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Friday, September 27, 2013

Pro-Life 101: The Hard Cases

*This is the sixth installment in a series of posts on pro-life apologetics based on the “When They Say, You Say” talks developed by Olivia Gans Turner and Mary Spaulding Balch. While reading in order is not strictly necessary, you may find it helpful. Post 1Post 2. Post 3.  Post 4. Post 5.

Rape. Incest. Fetal Abnormality. These constitute what we call “the hard cases,” because they are incredibly personal and emotionally charged. Many people are afraid to talk about them, but you shouldn’t be. Discussing the hard cases requires compassion, sensitivity, and reason, just like everything we’ve talked about so far.

Abortion advocates often bring up the hard cases because they know they carry emotional weight and tend to shake up their pro-life peers. Even those who are otherwise pro-life hesitate when it comes to abortion in the case of rape and incest.

When you look at the statistics, though, you’ll notice that the vast majority of abortions aren’t for the hard cases at all; in fact, rape and incest account for less than 1% of all abortions. In total, rape, incest, life of the mother, and fetal abnormality are the reasons given for only 7% of abortions. It is very important not to downplay the tragedy behind these statistics. You should bring this up to illustrate that there is not an overwhelming need for abortion in these circumstances, but be careful: you cannot reduce the suffering of rape victims to a small statistic in the abortion debate.

So what do we say about abortion in the case of rape? First, remember that rape is a disgusting, violent crime. Whatever you do, start by acknowledging the woman’s pain; she is the innocent victim of a terrible ordeal, and she needs your love, compassion, and support, not your judgment. Pro-lifers are (falsely) accused of caring more about the baby than the mother, and you want to avoid that.  However, when rape results in pregnancy, a second innocent victim is at stake.

Too often, when a woman conceives after rape, counselors encourage her to abort her baby. On the surface, this seems like a reasonable solution since she was forced into her situation. Upon closer analysis, however, this line of reasoning falls apart. Regardless of how he was conceived, the baby is still a unique, innocent human life. Abortion is a death sentence, but it punishes the child for the crime of his father. We forget that the child has two parents—he is also his mother’s, and when we pressure her to abort, we turn her into the aggressor against her own child. Rape victims are already traumatized, and women who have abortions often suffer emotionally, physically, and psychologically for the rest of their lives. When a woman  is pressured into abortion after being raped, then, she often feels like she has been victimized twice.

In the case of incest, which almost always involves the abuse of a minor by an older relative or family friend, abortion not only takes an innocent life and further traumatizes the mother, it also shields the criminal. He pays for his victim’s abortion and resumes his abuse, unbeknownst to those who would protect her. In this way, abortion allows the cycle of abuse to continue, and, again, only adds to the mother’s pain.

But won’t carrying her child to term only distress the mother further? We often hear that women who are pregnant after rape will relive their rape every day. However, studies have shown that women who continue their pregnancies after rape actually heal better than those who abort. Rather than trying to cover up her experience as something shameful, she is able to cope with it in an open, healthy manner. Like grieving, recovering from a rape is a process that takes time. Women reported that although they were afraid at first, in the end they felt that giving life to their child was a special way of redeeming their horrible experience. Instead of compounding the violence of the rape with an abortion, they brought something good and beautiful to the world.

Just as a child conceived in rape has the same dignity, value, and right to life as a “planned” child, so does a baby diagnosed with fetal abnormalities. It’s never easy for parents to hear that their very much wanted baby might have a lifelong disability or perhaps not survive outside the womb, but this does not make abortion the acceptable solution.

We should never judge the worth of a life based upon an arbitrary standard of “quality.” All lives are unique and valuable, and to say otherwise is to establish a dangerous precedent that opens the door to euthanasia. If we say that babies in the womb should be aborted due to disabilities, what’s to prevent us from extending that principle to those outside the womb with disabilities? Modern technology has made it much easier to accurately diagnose problems before birth, but sadly our medical professionals often use this as a means of advocating the abortion of these “less than perfect” children instead of using it as an opportunity to better equip themselves to care for those children’s medical needs.

Even when parents receive a fatal prenatal diagnosis, we know that it’s better for them to continue their pregnancies, just like those pregnant through rape. Many times, parents are excited about their baby and have already picked out names and planned for their future with their baby when they receive the diagnosis. They’re already grieving the life of their baby…before their baby has died. Abortion, rather than acknowledging that baby as a valued family member, turns him into a problem that must be destroyed. In contrast, those with experience at perinatal hospices know that treating the baby as a valuable human being, regardless of how long he lives, brings much greater peace and healing to his family. Families are able to celebrate their newest member’s brief life and are allowed to grieve naturally. Their baby isn’t treated as a problem, but as a blessing.

These cases are all difficult and entail much suffering, but abortion only adds to that suffering. Sympathy, compassion, and love are needed when we talk about them, but so are facts. No matter how a baby is conceived and no matter what disabilities he may have, he is still a unique human life, as fully worthy of our protection and love as his parents.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pro-Life 101: Back-alley Abortions

*This is the fifth installment in a series of posts on pro-life apologetics based on the “When They Say, You Say” talks developed by Olivia Gans Turner and Mary Spaulding Balch. While reading in order is not strictly necessary, you may find it helpful. Post 1Post 2. Post 3 Post 4.

Abortion advocates often state that if abortions were difficult to obtain or illegal, thousands of women would die or be horrifically maimed in back-alley abortions. They even insist that abortion is safer than childbirth and much less painful. These arguments can be intimidating because they rely, to an extent, upon statistics. No worries! We’ve broken down some basic facts to get you started.

First, let’s look at the claim that thousands of women will die because of unsafe illegal abortions. Did you know that in 1972, a year before abortion on demand was legal, the Center for Disease Control reported only 39 maternal deaths from illegal abortions? While it’s truly sad that these mothers and their children died in such a horrific way, this statistic doesn’t even come close to the thousands of deaths that abortion advocates talk about.

Furthermore, illegal abortion-related deaths were rare because by the 1960s, most abortions were performed by physicians (yes, even though it was illegal) and medical technology had improved enough to prevent or treat many problems that previously would have been deadly—including complications from childbirth and basic illnesses like the flu. In 1960, Dr. Mary Calderone, former director of Planned Parenthood, wrote “Abortion, whether therapeutic or illegal, is in the main no longer dangerous, because it is being done well by physicians.” In other words, so long as women did not attempt self-induced abortions, their risk of death was relatively low, even 13 years before Roe.

But what about that “5,000-10,000 deaths” figure we always hear about? Simply put, it was a fabricated statistic. In his 1979 book Aborting America, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former director of NARAL, wrote “I confess that I knew that the figures were totally false and I suppose that others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?” As already mentioned, a look at the true figures demonstrates the truth in Dr. Nathanson’s words: relatively few women died from illegal abortions.

Of course, just because thousands of women didn’t die from abortion doesn’t mean abortion is ever “safe.” After all, at the end of every abortion is a dead baby, and many post-abortive mothers suffer from physical, emotional, and psychological complications. We know, too, that even though abortion is widely available and medical technology better than ever before, women still die during abortions, even legal ones. A quick Google search brings up the tragic stories of Tonya Reaves and Jennifer Morbelli, two young women who died after botched legal abortions performed by licensed physicians.

Another point, too, is that many expectant mothers seek abortions because they can. Since abortion is legal, these vulnerable women rationalize that “it’s legal so it must be okay,” even if they know they are taking the life of a child. How many mothers facing unplanned pregnancies opt for abortion just because it’s the fast and “easy” solution to their problem? How many of those mothers would consider abortion if it wasn’t legal and, to an extent, accepted in the United States? Within ten years of Roe, the number of abortions per year shot up from 744,600 (1973) to over 1.5 million. Today, that number has leveled at about 1.2 million abortions per year, but many post-abortive mothers will say that they only had an abortion because it felt like their only choice.

Sometimes abortion advocates will try to make the case that “safe” abortions reduce maternal mortality rates. Fortunately, studies show that it’s not the availability of abortion that saves mothers’ lives, but better access to medicine and healthcare. In fact, countries where abortion is illegal have a lower maternal mortality rate! In the US, the maternal mortality rate actually increased from 10.3 in 1999 to 23.2 in 2009. In Chile, where abortion has been illegal since 1989, the maternal mortality rate dropped 69.2% within 14 years. Chile now has the second lowest maternal mortality rate of all the countries in North and South America. For a fascinating summary of maternal mortality figures around the world, National Right to Life has an excellent handout detailing some of these trends.

Don’t let the numbers scare you! A little research and common sense is all you need to know that abortion doesn’t save lives, it takes them. Although pregnancy and childbirth can be dangerous, they are natural functions of the female body, and with our ever-increasing medical knowledge and availability, there is no reason to believe that abortion is somehow a safety net. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pro-Life 101: Every Child a Wanted Child

*This is the fourth installment in a series of posts on pro-life apologetics based on the “When They Say, You Say” talks developed by Olivia Gans Turner and Mary Spaulding Balch. While reading in order is not strictly necessary, you may find it helpful. Post 1. Post 2. Post 3

 This third category contains responses to the social arguments for abortion. Social arguments include concerns about the ability of poor families to care for children, unwanted children, and child abuse. Oftentimes people are only repeating what they’ve heard (and have not thought through the subject well themselves), and it’s best to assume that they have good intentions. In order to win hearts to the pro-life movement, you must recognize their compassion for what it is, even if it’s misplaced or uninformed.

The main premise of social arguments is that it is in both the parents’ and the child’s best interest to abort. An unplanned pregnancy will only add to the burden of parents struggling financially. Parents who don’t want their children will be more inclined to abuse. Children born into such families will suffer poverty or abuse. And because nobody wants to increase child abuse or poverty, they look at abortion as a reasonable and even responsible solution to the problem. Our job, then, is to persuade others lovingly that while these are good concerns, their conclusion is incorrect and better solutions exist.

What exactly does the slogan “every child a wanted child” mean? At first glance, it looks great: everyone wants to be wanted and loved! But the implications are much more negative. First, this suggests that value is equated with being wanted, and we know that simply isn’t true. We set a dangerous precedent when we say that someone only has worth when she is wanted by someone. With reference to abortion, “every child a wanted child” quickly becomes “and every unwanted child aborted.” This mentality of killing anyone who isn’t “wanted” endangers everyone living. As soon as we assign value based upon an arbitrary standard, anyone who does not meet that standard is at risk.

More importantly, is any child truly unwanted? At any given time, thousands of couples are on the adoption waiting lists, hoping for a child. Even children with disabilities, who are undervalued by our culture, have families lining up to bring them home. Just this summer, for example, hundreds of couples volunteered to adopt an unborn baby whose parents were considering abortion after discovering he had Down syndrome. While adoption is a difficult decision requiring great self-sacrifice on the part of the birthmother, it has a happy ending. By making an adoption plan, a mother not only gives life to her baby, she gives life to a completely new family. The same cannot be said about abortion.

It’s also good to note that feelings about pregnancies change. It’s common for mothers to have mixed feelings when they learn they’re pregnant, but over time they begin to bond with their unborn baby, especially when they can feel him moving. Every woman has a different timeline for when she bonds with her child, and for some mothers, it might not be until after birth. Regardless of how women feel about their pregnancies, though, we need to remember that the decision to abort is a serious matter, and a temporary emotion is not enough to justify the taking of a life. Too often, expectant mothers who feel trapped into abortion live with regrets for the rest of their lives.

But what about poverty? First of all, aborting the newest member of the family will not solve the problem of poverty. Someone’s financial situation and unplanned pregnancy are two different issues, and a poor mother who has an abortion remains a poor mother, with the additional pain of knowing she killed her child. We don’t condone the arbitrary killing of poor adults, and neither should we advocate the killing of their unborn children! Even if parents don’t feel like they have the financial resources to raise a child, there is help available. Pregnancy care centers across the country exist to support women as they face difficult pregnancies, providing free care, classes, and supplies. Besides material support, the workers at pregnancy centers often form friendships with the clients, providing much-needed emotional support, as well. Unlike abortion facilities, pregnancy care centers empower women and their families with education, resources, and the tools they need to succeed. 

Despite all this, many people are concerned that if parents are “forced” to care for an “unwanted” child, the abuse rate will escalate. If that is the case, it would make sense for cases of child abuse to decrease after the Supreme Court ruled abortion on demand legal, right? Wrong. In 1973, the National Center of Child Abuse and Neglect reported 167,000 cases of child abuse. In 2011, an estimated 681,000 cases of child abuse were reported. This is in spite of increasing standards of safety, such as background checks and training for anyone working with minors, as well as approximately 1.2 million abortions per year. 

So why does the abuse rate go up with the abortion rate? One reason might be that women suffering from post-abortion syndrome are more likely to struggle to bond with or care for subsequent children. Another reason is that an abortion culture promotes a very negative view of children. Planned, wanted unborn children are babies; unplanned and unwanted unborn children are disposable clumps of tissue. When abuse takes place within the womb, we call it abortion and say it’s a woman’s choice. When abuse takes place outside of the womb, it’s a crime. Is it any wonder that as children are no longer seen as gifts within the womb, they aren’t seen as gifts outside of it, either? When children become commodities, we lose the understanding of them as persons.

Abortion has become so customary that it doesn't even occur to some people that it is part of the problem, not the solution. As pro-lifers, it is our duty to address these issues with great love. Our culture is broken and needs to be retaught the value of each person, born and unborn. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pro-Life 101: “A Woman Has the Right to Control Her Body”

*This is the third installment in a series of posts on pro-life apologetics based on the “When They Say, You Say” talks developed by Olivia Gans Turner and Mary Spaulding Balch. If you missed the first two, read part one here and part two here.

One of the most popular pro-abortion arguments is reproductive freedom, i.e. women have the “right” to do what they like with their bodies, including aborting their children. This line of thinking encompasses other common catchphrases such as “I’m personally opposed, but…,” “abortion is a private decision between a woman and her doctor,” and “everyone has the right to choose.”

The United States was founded on the principle of liberty, and Americans often take for granted certain rights that other people are denied, such as the freedom to vote. However, even in the United States our rights have their limits. Freedom of speech, for example, does not allow someone to shout “fire” if there isn’t one. The right to bear arms does not mean gun owners can shoot other people at random. In short, we are not free to injure or endanger another person.

How does this apply to abortion? At the most fundamental level, the unborn child is a separate person, and common sense tells us that if a baby in the womb can have a different blood type and different sex than the woman carrying him, he is a separate individual. We can’t leave the baby out of the conversation when talking about rights!   

With this series of arguments, though, it’s not enough to bring out your humanity of the unborn facts and leave it at that. You’ll need to listen to what the other person is saying and address his or her arguments more specifically. With that in mind, here are some common objections and the pro-life responses.

A woman shouldn’t be forced to carry a pregnancy.

Are women ever “forced” to be pregnant? With the exception of victims of rape and incest, who we’ll talk about in a later post, the vast majority of pregnant mothers willingly engaged in sexual activity. Since pregnancy is the natural outcome of sex, and since all contraceptives have a failure rate, every sexually active person should be aware of the possible consequence. By the time a woman finds out she’s pregnant, it’s too late. She can’t just “undo” her pregnancy, because she’s already a mother. This does not mean she’s without options or doomed to a life without an education or career, though! There are a growing number of resources available to pregnant and parenting students, and resource centers all over the country exist to help women facing unplanned pregnancies.

Remember, too, that pregnancy is a temporary condition. No one is pregnant forever, but abortion is permanent. When someone breaks her leg, doctors usually tell her to wear a cast for a couple months. Is this uncomfortable? Sure. Inconvenient? Probably. But it’s not permanent; the doctor isn’t asking her to wear a cast forever. Nor is the doctor offering to amputate the leg or kill the patient as a “quick fix” to the problem. Similarly, abortion is an extreme reaction to what is a temporary inconvenience.

It’s a private decision between a woman and her doctor.

Obviously, with this one you’re going to want to go back to the humanity of the unborn baby first, but there are a few more points to keep in mind.

First, when we give doctors the freedom to make arbitrary decisions about ending life at one stage, we’re opening the door for an overall decrease in the respect for life at any stage. The unborn are the most vulnerable members of our society, but they’re not the only ones. The disabled, elderly, and anyone else not up to the standards of “perfect” health shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not someone else is going to decide the quality of their life for them. Life is always valuable.

Second, most mothers seeking abortions don’t consult their regular doctors; they go to abortion facilities. It’s unlikely that they will have any kind of relationship with the abortionist or even know his or her name. Any information the abortionist has about the patient comes from information that she provided, not from her regular doctor. The patient may not ever even know her abortionist’s name. The truth is, the notion of abortion being a decision made between a woman and the doctor who knows her is a fallacy; in the majority of cases, it’s a brief meeting of strangers.

Women will never be equal to men without abortion.

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The ability to bear children is a gift unique to women. As long as we insist that women will “only” be equal if they kill their developing children, women will be “second class” citizens. We wouldn’t tell a black man that he can “only” be equal if he changes his skin color. Fertility is not a punishment, and a baby does not equal failure. The original feminists would be horrified to know that today’s women believe their very femininity holds them back. The day we accept the ability to grow a completely new person as a uniquely female superpower, the world will be a better place.

Some women have no other choice.

How tragic. If a mother feels like abortion is her only option, then we have failed her as a society. No one should have to believe that killing her child is the only way to keep her job, maintain a familial or romantic relationship, pursue an education, or any of the countless  reasons women feel pressured into abortion. This reasoning betrays the lie of abortion as a “choice.”

I’m personally opposed, but….

It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman or child. For all the reasons already listed, an opinion means very little when you consider the facts. Moreover, there have been nearly 55 million abortions in the last 40 years; whether you know it or not, someone close to you has most likely had an abortion. This issue has affected everyone.