Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Life or Health Exception Smokescreen

Sometimes people will object to protecting human life starting at fertilization on the grounds that abortion needs to be available when the mother's life is in danger, the mother's health is in danger, or the baby's health is in danger. Let's look at these in reverse order.

The Baby's Health
Many mothers have been told they need to abort the pregnancy (kill the baby) because the baby has a health problem (Down syndrome, missing a vital organ such as the brain, or even a mild health problem), is at risk for a health problem, or would be placed at risk if the mother received treatment for something like cancer.

If the baby is certain to have a health problem, does it justify taking his or her life? No. Human life is valuable not because of our abilities, but because we are made in the image of God. Humans have intrinsic worth apart from their abilities. Murder is still murder whether the victim is disabled or not. Sometimes a baby with a serious condition will be stillborn. Sometimes the baby dies within hours or weeks of birth. And other times the doctor was wrong (or perhaps he was right, but God healed the baby) and the baby is completely normal.

If the baby is simply at risk for health problems, or the baby would be placed at risk by the mother's treatment (more on this when we look at the mother's life), there is also a chance (sometimes the vast majority of the time, depending on the treatment) that the baby will be fine.

For most people, aborting because of the baby's health is about the inconvenience to the parents of having a disabled baby. How many really say, my child would be better off dead than living with the condition that the doctor believes he has or might have? Probably not many.

The Mother's Health
Allowing abortion to protect the mother's health is a smokescreen for permitting nearly all abortions, because health can be defined to include mental health, which can include stress--and what baby doesn't increase stress?

But using a narrower definition of health, abortion is still unacceptable. How can you justify killing one person to prevent possible health problems to another? You simply can't.

The Mother's Life
If a mother's life is endangered by carrying a baby to term, is abortion justified? Let's look at some examples.

1. In an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, the baby attaches outside the uterus, typically to the fallopian tubes. Without intervention, both the mother and baby will die. There is no competing interest between the mother and baby. The baby will die. The baby must be removed to save the mother's life. This is not a standard abortion procedure. Many would not consider it abortion.

2. Some mothers have been diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. Many (especially in early stages of pregnancy) are told they need to abort. Why? Not because the pregnancy endangers the mother, but that the treatments could endanger the baby. So kill the baby to prevent possibly harming or killing the baby. That only makes sense to someone more concerned about liability and lawsuits than their patients.

Doctors cause two tragedies when they tell a woman if she takes a treatment, she needs to abort her baby. First, some women will kill the baby, when both mother and baby could be fine. Second, some women refuse lifesaving treatment, when both mother and baby could have been fine.

3. Eclampsia usually occurs after viability, so delivering the baby (usually by C-section) is a good option.
Christina Dunigan documents that even pro-abortion doctors, as well as other groups of gynecologists, find no need for abortion to save the mother's life:
Planned Parenthood Medical Director Mary Calderone wrote "[M]edically speaking, that is, from the point of view of diseases of the various systems, cardiac, genitourinary, and so on, it is hardly ever necessary today to consider the life of a mother as threatened by a pregnancy." Dr. Alan Guttmacher, another former leader of Planned Parenthood, said in 1967, "Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save life."

Again, quoting from the U.K.-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children:
In 1992, a group of Ireland's top gynaecologists wrote: "We affirm that there are no medical circumstances justifying direct abortion, that is, no circumstances in which the life of a mother may only be saved by directly terminating the life of her unborn child." (John Bonner, Eamon O'Dwyer, David Jenkins, Kieran O'Driscoll, Julia Vaughan, 'Statement by Obstetricians', The Irish Times 1 April 1992)

When Dublin's National Maternity Hospital (where 10% of all births in Ireland occurred) investigated the 21 deaths of pregnant women there between 1970-1979, they found that not a single one of those deaths could have been avoided by abortion. (Irish Medical Journal 1982 vol. 75, pp. 304-306)

What if there were ever a situation where one life was weighed against another--where either the mother or baby could live, but not both? Such a situation does not appear to exist. Some have argued that the mother could view killing her baby as self-defense, and therefore justifiable homicide. But that isn't a debate we need to have until we find a case it could apply to.

To reiterate, treating the mother is morally acceptable, even if harm occurs to the baby as a result. And removing an ectopic baby whose life cannot be saved, in order to save the one life that can be saved (the mother's), is perfectly ethical. Once again, the SPUC says it well:
Direct abortion is the deliberate killing of an unborn child. Treatment to save the life of the mother that results in the death of the child as an expected but not intended side effect is not a direct abortion, e.g. in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. In this situation, the baby begins to develop in the woman's fallopian tube and has to be removed or the tube will rupture and cause the death of the woman. This involves the unavoidable death of the unborn baby but the aim of the operation is to save the mother not to kill the baby.
Let's not get pulled into the trap of making exceptions where we excuse the deliberate killing of the baby.


Wesley Wilson is the President of Let Her Live, a nonprofit dedicated to saving babies by showing the beauty and value of life to women considering abortion. Please learn more about the Let Her Live pro-life billboard campaign. Donations are tax deductible.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

SC Right to Life Act (Personhood) is Dead in House

I attended the Constitutional Laws subcommittee hearing on the state House version of the Personhood bill (H. 3526) in Columbia, S.C., today.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Greg Delleney, will almost certainly not recommend the bill to the next stage.

I had hoped to speak in support of the bill, but the two members of the public who spoke took the entire hour, including the time they spent responding to questions and comments from the subcommittee. Several others also had hoped to speak. I was surprised there was no time limit which would have allowed more members of the public to have a say.

Rep. Delleney made it clear that he wants to save babies' lives, but he did not see a convincing case that the definition of the right to life beginning at fertilization would save a single life. He said he is pushing two bills that will save lives immediately (Born-Alive Protection and 24-Hour Waiting Period) and he isn't going to jepoardize these bills by also pushing the personhood bill, which he views as merely symbolic.

One speaker, Steve Lefemine, advanced a weak argument (the law is a schoolmaster, therefore this definition will lead people to value life more and abort less) to suggest the bill would save lives. The other speaker focused on the fact that the representatives would have to give account to God for the way they vote on this bill, so they must vote as they believe Jesus would.

Rep. Delleney is right that this bill would not save any babies at first, because it does not specifically address abortion. I see it as more than symbolism because it sets the principle forth so that a later abortion ban could be backed up by our state law. An abortion ban could be successful under only two scenarios: the Supreme Court upholds it (requiring a change in the composition of the Court); or South Carolina declares abortion law to be a power reserved to the states under the 10th amendment, and defies the federal government. Lefemine hinted at the latter possibility.

The possibility of a conservative shift on the Supreme Court prior to 2013 seems remote at best. And it is just as hard to imagine a scenario where a majority of state lawmakers and the governor would be willing to defy the federal government or Supreme Court--especially over abortion.

Of course Congress (if the makeup changes dramatically in November) could remove jurisdiction of abortion law from the Supreme Court, but that opens up constitutional issues we have not yet encountered. Again, having such a law signed into law before 2013 would be impossible.

I am disappointed in the subcommittee's decision, because the right to life should be declared to vest at fertilization, whether we can make meaningful policy changes yet or not. I hope to see the state senate go farther with their version (S. 450). (Rep. Delleney pledged to pass it through the state house if the senate passes it first.)

But regardless of the success of a personhood bill, abortion will remain legal for at least a few years. For now we must save as many lives as possible through prayer, education, intervention, pregnancy centers, sidewalk counseling, and legislative restrictions such as Delleney is currently fighting for.


Wesley Wilson is the President of Let Her Live, a nonprofit dedicated to saving babies by showing the beauty and value of life to women considering abortion. Please learn more about the Let Her Live pro-life billboard campaign. Donations are tax deductible.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Personhood -- Back on the Table in SC

On Thursday morning, a S.C. House subcommittee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the personhood legislation in our state, the Right to Life Act of South Carolina, H.3526. It states that legal personhood vests at fertilization.

We know that medically and scientifically, human life begins at fertilization. From that moment, this brand new life is genetically 100% human. It is time that our state and nation declared that we will protect all human life from fertilization on.

This legislation does not repeal the abortion laws of our state. It will not prevent a single abortion by itself. It does not put that principle in the context of abortion or any other specific area of law. It is more a statement of principle than policy. But as such it does lay the groundwork for an abortion ban at some later date that could stand up to scrutiny from the Supreme Court.

With this statement of principle in place, if enough state legislators get the courage to ban abortion outright, without exceptions based on the circumstances of conception, the ban could be upheld under portions of the reasoning of Roe vs. Wade.

While the Roe vs. Wade decision made up a right to privacy that included the right to abortion out of whole cloth, the justices made a valid point when they criticized the Texas abortion ban currently in place. You can't logically say that all human life is sacred and deserves protection--unless that life began with the crime of rape. Either human life is sacred or it isn't.

The Roe decision includes this statement: "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amendment."

Of course the court decided that there was no clear definition of a child in the womb as a person under the law. The Right to Life Act currently under consideration provides just such a definition.

Recognizing the personhood of the unborn does not automatically satisfy Roe vs. Wade, however, as some believe. The decision went on to say: "[W]e do not agree that, by adopting one theory of life, Texas may override the rights of the pregnant woman that are at stake."

They then make it a balancing act between the right to have an abortion, the state's interest in protecting the mother's health, and the state's interest in protecting what they call "potential life," which in our day is of course recognized scientifically as very real and existing human life. The Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision further affirmed a right to an abortion prior to "viability."

Roe vs. Wade is an evil and poorly reasoned decision, especially when it extends the right to privacy from government intrusion to include a right to kill a child in the womb.

The S.C. attorney general issued an opinion on this personhood bill indicating that it would probably be upheld as constitutional by the courts, however, it would be held to not apply to abortion, because (1) it doesn't specifically mention abortion, and (2) the courts would interpret it so as to make it conformable to the Roe vs. Wade and Casey decisions.

The personhood of the unborn should be declared, and it provides an important step in supporting a case to prohibit abortion, but it too is subject to judicial interpretation.

So after enacting personhood legislation, we can ban abortion and either wait for the courts to decide whether they will allow it, or we as a state stand up for our laws and assert that the state has the power to ban abortion reserved under the 10th Amendment (as a power not specifically given to the federal government).

The latter course would take courage on the part of our legislators--and probably our governor as well. And courage seems to be lacking among most politicians these days. It might also require some sacrifice on the part of the state's citizens, as federal funding for roads and education might be held back, but that sacrifice would be a very small price to pay in order to stop the killing of over 7,000 babies in South Carolina.

Personhood is a logical and necessary statement that flows from under the Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”). This declaration of personhood also follows from the medical knowledge we have today of life before birth. It follows from the biblical statements about life in the womb. And it follows the constitutional guarantee against depriving anyone of life without due process of law.

This is only the first step down a road that our legislators must commit to with courage--or get out of the way and let real statesmen take their place.


Wesley Wilson is the President of Let Her Live, a nonprofit dedicated to saving babies by showing the beauty and value of life to women considering abortion. Please learn more about the Let Her Live pro-life billboard campaign. Donations are tax deductible.

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Devaluing Children (and Motherhood)

Recently I had a conversation with a conservative friend I'll call Jay and a liberal acquaintance I'll call Nancy.

Nancy does contracting work with various companies, and she had recently lost her main contract. She told us how much she liked her free time, but wasn't happy about losing the income. She said her husband asked her how she likes being a stay-at-home mom. She told him, "Don't call me that. That's not what I am!" She said she preferred to be considered unemployed.

My friend Jay, whose wife is a homeschooling mom of five, said, "There's honor in taking care of children."

Nancy replied that she doesn't look down on women who take care of their children, but it's not for her. She said, "There's a reason for daycare!" Then she talked about how in the summer she has a full-time babysitter for one child and how she keeps the other child in camps all summer.

I didn't really comment to her, as nothing I could say would make her view her children differently.

Yes, there is a reason for daycare, just as there is a reason for kennels. Some people use daycare for short intervals when they need someone to watch their children, much as others would use a kennel to care for their pets while they are on vacation.

But if someone boarded his pet at a kennel for months at a time, it would make you wonder why he had the pet if he didn't want to spend any time with it. For people like Nancy who don't want their children near them any more than is possible, I wonder why they conceived children in the first place. Or why they don't make an adoption plan so their children can have parents who actually care about them.

Nancy is not alone. Our culture views children as a bother and a burden, not as a gift from God. Is it any wonder that so many children have neither affection nor respect for their parents?

No work that I do will ever be more important than the work of raising my children. While some families don't have the financial ability to have a parent take care of their children, I am thankful for the sacrifices my parents made to allow my mother to take care of and educate me at home. And I'm thankful for a wife who views our children as her most important responsibility.

Truly, "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."


Wesley Wilson is the President of
Let Her Live, a nonprofit dedicated to saving babies by showing the beauty and value of life to women considering abortion. Please learn more about the Let Her Live pro-life billboard campaign. Donations are tax deductible.

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Video - Media Silence on 2010 March for Life in Washington D.C.

If you can't view the video above, click here.

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