Today, the Supreme Court struck down nearly 50 years of precedent, finding (correctly) that there is no right to abortion in the Constitution. Finding it there was incorrect in 1973 and proved to be even more incorrect as medical science advanced. To say I am ecstatic would be underselling it; I have advocated against it for decades, and even wrote publicly about it as far back as 19 years ago. This is a wonderful day!
To be sure, this court case does nothing for the generation lost to this barbaric practice, nor does it eliminate it on a nationwide basis; the rescinding of the Roe v. Wade decision returns the issue to the states. I am a big believer in an incremental approach because, in large part, any absolutist effort is doomed to failure. Every prenatal murder we can avoid is a cause for celebration. The states that have laws that go into effect will have the effect of outlawing 12.8% of abortions(subscription-only link) - just over a literaldecimation of this abhorrent practice.
I won't rehash my posts from the past nearly-two decades; if you want to read those, just peruse the “Prenatal Murder” category linked at the bottom of this post. Rather, I want to reflect on various aspects of this decision, what led up to it, and what is next for those of us who value the sanctity of human life from conception through natural death.
Roe Was Bad Law
The Roe decision only made sense by stretching the logic of a 1965 decision that had also stretched to reach its conclusion - Griswold v. Connecticut. Griswold centered around a law that prohibited the dispensing of birth control advice or devices. The majority opinion in this case found a previously-undiscovered “right to privacy” in the Constitution (as amended) that “emanated” from prior case law's “penumbras” (shadows). Calling this innovative thinking is probably too kind; it set precedents in all sorts of bad ways.
Just eight years later, Roe took a hop from Griswold's stretch, equating the act of abortion with any other form of birth control. This was also innovative, but not in the way you may expect. You likely grew up hearing about “trimesters,” those three 3-month periods of fetal development prior to birth. That did not come from current medical thinking; it came from renowned biologist Justice Harry Blackmun, via his majority opinion in this case. (Maybe justices do need to have a good working knowledge of biology, eh Justice-in-Waiting Jackson?) Justice Blackmun used this “trimester” framework to literally "split the baby", finding that the state had no interest in the first, some interest in the second, and the near-prevailing interest in the third. It also provided prohibitions on laws that did not allow abortions to preserve the “life and health” of the mother.
At the time, its companion case (Doe v. Bolton) defined “health” to include “mental health,” which was the key for the abortion free-for-all that followed. Parenting has profound effects on your mental health, whether you set out to be parents or are surprised, and doctors were all too willing to use this as cover to grant abortion for any reason (or no reason at all).
In 1973, the decision was not great; however, in the intervening years, medical science and our understanding of fetal development increased greatly. In 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, the Supreme Court replaced the trimester framework with a “viability” standard. Sadly, they left the “mental health” definition from Doe intact, so the effect was the same. Medical science continued advancing, and as those who were pro-abortion rights continued to ignore it, their “rights” platitudes rang more hollow. In 2009, they thought they had finally won, but in reality…
The ACA's Overreach Accelerated This Decision
The Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as “Obamacare”) mandated, among other things, what type of health care coverage employers must provide their employees (whether they want/need it or not). Reproductive health care was part of that package, and within that were some “birth control” measures that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg or induce spontaneous abortions (“abortofacients”). There were also very limited exceptions to this policy; in short, if you were not a church, you had to provide this.
This took the debate from the public square and into the courts. In 2014, the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby found that this lack of exception for religious beliefs for for-profit businesses violated 1993's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). That was a good ruling, but it only applied to abortofacients and for-profit businesses. Catholic Charities' Little Sisters of the Poor were not as fortunate. The Roman Catholic religion views any birth control as sin, and even if the Hobby Lobby exception applied, they were still mandated to provide something against which they have long-standing, well-documented, sincerely held beliefs. It took until 2020 – 11 years after the ACA became law – to win their exemption via Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania.
While businesses were fighting in court, state legislatures were passing laws. Some states passed laws ensuring that this travesty could occur right up until the moment of delivery, but many states passed further restrictions on abortion. These restrictions varied from those thought to comply with Casey, to near or complete bans that were deferred until Roe and Casey were struck down, to some innovative thinking the other way (which isn't a compliment; Texas gets their own section under “What's Next” below). These laws codified, within each state, where they wished to draw the line on their compelling state interest. Among the ones that took effect, some held, some were struck down (like 2020's moderately surprising decision in June Medical v. Russo), and the Mississippi law challenged in Dobbs v. Jackson is what led to today's majority opinion.
A draft of that opinion was leaked in early May. Not only did this allow me to write large portions of this post ahead of time (hooray), it also led to some really revealing arguments from the side who felt that they were about to lose. Despite their claims to the contrary…
Abortion Is Not Health Care
The most egregious and disingenuous of these claims is that the reversal of Roe will lead to doctors being prohibited from taking care of troublesome pregnancies, such as ectopic pregnancies (where the egg implants in the fallopian tube) and miscarriages where the fetus has already died (but the woman's body is not eliminating it properly). It is true that, particularly with the miscarriage, the medical procedure itself is similar. However, no one is saying ectopic pregnancies should remain (except some knuckleheads in Missouri - again, addressed below), and removing an already-perished pre-born baby is also not abortion. These are health care procedures, and will remain legal in all 50 states, even if it takes a court challenge. (Again - maybe we do want our judges up on their biology, no? Maybe the legislature, too?)
Strawmen out of the way, this leaves us with four general scenarios to consider.
The first scenario goes something like “I just missed my period; uh oh - ain't nobody got time for that!” While I would love for this to be outlawed, the reality is that these will likely be legal - or at least accessible - forever. The Mississippi law challenged in Dobbs mandated no abortions after 15 weeks, which would have no effect on this abortion scenario. All that said, though, this is no more health care than elective breast augmentation.
The second scenario is selective termination after genetic testing. In these cases, there is absolutely no difference in the health of the mother who is carrying a baby with genetic deformities. All her systems still work the same; failing to give these children the opportunity for the life they have been given is something which should be prohibited by law. Again - not health care, just early murder.
The third scenario is a woman who changes her mind well into her pregnancy, and her baby is fully viable outside the womb. In this case, there is no prevailing health care concern that requires the baby to die; a delivery eliminates the pregnancy and gives the baby the opportunity it deserves. “Not health care” is an easy call here; all three cases thus far show that something being a “medical procedure” does not mean that the procedure is “health care.”
The final scenario is pregnancies resulting from rape (which includes incestuous statutory rape; I am not considering consenting related adults' children here). Here, I will probably part ways with some of the more ardent pro-lifers; while I do not believe abortion is the right decision in these cases, girls and women in this situation are already in a non-ideal situation. I believe it should be legal to counsel them to keep these pregnancies, but you will not find me pushing an absolutist position here. That being said, this is the only case where mental health should play any sort of consideration at all; outside of that, this is not health care either.
I mentioned the revealing arguments in the wake of the leak. The health care argument was one, but again, contrary to their claims, this is…
No Slippery Slope
(At this point, I would love to divert and discuss the difference between a “slippery slope” argument and an “argument of progression.” However, this is already essay-length; maybe that will be a post for another day.)
The claim goes something like “If they take this right away, what's to stop them from taking away birth control totally? Or gay marriage?” Well - in two words, “the Constitution.” Eliminating a stretch from the emanating penumbras doesn't eliminate the penumbras themselves, so birth control's legality remains covered under Griswold – just not the murder-your-baby kind. A better parallel for gay marriage would be 1967's Loving v. Virginia case, decided on equal protection grounds rather than right-to-privacy; these same equal protection claims were central to 2015's Obergfell v. Hodges case. There is also no nationwide movement against either of these decisions. There may be local overreach on these laws, and there may be lawsuits where the plaintiff's rights under RFRA were found to be violated – but these (contrary, again, to the hyperbolic claims of the losers) do not remove the laws from the books; they recognize religious freedom in our pluralistic society.
So, all that being said…
What's Next? (AKA “Fix Your Law, Texas”)
The fight for the legal rights of the unborn now has 50 fronts. This is not necessarily a new development; as I mentioned above, there has been legislative action in several states. There will likely be vociferous screeds about abolishing filibusters, expanding courts, and other harebrained schemes, all in hopes of getting a quick nationwide reversal of Dobbs. The conversation around the 2024 election will be hysterical and insufferable – not that the outlook there was all that reasoned and sufferable to begin with…
Some ways I would like to see the issue progress (and things I would support) include:
There will be, no doubt, efforts to reverse today's decision, both in the courts and in Congress. While many of us see today's decision as the natural consequence of the way culture, science, and jurisprudence have been moving for the past generation, we should assume absolutely zero momentum. There will be a reaction, and it will be covered favorably by the legacy media; stand on principle, and do not concede the phrasing or the terms of debate. Culture has changed because pro-life advocates have publicized both the amazing miracle of life in the womb and the horrors of abortion; keep doing that.
We no longer need “bold” laws to “challenge” the unconstitutional Roe; it's done, and the states have the power. “With great power comes great responsibility,” though, so any future laws restricting abortion must be free of some of the sloppiness contained in prior abortion laws (and some current “anti-woke” laws). (No, you may not criminalize treatment of ectopic pregnancies.) These laws must be specific, measurable, enforceable, and medically sound. I like heartbeat bills, I'm OK with 15-week bans; I'm not OK with jailing abortive mothers.
Texas, I promised you some special attention. If your law had been passed contingent upon today's ruling, or passed in the future, it would not have the same baggage that it currently does. I'm quite surprised that the Supreme Court did not issue an injunction; my only guess is that they had an inkling that today was coming and wanted to give you a head start. Working around the Constitution is not the way to accomplish this. Revisit this law; if you want to be the only state in the Union to have a civil penalty for abortion, so be it, but surely you can do better by the children of Texas than outsourcing their protection to (possibly out-of-state) profiteers.
Don't Be “Pro-Life in Name Only”
You know what's tough? Being a mom through pregnancy, birth, and early childhood. (It doesn't get a lot easier, but at least you start getting sleep – until the teenage years, anyway.) Not engaging in an activity that will create life until one is ready to take responsibility for the life created is quite pro-life; this is the “hearts and minds” aspect, which wasn't ever part of Roe. Until that happens, though, we need to be prepared to support those who have created life and don't know what to do. Crisis pregnancy centers will be even more vital in the years to come, and they will need both counselors/volunteers and funding to help their clients.
While Roe v. Wade will exist as reversed Supreme Court precedent, I look forward to the day when “row” and “wade” are just two ways to cross a stream.
I'm a big fan of what's going on in Alabama. They recently passed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a “clean” abortion ban(auto-play warning on that link) that only contains an exception for the life of the mother; no rape exception, no incest exception, no “health of the mother” exception. The people who passed it have said that they are presenting it as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that discovered this then-previously-unknown right.
I probably should qualify what I mean by being a “big fan” of it. It clearly articulates the value of human life from the moment of conception, and provides severe penalties for doctors who perform the procedure contrary to the law. Would I have written the law this way? Possibly; it's easier to add exceptions to a clean bill than try to remove them, when they were part of the bill the way the legislature voted on it. Do I think it has a chance that it will take effect? Not one little bit; there will be an injunction while the bill travels through the courts.
Personally, I believe that rape and incest are horrible, terrible crimes, that are not improved by committing another violent act. I also realize that, as a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” a law will probably end up having those exceptions in it. We don't have to imagine any exception being exploited; I'm sure Georgia doctors can and will ultrasound not quite right, so the heartbeat isn't found. I believe their police reporting requirement for invoking the rape and incest exceptions is an excellent step; many people who commit these terrible crimes don't just commit them once, and getting these criminals off the street will prevent further victims.
A common argument against those who wear the “pro life” label is that we seem to only care about unborn life. That couldn't be further from the truth; and, in reality, that characterization is often made by political groups trying to marginalize us when we've just made a good point. Most “pro life” people I know also support fostering and adoption (when they're allowed to), work programs, and end of life care as well. What they do not seem to get is this - the key to being truly pro-life is valuing life from womb to tomb. Re-read the last sentence of the previous paragraph; that's a statement that values life! Until we can figure out a way to un-rape someone, preventing future rapes by the same perpetrator is something we can actually do. If you want to move beyond “thoughts and prayers,” there's something concrete.
Life begins at conception; the closer we get to protecting all human life from that point forward, the better off we will be.
Who would have thought that a beauty pageant would bring rape to the forefront of American conversation? Yet, this year's Miss USA pageant has done just that, in two different aspects. As you may have already surmised, this post will deal with rape by name, but in the abstract. You have been warned.
First up is the winner, Nia Sanchez. She entered the competition as Miss Nevada, and it is her interview answer that's getting the attention. She was asked about the spike in rapes on college campuses, and she replied:
“I believe that some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation, and that would be a reason it could be swept under the rug, because they don't want that to come out into the public. But I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black-belt, I learned from a young age you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself, and I think that is something we should start to implement for a lot of women.”
Now, you may be reading that thinking, “OK, where's the controversy?” The backlash has been mostly from leftist feminists, with a common response being “Instead of telling women to defend themselves and victim-blaming, why don't we tell men not to rape?”
Now, I'm going to set this off in a larger font, in bold, all-capital letters, so that if any of these lunkheads venture over here, it'll stand out, and maybe they'll get the point.
ADVOCATING SMART SELF-DEFENSE IS NOT VICTIM BLAMING!
See, you can tell men all you want not to rape, and the vast majority of them will get it. In actuality, the vast majority aren't rapists to begin with, contrary the leftist feminist talking points. A large number of victims does not equate to a large number of perpetrators. So, by all means, educate. The men who grew up raping in video games or watching rape fantasy pornography may have their minds reoriented, and not become perpetrators.
That leaves us with the men who will not alter their behavior, and continue to think it's OK for them to do that. Why in the world would you get onto someone for advocating that women learn how to defend themselves? I've been around a while, and this tip-toeing around the defense issue has done nothing but make the numbers of victims skyrocket. Punch, kick, shoot - whatever it takes, learn the skills to give yourself the greatest chance to not become a victim.
Let me take a quick minute to address the “victim blaming” charge. There are people who do this; however, there are people who would categorize what I've written above, particularly that last sentence, as victim blaming. Those people are just as useless as actual victim blamers. Yes, a woman should be able to do whatever she wants and maintain a reasonable expectation that no one will take from her what she has not offered. But, we don't live in a “should” world, we live in an “is” world. An “after-action analysis” type of look at these events can yield information that could make this less likely. We have no trouble telling women to walk to their cars in pairs, and to park under a light, to avoid getting mugged. But, if we make that same situation as a smart way to reduce your risk for rape, now we're victim blaming? Now, if you take that analysis and start saying, “Well, you knew you couldn't hold your liquor, and you had 7 drinks” to imply that the woman had a hand in it, you're venturing into victim blaming territory.
To take this thought one step further - let's say that we can eliminate all rape in the next 15 years through education. Are they really arguing that it's smart for women to leave themselves more vulnerable for the next 15 years? If so, I would put these leftist feminists into the “rape culture enablers” camp. A good self-defense class takes a couple of weeks to complete. If the men won't get educated, let's make sure they get hurt.
On a much more positive note, we have Valerie Gatto, Miss Pennsylvania. After the competition, she revealed that she was conceived during a rape. (See, Todd Akin? You moron…) That part isn't good, but what is good is what happened after that. Her mother was going to give her up for adoption, but decided to keep her, and worked to raise her in a loving home. Now, she is using her platform to support those who have gone through similar situations. Who knows, maybe she can be the poster child for the people the “rape exception” abortion people want to keep from being able to draw breath.
I've got a good bit on my mind this morning. I held back from posting anything negative about our nation yesterday (apart from a call to repentance - but that was me as a Christian, not as American; I would feel that way about whatever nation I called home). “Happy Birthday America - you suck!” just seemed inappropriate.
However, our nation does have many, many flaws. I'm not ready to discard her, by any means; but I see, at nearly every turn, her people and her government making the wrong decisions, and continuing her slide towards mediocrity and insecurity, under the guise of improving both. In nearly every issue, the underlying cause appears to me to be the same - an inability to dispassionately, rationally evaluate a situation, policy, etc. on its merits alone. This is displayed on both sides of the political divide, where talking points and comebacks are slung back and forth, and seems to be what passes for civil discourse. It isn't!
This originated as a Facebook post, but I thought it was more appropriate for the blog; heaven knows it's had some cobwebs for a while, and hits its tenth anniversary next month. Were I to blog each of these issues individually, though, I'd end up with thousands of words that no one would read, save to search it for keywords so they could post their comebacks in the comments (see above). Does it matter that I can't succinctly express what's on my mind? The problems I see aren't succinct problems with succinct solutions. An exclusively inward focus seems wrong; I should be trying to leave a better nation and world for my children, right?
But, as I look back at those nearly 10-year-old posts, the issues are the same. “Gay Bishops - A Big Deal?” Well, I (regrettably) have been vindicated in my view that this gave license for people to just ignore parts of the Bible with which they disagree; at this point, were a hair's breadth away from forcing people to behave in ways they feel are contrary to the Bible, because others disagree with parts of It. “The Ten Commandments - A Monumental Controversy” was about a man's personal decorations in his office, yet the intervening ten years have seen a continuing push to eliminate every vestige of our Christian heritage from the public square. “Abortion - A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed” has seen some progress as of late, but the Todd Akin/Wendy Davis dichotomy prove my point about civil discourse; neither side is immune. However, since that post, there is one political party that has decided they should be for it at any time, for any reason, at no cost. I'm no legal expert, but I don't think that was quite the point of Roe v. Wade, or even Griswold v. Connecticut. How does one rationally argue against such an irrational, yet quite passionately-held, position?
America is not beyond hope. We must change course, though, or we will find ourselves swimming in self-induced mediocrity, while we are crowing over how advanced we are. To get God's blessing, we must turn to Him; to elevate civil discourse, we must teach reasoning. (Morgan Freeberg had a great (and succinct!) summary of this where he dissects Dennis Prager's statement that he'd prefer clarity over agreement.)
p.s. The ambiguity in the title of this post is intentional; whichever meaning is appropriate will be up to us going forward.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
(Each year, the Sunday closest to January 22, the date of the passing of Roe v. Wade, is observed as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” in many churches.)
Ten years have brought us a long way. The 7th post on this blog observed 2004's Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This year brings us to the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in the United States.
As America has become more politically polarized, her views on abortion have as well. However, there is a growing trend against abortion, particularly the more barbaric late-term procedures, which are now only approved by those blinded by their insistence on how much of a “right” it is. A recent Time cover read “40 Years Ago, Abortion Rights Activists Won an Epic Battle with Roe v. Wade: They've Been Losing Ever Since,” and Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, thoroughly dissected that article. And, there are some truly heartening statistics for those who value life:
Four states have only one abortion provider in the entire state
24 states have passed 90 laws restricting abortion since 2010
Some states require parental notification for minors seeking abortion
Some states impose waiting periods and/or counseling before an abortion can be obtained
30 states do not fund abortions via Medicare
The number of those who self-identify as “pro choice” is down to 41%
However, as Dr. Mohler so adeptly points out, abortion is far from the “rare” its proponents claim they want to see. 50 million abortions have been performed since Roe passed, and we are at the point where 1 in 3 women have had an abortion by the time they make 45.
Science is helping the pro-life cause. I covered a good bit of this about a year and a half ago. Ultrasound has given us a window into prenatal development, and psychology and psychiatry have identified post-abortion depression as much more common than postpartum depression per incident.
Interestingly enough, the most damage to the pro-life cause in the past year came from two pro-life national office candidates. I covered both thoseguys at the time (the latter also citing Dr. Mohler - what can I say, he agrees with me a lot!), and since that is where our movement faltered this year, I believe this is where our focus should be. Our participation in the debate should keep the following Scripture in mind:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world…” - Matthew 5:13-14a (ESV)
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ…” - Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)
As Christians advocating for God's way of handling His creation, we must remember who we are. Salt can make a meal pop; however, salt can also overpower, and can be painful when ground into an open wound. Akin and Mourdock were the latter, coming off as callous and uncaring, much like those who still support “partial-birth” abortion come across to us. Light illuminates, but it can also blind. I left the entirety of Ephesians 4:15 there to show it in its context, but the first part of that verse is the key. We know this works; the “crisis pregnancy center” didn't even exist before Roe v. Wade, and now they outnumber abortion providers. Their popularity is due to the care that pregnant and scared women can receive from these organizations. They don't beat the women over the head with their “mistakes” of pregnancy or of seeking an abortion; they offer counseling, ultrasound, and support through pregnancy, childbirth, and the first few months of motherhood. They show a better way, and many women are choosing that path.
While progress against abortion is good, there is an the assault on the sanctity of human life from the other flank. “Assisted suicide” has been making the news already this year. In late 2012, two brothers in Belgium asked to be euthanized and eventually found a doctor who agreed, despite their condition not being consistent with even a liberal interpretation of the “unbearable pain” that law requires. North of our borders, Quebec looks to become the first Canadian province to legalize assisted suicide, not through legal changes, but through medical characterization of the procedure.
Both the Belgium law and the Canadian guideline revisions have advocates claiming that they will be applied narrowly; it sounds like they want it to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Where have we heard that before? Belgium and Canada both have government-run health care systems, so the government has a financial interest to maximize its investments in the system. Right now, it's a long jump to allow someone to be euthanized because they have no hope of recovery, and keeping them alive is expensive. With the Belgian brothers, and this change in health guidelines in Canada, that jump became half as long. I'm certainly not accusing the advocates of these laws of wanting to kill people; I'm sure to them, this is just them trying to help people in pain. I can guarantee, though, that in 30 years, very few of these people will still be around, and the next generation will have been reared in a society where it's perfectly normal to choose when you die. At that point, faced with looming deficits, it's a very small leap to see mandatory euthanasia based on medical evaluation. The slope isn't terribly slippery, but it's a slope nonetheless.
This illustrates the root of the disagreements many of us pro-lifers have with these laws, guidelines, and procedures. The disagreement is one of worldview. We see human life as precious, from the moment of conception through natural death, being conferred that status by God's declaration and unique grace to us within His creation. Human life alone is described as being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); its offspring described as a “reward” and having many as a “blessing” (Psalm 127:3-5); prohibited from being killed (Exodus 20:13); offered salvation from our fallen state (John 3:16); and promised reuniting with God (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) or judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). God has made it pretty clear how He views the part of His creation that was made “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27).
If we lived in a society that agreed with this worldview - well, I probably wouldn't be writing this. However, we do not, and the society in which we do live has an answer to each of those points.
Creation? No, we just evolved - somehow - big bang, amoeba, something - and there definitely was not intelligent design!
Lots of children are a good thing? No, that would interfere with our careers; let's delay that, scrape their beginnings off our womb if they're not convenient; there will be time for that later, right?
Murder? Don't try to force your religion on u… wait, if there aren't any laws against murder, then I could be murdered… OK, you can have that one.
Salvation? I'm a good person (hey, I don't murder!), why would I need to be saved?
Judgment? But wait, doesn't your own Bible say “Judge not, that you be not judged?”
We're made in God's image? Well, now you're on to something - if God is in each one of us, doesn't that make us all God? Then, what I want to do must be God's will, because it's my will!
This brings us back to the Akin/Mourdock problem. Simply asserting our views (then asserting them more loudly) is not going to be a very effective way of convincing others. We should keep in mind that not only does our society hold those conflicting views, they also claim to value tolerance above all else - except for tolerating us, interestingly; they have been raised to believe that we are hateful people who just want to control people's lives and force our religion down everyone's throats. Compounding the issue, some of our forebears actually did go about things this way, particularly over race.
So, is it just futile? Of course not. I believe the answer is three-fold.
We must advocate with words. We must choose those words wisely, but we must use words. These words should be loving, condemning the practice of abortion while offering love, compassion, and forgiveness to those who have had them, realizing that it is but by the grace of God that we have not made (or are not still making) the same decisions. Use words honestly - where science supports an argument, use it; where it doesn't apply, don't try to shoe-horn it into applying.
We must back up these words with actions. Crisis pregnancy centers, as mentioned above, have been hugely effective in not only preventing abortions, but for education and support. The film To Save a Life showed another angle of being pro-life, taking an interest in others to prevent suicide; though I didn't mention it above, suicides are also up this past year. Be involved with food banks, shelters, or other organizations that show we care for life when those lives are going through rough times. Be involved with senior's activities. Pick a place and plug-in; put feet to your words.
We must be vigilant. We must not give up the fight against legislation or policies simply because we haven't had time for the first 2 points above to be effective. We must continue to pray; we have the Creator of human life on our side.
Changing the culture seems like an overwhelming task, and it truly is a monumental one. However, the size of the task does not relieve us of our responsibility to be salt and light, and to work towards making it a place where all life is valued, from the moment of conception through natural death.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, produces a daily podcast called “The Briefing,” which he describes as an analysis of current event from a Christian world view. It's my morning newscast; at 15 minutes, it'll pretty much get me to work. This past Friday, he hit an absolute game-winning, out-of-the-park, grand-slam home run. (Hey, I've got to get my baseball metaphors out of the way, since the season's over as of about an hour ago.)
The transcript below is mine (names spelled phonetically if I didn't know them already), of the final 10 minutes. He analyzes Richard Mourdock's controversial comments, then turns his attention to the issue that both he and Todd Akin have both bumblingly defended. (If you're in a hurry, skip to the last 4 paragraphs.)
It was a statewide debate that would've been unlikely to gain national attention. But all that changed on Tuesday night when, in a debate between United States Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, the Republican, and US Representative Joe Donelly, the Democrat, the issue of abortion arose, and it ended up arising explosively. In this case, Richard Mourdock, asked about his position on abortion, said this: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is that in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, and I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And I think that, even that life that begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
The fury and firestorm that erupted after Mourdock's comments has now reached a fever pitch. And, what you have across the political spectrum is somewhat feigned, and perhaps somewhat genuine outrage at the candidate's statements on abortion. All this, of course, is more intensive in terms of our national discussion, because of the aftermath of the controversy over another Senate candidate's comments - that was Todd Akin, running for the United States Senate seat in Missouri - and in a similar way, Mr. Akin found himself as the topic of focus and controversy over the statements that he intended to be reflective of a consistent pro-life position.
In both cases, the issue was rape, and the connection to abortion. In Mr. Mourdock's case, the comments are actually far less complicated than the comments that were made by Todd Akin. His statement - let me repeat again - was about his position on the sanctity of human life, and thus, exemptions for abortion. Mr. Mourdock is known as a pro-life candidate who has said he will try to achieve increased limitations on abortion if elected to the Senate. Let me read to you his words again. He said, “The only exception I have to have an abortion is that in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, and I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And I think that, even that life that begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Many in the media, and even some in very high office, have attempted to characterize Mr. Mourdock's statement as suggesting that rape is a part of God's will. For instance, you have the President of the United States responding with outrage, suggesting that what Mr. Mourdock said is nothing less than politically atrocious. The Obama campaign, according to Jonathan Weissman of the New York Times, sought to exploit the opening from Mr. Mourdock's comments, as did virtually every Democratic campaign for the US Senate; pressing, they say, a unified message that the Republican party's out of step with female voters. President Obama “felt those comments were outrageous and demeaning to women,” so said Jane Saki, the president's campaign spokeswoman. Ms. Saki also said it was perplexing that Mr. Romney, the Republican candidate, had not demanded that his ad for Mr. Mourdock be taken off of television.
Let's look at the comment, and let's consider the controversy. There is something here that is very important for those of us who are pro-life to note, and to note with requisite care. What we're talking about here is a man who, very sincerely and very self-evidently, sought to define the sanctity of human life to cover every single human being from the moment of conception until natural death. He has found himself in very hot political water, in a very close Senate race that was probably already too close to call, and may now put himself in a significant electoral disadvantage. What went on here, and what should we learn from it?
The first issue to consider here is the matter of communication. I think any fair-minded person would understand that Mr. Mourdock is right when he complains that his comments have been taken out of context, so that it appeared that he was referring to rape as God's will rather than the gift of life. Hats off to at least some in the media who have noted this; Amy Sullivan writing in the New Republic wrote this: “Despite the assertion of many liberal writers I read and otherwise admire, I don't think that politicians like Mourdock oppose rape exceptions because they hate women, or want to control women. I think they're totally oblivious,” she writes, “and insensitive, and can't for a moment place themselves in the shoes of a woman who becomes pregnant from a rape. I don't think most care that their policy decisions can impact what control a woman does or doesn't have over her own body.” She then writes this: “But if Mourdock believes that God creates all life, and that to end a life created by God is murder, then all abortion is murder, regardless of the circumstances under which the pregnancy came about.” She is exactly right; that was Richard Mourdock's point.
But, he's paying the price for miscommunicating here, and for bringing up the issue of rape in a context in which he didn't have to answer the question that way. He brought up the issue of rape without a way of adequately explaining what he was going to say thereafter, and he spoke in a way that was simply too brief to carry the weight or the moral meaning of the argument he was trying to express. He needed to say that he believes that God has given the gift of life to every single human being, and that the circumstances that brought that gift of life about are not what establishes the dignity or sanctity of any human individual's life. Rather, he was trying to say that there is an objective value - sanctity, dignity - to every human life, and that includes one born out of wedlock, that includes one born out of expectation or hope, and that includes one born, also, out of something so absolutely horrible, sinful, and almost unspeakable as forcible rape.
There are others who similarly got it right, in the midst of those who clearly got it wrong. Kevin Drum, writing at Mother Jones, which is one of the most leftist periodicals in America, also decided to do a bit of truth-telling here. He writes this: “Mourdock is getting beat up pretty bad for this, so I think that's just fine.” He means that politically. “At the same time, can't we all acknowledge that this is just conventional Christian theology?” Very interesting. He goes on to write: “What I find occasionally odd is that so many conventional bits of theology like this are so controversial if someone actually mentions them in public.”
Going back to Amy Sullivan, again at the New Republic, she writes this: “Take a look again at Mourdock's words. 'I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.'” She then writes, “The key word here is ‘it’; I think it's pretty clear that Mourdock is referring to a life that is conceived by rape, he's not arguing that rape is the ‘something’ that God intended to happen.” She then writes this, very important: “This is a very common theological belief, the understanding of God as an active interventionist. It's also,” she writes, “not limited to conservative Christians. There are liberal Christians,” she writes, “who also argue that things work out the way they're supposed to. Some of them are in my own family, and I think they are wrong.” So, in other words, Amy Sullivan clearly believes that Richard Mourdock is wrong; but she's very clear also that her liberal media peers, far to many of them, and those who are politically opportunistic on the other side, are using this statement out of context, and knowingly so.
But there are severe lessons to us. The lesson first is communication. We must not let ourselves fall into the position of appearing to say anything that comes close to what Richard Mourdock is accused, albeit falsely, of having said. But the most important issue here is not politics - it's not political; and, it's not about communication either. It's about the dignity and sanctity of every human life, and the attack upon human life by the culture of death in the form of abortion. Here is something that conservative Christians - those running for office, and those voting for someone running for office; those who are activity in the political sphere, and those who are just trying to understand it - in terms of how abortion should be considered in the frame of public policy.
Right now, the public is very clear that the vast majority would accept legislation or some political action to constrict and restrict the number of abortions in America. Americans, across the board, are increasingly outraged at the scale of abortion, with 1.2 to 1.4 million babies being aborted every year. Only a tiny percentage of them are covered by the most frequently-asserted exceptions, whether it's rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. The last of the three, an intervention to save the life of the mother, is often misconstrued by virtually everyone, because the main issue there should be cases in which action to save the life of the mother tragically, but unavoidably, causes the death of the unborn child. But in looking at the three exceptions - just taking them at face value, understanding that we cannot be morally satisfied that the circumstances of those conceptions should lead to the allowance of the abortion of those babies - we should, as a matter of public policy, right now, work for legislation that would restrict the number of abortions, and would eliminate the vast majority of abortions. Approximately out of the 1.2 to 1.4 million, we're talking about all but a handful of about 20 to 50,000 abortions, at the most extreme estimate, in terms of a year.
Now let me be clear: we could not accept those exceptions as a permanent condition. We could understand that on the way to this society embracing the full dignity and humanity of every single human life, this is a way of at least saving the vast majority of unborn babies. That's why, when a politician right now is running for office, we should not expect them to say that they would not accept any exceptions in terms of public policy. But I do expect them to say that they cannot accept them morally as a permanent condition. In other words, if I were asked this question, I would say that right now, I'd be willing to sign on the dotted line to legislation that would eliminate over 95% of all abortions in America. I would not then remain satisfied. Even as the pro-abortion movement would be trying to convince Americans to liberalize abortion, I will from that point onward be doing my dead-level best to try to convince Americans to move to an even more consistent pro-life position.
There's a statement that applies in politics perhaps more appropriately than anywhere else. “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” We cannot sell out our principles - most importantly, the principle of the dignity and the sanctity of every single human life - but, we cannot sacrifice millions of unborn children to our principle on our way to trying to get this nation's conscience in alignment with human dignity.
If you aren't listening to “The Briefing,” you're missing out. Check it out on iTunes, or at Dr. Mohler's site.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
Last weekend, Claire McCaskill's (D) opponent in the Missouri Senate race, current Representative Todd Akin (R) went on a television show, and the discussion turned to his views regarding abortion. He is on record as not supporting a rape exception as part of an abortion ban. He explained himself thusly:
Charles Jaco, Interviewer: Okay, so if an abortion can be considered in the case of, say, tubal pregnancy or something like that, what about in the case of rape? Should it be legal or not?
Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.): Well, you know, uh, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, “Well, how do you - how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question.” It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.
To say that the middle sentence in his reply got a lot of attention would be the understatement of the week. As someone who shares his overall views, that sentence made me cringe. There are two ways to address the “what about a rape exemption” question, and neither one are that.
First off, he's wrong on the biology. What he wanted to say was that significant emotional distress can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting, or can cause hormonal changes that can trigger a miscarriage; since rape is such an emotionally devastating event, the body may very well take care of it itself. This is something that I've heard anecdotally (from real people, not a website), but I'm not aware of any sort of study that can confirm that. Even if there is an increased likelihood that an egg fertilized during rape will not turn into a pregnancy, though, it in no way “shut(s) the whole thing down.” A risk factor is not the same as a bodily function.
Secondly, he's wrong on “legitimate” rape. One he knows what he meant by that; he's later clarified to say that he meant “forcible” (as opposed to statutory), but still - what a horrible choice of words! What is the world is a legitimate rape? I'd wager that all of them are illegitimate acts of violence against the other party. Some might excuse it as a slip-up, but this man has been a legislator for longer than Obama's been in politics - he should darn well know how to articulate his views without giving the left a Scooby snack! Rush Limbaugh, in his denunciation of these remarks and call for Akin to get out of the race, speculated that he surrounds himself by only those who agree with him, so he hasn't had to articulate it very much.
This gets to the crux of why he should remove himself from the race. Mr. Akin, you have misrepresented the position, discredited yourself and your party, and you're down over 10 points in Missouri polling. All Republican party groups, including the Romney/Ryan team, have distanced themselves from you and your remarks. I personally have learned to silently roll my eyes when the sneering liberals group me with what they call anti-science religious zealots, but I absolutely hate it when they're right. You have single-handedly dealt the pro-life cause a serious blow, and by continuing to stay in this race, you are doing little more than twisting the dagger. People of principle are loyal to the principle, not the person. You may be right on principle, but by continuing to force yourself as the leader of that cause, you are making it about you instead of the cause of life. No one wants you to go down with the ship; if you step aside and let another lead, the ship may not go down at all.
He did hit the first way to address the “what about rape” question toward the end of the excerpt above; it's not the baby's fault. The other is an equally simple response; either all life is sacred, or it is not. If abortion is unacceptable because life is sacred, life created through violence is no less sacred, and should be afforded the same protections. He sort of hit that earlier in his interview when discussing tubal pregnancies, even using the term “optimize life.” That's a good way to put it, IMO.
Mike Huckabee, you need to get out of this too. You lost to Mitt in 2008, and revisiting your grudge in 2012 is going to do nothing but give us 4 more years of Obama, with no chance of repealing that health care monstrosity. If that happens, public tax money will be used to fund abortions and abortofacients, and religious organizations will be forced to provide them against their convictions. I know you don't like the idea of voting for a Mormon, but the only rallying that needs to be done is the one that will drum Akin off the ballot.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
When George Stephanapoulos brought up a birth control question in one of the Republican debates, Mitt Romney was taken quite by surprise, as were most of the other analysts and pundits. This wasn't an issue; why was the question posed? As it turned out, this was the first rumbling of the “Re-Elect Barack Obama 2012” narrative - “The Republicans hate women!” From Sandra Fluke's testimony, Rush Limbaugh's criticism, and the resulting fallout (which I thoroughly dissected in the post immediately preceding this one); to the framing of the debate on Obamacare; to the sneering condescension shown by more than one person towards Ann Romney, stay-at-home wife to her husband Mitt; the narrative has been plodding forward.
Part of this is based on the quite-successful efforts against Planned Parenthood, in the wake of revelations that many of their offices were caught covering up for underage sexual abuse, failing to report what they were legally required to report. However, cutting back on Planned Parenthood might cut back on abortions, the 2nd Sacrament of Liberalism, and we simply cannot have that. With the stakes so high, the Great Uniter Himself can't just leave the battle to his surrogates:
If a Republican candidate made such a claim against a person or party, he or she would rightly be taken to task by media watchdogs for making false claims. Just THINK about this claim. Now, let me ask you this. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD WANT TO “DENY” HEALTH CARE TO ANYONE, REGARDLESS OF GENDER? I am a Republican, I have many friends who are Republicans, and I have never heard any of them talk about denying anyone health care.
This is the lunacy behind this question. But, their lunacy is enabled by the alternate dictionary through which they view the world. This is a different lexicon that we were taught in school. Here, if the government isn't paying for something, it's being withheld or denied; if the individual in need can't get something because they can't afford it, and you don't believe the government should pay for it - well, why do you hate them? There is also no distinction between necessary and elective procedures; “health care” must cover them all. Your objections to this can't possibly be motivated by your morals, or your belief that there is a better way; they must be motivated by hate. Therefore, Republicans are hate-filled bigots who want you to die.
I can assure you that any health care plan that covers breast cancer will also cover mammograms; if it doesn't, I would stay away from that company! The cost of a mammogram far outweighs the cost of oncological care, and since the insurance company's job is to save as much money as possible, they would rather pay for mammograms than pay for cancer treatments. If they did not cover mammograms, they would also be at a competitive disadvantage to companies that do.
Will the media call out this lunacy? Probably not; they'll just leave us to bask in the warmth of this toasty, smoldering straw man.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Daniel J. Summers
Only a month late (when I originally wrote the bulk of this - now it's more like 8 months late), this is the 8th annual “Sanctity of Human Life” post. It's going to be a long one; please don't TL;DR it. There's too much to this topic to do it justice in 5 paragraphs, and putting it out in parts would invite debate and assumptions about the parts I'd left out. This post is free of my typical snark, and also free of (atypical for me) hyperbole; I am completely serious, and have reviewed my words to ensure they are the ones I intended to use. The premise is simply this - abortion is morally wrong (which we now know, given advances in medical science), and as such, should not be legal nor easy to obtain.
Let's start with the framework within which I view the issue. I believe that man was created by God and placed here on this planet to live for His glory, and that He has given us the earth for our pleasure and enjoyment. I believe that evil exists in this world, that bad things happen, and that actions have consequences. I generally believe (though not always) in erring on the side of caution. I believe that, as God's creation, all life is sacred. I believe that God has enabled man to discover many beneficial things in the area of medicine and health care, and I believe that He expects us to use this knowledge within the framework and principles laid out in His Word.
(I fully realize that many of you reading this may not agree with that framework. Feel free to debate about what appears below, but the above paragraph contains things that, for me, are past debate. I've heard the arguments against it, and I'm simply unconvinced.)
In looking back through my archives, the post entitled “Abortion: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed” was my 5th post on this blog. In this post from 2003, I mentioned (without citing) the medical advances that had happened since 1973's Roe v. Wade decision. This page has a good description of what happens day-by-day. At 21 days (3 weeks), the heart begins beating. With ovulation occurring 14 days after menstruation starts, and another 14 until it's due to start again, a woman would likely not even realize she's late before her baby's heart is beating. 9 days later, at 30 days, this heart is circulating its own blood supply, completely separate from the mother's, thanks to the placenta. Day 35, we've got a 5-fingered hand, and on day 40, we have brain waves. By one and one-half menstrual cycles, we've gone from nothing to a beating heart and brain waves.
Let's look at what happens up to 12 weeks, which is when pretty much anyone who approves of abortion thinks it's OK. The liver starts making blood cells, and the brain is controlling the limbs in week 6. Week 7 brings the jaw, tooth buds, and eyelids. Week 8, and I quote, “the fetus has everything found in a fully developed adult,” including stomach acid and a complete nervous system. Fingerprints, fingernails, and hair appear in week 9. In week 10, “the fetus can bend, stretch, make fists, open hands, lift its head, squint, swallow and wrinkle its forehead.” Week 11 brings urination, and in week 12, the baby is breathing amniotic fluid, has sleep/awake cycles, and does exercises. All this knowledge has been gained due to ultrasound technology and other study.
Now, God, morality, and everything else aside - read those descriptions again. Does that sound like an unviable tissue mass? Sure, it's dependent upon its mother for sustenance, but how is that different from a newborn baby? It isn't - and that's what we've learned. It's not a blob of cells that represent an inconvenience, it's a new creation that has been entrusted to the mother. Even without counting abortion, an estimated 25-33% of pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth (according to HopeXchange, an organization that help people cope with these types of losses). With numbers that high, it would seem to me that the tissue masses that are unviable are taking care of things themselves.
Respect for life is one of this country's core principles; “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. Laws against murder are nearly universal, even in countries that cannot claim the God-seeking history that ours can. It is simple human nature that reasonable humans understand - it is wrong to take the life of another without cause. (This is not to imply that I am anti-death penalty or anti-military; there are limited times when life-taking can happen in a moral way.) With science again backing up Scripture, we see that the developing fetus is simply a pre-born baby that is being knit together in its mother's womb.
So now, let's look at the whole “safe, legal, and rare” thing, a phrase used by many pro-choice supporters to describe their desired state of abortion. It's a given that “safe” doesn't apply to the unborn baby - they suffer near 100% fatalities. (Yes, near.) But is abortion as we know it today safe for the mother?
A recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that abortion accounts one in ten of every adverse mental health issue women face as a whole, correlating to greater-than-double risks for alcohol abuse and suicide, and triple risks for marijuana use. Melissa Clouthier has a great summary of this study, as well as some commentary.
Recent medial studies have found that there is an increase in breast cancer risk for those who have had abortions, similar to those who have given birth prematurely (before 32 weeks). The reason is that the cells that the body produces during the early stages of pregnancy are immature, cancer-prone cells, which mature during the final two months of pregnancy.
There are many risks to the uterus as well. Risks of uterine perforation, cervical lacerations, and placenta previa all increase due to the trauma on the internal lining of the uterus.
Now, childbirth brings its own complications, to be sure; I don't mean to imply that birth is completely safe. However, birth does have the advantage of being how our bodies are designed to work. Given the risks, I believe abortion is unsafe for both mother and baby.
We've established unsafe; how about legal? We know that Roe v. Wade “legalized” abortion, but there are still laws regarding its practice. Different states have different laws; nearly all states permit abortion through the first trimester, and some allow it through the second trimester. Few permit it in the third trimester, and there is now a Federal law against “partial-birth abortion,” a practice so abhorrent I'm not even going to describe it here. But, do its practitioners follow these laws? Some do; others, like Kermit Gosnell (link gone) do not, and Lila Rose has made a career exposing the unethical and often illegal practices at the nation's #1 abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.
Hmm - we're 0 for 2.
How about rare? Well, let's look at the statistics. In 2008, there were 1.2M, down a little from the previous year; however, births were also down 2%, to 4.2M births. So, we prevented 22% of the pregnancies from resulting in births. I would not consider something that happens between a fifth and a quarter of the time rare, and I don't think anyone else would define it that way either. What it comes down to is this: if it's safe and legal (as we've been told, and those who question are ridiculed), it won't be rare.
Now, let's contrast this with the opening paragraphs. Abortion is not safe; it kills the baby, and causes health problems from the ex-mother. It's not rare; it occurs in over 1 out of 5 conceptions. As a person with the beliefs I laid out above, this is an absolute no-brainer. God created our bodies to reproduce; it's a natural consequence of the act that leads to conception. The easiest way to avoid conception is to avoid intercourse (also advocated in Scripture for those who are not married), and the fruits of that intercourse are, time and time again, referred to as gifts from God.
As an American, I see 20% of two generations now cut down before they breathed their first breath. I see counselors having a very easy time convincing people not to have abortions, simply by using ultrasound to show these ladies the life that is living inside them. I hear of post-abortion counseling groups with waiting lists. Have we aborted the person who was to find the cure for cancer? The scientist who was to determine how to produce food in desolate regions? The person who was to invent the flying car? Who can say what the long-term consequences have been for our folly of convenience.
It's not safe. If it's made illegal, only then can we hope to make it rare.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Daniel J. Summers
(OK - that's counting years I missed it. Not missing it this year…)
This year, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday has been expanded to Sanctity of Human Life Week, beginning 17 Jan 10. The image you see to the left will be my profile picture on Facebook for the duration of this week. These days, with medical technology being what it is, the argument against abortion is really quite simple. Back in 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, ultrasound was in its infancy (pardon the pun). We had no clue, comparatively, to what goes on inside a womb the way we do today. Most babies' hearts are beating before their mothers realizes they are pregnant. All the activity that goes on in there is amazing, and 3-D and 4-D ultrasounds have opened up this world to us.
What's the difference if the baby is drinking through a tube or through its mouth? We don't euthanize preemies that have to have feeding tubes; and even after birth, the mother has the responsibility of feeding her baby. There are periods during pregnancy now when, depending on what the mother wants, she can either have a preemie (who, though challenged, will probably make it), or an abortion. Is that the “choice” that the pro-choice crowd is for? Why is it that, during this most precarious time, when they need protecting the most, people feel entitled to snuff out that life? There's a reason that I call my abortion category “Prenatal Murder” - that's exactly what it is.
And the numbers - these numbers are staggering! Current Red Cross estimates put the Haiti earthquake casualty count at 45,000-50,000. Around the world, there are 1,206,000 abortions a month; divide that by 30, you get 40,200 a day. In the United States alone, we're running at 1,206,200 a year, which means we take about two weeks to kill that many babies just in this country.
There's a Haiti-a-day going on in the wombs of women around the world. These precious babies' voices are too soft to be heard - will you speak up for them?