January 29, 2011

What Difference Does the Tool and Placement Make?

Deplorable office conditions aside, the procedures that have left an abortionist charged with multiple counts of murder strike me as more humane than other, legal procedures.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:33 AM

December 14, 2010

The Dark Tradeoff

The exchange of Western civilization, trading the lives of countless unborn children for an adolescent version of freedom, corrupts our core.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

November 9, 2010

An Early Choice of Direction

A young pro-life activist and her findings are both inspiring and disturbing.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

September 24, 2010

Chris Christie: Conservative Hero, Necessary Solution

NJ Governor Chris Christie has succeeded in cutting off funding for abortions, making him a hero to conservatives of the social, as well as economic, sort.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:14 AM

August 1, 2010

The Long Conversion Toward Pro-Life

The pro-life side of the abortion debate appears to be making progress, but there's a whole lot of cultural weight to lift before the public, as a whole, will bend sufficiently.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:30 PM

July 16, 2010

A Short-Lived Order Protecting Short-Lived Human Beings

No taxpayer dollars for abortion? Nobody really believed that, did they?

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

July 9, 2010

Not Imposing a Preference Against Killing

We've been seeing an odd concoction, among Rhode Island Republican candidates, in an attempt to be pro-choice but self-identify as pro-life. I think it's a monstrous construct.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:00 AM

April 30, 2010

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

In Oklahoma, the legislature has overridden a gubernatorial veto in order to require pregnant women to hear detailed descriptions of their preborn children before aborting them; in Rhode Island, a few House committee members kill legislation that would merely require the availability of generic information and a twenty-four-hour wait.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:55 AM

May 23, 2006

The Facts of Life

An excellent summary by Bernard Lefoley in the Providence Journal:

That a human embryo is a human being is a self-evident and scientific fact. Human beings procreate human beings. A human embryo has the same human DNA for the rest of his or her life on the face of this earth. The only thing the human embryo needs that it does not contain within itself is nutrition and sustenance. The reason the human embryo implants itself in the wall of the uterus is to get those.

The question of whether an embryo or fetus is a "person" who comes under the protection of the law is a legal and constitutional issue. Since the human embryo is a human being, it should automatically be a person protected under the Rhode Island and U.S. constitutions. Any legal system that does not endow all human beings with the inalienable right to life and does not protect that right is evil.

I continue to believe that the greatest impediment to protection of the unborn is the subconscious realization of too many in our society that they have either engaged in or facilitated evil. The heat with which people respond to intellectual arguments against abortion always make me wonder whose culpability they are trying to whitewash.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:56 AM | Comments (2)

February 27, 2006

A Quick Thought on Life in South Dakota

To be honest, I've slipped to the moderate (most common) version of "well informed," so I know only the outline detail of South Dakota's proposed anti-abortion law. Two aspects I've picked up:

  1. The law is restrictive even by pro-life standards, making an exception only for mothers whose lives are threatened by the pregnancy. Addressed as a purely political matter, this strikes me as unnecessarily antagonistic and likely to scuttle any critical mass of national support.
  2. The law is intended to be stricken down under slamming gavels and then climb its way to the Supreme Court.

All in all, it seems like a risky strategy. If the law is ultimately ruled unconstitutional, it could fortify abortion's judicial precedent, which led my first reaction to be one of dismay.

But could it be, I then wondered, that the legislation's backers fully expect to be rebuffed, but are hoping to open a new door of legal thinking in the process? Say, for example, the Supreme Court argues that, in forbidding abortion even in cases of rape, the law leaves no option for women who've done nothing to choose pregnancy (other than remaining fertile). Mightn't this open another measure of abortion laws — a pro-life loophole akin to the "health of the mother" one that the other side exploits to ensure that teenage girls who might face emotional stress must be allowed to abort their babies? In my example, the new principle (new solely in law, of course) would be that licit sex represents a choice to risk pregnancy.

I tend to be too inclined to see routes toward positive outcomes. At the very least, though, it's fair to say that, were the South Dakota law less restrictive and stricken down nonetheless, the precedent fortification would likely be stronger.

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:30 PM | Comments (8)

January 11, 2006

Just a Little What If

I'm a little surprised that Jonah Goldberg let pass without comment the assertion that I've italicized in the following excerpt from an email that he published in the Corner:

I won't weary you with the legalese, but ***nearly all*** of the great civil rights decisions were stop-on-a-dime reversals of precedent; even super-duper-mondo kinda precedents, with years of history and gloriously coherent (and often, err, racist) opinions backing them up. So if judges had applied back then Specter's Roe standard, blacks would not be voting today, going to our schools, or eating at our lunch counters, etc.

Without any intention of arguing in favor of super duper stare decisis, I'd ask the emailer to provide his or her justification for this low opinion of those classes of Americans who are not judges. Not only am I skeptical that the United States would remain a racist polity today were it not for the benevolent prod in the right direction by the judicial elite, but I'd also suggest that it is possible to envision an alternate route in which history would have found racial strife even less persistent currently had change not been accomplished via decree of the unelected.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:20 PM | Comments (9)

September 23, 2005

A Dark Cloud over Our Society

It's a curious gain that David Gelernter suggests conservative pro-lifers would make should they back a constitutional amendment making abortion legal:

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.

What then for we who believe that "a nation where abortion is legal" is a democracy "under a cloud" by definition? Professor Gelernter's intended audience mustn't be conservatives, because he makes absolutely clear that we would have to sacrifice a state of affairs in which "supporters of abortion rights have been nervous... with good cause" for one in which "abortion rights would... be backed by the legitimate authority of the people." And for our part, we would experience the peace that comes with surrender.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:37 PM | Comments (8)

August 9, 2005

Reintroduction of Potentiality

In a continuation of the Corner's beginning-of-life exchange, John Hood makes what strikes me as an underlyingly dehumanizing suggestion:

It seems to me that the definition of when a person exists can only meaningfully be determined for a large number of people — that is, within a political community that does not necessarily share a particular religious faith — by inverting the clearer definition of when a human person is dead.

We generally identify death as that point when there is no longer any detectable brain activity. The cells of a corpse may still be dividing, and its bodily functions may be sustained for a time by artificial means. But if there is no functioning brain at all, there is no live person anymore.

Mr. Hood declares that his "proposal is intended simply to find a criterion that seems likely to attract a political consensus"; if it would do so, it would be only through a willful lack of consideration. We've all had it beaten into our heads, over the decades of debating abortion, that potentiality is not actuality. But does that mean that it's insignificant? As a Corner emailer argues — and Hood subsequently manages to ignore — a central selling point for accepting that life ends with brain death is its finality.

If there were a method for reviving the brain dead, it would no longer be a suitable marker for the end of life. To rephrase in terms that apply better to beginning-of-life discussion: if the brain dead would recover of their own volition and by natural processes, then that coveted political consensus would simply not exist. Indeed, most citizens would probably think it monstrous to handle such people any differently than if they were sleeping.

In a follow-up response, the emailer notes that the brain activity criterion "means that a person in a coma should be looked upon as a repository of spare parts," but it's worse than that. I suppose I could be wrong, but my sense is that our society attributes different potentiality to those in a coma and those who've not yet been born. A coma is a big question mark. Pre-birth is much more certain, and it comes with a regularly followed timetable of milestones.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:41 PM | Comments (4)

Seeing the Adult in the Embryo

It's been interesting to read John Podhoretz take on the brains at National Review on the matter of when life begins. (Read up from this Robert George post.) In doing so, it has seemed to me, he is offering most concisely an example of the preordained, gut, decisive feeling on which people attempt to layer explanation in related debates.

Note that I don't think this observation supports his apparent thesis that "the presumption that embryos are human beings cannot be proved by science and logic alone." That statement — somewhat ironically — is true only for those who wish to deny what science and logic (and a large swath of the world's religious thinking) conclude.

In this context, something in his final post on the matter strikes me as significant:

An embryo is not a fetus. For that matter, a fetus is not a baby. They exist on a continuum, but they are different -- in a way that say, a baby is not different from a child and a child is not different from an adult.

Mr. Podhoretz, as regular readers of the Corner will know, is a relatively new father. In other words, he has not had that moment, which arrives all of a sudden, at which the toddler is suddenly visible within the baby. Some time later, to my experience, comes another moment when the little boy or little girl becomes visible in the toddler.

No doubt Podhoretz would agree with me that these are magical moments rife with meaning-of-life type stuff. But his rhetoric excluding embryos and fetuses from status as "full human beings" could apply to them, as well.

Just as the adult is visible in the teenager, the teenager visible in the child, the child visible in the toddler, and the toddler visible in the baby, so too is the baby visible in the fetus and the fetus in the embryo. As Podhoretz writes, a human life is a continuum. The problem in his treatment of that continuum is that it leaves the value of the particular human life up to others to determine based on their knowledge and capacity for imagination — for seeing the adult in the embryo. Perhaps as he watches the stages unfold in the development of a human being for whom he has a father's love he will come to understand what it means to say that a child — a human being — is the whole of his or her present, past, and future.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:26 PM | Comments (6)

February 8, 2005

Seeing Inside the Life Movement

I've been meaning to point out something remarkable that Jeff Miller noticed: a New York Times article that actually goes inside pro-life groups... and not for a special report in search of evil and corruption:

Most centers still do not have ultrasound machines. But at those that do, the results of performing sonograms have been startling, abortion opponents say. A survey by the Heidi Group, a Christian evangelical nonprofit organization that advises such centers on fund-raising and administration, found that those using counseling alone reported persuading 70 percent of women considering abortion to abandon the idea. In centers with ultrasound machines, that number jumped to 90 percent, said Carol Everett, the group's chief executive. Such statistics could not be independently verified.

Susanne Martinez, VP of public policy for Planned Parenthood, claims that these centers' "treatment of women... is coercive. ... they are inundated with information that is propaganda and that has one goal in mind." Now, now, Ms. Martinez, an ultrasound isn't propaganda. We on the side of life prefer the term "choice aid."

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:48 AM | Comments (2)

January 14, 2005

Planned Parenthood and the Source of Intergalactic Evil

Dawn Eden describes and offers screen shots of an online game from Planned Parenthood called Birthcontroids, but you really can't appreciate just how disturbing it is without playing it for yourself — with the sound turned on.

As Dawn notes, the game is thematically confused, essentially putting the player in the role of the bad guy — the space penis shooting sperm at an egg (which has a force field and defensive missiles). When the player wins a level, there is no doubt that the outcome is meant to be bad, and that is where the game becomes sickening. Below an explanation of why "the birth control has failed," a sketch of a baby slams up against the screen to the sounds of an infant's grating cries. Message: fail to use contraception properly (or to abort), and you'll have to deal with one of these things.

The sensation is actually somewhat worse when the second-level "victory" brings the sound of a baby cooing. Even when cute, it seems, newborn human life is the scourge of the galaxy.

(via Patrick Sweeney)

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:30 PM | Comments (4)

January 10, 2005

Shaking Off the Unspeakable

Paul Spiegel, president of the Central Council of Jews, called Friday for [Cologne Cardinal Joachim] Meisner to take back his words.

"I expect that the cardinal will quickly and unequivocally distance himself from this unspeakable and offensive comparison," Spiegel said.

As the Jerusalem Post reports, the unspeakable comparison that the Roman Catholic leader made was as follows:

First, Herod, who had the children of Bethlehem killed; then, among others, Hitler and Stalin who had millions of people wiped out; and today in our times, unborn children are being killed a million times over.

Meisner apparently also declared that abortion puts "all previous crimes of humanity in the shadows." Ostensibly, that means every other group that has ever experienced grievous harm can now insist, as Spiegel has, that "Meisner has completely lost his authority as a bishop." Somehow, I think Catholics might beg to differ.

Actually, some Catholics have differed most significantly on whether it was right that Meisner's apology was expediently issued. On Jeff Miller's blog, Tom of Disputations suggested:

The bishop was correct in his homily, and he was right to apologize. His job isn't simply to state the truth, but by God's grace to give the truth to others, and if he speaks the truth in terms that cause others to reject it, he should look for other terms.

Jeff subsequently agreed that there "are many ways to proclaim the truth and not all of them are fruitful," but I think the important question has too easily been assumed answered: Did the apology serve the truth? The politic statement from Meisner's office before he decided to apologize for having said something (as Deutsche Welle paraphrased) "open to misinterpretation" would seem to suggest otherwise. From the Jerusalem Post:

Meisner's office Friday declined to withdraw his comment. It was not a comparison to genocides, but to the "euthanasia" killings of those deemed mentally or physically handicapped under the Hitler and Stalin regimes, spokesman Menfred Becker-Huberti said.

I could be wrong, but it doesn't seem as if misinterpretation is necessary to hear a reference to genocide in the phrase "millions of people wiped out." Does it advance the cause of truth to attribute post hoc meaning to a comparison — no matter how unspeakable and offensive others might claim it to be? And even if Meisner did not intend to evoke the images that are most associated with Hitler and Stalin (which would be nigh inconceivable), does it serve the truth to reinforce the claim that a true statement cost the prelate "his authority as a bishop"?

Jeff cites a line from Corinthians that, I'd say, is only indirectly applicable. For my part, the incident in Germany seems almost of literally direct relation to Matthew 10:14-18:

Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words--go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.

Was Cardinal Meisner serpent-shrewd, or did he tuck his dust-covered feet under his robe? I suppose some of the answer will come when we find out if Spiegel follows through with his threatened lawsuit.

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:49 PM | Comments (5)

January 4, 2005

Supporting in Order to Oppose

A peculiar argument has been floating around the abortion debate lately — of the sort for which our confused society takes the counterintuitive nature of a premise as evidence of its truth. Here's William Stuntz, writing on Tech Central Station:

... if the Supreme Court overruled Roe and a couple dozen states criminalized early-term abortions, those trends would quickly reverse. Abortion would become not a moral question, but a civil liberties question - just as it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

This phenomenon -- legal victory that leads to cultural and political defeat -- has a long history. In the 1850s, slaveholders collected some huge legal prizes: the Fugitive Slave Act, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott decision. Those victories produced an anti-slavery movement powerful enough to elect Lincoln and win the Civil War. Sixty years later, the temperance movement won its long battle for national Prohibition. Within a decade, the culture was turning against temperance; Repeal came soon after. In America's culture wars, the side with the law's weaponry often manages only to wound themselves.

Ramesh Ponnuru has responded in the Corner, closing with the assertion that this seemingly plausible thinking will gain no traction among people who "believe that it is necessary to change unjust laws that permit the killing of innocents." For perspective, imagine Stuntz arguing that those who oppose murder should assent to its legality.

Apart from the depth of disagreement, Stuntz's assessment isn't accurate. Ponnuru alludes to the broader reason with reference to partial-birth abortions, which became an issue "because a political movement made a priority of changing the law to ban them--and was not willing to stand down because legal academics (and later the Supreme Court) said that a ban would violate Roe." It is precisely this interplay between law and culture that makes it specious to point to declines in abortions and declare current law the cause.

The cultural force of the political activism is more likely the cause of the hopeful trends, and the moment pro-lifers begin accepting abortion as a fact of American life — the moment they cede the law to focus on culture — the trend will very possibly reverse. In fact, I've argued before that it's somewhat more than possible.

At first glance, that would seem to accord with Stuntz's examples — perhaps suggesting that pro-life leaders keep the fight up while realizing that legal success would undermine cultural success. But applying Stuntz's examples from the pro-abortion standpoint shows them to be irrelevant at best. By his own predictions for a post-Roe society, one would expect there to be politically powerful groups currently advocating for a return to slavery and/or to prohibition.

Abortion supporters might claim that the principle that has made both slavery and prohibition dead causes is the priority of individual freedom. Pro-lifers would argue that individual freedom is precisely their objective — the freedom of the individual to be born. That exchange leads directly back to the basic disagreement of the abortion debate, but a more basic factor cuts through all such disputes: the articulation of principle itself.

Our culture slipped toward legalized abortion, alongside deterioration of sexual mores and the ethos of the traditional family. The "civil liberties question" gained its power only because we, as a society, had forgotten how to answer it. Consequently, the inarticulable quality of the "moral question" led a brash movement to answer it with a snort.

In this view, what the pro-life movement has essentially done is to spend the past thirty years conceptualizing and then explaining why abortion is wrong. (Before the Sixties, blanket religious and social declarations sufficed.) Legal victory, in other words, will rest upon a strong moral and intellectual foundation. And it will last — ideally expanding to address other dire matters inimical to its central principle: the value of human life.

Posted by Justin Katz at 3:55 PM

December 11, 2004

Shifting Responsibility for a Life

Jeff Miller quotes the following hypothetical dialogue from a piece by Steve Kellmeyer:

To see how this works, consider the following conversation between Rachel, a pro-life college student and Bill, her pro-abortion classmate:

Rachel: "Is the choice to have sex a choice to have a child?"

Bill: "No."

Rachel: "And you believe that at conception, the 'thing' conceived is not a child, right?"

Bill: "Exactly."

Rachel: "So, when exactly would you say that a child begins to exist?"

(NOTE: How Bill answers doesn't really matter. Rachel agrees, for the sake of argument, to use whatever time frame he chooses.)

Rachel: "And you believe that a woman may have an abortion for whatever reason she chooses?"

Bill: "Of course."

Rachel: "Do you believe men and women have equal rights?"

Bill: "As long as abortion is legal, yes."

Rachel: "All right. Who creates children?"

Bill: "What do you mean?"

Rachel: "Well, if there's no child at conception, the 'product of conception' has to become a child at some point before it's born. Therefore, the woman alone 'creates' the child through the act of gestation."

Bill: "Er, what are you driving at?"

Rachel: "It's simple. Your pro-abortion position entails the concept that sexual intercourse doesn't create children, gestation creates children. Intercourse merely creates a fertilized ovum, a 'tissue mass.' Men don't get pregnant. Men don't create children. Men simply provide one-half of a set of blueprints. The woman provides not only the other half, but the building site, the construction materials, she oversees the project, and she can destroy the whole thing anytime she wants. The man has got nothing to do with it. The existence of a child is not his responsibility - he has no choice in the matter, right? He's done nothing to create, and you already said that the decision to have sex is not a decision to have children. So, the idea of compelling child support from the man is really a carry-over from patriarchy, when men were thought to share responsibility for the existence of a child. Now that legal abortion has liberated us from those archaic ideas, we should throw away the last remnants of the old oppression. If the question of allowing the unborn child to live or be killed through abortion is the sole decision of the woman, it makes sense to ask why the man should be made to pay to support her lifestyle, her choice? If she can have an abortion for whatever reason she wants, then she is having a child for whatever reason she wants. In neither case does it have anything to do with the man."

The main problem with such arguments — exacerbated by the very fact that they are effective — is that they merely expand the logic that must be circumnavigated to accommodate an emotion-based opinion. The largest obstacle that pro-lifers face in making abortion illegal is that doing so shines a too-bright spotlight on the evil decision that so many people (who aren't evil, themselves) around the world have made.

To win the argument that an unborn child is, indeed, a human being and, therefore, has a right to live is to win the argument that millions of mothers have slaughtered their children. That's not an act that a mother easily faces. The avoidance of making such an admission is so powerful a motivation that attempts to force it can result in an ever-escalating series of cover-ups. One such cover-up came to mind upon reading a paragraph about euthanasia in another post of Jeff Miller's, which touches on a wide range of relevant issues:

After all the Netherlands was the first to legalized euthanasia and many pundits said that this is exactly where it would lead. When socialized medical costs meet expensive health care situations you know who is going to lose and pay with their life. Liberals send out so many mixed messages. It is alright to spend billions to reduce some pollutant down a another thousands of a percent even if the scientific case is rather dubious. But to spend money to keep someone living another day is just too extreme. Reasonable medical attention should be given but when it comes to government coffers you will soon need a coffin.

Jeff's post is worth reading for other reasons, but take a tangential moment to consider the effect that socialized healthcare might have on the discussion between Rachel and Bill. As with many areas of life, socialism erases the need for personal responsibility. Under a socialized medical regime, like a liberal arts sophomore palming everything off to a vague, faceless, and all-pervasive "society," hypothetical Bill can merely walk away from the consequences of his own assumptions and Rachel's logic, because the point is moot.

He can admit that the man is not responsible for the product of his sex and semen. But he can also say that the woman is not responsible for the product of her gestation — over which, of course, she has no physical control — because the cost is borne by "society" (which probably forced the poor tramp to live a life of careless sex in the first place). That the cost is borne in more ways than one, and that society's costs are inherently borne by its members, is a reality that such people need never address directly.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:42 AM

December 6, 2004

An Open Conduit Reduces Flow?

According to Glenn Reynolds, "Eric Olsen notes that current U.S. abortion policy is resulting in steadily falling numbers of abortions." That's an interesting turn of events, making me wonder what other undesirable activities we ought to make completely legal, without restrictions. Theft? Murder?

Olsen doesn't so explicitly assert causation, but he does conclude:

... after the steam was released following Roe, abortion has decreased steadily if slowly over the last two decades, and those that are being performed are occurring earlier in pregnancies - exactly the trends a responsible but realistic populace would want to see.

From what I understand, the CDC data that Olsen cites is generally accepted to be low, but I'll go with it for my purposes here. After Roe, the number of abortions increased from 615,831 in 1973 to 1,297,606 in 1980 — 211%. That number peaked at 1,429,247 in 1990 — 110% from 1980 and 232% from 1973. By 2001, however, the number (again, using low CDC data) had dropped to 853,485 — still 139% of the 1973 number.

There are two parts to the trend, up then down, and one could argue that the numbers will continue to decline to a sort of "natural" annual tally of abortions. However, if you believe, as I do, that those being aborted are human beings with a right to life, then the difference between a half million and a million and a half is only a matter of degree of abomination. The only common ground for discussion, therefore, is whether things are improving or getting worse, and the trends thus far tell us nothing about the likely future, in part because they tell us nothing about the causes of each stage of the trend. Consider this chart of abortions as a percentage of conceptions that I made for a post back in March:

Granted that this is a limited sample of countries, but with the exceptions of the U.S. and (barely) Denmark, every trend line shows a large increase, some form of dip, and then a return to increase. This brings to mind a common observation about Europeans' finding the United States a curious nation because of our continued battle over something as mundane as abortion.

Could it be that it is the advocacy against abortion that has led to the decline? If that is the case, and if too many decades of being thwarted eventually lead to increasing numbers of pro-lifers who just accept — as Reynolds and Olsen ostensibly believe they should — that abortion is simply a fact of American life, then the numbers will begin to climb again.

Of course, the abortionists will eventually reach a point at which they can no longer find any additional parents willing to kill their children. But that wouldn't be an equilibrium; it would be maximized slaughter.

Posted by Justin Katz at 3:49 PM | Comments (2)

October 18, 2004

Everybody Knows That You're Not 'Bout Choices

Someday (perhaps upon retirement), I'd like to put together a collection of positions that everybody knows are distorted for political reasons. John Kerry's position on same-sex marriage, for one thing. Jeff Miller recently found further evidence of another one:

"It would have eviscerated a woman's right to choose in the State of Florida,'' Silver said.

So what exactly was being done to eviscerate a woman's right?

The law requires abortionists in the state to inform women about the age and development of their unborn child and provide them with a state-published pamphlet suggesting abortion alternatives.

Oh my! Forcing mothers to know the age of the child which is about to be killed is just so tacky on the part of the government. We are all just suppose to play along in the deception that there is something other than a child in the womb. When it comes to knowledge about pregnancy - Mums the word. Especially since they don't want Mom to be the word. And then the evil government was also forcing women to know about alternatives to abortion and that they could be entitled to government benefits if they have their child. Knowledge is a dangerous thing and keeping women ignorant is a major part of the pro-abortion movement.

When signing up to support a woman's "right to choose," be sure to read the fine print — keeping an eye out for the "on the basis of select information" clause.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:50 PM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2004

A Horrific Catalyst for Change

Whatever their immediate reaction might be, abortion activists ought to have, at the very least, extremely mixed feelings about federal judge Richard Casey's striking down of the partial-birth abortion ban:

Before anyone gets ready to picket Judge Casey's chambers, take a deep breath. Judge Casey is an honorable and humble man who understands his place in the legal cosmos. "While Congress and lower courts may disagree with the Supreme Court's constitutional decisions," he concludes, "that does not free them from their constitutional duty to obey the Supreme Court's rulings." In other words, chalk another one up to the Supreme Court. Whether he ultimately read their decisions properly or not, Judge Casey was not going to stretch their law to fit his personal convictions.

So Casey's ruling — that a morally abhorrent and gruesome method of abortion is protected by the constitution, our country's most sacred legal document — demonstrates how much ground has been lost since the Supreme Court first engrafted a right to abortion into the constitution in Roe v. Wade. And with as many as three or four current justices possibly retiring in the next presidential term, it shows how much longer the slide can be with the wrong decision in November.

As Shannen Coffin suggests, a deep breath is in order, but one during which to form a more accurate assessment of the situation and redirect the rage. Even Coffin's description of Casey's description of the procedure makes for nauseating reading, and abortion activists are tying all abortion to it, both legally and, with the emotional weapon that they're handing the other side, strategically.

Perhaps one could go further and suggest that they're exposing to attack their entire approach to construing the Constitution. "We can't even ban this?" the question will become. "Then something is wrong either with the Constitution or with the method by which it is interpreted." Oh yes, this is going back to the Supreme Court, either now or in the near future, and that gang will have either to tiptoe through a minefield of its own making in order to contradict Judge Casey's understanding of what precedent requires, or it will have to begin dismantling the precedent.

Just an extra note, here, to shake my head and gag at the idea that some people defend this procedure. How monstrous do you have to be? (And, yes, that extends to other procedures.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:13 PM | Comments (57)

August 9, 2004

Reason Overruled

Moral culpability is not entirely lashed to a measurement of distance, and finding excuses not to look along the line of likely outcomes of a given decision, far from absolving one of responsibility, is itself an immoral act. That, in a nutshell, is my response to a point in the comment section of this post. After I'd suggested that knowing homosexual couples is irrelevant "to whether same-sex marriage is intelligent or dangerous public policy," liberal periodic commenter Angie wrote:

I believe that people who are arguing against SSM do not know any gay couples. If you socialized regularly with gay couples--benefits, dinner parties, workplace--you would not be too popular if they knew you were writing hundreds of thousands of words on the computer daily about why THEY should not get married while you yourself are married and enjoying the benefits of that. And besides that, you'd have a face and a personality to add to the subject matter. Not just a logical analysis. Similar to how I believe most pro-life advocates either cannot bear children or they have a loving partner who will support them emotionally and financially should an accidental pregnancy occur. Just another way to think about these issues which leaves out the legal/logic/ethic speak and brings real humans into the picture.

Reread this sentence:

If you socialized regularly with gay couples--benefits, dinner parties, workplace--you would not be too popular if they knew you were writing hundreds of thousands of words on the computer daily about why THEY should not get married while you yourself are married and enjoying the benefits of that.

I have no doubt that this is true. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if confronted with evidence that those hundreds of thousands of words have contributed, directly and indirectly, to my current state of semi-employment. But unless Angie is offering an enciphered explanation for her taking the wrong position, the reality of interpersonal influence is irrelevant both to the substance of the issue and to the moral responsibility to take the right position. It is a sign of the apathetic turpitude of our times that precisely her formulation likely underlies the tacit responses to this sort of matter across our society. One would think that liberals, of all people, would applaud a principled stand against the demands of social pressure.

Furthermore, it's simply to state the factual to note that the activists and their friends in the media have ensured that the same-sex marriage cause will not lack for sympathetic faces and personalities, piled on top of decades of cultural-elite effort to normalize homosexuality generally. And that's entirely apart from the people who've contacted me personally over the past few years, as well as those whom, yes, I do know. I can only ascribe it to a baseline spiritual desperation, in our society, that so many have brushed off the wisdom that broad decisions can be skewed if made while embroiled, or by those who are embroiled. Whether the topic is homosexuality, abortion, or any other matter with emotional weight, it remains true that we ought not — cannot — leave out the "legal/logic/ethic speak" that becomes more difficult as we approach the adverse consequences of choosing the correct path.

Look, reason tells me that human life begins at conception and that, for the sake of society, for the sake of humanity, we must hold to the moral principle that human life is uniquely and individually valuable. Destitution, much less inconvenience, is not sufficient justification for taking another's life — no matter what rhetoric we might employ to depreciate that life. Similarly does reason tell me that marriage is central to the health of our society as well as — and this is important — the well-being of those most dependent upon our social foundation. Reason also suggests that same-sex marriage, especially within our modern context and considering the mechanisms through which it is being thrust into the law and the culture, will further the corrosion of the institution.

If any group that must be factored into these decisions lacks for the sympathy that flows from "a face and a personality" it is those who have yet to be born. (Consider the enthusiasm with which pro-lifers have met increasingly detailed sonogram pictures.) It is easy to respond to the pull of loved ones' desires; it is somewhat less easy to hear the pleas of the countless people who will inherit whatever society we manage to bequeath. To blind one's self to the latter through deliberate focus on the former compounds moral travesty upon moral error.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:05 AM | Comments (25)

July 5, 2004

Murder and Trimester Legerdemain

Astute readers will note that I've moved Andrew Sullivan farther down my blogroll, which I maintain according to the order of the sites that I try to visit each day. Frankly, I feel that the revelation of his drastically different presentation for different audiences granted permission to conclude that time would be better spent reading and addressing other writers. However, before I move on, so to speak, something that Sullivan posted last week has continued to bother me:

But the Church does not always spend enough time absorbing scientific developments - especially when they conflict with established dogma. Case in point: there's an obvious distinction between personhood and life - as Wills points out. Sperm is life, but it is not a person; fertilized eggs are routinely aborted naturally (is nature murderous?); miscarriages are a sad but permanent part of our biology; intuitively the abortion of a two week old fetus does not seem to us as equivalent to the abortion of one at six months; and so on. To my mind, life and personhood are so important as values that considering conception as their mutual origin is the safest moral option. But I wouldn't insist on baptizing or formally burying a miscarried fetus. And I can see perfectly well how others might disagree on when personhood begins; indeed, how the Church itself once disagreed. This makes the issue not one of theological certitude but of moral judgment. And that's why I believe that in the political realm, keeping abortion legal in the first trimester differs from condoning it. It's a balance between women's control of their own bodies, the prudential difficulties of making abortion illegal, the allowance of a free people to make such moral judgments for themselves, and the need to retain respect for human life - even if it is not indisputable that a person is at stake. If I were a public official, that judgment alone would make me ineligible for the sacraments. And that shows how rigid the Church has now become.

One could observe that the "rigidity" of the Church has been a complaint of Sullivan's with respect to his central concern, a factor that justifies speculation about his motivation for pushing the organization out of politics. But what leapt out at me was the parenthetical question: "is nature murderous?" As an excuse to believe what one desires, that might be passable rhetoric, but even a moment's consideration proves it to undermine the very lesson that Sullivan wishes to draw.

The question functions rhetorically because it's a truism. Because of the lack of motive, it is a quality of nature that it is not murderous. Of course, nature kills all the time; in fact, it will get everybody eventually. "Is nature murderous?," thus applied, therefore either absolves or implicates every instance of a human's death at the hands of fellow humans. An earthquake in California could collapse a wall on top of homosexuals; that fact does nothing to justify Islamicists' doing the same. Nature sometimes claims the lives of the pre-born; that fact does nothing to justify secularists' doing the same. If the pre-born are human beings with a right to live, killing them with the motive of convenience is no less murder than any other calculating killing.

With the matter of whether the pre-born are "persons," Sullivan turns his head from truth even more profoundly, albeit more subtly. What could the Church possibly learn about the "personhood" of young humans by "absorbing scientific developments"? It seems to me that honestly doing so would lead to the change in position to which Sullivan alludes. Science has allowed us to trace the development of a person back to the moment at which two distinct cells carrying two people's DNA combine to form a brand new entity, which thereafter proceeds to develop through the human lifecycle, if not prevented from doing so.

Conception is a clear milestone for when a particular human being becomes a particular human being. Yes, an embryo has no brain, no heart, no arms, but it develops them of its own initiative; nobody reaches into the womb to contribute them. If the Church — any church — were to declare personhood to be a subsequent implantation from God, then it would have failed to absorb scientific developments.

All that remains is Sullivan's "intuition" that there's a personhood-related difference between a two-week old and a six-week old. And to be sure, supporters of abortion have nearly reached the point of declaring the mother to grant personhood, saying that an organism is a person when the mother wants it. Unfortunately, that encourages a view of personhood that is not inherently permanent, because a mother can want and then not want a child. Moreover, it brings us back to the question of when what might be called autonomous personhood begins — that time at which the mother can no longer "kill" her child.

In being thus brought back, we return also to the realization that Sullivan slipped his own deadline for murder into the debate: "I believe that in the political realm, keeping abortion legal in the first trimester differs from condoning it." Clearly, as the issue now stands, pro-abortion politicians are not working according to this definition, as their votes perpetuate abortion up to, and often including, partial birth at full term. Is that an evil worthy of "theological certitude" and judgment of ineligibility for the sacraments?

Posted by Justin Katz at 3:22 PM | Comments (11)

June 21, 2004

Conflicting Ambitions

Patrick Sweeney disagrees with the notion that some American bishops are making noises about John Kerry's receiving communion "to curry favor with the current Pope, or a possible future Pope, Cardinal Arinze." And to be honest, I don't even see that as the clear message of the piece by Joseph D'Hippolito to which Patrick is responding. On the one hand:

Such concerns provide an opportunity for ambitious prelates to curry favor with Rome. Tom Roberts, editor of the liberal National Catholic Reporter, cites Newark Archbishop John H. Myers as an example.

"Myers fits this papal administration's template for upward career mobility," Roberts wrote. "Staunchly conservative, he is a prolific pastoral-letter writer, a soldier in a campaign against the prevailing culture and someone for whom, given the nature of those letters, there are no unanswered questions or shades of gray."

But on the other:

One Catholic state senator said he would leave the church. Gov. James McGreevey, a former altar boy, said he would neither receive communion publicly nor let the church influence his positions.

Myers retreated.

"We have an understanding that I won't personally criticize [the governor]," Myers told the New York Times. "And we are working together on a lot of issues, like providing social services to the poor and helping people with HIV."

In other words, Myers chose retaining influence with politicians to asserting the Vatican's position.

If Joseph's point were entirely that bishops are acting from some motivation other than doctrinal fidelity, I'd suggest that he's being a bit too cynical, but that he raises legitimate points for discussion. He takes his argument a step farther, however:

The controversy ignores the fact that the number of abortions has been declining in the U.S. through private initiatives, such as a greater emphasis on abstinence. Since constitutional or judicial changes appear unlikely, private-sector solutions offer the greatest hope.

One can't tease apart private initiatives and the Church's actions vis-à-vis public figures; Joseph misconstrues the purpose of denying communion to Kerry. The move is (or would be) primarily an assertion of Church teachings. The action that requires public rebuke, in other words, is less Kerry's actual votes than his flaunting of vocal support for abortion in contravention of what adherence to his religion requires. The focus with which Joseph closes his piece misses the heart of the matter:

Suppose all the American bishops ordered the priests under their authority to deny communion to Kerry. Suppose those priests complied. Given Kerry's ideology and voting record, would he really forsake his views on abortion for the faith he claims to profess?

More importantly, would one unborn child be saved?

He's right, in the paragraph before this, that many bishops could probably offer more public support to groups that pull on the positive side of the struggle against abortion, and priests could stand to speak more about sexual and reproductive morality. Even so, rebuffing Kerry at the altar, in its way, itself supports these groups' efforts by making the Church's position clear and reaffirming not only that opposition to abortion is required of us all, but also that it is an important call to answer.

Would one unborn child be saved by such decisive actions? Absolutely.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:58 AM | Comments (10)

June 5, 2004

Credibility Is a Precious Coin

Jeff Miller's got two back-to-back posts that are well presented together. The second quotes from a piece by Illinois pro-life activist Jill Stanek:

During a recent interview, I mentioned that I believe one of Planned Parenthood's objectives is for girls and women to engage in illicit sex as often as possible, so as to increase the odds they'll get pregnant and have to abort.

The show host was flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted that he was flabbergasted. I reminded him that Planned Parenthood makes the bulk of its deadlihood - hundreds of millions of dollars every year - from abortion.

My theory was obviously over the top in this guy's opinion. The interview ended abruptly.

I agree with Jeff that Stanek's rhetoric about "monsters" isn't particularly helpful. As Jeff suggests, even the most fanatical of abortion's supporters are just tragically misguided human beings. It does us, them, or anybody in between no good if we lose sight of that. Important points become blurred by the heat. One such important point in Stanek's piece is that a great many of the core advocates for abortion have a stake in the industry's survival.

In the other post, Jeff notes a more subtle, bureaucratic instance of dishonest dealings on behalf of "family planning," quoting:

The report, entitled "Working from Within: Culturally Sensitive Approaches in UNFPA Programming," is a 32-page examination of [United Nations Population Fund's] efforts in nine countries to change laws and establish what it calls reproductive rights and health - an ambiguous phrase that is used throughout the report and is never defined but in UN parlance includes abortion. In its section on Brazil readers are told that one lesson to emerge from UNFPA's work in the country was that the Catholic Church was not a monolith and that essential to fighting Church teaching was identifying dissenting Catholics. "Within the Catholic Church, certain progressive branches exist, including the Communidades Eclesiais de Base, whose Catholic clergy understand the harsh realities of the country's poor and are ardent advocates on their behalf."

At some point, it comes into question whether it is advisable — even moral — to work with certain groups even where goals overlap. Credibility is a precious coin for evil.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:46 PM

June 4, 2004

Being Fair and Offering Both Sides of the Abortion Debate

Opinion page editors, it seems to me, could stand to publish more of the argumentation by people who support abortion. No, that wasn't a mistake; I truly do mean those who support abortion. Consider a piece by Glenn Woiceshyn, of the Ayn Rand Institute, in today's Providence Journal:

"Partial-birth" abortion, most commonly known as intact dilation and extraction (D&X), is designed primarily to be used in the case of five- and six-month-old fetuses that are dying, malformed, or threatening the woman's health or life. The procedure involves pulling the fetus from the womb, except for the head, which is too large to pass without injuring the woman. The head is then collapsed to allow removal. This procedure is designed for the maximum protection of the woman.

The late-term alternative to D&X, one that doesn't require partial removal, involves dismembering the fetus in the womb before extraction -- a much riskier procedure.

The astonishing thing is that Woiceshyn believes touching up the procedure with tortured, passive language like "the head is then collapsed" will make people see it in a neutral fashion. Sorry, Glenn, but no description of what partial-birth abortion actually entails will be able to avoid placing the reader's mind in the womb. Body out; head in; crush head. Does it squirm? Can the doctor feel the child's muscles moving?

Woiceshyn wishes to push the term "D&X"? Fine by me. It sounds, to my ear, like something sinister out of a sci-fi story. Death and... X. At best, it sounds like a pesticide, which might actually be what Woiceshyn intends:

If a woman has no right to her own body, then by what logic does a fetus (which, by definition, is a biological parasite) have a right to the woman's body?

If only all supporters of abortion would be so clear! Legal, safe, and... rare? Why? It's only a biological parasite, after all. But let's stress that that's "by definition," you understand; we're being clinical here. We don't want folks thinking — or imagining — back to their own biological parasite days. We don't want to fall for the pro-lifers' trick:

"Fetal rights" are a gimmick to destroy a woman's individual rights. Tragically, many "pro-choicers" have conceded the "partial-birth" debate to the anti-abortionists and accept a ban as a compromise (and merely quibble about its scope). Such "pro-choicers" have apparently been hoodwinked by the anti-abortionists' strategy of emotionalism and evasion designed to disguise their deeper purpose.

Ah yes, emotionalism and evasion. Interesting aversions to put forward in an essay that has the following as its second paragraph:

When abortion was illegal in America, many women died or suffered serious medical problems from either self-induced or illegal "back-alley" abortions. Women streamed into emergency rooms with punctured wombs, massive bleeding, and rampant infections.

Even in his recourse to emotionalism — which readers will spot, even if he denies its existence — Woiceshyn lobs the ball. The more accurately he describes the terms of the debate, the more he contributes to its resolution in life's favor. Pro-lifers, he correctly explains, see a partial-birth abortion ban as a point of leverage from which to further limit abortion. If one rejects dilation and extraction, how can one possibly accept dismemberment and extraction? Woiceshyn's fear — which we on the other side can only hope proves true — is that the people of America will follow the logic of their emotional reaction to infanticide through to conception.

Pro-abortionists' answer, therefore, is to apply the ol' D&X to emotion itself. Pro-lifers' "professed compassion for the fetus apparently leaves no room for considering the woman's health and happiness." And Woiceshyn's response to this falsehood is to leave no room to consider the fetus's very life. It's a stark choice between life and "health and happiness." To choose the latter (vague) goods, one must conclude that the life is of no more than incidental value. If it is given any value at all, there will emerge some degrees of health and happiness that do not supercede it. And if we grant that what it is determines the value of an unborn life, rather than Woiceshyn's preferred attribute of where it is, then we must admit that it is what it became at conception.

I have to say that Mr. Woiceshyn's piece has granted me more optimism about the future of this issue than anything I've read in a while. The struggle to maintain an impossible argument — impossible if one is intent on denying its evil — is manifest. The more people read such pieces, the less they'll be able to ignore what both logic and emotion lead them to conclude.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:44 PM

May 11, 2004

Over the Counter, Under the Rug

Earl, of Times Against Humanity, addresses the (perhaps fleeting) victory of efforts against making the "morning-after pill" over the counter. The campaign against the drug could do with a stronger nickname for it — the "quick-kill pill" or the "baby-under-the-rug pill," perhaps. As Earl notes, would-be Catholic president John Kerry, in keeping with his tendency to drop everything to fly across the country and vote on behalf of the abortion lobby, was quick with a statement:

The decision was immediately attacked by a spokesman for CINO presidential contender John F. Kerry, who, unlike AmChurch bureaucrats, is quick to act when the lives of unborn babies are on the line—albeit in the wrong direction.
By overruling a recommendation by an independent FDA review board, the White House is putting its own political interests ahead of sound medical policies that have broad support. This White House is more interested in appealing to its electoral base than it is in protecting women's health.

Translation from Kerryspeak: President Bush's White House is more pro-life than John Kerry's would be. Tell us something we don't already know, John!

What strikes me is Kerry's implicit suggestion that, far from being incorrect, President Bush's base simply doesn't count. To wit, how could a group be a "base" if it isn't sufficient to constitute "broad support"? Some people have complained that President Bush doesn't adequately represent small minorities. John Kerry, apparently, wouldn't believe himself to be a representative of a much larger cut of the population.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:03 PM

May 10, 2004

A Foundation for Evil

I spent 20 years looking for a government that I could overthrow without being thrown in jail. I finally found one in the Catholic Church.

It would be difficult to find a statement that better encapsulates blithe evil than that one. Folded in with the ideal of destruction for destruction's sake is utter cowardice. That a woman would rattle off this rehearsed repartee in an interview for publication illustrates volumes about the disturbing world she believes herself to inhabit. (It may be that such women once served as evidence for Freud's phallic philosophy.)

The speaker is Frances Kissling, head of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), the funding of which Joseph D'Hippolito traces back, in large part, to the Ford Foundation. According to Joseph, it's a voice created specifically to deliver a message:

CFFC, therefore, provides a useful counterweight to the Vatican's position in public debate. Joseph O'Rourke, a former Jesuit and president of CFFC, told the conservative National Catholic Register in 1984, "CFFC really was just kept alive for years because the mainline pro-choice movement wanted a Catholic vote."

"Catholic," in this usage, is a term entirely of self-definition — a usage akin to the Devil himself claiming to be a Christian. (Who is more likely to believe in Christ's divinity?) This inversion of terms, this purposeful nihilism, is a form of rhetoric mastered by Kissling and her ilk. Here's a question that she asked Kate Michelman, of NARAL, in an interview:

Isn't part of our problem as a movement that people don't know the complexity of decisions that a prochoice person goes through in relation to the question of life? Don't you want sometimes to scream from the rooftops, "I am a pro-life person"?

Scream it as loudly as you like, Ms. Kissling; only fools will be fooled.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:03 PM | Comments (1)

May 6, 2004

Morality, Religion, and Politics in Black and White

Andrew Sullivan is right about the significance of any American Catholic Church action to make a policy of denying Communion to "pro-choice" politicians:

Cutting off people from the sacraments is a drastic step for the church to take; taking on almost all one political party and a hefty swathe of another in a democracy as large and influential as the United States would be a political Rubicon for the Catholic church.

Unfortunately, he doesn't stop there:

I wonder if, under theo-conservative logic, the withholding of the sacraments should be restricted only to public officials. Why not any lay Catholic who publicly dissents from Church teaching on matters of faith and morals? Why not pundits, writers, and, er, bloggers? And why just abortion? Why not those who express enthusiastic support for the death penalty, which is clearly condemned by the Vatican in almost all cases? Why not those who oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment, which is all that keeps us from sliding into the end of civilization, according to National Review? What are the exact lines of demarcation here? I ask, because purges rarely end where they start, and it would be good to read a thorough piece detailing who should be thrown out and who would be allowed by the bishops to stay.

These scattershot litanies of rhetorical questions are certainly a potent weapon. They tempt one into their mire because each point lends itself to easy response, yet they take time to wade through, and lead only to the conclusion that the writer doesn't really care to hear the answers, anyway. For the initial "who else" theme, suffice to say that it's quite a bit simpler to comment on the views of public Catholics, and that the opinions of Catholics who are federal legislators can be more directly and calamitously put into action.

For the "what next" theme, perhaps it will do to suggest that leniency, as well, rarely ends where it starts. What are the lines of demarcation for that? Ought a politician who proposes legislation permitting the post-birth abortion of children who exhibit signs of homosexuality be permitted to take of the Eucharist? As Amy Welborn puts it, "The problem with this is that without nuance, any effort immediately gets boiled down to a checklist." One would think Sullivan's penchant for nuance elsewhere, not to mention his Christian foundation, would overcome the tendency of libertarians to demand universally applicable rules.

The conclusion exposed through whittling the rhetoric down is that Sullivan doesn't fundamentally acknowledge the depth of the Church's opposition to abortion. "I see every reason for the church to make a positive case loudly and often about the moral gravity of abortion." A positive case about moral gravity? Encouraging positive action to oppose the killing of demonstrably innocent human beings indicates an "impulse to publicly shame, purge and purify religion"? To be fair, I suspect abortion isn't Sullivan's primary topic, here; rather those (we) damnable theocons are.

This suspicion finds support in Sullivan's subsequent and related piece on The New Republic's Web site. Most obviously, in attacking Robert Novak et al., Sullivan drops the inclusion of both political parties from his assessment of what the Church is doing:

Catholicism cannot be simply translated into being a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative. It is about faith and morals, not about partisanship. It is also about a stance toward human beings that concedes that we are all human, all sinners and all capable of error. Sincere politicians who differ on conscientious grounds on some matters of faith are not always being bad Catholics. By carefully weighing the issues, by finding the difficult link between their private faith and their public duties in a secular, multi-faith democracy, they are often being good Catholics in a complex modern world.

It's interesting to note that Sullivan believes politicians to be capable of a careful balance on issues that the Church apparently cannot muster. But since the reference is to an ideal, sincere politician, I suppose such an attribute might be found in him, as well. The matter of partisanship comes up again when Sullivan quotes Novak quoting Deal Hudson as saying, "Anytime our leaders allow the life issue to be made one of many issues provides cover for Kerry's effort to attract Catholic votes." Sullivan explains the statement as follows:

The premise of Hudson's remarks is that all traditional Catholics have to vote for a pro-life Republican (since the Democrats are institutionally committed to abortion rights). Any other position must be condemned by the hierarchy and in the most painful personal way--by denying the sacraments to the individual concerned.

Contrary to the parenthetical, Hudson said nothing about Democrats' institutional commitments. If the party position were the determiner, then why would a particular Republican have to be pro-life? Politically concerned Catholics understand not only that an individual is responsible for his own actions, but also that it is critical to insert into institutionally hostile groups believers who will witness to the proper attitude. Sullivan's reinterpretation isn't a small matter. Most profoundly, it allows him to elide from demands on a politician to demands on voters. He concedes that Kerry doesn't appear to be taking a careful, "reluctant" approach to resolving political and moral demands, but in contrast, he presents the Church as acting in a way that it is not:

For the Church to start picking political candidates would be a death-knell to its ability to be a trans-political religious organization. Separating the Church from electoral politics is in fact a defense of Catholicism from the depredations of politicized religion that has so infected the Protestant right, which is now a de facto branch of one political party.

Nobody in the hierarchy (that I've seen) has declared Kerry unfit for office or insisted that his Catholic supporters should cease to take Communion. Sullivan, lover of nuance to complexity that he is, reduces the options for everybody (except politicians) to two: either the Church must offer consequence-free suggestions, or it must act specifically against any politician who differs with any of its teachings, from capital punishment to "regressive tax policies"; either Catholic voters must place abortion in the same category as every other social issue, or they must use abortion as an unadulterated litmus test.

The latter point allows him to go one step further and, by lumping abortion in with capital punishment, pull President Bush into the dispute. In the context of the actual question with respect to handling John Kerry, this makes absolutely no sense. Bush is not Catholic, and Catholics are not being told how to vote. At most, conservatives in the Church are suggesting that Kerry oughtn't be allowed to portray himself as a Catholic in good standing — some for political reasons, yes, but also because Kerry's activities and the Church's silence about them has the effect of distorting what its moral position is. (And if Catholic voters could only vote for Catholics in good standing, Bush would be out of the running from the start.)

This distinction between endorsing a policy and endorsing the endorser of a policy comes up again (and not just by Sullivan) with respect to Rick Santorum's support of Arlen Specter. I'm as disappointed as anybody in the sequence events in Pennsylvania, but I've been bewildered by the currency that statements such as the following from Sullivan have had:

Didn't Santorum effectively urge voters to support someone who favors abortion in some cases against a candidate who opposes it in all circumstances? Shouldn't the Vatican be refusing to grant the sacraments to Santorum because of his deviation from the official all-or-nothing line? Wasn't he giving voters Catholic "cover" for voting for an abortion supporter?

First, it must be noted that "all or nothing" is Sullivan's insistence; for the Church, it's closer to "for some, under certain circumstances." Second, he glosses over the degree to which a point that he makes toward his own position applies to that of his opponents, as well. If a politician can vote in support of abortion given a larger context of issues, surely voters can vote for a politician despite a given policy disagreement. I'd argue that voters — once removed from the actual issue and twice removed from an actual abortion — have considerably more room for judgment.

One gets the impression that Sullivan believes only politicians can be trusted with balancing difficult factors. Or else, that actions that have political ramifications must be taken for political reasons and aligned with the rules of politics, even when they are founded in religion. That approach to life and society strikes me as neither Christian nor American.

Posted by Justin Katz at 3:20 PM | Comments (1)

May 3, 2004

Hearts Open, Closed, and Unaware

Okay, I'll be honest about it. Annie's reflections on her experience attempting to inject a little truth in the minds of those marching for abortion brought me to tears. I won't attempt to siphon from the emotion, for this post. Go read the whole entry. However, I do want to draw out a particular aspect that relates to something from my Saturday-into-Sunday post about abortion and birth trends. I suggested that subsequent generations — or segments thereof — will lose their sense of the profundity of the "choice" of abortion; here's Annie:

I silently made eye contact with as many people as possible, women and men. The older, middle-aged ones, had their eyes glued straight ahead for the most part. But almost all the young women, even of high school age, looked at my sign as they walked by on that sidewalk, laughing among themselves and their boyfriends or girlfriends. When my sign caught their eye, they then reflexively looked to see who was holding it. After our eyes met, a few quickly looked away, not wanting to know, but most just stared at me a long time in shock. A lot of brows furrowed as they walked away, no longer laughing; they'd never even thought it was possible, I suppose, that a woman would think twice about her abortion, could really regret having done it.

I think the understanding of the travesty is written deep down in us. Given our natures, though, the saddest part is that the politics of the thing will carry many through the act. What then?

One woman, maybe about 30ish, started screaming at me, at the top of her lungs, "I CHOSE!! AND I'M PROUD!" over and over and over again. The others around her took up the chant, some verbatim, some saying instead, "I CHOOSE!! AND I'M PROUD!!" The veins were popping out on her forehead and neck, her face was beet red, and she was hunched over at the waist as she shrieked out the words at high volume, glowering at me, for at least five minutes straight. If there is a definition of "frothing at the mouth," that was this woman at that time.
Posted by Justin Katz at 10:43 PM

May 2, 2004

A Nation of Female Scofflaws

Ampersand has come to the aid of all of those Catholics who are pro-choice because they believe that's the surest way to decrease the number of abortions. At least, I think that's what he's saying:

For a Catholic to support the pro-life position, she would have to believe that supporting the pro-life position, in the current political climate, is the policy that would lead to the greatest reduction in abortions. But there are legitimate reasons to doubt that's true.

Ampersand quickly shifts the burden to reduction to "a significant degree," which would seem to undermine his argument vis-à-vis Catholics, but let's put that aside. Honestly, I've never before heard it argued that changes in the law would have no effect on the abortion rate; it's certainly not an argument frequently and loudly proclaimed, which ought to be odd, if it's valid, considering the proliferation of "personally opposed, politically support" rhetoric. At the very least, it's downright counterintuitive, so one would expect people who believe it to have ample support. Jumping right in:

Before the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade ruling, American women had somewhere between 200,000 and 1.2 million abortions a year in the U.S.. Although measuring something as hidden as illegal abortions is always difficult, the best pre-Roe scholarly assessment came to a figure of about a million abortions a year ("...prior to the adoption of more moderate abortion laws in 1967, there were 1 million abortions annually nationwide, of which 8000 were legal...." From Christopher Tietze "Abortion on request: its consequences for population trends and public health," Seminars in Psychiatry 1970;2:375-381, quoted in JAMA December 9, 1992).

As has already been pointed out in the comments to a corresponding post, the numbers just don't add up. In the years following Roe, there have been an average of around 1.4 million abortions per year. From 1973 through 1982, the average was 1.28 million; from 1983 to 1992, it was 1.57 million; from 1993 to 2000, 1.36 million. That means that the range of possible increases up to this average, according to Ampersand, is 17% (200,000 more abortions per year) to 600% (1.2 million more abortions per year).

Ampersand has already objected, "Dude, pre-Roe was over 30 years ago; directly comparing the two without accounting for other changes (like population) is meaningless." Of course, it isn't only 30 years later that abortions were so much higher; in fact, they've gone down some. Moreover, considering that he doesn't tell us when, or for what period, his pre-Roe estimates apply, we have no way of knowing whether that is, itself, a thirty-year average, the highest pre-Roe year ever, or what.

But what happens if we account for some of those meaning-bestowing changes? Well, the population in 1980 was 226,542,199, compared with 1970's 203,302,031 — an increase of 11.4%. In 1980, there were 1,553,900 abortions; going with the "best pre-Roe scholarly assessment" of 1 million for 1970, we get an increase of 55.4%. So, abortions increased at roughly five times the rate of the population. Meanwhile, there was actually a decrease in the raw number of child births, so that "other change" doesn't improve the picture any.

This leads into Ampersand's alternative measure:

Another option is to look at what happens to birth rates; an significant increase in abortions should lead to a declining birth rate. So if Roe caused a big increase in abortions, the birthrate in the US would have dropped post-Roe. So what actually happened?

For some reason, he follows with the birth and birth-rate data for 1973 to 1980, and sure enough, both the raw numbers and rate per 1,000 of the population increased — 15.2% and 6.7%, respectively. But if we're looking to understand an event in 1973, the years surrounding it are the relevant ones. Otherwise, we're just showing the trend after impact. How about a figure?

The first two red columns represent significant events in the history of birth control. After the Pill became available in 1960, in 1964, President Johnston pushed through legislation for federal funding of birth control to the poor. In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled birth control a right in its Griswold case. The second set of red columns represents the buildup to Roe v. Wade. Various states began allowing abortion, and the Roe and Doe cases began working their way through the courts.

Although the proximity of events leaves some room for ambiguity, it certainly can't be argued that the birth rate didn't fall coinciding with abortion's legality. Regarding the incremental rate increases that Ampersand shows during the 1970s, it should be noted that the percentage of the population in the 15–44 age group increased 5.5% during that decade (page 57 of this PDF). Since the only way to show a significant increase in birth rate for the '70s is to start the clock in 1973, demographics would seem to have spurred what growth there was.

Next Ampersand moves to Poland:

Similarly, what happened when Poland banned abortions in the 1990s? If pro-life policies reduce abortion significantly, there would have been a spike in Poland's birthrate. But Poland's birth rate remained steady. (See Reproductive Health Matters (Volume 10, Issue 19 , May 2002): "The restrictive abortion law in Poland has not increased the number of births.")

Here's a case in which other factors can't be teased out as easily. Poland first legalized abortion in 1956, and its raw number of births hasn't again reached the level of that year. Births began to recover during the '70s, until 1983, but they've been decreasing ever since. The price of abortions, now underground, has increased by a factor of 10, which (if economists are to be believed) would strongly suggest, of itself, that the number has gone down. Unfortunately, though, Eastern Europe has by far the highest rate of abortion on the Continent, so Poland's law alone can only do so much beyond ensuring that it isn't complicit in a practice in which its neighbors engage.

Ampersand's next tack is to compare nations according to their respective abortion rates. With this data, however, so many other factors come into play that comparisons of raw numbers and rates can only be made vaguely and without much weight. (Comparing trends, however, can be useful for specific investigations.) Nonetheless:

Which countries have the least abortion? Belgium has an abortion rate of 6.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. The Netherlands, 6.5. Germany, 7.8. Compare that to the USA's rate of 22.

Okay... but the United States' abortion laws are among the most liberal in the world. As has been discussed in the comments section to Ampersand's corresponding post, there is some variety in the difficulty of acquiring abortions in each European country, often depending upon the age of the fetus. Moreover, fertility rates are so low in Europe that it's difficult to draw conclusions (particularly following Ampersand's previous assertion of a birth-rate/abortion correlation). In Belgium, for example, the fertility rate is 1.62 children per woman (essentially, per couple); the Netherlands, 1.65; Germany, 1.37; and the U.S., 2.07. Perhaps allowing abortions would be a viable option if large swaths of citizens effectively sterilized themselves. (Although not for Catholics.) But Ampersand goes on:

Even better, compare it to countries where abortion is illegal: Egypt, 23; Brazil, 40; Chile, 50; Peru, 56. ...

If pro-life laws are the best way of reducing abortion, then why are the world's lowest abortion rates found in pro-choice countries like Germany and the Netherlands, while some of the world's highest abortion rates are in countries that outlaw abortion?

Apart from noting that, now, pro-life laws apparently must be the best way of reducing abortion for Catholics to be required to support them, I'll admit that he raises an interesting question. For obvious reasons, data is much harder to come by for such countries, so I've only gone so far as to investigate Ampersand's source.

Probably the most significant variable is wealth (not counting the difficulty of determining the data). Comparing the rates of anything between first world and third world nations is dubious. In this context, it's interesting to note that the "Developing regions" group has an abortion rate (per 1,000 women age 15–44) of 34. By comparison, no region comes near the rate in ex-Soviet, abortion-liberal Eastern Europe of 90.

I'm not going to perform an extensive analysis, but just for an example of what might be revealed, consider that Peru's individual wealth is actually a little bit worse than Romania's. Peru has strict rules against abortion, and an abortion rate of 56.1; Romania has abortion on demand, and an abortion rate of 78.0.

Underlying all of these numbers that don't quite fit the premise that he espouses is the logic whereby Ampersand believes that pro-life laws don't make a difference (emphasis in original):

That may seem counterintuitive, but it actually makes sense. Why? Because most women don't have abortions lightly. They have abortions because they are feeling very determined, or perhaps very desperate, and the anti-abortion laws don't seem just to them. When something is desperately wanted by consumers - and when that something is fairly easy to supply - outlawing it won't make it actually unavailable.

I'd find this argument suspect even if the statistics went Ampersand's way. For one thing, breaking the law requires a higher level of determination inherently. Price increases and concerns about the blackmarket would do the same. However, the bottom line — and a particularly Catholic response — derives from the arguments that people actually have about abortion. Like it or not, a central aspect of the debate is whether unborn children are sufficiently human to have rights. In other words, even if they don't realize it, the argument put forward by many (perhaps most) advocates for the "pro-choice" position is whether women should have qualms.

Generation A might have the instilled sense of import, but Generation B will have it less. As for Generation C, Peggy Noonan gives us an indication in an anecdote from a Broadway play, Raisin in the Sun, originally produced in the '50s:

An important moment in the plot is when a character announces she is pregnant, and considering having an abortion. In fact, she tells her mother-in-law, she's already put $5 down with the local abortionist. It is a dramatic moment. And you know as you watch it that when this play came out in 1960 it was received by the audience as a painful moment--a cry of pain from a woman who's tired of hoping that life will turn out well.

But this is the thing: Our audience didn't know that. They didn't understand it was tragic. They heard the young woman say she was about to end the life of her child, and they applauded. Some of them cheered. It was stunning. The reaction seemed to startle the actors on stage, and shake their concentration. I was startled. I turned to my friend. "We have just witnessed a terrible cultural moment," I said. "Don't I know it," he responded.

If some of those audience members somehow gain an inkling that there should be any hesitance whatsoever to have an abortion, perhaps they'll come to find an excuse to maintain their political opinions based on an argument such as Ampersand's. Since it's counterintuitive, if they wish to ground themselves in some kind of morality, including Catholicism, they'd have to research it. If I've done my job, any who read this post will no longer be able to claim that it's "reasonable," as Ampersand asserts, to believe that the law is inconsequential.

Ampersand also adds a bit about a "demand-side" solution to abortion. As he quotes Ono Ekeh:

Pro-life moderates and liberals embrace the “demand-side” approach. This approach seeks to reduce the number of abortions by addressing the social issues that compel too many women to contemplate what would normally be unthinkable. If social conditions were changed so that women were empowered, and if we effectively addressed issues such as health care, child care, family leave, wage inequity, domestic violence and other women’s issues, we could reasonably expect a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the United States.

Although handing off these responsibilities to the government creates a whole category of practical problems, itself, and although I'm skeptical about what seems to be an attempt to repackage feminism as a pro-life strategy, I'm certainly for private sector advocacy and charity on matters that will help struggling people and save lives. Still, it's conspicuous that Ampersand and Ekeh both phrase it as an either/or decision. If the goal is to save the lives of unborn children, who have inalienable rights to those lives, why not reduce demand and restrict supply both?

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:37 AM | Comments (7)

May 1, 2004

Politicians Without Conscience

Okay, let's get one thing straight. In our system of government, citizens vote for a certain number of representatives, depending upon where they live and what governing body they're voting to fill. Those leaders then vote and otherwise create the laws under which we all live. Unless I've failed to notice it across the decades of my citizenship, there is nothing in the Constitution or the law that dictates what criteria or areas of thought legislators must utilize in deciding their votes. Let me write that again as a blockquote, in italics, bold:

There is nothing in the Constitution or the law that dictates what criteria or areas of thought legislators must utilize in deciding their votes.

If a Muslim politician wishes to align his votes with the demands of the Koran, that is no less objectively valid than an atheist politician's aligning his votes with the policy recommendations of an Ivy League research panel. It may be less valid to voters, but that's why we vote. As long as the Muslim doesn't seek to write the Koran specifically into the law as the determinant thereof or hand legislation over to its clerics, there is no problem.

Do you scoff? Then imagine a legislator declaring that the Ivy League panel would henceforth determine all laws. Does the ridiculous nature of that policy suggestion mean that the politician's source should never be consulted?

Now, one can disagree with the Catholic Church's position on abortion. One can even disagree with the Catholic Church's internal derivation of that position. Such a person would be wrong in both respects, but we are free to be wrong. However, I have lost patience with the argument that it violates some objective principle that the Church declares pro-abortion politicians to be out of communion with their Church and, therefore, not appropriately situated to take Communion.

The straw that sparked this comment was the following from Francis Porretto (emphasis in original):

But it is a lawmaker's sworn duty to argue and vote as he deems best for his nation. That's the burden of office. That's the price of its prestige and perquisites. For anyone to make that burden worse in an attempt to coerce the lawmaker into changing his position against the dictates of his conscience is deplorable. It is morally unacceptable.

It's true that Porretto begins his post by conceding that the Church is "nominally within its rights." But if exercising those rights is to engage in something "morally unacceptable," his disclaimer seems to have little more weight than to state the obvious: that nobody among the hierarchy will be arrested for making such declarations or even acting on them. Moreover, by Porretto's calculus, voting or not voting for a politician based on policy is, itself, morally unacceptable.

Porretto moves on to the reason that the controversy over Kerry and the Eucharist concerns him, even though the Church is acting within its rights (emphasis in original):

But with Cardinal Arinze's pronouncement, we approach a new and ugly turn. We confront the use of the Sacraments themselves to bend elected Catholic lawmakers to their will, by threatening them with amputation from the Mystical Body of Christ, regardless of how well they have cleaved to Church teaching as individuals.

Abortion is not the only subject on which democratic assemblies have diverged from Church teaching.

A whiff of theocratic ambition hangs in the air. It's not pleasant. It recalls Christendom's buried memories of smoldering flesh and charred bones.

Firstly, as I noted in a hastily written comment to a post on Michael Williams's blog, Porretto makes the rather large presumption that the only blameworthy component is the abortion itself. At the very least, such a consistent advocate for abortion rights as John Kerry has facilitated the practice. In doing so, Kerry has taken himself out of Communion, and it is for the benefit of his own soul to present him with a stark moral choice. From what basis does he form his "conscience" if not his faith?

That John F. Kennedy promised to keep his Catholicism so distinct from his Presidency does not mean that he created a legal principle that all Catholic politicians must thereafter follow. If the hierarchical nature of the Church makes it more difficult for a Catholic to claim an office, then perhaps it's better all around that he loses the election.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:36 AM | Comments (8)

April 28, 2004

Videocameras for Life

Matt Abbott passes along a description of a scene from the abortion march that makes one think digital video cameras might be a valuable tool in the struggle to overturn Roe v. Wade:

The best way I can explain what I witnessed at today's so-called March for Women's Lives is to reference the movie, The Exorcist. When the possessed child, Regan, is confronted by priests who have come to expel the evil spirit from her, she reacts in shockingly vulgar, profane ways.

That is how thousands of 'pro-choice' demonstrators reacted to the presence of a lone priest blessing and praying for them along the March route.

One form of possession appears arise through callous self-righteousness in defense of evil.

(via Jeff Miller)

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:57 PM | Comments (1)

April 27, 2004

Another Old Lie Comes to the Surface

Kathryn Jean Lopez spent some time observing the tone and temper of the latest pro-abortion rally:

Though the "pro-choice" caricature of a pro-lifer is of a hater — killers of abortionists, oppressors of women — that elitist conventional wisdom (which was very much part of the march on Sunday) ought to be reconsidered. One close look at what went on both on and around the Mall this weekend would be a healthy baby step in that direction.

To be sure, I frequent circles and sources of information that would highlight such things, but it has seemed that even the staunchly pro-life are a bit astonished at the rhetoric of the other side. The "March for Women's Lives" seems to have been only the latest example of what being on the unanticipatedly pressured side of a cultural turn can do to fundamentally untenable worldview. "Those !@#$ haters must die for their lack of compassion!" This must seep out into the culture and help to shape the views of those not devoted to either side.

Some of the statements are bizarre on their surface and increasingly disturbing with the unraveling of each layer of subtext. Do "Menapausal Women Nostalgic for Choice" lament that they can no longer become pregnant because it removes the privilege of killing the resulting children? Was it a condition of Maxine Waters's birth that she be condemned to walking the Earth preaching that others not make the Devil's deal of parenthood?

Patrick Sweeney has a picture of a sign — apparently not excessive by comparison — drawing on the jaw-droppingly unengageable fanaticism of the "anti-war" protests. "Mr. Bush Had Your Mother Chose Abortion More Than 800 American Soldiers And Over 10,000 Iraqi Civilians Would Be Alive Today! Abortion Saves Lives." Patrick makes an astute comment:

Now projecting the personhood of President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, Attorney General Ashcroft, etc. into the unborn child is a bizarre admission of the murderous intent that unites the culture of death with opposition to the Republican party. A celebration of their power to bring death to the unborn. A earnest desire to be free to kill whomever they wish.

Whatever initially drove the abortion movement, it has now become an assertion of power over life and death. And one can't help but believe the quivering fury and tone of political desperation to be the mark of the functional insanity of compounded sin and error. Michael Williams, investigating some of the names from the march, notes the predominance of older women. This is a gray crowd, and people for whom a change of heart would require admission to having killed children and/or helped to facilitate others' ability to do so. As Michael suggests, it is a movement for which defeat could mean retrospective alignment with the threads of evil throughout human history:

Future generations will look back on the 40 million babies killed over the past 30 years -- in America alone -- with disgust and revulsion. A quarter of my generation: dismembered and discarded. And people have the nerve to worry about spotted owls?

We must have compassion for these people, though, because the choice that they currently face is between wrenching contrition and spiraling hatred. Ms. Lopez writes:

One of the women gathered with Silent No More, Lynn Hurley, told me that she had had an abortion in 1971 when she was in college. She knows the pain of abortion and says, "I hurt for the [women marching] who hurt, who have been through abortions themselves. They're probably in denial." She said, "I'm hoping women might see our signs and be touched by them."

For those individual women, we should hope so. But in the long run, more objective good may be accomplished by the signs and slogans of the other side — as people see them and recoil, frightened.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:27 PM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2004

Subjective Objectivity

I agree that "Femi-Nazi" rhetoric isn't helpful, and student editorial writers certainly face a tricky task juggling liberalism's rhetorical demands. So, the Good 5-cent Cigar's chiding of those, presumably URI students, who distributed some anti-abortion fliers (apparently to promote a speaking event) wouldn't have drawn comment from me were it not for this:

Comparing those who have had abortions to Nazis is absolutely ridiculous. In an abortion, a woman makes a choice concerning her body and does so for varying reasons, none of which are hate-filled or evil. The Nazis, on the other hand, killed innocent people in cold blood. A woman has the right to choose what she does with her body and Bay Buchanan, or any other anti-abortionist, has the right to vilify a woman for making that choice.

Whether you believe a fetus is a living being or not, comparing women who choose to have abortions to the Nazis is unreasonable, and stands only for its shock value.

What's striking is the veneer of objectivity over a piece of writing that clearly accepts the premises of one side. The Right to Vilify mustn't extend very far if those who are to be its subjects can't be seen as evil. As it happens, most pro-lifers believe those women to be deceived, not evil. The people who present deranged impulses as perfectly ordinary — those to whom I imagine "Femi-Nazi" is generally applied — might be a different matter. One could also charitably see them as having deluded themselves, but some among the Nazi monsters might thereby have a degree of claim to that charity, since they surely didn't consider their actions to be "hate-filled and evil" — no matter how much that might have been the case.

The Cigar apparently holds the scientifically untenable notion that a fetus is not "a living being." Surely the young editors don't believe themselves to hate children still in the womb, much less consider themselves evil. Yet, their characterization of what is even debatable illustrates how people can work themselves into corners from which they lack the visibility to discern objective standards.

"Cold-blooded," for example, is just a depreciatory way to say "without emotion." In that light, what could be more cold-blooded than removing a growth that is not a living being — let alone a living human being? In fact, one could suggest that it is more "cold-blooded" to see a human being as a parasitic growth than as a subhuman intelligent animal. That isn't an assessment of the relative evil of killing each. It's just an even application of the concept of emotionless judgment of others' value.

"[C]omparing women who choose to have abortions to the Nazis is unreasonable" only if it is inherently unreasonable to believe that those who have yet to be born are human beings. The comparison might be excessive. In a campus setting, it may very well be imprudent. But it isn't without basis, given a certain set of beliefs.

And indeed, beliefs dictate what is reasonable. To URI student Chris Ferdinandi, for example, it was reasonable to end a letter that the Cigar published on March 16 thus:

If you're a Nazi who loves to wear patriot clothing, then a rewarding career as a conservative might be perfect for you.

I may have missed it, but perusing its archives, I can't find the Cigar's editorial calling Ferdinandi's letter "absolutely ridiculous." Interestingly, in a response that does so, Brad Orleck didn't fault the Cigar for printing it. With limited space, he thought it more effective to argue why such things are foolish to say, not why they should never be said in public. Happily, the Cigar put forward that argument — belatedly — in context of the "Femi-Nazi" fliers:

There is no place for this in a democratic society because it eventually leads to an environment of fear and an uninformed citizenry. Only when all citizens feel comfortable to share their ideas in an open arena can a democracy function fully, and comparing feminists to Nazis does not make this debate open.

There's no place for it in a democratic society, but apparently there is place for it in the Good 5-cent Cigar — and in many more-visible venues, I'm afraid.

Incidentally, I wonder how the Right to Vilification relates to the Right to Comfort. I also wonder whether the Cigar considers those who believe there to be legitimate points of comparison between Nazis and abortionists to be "citizens."

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:18 AM | Comments (1)

February 8, 2004

Call a Slaying a Slaying

Michael Williams has apparently been criticized for using such heated and biased rhetoric as calling the convenience killing of unborn children "murder." To the contrary, it seems to me that pro-lifers do themselves no good by giving their opponents — or waverers — a reason to suspect that they tacitly don't really believe what they say about the magnitude of the offense.

The criticism does have relevance in a different aspect of the debate, however. I'm convinced that among the highest obstacles keeping abortion legal is the individual moral culpability of those who have had, or even supported, abortions. If it's murder, they've murdered, or supported murder. In that respect, perhaps an argument could be made that it would be more effective to acclimate them to the idea that abortion is wrong before hitting them with the full gravity of its wrongness.

Frankly, I don't think that's a significant factor at this point — overbalanced by the longevity and ubiquity of the fight as well as by the necessity of passion to build a sense of the magnitude of the individual choice. That's not even to mention the magnitude of the social atrocity; as Michael writes (emphasis his):

It's fine and good to win a debate fairly without resorting to emotional rhetoric, but sometimes the issue is so important that it's better to win at any cost than to worry about intellectual niceties. Such is the case with abortion. I'm all for detached, objective discussion in most cases, but one-third of my generation has been murdered by their parents. I'm more concerned with stopping the butchery than with dispassioned objectivity, and I purposefully use emotional terminology to tailor my message in the manner I believe will be most effective in convincing my readers.
Posted by Justin Katz at 3:23 PM | Comments (4)

January 29, 2004

The Homily Heard Around the Internet

Father Rob has posted a recent homily of his:

You see, since 1973, in our nation, abortion claims the life of 1 out of every 4 children conceived. One out of four children conceived today will not survive to birth because of abortion. One out of four. And that child, that fourth child, would have been sitting in in that empty chair. That empty chair would have been filled by a child, by a young person, if it hadn't been for abortion.

It's must-read material (which is why many of you have probably already read it). And I think Fr. Rob has come across yet another fantastic effect of the Internet generally and blogging specifically: Not only has this homily attracted the attention of multiple bloggers (I'll be ninth, according to Technorati, but there are surely more) with hundreds and thousands of readers, but by that very attention, it will encourage — challenge — other priests to raise the collective level of preaching, to address important topics memorably, and to find new methods of sharing their messages.

Good work, God's work, Father!

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:59 PM

January 28, 2004

The Tide Begins to Turn

He and his seconders have got my vote for reelection:

With legal assistance from the Thomas More Law Center, South Dakota state Rep. Matt McCaulley introduced a bill last Thursday making abortion a crime unless it is necessary to save the life of the mother. House Bill 1192, which already has the support of a majority in the state house and senate, directly confronts the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which gave women a constitutional right to abort their babies.

Rep. McCaulley presented the legislation on the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, saying, "Medical and scientific discoveries over the last 30 years have confirmed that life begins at conception, a question the Roe Court said they could not answer."

(via Victor)

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:19 PM

January 23, 2004

A Future We Seek to Avoid

I've been remiss in not saying anything about the March for Life and related happenings. For the most part, I haven't had anything to add to what I've seen elsewhere, particularly since I'm so busy and stressed. But to remedy my negligence somewhat, herewith is a piece of mine that is no longer online in full (because it's in the Just Thinking book).

Quality Inspectors to Make Rounds
by Justin Katz

New York, June 3, 2012 — The New York chapter of Defenders of Ensured Termination Healthcare will host a skewer barbecue at City Hall this Saturday to celebrate the mayor's decision to require Abortion Quality Inspectors in all ob-gyn medical facilities.

"We believe that doctors that ask patients who want to exercise their option of choice to seek the procedure elsewhere put those women at risk of receiving substandard medical care," says Kathy Quillit, executive director of DETH. She adds, "And the recently passed law requiring all doctors to provide abortion care is not enough on its own. Who knows what these fanatic doctors might do?"

To safeguard against "medical activism," Abortion Quality Inspectors will be licensed to carry firearms while protecting patients' right to safe and comfortable abortions. The move comes after some doctors refused to comply with city requirements that they learn and provide unwanted-pregnancy termination procedures.

The policy will go into effect on July 1, the ten year anniversary of the inauguration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to make abortion training mandatory for all New York City medical students. At that time, many students opted to take advantage of a "conscience clause," and still others declined to offer the procedure even though they had been well trained in it.

Not everybody agrees with the latest measure. One conservative agitator, who asked to remain anonymous, citing "fear for my family," says, "This is why I believe that people on the Left know they are wrong. Rather than offer scholarships to like-minded med-students or campaign to encourage women to patronize certain doctors, they'd rather just force the medical profession to acquiesce to their pro-choice demands."

"I was in the first class that was no longer allowed to choose not to participate in abortion training," says Dr. Christian Hashart, referring to the 2007 change in policy to allow only ordained religious medical students to opt out of mandatory abortion studies. "Frankly, I've tried to talk more than a few women out of aborting their children," he says.

Dr. Hashart is especially concerned about the infringement on patients' privacy once a Quality Inspector must be present during all of his patient-doctor consultations. Ms. Quillit justifies the move, saying, "It can be very harmful to women to hear an opinion from a respected doctor that is contrary to their own choice."

Safety is the central concern, according to the Abortion Quality Inspector General, Frank Lee Hitmynn. "We require all firearms to be turned in before Quality Inspectors leave the premises. We also require that all weapons be visible throughout the course of the day to make sure that the doctors don't get any funny ideas."

I wrote this piece in July 2002 and have been unable to locate Dr. Hashart for further comment since.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:49 AM

January 16, 2004

Discarding the Chaff


No doctor is going to do an abortion on a live fetus. That doesn't happen. Doctors don't do that. If they do, they'll get their license pulled, as well they should.

What does Howard Dean think "abortion" means? Well, obviously, the doctor knows what it means; it's just another instance of his wanting to give people a reason to believe what they know to be false.

Enough plausible "deludability." Let's go in for honesty. Victor Lams, for example, offers an idea that I think would translate wonderfully as a pro-choice picture book ("Momma's Gonna Buy You a Parrot"?):

You know, Timmy, the reason you have so many wonderful toys today is because Mommy and Daddy thought it was best to kill off your brothers and sisters. Isn't that wonderful? Why on earth are you holding that baby doll so tight? Awww, Timmy. It's not like we would ever.... Don't worry: Mommy and Daddy love you. Seriously -- come out of that corner. Fine. What do you want? A parrot? Parrots can talk to you and play games, too. Good. We'll get you a parrot. Remember, Timmy: kids with brothers and sisters don't get parrots!
Posted by Justin Katz at 4:41 PM

January 15, 2004

Dennis Miller's Wrong Way to Be Right

I've always been a big fan of Dennis Miller's, but I'm glad somebody took the time to address this:

Mr. Miller said he remained socially liberal. "I think abortion's wrong, but it's none of my business to tell somebody what's wrong," he said. "So I'm pro-choice. I want to keep my nose out of other people's personal business. I guess I fall into conservative when it comes to protecting the United States in a world where a lot of people hate the United States."

Some might point out that even just saying that abortion is wrong is a moderately conservative stance. I didn't point out anything when I read that this morning because I was busy, but if I had, I would have said something akin to Michael Williams's response:

Why does Mr. Miller think abortions (of convenience) are wrong at all? Either he sees them as the taking of a life (that needs to be justified), or not. If he doesn't see abortion as taking a life, then why is it even mildly wrong? If he does see abortion as killing, then why wouldn't he be in favor of laws putting the same justification requirements on abortion as exist for all other sorts of killing?
Posted by Justin Katz at 6:08 PM | Comments (8)