Monday, February 13, 2012

An Open Letter to My Pro-Choice Friends

Dear pro-choice friends,

As I'm sure you've already heard, last month the nation's largest breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, cut its funding of the world's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. That decision, and the subsequent decision to reconsider Planned Parenthood for future funding has resulted in public expressions of joy, anger, frustration, and confusion from both the pro-choice and pro-life sides of the abortion debate. The editorial staff of our local newspaper responded with this sentiment (which I have seen repeated in various forms all over the internet): "We fail to understand how cutting funding from an organization that provides life-saving screenings to under-served women could have kept the focus from finding the cure" (Moscow/Pullman Daily News, February 8, 2012, pg. 9A).

It's this pro-choice expression of "failing to understand" that I want to address. If you truly cannot comprehend why anyone, especially any woman, would want Planned Parenthood to disappear, then please, I beg you, read on. Because until you do understand the reasons, you cannot possibly know what it is you are are opposing. After reading this, you might still continue to disagree with us, although I certainly hope not, but you will at least know why we stand so firmly against Planned Parenthood—and against all other abortion providers—the way we do.

I fully realize that many of you are disgusted by the way pro-life advocates appear to be treading all over women's rights and using the issue of abortion for political gain. And although I have no doubt that some people do champion the pro-life cause for all the wrong reasons, I nevertheless want to explain the central, apolitical (if you can believe it) reasons that so many people like me oppose abortion in all its forms.

Cutting through all the political posturing and bumper-sticker sloganeering, the one critical question at the bloody beating heart of the abortion debate is this: What is a human person, and who gets to decide?

It may seem at first like an easy question to answer. After all, we talk all the time about "human rights" and "personal dignity" as though we actually know what we mean by those words. But what makes a human being a human being is more of a matter of debate in this society than one might think. If somebody questioned your personhood, how would you defend it? Your humanity is probably a fact that you simply take for granted, so of course it's obvious to you that you're human. But how would you prove your humanity to someone who doubted it?

The words "human" and "person" must have clear definitions, some set of criteria, that we can all, surely, agree upon. So what exactly is it that makes a person a person? If we cannot agree on the definition of "human person", then I cannot prove to you that I am one, let alone that an unborn child is one. So I want you to ask yourself how you know—really know—what a human person is and, more importantly for this discussion, is not? Where do you get that knowledge? How can you trust it? Who gets to write that entry in the dictionary or on the law books? The issue of definitions might not sound like a big deal, but it is absolutely central to the abortion debate. To capture the disagreement in a single sentence, pro-life advocates believe that the unborn are human beings to whom all basic human rights belong, and the pro-choicers do not.

So what does this definition of personhood have to do with the question of funding Planned Parenthood? To answer that, I ask that you try, just for the sake of understanding, to view the issue from the perspective of a pro-lifer. If the unborn are human persons, then they, too, have basic human rights. If the unborn are human persons, then they have as much intrinsic value as the women who carry them. If the unborn are human persons, then they, on account of their utter dependence on others, are the most in need of our protection. If the unborn are human persons, then we must demand that they be recognized as such and granted every protection that belongs to any human child. If the unborn are human persons, then every time an abortion is performed, early or late, a child is killed. If the unborn are human persons, then Planned Parenthood is one of the world's largest violators of human rights.

To truly understand the degree of horror that a pro-life advocate has for abortion, try replacing the word "fetus" with some other people group—especially one that has at some time in history been labeled "subhuman" by those in positions of power. Try when you see the word "fetus" to think, "black child" or "Jew" or "disabled person," and then you'll understand the uncompromising stance that we must take on behalf of unborn children. You must see clearly that if the unborn are human persons, then every argument in favor of abortion utterly collapses.

If you honestly wish to gain insight into the pro-life mindset, please take a few minutes to carefully read through some of the reasons (based on the premise that the unborn are persons) why we who are pro-life cannot agree with the arguments that support abortion or those who provide it:

1. Nobody should have a right to tell me what I can and cannot do with my own body.
This is a declaration of absolute independence that will backfire before the words leave your mouth. In what society in the history of the world have people been free to do whatever they want with their own bodies? In order to have a safe and civilized society, we must tell people what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

My fist and trigger finger are part of my body, and there are laws—rightly so—about what I may or may not do with them. A man's penis is part of his body, and there are laws—rightly so—about what he may or may not do with it. My mouth is part of my body, and there are laws about what noises (let's call them "words") that I form with my very own tongue and my very own vocal cords in the presence of other people. My foot is part of my body, but I may not use it to kick children or knock down people's doors. Just because something is part of your body, you should not be automatically allowed to do whatever you want with it—particularly if what you are doing with it is destructive to the life of another human being.

2. It's my body. It's my choice.
Secondly and more importantly, your womb is part of your body; the one growing inside it is not your body, even though he or she is vitally connected to it.

If you've ever worked in a garden, you know that when you pull a plant up by the roots, remove it from the soil that has been its source of water and nutrients, and toss it in the trash (or compost) heap, it withers and dies. Does the fact that it dies when removed from the dirt therefore mean that it is dirt? Or an extension of the dirt? How much more ridiculous is it to believe that because a person is dependent on your body, it is your body? An untouched patch of soil cannot suddenly produce roses, and your body on its own cannot produce anything like a child. The one growing inside you is a distinct human being with its own completely unique DNA and its own identity, separate from yours, and the fact that he would die without you does not make that any less true.

The argument often goes that it's "my body" simply because it doesn't look like much. They describe it as "just a blob of cells" (something that could be accurately said of all of us). But from the moment of conception, this new creature's unique traits are present in the DNA—hair color, eye color, sex, and even personality—all utterly distinct from the mother.

The separate identity of an unborn child becomes increasingly obvious as the unborn human body develops clearly identifiable parts—heart, head, hands, feet, spinal cord, and so on. As groups like Planned Parenthood donate aborted heads and livers to "science," the whole "my body, my choice" slogan becomes painfully laughable. With that logic, we now have a woman with two heads—one of them expendable. And two hearts—one of which is, from what I can tell, made of cold granite. 

3. It's not a person until it can survive outside the womb.
Says who? No, really. In all seriousness, who inscribed this utterly arbitrary rule upon tablets of stone? Was it revealed by a prophet descending holy Mt. Sinai? You had better hope it was, because this thoroughly unscientific statement supposes a degree of god-like knowledge that you simply do not have. I know women who have had premature babies at almost exactly the same stage of fetal development, and in one case the baby died within a matter of hours, and in the other case the baby is currently a thriving toddler. Would you honestly say that the first baby wasn't human because it could not survive outside the womb, while the other one who lived was a human person? Or were they both not human until they could prove their physical strength to survive?

Do you not see how capricious and unreasonable it is to define personhood based on physical strength to not die? Gianna Jessen, an outspoken pro-life activist, actually survived a legal saline abortion. So tell me, if you know, at what moment exactly did she become a person? If you don't know the answer, then (God have mercy) you are advocating the taking of lives like hers, without knowing if it is killing human persons or not.

And let's take the above pro-choice argument further. If personhood is defined by physical viability, then is a child with terminal cancer no longer a person? How about the elderly? A woman with AIDS? And you? Are you a person? Because I hate to break it to you, but you cannot survive outside the womb either. Does the fact that it takes you eight decades to die make you a superior being to the baby for whom it takes eight minutes?

If you look carefully at this popular pro-choice statement, what you are saying is that the weaker and more vulnerable the person, the more acceptable it is to kill her. It is completely morally backwards.

4. It's not a person until it's born.
See above. Only more so.

5. Pro-life people don't really care about women. They want women to be oppressed.
This is absurd. Did you ever notice how many pro-lifers are women? If that statement was true, it would be like black Americans wanting to return to race-based segregation; it would be completely self destructive. Rather, unlike those who champion abortion "rights", we pro-lifers actually care about both the woman and the child. We care so deeply about women, in fact, that we demand the right of an unborn girl to grow into one. Human rights for one group should never mean withholding the human rights of others, especially those who are most vulnerable. If by "rights" you mean the freedom to take the life of another human being, then no, then we do not support those "rights". And neither should you.

Abortion also has had terrible consequences—both physical and mental—upon countless women. That is not to say that giving birth is without its risks. But abortion cannot be called a "safe" alternative to giving birth. There is no such thing as an "easy" outcome to a pregnancy for the woman. Believe me, I know. But birth allows two people to come out alive, whereas abortion allows for only one.

Furthermore, most women who seek abortions say that they feel they have no other choice. In other words, they feel like they are being forced—either by people or by circumstances—to have abortions. How can that possibly be called "care" for women? And how, exactly, does "choice" figure into their decision? Adoption and motherhood are real choices that pro-"choice" organizations like Planned Parenthood rarely present to women in crisis, whereas pro-life groups offer numerous free goods and services to women that allow motherhood and adoption to be truly viable options.

Pro-life groups also strongly encourage the men who got these women pregnant to take responsibility for their actions—something that abortion providers will never do. When men are completely stripped of their reproductive rights (which is what the pro-choice cause does), it also strips men of any sense of responsibility for pregnancy. If it's her body then it's clearly her problem. Nevermind that the thing being exterminated received half its DNA from him. The availability of abortion allows men to abandon pregnant women without any sense of guilt or responsibility. After all, if she's having a baby removed or a wart removed, what difference should that make to him? Until men step up and face the enormous consequences of their sexual actions, it's always going to be the women—and their children—who pay the price. Abortion encourages behavior among men that actually damages women.

6. Planned Parenthood is a worthy charity because it provides healthcare to disadvantaged women and uses the aborted fetal organs for research that might save lives.
Now hear me out on this. Try, once more, to do that same thought experiment I mentioned earlier; try replacing the word "fetus" with the name of some other oppressed group of people. Now, imagine that there is a charity hospital in your town where under-privileged people are routinely cared for and treated at little or no cost. Sounds terrific. I'd support it. BUT, imagine that this same hospital encourages people to bring, say, kids with with Downs Syndrome, or black people, or Jews (all groups of people that have at various times been labeled "subhuman" and deprived of basic human rights) to be killed. Would you support this?

Imagine that you could bring one of these people into this hospital and request that a doctor burn her to death with chemicals. Or tear off her limbs until she dies. Or surgically sever her spinal cord. Or remove her brain with a syringe. Or poison her with lethal drugs. (These are all legal means that are currently applied for performing abortions.) Would the fact that this hospital helps a lot of other people outweigh the hundreds of cruel doctor-assisted murders taking place in the same facility each year? Would you continue to give money and support such a hospital on the grounds that it's "saving lives"? If you would, then your moral problems are far deeper than I suspected. If the unborn are human persons, then Planned Parenthood is killing them in truly brutal ways. That it is legal does not make it right any more than the legality of racial oppression made it right.

And as for supporting the willful destruction and dismemberment of human lives simply because scientists can use the aborted babies for medical research, this is simply another way of saying that the ends justify the means—even the most brutal means imaginable. The reason these babies' bodies are so medically valuable is because they are human bodies. Planned Parenthood is destroying real human lives—by the hundreds of thousands every year—and justifying it for the sake of possibly saving hypothetical human lives. According to this line of thinking, we should all start waving flags in support of drunk and reckless driving because of all the (mostly) intact human corpses it produces. Just think how many lives a healthy teenage corpse could save if we could just donate their various organs to people on transplant waiting lists! Three cheers for vehicular manslaughter! Should we praise drunk drivers as heroes for providing hospitals and researchers with so many valuable bodies?

7. I don't approve of abortion, but abortions account for only about 3% of Planned Parenthood's services, so what's the big deal?
Read #5 above. Would it be a big deal to you if "only" 3% of the activities at the hospital described above involved dismembering and killing defenseless human beings? And what if there were so many of these hospitals around the country that the total number of these killings added up to nearly 300,000 per year—every year? Then would you care? That is exactly what we see Planned Parenthood doing. And then, what if you found out that roughly a third of that hospital's funding came from these killing procedures? Would you then, perhaps, waver in your support of these hospitals? Again, Planned Parenthood receives nearly one third of its revenue from abortions. If the unborn are human persons, which they are, then although Planned Parenthood does provide (or at least refer) cancer screenings, it also provides discount infanticide. And the infanticide brings in a lot more cash.

8. I'm personally against abortion, but I'm not going to judge any woman who gets one, because I don't know how much heartache she's going through, and she need my support, not my condemnation.
This sounds very sweet and caring, but if abortion is the killing of a helpless human being, then heartache is no excuse. Countless people have gone through all kinds of heartache and struggle taking care of an aging relative or a disabled child. And yet, if those people had chosen to hire a hit man to take out their elderly relative or their disabled child, it would not be an act of kindness to give them lots of hugs and support as they go through with hiring that hit man. The true act of kindness would be to try to stop the killing of a helpless individual, even if they think you are being "judgmental". We must condemn acts of murder and oppression, while at the same time doing what we can to help and love those involved. Instead of supporting a woman's choice to abort (which doesn't require much commitment from you), offer instead to do something much more difficult—give her the long-term support she would need in order to give birth to, and possibly raise, a child. If a woman knows she will have an ongoing network of love and support when she gives birth to her baby, she is far, far more likely to choose life. Again, most women get abortions because they feel they have no other choice. If you care about her, give her that other choice.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of abortion in America is that so many women go in for abortions fully believing that they are not taking a human life. In cases like this, when the woman believes the procedure to be the equivalent of having a mole removed, the doctors and counselors who have lied to her bear the guilt, whereas she deserves our compassion. But she also deserves to know the truth.

9. I oppose abortion, but I make an exception in the case of rape and incest.
Rape and incest are terrible crimes with devastating consequences. But the solution to one horrific action is not to commit another even more horrific one. Rape is bad. Murder is worse. We cannot solve a problem like rape by taking the life of the innocent child.

The reply often goes like this: "How can you say you care about women if you force them to give birth to a rapist's baby?" First, the only use of "force" involved in this situation is the rape itself and the abortion. Keeping the baby alive and securely in the womb means deliberately withholding force. Second, I have met a child born of violent rape, and I have met her mother. The mother will tell you in no uncertain terms that neither she nor the world would be a better place if her daughter had ended her existence in a biohazard bin somewhere in Pennsylvania.

Children born of rape are living proof that something truly horrible can be beautifully transformed into a powerful force for good. Abortion gives violence and horror the last word and tells women that "nothing good can come from this," which couldn't be further from the truth.

10. Until you actually step inside a Planned Parenthood facility or meet the caring people who work there, you have no right to condemn them.
If what is happening in a particular location is wrong, setting foot inside that location does not change anything, no matter how well meaning the staff is. I don't have to come and see what an angel of light the local abortionist appears to be before I have a right—a duty—to condemn the violence she has done.

Serial killer and child rapist John Wayne Gacy was a local volunteer, a favorite entertainer at kids' birthday parties, was nominated as Jaycee Man of the Year," and was loved by his neighbors. One former neighbor said, "I know they say he killed 33. But I only knew him as a good neighbor...the best I ever had." Does friendly—and apparently altruistic—behavior undo the evil that is done behind closed doors?

Horrific deeds are occasionally committed by obvious creeps with devil tattoos and heavy black eyeliner. But for atrocities to be committed on a mass scale, it takes the public support of ordinary, pleasant folks with clean fingernails who condone the evil because they (deeply, sincerely) believe they are acting in the name of "the greater good."

Although many of you will object loudly to comparing Nazism to the efforts of abortion groups, the similarity on this point is hard to miss: During WWII, German physicians were seeking important medical knowledge and looking for ways to help military personnel survive in extreme conditions. That, in itself, could have been noble. But one way these doctors were doing this research was by performing excruciating and deadly human experiments on Jewish prisoners.

These physicians were not monsters with fangs and forked tongues. These were respected, well educated, well trained doctors with families and pets that they loved. They, too, had friends, gave money to charity, and cared about people—so long as they got to define the word "people." I most certainly do not have to set foot in a Nazi laboratory to condemn what went on there. And I do not have to meet the friendly folks at Planned Parenthood before I can justly condemn their promotion of infanticide, no matter how good their intentions appear and no matter how many other kindly acts they may perform.

• • • • •

You may hate what I'm saying here. You may hate me. You may disagree with everything I've written and respond with scathing comments. But at least you cannot say that you "fail to understand" why we oppose the funding of Planned Parenthood by an organization that aims to, of all things, save lives. It would be like funding an environmentalist group that uses part of its money to clean up endangered wetlands and the rest of its money to dump toxic chemicals into rivers and streams. 

Only by declaring that the unborn are not human persons can anyone accept what is done to them at abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood. Human rights, as we all know, can belong only to humans, so the surest way to deny the human rights of any group of people is to dehumanize them first. If you can redefine "humanity" so that it excludes a certain group of individuals, then no rights need be extended to that group anymore—a tactic that has been used with astonishing popular success over and over again throughout human (whatever that is) history. It happened to Jews in Germany, blacks in America, and disabled persons in both. Is it not possible that this is precisely what is happening right now in the case of the unborn?

The dehumanizing of true human persons is exactly what we believe the pro-choice cause has done. We don't believe you are intentionally out to hurt people. But we do believe that you are hurting people—the most helpless and vulnerable of people—even while you see yourselves as doing good. What could a fetus possibly do to prove to you that she is a human being and has a right to live? But why must the burden of proof lie with the fetus? Let us ask instead, what can you do to prove that she isn't? The definition of personhood, in fact, is a matter completely outside the realm of science. There is no scientific or federal law that you can point to that proves that an unborn baby is anything less than a human person. You may want to believe it, for the sake of your conscience or for the sake of convenience. You may have doctors and lawyers who eloquently and persuasively defend the inhumanity of the unborn, but remember that Hitler, too, had lawyers and doctors who could provide "irrefutable evidence" of the inferiority of disabled persons and the subhumanity of Jews and blacks. However, you and I both know that their "proofs" were, simply, false and led to all kinds of atrocities.

I beg you who are pro-choice to ask yourselves if there is even a remote possibility that you could be wrong when you deny the personhood of an unborn child. Is there just the slightest chance that the tiny creature with a beating heart and utterly unique human DNA is a person with as much right to live as you or I? Even without absolute proof that an unborn child is actually a human person, would it not be better to err on the side of life? After years of supporting abortion, how would you live with yourself if you one day discovered that you have been terribly, murderously wrong? If there is even a hint of doubt in your mind, you must realize that this is not merely a matter of politics or of harmless opinion; it is a matter of life and death.

So the central thing that we who are pro-life need you who are pro-choice to understand is that you have arbitrarily defined "human" in such a way as to exclude the unborn. And I would ask that you please consider the possibility that the very belief that makes the act of abortion seem acceptable—that the unborn is not a human person—is based upon wishful thinking and outright lies. Please question your faith in the declaration that the unborn child is not a child at all. Reconsider the humanity of the unborn. Millions of innocent lives depend upon it.

Very Sincerely,


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