Nat Hentoff, civil libertarian, human rights champion, passes on

The practically peerless legend leaves his great defense of life to others. What a challenge.

Great human rights activists tend to know each other. Wednesday, Wesley J. Smith joined me on radio to talk about life, Nat Hentoff, and Wesley’s tribute in National Review Online last weekend.

We have lost a great writer, civil libertarian, free speech absolutist, jazz historian, and pro-life advocate, Nat Hentoff, who died today at 91.

As an atheist, Nat took much heat from his fellow liberals and rigid fundamentalists among the “free thinking” crowd for standing against abortion, euthanasia, and opposing protocols that would leave babies with spina bifida and other disabilities to die without attempts at curative treatment.

The conversation was both joyful and a little sad, because Wesley was one of many who knew Hentoff as an original and one of a kind, who has no immediate, obvious successor with his pure brand of civil engagement and reasoned, clear thinking.

At the end of that tribute, I noted with some sadness, Wesley wrote “We will not see his like again.”

He called Hentoff “a superb writer and first class public intellectual…a man of consistent, steadfast principle, a moral purist in an age of hand-wringing accommodationists. This unyielding consistency has made him an iconoclast’s iconoclast.” In fact, Wesley noted, Hentoff described himself as “a Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, left-wing pro-lifer.”

One could disagree with Hentoff’s politics but appreciate his sincere humanitarian principles, we both admitted. Wesley’s tribute noted that ‘his style was as individualistic as were his principles. In an age of shouters, he was quiet. In an era of facile talking heads, he remained profound. Where others agitate and self-aggrandize, he relied on steadfast cogent argument to persuade. Where contemporary pundits often tailor their views to cater to the powerful or popular, Hentoff courageously remained a challenger of orthodoxies.

Hentoff’s advocacy cut a wide swath across what are often called ‘the life issues.’ Indeed, his unyielding stand over many years against abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, unethical human medical experimentation, and the ongoing bioethical construction of a “duty to die” has made him a moral beacon for those who believe that universal human liberty depends on society’s embrace of the intrinsic equality of all human life. And for decades he…connected the dots for his vast audience, expertly charting the consequences of our steady, but. not always slow, slide down the slippery slope toward a veritable culture of death.

NRO ran this piece the next day, by Jack Fowler, who also knew Hentoff and called him “a unique advocate for the humanity of the unborn child.”

He was also a champion of free speech, and the two issues collided in 1992 when he hosted Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat — denied a spot at his party’s presidential convention earlier that summer — for a speech and discussion at New York’s historic Cooper Union. The topic: Can a liberal be pro-life. On hand: plenty of Leftist radicals.

(Sounds like a very fitting commentary for today.)

Fowler published a snip from Hentoff’s column on what happened at that ‘free speech discussion’ at Cooper Union, on whether a liberal could be pro-life.

As moderator, I started what would have been the discussion by pointing out that this was an evening about free speech — not only that of the governor of Pennsylvania but also that of anyone in the audience who wanted to challenge him. The hooting, screaming, pounding and whistle blowing began. Strategically located at both sides of the hall — disruption by stereo — a preening array of hooligans made all speech except their own inaudible. They reminded me of the domestic brown shirts breaking up Jewish meetings in my youth, but these were howling soldiers of the left…

At least 80 percent of the audience wanted to hear Casey and said so, as best they could, by applauding his attempts to get started. But they were no match for the speech muggers. After several tries, Gov. Casey yielded. “The Democratic Convention suspended the First Amendment,” he tried to say, “and tonight you did the same thing.” Casey walked off the stage as the shouters congratulated each other.

Fowler says

It was an infamous event that has seen itself repeated many times, and with great intensity, over the years; and over them, Hentoff was on hand to bear witness to the assault on free speech in places where open debate and discussion were supposed to be the rule, and to call out those who were supposed to be protectors of the First Amendment.

Then, with the tinge of resignation that Wesley Smith expressed at the end of his tribute to this singular, Fowler posted a 1967 video of Hentoff in debate with the inimitable William F. Buckley on an episode of Firing Line. It was priceless. Though the topic of that was ‘Black Power’ and civil rights, defense of the vulnerable and our duty to the poor in need, some of Hentoff’s remarks were remarkably relevant to this very day’s news of politics and ‘culture wars’.

“Liberals seem to be amused by their own language” he said. “It’s not a conspiracy, they’ve just stopped thinking. They don’t think about things after they’ve talked about them.”

He was sincere, knowing from whence he spoke. Continuing to explain the liberal mentality, Hentoff added: “You don’t really do things, you plan things.”

In that column with that video, Fowler left the reader this note, presuming readers would watch two great intellects speak, and listen, to each other for genuinely civil discourse, with conviction and respect.

Enjoy, as you will, but be warned: You will despair that the quality and level of public discussion on display is in our rear-view mirror. RIP Nat.

We don’t have a Lincoln, a Martin Luther King Jr., a Reagan or Buckley, a Hentoff still among us. But we have their legacy and model and witness. And it’s our right to choose to carry it on.

Pro-life movement spreads its message

The mission is to protect all vulnerable human lives.

So the old, unworkable claim that being “anti-abortion” (speaking of old terminology) is ‘single-issue’ activism about just saving babies is as incoherent as the claim that being “pro-choice” is wide-reaching activism about comprehensive care for women in need and their families. You can’t stand for the right to healthcare, free or low-cost contraceptive drugs, the personal right to ‘consult your doctor or minister’ (all of which is so often claimed) or the right to anything else if you can’t or won’t guarantee the right to live in the first place.

That is self-evident. But too may people have deluded themselves in the abortion movement, along with willing and compliant facilitators in media, politics, academia and other opinion shaping positions, it’s now a rescue mission for them as well as babies, mothers, their families and society.

This has gone on for too long to comprehend. The anniversary of Roe v. Wade just passed the 43rd year mark, and the toll is beyond breathtaking. When I see a television special, or coverage of the Washington DC March for Life, and the screen has a ticker in the corner upping the number of babies aborted since the start of that program alone, I panic and want someone to do something to stop this madness that’s so rapidly spiraling out of control. But the only difference between that moment and every other over these decades is that the ticker is right there, on the screen, in full sight, digitally ticking up the numbers to tally the latest toll as fast as abortions are happening.

Here’s a screen full of numbers. Look at any box, especially the one tallying the number of abortions since you loaded the page. From the time I opened it to link it here, to mere minutes later, it showed nearly 700 new abortions worldwide. Watching it tick up is horrifying. Every number is a human life. When I started these last few sentences, I refreshed that page and that one number went back to zero with the reload. On quick glance, it’s already up to 154 and I don’t want to look again at what it’s up to since this sentence was started. (Okay,  I just did, 207.)

I just closed that page, not to have to look again. But see, that’s exactly the point. Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has always said “America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion.” Out of sight, out of mind. Multiply that toll exponentially by the countries that have legalized abortion (hence the worldwide counts on that abortion ticker page) and the genocide of unborn boys and girls is horrific. And not so out of sight anymore, since the trial of notorious late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell in 2013, and the series of undercover videos documenting Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby body parts that emerged in 2015.

Just about every sentence here calls for further elaboration, and that will come in the days, weeks and months ahead. This is a prominent issue in the American presidential election this year, one among many but a very important one for many candidates still in the race in the GOP, their supporters, and  citizens who may be holding out on politics at the moment, but holding stronger views on protecting innocent, vulnerable human life. Democrats have no candidate running for the presidency who holds pro-life views, and Democrats for Life have to hold their own in the party that has forced their numbers to dwindle.

Amazing, the irony of noting the analogy to The Emperor’s Clothes and calling it obvious.

The 2015 March for Life in DC chose the theme ‘Pro-Life and Pro-Woman Go Hand In Hand’. Fr. Pavone explains:

The real difference between those in the pro-life movement and those in the “abortion rights” movement is not that we love the baby and they love the mother.

The real difference is that they say you can separate the two and we say you can’t.

We love them both. And we are convinced that you cannot serve the mother while destroying her child, and that you cannot save the child without helping the mother.

Much more to come on that.

Gosnell uncovers what Roe wrought

And undercover videos show Gosnell is no ‘aberration.’ Some honest advocates of ‘choice’ are seriously reconsidering their whole premise and belief system in light of recent news. While some ‘abortion rights’ activists are coming unglued over these revelations.

Here’s the latter case in point. Watch the video. Listen to the video exchange, and the studio exchange, which isn’t really an exchange at all. There’s no disputing what the Gosnell trial reveals about the logic of abortion. There’s no disputing what the Live Action video reveals. But Tamara Holder disputes alright, though not with reason and logic and the art of debate.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen Tamara Holder on television news shows many, many times engage in lively and sometimes heated panel discussions of politics and policy, and she tends to be very committed to liberal causes and positions. Which is fine. Let there be reasoned debate of each position.

But in this video with Lila Rose of Live Action, Holder comes undone in every way, visibly in her demeanor and body language  and verbally in the language she used to flail at the revelations coming out about abortion clinics and a more- widely-prevailing-than-we-knew attitude toward babies who survive abortion attempts as something less than human life worthy of rights and protection.

Even when Rose simplifies it to the fundamental question of whether they couldn’t find common ground agreement on protecting tiny infants who emerge still squirming and struggling for life, Holder devolves to the angry ad hominem attack on Rose and not her argument, nor on the content of her undercover video. It was ugly, and revealing.

That was after the second video was released. There’s a new one since then, and some call it more shocking. How can we measure such degrees of inhumanity?

For weeks now, during and after the Gosnell trial, ‘Democratic strategist’ and ‘liberal news contributor’ Kirsten Powers has been writing about the trial in USA Today and The Daily Beast agonizing over what we have allowed in social policy on abortion and facilitated by the language of choice, and covered up by a complicit media unwilling to report on any news story that runs counter to the narrative that abortion on demand at all times is what women want, need and deserve.

Thank God Kirsten Powers was noticed by some big media people who were willing to start paying attention earlier than the rest, and follow an idea through to its logical conclusions. Here’s her latest column.

Abortion rights advocates have argued that there is nothing to see here. Move along. This is what illegal abortion looks like, they say.

But Gosnell’s clinic was not illegal. It was a licensed medical facility. The state of his clinic was well known: there were repeated complaints to government officials and even the local Planned Parenthood. He wasn’t operating under the radar but in plain sight, and he received referrals from abortion clinics up and down the East Coast. Gosnell performed plenty of abortions within the 24-week limit in Pennsylvania and worked part time for a National Abortion Federation–accredited clinic in Delaware.

The woman Gosnell is on trial for allegedly killing, Karnamaya Mongar, perished during a legal abortion while she was 19 weeks pregnant. Gosnell was not forced to operate in the dark because of anti–abortion rights regulations. It’s the opposite: he was able to flourish—pulling in $1.8 million a year—because multiple abortion rights administrations decided that to inspect his clinic might mean limiting access to abortion. It’s all in the grand jury report, if you don’t believe me.

I’ve linked to that grand jury report multiple times, and hope people will confront it, especially people who consider themselves pro-choice.

One of the bodies discovered in the raid of the clinic was of a 22-week-old baby with a surgical incision on the back of her neck, which penetrated the first and second vertebrae. The only thing that would make her death illegal would be if Gosnell failed to finish her off in her mother’s womb.

Does that statement make you uncomfortable? Good.

What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is infanticide. Legal infanticide. That so many people in the media seem untroubled by the idea that 12 inches in one direction is a “private medical decision” and 12 inches in the other direction causes people to react in horror, should be troubling. Indeed, Gosnell’s defense attorney Jack J. McMahon has relied on the argument that Gosnell killed the babies prior to delivering them, therefore he is not guilty of murder. His exact words were: “Every one of those babies died in utero.”

Gosnell is accused of aborting infants past the 24-week limit in Pennsylvania. But those same deaths – if done in utero – would have been perfectly legal in many states with sometimes abused health exceptions, which can include the elastic category of “mental distress.

The New York Times reported that MacMahon argued: “Because the women were given injections of the drug digoxin, which causes ‘fetal demise,’ any postdelivery movements were involuntary spasms.” The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney, who attended the trial, reported that McMahon argued: “The purpose of the shot…is to kill the baby so that it will not be a live birth.”

This is, finally, where the rubber meets the road. Keep going.

I cannot legitimately say I am a person who cherishes human rights and remain silent about our country legally endorsing infanticide.

Which, listeners of mine on radi have pointed out to me in emails, is too remote a name for what it is, the murder of an infant. True.

We live in a country where if a six-months-pregnant woman started downing shots of vodka in a bar or lit up a cigarette, people might want her arrested. But that same woman could walk into an abortion clinic, no questions asked, and be injected with a drug that would stop her baby’s heart.

Just watch those Live Action undercover videos to see what drugs are injected into a pregnant woman to stop her baby’s heart. And other ways they do procedures that assure ‘fetal demise.’

I’ll put my cards on the table: I think life begins at conception and would love to live in a world where no women ever felt she needed to get an abortion. However, I know enough people who are pro-abortion rights—indeed, I was one of them for most of my life—to know that reasonable and sincere people can disagree about when meaningful life begins.

I will, respectfully, take issue here with Kirsten Powers on the subject off “when meaningful life begins,” starting with ‘who decides?’ and ‘what do you mean by “meaningful life”, much less the question of when that begins.

They also can disagree about how to weigh that moral uncertainty against a woman’s right to control her body—and her own life.

I take exception to this as well, since the woman’s body is one thing, but when she is pregnant the doctor has two patients, and she is carrying within her womb a separate, unique, whole and complete human being with her or his own DNA, already fully in existence. So a woman can do with her body what she morally decides is best, but another human being is present by design of human procreaction, and her decision over her body affect the well-being of that other human body and her or his own life.

I have only ever voted for Democrats, so overturning Roe v. Wade is not one of my priorities. I never want to return to the days of gruesome back-alley abortions.

In case you missed this in an earlier post, Kermit Gosnell was a back-alley abortionist, who Roe ensconced in his own clinic. The clinic Pennsylvania authorities dubbed a ‘house of horrors.’

So this gets down to the anguish of reasoning through the obvious which forces confrontation with accepted beliefs.

But medical advances since Roe v. Wade have made it clear to me that late-term abortion is not a moral gray area, and we need to stop pretending it is. No six-months-pregnant woman is picking out names for her “fetus.” It’s a baby. Let’s stop playing Orwellian word games. We are talking about human beings here.

Finally. The awareness comes. Prof. Robert George helps focus that reasoning process.

I just finished watching the Fox News special “See No Evil” on abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who is on trial in Philadelphia for multiple murders and other crimes. Gosnell can’t understand how it can be that he is facing prison and possibly even the death penalty for killing the babies whose necks he snipped after they “precipitated” (i.e., emerged from the womb.) The women who came into his clinic came in to have the babies they were carrying killed. That was the point of the exercise. “Terminating” the babies’ lives was the service he offered and performed. Had he killed the babies while they were still in their mothers’ bodies (by, for example, inserting a needle to inject a poison into their tiny hearts) that would not have been a crime. He merely would have been assisting his patients in exercising what the Supreme Court deems a constitutional right. So why, he would like to know, is he being prosecuted for killing the same babies moments later after they precipitated?

I must admit that I am no less puzzled by that question than Gosnell is. How can it be that killing a baby inside the womb is perfectly acceptable while killing the very same baby (or even a baby that is a few days or even weeks younger) outside the womb is first degree murder? Of course, in my view we should not permit the killing of babies inside or outside the womb. A baby’s status as a precious member of the human family, possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity, does not depend on something as morally arbitrary as his or her location. But if we permit the Gosnells of the world to kill babies inside the womb, it seems odd to charge them with murder for killing them outside the womb. This is especially true in view of the fact that inducing delivery and then killing babies marked for “termination” eliminates the risk to women involved in the common abortion practice of dismembering babies inside the womb and removing their severed body parts.

The whole state of abortion and reality of what Roe wrought becomes clearer with the Gosnell trial revelations, and those coming out of the Live Action video series from abortion clinics around the US.

We’re finally talking about abortion, what we’ve legalized, what we’ve accepted, what we’ve told ourselves and come to believe as a society. Let’s be honest, for crying out loud.

DNC chair and an ‘extreme view of life’

Oh, the irony. We’re talking about a ‘personhood amendment.’

We’re at the point in Orwellian politics and culture at which states are taking legislative measures to define and protect basic truths. Ones we all knew until about the seventies.

That they have to go to such lengths is one signpost of where we are on the path of common sense and ancient wisdom. That political powerbrokers are condemning these actions as “extreme and radical“…speaks for itself.

The chair of the national Democratic Party has issued a statement on a vote taking place next week in Mississippi on an amendment saying human life begins at conception or fertilization. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democratic congresswoman chosen by President Barack Obama to head the party, called making such a statement “an extreme and radical step,” according to a new CNS News report.

“For the vast majority of Americans, including people on both sides of the abortion issue, this is an extreme and radical step,” she told reporters on a conference call and adding that it is supposedly a “divisive, dangerous, and destructive” attack on women.

“To American women, their reproductive health and choice is an intensely personal and private issue between themselves, their families, and their doctors,” the DNC chairwoman said…

“Now,” she said, according to CNS News, “the effort by the far right [is] to pass these so-called personhood amendments–divisive, dangerous, and destructive laws which would cripple a woman’s right to choose, limit access to birth control, and put the lives of women with difficult pregnancies at risk.”

What to say…

References to the “far right” would be more acceptable or contextual if there were as relatively frequent references to the far left. Is Wasserman Schultz merely ‘left’, or ‘far left’, or does that distinction matter? Why is the personhood amendment “so-called”? Presumably, that means she would call it something else. And the rest of that statement….it’s a smokescreen argument to deflect attention from unlimited access to abortion on demand.

Nonetheless, the personhood amendment failed in Mississippi.

Mississippi voters Tuesday defeated a ballot initiative that would’ve declared life begins at fertilization, a proposal that supporters sought in the Bible Belt state as a way to prompt a legal challenge to abortion rights nationwide.

Note the language of this report, starting with a ballot initiative that would have ‘declared life begins at fertilization’, as if it’s up to voters to decide a biological fact. Note also the location of supporters in the Bible Belt state, challenging “abortion rights nationwide.” Cue the reader…

The so-called “personhood” initiative  [“so-called” is a popular diminutive] was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters, falling far short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted. If it had passed, it was virtually assured of drawing legal challenges because it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a legal right to abortion. Supporters of the initiative wanted to provoke a lawsuit to challenge the landmark ruling.

Which should happen, since many prominent legal experts have such a low opinion of the Roe decision as bad law in the first place. Pro-choice legal experts.

While we’re parsing words, like ‘choice’ and ‘left’ and ‘right’ and ‘women’s health’…there’s more.

Recent news stories about the new vitality of the antiabortion movement and its legislative achievements – more than a dozen states enacting record numbers of abortion restrictions this year – have glossed over one crucial fact. The most visible, entrepreneurial and passionate advocates for the rights of the unborn (as they would put it) are women. More to the point: They are youngish Christian working mothers with children at home…

Now these leaders are taking the word “choice” away from the left. Their choice, they’re saying through example, is to have the children and work it out.

Abortion rights activists, take note.

Good point. They’re reminding us that ‘choice’ means there is more than one option, after all.

The life force of motherhood

Several years ago, a film came out that was part psychological thriller/part science fiction, that involved a missing child and a woman tortured by the denial of his existence. Way too creepy a premise for me, so I didn’t see it. Then I learned that it was all based on the premise that a mother’s love was a force so powerful, it could not be broken.

I don’t care whether the film got good reviews, its message was phenomenal.

Eventually Telly hunts down one of “them” at a dilapidated airport and he tells her that she has been a part of an experiment into whether the bonds between mother and child can be diminished. Telly refuses to deny her son’s existence. She is choked and ordered to give up her first memory of her son; the first time she saw him as a newborn. But she recalls her pregnancy and the being who has been experimenting on her is ‘blown away’.

Such is the power of a mother/child bond. This is remarkable.

When my sons were born, a woman professional friend told me she’d never seen motherhood so transform a woman as it had me. When my sons were young, I considered myself a ‘Mama Lion’ (many years before I ever heard of Sarah Palin or the term ‘Mama Grizzlies’).

So I thought of this suddenly on my radio show Friday, headed into Mother’s Day weekend, interviewing an expert on families and parenting and the love of a mother. No matter what the difficulties parents and children face, nothing is beyond the reach of relentless, unconditional, invincible love. Nothing matters as much to both  mother and child, she said, as the primal need for love.

Which made me think of the simple fact that when a pregnant woman says she’s ‘going to have a baby’, she already has one. That’s a fundamental truth and it’s where we need to start.

I’ve dedicate some upcoming radio shows to renewing the language about human life and abortion. The basics. Staring with a primer on how to even talk about it. The next show will be a roundtable to re-set the relationship between the pro-choice and pro-life movements. I’m calling on anyone of goodwill who wants to participate. What’s the single toughtest questions you’re unable to answer in the abortion debate? Or, the one you don’t know who to ask? I’ll bring them to the table, and report back how that goes.

Look who’s anti-choice

In another round of efforts by the pro-life movement to at least help women considering abortion to make a fully informed choice, another judge has held up a law that would provide it. The ‘no-choice’ movement has succeeded again in withholding information from women…..for now.

Oklahoma’s new law requiring full disclosure and ultrasounds to women before abortion has been blocked by a restraining order, so the abortion business could proceed as usual.

“We’re sorry to see implementation of the law delayed,” said Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans for Life and vice president of the National Right to Life Committee. “This has been a long process and apparently it will be a little longer.”

A pregnant woman should have all of the information available before she makes the irrevocable decision to terminate her pregnancy, Lauinger said, adding: “We’re confident that this law is constitutional.”

What did it institute?

The law requires doctors to use a vaginal probe, which provides a clearer picture of the fetus than a regular ultrasound, and to describe the fetus in detail, including its dimensions, whether arms, legs and internal organs are visible and whether there is cardiac activity.

The law also requires doctors to turn a screen depicting the ultrasound images toward the woman so she can view them.

But get this…

The Center for Reproductive Rights has said the law forces a woman to hear information that may not be relevant to her medical care and could interfere with the physician-patient relationship by compelling doctors to deliver unwanted speech.

What? The full disclosure of the medical/biological facts of the woman’s pregnancy is, through this tortured logic, not relevant to her medical care? And…..it could interfere with the physician-patient relationship by compelling doctors to deliver unwanted speech?!

Some thoughts…..when a doctor has a pregnant woman in his care he is treating two patients. He can only treat the second patient by giving full information to the woman carrying that smaller patient. The reason the pro-abortion movement has so aggressively fought informed consent is because the doctor has to tell the mother that he is going to kill the second patient. That’s a literal translation of the euphemistic clouds of rhetoric obfuscating what goes on in an abortion clinic. And the doctor’s right ‘not to deliver unwanted speech’ outweighs the woman’s right – patient number one carrying patient number two – to have that information about her health and the risks to it, and the risks to the second patient, if this procedure is carried out??!!

[Teresa Collett, a University of St. Thomas Law School professor who represented the state when a similar law passed in 2008 was challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights,] a native of Norman, Okla., said Monday that nothing in Oklahoma’s abortion statute is inconsistent with standard medical practice.

Really. That’s always been my first reaction to this. You couldn’t get away with any hospital or clinic treatment of anything without full disclosure and signed informed consent. Let’s be reasonable.

“It would be remarkable if a women would undergo a medical procedure and a doctor would not have an obligation to describe the procedure and the results of that procedure to the patient,” Collett said.

She said state lawmakers required abortion providers to describe the ultrasound’s images because of some doctors’ “unusual failure” to pass along the information to pregnant women.

Note the description. It’s “unusual failure” because the usual is to fully disclose everything (to the point of scaring us off of routine procudures sometimes because of those ‘remote possibilities’ the information has to disclose).

The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law on behalf of Nova Health Systems, operator of Reproductive Services of Tulsa, and Dr. Larry Burns, who the group said provides abortions in Norman.

Note the vested interest abortion providers have in withholding information that informs women about the truths of abortion.

Officials at Reproductive Services have said the law had drawn emotional responses from patients, some leaving in tears from the room where ultrasound procedures are performed because of what they had to hear.

Understandably. But what was it about what they heard that left them in tears?

Truth and consequences. The truth of what their pregnancy actually held, and the consequences of terminatng it.

As long as abortion on demand is legal, at least let the ‘choice’ be fully informed.

The Stupak-Obama deal

At the end of the day, it seemed vote-a-rama was the big political story. But then this came out…

Both sides in the abortion debate came to a rare agreement on Wednesday: The executive order on abortion signed by President Obama, they said, was basically meaningless.

“A transparent political fig leaf,” according to the National Right to Life Committee’s Douglas Johnson.

“A symbolic gesture,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.

We knew this. But on the same day that Obama signed the flimsy executive order (behind closed doors, with no press allowed), this is the final insult.

Richards says the order only “codifies” what’s already in the bill. Although she said she’s pleased women can pay for coverage of abortions on their own, she regrets that a “pro-choice president” signed the order.

Johnson lashed out at Stupak and those who voted for the health care bill, calling them “lawmakers who in the end cared more about pleasing the powerful (House) speaker from San Francisco than their pro-life constituents.”

The White House is looking to move on.

Let them play politics. And let there be consequences.

Abortion reality show provokes thought

The idea behind the interactive webcast program ‘Bump’ was to follow three fictitious characters through unplanned pregnancies and invite viewers to debate and try to shape whatever decisions the three women came to about choosing abortion or not. It set out to be provocative, and it did provoke.

Now the web series has come to an end, and producers are encouraging more conversation. What to say…..?

It is certainly a unique cultural moment. From the beginning of the series, I’ve been receiving updates in my inbox regularly as I somehow landed on Yellow Line Studio’s mailing list as no doubt thousands of others have. And to borrow the phrase from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, I felt intuitive repulsion before thinking about it more, but have thought about it more. Especially when I saw the comments of a few people whose insights I value.

Matthew Archbold sized it up in his usual creatively pointed way, and I agree with much of what he said.

Here’s the thing. Very real abortions are procured for much more fatuous reasons than viewer votes on a game show. To many progressives, abortion just isn’t that big of a deal. And that’s going on in real life, never mind in a reality game show…

Right now, abortion as a cultural conversation is barely a whisper…When someone holds up a sign of a dismembered fetus in front of an abortion clinic people are outraged at the man holding the sign while ignoring the fact that abortionists are actually pulling apart real babies just inside the building. America is experiencing a silent holocaust. And let’s face it, silence only helps the status quo…

I’ll accept just about anything to stop the cultural blackout we have on all things abortion.

Fr. Frank Pavone says pretty much the same thing. He’s generous and open to this new venue for conversation.

“Bump+’s” target audience is not the pro-life community. It is trying to reach the vast number of citizens whose attitude toward abortion can best be described as conflicted. “Bump+” is not a forum for an abortion debate. The point here is to help viewers hear and feel both sides of the issue through stories. This is simply a conversation, not a condoning of abortion. We need to bring people through the conversation through stories. Jesus was a storyteller. You tell a story and let people connect with that…

The big benefit for people in the middle is that “Bump+” helps people get beyond the slogans. Slogans can contain a lot of truth and grace, but they can also shut down thinking. If you can get people beyond slogans, that is a big benefit.

That’s a good point. Slogans can shut down thinking.

On the pro-life side of the coin, we have to make sure that we’re not just articulating arguments, but that we can feel with those who are facing the decision and the temptations that lead one toward abortion. This doesn’t mean that the decision should be anything other than choosing life, but the more we understand them, the better we will be able to help them.

This is exactly what I’ve tried to say for a long time (but not as well or succinctly as Fr. Pavone). In order to engage, we need to both listen and speak, but for so long now we’ve mostly talked past each other. Conversions from the ‘pro-choice’ side to the pro-life have mostly been through traumatic firsthand experiences, which is why Silent No More Awareness Campaign is so effective at changing hearts and minds.

But that takes listening to people who regret participating in abortions, and the general ‘pro-choice’ population likely pay no attention to those people.

That’s why producers decided to make this series. ‘Bump the Show’s website encourages viewers to click on different characters and episodes and

add your voice to any discussion you choose. We’re looking for personal experiences, honest conversation, and compassionate advice for our characters. We’ve heard all the arguments on both sides of the issue. This is a place to share your stories and talk to each other, not at each other.

It’s a new direction and one the young adult generation is starting to take us in, through their eyes. And they see things differently from generations preceding them.

The Yellow Line Studios notice that showed up in my inbox today was intriguing. Here’s some of it:

During a final episode, set to premiere this Monday, March 15, 2010, members of the production team will address the thousands of viewers in sixty-four countries who have tuned in to watch the series. They will be joined by members of that viewing audience who have been an ongoing part of the accompanying discussion on the website. Guests currently scheduled to appear include Sister Mary Agnes Dombroski, a New Hampshire nun whose order operates a group home for abused children and created www.runningnuns.com; and Jennifer Filipowicz, a pro-choice blogger and mother of two known to other fans by the screen name SuperHappyJen.

It also quoted a statement by Yellow Line’s CEO:

“We’ve been attacked and praised by people on both sides of the debate – but when you read the posts from our audience members, it’s impossible to deny that a respectful, compassionate conversation about abortion has begun. That was our only goal, and we hope it continues on the BUMP+ website and elsewhere.”

As Matthew Archbold said, the more shows like Bump the better. Make people confront the realities of abortion.

And if this was one step too far I’m begging them to take two…

Give ’em their game show. Let’s have it out. In public. Because i know if abortion is talked about, we win.

Hopefully, we all win.

UN’s conference on women: Shedding light

Many thousands of women, organizations and NGOs descended on New York for the recent global checkup with the annual  ‘Commission on the Status of Women’, with the Beijing conference as sort of a benchmark. It was heavy on the agenda of spreading access to abortion under the mantle of ‘reproductive rights’, but there was a large pro-life contingent there to stake claims that authentic dignity for women comes from true universal human rights….for all human beings.

C-Fam captures the atmosphere well in this report on the competing views of maternal health.

I also like the succinct statement on the Vatican Information Service by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, who addressed this convoluted sounding gathering:

the fifty-fourth session of the Economic and Social Council’s Commission on the Status of Women, which was meeting to discuss “Item 3: Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled ‘Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century'”.

This is the kind of cumbersome official-speak we need to wade through to mine the gems of insight and wisdom contained within at least some of them. Archbishop Migliore had both. He said:

“From the successive interventions in these days, … it seems that the assessment is not entirely positive: It includes some light, but also many and disturbing shadows.

He went on to note some advancements in the status of women and improvement in their social conditions in the world at large, but he also noted women continue to suffer violence and abuse in many parts of the world. Don’t just necessarily think ‘underdeveloped’ world or places under repressive regimes in picturing that. Migliore zeroes in on the (sorry) inconvenient truth embedded in the modern feminist agenda through agencies like the UN.

Follow this closely:

“Achieving equality between women and men in education, employment, legal protection and social and political rights is considered in the context of gender equality. Yet the evidence shows that the handling of this concept … is proving increasingly ideologically driven, and actually delays the true advancement of women. Moreover, in recent official documents there are interpretations of gender that dissolve every specificity and complementarity between men and women. These theories will not change the nature of things but certainly are already blurring and hindering any serious and timely advancement on the recognition of the inherent dignity and rights of women”.

Spot on. Furthermore…

Archbishop Migliore stressed the fact that the final documents of international conferences and committees often “link the achievement of personal, social, economic and political rights to a notion of sexual and reproductive health and rights which is violent to unborn human life and is detrimental to the integral needs of women and men within society”.

Exactly. This is undeniably true, and needs to be said and heard and deliberated and embraced as a motivation for change.

“A solution respectful of the dignity of women does not allow us to bypass the right to motherhood, but commits us to promoting motherhood by investing in and improving local health systems and providing essential obstetrical services”, he said.

Reclaiming and protecting motherhood is an important goal for women’s progress and for the future of the world. No exaggeration.

“Fifteen years ago the Beijing Platform for Action proclaimed that women’s human rights are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. This is key not only to understanding the inherent dignity of women and girls but also to making this a concrete reality around the world”, he concluded.

And, at least I believe, key to peace in it.