Planned Parenthood is Right

Great video from Abort73:

This morning, our pastor said he believes that the Kermit Gosnell trial has the potential to be the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” of our generation, bringing the focus of our nation on the horrors of the slaughter of children. I pray he is right, and that God—who can use ANY situation, even the reprehensible actions of “Dr.” Gosnell, to bring about good—will soon bring about the end of abortion in America. If not, I shudder at the judgment that awaits us…

Here’s the text of the video:

Last week, Katie Stockton was sentenced to 50 years in prison for throwing her newborn daughter out with the trash. In light of all the alternatives available to her, Judge John Truitt called Stockton’s CHOICE: “incomprehensible.”

When it comes to newborn babies, the law is not pro-choice. Or is it?

While Katie Stockton was on trial in Illinois, the “Infants Born Alive Act” was being debated in Florida. The proposed law would prohibit abortion clinics from abandoning or killing babies who survive abortion—something that happens more than 1,200 times a year in the U.S.

Planned Parenthood opposes the bill.

Their lobbyist argued that the fate of any baby who survives an abortion should be left up to the mother and the abortionist. In other words, Planned Parenthood sees no difference between killing a human child before birth and after birth.

And they are right.

There is no ethical difference between abortion and infanticide. But if abandoning a baby daughter is reprehensible (as Katie Stockton did), and if snipping the spinal cords of babies who survived an abortion is reprehensible (as Kermit Gosnell did), how is it less reprehensible to rip an unborn baby apart (as Planned Parenthood does close to a thousand times each day)?

To be morally consistent, infanticide must be lawful or abortion must be unlawful.

Planned Parenthood recognizes this fact.

Do you?

40 Years of Murder

40 years ago, the Roe v. Wade decision wasn’t even the biggest news story of the day

There have been several good articles today to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling that States did not have the authority to criminalize abortion. Here are a few of the best:

  • How Abortion Became an Evangelical Issue — Al Mohler’s article from today’s Washington Post explains how evangelicals gradually became co-belligerents with Catholics in opposing abortion. Any of my fellow Southern Baptists who are not familiar with our denomination’s history on this issue (hint: the SBC wasn’t always so pro-life) should read this.
  • We Know They Are Killing Children—All of Us Know — John Piper: “For forty years this has meant that any perceived stress is a legal ground for eliminating the child. We have killed fifty million babies. And what increases our guilt as a nation is that we know what we are doing. Here’s the evidence that we know we are killing children.”
  • 5 Things You Didn’t Know About “Jane Roe” — The history of Norma McCorvey (the “Roe” of Roe v. Wade), including her conversion to Christianity and the pro-life conviction that came with it.

Abortion is a topic I’ve addressed several times on this blog. Here are some posts from the archives which may be of interest to you:

In that last post, you’ll also find some facts which conservatives today may find uncomfortable. For instance, did you know that two years prior to Roe v. Wade, the Southern Baptists passed a resolution seeking Federal legislation that would make abortion legal? Or that perhaps the most progressive legislation legalizing abortion prior to Roe v. Wade was signed into law by California Governor Ronald Reagan?

The good news is that both Reagan and the SBC, like “Jane Roe” herself, eventually became staunch defenders of life, which holds promise that the battle is worth fighting. Today’s abortionist may well be tomorrow’s abolitionist.

If You Don’t Know, Don’t Shoot

I’ve been having an ongoing conversation recently with a friend who is questioning whether or not a person can objectively know when an unborn human life becomes a “person” (or if indeed there is a difference between the two). If you’ve ever had similar questions, or know someone who has, I highly encourage you to take two and a half minutes to watch the following video (HT: JT), which contains the closing argument of Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft from a debate on the topic of abortion. Concise and logical, he makes a compelling case:

Here’s the breakdown of his point:

A Very Important 2%

In yesterday’s post I displayed my results of a quiz that identifies the presidential candidate that best matches your answers to a set of questions. Not surprisingly, my number one match was Ron Paul. Also not surprisingly, coming in at #2 was Gary Johnson.

The quiz stated that “I side 98% with Ron Paul”. While I’m not certain I’m quite that ideologically aligned with him, my blogging history should tell you that the quiz pegged my pick pretty accurately. But then it said I sided 96% with Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president.

Though, unlike Paul, I haven’t written much of anything about Johnson on here, I should say that I do like him. I agree with him on a great many things. On the quiz, his answers and Ron Paul’s were virtually identical on the vast majority of questions, which explains why the margin of difference between them is slim… at least where the quiz metrics are concerned.

But that 2% of difference is a major difference when it comes to the importance of the issues where they are different. Gary Johnson supports a woman’s “right” to choose to abort a fetus until it becomes “viable” at 5 months of gestation. That by itself is a deal-breaker for me. Though I align with Johnson on most issues on paper, I absolutely cannot and will not vote for a candidate who does not strongly oppose abortion. It’s one of the reasons I so strongly support Ron Paul: he has been the most consistent pro-life politician in Washington for decades.

Call me a “one issue voter” if you like (though I hope my history of thinking through political issues “out loud” on my blog will demonstrate that this is not the case), but I can’t think of any issue more worthy of raising to “deal-breaker” status.

Quizzes are fun, but there’s a limit to their usefulness. I may side with Gary Johnson 96% of the time, but I won’t vote for him.

What to Think About KONY 2012

By now, many of you have probably seen the short film “KONY 2012”, which has had well over 60 million views since being published to the Internet Monday by the nonprofit group “Invisible Children”. It’s been making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook about as fast as anything I’ve ever seen, and has been generating a lot of talk. In case you haven’t seen it, I hope you’ll take the time to watch it here (but stick around for a bit of discussion afterward):

What are we to make of all this? Here are a couple of my thoughts.

First, the good:

  • This video is really well done. This is an example of how great art has the power to move people to action, and potentially to bring about cultural and political change on a global scale.
  • There is also something very powerful about a moving visual presentation to force people to engage with an issue they might otherwise overlook. We might compare it to the efforts of William Wilberforce to show people (he also targeted influential culture- and policy-makers) the horrors of slavery first hand, through various means such as showing them up close the conditions under which slaves were transported across the oceans.
  • Surely, if there has ever been a nonpartisan issue worth supporting, it is bringing down the man responsible for these unthinkable crimes. While there may be disagreement as to how it ought to be done, hopefully everyone can agree that seeing Joseph Kony brought to justice in 2012 would be a good thing.

Next, some reservations:

  • I’m not going to rush to send money to an organization about which I know nothing. “Invisible Children” may turn out to be a very worthwhile cause, but the track record of financial accountability and effectiveness of similar humanitarian organizations is not great. Is a monthly donation to IC the best way for me to get personally involved in improving the plight of children in Central Africa? Maybe it is, but I don’t know enough to make that judgment yet. But even some very superficial preliminary research turns up results that aren’t very promising.
  • I have no way to fact-check this video, and would like to give those who can do this the opportunity to do so. Already, articles like this one (published last year after Obama deployed U.S. Troops to Uganda) and this one (from back in 2009) call many of the video’s statistics into question.
  • The question of responsibility for dealing with international humanitarian violations is a complex one. Absolutely, Joseph Kony is a bad man, but there are many bad men. Is it the responsibility of the American government/military to bring them to justice? I would lean toward saying “no”. Let me balance that out, though, with the caveat that if our country is going to use the military to intervene overseas, I’d much rather see us helping foreign nationals apprehend a criminal than waging unconstitutional preemptive wars and maintaining an active military presence all over the world. Also, a democratically-driven and Congressionally-approved use of force (which the video advocates) is far preferable to the Executive Order when it comes to putting our troops in harm’s way.
  • I’m skeptical that a few million Facebook posts are going to make much of a difference. After all, it’s not like this guy was a total unknown last week. I first learned of Joseph Kony back in 2006, and as the video itself shows, he has been the #1 Most Wanted criminal since the International Criminal Court put together their list. Will a bunch of young people (who probably can’t find Uganda on a map) giving money to a filmmaker really help apprehend him?
  • So far, I’ve been granting the film’s premise that apprehending Joseph Kony is actually what is going to best help those he has hurt. My biggest reservation is that I really don’t think that this is what the people of Central Africa need most (and neither does this survivor of Kony’s atrocities). For those moved to compassion for the people victimized by Kony (and the many other warlords like him), there are many other reputable charities with a very long track record of real success.

A few other assorted observations:

  • Because I try to never miss an opportunity to point out what an uninformed windbag Rush Limbaugh is, the beguilingly popular “conservative” talk show host accused President Obama of sending American troops to “wipe out Christians in Uganda”, after defending Kony and the LRA as a Christian organization with valiant objectives. How anyone can ever take this guy seriously is beyond me.
  • It never ceases to amaze me how inconsistently pro-life almost all Americans seem to be. Many on the political Left rightly accuse conservatives of only caring about children until they are born, and showing very little concern for the plight of children like those highlighted in the video. Yet the fact that this video has garnered so much attention makes me wonder how our nation as a whole can be so blind to the fact that America legally slaughters more children each month than Kony has abducted in 30 years.

At the very least I will be interested to see whether or not this video campaign succeeds in maintaining the level of interest it has generated in its first week. Will people continue to care about Joseph Kony after the novelty has worn off?

For some more well-thought reading on the topic, please check out these articles:

  • Breathe — Tim Challies also counsels patience in discerning the value of the KONY 2012 campaign
  • Missions 101 — Darren Carlson, a fellow former CAMP-of-the-WOODS music staffer, is now the president of a missions organization called “Training Leaders International” (affiliated with Bethlehem Baptist Church and Desiring God Ministries). His thoughts and reflections on this topic are excellent.
  • Growing Outrage in Uganda Over the Film — Apparently the people in Uganda aren’t too thrilled about this thing.
  • Why You Should Feel Awkward About the KONY 2012 Film — Which accuses the filmmakers of appealing to the “white man’s burden complex”
  • Invisible Children’s Response to Critique — In the interest of fairness, be sure as well to check out the filmmakers’ responses to many of these criticisms in their own words.

The Greatest Moral Failure of Our Time

Abortion.

If you’ve known me or followed my blog for any period of time, you’ll know where I stand morally on this issue. If you’d like a recap of my views on the morality of abortion, read this article and especially its followup. Today’s post presupposes that abortion is an evil practice, and will focus on candidates’ strategies for ending it.

How Did We Get Here?

Before getting into the pragmatic considerations, I think it’s important to get a little historical perspective. Before trying to figure out how to make abortion illegal, we should understand how it came to be legal in the first place.

First of all, it is important to note that the moral debate over abortion long predates the founding of America, and religion has always played an important role. John Calvin explicitly forbade abortion for theological reasons during the 16th century. Early Christians and Jews opposed abortion, though it was an accepted practice across the Roman Empire (along with infanticide and the abandoning of unwanted newborns).

There was never a time in our nation’s history when abortion was not practiced. During the colonial period, laws regarding abortion were varied and non-specific, but for the most part, it was considered to be murder.

Abortion is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, though many conservatives (including myself) interpret the Fifth Amendment’s clause that “No person shall be deprived of life… without due process of law” to implicitly protect the life of the unborn (one of the reasons why the debate over personhood is so important). Rather, this issue, like all criminal and civil matters, was left in the hands of the states via the Tenth Amendment.

Early on, abortions were rare, restricted primarily by the widespread belief that abortion killed a living person. As the nation expanded, morality relaxed, and abortion became more prevalent. The first laws explicitly restricting abortion were passed (by state legislatures) in the 1820’s. By the end of the 19th century, the rate of abortions was decreasing. Though most states had enacted legislation regulating the practice, abortion opponents realized that laws were not enough. They were  primarily focused on education and religious conversion (an apparently effective strategy).

The tide turned back again in the early 20th century. Public sentiment began to sway in favor of abortion, helped in large part by copious amounts of money being spent on advertising by those who were getting rich off of abortions (just one of the many ways in which abortion and economics are closely related concerns). The laws on the books were largely unenforced, and fewer and fewer people spoke against the practice.

By the late 1960’s, a majority of Americans wanted legalized abortion. State after state passed legislation legalizing abortion (the first signed into law by California Governor Ronald Reagan). Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade overturned all state legislation, providing abortion on demand in all 50 states.

By that time, those advocating the right to life of America’s youngest citizens were vastly outnumbered. Though Catholics strongly opposed Roe v. Wade, few other Christians stood in the way. Even the Southern Baptist Convention passed resolutions recognizing the legitimacy of abortion in some circumstances; a position that, thankfully, began to change in the 1980’s.

Over the last three decades, the abortion debate has grown increasingly heated, becoming the single most important item on any politician’s platform in the eyes of many voters.

Much of this information comes from Marvin Olasky’s book Abortion Rites, summarized and excerpted here.

What Are Our Options?

Let me be clear… I do believe it is the government’s duty to criminalize abortion. Government is necessary because evil is a reality. Government is a blessing from God intended to restrain evil (Romans 13:3-4), a category into which abortion certainly fits. But there is, as they say, more than one way to skin a cat (also evil).

Ever since the political fight over abortion hit Prime Time, most people within the Pro-Life movement have sought a Federal solution: something that would instantly make abortion illegal in all 50 states by way of Congressional legislation or conservative nominees to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is the position of most within the mainstream GOP, just as it was for our last Republican President — who, by the way, was not able to make this happen despite enjoying six years with a strong Republican majority in both houses of Congress.

Ron Paul, on the other hand, advocates removing the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to rule in this matter and returning the issue to the state legislatures. He has taken flak from many conservatives for his stance on abortion. He is often accused of not being “pro-life” enough because he does not favor a federal abortion ban. It is commonly claimed (even by those who supposedly favor small government) that the states could not adequately restrain abortion; only a national solution will do.

On the contrary, claims Paul in his 2010 book Liberty Defined (my review here):

I believe it is a state-level responsibility to restrain violence against any human being… Demanding a national and only a national solution, as some do, gives credence to the very process that made abortions so prevalent. Ending nationally legalized abortions by federal court order is neither a practical answer to the problem, nor a constitutionally sound argument.

Certainly states are capable of effectively enforcing laws criminalizing violent behavior. There is no Federal law prohibiting rape or murder, but both are crimes in all 50 states. In America, if you kill somebody (who has been born), you will be prosecuted not by the United States, but by the state in which the crime took place. In fact, the only crimes prohibited by the U.S. Constitution were treason, piracy, and counterfeiting. Slavery was added to that list by the Thirteenth Amendment.

Why are we so opposed to the idea of returning jurisdiction of abortion to the states? Do we have so little confidence in our ability to govern ourselves locally?

I suspect the real reason is that we realize that in order for abortion to become illegal in all 50 states, we would have to engage in the difficult work of winning hearts and minds in the court of public opinion — something requiring much more dedication and perseverance than merely casting a vote for a candidate who claims to be pro-life. Few have the fortitude to engage in this duty, which is the fruit of generations of Americans who similarly neglected this responsibility.

It is time for us to realize that Dr. Paul is correct in agreeing with the 19th century pro-life advocates as he writes: “Legislation… will not stop all abortions. Only a truly moral society can do that.” We will never have a “truly moral society” until Christ returns, but we can reverse the moral decline of our nation, if only we realize that the solution is the Gospel, not the GOP.

Who Can We Trust?

Tactics aside, which candidates can we reliably trust to defend the unborn? Surely we aren’t just taking them at their word. After all, even Barack Obama has said (repeatedly) that his desire is to reduce the number of abortions in this country. All four GOP candidates say they oppose abortion. Which have consistent records to back that up?
Newt Gingrich — whose unrepentant serial adultery ought to cast plenty of doubt on his moral judgment — does not generally emphasize the abortion issue. Though he now says that he opposes abortion in all cases, he stated in 1995 that he supported federal funding for abortions in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the health of the mother.

Mitt Romney has similarly (and famously) changed his views on abortion. After previously supporting abortion “rights”, Romney began to describe himself as pro-life. Romney, like Paul, opposes a federal abortion ban, preferring to leave the matter to the states.

Unlike Gingrich and Romney, I do not doubt Rick Santorum’s personal convictions on this matter (though his wife’s views have certainly changed). I admire his willingness to take a stand against abortion. I just think his tactics are poor. Furthermore, I think his record of big government spending reflects a basic lack of understanding of how economics is inseparable from other ethical issues. This is evidenced by his recent defense of (and even bragging about) his vote to fund Title X family planning services. Though he says that his vote was to provide non-abortive contraceptives, the fact remains that funds are fungible, and that one of the beneficiaries was Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America.

Ron Paul was pro-life long before it was cool. His strong convictions stem from an experience during his residency as a young OB/GYN in the 1960’s, in which he witnessed a botched abortion. The baby survived outside the womb, but was left to die by the medical personnel. This deeply troubled him, and led him to conclude that there could be “no consistent moral basis to the value of life” in a society that allowed abortion. As a libertarian physician, he urged other doctors to refuse to participate in abortion regardless of its legality, and to resume the practice of taking the Hippocratic oath, which includes a pledge not to do abortions, and which his med school graduating class (like so many others) had ignored.

From the beginning of his career as a politician, he has repeatedly asserted that personal liberty is impossible where abortion is condoned. This is most notable in his book Abortion and Liberty (available free online here), published way back in 1983, and in this 1981 short essay entitled “Being Pro-Life Is Necessary to Defend Liberty”. His strong (yet unheralded) Christian faith and track record on abortion, combined with his pragmatic, Constitutional plan to restrain violence against the unborn ought to give every lover of life and liberty cause to rally behind him.

Where Should We Go From Here?

There is no doubt in my mind that abortion is the greatest moral failure of our time. It is to our generation what slavery was to William Wilberforce’s. It is our culture’s ethical blind spot. If we hope to see the practice end in our lifetime, we must have men like Wilberforce. Principled, charismatic men with unwavering focus, willing to stand up for what they believe in the face of constant ridicule and scorn, able to recruit political allies while rallying passionate grassroots support, understanding that laws are useless to restrain evil that is not recognized as such by the people.

Sound like anyone we know?

Like Wilberforce’s struggle against the slave trade, it may take decades to win the philosophical battle. In the meantime, there are some  practical matters which do fall under the Constitutional authority of the President and Congress which have a much better chance of reducing the actual number of abortions than the GOP’s standard operating procedure. Here are a few bullet points that I think may be within reach in the next few years:

  • A majority vote in Congress combined with the President’s signature can remove the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court from ruling on something Constitutionally delegated to the States, which is much simpler than repealing Roe v. Wade or passing a constitutional amendment. Abortion would still be legal in some states, initially, but this is a good first step.
  • Legislation that would define “life” as beginning at conception and the term “person” as including all human life (such as the Sanctity of Life Act introduced by Congressman Paul in 2011200920072005, etc.) would provide immediate protection for the unborn under the Constitution without requiring an Amendment.
  • Deregulate the adoption market, making it easier to provide options to mothers with unwanted pregnancies.

For further reading, I highly recommend reading Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue by R.C. Sproul, and Ron Paul’s chapter on abortion from Liberty Defined. This chapter is available for free online here, and I have summarized it here. It’s only a few pages, but is perhaps the most articulate, succinct moral defense of the sanctity of life beginning at conception I have ever read. You might also like this video:

The tenth amendment is the foundation of the Constitution.”
~ Thomas Jefferson

After-Birth Abortions

Continuing the recent theme of the consequences of ideas, let me comment briefly on an article that I’ve seen shared by several people on Twitter and Facebook today.

Online news source The Blaze published an article yesterday drawing attention to a paper entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” published in the online edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics. Basically (in case you haven’t read the Blaze article), two ethicists from Australia argue that if an abortion of a fetus is allowable, so should be the termination of a newborn.

They are exactly right, of course.

But the inverse, logically, must also be true. If it is wrong to kill a newborn, then it is also wrong to abort a fetus. If folks are uncomfortable with the idea of infanticide but have no problem with abortion, then it is up to them to figure out exactly what changes when that baby — excuse me,  “potential person” — exits the birth canal.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about.

The main thing that concerns me in all this is how surprised many people seem to be about it. Peter Singer, who is one of the world’s most influential ethicists (and a Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, where one of the ethicists who wrote the paper works), has been saying this for decades. Most Christians just haven’t been paying attention.

Singer has long advocated for euthanasia, abortion, and infanticide based on his theory of applied ethics (known as “utilitarian personism”), which states that human beings are not “persons” unless they have the ability to exercise preference (or, as he terms it, “rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness”). Therefore newborns, those with profound mental disabilities, and people with dementia do not qualify as “persons”; thus, there is nothing ethically wrong with killing them. Similarly, it is ethically right to assist anyone who DOES prefer death in committing suicide.

You might think a guy who teaches that we should be able to kill babies, the infirm, and the disabled — just because we’d rather not have to care for them (a waste of resources as he sees it) — would be locked up, right? But this guy has been a department chair at one of our Ivy League schools for 12 years, and guest lectures all over the world. He won “Humanist of the Year” back in 2004.

Interestingly enough, Singer DOES believe that it is ethically dubious to eat animals, though it is NOT ethically wrong to have sex with them… so long as you aren’t cruel to the animal.

This is precisely the reason why I believe it is so important for Christians to be aware of what is going on in fields such as philosophy and bioethics. When we stay blissfully ignorant of ethical developments in Academia, it is often much too late to effectually influence society by the time we are confronted by the ramifications of these developments “downstream”.

For those of you who have never heard of Peter Singer or “after-birth abortion”: welcome to the discussion! Below is a good interview that will introduce you to the man known as “the world’s most influential living philosopher”, or “the most dangerous man in the world”, depending on who you ask. You might also be interested in researching his books Animal Liberation (1975) and Practical Ethics (1979), both now considered “classics” in the field of ethics.

I am grateful for the Humanitas Project, a local organization led by Mike Poore that is committed to staying intellectually “upstream”  on difficult issues related to Christianity and culture. Over the past several years, our weekly book discussions and monthly guest lectures have profoundly influenced my own thinking on bioethics and many other issues. If you’re interested in getting in on this conversation, I highly encourage you to plan on attending some of these debates. Here is the info on the next two:

Friday, March 23 – “The Postmodern Challenge: Evangelizing the Apathetic,” Tom Mahler

At the beginning of the 21st Century, one of the greatest challenges Christians face is apathy.  The Gospel is rejected, not through hostility but by lack of interest.  Is it possible to reach people who don’t seem to care?

Friday, April 20 – “Transhumanism: Why Christians Must Oppose ‘One of the World’s Most Dangerous Ideas’,” Michael Poore

 Christians often fail to spot trends and ideas until after they’ve had a deep impact on the culture. Transhumanists advocate using modern medical technology to “seize control of human evolution” and guide the development of posthumans—beings that have overcome human limitations of death, disease, and intelligence. How can Christians utilize new medical technologies to maintain health and yet oppose their use when they undermine human dignity?

Admission:  Free
Location:  Cody Hall – Nashville State Community College, 1000 Neal Street, Cookeville, Tennessee
Time:  7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
Contact:  Michael Poore, Director, The Humanitas Project, (931) 239-8735, mpoore@humanitas.org