Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

A simple case for the pro-life position by Scott Klusendorf

Are you able to make a basic case for the pro-life view?

Here’s a short 38-lecture by Scott Klusendorf, president of the Life Training Institute.

This is a long treatment that talks about the challenge of moral relativism and the case for the pro-life view. He does show a clip of abortion in the video to the audience.

There’s also a 35-minute audio recording of Scott on the LTI web site. (H/T Apologetics 315) You can put that on your podcast player and listen to it. Listen to it a lot and soon you’ll sound like Scott.

Scott also has an article posted on the LTI web site for those who don’t have time for the video or the audio.

In the article makes three points:

  1. Clarify the issue
  2. Defend your pro-life position with science and philosophy
  3. Challenge your listeners to be intellectually honest

Here’s the second point:

Scientifically, we know that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. Leading embryology books confirm this.2 For example, Keith L. Moore & T.V.N. Persaud write, “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm … unites with a female gamete or oocyte … to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”3 Prior to his abortion advocacy, former Planned Parenthood President Dr. Alan Guttmacher was perplexed that anyone, much less a medical doctor, would question this. “This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge,” he wrote in his book Life in the Making.4

Philosophically, we can say that embryos are less developed than newborns (or, for that matter, toddlers) but this difference is not morally significant in the way abortion advocates need it to be. Consider the claim that the immediate capacity for self-awareness bestows value on human beings. Notice that this is not an argument, but an arbitrary assertion. Why is some development needed? And why is this particular degree of development (i.e., higher brain function) decisive rather than another? These are questions that abortion advocates do not adequately address.

As Stephen Schwarz points out, there is no morally significant difference between the embryo that you once were and the adult that you are today. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not relevant such that we can say that you had no rights as an embryo but you do have rights today. Think of the acronym SLED as a helpful reminder of these non-essential differences:5

Size: True, embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant? Do we really want to say that large people are more human than small ones? Men are generally larger than women, but that doesn’t mean that they deserve more rights. Size doesn’t equal value.

Level of development: True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than the adults they’ll one day become. But again, why is this relevant? Four year-old girls are less developed than 14 year-old ones. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings? Some people say that self-awareness makes one human. But if that is true, newborns do not qualify as valuable human beings. Six-week old infants lack the immediate capacity for performing human mental functions, as do the reversibly comatose, the sleeping, and those with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Environment: Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human? If the unborn are not already human, merely changing their location can’t make them valuable.

Degree of Dependency: If viability makes us human, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable and we may kill them. Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems also have no right to life.

In short, it’s far more reasonable to argue that although humans differ immensely with respect to talents, accomplishments, and degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature.

That’s the core of the basic pro-life case right there. There’s also a good interview of Mr. Klusendorf that I blogged about.

Advanced Objections

You can learn more by reading basic pro-life apologetics… from Francis Beckwith. You might recognize Frank Beckwith as the author of “Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice“. He wrote that book for Cambridge University Press, a top academic press. But before Cambridge University Press, Beckwith wrote easy-to-understand essays for the Christian Research Journal.

Here are four essays that answer common arguments in favor of legalized abortion.

Here’s an excerpt from Part II:

Excerpt:

A woman who becomes pregnant due to an act of either rape or incest is the victim of a horribly violent and morally reprehensible crime. Although pregnancy as a result of either rape or incest is extremely rare, [1] there is no getting around the fact that pregnancy does occur in some instances.

[...]Despite its forceful appeal to our sympathies, there are several problems with this argument. First, it is not relevant to the case for abortion on demand, the position defended by the popular pro-choice movement. This position states that a woman has a right to have an abortion for any reason she prefers during the entire nine months of pregnancy, whether it be for gender-selection, convenience, or rape. [3] To argue for abortion on demand from the hard cases of rape and incest is like trying to argue for the elimination of traffic laws from the fact that one might have to violate some of them in rare circumstances, such as when one’s spouse or child needs to be rushed to the hospital. Proving an exception does not establish a general rule.

[...]Fourth, this argument begs the question by assuming that the unborn is not fully human. For if the unborn is fully human, then we must weigh the relieving of the woman’s mental suffering against the right-to-life of an innocent human being. And homicide of another is never justified to relieve one of emotional distress. Although such a judgment is indeed anguishing, we must not forget that the same innocent unborn entity that the career-oriented woman will abort in order to avoid interference with a job promotion is biologically and morally indistinguishable from the unborn entity that results from an act of rape or incest. And since abortion for career advancement cannot be justified if the unborn entity is fully human, abortion cannot be justified in the cases of rape and incest. In both cases abortion results in the death of an innocent human life. As Dr. Bernard Nathanson has written, “The unwanted pregnancy flows biologically from the sexual act, but not morally from it.” [5]Hence, this argument, like the ones we have already covered in this series, is successful only if the unborn are not fully human.

Scott Klusendorf wrote the The Case for Life, which is the best book for beginners on the pro-life view. For those looking for advanced resources, Francis Beckwith, a professor at Baylor University, published the book Defending Life, with Cambridge University Press, 2007.

I found a very polished hour-long talk by Scott on Youtube. That talk was delivered to students and faculty at Furman University.

Finally, if you want to see Scott Klusendorf in a debate with a former ACLU executive, you can see it right here.

My friend Papa Georgio sent me a post that features THREE talks by Scott Klusendorf. (H/T Religio-Political Talk)

Learn about the pro-life case

And some posts motivating Christians and conservatives to take abortion seriously:

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: relationships where babies are born before the marriage happens are more unstable

From Family Studies.

Excerpt:

New research on the marital prospects of single mothers published in the August issue of the journal Demography has good and bad news… The good news is that biological father marriages are more enduring than stepfather marriages. In other words, saying yes to her daughter’s father means that she is more likely to stay married than if she had said yes to someone else. The bad news is that even though she opted for the better bet, the odds are still stacked against her marriage lasting.

[...]“Among marriages that involved a black mother and a biological father,” she found, “20% had dissolved within five years, and 47% had dissolved within 10 years.”

Age and education of the mother did not do much to improve those odds.

More:

[...][V]ery few personal characteristics affected the divorce risk of women of any race in the study. Their husbands’ characteristics didn’t matter, either. Even though factors like age and education have been shown to matter quite a bit for ten-year divorce rates overall, they didn’t make a difference among the women that Gibson-Davis studied: those who gave birth outside of marriage.

[...]By showing that a single mother is most likely to marry her child’s biological father shortly after giving birth, and that such a marriage is less likely to end in divorce than marriage to another man, Gibson-Davis has provided some limited, encouraging evidence to those championing marriage promotion programs. Nevertheless, she correctly stresses that much work remains for those seeking to encourage single mothers to marry because enduring unions are relatively rare, even among biological parents. I have one window showing me why that is true. There are many others. The bottom line is that post-birth marriages are likely to be more difficult and less stable than others, and strengthening them is indeed an uphill battle.

If you’re like me, and you’re not having sex until you get married, now you know why. The old ways are best. Besides, when you take sex off the table, how the heck do you get a woman to like you? How does a woman get a man to like her? Oh, I have an idea. Men and women could think about how to show love for each other and how to help each other. Imagine that. That’s the way people used to have relationships. You actually had to put the work in then, and talk about things, instead of just jumping into bed after getting drunk with someone “hawt” that you just met at a party.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

Three cases where liberal tinkering with sexual ethics and marriage hurt children

This post by “Jane Galt” on Right Wing News highlights three cases where social liberals change the cultural rules around sex and marriage, and it ended up back-firing to hurt children. I will talk about one case below.

The case I want to talk about is the case of changing welfare laws.

Excerpt:

To sketch a brief history of welfare, it emerged in the nineteenth century as “Widows and orphans pensions”, which were paid by the state to destitute families whose breadwinner had passed away. They were often not available to blacks; they were never available to unwed mothers. Though public services expanded in the first half of the twentieth century, that mentality was very much the same: public services were about supporting unfortunate families, not unwed mothers. Unwed mothers could not, in most cases, obtain welfare; they were not allowed in public housing (which was supposed to be–and was–a way station for young, struggling families on the way to homeownership, not a permanent abode); they were otherwise discriminated against by social services. The help you could expect from society was a home for wayward girls, in which you would give birth and then put the baby up for adoption.

[...]Now, in the late fifties, a debate began over whether to extend benefits to the unmarried. It was unfair to stigmatise unwed mothers. Why shouldn’t they be able to avail themselves of the benefits available to other citizens? The brutal societal prejudice against illegitimacy was old fashioned, bigoted, irrational.

But if you give unmarried mothers money, said the critics, you will get more unmarried mothers.

“Ridiculous”, said the proponents of the change. “Being an unmarried mother is a brutal, thankless task. What kind of idiot would have a baby out of wedlock just because the state was willing to give her paltry welfare benefits?”

People do all sorts of idiotic things, said the critics. If you pay for something, you usually get more of it.

“C’mon” said the activists. “That’s just silly. I just can’t imagine anyone deciding to get pregnant out of wedlock simply because there are welfare benefits available.”

Oooops.

Of course, change didn’t happen overnight. But the marginal cases did have children out of wedlock, which made it more acceptable for the next marginal case to do so. Meanwhile, women who wanted to get married essentially found themselves in competition for young men with women who were willing to have sex, and bear children, without forcing the men to take any responsibility. This is a pretty attractive proposition for most young men. So despite the fact that the sixties brought us the biggest advance in birth control ever, illegitimacy exploded. In the early 1960s, a black illegitimacy rate of roughly 25 percent caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to write a tract warning of a crisis in “the negro family” (a tract for which he was eviscerated by many of those selfsame activists.)

By 1990, that rate was over 70 percent. This, despite the fact that the inner city, where the illegitimacy problem was biggest, only accounts for a fraction of the black population.

But in that inner city, marriage had been destroyed. It had literally ceased to exist in any meaningful way.

So what went wrong? Why did people with some good intentions achieve such bad results?

This went wrong:

Why would a woman choose such a hard road? It seemed self-evident that the only unwed mothers claiming benefits would be the ones pushed there by terrible circumstance.

This argument is compelling and logical. I would never become an unwed welfare mother, even if benefits were a great deal higher than they are now. It seems crazy to even suggest that one would bear a child out of wedlock for $567 a month. Indeed, to this day, I find the reformist side much more persuasive than the conservative side, except for one thing, which is that the conservatives turned out to be right. In fact, they turned out to be even more right than they suspected; they were predicting upticks in illegitimacy that were much more modest than what actually occurred–they expected marriage rates to suffer, not collapse.

How did people go so badly wrong? Well, to start with, they fell into the basic fallacy that economists are so well acquainted with: they thought about themselves instead of the marginal case. For another, they completely failed to realise that each additional illegitimate birth would, in effect, slightly destigmatise the next one. They assigned men very little agency, failing to predict that women willing to forgo marriage would essentially become unwelcome competition for women who weren’t, and that as the numbers changed, that competition might push the marriage market towards unwelcome outcomes. They failed to forsee the confounding effect that the birth control pill would have on sexual mores.

But I think the core problems are two. The first is that they looked only at individuals, and took instititutions as a given. That is, they looked at all the cultural pressure to marry, and assumed that that would be a countervailing force powerful enough to overcome the new financial incentives for out-of-wedlock births. They failed to see the institution as dynamic. It wasn’t a simple matter of two forces: cultural pressure to marry, financial freedom not to, arrayed against eachother; those forces had a complex interplay, and when you changed one, you changed the other.

The second is that they didn’t assign any cultural reason for, or value to, the stigma on illegitimacy. They saw it as an outmoded vestige of a repressive Victorial values system, based on an unnatural fear of sexuality. But the stigma attached to unwed motherhood has quite logical, and important, foundations: having a child without a husband is bad for children, and bad for mothers, and thus bad for the rest of us. So our culture made it very costly for the mother to do. Lower the cost, and you raise the incidence. As an economist would say, incentives matter.

Incentives matter. We don’t want to encourage people to do harmful, costly things and hurt children in the name of “compassion”.

But let’s get back to the bigger issue.

When you hear a person arguing for “compassion” for people who make immoral decisions, you should understand that they are arguing that moral boundaries on costly behavior be lifted. The costs that result from bad behavior are shifted from those who sin to those who don’t. The compassion crowd likes to cite one or two cases where someone is a genuine victim – but that is not the issue. The issue is the general case, and the incentives created that cause people on the margins to change their behavior. The word compassion should really be understood to mean “the act of saying that wrong is right, and covering up the damage for wrong actions with someone else’s money, taken from them by force”. That’s compassion, and it is celebrated in the feminized church as very Biblical. It’s nothing of the kind. This is not about judging people, it’s about helping people to avoid making mistakes that impoverish us all and harm the most vulnerable among us. We should not be encouraging irresponsible, selfish, immoral behavior and calling it “compassion”.

Marriage is a good thing that protects children, who are very much in need of protection. We shouldn’t be messing with it just so that we grown-ups can do things that make us feel good. Children are more important, because they are more vulnerable.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , ,

UK woman who had 4 abortions breaks silence to warn other women

From Life Site News.

Excerpt:

A 23-year-old London woman has opened up to the BBC about the four abortions she had between the ages of 18 and 22, in the hopes that she will convince other young women to think twice before having their own abortions.

“Lisa,” a pseudonym given by the BBC, had her first abortion at 18, her second at 21, and two more abortions at 22. At 20, she became pregnant but decided to keep the baby, and is now raising her one surviving daughter.

Lisa told the BBC she believes abortion is morally wrong, but had the abortions anyway because she couldn’t bear the thought of having four children, each with a different father.

“I was really careless. I can’t blame anyone else,” Lisa told the BBC. “I should have been more responsible, because I’ve killed a life now. And it wasn’t that baby’s fault.”

Lisa said that she was terrified the first time she went to have an abortionist end her baby’s life, but that time and repetition changed her and made her more callous.

“It does get easier with the more you have,” she told the BBC. “I know that sounds really bad, but that is just how it is.”

She said that by sharing her own experience of being changed by abortion, she hoped to convince other women to make better choices.

“I thought that if I could tell my story, maybe young women would think twice about having sex without contraception, or sleeping with guys they don’t really know,” Lisa said. “I want to tell other women that abortions aren’t just something you should do. It could change your life.”

“Lisa” also warns about the effectiveness of contraceptions:

Even though Lisa echoes the abortion industry line about contraceptives preventing abortion, she admits she was using contraception during each and every one of her conceptions – everything from the pill to semi-permanent solutions like the IUD.

“I’ve tried the pill, the patch, the injection, the coil and the implant. And they didn’t work,” Lisa said. “I bled continuously while I was on them. And the coil gave me pains, so I had to take that out after a month.”

She added, “No one wants to keep on having terminations – so I have tried different methods of contraception but they don’t seem to work for me.”

Lisa is far from alone. A telephone study of former clients by the Marie Stopes UK abortionist group found that 57 percent of those who sought repeat abortions were active users of contraception who nonetheless became pregnant anyway.

“Our research shows all sorts of women of all ages can experience repeat unwanted pregnancy,” Genevieve Edwards, Marie Stopes UK’s director of policy, told the BBC. “In the past we’ve failed to tackle this, because we didn’t want to stigmatize women.”

Edwards admits that contraceptives, particularly the short-term kind, are not as effective as many people think, and when they fail, many women look to abortion as a backup plan.

I guess in my own case, I stay clear of premarital sex for personal reasons but also because I do not want to be responsible for killing another human being just because I was looking for a good time. I think that the possible risks outweigh the pleasure I might gain. It’s important for me to foresee the consequences of my choices and avoid harming others.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on sex and sexuality at Harvard University

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Morse delivers a talk based on her book “Smart Sex” at Harvard University.

The MP3 file is here. (30 Mb)

Topics:

  • the hook-up culture and its effects on men and women
  • cohabitation and its effect on marriage stability
  • balancing marriage, family and career
  • single motherhood by choice and IVF
  • donor-conceived children
  • modern sex: a sterile, recreation activity
  • the real purposes of sex: procreation and spousal unity
  • the hormone oxytocin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the hormone vassopressin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the sexual revolution and the commoditization of sex
  • the consumer view of sex vs the organic view of sex
  • fatherlessness and multi-partner fertility
  • how the “sex-without-relationship” view harms children

52 minutes of lecture, 33 minutes of Q&A from the Harvard students. The Q&A is worth listening to – the first question is from a gay student, and Dr. Morse pulls a William Lane Craig to defeat her objection. It was awesome! I never get tired of listening to her talk, and especially on the topics of marriage and family.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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