Friday, October 28, 2016

What are the stakes on Nov. 8?

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. Pro-life voters should consider the stakes and seek to prioritize issues accordingly.

Abortion is not like other political matters. The abortion issue is about whether a whole class of innocent human beings (those who are in the embryonic and fetal stages of life) deserve basic respect and the protection of the law—or whether they may be excluded from protection and killed on an industrial scale. Abortion is the leading cause of human death in our state and our country. The moral gravity and sheer scope of this problem make it a uniquely important issue in American society today.

And the candidates we elect to public office will shape laws and public policies in ways that affect the practice of abortion (and other right-to-life issues). Elected officials will work to either increase protection for unborn children or decrease it. They will enact measures that reduce or escalate the incidence of abortion. They will try to legalize assisted suicide (as some in Minnesota have recently), or they will defeat such efforts. Lives are on the line.

Here in Minnesota, MCCL has helped pass pro-life laws (such as Woman's Right to Know and Positive Alternatives) that have led to fewer abortions. Lives have been saved because of pro-life legislation. But it was only possible because pro-life candidates had been elected to the state House and Senate.

We need to elect pro-life candidates this year. Only then can we advance new pro-life legislation. Only then can we defeat life-threatening proposals.

U.S. House races are also on the ballot. Members of Congress determine which federal bills get passed and which get defeated. Important federal laws (such as the Hyde Amendment, which has saved more than two million lives from abortion) might be at stake. The House could become even more important if the Senate falls under the control of those who favor unlimited abortion (Minnesota does not have a U.S. Senate race this year).

Some of Minnesota's U.S. House races are very close:

  • In the 2nd Congressional District, Jason Lewis faces Angie Craig. Lewis received a 100 percent score on MCCL's pro-life candidate questionnaire. Craig has been endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations that only support pro-choice candidates.
  • In the 3rd District, Congressman Erik Paulsen faces challenger Terri Bonoff. Paulsen has a 100 percent pro-life voting record in Congress. Bonoff supports abortion on demand and voted against many pro-life bills in the Minnesota Legislature.
  • In the 8th District, Stewart Mills is running against incumbent Rick Nolan. Mills earned a 100 percent score on his MCCL questionnaire, while Nolan has a zero percent pro-life voting record in Congress.

The MCCL Voter's Guide, which is available online, includes information about the positions on abortion and assisted suicide of state legislative candidates and congressional candidates. Before voting, make sure to find out where the candidates in your area stand. If you don't know your legislative or congressional district—or would like other voting information—go to

Remember to vote on Nov. 8—and vote pro-life.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The danger of suicide contagion—and why assisted suicide makes it worse

An Oct. 19 story published in Newsweek discusses a recent outbreak of suicides among teenagers in Colorado. Suicide contagion—when one suicide leads to others, sometimes producing a "suicide cluster"—is a well-established social phenomenon. And young people are especially susceptible.

"[S]uicide is likely becoming more contagious, thanks in large part to social media," writes Max Kutner in the Newsweek article. He explains:
Suicide prevention advocates tend to blame television and newspaper coverage for inspiring copycats, but for teens, social media are a growing problem. Instagram pages for kids who kill themselves sometimes contain hundreds of comments. Many are about how beautiful or handsome the deceased were, how they can finally rest in peace and how there should be a party for them in heaven. Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says the message seems to be that if you kill yourself, you'll not only end your suffering but also become the most popular kid in school. Teens sometimes have more than 1,000 Instagram followers, so kids far beyond one school or community can see digital shrines to dead friends. Moutier says those posts can seem as if they're romanticizing death.
Suicides nationwide are on the rise. Efforts to prevent these tragedies, particularly among young people, must be more vigorously pursued. But such efforts are undermined by the current campaign to legalize assisted suicide in states across the country (including, ironically, Colorado, where assisted suicide is on the ballot in the 2016 election). Here's why.

Suicide prevention efforts rightly affirm that everyone's life matters, that people are valuable and significant, and that difficult circumstances or feelings don't change those facts. Suicide is always tragic. It is not the solution to someone's problems.

The promotion, publicity, and legalization of assisted suicide affirms something very different. It says that sometimes suicide really is the appropriate response to an individual's circumstances or anxieties. And the government and medical profession should approve and facilitate the killing of that individual. Some lives just aren't worth living.

This message is false. It's also deeply harmful. Assisted suicide, like suicide in general, can have a contagion effect that contributes to the deaths of more people.

Consider the story of Brittany Maynard, the young woman whose example of dying by assisted suicide has been endlessly romanticized by assisted suicide advocates. Media coverage of Maynard flagrantly violated the accepted guidelines for responsible suicide reporting. Dr. Will Johnston, a Vancouver physician, recalls treating a patient who was affected: "I hospitalized a young suicidal patient ... who told me how he had done an internet search for suicide drugs after watching the slick video glamorizing Brittany."

This is suicide contagion.

A 2015 study published in the Southern Medical Journal concluded that, controlling for numerous factors, the legalization of assisted suicide has led to a 6.3 percent increase in the total (non-assisted and assisted) suicide rate. (The effect on non-assisted suicides alone was less clear—a 1.6 percent rate increase.) "You do not discourage suicide by assisting suicide," quips Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatry professor at the University of California-Irvine School of Medicine.

Indeed, despite the claims of its proponents, assisted suicide isn't only about a few individual patients and their personal circumstances. There is a broader social impact. This is about our whole society.

Dr. Kheriaty tells the story of Valentina Maureira, a 14-year-old Chilean girl with cystic fibrosis who wanted to die by suicide after hearing about the case of Brittany Maynard. Fortunately, Maureira met another young person with the same disease who offered hope and encouragement. "With our laws, we can encourage vulnerable individuals in one of these two directions," Kheiraty says.

"What sort of society do we want to become, with regard to how we help people who report they want to end their own lives?" he asks. "Suicide is already a public health crisis; do we want to legalize a practice that will worsen this crisis?"

We must reject suicide in all of its forms.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Planned Parenthood and human (in)equality

October 16 marks the 100-year anniversary of Planned Parenthood. The group's founder, Margaret Sanger, was a birth control pioneer. But she didn't view "birth control" (a term she helped coin) in the same way as people today. "Birth control is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defective," Sanger wrote in her 1920 book Woman and the New Race.

Sanger, indeed, was a eugenicist who wanted to prevent the procreation of people she deemed "unfit," such as many who were poor, sick, and disabled. She urged the government to "restrain, either by force or persuasion, the moron and the imbecile from producing his large family of feeble-minded offspring." She said that stopping "the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective" was "the most urgent problem today."

Sanger's view of humanity was expressed in a passage from one of her essays (titled "The Need for Birth Control in America"):
In his last book, Mr. [H.G.] Wells speaks of the meaningless, aimless lives which cram this world of ours, hordes of people who are born, who live, who die, yet who have done absolutely nothing to advance the race one iota. Their lives are hopeless repetitions. All that they have said has been said before; all that they have done has been done better before. Such human weeds clog up the path, drain up the energies and the resources of this little earth. We must clear the way for a better world; we must cultivate our garden.
This is a significant part of the vision with which Planned Parenthood was founded. It is a view that rejects the good of human life as such. It says that some lives—the lives of those who are "defective," who do not contribute, who are "human weeds"—are "meaningless" and not worth living. It denies the fundamental equality and importance of all members of the human family.

Planned Parenthood's eugenic attitude (later couched more in terms of population control) lived on for decades. Alan Guttmacher (for whom the Guttmacher Institute is named), for example, became president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) in 1962. Guttmacher was a long-time eugenicist and former vice president of the American Eugenic Society. He warned in a speech (in 1942) that "the mentally retarded and the mentally defective" are "insidiously ... replacing the people of normal mentality." Guttmacher hoped in 1969 that "some day a way of enforcing compulsory birth control will be feasible."

Now, one-hundred years after its founding, Planned Parenthood doesn't talk about eugenics any more. But that doesn't mean that Sanger's views are completely absent from the work of the organization.

Today PPFA is, by a large margin, the leading practitioner of abortion in the United States. It performs about a third of a million abortions each year. Planned Parenthood vigorously opposes any limits on abortion and actively supports political candidates who champion unfettered and publicly funded abortion—and who will funnel hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars annually back into Planned Parenthood's coffers. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) likewise promotes abortion all around the world.

This current work is, in important ways, even more troubling than the eugenic efforts of Sanger:

  • Sanger rejected the equal worth of those she considered "unfit," and she promoted contraception and forced sterilization among certain groups of people as a result. Today, Planned Parenthood rejects the equal worth of human beings in utero—who are smaller, less developed, and more dependent than most other people—and kills such human beings on an industrial scale.
  • Sanger called people who have disabilities "biological and racial mistakes" and sought to prevent their existence. Today, Planned Parenthood kills disabled human beings who already exist (while they are still in the womb).
  • Sanger considered certain people "defective" and burdensome. She wanted to use birth control to eliminate such "human weeds" for the benefit of the rest of us. Today, Planned Parenthood kills unborn human beings who are deemed "defective" and "burdensome" in order to (ostensibly) benefit others.

That today's Planned Parenthood rejects human equality is not debatable. It is undeniably true because the embryos and fetuses whose lives are systematically and violently ended by Planned Parenthood are, as a matter of biological fact, members of the species Homo sapiens. (Indeed, many defenders of abortion argue that unborn children are human "non-persons" who simply don't matter in the same way as the rest of us.)

Over the last 100 years, Planned Parenthood's language and rhetoric have certainly become less inegalitarian. But its actual work has become more grotesque. Planned Parenthood doesn't overtly tout inequality any more, but its lethal actions presuppose it.

This denial of the moral equality of all human beings is perhaps the most important thread that runs through the organization's history. From Sanger to Guttmacher to today's no-limits abortion advocacy, Planned Parenthood has stood—and continues to stand—for the proposition that some human lives are inferior to others.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The emptiness of 'trust women'

Tim Kaine, speaking about abortion in the vice-presidential debate last night, asked his pro-life opponent: "[W]hy don't you trust women to make this choice for themselves? ... [W]hy don't you trust women?"

This is popular rhetoric among defenders of abortion, but it seems odd because it completely sidesteps the issue. After all, what if a particular choice is unjust? Shouldn't that unjust act be prohibited? We could try "trusting" people not to make the unjust choice, but what if, nevertheless, that unjust choice is made more than a million times every year (as the choice of abortion is)? Shouldn't the government act to prevent the injustice?

Consider a different issue. Why don't we trust men to make the choice of whether or not to pay child support? Should we eliminate child support requirements? No, of course not—because the law should ensure that children receive the support they need.

Or consider infanticide. Why don't we trust parents with the decision of whether or not to kill or abandon their newborn children? Because newborn children have a right to life and deserve society's protection.

Many choices—like deciding what to eat for dinner—should be permitted by law. They are choices that the law should "trust" people to make for themselves. But other choices—like refusing to pay child support or abandoning a newborn baby—should not be permitted because they harm innocent people. So what kind of choice is abortion? Does it unjustly take the life of a valuable human being? That is the question that must be addressed.

Kaine's rhetoric assumes that abortion is not unjust. It assumes that abortion is more like deciding what to eat for dinner than like killing an innocent person. But this is precisely what is at issue in the abortion debate. Kaine's empty language offers no actual reason to think that his position on abortion is true.