This week’s challenge is about embryonic stem cell research:
I think abortion is wrong, and it saddens me to think that hundreds of thousands of leftover embryos are going to be discarded by IVF clinics or just kept frozen. Wouldn’t it be a more meaningful life for them (and better for society) to be used for scientific research that could benefit millions of people who suffer from diseases and disabilities rather than be wasted in death or an endless frozen state?
What would you say to a friend who challenged you with this? Do you have an answer? Tell us in the comments below, then we’ll hear Alan’s response on Thursday.
Unfortunately, in the last few years we’ve had more than one opportunity in this nation to ponder this question: Why are we more grieved and outraged when a child is murdered than when an adult is murdered, even though both are valuable human beings? As I’ve watched, listened, and considered, three reasons have come to the forefront:
The child didn't have a chance to live his life.
We feel a special responsibility to protect children because they're dependent on us.
The more innocent the human being, the more deeply we grieve the crime perpetrated against her.
The younger the child gets, the more our horror increases: A high school bus is hit by a drunk driver, and we mourn; elementary school students are murdered by a gunman, and we have national grief; babies at a daycare are targeted by a terrorist, and our shock and anger at the heinousness of it consumes us. The horror increases as the age decreases...until we reach the womb. Then suddenly, all our moral reasoning is flipped on its head.
Once we go back in age beyond that magical point, we use those same three reasons not to condemn abortion, but to justify it:
Instead of opposing abortion because a child has her entire future outside the womb taken from her, we justify it by saying she didn't yet have any "interests" since she wasn't aware of what she'll be missing.
Instead of opposing abortion because of our keenly-felt responsibility to protect the most defenseless of children, we justify it by saying their total dependence on us is parasitical and therefore we have a right to deny our consent for them to depend on us.
Instead of opposing the violent actions of abortion taken against the most innocent of us, we justify it by comparing those unborn children to violent attackers from whom we have a right to defend ourselves.
Do you see the ridiculousness of this? If it's a tragedy when a five-year-old loses the rest of his life, isn't it an even greater tragedy when an unborn baby loses every experience waiting for him outside the womb? A five-year-old has seen much of what life is about, though only for a short time. An aborted baby has had even that short time stolen from him. It's the very fact that an unborn child has not had a chance to become aware of his objectively real interests that makes his death more tragic, not less.
Why are we not consistent on this moral principle of increased horror with decreased age? It makes no sense to arbitrarily flip this principle upside down and use the very points that normally condemn violence against the young to justify it.
Our popular quick-reference guides on tactics and same-sex marriage give succinct summaries of the arguments involved with each of those issues. And now we’ve put our quick-reference material into a nifty app for you—not just with text, but also with videos. The topics currently included in the app are the Ambassador Model, Tactics, and S.L.E.D., but more topics are on the way and will be added into the app later.
I’ve been hearing the charge that there’s no reason to think the contraceptives Hobby Lobby refused to subsidize (Plan B, Ella, and two types of IUDs) are actually abortifacients, so I was happy to see that Josh Brahm of the Equal Rights institute had collected a series of articles by Dr. Rich Poupard of the Life Training Institute, along with an interview with Dr. Poupard on “How Should Pro-Lifers Talk about Birth Control?” to address this controversy (which is mostly centered on Plan B).
Read through the articles here and watch the interview below. Here’s the bottom line from one of the articles:
Let me contrast Plan B and Ella. Plan B is basically synthetic progesterone, and is merely a larger dose of a form of oral contraceptive that has been used for years. Ella is a progesterone antagonist, which means that it works by blocking the effect of progesterone. The only other progesterone antagonist on the market at this time is mifepristone, otherwise known as RU-486, the abortion pill....
In the case of Plan B – there is no direct evidence that it decreases the receptivity of the uterine lining to an embryo that is attempting to implant. There is some indirect evidence that has concerned many in our movement, but there is also evidence from both animal studies and human studies that indicate no post-fertilization effects from Plan B. In the absence of clear evidence, I urge caution, but cannot state that using Plan B is wrong because of its post-fertilization effects. Lots of my older posts on this topic can be found here....
What about Ella? I will show in following posts that just about everything that I stated about Plan B is completely different than Ella. Ella has been shown conclusively to have an adverse effect on the uterine lining. Investigators admit that if taken in higher doses, Ella will cause an abortion just like her sister RU-486. This is not an emergency contraceptive drug – it is a low dose abortifacient.
I was recently interviewed by students about the injustice of abortion. I thought I’d share my answers. You can read the first part of the interview here. This post is the second part of that interview.
Do you know of anyone else who is already trying to make a difference? What are they doing?
There are many organizations and individuals working hard to make a difference. Besides myself and Stand to Reason (the organization I work for) there are other training groups, like Life Training Institute and Justice for All, that are trying to reduce abortions by changing minds. In addition, there are thousands of pregnancy resource centers that serve the needs of pregnant women. They provide pregnant mothers with prenatal care, supplies, and counseling to support them during and after their pregnancy. Many of these care centers also use ultrasound machines to show mothers images of their unborn babies. Sometimes abortion-minded women who see an ultrasound of their child will change their mind and carry their baby to term. By serving and helping them during their crisis pregnancy, these centers reduce the chances that the mothers will abort their children.
How many abortions do you think have been stopped through your program?
That’s a difficult question to answer because most of the time I don’t see the full impact of my work. The vast majority of what I do is training Christians to defend the pro-life view. When they actually engage in practicing what they’ve learned, I am not usually with them. The one exception is when I take pro-lifers out on the streets and engage abortion-choice advocates. Sometimes during my involvement in their hands-on training, we get a person who was abortion minded to change their mind. In several other instances, I have had students come back from engaging abortion-choice advocates and tell me that they prevented an abortion. But these examples are uncommon because of the nature of what I do. However, I do know that the pro-life principles I teach are effective and can change minds on abortion. In many presentations I’ve given on secular university campuses, I’ve had people tell me they are no longer pro-choice. These people may one day face a life or death decision and now I know they’ll make the right choice. Therefore, I’m confident that lives are being saved even if I don’t get regular reports of my impact.
What do you believe is the most effective way to combat abortions in the U.S. and also worldwide?
This requires a three-pronged approach: personally, publically, and politically. First, individuals must personally commit to not have an abortion themselves. Around 30% of people who have abortions identify as Protestant or Catholic. So, first we need to act consistently with our own values and stop killing our own children. Second, we need to stand up, publically, against the killing of innocent human beings. That means changing minds on abortion with friends and family. It entails public presentations and debates at universities and other public forums. It also requires that we serve women facing crisis pregnancies with the care, love, and support they need. Third, we need to fight against abortion laws in the political realm. Laws tend to inform the conscience of the culture. When we make a behavior illegal, it communicates that the prohibited behavior is also immoral. To combat abortion in these three realms requires that people get trained with effective pro-life tactics.
What governmental change do you foresee about the issue of abortion?
I think the government should act consistently. It is already against the law in at least 38 U.S. states to kill the unborn. If someone kills a pregnant woman, they are accused of a double homicide. Killing the unborn, in this case, is treated as murder. The only exception to this law is if the mother decides she doesn’t want to be pregnant, she can request a physician to kill her unborn child. But that’s not consistent. On the one hand, the government treats the unborn as a valuable human being who deserves protection. On the other hand, it treats that same child as neither valuable nor deserving of protection when something happens: the mother decides she doesn’t want a baby. Then, she can request a physician to kill her unborn child. Why does the government strip a member of the human community of their right to life simply based on the desire of their mother? The government isn’t being consistent and it needs to stop this behavior by treating all human beings under its jurisdiction equally.
How can young adults make a difference?
First, they can commit to not have an abortion themselves. Too many people who are attitudinally pro-life aren’t behaviorally pro-life when it matters most. They think their situation is different and, when in a bind, succumb to the pressure to abort. Unfortunately, the data shows many Christians are having abortions. This needs to stop. Second, they can learn the art of pro-life persuasion so they can change minds on abortion when the conversation comes up. All they need is some basic skills to help them understand the science and some simple philosophical distinctions. The evidence is on our side so there’s no excuse. Third, they can volunteer for a pro-life organization or pregnancy resource center. There are many non-profit, pro-life organizations that work hard at saving lives. Anyone can call them and ask how they can help by volunteering their time. Also, they can volunteer at a pregnancy resource center. These centers come alongside women who are abortion minded and serve them when they need help the most. Fourth, they can financially support pro-life speakers, activists, and organizations. The reality is that money is needed to fund the work of people who have committed their lives to ending the injustice of abortion. It is the holocaust of our time and money provides the means to ensure the work they do to end it doesn’t stop today.
I was recently interviewed by students about the injustice of abortion. I thought I’d share my answers. This post is the first of two parts.
When, where, and how did you first become aware of the injustice of abortion?
I grew up as a Christian so, technically, I was attitudinally pro-life. But I was not behaviorally pro-life until becoming more aware of biology and embryology in my training and career as a physical therapist at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center. It was then that I changed from merely thinking that abortion was wrong to actually doing something to stop the killing. Studying embryology and seeing graphic images of what abortion does to unborn human beings was one of the key factors that changed my awareness of this injustice.
What do you think makes it an injustice?
It’s an injustice for exactly the same reason that killing a two year-old is an injustice: it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings. Abortion is the same. It also kills an innocent human being.
How does abortion affect your life?
I have not had a personal experience with abortion. However, I’m basically a human rights activist so it grieves me to know that innocent human beings are being killed for mostly socio-economic reasons. Knowing that my tax dollars can fund this killing only makes it worse. It is also perfectly reasonable to be motivated to stop an injustice, even if you are not personally affected by it. For example, many women and children are trafficked and sold into sex slavery. Though someone may not have experienced such an injustice personally, it is appropriate for them to do what they can to stop that evil and protect women and children from becoming victims. We are all fellow human beings and caring for your neighbor is not only loving, but commanded by Jesus of Nazareth.
What grieves your heart most about abortion?
In every abortion that takes place, there are at least two victims. The first is the mother who is emotionally (and sometimes physically) wounded. Her decision to abort her child means she faced a crisis pregnancy. Something went horribly wrong. She chose abortion because there were many failures along the way. She didn’t have the love, support, and guidance she needed to make the right choice.
The second victim is her unborn child, who is fatally wounded. The unborn is the most vulnerable and defenseless of all the members of our human community. They should find themselves protected in their mother’s womb, given their vulnerable state. Yet, it is a place where unborn children are legally killed 2,899 times a day in the United States alone. Anyone who has seen images of the unborn after an abortion has seen the gruesome reality that befalls these innocent persons. It grieves my heart because our society is failing these two victims every day. I know we can do better than abortion.
What do you think should be done about it?
People should stop killing their unborn children and the government should make it illegal to do so. The government protects born children and adults from being killed by making murder illegal and punishing that crime. I believe they should extend the same protection to unborn human beings since they are morally equivalent to born ones. Until abortion is outlawed again, we should work to serve the needs of women who are facing crisis pregnancies and do everything we can to change minds about the morality of abortion.
How are you trying to make a difference?
I try to change minds on abortion. If we change enough minds, we can change public opinion. If we change public opinion, we can change public policy. Changing public policy means that laws are changed to protect unborn children and that saves lives. Plus, laws tend to inform the conscience of a culture. When a behavior is made illegal, people think it is also immoral. Until abortion is outlawed, changing individual minds can also save lives by persuading abortion-minded women not to abort their children.
How do you talk to someone who has had an abortion?
It depends on the topic of conversation, how recent the abortion occurred, and many other factors. I can say, however, that when a woman tells me she’s had an abortion, I’m quick to listen and hear the woman’s whole story. I don’t just make a case against abortion. Also, if I sense that she would be open to counseling or to a more pastoral approach, I’m eager to refer her to the many post-abortive ministries that are better equipped to help women who have had abortions.
The most important part of the case is the (7-2?) dismissal of the dangerous idea advanced by the Obama administration that the “free exercise” of religion includes only “worship.” Religious people have the right to start “closely held” companies that reflect their religious point of view. The radical idea that the First Amendment and religion are only about worship is dead at the Court. This is of great importance.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ginsburg agreed that the Green family’s “religious convictions regarding contraception are sincerely held” (p. 21). Nevertheless, she argues that their sincerely held beliefs are not a sufficient reason to find in their favor. For her, it doesn’t matter if their beliefs are sincere. The only thing that matters is whether or not those beliefs are valid. Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer believe that the job of the Supreme Court is to pass judgment on the religious views of the American public. In this case, they believe the Greens’s views were not “substantial” and can be dismissed as irrelevant. This is chilling.
Chilling, indeed. If religious freedom only exists as far as judges agree with the validity of the religious point of view, then religious freedom no longer exists. Since the reason why we need to protect religious freedom in the first place is the fact that people disagree on the validity of religious points of view, requiring our protectors to agree with our view before they protect us kind of defeats the whole point.
And finally, a warning from Ben Domenech, who points out that this decision will only mean that the government will shift the requirement to pay for these drugs from Hobby Lobby to all of us, through subsidies or Medicaid. As he says, most of us “are already subsidizing all sorts of life-destroying pills and implants, whether [we] like it or not”:
That’s one reason why the culture wars have only just begun. When the battleground shifts within a culture, moving from “my body, my choice” to a demand that others pay for and affirm those choices, the aggressors are incentivized to enshrine their perspective as broad mandatory policy, not just as a socially laudable practice. That’s why we’ve moved from a point where corporations providing benefits to employees was considered a good thing to a point where corporations which provide some benefits but not all must be made to suffer. You only pay for 16 out of 20 forms of birth control? Fascist.