New on NewsReal – "View" Lefties Can’t See Why Child Porn for Teens on MTV Might Be a Problem

My latest NewsRealBlog Post:

The smug certainty with which leftists insist that they’re better people than conservatives has always been an interesting phenomenon. We’re asked to believe that our opponents are more moral, more responsible, more enlightened, and more sensitive than we are one minute…and one of our betters turns around and asks what the big deal is about some outrageous case of moral degeneracy the next.

Such is the case of the latest pontifications from The View co-host Joy Behar. In a discussion of Skins, the new MTV show which might have broken child pornography laws by filming actors as young as 15 performing explicit simulated sexual acts, Behar suggested that the only reason people are getting worked up is because of the channel it’s on:

“I think it’s because it’s MTV, because on HBO as you pointed out, I believe ‘Oz’ was on there and they’re all doing some crazy stuff … and ‘Sex in the City’ was on HBO,” Behar said. “What’s the difference if you’re watching all these grown-ups talking about all of these — anal sex, etc., or young people? What’s the difference?”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure laws against producing child pornography don’t say, “nobody can do this except for HBO.”
Whoopi Goldberg dismissed concern as a mere construct of America’s more Puritan sensibilities:

[T]he English have a whole different relationship to how young people are dealt with. I mean, that’s just the way it is. It is a different thing and sex does not have the same bizarre-ness that it carries in the U.S.

America must be weird for having a problem with this; English standards couldn’t possibly be wrong! Gotta love cultural relativism.

Barbara Walters, however, managed to explain the difference to her colleague:

“There’s two differences,” Walters said. “One – it’s targeting kids. It’s a huge difference. And the other is that they’re also saying is it is underage kids that are doing this.”

Walters is right as far as she goes, but she doesn’t go nearly far enough. The main answer is that the controversy isn’t merely about minors “talking about” sex. It’s about minors performing suggested sex acts on screen. Does Behar have any conception of why child pornography is illegal? (I’d do more research into whether or not she’s opined on the issue in the past, but the prospect of Googling a combination of the terms “joy behar” and “porn” is too terrifying to contemplate.)

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

New on NewsReal – Smithsonian Scandal Raises Questions: What’s "Good" Art, and Why Should I Pay for It?

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

The Christmas season just wouldn’t be Christmas these days without government-sponsored desecration of images sacred to most Americans. By now you’ve probably heard about the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery’s charming new exhibit depicting, among other things, a bloody Jesus Christ covered in ants. That part of the exhibit has been removed, but it still features “male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show’s catalog as ‘homoerotic.’”

True to form, Media Matters is trying to defuse outrage over the controversy by repeatedly pointing out that while the Smithsonian may receive taxpayer dollars, this particular exhibit was funded privately. Here they highlight last night’s exchange between Sean Hannity and Democrat strategist Joe Trippi, who “tries to get Hannity to understand” that simple distinction:

http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/player.swf 

TRIPPI: The money for this exhibit was all private foundations. 

HANNITY: But I don’t agree with that analysis. It’s like saying, we fund the ability for them to open their doors every day. So they don’t get to open the door, except for the American taxpayer.

TRIPPI: The American taxpayer paid for the building and those kinds of things, but it’s an art museum, I mean – and this particular art exhibit is the influence of gay and lesbian artists on portraiture.

HANNITY: Fine. If they wanna have an art museum with this stuff, we shouldn’t pay to open their doors so they can put this type of stuff in there! 

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog.

Civility Is Overrated

At Politico, PR guy Mark DeMoss laments the lousy reception to the Civility Pledge he and Clinton hack Lanny Davis have been circulating:

It’s only 32 words. Yet, only two sitting members of Congress or governors have signed the civility pledge.


So what was it about civility that all the other 537 elected officials couldn’t agree to? Read it and decide for yourself.

  • I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
  • I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. 
  • I will stand against incivility when I see it.

In May, Lanny Davis, my friend and co-founder of the Civility Project, and I sent a letter to all 535 members of Congress and 50 sitting governors inviting them to sign a civility pledge.


We made it easy, enclosing a response form, return envelope and fax number. I’m sorry to report, six months later, that only two responded: Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

This is a shame, DeMoss says, because the American people are sick of how nasty the political discourse has become, and because incivility is just plain wrong:
We share a conviction about the importance of at least trying to change a polarizing, uncivil political culture that now appears to be the norm.

Call it old-fashioned, but we believe debates should be won on the strength of ideas and words — not on the volume of our voices or the outrageousness of our ads. Yet some emails I’ve received on our website are so filled with obscenities that they could not be printed in a newspaper.

Incivility is not just a political problem, according to Yale law professor Stephen Carter. “Rules of civility are thus rules of morality,” Carter said, “it is morally proper to treat our fellow citizens with respect, and morally improper not to. Our crisis of incivility is part of a larger crisis of morality.” 

I hate to fit someone’s definition of “morally improper,” but the fact is, there’s way too much hand-wringing over civility in politics these days. For one thing, sleazy invective, while lamentable, has been around since the beginning, so not only is this not some new development, but if it was going to destroy the country, it would have done so by now.

That’s not to say politicians should be given a pass for trafficking in lies and rumors, far from it. But that brings us to the second, and far more important, reason these guys are barking up the wrong tree: we currently define negativity and incivility so broadly that they’re not only virtually meaningless, but they actually serve to stifle a lot of things that need to be said.

Simply put, there are a lot of bad people active, and bad things done, in politics today, things that deserve not just disagreement, but demand moral condemnation. Advocating the murder of unborn babies, lying about an issue, defaming someone, trying to violate the Constitution, controlling free speech…all these things run deeper than mere disagreements between equally-decent people. These are things that should shock and disgust men and women of goodwill, and compel them to drive them out of the sphere of public respectability – along with their practitioners.

Instead, our “civility” obsession all too often leads to pitiful spectacles like playing dumb about the integrity of backstabbers, and meekly wondering why opponents believe vicious lies about us (here’s a hint: they don’t). Such rhetorical cowardice and incompetence enables the dishonest and the hateful to go about their business without serious challenge, all but ensuring a culture that’s less civil, not more.

Real civility is a fine value, but a healthy political culture needs to understand it’s not the highest value. Every American must hold truth and justice as more important than decorum.

Brief Observation: Ayn Rand vs. the Founding Fathers on Human Nature

Amit Ghate has a piece at Pajamas Media, using Ayn Rand to argue that reason is a superior foundation for morality than religion. I’d love to do a more thorough response to it if I wasn’t so busy right now (for those interested, here are parts One, Two, and Three of a debate I had on the subject with an atheist blogger a few years back); For the moment, one quick observation will have to suffice. (Usual disclaimer: I haven’t read Rand firsthand.)

Ghate approvingly cites Ayn Rand’s rejection of man’s fallen nature, saying Rand “sides with the giants of the Enlightenment in considering man to be morally perfectible.” However many Enlightenment thinkers may have believed man was “morally perfectible,” that was one aspect of Enlightenment thinking the American Founders didn’t put much stock in. To the extent that Rand disagrees with Publius on this point, she sides with Progressives.

The Blog Post That Should End Two Careers (Updated)

No, not this one. This one. [WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT AT LINK.] My NewsRealBlog colleagues David Swindle and Jenn Public have compiled an absolutely stunning, sickening array of evidence exposing the pedophile tendencies and sympathies of former NRB contributor – and current FrumForum contributor – Alex Knepper. Knepper, you may recall, got canned from NRB and retaliated with a persecution story that didn’t hold water. At this point, it goes without saying that this should be the final nail in Knepper’s career, and if the reaction of Breitbart and NewsBusters is any indication, it may very well be.

But ultimately, Knepper’s a punk of limited significance. More importantly, this post should be the final proof that David Frum has hit rock-bottom, that he doesn’t care about the degeneracy of those who prove useful to him, and is therefore as unprincipled as they come and deserves to be ejected from the few remaining corners of the conservative movement in which he somehow isn’t seen as a disgrace. Frum apologists and lapdogs like John Guardiano – at least, the ones who still claim to have scruples – can no longer ignore the evidence of Frum’s indecency. Those who refuse to abandon this sinking moral ship deserve to go down with it.

UPDATE: Predictably, the pro-dishonesty Guardiano has chosen the sinking ship. That he accuses David Swindle – a socially-liberal blogger with a clear record of supporting not only gay rights, but also (some) gay political causes – of homophobia should be all the proof we need that Guardiano simply does not believe in holding himself to any meaningful standards of honesty and ethics.

Pro-Life Violence?

I’ve debated a number of folks of varying caliber on the ‘Net. Most recently, Thayne & G-Man have sparked a productive exploration of morality, religion, secularism, & abortion. I’ve also had some good discussions with Sean back during the Coulter Nation days and at Olbroad’s old site (by the way, this is her current site). On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve met some infantile commenters at The American Mind, the clowns of YouStinkLeft, (by the way, their latest brilliant question is—and I quote—“Why does Fox News want us to have a war with Iran?”), the unintentional hilarity offered by B&S regular Scott, and, of course, the Hacks4Rudy. But the sorriest I’ve encountered would be a truly-despicable fellow by the name of Jayce Commo. Since it’s impossible to have serious debate with the immature, bothering with them is usually a waste of time. But a recent post about Generations for Life on his aptly-named blog takes lazy guilt-by-association to such depths that I can’t let it go unchallenged:

I generally don’t have any problems with pro-life supporters, so long as they’re not
blowing things up, shooting doctors, or harrassing women. But a few things on the Generations site leave me feeling a bit uneasy…

Since the overwhelming majority of America’s millions of pro-lifers would never even consider violence, then Jayce doesn’t have anything to worry about. Indeed, according to the second of these three articles, one of the killers “was disappointed with the anemic response from pro-life activists, who denounced Griffin’s use of violence” (the article also says “Most mainstream antiabortion organizations distanced themselves from him.” I’d sure like to seem them try to substantiate the implication that any pro-life group which could legitimately be deemed “mainstream” either stayed neutral or embraced the killings.).

Anyway, the
article in question is an announcement for a couple protests of a new abortion mill in Aurora, Illinois (I was gonna call the article a “call to arms,” but as we’ll see below, you never know what phrases might trigger liberal bed-wetting). Jayce is mortified that teen pro-lifers “are determined to do everything they can to stop Planned Parenthood” (his emphasis). “I hope ‘everything’ doesn’t really mean everything,” he says, with no evidence whatsoever that GFL harbors even a shred of sympathy towards anti-abortion violence. Jayce then complains that GFL describes participants of Families against Planned Parenthood’s 40-Day Prayer Vigil as “Prayer Warriors,” because it sounds “way to much like these psychos at Army of God.”

The so-called Army of God supports killing abortionists. Take a look at what FAPP’s idea of a “Prayer Warrior”
consists of, and you’ll see it’s juuust a little different. Take a look at any serious pro-life organization, like the several on CFO’s “Fighting for Life” sidebar (whoops! Can’t say “fighting!”), and the difference between us and the killers is self-evident—to the fair-minded.

Speaking of facts, let’s take a look at some hard numbers. NARAL’s own statistics (
PDF link) cover both the US and Canada & are up to date as of January 1, 2007. Now, bear in mind that an organization which advocates killing children is certainly unlikely to have any qualms about cooking the numbers (when you’re in their line of work, you need all the sympathy you can get), but for the sake of argument, let’s take them at face value. So how pervasive is the anti-choice reign of terror?

– 7 murders
– 17 attempted murders
– 41 bombings
– 171 arsons
– 82 attempted bombings & arsons
– 574 fake anthrax letters
– 92,000 “acts of disruption” such as bomb threats & harassing calls

Assuming none of the other cases were counted among the “acts of disruption,” that’s a grand total of 92,892 acts of pro-life extremism covering both the US and Canada. That sounds like a lot, but bear a couple things in mind. About 99% of the acts come from the “disruption” category, and we should be wary of exactly what constitutes a “harassing call” in NARAL’s view—I highly doubt they only counted violent calls; rather, I’ll bet there are quite a few in that number which only consisted of arguing abortion’s morality and/or offering to pray for their forgiveness. Say what you want about the productivity or decorum of such calls, but they certainly can’t be described as malevolent in any way. What’s more, NARAL puts the bomb-threat number at 596, which means the overwhelming majority of the pro-life extremism in general, and of the disruptions in particular, consists of lesser acts.

As for the incidents of actual violence and genuine threat, each is inexcusable & deplorable, and no pro-lifer should tolerate them in any way. The good news is, the fanatics make up only a tiny minority of Americans against abortion. In contrast, how big is the real pro-life movement? Consider that Pro-Life Wisconsin alone
boasts the support of 14,000 families (and that many pro-lifers only belong to one of a state’s multiple pro-life groups given their differences on things like rape exceptions), and the serious, honorable pro-life movement easily dwarfs the unhinged.

So why does Jayce think
saying inflammatory things without evidence is ethical? Because “submission of moral authority makes anything possible, including murder…the lines between morality, martyrdom, and terrorism are blurring more each day.” Is submitting one’s moral authority to religious belief likely to make somebody violent? It can; I’m not aware of any Christian who denies that the Bible’s been used to justify horrible things, and we’re in a world war sparked by Islamic fanaticism. But “submission of moral authority” alone doesn’t create bad results; submission combined with bad teachings does, as does submission in the absence of reason—fortunately, most Judeo-Christians embrace reason wholeheartedly.

Moreover, if God-submission is to blame for all religious evil, then it deserves equal credit for all religious good. Believing that one is God-bound to do charity and oppose bigotry is just as powerful as believing that one is God-bound to kill. In fact, the secular should be thankful that believers overwhelmingly “submit their moral authority” to the former than to the latter (don’t believe me?
Click here to hear Dennis Prager’s interview with Arthur Brooks, author of Who Really Cares).

One more observation: why is submitting moral authority to something else inherently more problematic than the alternative: deeming oneself the highest arbiter of one’s morality? It seems to me the latter has its own potential to produce arrogance & rationalization. After all, Jayce’s atheism certainly didn’t keep him from smearing GFL without evidence.

Only someone suffering from religious paranoia could seriously construe the work of Generations for Life as blurring the lines between morality, martyrdom, and terrorism. Neither critical thought nor honest concern could possibly yield such a result. Whether it’s Jayce, Christopher Hitchens, or Sam Harris, some people just can’t escape their prejudices when it comes to religion. That’s a shame, and we can only hope & pray that they’ll someday grow up.

The Case for Life – Part II

THE VALUE OF LIFE
Personhood

Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft
writes:

[T]he essential pro-life argument is as follows. The major premise is: “Thou shalt not kill”—i.e., all deliberate killing of innocent human beings is forbidden. The minor premise is that abortion is the deliberate killing of innocent human beings. The conclusion is that abortion is wrong.

There are two significantly different pro-choice answers to this argument. The more radical, or “hard” pro-choice position denies the major premise; the less radical, or “soft” pro-choice position denies the minor. “Hard pro-choice” denies the sanctity or inviolability of all humans; “soft pro-choice” denies the humanity of the fetus.

Part I was in response to “soft pro-choicers.” The following is intended for “hard pro-choicers.”

Incredibly, we
are told that being alive is insufficient to justify protecting unborn humans from deliberate killing, because personhood develops by degrees. Their theory says the unborn are partial humans at different stages of development, so their moral worth increases gradually. This is also described as weighing two conflicting sets of interests, or claims to rights.

There are glaring problems with this theory, however. The ideas of which gradations of development merit what treatment & protection proposed by pro-choicers always have an unmistakable quality of arbitrariness to them. As Kreeft writes, “It looks very suspiciously like the category [of human non-persons] was invented to justify the killing, for its only members are the humans we happen to be now killing and want to keep killing and want to justify killing.” The various qualities preborn humans lack, supposedly making them less worthy of protection, all fluctuate not only in the womb, but well after our births as well. For example:

Consciousness: We are not conscious when we sleep, suffer a severe concussion, or are in a coma. Do we cease to be persons under these conditions?

Pain: Anesthesia and painkilling drugs take away our capacity to feel pain temporarily, as do severe injuries to our nervous system. Is killing us more permissible if our murders will be painless?

Viability: Just as all of us required natural life support—umbilical cords to nourish us and wombs to protect us—in our earliest stages of growth, many need artificial life support—pacemakers, iron lungs, oxygen tanks, dialysis machines, feeding tubes, etc., to say nothing of various life-saving drugs—in their later stages. Are people who aren’t “viable” without such aid less deserving of protection against homicide?

We would never dream of applying such standards to born children or adults (
well, most of us wouldn’t); why should we take them as persuasive guides to treatment of the preborn? Furthermore, we know that, even after we’re born, we still are not completely developed. Kreeft points out, “If it is more permissible to kill a fetus than to kill an infant because the fetus is less of a person, then it is for exactly the same reason more permissible to kill a seven-year-old, who has not yet developed his reproductive system or many of his educational and communications skills, than to kill a 27-year-old.”

(And again, those who defend abortion this way, if they are intellectually honest, have no choice but to acknowledge that at least some abortions, and many motives for abortion, are indefensible by their own standards, because
all these qualities develop well before birth.)
Women’s Autonomy over “Their Own Bodies”

It is also claimed that, because an unborn baby is inside of and dependent upon a pregnant woman, the mother is the dominant party in the relationship has a basic right to dispose of her child. First, this argument ignores the fact that unborn humans are individual, separate human beings. That they are connected to their mothers does not change this—a fetus’ unique genetic identity is his/her own, not the mother’s; a fetus’ developing bodily systems are his/her own, not the mother’s; etc. To say abortion is about control over “women’s own bodies” is simply a falsehood (a falsehood which Kreeft lightheartedly demonstrated as follows: “if the fetus is a part of the mother, then the parts of the fetus must be parts of the mother. But in that case, every pregnant woman has four eyes and four feet, and half of all pregnant women have penises!”).

Second, why does a fetus remain in his/her mother’s body for nine months? The umbilical cord supplies the fetus with oxygen and nutrients. He/she remains inside Mom’s body for protection from the outside world while developing. The means of delivery may be different, but the needs themselves do not differ from the basic needs of any person: food, air & protection from the elements. Obviously, these differences between pre-birth & post-birth are too small to constitute differences in moral worth.

Third, babies cannot seriously be said to be “imposing” themselves upon their mother because no human being asks to be conceived in the first place. Coming into existence is completely beyond his/her control. Doesn’t the act of creating a new human life come with any obligations to that life? To say it does not carries an unmistakable air of narcissism.

Furthermore, no responsible observer could pass judgment on the proper treatment of human beings without seriously considering the thing which makes all the difference in the world between a worthless collection of molecules and an individual of incalculable worth: the soul. If humans are endowed with souls, then their unique moral worth is tied to them, not to any particular trait or ability. Secular pro-choicers will try again to play the religion-in-politics card, or mock the very idea of considering the soul. The religion angle is addressed in Part I, and the fact that belief in the soul has a long, rich and thoughtful history, combined with its centrality to the issue of human moral worth, demands that we take the possibility seriously. And nobody but the most fanatical atheist could conclude there’s zero chance of the soul’s existence, so basic moral responsibility demands that we err on the side of caution—life—in such a serious matter.

The folly of soft pro-choice is very easy to demonstrate objectively, since it is based on nothing more than ignorance and/or lies. Hard pro-choice is a different animal—it doesn’t claim to accept the same starting premise (that deliberately killing innocent humans is wrong). Unlike pro-lifers, who place moral worth in what something is (a human being), hard pro-choicers place moral worth in what something can do and what qualities it possesses. I must confess that I find their utilitarian philosophy on life so bizarrely alien and incompatible with mine that I can’t even begin to imagine the mind which could adopt such callous & repugnant beliefs. Because of that, I’m somewhat at a loss to dissect it further myself. Fortunately, others have done so far better than I ever could. Everybody with a sincere desire to find the humane, just, and intellectually-honest answer to the issue of abortion really ought to read Peter Kreeft’s two painstaking essays
“Human Personhood Begins at Conception” and “The Apple Argument against Abortion”, as well as Ramesh Ponnuru’s aforementioned book The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life. Also, thanks to G-Man’s spirited challenges, the comments section explores the issue in further depth, too.

Lastly, we’ll return to the matter of doubt. Even if one is ultimately unconvinced by the case & evidence for life, any rational & objective pro-choicer who examines it should at least be able to recognize the possibility, however slight, that pro-lifers are right. So,
as President Ronald Reagan said:

[A]nyone who doesn’t feel sure whether we are talking about a second human life should clearly give life the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t know whether a body is alive or dead, you would never bury it. I think this consideration itself should be enough for all of us to insist on protecting the unborn.
With that in mind, here’s a challenge to all pro-choicers: just how certain are you that you are right and we are wrong? Concerning uncertainty, there are two obvious moral principles. First, while people can take risks for themselves based on personally weighing the evidence & choosing what they feel comfortable with, they are most certainly not entitled to take risks with other people’s possible lives or well-being. Second, the amount of caution & restraint one must exercise is dependent upon the consequences of being wrong. Taking a chance on a brand of TV you’re not familiar with is one thing. Taking a chance on the fate of over a million humans annually is quite another. Consider the following two scenarios:
First, let’s say pro-lifers are ultimately wrong, but win the Culture War.
That means about 1 million additional births annually. Hardships will be attached to each, of course, but most of those new lives will also enrich the future in ways too numerous to mention. In addition, no abortions would mean no dangerous consequences of abortion.
Embryo-involving methods of research have been banned, maybe leading to a delay in medical advancements, but (despite liberal lies) adult stem cell research would still be vigorously supported. Plus, drawing a line in the sand at embryo experimentation would also be likely protect ethical lines which many pro-choicers would agree shouldn’t be crossed, such as giving birth to children for the sole purpose of harvesting their organs.
Second, let’s say pro-choicers are ultimately wrong, but win the Culture War.
That means over 45 million murders have taken place since Roe v. Wade, with society’s blessing, and the death toll will keep rising by a million every year. Every victim is utterly innocent & defenseless.
Every. Last. One.
The physical & psychological side-effects of abortion will continue to plague women. Embryonic stem-cell research may lead to medical breakthroughs, but an addiction to human life will have been created within the scientific world, potentially opening the door to speciously-rationalized horrors we can’t yet fathom.
It’s obvious that the consequences of pro-lifers being wrong are nowhere near as dire as the consequences of pro-choicers being wrong, and it’s clear that pro-life victory is far more likely to make the world a better place. That alone should be enough to determine what the ethically-responsible position is.
These are risks the pro-life community isn’t willing to take. Are you?

The Case for Life – Part I

WHEN DOES LIFE BEGIN?
What Are We Protecting?

First, let’s lay a ground rule. By “life” we refer to any individual organism which is a member of the human species—not individual cells, sperm or eggs, hair follicles, skin, etc. (though a seemingly-needless distinction, these comparisons actually come up in debate—the pro-life movement is sometimes characterized as some strange mission to prevent the destruction of mere organic matter, a straw man which is then “discredited” with challenges like “You kill life every time you get a haircut!”) The latter are merely parts of other organisms, not organisms themselves. Nor are embryonic & fetal humans sacred because they are “potential life;” we seek to prevent their destruction because their lives already exist.

Theologically Speaking, When Does Life Begin?

If you claim to believe in the Old Testament or Torah’s veracity as the Word of God and absolute Truth, then the answer is simple.
God told Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Before we have a physical form we have a soul, an identity which God can and does know.

The Bible has
many such references to children within the womb as human and spiritual, and the Catholic Church has recognized this for the majority of its history. Many of these references obviously apply to Judaism as well, but as a Christian I defer to Bonnie Chernin Rogoff, founder of Jews for Life:

Judaism does not believe in the Christian concept of ensoulment, that at the time of conception the soul enters the embryo making that new life equivalent with a born person. In the earliest stages of pregnancy, up to 40 days post-conception, the fetus is considered “mere fluid” (Mishnah Niddah 3:7). However, after 40 days the fetus is considered formed and a woman who miscarries or aborts has to undergo the ritual cleansing process (mikveh) just as she would if a living child were born (Mishnah Kritot 1:3-6). In the Talmud Arakin 7a-b, the passage indicates it is permissible to desecrate the Shabbat to save the life of an unborn child. Further, while a traditional Jew is forbidden from carrying a knife on the Shabbat, a Jewish surgeon may do so, and use it, to save an unborn child’s life […]

The view of Judaism is that abortion, while not considered murder, should be strongly discouraged. While the fetus is not accorded full human status, it is still considered a developing life with value, that must be protected and saved whenever possible, unless the life of the mother is in danger. In that case, it is permissible to abort the fetus. The Mishnah Oholoth 7:6 along with Rashi’s commentaries in Talmud Sanhedrin 72b make it very clear that the life (and not the ‘choice’ or ‘health’ of the mother) is the only permissible reason for abortion. Had abortion been performed in Rashi’s time for birth control, convenience, or economic reasons there would have been an outcry from rabbis and the religious community and the practice would have been condemned. Under no circumstances should abortion performed for frivolous reasons be given a stamp of approval by rabbis, under the pretext of “health.”

Life is a precious, priceless gift from our Creator. Believers have a moral duty to recognize life from the beginning and to stand in defense of lives that cannot defend themselves…but some on the Left would have us believe otherwise.

Even the Devil Can Quote Scripture

Abortion is sometimes defended from a theological standpoint, with claims such as:

Exodus 21: “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.” Violence against a pregnant woman causing premature birth is punished monetarily rather than with death; therefore, we are told, killing pre-birth is less grievous than killing post-birth. But what abortion defenders leave out is that the phrase “and yet no mischief follow” means, quite simply, “if the baby survives the attack.” The lines immediately following the passage make this clear: “And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye…” In this regard, the fetus’s death is no different than an adult’s.

The
description of Adam’s creation in Genesis says “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This supposedly indicates that life does not begin until the first breath is taken. But there are two problems with this view. 1.) As the first humans, Adam & Eve could not have resulted from a pregnancy, so the process by which God created them would likely be different. It seems plausible to assume that He created their bodies and souls separately, then put them together, and once they were in place, our God-given system of sexual reproduction took care of the physical self and God created the spiritual self earlier in development for all of His subsequent children. Subsequent references to humans in the womb suggest this, especially verses 13-16 of Psalm 139. 2.) Like all bodily functions, breathing starts prior to birth. Pro-choicers who define life in this way have themselves inadvertently rendered many abortions unacceptable—near the end of the second trimester, the baby is, in fact, breathing.

Genesis 38 recounts the tale of Judah and his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar. Upon discovering her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, Judah orders Tamar to be burnt to death—a punishment he cancels upon discovering that he is the father (he slept with her, mistaking her for a prostitute when she was disguised). Pro-choicers note that the sentence would also have killed Tamar’s unborn twins; therefore, the unborn must have less moral worth than a person. But this theory fails immediately: considering that Judah has “married outside the faith, raised [at least] two wicked sons, wrongfully accused his daughter-in-law of his sons’ deaths, lied to his daughter-in-law, refused to keep the law of levirate marriage and, of course, had sex with a prostitute;” he’s not exactly a moral compass! “But nobody other than Tamar prevented him from carrying it out, did they?” True, but that only means people deferred to his judgment & authority; it doesn’t say those people were right to do so. Since the primary message of the story concerns Judah’s wickedness and redemption, not babies, it can hardly be seen as a barometer to treatment of the unborn.

“Jesus never mentioned [abortion] even once.” Jesus never mentioned drive-by shootings, either. But (obviously) he did mention murder. Value systems such as Christianity don’t need to list off every conceivable method of doing wrong as long as there is a clear set of moral principles in place to determine whether or not particular actions constitute sin. Since “thou shalt not murder” is about as unequivocally Christian as possible, one need only show that the unborn have lives of their own to establish that Jesus would forbid their deliberate destruction.

When faced with contrary interpretations of Scripture, it is important to do two things: first, examine the context of the quotation in question, and second, weigh it against the entirety of the Biblical evidence. In the final analysis, Judeo-Christian teaching firmly sides with the sanctity of life.

Religious Convictions in Politics

“Even if God wants us to personally recognize life from conception onward, we can’t apply a personal religious belief to public policy.” Wrong again.

The
First Amendment guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thomas Jefferson famously referred to this as a “wall of separation between Church & State.” Fashionable though it may be to “evolve” the Constitution’s meaning over time, here we’ll stick to a literal read of its actual text, as understood by the Founding Fathers.

The Founding Fathers understood “establishment of religion” to mean what it did under “the Church of England: a formal union of political and ecclesiastical authority in the hands of the state,” as Dr. Mark Levin writes in the excellent
Men in Black (hardcover, p. 36). In other words, the Amendment prevents a church from imposing enforced regulations or punishments upon people, such as ineligibility from public office, taxation of minority sects, and jailing or executing heretics; as well as the converse: preventing the state from suppressing the religious activities of churches and private citizens. Hence, it is a rather straightforward separation of two organizations.

Separating religious principles from politics is very different. There is nothing in the Constitution that dictates what values, ideas, or motivations are allowed to animate people. Indeed, such a restriction—regulating the intellectual or moral criteria by which American citizens are allowed to judge candidates & policies—would be un-American to the core.

Consider the 1786
Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson, it is rightly hailed as a prime example of American enlightenment. But its actual text would surprise many who only hear it mentioned in passing as a victory for church-state separation. Jefferson wrote (emphasis added):

“Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others…”

In Jefferson’s mind, freedom of thought was God’s will, and he had no qualms about positing that the country should follow such a Judeo-Christian value. The Constitution allows us to make such judgments; the only limitation is that in doing so, we cannot infringe upon the other rights outlined in the Constitution (“But I thought abortion was a constitutional right!” Patience; we won’t forget to address that one.).

(There is a lot of eye-opening reading on the Founding Father’s true religious intentions for America; William J. Federer’s
America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations is a great resource to start with.)

“I still think opposing abortion is a religious teaching, so we can’t legislate it.” Consider that prohibitions against murder, theft and lying in the
Ten Commandments are among the most explicit religious teachings of all, more so than those against abortion. Does that mean our laws against homicide, theft, slander, libel, or perjury are unconstitutional because they force people to abide by the Ten Commandments? While religious belief must not infringe upon our natural rights in public policy, there is nothing unconstitutional about accepting religious advice on how best to protect those rights. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Democrat Sen. John Kerry cited his religious convictions as “why I fight against poverty. That’s why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth. That’s why I fight for equality and justice.” In other words, he wanted to “impose” his religious beliefs about poverty, nature, etc. upon the American people. Until Kerry’s stances infringe upon actual rights, he is entitled to persuade a majority of his fellow Americans of their merits. The same holds true for marriage activists (on both sides), for pro-lifers, and for the aforementioned “Christians for choice.”

Think of it this way: protecting innocent people is a goal that transcends belief, one that all believers and unbelievers ought to agree upon. Believers simply accept religious insight to help determine whether or not the unborn fit into the category of innocent people. Right or wrong, it’s a proposition that is fully appropriate for public discourse and the will of the people—not censorship or disqualification.

Scientifically Speaking, When Does Life Begin?

Of course, the religion-out-of-politics line is little more than a ploy to disqualify rather than debate pro-lifers, or to avoid taking a firm stand. In fact, if there is one truth that must be driven home, it is this: the question of life’s beginning is not by any means exclusive to religion. Science can answer it—and it has.

In his magnificent
The Party of Death, Ramesh Ponnuru writes:

We have developed ways of talking that enable us to pretend that the point can be blinked away. In the case of abortion and embryo research, the main technique is to suggest that there is some great mystery about “when life begins,” and that this alleged question is a religious or philosophical one. Yet science has since solved the mystery. From conception onward, what exists is a distinct organism of the human species. The philosophical question is what we make of that fact. To jumble these issues together—the essentially scientific question of categorizing an embryo as human and living, and the moral question of whether it follows from that categorization that it has a right to life—is a logical error. Justice Blackmun, of course, proceeded in just this erroneous fashion in Roe. And if we are not careful, talking in terms of “meaningful life,” or, as [author Ronald] Dworkin does, of “life in earnest,” can lead us into this error as well.

All of us who read this page were once human embryos. The history of our bodies began with the formation of an embryo. We were those embryos, just as we were once fetuses, infants, children, and adolescents. But we were never a sperm cell and an egg cell. (Those cells were genetically and functionally parts of other human beings.) The formation of the embryo marks the beginning of a new human life: a new and complete organism that belongs to the human species. Embryology textbooks say so, with no glimmer of uncertainty or ambiguity.

That new organism is alive rather than dead or inanimate. It is human rather than a member of some other species. It is an organism distinct from all others. It is not a functional part of a larger organism (the way a kidney is part of a larger organism). It maintains its own organic unity over time. It directs its own development, according to its genetic template, through the embryonic, fetal, and subsequent stages. Such terms as “blastocyst,” “newborn,” and “adolescent” denote different stages of development in a being of the same type, not different types of beings. At each of our earlier stages of life, we have been, as we are now, whole living members of the species Homo sapiens.
(hardcover, p. 77-78)

And medical textbooks do indeed say so:

Human Embryology, 3rd Edition by William Larsen, Lawrence Sherman, S. Steven Potter, & William Scott: “In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual.” (p. 1)

The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th Edition by Keith Moore & TVN. Persaud: “Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” (p. 18)

Human Embryology & Teratology, 3rd Edition by Ronan O’Rahilly & Fabiola Muller: “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.” (p. 8)

Developmental Biology, 6th Edition by Scott Gilbert: “Fertilization is the process whereby two sex cells (gametes) fuse together to create a new individual with genetic potentials derived from both parents.” (p. 185)

Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia, 7th Edition by Douglas Considine: “At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun.” (p. 943)

Langman’s Medical Embryology, 7th Edition by TW Sadler: “The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.” (p. 3)

Patten’s Foundations of Embryology, 6th Edition by Bruce Carlson: “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.” (p. 3)

It doesn’t take much to see the common pro-choice line “clumps of cells” is empty, simplistic propaganda: Eye-opening information about fetal development is
no secret, we know that preborn children are capable of feeling pain (note: link is a PDF file) at approximately 20 weeks, and the latest ultrasound technology shows us these “clumps” are surprisingly familiar.

So where does all this leave us? The life of a human being does, in fact, begin at conception; so every abortion, every embryo discarding (either via stem-cell research or in-vitro fertilization), and some types of birth control destroy a human being. Yet when faced with this reality, pro-choicers have developed new criteria for human rights, which are designed to deny them protection based upon factors other than their biological humanity…factors which will be explored in Part II: The Value of Life.

The Case for Life – Introduction & Index

The First Right

We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—
US Declaration of Independence

So reads the founding document of our nation. The unalienable right to life can be thought of as the First Right of our Republic, because without it, no other right can be exercised. Thus, protecting that right is the paramount duty of our government and society. And in order to best fulfill that duty, we must carefully determine exactly what constitutes life, and when we have it.

In this troubled age, when respect for life remains in doubt
even within the Republican Party, there is no more important cause than standing up for America’s soul and turning back the callous disregard for the innocent which has infected our nation like a cancer in the past decades. In this upcoming five-part essay, I shall attempt to articulate both the case for life and its proper role in the GOP & conservative movement as comprehensively as possible.

Part I: When Does Life Begin?
Part II: The Value of Life
Part III: Life and Public Policy
Part IV: Life and the Constitution
Part V: Pro-Life Strategies

Part I examines when life begins & why it deserves protection, and will be posted shortly after this Introduction.

Abstinence Education a Failure? Not So Fast

Social lefties are giddy that a new study is making the rounds which purports to show precisely that, but dig a little deeper, and that conclusion becomes premature. For one thing, the study only looked at four such programs. For another, the report itself includes this caveat:

“Targeting youth at young ages may not be sufficient. Most Title V, Section 510 abstinence education programs are implemented in upper elementary and middle schools and most are completed before youth enter high school. The findings from this study provide no evidence that abstinence programs implemented at these grades reduce sexual activity of youth during their high school years. However, the findings provide no information on the effects programs might have if they were implemented in high school or began at earlier ages but continued through high school.

“Peer support for abstinence erodes during adolescence. Peer support for abstinence is a significant predictor of later sexual activity. Although the four abstinence programs had at most a small impact on this measure in the short term and no impact in the long term, this finding suggests that promoting support for abstinence among peer networks should be an important feature of future abstinence programs.”

It’s obvious that any meaningful effort would have to be “comprehensive” (to use a word the Left loves so much). I would also add that, for the best effect, abstinence education in schools would have to be part of a broader societal effort to take back the culture: reemphasize parenting, condemning sexual saturation in the media, reaffirming that sex has consequences by fighting abortion & free distribution of birth control, not electing moral degenerates President…Meanwhile, Michael Medved has some good insights on sex education & federal funding
here.