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

30 November 2011

Ohio Anti-Abortion Heartbeat Bill

By Diana Hsieh

In late June, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a wildly restrictive anti-abortion bill that would outlaw abortion after the detection of any fetal heartbeat, usually around 9 to 10 weeks. (Since pregnancy is counted from the last menstrual period, that means 7-8 weeks after conception, often before women even realize that they're pregnant.)

Now, that legislation will be headed to the Ohio Senate:

The legislation had passed the Ohio House 54-44 on June 28, but has sat almost five months without even being referred to a Senate committee.

Ohio Senate Republicans, under pressure from an anti-abortion group to act, will move a bill that bans abortions in Ohio once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, says Senate President Tom Niehaus.

The New Richmond Republican said this week that a four-month Senate impasse on the so-called "heartbeat" legislation has broken, and his caucus is prepared to move forward with committee hearings and eventual passage of the legislation. If the heartbeat bill becomes law and withstands any legal challenges, Ohio would have the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
So will it pass? I think so:
The Senate is dominated by Republicans, who hold a 23-10 majority, and the GOP caucus is solidly anti-abortion rights. ... Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich, said the Republican governor "has been consistently pro-life all of his public life" but doesn't generally take a position on bills that haven't reached his desk.

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28 November 2011

Anti-Abortion 'Personhood' Tries for Round Three

By Ari

From Ari Armstrong's blog: The so-called "personhood" movement has been knocked down badly in Colorado twice before in the 2008 and 2010 elections. By wide margins voters defeated ballot measures intended to ban all abortions. But the measures' organizers are back with a new, slightly modified anti-abortion measure for the state's 2012 ballot (assuming the group gathers enough signatures).

I attended the group's November 21 media conference at the state capitol, filmed it, and asked a few questions. Please note that my purpose in filming the event was largely journalistic; my main goal was to record the views of the group's participants. Of course I pressed some questions on matters that I find important. Embedded is the complete video of the event, plus some extra footage of Kristi Burton Brown answering questions.



My opposition to the "personhood" measures is well known (in the relevant circles); I coauthored a paper against the measures in both 2008 and 2010.

The proposed 2012 measure is mostly the same as the previous measures, though it spells out some of its implications in greater detail. I posted the four-page media packet distributed by the group's organizers, including a page with the complete text of the new proposal:

From Personhood Nov. 21, 2011


The major difference for the 2012 measure is that it explicitly allows abortions to protect the life of the pregnant woman. One of the problems with the previous measures is that they left the life of the woman in a precarious state under certain conditions. See the section of the 2010 paper, "Abortions to Protect a Woman's Health." The new measure states:

Medical treatment for life threatening physical conditions intended to preserve life shall not be affected by this section. ... "Medical treatment for life threatening physical conditions intended to preserve life" includes but is not limited to treatment for cancer, ectopic and molar pregnancy, twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, and placenta previa.


This language would give doctors some much-needed latitude to perform abortions to save the life of the woman. (Note that the measure's supporters are loath to call these "medical treatments" abortions, but that's what we are in fact talking about.)

But what if a doctor needed to perform an abortion only to protect a woman's long-term health, as opposed to her life? Abortions under such circumstances would be banned if the measure were passed and fully enforced. And ambiguous cases would be decided by prosecutors and the courts.

Still, the measure's supporters have made a serious effort to address one of the concerns with the earlier measures. Unfortunately, the remaining problems with the measure are manifold and severe. Consider:

* Obviously, the measure would totally ban all elective abortions.

* The measure explicitly says that abortions would be banned even in cases of rape or incest.

* The measure would ban all forms of birth control "that kills a person"; i.e., that can prevent a zygote (post-fertilized egg) from implanting in the uterus. Notably, that includes the birth control pill, the IUD, and "morning after" drugs.

* The measure would ban all fertility treatments "that kills a person"; i.e., that involves the destruction of embryos created outside the womb. In practice, the measure would shut down most fertility procedures that involve creating embryos outside the womb and limit such treatments to the wealthy and to those with rare physiological conditions.

* The measure would subject women who get abortions (along with those who assist her) to severe criminal penalties, counting an abortion legally as "murder."

* While the 2012 language explicitly protects women with "spontaneous miscarriages," the entire problem is that it would be the responsibility of coroners, prosecutors, and the courts to distinguish natural miscarriages from intentional harm to the fetus. So the new language changes nothing on that score.

One thing that bothered me about the media conference is Burton-Brown's insistence that her opponents are liars. But it is Burton-Brown herself who has been consistently cagey about the implications of the "personhood" measures. During the conference, she flatly refused to state whether "personhood" would ban the birth control pill (hint: if consistently enforced it would). In any case, neither Burton-Brown nor anyone else has found a single factual error in the paper coauthored by Diana Hsieh and me (though obviously the "personhood" crowd disagrees with our analysis of the basic facts). In general, people ought not call their opponents liars unless they have really good evidence that such is the case; Burton-Brown presented no such evidence (though I have not evaluated all the claims of all of the opponents of "personhood"). Indeed, the main reason for the 2012 rewrite is to address various criticisms.

Obviously I'll have much more to say about Colorado's 2012 "personhood" measure in the coming months. For now, it suffices to say that it is the identical measure as before, only with more verbiage, with the notable exception of the language about "life threatening physical conditions." It richly deserves defeat again, and I do not doubt that Colorado voters will oblige. The problem is that, if unchallenged, it softens the ground for incremental abortion restrictions leading to a long-run total ban.

Meanwhile, Team Obama rejoices as the Republican Presidential candidates fall all over themselves endorsing such wildly unpopular nonsense.

November 29 Update: See the replies by Monica McCafferty, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Emilie Ailts, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

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23 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

By Diana Hsieh

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for our founders, who understood that freedom of speech and religion were essential to a free society:

Amendment I

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; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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18 November 2011

Sunday Webcast: Forcing Religious Fanaticism on Others

By Diana Hsieh

In Sunday's live Philosophy in Action Webcast, I'll be answering a question on forcing religious fanaticism on others that I think will be of interest. The question is:

Why do religious fanatics seek to impose their beliefs on others? Most religious fanatics aren't content to practice their religion for themselves: they seek to impose it on others by law. Why is that? Why is that wrong? What can be done to combat it?
Go to www.PhilosophyInAction.com on Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET to watch me answer this question live and join in the text chat. Be sure to check out the other questions for this week's webcast.

I'd love to hear what your own answer to this question, whether before or after the webcast! Please feel free to post your answer in the comments!

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17 November 2011

Video: Evasion, Rationalization, and Context-Dropping in the Personhood Movement

By Diana Hsieh

In Sunday's Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed evasion versus rationalization versus context-dropping. I'm post it here because, in the process of answering that question, I talked about the evasions, rationalizations, and context-dropping in the "personhood" movement.

The question was:

How are evasion, rationalization, and context-dropping similar and different? When thinking over a problem I notice that these terms can often be applied simultaneously. So what do they mean – and how are they similar and different?
My answer, in brief:
Evasion is the fundamental phenomena, and the source of evil. Rationalization and context-dropping are two common methods of concealing and thereby assisting that evasion.
Here's the video of my full answer:
If you enjoy the video, please "like" it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

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16 November 2011

Personhood in Colorado in 2012

By Diana Hsieh

Unsurprisingly, the unexpected defeat of "personhood" in Mississippi hasn't discouraged the "personhood" crusaders in Colorado. Here's an update from the Denver Post:

On the heels of Mississippi's rejection of an anti-abortion initiative this week, Colorado Right to Life Vice President Leslie Hanks vowed to move forward next year with a "personhood" amendment in Colorado.

Similar measures have failed here in 2010 and in 2008.

On Christian activist Kevin Swanson's radio broadcast today, Hanks encouraged supporters to attend a "March for Life" rally at the state Capitol in January.

"We're going to be launching personhood round 3," said Hanks, who hopes to gather enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot in 2012. Moreover, she said the personhood movement in Colorado is continuing to gain traction and is headed in the right direction.

Hanks says she traveled around Mississippi in support of the anti-abortion measure, calling her experiences remarkable even though it failed.

"When we do these initiatives we are educating, evangelizing, and we are increasing social tension because people have to say they're either for it or against it," said Hanks.
Ari Armstrong and I will be updating our 2010 paper -- The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception -- for any new personhood amendment in Colorado. Stay tuned.

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15 November 2011

Video: Voting for Horrible Politicians

By Diana Hsieh

In last Sunday's Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed when and why people should vote, given that politicians are mostly horrible. In my answer, I discussed the current crop of Republican presidential candidates -- who are all horrific on abortion, except for pro-choice Gary Johnson. Obviously, I'm speaking for myself, not for CSG, but I thought I thought some readers of this blog might be interested.

The question was:

All the candidates are nearly perfectly horrid, just in different ways. Why should I even bother to vote?
My answer, in brief:
We're not always faced with choice between two varieties of evil in elections, and in those cases, it's proper to vote. Also, it's good to vote for ballot measures. So vote selectively!
Here's the video of my full answer:
If you enjoy the video, please "like" it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

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14 November 2011

Personhood Defeated in Mississippi

By Diana Hsieh

I'm delighted to report that the proposed "personhood" amendment to the Mississippi state constitution was defeated last Tuesday, despite expectations that it would pass. It received 42% yes votes, 58% no votes.

The battle for abortion rights continues... but HOORAY!

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04 November 2011

The Morality of Working for a Minister: Sunday Webcast

By Diana Hsieh

In Sunday's live Philosophy in Action Webcast, I'll be answering a question on the morality of working for a minister that I think might be of interest to some readers of this blog. The question is:

Is working for a minister giving religion moral sanction? As an atheist, I once worked for an ordained minster who was the owner of a gallery. I became his manager when I made it clear that I was an atheist, but that I was a good framing manager. I don't think I gave him a moral sanction for his irrationality by working for him under those terms. What do you think?
Go to www.PhilosophyInAction.com on Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET to watch me answer this question live and join in the text chat.

Note: The web site isn't yet up because I've not yet taken off the bubble wrap! It will be ready on Sunday morning.

You can read the full announcement for this week's webcast on my blog NoodleFood.

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02 November 2011

Video: Respect for the Transgendered

By Diana Hsieh

In Sunday's Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed restrooms for the transgendered in transition -- and, more broadly, the respect due to the transgendered. The question was:

Which bathroom should a pre-operative transgendered person use? The brutal attack at McDonald's on a transgendered person in April 2011 was apparently started because that person used the ladies restroom, which was already occupied by a 14 year old. Was the transgendered person wrong to use that restroom?
My answer, in brief:
Transgendered people deserve to be treated with respect, just like everyone else! As for restrooms, they should use whatever restroom matches their outward appearance.
Here's the video of my full answer:
If you enjoy the video, please "like" it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All my webcast and other videos can be found on my YouTube channel.

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01 November 2011

Data on Access to Abortion

By Diana Hsieh

Here's some fascinating data on access to abortion drawn from a recent study of Ob/Gyns:

  • "A whopping 97% of practicing ob-gyns had encountered patients seeking abortion, yet only 14% of ob-gyns perform them."
  • "Male ob-gyns are less likely to provide abortions, as are middle-age ones. If you live in a rural area, you’re very unlikely to find an ob-gyn who will provide an abortion."
  • "Almost no Evangelical Christian ob-gyns will provide abortions. Jewish ob-gyns are the most likely to provide abortions, even more likely than ob-gyns who report having no religion at all."
You can see some of the numbers in chart form in the blog post.

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