Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Keep Your Eye On the Ball" [Megan]

In its July 22nd editorial, "The Campaign of Deception Against Planned Parenthood," The New York Times takes its eye off the ball in play and cries foul.

The article's main points regarding the recently released undercover investigative videos of Planned Parenthood employees selling aborted fetal body parts are as follows:

• The [first] video [involving Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services] does not show the illegal sale of tissue from aborted fetuses, but a discussion of the legal collection and transporting costs of donated tissue from aborted fetuses for the purpose of medical research.
• The donated aborted "fetal tissue" is used to study and develop treatments for diseases and conditions including H.I.V., hepatitis, congenital heart defects, retinal degeneration, and Parkinson's. (The article included the National Institutes of Health's $76 million in grants last year alone for such research.)
• To fall for this campaign of deception against Planned Parenthood would surely put "women's health and their constitutionally protected rights [to abortion] at risk."

While the case regarding the manner in which these videos were made and released may be undecided (my understanding is that they were obtained lawfully), the videos have been exposed. For those of us who have seen them, we still have the job of reasoning well about what we've seen. And while the choice to steer the rhetoric to the areas mentioned above traps many in a frenzied search for a foul ball in the stands, the action continues on the field as others see the larger picture, prioritize, and ask pointed questions:

• What kind of aborted fetal tissue are we talking about? Dr. Nucatola mentions specific human organs and body parts at various stages of development that are up for grabs, and they don't belong to the mother. (Note:  Two other videos have been released since.)
•That being said, whose "fetal tissue" is being used for research, even if the intent of the research is good?
• And if those donated parts come do come from a separate human being, just whose health and rights are more at risk?

The article is question begging because it assumes at the outset that the unborn are not human beings.

We wouldn't see arguments over obtainment of footage or specified funding to this degree if undercover investigative videos revealed the sale of parts from strategically dismembered 2-year-olds. Even if those parts were being donated for use to develop treatments for horrible diseases. We would see outrage of a different sort.

Why? Because we know that 2-year-olds are human and valuable, and no group in their right mind would advocate, much less fund, the intentional termination of an innocent toddler — even one that was unwanted — to farm out his organs and other parts for the benefit of others. This doesn't deny the bleak reality of diseases and conditions that cause great suffering, it simply points out that there are some lines that cannot be crossed if we mean to preserve human dignity.

So we're back to the question, "What is the unborn?" Are they human like toddlers?

The answer, which can be found in an embryology textbook — because for a scientific question one should expect a scientific answer — is that from the moment of conception, the unborn are living, distinct, and whole human beings.

Additionally, philosophy demonstrates that our value — the thing in which we ground our most basic rights, and which [rightly] fuels cries for human equality — is intrinsic, not functional. We are valuable and/or deserving of fundamental rights (such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) because we share a common human nature. Grounded in anything else, be it a trait or ability that some human beings possess, and what follows is a spectrum along which humans who have those properties to a greater degree are more deserving of basic human rights than those who have it to a lesser degree.

This is nothing new. We've seen whole classes of human beings stripped of their rights based on this kind of reasoning throughout history, and are still feeling the effects of those ideas today.

In the case of abortion, differences such as size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency aren't sufficient reasons to take the lives of smaller people over larger ones; pre-pubescent people over mature ones; people located in a specific place over those who aren't based solely on their location; or people dependent upon medicine over those who aren't.

Logically, those reasons don't hold up when used to justify abortion.

Keep the conversation on point when it comes to the entirety of what those videos expose. Ask questions that cut through unhelpful rhetoric, never forgetting that the person(s) you're talking to are just as valuable as the unborn lives you're trying to protect.

Keep your eye on the ball.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

How Not to Argue Pro-Choice: Eleven Completely Misguided Arguments [Clinton Wilcox]

I was recently introduced to an article written by one Seth Millstein, called How to Argue Pro-Choice: 11 Arguments Against Abortion Access, Debunked [sic]. Let's ignore the misplaced comma for a moment. Actually, let's comment on it. That comma doesn't belong there. I was once like Millstein, haphazardly placing commas with abandon, putting commas where they don't belong. My college English professor called me "comma happy" because of it and soon broke me of the habit. But I digress.

Let's start with the fact that when Millstein wants to indicate someone says something embarrassing, he points to an unrelated case of Piers Morgan not being politically correct when talking to a transgender person. It's not hard to find a video of Piers Morgan trying to come off as educated when he's clearly not. Here's a video of Michael Brown educating Piers Morgan on what the Bible actually says about same-sex marriage. But as I said, this is irrelevant anyway.

So let's take a look at these alleged common arguments and their responses by Millstein.

Argument #1 -- A fetus is a human being, and human beings have a right to life, so abortion is murder.

Millstein says something puzzling. "I'm not going to convince you that a fetus isn't a life..." No, of course you're not. Science has convinced me that it is a life. It develops itself from within, grows through cellular reproduction, and is capable of moving under its own power. You may not think it's valuable life, but the question of whether or not it's a life has been settled. That's not pro-life propaganda, that's every embryology textbook since at least the early 20th century.

Let's look at his sub-points:

1a) A fetus can't survive on its own. It is fully dependent on its mother's body, unlike born human beings.

Granted. But how does this show that the unborn doesn't have a right to live? A born infant doesn't need her mother's body to survive, but she still can't survive on her own. She relies on her parents to feed her, change her diapers, take her to the doctor for check-ups, etc. Plus, when someone is more dependent that gives us more of an obligation to help them, not less. David Lee, past director of Justice of All, uses this analogy: Suppose you are the last one out of a public pool, or so you think. You're drying off when you hear a splash at the deep end of a pool. A child has fallen in, drowning. Assuming that you can swim, do you now have an obligation to save that child's life, or are you morally permitted to walk away, since that child is now dependent only on you for survival?

1b) Even if a fetus was alive, the "right to life" doesn't imply a right to use somebody else's body. People have the right to refuse to donate their organs, for example, even if doing so would save somebody else's life.

Again, granted that no one is forced to donate organs. But this argument relies on a confusion of what rights entail and what harms are done in these acts. The act of abortion directly kills an innocent human being. The abortionist is directly responsible for that child's death and is violating her right to life by taking it. If I refuse to donate an organ, even if there is a moral obligation there, I am not violating anyone's rights by refusing to donate, nor am I directly responsible for that person's death; whatever illness they are suffering is. So for the state to force me to donate organs would clearly be wrong since they are violating my right to bodily integrity by doing so.

1c) The "right to life" also doesn't imply a right to live by threatening somebody else's life. Bearing children is always a threat to the life of the mother (see below).

That's true, but the vast majority of pregnancies are not life threatening. Even according to our own laws, you are not justified in taking somebody's life unless they are directly threatening yours. Taking someone's life in self-defense is only justified to prevent imminent and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm. This means that a woman is only justified in killing her unborn child if the pregnancy becomes life-threatening and the child is not old enough to survive outside the womb. Abortions are not justified in the off-chance that a pregnancy may become life-threatening. After all, children have been known to grow up and kill their parents, yet I doubt anyone would justify infanticide on the grounds that the child may one day grow up to be dangerous.

1d) A "right to life" is, at the end of the day, a right to not have somebody else's will imposed upon your body. Do women not have this right as well?

This is actually a very shallow understanding of the right to life. The right to life is actually, properly understood, a right not to have your own life taken unjustly. Anyone who lives in a civilized society has someone else's will imposed upon them all the time. All laws are imposing someone's will upon you, and in many cases, rightly so. But each law must be investigated on a case-by-case basis as to its rightness or wrongness. And of course women have this right, as well.

Argument #2 -- If a woman is willing to have sex, she’s knowingly taking the risk of getting pregnant, and should be responsible for her actions.

Here, Millstein gives the most anti-intellectual of all possible responses: "that's just your opinion." I'm resisting the urge to respond with snark here. It may be my opinion, but my opinion, I believe, is correct. I could just dismiss this entire article as "just Millstein's opinion," and be done with it. But that obviously won't get us anywhere. If this is the best Millstein can do, we can safely go about our pro-life work.

Millstein asserts that it's more responsible to have an abortion if the mother knows she won't be able to provide for her child, but let's think about that for a moment. Millstein is essentially saying if a mother can't provide for her child, the merciful thing to do is to kill the child. One would wonder if Millstein supports infanticide, or toddlercide, if the mother decides she just can't support her child any longer. Millstein, of course, would respond with "but the child is already born, so she can give the child to someone else to support." And of course, that argument, when applied consistently, would make abortion immoral because she can gift the child to a loving family through adoption. Of course, adoption is a very difficult decision, so I don't raise the alternative lightly. But to say that killing the child, instead of adopting her out, is the "responsible choice" is a very confused understanding of responsibility.

Of course, now Millstein makes an emotional appeal that we're trying to dictate what a woman's role and purpose is, and that we're now not arguing for the life of the child. I don't understand why Millstein doesn't think we can do both. But at any rate, since the child's life is of no concern to Millstein, we are also not trying to dictate what a woman's role and purpose is. Nature has done that, and there's a very compelling argument from Natural Law regarding what our roles and purpose are. But let's set those aside for a moment. No one is saying she must raise the child, when adoption is a very viable option, and certainly better than having the child killed.

Millstein then goes into a "common response" regarding contraception. The reality of the situation is that by having sex, the man and woman both engage in an act that is intrinsically ordered toward procreation. By willingly engaging in sex, the man and the woman create a child and place that child in a state of dependency upon the woman. So yes, absolutely this grounds an obligation to care for the child, not to kill the child. The use of contraception, while helpful to avoid pregnancy (and setting aside any question as to its morality or immorality for the moment), is only removing an obstacle to pregnancy. It is not changing the nature of the act, itself. So using contraception does not change the man and woman's responsibility to the child.

Argument #3 -- But I'm okay with abortions in the case of rape.

I believe that children conceived in rape are equally valuable to children conceived through consensual intercourse. But then again, I also oppose abortion in the case of rape. I believe that rape is a terrible tragedy, and that rapists should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. In fact, I believe that rapists are not punished severely enough, and they're certainly not punished often enough. But why should the child pay with his life for the crimes of his father?

That being said, there are pro-life advocates who believe abortions in the case of rape should be legal. However, it's a straw man argument to say it's because they think the child is less valuable (and some pro-life advocates even utilize this straw man against them). They believe it's immoral, but that it should be legal specifically because of bodily autonomy and the fact that they didn't consent to sex. This is a far cry from saying they believe the child's life is less valuable.

Argument #4 -- If it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

Here, Millstein points to the only person on earth to talk about "legitimate rape" (Todd Akin), and tries to pawn it off as a common argument. This is disingenuous on the part of Millstein.

Argument #5 -- Adoption is a viable alternative to abortion.

Here Millstein finally gets around to talking about adoption.

Millstein argues that women wanting to get an abortion to avoid raising a child isn't always the case, and that may be true. But it does make for the vast majority of reasons why women want an abortion.

Next he argues that hospital bills are very expensive, which again is true. However, the reason adoption costs so much money is because the woman's hospital fees are paid by the adoptive parents. So cost is not a factor that weighs into a woman's decision whether or not to adopt out her child.

While it's true that pregnancies carry with them some risk, I was reading over the link that Millstein gave regarding pregnancy being the "sixth most common cause of death for women between the ages of 20 and 34". However, according to page eight in the linked article, the sixth leading cause of death in women was "unintentional injuries." Unintentional injuries are accidents, such as car accidents, drug overdose, etc. I have no idea where, in this entire article, Millstein gets the idea that pregnancy-related issues are the sixth leading cause of death in women.

Millstein goes on to argue that there are other costs associated with pregnancy, such as teenage girls being shunned and shamed. This does happen, of course, but how does this justify killing her child? It certainly doesn't, any more than it would justify killing her child if she gives birth and the shunning and shaming doesn't stop. And of course, there is the risk of violent retribution from abusive boyfriends and parents, but I think a better solution is to get her help, not to kill her child. After all, again, if this was a toddler and not an unborn child we were talking about, this certainly wouldn't excuse the mother killing her child.

Argument #6 -- When abortion is legal, women just use it as a form of birth control.

Millstein wants evidence, but I think that every abortion is evidence of this claim. This is not an argument I use, but since every abortion is done because the woman doesn't want to give birth (for whatever reason), then really, every abortion is an act of birth control. Contraceptives are different. Contraceptives literally prevent conception, which is why they are different from abortions.

Millstein argues that since contraceptives are cheaper, easier, less painful, etc., then getting an abortion, it's odd to suggest that abortion would be their preferred method. But this argues no such thing. This doesn't argue that abortion is their preferred method, only that abortion is a method of birth control, which it clearly is.

While it's true that women will seek abortions regardless of whether or not it's legal, we have to remember that all crimes are done despite its illegality. Rapes, murders, and thefts are still committed even though they are illegal. So the fact that women will do them anyway is irrelevant to the question of whether or not it should be legal.

Millstein also argues that when contraceptives are widely accessible, abortion rates go down. However, the link he provided certainly doesn't prove this. The only line I could find that even addresses this question is the following: "[Abortion rates have] slowly dropped over the last several years because poor women have not had access to Family Planning Facilities for education and prevention of pregnancy through effective birth control measures." However, the site provides absolutely no evidence for this claim. In fact, it is more likely that abortion rates have dropped due to education of what abortion does to unborn children, and the pro-life laws that have been put in place, such as mandatory waiting periods, needing to notify parents, etc. Michael New has done research in this area and has argued that it is actually these pro-life laws that have resulted in decreased abortion, not increased access to contraceptives. [1]

Argument #7 -- Abortions are dangerous.

This is an argument I definitely don't use. Abortions may be dangerous. It doesn't follow that abortions should be outlawed, unless you think driving should also be outlawed. So I'm not going to spend too much time here. I just want to respond to a few of Millstein's claims here.

It may be true that the risk of dying in childbirth is 13 times higher than dying in abortion (though Millstein doesn't support that point), what he neglects to mention is that the number of women who die in childbirth is 18.5 in 100,000. That amounts to about 0.0002% of women who die in childbirth. That's a very small percentage of women, certainly not nearly big enough to justify abortion in any other situation than the pregnancy becoming life-threatening. So claiming that childbirth is 13 times more dangerous than abortion is another disingenuous move on the part of Millstein.

I don't know the situation in Romania. My guess is Millstein hasn't done the requisite study on the country to know if he's giving us accurate information (this is based on the other shoddy research he's done so far). However, legalizing abortion is not what makes it safer: advancements in medical technology does. At least in the United States, roughly 90% of illegal abortions prior to 1973 were done by doctors in good standing in their community. There is no reason to believe that it will become dangerous again once driven underground in the United States. See my article here for the source to the 90% claim, as well as more on the question of the safety of illegal abortions in the U.S.

Millstein again mentions the health problems this has on the children. But I must, again, return to the fact that Millstein's answer for possible health problems is to kill the child. I think a better solution is to foster a nation that cares about children, fostering the idea that children are valuable and that anyone who conceives a child needs to take responsibility for them. Unfortunately, the sexual revolution has caused us to separate sex from its procreative function, so people no longer think we have that responsibility. However, while Romania may have had an orphan crisis, the United States never did, and there is no reason to suspect that we will if abortion is once again driven underground. Of course, this is all predicated on the fact that Millstein picks and chooses his evidence, focusing on a country like Romania, but ignoring a country like Ireland, one of the most pro-life countries and also one of the safest places in the world to be a pregnant woman.

Argument #8 -- What if Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King had been aborted?

This is not an argument I defend, and it is much more common than it should be. It's a bad argument, so I'm not going to defend it. Not only because a pro-choice person can respond as Millstein did, that the unborn child might turn out to be another Hitler or Pol Pot instead, but also because it gives the false idea that a person is only valuable insofar as what they can do for society, which is false. Human beings are intrinsically valuable, valuable in and of themselves.

Argument #9 -- Many women who get abortions regret their decisions later on.

This is another true argument but, like the argument from abortion's danger, is irrelevant to the morality or immorality of abortion. You may regret having that piece of cheesecake last night. It doesn't follow it was immoral to have it. Plus, to counter it, all a pro-choice person has to do is find women who believe their abortion was the best thing that ever happened to them.

Argument #10 -- Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to pay for things they find morally disagreeable.

This is not an argument against abortion. As such, I won't respond to Millstein's argument here.

Argument #11 -- What if your mother had aborted you?

This is definitely a bad argument. Whether or not the pro-choice person you are talking to was glad his/her mother didn't abort them is irrelevant to the point of whether or not they should have had the right to.

So there you have it, Millstein's "11" arguments against abortion choice. It's actually 10 common arguments, one that Millstein is trying to pawn off as common to make pro-life people look bad, and one that has nothing to do with being against abortion access, so it's more like nine common arguments, one ultra-rare one, and one irrelevant one. Of those nine, two of them are really bad, and two of them, while common, are irrelevant to the core issue of whether or not abortion is moral or should be legal. So we're left with five good arguments against abortion access, and Millstein's responses to them are completely lacking in intellectual depth or logical thought. I think it's safe to say that the pro-life argument is sound.

[1] See Michael New, "Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era," State Politics and Policy Quarterly, 11(1): 28-47, as well as this paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Is Abortion Equatable to Circumcision? [Clinton Wilcox]

A friend on Facebook posed a question to me that he had received from a pro-choice person. The question was, "if the unborn feel pain, should we, then, outlaw circumcision?"

Now, it's not my desire here to get into the circumcision debate. I actually don't have a firm view on it one way or the other. What I do want to comment on quickly is the inability of many people to understand what is good for a person, and/or to think critically about their arguments and reject them if they are bad. This one is a really bad argument.

I understand the person who posted this likely doesn't consider abortion to be bad. But he/she should have at least been able to understand that since my friend is pro-life, he would consider abortion to be bad. Which means that there is a difference between abortion and circumcision -- one that is meant to kill the child, and one that is meant for the child's own good. Whether or not the infant feels pain or can consent to it, since circumcision is meant for the child's good, the doctor and parent has a moral right to make that decision on behalf of the child. There might be an argument that circumcision really does not do the child good. I don't know enough about the debate to make this determination. But if circumcision does have good benefits for the child, then it is certainly moral to circumcise a child.

So there is a huge difference between a procedure meant to kill a child, abortion, and one meant for the child's own good, circumcision. The inability of many people to be able to distinguish between good and bad (or moral and immoral) is but a sad commentary on the state of our society.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Should Men Be Able to Back Out of Pregnancy? [Clinton Wilcox]

I'd like to take a moment to respond to a meme that I have seen floating around Facebook:

Essentially, this meme is stating that if women can't back out of pregnancy, then men shouldn't be able to, either. This is one of those arguments that pro-choice people should be able to immediately recognize as a bad argument, but it still gets traction anyway.

The reality is that already, men can't back out of pregnancy. There are child support laws which require a man, if he does not want to stick around, to provide financially for his child. In fact, since in some cases the law recognizes that the needs and rights of the child outweigh the desires of the parents, there have been cases in which a father, who clearly did not want to be a father and was not aware his sperm had been stolen and used to conceive a child, was still legally required to pay child support.

This meme wants to paint pro-life people as inconsistent, but any pro-life advocate worth his/her weight in gold-pressed latinum would agree that men should not able to back out of pregnancy, any more than women should be able to. Perhaps they mean that a man shouldn't even be able to leave the relationship, since the woman can't leave. However, this ignores two key aspects: first, if the woman backs out, she kills her child. Second, the woman can gift her child to a loving family through adoption, so by not aborting she is not required to raise the child herself.

However, I do think that, even though we have child support laws, a man is doing something morally wrong if he impregnates a woman and leaves her. He needs to be a man and take responsibility for his actions, to say nothing of the fact that a sizable number of women likely would not abort if they have the support of their boyfriend. Despite the desires of whoever created this meme, it actually underscores the inconsistency of legalized abortion: a woman can back out of her pregnancy but a man can't. A woman can have her child killed but if she decides to have the child, the man must stick around or pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over 18 years while his child grows.

So while this meme attempts to paint pro-life people in an inconsistent light, I don't know of any pro-life advocates who would say that a man should not take responsibility for the child that he creates. But since the situation we have now is that a man can't back out of a pregnancy because the child's needs and rights must be respected, maybe we should think twice about whether or not a woman should be able to back out of one.