Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What’s wrong with assisted suicide?

The following was published in the Nov./Dec. 2012 issue of MCCL News.

On Nov. 6 the state of Massachusetts narrowly rejected a ballot measure to authorize physician-assisted suicide, which is already legal in Oregon and Washington. The Minnesota law prohibiting assisted suicide has recently been challenged in court by Final Exit, a euthanasia advocacy organization. How should we think about this emotional and ever-looming issue?

Physician-assisted suicide—euphemistically called "aid in dying" and "death with dignity"—is when a doctor helps a patient intentionally take his or her own life, usually by prescribing a lethal dose of medication. It is both morally wrong and practically dangerous. And none of the arguments offered for its legalization are successful.

Morally wrong

Suicide is morally wrong because it is the intentional killing of an innocent human being. The norm against killing is grounded in the inherent dignity and right to life of the human person. Human life is a profound good. Life is better than death, and caring is better than killing. Suicide is always a gut-wrenching tragedy because it is the wrongful loss of something precious, of someone who mattered. It should never be sanctioned or encouraged by the medical profession or by the state.

This does not mean that a patient's life must be sustained by all means in all circumstances. Allowing death—e.g., by withholding artificial treatment from a terminally ill patient—is not the same as intending death. Nor is it necessarily wrong to hasten the end of life through treatment aimed at controlling symptoms. In either case it is the underlying disease or injury that causes death, and the doctor's actions are intended only to allow the natural dying process to continue or to comfort the patient. (Of course, these decisions should be made in accordance with the patient's wishes.)

Assisted suicide, however, is a case of intentional killing. It is, as Hippocrates taught, contrary to the very nature and purpose of the medical profession.

Practically dangerous

Assisted suicide is dangerous in practice for a variety of reasons. Consider the following:

  • In places where assisted suicide has been approved, psychiatric evaluation is not required, almost certainly leading to the deaths of many depressed patients who would have wanted to live had they received appropriate treatment. Suicide is a cry for help, and we should help such people, not facilitate their deaths.
  • The legal availability of suicide opens the door to pressure and even coercion to not be a "burden" on family or finances. When death is accepted as a rational choice, it may seem to be the only choice. Continued existence must be justified. The right to die becomes a duty to die.
  • Terminal diagnoses sometimes turn out to be wrong; some patients have received such a diagnosis only to live happily for many more years. But patients are denied any chance when they are aided in killing themselves.
  • Assisted suicide is unlikely to remain limited to the terminally ill. That restriction is not recognized in the Netherlands, where the circumstances in which killing is deemed appropriate have continued to expand. The arguments for suicide (see below) do not apply only to the terminally ill.
  • The acceptance of assisted suicide leaves little rational basis for rejecting active euthanasia—when a doctor directly kills a patient (usually via lethal injection) for the patient's alleged benefit. For the only difference between the two is who (the patient or doctor) performs the final act; sometimes a patient is unable to do it himself. And the acceptance of voluntary euthanasia can easily lead to non-voluntary euthanasia, including the killing of disabled newborn babies, as it has in the Netherlands.

Compassion, autonomy

Advocates of legalizing assisted suicide offer two main arguments. First, they argue that assisted suicide should be legal to relieve patients of unbearable pain and suffering. Compassion requires it.

But the data show that very few patients who seek suicide do so because they physically suffer. They seek suicide because they are depressed or fear losing autonomy or becoming a burden. Regardless, modern palliative and hospice care can treat pain in virtually all circumstances. The solution to suffering is to improve access to quality pain management—to end the suffering, not the sufferer. That is what true compassion requires. Finally, all of us experience forms of suffering during our lives; it is presumptuous to think that suffering has no value or purpose, and it is dangerous to think that it makes life less worth living.

Second, advocates of assisted suicide contend that suicide must be allowed as a matter of personal autonomy. Patients have a "right" to choose the timing and manner of their deaths.

But many suicidal patients are influenced by anxiety and depression (which should be treated) and are not acting rationally. And suicide is rarely just an individual choice; it affects the family members and friends left behind, not to mention the physicians who are made complicit. Legalization would confer social, governmental and medical approval of the act of suicide. This is far beyond mere "personal autonomy."

It is also clear that personal autonomy, while important, is not an absolute principle. Since morality is real—right and wrong, good and bad—we may not do just anything we want. The value of a life doesn't disappear because someone decides or feels that it does.

Everyone matters

Suicide in general is widely recognized as a tragic mistake. We raise awareness and create emergency hotlines. We do all we can to prevent someone from making that fateful decision. But advocates of assisted suicide think one class of people should be excepted from such concern and allowed—indeed, helped—to kill themselves. This is a rejection of the equal and intrinsic value of all human beings, irrespective of age, illness and disability.

Suicide is not the way to deal with the difficulties of life. And society is to blame when we enable killing rather than provide protection, care and treatment for those in need. Everyone matters.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Did abortion benefit society by reducing child abuse and crime?

Advocates of legalized abortion argued that it would benefit society as a whole by reducing child abuse. Forty years later, the opposite has turned out to be the case.

Professor Michael J. New writes:
Abortion advocates frequently argued that legal abortion would decrease child abuse. Children who were wanted, they claimed, would be less likely to suffer from abuse than those who were unwanted. But social science data suggest that this logic is flawed. A landmark study of 674 abused children by Edward Lenoski (University of Southern California) found that 91 percent of the parents admitted that they wanted the child they had abused. A 2005 study by Priscilla Coleman (Bowling Green University) showed that women who obtained abortions were 144 percent more likely to abuse their own children.

At a more theoretical level, Dr. Philip G. Ney, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Canada, has outlined why abortion can lead directly to child abuse.
  1. Abortion decreases an individual's instinctual restraint against the occasional rage felt toward those dependent on his or her care. 
  2. Permissive abortion diminishes the taboo against aggressing [against] the defenseless.
  3. Abortion increases the hostility between the generations.
  4. Abortion has devalued children, thus diminishing the value of caring for children.
  5. Abortion increases guilt and self-hatred, which the parent takes out on the child.
  6. Abortion increases hostile frustration, intensifying the battle of the sexes, for which children are scapegoated.
  7. Abortion cuts the developing mother-infant bond, thereby diminishing her future mothering capability. 
Overall, American statistics paint a clear picture. Legal abortion did not reduce child abuse. In fact, the exact opposite happened. The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect has reported that child abuse has increased more than 1,000 percent since the legalization of abortion in 1973. According to data from the US Statistical Abstract, deaths due to child abuse continued to rise after the Roe v. Wade decision and increased by 400 percent between 1972 and 1990. Obviously, child abuse is caused by a variety of complicated factors. Still, our experience in the United States provides no evidence that legal abortion reduces child abuse.
A claim popularized more recently (mostly by the book Freakonomics) is that legalized abortion cut crime rates. But this argument has been thoroughly criticized. Prof. New writes:
Steven Sailer has presented a devastating critique of Levitt and Donohue's research [that posited an abortion-crime link]. He argues that the end of the crack-cocaine wars, not legal abortion, was largely responsible for the crime rate decline in many cities. More importantly, he shows that we can easily test Levitt and Donohue's hypothesis by breaking down crime rates demographically. If their theory is correct, there should be a sharp decrease in the crimes committed by young people.

But Sailer shows that the cohort of 14-to-17-year-olds born after the Roe v. Wade decision was much more likely to commit homicides than the cohort of 14-to-17-year-olds born before Roe v. Wade. Similarly, the percentage and the number of violent crimes committed by those between the ages of 12 and 17 spiked in 1993 and 1994, over twenty years after abortion was legalized. Economists John Lott and John Whitely have made similar arguments in an article published in the academic journal Economic Inquiry, titled "Abortion and Crime: Unwanted Children and Out of Wedlock Births."
Of course, even if abortion did positively affect society, that would not justify it—any more than the killing of some other segment of the human family could be justified for the same reason. The predictions of abortion advocates were entirely wrong anyway.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thousands join MCCL March for Life; women speak out against taxpayer funded abortions

Dozens of legislators participate in March commemorating 40 years of abortion on demand

ST. PAUL – More than two thousand Minnesotans marched at the State Capitol today, braving sub-zero temperatures, to urge lawmakers to ban taxpayer funded abortions and to repeal the Family Cap. Large numbers of young people turned out for the event.

Today's 2013 MCCL March for Life marked the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that have resulted in the deaths of more than 578,000 unborn Minnesota children (Minnesota Department of Health), and more than 55 million unborn babies nationwide. A brief history of MCCL's early marches is available on our website.

MCCL announced its 2013 legislative agenda, which calls upon lawmakers to ban taxpayer funded abortions. Since the Minnesota Supreme Court's 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision requiring taxpayers to fund abortions, the state has spent more than $18 million to pay for 62,000 abortions, even though the vast majority of Minnesotans are opposed to taxpayer funded abortions.

"The State of Minnesota pays for abortions and it is time to stop it," said MCCL Executive Committee member Cathy Blaeser. "This year we are calling again for the Legislature to ban taxpayer funded abortions!"

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MCCL's legislative agenda also calls for repeal of the state's Family Cap law and for licensing of abortion facilities. Various academic institutions, including a widely cited study from Rutgers University, have concluded that not only do Family Caps not lower birthrates for poor families, but Family Caps increase abortion rates. The Legislature passed a measure to license abortion facilities last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

A total of 59 state legislators attended the March for Life and were introduced by MCCL as the crowd applauded.

Minnesota's pro-life Congressional delegation was in Washington, D.C., today, but each of them sent greetings to the crowd. "I believe life begins at conception," wrote Congressman John Kline. "Accordingly, I believe taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund abortion or support groups who provide such services." He has cosponsored a bill to ban federal funding of abortion providers.

"Nothing is more important than life and we need to use our votes and our voices and our energy and our faith and our friendships to protect the primacy of life," said Congressman Erik Paulsen.

"I want to commend Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life for its noble mission on behalf of the most vulnerable among us," wrote Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. "I am proud to stand side by side with all of you in defending life."

Congressman Collin Peterson pledged to continue working to pass pro-life policies. "Thank you for your efforts in defense of human life ... I will continue to work with you on these important issues."

Members of Silent No More Minnesota, which offers hope and healing to post-abortive women and men, held signs expressing regret over their abortions and offering hope to others.

View more photos from today's 2013 MCCL March for Life on the MCCL website.

Thousands of Minnesotans march at Capitol, call for licensing of abortion centers

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

ST. PAUL – Thousands of Minnesotans marched at the State Capitol today to urge lawmakers to protect the safety of women by licensing abortion centers. They also called for a ban on taxpayer funded abortions. The annual Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) March for Life commemorates the millions of lives lost to abortion.

The 2013 MCCL March for Life marked the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that have resulted in the deaths of more than 578,000 unborn Minnesota children (Minnesota Department of Health), and more than 55 million unborn babies nationwide.

"Last year the abortionists killed more than 11,000 innocent unborn children in centers that are not even licensed or inspected," MCCL Executive Committee member Cathy Blaeser told the huge crowd of citizens gathered from across the state, despite the frigid weather. Blaeser served on the Minnesota Commission on End of Life Care. "This year we call again for abortion centers in our state to be licensed and inspected by the Minnesota Department of Health."

A legal abortion center in Philadelphia was recently inspected for the first time in more than 20 years. The state found not only filthy conditions, but evidence that a significant number of babies had been born alive, then killed by the severing of their spinal cords. At least two women died after going to the facility. Minnesota has no way of knowing whether abortion centers in the state are safe for women, because they are unregulated and uninspected.

MCCL's 2013 legislative agenda includes a call to repeal the Family Cap. Passed in 2003, Minnesota Statute 256J.24, subdivision 6, prohibits an increase in MFIP (Minnesota Family Investment Program) cash assistance for any child born after the parent has received DWP (Diversionary Work Program) and/or MFIP for more than 10 months. This provision is commonly known as a Family Cap on welfare families.

Since the height of welfare reform efforts in the mid-1990s, several states have abandoned the Family Cap as a failed policy, including New Jersey, Illinois and Maryland. Currently Minnesota is one of only 18 states to have a Family Cap in law. Various academic institutions, including a widely cited study from Rutgers University, have concluded that not only do Family Caps not lower birthrates for poor families, but Family Caps increase abortion rates.

MCCL's agenda also calls upon lawmakers to end taxpayer funded abortions, which account for 34 percent of all abortions performed in the state. 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 62,350 abortions since the decision.

Many of Minnesota's pro-life elected officials, including state legislators, were in attendance and were introduced during the brief program on the Capitol steps. Pro-life Members of Congress sent written greetings.

View early photos of the MCCL March for Life and from today's event on the MCCL website. A follow-up news release will be sent later today.

MCCL is Minnesota's oldest and largest pro-life organization with more than 70,000 member families and 240 chapters across the state. For more information about MCCL, visit www.mccl.org. Please subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

After 40 years, let's March for Life

Tuesday, January 22, is the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision nullifying legal limits on abortion and imposing a nationwide policy of abortion on demand. More than 55,000,000 unborn children have been dismembered and killed under this policy.

If you live in Minnesota, please join us for the MCCL March for Life at noon at the state Capitol in St. Paul. We will commemorate the lives lost and publicly call for an end to the injustice of abortion and a restoration of respect and protection to every member of the human family. More information about the March is available here.

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Below are some related posts and video from a past MCCL March for Life.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Three reasons Roe v. Wade will fall

The U.S. Supreme Court-imposed abortion-on-demand regime of Roe v. Wade will one day fall. Why?

Roe will buckle under the weight of reason. "As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible," notes Edward Lazarus, former clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun (author of Roe) and supporter of legalized abortion. The U.S. Constitution cannot plausibly or rationally be said to include a right to abortion that precludes states dealing with this issue. Even the Court itself, when narrowly upholding Roe in 1992 (in Planned Parenthood v. Casey), could appeal only to stare decisis (i.e., past decisions should be reaffirmed because they are past decisions) and to virtual nonsense about "the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Roe will buckle under the weight of democracy. The Court in Roe, without constitutional warrant, usurped the authority of the American people to determine abortion policy. This "exercise of raw judicial power," as Justice Byron White put it, struck down the democratically-decided abortion laws of all 50 states and imposed a nationwide policy of abortion on demand whether the people like it or not. The radical extent of the Roe regime was not and has never been even remotely consistent with public opinion (polling on this question is often inaccurate, and ignorance of the extent of Roe is widespread). Roe has disenfranchised millions of Americans, fostering divisive cultural and political battles.

Finally, and most importantly, Roe will buckle under the weight of human rights. It decided that an entire class of innocent human beings must be excluded from legal protection and allowed to be killed for any reason. Roe, like Dred Scott v. Sandford before it, is profoundly unjust and contrary to the equal fundamental dignity and right to life of all members of the human family. And the consequences of the Court's folly—55 million unborn human beings killed, many women (and men) hurt emotionally, psychologically, physically—have been nothing less than catastrophic.

Unconstitutional. Undemocratic. Unjust. The era of Roe v. Wade must, and will, come to an end.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mother Teresa on Roe v. Wade and the moral aspiration of America

"[N]o one in the world who prizes liberty and human rights can feel anything but a strong kinship with America. Yours is the one great nation in all of history that was founded on the precept of equal rights and respect for all humankind, for the poorest and weakest of us as well as the richest and strongest. As your Declaration of Independence put it, in words that have never lost their power to stir the heart: 'We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ...' A nation founded on these principles holds a sacred trust: to stand as an example to the rest of the world, to climb ever higher in its practical realization of the ideals of human dignity, brotherhood, and mutual respect. It has been your constant efforts in fulfillment of that mission, far more than your size or your wealth or your military might, that have made America an inspiration to all mankind.

"It must be recognized that your model was never one of realized perfection, but of ceaseless aspiration. From the outset, for example, America denied the African slave his freedom and human dignity. But in time you righted that wrong, albeit at an incalculable cost in human suffering and loss of life. Your impetus has almost always been toward a fuller, more all-embracing conception and assurance of the rights that your founding fathers recognized as inherent and God-given. Yours has ever been an inclusive, not an exclusive, society. And your steps, though they may have paused or faltered now and then, have been pointed in the right direction and have trod the right path. The task has not always been an easy one, and each new generation has faced its own challenges and temptations. But, in a uniquely courageous and inspiring way, America has kept faith.

"Yet there has been one infinitely tragic and destructive departure from those American ideals in recent memory. It was [the U.S. Supreme] Court's own decision in 1973 to exclude the unborn child from the human family [in Roe v. Wade]. You ruled that a mother, in consultation with her doctor, has broad discretion, guaranteed against infringement by the United States Constitution, to choose to destroy her unborn child. Your opinion stated that you did not need to 'resolve the difficult question of when life begins.' That question is inescapable. If the right to life is an inherent and inalienable right, it must surely obtain wherever human life exists. No one can deny that the unborn child is a distinct being, that it is human, and that it is alive. It is unjust, therefore, to deprive the unborn child of its fundamental right to life on the basis of its age, size, or condition of dependency. It was a sad infidelity to America's highest ideals when this Court said it did not matter, or could not be determined, when the inalienable right to life began for a child in its mother's womb.

"America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.

"Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign. ... You must weep that your own government, at present, seems blind to this truth.

"I have no new teaching for America. I seek only to recall you to faithfulness to what you once taught the world. Your nation was founded on the proposition—very old as a moral precept, but startling and innovative as a political insight—that human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and that it deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect."

— Mother Teresa of Calcutta, in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 14, 1994

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

40 years of MCCL accomplishments: Lives saved despite 1973 abortion legalization

The following ran in the November/December 2012 issue of MCCL News.

Jan. 22, 2013, marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion on demand nationwide. About 55 million unborn children have been killed since then, including 578,226 babies in Minnesota (through 2011).

In the wake of those Court rulings, pro-life citizens mobilized to save as many lives as possible. For four decades we have worked to educate and persuade the public, help pregnant women in need, and enact laws to protect unborn children and their mothers. And though Roe v. Wade has yet to be overturned, this multi-pronged pro-life strategy has saved millions of lives and achieved significant progress in placing legal limits on abortion.

The annual number of abortions nationwide dropped from a high of 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.2 million by 2005—a 25 percent decline explained partly by Court rulings (especially Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992) allowing states to pass more kinds of pro-life legislation. Abortions in Minnesota peaked in 1980 at 19,028, but dropped to 11,071 by 2011, the lowest total since 1975. Abortions in our state have declined a remarkable 21 percent since 2006 following enactment of Woman's Right to Know and Positive Alternatives (see below).

So there is much success to celebrate even as—on this solemn anniversary—we rededicate ourselves to ending the injustice of abortion and restoring full respect and protection for every member of the human family. MCCL leads the pro-life effort at the state Capitol in St. Paul; here are some of our legislative victories over the last 40 years.

Legislative victories in Minnesota

Human Conceptus Law (MN Statutes 145.421-145.422)
This 1973 law prohibits experimentation on a living human conceptus.

Abortion Physician-Only Requirement (MN Statute 145.412, Subd. 1)
A year after Roe v. Wade, Minnesota passed an extensive Abortion Regulatory Law that included many protections for both mother and unborn child. Unfortunately, most were declared unconstitutional, but a requirement that only physicians perform abortions remains in effect.

Taxpayer-Funded Abortion Ban (MN Statute 256B.0625)
In 1978 Minnesota enacted a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion (with a few exceptions). In the 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court declared this law unconstitutional, forcing taxpayer-funded abortions on the people of Minnesota.

Parental Notification (MN Statute 144.343, authored by Sen. Gene Waldorf and Rep. Dominic Elioff)
Passed in 1981, Minnesota's parental notification law requires that both parents be notified at least 48 hours before an abortion is performed on a minor (a court-required judicial bypass option is included). Minnesota's law was challenged and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and now serves as model legislation for other states.

Abortion / Insurance Laws
Also in 1981, Minnesota passed a law allowing health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to exclude elective abortions from their coverage. Then in 1986, Minnesota's state insurance law was amended to require coverage of maternity care in policies written to cover Minnesota residents. When the Health Care Access bill (which essentially created MinnesotaCare) passed in 1991, pro-lifers successfully amended the bill to prohibit coverage of abortion and abortion-related services.

Wrong Life/Birth Suits Prohibited (MN Statute 145.424, authored by Sen. Wayne Olhoft and Rep. Richard O'Connor)
Minnesota passed a law in 1982 prohibiting "wrongful life" or "wrongful birth" suits that claimed doctors had a duty to determine if an unborn child was disabled so that an abortion could be performed. The law was challenged and upheld in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

"Baby Doe" Protections (MN Statute 260C.007, authored by Sen. Florian Chmielewski and Rep. Ralph Kiffmeyer)
Minnesota enacted a law protecting disabled infants from denial of medically indicated treatment (including feeding) in 1985.

Fetal Homicide Law (MN Statute 609.266, authored by Sen. Tad Jude and Rep. Terry Dempsey)
In 1986 Minnesota passed a fetal homicide law to impose penalties on anyone who kills or injures an unborn baby other than in the commission of a legal abortion.

Fetal Disposal Law (MN Statute 145.1621)
Yet another law that was passed, challenged, and upheld in the courts (this time the Federal Eighth Circuit Court) was Minnesota's fetal disposal law ensuring that the bodies of aborted babies would be buried, cremated or otherwise disposed of in a sanitary and dignified manner.

Advance Directives (MN Statutes Chapter 145C)
MCCL successfully lobbied to add protective amendments to a law authorizing living wills, which could be used to justify the withdrawal not only of medical care, but also of food and fluids. One such protection requires that when a hospital refuses to treat a patient long-term, the hospital is still required to provide care to the patient until transfer to another hospital can be arranged.

Conscience Clause (MN Statute 145.925)
In 1991 the Minnesota Legislature provided a significant funding increase for family planning agencies. A conscience clause was added to prohibit discrimination against agencies that do not consider abortion a method of family planning.

Prohibition on Assisted Suicide (MN Statute 609.215)
Minnesota tightened its law against assisted suicide in 1992. Twenty years later, Minnesota's law still serves as model legislation for the rest of the country.

Abortion Data Reporting (MN Statutes 145.4131-145.4136, authored by Sen. Jim Vickerman and Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba)
Despite a pro-abortion governor and pro-abortion leadership in both the House and Senate, lawmakers passed an abortion data reporting law in 1998. The information provided in the annual reports is invaluable, providing such statistics as why women choose abortion and what method of abortion is used. This is another law that serves as model legislation for other states.

Safe Place for Newborns (MN Statutes 2010, section 145.902)
In 2000, to prevent cases of infant abandonment, Minnesota implemented a law allowing a mother to surrender her infant to a designated safe place with no questions asked. It was amended in 2012 to expand the number of safe places and the time period in which women have this option.

Woman's Right to Know (MN Statutes 145.4241-145.4249, authored by Sens. Michelle Fischbach / Steve Dille and Reps. Mary Liz Holberg / Marty Seifert)
Passed in 2003, Woman's Right to Know empowers women by ensuring they are fully informed before undergoing an abortion. The law requires that women be given factual information about fetal development, the abortion procedure, abortion risks, and alternatives to abortion. Under this law last year, 2,548 more women received the information than ended up going through with the abortion.

Positive Alternatives Act (MN Statute 145.4235, authored by Sen. Dallas Sams and Rep. Brad Finstad)
The Minnesota Legislature passed the Positive Alternatives Act in 2005 to provide more than $2 million annually in grants to life-affirming organizations that help pregnant women in need. The grants provide support and resources to women facing an unexpected or difficult pregnancy—so that no woman feels forced into having an abortion. About 35,000 women statewide were helped through the Positive Alternatives program in its first six years (July 2006-July 2012).

Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act (MN Statute 145.4242, authored by Sen. Michelle Fischbach and Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba)
The Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act was added to the Woman's Right to Know law in 2005. It requires that women be offered pain-reducing medication for their unborn children after 20 weeks.

Prohibition on Taxpayer Funding of Human Cloning (2009 MN Session Law, Chapter 95, Article 1, Sec. 5, Subd. 7)
This measure prohibited the University of Minnesota from using taxpayer dollars for human cloning research for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Never weary, never rest in the great human rights cause of our time and all times

Only months before his death, the great Richard John Neuhaus delivered a speech at the 2008 National Right to Life Convention. This speech should be long remembered and reprinted, and it is particularly relevant now as the pro-life movement seeks to renew its resolve 40 years after Roe v. Wade. Neuhaus begins:
Once again this year, the National Right to Life convention is partly a reunion of veterans from battles past and partly a youth rally of those recruited for the battles to come. And that is just what it should be. The pro-life movement that began in the twentieth century laid the foundation for the pro-life movement of the twenty-first century. We have been at this a long time, and we are just getting started. All that has been and all that will be is prelude to, and anticipation of, an indomitable hope. All that has been and all that will be is premised upon the promise of Our Lord's return in glory when, as we read in the Book of Revelation, "he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be sorrow nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." And all things will be new.

That is the horizon of hope that, from generation to generation, sustains the great human rights cause of our time and all times—the cause of life. We contend, and we contend relentlessly, for the dignity of the human person, of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, destined from eternity for eternity—every human person, no matter how weak or how strong, no matter how young or how old, no matter how productive or how burdensome, no matter how welcome or how inconvenient. Nobody is a nobody; nobody is unwanted. All are wanted by God, and therefore to be respected, protected, and cherished by us.

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life's course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.

Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman's dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.
Neuhaus traces the origins of the culture of death, then recounts what drew him into the pro-life movement:
It has been a long journey, and there are still miles and miles to go. Some say it started with the notorious Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 when, by what Justice Byron White called an act of raw judicial power, the Supreme Court wiped from the books of all fifty states every law protecting the unborn child. But it goes back long before that. Some say it started with the agitation for "liberalized abortion law" in the 1960s when the novel doctrine was proposed that a woman cannot be fulfilled unless she has the right to destroy her child. But it goes back long before that. It goes back to the movements for eugenics and racial and ideological cleansing of the last century.

Whether led by enlightened liberals, such as Margaret Sanger, or brutal totalitarians, whose names live in infamy, the doctrine and the practice was that some people stood in the way of progress and were therefore non-persons, living, as it was said, "lives unworthy of life." But it goes back even before that. It goes back to the institution of slavery in which human beings were declared to be chattel property to be bought and sold and used and discarded at the whim of their masters. It goes way on back.

As Pope John Paul the Great wrote in his historic message Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life) the culture of death goes all the way back to that fateful afternoon when Cain struck down his brother Abel, and the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And Cain answered, "Am I my brother's keeper?" And the Lord said to Cain, "The voice of your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground." The voice of the blood of brothers and sisters beyond numbering cry out from the slave ships and battlegrounds and concentration camps and torture chambers of the past and the present. The voice of the blood of the innocents cries out from the abortuaries and sophisticated biotech laboratories of this beloved country today. Contending for the culture of life has been a very long journey, and there are still miles and miles to go.

The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed. I expect many of us here, perhaps most of us here, can remember when we were first encountered by the idea. For me, it was in the 1960s when I was pastor of a very poor, very black, inner city parish in Brooklyn, New York. I had read that week an article by Ashley Montagu of Princeton University on what he called "A Life Worth Living." He listed the qualifications for a life worth living: good health, a stable family, economic security, educational opportunity, the prospect of a satisfying career to realize the fullness of one's potential. These were among the measures of what was called "a life worth living."

And I remember vividly, as though it were yesterday, looking out the next Sunday morning at the congregation of St. John the Evangelist and seeing all those older faces creased by hardship endured and injustice afflicted, and yet radiating hope undimmed and love unconquered. And I saw that day the younger faces of children deprived of most, if not all, of those qualifications on Prof. Montagu's list. And it struck me then, like a bolt of lightning, a bolt of lightning that illuminated our moral and cultural moment, that Prof. Montagu and those of like mind believed that the people of St. John the Evangelist—people whom I knew and had come to love as people of faith and kindness and endurance and, by the grace of God, hope unvanquished—it struck me then that, by the criteria of the privileged and enlightened, none of these my people had a life worth living. In that moment, I knew that a great evil was afoot. The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed.

In that moment, I knew that I had been recruited to the cause of the culture of life. To be recruited to the cause of the culture of life is to be recruited for the duration; and there is no end in sight, except to the eyes of faith.
Neuhaus later turns to Roe and concludes by looking forward:
"We the People" have not and will not ratify the lethal logic of Roe v. Wade. That notorious decision of 1973 is the most consequential moral and political event of the last half century of our nation's history. It has produced a dramatic realignment of moral and political forces, led by evangelicals and Catholics together, and joined by citizens beyond numbering who know that how we respond to this horror defines who we are as individuals and as a people. Our opponents, once so confident, are now on the defensive. Having lost the argument with the American people, they desperately cling to the dictates of the courts. No longer able to present themselves as the wave of the future, they watch in dismay as a younger generation recoils in horror from the bloodletting of an abortion industry so arrogantly imposed by judges beyond the rule of law.

We do not know, we do not need to know, how the battle for the dignity of the human person will be resolved. God knows, and that is enough. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta and saints beyond numbering have taught us, our task is not to be successful but to be faithful. Yet in that faithfulness is the lively hope of success. We are the stronger because we are unburdened by delusions. We know that in a sinful world, far short of the promised Kingdom of God, there will always be great evils. The principalities and powers will continue to rage, but they will not prevail.

In the midst of the encroaching darkness of the culture of death, we have heard the voice of him who said, "In the world you will have trouble. But fear not, I have overcome the world." Because he has overcome, we shall overcome. We do not know when; we do not know how. God knows, and that is enough. We know the justice of our cause, we trust in the faithfulness of his promise, and therefore we shall not weary, we shall not rest.

Whether, in this great contest between the culture of life and the culture of death, we were recruited many years ago or whether we were recruited only yesterday, we have been recruited for the duration. We go from this convention refreshed in our resolve to fight the good fight. We go from this convention trusting in the words of the prophet Isaiah that "they who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint."

The journey has been long, and there are miles and miles to go. But from this convention the word is carried to every neighborhood, every house of worship, every congressional office, every state house, every precinct of this our beloved country—from this convention the word is carried that, until every human being created in the image and likeness of God—no matter how small or how weak, no matter how old or how burdensome—until every human being created in the image and likeness of God is protected in law and cared for in life, we shall not weary, we shall not rest. And, in this the great human rights struggle of our time and all times, we shall overcome.
A fitting and essential message for Jan. 22, 2013. The speech is available here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How self-interest deadens the conscience

Princeton lecturer Russell Nieli recounts his comments during a panel abortion debate many years ago:
"I am going to begin my remarks," I said, "with what is essentially a Marxist argument." There were some boos from the audience—Marxism is out of favor nowadays even among the student left. "Karl Marx," I said, "got most things wrong" (some cheers went up). "But he understood better than most thinkers before or after him how people's self-interest can warp their moral sense to the point that they are rendered incapable of discerning and acknowledging right from wrong."

Marx's biggest concern, I explained, was that material interests can distort our moral compasses. Drawing on the slavery analogy, I posed some simple questions: "Why did the Scarlett O'Haras and Rhett Butlers of the old South approve of the institution of slavery? Why did they think Africans so inferior to whites that it was morally acceptable to enslave them?"

The answer, I said, was simple: It was in their interest to believe these things. I went on: We human beings are very good at coming up with reasons and claims to justify what is in our interest to believe. So perverse is the human mind that we actually come to believe the sophistic arguments we tell ourselves when they reinforce our material or other vital interests.

The abortion issue, I said, is similar to the controversy over the rights and wrongs of slavery, since in both cases intense personal interests often dull the conscience. There are many out there, I said, who ... don't want to have babies because babies are enormously burdensome to take care of. So, like the plantation owners in the old South, they try to convince themselves that what is really a monstrous evil is no evil at all. Killing babies in their mothers' wombs is no big deal. Human embryos are just globs of tissue without sentience or thought. Those who claim a human right to life for such entities just want to cause trouble.

I tried to reinforce the themes of "interest-driven corruption" and "false consciousness" by the old tag line: "A pro-choicer is a pro-lifer whose teenage daughter has become pregnant." The saying is often used as a put-down of pro-lifers but what it really draws attention to, I said, is how weak and corruptible our moral sense and conscience really are. Self-interest produces willful blindness to evils that those less self-interested have no trouble seeing with the keenest of vision. The dairy farmers in Massachusetts, who had no personal interest at stake, had no trouble at all seeing the evils of plantation slavery in the old South.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Why should you attend?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fictional abortion history

As the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade draws near, a new essay by Justin Dyer recounts how false historical claims provided crucial support for that Supreme Court ruling. It begins:
Forty years after the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, prominent historians and lawyers continue to rely on a narrative history that is based on two demonstrably false premises: (1) abortion was a common-law liberty at the time of the American founding and (2) the primary purpose of anti-abortion laws in the 19th century was to protect women rather than the lives of unborn children. In the 1960s and 1970s, lawyers trying to build a case against century-old state abortion statutes trumpeted these two claims, all the while knowing they were false.

The point of these historical claims, as Ramesh Ponnuru has noted, was to portray "anti-abortion laws as an aberration from an American tradition" and "Roe as the restoration of that tradition." But in reality abortion never amounted to anything approaching a protected liberty in the common law (even in situations where abortion was not considered an indictable offense), and the primary rationale given by those who advocated strict state abortion laws in the 19th century was unequivocally the protection of the lives of the unborn. Even so, old myths die hard, and many commentators continue to repeat or repackage these two claims.
Fake history is one of the elements of the Roe decision that make it so astonishingly indefensible. As Dyer writes, Roe's author, Justice Harry Blackmun, relied almost exclusively on two articles by Cyril Means, a lawyer for the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), to claim that 19th century laws against abortion weren't really about protecting the unborn, but were about protecting pregnant women in dangerous circumstances that no longer apply in today's world.

But clear historical evidence shows that Means's claims are false. There can be no real debate about that, and Blackmun should have known better. Roe is left with the absurd contention that the 14th Amendment contains a right (to abortion) that was blatantly repudiated by the very people who ratified the amendment—when they, at about the same time, passed numerous state laws banning abortion primarily for the sake of protecting unborn children.

Whoever said history doesn't matter? "This fraudulent history ... would be far less tragic," Dyer concludes, "if it did not involve matters of life and death."