Apr 06

The leading candidate in both parties don’t know how to talk about life.

Shouldn’t that disqualify them?

Alas, abortion and what’s referred to as ‘the question of when life begins’ (as if it’s uncertain and therefore debatable) has played into elections for decades now. It certainly will for the rest of this election year. How candidates respond to specific questions relating to abortion, rights, and human life reveal a lot about their ideology or lack of a well-formed belief system, their adherence to talking points or lack of a base of knowledge about the topic. Any version of those is revealing.

So when Hillary Clinton was asked by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press when and whether an unborn child gets constitutional rights, I recalled having heard that question put almost that same way to candidate Barack Obama in the Saddleback Civil Forum by Pastor Rick Warren.

When Warren asked when life and human rights begin, McCain’s succinct reply, “At conception,” and mention of his pro-life voting track record were greeted with some of the loudest applause of the evening.

Obama’s pro-choice stance and flippant language were not.

“Whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective,” Obama said, “answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade.”

…a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops…called the comment a “dodge that wasn’t even intellectually respectable.”

Clinton’s response to Todd was very close to Obama’s back in 2008.

“Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists,” Clinton answered. “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.”

(So, wait a minute…What’s the difference between an unborn person not having any constitutional rights, and doing everything possible in some instances to help a mother carrying a child to make sure the child will be health with appropriate medical support? The elasticity of the semantics of political ideology, and dishonesty of the culture of relativism.)

Following that appearance on Meet the Press, Clinton was asked for clarification on The View by Co-Host Paula Varis.

VIEW HOST: You said, ‘the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.’ And my question is at what point does someone have constitutional rights? And are you saying that a child, on its due date, just hours before its delivery still has no constitutional rights?

HILLARY CLINTON: Under our law, that is the case. I support Roe v. Wade because I think is important statement about the importance of a woman making this most difficult decision with consultation by whom she chooses… and under the law, and certainly under that decision, that is the way we structure it.

That default “that is the way we structure it” talking point response is almost the same as Donald Trump responding to MSNBC’s Chris Matthew’s question about punishing women who get abortions if the law changes, by saying ‘yes, there should be some punishment.’ Both are responses made under the pressure of the moment to pry out the candidates’ most deeply held beliefs about human life. But one had talking points and an entire industry prepping and propping her, while the other hadn’t thought it through well or for long and had virtually no prep.

However, both responses tell us a lot. Human life is a relative idea, protection of the most vulnerable young human beings is strategically embedded in political ideology more than inherently so in a mother’s womb, and facts not only don’t determine a candidate’s well formed positions on first principles, they actually get in the way of those positions when candidates don’t seek to be well informed and grounded in science, maternal/fetal medicine and fundamental morality.

Both Clinton and Trump have been exposed and made more vulnerable by questions relating to abortion. No doubt Clinton will be drilled by her camp, and Trump will do whatever he does to prepare for facing challenges to his views and beliefs.

But this is an issue central to Election 2016, and it’s going to remain so through November, and beyond.

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Dec 14

It passed, it was a big deal, but far from a done deal.

It had barely happened, barely got attention, when the San Bernardino violence erupted the next day and dominated news and attention for days and still does.

What was the deal that went almost unnoticed? The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would, among other things, freeze federal funding to Planned Parenthood for a year.

The House passed similar legislation in September.

The House vote represents the first time that congressional Republicans have approved legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of this summer’s undercover video controversy. The vote is largely symbolic, as Democrats are expected to block the bill in the Senate.

Right. It was expected that such a measure would never pass the Senate. Thursday evening, it did.

“The Senate is right to recognize that taxpayer money should go to fund local community health centers, not to subsidize a scandal-ridden, billion-dollar abortion business. Americans shouldn’t be forced to give their money to Planned Parenthood, which has a long track record of abusive and potentially fraudulent billing practices, not to mention that it has also been caught in authenticated undercover videos trafficking aborted babies’ body parts and has repeatedly failed to report the sexual abuse of girls. That tax money should be redirected to trustworthy health care providers.”

Which is what the reconciliation bill the Senate passed intends to do.

“Tonight’s vote is a landmark victory for all who prioritize comprehensive women’s health care over abortion industry profits. We thank Senate Leadership for following through on their promise to advance this defunding provision to the President’s desk,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“The debate over the reconciliation process has continued the national conversation on Planned Parenthood and established an important precedent for the next administration,” continued Dannenfelser. “If Americans elect a pro-life president next year, and safeguard our pro-life majorities in Congress, this bill – and many others – could be law by 2017.”

That’s the sizable significance of this bill passing the Senate, to the pro-life movement.

Abortion advocates and complicit media and politicians tried to pitch it differently.

The bill is not expected to become law.

It now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass. The House passed a similar version on Oct. 23, but must vote on it because the Senate made changes to adhere to budgetary rules.

The White House has already said that President Barack Obama will veto the legislation once it reached his desk, and Republicans do not have the two-thirds majority needed to override that veto.

However…

Two attempts to save funding for Planned Parenthood failed. One attempt was made by Senate Democrats and the other made by a group of moderate Senate Republicans.

It’s becoming increasingly well known that federally qualified health clinics proliferate across this country, serving women with comprehensive health care far better than Planned Parenthood. Shifting taxpayer funds to them would better serve women, better than Planned Parenthood ever did, even with so much money pouring into their coffers.

So what exactly are taxpayers getting for the $528 million they provide to Planned Parenthood each year? And more important, what could they get if that money were spent instead at the thousands of federally qualified health centers around the country that do provide a full range of services and diagnostic screenings, as well as birth control, pap smears, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases?

In fact, women have the most to gain from a congressional decision to reallocate money away from Planned Parenthood and to community-based health centers that already serve their localities. The quality of women’s health care will be improved by shifting money to medical providers that focus on the health and well-being of the whole woman; the priority should not be funding an organization that treats women’s reproductive health in isolation.

Women’s access to health care will improve, as well. There are more than 13,000 qualified health centers providing a full range of health-care services to women, including 4,000 in under-served rural areas.

Take a look at the map on that site. Now that’s real choice.

For those who want to argue on behalf of Planned Parenthood, here’s more to discuss.

…Planned Parenthood can absorb the cut considering its relationship with private donors and its excess revenue, while on the other hand, community health centers have the capacity to acquire and serve new patients. Proposals in Congress to “defund” Planned Parenthood, therefore, merely reallocate women’s health expenditures to agencies that offer women a full menu of primary care.

After all

Government funding of various social welfare and public health programs is meant to advance the common good. But intentionally killing innocent human lives is never good; and that’s why the federal government has rightly insisted that no funding through the Department of Health and Human Services may be used for elective abortion. Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood receives government funding for other services it provides. This is morally bad public policy. Planned Parenthood and other providers of elective abortion should not be eligible for any government funding. No matter how beneficial the other services they provide may be to a community, their participation in the unjust ending of innocent human lives should prevent them from receiving any governmental funding.

The landmark vote in the Senate, together with the House bill, got little attention and continues to get none outside the pro-life media, though the presidential debates and campaigns going forward will thrust the issue back into the spotlight, which where it should be.

As SBA-List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said about the Senate vote following the House version, it should fortify voices in the national conversation over federally funded abortion, and the resolve of pro-life citizens feeling defeated for so long.

Live Action’s Lila Rose said as much.

“The voices of millions of Americans were heard: Taxpayers should not be forced to fund an organization that kills over 320,000 preborn children every year and hurts thousands of women and young girls.

“While President Obama may veto this bill, we’ve proven we have the pro-life votes to get a defunding bill through Congress and to the president’s desk. It is clear that there is now only one hurdle left, and that makes 2016 even more critical for pro-life Americans.

“I still hold out some hope that Mr. Obama may finally realize that whatever his views on abortion, it is indefensible to continue to force taxpayers to fund a corporation that has been complicit in covering up sex trafficking and the sexual abuse of minors, that lies to women about the complications of abortion procedures and how developed the babies are in their wombs, that has had hundreds of documented health and safety violations, and that has been caught on video promoting illegal race- and sex-selective abortions.”

There it is. The truth in one brief statement. With violence to innocent humans at an alarming level and frequency, every sane, intelligent, and especially powerful person should be searching for ways to protect and defend people, and build safe havens for their well-being. This provides the occasion for both.

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Sep 17

There’s no going back to ‘plausible deniability’ for the abortion giant, or its defenders.

People in media and government can’t not know what’s been going on.

Last week, the House Judiciary committee held the first of a series of hearings investigating the abortion industry giant. Two women who survived attempted abortions, Gianna Jessen and Melissa Ohden, testified. So did a longtime lead attorney steeped in experience in government hearings and court arguments involving fetal tissue research for nearly three decades. In fact, all three of them brought nearly three decades of lived experience to this panel.

Here’s the video, all of it, on C-SPAN.

Here are some takeaways.

Amazingly, after 18 hours of being burned in her mother’s womb, Gianna was delivered alive in an abortion clinic in Los Angeles on April 6, 1977. She told the committee

Thankfully, the abortionist was not at work yet. Had he been there, he would have ended my life with strangulation, suffocation, or leaving me there to die. Instead, a nurse called an ambulance, and I was rushed to a hospital. Doctors did not expect me to live. I did. I was later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, which was caused by a lack of oxygen to my brain while surviving the abortion. I was never supposed to hold up my head up or walk. I do. And Cerebral Palsy, ladies and gentlemen, is a tremendous gift to me.

A moment later, in another testimony to her faith, Gianna said

Hear me clearly, I forgive my biological mother.

And then

General Counsel James Bopp, Jr., who came next, perfectly complemented Gianna’s testimony…

Mr. Bopp, who has testified before many congressional committees and argued multiple cases before the United States Supreme Court, was, as always, keenly on mark. One of his opening remarks captures the thrust of his testimony

One of the great tragedies of human nature is that, what history later judges to be gravely immoral, seems perfectly moral to those engaged in the action at the time. Human sacrifice, slavery, genocide, gladiatorial moral combat, and capital punishment for minor offenses are all examples of activities once thought to be moral, but are now considered gravely immoral. That is the position we are in today. Current practices employed by Planned Parenthood and various tissue procurement companies, not only violate federal law when applicable, but also many ethical and moral principles. Furthermore, continuing to allow procurement and sale of human fetal tissue makes one complicit in the act of aborting a child.

Then Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte cited a quote from a dissent written by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy who, himself, cited graphic quotes from the testimony of partial-birth abortionist LeRoy Carhart:

Dr. Carhart agreed that “[w]hen you pull out a piece of the fetus, let’s say, an arm or a leg and remove that, at the time just prior to removal of the portion of the fetus, … the fetus [is] alive.” Dr. Carhart has observed fetal heartbeat via ultrasound with “extensive parts of the fetus removed,” and testified that mere dismemberment of a limb does not always cause death because he knows of a physician who removed the arm of a fetus only to have the fetus go on to be born “as a living child with one arm.” At the conclusion of a D&E abortion no intact fetus remains. In Dr. Carhart’s words, the abortionist is left with “a tray full of pieces.”

And then

the committee heard from Melissa Ohden, who also miraculously survived a saline abortion in 1977. Melissa is well known to those grassroots pro-lifers who attend the annual NRLC convention where she frequently presents both to adults and teenagers. Her conclusion yesterday was spell-binding:

As you consider the horrors of what happens at Planned Parenthood each day, I would urge you to remember my story, and Gianna’s, too. We may not have survived abortions at Planned Parenthood, but the expectation for our lives to be ended by abortion are the very same as those who do lose their lives there. And I have long believed that if my birthmother’s abortion would have taken place at a Planned Parenthood, I would not be here today. Completing over 300,000 abortions a year provides them with the experience to make sure that “failures” like me don’t happen. As a fellow American, as a fellow human being, I deserved the same right to life, the same equal protection under the law as each and every one of you. Yet we live in a time where not only do such protections not exist, but my own tax dollars and yours go to fund an organization that has perfected the very thing that was meant to end my life.

This must end.

Within days of that congressional hearing, the tenth video came out, revealing even more of the inside business of Planned Parenthood involvement in the marketing of baby body parts, and manipulations done in the abortion clinic to obtain “fresh” human body parts.

And then came the GOP presidential debate on Wednesday night. As in the first debate, this galvanizing issue featured prominently in the CNN debate with several candidates speaking out about the need to defund Planned Parenthood, and defend innocent human life. None as passionate and direct as Carly Fiorina, who issued a fiery challenge: watch the video.

I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

A breathtaking moment.

Columnist Mollie Hemingway herself challenges media, politicians, readers.

There have been 10 videos exposing Planned Parenthood since July. The media have struggled to cover most of the them, even though they are full of scandalous information about human organ harvesting. In addition to the 10 videos, lengthier footage of the hours-long meetings from which they were gleaned is also available. Everyone who cares about humanity should watch these videos…

If that gets too difficult to look at, go back and look at Gianna Jessen and Melissa Ohden, listen to their pleas, and do it for the millions of others who didn’t have a voice at the table, other than theirs.

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Sep 01

First the kill the small human life, then they market his or her body parts, counting profits, but missing the true cost.

In the case of other horrifying stories, like just over a year ago when ISIS burst onto the global radar of awareness with beheadings graphically carried out on video that got posted online, the crimes against humanity continued at such a pace that they a) didn’t all make the news, nor even a small percentage of the mass scale of atrocities carried out weekly, daily, against innocent human lives, and b) got no less inhumane and barbaric, but did get more familiar and therefore part of the landscape of modern crises we must steel ourselves against when they come cascading out in the news. Remember Boko Haram? Remember the Rwandan genocide? Remember the atrocities in Kosovo?

Here’s what President Bill Clinton said about the latter:

“We see these pictures of the refugees on television every night and most people would like another story, but we must not get refugee fatigue.”

That’s the usual human response. Crisis fatigue. Outrage fatigue. Inability to feel the shock and horror anymore.

Not so with the video revelations coming out of the abortion industry, filmed at Planned Parenthood clinics or at other locations with their officials talking about the business of selling the dismembered body parts of aborted babies. The outrage is building.

Enough is enough.

Here’s the ninth video, just released, focusing on “Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR), the small and secretive company that has harvested and sold fetal body parts at Planned Parenthood clinics longer than any other entity…”

The video features undercover conversations with Dr. Katharine Sheehan, the long-time medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest until 2013; Perrin Larton, the Procurement Manager for ABR; and Cate Dyer, the CEO of rival fetal tissue procurement company StemExpress.

At one point, Larton said

“I literally have had women come in and they’ll go in the [operating room] and they’re back out in three minutes, and I’m going, ‘What’s going on?’” Perrin said. “Oh yeah, the fetus was already in the vaginal canal whenever we put her in the stirrups. It just fell out.”

This is so sick, so devoid of any sense of human life in the abortion business. The industry already profits hugely from doing abortions, taking the human life from the womb of his or her mother by any number of gruesome and barbaric procedures. These videos reveal how much more that industry profits, Planned Parenthood in collaboration with multiple businesses for the buying and selling of baby body parts, and each video is worse than the last.

The video also reveals that organ brokers vying with one another for access to Planned Parenthood’s “volume” of aborted babies’ body parts sometimes boast that, by paying taxes, they fund the abortion giant.

That’s right, this is still a taxpayer funded organization, as mind-boggling as that is. Until these videos came out, attention was focused on abortion as a ’cause’, whether “pro-choice” (a true misnomer), or “pro-life”. Organizations like Project Rachel and others directed people, energy, resources, to helping post-abortive women. Who thought about post-abortive babies?

Planned Parenthood and ‘bioscience’, ’tissue procurement’ companies. And all the while, Larton said in this latest video

federal policy had focused on banning taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research, but medical experimentation on aborted cadavers “got lost in the mix,”…

So they were easily able to get away with it, with no real push back from an unaware public.

No more. One of the most vocal and active pro-life leaders, National Director of Priests for Life and  Abolishing Abortion author Fr. Frank Pavone, said this:

“The bottom line is simple. To deny the fact that Planned Parenthood sells body parts, alters the abortion procedure to do so, and is involved in this illegal activity at the highest corporate level, is now tantamount to asserting that the Earth is flat…

“As Congress convenes again next week, Priests for Life, and numerous other national and local pro-life organizations, will press our elected officials to do their job and investigate Planned Parenthood and hold the organization accountable for its actions.”

This is indefensible. Planned Parenthood has no cover anymore. They may have complicit partners in media and politics trying to silence growing opposition to their callous and unethical treatment of women and barbaric handling of aborted human bodies, but they cannot erase what we have now seen nor silence what we have now heard.

Everyone in or running for public office will be held accountable for what they do to protect and defend human life and dignity, at the most vulnerable stages, no matter what.

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Aug 04

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!”

Whatever one thinks of Walter Scott’s 19th Century epic poem perhaps best remembered by that line, you have to give him and his writing credit for pithy insight.

Enduring insight, given the politics of our time. Take this Wall Street Journal column by William McGurn, for instance.

‘When the science is inconvenient, when the facts don’t match up with the ideology, they are cast aside.”

So charged Sen. Barack Obama in a Planned Parenthood speech in 2007. The line was a dig at George W. Bush for his approach to abortion and reproductive rights. Eighteen months later, the new president repeated his snipe in his inaugural vow to “restore science to its rightful place.”

Today President Obama is the one finding the science inconvenient. In the past, the president hasn’t hesitated to weigh in on other controversies while they were in progress—from an altercation between a black Harvard professor and a local white cop to more recent comments about the rape allegations against Bill Cosby. Suddenly, however, he has nothing to say about two [now five] secretly recorded videos that include one Planned Parenthood doctor talking about a “less crunchy” abortion technique that would leave fetal organs intact for harvesting.

Nothing.

Then again, for all Mr. Obama’s talk about restoring science to its proper place, his promises made clear that, if elected, he would not only be the first African-American president but have a good claim to be deemed as the first Planned Parenthood POTUS as well. The price was jettisoning the soothing Bill Clinton language—“safe, legal and rare”—for a more militant approach in which no abortion is beyond the pale.

In the process, President Obama has had to overlook the contradictory approach to science among his own allies. Take sonograms, or ultrasounds. In the first video, Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Deborah Nucatola describes using ultrasound to help those doing the abortion “know where they are putting their forceps.”

On “Fox News Sunday” last weekend, Carly Fiorina underscored the contradiction. Planned Parenthood lobbies against laws requiring women to have an “opportunity to look at an ultrasound before she makes an incredibly difficult choice to end the unborn life within her,” said the Republican hopeful. “And yet they are using that same technology to harvest body parts.”

Just follow the logic. And the story line.

At other times when the facts don’t match up with his ideology, Mr. Obama retreats to silence. In 2013, when Kermit Gosnell’s abortion horrors were before the American people, Mr. Obama’s then-spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the president couldn’t comment on an ongoing trial.

The reporter pressed for an answer, noting that the president’s position had special relevance for this case. As an Illinois state senator, he pointed out, Mr. Obama had opposed a bill that would have provided medical care “to babies who would be born after a botched abortion” like those that Dr. Gosnell was accused of killing.

That’s worth pausing on for a moment, since it was so overlooked during both election cycles. This was all foreseeable, for those who paid attention.

Two weeks after that White House news conference, Mr. Obama made history as the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood. Two weeks later, Dr. Gosnell was convicted of murdering three babies. Still, the president has said nothing.

Now we have two Planned Parenthood docs on film [and five videos so far] talking about the value of human organs in a fetus whose humanity they would deny. In private the euphemisms disappear. “When they talk to the public or to women about to get an abortion they talk about ‘tissue,’ ” says Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life. “But when they talk to someone buying body parts, it’s about intact hearts, livers and lungs.”

Tuesday, the WSJ Opinion page carried this response from Gail Finke.

William McGurn’s “The Political ‘Science’ of Planned Parenthood”… about President Obama’s sudden ignorance of science when it comes to abortion doesn’t go far enough.

Abortion advocates say that a fetus is a baby only if the mother wants it to be. A woman is 10 weeks pregnant with a baby if she wants to be a mother; another woman whose “fetus” is exactly the same age but who doesn’t want to have a baby can pay a doctor to “evacuate” the “products of conception.” If four embryos are created in one round of in vitro fertilization and two are implanted in a woman’s uterus, they are much-wanted children. The other two, their biological siblings, are nothing more than “extra embryos” that can be frozen or otherwise disposed.

The only difference between the thing being discussed (the person being discussed) is what the woman wants. You can call that many things, but one thing you can’t call it is science.

The tangled web is unraveling.

The fifth video was released Tuesday, involving negotiation of harvesting and selling body parts of five month old babies. More on that in the next post…

Mollie Hemingway lays out the different major strands of this sequential eruption of truth that is happening beyond the reach or control of the power elite who have controlled the message for so many years now, until now. She tells you that Planned Parenthood sought and got a temporary restraining order against the release of more videos, but that the injunction was not constitutional. Two more videos have been released since then.

She reports that Planned Parenthood hired a crisis communications firm to help manage its public relations crisis. The background is interesting.

There’s the suspicious claim that Planned Parenthood was hacked  in “an attack by extremists”, an intriguing account Hemingway unravels.

And the diminished attention major media outlets have given this major story.

The reaction last week by Hillary Clinton is very interesting, and Hemingway notes that, along with the link to Clinton’s interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader piece in which the Democratic front runner for the presidency called the videos “disturbing”. But since I first read that piece last week, it has been updated to read differently, giving Planned Parenthood a good deal of cover.

“Planned Parenthood is answering questions and will continue to answer questions.

(No, they’re really not.)

I think there are two points to make,” Clinton said. “One, Planned Parenthood for more than a century has done a lot of really good work for women: cancer screenings, family planning, all kinds of health services.

(Another myth. “In 2013, abortions made up 94% of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services, while prenatal care and adoption referrals accounted for only 5% (18,684) and 0.5% (1,880), respectively”, according to study findings by the Susan B. Anthony List.)

Hemingway continues on Hillary Clinton’s remarks:

And this [video series] raises not questions about Planned Parenthood so much as it raises questions about the whole process, that is, not just involving Planned Parenthood, but many institutions in our country.”

(Actually, the video series is about Planned Parenthood’s practices in our country.)

“And if there’s going to be any kind of congressional inquiry, it should look at everything and not just one part of it,” she said.

How about both/and. It indeed should look at everything in the abortion industry and ideology and the whole abortion culture. And it should look at Planned Parenthood’s harvesting and marketing of baby body parts in particular, and whether that breaks the law, as some of the videos seem to reveal. Like the latest one.

Captured on video is Planned Parenthod Gulf Coast Director of Research Melissa Farrell discussing with a potential buyer about the best way to harvest organs from aborted babies. Farrell states at 8:05 in the video that at Planned Parenthood, “if we alter our process, we are able to obtain intact fetal cadavers.” She also notes that they are willing to modify the abortion procedure to collect body parts, saying, “We deviate from our standard in order to do that.” Modifying an abortion procedure to obtain organs is prohibited under federal law.

And let’s put that claim of screenings, at least mammograms (number 10 in Hemingway’s piece), to rest finally.

No…97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s work is not mammograms. In fact, zero percent of Planned Parenthood’s work is mammograms because Planned Parenthood doesn’t do a single mammogram. Planned Parenthood falsely made the claim that they did during their campaign to shame the Komen Foundation into continuing to fund them, and some media asserted it as well. President Obama has regularly made the claim during his War on Women messaging.

The only problem is that it’s just not true. From a Washington Post fact check a few years ago:

“The problem here is that Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms or even possess the necessary equipment to do so.”

So let’s get to the truth. And stop the deceptions.

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Jun 02

Marketed under terminology crafted to trigger sympathy and compliance, it still is what it is.

The former Hemlock Society changed its name to Compassion and Choices. Sounds nice and fuzzy. So does Death With Dignity, though less so Aid In Dying although that still softens the fact that someone is ending someone else’s life. At least Mercy Killing uses the word, though softened with the spiritual concept of charity.

Working closely with Terri Schiavo’s family and some of their legal and spiritual counselors during that ordeal which erupted on the national and then international consciousness in early 2005, I did investigative reporting that turned up facts, claims, contradictions and records that mostly didn’t make it to big media reports on the story, though my radio network covered it all. Someone sent me a letter from a man in the Netherlands warning that if America let this woman die by court ordered starvation and dehydration, Dutch euthanasia would come to this country. How prescient that was.

Not long after, Hollywood gave the euthanasia and assisted suicide movements huge momentum, though not without warning there, either. Hollywood professional Barbara Nicolosi laid it all out here.

The evidence is undeniable: Somewhere in the middle of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, Hollywood and the cultural left climbed aboard the latest human-killing bandwagon and have since thrown the weight of their talent and creativity behind it. As with abortion, the forces of darkness are outmaneuvering the forces of good on what will certainly be the moral issue of the 21st century.

If we lose the fight on euthanasia, we lose our souls. By removing suffering and the meaning of suffering from our culture, we make the final step in denying and defying our creature-hood. Once again, the seductive lie of Eden will trip us up: “If you will do this thing, you shall be like God.”

Our response to the mercy-killing machine must be more than an occasional op-ed piece; we need a shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy if we are going to make a good fight in the euthanasia war.

Shrewd means that we fight smart. It means appealing to the emotions of the masses through stories, not non-fiction tomes. Songs, not philosophical tirades. Heroes, not pundits.

That was 2011, we’ve had heroes and storytellers since then, but we still need that shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy. Because death has been peddled as an available and increasingly acceptable option, through semantic engineering. Barbara Nicolosi, one of the heroes, swung for the fences in this appeal to awareness and action, sanity and reason.

If we’ve learned anything from the abortion wars, it’s that the words “choice” and “right to choose” set our cause back decades. We need an emotionally winning language for this fight. The other side should not get away with christening themselves “mercy killers”; they are “death dealers,” “elder abortionists,” “needlers.” Please, not “death with dignity”; let’s get there first with “medical murder” and “unnatural death.” Not “end-of-life clinics” but “human garbage pits.” We need slogans like, “Make your insurance adjuster’s day; let him kill you.” Or, “Everything we know about euthanasia we learned from the Nazis.”

We must be aggressive in exposing the deceptions driving the euthanasia movement — lies like the implication that personhood can somehow disappear from a wounded human body. Or that a human life could ever lose its value. Or that suicide can be a courageous act. We must contradict the notion that suffering is the worst thing that can happen to a person.

That message got a lot of currency with the sad and tragic Brittany Maynard story used to the advantage of the assisted suicide movement and sensationalized by complicit media. What didn’t get so much coverage were the stories, names, faces and voices of others who faced and knew extreme suffering, and tried to witness to the truth of Nicolosi’s message about human life, dignity, and living through suffering.

Like the seminarian who kept trying to reach Maynard through Facebook posts and interviews, mostly in pro-life media, with true compassion. Philip Johnson had the same diagnosis and knew the pain.

And Lauren Hill, the determined teenager, who played her beloved sport of basketball even through pain and increasing disability, because her motto was “never give up.” If you don’t click on these hyperlinks to check out the stories, at least read this short one on her legacy, written on a Marine news site by Pfc. Ned Johnson.She was a basketball player — an athlete. She scored legitimate points for her junior college. But more importantly, she scored a lot of points in life.

Hill was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Cancer. In high school. At 18.

That’s when Hill proved she was more than many of us could ever hope to be. She went to college with this tumor. Then she made the basketball team, scored 10 points across four games before her body became too weak for her to continue.

She started a fundraiser that raised more than $1.5 million for pediatric cancer research…

There are many others who witness to courage and hope and true dignity, through their own suffering. Mark Davis Pickup is one, and he’s appealing to California legislators to consider the gravity of the bill before them this week, and the consequences of their vote.

I am a Canadian. As you know Canada’s Supreme Court recently struck down my nation’s laws against assisted suicide, opening wide the gates for physician assisted killing of suicidal sick and disabled people. Please do not take California down a similar path. It is not the hallmark of a “civil society”. There is nothing civilized about euthanasia or assisted suicide. Do not be fooled by euphemisms for killing like “death with dignity”. Dignity is not bestowed on people by injecting them with poison when they are at their lowest point. That is abandonment not dignity. Death with dignity is not an event, it is a process, the end result of having lived a life with dignity, benefiting from the best 21st Century palliative care (which is capable of eliminating physical pain), and being surrounded by loved ones.

Someone may say “What about those who do not have loved ones?” Precisely! What about them? Is the answer to euthanize them or seek to include them within the tender embrace of community? Another person may say, “I should have the autonomous right to determine the time and place of my own death.” Really? That presumes decisions only affect the individual making them. That is not true. Our decisions always impact others. The idea independent personal autonomy is diametrically opposed to the concept of interdependent community.

If I choose suicide (assisted or otherwise) it will not affect just me: It will affect my wife, children and grandchildren. It will impact my community and my doctor for I will ask her to stop being my healer and become my killer. And it will affect my nation by helping to entrench the notion that there are some lives unworthy to be lived.

Doctors, patients and healthcare experts are appealing likewise to California lawmakers and the people who elected them to protect and defend human life at all stages. That state’s lesislature is poised to vote one way or the other on the assisted suicide bill before them. Stephanie’s Journey puts a personal face and family on a profound call for care taking in this delicate process. Carolyn Moynihan covered it well here.

Disability Rights & Defense Fund expert Marilyn Golden testified before the California State Senate Health Committee with this comprehensive, riveting report, so lawmakers at least would make an informed vote.

I’m covering this on radio Wednesday with a California expert speaking for the disability community, to hear what he’s been saying in calls to legislative offices in the state, and hearing in response.

Because as Terri Schiavo’s family continues to proclaim, in carrying on her legacy and give voice to the voiceless, where there’s life, there’s hope.

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May 07

It stated the obvious.

But on Thursday, this story appeared on the cover of the New York Times, prominently, above the fold, with a photo to help illustrate the point. First of all, look at the photo and read the caption. That pretty much sums up the story. Which became much more difficult to access online the very day it appeared.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

A small number of very premature babies are surviving earlier outside the womb than doctors once thought possible, a new study has documented, raising questions about how aggressively they should be treated and posing implications for the debate about abortion.

Several things about that. The photo shows a thriving young girl who was born ‘very prematurely’, illustrating the full humanity of life at all stages. The opening sentence in the piece emphasizes “a small number of very premature babies”, planting the idea that these babies are “very premature’ (so what?), and that only a “small number” of the them survive outside the womb if delivered that early (so…we should disregard them?). Oh, and another thing downplayed in the lead. It was documented in “a new study”.

What was buried deeper in the Times story was that this study was produced by the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine.

There’s a lot to say about this report, a lot to unpack. But for now, the clear and delightful humanity of the little girl on the swing in the photo accompanying the story says it all. And the implications this has on the debate about abortion…no question. After the Gosnell trial there were enormous implications. Truth has a way of coming out in spite of efforts to suppress it.

Across America, states are introducing bans on abortion after 20 weeks. That’s a five month old baby. This New England Journal of Medicine study will certainly add information to that heated debate, which is nothing more than a radical, ideological drive in the first place.

How the abortion movement has sustained power and influence after these many years is the bigger story.

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Oct 25

Authorities aren’t squarely facing the truth.

In all fairness, they may not know better, but they should. Tod Worner is a physician and writer whose blog posts cover mostly the life of the mind in literature and philosophy, the arts and culture, faith and reason. He’s been a guest on my radio show because of his intellectual gifts and skills, and engaging conversations that bring utterly refreshing clarity and charity (my catchphrase) to issues of the day, enhancing public discourse, or at least trying to contribute to that effort.

So on Saturday, this post appeared with that dreadful, ubiquitous photo of the Ebola strand set on a purple background and splashed all over big media, especially television news where they set it as the enlarged backdrop for the latest update and/or discussion panel on the virus and its spread and latest announced patient who tested positive for it. Coverage swings from the over the top alarming to the overly confident reassuring, and people are worried and afraid and want the truth.

Worner gets as close as anyone talking about it to what we can know at this point, and not know, and how to face that. This is a good post, an important one.

We crowded into a small room at my internal medicine clinic and looked at each other. Some decisions had to be made. Soon. We were charged to answer one fundamental question: What would we do if a patient suspected of having Ebola were to walk in our clinic door? As simple as it may seem, this is an incredibly complex question. It requires considering the well-being of the patient, the risk to other patients exposed to him (or her, but I will use him for simplification) in our waiting room, and the risks to medical and ancillary staff who are attending to him. We must concern ourselves with the risk of over-reaction as well as that of under-reaction. We need to consider the imperfect state of our understanding of the mode and ease of transmission. And we must recognize that risk and response changes daily with an ever-evolving national and international epidemic. Confronted with this question in that small room, to a person, there was sincere concern about the patient, earnest concern about personal safety and a clear sense that there is a lot of uncertainty about this virus and the epidemic that is unfolding day by day.  And yet, that has not been the message from the government leaders or the Centers for Disease Control. If anything, there has been an abundance of assurance.

Tod nails it here. Read the post if you can open that link. He cites exactly what authorities have said, voices in medicine and government (who don’t happen to be authorities on medicine, but presumably speak after consultation with them).

Then says this:

Now here’s the thing. I don’t want to give the impression that the existence, transmission and wicked deadliness of the Ebola virus is the fault of the President or his appointees. That would simply be unfair and ridiculous. Throughout history we have seen the ravaging effects of infections such as swine flu, polio, measles, rubella, small pox, HIV and syphilis irrespective of the governing leadership. Yet with stumbling feet we have found our way to vaccinations, HAART therapy and antibiotics that can prevent or manage these illnesses.

And while there are innumerable better decisions that could have been made in reaction to this crisis, it is what has been forgotten that is most damning. Sir William Osler, pioneering American physician and thinker, once claimed,

“Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.”

Or in my words, medicine, like all endeavors touched by human hands, is rife with uncertainty and imperfection. Knowing this and admitting this is okay. The longer I have practiced medicine, the more I have come to appreciate why Hippocrates said what he said.

“First, do no harm.”

Because one of our greatest risks is to downplay uncertainty and believe in our own (or our system’s) perfection. Once we are overconfident in our understanding and our abilities – once we are not tempered by our inherent fallibility in practice and understanding – that is when we do the most damage. We become mindlessly dogmatic. That is when we become “frequently wrong, never in doubt.”

“Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.” Which means we cannot be exact. We play odds. We hope, but aren’t completely sure.

So, with perfect cadence and interconnection, he cites a lecture given by Michael Osterholm, the former Minnesota State Epidemiologist and current Director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy of the University of Minnesota. And puts a link on that post, urging readers to listen to the actual lecture.

In it, Osterholm admits that after researching over 900 articles and studies on Ebola (and related viral hemorrhagic fevers), he feels he know even less about this Ebola outbreak than before. Why is this particular outbreak so deadly and persistent? Are we confident that it has no associated airborne transmission? Why do some people have fevers and others don’t? Why do some with high degrees of exposure remain healthy while some with personal protective equipment or minimal exposure get sick? Is it wise to presume all health care facilities can manage this illness?

If a bright epidemiologist who has engaged in a respectable amount of research on Ebola finds himself grappling with uncertainty regarding these fundamental questions, how much more does it generate further questions? For example, why, though imperfect, would a temporary travel ban from festering hot zones not be helpful? How do we know our criteria for illness is accurate (or even adequate) when it relies on fevers which numerous infected individuals simply do not have? Are we certain there is no respiratory (droplet or airborne) element to Ebola’s transmission? How much more draconian should we be regarding enforcement of quarantine when even physicians flagrantly disregard it?

By asking these questions, we are attempting to better understand this illness and improve our response to it. I mean, honestly, we know there are things we simply don’t know (known unknowns) and things we can’t even anticipate (unknown unknowns or catastrophic “black swan events”). Essentially, there is uncertainty. We also know that we can be flawed in our practice. There is imperfection. And while we seek to minimize uncertainty and imperfection, it will always be with us. To deny this is to fool no one. And to admit this is not to create willy-nilly, chicken little pandemonium. Perhaps, by treating people like adults, leveling with them, and openly seeking a constructive solution, confidence will be engendered and a certain (albeit nervous) peace will be maintained. It is arrogant, officious and disrespectful to do otherwise.

His conclusion was how his medical team wrapped up this session of brainstorming and collaboration, by establishing a well informed plan. And suggesting that government, at the very least, do the same.

This may be going on in hospitals and clinics across the country, and in organizations – government and otherwise – tasked with the public health. But we don’t know, and only have public pronouncements to go on. Let’s hope and pray such calm, professional and seriously reasoned preparedness as happened in Worner’s clinic is going on everywhere else.

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May 19

ACOG, as in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the doctors who care for women through pregnancy and deliver their babies. If anybody knows the origin and development of human life, they should. Or did.

Years ago, they became very political and ideological, and thus very flexible with science and human embryology.

Journalist Mollie Hemingway picks it up from here, in commentary on a Washington Post piece that could have come from the Onion. It’s about the flap over remarks Sen. Marco Rubio made on global warming, and science.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio took some heat for saying that he was skeptical of global warming activism. He was asked about the reaction to some of his comments and he noted some hypocrisy he’s witnessed on scientific consensus:

A snip from his response…

All these people always wag their finger at me about ‘science’ and ‘settled science.’ Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to. The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception. So I hope the next time that someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of scientists that say that human life begins at conception?’ I’d like to see someone ask that question.

To which Hemingway responds

Now, it’s probably worth noting at the outset that everything Rubio said in this paragraph was true. Human life begins at conception and nobody is ever asked about whether they deny that.

But let’s look at what the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza tweeted out in response:

Marco Rubio demanded people look at the science on abortion. So we did.

Hemingway continues:

The blurb for the piece says, “‘Science is settled … that human life beings at conception,’ Sen. Rubio said. We spoke with an expert on the science who didn’t agree.”

The story itself, with the same UpWorthy headline, is written by one Philip Bump and reads, stunningly:

(repeat: reads, stunningly):

We reached out to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an association comprised of a large majority of the nation’s ob-gyns. The organization’s executive vice president and CEO, Hal C Lawrence, III, MD, offered his response to Rubio.

“Government agencies and American medical organizations agree that the scientific definition of pregnancy and the legal definition of pregnancy are the same: pregnancy begins upon the implantation of a fertilized egg into the lining of a woman’s uterus. This typically takes place, if at all, between 5 and 9 days after fertilization of the egg – which itself can take place over the course of several days following sexual intercourse.”

In other words: Consensus exists (if not unanimously), and the consensus is that uterine implantation is the moment at which pregnancy begins.

We presented that description to the senator’s office, asking if he wanted to clarify or moderate his statement. Brooke Sammon, the senator’s Deputy Press Secretary, told us that “Senator Rubio absolutely stands by the comment.”

Hemingway’s reaction:

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear…It is somewhat mortifying that the idiocy of this is not immediately apparent to everyone. Did you catch it? Are you smarter than a Washington Post reporter? Do you know that “when human life begins” and “when an embryo implants in the uterine wall” are actually not synonymous statements? I bet you did. Or I bet you could figure that out pretty easily.

See, you will not learn this — or much of anything else about the reality of abortion or unborn human life — from the media, but in fact there is consensus about when human lives begin. It’s almost a tautology to say what Rubio said. It’s like saying “human life begins when human life begins.”

See, here’s what gets me. That the term “consensus” is thrown about so loosely and on such fundamental truths as human life, truths for which there is scientific evidence and about which it’s either embarrassing or ridiculous or both to hear serious people even introduce the idea of consensus. As if there is a consensus on the sun rising and setting each day, as if there is consensus on the idea of “a day” and its parameters and duration, beginning and end.

Anyway, Hemingway then gets into the scientific “consensus” on when human life begins (to continue with this article). And for those who need show and tell, she provides video and emphasis on the parts to pay particular attention to, for better understanding.

So…

Who to believe, bloggers at the Washington Post or embryologists? I’m so confused! And the Post wasn’t just wrong but, like, so embarrassingly wrong as to require a correction, a mea culpa, and a serious amount of soul-searching. (I get a kick out of how the people who make these videos, which are used by medical and media sites, say “Low health literacy costs the US healthcare system between $106 billion to $238 billion each year. Please watch and share a medical animation to raise health literacy!” Indeed!)

You can’t make this up.

OK, so some people tried to gently point out the egregious and embarrassing error to Cillizza and Bump, who have steadfastly refused to correct the piece they promoted.

Stay with this. Hemingway wrote a long piece, but characteristically incisive and clarifying, like a blast of ice water to the face. Because that’s just what it takes, and even then some people won’t flinch.

Please note: Bump thinks the problem is not with his own flawed reporting and comprehension but with Rubio’s statement! Bump thinks this tweet and his piece do something other than make him look extremely bad!

But it gets worse:

(Bump writing here)…

There’s a blurry line between “pregnancy” and “life” in this discussion. When we asked ACOG if the two were interchangeable, we were told that the organization “approach[es] everything from a scientific perspective, and as such, our definition is for when pregnancy begins.” On the question of when life begins, then, the scientific experts we spoke with didn’t offer any consensus.

“Life” is something of a philosophical question, making Rubio’s dependence on a scientific argument — which, it hardly bears mentioning, is an argument about abortion — politically tricky.

Mollie Hemingway rebounds…

Uh, what? Let’s list the problems here:

1) Rubio didn’t mention anything about definitions of pregnancy, so there’s no blurry line in “this discussion” about his statement regarding when life begins and someone else’s statement about when pregnancy begins…

2) It’s probably a good time to mention that ACOG is a group known for its strenuous support of abortion. Beyond the question of why Bump used this group instead of embryologists as sources, there’s also the issue that he’s not identifying them as vehemently pro-choice (as in, they even support partial-birth abortions).

Don’t miss that point. It’s critical to this whole article, and more gravely, to the public debate over abortion, human life, women’s health, and frankly violations of law. Partial birth abortions: see Kermit Gosnell.

But stay with Hemingway for now…

3) No one is mentioned in this piece other than ACOG. Yet Bump claims, “the scientific experts we spoke with didn’t offer any consensus.” This is a difficult claim to swallow…Is there any evidence whatsoever that he spoke with anyone other than the pro-choice group?

4) Dude, life can be a totally trippy thing, I agree, but Rubio was not talking philosophy. He was talking science. And the question of when human life begins is not philosophical, it’s scientific. You might debate when you have the right not to be killed by someone else, be it three months’ gestation, five months’ gestation, or birth. Some deny the right to life of various classes of people long after birth, too. Philosopher and abortion advocate Peter Singer has said children don’t achieve full moral status until after two years. And these are, in fact, philosophical questions. But the scientific question of when life begins is actually pretty straight forward, if mysteriously unknown to some at our biggest media institutions. Or as Dougherty mocked, “Guys, guys. Human ‘life’ is an illusion created by social consensus, WaPo is breaking this whole thing open!” To me Bump’s bizarre statements are more reminiscent of a group of college students from a third-rate public university having what they think sounds like a really deep conversation after passing around the bowl.

So here Hemingway brings readers back to the present ‘Politics vs. Science’, because science has been politicized for an ideological agenda.

If this is long for some readers already, here’s a cue to pay close attention now:

Bump inadvertently hit on something in his final lines, when he wrote, “After all, if someone were to argue that life begins at implantation, it’s hard to find a moral argument against forms of birth control that prevent that from happening.”

Did you know that the definition of pregnancy was changed not long ago from beginning at “fertilization” to beginning at “implantation”? Did you know that this was a political decision? Did you know that some groups have even tried to say that implantation is when “conception” occurs, too?

Before we get into this story of politics and science, I might note a few statements from early in the birth control battles. Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a leader in the International Planned Parenthood Federation said:

We of today know that man… starts life as an embryo within the body of the female; and that the embryo is formed from the fusion of two single cells, the ovum and the sperm. This all seems so simple and evident to us that it is difficult to picture a time when it was not part of the common knowledge.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, said, “If, however, a contraceptive is not used and the sperm meets the ovule and development begins, any attempt at removing it or stopping its further growth is called abortion.”

Birth control pioneer Marie Stopes said, “A large number of the opponents of birth control deliberately confuse birth control with abortion. I suppose it is all right for me to explain to you that abortion can only take place when an embryo is in existence. An embryo can only be produced after the sperm cell and the egg cell have actually united, after their nuclei have fused and after the first cell divisions have taken place. The moment that that has taken place you have there a minute, invisible, but actual embryo, and anything which destroys that is abortion, and we never in our clinic do anything which can in any way lead to that destruction. But until the sperm cell has united with the egg cell, no embryo exists or can exist, and anything which keeps the sperm away from the egg cell cannot lead to or be abortion because no embryo can then exist.”

All of these statements are from the first few decades of the 20th century. As technology developed that enabled embryos to be destroyed before implantation, what was so “simple” and “evident” and “common knowledge,” in Guttmacher’s words, suddenly became none of those things.

There’s still much more in this article, fully available at the link and advisable to read and re-read and grasp in its scope. Hemingway realizes it’s long.

So she concludes:

OK, that was a lot to work through. And for people who value the sanctity of all human life, from actual conception to natural death, none of these semantic changes matter one bit. But you can see how they would help those activists with different views on when human lives can be ended.

The thing is that activists can redefine pregnancy all they want and it won’t change the central issue at hand — the question of whether it’s ok to end the life of a genetically distinct human. We won’t resolve that debate any time soon, but obscuring the facts on when and how human life begins will not help matters.

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Oct 23

They’ve been evident lately on most major league baseball and football teams. And their advertising. They’re so ubiquitous, those pink ribbons are seemingly on most products in the stores right now.

So I’m grocery shopping and every aisle features food products that have somehow worked the pink ribbon onto its packaging. In fact, nearly every aisle I turn the cart into has a special display of these products to catch shoppers’ attention. Caught mine, because I write about this every year at this time. And interview people on radio in between Octobers…

I stop at one display and really look at it. ‘Okay, I’ll pay the attention you ask for. What is it you’re promoting?’ I think…

The signs all say the same thing. ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’. I looked at that and wondered, what does that mean?

Okay, we’re aware. But being aware of this dreaded disease is just the beginning, as it is with any form of cancer or any other affliction.

What needs an awareness campaign is the link of breast cancer to abortion.

A microbiologist says there are so many published studies confirming the link between induced abortion and breast cancer that he plans to publish one every day on his blog until he’s mentioned them all. It will take Dr. Gerard Nadal so many weeks to cover them all, the blogging will continue until early next year.

Nadal, who has a has a PhD in Molecular Microbiology from St John’s University in New York, has spent 16 years teaching science, most recently at Manhattan College.

He will report on one abortion-breast cancer study daily until he has exhausted all of the abortion-breast cancer studies and he anticipates he may be reporting on these studies as late as January or February of 2011.

“Today begins the inexorable presentation of the scientific literature on the abortion/breast cancer link,” Nadal writes. “Women’s lives depend on us getting the truth out to them. In short order we’ll generate plenty of pros armed with the simple truth of science!”

Yes, let’s have awareness.

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