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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yes, Women Do Have the Right to Information About the Abortion Decision

Last week I wrote about a pro-choice editorial that argued that pro-lifers should not offer information about abortion to women entering clinics that perform them. We should "let women do what they want," according to the authors.

However, there is that pesky issue of informed choice. Let's say you were about to drink what you thought was a Coke, but it was actually a glass of poison. As far as you knew, it was perfectly safe to drink. Now, if somebody sitting at the table next to you knew that it was poison, wouldn't you want them to tell you? And might that information change your decision to drink the Coke? Furthermore, don't you deserve to have full information about what's in the glass before you make the decision whether or not to drink it?

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are scores of post-abortive women who have spoken out to say that if they had only been told X, Y, or Z before the abortion, they never would have gone through with it. (See point #2 of this piece about crisis pregnancy centers for a heartbreaking example of this.) So clearly, there are some types of information that have the ability to influence this decision. Shouldn't women be given such information, before rather than after the fact?

Just two days ago, Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility, penned one of the most compelling arguments for informed choice that I have ever read. It involves her horrific experience of a medication abortion - specifically, eight weeks of excruciating abdominal pain and cramps, gushing blood and lemon-sized blood clots coming out of her, and the fear that she might be dying - and her subsequent realization that the abortion clinic staff knew that all of these things were likely to happen, yet did not inform her beforehand.

It is difficult to read Abby's reflection and come away with the impression that women always know everything there is to know about the abortion decision when they are entering a clinic. Clearly, they do not. It is inexcusable that the law does not uniformly require abortion providers to give women this kind of information. And it is even more inexcusable that dedicated pro-lifers are criticized for taking it upon themselves to stand out on sidewalks and offer the information that the law inexcusably fails to require.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pro-Choice Editorial: Women Shouldn't Have the Chance to Change Their Minds About an Abortion

Last winter, the pro-life community in Chicago received the news that Resurrection Hospital was pioneering a procedure to halt second-trimester abortions when a woman had second thoughts after beginning one. (These later-term procedures normally take a total of 2-3 days to complete.) In fact, Fox News did a story that highlighted this.

Pro-life groups such as the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, which ministers to abortion-bound women on sidewalks outside clinics, are collaborating with the hospital to be able to offer this option to women they encounter who change their minds. From what I understand, very little research has been done on how to stop these procedures. But I think it's terrific that this is being developed. It means that it may not yet be "too late" for a woman who realizes that she does not, in fact, want or need to kill her unborn child.

One would think this could only be a good thing.

Yet I probably shouldn't have been surprised to learn that some pro-choicers (who supposedly support whatever choice a woman makes) don't think so. Central Florida Future, the student newspaper at the University of Central Florida, published an astounding editorial about this new technique of stopping abortions midway through the process.

They state that
there are certain medical uncertainties and ethical questions surrounding the procedure and until these problems are solved we do not approve of this practice.
One wonders what they mean by "medical uncertainties."

A few more paragraphs, and then they say that
medical professionals aren't sure this procedure is entirely safe.
So, what are the "uncertainties"? What are the "safety" issues?

They finally explain:
In 2009, New York University conducted a study on abortion reversals like those performed at Resurrection. Of the four abortion reversals, two resulted in preterm births and the babies did not survive.
OK, now we get it. The editorial staff of Central Florida Future is wary of trying to reverse the process of killing a baby via abortion because....the baby might die as a result of the reversal.

This argument defies logic. Wasn't the baby going to die anyway if the procedure wasn't stopped? Isn't that the whole point? If a woman changes her mind in such a situation, what is there to lose by trying to save the baby?

They end the article by saying:
...several of the women who have had their abortions reversed have come to the conclusion because of "sidewalk counselors" who try to dissuade women from having abortions. ...We also think that "street counselors" shouldn't be approaching women who are considering abortion or are mid-way through the decision; let her do what she wants with her body and her life.
So let me get this straight. If an informed pro-lifer on a street corner offers a woman information about the abortion decision that she might not otherwise get, that pro-lifer is infringing on the woman's ability to do what she wants?

Never in my life have I seen people so threatened by mere information as when I have stood on the sidewalk outside an abortion clinic. Once, a friend of mine went up to a woman who had just come out of the clinic and was waiting to cross the street, and said, "May I offer you some information?" She handed the woman a pamphlet about abortion alternatives, including support services for single moms in the area near the clinic location. The woman seemed pleased to receive the information, and started chatting with my friend. Immediately, one of the clinic volunteers walked up and placed himself in between the two of them, blocking my friend from the woman's view. He said, "You don't have to talk to her if you don't want to."

Wow. And pro-lifers are supposedly the ones who don't respect women? Don't most grown women know that they don't have to talk to someone they don't want to talk to? How condescending. And aren't they smart enough and capable enough to decide whether they want to accept information from someone, and to read and consider it for themselves? What could possibly be the harm in having a pro-lifer at least offer it?

Contrary to what many pro-choicers would have us believe, a woman entering an abortion clinic is not always fully and perfectly informed of exactly what will happen in an abortion and exactly what alternatives are available to her. Stories abound of women who say, "If only someone had said/offered X to me, I never would have had my abortion."

Central Florida Future could not be more wrong. Pro-lifers have the right - actually, the duty - to offer information and support to abortion-bound women who may not otherwise get it. And women deserve the right to have a change of heart about their abortions at any time, no matter how slim the chances that the baby's life can be saved. It is worth a try. Saving a life is always worth a try.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pro-Choice Writer: Lack of Access to Abortion Often Means Choosing Life, Not Reaching for a Coat Hanger

I recently happened upon this post at "The Abortioneers," a blog that chronicles the experiences of various people who work directly in the abortion industry. This particular writer was working at an abortion clinic in the South at the time Hurricane Katrina hit, and is now living in a "large metropolitan city" that was also just hit by a hurricane. (I'm guessing she is in D.C. and is talking about Hurricane Irene, which hit the East Cost on the last weekend of August - although the post doesn't specify.)

In the post, she expresses regret that natural disasters sometimes force women to miss their abortion appointments because the clinic can't open or they can't get themselves there. She describes ways in which her clinic still tried to help such women, by rescheduling their appointments and offering to "freeze" the fee for the procedure until they could come back, since abortions are more expensive the further along a pregnancy is. Yet, she acknowledged, waiting an extra week could mean that some women would end up being too far along to legally have the procedure.

Let's forget for a moment the fact that there are legal ways for a woman to get an abortion in the U.S. at pretty much any time during pregnancy, so technically she would never be "too far along." Instead, let's consider the following remark that the writer made about such women:

My heart breaks for any woman who tried to get an abortion this past weekend and will now have to carry to term.

Now hold on a minute. A pro-choice person, arguably one of the most passionately pro-choice out there because she has actually worked in the abortion industry, is actually stating on record that there are women who are going to end up having their babies in a few months because a hurricane prevented them from going to their abortion appointments?

Doesn't that directly contradict one of the most widely-touted pro-choice talking points? Namely, that if abortion isn't available, all women who would have sought one will definitely try some kind of dangerous self-abortion procedure instead?

If that's really true, why isn't she predicting that all those women trapped by the ravages of Irene will be so desperate to end their pregnancies that they will use coat hangers on themselves once they manage to take shelter? If a legal barrier is supposed to guarantee that women will do this, why wouldn't the same be true of a logistical barrier?

The real truth is, many women are ambivalent about their abortions, largely because others are often pressuring them into the decision. In fact, they are sometimes so ambivalent that they decide to leave it up to "fate" to make the decision for them. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard of women who found out that there weren't abortion appointments available, or ran into a friend who said she'd help with the pregnancy and child care, or any number of circumstances that they decided to take as a "sign" that they shouldn't have the abortion.

The former clinic worker even acknowledged this point within the same blog post:

I wonder if they see this Hurricane as a sign that they were not meant to abort?

For the sake of all of those precious women, who have already been through so much, and for the sake of the precious children they're carrying, I sure hope that this pro-choice writer was right.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Debate We Shouldn't Need to Have: Parental Consent for Kids' Preventative STD Vaccinations

Word on the street is that in California, children as young as 12 may soon be able to get vaccinated against STDs without their parents' knowledge or consent. The debate over this proposed law reminds me a lot of the 16-year debate over Illinois' Parental Notice of Abortion law. Basically, one side says that parents should be involved in major medical decisions for their children, especially when those decisions are precipitated by a child's involvement in premarital sex. The other side says that most children already involve their parents in such decisions, and those who don't have a good reason, such as fear that their parents would physically abuse them if they found out about either the sex or the resulting issue (disease or pregnancy).

Although I won't go into detail about the abortion law in this post, I do want to point out that these two situations are profoundly different. In the case of abortion, the child has already had sex, and the parents could theoretically be unaware of it. And, obviously, they have lost their chance to convince their child not to have sex in the first place. But in the case of the STD vaccine, the child may not necessarily have had sex already. He/she may not even have had any thought of doing so. But under this proposed law, an adult in a position of authority could essentially say to such a child, "Here's something that will make it harder for you to contract a disease from sex. Do you want it? We won't tell your parents."

What kind of effect could that have on a child who would not otherwise have seriously considered having sex? The metamessage that could be perceived is that it's normal for young kids to have sex, and that there are ways to make sure that nothing bad happens as a result. Is that a message that an abstinent child should be permitted to hear from an authority figure without a parent's knowledge?

When a child is in the position of seeking an abortion, there are obviously some dangers present from having had sex that cannot be undone by telling a parent at that point. From this perspective, I can understand those who make the argument against parental notice/consent for abortion, even though I do not agree with them. But my goodness, why not give a fighting chance to those children who have not yet "gone there?" That, I will never understand. After all, sexual purity is not impossible, children's bodies are precious beyond measure, and it is realistic to expect that they can enjoy an innocent childhood free of premarital sex, and save that wonderful gift for someone who will cherish them for a lifetime. If anything, that is a message that kids should be required by law to hear!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

No Correction When Pro-Choicer Says Abortion Kills a Baby

Because I am a pro-lifer who enjoys defending the pro-life position through written apologetics, I've been involved in pro-life/pro-choice debates online for a number of years. (The vast majority are with people I don't know in real life. Although, there is always the occasional exchange on Facebook with someone I met once and/or haven't seen in ten years, who has never interacted with me at all beyond a "friend request," but suddenly comes out of the woodwork to take issue with something I post relating to my pro-life beliefs. Such exchanges are always awkward because I know the person but don't have the mutual trust that I would with a closer friend. Yet I try to take these debates as seriously as I would any other.)

In these debates, I always try to establish common ground with a premise that both of us can accept. One would think we could agree, for example, that abortion kills an unborn baby. After all, "kill" and "baby" are not subjective terms. The pro-life/pro-choice debate is really about whether abortion is right or wrong, not what abortion is. Facts are facts, right?

Yet the pro-choice challenges to my position often begin with these very facts. "No! It's not a baby! It's a clump of cells!" (Never mind that being a baby and being a clump of cells are not mutually exclusive things. In fact, all people, me included, could be accurately described as "clumps of cells.") "No! It's not killing! Killing can't apply to a non-person!" (Never mind that the definition of "kill" says nothing about whether the thing killed is a person or not. And never mind that "person" is not a subjective term either.) And on and on.

I have found these debates over semantics to be overwhelmingly common among pro-choicers who debate pro-lifers. Yet when the context is the discussion of a personal experience rather than debate, pro-choicers sometimes relax their terminology such that it is actually closer to what pro-lifers use, and their fellow pro-choicers barely flinch.

Case in point: Penelope Trunk, a blogger whose posts I often enjoy reading. She gives helpful advice about issues that hit home for me at this stage in my life, such as how to balance one's career and personal life. In making her points, she is quite open about her own personal life and beliefs, including the fact that she's had two abortions. In fact, she's probably best known for a Twitter post she wrote back in September of 2009 stating she was grateful to be having a miscarriage because she'd originally wanted an abortion and it was going to be difficult to get. (This post got so much attention that Penelope ended up going on CNN to talk about it.)

What really struck me when reading Penelope's abortion accounts was that she repeatedly referred to the unborn as a baby and acknowledged the fact that abortion kills that baby.

For example, on June 17, 2009, she wrote of her prior abortions: "[A]n abortion is terrible. You never stop thinking about the baby you killed. You never stop thinking about the guy you were with when you killed the baby you made with him. You never stop wondering."

And in the same post, about her feelings while sitting on the table waiting for her abortion: "I couldn’t stop screaming. I was too scared. I felt absolutely sick that I was going to kill a baby."

Later that year, on September 24, 2009, she wrote in defense of her Twitter post about the miscarriage: "And what is up with the fact that just one, single person commented about how Wisconsin has a three-week waiting period for abortions? It is absolutely outrageous how difficult it was going to be for me to get an abortion, and it’s outrageous that no one is outraged." And two paragraphs later: "I’m linking to Planned Parenthood so everyone can make a donation. This organization is enabling women to have the right to abortion."

Given the way pro-choicers usually respond to me when I refer to abortion as killing a baby, it's interesting to see their response when a person who's unmistakably pro-choice also refers to abortion as just that. In this case, of the 615 comments to the post about Penelope's abortion experiences, many of which came from pro-choicers, not one corrected her terminology. Many aspects of abortion were discussed and debated, but her definition of abortion went unchallenged.

This is worth thinking about for a moment. Really, what's most important to pro-choicers is that abortion remain legal. So as long as Penelope agrees with that, she gets no flak, even if she essentially acknowledges the pro-life point that abortion kills a baby.

Pro-choice apologetics are clearly not uniform. They can even be contradictory. It's strange that the pro-choice side isn't more interested in getting "on message" in their defense of legalized abortion.

Maybe it's because there is no message that adequately justifies deliberately taking an innocent human life.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Talking with Pro-Abortion Street Canvassers: Part II

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the experience of talking with pro-abortion street canvassers. I referenced a specific conversation in which the canvasser refused to accept written materials that refuted the points she was making.

That was not a productive conversation. In fact, I was furious upon ending it, and the canvasser seemed to be as well. I was so depressed that I was almost ready to throw in the towel on any sort of future effort to reach out to people who have been deceived by the pro-abortion point of view.

Well, this past summer, that changed. One hot Thursday afternoon at the end of July, I was afforded the amazing opportunity to talk to this same canvasser again. The way it happened was really fortuitous. When I talked to her last year, it was downtown while on a break from work, and this time I ran into her right by my house, while headed to the gym on a rare weekday off from work. I was walking at my usual brisk pace, listening to my iPod, when suddenly, right in my path, there she was, waving and beckoning me to come over and talk to her. I immediately recognized her, and the whole horrible experience of the previous year came rushing back to me. It was clear that she didn't recognize me (if anything, I look a lot different in gym clothes than I do in work clothes!) and I had about a millisecond to decide whether I was going to stop and talk or just ignore her and walk on by.

I think that in that millisecond, something in my subconscious told me that if I ran into this young woman again, against all odds of such a coincidence, I should take it as a sign that I was meant to have a second conversation with her. So I stopped.

What followed was probably the most interesting half hour in recent memory. It would be impossible to recount all of the twists and turns that the conversation took. It started with the reason the canvassers were out, which, unsurprisingly, was to get support for Planned Parenthood's preferred ways to implement the Obama health care law (i.e., get as much funding for abortions as possible). We discussed several public policy topics of which I have some knowledge, ranging from taxpayer funding of abortion and whether public funding actually encourages abortion as a choice, to whether it's scientifically provable that the unborn are human beings and whether the law should reflect that. By listening carefully and showing that I understood her point for point, I was actually able to present the logic of the pro-life position in a way that never would have been possible in our previous conversation. This time we were calm and thoughtful, and I truly tried to give her the benefit of the doubt on each point and forget that I'd heard every one of them a billion times before.

But the point when things got really interesting was when I asked her why this issue was so important and personal for her that she was willing to spend all day, every day flagging down strangers on street corners to talk to them about it. At that point, we started to talk about both of our past experiences with men and the experiences of our female friends and acquaintances. I found out that this young woman was very wounded by her past experiences. She had seen so many men abuse and take advantage of women sexually and leave them "holding the bag" (i.e., a baby or an STD) that she had concluded that women simply didn't have enough rights. In her mind, these types of situations would be best rectified by using the law to artificially make women more like men are naturally (i.e., immune to a lot of the natural physical consequences of sex). Yes, in her mind, what women really needed was the ability to prevent themselves from becoming pregnant as a result of sex, and/or to destroy a pregnancy that happened by "accident." After all, men never need to worry about these things, so we just need to equalize what nature made unequal.

I told her that I could see where she was coming from. I actually know personally of several situations where a woman was sleeping with a man, became pregnant, had the baby without his support, and was left in poverty to raise the child alone. Terrible, of course. It is obvious to me that such a situation is much worse for the woman because the man does not have to worry about the physical consequences of sex. If he does not want to face the consequences of his actions, no one can truly make him do so, short of throwing him in jail (and even that threat does not always work). Few people would argue that this is a desirable state of affairs.

Where I disagree is on the point that trying to artificially make women more physically like men (i.e., not pregnant or unable to get that way) would really fix this problem. At best it is a "bandaid" solution that doesn't truly get at the underlying issue, which is men disrespecting women and using sex as an instrument of power, control and self-gratification rather than love. If anything, I think the availability of contraception and abortion actually encourages men to engage in such behavior, since it gives sex at least the appearance of being consequence-free for the man. It is unclear to me how this would encourage more loving behavior on the man's part.

I pointed out to this young woman that situations like the ones she mentioned would rarely even happen to begin with if society taught men to truly love and respect women, and taught women that they deserve nothing less than this from men. I pointed out that a truly loving man would never put his beloved in a situation where she could get a disease or be left alone in poverty to raise a child. In other words, a man who truly loves a woman would ONLY use his sexuality as an instrument of love. And within that truth lies the solution.

This was the point where the conversation sort of ground to a halt. She didn't exactly disagree with me. No, more than anything, she was just skeptical that men could ever be convinced to live like that. In her mind, men are inherently selfish scoundrels who just want what they can get from women, and women should just forget about trying to change that. The best we can hope for is to be able to "protect" ourselves (with birth control and abortion) so we don't get hurt too badly.

And this is when I concluded that the most basic difference between the pro-life and pro-legalized-abortion camps is hope. Hope in the future, hope in the beautiful and naturally-present differences between men and women, hope in the inherent goodness of people, hope in our ability to inspire change in society, hope in the lasting power of true love.

We have it, they don't. That's pretty much the essence of it.

I told this young woman that based on the incredible examples of love between a man and a woman that I have witnessed in my life, I have incredible hope that I too will find that kind of love someday, and hope that all women, including her, will hold out for the same - because we are too precious to accept anything less. And I wished her the best. She thanked me for the conversation and we went our separate ways.

It certainly makes sense that someone who has never seen an example of faithful, selfless, committed love between a man and a woman is so cynical about the power of that kind of love to change the world. I pray that every pro-lifer finds some way to impart a bit of hope in the power of love to the many wounded people out there who have no rational reason to believe in it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Monty Python and the Holy Truth: A Lesson in Natural Law

Author James Penrice has a marvelous post up at Catholic Online on the concept of natural law. His material comes from a surprising source: a scene from the 1979 film Monty Python's Life of Brian.

I have to wonder if the creators of the film knew what a profound statement they were making when they wrote this scene. The point, of course, is that people and things are the way they are; they comprise a reality that we didn't create and cannot deny. Therefore, pointing out that someone cannot act contrary to reality is not actually an act of oppression, no matter how much certain activist groups want to portray it that way.

Go read the whole thing. It's excellent.