Human rights begin in the womb

No case for rights of any sort can be made by those who insist on the lawful ability to kill babies.

It doesn’t get more basic than that.

Feminist author Naomi Wolf made an important and intellectually honest statement of fact in her 1995 article “Our Bodies, Our Souls: Re-thinking Pro-Choice Rhetoric”. I cited it in my book Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture.

But to its own ethical and political detriment, the pro-choice movement has relinquished the moral frame around the issue of abortion. It has ceded the language of right and wrong to abortion foes. The movement’s abandonment of what Americans have always, and rightly, demanded of their movements–an ethical core–and its reliance instead on a political rhetoric in which the foetus means nothing are proving fatal…

By refusing to look at abortion within a moral framework, we lose the millions of Americans who want to support abortion as a legal right but still need to condemn it as a moral iniquity. Their ethical allegiances are then addressed by the pro-life moevement, which is willing tos peak about good and evil.

But we are also in danger of losing something more important than votes; we stand in jeopardy of losing what can only be called our souls. Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life.

This comes to mind now as Congress prepares, again, to vote on the so-called ‘20 Week Abortion Ban‘.

Pro-life leaders are applauding the US House of Representatives for scheduling a vote this week on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy…

Eleven states have approved similar measures to H.R. 36. The New York Times reports that 37 new rules on abortion have been enacted in 11 states already this year. Arkansas alone approved six new laws. On Thursday, Wisconsin legislators proposed banning any abortion after 20 weeks.

In clearer language, abortion on a five month old baby.

In the meantime, while much of the new legislation focuses on waiting periods, counseling, and what doctors can say to patients, The New England Journal of Medicine last week published a study showing that severely premature newborns at age 22 weeks (some weighing 1.1 pounds at birth) may survive with intensive treatment with few lasting developmental problems.

Which wound up on the front page of the New York Times last week in a revealing article accompanied by a compelling photo of a young girl on a swing, fully healthy and alive, who represented those babies born so prematurely who received such life-giving treatment and clearly not only survived but thrived.

The issue of ‘viability of the fetus’ is a turning point in this debate over when abortion is ‘acceptable’ and must be protected as a ‘right’, and when it pushes the limit.

Abortion pushes the limit of what civilized society should allow from the very beginning of life when that society fights so many other battles to serve vulnerable minorities of other sorts in other conditions to secure their rights. Before they are whatever other identity in a protected class, they are first human.

This vote Wednesday better happen, and pass. Until the deception and insanity of Roe v. Wade can be undone, incremental common sense laws establishing long overdue limits have to work their way forward to protect the most innocent, youngest class of brothers and sisters among us. It is the civil rights movement of our time.

No faith in the language

This could be a many-part series under that heading….

Let’s look at what’s at stake in this particular campaign.

Catholics United aims to raise $500,000 to support congressional candidates who backed health care reform, the liberal-leaning Catholic advocacy group announced Wednesday.

It’s planning to pour money into four races in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia to start, and it hopes to widen its efforts as November’s elections approach…

The executive director of Catholics United accused “many political operatives” of “dishonesty” in their attacks on candidates they oppose.

“These groups are engaging in scare tactics and misusing the language of faith to score cheap political points and lead voters astray,” Chris Korzen said in a statement announcing the “Set the Record Straight” campaign.

Confused? Okay, let’s really set the record straight.

These Catholics are anything but united under the teachings of the Church on supporting anything that facilitates abortion, and Obamacare does that in many and assorted ways (NRLC lists and updates them, though fact check here, especially down under ‘Seeing Through the Smoke’). The name ‘Catholics United’ alone misuses the language of faith.  Not sure what they mean by the nebulous reference to “many political operatives…engaging in scare tactics…to score cheap political points,” but it would help the debate to clarify who and what they’re blaming.

This CNN item notes, correctly, how contentious this debate has been for members of the Church, complete with the key buzz phrase at core…

The health care reform debate was deeply divisive for Catholics, with some saying it would lead to government funding of abortion and others denying it. Catholic supporters of health care reform portrayed the bill as an issue of social justice.

There it is. The false dichotomy between the social justice crowd and the pro-life crowd, as if it’s an either/or proposition for faithful Catholics.

Which, speaking of language distortion, gets back to the issue of what is meant by social justice. I interviewed Fr. Robert Sirico again the other day on this issue, and he talked about the “creeping socialism” of government takeover and control of the private sector. Catholics have traditionally carried out the church’s teaching of subsidiarity and run everything from soup kitchens and shelters to hospitals and health care networks. But the “moral impulse” behind humanitarian services and civil rights movements has been co-opted by government. And he said he doesn’t see how it applies the Gospel. “Jesus is much more of a radical than the progressives are,” he told me. “He calls on us to conform our hearts and react from our hearts.”

Which means not killing the unborn under the guise of choice or reproductive health, stresses Especially in response to the ‘Catholics United’ congressional election campaign.

This confusion benefits some “political operatives,” but others are trying to clarify it.

Look for the clarity.

Women “must be prepared to kill”

The pro-life movement has long worked toward just laws for all human beings and for public debate about the truths of abortion, using clear and honest language. A staunch abortion supporter just came out with a candid article calling other abortion advocates to admit the truth, abortion does kill a unique human being. But then she insisted that’s just necessary to do sometimes

The Times of London writer got it half right.

After contemplating the immense mysteries of human life and sacrificial love in comparison to a woman’s “right to fertility control,” a writer for the Times of London concludes that attempts by pro-aborts to dismiss the life of an unborn child are a “convenient lie” hiding the fact that, “Yes, abortion is killing.”

Good. Let’s be honest.

“But,” she concludes, “it’s the lesser evil.”

No, wait

Face the truth. Don’t stand it on its head.

Columnist Antonia Senior in a June 30 column (available by subscription only) says that, despite the fact that the abortion debate hinges upon whether the unborn child is a unique life or not, women who wish to assert the cause of their freedom from male domination “must be prepared to kill for it.”

Chilling enough. But then it gets even more bizarre.

Senior begins by linking the cause of abortion to that of religious martyrs.

She’s stridently staking a bold and heady claim here. But she’s not intellectually honest.

“Cradle Tower at the Tower of London is an interactive display that asks visitors to vote on whether they would die for a cause,” she says. “Standing where religious martyrs were held and tortured in Britain’s turbulent reformation, I could think of one cause I would stake my life on: a woman’s right to be educated, to have a life beyond the home and to be allowed by law and custom to order her own life as she chooses.

But according to her own logic, a female human being doesn’t even have the right to life in the first place.

George Orwell was very concerned about the abuse of language to control thought. He said:

“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

And, to state the obvious, women.

Is there a difference between ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-abortion’?

It’s a stretch of semantic gymnastics to argue that ‘pro-choice’ people are not really pro-abortion, a rhetorical matter that at bottom, doesn’t change the position that women should have access to abortion on demand for any reason, accompanied often by the belief that that access should be facilitated by government and paid for by tax dollars….but I digress.

The spin behind the carefully constructed wording has come to light in the Archdiocese of Chicago, in connection with the Office of Peace and Justice and an award just given to the controversial Fr. Michael Pfleger. In an article criticizing the award before the ceremony on April 7th, the central point LifeSiteNews was making concerned honoring a priest so widely and infamously known for sometimes incendiary remarks and inappropriate alliances with abortion supporters, even in church. But something else came out of that reporting, that turned into another story of its own.

When (LSN) spoke with Sr. Anita Baird, the founding director of the Office for Racial Justice, she confirmed that Cardinal George had approved the award, and said Fr. Pfleger “has dedicated his life to working for racial justice.”

When LSN asked about Pfleger’s endorsement of Mr. Obama, Baird interjected, stating that “the president is not pro-abortion, the president is pro-choice.”  “I think they are two very different things,” she said.

Asked to elaborate, Baird continued: “To be pro-abortion is that you believe in abortion and you support it. And I don’t think you’ll find that the president has ever said that.” Baird pointed to President Obama’s controversial abortion-themed speech at the University of Notre Dame last May, saying that “his challenge was that we find ways to ensure that women – that would be their last choice, and that they would choose life.”

“I just think we need to be clear with our language,” said Baird.

Apparently, so did the cardinal, or whoever asked Sr. Baird to clarify further. As of this writing, her clarification is on the homepage of the Archiocese of Chicago’s website.

As it appears:

April 7, 2010

In order to clarify my quote that appeared on, I am affirming my belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church and understand that there can be no distinction between pro-abortion and pro-choice, because the choice at issue is the choice to kill a child.

I also apologize to those who were scandalized by my statement.

Sr. Anita Baird, Director
Office for Racial Justice

Clarification is a good thing.

Semantic gymnastics in media

The tactic of changing style books in different print and electronic media is to change how news consumers think about what they’re hearing. I recall the first tactic was making ‘pro-life’ a pejorative. Then the style books changed and they were not to be called ‘pro-life’ anymore, but ‘anti’-something, as in ‘abortion-rights’, or ‘opponents of abortion rights’. You know, plant the negative connotation about a social movement and turn public opinion against them as a bunch of activists who want to take rights away.

It would be tempting to call it a game, but semantic engineering has changed the way we hear public debates about social issues. Control information and you control thought.

National Public Radio has taken that tactic to the next level. They’ve changed their style books again.

The folks at National Public Radio understand the power of words. Managing Editor David Sweeney announced yesterday that the station would no longer refer to people in the abortion debate as “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” Instead, the station will say “abortion rights advocates” and “abortion rights opponents,” according to a memo circulated to NPR staff.

In making this change, NPR is shifting the terms of the debate to make it more friendly to the pro-choice position.

This is a fair and reasonable article, and I like the critical thinking they apply here:

Is NPR planning on referring to advocates of gun control as “gun rights opponents”? As the Cato Institute’s David Boaz wrote earlier this month,

“In 415 NPR stories on abortion, I found only one reference to ‘abortion advocates,’ in 2005. There are far more references, hundreds more, to ‘abortion rights,’ ‘reproductive rights,’ and “women’s rights.’ And certainly abortion-rights advocates would insist that they are not ‘abortion advocates,’ they are advocates for the right of women to choose whether or not to have an abortion. NPR grants them the respect of characterizing them the way they prefer.”

I called Sweeney to ask him if NPR was going to change its terminology concerning gun rights. He did not return my call (I will post an update if he does).

NPR has chosen stilted terminology that conveys pro-choicers and pro-lifers in positive and negative lights, respectively. The station could just as easily (though perhaps with less aesthetic appeal) have labeled the two groups “pro-rights of the unborn” and “anti-rights of the unborn.”

And here’s the key, I think:

But NPR apparently does not see it that way. The station’s staff sees the issue — and now frames it on air — as a battle over women’s rights, not the rights of the unborn.

This debate will advance in greater strides when everyone can understand that it’s about both.