Thursday, December 19, 2013

What Christmas says about human life and dignity

Christians use the Christmas holiday to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This event (apart from everything else it entails) provides a number of insights about human life and dignity.

1. Each of us was once an unborn child. The Incarnation—the coming into the world of Christ—did not happen in the manger. It happened some nine months earlier. This is what the facts of human embryology and developmental biology tell us, and it is what the scriptural accounts affirm.

Mary is said to be "with child" (Matthew 1:18) upon Jesus being "conceived ... from the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:20). Earlier, Mary is told she will "conceive in [her] womb ... a son, [to be named] Jesus" (Luke 1:31), who even before birth is called a "child ... [who] will be called holy—the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Luke 1:41-44 recounts that the unborn John the Baptist (who was probably in his sixth month) "leaped for joy" in his mother's womb when he entered the presence of the unborn Jesus (who was probably a very young embryo at the time).

Jesus began his earthly existence as an embryo and fetus. So did all of us.

2. The weak and vulnerable matter just as much as the strong and independent. God chose to enter the world in the most vulnerable condition possible: as an embryo, and then a fetus, and then a newborn baby lying in a manger. This is startling, and it turns ancient "might makes right" morality on its head. It suggests that human dignity is not determined by age, size, power or independence.

3. Motherhood is enormously honorable. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was utterly important, admirable and deserving of great honor. All mothers are important and deserving of honor.

4. Human life is extraordinarily valuable. Christmas is part of God's larger plan to rescue humanity because He loves us (John 3:16). Jesus was born so that we might live. From this Christian perspective, God considers human life to be immensely precious, and worth saving at tremendous cost. "Christian belief in the Incarnation is thus inseparable from belief in the objective, and even transcendent, value of the human race as a whole, and of each human person as an individual," writes Carson Holloway.

Christmas proves that human beings matter. All of them, at all stages of their lives—including the youngest and most vulnerable.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Video: Hormonal stress response at 16 weeks after conception

Friday, December 13, 2013

Why Minnesota has taxpayer funding of abortion

The following news release was issued today, Dec. 13.

ST. PAUL — Since a Dec. 15, 1995, Minnesota Supreme Court ruling required taxpayers to fund abortions, more than 62,000 unborn babies have been killed in Minnesota with taxpayer funds, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (MDHS). The Doe v. Gomez ruling established the most extreme abortion-on-demand policy in the nation.

"The Doe v. Gomez ruling by a handful of activist judges has been disastrous for Minnesota women and their unborn babies," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "On this 18th anniversary of the decision, Minnesotans continue to believe it is not the mission of the state to abort thousands of innocent unborn children each year, yet that is exactly what is happening under this radical ruling."

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

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

Doe v. Gomez also obligates the state—and thus, taxpayers—to pay for abortions, something not required by the U.S. Supreme Court. From June 1994 (under an earlier decision) through 2011, state taxpayers paid more than $19.9 million for 62,252 abortions, according to MDHS. In 2011 alone (the most recent statistics available), state taxpayers paid $1.2 million for 3,693 abortions (MDHS). The state does not report how many women have been hurt or killed from these abortions.

While the total number of abortions in the state is declining gradually, taxpayer funding of elective abortions has risen most years since 1995. Minnesota taxpayers now pay for 34 percent of all abortions performed in the state—the highest percentage ever.

"This is not the will of the majority of Minnesotans, who oppose abortion on demand," Fischbach said. "The Court took away the people's ability to decide whether they want abortion on demand in the state and whether they should be required to pay for others' elective abortions. After 18 years, it's time for the Supreme Court to revisit this wrongly decided ruling."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Abortion and breast cancer: The evidence from China

A new meta-study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Cancer Causes & Control analyzes 36 different studies of the association between abortion and breast cancer in China.

Combined, the studies show that abortion increases a woman's risk of breast cancer by 44 percent. The increased risk jumps to 76 percent after two or more abortions and 89 percent after three or more. The researchers conclude, "IA [induced abortion] is significantly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among Chinese females, and the risk of breast cancer increases as the number of IA increases."

In China, which has a coercive population control policy, abortion is extremely prevalent. The weight of the evidence of an abortion-breast cancer link from all of these academic studies (which cover 14 different provinces in China) seems overwhelming.

The Chinese data should come as no surprise. Dozens of studies worldwide, spanning decades, show an abortion-breast cancer connection. A 1996 meta-analysis found a 30 percent increase in breast cancer risk among post-abortion women. And the physiological explanation of this increased risk (how abortion leaves a woman with more cancer-vulnerable breast tissue) makes perfect sense.

This isn't just a scientific discussion. It has very real consequences. As Dr. Joel Brind writes:
It is really frightening when you start doing the math on the impact of abortion on a population of over a billion women—in India and China alone: Just a 2% lifetime risk of breast cancer due to abortion—a very conservative estimate—means upwards of 10 million women getting breast cancer, and millions dying from it.
Many continue to deny (or ignore, in the case of the mainstream media) any link between abortion and breast cancer, but the criticisms of the evidence do not seem to withstand scrutiny, and more studies from around the world continue to surface. They are making the link seem almost undeniable.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Human Rights Day, we recognize the unborn child's right to life

The following was released today by MCCL Global Outreach.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Today is Human Rights Day as declared by the United Nations. December 10th marks the 64th anniversary of the agreement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

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

"On this important Human Rights Day of 2013, let us come together as compassionate human beings, understanding of each other’s plight, to protect one another.

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

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

"As we move forward into critical negations concerning new post-2015 development goals, let us prioritize the genesis of all human rights, life. For without that first, most basic right to life itself, all other rights are irrelevant and meaningless."

MCCL GO is a pro-life NGO 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 www.mccl-go.org.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Who you are is enough: Unconditional love and the ethics of abortion

Love in its deepest sense (agape love) is concerned for the well-being of others regardless of their talents or accomplishments or other desired qualities. It is unconditional. We ought to love people simply because they are who they are—that is enough.

This kind of love, I think, has something to say about the ethics of abortion.

In his highly-regarded book A Defense of Abortion, David Boonin describes photographs on his desk depicting his son, Eli, at different stages of life. "Through all of the remarkable changes that these pictures preserve," Boonin writes, "he remains unmistakably the same little boy."

Boonin continues:
In the top drawer of my desk, I keep another picture of Eli. This picture was taken ... 24 weeks before he was born. The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clearly enough a small head tilted back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows the same little boy at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point.
It would have been okay to kill Eli, Boonin argues, because at that stage Eli had not yet developed the "organized cortical brain activity" necessary for the kind of conscious desires that Boonin thinks confer a right to life. According to this view, none of us should receive the moral respect of others simply by virtue of who we are. Who we are is not enough. It was not enough that Eli was Eli.

Instead, Boonin—like most other pro-choice philosophers and bioethicists—contends that we must exhibit certain mental functions in order to merit respect and protection. If we do not yet have those abilities (due to age), or if we will never have them (due to disability), or if we do not have them any longer (due to disease or injury), then we may be killed.

I think there are significant flaws in Boonin's position, as many others have argued. But perhaps no flaw is more significant than the fact that this view goes against the nature of love.

Love is a commitment to the good of others irrespective of their abilities (or disabilities), their age, their appearance, their stage in life. Love is a commitment to the good of others simply because they are who they are, and that is enough.

We ought to love others, not kill them, and that's why abortion is wrong.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nov. 20 is Universal Children's Day

The following was released today by MCCL Global Outreach.

The United Nations has declared November 20th as Universal Children's Day. It is a time to celebrate the documents that have been declared on behalf of our youngest members of the human family. Following are excerpts from U.N. documents upholding the right to life of all the world’s children, born and unborn, that we celebrate on the Universal Children's Day.

Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child (League of Nations, Sept. 26, 1924)
(2) The child that is hungry must be fed; the child that is sick must be nursed; the child that is backward must be helped; the delinquent child must be reclaimed; and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succored.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec. 10, 1948)
Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Declaration of the Rights of the Child (Nov. 20, 1959, General Assembly Resolution 1386 (XIV))
Preamble (excerpt):
Whereas the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.
Principal 4
The child shall enjoy the benefits of social security. He shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to him and to his mother, including adequate pre-natal and post-natal care. The child shall have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services.
Principal 5
The child who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required by his particular condition.
Principal 8
The child shall in all circumstances be among the first to receive protection and relief.
Convention on the Rights of the Child (Nov. 20, 1989, General Assembly Resolution 44)
Bearing in mind that, as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”
Article 6
1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.
2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
Article 23
1. States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community.
Article 24
2. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures:
(a) To diminish infant and child mortality
(d) To ensure appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care for mothers.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bill to protect unborn children who can feel pain introduced in U.S. Senate

Legislation to protect pain-capable unborn children nationwide was introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The landmark bill passed the House on June 18.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would prohibit abortion (with a few exceptions) beginning at 20 weeks post-fertilization (22 weeks LMP), the age at which substantial scientific and medical evidence shows that babies can feel pain. The bill is based on  model legislation—crafted by National Right to Life—that has already been enacted in 10 states. The Minnesota Legislature passed the legislation in 2011, but it was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

National Right to Life estimates (based on a Guttmacher Institute study) that at least 140 abortion providers perform abortions at 20 weeks post-fertilization or later. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would save lives and prevent suffering. It also draws attention to the humanity and pain-sensitivity of unborn children and the brutality of killing them.

The House version (H.R. 1797), sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), passed by a vote of 228-196. Among Minnesota's U.S. House delegation, Reps. Kline, Paulsen, Bachmann and Peterson voted in favor of the protective measure, while Reps. Walz, McCollum, Ellison and Nolan voted against it (and in favor of unlimited abortion in the sixth month and later).

Anatomical, behavioral and physiological evidence that unborn children can experience pain and suffering at 20 weeks, if not earlier, is compiled at www.doctorsonfetalpain.com. A helpful discussion of the fetal pain debate was published recently in Deseret News.

"There is ample biologic, physiologic, hormonal, and behavioral evidence for fetal and neonatal pain," testified Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, a neonatology professor at Northwestern University, before a U.S. House committee last year. "We now understand the fetus to be a developing, moving, interacting member of the human family who feels pain as we do. If we are to be a benevolent society, we are bound to protect the fetus. We should not tolerate the gruesome and painful procedures being performed on the smallest of our nation."

Dr. Maureen L. Condic, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine, explained the scientific evidence for fetal pain before a U.S. House committee in late May. "Imposing pain on any pain-capable living creature is cruelty. And ignoring the pain experienced by another human individual for any reason is barbaric," she concluded. "We simply have to decide whether we will choose to ignore the pain of the fetus or not."

Dr. Anthony Levatino, a former abortion practitioner, graphically described the dismemberment procedure—called Dilation and Evacuation (D & E)—he used when performing second-trimester abortions. "If you refuse to believe that this procedure inflicts severe pain on that unborn child, please think again," he told the committee.

D & E abortions are as barbaric and inhumane as the killings of notorious Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted earlier this year on multiple counts of first-degree murder. The only difference? Location. Gosnell was convicted for brutally killing babies outside—rather than inside—the womb.

The weight of public opinion is decidedly against late abortions. A Polling Company survey in March found that 64 percent of Americans (and 63 percent of women) support protection for unborn children capable of experiencing pain. Similarly, a Gallup poll in January found that 64 percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal in the second trimester of pregnancy, and 80 percent think it should be illegal in the third.

Senate leaders must be urged to allow a vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken should consider the interests of the child suffering in the womb and vote for this reasonable and compassionate measure, which is supported by the majority of Americans and Minnesotans.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Abortion chain with Minneapolis facility cited for more violations in Texas

The following news release was issued today, Nov. 1.

MINNEAPOLIS—The latest inspections of Whole Woman's Health (WWH) abortion centers in Texas have revealed continuing health violations by the abortion chain. Yet WWH's Minneapolis abortion center remains neither licensed nor inspected by the state of Minnesota.

An Oct. 3 inspection of WWH of Beaumont by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) found many different health code violations. "[T]he facility failed to provide safe and sanitary equipment in the patients' procedure rooms," DSHS noted. For example, inspectors found "numerous rusty spots on the suction machines used on the patient" that had "the likelihood to cause infection." The DSHS report concluded, "[T]he facility failed to provide a safe environment for patients and staff."

An Aug. 29 inspection of WWH of San Antonio determined that it "failed to implement and enforce acceptable environmental controls in cleaning and preparing instruments for sterilization." A Sept. 4 inspection of WWH of McAllen found that "personnel ... were not following proper sterilization procedures."

"Whole Woman's Health has a long history of not abiding by health and safety standards," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "But here in Minnesota, the Department of Health doesn't inspect abortion facilities, or even license them. We have no way of holding Whole Woman's Health accountable and protecting women's health."

Texas-based WWH launched its Minneapolis center, Whole Woman's Health of the Twin Cities, in early 2012. Legislation to license and inspect abortion facilities was passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2012, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Four of the five WWH clinics in Texas have been cited for violating safety standards in just the last three years. In 2007 DSHS fined WWH of Beaumont $3,050 for five different violations. In 2011 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality determined that two WWH clinics were illegally disposing of the remains of aborted children; they were penalized $40,410 (and WWH’s medical waste vendor was penalized $42,612). In 2012 the Texas Medical Board disciplined two WWH abortionists for violating standards of patient care.

"In light of the persistent violations by Whole Woman's Health in Texas, as well as horrific practices uncovered in other abortion clinics across the country, it is ridiculous that Minnesota does not ensure minimum health and safety standards in abortion facilities," concluded Fischbach. "Gov. Dayton is letting his commitment to unfettered abortion get in the way of protecting the women of Minnesota."

Monday, October 28, 2013

How Planned Parenthood makes a difference in Minnesota

Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) is advertising a nursing position at its abortion center in St. Paul. "Make a difference in someone's life today—work for Planned Parenthood!" the job listing says.

What kind of difference?

PPMNS—the local affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America—has been the state's leading abortion provider since 2004. In 2012 Planned Parenthood performed 3,917 abortions in Minnesota, an average of more than 10 per day. It performed 36.6 percent of all abortions, and almost 1,700 more abortions than the next largest provider.

Planned Parenthood increased its abortions by 8.6 percent in 2012 even as the state total decreased. It has increased its abortion total by 60 percent since 2000. State abortions decreased 26 percent in the same period.

Abortion is big business. PPMNS had a 2012 revenue of $32.48 million, receiving $4.46 million from the government (federal, state and local). Some taxpayer dollars directly pay for abortions. In 2011 (the latest data available) Planned Parenthood was reimbursed more than $196,000 by taxpayers for 865 abortions performed on low-income women. The percentage of Minnesota abortions funded by the state has steadily increased and reached 34 percent in 2012.

Planned Parenthood is also very active politically. It works to elect pro-abortion political candidates and has vigorously fought pro-life legislation at the state Capitol. It even opposes the most mainstream, commonsense measures, such as the Woman's Right to Know informed consent law and Positive Alternatives, which provides practical help to pregnant women in need.

PPMNS opened its large new headquarters in St. Paul at the end of 2011. And in 2010 it began remotely prescribing RU486 chemical abortions to women at its Rochester facility who never meet with a doctor in person. The method allows Planned Parenthood to expand abortion to more locations, but it only exacerbates the risks of RU486 to the health of women. (These "webcam abortions" were recently banned for safety reasons by the Iowa Board of Medicine in the only other state where they take place.)

So what kind of difference does Planned Parenthood make? Each year Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota brings in millions of dollars by destroying thousands of innocent human lives and causing emotional and psychological harm to an unknown number of women (and men).

Planned Parenthood does make a difference.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

International Day of the Girl Child

The following news release was issued today, Oct. 10, 2013.

The second annual International Day of the Girl Child has been designated as Oct. 11, 2013, by the United Nations General Assembly as a day to acknowledge, protect and empower female children. The U.N.'s efforts this year are focused on education for girls.

While education is a key component for success in our world, basic human rights are paramount and must be prioritized by global leaders. Specifically, the most basic human right of all, the right to life, must be respected for all girls.

Today, parents can identify the gender of their unborn child as early as seven weeks from conception—long before a pregnancy is recognizable. The victims of sex-selection abortions, performed solely based on the sex of the unborn child, are overwhelmingly female.

U.N. estimates indicate that more than 200 million females are "missing" due to practices like sex-selection abortion, which has appropriately been called "gendercide." Rampant sex-selection feticide is commonplace in China, India and Korea, where culture and tradition favor boys.

Sex-selection abortion violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Adopted in 1989, the document notes that "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth."

Legal and educational efforts, such as the ones taken in Harayna, India, against "female feticide," have resulted in 30 percent decreases in the numbers of abortions in a few short years.

"These initiatives to protect the girl child ought to be implemented globally," said Scott Fischbach of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach (MCCL GO).

MCCL GO is a pro-life NGO 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 www.mccl-go.org.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Is abortion justified when a baby is disabled?

The following ran in the summer 2013 issue of MCCL News.

The New York Times recently published an article titled "My Abortion, at 23 Weeks." The author explains that she was pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl, but that the boy was diagnosed with a herniated diaphragm. He would require surgery and life support for a period after birth.

The author and her husband could not bear "the thought of hearing him gasp for air," so they chose to have their son aborted with a lethal injection into his heart. "He died in a warm and loving place, inside me," she writes. It was for his own good, she thought.

Is abortion justified in the case of a fetal disability, "deformity" or "defect"? Is it justified when an unborn child is expected to die during pregnancy, childbirth or soon after? These circumstances—though they account for only a tiny fraction of abortions—are gut-wrenching. They call for some clear moral thinking.

Two points about the abortion of disabled babies are important. First, ability (or disability) is irrelevant to the worth and dignity of a human being. We do not (or should not) think less of people who have physical and mental handicaps. Parents may not kill their toddler if they learn that she has autism. They may not execute a 10-year-old with spina bifida because they think she would be better off dead.

Since disability itself does not justify killing, the killing of disabled unborn babies could only be justified if the unborn (whether disabled or not) do not have the same value and right to life as human beings at later developmental stages, such as toddlers and 10-year-old children. But this is only a different form of discrimination. Just as ability is irrelevant to human value, so too is age, size and location. All human beings share an equal right to life simply by virtue of their humanity. Killing disabled people, in the womb or out, is morally wrong.

Second, it is deeply mistaken to suppose that the life of a disabled person is not worth living. People with disabilities live meaningful and often happy lives. And caring for them, though difficult, is enriching and rewarding, as parents and caregivers attest.

Sometimes a child in the womb is diagnosed with a disease or condition that is fatal. She will likely die before, during or shortly after birth. Surely a pregnant woman should not have to endure such an emotionally traumatic pregnancy, abortion advocates argue.

But the fact that someone will soon die provides no moral justification for killing her. We may not kill terminal patients in the cancer ward or elderly grandparents in the nursing home. All of us, in fact, will die at some point in the future, but we ought to be treated with dignity and respect in the present. The reality of natural death (by disease) does not mean that unnatural death (intentional killing) is okay.

Moreover, abortion even in these tragic circumstances does not serve the emotional and psychological health of pregnant women. "There is no research to support the popular assumption that terminating the pregnancy is easier on the mother psychologically," explains PerinatalHospice.org. "In fact, research to date suggests the opposite." One 2004 study (published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology) concludes that abortion due to "fetal malformation" is a "traumatic event" that "entails the risk of severe and complicated grieving."

There is another option. Perinatal hospice acknowledges terminally ill unborn children as real patients while providing support to grieving families. This is a wonderful alternative that is ethical, compassionate and healthy for everyone involved. Organizations that help families deal with adverse prenatal diagnoses include Prenatal Partners for Life and Be Not Afraid.

Caring is always better than killing.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

MCCL Global Outreach in Finland

The following news release was issued today, Sept. 5, 2013.

HELSINKI, Finland—Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach Director Scott Fischbach and Finland's Interior Minister Dr. Paivi Rasanen met today in the Finnish Parliament House. The leaders discussed abortion in Finland and Minnesota as well as fetal pain and the detrimental effects of abortion on women's health.

Earlier this summer Dr. Rasanen, who is also head of the Christian Democratic Party in Finland, caused a stir in Europe when she boldly used a speech at a Lutheran Church conference to call for a discussion on abortion in her country. In her speech she highlighted the fact that Finland and Sweden are the only two western European countries that do not allow health care workers the right to refuse to participate in an abortion. Dr. Rasanen also noted that Finnish law provides that animals must be slaughtered painlessly, but unborn human beings have no protections from the excruciating pain of an abortion.

Nearly a quarter of all Minnesotans can trace Finnish ancestry in their heritage and 23 percent are Lutherans in faith.

"It is a real honor to meet with the Interior Minister of Finland today," Fischbach stated. "Her courage to speak out for the unborn from the highest levels of government is very noble. Igniting a national conversation about abortion and keeping the human rights cause of life in front of the people is a tremendous victory!"

MCCL Global Outreach (MCCL GO) works with myriad life-affirming groups on every continent reaching into faith communities and secular society with a human rights message of equality and respect for all human beings.

MCCL GO is a pro-life NGO 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 www.mccl-go.org.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

MCCL to consult with U.N.

The following news release was issued July 19, 2013.

Following a year-long application process with tentative approval coming from the United Nations in New York in February, the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (ECOSOC), holding its high-level meeting this week in Geneva, granted the MCCL Education Fund final approval to hold consultative status with the U.N.

This accreditation will afford MCCL the opportunity to submit written and oral testimony on issues that come before the international body. It will also enable MCCL staff and representatives to attend U.N. meetings and conferences and consult with delegates and ambassadors about life issues.

"This is an exciting time for MCCL!" said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "To have our voice heard at an international level is a wonderful opportunity to share our 45 years of experience in building a life-affirming culture. In Minnesota today we have some of the lowest abortion rates ever recorded; that degree of success internationally would save millions of lives."

Article 71 of the U.N. Charter opened the door for suitable arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Consultative status is granted by ECOSOC upon recommendation of the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs, which is comprised of 19 Member States. Approximately 3,700 organizations have been granted consultative status.

Attaining NGO consultative status now comes at one of the most crucial times in the history of the fight to protect the right to life internationally. In the next 12 to 18 months major decisions will be made at the U.N. concerning future global development goals and the continued implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) documents.

NGO status has been a goal of the MCCL Global Outreach program, whose mission is very simply to save as many lives as possible, wherever they may be threatened around the world. The MCCL GO push for recognition of full human rights—beginning with the right to life itself—for all human beings is well grounded in U.N. documents such as the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which states: "The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth."

"MCCL looks forward to working with U.N. delegates and ambassadors toward fulfilling the human rights goals enshrined in U.N. documents, including the right to life," Fischbach added.

MCCL GO is a pro-life NGO 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 www.mccl-go.org.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

MCCL continues to push pro-life legislation, save lives

Much has been written lately about the flurry of pro-life legislation that states have been passing recently. It has led to many questions at the MCCL office from both our members and the media seeking to find out how Minnesota stacks up compared to other states.

Minnesota has a long history of being at the forefront of ground-breaking legislation. Our goal has never been "statement" legislation that sounds good but does little, but rather legislation that makes a difference and leads to saved lives.

Leader in model legislation

Minnesota's parental involvement law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and became model legislation for states around the country. It has been in place for more than 30 years, and has been a significant factor in Minnesota's low teen abortion rate.

More recently, Minnesota designed the Positive Alternatives grant program, which provides competitive grants to life-affirming programs that offer support and resources to pregnant and newly parenting mothers in need. At the time that Minnesota's legislation was written, only one other state had any kind of grant program dedicated to such programs.

MCCL's trailblazing efforts have continued in recent years.

Recent efforts

For example, when Minnesota began its attempt to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortion at the point that the unborn child feels pain (approximately 20 weeks after fertilization), only one state had so far passed similar legislation.

It is hoped that pain capable laws will lead to court challenges that undermine Roe v. Wade by effectively banning abortions at a certain point in the child's development, based on the humanity of the unborn child. While we were successful in passing the bill, it was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Gov. Dayton impeding progress

Gov. Dayton has proven to be a difficult obstacle to overcome. So far, he has vetoed each of the following pro-life provisions:

  • Prohibition on taxpayer funded abortion;
  • Ban on human cloning;
  • Prohibition on taxpayer funded human cloning;
  • Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (prohibition on abortion at the point the unborn child feels pain);
  • Abortion facility licensing and inspection regulations; and
  • Ban on webcam abortions.

However, the fact that these provisions made it to Dayton's desk shows that MCCL and Minnesota's pro-life community continue to be effective in passing pro-life legislation.

Modest gains in difficult times

In fact, in the last two years, a string of pro-life initiatives have been quietly signed into law in Minnesota, albeit less headline grabbing and more modest than the initiatives that were vetoed. These changes may not be as glamorous as what other states are able to do right now (with a pro-life governor), but they are lifesaving changes that continue to make a difference in Minnesota.

These recent successes include:

  • Prohibition on requiring insurance companies to provide abortion coverage in MNsure, Minnesota's new health insurance exchange;
  • Repeal of the Family Cap, a provision that threatened increased poverty for women who found themselves pregnant while on welfare;
  • Update of Minnesota's Safe Place for Newborns / Give Life a Chance law. The changes allow for additional time to relinquish a newborn without penalty (from 3 to 7 days) and make it easier to relinquish the child by simply calling 911; and
  • Amending the Positive Alternatives Law to increase the number of programs eligible to apply for grants.

MCCL started out ahead of many other states

In addition to these recently achieved victories, Minnesota has a number of additional laws on the books and in force (many of the recently passed laws in other states are currently unenforceable as they have already been struck down in the courts or are currently being challenged). Minnesota's most significant pro-life protections include:

  • A ban on experimentation on a living human conceptus (145.421-145.422);
  • A requirement that only a physician may perform an abortion (145.412, Subd. 1);
  • A requirement that both parents of a minor girl be notified prior to an abortion (144.343);
  • "Baby Doe" protections that forbid withdrawal of medically indicated treatment from newborn babies with disabilities (260C.007);
  • A fetal homicide law that makes it a crime to kill or injure an unborn child other than in the commission of a legal abortion (609.266);
  • Woman's Right to Know, informed consent requirements for women considering abortion (145.4241-145.4249); and
  • Positive Alternatives grant program, providing grants to life-affirming programs that provide support and resources to pregnant women and new parents (145.4235).

Many states making headlines through passage of pro-life legislation are passing variants of these laws that Minnesota already has on the books and in effect. We continue to believe that these laws are significantly helping the downward trend in abortion that Minnesota has seen over the last several years. Minnesota currently has its lowest number of abortions, and lowest abortion rate, since 1975.

Our goal is to continue to work to advance protective pro-life initiatives that will decrease the number of abortions in Minnesota, while thoughtfully pushing the courts to recognize the humanity of the unborn child. This work has the dual objective of lowering the number of abortions and changing the hearts and minds of those who aren't yet pro-life.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Graphic: MN women are choosing life


Monday, July 8, 2013

Graphic: MN teens are choosing life


Monday, July 1, 2013

Women, pro-life efforts drive down abortion numbers; abortions on minors down 59% since 1998

State total drops to lowest in 37 years as more teens, women choose life

The following news release was issued today, July 1, as a follow-up to our earlier release.

ST. PAUL — Women continue to drive down the number of abortions performed in Minnesota, according to the 2012 Abortion Report issued today by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Abortion numbers decreased 3.3 percent, the abortion rate fell to its lowest since 1974, and abortions performed on minors fell to the lowest number ever recorded.

"Women in Minnesota are seeking out—and finding—the resources and support they need to choose life for their unborn babies," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "More women and teens are rejecting the abortion industry and its tired, worn-out message that abortion is the only answer to an unexpected pregnancy."

Many of the 2012 statistics are encouraging. Abortions have decreased nearly 23 percent statewide since the Positive Alternatives program began funding efforts to help pregnant women in need. It is by far the biggest six-year drop since the state began recording abortion numbers in 1973.

Abortions performed on minors were down 9.4 percent to 403, representing just 3.8 percent of all abortions in the state. This is the smallest number since the state began recording minor abortions in 1975 and follows a general decline in numbers since 1987.

More than 13,000 women received factual, state provided information about abortion risks and complications, abortion alternatives and much more under the Woman's Right to Know law. MCCL helped to pass the informed consent law in 2003; state abortion numbers have decreased in all but one year since the law took effect.

Not all of today's report is good news, however. More than 40 percent of abortions in 2011 were performed on women who had undergone at least one prior abortion; 99 women had six or more previous abortions. The report also shows that African Americans remain a target of the abortion industry. They represent just 5 percent of the state's population, yet 23 percent of abortions were performed on African Americans.

RU486 chemical abortions spiked to 25 percent of the total, up from 19.7 percent the previous year. Planned Parenthood offered RU486 "webcam abortions" in 2012, allowing it to increase its abortion total while decreasing overhead.

Tax-funded abortions increased to 34 percent of all abortions. This is the highest percentage since the 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court required taxpayers to pay for abortions performed on low-income women. This percentage has increased nearly every year since the court ruling. Taxpayers have funded 65,889 abortions since the decision.


The following is additional information concerning "Induced Abortions in Minnesota, 2012, Report to the Legislature," released July 1, 2013, by the Minnesota Department of Health:

The 2012 total of 10,701 reported abortions is the lowest recorded since 1975, and also the lowest abortion rate since 1974 (9.3 per 1,000 females age 15-44). 10,701 abortions equates to more than 29 abortions performed every single day last year

The total number of reported abortions performed in Minnesota since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion on demand: 588,927

40.7% of women who received an abortion in 2012 had at least one prior abortion. A total of 746 women reported they had had 3 or more prior abortions

13,388 women received information about abortion risks, complications and alternatives under the Woman's Right to Know informed consent law, which is 2,687 more than the number who underwent abortions

More women experienced complications during their abortion procedure. Instances of cervical laceration more than doubled, and instances of heavy bleeding/hemorrhage increased by 50 percent

Planned Parenthood performed an average of more than 10 abortions every day in 2012, for a total of 3,919. The provider performed 36.6% of all abortions, performing more than 1,700 more than the next largest provider. It has been the state's largest abortionist since 2004, and increased its abortions by 8.6% last year even as the state total decreased

Abortionists:

• 103 different people performed abortions in 2012
• 8 physicians each performed more than 500 abortions last year
• Minnesota's 7 abortion facilities performed 98.6% of all abortions in 2011
• Women's Health Center (Duluth) performed 508 abortions, up 7.6 percent from 2011

With few exceptions, abortions performed on minors have been declining annually since 1987. In 2006, abortions on minors spiked 16% after Planned Parenthood opened two feeder clinics in Twin Cities suburbs and marketed its services to minors. Abortions performed on minors are down 83 percent from the peak of 2,327 in 1980

57% of abortions were used as birth control (no contraception used at time of conception)

Race and abortion: African Americans—5% of population, 23% of abortions; Asians—4% of population, 7% of abortions; Caucasians—87% of population, 57% of abortions; Hispanics—5% of population, 6% of abortions, American Indians—1.3% of population, 2% of abortions.

Late-term abortions (after week 22) increased from 3 to 4. The latest abortion was performed at 28 weeks (in 2011 the latest was at 31 weeks)

Suction was the most common form of abortion, used for 65.9% of abortions. RU486 chemical abortions reached an all-time high of 25% of the total, up from 19.7% from 2011. Seven instillation (saline) abortions were performed; sharp curettage (D&C) decreased from 16 to 8. No intact D&X (partial-birth) abortions were reported

Reasons women gave for their abortions (more than one reason could be given):

• Less than 1% for rape, incest (consistent with past years)
• 67% "does not want child at this time" (same as 2011)
• 27% economic reasons (34% in 2011)

Complications: 116 reported, up from 107 in 2011

• 22 occurred during abortion procedure (14 cervical laceration, 6 hemorrhage, 2 other)
• 94 occurred after abortion procedure (up from 93 in 2011)

2012 Minnesota Abortion Report shows more women turning away from abortion

10,701 total is lowest since 1975 as women find life-giving alternatives

The following news release was issued today, July 1, 2013.

ST. PAUL — Abortion numbers have dropped for the sixth straight year in Minnesota, according to the latest annual Abortion Report issued today by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The decrease of 3.3 percent follows a trend of fewer abortions statewide since Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) helped to enact the Positive Alternatives law, which took effect in July 2006. But that is not the only reason for the decrease in abortions.

The downward trajectory reflects a profound shift occurring across the country: Americans are turning away from abortion as a solution to unexpected pregnancy. Technology such as ultrasound imaging and in utero surgery, as well as new scientific understanding of fetal development and the unborn child's ability to feel pain, are teaching people more than ever that abortion ends a human life, not just a pregnancy.

"We know so much more today about the facts of human life in the womb, and of the many ways that abortion hurts women," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "Women are rejecting the abortion industry’s condescending argument that they must abort their unborn children in order to succeed in life."

Legislation has helped to empower women in their desire to give birth to their unborn babies. Positive Alternatives is one of several lifesaving legislative efforts by MCCL. It offers women life-affirming alternatives to abortion by funding programs that help women with health care, housing, education, transportation and much more. The state's Woman's Right to Know informed consent law and the parental notification law for minors considering abortion also serve to empower women with factual information and trustworthy support.

"Most women don't want to abort their unborn babies, and today's report is further evidence that the greater the access women are given to factual information and abortion alternatives, the fewer of them resort to abortion," Fischbach said. "MCCL has always been focused on empowering women to choose life and our efforts are clearly working."

The 2012 total of 10,701 abortions is a reduction of 3.3 percent from the previous year's 11,071 total. More than half were performed on women in their 20s. A total of 13,388 women received the Woman's Right to Know informed consent information, meaning 2,687 women chose not to abort after learning about fetal development, abortion risks and complications, and abortion alternatives. This is an increase over the previous year.

Today's report also shows that taxpayer funded abortions grew to 34 percent of all abortions reported in the state, the highest percentage since the 1995 Doe v. Gomez Supreme Court ruling requiring taxpayers to fund abortions.

Full reports for 2012 and prior years are available at the MDH website.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Great Britain and Ireland: Data refute myths about abortion law and women's health

A new paper published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons contrasts maternal and neonatal health in Great Britain, which has legal elective abortion, with Ireland, which prohibits abortion. The data from these countries refute three myths about abortion that are prevalent in the international (and domestic) debate.

Myth #1: Legalizing abortion reduces maternal mortality; prohibiting abortion increases it. False. In their paper ("Maternal and Neonatal Health and Abortion: 40-Year Trends in Great Britain and Ireland"), Byron C. Calhoun, John M. Thorp and Patrick S. Carroll note that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (both of which prohibit abortion) have very low maternal mortality rates—typically lower than England, Wales and Scotland (which permit elective abortion). This is consistent with other evidence from around the world showing that maternal mortality is determined by the quality of maternal health care and not by the legal status of abortion.

Myth #2: Prohibiting abortion in one country only causes women to travel to neighboring countries to obtain abortions. Many women do, of course, but most don't. The total abortion rate in 2011 among women in England and Wales was four times greater than the rate among women in the Republic of Ireland and 6.5 times greater than Northern Ireland. The low Irish abortion rates included all Irish women who traveled elsewhere to obtain abortions. Calhoun, Thorp and Carroll observe, "Single parents choose in Northern Ireland to have additional children when their contemporaries in Great Britain tend more often to have abortions. And in Ireland expecting couples often choose to marry while their British contemporaries are more prone to have abortions."

The evidence from Great Britain and Ireland suggests that abortion law does affect the number of abortions—that legalizing abortion increases and prohibiting decreases its incidence.

Myth #3: Abortion doesn't increase the risk of subsequent preterm birth (which is linked to cerebral palsy) or cause other harm to to the health of women and children. The connection between abortion and preterm birth is demonstrated by a wealth of research. A 2009 meta-analysis of 22 studies, for example, found a 36 percent increased risk of future premature birth following abortion. This is further supported by the examples of Great Britain and Ireland. Preterm birth is more common in England, Wales and Scotland than in the Republic of Ireland, which also boasts lower rates of stillbirths and low-birthweight babies.

Calhoun, Thorp and Carroll conclude:
Over the 40 years of legalized abortion in the UK there has been a consistent pattern in which higher abortion rates have run parallel to higher incidence of stillbirths, premature births, low birth-weight neonates, cerebral palsy, and maternal deaths as sequelae [aftereffects] of abortion. In contrast, both Irish jurisdictions consistently display lower rates of all morbidities and mortality associated with legalized abortion.
Legalized abortion offers no benefit to the health of women or their children.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fathers and abortion

Fathers will be honored this Sunday, as they should be. Abortion is often called a women's issue, but here are three ways that it intersects with fatherhood.

(1) The importance of supportive fathers. A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Mental Health & Addiction found that pregnant women who felt they lacked support from the child's father were more likely to choose abortion. A 2004 study in Medical Science Monitor found that 64 percent of American women having abortions said they felt pressured by others to abort. Other studies and evidence confirm that fathers often play a central role in determining pregnancy outcomes.

Men who help conceive a baby must support (emotionally and in whatever other ways) both mother and child. When they don't, abortion is more likely, and women and children suffer (whether abortion is chosen or not).

(2) The effect of abortion on fathers. Abortion can detrimentally affect men just as it can women. Fathers may experience grief, guilt, anger, depression and other psychological consequences following abortion. Books like Men and Abortion: A Path to Healing, Redeeming a Father's Heart and Men and Abortion: Losses, Lessons and Love have explored this issue. A 2000 Canadian study of couples having first-trimester abortions concluded that "being involved in a first-trimester abortion can be highly distressing for both women and men."

Still, the tragedy of "lost fatherhood" has largely been unstudied and ignored. It shouldn't be.

(3) Speaking out. Pro-choice advocates like to say that only women can speak about abortion, and many men are silent or (if they are pro-life, but strangely not if they are pro-choice) their opinions are disregarded. But that doesn't make any sense. The pro-life (or any other) position must be considered on its merits, not dismissed because of some characteristic of a person advancing that position. Many, many women, after all, make the very same pro-life case. Men have an obligation to graciously speak the truth and to defend the lives of those who cannot defend themselves.

Father's Day recognizes that fathers play an essential role in the lives of their children. They are also essential to restoring a culture of life in which all human beings, especially the youngest and most vulnerable, are respected and protected.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

MCCL celebrates 45 years of saving lives

The following news release was issued today, June 12, 2013.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's oldest and largest pro-life organization, today celebrates 45 years of dedication to protecting and defending human life. Many hearts have been changed, protective laws passed and lives saved due to the tireless labor of MCCL volunteers and contributors throughout the decades.

"The dedicated, compassionate work of our grass-roots members is the sustaining power of Minnesota's pro-life movement," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "MCCL is one of the most effective pro-life organizations in the nation, thanks to these activists. They are steadily transforming our state's culture into one that respects and protects all innocent human life at every stage."

MCCL has taken a three-pronged approach to advancing its pro-life mission. First, citizens are continually educated on the threats to human life posed by abortion, euthanasia, infanticide and embryo-killing experiments. People are then mobilized to become active pro-life citizens who in turn work to educate others and to support passage of lifesaving laws. Third, MCCL members work to establish legal protection for vulnerable lives.

From a handful of pro-life activists in 1968, MCCL has grown to include more than 70,000 member families and 200 chapters across the state. Together they deliver pro-life educational messages through booths at 88 county fairs and Student Day at the Capitol, call for protective legislation at the annual Jan. 22 MCCL March for Life and as citizen lobbyists, work with public officials to pass legislation protecting the right to life, and much more.

MCCL's innovation and leadership led to passage of the nation's first Parental Notification law in 1981, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and became model legislation for other states. MCCL also has been instrumental in passage of Minnesota's Human Conceptus law (1973), Baby Doe provisions to protect disabled infants (1985), Fetal Homicide law (1986), tightened law on assisted suicide (1992), Woman's Right to Know law (2003), Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act (2005), Positive Alternatives (2005) and a ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning at the University of Minnesota (2009). MCCL also helped bring national attention to the brutal partial-birth abortion method when it was uncovered in 1993.

Abortion numbers have steadily declined for more than 10 years as a result of these protective measures. Last year, MCCL helped to pass two more bills protecting women's health and safety: the licensing and inspection of abortion facilities and a ban on dangerous webcam abortions. Gov. Dayton vetoed both measures.

"It is a testament to our effectiveness that the abortion issue is still front and center in Minnesota," Fischbach said. "MCCL's member volunteers refuse to allow the abortion industry to destroy the dignity and sanctity of human life, no matter how small or vulnerable. We will continue to compassionately fight for those who cannot fight for themselves."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Video: Tongue in motion at 12 weeks after conception

Monday, May 27, 2013

The fetal brain and fetal pain

Testifying before a U.S. House committee on May 23, Dr. Maureen L. Condic presented the scientific evidence concerning the development of the human brain and nervous system and the ability of unborn children to experience pain. Dr. Condic is a professor of neurobiology and anatomy and director of human embryology instruction at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Some excerpts from her written testimony:
Scientific data regarding fetal brain development and pain perception

The earliest "rudiment" of the human nervous system forms by 28 days (four weeks) after sperm-egg fusion. At this stage, the primitive brain is already "patterned"; i.e. cells in different regions are specified to produce structures appropriate to their location in the nervous system as a whole. ... In the region of the brain responsible for thinking, memory and other "higher" functions (the neocortex), the earliest neurons are generated during the fourth week after sperm-egg fusion. ...

There is strong scientific evidence that communication between neurons of the brain is established in the seventh week. Synapses, which are the molecular structures required for brain cells to communicate with each other, are detected in the cortex at this time. In animals, synapses are functional immediately and this is likely also true of humans. Thus, the earliest function of the neocortex as a network appears to commence in the seventh week.

The neural circuitry responsible for the most primitive response to pain, the spinal reflex, is in place by 8 weeks of development. This is the earliest point at which the fetus experiences pain in any capacity. And a fetus responds just as humans at later stages of development respond; by withdrawing from the painful stimulus. ...

The earliest connections between neurons in the subcortico-frontal pathways (regions of the brain involved in motor control and a wide range of psychological phenomena, including pain perception) are detected by 37 days post sperm-egg fusion and are well established by 8-10 weeks. This indicates that the brain is "wiring" itself in the first trimester, well before reaching the fetal stage of life. ...

Connections between the spinal cord and the thalamus, the region of the brain that is largely responsible for pain perception in both the fetus and the adult, begin to form around 12 weeks and are completed by 18 weeks.

The long-range connections within the cortex that some believe to be required for consciousness do not arise until much later, around 22-24 weeks. And these connections continue to develop for an exceptionally long time. Indeed, recent studies indicate that the anatomy of the human brain, and therefore the pattern of brain activity underlying all higher functions (reason, memory, emotion, language, etc.), is not fully mature until approximately 25 years after birth.

What brain structures are necessary for a fetus to feel pain?

To experience pain, a noxious stimulus must be detected. The neural structures necessary to detect noxious stimuli are in place by 8-10 weeks of human development.

There is universal agreement that pain is detected by the fetus in the first trimester. The debate concerns how pain is experienced; i.e., whether a fetus has the same pain experience a newborn or an adult would have. While every individual's experience of pain is personal, a number of scientific observations address what brain structures are necessary for a mental or psychological experience of pain.

First, it is clear that children born without higher brain structures ('decorticate' patients) are capable of experiencing pain and also other conscious behaviors ... This indicates that the long-range connections that develop in the cortex only after 22 weeks (and are absent in these patients) are not obligatory for a psychological perception of pain. Similarly, experimental animals that have had the cortex removed also show a vigorous response to painful stimuli, again indicating that late-developing cortical pathways are not required for pain perception and response. The observations of human decorticate patients and experimentally decorticated animals noted above are consistent with what is known about the representation of consciousness and emotion in the brain. ...

Finally, direct experimental evidence from adult humans contradicts the assertion of ACOG, JAMA and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that mature pain perception requires cortical circuitry. Ablation or stimulation of the cortex in humans does not affect pain perception, whereas ablation of lower centers, including the thalamus, does. These neurological findings indicate that "mature" pain perception is largely localized to the thalamus. The spino-thalamic circuits required for pain perception are established between 12-18 weeks post sperm-egg fusion.

What we observe about fetal pain

[W]hat we directly observe about fetal pain is very clear and unambiguous. Fetuses at 20 weeks post sperm-egg fusion have an increase in stress hormones in response to painful experiences that can be eliminated by appropriate anesthesia. Multiple studies clearly indicate "the human fetus from 18–20 weeks elaborates pituitary-adrenal, sympathoadrenal, and circulatory stress responses to physical insults." All of these responses reflect a mature, body-wide response to pain.

Fetuses delivered prematurely, as early as 23 weeks, show clear pain-related behaviors. We know less about infants delivered prior to 23 weeks only because so few are available for study. Strikingly, the earlier infants are delivered, the stronger their response to pain. These and many other direct observations of fetal behavior and physiology have resulted in a clear consensus among professional anesthesiologists (highly specialized physicians who are experts in pain management) that the use of medications to relieve pain is warranted in cases of fetal surgery. Many of the advocates of fetal anesthesia make no claims regarding the qualitative nature of fetal pain, but based on both the scientific literature and on their own observations, they clearly conclude that pain exists for these fetuses and that as physicians they are obligated to address fetal pain medically ...

Our own experience; Why fetal pain matters

Imposing pain on any pain-capable living creature is cruelty. And ignoring the pain experienced by another human individual for any reason is barbaric. We don't need to know if a human fetus is self-reflective or even self-aware to afford it the same consideration we currently afford other pain-capable species. We simply have to decide whether we will choose to ignore the pain of the fetus or not.

From the perspective of neuroscience, it is unclear precisely what "psychological" aspects of a mature pain experience are in place at precisely what point in either human prenatal or postnatal development. It is impossible for me to know with certainty whether another adult, a teenager or a fetus experiences pain in precisely the same manner I do. Yet it is entirely uncontested that a fetus experiences pain in some capacity, from as early as 8 weeks of development. Moreover, most modern neuroscientists have concluded that the thalamic circuitry developed by 18 weeks post sperm-egg fusion is primarily responsible for human experience of pain at all stages of life.

Given that fetuses are members of the human species—human beings like us—they deserve the benefit of the doubt regarding their experience of pain and protection from cruelty under the law.

In light of the scientific facts, the observations of medical professionals, our own experience of pain, and our indirect experience of others' pain, we must conclude that there is indeed a "compelling governmental interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain." And this unambiguously requires a 20 week fetus to be protected from pain, as proposed under H.R. 1797 [the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act].
Members of Congress should be contacted and urged to support the federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Women suffer in multiple ways from abortion, reveals new analysis of research

The following news release was issued today, May 22, 2013.

GENEVA, Switzerland — Legalized abortion is widely touted as beneficial to women, but a wealth of medical and psychological evidence suggests otherwise, according to a new analysis of decades of research. The analysis was released today at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach (MCCL GO) and National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund (NRLC), an NGO based in Washington, D.C. Jeanne E. Head, R.N., Patrick Buckley and Scott Fischbach, who are in Geneva introducing the analysis, are calling for a renewed emphasis on providing women with improved maternal health care.

"Women face numerous risks with abortion, legal or illegal, and those risks are substantially greater in the developing world," said Jeanne Head, R.N., National Right to Life vice-president for international affairs and U.N. representative. "Yet some in the international community have focused their resources primarily on legalizing abortion at the expense of women’s lives and health."

"The evidence is overwhelming: Abortion is dangerous for women," said MCCL GO Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "Abortion is by its very nature a violent and damaging procedure."

"Rather than legalize or promote abortion, governments should protect the equal dignity and basic rights of all human beings, including women and their unborn children," said Patrick Buckley, Geneva main representative for the U.K. Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

The analysis, "How Abortion Hurts Women," provides an overview of extensive research from multiple countries into the risks of abortion. Documented complications include hemorrhage, infection, cervical damage, uterine perforation, pelvic disease and retained fetal or placental tissue. Large record-based studies from Finland, Denmark and the United States found that maternal mortality rates were significantly higher after abortion compared to childbirth.

Long-term risks of abortion, including subsequent preterm birth, infertility, cancer, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and placenta previa, can substantially impede future reproductive success. In addition, abortion is associated with increased risk of negative psycho-social consequences. For example, a 2011 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found an 81 percent increased risk of mental health problems. Anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use and suicidal behaviors have been found to increase following abortion, along with damage to key relationships.

In the developing world, these dangers increase where basic maternal health care is unavailable. Ms. Head explains: "The incidence of maternal mortality is mainly determined by the quality of maternal health care. Legalization does not improve outcomes, but only increases the number of women subjected to the risks of abortion."

MCCL GO and National Right to Life called upon the WHA to focus its resources on the improvement of women's health care in the developing world.

"We call upon the WHA to acknowledge that abortion needlessly puts women at serious risk, both physically and psychologically," Mr. Fischbach added. "We urge the World Health Assembly to adopt measures that protect women from abortion and improve women's health care."

The analysis is available in English, French and Spanish at the MCCL GO website, www.mccl-go.org.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New breakthrough in human cloning should recall ethical problems

Yesterday the journal Cell published research from a group of scientists (most of them from Oregon Health and Science University) indicating that they successfully derived stem cells from cloned human embryos. This breakthrough—after years of technical difficulties that stalled cloning efforts—should refresh the many ethical concerns regarding the enterprise of human cloning.

The Oregon researchers used the cloning process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), in which the nucleus from a somatic cell (a regular body cell) is transferred into an enucleated egg, which is then stimulated. The result (when successful) is a developing human embryo that is genetically (virtually) identical to the donor of the somatic cell. The researchers were able to grow these cloned embryos to the blastocyst stage, at which point they were killed by the derivation of stem cells. Such cells are sought for the purpose of biomedical research.

The biggest concern here is the destruction of human life. Cloned embryos are living human organisms at the embryonic stage of development. They are members of the species Homo sapiens, like each of us, attempting to traverse a period of life through which each of us once passed. The Oregon scientists created these young human beings in order to then kill them by harvesting their useful parts. They treated them as a natural resource, mere raw material, to use instrumentally for the theoretical future benefit of others. This practice is utterly incompatible with a commitment to the equal and intrinsic value of every member of the human family, at all developmental stages and in all conditions, a value that we share simply by virtue of our common humanity.

Human cloning also raises other ethical concerns, including the commodification of human life; the dangers to the health (and possible exploitation) of women, from whom eggs must be harvested; the tenuous barrier between "therapeutic cloning" (SCNT for the purpose of killing cloned embryos to derive stem cells) and "reproductive cloning" (SCNT for the purpose of implanting cloned embryos in a woman's uterus and allowing them to develop toward maturity), which could result in the birth of a cloned baby; and the possible development of other Brave New World technologies, such as genetic engineering.

Cloning can also be rejected on practical grounds. Indeed, Ian Wilmut, who famously used SCNT to clone Dolly the sheep, abandoned human cloning research for precisely this reason. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) seem to offer the same potential benefits as stem cells from cloned embryos (they are pluripotent and patient-matched), and they are easier and less expensive to produce. Moreover, every proven stem cell treatment to date has used ethically-uncontroversial adult stem cells. In short, the therapeutic benefits sought from human cloning can be achieved without it.

Dr. David Prentice notes that 60,000 people worldwide receive adult stem cell transplants each year. Dozens of diseases and conditions are treated. "Given that science has passed cloning by for stem cell production," Prentice writes, "this announcement [by the Oregon scientists] seems simply a justification for making clones, and makes reproductive cloning and birth of human clones more likely."

The lead Oregon researcher said that "the ethics of human cloning ... is not our focus." But it should be.

MN Senate approves pro-life health care amendment

The following news release was issued today, May 16.

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Senate last night approved a pro-life amendment, offered by Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, to the Market Rules bill (H.F. 779).

The Senate approved on a voice vote the insertion of a reference to the chapter of law that created MNsure, the state's new health insurance exchange required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA or ObamaCare), to Statute 145.414. The statute prohibits requiring insurance companies to offer coverage for elective abortions in Minnesota. Although this statute has been in place for several years, it is important that it now includes a reference to MNsure to clarify that the new state program does not require insurance companies to offer coverage of abortion.

The House previously adopted the same provision when it adopted the Fritz Amendment to the House version of the bill by a vote of 71-63 on Apr. 22.

"Including this reference in statute is critical to establish once again that insurance companies operating in Minnesota do not have to pay for abortions," said MCCL Legislative Director Andrea Rau. "We applaud Rep. Patti Fritz and Sen. Stumpf, as well as the Senate and House, in protecting women and their unborn babies by adopting this provision."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lessons of Gosnell: 'The real trial has only just begun'

Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell was convicted yesterday on three counts of first-degree murder (of newborn babies), one count of involuntary manslaughter (of a pregnant woman), 21 counts of illegal abortion (of unborn babies over 24 weeks) and more than 200 other crimes. He will spend the rest of his life in prison. Eight other members of Gosnell's staff pleaded guilty to various charges, four of them to murder.

According to the grand jury investigation and several weeks of court testimony, Gosnell routinely delivered living newborn babies and then killed them by jabbing surgical scissors into the back of their necks and severing their spinal cords. (The grand jury said Gosnell killed hundreds of infants this way, but he destroyed most of the records, so only three first-degree murders were proved in court.) The conditions of his clinic were disgusting and unsanitary; women were overdosed with drugs and treated by unlicensed staff, and at least two women died; aborted babies' bodies were stored in the refrigerator next to employee lunches, and severed baby body parts were collected in jars.

Gosnell's "house of horrors" was allowed to operate for many years because state officials turned a blind eye and chose not to inspect abortion facilities for political reasons (according to the grand jury report). Here in Minnesota, state officials do not license or inspect abortion centers at all, and MCCL-backed legislation to license abortion facilities in the same way as other outpatient surgical centers was vetoed in 2012 by Gov. Mark Dayton. This status quo has never been more indefensible. In the wake of Gosnell (as well as problems uncovered in numerous other abortion facilities around the country, including Texas-based Whole Woman's Health, which recently came to Minnesota), will pro-choice advocates like Dayton accept reasonable health and safety standards in abortion clinics? How could they not?

Abortion defenders say the lesson to be learned is that pro-life restrictions on abortion drive women to "back-alley butchers" like Kermit Gosnell. This argument is difficult to take seriously in an era of abortion on demand. And no one could have been driven to Gosnell had proper oversight shut him down or forced him to abide by the law—oversight that was obstructed by pro-choice politicians. (Regardless, the fact that submitting to the killing of an innocent human being may be hazardous to one's health provides no moral justification for making such killing easier.)

The Gosnell case also shines a light on the dark reality of late-term abortion in the United States, and reveals the need to ensure protection for infants and enforce the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. And it points to the graphic nature of killing babies, before birth or after, and the logically tenuous boundary between abortion and infanticide. As Princeton professor Robert P. George explains:
Dr. Gosnell is only the front man; and the real trial has only just begun. The defendant is the abortion license in America. The Gosnell episode highlights the irrationality of the regime of law put into place by the Supreme Court in 1973 and fiercely protected by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the politicians they and other "pro-choice" advocacy groups help send to Washington and the state capitols. Something as morally arbitrary as a human being's location—his or her being in or out of the womb—cannot determine whether killing him or her is an unconscionable act of premeditated homicide or the exercise of a fundamental liberty. Yet something like that is the prevailing state of American law under Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Its incoherence and indefensibility have been laid bare by the prosecution of Dr. Gosnell. Whatever now happens to him, it will no longer be possible to pretend that abortion and infanticide are radically different acts or practices. If we are to condemn snipping the neck of a child delivered at, say, twenty-four or twenty-six weeks to kill him or her, how can we defend dismembering or poisoning a child in the womb at twenty-six, thirty, or even thirty-four weeks? And even more fundamentally, if we are bearers of inviolable dignity and a basic right to life in virtue of our humanity, and not in virtue of accidental qualities such as age, or size, or stage of development or condition of dependency—if, in other words, we believe in the fundamental equality of human beings—how can a right to abortion (where "abortion" means performing an act whose purpose is to cause fetal death) be defended at all?
The real trial has only just begun.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Be their voice


The helpless live in silence
Relying on your choice
So stand with them in courage
And bravely be their voice.


Design by Josiah Jost; poem by Lisa Jost. Available at www.defendsouls.com.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The gender equality argument for legalized abortion

The following originally ran in the January-February 2013 issue of MCCL News and was published in March at LifeNews.com and NRL News Today.

Many defenders of legalized abortion argue that it is required by gender equality. The burdens of pregnancy and childbirth fall upon women but never upon men. So only with access to abortion can women be truly equal and able to determine the course of their lives.

President Barack Obama has said, in the context of supporting abortion, "[W]e must ... ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams." U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others contend that the alleged constitutional right to abortion should be grounded in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment ("no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws") rather than in the Due Process Clause (as the Court in Roe v. Wade asserted). Equality under the law requires abortion access.

This argument may seem persuasive on the surface, but it does not withstand the scrutiny of reason. First, unequal burdens are not necessarily unjust or contrary to human equality. The burdens of caring for five-year-old children, for example, weigh heavily on the parents of five-year-old children and not at all on almost everyone else. Laws against killing or abandoning five-year-olds do not affect everyone in the same way—we might even claim that they deprive parents of "the same rights, freedoms and opportunities" as non-parents. But clearly they are not wrong.

Likewise, the burdens of pregnancy fall on women and not men, and a law against killing unborn children by abortion would impact women in a way it does not impact men. But such a law would not be unjust for that reason. Laws may affect people differently given different circumstances, but that does not mean that they treat people differently. Everyone should be equally prohibited from killing innocent human beings. This prohibition is not gender-specific. No one has a right to take innocent life.

Second, men and women are equally morally responsible for their offspring, even though this obligation can take different forms (women, by virtue of human reproductive biology, uniquely gestate children). Men can more easily run from their parental duties than women, but the solution to this dereliction is not to authorize the killing of human beings in the womb. Rather, men must take responsibility and be held responsible by law if necessary.

Third, the argument from gender equality falsely presupposes that pregnancy is a disability and that pregnant women need a "corrective" surgical procedure (abortion) to become equal to men. This denigrates women and their reproductive powers while elevating the male body to the standard of human sexuality. "True equality requires society to accept women with their fertility intact," writes Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Fourth, women do not need abortion to achieve social equality and career success. This has never been more obvious, and suggesting otherwise has never seemed more offensive. "Why is it that we assume women are incapable of dealing with the adversity of an unwanted pregnancy by any other means than that of destroying life? Is this a flattering view of women?" asked Janet E. Smith in her 1978 essay "Abortion as a Feminist Concern."

"In this day of unparalleled opportunities for women, when women pride themselves on their ability to fend for themselves, when many agencies are designed for helping women in distress—why do we assume that women who become pregnant when inconvenient for them are not resourceful enough to find a way to nourish the life they have conceived?"

Placing a child for adoption is an ethical and life-affirming way to relinquish responsibility, and pregnancy care centers and maternity homes help women in need face the challenges of pregnancy and parenthood. But more can and should be done to accommodate the essential role mothers play in our society.

Abortion, because it takes the life of an innocent human person, is a deep violation of equal human dignity, not an affirmation of it. Legalized abortion excludes an entire class of human beings from the protection of the law by allowing them to be dismembered and killed at the discretion of others. And the practice of sex-selection abortion (the legality of which is supported by Obama) targets unborn baby girls specifically because of their gender.

There is no equality in abortion.