Getting Faith Right by Tim Barnett: “Here’s how I explain faith to students. Imagine you are standing at the edge of Niagara Falls. While you are watching this magnificent waterfall, you notice there is a tightrope walker walking from one side to the other, pushing a wheelbarrow full of rocks. You are mesmerized by his amazing ability, so you keep watching him do it over and over again. The tightrope walker sees that you have been watching for some time and walks towards you. He asks, ‘Do you believe that I can do it again?’ Given that you have seen him do it numerous times already, you reply, ‘Of course, I’ve seen you doing it all day.’ Without hesitation, he dumps out all the rocks and replies, ‘Okay, climb in the wheelbarrow.’ You believe based on evidence. And stepping into the wheelbarrow is active trust. Therefore, biblical faith is active trust based on evidence.” (Read more.)
Planned Parenthood Isn’t the Only Abortion Problem by Alan Shlemon: “Planned Parenthood was evil last year, long before they were exposed. They were evil the year before that, and the year before that. The reason is because they take advantage of vulnerable women who face crisis pregnancies and help them kill their innocent children. They’ve been doing that with government protection for over 40 years. These videos have not changed what Planned Parenthood does, only the public’s perception of them. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad these videos have exposed Planned Parenthood’s barbaric behavior. I want as many people as possible to see them. More than that, though, I want pro-lifers to be passionate about saving the lives of unborn children for as long as abortion remains legal, not just as long as the hype of these videos remains.” (Read more.)
reTHINKING Youth Ministry by Brett Kunkle: “My passion has always been discipling the next generation, and it’s motivated me to seek out ways to more effectively reach students. That's why I started and developed Stand to Reason's apologetic mission trip to Berkeley and our theological mission trip to Utah. Due to the nature of these trips, though, most Christian kids won't have the opportunity to experience them. So I've thought a lot about strategies to reach and train larger numbers of students.... Four years ago, we tried out one of my ideas: an apologetics conference tailored for youth. I called it the reTHINK Student Apologetics Conference. Approximately 400 students, youth workers, and parents attended the first conference in Southern California, and we were ecstatic. We did it again in 2013 and more than 600 showed up. Last year, almost 1,100 came out. And just last month, 1,504 people (most of them students) turned out for our fourth annual reTHINK Conference. The response was tremendous.” (Read more.)
There’s some confusion on both sides out there about what’s in the Planned Parenthood videos. You can watch the episode that’s being debated here, in which a former tech from StemExpress describes what she witnessed in a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Here are some important clarifications:
At 4:02, O’Donnell says the tech said this before restarting the heart of the aborted baby: “Come over here! I want you to see something kinda cool. This is kinda neat.”
There’s no explicit explanation given by the tech as to why she’s starting the heart. It’s unclear whether she was doing something “cool” just for fun, or whether she was doing it for some other purpose and simply called O’Donnell over because she might want to see it. Since I first saw this video, I have feared we may find out in future videos that it’s done to keep specimens fresh, but for now, that has not been specifically said. Regardless, playing with an infant’s life is evil enough.
We don’t know that the baby’s heart was still beating when they cut its face to procure the brain; O’Donnell does not specifically say either way.
The clip of the fully-intact and moving fetus (at 5:58) was not filmed at the Planned Parenthood clinic. The clip is, in fact, credited, “Courtesy of Grantham Collection & Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.” The image is intended to show the viewers the age of the fetal human being O’Donnell is describing, but it is not the human being described in the story. I don’t see anything illegitimate about adding this footage to help people understand what O’Donnell was seeing. Neither do I think CMP was intending to deceive people with it. (I say this not only because of the credit, but also because later on in the video they show another picture of a 19-week fetus that obviously wasn’t aborted at a Planned Parenthood clinic—care was clearly taken where the umbilical cord was cut.) But at the same time, because these videos are so shocking and most viewers only saw them once, many people have understandably misinterpreted what they were seeing and/or misremembered what they saw.
Yes, the moving fetus in the video was aborted. The website for the Grantham Collection says their images were “lawfully obtained in working abortion clinics.” I verified that the video clip in question can be found in one of their videos, as described here. (I’m not linking to the video of live abortions directly because it is extremely graphic and starts playing automatically, but there is a link to it on that page.) CBR has confirmed this, saying, “The video clip we provided to CMP depicted an intact delivery abortion. It was filmed at an abortion clinic. It was not a miscarriage.”
We need to be careful about how we talk about these videos. If you give people even the smallest thing to quibble with (even if it’s not ultimately relevant), that is what they will focus on, and they’ll use it to justify dismissing everything in the videos. This is what I’m seeing happen now.
Even stranger, I’m seeing journalists out there saying obviously wrong things, like, “There is nothing in the videos made by CMP, either in the edited or full-length versions, that has anything approaching images of legs kicking or hearts beating”; and, “At no point do they include footage of an entire aborted fetus”; and, “None of the videos have anyone talking about ‘harvesting’ brains” (actually, this topic comes up in a few of them); and, “There is no moment where Planned Parenthood discusses procuring fetal tissue for profit” (see here and here); and, “The Center for Medical Progress released five videos” (there are 10, not counting full footage videos); and, most amazingly, “Each video made by an anti-abortion group, The Center for Medical Progress, merely shows people talking” (i.e., without images).
Let’s not add to that confusion. Watch the videos carefully, and don’t assume anything that isn’t explicit. Stick closely to the facts; the facts are horrifying enough on their own.
I’m skeptical of the possibility of convincing people who don’t believe in God that human beings have intrinsic value (see “Atheism and Universal Human Rights” for more on why I’m skeptical). But Wesley J. Smith keeps insisting it’s possible, and I can’t help but hope he’s right when he says things like this:
Happily, human exceptionalism does not require belief in a transcendent God, or indeed, spiritual allusions of any kind if we understand that what matters morally is not the capacities of the individual—which, after all, are transitory—but our intrinsic natures as human beings—which are innate.
If we can convince people our value comes not from the abilities we’re expressing at a particular moment in time but from the kind of being we are—and that’s a big “if” that Smith doesn’t make a case for in his following argument, though you can read an argument for it here—then a case for universal intrinsic human value can be made.
[A]s recent headlines about Planned Parenthood and the push for assisted suicide demonstrate, now is the time to defend intrinsic human value….
A belief in human exceptionalism…does not depend on religious faith. Whether we were created by God, came into being through blind evolution, or were intelligently designed, the importance of human existence can and should be supported by the rational examination of the differences between us and all other known life forms.
After all, what other species in known history has had the wondrous capacities of human beings? What other species has been able to (at least partially) control nature instead of being controlled by it? What other species builds civilizations, records history, creates art, makes music, thinks abstractly, communicates in language, envisions and fabricates machinery, improves life through science and engineering, or explores the deeper truths found in philosophy and religion? What other species has true freedom? Not one….
Perhaps the most important distinction between the fauna and us is our moral agency. The sow that permits the runt of her litter to starve is not a negligent parent, but a human mother doing the same would be branded a monster. The feline that plays with a fallen baby bird before consuming it is not being sadistic; she is acting like a cat! But any human who tortures an animal is rightly seen as pathological.
A former StemExpress tech tells of her supervisor playfully making an aborted baby’s heart start beating again. Of having to cut the baby’s face open in order to get the prized brain ordered by researchers. Was the heart still beating when they did that? Maybe. It’s unclear. Thankfully, there’s no video of either of these things. But you do see a live baby moving on a tray, and that’s enough.
Or, at least, it should be enough.
I can’t stop thinking about the people doing these jobs day in and day out. And of those who watch the videos and either yawn or continue to defend Planned Parenthood. And of how entwined this industry is with the medical community. I just heard that parents who go through IVF can sign a consent form to donate their leftover embryonic children to research. Now that I’ve seen what Planned Parenthood is doing, I can’t help but think: Are IVF doctors getting compensated by researchers for providing them with embryonic human beings? Are they pushing parents to create more children so they’ll be able to provide researchers with more and get more benefits in return? This doesn’t seem like an outlandish speculation anymore. There’s money to be had selling human beings.
How far does this go? How much of our entire society is connected to this barbarity? What are we letting happen all around us, every day?
It’s a horror to realize what I should have always known to be true: There was no special evil in Nazi Germany. The human heart is evil. Either the norms of a society keep the evil human heart in check, or they give permission for that evil to be unleashed. But it’s there. In every society. Waiting.
The doctors in the Planned Parenthood videos seem like normal people because they are normal people. It’s normal for human beings to take their cues about proper behavior from the people around them. Everyone around you is cutting babies’ faces off like it’s no different morally from using the copy machine? Well then, it must be normal and okay! How did people shuffle papers for Nazis in thousands of offices? This is how. This is how an entire culture loses its ability to see the evil right in front of its nose. All it sees are regular people, working in ordinary offices, doing something everybody knows about, and surely something so commonplace couldn’t be evil, right? Meanwhile, the evil spreads its tentacles into multiple areas of life (economics, medicine, etc.) until we’re convinced we can’t manage without it. We have so many reasons to keep it around, you see. Like slavery.
We need to rip this evil out of the fabric of our society. Because it’s so intertwined with our way of life, it may rip some things we’ve come to regard as comforts out with it. We may lose some opportunities for research. We may have more children than we were expecting. We may have less control over designing our dream lives. But take a step back for one minute and look at the baby moving on the tray. Look at it! This is the moral cost of those “comforts,” and it is dark and ugly evil. I pray we are not yet too far gone to see it.
Egyptian Christians are typically pro-life. Many, however, struggle with being consistent, especially in the case of rape. This is a vexing problem in any part of the world, but it becomes more complex in Egypt. Part of the problem is the unique circumstances created by Islam, particularly in some rural areas of Upper Egypt (far south of Cairo).
For example, if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, she is faced with a dilemma. Adoption is not allowed in Islam, so she can’t carry the child to term and then ask a loving couple to raise her son or daughter. Orphanages exist in Egypt, but my contacts there tell me the conditions are horrendous. The other option – to parent the child – is also problematic because both a raped woman and her child are treated like trash. Many times people try to kill her if she doesn’t have an abortion. If they succeed, both mother and child lose their life.
It’s this situation that troubles many pro-life, Arab Christians. Shouldn’t a pregnant woman have an abortion when her life and the life of her unborn child is in jeopardy? If she doesn’t have an abortion, both she and her child die. If she has an abortion, then only the child loses his life. It’s a greater good that one lives than two die.
In the past (although I can’t find the specific post), I think I conceded that abortion could be allowed in such a scenario. I mistakenly compared this situation to an ectopic pregnancy. In this life-threatening condition, the child is growing in a location (e.g. fallopian tube) not suitable to gestate a child. If the pregnancy is not stopped, the growing child will rupture the fallopian tube, cause bleeding, infection, and the death of the mother. Both mother and child lose their life. The alternative is to terminate the pregnancy (resulting in the death of the child) to save the life of the mother.
Typically, pro-lifers agree that medical action is morally appropriate in an ectopic pregnancy. The reasoning is based on the greater good. It’s better that one person should live (the mother) than two persons should die (both mother and child). The child is going to die no matter what course of action is taken (indeed, the child often dies even before medical action is taken because its life can't be sustained without implanting in the endometrial lining). There’s currently no medical procedure where we can transplant a child from the fallopian tube to the uterus. Therefore, it’s a greater good to preserve one life when it’s impossible to preserve two.
While I agree with the moral reasoning of taking medical action in an ectopic pregnancy, I think I was wrong to compare it to the situation women face in Egypt when they are raped and become pregnant. Admittedly, there is some similarity. In both cases, having an abortion would result in one person surviving, and doing nothing likely results in two persons dying. That’s where the parallels end, though.
There are some key differences. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the child is going to die as a result of a medical problem. His or her death is certain. The child conceived through rape, though, has the possibility of living. Although wicked people might attempt to kill the mother and child, this is not an inevitable outcome. The would-be killers might not find out about the pregnancy, may not care enough to kill, or the mother might run to seek help from people who would care for her and her child.
There’s a second difference. No one is morally culpable when a child dies as a result of an ectopic pregnancy. However, intentionally killing a healthy child (albeit under dire circumstances) is morally problematic.
Consider the following hypothetical situation (this is the “Trot Out the Toddler” tactic for those familiar with this approach). A terrorist breaks into your home and demands you murder a two-year-old child sitting on your sofa. If you don’t, he will kill you and the child. Would you do it? Are you justified in murdering an innocent child to save your life? I submit it would be immoral to use a child as a shield to protect yourself.
The woman facing pressure from Muslim culture to abort or be killed faces a similar moral dilemma. I don’t think abortion would be the right thing to do.
I’m not saying I would come down hard on a woman who chose abortion under such a circumstance. I think I would understand if a woman made that choice. But I believe the consistent pro-life view would be to not abort. Perhaps she could flee and seek Christians who would take her in and provide her with shelter. That would give her and the child a chance to live.
Besides, trying to preserve your life at all costs (especially by killing an innocent child) doesn't reflect a Christian worldview. It presumes that this life (this side of the grave) is the only life that matters and that the afterlife is not real. The Christian worldview, though, rejects that notion. Yes, our earthly lives matter, but they are merely a precursor of more significant things to come.
Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). After all, Jesus reminds us 10 verses later, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). Difficult words, to be sure, but true nonetheless.
[In the Roe v. Wade decision,] Justice Blackmun argues that since experts disagree as to when life begins—when and if the fetus becomes a human person—the Court should not come down on any side. But contrary to his intent, Blackmun fails in his argument to establish government neutrality. When the state leaves the choice of pregnancy termination solely to the individual, it affirms that the fetus is not worthy of state protection and therefore can be discarded without requiring any public justification. Whatever one may think of this public policy, it certainly is not neutral….
Imagine you are back in the nineteenth century and the Court is confronted with the issue of enslaving African-Americans. Suppose in the name of state neutrality that it delivers the opinion that it takes no stand on the issue. On that basis it allows white Americans to own blacks as property. The Court may verbally deny taking any position on this issue, but its allowance of slavery is actually morally equivalent to taking a side—that African-Americans are not human persons. Likewise, the Court’s verbal denial of taking a position on fetal personhood is contradicted by its conclusion that abortion is a fundamental constitutional right and that fetuses are not persons under the Constitution.
By permitting abortion during the entire nine months of pregnancy, abortion-rights advocates have decided, for all practical purposes, when full humanness is attained. They have deemed this moment to occur at birth. Despite their claim that “no one knows when life begins,” abortion rights advocates act as if protectable human life begins at birth. Thus, far from being neutral, the Court’s opinion in Roe affirms a particular perspective on what constitutes a human person.
If one is not sure whether or not fetal human beings are persons, the only rational, responsible thing to do is to not kill them. You can read philosopher Peter Kreeft’s explanation as to why this is the only morally permissible option for those who are skeptical about fetal personhood here.
But there’s no need to be skeptical about fetal personhood, because every human being is a person, as Kreeft also explains:
Surely the correct answer [to how “person” is to be defined] is that a person is one with a natural, inherent capacity for performing personal acts. Why is one able to perform personal acts under proper conditions? Only because one is a person. One grows into the ability to perform personal acts only because one already is the kind of thing that grows into the ability to perform personal acts, i.e., a person.
The horrific nature of the undercover Planned Parenthood videos has overwhelmed me. You can view videos one, two, three, and four (along with the full, unedited footage) here. No, I shouldn’t say you can. You should. You must. This is what we’re currently allowing, and it must be seen. The abortion industry has been hiding behind a curtain of euphemisms for so long that even you, pro-lifer, have become somewhat accustomed to its existence. Let these videos shake you back into reality.
As with other social movements to correct injustices in the past (e.g., slavery and civil rights), images can reveal truth, playing a key role in helping us understand with our minds things that would otherwise only be a vague idea to us. As the ancient Roman poet Horace said, “Less vividly is the mind stirred by what finds entrance through the ears than by what is brought before the trusty eyes.” This, I think, will be the most important result of these videos, regardless of what comes of the legal accusations against Planned Parenthood.
What’s Morally Different about These Organ Donations?
Leaving aside the morality of abortion itself for a moment, why should anyone object to Planned Parenthood supplying organs to research facilities? What makes the donation of these organs morally different from a mother's donation of her baby’s organs after the child’s tragic death? The difference can be found in the doctor’s words explaining what makes the giving of these human organs possible:
We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that [researchers want these], so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.
The organs are requested by the research facilities while the healthy organ “donor” is still living, and then the wanted organs are obtained by carefully crushing the organ owner to death. This changes the moral picture.
The Legal Step That Needs to Be Taken
The heart of the moral problem with Planned Parenthood’s organ donations (again, leaving aside the morality of the abortion on its own) needs to be legally addressed: No individual or organization should be legally allowed to donate organs if they’re responsible for the death of the organs' owner. Period.
If there’s a beneficial transaction to be had from the death of a human being, then you can’t be allowed to participate in that transaction if you’re the one bringing about that human being’s death. (This applies whether you’re personally directly benefitting or the person you’re donating to is directly benefitting; for in the second case, the one who directly benefits is likely to return the favor with indirect benefits to encourage more donations—i.e., more killing to facilitate more giving.) To allow such a thing incentivizes killing and will inevitably lead to abuses.
If we’re going to talk about legal steps that need to be taken, this seems like it should be one of the first.
When Abortion Doctors Drop Their Euphemisms
As the doctor in the fourth video picks through the baby parts, she says, “It’s a baby,” and announces, “Another boy!” Planned Parenthood workers may tell women to their faces that it’s up to them whether the “clump of cells” inside them is a baby, but this is how the doctors talk behind their backs. They speak the plain truth. They speak of human organs. They speak of genders. They speak of babies.
My prayer is that these videos will break the spell of the abortion industry’s insidious euphemisms.