Friday, August 30, 2002

Happy Labor Day!

To all three or four loyal readers, take care while I'm away at the mysterious Howe Caverns, near exotic Albany, NY. The insane blogging will return on Monday.

Kudos to India's National Human Rights Commission...

...for putting five Indian states on notice for coercive population control policy proposals. According to the INDOlink article, the "NHRC’s action followed a news report these five states have already prepared policies proposing various disincentives, including denial of free rations and education to the third child in case a particular family doesn’t follow the family planning programme."

Here's another interesting sentence from the article: "In the Commission view such measures would not only lead to violation of human rights but may also increase female foeticide." The gender feminists probably never envisioned such a thing. It just goes to show, you reap what you sow.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Don't we lose enough babies to abortion without having to worry about this, too?

The nutcase Raelians (a cult whose leader claims that aliens took him to their planet in 1973 and set him up with the best bath of his life -- given by the aliens' lady robots) have started a cloning company, Clonaid, with $1 million of venture capital. Check out the story if you don't believe me. Hell, even I don't believe me. But, alas, it's true.

The saddest part of the story is in the passage quoted below:

"Is Boissellier [a scientist at Clonaid] worried that the defects seen in so many cloned animals may appear in a cloned human infant? 'We will follow the development of the fetus very closely,' she responds. 'A sick child will not be born.' [Did anybody else get a chill? And what's the rationale here? The lady robot bath attendants aren't into defective humans? Can't they be reprogrammed?]

But most scientists are skeptical about their real ability to carry out that promise. Most cloned fetuses never reach maturity, but end their lives during cell reproduction. Are potential surrogate mothers aware that they might have to undergo an abortion if their infants are discovered to have defects? Yes, says Boissellier, and hands the telephone to her daughter, Marina Cocolios, 23, an art student, who was chosen to serve as the first surrogate. 'I think it's so beautiful, I see it as a gift to humanity,' says Cocolios. 'I always wanted a child, but I never had the time.'

Once the aliens meet this 23-year-old, I have a feeling they're going to blow up the planet.

Convenient conservatism.

Just caught UPI's Capital Comment in Tuesday's Washington Times. Turns out that Rev. John Gremmels of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Fort Worth, TX, has decided that abortion rights supporters Tony Sanchez (running for governor) and John Sharp (running for lieutenant governor) will not be allowed to speak at his church. This brave priest has even raised the possibility of excommunicating the two pols, who consider themselves Catholic. If only my rabbi had one tenth the moral compass and cajones of this priest, I wouldn't be switching synagogues.

Anyway, here's the part of the story that bothers me more than an Al Sharpton rally: A Sanchez spokesperson says, "Tony has his personal beliefs, and he is a very devout Catholic, but he's not going to impose his beliefs on everyone else." Talk about convenient conservatism. If only the public health socialists would take up this mindset in other areas, such as smoking, fatty foods, etc.! Teach them, Tony!

In the abortion arena, the Sanchez argument is used by pro-choice Jews left and right. Unfortunately, it is like a dribble glass: it holds no water. Let's begin with reasoning by analogy, shall we? "Candidate X has his personal beliefs about rape, and he is a very devout (fill in using any religion in which rape is a sin), but he's not going to impose his beliefs on everyone else." Or how about: "Candidate Y has her personal beliefs about murder, and she is a very devout (fill in using any religion in which murder is a sin), but she's not going to impose her beliefs on everyone else." Let's think critically. Where do devout peoples' morals come from? Hmm... probably their religion. OK. If the devout person in question is a Catholic, as Sanchez claims to be, then he should have moral objections to murder, rape, abortion, etc. I betcha all my money that Sanchez is willing to impose his personal views about murder and rape. In fact, I bet he'd be willing to impose those views even if the public were split on rape and murder as they are on abortion. So why not be a leader, and lead?! Imagine.

We all know the reason Sanchez is pro-choice in the political arena. The following rough translation of Sanchez's statement will clarify his cowardly position: "Sanchez does not like abortion. In fact he believes it's murder. But he'd very much like the votes of Republican soccer Moms who've bought into the whole 'my body, my decision' bunk pushed by NOW, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL. So when it comes to abortion, he'll make an exception and won't impose his views."

Memo to Sean Hannity -- quick, do an HRC and move to Texas in time to run against this cowardly team!

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Abortion increases women's mortality, according to new study. Hmm... Pro-woman means no right-to-know laws?

In today's Pro-Life Infonet, to which you can subscribe by going here, there's a piece on a new study of the abortion-mortality link -- the woman's mortality, that is -- in the Southern Medical Journal. According to the study, which is lead-authored by David Reardon of the Elliot Institute, in the eight years following their abortions women had a 154 percent higher risk of suicide, an 82 percent higher risk of accidents [likely due to a risk-loving mindset], and a 44 percent higher risk of death from natural causes.

NB I have not yet checked out the methodology in detail, so I can't yet vouch for the study's methodological quality. My quick read of the summary, however, suggests the methods are sound. My only potential qualm, and it's not fatal, is that the sample is restricted to low-income women in CA, making the results somewhat non-generalizable.

That said, I reiterate the argument of the last post: (A) Women are not children. (B) Abortion is billed as a medical procedure. (C) Adults should be required to give informed consent for all medical procedures. Add these up and what have you got? QED: States need right-to-know laws, plain & simple.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Wait a second. I thought feminists don't want women to be treated like children...

Just finished a great piece by Tom Hoopes on the abortion-breast cancer link in the September issue of Crisis. ("Oy, a nice Jewish boy like you should be reading Commentary, not these Catholic magazines.") I don't know about you, but I have been a believer in the ABC link ever since the 1996 meta-analysis by Joel Brind and colleagues (see Brind's website for the reference). Given the conclusive finding of that analysis -- that abortion is a risk factor for breast cancer -- it is unconscionable that states don't have right-to-know laws. When you go to a medical facility for any other invasive procedure, you are told the risks. I'd love it if someone can explain to me what makes abortion different. If we were talking about a procedure only undergone by men, would the patients be kept in the dark? What do you think? I think it's time we stop treating women like children, and give them full information!

What do you mean, you're not going to put my mother to sleep?!

Our culture of death (a phrase coined by Wesley Smith in his book of the same name) just came home to roost for me the other day. My fiancee's mother, a hospice nurse, told us about a recent patient and her family. Her family expected that their mother would be "put to sleep," like a maimed dog as it were, upon admission to the hospice. Apparently they were very disappointed to learn that hospice, at least in NYS (can't speak for Oregon), is about pain management, not murders of convenience. But the inconvenienced family was put out of its misery of inconvenience soon, as the poor lady died soon after admission. I think Wesley Smith got it right. Our culture is truly a culture of death.

CORRECTION: John Augustine, of Musings of an Amphibious Goat, corrects me on who coined the phrase "Culture of Death." John writes: "Pope John Paul used the phrase 'culture of death' in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae ('The Gospel of Life'), which you can check out here... I don't actually know who coined the term, but my point is, I don't think Smith did with his book." Thanks for the correction, John!

Monday, August 26, 2002

It's hard to be a liberal!

So I'm pro-choice on this. I'm against choice on that. Yikes. It must be tough to keep everything straight. Sean Hannity makes this point well in an interview with

"Sean Hannity ridicules those who use the term 'pro-choice' because they’re ashamed to say they’re pro-abortion. 'They’re not pro-choice on gun rights,' he notes. 'They’re not pro-choice when it comes to' allowing people the option of setting aside a part of their Social Security money for private investment. They’re not pro-choice on allowing individuals the option of setting up medical savings accounts. And as the talkmeister has recently noted on his radio show, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (whom Hannity has long identified as a liberal Democrat disguised as a Republican) wants to deny all bars and restaurants in the city the 'choice' of deciding whether they want to allow smoking anywhere in their own establishments."

No wonder this guy is so popular!

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Letter to Elliot Dorff.

Dear Professor Dorff:

For some time now I've been researching Judaism's take on abortion. Recently I came across something very disturbing in Matters of Life and Death, your recent book on Jewish bioethics. Here's the problematic passage (1998, p.128):

"Judaism does not see all abortion as murder, as Catholicism does, because biblical and rabbinic sources understand the process of gestation developmentally. Thus the Torah stipulates that if a woman miscarries due to an assault, the assailant is not held liable for murder but rather must pay only for the lost capital value of the fetus. The early law already indicates that the fetus is not to be viewed as a full-fledged human being but rather as part of one. Based on this, the Talmud determines that within the first forty days after conception the zygote is 'simply water.' Another talmudic source distinguishes the first trimester from the remainder of gestation. These marking points are not based on a theory of ensoulment at a particular moment in the uterus; they are rather determined by physical development of the fetus."

Here's the trouble. You say the marking points are based on physical development, not ensoulment. As well acquainted with human development as I'm sure you are, I find it strange that you didn't also present the facts on human development, and then ask some obvious questions. Here are the well researched, undisputed biological facts for the average unborn child (NB experts agree there is variation by child), as compiled by New York State Right to Life:

  • 24 days: Heart begins beating.

  • 40 days: Brain waves and organ foundations are detectable.

  • 8 weeks: All five areas of adult brain are present.

  • 10 weeks: Baby is sensitive to touch. He/she squints, swallows, and frowns.

  • 3 months: Baby sleeps, kicks, curls toes, and makes fist when touched.

So here's what I would have expected to see you address in your book.

  1. Fact: The Talmud views the zygote as "water" during the first 40 days. Fact: At 24 days, the heart beats. Query: Have you ever come across water that has a beating heart?

  2. Fact: A talmudic source distinguishes the first three months from the last six months. Facts: At 10 weeks, the baby is sensitive to touch and he/she squints, swallows, and frowns. At 3 months, the baby sleeps, kicks, curls toes, and makes fist when touched. Query: What exactly is it about a baby who is sensitive to touch, and squints, swallows, and frowns (10 weeks), that differentiates him/her, developmentally speaking, from a baby who sleeps, kicks, curls his/her toes, and makes a fist when touched (end of first trimester)? Is there something special about sleeping? Does that mean the murder of an insomniac is ethical? I'm assuming you would say no. If you would say no, then why is the standard different for an unborn baby?

It's apparent that the rabbinic and biblical sources, working as they did when the science of human development was, if you will, embryonic, had very inaccurate notions about the physical development of the unborn child. Given these inaccuracies, it seems to me that the only leg you have left to stand on is ensoulment.

While Catholicism and traditional Judaism do understand gestation developmentally, Conservative Judaism (your branch) and Reform Judaism, to use your own words against you, must rely on "a theory of ensoulment at a particular moment in the uterus." The demarcation point in one case is 40 days, in the other case three months, but in both cases there is no "developmental" understanding of gestation involved.

Respectfully yours,

Pro-life guy

Friday, August 23, 2002

"Abortion as Oppression," an excellent post by John Augustine.

Check it out.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Poland can teach us! No, this is not another Polack joke.

Pope JP II's trip to Poland got me thinking not only about his wonderful pro-life work, but also about Poland's experience of abortion policy and its consequences. This is something we don't know nearly enough about.

Not to bore you with too many details you may already know, but here's the gist: before the fall of Communism Poland had government-funded abortion on demand. In 1993 the Polish parliament placed what some would call "severe" restrictions on abortion (i.e., abortion allowed for threat to the woman's health [whatever this means], for pregnancy resulting from a crime, and for severe fetal deformities [ditto]). Since 1993, there have been very few legal abortions, but as pro-abortion groups like the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning are quick to rightly point out, we don't know how large the black market is.

You'll probably not want to put too much faith in PFWFP's predictably pro-abortion report put out in 2000, but you should check out the page that has stats on legal abortions by year, from 1965-99. Interestingly, even prior to 1993 the number of legal abortions had been decreasing more or less steadily, from 168,587 in 1965 to 11,640 in 1992. I'm not an expert on all the things that might have caused this decline, but the most obvious is simply a declining population. No dice. Poland's population grew from 31.6 million in 1965 to 38.6 million in 2000. Although I couldn't find data on the age breakdown of Polish women during this period [anyone out there who reads Polish and can help?], it's inconceivable that such a dramatic aging of Polish women -- on a scale that would explain the decline in legal abortions in Poland from 1965-93 -- took place prior to 1993. A change in mores? A move to the black market? The PFWFP report linked above has lots of suggestions, none of which I'm willing to take as truth.

Then there's the mystery of 1997. You see, from 1993-99, the number of legal abortions in Poland fluctuated between 151 (1999) and 3,047 (1997, the year after the Sejm liberalized the law to allow abortions for "social" reasons, only to reverse the liberalization the following year). The spike in 1997 itself raises lots of questions. After all, 3,047 is a far cry from the number of legal abortions prior to 1993. If women could obtain abortions for any reason in 1993, why didn't the number shoot back up to pre-1993 numbers? PFWFP spins it like this: it shows that there's a huge black market (80,000-200,000 a year by their estimation!). But again, it might have something to do with a change in mores. And there's some anecdotal evidence of this, like the BBC story about a woman who wanted to abort her unborn baby due to his/her Downs Syndrome, but was turned away by hospital after hospital! Can you imagine a hospital in this country, aside from Catholic hospitals that hold true to pro-life principles, turning such a woman away? They'd try to force the abortion on her if she didn't want it! So a large-scale change in mores seems like a plausible explanation. As Mary Ann Glendon argues in her wonderful Abortion and Divorce in Western Law, the law does affect opinions. But that still doesn't explain the large decline from 1965 to 1993. Another unanswered question.

The social scientist side of me wishes for more time to bore you with stats and blather. But, alas, no one's paying me to look into this from 9-5! Before I go, though, let me ask for any of your own observations/questions/etc. on the Polish case. And if you know of somebody whose research I've missed, by all means post a comment or drop me an e-mail. Thanks.

Whoa. Big PS: My fiancee (call her pro-life gal) reminds me about "abortion tourism." The same way Irish women seeking abortions simply travel to England, Polish women probably travel to neighboring countries. She seems to be right. The PFWFP report has a section on Polish abortion tourism, upon which regional governments seem to be cracking down. "Sporadically," the report linked above notes, "women individually go to clinics in Russia (Kaliningrad), Lithuania or Belarus, but there have been limitations introduced to conducting abortions for foreigners in these countries, as well as in Czech Republic."

Still, abortion tourism is not the explanation for all the questions raised above, such as why the number of abortions declined from 1965 to 1993, why the spike in 1997 wasn't larger, etc.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Here's a little brucha for Pope John Paul II.

Reading about the pope's weekend trip to his homeland, where he spoke out against "freedom without responsibility," I couldn't help but be a little jealous of Catholics. I'm obviously not jealous of Catholics' situation when it comes to the pedophiliac criminals and enablers that riddle their church's hierarchy. What makes me jealous is that Catholics have as their leader the world's most eloquent, persuasive, respected defender of innocent human life.

Contrast that with my situation. Granted, Judaism has no hierarchy analogous to that of the Catholic Church, but rabbis are our leaders. Most of my religion's leaders embarrass and disappoint me when it comes to abortion. They embarrass me when they tell me that abortion-as-birth-control is wrong but offer nary a public word to the congregation on its abortion-as-birth-control mindset. It's cowardice, plain and simple. They disappoint me when they concede that an unborn baby is alive, but don't do the easy critical thinking that would make them pro-life (i.e., "If it's not human life, what is it? Turtle life? Plant life?" Rabbi responds: "I don't know. Consult your kabbalah [Jewish mysticism]." Honest to G-d -- that really happened.).

That's all. Nothing deep. Just glad there's somebody so brave and principled using a bully pulpit on behalf of the wee unborn. Not that he needs my brucha, but may G-d bless the pontiff!

And by the way, the "freedom without responsibility" thing is 100 percent Reaganesque, yet another reason to love the pontiff! Here's a brucha for the Gipper, too!

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Who should decide which lives are worth living?

Webster, a town near mine in western NYS, has the strangest motto: "where life is worth living." Every time I drive through I wonder what possessed the nudniks who made up that motto. I envision a survey: "Please tell me if you agree or disagree with the following statement: Life is worth living here. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree..." Who knows? Maybe they think everybody in my town should either move or commit suicide. Even if that town had the house of my dreams up for sale, I'd not even look at it, in protest against that silly motto.

The creators of Webster's motto aren't the only ones who think they're good judges of worthwhile living. You may have heard by now that after a drawn-out court battle, Uncle Sam, i.e., you and I, will have to fund a Navy couple's abortion of their anencephalic baby, who was conceived 21 weeks ago. I have two problems with this:

  • One: No one has the right to decide an innocent's fate, not the parents and not anyone else, either. My Great Aunt Mary and I used to argue about this quite a bit. "But that lady would have to carry the baby for such a long time," she'd say, "and for what? Those babies die within a few hours or days of birth. What kind of life is that?" She used to make the same quality of life argument about AIDS babies. But as I told Aunt Mary, it's supreme arrogance for anybody to think they are wise enough to judge that someone else's life is not worth living. If I judged her life to be not worth living, could I take it? What if I took a poll of the American public and found that 51 percent believe her life is not worth living? What then? I could take her life, I suppose she'd say, but I wouldn't get any more moist brisket or ice-cold borscht juice.

  • Two: According to the article linked above, "[l]aws prohibit the federal government from paying for abortions unless the woman's life is in danger, and the regulation implementing the law specifically mentions anencephaly as a condition that does not qualify as endangering the woman's life." Seems pretty clear, right? We don't foot the bill. But read this: "However, experts for the other side have argued there is increasing risk the longer she is pregnant." I'm confused. If implementing regulation states that anencephaly does not threaten the mother's life, who cares what abortion industry-funded "experts" argue?

Friday, August 16, 2002

Is a job really that important?

By now you've probably read about the appalling case of abortion coercion in the DC Emergency Medical Services agency. During job orientation last year, Interim EMS operations chief Samantha M. Robinson told rookies they could be fired if they committed the crime of pregnancy. The DC code prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, so thankfully the despicable Ms. Robinson will be censured.

But what about the three women who chose their jobs over their babies? (Please, nobody write in reminding me that abortion is legal in this country. I know. I know.) What about other jobs out there? Is abortion such a minor thing that these women couldn't be brave and risk firing, unemployment (and unemployment checks), and yet more job searching, all in order to carry their children to term? Couldn't they sacrifice in the lifestyle department to be moral in the life department? You can be sure that the real feminists -- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and their ilk -- would have told Robinson where she could shove their jobs. Real feminists wouldn't have let themselves be pushed around and "forced" into abortion.

Have no fear, noble Afghan women! UN to the rescue!

You can say at least one nice thing about pro-abortion agencies like Planned Parenthood and the UN: Disaster strikes and they're there in a heartbeat. After 9/11, the ever-generous Planned Parenthood was on the scene in NYC immediately, offering exactly what that city's traumatized women needed -- free reproductive health care (read abortions).

Now we are reminded by Steve Mosher of the indispensable Population Research Institute that the UN has been doing the same thing in Afghanistan. Seems the UN didn't catch that needs assessment performed by an Afghan NGO in June. In its survey of 150 Afghan women of childbearing age, the NGO found that Afghan women's most pressing needs, in order of priority, are:

  1. Emergency food distribution
  2. Clean water programs, including reclamation of polluted water sources
  3. Immunization programs
  4. Natural family planning education
  5. Pregnancy education
  6. Vocational training programs
  7. Child malnutrition assessment
  8. Psychological assessment programs
  9. Women’s education
  10. Skin diseases programs

Hmm... didn't see abortion on there. But check out these passages from Mosher's piece: "Many of the women interviewed had just returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan. They reported abortion campaigns led by United Nations-funded aid organizations operating inside refugee camps, including Ahkorra Khattack, in the southern section of the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. A high percentage of the women returning from Pakistan—25 percent—reported that they had been subjected to abortion or sterilization procedures while in refugee camps there... [BUT] Not one woman stated that abortion or contraception services were wanted or needed, indicating a strong likelihood that abortions performed in Pakistan refugee camps were done without adequate informed consent." Sick, huh? That's the UN for you.

But it shouldn't surprise us, should it? To mangle a metaphor, the road to hell is paved by the UN. There they are, the UN and PP, happily working together to rid the world if its poor, black, brown, teeming masses. Eugenicist and PP founder Margaret Sanger would be proud.

Monday, August 12, 2002

The "women agonize over this decision -- leave it to them, their doctors, and their clergy" argument.

There are lots of responses to this argument.

  • One: There's always old reliable -- the simple "fill-in-the-blanks" approach: The SS officer agonized over turning on the gas. It was a tough, unbelievably wrenching decision for him. G-d help him, he thought it was the right thing to do, so who are we to say? All for the best. Leave it to him, his Fuhrer, and his religion (if he's got one) (but if he doesn't it's OK -- I do believe in the religious freedom of atheists).

  • Two: What on earth makes a doctor a moral genius? Almost all abortions are purely elective (i.e., "Nothing bad happened to me; it's just that I don't feel like it right now b/c a baby would interfere with work, OR my boyfriend and I don't get along, OR I don't want to be a single mom, OR I can't afford it."), so it makes sense that folks trained in physical healing should help in that decision process. Right? Right?? Don't believe me about how many abortions are purely elective, and the stated reasons? Check out the following stats from Planned Parenthood's research arm, the Alan Guttmacher Institute:

    • "In 1997, 1.33 million abortions took place."
    • "About 13,000 women have abortions each year following rape or incest."
    • "On average, women give at least 3 reasons for choosing abortion: 3/4 say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities; about 2/3 say they cannot afford a child; and 1/2 say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner."

    Just so you don't have to whip out your calculator, 13,000 rape/incest abortions divided by 1.33 million total abortions comes to less than 1%. I couldn't find stats on the annual number of abortions to save the life of the mother, presumably because the number is infinitesimal. If anybody knows where to find this datum, please e-mail me.

  • Three: I don't know about non-Jewish women, but Jewish women don't talk to their clergy about abortion. My rabbi (part of the Conservative branch of Judaism) recently told a "controversial issues" study group I was part of that he has never - NEVER - been consulted about an abortion decision. And at Conservative rabbis' conferences, when he asks his colleagues, they too reveal that no one ever comes to them about abortion. Plenty come about euthanasia, one would guess b/c such a gut wrenching decision requires spiritual assistance. If abortion decisions were as gut wrenching as pro-choice Jews inform me, why don't Conservative Jews go to their rabbis? And hey, if Conservative Jewish women don't go to their rabbis about abortion decisions, you can bet your last shekel that Reform women don't. Orthodox women tend to be pro-life, so it's not really an issue for them.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Since when are reproductive rights human rights?

Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, recently wrote that, "[i]ndividuals everywhere have the right to freely decide for themselves whether or not to have children... Reproductive rights are human rights" (Wall Street Journal, 8/7/02, p.A15). Who the hell does she think she's kidding? Reproductive rights are women's rights, not human rights. Men have no rights whatsoever in this arena. A few weeks back, in fact, an expecting mother's ex-boyfriend won an injunction which forbade her from having an abortion, only to have it lifted last week. He stepped up to the plate, offering to take full responsibility for the child upon birth. I say recognize that man's rights. Seems like a fair trade -- she puts in nine months, and he puts in the rest of his life. And best of all, they both take responsibility for producing a living, breathing human being.