Nothing to see here

August 5, 2015

Today on the Crusty Curmudgeon, we juxtapose, courtesy of Mollie Hemingway:

President Barack Obama told a group of young African leaders on Monday that harvesting organs from humans that are killed as part of an African ritual was “craziness” and a “cruel” tradition that needed to stop. He warned of dehumanizing marginal groups of humans and of the problems that arise when “you are not able to see someone else as a human being.”

Meanwhile, back in the States . . .

On the topic of human organ harvesting, President Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest has said that President Obama has chosen not to watch the video footage of Planned Parenthood officials dissecting human fetuses for parts. Nevertheless, President Obama has vehemently defended the abortion group.

[Full Story]

Some humans are more human than others.


“We played the flute, and you did not dance”: thoughts on Saturday’s incrementalism vs. immediatism debate

April 28, 2015

On Saturday evening, I enjoyed a late dinner and viewed a live stream of a debate titled “Pro-Life Incrementalism vs. Abolitionist Immediatism.” Gregg Cunningham of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform argued in favour of the incremental position, while T. Russell Hunter of the International Coalition of Abolitionist Societies, and the founder of the Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) movement, argued for the immediatist position. (Henceforth I will call the latter the “absolutist” position: while I have no particular prejudice against their preferred term, I just feel that visually, “immediatist” and “incrementalist” may appear too similar in print.)

The event, which took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was streamed live via YouTube and can still be viewed there.

My first post as a blogger for Faith Beyond Belief was about taking an incremental approach to ending abortion on demand. After viewing the debate, I firmly continue to stand behind that post. Quite frankly, I found Hunter’s argument unconvincing.

Both sides made rhetorical missteps, but Russell Hunter came across as unprepared, strident, and preachy. (After Scott Klusendorf paraphrased a well-known legal aphorism while commenting on the debate on his Facebook page, an interesting side discussion ensued about its origin. Although the proverb is by no means original to him, it was Carl Sandburg who most famously quipped, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.” Hunter certainly did his fair share of yelling on Saturday night.)

After the debate, someone on the debate’s event page posted that Gregg Cunningham “ended up conceding the debate” in his answer to one audience question: “If you had the opportunity, if a bill was presented to you, that would abolish abortion completely, except for one child, you had to let one child die, there was one exception, what would you do?” He replied, “The answer, quite simply, is no. . . . I would say, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.'” His response consciously echoed Hunter’s, to whom the question was originally posed.

Supposedly Cunningham conceded the debate to the absolutist side because by his answer he admitted that he could not sacrifice the life of a single unborn child for the sake of the greater good. I didn’t see it that way. Rather, I heard what I perceived to be a loaded question intended to manipulate emotions in favour of the absolutist side (the man who posed the question was wearing an AHA shirt). Of course there would be no practical benefit to such a law; the hypothetical was contrived for emotional impact, as if to compel Cunningham to tell that innocent little unborn baby to her face that she must die for the greater good. (I think the questioner must also have confused incremental strategy with utilitarianism.)

I suggest an alternative form of the question, one which I hope will preserve the same moral issue present in the one asked at the debate, but hopefully without the transparent emotional appeal:

If you had the opportunity, if a bill was presented to you that would abolish abortion completely, except that the law would not come into effect until the end of the month and the status quo would remain in the meantime, what would you do?

Of course, I would sign that bill in a heartbeat, because it would mean both a soon and definitive end to the scourge of abortion.

I would be curious to see how an absolutist would answer it, though. I would think that their devotion to ideological purity would catch them on the horns of a dilemma.

And in the final analysis, it’s that purism that renders the “abolitionists” (I reject their claimed monopoly on that term) so irrelevant. Incrementalists see victory over abortion on demand as achieved in a series of small steps, some of which have resulted in victories. Absolutists see any sort of partial legal restriction on abortion as implicitly saying “then you can kill the baby” if those restrictions don’t apply in his case. If you can’t outlaw abortion all the way, they say, you shouldn’t go at all. So far, this approach has achieved exactly zero successes. Maybe they should stop calling themselves “abolitionists” and adopt the label “armchair quarterbacks.”

Members of AHA spend a lot of time outside abortion clinics, protesting what goes on inside and counseling women not to have abortions there. I have no doubt that they changed many minds, and deserve unqualified credit and praise for the good they have done. Their activities are praiseworthy, but they are not a vindication of the abolitionist strategy. Do sidewalk counselors persuade every woman who comes to the clinic for an abortion not to have one? Do they blockade the clinic to prevent everyone they don’t persuade from entering? If not, are they not tacitly acknowledging that women are legally allowed to enter an abortion clinic and kill their baby? How is this not the abolitionists’ own “then you can kill the baby”?

We need the absolutists’ zeal. We need their calls to the church to awaken out of its lethargy and do something to stop the killing. What we don’t need is the kind of almost priggish commitment to an ideology that has thus far probably not prevented a single abortion, and treats allies as enemies.

Friday in the wild: May 9, 2014

May 9, 2014

Hello! This might be a longer installment than usual, simply because I was unable to post last week, so I have about two weeks of interesting (and now, slightly stale) stuff to pass around. Which is fine with me.

First, an intriguing article from The Art of Manliness, which promotes traditional masculine virtues. It’s intriguing not merely because of the subject matter—though as someone who enjoys the occasional glass of whiskey, of course I enjoyed reading about a shared interest—but because the blog owners are Mormons, who would not normally drink alcohol. It’s a guest post. Obviously there’s plenty of room in the tent for varying views on masculinity! (AoM featured articles on cocktails and pipe smoking as well in the past.)

In spite of its sometimes tumultuous history (see the Whiskey Rebellion), whiskey is a drink that men have enjoyed for centuries. Men like Mark Twain, Winston Churchill (often accompanied with a fine cigar), and Clark Gable imbibed regularly. When one thinks of masculine images, you often conjure up a picture of a man in a tweed coat with a glass of whiskey in his hand by the fire. If you’ve ever wanted to be that man and explore this manly tradition, you’re in luck. While we’ve given you a primer on Scotch whisky, today we’re going to broaden that and talk about whiskey as a whole—especially how to enjoy it!

[Read How to Drink Whiskey]

Read the rest of this entry »

“Investigate some abortions as homicides”? Um, not exactly

January 31, 2013

I have just read what may very well be the most egregiously slanted writing on an abortion-related news story that I have ever seen—and that’s saying something.

The headline on the CBC Web site reads: “Investigate some abortions as homicides, Tory MPs ask RCMP.” Similar headlines have been published all over Canada, as Google News indicates, since the original story comes from the Canadian Press.

Read the rest of this entry »

Choicers roasting on an open fire

June 10, 2010

Oh, brother:

A newly revealed poster picturing the ultrasound of an unborn Jesus with a halo is adding fuel to the abortion ad uproar in the United Kingdom.

ChurchAds.Net’s “Baby-Scan Jesus” poster, which will be used for a 2010 Christmas campaign, has already started stirring debate months before the holiday season. Although the poster’s creators say it is meant to spark conversation about the meaning of Christmas, critics of the poster say it is too political and see it as a counterattack on the recent first-ever TV ad for abortion services.

[Full Story]

According to the poster creators:

the poster idea came from the 21st-century convention that proud parents-to-be show the ultrasound of their baby to family and friends.

“Our new Baby-scan Jesus poster uses this convention to place the birth of Christ in an ultra-contemporary context,” the group explained. “It is highly impactful. It has a sense of immediacy. It creates anticipation. And theologically it speaks of both the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ.”

But some British (presumably pro-choice) secularists believe otherwise: “The image is too specifically associated with pro-lifers to be seen in a benign context,” says Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society.

Poor pro-choice secularists. Someone ought to tell these fossils that their rhetoric is well outdated. Sonograms have been commonplace for years; it’s practically a given that an expectant mother will have some taken during her pregnancy. As the ChurchAds.Net folks point out, moms-to-be like to show them off. I’ve been to homes where they were hanging on the fridge. As Albert Mohler has pointed out, ultrasound has had an enormous impact on the current generation of young voters and their perception of the abortion issues: these older teens are “the first to grow up with ultrasound images taped to the refrigerator door. . . . This generation understands the issue in terms of infant human life. They do not see a mere fetus. They recognize a baby.” Indeed, sometimes these kids take for granted that the ultrasound on the fridge is just another, earlier kind of baby picture.

But the post-menopausal remnant of militant pro-choice “secularists” misses the point. Instead of the familiar image of an anticipated new life, they see the abortion that never was. Instead of the anticipated hope of life eternal, they continue their quixotic struggle against the death of their dusty rhetoric. Well, good riddance.

(H/T: Big Blue Wave.)

And now, presenting what may very well be the stupidest question ever…

March 4, 2010

Just tweeted this evening by a self-described “prochoice Christian”:

If chastity and abstinence works [sic], where did Jesus come from?

No, seriously.

You need a license to drive and own a gun, but anyone with a computer can use the Internet. Explain that.

Follow-up: what about “therapeutic abortions”?

December 14, 2009

David Kjos made a really good comment on my previous post on abortion arguments on Twitter. Since Haloscan will be going bye-bye in a couple of weeks, I thought it appropriate to simply copy the comment here and reply rather than do so in the comments.

He writes:

This is off-topic, but …

On the “therapeutic abortion”:

I can agree if certain death for both mother and child is imminent. But I don’t believe abortion to save the life of the mother should be a foregone conclusion, or considered self-defense.

First, it’s not self defense because the child is not assaulting the mother.

Second, what mother or father would not — or should not — stand between an armed assailant and their child, or risk their lives in any number of ways, to save that child? We naturally expect that kind of self sacrifice. How is risking one’s life in order to carry a child to term different?

Back on-topic, you are so right about the absurdity of the extreme case argument. What if a[n unemployed] green man from Mars with no medical insurance and no family or church to call upon suddenly needs a gizzard transplant? Am I allowed to rob a bank to finance the operation?

Thanks for the question.

I suppose that the textbook case of a life-threatening pregnancy is an ectopic pregnancy, in which a zygote implants somewhere other than the uterine lining, typically the Fallopian tube. Many ectopic pregnancies will abort spontaneously, but about half do not. Left untreated, a developing fetus will eventually grow to the point that it causes serious tissue damage or hemorrhaging that can lead to the death of the mother – and therefore also of the unborn child, who is almost always non-viable at this stage of gestation. Recent surgeries have successfully saved the life of both mother and child, but my arguments here are based on the past situation where no such surgery was available (and my assumption that such procedures are still somewhat rare and experimental).

A therapeutic abortion is not “self-defense” in the same sense as, say, shooting an armed robber or a rabid animal that is attacking you. Rather, it’s more like defending yourself against a life-threatening cancer. While I don’t regard pregnancy like a disease by any stretch, the situations are comparable in that nothing is attacking the mother with malicious intent, but an otherwise normal biological function has gone very wrong and now threatens her life.

So the situation that I was considering when I wrote my previous post was not merely one in which the mother is risking her health by carrying the child to term – rather, it is one in which (as David says) death is virtually imminent and drastic measures must be taken to prevent it. Not doing so isn’t a mere risk, nor is it analogous to a parent risking his or her own life to shield a child from harm; it’s tantamount to suicide.

Suppose a patient went into a surgeon’s office and requested the amputation of her leg above the knee. No medical condition required the amputation; the patient simply had a sexual fetish associated with amputees. If the doctor carried out the surgery, it would be a mutilation and he would be guilty of medical malpractice. (In fact, the desire to become an amputee is considered a mental illness called Bodily Integrity Identity Disorder.) On the other hand, if the same woman had cancer, and the only way to stop the disease were to amputate her leg above the knee, the same procedure (while still disfiguring) is now life-saving surgery.

And this is how I see abortion in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, when no other life-saving measure is possible that would preserve the life of both mother and child. Obviously I don’t deny that the unborn child is a human being deserving of life, or that therapeutic abortion is other than a necessary evil. It’s just that in some cases, drastic measures are required to save one life instead of losing two. The intent is not to kill, but to save life, albeit with “collateral damage.”

Again, let me stress one more time: such conditions are very rare. And just because some abortions may be medically justifiable in the face of a life-threatening pregnancy, that does not mean we can morally justify millions of abortions that have been carried out for no medically necessary reason.