Tag Archives: personhood

“Immediatist vs Incrementalist” debate analysis, Part VI: Christians and the legislative process

by Clinton Wilcox of Life Training Institute

It is an honor to be able to contribute to Jill’s frankly devastating critique of T. Russell Hunter’s performance in his “Immediatist vs Incrementalist debate against Gregg Cunningham.

churchandstatesignsLate in the debate (timestamps 1:05:10 to 1:07:04), Hunter made the following claim: Christians are not practicing activism at abortion clinics because they don’t trust in the power of God, they trust in incremental legislation.

During cross-examination  (timestamps 1:41:32 to 1:44:56), Hunter made the same accusation, adding pastors and churches, and asked if Cunningham agreed.

Cunningham rebutted that while he agreed churches aren’t doing enough to combat abortion, it is not the fault of incremental legislation. Incremental legislation is a good thing.

Rather, Cunningham observed:

  • Pastors are not being trained properly in pro-life apologetics, and they are not speaking about abortion to their parishioners.
  • Pastors can be afraid of losing members, so they don’t want to engage in any sort of “offensive” speech from the pulpit.
  • Christians, by and large, are not leaving the pews to engage in pro-life activism.

Not to be outdone, Hunter wrote the following as a comment on Jill’s post:

As for specific bills and laws, we do believe that cultural change is necessary to their passage and are focused on doing what we can to “get the votes,” as our anti-abolitionist pro-life opponents always tell us “are not there.” But do look for specific practical actionable bills of abolition to start appearing in 2016.

In other words, legislation is actually fine, as long as it’s AHA’s brand of legislation. And somehow Hunter’s brand will not lull Christians into complacency?

The bigger problem, though, as has been pointed out before, is all bills are necessarily incremental, as would be any bill AHA proposes. If, for instance, you pass a personhood amendment in Texas, all you have to do is go to New Mexico, “…and then you can kill the baby.”

Hunter had an answer for that in another comment on Jill’s blog:

Do I need to explain the difference? Do you see that the statewide abolition bill that bans abortion because it is the murder of human beings is different than a state Not banning abortion and not bringing humans under the protection of law but hexing a certain procedure in which they could be killed?

Of course people would drive to another state to get an abortion but that is because in their state abortion had been abolished as murder.

However, AHA opposes incremental legislation to close abortion clinics because “Shutting down clinics doesn’t halt abortion; it just makes people who choose to sacrifice their children drive further.”

Overt contradictions aside, Hunter is nevertheless playing semantics. If we must oppose all bills that could end with “…and then you can kill the baby,” we must, of necessity, oppose any personhood amendment that doesn’t abolish abortion in the United States as a whole.

morgentalerBut then you run into further problems, because then you could just cross the border to Canada, “…and then you can kill the baby.”

Hunter’s brand of “immediatism” should be rejected because one cannot consistently live as an immediatist as Hunter understands it. All bills we can logically support are incremental in nature; personhood bills are simply the only kind Hunter is happy with.

During the debate Hunter knocked Christian involvement in legislative endeavors as distractive from real work to stop abortion.

So, should Christians be involved in the political process?

Absolutely, if we believe in effecting change for the better. In fact, as brilliant theologian Wayne Grudem pointed out, there have been many times in Jewish history when they gave counsel to ungodly rulers, such as when Daniel counseled King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, and when Joseph advised Pharaoh in Genesis. Please read the linked article for a more in-depth discussion of Christians being involved in the political process.

It’s true many Christians can use the political process as an excuse not to engage in activism, but this isn’t a problem with the legislative process. This is a problem with education in our churches, and apathy among church-goers.

We should continue to support incremental legislation because that’s the only way we’ll affect change in our current political atmosphere.

Pro-life people want the immediate end to abortion. Incremental legislation is our strategic method for getting there. Planned Parenthood knows this. Pro-choice writers like Katha Pollitt know this (it plays a major theme in her recent book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights). The only people who don’t seem to get that are the self-proclaimed “abolitionists.”
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Clinton Wilcox is a staff apologist for Life Training Institute. He specializes in training pro-life people to make the pro-life case more effectively and persuasively. He is also a certified speaker and mentor for Justice for All. He keeps a personal blog, and you can also follow him on Twitter.

Read previous posts:

Prologue
Part I: Let babies die today, we can save the rest later
Part II: There’s only one way to cut down a tree?
Part III: Social justice history vs TR Hunter
Part IV: Straw men and the Bible
Part V: Sacrificing children to the idol of abolitionism
Scott Klusendorf: Debate between Gregg Cunningham and T. Russell Hunter
Jonathan Van Maren: Four observations from the Cunningham vs. Hunter debate

Pro-life blog buzz 2-27-15

pro-lifeby Susie Allen, host of the blog, Pro-Life in TN, and Kelli

  • John Smeaton comments on the defeat of a sex-selection abortion ban in the UK. Opponents of the ban were apparently afraid it might “confer personhood on the foetus.”
  • Saynsumthn’s Blog reports that the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, school board voted to allow Planned Parenthood to have access to their students in 7th and 8th grade. No doubt this will increase Planned Parenthood’s customer base in the future, as these students become sexually active. Interestingly, the school board made their decision in part due to PP’s ability to garner favor with HHS and to obtain grants. Follow the money trail.
  • Secular Pro-Life features another in their series of analyzing abortion facility websites – American Family Planning of Pensacola, owned and operated by Steven Chase Brigham, whose medical license has been revoked in numerous states. SPL says, “AFPP’s website is full of troubling statements. That’s especially true of its section on medical abortion (abortion by pill).”

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  • Operation Rescue exposes the fact that a Wichita, Kansas, abortion clinic is employing Dr. Leslie Page, an obstetrician who was disciplined by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts for “professional incompetency”:

    It appears that Page is too incompetent to deliver live babies, but it’s apparently fine for her to deliver dead ones through abortions,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “This tragically places women in the risky position of being treated by someone the Board considered too incompetent to practice in a field closely related to abortions. This places women’s lives and health in danger.

  • Dr. Michael New reviews the late Dr. Jack Willke’s book:

    Willke and his wife Barbara co-authored over a dozen books on abortion and human sexuality. Their most recent book, Abortion and the Pro-Life Movement, was published last fall. Willke and his wife, who passed away in 2013, spent several years on this book, which provides a detailed history of the pro-life movement in the United States. Documenting this history was an important task. While plenty has been written debating and analyzing the moral and legal foundations of abortion, the history of abortion-related activism has received precious little attention from either journalists or academics.

  • ProLife365 shares the powerful post-abortive testimony of a woman who had multiple abortions to prove “it didn’t hurt” her:

    I’ve thoughts about why I kept doing that to myself, getting pregnant and having abortions in an endless cycle. I feel like I did it because I had to prove to myself that I was right. I had to prove to myself that it didn’t hurt, that I could go through it over and over again and it wouldn’t hurt. The more I did it, the less it hurt, physically and emotionally. I deadened myself to pain — to right and wrong. Until finally, with the last one, it didn’t hurt at all….

  • Reflections of a Paralytic makes the case against three-parent embryos in this video interview with Stuart Newman, Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at New York Medical College:
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Pro-life blog buzz 1-6-15

pro-lifeby Susie Allen, host of the blog, Pro-Life in TN, and Kelli

  • Secular Pro-Life has discovered some interesting nuggets in Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report. For instance, PP hails the box office flop Obvious Child as a “major victory.” They also boast of an increased college campus presence, bringing them to over 200 chapters. However, there are more than 4 times as many pro-life college campus groups. SPL’s personal favorite is the fact that PP credits their own organization with preventing an extra 1,000 unplanned pregnancies even though they show a decrease in dispensing contraceptives.

Ellis-Gawthorpe-Rogers

  • Suzy B remembers the remarkable story of a premature baby who was saved by a freezer bag:

    Baby Ellis was born at 24 weeks, when he could have been legally aborted. Instead, his parents and doctors fought to save him and he is now a “happy and cheeky” 1 year-old.

  • Wesley J. Smith points out that while Slate is publishing photos of babies just seconds out of the womb, there are “some very prominent bioethicists – past and present – certain… these littlest people are killable – either because they are denigrated as human “non-persons” or because they have terminal or seriously disabling conditions.”
  • Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust show how we can have a conversation with those in the “mushy middle” on abortion, eliminating the middle ground so that they truly choose a side.

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  • Real Choice recalls the anniversary of Kermit Gosnell and his “House of Horrors.” The failure of the Pennsylvania Department of Health to investigate complaints was nothing short of a political move.
  • ProLifeBlogs links to The Black Kettle’s post that says 650 babies are euthanized yearly in the Netherlands.
  • Saynsumthn’s Blog tells of the many organized (and fully boozed) pro-abortion celebrations planned around the country, marking 42 years of Roe v. Wade. Some are even hosted by liberal churches.
  • Bound4Life shares their top ten milestones for life in 2014, including the Hobby Lobby ruling as well as pro-life laws enacted across the country, and also some you might not typically see on a pro-life milestones list.

Rabbi: Preborn are “water” until day 40, but pro-lifers ignore science

smuly_outdoors_best.previewby Kelli

In the case of abortion, Jewish law leans toward the modern pro-choice position, but also holds many powerful arguments for pro-life as well….

In the first forty days since conception, the fetus is considered by the sages to merely be water, and as “the thigh of its mother” (Yevamot 69b; Bava Kama 78b). After forty days however, the fetus is ascribed as a fully potential life whereupon that potential life becomes a full life upon birth. After birth, of course, there is a full status change….

Due to the distinct delineation of potential vs. full life, there are various Jewish approaches as to when an abortion can be permitted and at what stage during pregnancy….

What we have seen, sadly, is the proliferation of attempts to abolish abortion through so-called “personhood” state ballot initiatives that declare a fetus a person from the day of inception, making all abortion, and some birth control methods, a crime, regardless of incest, rape, or the welfare of the mother….

The most notable application of the “personhood” amendment to clinical regulation can be seen in attempts in a Texas law requiring providers at all abortion clinics to meet “ambulatory surgical center” standards (i.e. having admitting privileges at a local hospital, even if they are refused by the hospital), which in effect would close all but seven clinics in the state….

This decision, which is likely to appear in front of the Supreme Court, is yet another that ignores basic science.

~ Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, claiming the pro-life movement “ignor[es] basic science” while admitting that Jewish sages ignore the science of human development, The Huffington Post, December 22

Editor’s Note: See this link for more information on embryonic development during the first 40 days after conception.

[Photo via The Jewish Week]

The Personhood split, Part II: Strategy

2935348.largeRead The Personhood split, Part I: Structure for background.

Aside from their structural variations, Personhood USA and National Personhood Alliance at first seemed to have similar goals – until the November 4 election.

At that time both the Colorado “Definition of Person and Child” Initiative and  North Dakota “Life Begins at Conception” Amendment failed, by 65% and 64%, respectively.

After the defeat of those two initiatives, added to the defeats in 2008 and 2010 of PUSA-sponsored personhood initiatives in Colorado by 73% and 70.5%, respectively, NPA publicly threw in the towel on state initiatives.

The hoister of the white flag was NPA National Policy Director Gualberto Garcia Jones, a former PUSA board member. Jones proclaimed in a post-election op ed, “[I]t isn’t an overstatement to say that the statewide personhood ballot measure is dead for now.”

Ironically, Jones complained in his op ed that at least one previous statewide personhood initiative had lost because it was “sabotaged” by “opposition from state leaders who should have been our allies.”

But isn’t that what Jones was doing to future statewide personhood efforts?

In fact, the personhood movement constantly criticizes – and rightfully so, in my opinion – incremental groups and leaders who publicly oppose their initiatives. Here’s one such letter… co-authored by Jones.

So I don’t understand the compulsion of one personhood group to publicly condemn a strategy spearheaded by another personhood group. You’d think they’d know better.

Pro-aborts ate it up, though.

As Jones should know, personhood efforts, like incremental efforts, are about more than winning at the ballot box or in a legislature, as this PUSA infographic shows (click to enlarge):

IqDg2tXV9EM

Keith Mason, head of PUSA, confirmed to me that PUSA now has a database of 7 million believers. 7 million. No other pro-life group can touch that.

Jones wrote that NPA is taking its efforts local – an incremental strategy, I might add (as are statewide personhood efforts, actually):

We need to start engaging in more asymmetrical tactics, and this means engaging the enemy in municipalities and counties that we know we control.

This can be done at the legislative and political level, as Georgia Right to Life and other groups have done by the endorsement of state officials, or it can be done by engaging in municipal ballot measures.

Dan Becker, former employee of PUSA and founder of NPA, expounded in an email:

We are adding a FOURTH “leg” to the NRLC (National Right to Life Committee) 3-legged stool – judicial tension through the interposition of “lesser magistrates.”

The legal doctrine of interposition is a well established principle. This is especially important as Personhood Alabama has a supportive state supreme court in Justice Tom Parker and Chief Justice Roy Moore. We are looking for various state supreme courts to issue conflicting rulings as an inducement for the U.S. Supreme Court to grant cert. The timeline for a USSC appeal would be after the 2016 election (assuming a GOP victory) and AFTER a replacement of Kennedy or the more liberal old folks.

Becker provided a link to the story of the Georgia city banning abortion clinics (which it has since walked back).

It’s fine, great, to work on any and all of the above. But we again return to the question, why the need for two national personhood groups?

In the final analysis, I think it all comes down to NPA leadership’s animus toward NRLC, with a healthy dose of personhood infighting. (Welcome to the club.) Both leaders of NPA are former employees of PUSA. As I wrote in Part I:

PA wants to formulate an organization of affiliates to compete against the National Right to Life Committee. (It helps to know NRLC disaffiliated Georgia Right to Life, of which Becker is still president, in March 2014 for a difference of opinion on strategy that culminated in GRTL’s public attempt to thwart a piece of NRLC’s legislation.)

PUSA wants to maintain a tight decision-making framework composed of a small leadership team and donor board, also with affiliates, but with no plan to rival and replace NRLC.

PUSA and NPA are working on the same efforts, some just different in scope. As Mason wrote in an email to supporters after the aforementioned op ed was published:

We have increased support for Personhood by 10% since the first initiative in 2008. Clearly, this is a social change model that works. Moreover, these initiatives are tools to build the grassroots infrastructure within a state to actually pass an amendment – it identifies people who consider themselves pro-life so that we can activate them to act pro-life. That’s how Personhood USA grew to become the largest grassroots pro-life organization in the country!

The state ballot initiative is also an educational tool that simultaneously provides a pro-life standard for lobbying and candidate endorsements.

Nevertheless, we realize the fatigue that can set in when we focus exclusively on state measures. That’s why the Personhood USA team developed the idea for regional and local personhood resolutions and measures – an idea which has now been bandied about in the media! We support “all-of-the-above” to work to pass Personhood.

PUSA and NPA share many if not most of the same affiliates. They even share the same name, over which there is now a trademark dispute.

The only real difference between the two is NPA wants to rival NRLC and PUSA doesn’t.

I saw it get personal between Georgia Right to Life/Dan Becker and Karen Handel. (And I was drawn into that, so I speak from experience as well.)

There seems to be a trend.

 

The Personhood split, Part I: Structure

988-BreakupOn June 14, 2014, came the news:

Georgia Right to Life President Daniel Becker today announced the formation of a new national pro-life organization, the National Personhood Alliance, a confederation of faith-based, pro-life organizations and leaders who believe pursuing Personhood is essential to protecting all innocent human beings in the 21st century.

Reading that I became confused, because last I knew Becker was working for Personhood USA, a group that sounded an awful lot like this new group.

Both organizations are founded on the “immediatist” principle of supporting only endeavors and political candidates with no abortion exceptions, such as for rape and incest.

But what could really be the difference between an organization named Personhood USA and one named National Personhood Alliance?

One major difference, I came to learn, was organizational structure.

PA wants to formulate an organization of affiliates to compete against the National Right to Life Committee. (It helps to know NRLC disaffiliated Georgia Right to Life, of which Becker is still president, in March 2014 for a difference of opinion on strategy that culminated in GRTL’s public attempt to thwart a piece of NRLC’s legislation.)

PUSA wants to maintain a tight decision-making framework composed of a small leadership team and donor board, also with affiliates, but with no plan to rival and replace NRLC. Plus, PUSA has worked hard to amass a HUGE (seven million and counting) national database of believers.

I’ll pause to say I have friends and colleagues in both PUSA and PA, and I support both immediatist and incremental approaches to stop abortion – pretty much anything short of violence that attempts to move the ball forward. I only get riled when either camp attempts to thwart the others’ efforts.

That said, and as an aside, in my opinion there is really no such thing as immediatist, or nonincremental, efforts.

While immediatists charge that a 20-week abortion ban omits babies younger than 20 weeks, or that any pro-life law with a rape/incest exception leaves out babies conceived by sexual perpetrators, they cheer initiatives to establish personhood in one state – but which omit 49 other states, or a protest at one abortion clinic – which is not to protest at the other 749 or so others, or saving one baby headed for death – which is not to save the 2,999 or so others murdered by abortion that day. Etc.

In reality, short of a human life amendment to the Constitution, all pro-lifers are working on incremental steps to stop abortion. [UPDATE: A couple people have pointed out to me that even a human life amendment is incremental, since it omits babies in all other pro-abortion countries.]

Some immediatists will then argue there are “principled” vs. “unprincipled” incremental efforts. In other words, there are those babies it is morally acceptable to try to save and those it is not. This really upsets me on a personal level, because I held an aborted baby that immediatists who eschew a 20-week ban would let die. That’s principled?

But back to the split.

PUSA gave PA its blessing upon launch, but the relationship quickly soured. PUSA publicly announced in a September 1 email it would “not be participating in the new National Personhood Alliance.”

In that email PUSA lodged these complaints against PA:

NPA has incorporated in Georgia as a 501c4 under the name “Personhood Inc.” and will be doing business as “Personhood”, Violating Personhood USA’s trademark of Personhood. In addition, the emails and documents we have seen indicate that they intended to use our logos, branding, and intellectual property.

One of the main concerns here is duplication of focus and confusion among all grassroots supporters.

ImageAgentProxy

In fact, there have now been three trademark applications submitted: 1) August 28, 2014, for “Personhood” by Georgia Right to Life Committee; 2) October 6, 2014, for “Personhood” plus the design, right, by Personhood USA; and 3) October 6, 2014, for “Personhood USA” by Personhood USA.

I’m told PUSA and PA are trying to settle their differences through private, not legal, mediation, but if they’ve both now applied for the same trademark, it doesn’t look promising.

NEXT: The Personhood split, Part II: Strategy

Actress: Fetuses aren’t people because they “cannot talk”

by Kelli

News flash… a fetus cannot talk. It is not a person. Not even a baby, not even an infant. Nope. Sorry.

~ Actress Ellen Barkin, tweeting her beliefs on what constitutes personhood, via Twitchy.com, November 1

[HT: StanekReport.com]

College students begin to embrace idea of killing born children

what-makes-us-humanby Kelli

Kristina Garza, spokeswoman for Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, a pro-life organization that often sets up anti-abortion displays on campuses along the West Coast, said her group also frequently encounters college students who accept infanticide.

“For those who are firmly for abortion, because they understand it kills a human being, it’s very easy for them to accept killing a human being after birth,” Garza said. “There is this notion that is common on campus, that it’s OK to kill babies because somehow we don’t become human until we are self aware.”

“A common number that is going around is 4 years old,” she adds.

As for the trend, Garza said there’s an explanation for it. For one, the arguments put forth by Peter Singer and other philosophers who support infanticide are given as reading assignments to college students.

Singer wrote in 1979 that “human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons … [therefore] the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

~ Mairead McArdle, The College Fix, October 29

[HT: Gerard Nadal, Susie Allen; photo via mutualresponsibility.org]