killing human embryos was abandoned! Not only did the company, Geron, abandon the clinical trials, it is giving up its entire stem cell program! The New York Times reported on it here.

A little more reality. The new U.S. Patent Law just enacted prohibits the patenting of any human organisms; embryos, clones, cells, etc., are all off limits. The "cash cow" of royalties from patents? Gone!

The global reality. The European Union judicial system just echoed the new U.S. Patent Law when it decreed that there would be no patenting of human genetic materials in the EU, either.

We can only hope that the U of M and its so-called researchers who support the creation and killing of human embryos will come out of the lab long enough to get a healthy dose of reality. Creating human life just to kill it will bring them no fame, no money, no cures, no royalties — just dead, innocent human beings.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Catholic-Mormon dialogue on embryo rights and stem cell research

Yesterday I attended an event titled "Embryo Rights and Stem Cell Research" at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. The highly distinguished speakers were Carter Snead, a law professor and Director of the Center for Ethics & Culture at Notre Dame, and Lynn Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University. Both have dealt extensively with bioethics. (Snead, in particular, formerly served as general counsel for the President's Council on Bioethics and as permanent observer for the U.S. government with the Council of Europe's Steering Committee on Bioethics, and he is currently serving on UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee.)

Prof. Snead at St. Thomas, Nov. 16
The speakers approached the topic from two different religious perspectives. Prof. Snead, a Catholic, noted the Catholic position and explained how it is affirmed by principles accessible to people of any or no faith, apart from any special revelation. Snead explained that modern embryology shows that the human embryo is a human being, a living member of the human species; moreover, human dignity requires respect and protection for human beings at all developmental stages. He noted that attempts to distinguish human beings who are "persons" (and therefore deserving of respect) from those who are "nonpersons" (who may therefore be instrumentalized and killed) utterly fail and are radically inconsistent with the normative principles of equality and justice.

Research that requires the killing of embryonic human beings -- namely, embryonic stem cell research -- is unjust and should not be allowed or funded, Snead concluded. This position is correctly taught by the Catholic Church and many other religious traditions, but it is grounded in science and reason. Ethical alternatives to embryo-destructive research, including research with adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, should be encouraged. (For more from Snead, see his excellent essay "Protect the Weak and Vulnerable: The Primacy of the Life Issue.")

Prof. Wardle, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), discussed Mormon views concerning prenatal human life. The official Mormon position on abortion, he said, has consistently been one of very strong opposition, except in a few rare circumstances. Most Mormons embrace the sanctity of human life, he said. There is certainly a diversity of views and practices among LDS members, as there is among members of almost any religious tradition, but the Church teaching on abortion is clear.

The official Mormon position on embryonic stem cell research, however, is "no position," Wardle explained, and he offered some possible reasons for -- and defended -- the Church's reluctance to weigh in on the matter. But Wardle himself opposes embryo-destructive research, as he opposes abortion, and agreed with the pro-life view articulated by Snead. He said that adult stem cell research is "far more promising" in its potential for producing medical benefits, and suggested that it should be favored over embryonic research even just on utilitarian grounds.

Snead and Wardle help show that the pro-life movement is a broad coalition of groups and individuals from diverse perspectives, united in affirming the self-evident truth that all members of the human family are equal and endowed with an inalienable right to life.

Update: For some reflections on yesterday's event, see this post from Elizabeth Schiltz.

Study: Unborn child affected by mother's psychological state

A Nov. 11 story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal:
Science has learned that a developing fetus receives messages from the mother, everything from hearing mom's heartbeat to the music she might direct toward her belly. But a new study in the journal Psychological Science suggests that the fetus can pick up on signals and respond to a mother experiencing depression.

Researchers at the University of California-Irvine recruited pregnant women and checked them for depression before and after the mothers delivered their babies. They also tested the babies after delivery to see how their development was progressing.

What appeared to matter most, according to their finding, was a consistent environment. The babies who fared best were those born to mothers who were either not depressed both before and after birth, or those who were depressed both before and afterwards. When mothers' moods shifted from to depression to healthy or from healthy to depression, the change appeared to slow development of their babies.

Authors said the finding should not be taken as an indication that depressed mothers should be left that way during pregnancy, but rather that they should be treated when they first show signs of depression.

"We believe the human fetus is an active participant in its own development and is collecting information for life after birth," said Curt A. Sandman, one of the authors and an emeritus professor of psychiatry and human behavior at UC-Irvine. "It's preparing for life based on messages the mom is providing."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Does the prevalence of early miscarriage cast doubt on the status of human embryos?

An abortion-related discussion recently popped up at National Review Online, mostly pertaining to a statement by Robert VerBruggen suggesting that the prevalence of early spontaneous miscarriage, or natural embryo loss, casts doubt on whether human embryos are in fact bearers of basic rights.

The argument is somewhat common, but it simply doesn't work. First, the estimates often cited of the percentage of embryos who die naturally are probably much too high. Many early "miscarriages" appear to involve the product of a faulty fertilization, such as a complete hydatidiform mole (a kind of disordered growth), rather than a new embryonic organism. In such cases, no actual human embryos are lost. (George and Tollefsen cite embryology textbooks to support this claim on p. 137 of Embryo.)

Second, regardless of how many embryos die from miscarriage, that fact does not justify abortion or embryo-destructive research. It does not follow that if some unborn human beings die by natural causes, it is therefore permissible to ourselves intentionally cause the death of unborn human beings. For example, the fact that a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, claims the lives of thousands of people does not justify a massacre. The fact that my father could die from a heart attack at any moment does not justify his murder.

Indeed, the reality of miscarriage simply has no bearing on the moral status of human embryos (i.e., how they ought to be treated), just as the reality of high infant mortality throughout most of human history (probably higher than today's rate of miscarriage) had no bearing on the moral status of infants. Nor does the high rate of death from AIDS in Africa call into question the worth and dignity of those affected by that terrible disease. In fact, as Francis Beckwith points out, a full 100 percent of people die at some point in time, but they are people nonetheless, and ought to be treated as such.

Third, VerBruggen and some others say that if pro-lifers really believed that embryos are valuable human beings, they would promote research to find ways to prevent early miscarriage. But at best this shows that pro-lifers are inconsistent; it does nothing to refute the pro-life position that human embryos deserve full moral respect. Moreover, society does try to stop miscarriage insofar as it might be possible. Yuval Levin notes:
A great deal of medical research (much of it funded by the NIH these days) has also gone into better understanding the causes of early miscarriages and finding ways to prevent them. Almost all early embryo deaths happen before the mother even knows she's pregnant, so it wouldn't really be possible to do much to prevent them, but those that occur later are very often found deeply regrettable by the families involved, to put it mildly, and a huge amount of effort and money are spent (by individuals and by our society as a whole) trying to prevent them.
In addition, natural death is morally different than unjust killing, and our obligations to prevent unjust killing may not be equivalent to our obligations pertaining to natural death. As Beckwith writes, VerBruggen's argument "confuses our obvious prima facie moral obligation not to commit homicide (that is, to intentionally kill an innocent human person) with the questionable moral obligation to interfere with natural death of a human person in every instance." Christopher Kaczor adds:
Just as there is no moral requirement to make extraordinary efforts to attempt to restore health to elderly human beings, we need not make extraordinary efforts to attempt to restore health to human beings in their embryonic state. An affirmation of the dignity of all human life simply does not imply that one must always make every effort to save every human life, regardless of the burdens involved or the likelihood of success. Even though every human life has intrinsic value ... it does not follow that every proposed treatment is worthwhile or valuable. ...

If we did [emphasis added] know exactly who was going to have a miscarriage and when, and if we had effective and nonburdensome ways to save this endangered life [we obviously do not currently], then the pro-life view would entail that we would have a prima facie obligation to try to save the human being in utero, and indeed a great many people would vigorously try to do this—including many people who suffer from infertility problems.
So it seems clear that the pro-life movement is not acting inconsistently. Regardless, defenders of abortion and embryo-destructive research will have to do the hard work of actually showing that embryonic human beings do not merit basic moral respect and thus may be killed for the convenience or theoretical benefit of others. Appealing to miscarriage does absolutely nothing to support their view.

Next 24 hours only: Double your gift, help save lives

Today, Nov. 16, is Give to the Max Day in Minnesota. All donations to MCCL through over the next 24 hours (until 12:00 a.m., Nov. 17, central standard time) will be doubled (up to $25,000), thanks to some very generous matching donors. Please go here to give right now.

Other benefits of giving today include:

  • A $1,000 Gold Ticket will be given to a random donor's charity every hour. You can increase our odds by donating several times throughout the day. They do not need to be large donations!
  • will draw the name of one lucky donor to win the Grand Gold Ticket — adding $10,000 to their donation.
  • Your donation could help put MCCL on the Leader Board to win $7,500, $10,000 or even $15,000 for the most dollars donated.

Every donation today will further the work of ending the unjust killing of innocent human beings (on a breathtaking scale) and restoring respect and protection for human beings at all developmental stages and in all conditions. Few issues or concerns in our society today are more important than this.

Please help us with this crucial mission. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A unique visualization of human development before birth

In the video embedded below (also viewable here), Alexander Tsiaras, a renowned medical imaging expert, presents a unique visualization of human development from conception until birth. Note how often he uses words and phrases like "beyond our comprehension," "marvelous," "incredible" and "the magic of us."  Tsiaras says that the complexity of prenatal human development is "beyond any comprehension of any existing mathematics today."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Facial expressions in the womb

"Whatever the fetus is feeling, at 20 weeks she is certainly capable of demonstrating lots of facial expressions. 4D scans have revealed babies not only grimacing but also seeming to smile and even laugh." -- Peter Tallack, In the Womb (National Geographic)

These images are from the Endowment for Human Development (which is not a pro-life organization). See more fetal facial expressions here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Nov. 16: Double your gift, save lives

Dear Friend of Life,

Wednesday, Nov. 16, is Give to the Max Day. For the third consecutive year, you will have a unique opportunity to maximize your support of MCCL's life-affirming work.

Last year, pro-life Minnesotans raised $40,000 for MCCL in just 24 hours, thanks to many dedicated pro-life individuals and a very generous $20,000 matching gift from an MCCL donor. This year we have an opportunity to do even more for life!

Through the generosity of several partner leaders in giving, all gifts given to the MCCL Education Fund through on Wednesday, Nov. 16, will be matched — up to $25,000!

Give to the Max Day can amplify your giving impact in other ways as well:

  • Win a Golden Ticket. $1,000 will be given to a random donor's charity every hour. You could be that donor! Increase our odds by donating several times throughout the day.
  • Be the lucky donor to win the Grand Golden Ticket! GiveMN will draw the name of one lucky donor — adding $10,000 to their donation.
  • Put us on the Leader Board. Your donation on Nov. 16 will help to put MCCL on the Leader Board to win $7,500, $10,000 or even $15,000 for the most dollars donated.

To further our pro-life work and to increase the impact of your donation, Give to the Max! Visit MCCL's page at on Wednesday, Nov. 16, and make your lifesaving contribution. Thank you!

Leo F. LaLonde

Thursday, November 3, 2011

UN General Assembly told that every nation must legalize abortion

New report from the Special Rapporteur on Health makes false claims in support of expanding abortion

By Paul Stark and Jeanne Head

On Oct. 24 the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover, presented his latest report to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York. Mr. Grover’s report explicitly calls for every nation to "decriminalize abortion" on the grounds that abortion restrictions violate the right to health protected "by international human rights law." The report drastically exceeds the Special Rapporteur's mandate and is fraught with inaccuracies.

Mr. Grover had bypassed the Human Rights Council in Geneva by sending his report directly to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who transmitted it to the General Assembly, stating that he had the "honour" of doing so.

After the Special Rapporteur's presentation at the Oct. 24 meeting, the report was praised by the European Union countries, Norway, South Africa and the United States. Several pro-life countries strongly objected: Chile, Swaziland, Egypt, Honduras and The Holy See.

Egypt's delegate criticized Mr. Grover's "systematic attempts to reinterpret internationally agreed conventions." The delegate from Swaziland noted that the report largely ignores the Special Rapporteur's mandate. Rather than concentrating on health-related issues such as hunger and disease, the report focuses on a "non-existent right to abortion."

The Holy See said the report is simply wrong in claiming that abortion restrictions violate the right to health. In fact, the delegate explained, "the very opposite is the case: abortion is itself a violation of the right to health both of the unborn child and of the mother." Chile's delegate emphasized the importance of recognizing the right to life of all human beings, including the unborn.

It would be a mistake to assume from the number who intervened in opposition to Mr. Grover's report that every other country supports it, particularly those whose laws provide protection for unborn children. Since the meeting last week, contacts made so far with delegates from more than 35 of the pro-life countries revealed that all disagree with the new document.

In his report, Mr. Grover claims: "Criminal laws penalizing and restricting induced abortion are the paradigmatic examples of impermissible barriers to the realization of women’s right to health and must be eliminated." The report goes even further by condemning a number of modest regulations of abortion, including informed consent laws, parental involvement requirements, bans on government funding of abortion, and protections of the conscience rights of pro-life health care workers. These measures "serve to reinforce the stigma that abortion is an objectionable practice," Mr. Grover complains.

The report also alleges that legal restrictions do not significantly influence the incidence of abortion, and that they serve only to make the procedure less safe, leading to health complications and death for many women.

The Special Rapporteur and his supporters are wrong on all counts. An important new document called the San Jose Articles, drafted by international experts and introduced at the UN headquarters in New York on Oct. 6, notes with extensive evidence that "there exists no right to abortion under international law, either by way of treaty obligation or under customary international law." Mr. Grover is blatantly wrong to suggest otherwise.

On the contrary, international law protects the dignity of every human being, including the unborn. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, "Every human being has the inherent right to life." The Convention on the Rights of the Child says children require "appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth." The science of embryology shows that the human embryo or fetus is a distinct, living and whole organism of the human species; therefore, he or she is due the same respect and protection as every other member of the human family. The killing of unborn human beings by abortion should not be permitted.

Mr. Grover's report is also mistaken about the effect of abortion laws on the incidence of abortion: Legalizing abortion has the clear consequence of increasing the number of abortions that occur. Moreover, worldwide evidence shows that legalized abortion does nothing to solve the problem of maternal mortality, which can only be addressed by improving maternal health care—a crucial goal that the Special Rapporteur only mentions in passing. Women in developing countries need better medical care throughout pregnancy, at delivery and postpartum. They do not need abortion.

Abortion, in fact, poses serious physical and psychological risks to pregnant women, whether it is legal or illegal. These risks are exacerbated in countries where basic health care is lacking; the legalization of abortion in such countries—triggering an increase in demand—will likely lead to more women suffering and dying from abortion. The above facts are explained in more detail in "Why legalized abortion is not good for women's health," produced by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach and the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund.

Rather than focusing on ways to improve maternal health, Mr. Grover and others at the United Nations are pushing a radical agenda to promote and expand abortion all around the globe. This agenda must be opposed for the sake of women and their unborn children.

Paul Stark is Communications Associate for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach (MCCL GO). Jeanne Head, RN, is Vice President for International Affairs and UN Representative for National Right to Life. This article was first published at National Right to Life News Today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

MCCL's legislative vote scoring explained

Many people recently have had questions about MCCL's legislative vote scoring. With the completion of our most recent (2011) Legislative Accountability Rating (LAR), this seems an opportune time to explain our scoring system, including why we score votes and how we decide which votes to score.

MCCL has been using the LAR since at least 1981. Its purpose is simple—to compile an easy-to-decipher record of how each legislator voted on issues of importance to the pro-life movement in order to hold legislators accountable for their votes. The audience for the LAR is MCCL members, the pro-life individuals who generously give to MCCL because they believe that LIFE is the most important issue.

MCCL has consistently scored various life-related issues including abortion and end-of-life legislation, as well as issues that affect the ability of MCCL to be successful, such as campaign finance changes.

We recognize that in order to successfully pass legislation into law, it is important to follow the entire legislative process. Therefore, in addition to scoring final passage votes, we also score committee votes, amendments and procedural votes. Before each scored vote, MCCL lobbyists make every effort to inform legislators of their intent to score the vote and, of course, to provide an explanation of why the vote is important to pro-lifers. Because we can't always anticipate what will be happening, it isn't always possible to reach every legislator prior to a vote, but we have always prided ourselves on being forthcoming with legislators about these important issues.

Success in the legislative process also demands strategic thinking and strategic action on the part of legislators. For this reason, MCCL has at times scored votes on legislation that does not include pro-life language, but, with sufficient legislative gumption, could be used as a fitting vehicle for pro-life legislation. An example of this occurred in 1998, when MCCL asked legislators to vote against a conference committee report, resulting in the bill being sent back to committee where abortion reporting requirement language was added that became law. This law has since been used to ascertain accurate abortion numbers and the circumstances which lead to abortion—information that was used to show the need for the hugely successful and life-saving Positive Alternatives grant program.

Holding legislators accountable, even in difficult circumstances, can prove to be life-saving for the unborn and vulnerable.

At times, legislators become frustrated at the high standard reflected in the LAR. As a single-issue organization, MCCL has the luxury of looking at legislation through just one lens—a luxury that elected officials do not possess. The standard that MCCL holds is one that our members insist on—it is why they are MCCL members—and that standard is to always prioritize life. Thus, in order for legislators to have a 100% pro-life score on the LAR, they must make life their number-one priority on every vote they cast.

A mark of less than 100% does not mean that a lawmaker is not pro-life, but it does mean that he or she took one or more votes that did make life the first priority.

Our LAR doesn't play "gotcha" politics with legislators or political parties. It is an honest look at who voted with the unborn and other vulnerable human beings as their top priority at every opportunity. The pro-life movement has had many friends who haven't achieved the perfect 100% standard at times—friends who, because of their efforts, have saved the lives of many.

But when they don't achieve 100%, we don't provide excuses and we are deeply disappointed. These individuals remain our friends, but when life isn't the top priority, lives are lost, and the consequences are deadly serious.

We look forward to the opportunity to work with them again to pass life-saving, pro-life legislation and hold out hope that the next time they are asked to make life the #1 priority, they will.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

0-for-history: The track record of 'human non-personhood'

Defenders of abortion and embryo-destructive research argue that unborn human beings do not bear a right to life -- that is, to use the popular term, they are not "persons," beings deserving of basic moral respect, like you and me.

There are many (decisive, it seems to me) reasons against supposing that only some members of the human species are "persons" (and, as such, ought not be killed except arguably in very narrow circumstances, such as just war or self-defense) and other members of our species are not (and thus may be killed for the convenience or possible benefit of others). But here is an additional consideration.

Often throughout human history some human beings have classified other human beings as "non-persons" who may therefore be treated without the dignity and respect that is owed to persons. Blacks, Native Americans, Jews, women and many more groups have at times been excluded from the human family and mistreated (or worse), their fundamental rights as persons denied. And every single such occurrance in history -- every instance of deciding that some human beings are not persons bearing basic rights -- is now almost universally considered a horrific moral mistake that led to utterly horrific consequences. Every single time, without exception.

But pro-choice bioethicists and philosophers think that the streak has finally ended, for they have at long last, against all odds, found some human beings who don't count as persons and whom we may kill and discard for our convenience, or if we think harvesting their parts might be interesting or useful.

Really, people? (They are people, I take it.) History should give them more than a little pause.