— Abortion —

April 19, 2012

Abortion Question Shows PolitiFact RI's Bias and Ignorance

Justin Katz

It's a tedious exercise reviewing the ways in which the pretense of ostensibly neutral journalists to judge truth via PolitiFact investigations is tilted severely toward their political leanings. Indeed, if it weren't for an explicit meter and the assertion that they are dealing only in facts, it wouldn't be worth the effort.

But in order that I may exorcise today's demon, I have to point out the ignorance and bias on display in Eugene Emery's finding that it is "mostly true" that "only 14 percent of Catholics agree with the Vatican's position that abortion should be illegal."

An objective assessment must acknowledge that there are two parts to the question, with a third qualifier necessary for an understanding of the results:

  1. What is the Church's position on the matter?
  2. Do Catholics agree with that position?
  3. In what sense are the respondents "Catholic"?

In order to answer the first question, Emery did not call up our very accessible bishop, Thomas Tobin, for an explanation. Rather, he thumbed through the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church and quoted it as follows:

The "Respect for Human Life" section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law."

The theological/philosophical language "willed either as an end or a means" ought to have provided Emery a clue that he should tread carefully. As with theological notions such as double effect and just war, the difficult matter is where the line is between willing an action and accepting it as a consequence of an action undertaken for a morally positive end.

Removing an unborn child from his or her mother's womb prematurely may be necessary to prevent both of their deaths, and it may thereafter be impossible to preserve the child's life. As a moral matter, such an action is substantially different from "willing" an abortion "as an end or a means." That is especially true "as an end," and inasmuch as the death of the child, of itself, will never save the life of the mother, "the means" are a step removed, as well.

When it comes to determining the law of the land — what should be illegal — we must acknowledge that the judgment of professionals and those who find themselves in horrendous positions is unavoidable. So, this moral teaching of the Church would translate as "except to save the life of the mother."

As with all translations of religious teaching into law, semantics are a problem. The procedure of "abortion" implies the intent of killing the child. That is, in the public debate and in the law, there is no separate term for "fatal early delivery," or some other construct that might be more accurate to describe a circumstance in which a doctor does something to save the mother's life that unavoidably ends the child's life. In public discourse, we simply call all such exigencies "abortions."

Therefore, given the only four options available in the surveys (legal always, legal most of the time, illegal most of the time, illegal always), it isn't really the case that the Catholic Church requires the last. A far more useful survey would draw a line in the third category to distinguish between "life of the mother" and other exceptions.

Of the three surveys that Emery reviewed, only the one conducted and promoted by the pro-choice activist group gives any such indication. They found that 51% of the 923 Catholics supposedly representing the 70 million or so U.S. Catholics believe that abortion should be legal "in just a few" cases or "never." The percentage climbs to 75% among those who "attend mass frequently" (44% and 31%).*

The survey goes a bit farther and gives some evidence of what "just a few" cases might be, although it does so in terms of what health insurance (whether public or private) should cover. In that case, the 14% who are against all abortions increases minimally to 16% who don't think any should be covered by insurance. The next marker, though, is 24% who don't believe it should be covered in any case except those that "threaten the life of the woman." Of the options, that is most closely the official Catholic view.

Adding in the qualification of Church attendance, however, the percentage moves up considerably. And the qualification is certainly relevant, I'd argue, because it doesn't tell us much to know that people who don't assent to the bishops instruction to go to Church regularly also don't assent to much more emotionally difficult teachings.

In summary, according to a poll commissioned by a group that actively advocates for access to abortion while calling itself "Catholic," 30% of Mass-goers don't think insurance should cover abortion in any case, and 42% don't think it should cover nothing or only life saving procedures. Adjust that a bit, if you like, to account for those who think the procedure should be legal but not covered even by private insurance, but it'd likely be a small tweak.

From a devout Catholic's point of view, assent to the Church's teaching is still too limited, but it's significantly different from 14%, and one needn't accept even the highest arguable number to think "mostly true" is more than a little bit of a stretch.

* For some perspective on a 923 sample size for a 70 million person population, consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys 1,200 people in Rhode Island alone to determine unemployment. That means that bias in the methodology could have a huge effect.

For example, the survey document does not define what the survey sample bases " proper proportions" on, the total population or the Catholic population. If the former, it could skew toward wealthy Northeastern whites who attend Church only occasionally. That may be a representative sample of people who happen to be Catholic in the general population, but not of people who are Catholic.

June 16, 2011

Factional Definitions

Justin Katz

Two interesting threads have emerged in the comments to my post on Republican factionalism. They're on entirely different topics, but I think there's something similar in the way they hinge on what I see as erroneous definitions. Quoting me, commenter Mangeek takes up the question of abortion:

"I find the 'personally pro-life; politically pro-choice' position (which Doherty professes) to be among the most disturbing... The only way to hold such views sincerely (and not be a monster)..."

I don't know, I know plenty of women (possibly a majority of the women in my life) who have had an abortion only to come out the other side holding this exact same view. They wouldn't get another one, but they felt they did the right thing, and want to preserve the right for their daughters, should they someday find themselves in a similar situation.

That's not really a pro-life view, is it? Being pro-life means believing that human life begins at conception and is at that point worthy of protection against being killed at another's whim — or even another's fervent desire, if "whim" seems too light. Either the majority of women in Mangeek's life have killed their children in the womb or they've discarded some foreign cells from their bodies. One can have aesthetic or even mildly moral objections to discarding foreign cells, but to hold a pro-life view as I've just described and yet to believe that others' choices cannot be curtailed on its basis is, as I've said, monstrous.

In a completely different direction, former RIGOP Chairman Gio Cicione writes:

Let's not confuse factionalism with healthy inter-party competition. While we may not be used to having a bounty of options for statewide and federal races, it's not a bad thing.

Factionalism comes later, if the folks who chose the losing side are so bitter about it that they can't let go for the good of the party.

For some, that's all they know, and we can't expect them to change. However we can grow to the point where the factionalists are such a small part of the center-right scene that they go unnoticed.

I'd suggest that, with regard to factionalism, Gio has his cause and effect backwards. The reason the folks on the losing side of "intra-party competition" are "so bitter that they can't let go" is that they feel as if they're not really competing on an equal footing within the party because a particular faction favors its own. It's a similar principle to the genius of democracy: People won't pursue civil war when they feel as if they've a reasonable chance of enacting changes through the democratic process, but when they feel that their opposition holds power for extra-democratic reasons, they'll resort to whatever strategies give them the advantage. (You may control the money and infrastructure, but we've got the numbers.)

I'm not saying this is what's going on, but it wouldn't be entirely unreasonable for conservative Republicans in RI to suspect that the GOP power brokers (such as they are) were content to let John Loughlin run for Congress when victory seemed unlikely. But he did surprisingly well, and Democrat David Cicilline is surprisingly weak, so the leading faction has brought forward one of its own, even though it might be more appropriate, from the perspective of the party's overall strategy, for him to run for Senate.

Again, I'm not putting that forward as my interpretation of current events, but noting that it's a likely suspicion that can fester depending how things progress rhetorically and politically.

January 29, 2011

What Difference Does the Tool and Placement Make?

Justin Katz

Just about everybody on all sides of the abortion issue will agree that a "house of horrors" condition of a medical facility is unacceptable, but I've yet to hear articulated a rational reason that the murders with which this doctor is being charged are dramatically different from the services that all abortion doctors are paid to provide:

"[Kermit] Gosnell's approach, whenever possible, was to force full labor and delivery of premature infants on ill-informed women," the report says. "When you perform late-term 'abortions' by inducing labor, you get babies. Live, breathing, squirming babies. . . . Gosnell had a simple solution: he killed them . . . by sticking scissors into the back of the baby's neck and cutting the spinal cord."

According to the article, Gosnell performed about 1,000 abortions per year, not all by this method. Other methods, that other abortionists use, are not described — such as this one:

After sufficient dilation the surgical operation can commence. The woman is placed under general anesthesia or conscious sedation. The doctor, often guided by ultrasound, inserts grasping forceps through the woman's cervix and into the uterus to grab the fetus. The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed. A doctor may make 10 to 15 passes with the forceps to evacuate the fetus in its entirety, though sometimes removal is completed with fewer passes. Once the fetus has been evacuated, the placenta and any remaining fetal material are suctioned or scraped out of the uterus. The doctor examines the different parts to ensure the entire fetal body has been removed.

Frankly, the procedure being called "murder" sounds more humane to me. Those being torn piece by piece from the womb are, in fact, live, human, and squirming, whether or not anybody gets to look them in the eye before they die.

December 14, 2010

The Dark Tradeoff

Justin Katz

Nicholas Windsor offers an excellent summary of the pro-life position, particularly with regard to the continuing moral urgency to acknowledge and address the horror of abortion (available here, as well):

There are consciences in Europe, it must be stressed, that glow white-hot for justice and strive continuously for this darkest fact of our public life to appear in public debate as clearly as it does across the Atlantic in the United States. For most of our contemporaries, however, this is a matter that impinges little. The effectiveness of determined campaigns of propaganda at the outset to harden consciences, and gradually to enforce a conformism that fears to question what is said to be a settled issue, has worked wonderfully well.

And this enforcement of a new status quo succeeds so well due, surely, to benefits enjoyed as a result—benefits of an order that make acceptable even the killing of innocents, by their protectors, on a scale that freezes the imagination. How much then must depend on its remaining so, remaining beyond question? This is the nub of that ideological word choice. So much else can be chosen in a given life if the option to dispose of unwanted children is dependably available. So many intoxicating freedoms are newly established, if only abortion is never again denied to women and to men.

Windsor notes that, beyond the direct cost to the women who abort their children, is the cost to a society as it tries to "value its own distinctive culture, when it has placed this fearful act at its center" — namely "the wish not to be bound by a pregnancy unless it is fully and freely chosen and which, outside of that parameter, is declared, by fiat, to be null and void."

The travesty of abortion infects Western culture much more thoroughly than as a discrete issue on a slate of controversies and disagreements. It goes right to questions of what is right and who we are as spiritual and corporeal beings.

November 9, 2010

An Early Choice of Direction

Justin Katz

Some folks take up a cause at a young age and astonish with their success. Such is the case with Lila Rose, who recently described her experience in an essay for First Things. Rose began her pro-life group, Live Action, at age fourteen. The source of her inspiration for the direction of the group remains horrifying to hear:

Our idea—to investigate the abortion industry at the ground level—wasn't new. In 2002 Mark Crutcher, of the pro-life group Life Dynamics, ran a study that surveyed over eight hundred Planned Parenthood clinics and National Abortion Federation affiliates. An actor posing as a thirteen-year-old girl impregnated by a much older man—a rapist—called the facilities. As Life Dynamics recorded these conversations, the group found that over 90 percent of the clinics promised to cover up the rape the girl had suffered and to provide her with an illegal abortion—a plan and procedure unreported to either police or parents. For reasons difficult for most people to fathom, the abortionists took it on themselves to perpetuate the vicious cycle of sexual abuse.

It is indeed "difficult to fathom" the mindset that makes such a benefit of abortion that helping to stop and prevent rapes must become secondary to allowing a child to be born. As Rose found, in her first investigation, rape isn't the only evil to become tolerable in the name of facilitating abortion:

By phone, James posed as a racist asking whether he could donate to Planned Parenthood for the abortion of a black baby. Like the racism that James acted out, the response to these proposed race-based donations was horrific. No Planned Parenthood employee hung up the phone. All agreed to accept the donation or find a way to do so, and some made understanding remarks about the racism or showed excitement about the race-based donation. In one conversation with a Planned Parenthood office in Idaho, when James said there were "way too many blacks," the development director laughed and said, "Understandable, understandable."

To me, the most disturbingly profound aspect of Live Action's finding isn't the line that Rose draws from current Planned Parenthood employees to the eugenics supported by its founder, Margaret Sanger, but the way in which a refusal to admit the clear truth about life's beginnings paints those of a pro-choice mindset into an intellectual corner. I've had women who had just explained their support for abortion as a matter of supporting women's rights and freedom — which they presented as their first principle — turn around and argue on behalf China's one-child policy. Similarly, "choice" rings peculiarly in the context of cultures that encourage the abortion of daughters, specifically; shouldn't women's primary right and freedom be to be born once conceived?

It's an interesting, sometimes frightening, dynamic in human thinking, and a constant reminder to be aware of cognitive dissonance in one's own positions.

September 24, 2010

Chris Christie: Conservative Hero, Necessary Solution

Justin Katz

He seems so astonishingly unique and determined, but the reality is that, if conservatives wish to move the country in the direction that we believe to be the right one, we're going to have to elect a lot more leaders like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

Part of Gov. Chris Christie's belt-tightening plan for New Jersey was the termination of $7.5 million in public money for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. But Democrats in the senate fought back, passing with a 30-10 majority a bill that reinstated the funding. That margin included several Republicans and was enough to be veto-proof. But when that veto actually came, Republicans wary of crossing Christie peeled off, and the measure failed 23-17.

Every government expenditure has a bought and sold constituency and some dressing that makes it seem critical to somebody, even when the funded action is the killing of unborn children. Throughout the last decade, we've seen the results of electing people for whom "compromising" somehow always leads to the growth and expansion of government.

August 1, 2010

The Long Conversion Toward Pro-Life

Justin Katz

For his issue-opening Public Square column in the most recent issue of First Things, editor Joseph Bottum takes on the perennial calls for Republicans to de-emphasize the pro-lifers in their midst. "There's a good-sized section of the conservative commenting classes that seems to blame the pro-lifers if the Republicans lose, and dismiss the pro-life vote if the Republicans win."

We should not accept a truce on abortion because the pro-life position is, in fact, winning. With horrifying slowness, yes, but each graduating class of young people is more opposed to abortion than the last, and in the long run the great task of persuasion and argument will prevail.

On the broad topic, I agree with Mr. Bottum's conclusion, but I do wonder whether he's adequately braced for the loss of momentum that may occur when the expanding pro-life contingent hits the containing walls of related issues for which abortion is a territorial boundary guard — sex ed, promiscuity, birth control, marriage, leftist women's liberation, and so on. It would be entirely plausible, mind you, to suggest that the clear moral calculus of the pro-life position will force cultural reevaluation of some of the assumptions that root in our natural lusts. But it will surely appear, at points, as if pro-life victory is a hopeless pursuit facing insurmountable opposition from people too heavily invested to change their minds.

The remedy for despair is to recall that ours is a project for generations and worth the work not because it's politically beneficial, but because it's right.

July 16, 2010

UPDATE: A Short-Lived Order Protecting Short-Lived Human Beings

Justin Katz

Remember that executive order that supposedly gave pro-life Democrats cover to vote for Obamacare? Oh well:

[House Republican Leader John] Boehner [of Ohio] and other Republicans point to reports that the Health and Human Services Department is giving Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new high-risk insurance pool that will cover any abortion that is legal in the state.

According to Boehner, the response of the Obama administration to inquiries has been not to respond. People may pretend otherwise, but I don't think anybody actually doubted this outcome. Hopefully, the current election cycle will prove that burying the truth in subtext will not avert consequences. Also hopefully, as I suggested this morning, a shift of power won't merely change the direction of the corruption.

On the matter of funding abortion, though, I remain concerned that recent jurisprudence out of Massachusetts, concerning same-sex marriages, there, may lead federal courts to invalidate the federal government's ability to place such strings and restrictions on the use of our money.


After this matter began to draw attention, the Department of Health and Human Services released the following statement:

As is the case with FEHB plans currently, and with the Affordable Care Act and the President's related Executive Order more generally, in Pennsylvania and in all other states abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.

Our policy is the same for both state and federally-run PCIP programs. We will reiterate this policy in guidance to those running the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan at both the state and federal levels. The contracts to operate the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan include a requirement to follow all federal laws and guidance.

Note, however, that this post had to do with a high risk insurance pool, not a PCIP. Perhaps it's an unnecessary distinction, but I'll believe it when I see the subsequent release. Note, also, that pro-abortion groups appear to believe that this statement changes things.

July 6, 2010

Not Imposing a Preference Against Killing

Justin Katz

I've liked a good deal of what I've read and heard from Republican Congressional Candidate William Clegg, so it's regrettable to find him taking the same horrible position as his primary competition (and Republican nominee) Mark Zaccaria. Here's Clegg:

While my own beliefs are pro-life, I do not believe that the government should be intervening in what should be a choice between a woman, her doctor, and God. I do not seek to impose my views on another in such a private area. I believe that we can best reduce the prevalence of abortion through awareness and appeals to conscience and that religion can take a prominent role in this effort. In line with my belief in the limits of government, I do not believe that federal funds should be used for abortions. I am also a proponent of parental consent where appropriate, as well as waiting periods. Last, I do not subscribe to the view that there is a Constitutional right to an abortion as originally set out by the plurality in Roe v. Wade, and continued in the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The name for this political position used to be "pro-choice," in direct opposition to "pro-life." I've contacted Clegg and his campaign for clarification, but having not heard back in a substantive way, I can only pose my questions here:

  • In what sense can one have "pro-life beliefs" and still believe that killing an unborn child is a legitimate "choice"? The determining belief of the pro-life side is that a human being at the earliest stages of development is indeed a human being, with a right to life.
  • What significance could there be to disagreeing with Roe v. Wade, et al., if one sees government proscriptions against abortion as an inappropriate imposition of a pro-life view? From that stance, does Congressman Clegg side with those who would undo Roe v. Wade or oppose them? The latter sounds more likely.

As with Zaccaria, one gets the distinct impression that, having determined to take an untenable position, Clegg attempts to season his pro-choice mush with a few kernels of conservative principles. The attempted message is that such candidates will be better than their pro-abortion opposition, but pro-lifers shouldn't expect any support from them.

For me, the politics are a secondary consideration. It's a tricky business predicting what candidates will do when they actually face the pressures and compromises of national policy battles. We therefore should weigh heavily their intellectual and philosophical coherency and look for indications of their approach to constructing their positions. As I've said before, the attempt to acknowledge reality and credit the unborn with being distinct human beings while still characterizing their killing as the choice of the mother is monstrous.

Even for all that, though, voters must choose candidates from among those available, making decisions within the context of an array of issues. The politics may be secondary, but sometimes they're all that's left.

April 30, 2010

Different Legislatures, Different Rules for Killing the Unborn (And Legislating)

Justin Katz

In Oklahoma, even a gubernatorial veto couldn't prevent the state legislature from making this law:

It requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion. The person who performs the ultrasound must describe the dimensions of the fetus, whether arms, legs and internal organs are visible and whether the physician can detect cardiac activity. He or she must also turn a screen depicting the images toward the woman so she can see them.

In Rhode Island, legislation that would merely require a twenty-four-hour waiting period, the conveyance of some specific information as to the woman's health, a generic statement of laws and assistance available for pregnancy and birth, and the availability of generic information about preborn children cannot break the "further study" leadership veto.

An witness of Wednesday's House Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare hearing tells me that Rep. Jon Brien (D., Woonsocket) made a motion, early in the meeting, to hold all bills for further study, with the expectation that the motion would fail, and the committee would actually have to vote on each bill. According to my source, the pro-life committee members held the majority, at that time, by five to four.

Mumbling something about members who weren't present, Chairman Joe McNamara (D., Cranston, Warwick) wouldn't recognize the motion, and during the ensuing procedural discussion, three left-wing committee members finally made their appearance. McNamara "entertained a motion" to hold all bills for further study, and it passed seven to five: McNamara, Diaz, Hearn, Slater, Ferri and Ruggiero, for, Brien, MacBeth, Azzinaro, Baldelli-Hunt, and Wasylyk, against.

March 31, 2010

The Process of Forcing Popular Will on the People

Justin Katz

The March issue of First Things was an anniversary issue reprinting various pieces from past iterations, and a 1994 article by Russell Hittinger reconsidering the state of the political battlefield prior to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision sheds some light on the process of progressives implementation of policies with which the American people have their doubts (to put it mildly), first with contraceptives:

Garrow makes it clear that the "reproductive rights" movement won its victories in the federal courts, not in the legislatures. Interestingly, in the first Supreme Court case dealing with contraception, Poe v. Ullman (1961), Justice Felix Frankfurter was so astonished by the conservative legislative history that he asked, at oral argument, whether some "outside authoritarian power" had coerced the Connecticut legislature. Even after the Court struck down the Connecticut statute in1965, other states adamantly retained various kinds of anti-contraceptive statutes. The Supreme Court ripped these out of the states, one by one, until they finally managed to invalidate New York's law against the sale of contraceptives to minors in 1977. Even in the middle of the sexual revolution, states did not willingly relinquish their authority to exercise moral police powers in this matter.

Then with abortion and euthanasia:

For the historical record, it should be remembered that on the eve of the federally compelled abortion "right" the citizens of Michigan voted overwhelmingly against it; and let the historical record show that twenty-one years later, on the eve of a federally mandated "right" to physician-assisted euthanasia, the citizens of Washington voted it down. The idea that the federal courts have merely facilitated the social and political agenda of the people is a myth. The idea that the issues of abortion, euthanasia, and homosexuality are politically unmanageable, and must therefore be reserved for sub-political "cultural" discourse, is a myth. Regrettably, the pundits continue to overlook the most obvious and historically consistent datum: namely, the abrogation of the people's legislative judgment by federal courts. Before we condemn the people for their moral decline and insensitivity, the judicial violation of the political order must be fully considered.

We're seeing a repeat of the process with same-sex marriage. The left initiates a forceful push for its policies across the country, and voters mostly reject the ideas. But the extent to which advocates repeat their call (especially given their permeation of media industries) keeps the issue alive, with the frequency of mentions giving judges a false cover of popular support. Their declarations of "inevitability" are only accurate to the extent that we continue to allow them to take away our right to self governance.

March 13, 2010

The Small, Still Foot of a Nothing

Justin Katz

Any attempt to mitigate this scene, from an Economist article, is necessarily founded in either evil or self-delusion:

XINRAN XUE, a Chinese writer, describes visiting a peasant family in the Yimeng area of Shandong province. The wife was giving birth. "We had scarcely sat down in the kitchen", she writes, "when we heard a moan of pain from the bedroom next door...The cries from the inner room grew louder—and abruptly stopped. There was a low sob, and then a man's gruff voice said accusingly: 'Useless thing!'

"Suddenly, I thought I heard a slight movement in the slops pail behind me," Miss Xinran remembers. "To my absolute horror, I saw a tiny foot poking out of the pail. The midwife must have dropped that tiny baby alive into the slops pail! I nearly threw myself at it, but the two policemen [who had accompanied me] held my shoulders in a firm grip. 'Don't move, you can't save it, it's too late.'

"'But that's...murder...and you're the police!' The little foot was still now. The policemen held on to me for a few more minutes. 'Doing a baby girl is not a big thing around here,' [an] older woman said comfortingly. 'That's a living child,' I said in a shaking voice, pointing at the slops pail. 'It's not a child,' she corrected me. 'It's a girl baby, and we can't keep it. Around these parts, you can't get by without a son. Girl babies don't count.'"

In the final analysis, that's abortion: a dead child in a bucket who "doesn't count." The reason can be the mother's career ambitions. The parents' dislike of each other. Or even the inconvenient season during which the pregnancy would ensue. Society cannot carve out an exception to proscriptions of murder for parents to kill their children without moral and practical consequences.

In the case of China, one such consequence is an imbalanced society that Western liberals would despise were it not a sacrifice on the altar of abortion:

The number is based on the sexual discrepancy among people aged 19 and below. According to [Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)], China in 2020 will have 30m-40m more men of this age than young women. For comparison, there are 23m boys below the age of 20 in Germany, France and Britain combined and around 40m American boys and young men. So within ten years, China faces the prospect of having the equivalent of the whole young male population of America, or almost twice that of Europe’s three largest countries, with little prospect of marriage, untethered to a home of their own and without the stake in society that marriage and children provide.

Whether one seeks to derive morality from Christian ethics or a vague sense of a natural order, human beings must be treated as ends in themselves if we're to avoid the ostensibly unintended consequences that occur when individualist and utilitarian calculations claim dominance over the right to life itself.

March 6, 2010

A Piling of Sin

Justin Katz

Sandra Lavin, writing about coming to grips with having an abortion, makes an important point:

If I had to say why I had an abortion it would all begin with the decision to begin that illicit relationship and then all of the nets of sin that suffocate you without you even knowing it. One sin leads to another leads to another until you no longer even recognize yourself. Your conscience is deadened.

One can withdraw the religious terminology without losing the essential insight. Sin requires compounding sin, all mutually reinforcing each other. One could also say that error, self-deception, or whatever, does the same.

The consequence also translates into both religious and secular terms: The more one invests in a particular sin, error, or self-deception, the more difficult it becomes to reassess. In the case of abortion, the weight upon a woman's decision to kill her own child must be terrifying, giving her huge incentive to push doubts away. Similarly, those who've assisted or even generally supported the broad legality of abortion can't but see the possibility that they're wrong as the possibility of a monumental indictment.

January 24, 2010

Victory Is Matter of Cultural Context

Justin Katz

Among the magnificent effects of the Internet is that people in dramatically different cultural environments can interact in real time, offering proclamations of principle that may or may not require adjustment. Mark Shea, for example, expresses what is likely a common gripe among pro-lifers across the country about local reactions to the Scott Brown victory:

Sure it's a "prolife victory" in that, if all goes according to plan, Brown torpedos the Abortion Care behemoth due, not to his prolife convictions (he has none) but to his economic theories. But so what? At the end of the day you now have a pro-abortion *and* pro-torture politician extolled to the prolife faithful as the guy you have to support or the baby gets it and you have the prolifers, once again, complying--cheerfully and even enthusiastically! And all just in time for Roe v. Wade Day.The GOP organ grinder plays the tune and laughs. The little prolife monkey claps his cymbals and hope he gets thrown a treat. And the tune plays on.

I'll concede that the current reality is frustrating for those who find it to be an atrocity that our nation kills more than a million unborn children every year. Even just to type that makes me squeamish. I'll also admit that, when I heard a woman on the radio explaining her vote for Brown on the grounds that "he's pro-life," I winced.

However, as I suggested in Mark's comment section, the idea that the GOP primaries should have been more contentious so that the state's Republican Senator would be more pro-life is laughable... or at least was laughable until about two weeks ago. The idea that a Republican could win — a candidate well to the right on abortion from just about every politician, media outlet, and non-religious cultural institution in the region — was inconceivable. Put another way, a Republican's losing the senatorial race because he failed to get the pro-life vote would have been indistinguishable from a Republican losing the race with the pro-life vote, which is what everybody expected until very, very recently. In order for politicians to have something to lose by not garnering our votes, they have to have something to lose in the first place. Now Northeast Republicans do, even if it's mainly momentum, for the time being.

Given context and a call to charitable treatment of others, a sense among local conservatives of "we did it" is to be permitted, and even a little excess of enthusiasm, within the week after the election, is to be forgiven. Standing across the country in purity and mocking us as wind-up monkeys is... let's just say... not very helpful.

How we proceed — once the euphoria of having an unexpected effect subsides — is the thing. We, first, must ensure that those who would pull the Republican Party to the left understand that we haven't made a deal with the Devil; we've made a political calculation that can be re-figured without compunction. We, second, must hold our newly minted political superstar's feet to the fire, convincing him not only of our political significance, but also of the rightness of our cause.

January 23, 2010

"Mugged By Ultrasound"

Marc Comtois

A new poll finds that "56% of all Americans and 58% of those 18-29 years old say abortion ‘morally wrong’."

“Millennials” (those 18-29) consider abortion to be “morally wrong” even more (58%) than Baby Boomers (those 45-64) (51%). Generation X (those 30-44) are similar to Millennials (60% see abortion as “morally wrong”). More than 6 in 10 of the Greatest Generation (those 65+) feel the same....

Advances in technology, show clearly – and ever more clearly – that an unborn child is completely a human being. That, coupled with the large number of Americans who know one of the many people who has been negatively affected by abortion are certainly two of the reasons that Americans are increasingly uncomfortable with Roe v. Wade’s legacy of abortion, and with abortion generally. The majority of Americans now understand that abortion has consequences, and that those consequences are not good.

Indeed, as this Weekly Standard piece, Mugged by Ultrasound, explains (h/t):
...advances in ultrasound imaging and abortion procedures have forced providers ever closer to the nub of their work. Especially in abortions performed far enough along in gestation that the fetus is recognizably a tiny baby, this intimacy exacts an emotional toll, stirring sentiments for which doctors, nurses, and aides are sometimes unprepared. Most apparently have managed to reconcile their belief in the right to abortion with their revulsion at dying and dead fetuses, but a noteworthy number have found the conflict unbearable and have defected to the pro-life cause.

[Some] converts were driven into the pro-life movement by advances in ultrasound technology. The most recent example is Abby Johnson, the former director of Dallas-area Planned Parenthood. After watching, via ultrasound, an embryo “crumple” as it was suctioned out of its mother’s womb, Johnson reported a “conversion in my heart.” Likewise, Joan Appleton was the head nurse at a large abortion facility in Falls Church, Virginia, and a NOW activist. Appleton performed thousands of abortions with aplomb until a single ultrasound-assisted abortion rattled her. As Appleton remembers, “I was watching the screen. I saw the baby pull away. I saw the baby open his mouth. .  .  . After the procedure I was shaking, literally.”

Others were converted after being traumitized by having to handle and dispose of "fetal remains"...baby parts (the Standard piece includes some graphic conversion accounts). I wonder if this increasing disapproval of abortion helps explain the apparent rise in teen pregnancies, as written about by Dr. Gregory Fritz on today's ProJo op-ed page (Dr. Fritz does not bring up abortion):
Perhaps the fear of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS has faded as a deterrent to unprotected sex. The increase in the number of Latinos in the U.S., who now have the highest rate of teen pregnancy of any group in the country, may provide a demographic answer. Alternatively, the rising rate of pregnancy among adolescents may be part of a broader societal trend, since birth rates have also increased among women in every age group and among older, unmarried women. It’s even been suggested that the change represents “prevention-fatigue” associated with the ubiquity of prevention programs.

In any case, if the end of the decline in the teenage-pregnancy rate is in fact a real pattern, we need to address it head on. Delaying pregnancy is critically important for improving the life opportunities for both teenage girls and their babies.

I think that's something everyone can agree on. Preventing teen pregnancy by teaching abstinence (it works every time), contraception in a responsible (not promotional) way and showing how screwed up your life will become if you cross over into babymommahood are essential.

January 10, 2010

Devotion to Truth and to Evil

Justin Katz

Joseph Bottum places two anecdotes side by side:

It's hard to keep up the illusion of abortion as a positive good when the ugly reality of it is always lurking just behind the abstract idea. The wall of illusion came crashing down for Abby Johnson when, after working for Planned Parenthood in Texas for eight years, she witnessed an actual abortion on ultrasound. In a television interview, she explained, "It was actually an ultrasound-guided abortion procedure. . . . And my job was to hold the ultrasound probe on this woman's abdomen so that the physician could actually see the uterus on the ultrasound screen. And when I looked at the screen, I saw a baby. . . . I saw a full side profile. So I saw face to feet. . . . I saw the probe going into the woman’s uterus. And at that moment, I saw the baby moving and trying to get away from the probe. . . . And I thought, "It's fighting for its life. . . . It's life, I mean, it's alive."

Ms. Johnson quit her job and joined a pro-life organization after what she'd witnessed. Next up is another professional in the abortion industry:

... a doctor in the Midwest who wrote about her own moment of disillusionment. It came as she performed an abortion on a woman eighteen weeks pregnant while she herself was eighteen weeks pregnant. "I felt a kick—a fluttery 'thump, thump' in my own uterus. It was one of the first times I felt fetal movement. There was a leg and foot in my forceps, and a 'thump, thump' in my abdomen. Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes—without me—meaning my conscious brain—even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling—a brutally visceral response—heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics."

The doctor soldiered on, though. and is struggling to overcome these inconvenient pangs of conscience. Training and politics demand that she continues to slaughter babies, so her instinctive understanding of the evil of the act must be suppressed.

There are, of course, historical comparisons that could be made, but people don't like to hear them.

December 10, 2009

Caprio on Abortion

Justin Katz

Not to pick on gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio, but he's been providing a lot of material, lately, such as the following, from Ed Fitzpatrick's recent column about the politician's experience as an unwed teenage father:

Did that experience inform his views on abortion? "I'm pro-choice because of all the experiences I've had in my life and the fact that I believe the individual has the right to make the decision," he said. "Each person can, in my view, be free to make their own choice. I know what choice I made and my girlfriend made, and others are free to make whatever choice they want to make."

One wonders what other circumstances Mr. Caprio believes give people the right to choose to kill. A crying newborn, perhaps? An ailing parent currently unconscious in a hospital bed? The Roman Catholic Church, to which he and I are both adherents, is unequivocal in its conclusion that life begins at conception and ends at natural death — full life, with no adjustments for "personhood" as a presumed state of being or socio-legal construct — and that the life of every human being ought to be protected. Caprio is free to take the position that his faith is a private matter, but if he wishes to be governor, he'll need to persuade Rhode Islanders that his judgment is sound, and reconciling his stated religious foundation with a right to kill is certainly relevant.

It's wonderful that Frank chose life when he had a direct role in making the decision, but how can he possibly look at his daughter through the eyes of a Catholic believer and still insist that his teenage girlfriend should have had the right to snuff out the life in her control for no reason but the inconvenience of motherhood?

December 3, 2009

Innocent Human Beings We Can Kill

Justin Katz

There it is again — that incredible, morally repugnant admission that a human life begins at conception but need not include a right for that life to continue along its natural course. From a National Review interview with Charles Krauthammer by Jay Nordlinger:

Readers may want to know Krauthammer's position on abortion--it is slightly complicated. The first thing to say is that he is for legal abortion. But other things follow. "Life begins at conception," he says, "there is no doubt about that." That is simply "a biological truth." But "personhood," in his view, is something else: a social construct and a legal category. And society has to determine, in some fashion, when the fetus is imbued with this "personhood." "I would outlaw all third-trimester abortions," continues Krauthammer. "I've seen abortions, as a medical student, and they are quite horrible. I detest them at any level, and I would outlaw them in the third trimester. That really is a human being, that really is murder--and partial-birth abortion is barbarism." In the middle stage of pregnancy, abortion is a "grave moral sin," Krauthammer believes, and "you should not do it lightly" and "you should feel bad about it." But he would not outlaw abortions at this stage. And he has no qualms whatever about abortion in the early stage.

"Personhood," plainly put, is merely a word for "people we can't kill on a whim." Particularly vexing is the fact that Krauthammer is ethnically Jewish and an advocate for a strong defense of Israel. If "personhood" is merely a "social construct and legal category," it's difficult to see how one can condemn the Nazis for anything more than disagreeing with us about that construct and that category. If "qualms" are the decisive factor for whether it's acceptable to kill unborn children, then it is a matter of life and death for everybody that human beings can be made to acclimate to just about any idea.


A commenter asks whether I'm serious. Absolutely. This is a matter of plain, incontrovertible logic.

Krauthammer posits a biological classification of "human being." He then posits an overlapping social and legal classification of "person." The critical consequence of labeling a human being a "non-person" is that he or she may be killed for the flimsiest of reasons, and the main determinant of whether the label applies is the "qualms" of the society about killing him or her.

Simply put, a sufficient portion of Nazi German society lacked qualms about killing Jews (and others) to remove their right to life. There's some distinction, I suppose, in the fact that, in Germany, the state was empowered to kill those in non-person groups, while in the United States, mothers are empowered to hire doctors to kill their own non-person children. But once you're within the range of killing human beings for flimsy reasons, the big-government adjustment doesn't offer much mitigation, in my view.

November 24, 2009

The Banality of the Separation of Church and State "Argument", vis-à-vis Bishop Tobin and Congressman Kennedy

Carroll Andrew Morse

Four points, on the continuing discussion spurred by Congressman Patrick Kennedy's statement that a true pro-life position requires the Catholic Church to support a healthcare plan that includes public funding for abortions:

  1. Cribbing a large dose of Robert George's exposition on philosophy and theology (Backfill: By which I mean I'm doing some cribbing from Robert George, not that the Church is -- the Church relies on sources more like St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, etc.), the Catholic Church recognizes a distinction between its teachings which are rooted in natural law, i.e. those derived from the observation and rational consideration of God's creation, and those which are rooted in divine revelation. The Church should never advocate writing matters of divine revelation into secular law, but in matters of natural law, such as the right of all persons to the equal protection of man-made law, the Church has as much right to speak out as anyone. And as the only power possessed by the Church is the persuasive power to speak out -- a power that depends heavily on the clarity and consistency of the ideas being communicated -- the Church has not only the right, but the duty to oppose the spread and the codification into law of ideas that it believes to be contrary to natural law and to be potential sources of harm.
  2. We know now that contentious relationship between Bishop Thomas Tobin and Congressman Patrick Kennedy on life-issues dates back to at least 2007. We also know that Bishop Tobin had nothing to say in public about this dispute, until last month, after Congressman Kennedy stated that the Catholic Church's pro-life position required support for a healthcare plan that includes government-funded abortions. To this statement, Bishop Tobin was compelled to respond, to stop an earthly prince from using his power and position to spread a poorly-thought out and destructive idea: that denying the protection of law to innocent lives is not only acceptable, but can be required, when it furthers a certain political agenda. Allowed to spread unchallenged, this idea can have dire consequences for individuals and society.
  3. Congressman Kennedy obviously is not the first Catholic office holder to support abortion. In 1983, in a speech delivered at Notre Dame University, New York Governor Mario Cuomo offered what many consider to be the pinnacle of the "personally opposed but publicly in favor" position on abortion. Some of Cuomo's arguments are severely lacking, for example, where he argues that abortion should remain legal because it offers people the opportunity to do the right thing of their own free will. Of course if you were to suggest repealing other laws consistent with Catholic social teaching, for example minimum-wage laws, I doubt there would be much support from Cuomo-thinking liberals to be found on the basis of the opportunity it would provide for people to choose a course of action without interference from the state. And he never seriously addresses the issue of the duty of government officials to guarantee that all persons are treated with an equal right to life under the law.

    But overall argument aside, Governor Cuomo was very clearly willing to state that the act of abortion was wrong…

    For me, life or fetal life in the womb should be protected, even if five of nine Justices of the Supreme Court and my neighbor disagree with me. A fetus is different from an appendix or a set of tonsils. At the very least, even if the argument is made by some scientists or some theologians that in the early stages of fetal development we can't discern human life, the full potential of human life is indisputably there. That – to my less subtle mind – by itself should demand respect, caution, indeed…reverence.
    Congressman Kennedy's stated position, whether he understands what he has said or not, tramples upon this idea. His statement that a true pro-life position requires supporting an expansion of the government's role in providing abortions is an argument that everyone must disregard whatever personal respect, caution and reverence for life they believe in to help to advance the agenda that he supports. Declaring that people should ignore their personal beliefs on serious moral issues, in support of a particular political agenda, is a long distance away from the position that Governor Cuomo's words were attempting to stake out.
  4. Finally, since when does "separation of church and state" mean that religious figures can express public opinions on matters of their religion only when they agree with secular governing authorities?!?!

November 22, 2009

Diocesan Priests Ordered to Deny Communion? Congressman Kennedy Says Yes, Bishop Tobin Says No.

Carroll Andrew Morse

Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin and Rhode Island First District Congressman Kennedy are offering two different versions of the latest consequences resulting from Congressman Kennedy's public statement that a true pro-life position requires the Catholic Church to support a healthcare plan that includes public funding for abortions (h/t commenter "Tim", who pointed to this Ray Henry AP story at Boston.com, which led back to the John E. Mulligan original in the Projo)…

Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has forbidden Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy to receive the Roman Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion because of his advocacy of abortion rights, the Rhode Island Democrat said Friday.

“The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion,” Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

Kennedy said the bishop had explained the penalty by telling him “that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official,” particularly on abortion. He declined to say when or how Bishop Tobin told him not to take the sacrament. And he declined to say whether he has obeyed the bishop’s injunction.

Bishop Tobin, through a spokesman, declined to address the question of whether he had told Kennedy not to receive Communion. But the bishop’s office moved quickly to cast doubt on Kennedy’s related assertion about instructions to the priests of Rhode Island.

“Bishop Tobin has never addressed matters relative to public officials receiving Holy Communion with pastors of the diocese,” spokesman Michael K. Guilfoyle said in an e-mailed statement.

As Congressman Kennedy is the only source making public the details of what the Bishop obviously considers to be a personal conversation, there is a reasonable possibility that what Bishop said is not being relayed accurately, not because of intentional dishonesty, but because the original message was not fully understood.


According to a new AP story from Ray Henry, Bishop Tobin's expression of concern regarding Congressman Kennedy's public positions conflicting with Church teaching predate the October, 2009 CNS video which brought the disagreement into the public light...

The Roman Catholic bishop of Rhode Island said Sunday that he asked Rep. Patrick Kennedy in a 2007 letter to stop receiving Communion, the central sacrament of the church, because of the congressman's public stance on moral issues.

Bishop Thomas Tobin divulged details of his confidential exchange with Kennedy after the Democratic lawmaker told The Providence Journal in a story published Sunday that Tobin had instructed him not to receive Communion. The two men have clashed repeatedly in the past few weeks over abortion.

Kennedy did not say where or how he received those instructions. He declined to say whether he has obeyed the bishop's request...

Tobin urged Kennedy not to receive communion in a February 2007 letter, a portion of which was released publicly by Tobin's office Sunday.

"In light of the Church's clear teaching, and your consistent actions, therefore, I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so," Tobin wrote.

November 7, 2009

No Coverage of Abortions Amendment to be Offered, in an Attmept to Get a Healthcare Bill Passed Today

Carroll Andrew Morse

Multiple sources are reporting that, in order to try to get the US House of Representatives to pass a Democratic version of healthcare reform today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has agreed to a floor vote on an amendment that would prohibit either a public-option insurance plan or any plan eligible for a government subsidy from covering abortions. Here's the New York Times' take…

[Congressman Bart Stupak’s] amendment would bar any insurance plan that is purchased with government subsidies and the new public plan from covering abortion. Other insurance plans, approved by the government for sale through new exchanges or marketplaces, would be allowed to cover abortion provided they did not accept federal money. Separately, people who purchase subsidized insurance, could buy separate coverage, with their own money, for abortions.
Also of particular local interest, the Politico website is reporting that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a letter stating that they believe the Stupak amendment provides enough of a restriction on the use of public money for abortions to enable them to support an overall healthcare bill.

November 6, 2009

Absolutes Only Halt Debate When They Meet with Intransigence

Justin Katz

I'm straining for a silver lining, to be sure, but Congressman Patrick Kennedy does offer the useful service, from time to time, of stating rhetoric that is sufficiently blunt to expose the error underneath. With reference to the fight he picked with the Catholic Church:

Kennedy also said that no group "is getting everything it wants" in the medical overhaul. The church "has every right to promote its position," he said, but if a group "seeks to impose absolutes on the debate, we are left standing idle instead of moving our nation forward."

That's only the case if those determining the course of the issue are intransigent in the face of the absolute. Every party to a negotiation has a bottom line that it will not cross; the process moves forward by determining the proximity to that line that other parties find tolerable.

This is even true of folks like me, whose bottom line is that the government should not be a significant force in the healthcare system. The way forward would be to figure out my determination of "significance" and explore alternate methods of achieving hoped-for ends. (That assumes, of course, that the hoped-for end isn't in actuality government ownership of the healthcare system, which is probably the case for more than a few healthcare "reform" advocates.)

A Biological Ghetto

Justin Katz

In the June/July issue of First Things, Mary Eberstadt suggested commonality between pro-lifers and vegetarians that (she thinks) justifies closer affiliation. Think what you may about the thesis, on which I'm not sold, a subsequent letter from a gentleman named Gerald Lame brings us back to dualism:

So Eberstadt's "moral traditionalists" are really animist-vitalists. And the news these pro-lifers have not yet heard, trapped as many are in their scholastic ghetto, is that the scientific theory of vitalism was found in the twentieth century to be false. The entire science of molecular biology is a testament to this fact. It turns out that there is no life principle. Life is a set of properties belonging to a suitably organized physical organism. These properties are the same for humans and nonhumans, for animals and plants. What distinguishes us is not some mysterious entity called human life. It is the structures of our bodies, especially our brains, and what they do. So a person is not a life. Animism is false. The mere fact that an embryo is alive does not mean that the person who might later arise from it is in any sense present. Life is not a proper object of sympathy.

He provides insufficient evidence to confidently declare him guilty of the practice, but Lame appears to be of the sort who extrapolate from mechanical understanding inappropriate philosophical lessons. He relies on "personhood" as something outside of biology and "life" but doggedly stops short of the next step into mire. If "life is a set of properties belonging to a suitably organized physical organism," then one could define "personhood" as the combination of those properties with a genetically unique organism. Lame must inevitably fall back to the old argument about consciousness.

The pro-life argument, especially in a theological milieu, is that biological life and spiritual personhood are inextricably linked. Not unlike an aborigine believing that a photograph steals the soul, Lame implies that describing the biology negates the person. Accuse whomever he may of intellectual ghettoism, the track in which his argument lies is well traveled and fraught with moral pitfalls.

For example, in a previous paragraph, he describes the biological process of pain and notes that young fetuses are incapable of feeling it. But if opposition to killing a human organism is essentially a question of suffering, then inducing euphoria prior to ceasing the flow of impulses that animate a biological construct in the form of a human being would alleviate "moral intuitions" that even a person is "a proper object of sympathy."

November 3, 2009

Error and Redundancy

Justin Katz

Congressional United Church Pastor Eugene Dyszlewski took to the Projo letters section, on Sunday, to attack Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin for his criticism of supposedly Roman Catholic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who had attacked the Catholic Bishops for continuing to oppose abortion funding within healthcare legislation. Writes Dyszlewski:

The congressman poses a legitimate question about how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social-justice issue of our time. It remains to be seen what specific language in what bill raises the abortion concern. Federal law already includes a ban on abortion financing; demanding redundant legislative language in the bill under the threat of opposition seems oddly unnecessary.

It would be preferable if religious leaders were less prone to logical error and the promotion of misinformation. For illustration of the first count, imagine a "comprehensive healthcare bill" that would cover all those millions of uninsured Americans (or non-Americans, as the case may be), but that had a provision for the execution of Protestant ministers. Would it be inexplicable opposition to "the biggest social-justice issue of our time" to require the removal of that provision as a prerequisite for supporting the bill? The reverend is merely trading in deceptive political rhetoric.

On the second count, Dyszlewski is astonishingly strident about the redundancy of the language for which pro-lifers are calling. At best, it appears that the only real question is the mechanism by which federal dollars would flow to abortion providers. If Dyszlewski is referring to the Hyde Amendment, he's simply wrong. That annual appropriations rider applies only to the Health and Human Services appropriation, from which healthcare legislation would have distinct revenue. The upshot is that unique legislation does, in fact, require a targeted ban.

If Rev. Dyslewski believes that financing the killing of unborn children is a small price to pay for a bill that will ensure the erosion of our healthcare system, then it would be more honest of him to come out and say as much. In the meantime, I'd caution him against making common cause with the likes of Stephan Brigidi, of Bristol, who used the same space a couple of days previous to express his zealotry for banning religious leaders and their beliefs from the public square. "For far too long," writes Brigidi, "this interference has gone unchallenged, such as the reciting of rosaries and prayers under the State House rotunda to oppose certain legislation."

There's a reason the "right" to abortion rises up in tandem with an urge to restrict rights of religion and free speech, and religious folk would do well to contemplate it.

October 27, 2009

Did You Know That the Archbishop of New York Has a Blog…

Carroll Andrew Morse

…and that he’s not happy with Rhode Island First District Congressman Patrick Kennedy

Over this past weekend, several people mentioned to me Representative Patrick Kennedy’s blast at bishops for allegedly dividing the nation on the issue of healthcare….His remarks were sad, uncalled-for, and inaccurate.

The Catholic community in the United States hardly needs to be lectured to about just healthcare. We’ve been energetically into it for centuries. And we bishops have been advocating for universal healthcare for a long, long time.

All we ask is that it be just that -- universal -- meaning that it includes the helpless baby in the womb, the immigrant, and grandma in a hospice, and that it protects a healthcare provider’s right to follow his/her own conscience.

October 23, 2009

Congressman Kennedy Would Prefer Less Dissent from the Catholic Church on Abortion and Healthcare

Carroll Andrew Morse

CNS News has posted a video of an interview with Rhode Island First District Congressman Patrick Kennedy, where he says that the Catholic Church's opposition to including funding for abortion in healthcare reform plans "is an absolute red herring" that does nothing but "fan the flames of dissent and discord".

You have to start to wonder, is there any time ever that Congressman Kennedy believes that someone can reasonably dissent from his positions?

October 10, 2009

The Peremptory Definition of a Child

Justin Katz

It's a delicate story, but beyond the strength of Matthew Milliner's witness is a telling anecdote. Milliner's unborn child has died in the womb:

The next day our doctor called in a rushed tone, and said something must quickly be done. We were to go to our local "Women's Center" for a procedure. This did not appeal to me, but my wife was in danger. I called the clinic.

"I need the remains of this child to be treated with respect," I said. "We've never had that request before," the receptionist replied. "Let me check with my supervisor." After a wait, the receptionist returned with the news that this would not be possible, as "it" was "medical waste."

Through a family connection, Milliner and his wife found a clinic that treated the "it" as what they believed it to be (what it was): their child. In a democratic society, such belief is a manifest threat to an industry that reaps its revenue in millions of tiny corpses. Try as we might, public policy will not rest on absolute relativism when it comes to life and death.

My wife held our baby, a tiny pietà. We both mourned and prayed.

The nurses took the footprints of tiny feet. They even dressed Clement in an outfit and took a picture, wrote out a birth card. The undertaker came and handled the body with a reverence of movement that ministered more than ten chaplains' prayers. We buried him in a family plot, where we told the story of how his life began. He has parents and grandparents who love him; nurses and an undertaker who cared for him in his short life.

Either this is absurd sentimentality or just and appropriate acceptance of and mourning for a life lost. A being worthy of the latter has an innate right not to be killed intentionally, especially for little cause.

October 8, 2009

How About Memory; Does That Bestow Personhood?

Justin Katz

Turning, again, to Joseph Bottum, we find this bit of information... just so's you know:

Researchers have learned that unborn babies at thirty-weeks gestation are forming short-term memories. By the time unborn children reach thirty-four weeks in development, they are "able to store information and retrieve it four weeks later."...

The "unless" to that finding would be unspeakable if a handful of judges hadn't written it into the law.


In response to the stimuli of comment section chastisements, I found more-detailed information on the study referenced in the above paragraph. I should have done so, before, but being busy, and mainly intending to enter into the discussion on a philosophical level, I convinced myself that the additional step wasn't necessary.

Consider that the core distinction in the comments was between "memory" and "habituation." Drawing the line down the rough center of the abortion debate and throwing those words into the mix, you'll likely find that one side takes "habituation" to mean that the fetus reacted to a repeated stimulation, while the other takes it to mean that the fetus remembered its reaction to the repeated stimulus and the subsequent outcomes.

In a debate about whether a fetus — right up to the moment of total extrication from the whom — is a human being, or even just a distinct living being worthy of a basic presumption of a right not to be killed, the semantic difference between "memory" and "habituation" is not likely to spur revelations. The skeptics would, as an a priori matter, require evidence of a sort known to be impossible (at least for the present). We cannot, for example, ask an in utero child to point to a picture that matches a card displayed ten minutes earlier.

Putting aside the fact that the title of the study appears to be "Aspects of Fetal Learning and Memory," I'll concede a change to my initial statement to read that "by the time unborn children reach thirty-four weeks in development, they are" able to recall a learned response to stimuli, unless they have been cut into pieces or had their brains sucked out of their skulls in accord with their mothers' "choice."

September 13, 2009

Psychopaths and Public Debate

Justin Katz

The horrible story of senseless killings in Owosso, Michigan, clarifies social dynamics that were the subject of debate after the murder of abortionist George Tiller:

Harlan Drake or "Hale" as he is known to friends is now charged with 2 counts of 1st Degree Premeditated Murder for the killings of James “Jim” Pouillon and Mike Fouss. Police say that Harlan Drake has told detectives that he had a list of 3 people in his head that he wanted to kill.

Two of the people on his "list" have died as a result but the third, James Howe, was not attacked. Since he has admitted to a third person on his hit list, it is resulting in a charge of unlawful intent with a firearm. There is no motive behind Mr. Howe or Mr. Fuoss, who owned the Fouss Gravel Company. There is only one known connection between Mike Fouss and Harlan Drake, his mother used to work for Mr. Fouss.

As to the reason for the killing of pro-life activist Jim Pouillon, Harlan Drake has told police that he was “offended” by Pouillon’s anti-abortion messages.

The bottom-line, substantive fact is that Drake is a psychopath who decided to kill three people for random, personal reasons. A consideration on the periphery of that fact is that the nation in which Drake lived is in the midst of a decades' long dispute about abortion in which those on the pro-abortion side often argue that the protests by those on the pro-life side are so egregious that their First Amendment rights ought to be denied. After George Tiller's death, they also tarred the entire pro-life movement as culpable.

But those who advocate for abortion laws are not responsible for the murder of Jim Pouillon. The possibility that psychopaths might follow threads of the argument is an inevitable price of a free and open society and does not negate the rights or stain the morality of those who engage in the debate, much less those on one particular side or the other.

September 9, 2009

When She Chooses the Scarlet Letter

Justin Katz

Oft overlooked, at the end of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, is Hester Prynne's resistance to calls for her to become a sort of feminist messiah. Having turned toward prudence, she suggests that the archetypal woman will not conquer through deviancy, but through fulfillment of her feminine character. A recent letter from Don Rittman of East Greenwich arguably touches on the theme from the other side of a poorly chosen history:

A society cannot destroy all the premises, both good and bad, that support a fundamental social norm and expect that norm to remain healthy. Responsible fatherhood had basically become such a norm. We still believe in it; we just don't believe in the things that made it possible. Neither, frankly, does Froma Harrop, not from what one sees in most of her "social-issue" writings, which are fraught with wishful thinking.

A recurring theme, in the story of mankind, is our, well, infelicity when making cultural decisions. When we presume to make calculations and radically alter policy in the name of expediency, we let our prized cattle out with the rats. By contrast, when we allow freedom to emerge as an outgrowth of intrinsic tradition, with its millennia of embedded experience, our society advances in all ways.

In the case of freeing women from the oppressive conditions into which they'd fallen as an overcompensation in humanity's learning curve, making them equal in the law and stopping there would have allowed the culture to work through the significance of the change. Instead, lunging forces within the culture pushed for too much, too quickly. Beyond freedom from a particular man or even a broader patriarchy, progressives sought to procure freedom — essentially — from being a woman.

And as happens when we dive to push tradition out the window in contravention of human nature, the consequence tends to be the opposite of what's intended. As Richard Stith writes in "Her Choice, Her Problem":

Throughout human history, children have been the consequence of natural sexual relations between men and women. Both sexes knew they were equally responsible for their children, and society had somehow to facilitate their upbringing. Even the advent of birth control did not fundamentally change this dynamic, for all forms of contraception are fallible.

Elective abortion changes everything. Abortion absolutely prevents the birth of a child. A woman’s choice for or against abortion breaks the causal link between conception and birth. It matters little what or who caused conception or whether the male insisted on having unprotected intercourse. It is she alone who finally decides whether the child comes into the world. She is the responsible one. For the first time in history, the father and the doctor and the health-insurance actuary can point a finger at her as the person who allowed an inconvenient human being to come into the world.

Predictably, the counter action will be more laws, infringing on more freedoms, and with more unimaginable, yet foreseeable, consequences.

August 14, 2009

Where the Progressive View of Life Becomes Very Narrow

Carroll Andrew Morse

There are many nits to be picked with David Scharfenberg's article in this week's Providence Phoenix anticipating the growth of progressive power in the Rhode Island legislature, but the one that really leapt out at me was near the end

Public opinion on abortion and same-sex marriage seem destined to catch up with the state's political class soon, particularly as a new generation of voters with live-and-let-live views comes to maturity at the ballot box.
Applying a "live-and-let-live" label specifically to the liberal/progressive view of abortion is a significant gaffe that moves the article away from the category of objective news analysis, as it advances a decidedly pro-abortion view that no human life (or maybe that no human life of consequence) is ended by an abortion procedure.

July 31, 2009

Abortion Insinuates Itself in a Leftward Government

Justin Katz

Barth Bracy, executive director of the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee, makes an interesting observation in the current issue of the Rhode Island Catholic:

In less than six months Obama has appointed dozens of extreme pro-abortion ideologues to key positions in government, nullified the Mexico City Policy, and authorized taxpayer funding for embryo-killing experimentation, for abortion-on-demand in the District of Columbia, and for the United Nations Population Fund, which supports China’s population-control program with its coerced abortions. While speaking of safeguarding conscience rights for health care professionals, his administration is dismantling protections they already enjoy. Meanwhile, authentic common ground proposals, like the Pregnant Women Support Act, languish with no support from his administration. And while it may appear that he has backed off from [Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA)], his campaign pledge to the abortion industry, the reality is that he is stealthily inserting the provisions of FOCA into other bills. Indeed his allies in Congress are even now pushing health care bills that would establish federal funding for abortion on demand, override state abortion laws, and vastly expand access to abortion.

Bracy's commentary comes in the form of a response to George Cardinal Cottier's expressed support for President Obama in relation to his appearance at Notre Dame, so it's context that places the focus on the president. The reality is that devoting federal dollars for the killing of unborn children — American as well as across the globe — is a Democrat project. Regarding abortion slipped into the healthcare bill, here's the latest:

Last night, the House Energy and Commerce Committee narrowly passed the Stupak-Pitts amendment to prevent the bill from mandating that private insurance plans cover abortions, but when Chairman Henry Waxman brought the amendment up for reconsideration, Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee flipped his vote to 'no', defeating the Stupak-Pitts amendment 30 to 29. "I misunderstood it the first time," Gordon said of his flip-flop, according to The Hill. Gordon and Zack Space of Ohio were the only Blue Dogs on the committee to vote against the amendment to ban mandates for abortion.

Instead of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, the committee passed an amendment that is being billed by some Democrats as a "common ground" measure on abortion. The amendment--sponsored by Lois Capps (D-Calif.), whose National Right to Life Committee vote-scorecard is 0 for 74--would allow the "public option" to provide coverage for elective abortions and would allow federally subsidized private plans to provide abortion coverage as well. How exactly could this be construed as "common ground"? Congress isn't requiring the public option to cover abortion--merely allowing it. And through some nifty bookkeeping, abortions will supposedly be paid for out of private funds rather than tax dollars.

The silver lining may be that Democrats' unwillingness to let go of taxpayer dollars for fetal slaughter could be decisive in killing the final bill. It's a cosmic travesty, though, that the end game could be such a close thing, once again seeming to pit the lives of the youngest human beings against the health of their older brothers, sisters, and parents.

June 1, 2009

A Tin Ear Is a Thing to Behold

Justin Katz

Approximately three hours after the murder of George Tiller, Nancy Green left this comment on RI Future:

When persuasion and the democratic process did not convince a majority of Kansans to make abortion illegal, they resorted to the bullet. This is terrorism and a subversion of democracy.

About twenty minutes later, this post appeared on Kmareka:

When moral argument, persuasion and the democratic process did not convince a majority of Kansans to make abortion illegal, someone resorted to the bullet ...

Any coward can grab a gun and sneak up on an unarmed man. Violent anti-abortion groups have used guns, bombs, threats and deception to try to accomplish what they can not do by peaceful means. This is an act of domestic terrorism.

Clearly, the intent is to tar the "they" whose persuasion and democratic action have not defeated abortion — i.e., pro-lifers. As if to clarify the point, Green returned to the comment section last night to elaborate:

one man pulled the trigger. some vandalized the clinic. many made their careers with hate speech and inciting. who is guilty?

And yet, at 9:21 p.m., the same Kmareka poster was writing scornfully about the rapidity with which pro-life groups "expressed concern that abortion-rights activists would use the occasion to brand the entire anti-abortion movement as extremist."

Internet speed sure is dizzying, but the rate of the process doesn't mean it is outlandish to respond to rhetoric that's already being voiced. I'd note, by the by, that the linked article actually quotes more pro-abortion spokespeople than the pro-life "theys" about whom the article is ostensibly written.

I'd make the much more important point, as well, that no amount of persuasion or democratic process would have empowered a majority of Kansans to make abortion illegal. A handful of federal judges have made sure of that — a reality that only highlights the danger of making political processes unavailable in areas of core disagreement from a central perch in government.

May 31, 2009

All in the Service of Evil

Justin Katz

Only evil was served by the killing of abortionist George Tiller. Just as one can imagine the phrases by which Satan guided Tiller to see his barbarous work as righteous, one can imagine the whispers that brought the killer to Tiller's church — leading him perhaps to see as poetry a setting that should have resonated as blunt screams to stop.

Just so will the evil perpetuate itself. Some will find in this atrocity justification for restricting the rights of we who strenuously oppose abortion, and in the current political climate, they may achieve no small portion of their goals. In turn, frustration and complex feelings of persecution will escalate in opposition. Where will it stop? Well, where does it ever? Now, never, or somewhere in between.

With the simple, psychotic act of one man's murder, our society comes to another precipice, and when Americans inclined toward prayer have offered ours for Mr. Tiller and his family and have spared a word for the dementia-strangled soul of his murderer, we should turn our hopes toward a miracle of temperament. We should pray that from this horrible catalyst will emerge a fuller appreciation for the value of human life and for the civic structures and rights that enable us to resolve issues of cosmic consequence without violence.

May 15, 2009

Gallup: "More Americans 'Pro-Life' Than 'Pro-Choice' for First Time"

Marc Comtois

I greet Gallup's most recent poll indicating that there are more Pro-Life Americans than Pro-Choice with qualified optimism. Qualified, because the split essentially flipped from 50% pro-choice and 44% pro-life last year to 42%/51% this year. I wonder why? Gallup has some theories:

With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation's policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans -- and, in particular, Republicans -- seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position. However, the retreat is evident among political moderates as well as conservatives.

It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be "pro-choice" slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.

They also mention the Obama at Notre Dame controversy. The shift was particularly evident among men, conservatives and moderates. To which Peter Lawler offers the political observation that:
Whether this new climate of opinion benefits the Republicans depends, of course, on leadership. Obama’s Court nomination will give our guys another chance to explain what ROE etc. actually say and why they were wrongly decided. The truth is they haven’t been so good at that so far. It also presents another chance to explain why if Republicanism becomes libertarianism or even Specterism it will not only lose its soul, but lose elections.
Regardless of the politics, I hope that the trend continues.

UPDATE: More thoughts here.

May 13, 2009

Can Non-Persons Be Gendered?

Justin Katz

The intellectual dissonance of this is achingly painful:

The Local reported in February that a woman from Eskilstuna in southern Sweden had twice had abortions after finding out the gender of the child.

The woman, who already had two daughters, requested an amniocentesis in order to allay concerns about possible chromosome abnormalities. At the same time, she also asked to know the foetus's gender.

Doctors at Mälaren Hospital expressed concern and asked Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to draw up guidelines on how to handle requests in the future in which they "feel pressured to examine the foetus’s gender" without having a medically compelling reason to do so.

The board has now responded that such requests and thus abortions can not be refused and that it is not possible to deny a woman an abortion up to the 18th week of pregnancy, even if the foetus's gender is the basis for the request.

Critical to pro-abortion arguments — or at least their ability to remain viable in an even modestly moral society — is the fiction that there's some state of being called "personhood" that bestows a basic right not to be killed on a whim by one's own mother and that unborn children lack such being. Here, we have a mother considering qualities of the child as a determinative factor for execution.

There is no way that such a decision can be made without envisioning that child's life with his or her parents. There is no way, in short, not to be thinking of that fetus as a person who will grow through the stages of childhood. To crush that life while it is sufficiently vulnerable is, well, monstrous.

April 7, 2009

Sex Is Not All

Justin Katz

It's a tragicomic truism that members of the cultural movement, with roots in the "Sexual Revolution," that presses for the acceptance of ever more licentious behavior, that peppers popular culture with lewd images and innuendo, and that leverages carnal lust as an enticement toward the trap of its radical worldview often accuse those who stand against them in defense of our society of being obsessed with sex. Here, in the words of commenter Pragmatist:

And why not just admit that this criticism of the president is really about sex Justin? We all know that religious conservatives, above all else, are obsessed with sex: the consequences of straight sex and existence of gay sex. Religious concerns about the environment, war, torture, income inequality seldom pop up on the conseravtive radar. But sex? Well then, hold the presses!

It doesn't take much capacity for objectivity to observe that none of the other issues that Pragmatist lists find anywhere near the concerted advocacy of sex when it comes to promoting sin qua sin, from the religious point of view. Nobody advocates lessons in safe-torture to grammar school children. (Abstinence is unrealistic, after all!) Nobody proposes that war should be a matter of individual choice made as free of consequences as possible.

Moreover, those not quite so blinkered by hostility to the expression of traditional views will likely comprehend that, for religious conservatives, chief among the "consequences of straight sex" is the creation of human life, and therein lies the motivation for determination. Note, for evidence, that the conservative radar is also well tuned to the overtures of scientists to transform human life into a utility. Progressives appear to believe that conservatives see protection of embryos and objection to cloning as front-guard barriers against the fundamental normalization of abortion, which (the story holds) we oppose because cannot keep our minds off the activity that creates a being to be aborted in the first place. The failure to see the true consistent core of this belief system is strongly suggestive of a desperate need to maintain the feeling of moral imprimatur for the commission of evil.

But what of torture? Isn't that an evil act? Yes, of course, and I've yet to hear a religious conservative argue for torture of an anything-to-extract-information degree, and general agreement that torture is unacceptable contributes to the skewed public perception. Because we all agree that our government should not be lopping off fingers one joint at a time, the discussion quickly moves to determination of the line. Truth be told, I've had discussions with other religious conservatives in which I voiced my difficulty seeing mild sleep deprivation and droning music, even stress positions, as torture; that doesn't indicate that conservatism is a philosophy in which torture isn't an issue, but that some of us believe that interrogations of unlawful combatants can be a bit more strenuous than a questionnaire. It's also relevant that the conversation would be a non-starter were the principle under scrutiny the permissibility of performing "enhanced interrogation" on innocent civilians.

What of income inequality? Isn't greed one of the seven deadlies? Aren't we called to serve our brothers and sisters? Yes, of course, but we on the right believe that opportunity is the more effective means of assisting the poor and that coercively redistributive power in the hands of a government body is a recipe for even more damaging outcomes.

Indeed, cycling through the issues that he mentions, one thought recurs with each: Pragmatist really hasn't followed internal debates among conservatives. What emerges from such a study is that there are basic principles held to be irreducible and a broad, fluid field of prudential lines.

At the core of them all, of course, is life, and among the most thoroughly agreed upon conclusions among religious righties is that a society that encourages (not forces) healthy personal choices endows its people with the most powerful possible protectant against a corruption that deadens the instinct for justice across the board. The most sure sources of instruction for discerning social necessities are the traditions that enabled the moral and corporeal advancement of our culture over millennia in the first place.

March 31, 2009

Soft Appeasement in the Service of Evil

Justin Katz

As with the strained morality of modernism, what galls about rationalizations for the invitation of President Obama to be commencement speaker for and to receive an honorary degree from the Catholic Notre Dame University is the dishonesty of the rationalizations:

The Obama invitation, [Notre Dame President Rev. John] Jenkins emphasized, does not condone or endorse Obama's positions on stem cells or abortion but the visit is "a basis for further positive engagement."

As George Weigel subsequently points out in the linked article, "Commencement is not an occasion for debate." Obama will be receiving an honorary degree.

[Catholic law professor and Reagan lawyer Doug] Kmiec, who taught at Notre Dame for 20 years and supports the invitation to Obama, called it a sign of a mature university and further evidence that religion is firmly part of the public discourse.

This about a president who has pledged to disallow religiously founded morals from guiding public policy concerning science.

The invitation and subsequent justifications point to an intention to coo the masses to slumber because they don't comprehend the nuanced relationships between power and morality. And Father Jenkins's emphasis of Obama's race illustrates the soft racism whereby ethnicity trumps all, leaving the moral actor powerless in bonds of sensitivity.

March 25, 2009

Darkness Creeps In

Justin Katz

This is an abomination and a blood-red stain on our entire society:

The pregnant woman showed up at the medical center in flip-flops and in tears, after walking there to save bus fare.

Her boyfriend had lost his job, she told her doctor in Oakland, Calif., and now — fearing harder times for her family — she wanted to abort what would have been her fourth child.

"This was a desired pregnancy — she'd been getting prenatal care — but they re-evaluated expenses and decided not to continue," said Dr. Pratima Gupta. "When I was doing the options counseling, she interrupted me halfway through, crying, and said, `Dr. Gupta, I just walked here for an hour. I'm sure of my decision.'" ...

Planned Parenthood of Illinois clinics performed an all-time high number of abortions in January, many of them motivated by the women's economic worries, said CEO Steve Trombley, who declined to give exact numbers. Abortions at Planned Parenthood's St. Louis-area clinics were up nearly 7 percent in the second half of 2008 from a year earlier — ending a stretch in which the numbers were dwindling.

Planned Parenthood said it has no up-to-date national abortion figures, nor do other private or government agencies. However, Stephanie Poggi of the National Network of Abortion Funds, which helps women in need pay for abortions, said calls to the network's national helpline have nearly quadrupled from a year ago.

I daresay that a majority of the citizens of the United States could muster some outrage at an epidemic of perfectly healthy dogs' being put down because the owners who've raised them have decided that their existence is more than the household budget can bear, and yet here we have parents killing the offspring whom they purposely conceived.

Evil has gained a terrible sway in our society if we express no horror at the depths to which we've sunk.

February 16, 2009

Exporting the Culture of Death

Justin Katz

For his latest column, Bishop Tobin imagined the interview he would conduct with President Obama:

TOBIN: But the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions is very controversial. It's a divisive policy. It violates the conscience of millions of Americans who respect life and oppose abortion. Isn't that completely contrary to your goal of fostering unity in the nation?

OBAMA: Bishop Tobin, let's be clear. I said in my inauguration speech that with all the problems our nation is facing we have to overcome narrow ideological positions and move beyond childish behaviors.

TOBIN: But, Mr. President, providing tax money to support abortion — isn't that in itself an ideological position?

OBAMA: No, not in my view.

TOBIN: But do you consider the heartfelt convictions of pro-lifers to be "childish behaviors?"

OBAMA: Well, not exactly, but let's move on . . .

TOBIN: Is it safe to assume that you consider the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions overseas to be good foreign policy?

OBAMA: I believe that people overseas should have the same rights we Americans have — the right to kill their children and use abortion as a form of birth control.

TOBIN: But shouldn't we be using foreign aid for more positive reasons — for example, to provide food, clothing, shelter and medicine to impoverished children?

OBAMA: Bishop, obviously you're missing the point. If you control the population and eliminate the children, you don't have to worry about giving them food, clothing, shelter and medicine now do you?

Nicholas Eberstadt the question of whether such a response would be accurate:

Population alarmists and their allies in the U.N. are deluding themselves when they claim government intervention can reduce fertility rates and "stabilize" population. Their mantra is that education, high literacy and cheap birth control lead to lower birth rates.

Health, literacy and voluntary contraception are meritorious objectives in their own right, irrespective of any influence on population growth. But it is misleading to assert that they predictably reduce birth rates.

Take literacy. The adult-literacy rate in 2006 was about a third higher in Malawi than Morocco (54 percent vs. 40 percent), yet fertility levels in Malawi were double. Family-planning campaigns are similarly unpredictable. For instance, in 1974 Mexico started a vigorous campaign to cut population growth and got fertility levels down by 56 percent but Brazil's fertility level fell by 54 percent with no campaign at all, in the same quarter century. These are not cherry-picked examples. There is simply no way of knowing in advance the impact of family-planning programs on birth rates.

It turns out that the single best international predictor of fertility levels is the number of children that women say they would like. ...

Yes, culture is the determinant of such behavior, and it has been the argument of we on the Right that the normalization of abortion and extensive promotion of contraceptives tilts the culture the wrong way. To Leftists, however, there is no culture but their culture, and whether they arrive at their policies based on their beliefs or hope to promote their beliefs through their policies is moot — indeed, irrelevant.

February 6, 2009

What's the Big Deal?

Justin Katz

I hate to be plain spoken on an issue regarding which Americans prefer obscurity, but folks, this is abortion:

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy.

Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure.

Only Renelique didn't arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic's owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant's umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

Police recovered the decomposing remains in a cardboard box a week later after getting anonymous tips.

Parsing the moral difference between this incident and a parallel one in which the clinic visit had gone according to plan is like trying to distinguish between a matricidal son who bumps off his wealthy mum in her sleep and one who accidentally allows her to wake up first.

(via the Corner)

January 23, 2009

Life's Potential

Marc Comtois


January 18, 2009

When Sin Trumps Conscience

Justin Katz

Rhode Island is one of seven states that would prefer that citizens with moral reservations about procreation-related procedures and drugs have fewer rights:

Seven states sued the federal government Thursday over a new rule that expands protections for doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions and other medical procedures because of religious or moral objections.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed the lawsuit in federal court in Hartford on behalf of the states.

They claim the federal rule, issued by the Bush administration last month and set to take effect Tuesday, would trump state laws protecting women's access to birth control, reproductive health services and emergency contraception.

Blumenthal said the regulations "are flawed and defective" and would "unconstitutionally and unconscionably interfere with women's health care rights."

Note that the rule does not ban any procedures. It merely gives the individual provider the right to choose what he or she provides.

The end of rights and freedom will come proclaiming the sanctity of both.

October 31, 2008

Candidate of Death

Justin Katz

Just in case you're pro-life and have somehow talked yourself into believing that Obama will be tolerable as president:

When Barack Obama admitted to Joe the Plumber that he planned on spreading the wealth around, he didn't mention that the tax dollars he will take from you will be used to pay for elective abortions for others. The following is a brief outline of three ways that current pro-life protections against federal funding of elective abortions stand to be repealed and routed under an Obama presidency.

1. President Obama will spread the wealth to fund elective Medicaid abortions with your tax dollars. ...

2. More of your tax dollars will to go to fund Planned Parenthood, and the Crisis Pregnancy Centers in your neighborhood will be defunded. ...

3. Your tax dollars will fund organizations that perform or promote abortion overseas.

According to the writer, Dorinda Bordlee, Planned Parenthood killed 264,943 unborn children in its 2005–2006 fiscal year. Think about that staggering number before giving your vote to the Chosen Candidate of Vague Change.

October 24, 2008

A beautiful picture and reflections

Donald B. Hawthorne

Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York.

October 20, 2008

On Murder and Politics

Justin Katz

I'm probably not alone in having allowed my mouse to hover over links to Denver Archbishop Chaput's speech on civic participation in accord with the Roman Catholic Church. It's worth a click and a read, though:

As adults, each of us needs to form a strong Catholic conscience. Then we need to follow that conscience when we vote. And then we need to take responsibility for the consequences of the vote we cast. Nobody can do that for us. That's why really knowing and living our Catholic faith is so important. It's the only reliable guide we have for acting in the public square as disciples of Jesus Christ. ...

... None of the Catholic arguments advanced in favor of Senator Obama are new. They've been around, in one form or another, for more than 25 years. All of them seek to ''get beyond'' abortion, or economically reduce the number of abortions, or create a better society where abortion won't be necessary. All of them involve a misuse of the seamless garment imagery in Catholic social teaching. And all of them, in practice, seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues.

This is a great sadness. As Chicago's Cardinal Francis George said recently, too many Americans have ''no recognition of the fact that children continue to be killed [by abortion], and we live therefore, in a country drenched in blood. This can't be something you start playing off pragmatically against other issues.''

September 14, 2008

Decisions and Morality

Justin Katz

No doubt, there are some who will tear their garments (to use the old biblical phrase) at the extremity of my beliefs — if only because they lack the power, for the time being, to tear my garments — but this paragraph from Mona Charen strikes me as ceding too much rhetorical ground (emphasis added):

Sarah Palin is no ordinary pro-lifer. She is an attractive, intelligent, ambitious, successful woman who has actually lived her convictions. Told that the baby she was carrying would be handicapped with Down syndrome, she and her husband made the only decision their consciences would permit — to welcome this child with the same love they would give to any other. That decision is comparatively rare in America. Fully 80 percent of parents who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome in their unborn children elect to abort. But it's not unusual at all among committed pro-lifers. I have met many in the course of speaking to pro-life audiences. And for every couple that has chosen life for a handicapped child, there are thousands and perhaps millions more who have abjured prenatal testing because under no circumstances would they abort their children. I cannot count the times I've amazed pro-choice people with the news that there are even waiting lists of couples who stand ready to adopt Down syndrome babies.

The magnitude of ending the lives of one's own children is not adequately expressed in terms of an option that ought to be beyond the bounds of a moral conscience. It's not a decision; it's an accession to the monstrous evil of a selfish era.

Charen further dilutes the point by making the Palins' moral boundaries out to be "rare." The factor to emphasize is that those who go so far as to seek a diagnosis regarding the mental capacity of their unborn children do so because they feel it will make some difference in how they proceed. I don't know what percentage of parents opt for such tests, but I'd be surprised if, at the end of the tabulation, the numbers don't fall right down the centerline of our society's ideological divide.

September 9, 2008

Re: Busting the Palin Caricature

Carroll Andrew Morse

In addition to the areas that Marc mentioned, members of the Projo editorial board (and some other organs of the MSM) are playing fast-and-loose also with their description of Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin's position on stem cell research. Here's the the unsigned editorial from Saturday…

Governor Palin didn’t mention…that she opposes stem-cell research.
…and the Froma Harrop op-ed from Sunday…
It’s four more years of national humiliation as our leadership undermines the teaching of evolutionary science, and if something happens to John McCain, opposes stem-cell research.
But the statement that Governor Palin "opposes stem cell research" is not accurate and leaves the reader in the dark about the important developments into non-embryonic stem-cell research that have occurred over the past year.

The most promising research into stem cell medical treatments is coming from the use of "induced pluripotent stem-cells", using cells taken from adults and not human embryos. Time Magazine described the most recent breakthrough in July…

After nearly a decade of setbacks and false starts, stem-cell science finally seems to be hitting its stride. Just a year after Japanese scientists first reported that they had generated stem cells by reprogramming adult skin cells — without using embryos — American researchers have managed to use that groundbreaking technique to achieve another scientific milestone. They created the first nerve cells from reprogrammed stem cells — an important demonstration of the potential power of stem-cell-based treatments to cure disease.

Led by Kevin Eggan at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Christopher Henderson at Columbia University, the 13-person team reported online today in Science Express that they had generated motor neurons from the skin cells of two elderly patients with a rare form of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative condition. The new study marks an important first step on the road toward real stem-cell-based therapies, and also answers several plaguing questions about the pioneering stem-cell technique known as induced pluripotent stem cell, or iPS, generation.

IPS was first described by Japanese biologist Shinya Yamanaka, who, in 2007, showed that the introduction of four genes into an adult human skin cell could reprogram it back to an embryonic state (Yamanaka had reported the same achievement in mice the previous year). Like embryonic stem cells, these reprogrammed adult cells could be coaxed into becoming any other type of cell — from skin to nerve to muscle. But researchers questioned whether the new stem cells would behave as predictably or as safely as embryonic stem cells, or whether iPS would consistently yield usable cells. "Our work shows that the original method developed by Yamanaka works great," says Eggan.

Is anyone opposed to this line of research? If not, than the Projo op-ed page should stop running claims that someone is.

The idea the Governor Palin opposes all stem cell research traces back, as best as I can determine, to statements made in her 2006 campaign for Governor of Alaska, before the major 2007 breakthrough in creating stem-cells from adult tissues had occurred, but some MSM writers don’t seem interested in this critical distinction, nor in helping the public keep pace with the science.

Is that a rational position for those who fancy themselves as pro-science?

August 29, 2008

Vindictiveness in the Face of Democratic Action

Justin Katz

Well, it may not be at quite the level of signing one's own death warrant as the Declaration of Independence, but the recent shenanigans of the government of Tiverton have spurred local action in the form of Tiverton Citizens for Change (TCC), a non-partisan political action committee. The town charter amendment that will appear on the next ballot (after some heated exchanges concerning political theory) to forbid the use of public funds to sway votes might be thought of as the first shot across the bow.

And now the group has experienced its first politically motivated personal repercussions: On Monday, the Town Council did not reappoint (i.e., fired) Cynthia Nebergall — who was vocal at both of the above-linked meetings — to the Tiverton Planning Board. That action spurred both the board's chairman, Noel Berg (letter), and its vice chairman, Rosemary Eva (letter), to resign the following day.

Ms. Eva highlighted "the lack of volunteers for the current vacancies" and enumerated the qualities that made Cynthia a valuable member of the board. Personally, if I were among the powers who be in Tiverton, I'd be trying to keep those qualities occupied on official boards rather than, say, preparing for TCC's first taxpayer meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, September 15, at the VFW (17 Shove St.). (Here's the flier for the meeting: PDF.)

February 12, 2008

Destination, Heaven

Justin Katz

Apparently, it presents a particularly acute public safety hazard to cause discomfort among those walking by abortion clinics, per these "legislative findings" (PDF):

  1. Preservation of public safety is a fundamental obligation of state government.
  2. Pedestrians have a right to travel peacefully on Rhode Island streets and sidewalks.
  3. Clearly defined boundaries around reproductive health care facilities will improve the ability of safety officials to protect the public

One suspects that the unwritten finding is that "regular protests are effective at persuading women not to abort their unborn children, and Planned Parenthood is losing business." Otherwise, the law (if necessary) could simply require all sidewalks (everywhere) to be passable and all businesses accessible. Instead, it declares that "no person shall knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility within a radius of one hundred feet (100') of any portion of an entrance to, exit from, or driveway of a reproductive health care facility."

It seems to me, by the by, that the exception for "persons using the public sidewalk or street right-of-way adjacent to such a facility solely for the purpose of reaching a destination other than such facility" provides a bit of a loophole. Even if a destination of Heaven wouldn't suffice in court, one could contrive destinations (e.g., cars or posters) on either side of the fatality facility.

November 16, 2007

High-Note Ending, or Higher Ethic?

Justin Katz

I can't help but think that New York Times movie reviewer Stephen Holden misses the significance of Bella by, well, by the distance between life and death:

It is not hard to see why "Bella," a saccharine trifle directed by Alejandro Monteverde, won the People's Choice Award at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. This is a movie that wears its bleeding heart on its sleeve and loves its characters to distraction. Nothing — not even significant plot glitches and inconsistencies — is allowed to get in the way of its bear-hugging embrace of sweetness and light. ...

After she confesses that she is pregnant and planning an abortion, he decides to talk her out of it, helps her find a new job and takes her home to his warm-hearted Latino family on Long Island. ...

If "Bella" (the title doesn't make sense until the last scene) is a mediocre cup of mush, the response to it suggests how desperate some people are for an urban fairy tale with a happy ending, no matter how ludicrous.

On further thought (and I say this admitting that I haven't seen the movie), it could be that Holden does get just what people are desperate for. Perhaps he uses "happy ending" — hardly a finale that Hollywood avoids — as a euphemism for "life-affirming."

It's All in the "But"

Justin Katz

This is for those who think that Rudy Giuliani's philosophy on the judiciary will compensate for his personal view on abortion:

"But with Roe—a strict constructionist judge could come to either conclusion about Roe v. Wade. He could come to the conclusion that it was incorrectly decided, overturn it, or he could decide well, it's been precedent for so long now, it would be too disruptive to overturn it, so we leave it alone. I would leave that up to a judge."

Do pro-lifers really want to flip that coin?

November 6, 2007

Congress Shall Make No Law (Except if Abortion is Involved)...

Carroll Andrew Morse

Legislators, activists and especially judges often seem to operate from the assumption that laws related to abortion should be evaluated according to different rules than other laws. Today's Projo has an sensible editorial reminding its readers that this shouldn't be the case…

Under current Massachusetts law, anti-abortion protesters must observe a six-foot “bubble” within 18 feet of any abortion provider. (In other words, within 18 feet of a clinic, protesters must stay at least six feet away from anyone entering or leaving. Leave it to legislators to put their diktats in garbled language!)

The state Senate has approved a bill to expand the buffer zone around abortion clinics. Under the proposal, which is expected to be passed and signed into law by Governor Patrick, protesters would be prohibited from coming within 35 feet of a clinic’s property line. Importantly, this includes silent protesters, and apparently applies to people standing otherwise lawfully on private property — even their own.

Those who believe that this further restriction on the “right of the people to peaceably assemble” (from the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution) is justified, should ask themselves this: As a matter of law, would they favor a 35-foot buffer zone around military recruitment offices? Or keeping immigration-reform demonstrators 35 feet away from all federal buildings?

According to the op-ed, even the ACLU opposes the new Massachusetts law because of its over-broadness. (The ACLU has a mixed record on no-free speech "bubbles" in general, with the national organization having supported some narrow ones in the past, sometimes over the objections of local chapters).

November 3, 2007

How the Miracle Will Sit

Justin Katz

This is a touching story, and whether one would have made different decisions as a parent requires much reflection, but it's easy to imagine Gabriel reacting to it quite differently than his parents might expect:

When doctors found that Gabriel was weaker than his brother, with an enlarged heart,and believed he was going to die in the womb, his mother Rebecca Jones had to make a heartbreaking decision.

Doctors told her his death could cause his twin brother to die too before they were born, and that it would be better to end Gabriel's suffering sooner rather than later.

Mrs Jones decided to let doctors operate to terminate Gabriel's life.

Firstly they tried to sever his umbilical cord to cut off his blood supply, but the cord was too strong.

They then cut Mrs Jones's placenta in half so that when Gabriel died, it would not affect his twin brother.

But after the operation which was meant to end his life, tiny Gabriel had other ideas.

Although he weighed less than a pound, he put up such a fight for survival that doctors called him Rocky.

Astonishingly, he managed to carry on living in his mother's womb for another five weeks - until the babies were delivered by caesarean section.

Now he and Ieuan are back at home in Stoke - and are so close they are always holding each other's hand.

"Don't you see, son? The point isn't that we tried to kill you; it's that we failed!"

October 18, 2007

The Mutable Soul

Justin Katz

Jonah Goldberg has opened up the topic of ensoulment with respect to abortion, and an email that he published concerning the Christian view doesn't take its conclusions quite far enough to be entirely relevant to his broader stance on abortion:

What Christianity actually teaches is that man—and man alone—is a psychosomatic entity consisting of a body and a soul. Both together comprise the human person. Animals are pure body—even to the extent that they have intellect, they do not have immortal souls; angels on the other hand, are pure spirit, and thus have only tenuous links to the material world. Man alone participates in the entire "kosmos" created by God, who made all things visible and invisible (which formulation in the patristic mind implied material and immaterial). Man therefore has a unique place in God's plan as mediator of creation. The patristic understanding of the Second Coming, therefore, is not the obliteration of the material universe so that man can live an airy-fairy existence in some immaterial heaven (white robe and harp optional), but the restoration of this world to the state it had before the fall of Adam. To Christians, as to Jews, the resurrection of the dead means specifically the reuniting of the soul and the body in a restored humanity no longer subject to death and corruption.

A previous emailer had suggested that God "puts a body around our soul," but Christian doctrine is clear that each human is a created being, that only Jesus ("begotten, not made") is co-eternal backwards in history with God, and that God forms us in the womb. If that "us" is to be taken as including both body and soul, it follows that the soul is formed there, too, and no reason exists to suppose that our souls do not develop in a way similar to our bodies, with the main difference being that nature does not impose such a rigid trajectory on our spirits.

Upon conception, the progress of both facets of the unique human being begins, with the nascent soul definable mainly in terms of its volition to develop. At various stages in youth, the person becomes aware of existence, aware of his or her unique existence, and aware of his or her subordination to the rest of nature. These are milestones, not steps. Upon death — although I'll have to get back to you many decades hence (God willing) to speak with the confidence of experience — the trajectory can continue sharply toward God (Heaven), gradually toward Him (Purgatory), or gradually or sharply away from Him (Hell).

I offer my afterlife speculation only to present a full, if approximate, picture of the human being's existence in total, which is how the Christian believes God to see it. Because we've only hints and clues with respect to life after death, when Christians speak against morally illicit killing — whether the murder of adults or abortion — they tend to emphasize the insult to God and the deleterious effects on the killer. I submit that it strains a God-centered philosophy to suppose that there are distinctions to be made, on either of these counts, along the human lifespan. As for the effects on the killed, we would certainly like to believe that a person murdered in utero would instantly be saved, but it seems just as likely to me that he or she faces only a slow, purgatorial advancement toward Heaven.

Whatever the case, the point is that there is no such thing as "ensoulment," except inasmuch as it is synonymous with the creation of the individual (aka conception). This line of reasoning may ultimately leave us no less certain whether the preborn have souls, but it requires that the question be not whether they have received them yet, but whether souls actually exist. In most usages, "soul" is shorthand for "the thing that makes us each uniquely valuable," and if it is not real, then human life is devalued no matter its development.

August 10, 2007

Moderate by Moderate Left

Justin Katz

The problem with the cult of moderation is that it requires there to be two extremes equidistant from the middle line of wisdom, or else it must define the two opposing groups as the extremes, no matter where they actually lie. To present his — certainly welcome — "compromise" position of sending abortion policy back to the states, Radly Balko must write as if the current advantage to one side is not relevant in comparing the two and as if neither of the two supposed extremes has ever promoted such a solution.

Consider this instance of ostensible even-handedness on his part:

Hendershott criticizes the pro-choice movement for trying to suppress information that might injure its cause. In one particularly interesting passage, she discusses General Electric's remarkable "4D" ultrasound imaging system, a technological innovation that renders striking images of fetuses in the womb. In 2002 G.E. marketed the product in a national campaign aimed at young women, showing expectant mothers bonding with their unborn children while Roberta Flack sang "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." The technology was enormously popular. 4D ultrasound stations even began to appear in shopping malls.

Abortion rights proponents leapt into action, fearing that too-real images of unborn fetuses might cost them popular support. After pressure from pro-choicers, G.E. pulled the TV ads, pulled testimonials from its website, and began marketing the technology solely for medical purposes. Several states banned the use of ultrasound for "nonmedical" purposes, including New York, where then–Attorney General Eliot Spitzer subpoenaed 34 anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers for "practicing medicine without a license" because they used the technology.

The 4D controversy is a striking example of how one side of the abortion debate used the law to suppress the flow of information to expectant mothers out of fear of what that information might do to their cause. But Hendershott has little to say about similar efforts on the anti-abortion side. Pro-life lawmakers, for example, repeatedly have attempted to prohibit physicians who receive federal funding from even discussing abortion with their patients, particularly at overseas military hospitals.

On one side, a major private company was cowed into minimizing the marketing of an "enormously popular" product, and an attorney general undertook a campaign against the product's users. On the other side? Some lawmakers "repeatedly have attempted" to attach strings to federal funds to doctors. Why, the two sides are practically mirror images! (Perhaps in a funhouse.)

The reality is that the federalist argument as been an organic part of the pro-life movement for at least as long as I can remember. That is why there is so much emphasis on simply overturning Roe v. Wade. Because of his desire to cleave a middle road, however, Balko insists that no mere erasure of the ruling would suffice:

For such a scenario to emerge, the Supreme Court would need to do more than overturn Roe. It would have to make it clear that the regulation of abortion is a police power reserved to the states, and that it will no longer entertain attempts to override abortion policy made by the states. That approach wouldn't be perfect, and it wouldn't satisfy the hard-core activists on either side of the debate, but it would be far preferable to what we have now. As it stands, the Supreme Court is one vote from overturning the decision, with two pro-Roe justices — Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens — generally considered the members most likely to retire.

Unfortunately, judging from the Court’s recent ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart (which upheld a congres­sion­al ban on “partial birth” abortions) and the fair-weather approach to federalism taken in cases like Gonzales v. Raich (which upheld a federal ban on medical marijuana), a decision overturning Roe probably would leave the door open to a national ban. The divisive debate would continue.

Divisive debate would continue, no doubt, upon the striking of Roe, but the method of abortion's nationalization must be considered: Only the judiciary can create laws without broad political wrangling. That is what makes it such a dangerous body once it becomes a tool for activism. The Supreme Court does not need to find compromise positions across the spectrum of opinion on a particular issue in order to decide its cases; it merely dictates the law.

The medical marijuana reference exposes Balko's inclination to make immoderate equivalencies: The legislative process came first, with the Supreme Court merely permitting it to stand. There's quite a difference — which one might call "democracy" — between legislative activism and judicial, and the same sequence of events when it comes to abortion is unlikely.

The fact that pro-life groups are constitutionally barred from significant successes at the state level has created incentive for them to act nationally. Were abortion to become a state matter again, the incentive would shift toward activism at that level. There would, no doubt, be a concerted push on both sides for the national solution that each favors, but here, it is the issue's divisiveness that ensures that it will stop at the states. At least in the near term, the only consensus that is likely to emerge via the democratic process is that the federal government oughtn't meddle.

And that's fine by me. I believe that the allowance of abortion is a horrible moral stain on our society, and I will argue against it at every tier from the personal to the international. At the same time, I believe in the process of public discourse and gradual change as the most effective way to minimize the stark manifestation of evil in our society. When the abortion debate levels out into a lower-key cultural battle for hearts and minds, with local victories achievable through discourse, grace can begin to show the maggotted bride called self-deception for what she is.

August 3, 2007

For Fathers, Responsibility Should Come with Choice (If Only of One Option)

Justin Katz

Of course, I'd argue that moral laws would forbid abortion whatever the father's opinion, but I'm sympathetic to the incremental gain that some Ohio lawmakers are seeking:

Several Ohio state representatives who normally take an anti-abortion stance are now pushing pro-choice legislation - sort of.

Led by Rep. John Adams, a group of state legislators have submitted a bill that would give fathers of unborn children a final say in whether or not an abortion can take place.

It's a measure that, supporters say, would finally give fathers a choice.

"This is important because there are always two parents and fathers should have a say in the birth or the destruction of that child," said Adams, a Republican from Sidney. "I didn't bring it up to draw attention to myself or to be controversial. In most cases, when a child is born the father has financial responsibility for that child, so he should have a say."

As written, the bill would ban women from seeking an abortion without written consent from the father of the fetus. In cases where the identity of the father is unknown, women would be required to submit a list of possible fathers. The physician would be forced to conduct a paternity test from the provided list and then seek paternal permission to abort. ...

With the proposal, men would be guaranteed that voice under penalty of law. First time violators would by tried for abortion fraud, a first degree misdemeanor. The same would be the case for men who falsely claim to be fathers and for medical workers who knowingly perform an abortion without paternal consent.

In addition, women would be required to present a police report in order to prove a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

If the mother can force the father to take responsibility for his actions, then the father ought to be able to do the same, making due commitment to share the burden as much as possible. I know the self-centered slogan is "my body, my choice," but the reasoning is the same for both parents: both made the choice to use their bodies for sex, and both are morally obliged to accept an always possible and entirely foreseeable consequence. In this case — with a human life at stake — both ought to be legally obliged, as well.

July 1, 2007

Taking the Bishop's Cue

Justin Katz

For those who might have missed it (whether by accident or by design), I've got a piece in today's Providence Journal that considers some of the discussion that Bishop Tobin's reflections on Rudy Giuliani inspired.

April 26, 2007

Abortion Falsehoods and Truths

Justin Katz

The Providence Journal's editorial on the Supreme Court's partial-birth abortion ruling isn't quite as deceptive/deluded as Mary Ann Sorrentino's, but at the very least, it's misleading (emphasis added):

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision upholding the right of the federal government to impose a ban on a certain form of rarely performed second-trimester abortion is unfortunate in two major ways.

First, it extends the role of the federal government into areas best left to physicians. The court upheld the idea that there be no medical exception in which a woman’s physician, after determining that so-called partial-birth abortion (“intact dilation and evacuation”) was necessary to protect the health of the woman, could then perform the procedure.

Apparently, allowing for the procedure in order to save the life of the mother doesn't count as a "medical exception." Judging from the Projo's bizarre notion of federalism, however, one must leave open the possibility that the word "exception" is used, here, to mean "constitutional right to whatever abortionists can do." I say this because it seems the editors feel that the federal government's power should be limited to granting broad rights to death, thus barring states from making anything more than moderate exceptions, without its being, for some reason, as unfortunate when a state government meddles in "areas best left to physicians." (Curious, that.)

Further, whatever you think of this procedure, that the federal government in this case has again intruded into an area that seems to us to be most properly situated close to or in domestic law — and therefore in our federal system under state jurisdiction — should trouble even many conservatives. This is part of a troubling pattern we have seen in the Bush administration of undermining the right of the states to regulate medicine within their boundaries. The Terry Schiavo case and the Oregon assisted-suicide law provide the best known cases of such, to us, inappropriate intervention.

In short, the ruling appears to be a dangerous over-reaching of federal jurisdiction, and one that we especially fear may set an unfortunate precedent for further inroads into individual rights and the relationship between physician and patient, up to and including an outright federal ban on abortion, thus overturning 1973’s Roe v. Wade protection of that right.

Contrary to the Projo's dismissive "whatever you think of this procedure," before conservatives — or just, you know, human beings — decide what they should be troubled about, it might be helpful for them to understand just what they're supposed to gloss over. Here's a passage from Gonzales v. Carhart by which future generations will have opportunity to judge us for centuries hence (citations removed):

The surgical procedure referred to as "dilation and evacuation" or "D&E" is the usual abortion method in [the second] trimester. Although individual techniques for performing D&E differ, the general steps are the same.

A doctor must first dilate the cervix at least to the extent needed to insert surgical instruments into the uterus and to maneuver them to evacuate the fetus. The steps taken to cause dilation differ by physician and gestational age of the fetus. ...

After sufficient dilation the surgical operation can commence. The woman is placed under general anesthesia or conscious sedation. The doctor, often guided by ultrasound, inserts grasping forceps through the woman's cervix and into the uterus to grab the fetus. The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed. A doctor may make 10 to 15 passes with the forceps to evacuate the fetus in its entirety, though sometimes removal is completed with fewer passes. Once the fetus has been evacuated, the placenta and any remaining fetal material are suctioned or scraped out of the uterus. The doctor examines the different parts to ensure the entire fetal body has been removed.

Some doctors, especially later in the second trimester, may kill the fetus a day or two before performing the surgical evacuation. They inject digoxin or potassium chloride into the fetus, the umbilical cord, or the amniotic fluid. Fetal demise may cause contractions and make greater dilation possible. Once dead, moreover, the fetus' body will soften, and its removal will be easier. Other doctors refrain from injecting chemical agents, believing it adds risk with little or no medical benefit.

The abortion procedure that was the impetus for the numerous bans on "partial-birth abortion," including the Act, is a variation of this standard D&E. The medical community has not reached unanimity on the appropriate name for this D&E variation. It has been referred to as "intact D&E," "dilation and extraction" (D&X), and "intact D&X." For discussion purposes this D&E variation will be referred to as intact D&E. The main difference between the two procedures is that in intact D&E a doctor extracts the fetus intact or largely intact with only a few passes. There are no comprehensive statistics indicating what percentage of all D&Es are performed in this manner.

Intact D&E, like regular D&E, begins with dilation of the cervix. Sufficient dilation is essential for the procedure. To achieve intact extraction some doctors thus may attempt to dilate the cervix to a greater degree. This approach has been called "serial" dilation. Doctors who attempt at the outset to perform intact D&E may dilate for two full days or use up to 25 osmotic dilators.

In an intact D&E procedure the doctor extracts the fetus in a way conducive to pulling out its entire body, instead of ripping it apart. One doctor, for example, testified:

"If I know I have good dilation and I reach in and the fetus starts to come out and I think I can accomplish it, the abortion with an intact delivery, then I use my forceps a little bit differently. I don't close them quite so much, and I just gently draw the tissue out attempting to have an intact delivery, if possible."

Rotating the fetus as it is being pulled decreases the odds of dismemberment. A doctor also "may use forceps to grasp a fetal part, pull it down, and re-grasp the fetus at a higher level--sometimes using both his hand and a forceps--to exert traction to retrieve the fetus intact until the head is lodged in the [cervix]."

Intact D&E gained public notoriety when, in 1992, Dr. Martin Haskell gave a presentation describing his method of performing the operation. In the usual intact D&E the fetus' head lodges in the cervix, and dilation is insufficient to allow it to pass. Haskell explained the next step as follows:

" 'At this point, the right-handed surgeon slides the fingers of the left [hand] along the back of the fetus and "hooks" the shoulders of the fetus with the index and ring fingers (palm down).

" 'While maintaining this tension, lifting the cervix and applying traction to the shoulders with the fingers of the left hand, the surgeon takes a pair of blunt curved Metzenbaum scissors in the right hand. He carefully advances the tip, curved down, along the spine and under his middle finger until he feels it contact the base of the skull under the tip of his middle finger.

" '[T]he surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull or into the foramen magnum. Having safely entered the skull, he spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening.

" 'The surgeon removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter into this hole and evacuates the skull contents. With the catheter still in place, he applies traction to the fetus, removing it completely from the patient.' "

This is an abortion doctor's clinical description. Here is another description from a nurse who witnessed the same method performed on a 26-week fetus and who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

" 'Dr. Haskell went in with forceps and grabbed the baby's legs and pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby's body and the arms--everything but the head. The doctor kept the head right inside the uterus... .

" 'The baby's little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby's arms jerked out, like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall.

" 'The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby's brains out. Now the baby went completely limp... .

" 'He cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he had just used.' "

Dr. Haskell's approach is not the only method of killing the fetus once its head lodges in the cervix, and "the process has evolved" since his presentation. Another doctor, for example, squeezes the skull after it has been pierced "so that enough brain tissue exudes to allow the head to pass through." Still other physicians reach into the cervix with their forceps and crush the fetus' skull. Others continue to pull the fetus out of the woman until it disarticulates at the neck, in effect decapitating it. These doctors then grasp the head with forceps, crush it, and remove it.

Some doctors performing an intact D&E attempt to remove the fetus without collapsing the skull. Yet one doctor would not allow delivery of a live fetus younger than 24 weeks because "the objective of [his] procedure is to perform an abortion," not a birth. The doctor thus answered in the affirmative when asked whether he would "hold the fetus' head on the internal side of the [cervix] in order to collapse the skull" and kill the fetus before it is born. Another doctor testified he crushes a fetus' skull not only to reduce its size but also to ensure the fetus is dead before it is removed. For the staff to have to deal with a fetus that has "some viability to it, some movement of limbs," according to this doctor, "[is] always a difficult situation."

D&E and intact D&E are not the only second-trimester abortion methods. Doctors also may abort a fetus through medical induction. The doctor medicates the woman to induce labor, and contractions occur to deliver the fetus. Induction, which unlike D&E should occur in a hospital, can last as little as 6 hours but can take longer than 48. It accounts for about five percent of second-trimester abortions before 20 weeks of gestation and 15 percent of those after 20 weeks. Doctors turn to two other methods of second-trimester abortion, hysterotomy and hysterectomy, only in emergency situations because they carry increased risk of complications. In a hysterotomy, as in a cesarean section, the doctor removes the fetus by making an incision through the abdomen and uterine wall to gain access to the uterine cavity. A hysterectomy requires the removal of the entire uterus. These two procedures represent about .07% of second-trimester abortions.

As one who is generally strongly supportive of states' right to differ substantively in their laws, I have to say that, as with slavery, I've no qualms about allowing the federal government to "dangerously overreach" to make blanket prohibitions of monstrosity.

Mary Ann Sorrentino Misunderstands the Partial Birth Abortion Ban

Carroll Andrew Morse

Mary Ann Sorrentino’s Providence Phoenix article on the Federal partial birth abortion ban and the Supreme Court’s decision upholding it in Gonzales v. Carhart repeats a serious factual error multiple times…

The court’s decision to uphold a ban on late-term abortions — even when the mother’s health is endangered — codifies what pro-choicers have suspected (and warned about) for decades. Abortion opponents grant the fetus “paramount right-to-life” status, while pregnant women apparently have no right to any life.

If, in month five of a pregnancy, a woman faces a medical situation guaranteed to injure or even kill her through pregnancy-related complications discovered at that time, compassionate conservatives say, “Tough!”
The assertion that the Federal partial birth abortion contains no exemption for the life of the mother is not accurate. Here is the text of the law...
Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both. This subsection does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.
How could a life of the mother exception possibly be any clearer?

Secondly, the Supreme Court in Carhart did not even hold that all partial birth abortions (except in cases where the mother's life is threatened) are prohibited. The Court only ruled that its precedents requiring that late-term abortion restrictions include an exception for the health of the mother extending beyond life-threatening circumstances did not justify overtuning the partial birth law as a whole and permitting the procedure in any situation. Because "as applied" challenges to the law are still allowed, the court may still yet find that a health of the mother exception is automatically built into any late-term abortion law.

The issue of abortion ban health exceptions in non-life threatening situations has become a contentious one because many abortion rights activists refuse to draw a distinction between mental and physical health. Froma Harrop has expounded on this point in the past…

Most of us agree that these abortions [to protect the health of the mother] should be done only under extraordinary circumstances. So if by "health" we mean the psychic well-being of someone who decided late in the game that she didn't want a baby, then no, the pregnancy must go to full term. But if something has gone terribly wrong, and the woman would be physically ravaged by continuing a pregnancy, then we must have a different kind of debate.
If Ms. Sorrentino doesn’t think that physical versus mental health is a legitimate distinction, then why does she limit herself to physical health examples (unless she considers raising or maybe giving a child up for adoption a “pregnancy related complication”) to make her point about the situations where partial birth abortion needs to be allowed?

Mary Ann Sorrentino is not a newcomer to the abortion issue. Her inability to get the basic facts right shows how the abortion rights movement has become consumed by political rhetoric that has little or nothing to do with reality.

April 23, 2007

What the Partial Birth Abortion Ruling Means

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here’s what last week's Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, the “partial birth abortion case”, means…

1. It doesn't mean that there has been any change in the controlling precedent of American abortion law, the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision authored by Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter…

It must be stated at the outset and with clarity that Roe’s essential holding, the holding we reaffirm, has three parts. First is a recognition of the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State. Before viability, the State’s interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of abortion or the imposition of a substantial obstacle to the woman.s effective right to elect the procedure. Second is a confirmation of the State’s power to restrict abortions after fetal viability, if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies which endanger the woman.s life or health. And third is the principle that the State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child. These principles do not contradict one another; and we adhere to each.
Since partial birth abortion occurs after fetal viability, the decision applies to circumstances where the court has already said that restrictions are allowed.

2. Lost in most of the MSM coverage has been Gonzales v. Carhart's major holding: the courts don't get an extra veto over the lawmaking process, to be applied at their discretion, when the issue of abortion is involved.

Gonzales v. Carhart is not the final word on any partial birth abortion procedure. Women may still seek the procedure in individual cases, and courts might still yet rule that the Federal ban cannot be enforced under certain circumstances. What the Carhart ruling does say is that the courts cannot use the existence of exceptions to strike down the law as a whole. In legalese, the “facial” challenge to the law has been rejected, but “as applied” challenges are still possible. Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has much more on this central issue here.

3. National Review Online's editorial on the ruling provides the best explanation of why the "intact dilation and extraction" procedure that is the object of the Federal ban was chosen for legislative action. If singling out one late-term procedure for restriction seems absurd, it is because the legal reasoning applied to abortion matters has been absurd -- and not at all scientific.

Intact dilation and extraction, which begins with the delivery of an unborn child, involves a legitimate gray area in the Supreme Court’s de-facto abortion jurisprudence (the dejure standard established in Casey nothwithstanding) that has placed political ideology over science. The courts have held that the life of a fully viable human being is not always protected by law, depending on the location of that life. An 8 3/4 month old fetus in the womb? Not protected. A 6 month old premature baby, one second after delivery? Protected. A 6 month old fetus, one second before an emergency premature delivery? Not protected. And a 6 month old baby in the process of being delivered?

That is the question the Federal partial birth abortion ban was designed to address.

April 11, 2007

The Confluence of Homosexuality and Abortion

Marc Comtois

Ian Donnis rather wryle points out that "one of the country's top evangelicals, Kentucky-based Albert Mohler, has suggested that pre-natal treatment to change homosexuality in the womb would be biblically justified." Donnis also directs us to a recent piece by Mary Ann Sorrentino on the same topic. Writes Sorrentino:

The same gang that for decades has warred against any invasion of the womb in which a developing fetus (which they call an “unborn child)” resides now hopes to put a fetus on a sure road to heterosexuality.

As interesting as the concept of a gay fetus may seem, the image of hordes of so-called Christians fretting about the sexual orientation of the not-yet-born boggles the mind. Yet the Reverend R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Louisville’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, claims that in utero gays can find salvation through hormonal interventions that might make them straight from the moment when the obstetrician whacks their newly born bottom.

Mohler belongs to the same faction that has opposed pre-birth medical tampering in the past. Gender selection, in vitro fertilizations, even some pre-birth surgical procedures have all been deemed wrongful interference in divine territory. Now that these people see a way to diddle with the sexuality of the unborn, however, many of them are all over that possibility.
Indeed, it's apparently the hypocrisy of it all that is bothering people:
''What bothers me is the hypocrisy,'' [Jennifer Chrisler of Family Pride, a group that supports gay and lesbian families] said. ''In one breath, they say the sanctity of an unborn life is unconditional, and in the next breath, it's OK to perform medical treatments on them because of their own moral convictions, not because there's anything wrong with the child.''
Rev. Mohler is clearly making a distinction between pre-natal hormonal treatment and genetic manipulation (maybe it's too fine a point, I don't know). And Chrisler seems to be willingly conflating the meaning of "sanctity of life" to serve her own rhetorical purpose. There can be little doubt that Mohler is being consistent in his stance against abortion, as he also said "he would strongly oppose any move to encourage abortion or genetic manipulation of fetuses on grounds of sexual orientation."

This is part of a deeper debate, as outlined in this article:

Conservatives opposed to both abortion and homosexuality will have to ask themselves whether the public shame of having a gay child outweighs the private sin of terminating a pregnancy....Pro-choice activists won't be spared, either. Will liberal moms who love their hairdressers be as tolerant when faced with the prospect of raising a little stylist of their own? And exactly how pro-choice will liberal abortion-rights activists be when thousands of potential parents are choosing to filter homosexuality right out of the gene pool?
I think Rev. Mohler's stated belief is representative of a majority of Evangelicals (I'm not one, by the way) and thus answers the first question: having any child--gay or not--is preferable to aborting one. On the other hand, Sorrentino has consistently framed the abortion issue as a matter of "choice." So, if she doesn't want to be, you know, "hypocritical," does that mean that we can assume she also endorses a woman's right to choose to abort a fetus because it may be gay?

And that takes me to an even wider discussion. A couple years ago, I came across this touching piece by Patricia Bauer, the mother of a child with Down Syndrome. The parallel to the above discussion is obvious:

Margaret is a person and a member of our family. She has my husband's eyes, my hair and my mother-in-law's sense of humor. We love and admire her because of who she is -- feisty and zesty and full of life -- not in spite of it. She enriches our lives. If we might not have chosen to welcome her into our family, given the choice, then that is a statement more about our ignorance than about her inherent worth.

What I don't understand is how we as a society can tacitly write off a whole group of people as having no value. I'd like to think that it's time to put that particular piece of baggage on the table and talk about it, but I'm not optimistic. People want what they want: a perfect baby, a perfect life. To which I say: Good luck. Or maybe, dream on.

And here's one more piece of un-discussable baggage: This question is a small but nonetheless significant part of what's driving the abortion discussion in this country. I have to think that there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families {here's an example--ed.}. The abortion debate is not just about a woman's right to choose whether to have a baby; it's also about a woman's right to choose which baby she wants to have.

As far as I can tell, Sorrentino is perfectly fine with that.

Sorrentino has done admirable work in the gay community, but has she ever wondered if those whom she's helped through the tragedy of AIDS would have been better off if their mothers had aborted them instead?

That's a pretty tough theoretical, I know.

I suspect that Sorrentino was so delighted to hold up the mirror of hypocrisy in front of Rev. Mohler's face that she failed to look into it herself. Dealing with these deeper issues--instead of taking the easy, facile "hypocrisy" angle--is a much more difficult task. After she's seen the strength and grace of humanity amidst the tragedy of AIDS, I wonder how she can support giving carte blanche to those who may one day seek to preempt what they'd deem an imperfect life. Does she have personal reservations about unfettered abortion rights or does she subscribe to a universal, abortion-on-demand ideal--regardless of circumstance--because it's an individual choice?

In the end, I'm left with the impression that it's the right-wing, Evangelical zealot who is more likely to protect the right to life of an unborn gay child than a liberal, pro-abortion radical.

Get your head around that.

February 21, 2007

Fight Global Warming through More Abortions?

Carroll Andrew Morse

I know the standard line is that abortion-rights supporters are pro-choice, not pro-abortion. Bill Clinton once famously said that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”.

I’ve found at least one person skeptical about the rare part. In an op-ed from yesterday’s Projo, John Seager argues that large numbers of abortions are necessary to prevent global warming…

Globally, at least 350 million couples lack family planning services. Here in the United States, one-third of all births are unplanned. And the Bush administration’s family-planning failures, from its global gag rule against abortion to ideologically driven abstinence-only programs, contribute directly to millions of unwanted and unplanned births. If we could cut in half the number of unwanted births in the U.S. alone, we’d have about 5 million fewer births over 20 years.

Family planning makes sense for people – and for our fragile planet….More people use more energy. If we had zero population growth, part of the global warming problem would, well, melt away.

Mr. Seager is so seventies in combining his blame-America-first ideology with warnings of looming environmental disaster. The United States is 130th on the world fertility ranking list, already at a rate of 2.09 children-per-woman, meaning that our population has already stabilized (when every couple produces two kids, total population doesn’t grow).

The most fertile European country is Albania at 132 (2.03 children-per-woman). The first West European country in fertility ranking is Iceland at 141 (1.92 children-per-woman). And to find a continental West European country on the fertility list, we have to drop down to France at 154 (1.84 children-per-woman, already helping advance Mr. Seager’s goals, by beginning to depopulate itself). Given these numbers, if Mr. Seager is serious about what he says, he needs to focus his efforts on the Third World and tell them they can’t be having so many kids, because they are causing global warming.

(Related question: Anyone care to speculate on whether it’s a positive sign, or a sign of the apocalypse that Afghanistan is now 5th in fertility, at 6.69 children-per-woman?)

January 29, 2007

Mitt Romney on Social Issues

Carroll Andrew Morse

I know. I’m not supposed to be posting anything on the 2008 Presidential campaign before June. However, I’m adding a codicil to my New Year’s resolution: I can make an exception when able to present primary-source material about a Presidential candidate (or someone with a Presidential exploratory committee) that adds to a discussion area already active here at Anchor Rising.

At the National Review Institute’s (direct quote from NRO-Editor-at-Large Jonah Goldberg: "Whatever that is") Conservative Summit held this past weekend in Washington D.C., Presidential Candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney gave a substantive address on his philosophy concerning the major issues in American politics -- limited and fiscally conservative government, healthcare, foreign policy, and social and life issues. Here's what Governor Romney had to say about gay marriage, abortion and stem-cell research...

Governor Mitt Romney: When I ran [for Governor of Massachusetts], there were a couple of social issues that were part of that debate. You probably know what some of them were.

One was gay marriage. I opposed then and do now oppose gay marriage and civil unions.

One was related to abortion. My opponent was in favor of lowering the age where a young woman could get an abortion without parental consent from 18 to 16…I, of course, opposed changing the law in that regard.

Another issue was the death penalty, I was for, [my opponent] was against.

Another was English immersion. For a long time, our state had bilingual education, where the schools or the parents get to choose what language their child is taught in. I said that’s just not right. If kids want to be successful in America, they have to learn the language of America. We fought for that, and by the way, I won that one, my opponent did not.

Now, as you know, after I got elected, Massachusetts became sort of the center stage for a number of very important social issues, one of them being gay marriage. I am proud of the fact that I and my team did everything within our power and within the law to stand up for traditional marriage. This is not, in my view and the view of my team, a matter of adult rights. We respect the rights of gay citizens to live as they wish and to have tolerance and respect and not be discriminated against. I feel that very deeply. At the same time, we believe that marriage is not primarily about adults. In a society, marriage is primarily about the development and nurturing of children. A child’s development, I believe, is enhanced by access to a mom and a dad. I believe in every child’s right to a mom and a dad.

Now, there’s one key social issue where I did not run as a social conservative, at least one. That was with regards to abortion. I said I would protect a woman’s right to choose an abortion. I’ve changed my view on that, as you probably know.

Let me tell you the history about that. Some years ago, when I was at the Olympics, I met a guy named Mark Lewis. He was head of our marketing there. He told me that he was a finalist for a Rhodes scholarship. I don’t know how far he got. His final interview was with a German interviewer and the interviewer said to him “Mr. Lewis, who is one of your political heroes?” and he said Ronald Reagan. The German had the predictable response -- *GASP*. He said how in the world can you square that statement with what Churchill said, which is that “a young person who is not a liberal has no heart?” Mark responded by repeating the last portion of that Churchillian comment, that “an older person who was not a conservative had no brain” and adding “I, Herr Doctor, simply matured early”.

On abortion, I wasn’t always a Ronald Reagan conservative. Neither was Ronald Regan, by the way. But like him, I learned with experience.

In my case, the point where that experience came most to bear was with regards to learning about stem-cell research. Let me tell you, there are so many different ways of getting stem cells. I was delving into that because my legislature was proposing new legislation that re-defined when life began. I think it’s interesting that the legislature thinks it has the capacity to make that determination. Our state had always said that life began at conception, but they were going to re-define when life began, so I spent some time learning (with, by the way, a number of people in this room who helped) about all of the different types and sources of stem-cells, not only adult stem cells and umbilical stem cells and stem cells from existing lines, but also surplus embryos from in-vitro fertilization. I supported all of those.

But for me, there was a bright-line when you started creating new life for the purposes of destruction and experimentation. That was somatic-cell nuclear transfer (or cloning) and also what’s known as embryo farming. At one point, I was sitting down with the head of the stem-cell research department at Harvard and the provost of Harvard University, and they were explaining these techniques to me. I imagined in my mind this embryo farming. Embryo farming is taking donor sperm and donor eggs and putting them together in the laboratory and creating a new embryo. If that’s not creating new life, then I don’t know what is. I imagined row after row after row of racks of these, created either by the cloning process or the farming process. At that point, one of the two gentleman said, “Governor, there’s really not a moral issue at stake here, because we destroy the embryos at 14 days”. I have to tell you, that comment and that perspective hit me very hard. As he left the room with his colleague, I turned to Beth Myers, my chief of staff, and said I want to make it real clear: we have so cheapened the value and sanctity of human life in our society that someone can think there’s not a moral issue because we kill embryos at 14 days.

Shortly thereafter, I announced I was firmly pro-life.

Now, you don’t have to take my word for it, by the way. The nice thing about being able to watch governors is you don’t have to look just at what they say, you can look at what they’ve done. Over my term, I had 4 or 5 different measures that came to my desk [concerning life issues] and on every single one I came down on the side of respecting human life. That didn’t make me real popular in the state. Remember, in Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy is considered a moderate….

In the next few days, I’ll have more from Mitt Romney on other issues, excerpts from Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush on the meaning and future direction of conservatism and from Tony Snow on the Iraq Surge and the President’s new healthcare proposal, plus a whole lot of insights and opinions that I heard discussed at the conference that will bring you up-to-date on the state of conservatism…

October 21, 2006

Another "Huh?"

Justin Katz

From Froma Harrop:

Another reason for the silence [about addressing population growth] is that population has gotten mixed up in the abortion issue. Some abortion foes insist that that Roe v. Wade has produced a sharp population decline. Of course, there isn't a population decline. Population is surging, and even native-born Americans are replacing themselves. The United States is not Europe, where birth rates have fallen to troubling levels (and where, incidentally, the rates of abortion are far lower).

Huh? I've read pretty broadly on abortion, and I don't believe that I've ever come across an abortion foe who made such a point. Does Harrop's "'population' folder" date back to the '70s or something?

I agree with her that "the thorny immigration debate" accounts for some of the reluctance to discuss population growth. I'd say there's also an amply justified reluctance to start putting solutions such as one-child policies on the table. (I've always wondered, by the way, at Western feminists' lack of right-to-choose ire at forced abortions in China.)

March 13, 2006

Life Issues in Rhode Island

Carroll Andrew Morse

In today's Pawtucket Times, Jim Baron speculates on the effect that South Dakota's abortion ban may have on Rhode Island

A quick check of the General Assembly website shows there are 17 abortion bills currently in the hopper (some of those are duplicate House-Senate bills). For a decade or so there has been a gentlemens agreement (pun intended) in the legislature that no abortion bills would pass - no pro-abortion bills, no anti-abortion bills. That maintained the status quo (which was safe to do as long as abortion was exclusively a federal issue, which it would no longer be if Roe went by the boards)and cut down on a lot of acrimony.

It is worth noting that while the anti-abortion Womens Right to Know Act has been introduced this year in both chambers, the pro-abortion bill from a few years ago that would assure the procedure would remain legal in Rhode Island if Roe were overturned has not.

Baron also suggests, in the realm of the purely political, that the re-emergence of abortion as a state issue could effect the electoral prospects of second district Congressman James Langevin, who is pro-life.

Related to another life issue, the Projos Political Scene column notes that the Houses Health, Education, and Welfare Committee will consider an assisted suicide bill during a marathon committee session this Wednesday where 37 other bills will be considered. Heres the core of the proposed bill (House bill 7428)

An adult who is capable, is a resident of Rhode Island, and has been determined by the attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, and who has voluntarily expressed his or her wish to die, may make a written request for medication for the purpose of ending his or her life in a humane and dignified manner in accordance with this chapter.
A Charles Bakst column from earlier this year, where he quotes bill sponsor Edith Ajello (D-Providence), suggests that this bill probably wont pass in this session. Still, it seems that a matter like this -- quite literally a life-and-death issue -- deserves more than 1/38th of a committee session.

December 9, 2005

Elected Representatives and Public Opinion

Carroll Andrew Morse

Almost always, the rule in political blogging is dont blame the staff guys (and gals) for the contorted positions that their bosses sometimes force them to have to explain. To use a specific example, have some empathy for the John Kerry spokesman who has to answer a bunch of questions about his boss statement that I voted for the Iraqi reconstruction before I voted against it. Its not the staff guys (or gals) fault that the boss is incoherent.

However, Beth Schwartzapfel's article in this weeks Providence Phoenix on the looming confirmation battle over Judge Samuel Alito gives justification for breaking the dont-blame-the-staff-guys-rule. Here's what Stephen Hourahan, Senator Lincoln Chafee's spokesman, had to say about the best way to influence Senator Chafees vote

Chafee spokesman Stephen Hourahan says the senators office has received some calls from constituents on both sides of the issue, "[But] as far as a great outpouring, we havent had that yet." His advice to groups on both sides is, "If you wanted to really make an impact, you could get an auto-dialer and start calling the senators office."
I thought that the job of an elected representative was to represent what the public really believes. Why is Mr. Hourahan encouraging people to provide a distorted view of public opinion to Senator Chafee?

September 23, 2005

Taking Abortion Away from the Supreme Court

Marc Comtois

Though I think he's indulging in a flight of fancy (heck, I'm conservative in both my politics and my expectations), David Gelernter has a politically "radical" (and he offers, "conservative") proposal regarding the ever-present abortion debate. First, his reasoning:

The abortion issue is a catastrophic wound in U.S. cultural life. It has inflicted unending battles on American society ever since the Supreme Court seized control of the issue from state legislatures in 1973 in one of the grossest power grabs American democracy ever faced.

Young people pondering U.S. democracy today might easily conclude that all really important laws must be decreed by the high court.

We could heal the abortion wound, end the battles and reaffirm the integrity of American democracy if we had the guts to use the Constitution's own mechanism for introducing big, permanent changes to American law. We should get Congress to propose and the nation to ratify a constitutional amendment.

As for specifics, Gelernter further opines and proposes:
Overturning Roe, moreover in the face of majority support, would be a spectacular gesture for the Supreme Court, which no longer likes making spectacular gestures.

How can democracy reassert itself given American political reality? Congress could propose, and the nation could ratify, a two-part constitutional amendment.

Part one would legalize abortion with suitable restrictions. Part two would nullify Roe and reaffirm that only Americans and their elected representatives have the power to make law in this nation. All courts would be implicitly instructed by this slap-in-the-face clause to butt out of law-making.

Obviously, pro-abortion liberals would gain if such an amendment were ratified. Anti-abortion conservatives would too not in their fight against abortion, perhaps, but as Americans. They can live in a nation where abortion is legal and democracy is under a cloud, or a nation where abortion is legal and democracy has been resoundingly reaffirmed.

Abortion poses vitally important problems, but liberty and democracy are even more important. If we lose them, we lose everything including all possibility of making things better in the future.

To pass a constitutional amendment is hard, but plenty have been approved in short order. . . . The ratification process would give conservatives a chance they haven't had for years, to make their case to a public that is empowered to act. If the amendment were ratified, which would be likely, abortion rights would at least be backed by the legitimate authority of the people instead of the usurped authority of the court. Democracy would have been vindicated. When the people finally have a chance to speak, this wound would finally have a chance to heal.

It seems to me that the chance that the Supreme Court would render itself moot on the question is low. Thus, the real question is: will the political class be willing to undertake such an effort, with or without the Supreme Court's abdication on the issue?

September 15, 2005

Can You Define Exactly What Actions Were Authorized by Roe v. Wade?

Hadley Arkes recently published an editorial entitled Reversing the Tables: Still time for Republicans to seize the hearing moment, in which he wrote:

...Dianne Feinstein affects a reasonable style and then, without strain she attributes to the Nazis a religious passion and connects them then with other people, among us, animated by religious conviction. She likens Nazis in Germany to serious Christians in America and from the Republicans comes no word of reproach. Once again, the party has taken the strategy of going into the clinch: Offer praise to the nominee, insist that we respect the intellect of Roberts, and confirm him without political sniping. But nothing is done to expose the emptiness of the arguments offered by most of the Democrats and lay the groundwork then for a Republican counterattack.

A Teaching Moment?

...I suggested a quick two-step for making the issue of abortion work against the Democrats, and with that step, virtually bringing the attacks to a stop...

Even a deft nominee might have difficulty in converting the exchanges into a conversation that would draw out the questioners and expose them to serious embarrassment...

...But what if the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee did not let [Kennedy and his ilk] slide away from his embarrassment on...the most vexing issue of all, the matter of Roe v. Wade?

In the course of an exchange, as questions are posed, he or the Republicans on the committee could point out that even lawyers are often confused about the meaning of Roe. One friend, at a leading law school in the country, found that only 5 of the 25 colleagues she polled could give an accurate account of Roe. If they could be drawn into this question, Senators Leahy and Kennedy might be tempted to draw on the reigning clichs of the day and say that Roe established the right of a woman to choose an abortion in the first three months of her pregnancy. But Judge Roberts could decorously correct them. What Roe and its companion case (Doe v. Bolton) established was the right to order an abortion throughout the entire length of the pregnancy for any reason at all. It could be ordered even at the point of birth if a woman would suffer distress some strain on her "mental health" if that choice were denied her. Is that what the senators would have Judge Roberts affirm? If so, they would be demanding, loudly, in public, a position that is supported by only 22-24 per cent of the country. That is not how most people understand the "right to abortion."...

But in holding back, as they must, they give John Roberts the chance to draw, even gently, this first critical admission: that even the pro-choicers will concede that there are instances in which abortions would be unjustified, and could rightly be forbidden. With that first step in place, it is simply a matter of pivoting to the second step, which finally puts the problem away. Judge Roberts could quickly and decisively note that he may not say more: For him to pronounce, right then, on the restrictions that are justified or unjustified is virtually to invite the legislation, and the litigation, that he would be asked later to judge. End of story, end of exchange. And the end, perhaps, of the subject of abortion in these hearings.

It Depends What Your Meaning of "Settled" Is?

Unless the Democrats want to press Roberts on what he could have meant when he pronounced the issue of abortion as "settled." I myself have argued for years that the holding in Roe was indefensible at the moral root, and as John Roberts said, in a brief of 14 years ago, that the decision finds no basis in the text or history of the Constitution. And yet, as a matter of prudence I too could sign on to the notion that Roe could be considered settled law, for the public has evidently come to believe that something of that decision deserves to be sustained. It turns out also that a large portion of people in the country, even "educated" people, seem to believe that the overturning of Roe would mean that the Court had rendered abortion illegal in all parts of the country. Under those conditions, the prudent course could be to avoid setting off a panic and treat Roe as settled in some way for the moment. And as it turns out, Roe could be overruled, in effect, in a series of cases, without the need to pronounce it overruled. As we have seen in the surveys, the support for "abortion rights" peels away as we move, case by case.

At this point, Republicans could weigh in and offer some telling help. They might ask Judge Roberts whether the decision in Roe v. Wade "settled" anything, or even said anything, about these kinds of questions, which continue to arise in litigation:

A legislature accepts the "freedom to choose," but insists that a woman use the form of abortion more likely to bring forth the child alive. Is the right to abortion a right to be separated from an unwanted pregnancy, or a right to insure the death of the child? In 1976, in the Danforth case, the Court deflected one attempt, of a legislature, to encourage the abortion that was not lethal. But was this matter ever addressed in Roe, and might the problem not be posed again?

If a child survives a "live-birth" or an induced abortion, is there an obligation to sustain the child? Or is the right to abortion the right to an "effective abortion" or a dead child? One federal judge held that the child, in this setting, was not protected by the law; but Congress, in 2002, decided it was and no Democrat voted in opposition (the Born-Alive Infants' Protection Act).

In the classic understanding, an action taken out of ignorance is not a voluntary action. May a legislature act to insure that the decision to abort is not taken out of ignorance, or that a woman is not coerced into the decision? For some it has made a difference to know that there is a beating heart, or that the child is sucking and moving her tongue. Is there anything in Roe v. Wade that bars the authorities from providing this information, or even asking a woman what she wishes to know about the state of the child she is carrying? Or for that matter, is it incompatible with the "right to choose" that a woman be required to learn something more about the surgery she is choosing when she is ending another human life?

No surgery in this country can be performed on minors without the consent of their parents, except of course for abortions. If a legislature insists that the parents are informed, or that they are available to offer help with medication, does Roe v. Wade actually say that the decision must always be left in the hands of strangers who are judges, rather than the family? Could Congress forbid the taking of a minor across the lines of a state for the purpose precisely of evading these restrictions, which are still compatible in principle with the "right to choose" abortion?

Judge Roberts could honestly report that none of these matters is taken up in Roe, and none of them is foreclosed by any principle of "choice" articulated in that decision. None of them, therefore, is part of any law "settled" by Roe v. Wade. Just what part is settled will have to be left to judgment of the Court, as the problem is played out case-by-case...

The critical turn in the law may come if Justice Roberts helps to flip the decision that struck down the laws on partial-birth abortion in the states...If that is done, the Court will be saying, in effect, that it is in business now to consider anew this long chain of cases offering restrictions of various kinds on abortion. What would follow then is a long line of cases, moving in small steps, with the Court upholding one restriction after another on abortion, each one modest, each one regarded by the public as plainly reasonable. When that happens, the regime of Roe v. Wade will have come to an end, without even the need to pronounce it over.

Here is another editorial on Roe v. Wade.

September 11, 2005

Roe v. Wade

In a 2002 editorial entitled Roe v. Wade at 25: Still Illegitimate, Michael McConnell wrote:

...Roe v. Wade is the most enduringly controversial court decision of the century, and rightly so. Rather than putting the issue to rest, the court converted it into the worst sort of political struggle--one involving angry demonstrators, nasty confirmation battles and confrontational sound bites. With ordinary politicians, who are masters of compromise, out of the picture, the issue became dominated by activists of passionate intensity on both extremes of the spectrum.

...The Constitution stands for certain fundamental principles of free government, and there are times when the courts must intervene to make sure they are not neglected. But when judges act on the basis of their own political predilections, without regard to constitutional text or the decisions of representative institutions, the results are illegitimate.

The reasoning of Roe v. Wade is an embarrassment to those who take constitutional law seriously, even to many scholars who heartily support the outcome of the case. As John Hart Ely, former dean of Stanford Law School and a supporter of abortion rights, has written, Roe "is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be."

The court's reasoning proceeded in two steps. First, it found that a "right of privacy" exists under the Constitution, and that this right is "broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy."...

But the right of privacy is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. Various judges, according to the court, had found "at least the roots of that right" in the First Amendment, in the "penumbras of the Bill of Rights," in the Ninth Amendment or in the "concept of liberty guaranteed by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment." This vague statement is tantamount to confessing the court did not much care where in the Constitution this supposed right might be found. All that mattered was it be "broad enough" to encompass abortion.

Even assuming a right of privacy can be excavated from somewhere, anywhere, in the Constitution, what does it mean? The court avoided defining the term, except by giving examples from previous cases. The trouble is, counterexamples abound. The federal "right of privacy" has never been held to protect against laws banning drug use, assisted suicide or even consensual sodomy--just to mention a few examples of crimes that are no less "private" than abortion. It is impossible to know what does and does not fall within this nebulous category.

Even assuming that there is a right of privacy, and that its contours can be discerned from the court's examples, surely it must be confined to activities that affect no one else. It would be an odd kind of privacy that confers the power to inflict injury on nonconsenting third parties. Yet the entire rationale for antiabortion laws is that an abortion does inflict injury on a nonconsenting third party, the fetus. It is not possible to describe abortion as a "privacy right" without first concluding that the fetus does not count as a third party with protectable interests.

That brings us to step two in the court's argument. Far from resolving the thorny question of when a fetus is another person deserving of protection--surely the crux of the privacy right, if it exists--the justices determined that the issue is unresolvable. They noted that there has been a "wide divergence of thinking" regarding the "most sensitive and difficult question" of "when life begins." They stated that "[w]hen those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary...is not in a position to speculate as to the answer."

According to the court, the existence of this uncertainty meant that the state's asserted interest in protecting unborn life could not be deemed "compelling." But this leaves us with an entirely circular argument. The supposed lack of consensus about when life begins is important because when state interests are uncertain they cannot be "compelling"; and a compelling state interest is required before the state can limit a constitutional right. But the constitutional right in question ("privacy") only exists if the activity in question does not abridge the rights of a nonconsenting third party--the very question the court says cannot be resolved. If it cannot be resolved, there is no way to determine whether abortion is a "right of privacy."

In any event, the court's claim that it was not resolving the issue of "when life begins" was disingenuous. In our system, all people are entitled to protection from killing and other forms of private violence. The court can deny such protection to fetuses only if it presupposes they are not persons.

One can make a pretty convincing argument, however, that fetuses are persons. They are alive; their species is Homo sapiens. They are not simply an appendage of the mother; they have a separate and unique chromosomal structure. Surely, before beings with all the biological characteristics of humans are stripped of their rights as "persons" under the law, we are entitled to an explanation of why they fall short. For the court to say it cannot "resolve the difficult question of when life begins" is not an explanation.

It is true, of course, that people honestly disagree about the question of when life begins. But divergence of opinion is not ordinarily a reason to take a decision away from the people and their elected representatives. One of the functions of democratic government is to provide a forum for debating and ultimately resolving controversial issues. Judges cannot properly strike down the acts of the political branches that do not clearly violate the Constitution. If no one knows when life begins, the courts have no basis for saying the legislature's answer is wrong. To be sure, abortion is an explosive issue...But the Supreme Court made it far more so by eliminating the possibility of reasoned legislative deliberation and prudent compromise.

It is often said that abortion is an issue that defies agreement or compromise. But if the polling data are correct, there has been a broad and surprisingly stable consensus among the American people for at least the past 30 years that rejects the uncompromising positions of both pro-choice and pro-life advocates. Large majorities...believe that abortion should be legally available during the early months of pregnancy. There is also widespread support for legal abortions when the reasons are sufficiently weighty (rape, incest, probability of serious birth defect, serious danger to the mother's health).

But only 15% believe that abortion should generally be available after the first three months, when the fetus has developed a beating heart, fingers and toes, brain waves and a full set of internal organs. Majorities oppose abortions for less weighty reasons, such as avoiding career interruptions. Even larger majorities (approaching 80%) favor modest regulations, like waiting periods and parental consent requirements, to guard against hasty and ill-informed decisions...Most Americans would prohibit particularly grisly forms of the procedure, like partial-birth abortions.

These opinions have persisted without significant change since the early 1970s, and are shared by women and men, young and old alike...If the courts would get out of the business of regulating abortion, most legislatures would pass laws reflecting the moderate views of the great majority. This would provide more protection than the unborn have under current law, though probably much less than pro-life advocates would wish.

The Supreme Court brought great discredit on itself by overturning state laws regulating abortion without any persuasive basis in constitutional text or logic. And to make matters worse, it committed these grave legal errors in the service of an extreme vision of abortion rights that the vast majority of Americans rightly consider unjust and immoral. Roe v. Wade is a useful reminder that government by the representatives of the people is often more wise, as well as more democratic, than rule by lawyers in robes.

August 16, 2005

Froma Harrop tells you what Dahlia Lithwick won't

Carroll Andrew Morse

Let's give credit to Froma Harrop, which we don't often do at Anchor Rising. Harrop tells you what Dahlia Lithwick won't. Here's Lithwick, in Slate...

The reason social conservatives seek to have no exception to New Hampshire's parental notification statute for situations in which there is a risk to the health of the mother is straightforward: They don't trust doctors. This was the fight at the heart of the partial-birth abortion dispute in the 2000 case of Stenberg v. Carhart, decided by a familiar 5-4 margin. The fear in both contexts is that a health exception in the hands of sympathetic physicians puts no real meaningful limit on abortion
Is it really as simple as the fact that those mean, retrograde social conservatives don't trust doctors and don't care about the health of mothers? Or is there something else in play here? The answer is in Harrop's August 14 Projo column...
Most of us agree that these abortions [to protect the health of the mother] should be done only under extraordinary circumstances. So if by "health" we mean the psychic well-being of someone who decided late in the game that she didn't want a baby, then no, the pregnancy must go to full term. But if something has gone terribly wrong, and the woman would be physically ravaged by continuing a pregnancy, then we must have a different kind of debate.
Harrop is explaining that the courts, at present, define health exceptions to abortion very broadly, drawing no distinction between "mental health" and "physical health". Do social conservatives not trust doctors, or do social conservatives not trust the courts to define reasonable standards of mental health? (Remember Amy Richards, who opted for "pregnancy reduction" becasue she was traumatized by the thought that having triplets would force her to shop at Costco? Would this have qualified under a "mental health" exception?) If Lithwick wanted to facilitate an honest discussion on this issue, she would have mentioned this detail.

April 27, 2005

Abortion: The Great Crime Reducer

Marc Comtois

Writing for the American Conservative, Steve Sailer has brought to light a whispered belief by some that abortion reduces the crime rate. It is explained by University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt in his new book, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and has, according to Sailer, been deemed intellectually sound by the likes of George Will and Robert Samuelson. The reason it is only whispered, as Sailer puts it, is because "Levitts hypothesis embarrasses pro-choicers, who dont want public discussion of how quite a few people, from crusading eugenicist and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger onward, have backed fertility control as a way to limit 'undesirables.' Since blacks undergo about three times as many abortions as whites per capita, white liberals realize that endorsing Levitts reasoning could be politically disastrous." I urge you to read the piece as Sailer explains the fallacy behind the theory and other social costs of abortion.

April 15, 2005

Right and Wrong in Abortion Protests

Justin Katz

Joseph Manning's pro-life activities in Cranston evoke mixed feelings in me:

Joseph Manning agreed to take down the baby outfits he had hung in the trees.

They were part of an antiabortion display he puts up three days a week outside the Women's Medical Center on Broad Street.

"That said the whole thing," he said. "You know what I'm saying? The baby suits waving in the trees."

But Manning, 74, won't remove his signs, as many as 11 at a time, some that depict bloody, dismembered fetuses.

I do sympathize with parents' desire to preserve what innocence in their children they can:

The clinic, which provides medical services, including abortions, is at the corner of Betsey Williams Drive, a street with enough children to hold its own Halloween parade.

Bobby Raposa sees the display from behind his picket fence. "I don't like it at all," he said, motioning toward his daughter, who was playing in the yard. "She shouldn't have to learn this at age five, but I have to explain this because these people have pictures of dead babies on the street."

The town would have a right to demand that pornographic posters be removed, even if they were displayed in protest of a bordello. (Of course, for the time being, such a business would be operating illegally; perhaps if Rhode Island's sex workers unionize...) I'd also speak against a thrice-weekly open-air presentation of graphic images of terrorists' beheaded victims, for example. But Mr. Manning does have a point:

Told of the neighbor's concerns that children were seeing his signs, he motioned toward the clinic and said: "I understand. I relate. But there are children being killed in here. If you go on a scale of things, one is much worse."

If a business were somehow legally euthanizing disabled kindergarteners, would our focus really be on protesters' inappropriate signage? Of course, the broader society wouldn't need graphic images to be disgusted by such a thing (at least not at present); the act itself screams in bold letters. Which makes me wonder whether Mr. Manning oughtn't apply the same principle to abortion. How about one big sign with bold letters reading:

There are children being killed in here.

That would avoid the reflexive turning away, and personally, I would find it much more shocking, in its bare truth. It would also force those who object to address the message itself, not its delivery — unless they were to do so by requesting that it not be so blunt. That, actually, is one disturbing aspect of the Providence Journal's report:

Elizabeth and Peter McStay were working in the yard in front of their house, white with green shutters. Peter McStay said, "it's a tough thing. It's a free country, but you don't have the right to infringe upon my way of life."

Exactly wrong. We can only allow ours to be a free country to the extent that we have the right to infringe upon each other's way of life. Put differently, we can only dislodge government authority from the capillaries of our personal lives if we are allowed to influence each other through other means — if we are free, as individuals, to get as far under each other's skin as the boundary between public and private will permit.

Me, I find it a discouraging sign that the apparent compromise between Manning and the town was to sacrifice the symbolism of flapping baby clothes for the gratuity of photographic gore.