Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

30 September 2008

No Arguments for Amendment 48

By Gina Liggett

The Denver Post wrote an Editorial urging voters to vote thumbs down on Colorado's Amendment 48, the "personhood" amendment that would grant all rights to a fertilized egg.

My letter to the editor in support of their editorial was published in yesterday's printed version of the Denver Post. It reads:

I echo The Denver Post's wise editorial calling Amendment 48 "inane" and "mischievous." Advocates provide no rational argument for it, only Bible quotes. In addition to the countless proper reasons to oppose 48, another one is that it would violate the separation of church and state. Let's make 48 a minor footnote in Colorado history by voting "no."

Gina Liggett, Denver


29 September 2008

Registration of Pregnant Women in Poland


Would the enforcement of Colorado's Amendment 48 -- the ballot measure that would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs -- lead to draconian police controls to prevent harm to any embryo or fetus? It's supporters say no, claiming that the measure would just "resore the intrinsic value of every human being, no matter what stage of development."

However, this article on Poland's plan to register pregnant women -- and investigate the cause if a birth doesn't take place -- shows the intrusive measures required for the kind of vigorous ban on abortion sought by the God-warriors behind Amendment 48.

The Polish Government has plans to register pregnant women.

At an informal meeting with journalists on September 11, the Minister of Health, Ewa Kopacz, declared that she had plans to establish a new department within the Ministry office -- the Department on Mother and Child. This department will design a new social and health program concerning pregnant women -- and it will be responsible for maintaining a registry of pregnant women.

If a woman agrees to join the program, her data will be registered in a "special system", to enable doctors and nurses to keep contact with her, stated Ms. Kopacz. Women participating in the program will have a chance to undertake additional medical examinations, and they will not wait long hours for a visit with the gynecologist.

That is how the Ministry of Health envisions its fight against illegal abortion. It wants to register pregnant women and afterwards to undertake control as to whether or not a woman gives birth to a child in the end. In Poland, abortion is legal only to save a woman's life or preserve her health.

If a woman participating in the program does not attend medical checks as previously agreed, it will be the responsibility of a midwife to establish contact with her, Minister Kopacz emphasized.

"If we find out that a woman registered in the system is not yet pregnant before her pregnancy due date, it could mean that she has had a miscarriage or she has terminated her pregnancy," said Jakub Gołąb, a spokesman of the Ministry. "That way, we shall receive information about the scope of abortion underground in Poland." Golab claimed that the fight against underground or illegal abortion will be an indirect consequence of introducing the program. He could not say whether doctors would be obliged to report to the Ministry and submit all data related to women who declared they had undergone an abortion. We do know that all doctors will be given instructions by the Ministry, according to which -- after confirming a woman's pregnancy - they will be obliged to record it in a special register. ...

On the very next day, September 12, the Ministry's representative said that there would be no mandatory registration of pregnant women or control over women who are pregnant. He further stated that the discussion which followed on the news had been adversely interpreted by journalists. He emphasized that there would only be data collected on women who freely joined the program.
How long before women are required to register? How long before doctors must report pregnancies, under penalty of law? Whether that happens in Poland or not, it's certainly possible, particularly when the government controls health care. (That's yet another reason why defenders of reproductive rights should support a fully free market in medicine, rather than more government controls and entitlements.)

Do we have any reason to hope that the Christian fanatics pushing for Amendment 48 -- who currently show no concern for its sweeping legal effects -- would refrain from demanding and enacting such draconian measures in order to protect the God-given right to life of every embryo?

I think not.

For more on the legal consequences of Amendment 48, see CSG's own issue paper "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person" by Ari Armstrong and myself.


26 September 2008

40 Days to Breach Church-State Separation

By Gina Liggett

The 40 Days for Life campaign is to begin September 24 across more than 170 cities in the United States and Canada. Its purpose is to rally the faithful for prayer, fasting, and protest at Planned Parenthood clinics in opposition to abortion.

This is not just an exercise of free speech. The purpose is to inspire religious people to do whatever they can to get abortion outlawed, illegalized, forbidden and eliminated in this country--permanently.

And to accomplish that goal, they will have to attack the separation of church and state.

Denver Archbishop Chaput's successful new book, Render Unto Caeser, is an inspirational for crossing that line:

Politics involves the use of power. How we use that power has moral consequences. As Catholic citizens, we have a Gospel duty to work for justice through our nation's public policies. How we live our Catholic faith in our political decision-making has implications both for our nation's moral health and our own relationship with God.
Chaput has announced that the Denver Catholic community will also be joining in the 40 days event. While the Colorado Catholic leadership does not officially support Colorado's personhood amendment (an attempt to directly attack Roe v Wade), it is only because they disagree with it as a strategy. But on principle, Chaput is willing to join forces with Evangelicals in their unabated opposition against abortion.

Neither the Catholics or Evangelicals have ever provided a rational philosophical argument against abortion, because one doesn't exist. They cling to bible quotes and prayer... and pass laws against abortion.

If you have any doubt about whether or not America has its own Taliban, let one of its religious leaders clear it up for you (Chaput, explaining the title of his book):
Christians owe respect and appropriate obedience to secular authority, because that authority ultimately draws its legitimacy from God. But Caesar is not God. Caesar's authority is limited. More to the point: Secular law does not trump God's law.


25 September 2008

Pro-Life Catholics Against Amendment 48


The Rocky Mountain News recently published a letter to the editor from a self-described "pro-life" Catholic obstetrician urging a "no" vote on Colorado's Amendment 48, the ballot measure that would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs. Dr. Thomas Moffatt writes:

As a Catholic and retired pro-life obstetrician, I am very concerned about Amendment 48. I am concerned, in a pluralistic, democratic society, about imposing my religious beliefs on another. There is, then, nothing to stop others from imposing their beliefs on me. But from a purely medical and pro-life point of view, how can I impose my beliefs on another to the point that women can and will die?

I have been faced with situations in my years of practice in which I had to decide if one person or two would die. Two prime examples are ectopic - or tubal - pregnancies, and infected pregnancies. Must we now allow a woman to die if she is hemorrhaging from a ruptured fallopian tube? Should both the mother and child die in the case of an infected pregnancy, which often, sadly, occurs in the middle trimester?

Will a physician, in saving a woman's life, be subject to criminal prosecution? We know some prosecutor will, eventually, try to make a name for himself by charging a physician with manslaughter or worse.

Please vote against Amendment 48.
Dr. Moffatt is right. Amendment 48 would endanger the lives of pregnant women, just as the ban on abortion in Nicaragua has done. To learn more about the practical effects of the Nicaraguan ban, read "Over Their Dead Bodies: Denial of Access to Emergency Obstetric Care and Therapeutic Abortion in Nicaragua," an issue paper published by Human Rights Watch. In Nicaragua, women suffer and die needlessly from the complications of pregnancy, despite government edicts directing doctors to offer them proper medical care. What doctor wants to risk a murder charge, after all?

Frighteningly, Amendment 48 might forbid any medical treatment that might harm the embryo/fetus, even when the woman's life and health might be at risk. Why? Because the amendment isn't a clear ban on abortion. Instead, it's a statement of rights: the embryo/fetus would be granted an equal right to life as the pregnant woman, whether viable or not. So the courts might decide -- based on lawsuits from the "Fetus First!" types behind the measure -- that the woman cannot kill the innocent person inside her, even to save her own life. That's unlikely, but possible. We can't know in advance because Amendment 48 would force the hopeless task of attempting to negotiate between the genuine rights of the woman and the fictional rights of the embryo/fetus on the Colorado courts.

For more on the legal consequences of Amendment 48, see CSG's own issue paper "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person" by Ari Armstrong and myself.


24 September 2008

Abortion and Mental Illness


Critics of abortion often claim that a woman who terminates a pregnancy will suffer mental anguish and guilt as a result. The theory seems to be that even if a woman explicitly believes that her abortion is morally right, her own moral conscience, tuned as it is to God's law, knows that she's wrong.

Even if that were true, it would not be a reason to ban abortion. Adultery causes mental anguish and guilt, but in a free society, the government respects the fact that people can and ought to be allowed to make their own decisions, and suffer consequences accordingly. Similarly, because embryos and fetus are not persons with a right to life, the government ought to protect a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy, even for the wrong reasons. (For more argument on that score, read CSG's issue paper, written by Ari Armstrong and myself: Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person.)

Moreover, the claim that abortion damages the psyche is obviously a flight of Christian fancy, based on faith and dogma rather than any dispassionate analysis of the facts. So -- suprise, suprise -- a recent study shows no empirical basis for it:

Women who choose to abort an unwanted pregnancy may experience feelings of grief and loss, but there is no evidence that a single abortion causes significant mental health problems, a panel of the American Psychological Association reported after two years of study. The findings are almost identical to a similar review by the association in 1990. "The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy, the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective, first-trimester abortion or deliver that pregnancy," Brenda Major, chairwoman of the panel, said in a statement. But the report also found that many of the more than 150 studies it reviewed had major flaws, and it called for better-designed studies "to help disentangle confounding factors" like income and medical history.
Of course, a woman might regret an abortion, whether rightly or wrongly. However, God does not seem to be infusing these supposed murderers with horrible suffering and guilt.


23 September 2008

The Battle over Abortion in South Dakota


The Washington Post has an excellent article on the fight over abortion in South Dakota this election. It begins:

Bad things don't happen to her, Tiffany Campbell used to think. She was a mother of two, enthusiastically pregnant with twins, a churchgoing Republican living a good middle-class life. Why should she care about a political battle over abortion?

Then Campbell discovered that the twins were relying on one beating heart. Doctors told her that neither would survive if she carried them to term, and that the strong one was fading fast. If one were aborted, they said, the other would probably make it.

"I was not going to bury two of my babies," Campbell remembers thinking. "If I can intervene and save one of my babies, I'm going to do it."

Campbell had the abortion at 17 weeks. The survivor, whom she named Brady, is now healthy and 19 months old. When she learned that an antiabortion referendum on South Dakota's Nov. 4 ballot would prevent other women from having the same choice, she threw herself into the fight.

For the second time since 2006, South Dakota voters are being asked to outlaw almost all abortions. A ballot initiative called Initiated Measure 11 would ban the procedure except in cases of rape, incest and a narrow interpretation of the health and life of the woman.
Read the whole thing. As you do, note that -- just as in Colorado -- the people behind this measure are attempting to make force all people to obey their version of Christian doctrine:
"We are insulted when we hear the Planned Parenthood folks say . . . that women in the middle of the state have nowhere to turn, because it's not true," said the Rev. Steve Hickey, who opposes abortion rights. "There are churches full of people all around the state who will help."

Hickey is a leading organizer of the Lampstand Project, which is rallying churches to provide a haven for women in crisis pregnancies and to persuade them not to have abortions.

In an open letter on Sept. 4, Lampstand ministers wrote that "abortion is unnecessary in part because the church is a significant part of God's provision to women and children in crisis." Hickey says he believes South Dakota has been chosen by God to challenge Roe v. Wade.

At a time when the United States allows "the shedding of innocent blood," Hickey said in an interview in his office at Church at the Gate, "He is giving the nation a window of opportunity to address this. He's picked the state that can pull it off."

If the country makes the "right decision," Hickey said, "we'll see God's blessing come back."
Churches have every right to speak out against abortion. They have every right to attempt to persuade women not to have abortions. They have every right to help women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term.

They have no right to force their faith-based fiction that a embryo or fetus is a person with a right to life on people who believe otherwise. As Ari Armstrong and I argue in our issue paper, "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person," a philosophical analysis of the biological facts show that a fetus becomes a person with rights only when separated from the woman at birth. The law should be based on those facts -- and so should respect and protect the right to abortion.


22 September 2008

Fertilized Eggs Are Still Not Persons


Good news from the ACLU's blog:

Score a victory for reproductive justice in the Illinois Appellate Court on Friday! Ruling that an unimplanted, fertilized egg is not a "human being" for purposes of a wrongful death action, the Illinois Appellate Court today reversed a 2005 decision by a Cook County Judge.

The decision is a victory for scientific sanity and access to reproductive health care. Had the lower court's decision been allowed to stand, the ability of women to make personal decisions about birth control, abortion, genetic testing and pregnancy would have been put in jeopardy.

The case involved an Illinois couple suing their fertility clinic for tens of thousands of dollars because the clinic inadvertently had destroyed unimplanted eggs stored at the facility. The lower court had accepted the argument that a human being is created when an egg is fertilized, regardless of whether the fertilized egg is implanted in a woman's body or left in a Petri dish. Left undisturbed, the lower court's decision could have limited the ability of women in Illinois to access contraceptive services and genetic testing. Moreover, the decision would curb the ability of couples in Illinois to use reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, in starting a family.
(That's just the beginning of the post. If you're interested, you can read the whole thing.

Unfortunately, Colorado faces the same threat with Amendment 48 -- the ballot measure that would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs. To understand the insane legal implications of that measure -- and the faith-based fictions on which it's built -- read CSG's issue paper, written by Ari Armstrong and myself: Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person.


19 September 2008

The Fundamental Right to Abortion


Nick Provenzo of Rule of Reason has been viciously attacked by on online mob of anti-abortionists for defending the morality of a woman's choice to abort a fetus afflicted with Down's Syndrome. His follow-up post explaining the basis of abortion rights is worth repeating here. I do so with his permission. He writes:

In affirming a woman's absolute right to abort an unwanted fetus, it seems I have triggered the wrath of the anti-abortion lynch mob if the recent death threats in my inbox are any indication. Such is life when confronting the morally ignorant with their irrationality, yet all their "pro-life" death threats aside, the fact remains: a woman has the unqualified moral right to abort a fetus she carries inside her in accordance with her own judgment.

What is the basis for this claim? What facts of reality demand that a woman enjoy the freedom to exercise her discretion in such a manner? At root, it is the simple fact that until the fetus is born and exists as a separate, physically independent human entity, the fetus is potential life and the actual life of the woman grants her interests and wishes primacy. As an acorn is not the same thing as an oak tree, a fetus is not the same thing as an independent human being. In the case of the fetus, its location matters: inside the woman and attached to her via the umbilical cord, its position in relation to the woman subordinates its status to her wishes; outside the woman, welcome to life in the human race.

But why is biological independence the defining factor of personhood in both morality and under the law? Why isn't it the moment of conception, or the first instance of fetal heartbeat, or the first instance of fetal brain wave activity (just to name a few of the benchmarks often put forward by anti-abortion activists)? Again, it is the nature of the direct physical connection between the fetus and the mother. Physically attached to a woman in the manner a fetus is, the woman's right to regulate the processes of her own body is controlling. Unattached and physically independent, the fetus is thus transformed; it is a person no different from anyone else and enjoys all the individual rights of personhood.

Needless, to say, this truth offends the sensibilities of some. They cannot fathom that something like the physical presence of the fetus inside a woman grants a woman power to control it as she controls the affairs of her own body. In a more just world, such people would simply choose not to have abortions, which is their every right. And leave it at that. Yet justice is not the aim of the anti-abortion mob. They simply seek to sacrifice unwilling women upon their altar of the unborn, reducing a woman to a mere birthing vessel the second a fetus exists in her body.

Let us not forget that raising a child is a tremendous commitment. As a life created by its parents, parents owe the children they bring into the world what they need in order to be independent and self-sufficient human beings, to include food, shelter, clothing, and an education. Not every person can measure up to this commitment and not every person wants to. While her fetus in her womb, a woman has every right to reject this obligation. Contrary to the claims of the anti-abortionists, a child should be a choice.

And since the morality of aborting fetuses with severe disability was the original topic at bar, let us remember that over 90% of the women faced with such a situation choose to have an abortion. This is not just my decision; it is the independent, un-coerced decision of women acting within their complete and lawful discretion. And while I would not wish to be them, their decision to terminate their unwanted pregnancy is a decision I am more than willing to publicly defend.

And as I read the sundry comments and messages of those who choose to oppose me on this issue, I cannot help but notice the utter insincerity in their near-hysterical defense of Sarah Palin's decision to knowingly give birth to a child with Down's syndrome. While I have received many odes to the glory of living life while afflicted with Down's syndrome, I have seen little acknowledgement that the decision to give birth to a severely retarded child is a difficult choice and to choose so entails heroic commitment (or a willingness to dump this obligation upon others and against their will). I have seen little acknowledgement that not everyone decides to have a child such as Palin did.

I also see that the many of the objections to my position center upon my framing the issue in the terms of a cost-benefit analysis, as if some choices are somehow exempt from this kind of review. The absurdity of such a claim should be manifest; a nervous groom on his weeding day is performing a cost-benefit analysis, a person standing before the fridge contemplating a midnight snack as they look at their waistline is performing a cost-benefit analysis, and like it or not, a woman confronted with the terrible choice between giving birth to a child with Down's syndrome and having an abortion is performing a cost-benefit analysis. As an advocate for individual liberty, I defend the freedom of each to perform their own analysis and act upon their own good judgment.

So yes, a woman has the absolute right to choose to have an abortion, including the right to abort a fetus diagnosed with physical handicap. It is not "eugenics" for a woman to choose as much; the choice to abort is the woman's alone and there is no element of coercion or a racial master plan. Nor is it some form of "euthanasia" to have an abortion, the fetus not being the same as a physically independent human being. The claims that I or any other Objectivists support eugenics or involuntary euthanasia are utterly dishonest; they are lies told to advance the vicious agenda of those who seek to deny half of our species their legitimate and fundamental freedom.

Freedom is a peculiar thing. It is the recognition that each person is sovereign over their own lives. It is the recognition that a person has the liberty to make choices that you might not make because their choices concern their own life and not yours. It is the recognition that you do not have the right to coerce another against their will. That a person does not have the right coerce the process of a woman's womb against her will ought to be academic. That it is not is testament to the irrationality and ignorance of our times.
For a similar but more detailed analysis of the right to abortion, I recommend Ari Armstrong's and my issue paper: Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person, particularly the section on "Personhood and the Right to Abortion, pages 10 to 13.


18 September 2008

Did You Just Call Me a Zygote?


Ari Armstrong's and my issue paper on Colorado's Amendment 48 -- Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person -- got a very favorable mention in a report on the measure in Salon: Did you just call me a zygote?.

The mention is in the last paragraph: "The bottom line -- which is laid out thoughtfully and convincingly in this article (PDF) -- is that Amendment 48 is creepy as hell. I hope that Colorado's citizens have the sense not to pass it."

Slowly but surely, we are making headway!


17 September 2008

More from The Oklahoman


As readers of this blog might recall, The Oklahoman published my letter to the editor against the attempt to ground American politics in Christianity. Then they published five letters in response on August 22nd.

More recently, on August 30th, The Oklahoman published an excellent response to that onslaught by Nick Provenzo of The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism. It reads:

Faith itself is enemy of freedom

The Oklahoman published five letters in Your Views on Aug. 22 criticizing Diana Hsieh (Your Views, Aug. 14) of the Coalition for Secular Government, for arguing that a free society can't be founded upon religious dogma, Judeo-Christian or otherwise. None of these writers objecting to Hsieh's position were able to articulate how mysticism leads to individual freedom beyond their merely asserting it. After all, there were 1,776 years between Christ's birth and the establishment of America as the world's first individual rights republic.

If the Holy Bible is full of ideas that lead to individual freedom, why the long disconnect? Why did other religious thinkers give us the Dark Ages, the divine right of kings and the Inquisition, while the supposedly equally religious American founders gave us the First Amendment? The reality is that faith itself is the enemy of freedom. It takes reason to look at humankind and see beings who require liberty in order to prosper.

We owe the liberty we enjoy today to the champions of reason; we owe our freedom more to a man like Galileo turning his telescope toward the heavens and accurately reporting what he saw (in bold defiance of the faith-based tyrants of his day) than to any religious prophet or savior.

Nicholas Provenzo, Washington, D.C.

Provenzo is chairman of the The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism.
Nick's writings can also be found on his blog, Rule of Reason.


16 September 2008

Sharia in the UK


This news from Britain about the establishment of a parallel Muslim legal system is very disturbing:

Islamic law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases. The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence. Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.

Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims. It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network's headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh. Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said he had taken advantage of a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996. ...

It has also emerged that tribunal courts have settled six cases of domestic violence between married couples, working in tandem with the police investigations.
Such courts pose a particular threat to Muslim women. They may be threatened into accepting these courts, then denied justice within them:
There are concerns that women who agree to go to tribunal courts are getting worse deals because Islamic law favours men. Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons. The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia. Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts.

In the six cases of domestic violence, Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders. There was no further punishment. In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations. Siddiqi said that in the domestic violence cases, the advantage was that marriages were saved and couples given a second chance.
A just state must respect and protect the rights of every person within its borders, even when that conflicts with religious doctrine. Muslims are welcome to live by sharia by their own ongoing choice, but such decisions ought never be enforced by law. To do so when grave concerns exist about whether people -- particularly women -- genuinely consent to be ruled by sharia is beyond the pale for a civilized nation like Britain.

Happily, at least some politicians are speaking out against this situation:
Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: "If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so."
That's exactly right.


15 September 2008

Two Bits of Good News


  • Last Wednesday, Ari Armstrong and I attended a fundraising dinner for the Colorado chapter of Republican Majority for Choice. Ari and I were generously invited to the event because of our issue paper, "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person."

    I was very impressed with the 200-strong turnout, as well as the commitment to individual rights so clearly expressed by master of ceremonies Hank Brown. The event was a bright spot in our fight against Colorado's Amendment 48, which would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs in Colorado's constitution. I do hope to see more pro-choice Republicans speaking up for reproductive rights within their party.

  • Ari Armstrong's op-ed -- "With Palin, McCain ignores Colorado warning" -- was published by the Boulder Weekly. That op-ed was distributed by the Coalition for Secular Government.

    Independent of CSG, Ari also published an excellent op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News entitled Lessons for U.S. politicians from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this weekend. (Ari is the author of a fantastic short book Values of Harry Potter.)

  • 12 September 2008

    Burton's Campaign of Obfuscation

    By Ari

    (Reposted:) Kristi Burton, sponsor of Amendment 48, which would define a fertilized egg as a person in Colorado's constitution, intentionally obfuscates the facts of the measure.

    Burton told the Rocky Mountain News, "They [critics] are missing the core issue of when life begins. That is what this is trying to establish."


    Amendment 48 does not say, "Life begins with conception." As Diana Hsieh and I review in our paper, the measure states, "As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the terms 'person' or 'persons' shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization." Diana and I point out the implications of the measure at length. Moreover, Buron's comment is factually wrong, as the paper points out.

    Diana and I discuss the nature of personhood at some length and explain why a fertilized egg does not qualify. Perhaps Burton would care to reply to those arguments rather than repeat her platitudes.

    A September 9 story from the Rocky quotes more of Burton's views as expressed on KBDI-Channel 12:

    Why this amendment is needed: "It recognizes the advances in modern medical science, which tell us that human life really does begin at the moment of conception. At that moment we have unique DNA that makes this a truly unique individual. Amendment 48 empowers the citizens of Colorado to take this issue into their own hands and to direct the elected officials and judges on how important life decisions should be made."

    Details, such as the legal status of fertilized eggs in test tubes, can be addressed later: "What this amendment does is, it provides a common-sense starting point. Before we can deal with issues like that or the ones that they talk of -- birth control and in vitro fertilization -- those are issues that will be dealt with later on in the democratic process. Before we can do that, we first of all have to lay a foundation."

    The amendment values life: "We can all agree that life has been cheapened in our society... People, especially in my generation, are tired of that. We want to restore value to human life and say that every person truly counts."
    At least here Burton makes a slightly more sophisticated argument regarding unique DNA. However, unique DNA does not qualify something as a person, for reasons that Diana and I discuss. Burton equivocates on the term "individual," which in some contexts implies an individual person (as opposed to an individual entity).

    Obviously Amendment 48, if implemented, would ban abortions in all cases except perhaps extreme risk to the mother's life. (It would be pleasant if Burton would mention whether she thinks any level of risk to the mother's life would justify an abortion.) But for Burton to punt on the issues of birth control and fertility treatments is grossly irresponsible. Amendment 48 has clear implications for such things, and for Burton to ignore those consequences further demonstrates that it is she who would cheapen the lives of actual persons.


    11 September 2008

    Biden Invites Catholic "Correction"

    By Ari

    A couple of days ago, I pointed out that, by making abortion a matter of religious faith, Senator Joseph Biden empowered those who would outlaw the practice. Now Cardinal Justin F. Rigali and Bishop William Lori have issued a statement "correcting" Biden on the issue. (I learned of this from the AP.)

    Let's start at the beginning. Here's what Biden said on "Meet the Press" on September 7:

    [When does life begin?] I'd say, "Look, I know when it begins for me." It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I'm prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths -- Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others -- who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They're intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life -- I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society. And I know you get the push back, "Well, what about fascism?" Everybody, you know, you going to say fascism's all right? Fascism isn't a matter of faith. No decent religious person thinks fascism is a good idea. ...

    [W]hat [I] voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it's a moment of conception. There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that's existed. Back in "Summa Theologia," when Thomas Aquinas wrote "Summa Theologia," he said there was no -- it didn't occur until quickening, 40 days after conception. How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith? And that's the reason I haven't. But then again, I also don't support a lot of other things. I don't support public, public funding. I don't, because that flips the burden. That's then telling me I have to accept a different view. This is a matter between a person's God, however they believe in God, their doctor and themselves in what is always a --and what we're going to be spending our time doing is making sure that we reduce considerably the amount of abortions that take place by providing the care, the assistance and the encouragement for people to be able to carry to term and to raise their children.
    So basically Biden's argument is that, while the issue properly is a matter of religious faith, people disagree about religious matters, so abortion ought not be outlawed. In other words, subjectivism trumps faith. Biden has no principles.

    Following is most of the reply by Rigali and Lori (emphasis omitted):
    [T]he Senator's claim that the beginning of human life is a "personal and private" matter of religious faith, one which cannot be "imposed" on others, does not reflect the truth of the matter. The Church recognizes that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.

    The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception... The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.

    The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed?

    The Catholic Church's answer is: Everybody. No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. This is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will.

    The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator. Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into those who have moral values and those who do not and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society.

    Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.

    While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.
    Given Biden's concession that Catholic teaching defines the issue, he's powerless to answer this "correction."

    But notice the weakness of Rigali and Lori's argument. They claim quite correctly that it is "objective fact" that a fertilized egg is "a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment." (A fertilized egg is not "distinct" from the mother in that it exists wholly inside of her and lives from her nutrients.) But then they make the faith-based jump in claiming that a fertilized egg is a "human being" in the sense of personhood. What is their reason for this jump? It is the "Catholic Church's answer." That's it. There's no factual basis for the claim, no chain of reasoning. Only an appeal to authority. Thus, the pair's claim that their position is not "specifically religious" is patently false. Without religious faith in the "Catholic Church's answer," their case completely falls apart.

    As Diana Hsieh and I argue in "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life:"
    No one doubts that a fertilized egg is alive, that it contains human DNA, or that it has the potential to develop into a born person (assuming it implants and develops properly in a woman's uterus). The fundamental question is whether these facts are sufficient to establish a fertilized egg as the moral equivalent of an infant, worthy of full legal protections. ...

    In fact, the advocates of Amendment 48 depend on an equivocation on "human being" to make their case. A fertilized egg is human, in the sense that it contains human DNA. It is also a "being," in the sense that it is an entity. That's also true of a gallbladder: it is human and it is an entity. Yet that doesn’t make your gallbladder a human person with the right to life. Similarly, the fact that an embryo is biologically a human entity is not grounds for claiming that it's a human person with a right to life. Calling a fertilized egg a "human being" is word-play intended to obscure the vast biological differences between a fertilized egg traveling down a woman's fallopian tube and a born infant sleeping in a crib. It is intended to obscure the fact that anti-abortion crusaders base their views on scripture and authority, not science.

    So is a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus a person with a right to life, like an infant? No. ... From the moment of fertilization to its implantation in the womb a few days later, the embryo consists of a few largely undifferentiated cells. It is invisible to the naked eye. It has no human organs, and no human form. It has no brain, and so no capacity for awareness or feelings. It is far more similar to a few skin cells than an infant. Moreover, it cannot develop into a baby on its own: its survival beyond a few days requires successful implantation in the lining of the woman's uterus. If it fails to do that, it will be flushed from her body without anyone ever knowing of its existence.
    Read the rest of the case in the paper.

    Both Obama and Biden couch the issue in terms of moral subjectivism. Their religious critics reply with appeals to faith and religious authority. But neither subjectivism nor religious faith can provide an objective basis for moral decisions. The fact that Biden is wrong does not make Rigali and Lori right, or vice versa. Both sides must be rejected in favor of an objective morality rooted in the facts of human life.


    10 September 2008

    An Open Letter to Gov. Sarah Palin on Women's Rights

    By LOG ME IN

    The following open letter to vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin asks some important questions about the implications of her anti-abortion views:

    An Open Letter to Gov. Sarah Palin on Women's Rights
    By Lynn Paltrow, National Advocates for Pregnant Women
    Posted to Alternet on September 4, 2008, Printed on September 5, 2008

    Dear Governor Sarah Palin:

    Many Americans agree with your position regarding abortion -- they do this as a matter of faith, ethics, personal experience and sometimes politics. I am just wondering though, if you have thought about what would happen if you succeeded in getting your position -- that fetuses have a right to life -- established as the law of the land? Did you know that it not only threatens the lives, health and freedom of women who might want or need someday to end their pregnancies, it would also give the government the power to control the lives of women -- like you who -- go to term?

    Your last pregnancy, the one that has become the topic of widespread discussion and speculation provides an important opportunity to demonstrate how this could be true.

    According to press reports your water broke while you were giving a keynote speech in Texas at the Republican Governors' Energy Conference. You did not immediately go to the hospital -- instead you gave your speech and then waited at least 11 hours to get to a hospital. You evaluated the risks, made a choice, and were able to carry on your life without state interference. Texas Governor Rick Perry worried about your pregnancy but didn't stop you from speaking or take you into custody to protect the rights of the fetus.

    After Ayesha Madyun's water broke, she went to the hospital where she hoped and planned to have a vaginal birth. When she didn't give birth in a time-frame comfortable to her doctors, they argued that she should have a C-section. The doctors asserted that the fetus faced a 50-75 percent chance of infection if not delivered surgically. (Risks of infection are believed by some health care providers to increase with each hour after a woman's water has broken and she hasn't delivered).

    The court, believing like you that fetuses have a right to life, said, "[a]ll that stood between the Madyun fetus and its independent existence, separate from its mother, was put simply, a doctor's scalpel." With that, the court granted the order and the scalpel sliced through Ms. Madyun's flesh, the muscles of her abdominal wall, and her uterus. The core principle justifying an end to legal abortion in the U.S. provided the same grounds used to deprive this pregnant and laboring woman of her rights to due process, bodily integrity, and physical liberty. When the procedure was done, there was no evidence of infection.

    According to the press reports, instead of going straight to a hospital you chose to get on a long airplane flight back to Alaska.

    When Pamela Rae Stewart, allegedly, didn't get to the hospital quickly enough on the day of her delivery, she was arrested in California on the theory that she had violated the rights of her fetus.

    When Laura Pemberton chose to give birth at home in Florida, a Sheriff came to her house. Doctors believed that she was posing a risk to the life of her unborn child by having a vaginal birth after having had a previous c-section and were in the process of getting a court order to force her to have a c-section. The sheriff took her into custody during active labor, strapped her legs together and forced her to go to a hospital where an emergency hearing was taking place to determine the rights of her fetus. She was "allowed" to represent herself. A lawyer was appointed for the fetus. This woman, who vehemently opposes abortion, nevertheless believed in her right to evaluate medical risks and benefits to herself and her unborn child. She was forced to have the unnecessary surgery and when she later sued for violations of her civil rights, was told fetal rights outweighed hers.

    You chose to continue working throughout your pregnancy -- even during your labor. Until 1991 women who worked in high paying blue color jobs that provided health benefits were being fired based on "fetal rights" policies that claimed if the woman became pregnant she would expose the unborn child to workplace health risks. Eventually, the Supreme Court said employers covered by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (the PDA) could not do this. But, millions of American women work part time or for small employers who are not covered by the PDA. If your political position on abortion is accepted -- all of these women could be forced to give up their jobs because an employer, family member, or state agent believed it necessary to ensure the health and rights of their unborn child.

    Governor Palin, you have led an extraordinary life, balancing work and family, public service and private family obligations. We hope you know though that your freedom relies on exactly the same legal principles that guarantee that American women can choose to have an abortion when they need and want one.

    Sixty one percent of women who have abortions are already mothers. Eighty-four percent of these women will be mothers by the time they are in their forties. As a proud mother of five beautiful children, we hope you will recognize that the issue isn't abortion -- it is ensuring the lives, dignity and freedom of all pregnant women and their families.

    Lynn M. Paltrow is the Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

    © 2008 National Advocates for Pregnant Women. All rights reserved.
    If Amendment 48 becomes the law of the land in Colorado, these kinds of police-state attacks on the liberty of pregnant women will become commonplace. That's yet another reason why the measure must be opposed as morally evil.


    09 September 2008

    Faith-Based Obama

    By Ari

    (Reposted:) In his August 18 article, Jim Towey, former director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, writes that "Obama wants to abandon President Bush's -- and President Clinton's -- efforts to protect the right to hire on a religious basis of faith-based charities that provide taxpayer-funded social services."

    What are these alleged rights? Towey thinks recipients of federal dollars should be able to "hire on a religious basis," yet "[f]or decades, religious charities have had to knuckle under to the directives of the federal government if they wanted public money."

    Religious groups do not have any right to other people's money redistributed by force.

    Whether or not faith-based groups discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring, they should not receive a single cent of tax money. To forcibly redistribute money to religious groups from those who do not wish to fund them violates the latter group's rights of property and conscience.

    Towey writes, "Planned Parenthood receives bundles of federal money and hires only the like-minded. Why are faith groups held to a different standard?" Towey's argument is disingenuous; there is no "different standard." Planned Parenthood does not discriminate on the basis of religion, and the fact that opponents of abortion choose not to work there is their own choice. Regardless, the relevant standard is that government ought neither promote nor hinder religion. Spending tax dollars for faith-based purposes clearly violates this standard. I agree that it's wrong for Planned Parenthood to receive tax dollars. But the first wrong does not justify state support of religious organizations.


    08 September 2008

    Every Sperm is Sacred, Every Egg Divine

    By Gina Liggett

    Evangelical Christian in several states have tried to get a "personhood" amendment on the ballot. Colorado is the first state where this effort have been successful. Colorado's Amendment 48 would grant "inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law" to a fertilized egg.

    "The Coalition for a Secular Government" has produced an excellent position paper written by Ari Armstrong and Diana Hseih that describes in detail why this amendment is wrong, immoral, impractical and disastrous.

    But to highlight how absurd this amendment really is, it is necessary to take the next step in line with religious belief: We must go further back in the reproductive process and grant full rights to sperm and eggs. After all, they are the necessary and sufficient prerequisites for creating a human life.

    The Catholic Church has unequivocally established the doctrine for this idea. In Pope Paul IV's 1968 Encyclical Letter on the Regulation of Birth, he spells out that married couples may not use any form of artificial means to control their fertility, and are permitted only to avoid pregnancy by chaste refrain from sexual intercourse.

    He explains that it is "natural law" from the will of God that regulates reproduction: "The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws."

    The Church commands that the "...exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society... From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow."
    So, not only is it a sin for couples to control their fertility by conscious choice, they must be open to the church teaching that "...each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life." That is: every sperm and every egg is sacred, and humans must not violate the natural law of God in any way that could prevent a pregnancy.

    On the basis of this doctrine, the Church speaks to governments to enforce this: "And now We wish to speak to rulers of nations... The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God."

    In keeping with this doctrine, the Church speaks to medical scientists: "It is supremely desirable...that medical science should by the study of natural rhythms succeed in determining a sufficiently secure basis for the chaste limitation of offspring."

    And the Church speaks to doctors and nurses: "Likewise we hold in the highest esteem those doctors and members of the nursing profession... when married couples ask for their advice, they may be in a position to give them right counsel and to point them in the proper direction."

    Colorado for Equal Rights would be wrong according to the Catholic Church ruling by promoting rights for a fertilized egg. The Evangelicals should push for granting rights to eggs and sperm in compliance with "natural law."

    And if the Catholic Church ruled much of the world (like they used to), the government, the scientists and the medical professionals would be obligated to enforce Church law.

    Is this the world you want? Do you value the freedom of our secular society to make private choices about your fertility and sexual relations with your spouse?

    This is one of the reasons why we have the Separation of Church and State as explicitly stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    Religion enmeshed with politics leads to tyranny. The church--whether it be the Catholic Church or politically-active Evangelical Christians--is nothing more than certain people gaining power over others to control our most personal life decisions according to their religious beliefs.

    They have no right to do that. And as free citizens of a secular, reason-based society, we must make sure that they don't.


    06 September 2008

    Gazette Slights Atheists

    By Ari

    (Reposted:) The generally-thoughtful Gazette of Colorado Springs gets off track in a recent editorial. While there's much wrong with the piece, I want to focus on one particular paragraph:

    This column has advocated religious liberties for atheists, citing case law that defines atheism as just another religion - as in just another unproven and forever unprovable belief. This column has applauded a federal court ruling that forced prison wardens to allow prisoners an atheist study session. The court allowed the study session for the same reason wardens allow Bible study meetings: atheism is a religion, therefore subject to protections and restrictions of the First Amendment.
    Notice the subjectivism inherent in this view. The editorial presumes that religion is superior to atheism, yet all religious beliefs boil down to "unproven and forever unprovable" beliefs. In other words, the point of religion is not to get to the truth, but to promote some particular and entirely arbitrary position. Later, the editorial explicitly invokes ignorance to "justify" religious beliefs. This shows an irony common among Christians. Christians blast atheism as subjectivist and relativistic, yet many of these same Christians ultimately rest their case on subjectivism and relativism (and all of them implicitly do so).

    What is needed is an alternative that is neither faith-based nor subjectivist, but based on the objective facts of reality. True, we don't know everything about reality, but we can know a lot, and we can continually expand our real knowledge. With the advances particularly of Aristotle and Ayn Rand, we have available to us an objective moral foundation.

    As for the First Amendment, atheism is not protected because it is "just another religion." That amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." The principle is that the government ought neither promote nor hinder religion. Instead, the government's job is to protect individual rights. Freedom of conscience is the broader principle inherent in the First Amendment, and this properly applies to all ideas, not just religious ones. However, while it's wrong for government to force the religious to finance non-religious ideas, the First Amendment expressly limits government support for religion.


    05 September 2008

    With Palin, McCain Ignores Colorado Warning

    By LOG ME IN

    The following article has been offered as a non-exclusive op-ed by the Coalition for Secular Government to newspapers in the interior west.

    With Palin, McCain Ignores Colorado Warning
    by Ari Armstrong

    "I have to win here if I'm going to be the next president of the United States," John McCain told a Colorado crowd in July. The fact that the Democrats came to Colorado for their convention also proves the presidential importance of the Interior West, a region known for its independent streak and partisan upheavals.

    However, McCain seems not to have learned the political lessons of the Interior West, despite the fact that he's from Arizona. By selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate to attract the evangelical vote, McCain risks alienating the independent voters and non- sectarian Republicans he needs to win.

    Recent polling results from the Pew Research Center indicate that most Americans now think churches should keep out of politics. Even half of conservatives share this view. The Interior West is particularly leery about faith-based politics; Pew results from 2005 examined by Ryan Sager suggest that 59 percent of residents think "government is getting too involved in the issue of morality." Yet faith-based politics is one of Palin's signature issues.

    Palin endorsed the teaching of creationism in tax-funded schools before softening her stance on the issue. She ardently opposes abortion, describing herself as "pro-life as any candidate can be," apparently even in cases of rape, incest, or health problems. Speaking to a church as governor, Palin said that it's "God's will" that she help build an energy pipeline; she added that the Iraq war is "a task that is from God." Political reform, Palin argued, "doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God."

    Given McCain's desire to win Colorado, he might have examined why this once solidly Republican state is currently governed by Democrats. One central reason is the domination of the Republican Party in the state by the religious right.

    Democrats captured the final branch of state government in 2006 when Bill Ritter defeated Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez in the governor's race. Ritter was accomplished in his own right as the Denver District Attorney but lacked high-level political experience. While Beauprez's campaign suffered a variety of failings, Beauprez's own commitment to faith-based politics, and his selection of a running mate of the same cloth, hurt him badly.

    Beauprez himself opposed abortion and favored faith-based welfare. His running mate, Janet Rowland, shared those views and had also come out in favor of teaching creationism in tax-funded schools. When asked about the separation of church and state, Rowland replied, "We should have the freedom OF religion, not the freedom FROM religion." Such expressions rubbed independent-minded Westerners the wrong way.

    Yet McCain is following a similar path. On his official web page, McCain says that his ultimate aim is "ending abortion." His running mate, like Rowland, shares that view and favored tax-funded religious education. Palin, like Rowland, would leave Americans without freedom from religious law. Will the team's commitment to faith-based politics be too much for voters in the Interior West to swallow?

    The McCain-Palin ticket has a lot going for it that the Beauprez- Rowland ticket did not. McCain is a decorated military veteran with a lengthy career in the Senate. Palin is credible on energy, appealing to low-tax conservatives, and friendly toward gun owners. She has a record as a reformer, and she's an attractive, vibrant, and poised speaker.

    Moreover, the left's shrill personal attacks against Palin may serve only to evoke public sympathy for her and energize her supporters. The left's complaints about Palin's lack of experience may underscore their own candidate's inexperience, as Barack Obama tends to come off as a glorified motivational speaker. Yet the Obama-friendly left, in its attempt to itself cozy up to the evangelical vote, shies away from criticizing the McCain-Palin ticket over the issue of separation of church and state.

    Nevertheless, as independent and traditionally Republican voters evaluate McCain and Palin on their own merits, rather than merely as the alternative to Obama, many will grow concerned over the pair's commitment to faith-based politics. This will cost McCain votes and other forms of support.

    McCain may have energized the religious right, but in doing so he has brought faith-based politics to the forefront of his campaign, leaving freedom-minded independents and secular Republicans without a candidate they can support. The question remaining is which presidential candidate will make them more fearful.

    Ari Armstrong is the editor of FreeColorado.com and a co-author of "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life" at SecularGovernment.us, a paper criticizing the Colorado proposal to define a fertilized egg as a person.


    04 September 2008

    "Pro-Life As Any Candidate Can Be"

    By Ari

    (Reposted:) Sarah Palin, John McCain's running mate, is as "pro-life as any candidate can be," Fox News reports. However, as Diana Hsieh and I have pointed out, the allegedly "pro-life" position, which would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs for reasons of religious faith, is in fact profoundly anti-life. I didn't need any additional reasons not to vote for McCain, but his selection of Palin reaffirms some of the reasons I've already given.

    The religious right is ecstatic, as The New York Times reports:

    Social conservatives were relieved and highly pleased.

    "They're beyond ecstatic," said Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition. "This is a home run. She is a reformer governor who is solidly pro-life and a person of deep Christian faith. And she is really one of the bright shining new stars in the Republican firmament."

    Ms. Palin is known to conservatives for choosing not to have an abortion after learning two years ago that she was carrying a child with Down's syndrome. "It is almost impossible to exaggerate how important that is to the conservative faith community," Mr. Reed said.

    Obviously, a Down's baby is precious to his mother and has the same legal rights as anyone else. The choice properly belongs to the woman whether to bring a fetus with Down's to term. However, given the severe problems associated with the disease, and the possibility of detecting it early in a pregnancy with modern medicine, certainly it is perfectly moral for a woman to get an abortion under such tragic circumstances. But apparently the religious right grants Palin some sort of special moral status for having a Down's baby, as though tragedy and suffering itself were the mark of goodness and political competence.

    I don't think McCain's pick is going to do what he hopes it will do. If anything, it will drive Hillary's supporters to more loyal support of Obama. And it will only further alienate independents and secularist Republicans, who are growing increasingly weary of faith-based politics.


    03 September 2008

    Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life on Capitalism Magazine

    By LOG ME IN

    I'm delighted to report that Capitalism Magazine is publishing Ari Armstrong's and my recent CSG issue paper -- "Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person" -- as a six-part series.

    Monday: Part One.

    Tuesday: Part Two.

    Wednesday: Part Three.

    Ultimately, you'll be able to find all six parts on our author page.

    You can still download and read the full PDF version of the paer, if you prefer.


    02 September 2008

    Federal Ambiguity on Abortion Vs. Contraception

    By Paul Hsieh

    William Saletan of Slate has recently posted a couple of informative updates on the Bush administration's attempt (or lack thereof) to define abortion.

    The context is the proposed new law that would grant special protections for religious health care workers who chose not to provide abortion care or information to patients out of reasons of "conscience". In effect, the new law would forbid employers from firing such workers and enforce this by threatening the employer with loss of federal funding.

    Leaving apart the fact that such issues should be settled by private contract (as nicely argued by Thomas Bowden of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights in their recent press release, "Let Doctors Protect Conscience by Contract"), this proposed law has spawned a controversy over what exactly constitutes an "abortion" in the eyes of the federal government.

    As Saletan documents in his first piece from 8/28/2008, "Contraceptive Fudge", the initial definition was:

    ...[A]ny of the various procedures -- including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action -- that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation
    However, this was dropped after protest from physicians and reproductive rights advocates who correctly noted that this would include some forms of birth control that are not generally regarded as "abortion" -- including IUDs and sometimes birth control pills.

    Saletan also points out that a number of religious advocacy groups have already argued that "hormonal contraception is abortion", including Pharmacists for Life International, Christian Legal Society, and Concerned Women for America, and that the current definition still leaves the door open for this interpretation.

    When others have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to clarify this point, he has been cagey. In Saleton's second piece from 8/29/2008, "Contraceptive Fudge: Addendum", he notes the following statement by Leavitt:
    But when pressed about whether the regulation would protect health-care workers who consider birth control pills, Plan B and other forms of contraception to be equivalent to abortion, Leavitt said: "This regulation does not seek to resolve any ambiguity in that area. It focuses on abortion and focuses on physicians' conscience in relation to that."
    Secretary Leavitt is trying to have it both ways. While claiming this would not "change a patient's right to a legal procedure", his deliberate characterization of this issue as one of "ambiguity" is leaving the door open for the conflation of popular forms of birth control with abortion, and thus preparing the way for future restrictions of birth control in the name of restricting abortion.

    Saletan also explicitly supports the private contract approach to the "conscience" issue, and I applaud his principled stance:
    As a pharmacist, you have every right to refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions. But your customers have every right to boycott your store, and your employer has every right to fire you. If you don't like your employer's policy, open your own pharmacy.
    He also notes that federal government is soliciting citizens' opinions on this issue. You can e-mail them at: consciencecomment@hhs.gov.

    Here's a slightly edited version of the comment I sent them:
    The US government needs to be completely clear and unambiguous as to whether it regards standard forms of contraception such as birth control pills and IUDs as forms of "abortion", if they result in the expulsion of an egg that has already been fertilized but not yet undergone implantation.

    Rather than fudging this issue and calling it an "ambiguity", it must let practicing physicians such as myself know whether restrictions on abortion will also entail restrictions on these other forms of contraception.

    If the Bush administration wants to call those "abortions", then please be up front about it and say so. If the administration does not consider those to be "abortions", then say so and clear the air. To straddle the fence does a grave disservice to millions of men and women, and also leads to the concern that there is a hidden agenda amongst some in the government to also include restrictions on these forms of birth control when they propose future restrictions on abortions.

    Paul Hsieh, MD
    You too can let the Feds know what you think!


    01 September 2008

    The Left Co-opts Religion for "Social Justice"

    By Gina Liggett

    What could be a more concerning entity to a rational person than a religious leftist? But that's what's coming down the cultural pike.

    The Religious Right has historically staked its moral claim on the Republican Party, focusing on what they call "pro-life" issues such as abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia, human cloning, and other issues that pertain to life and death.

    But we have an emerging phenomenon among what has traditionally been the morally-vacuous Left: a religious basis for their agenda to tackle the Iraq war, so-called "social justice" and environmentalism.

    To many, the Left has been always been perceived as coldly "scientific" and therefore anti-moral. But now that the Democrats are eagerly embracing religion, it must be reassuring to some voters on the fence who "kind of like" the leftist ideology, but just can't embrace its moral hollowness. Now they have a new leader: Barack Obama, who has been unapologetically leading his Christian Democrat soldiers into battle.

    This is a bad marriage of two kinds of faiths: belief in the supernatural with hatred for individualism.

    The 20th century novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand, opened the lid on the leftist movement in her book, The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. Although published in 1970s, the essays are as relevant today as ever.

    Now the Left can go beyond it's morally-absent statism: it can claim religious moral sanction for its platform, Obama's Blueprint for Change.

    His plan is explicitly clear: Obama will expropriate wealth from capitalist producers and fund a welfare state on a grand scale with the the moral command that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers (to paraphrase his exact quote).

    What a rallying cry for a purposeful America! The Taliban couldn't do any better!

    Where is that third alternative to the bible-quoting statism of the Left and the
    mystical-biblical politics of the Right? It is a philosophy that is based on individualism, also called rational egoism.

    Rational egoism means that an objective reality exists as we perceive by our senses and by a process of reason (not by prayer or mystical revelation). This includes the knowledge that humans are individuals, not globs of "society" that must follow the state's or God's commands. Morally we have the right to pursue happiness and our necessities of life without violating the rights of others to do the same. It means we can have a society where we interact benevolently with others on the basis of trade with one another, free from theft of our lives and property by the state or criminals.

    The bleak reality is this: our politicians are ruining America. But they don't have our minds yet. It is the ideas of reason and individualism that will lead us to a better future--a future of freedom, wealth and happiness.


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