Thursday, August 01, 2002
This is entirely self-promotion, but there are now photos of me and Shamed up on the C-SPAN website, for those who care to take a look. This rather miniscule brush with fame has also reminded me of a fact I find odd: When I do a google search for my name, I instantly come up with tons and tons of links. This site comes up first, followed by my much-neglected Conservative Activism page, followed by my many articles for Accuracy in Academia, mentions of me in the Yale Daily News (one photo has me holding a sign that says "Al Gore is the Unabomber"), and so on. But when I do searches for a number of my high-school classmates, I may get one mention of them, if anything. Eve pointed out that this is probably due mainly to my profession (journalism, such as it is) but I would think that at least a few would have websites, as most were much more technologically-minded than I. Perhaps they were just smart enough not to put them in their own names.
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Well, I know it's been a couple of weeks, but Russo's Republic is back in business. Sorry for the lack of postings, but some very exciting stuff has been going on. Conservative University (Accuracy in Academia's premier conservative conference for college students) went off without a hitch, and Shamed Dogan and I were actually televised giving speeches on C-SPAN. (Well, C-SPAN's 2 and 3, but hey, it's a start). I spoke about why the pro-life position is supported by science and Shamed spoke on why conservatives should be "pro-choice on crime." The program may be on again (they've already shown us three or four times) so check the C-SPAN schedule if you're interested. Lots of interesting commentary is coming later, but I figured for now I'll post a rough transcript of my speech, so those of you who don't get C-SPAN 3 can see what I had to say, such as it is....
The Science of Being Pro-Life
(note: please keep in mind that this transcript is virtually un-edited, so yes, there are places where I repeat myself, where the grammar isn't great, etc...)
I want to begin with a paradox. As you all know, abortion is one of the most divisive and controversial issues in our society, but it’s also an issue about which debate is said to be impossible.
Now, that’s kind odd right, kind of disturbing to you college students. You’re used to debating most topics, things like economics, social security, welfare. These are all things which, at least, liberals think can be debated. But when it comes to abortion, most people tend to put it aside, to say, abortion is a religious issue, it’s an issue of personal moral conviction. It’s not an issue that we can talk about. I just have my belief and you have yours, and never the twain shall meet. We can’t talk about it.
So what I’m hoping to do today is to prove that that’s wrong. I think that abortion can be talking about. While there are certainly many religious reasons to be pro-life, I think that there are also many scientific reasons to be pro-life, and I was hoping to go over the science of abortion, because I think that by talking about science, we can really get a debate going.
It’s kind of interesting, but the pro-choice movement in America usually likes to talk about science too. They like to portray themselves as the scientific ones, the modern ones. I’m sure you’ve heard that pro-lifers are all men who want to send women back to the days when they were all barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, though of course those days never really existed in the way that they talk about them. But I think it’s really the pro-lifers who are in fact the ones on the forefront of science.
There’s actually a really interesting anecdote about this. At the American Political Science Association Convention, in 1998, there was a panel about whether moral question could be resolved by rational argument, and two of the speakers there were professor Robert George of Princeton, who you may have heard of because he’s a quite famous conservative, and professor Stanley Fish of Duke University, and prof. Fish is very, very left-wing, kind of a post-modern guy, a left-winger in many ways. During this panel, it had just barely begun, when they were talking about whether science supported pro-life arguments or pro-choice arguments. And the debate had just been a few minutes in going on, when Prof. Fish immediately conceded. He said, “Prof. George is right. And he is right to correct me. Nowadays, it is pro-lifers who make the scientific question of when the beginning of life occurs the key one in the abortion debate.” So, we’ve got even this radical left-wing professor admitting that at the very least, science supports the pro-life position. So I think hopefully I’m going to demonstrate that he’s right, and we can in fact get some of these leftists to admit that science does support the pro-life position. And that it’s by contrast the pro-choice position that is based on superstition and on vagueries.
So I’d like to give you just a little background first on abortion in America. You’ve probably heard some of these statistics, but some of them shocked even me. Since Roe v. Wade was passed by the Supreme Court in January 1973, there have been over 40 million abortions in America. Each year in the United States today, there’s about 1.3 million. You can’t get exact figures, these are from a couple years back. Only about 1% of these abortions occur in cases of rape or incest. So that does happen. It’s true that women are raped occasionally and do have abortions as a result of that, but these are a very small minority of cases. These are by far not the rule, these are the exception to the rule. 52% of abortions are obtained by young women, under the age of 25, which makes it especially crucial that we get this word out to college campuses where there are so many young women.
14% of abortions are paid for with public funds, usually state money, Some states have bans on money going towards abortion, but many more do not. And 47% of all abortions are repeat abortions, that is, abortions performed on a woman who had already had an abortion. So when you hear it said that abortion is not being used as a contraceptive means, that’s not always the case unfortunately. One last statistic, and this was especially shocking, in Washington DC, the city you’ve been in now for several days, over the last several years, I think the last figures I was able to get were from 1998, there were more than twice the number of abortions as live births. I think that bears repeating. For every baby born in Washington DC, two were aborted. So that’s really pretty horrendous.
So now I’d like tell you a little about the science of abortion, and I want to start by concentrating on something that should be very familiar to yourselves: that is, you. I want you to think about yourselves as you are now, 20, 21, 22 years old, you’re probably pretty tired ‘cause it’s only ten in the morning, and you’ve been at this conference for several days. And now go back in time a little bit. Think ten years earlier. Maybe you were in middle school. You certainly didn’t look the same. You didn’t have the same body, you didn’t have the same emotions, you certainly didn’t have the same rational state of mind. Your brain was very different then. But you were still you. You still had this identity that you carried with you. Now go back even further. Go back to when you were about five. You were extremely different then. You were probably about yea high, very short, you certainly didn’t have the mind of an adult, you probably couldn’t process rational questions very well. You couldn’t listen to a speech like this. You’d probably be very bored and crying for your mother to take you out. And you certainly couldn’t think in the way that you do.
So go back even further. Think to when you were a baby. You probably don’t even remember this, but you know that it happened, right? You know that you were an infant at one point, you’ve probably seen pictures, you’re father or mother or someone has told you about being an infant. At that point you probably didn’t even understand language, but you were still you, you still had this identity.
So go back just one step further. Go back to when you were in the womb. You can picture that, right, in the same way that you can picture being an infant even though you can’t remember it. What is to say that that person in the womb isn’t you. It seems that in every sense, it is you. Just going back. You can go back that far in your mind. You know that this physical being that is you, that houses your consciousness, that’s the same person that you are today.
The basic argument is this: We exist along a continuum. Our lives begin as a single cell that’s formed from the union of your mother’s egg and your father’s sperm, and at the moment when that happens, this is scientific, this is medical fact, at that moment, a new being is formed. It’s a new human being because it’s composed of human DNA, it has 46 chromosomes, the sperm and egg each have 23 and they combine to form a new being, crossing over occurs among the genome, it’s a new being that has never occurred before in the history of life. And from that point onward, that being, if left to grow and mature, will become a human being. I mean, it is already a human being, but it will be born in 9 months, and will exist as a person outside of the womb if accident or injury does not prevent it from being so.
Maggie Gallagher in her book, Enemies of Eros, which I highly recommend that you read, put it very well when she states:
“The baby my mother held in her arms, was me. It was we that grew in her womb. Infancy, like a drug induced stupor, is a temporary condition from which people normally recover. I am the human being I was and the human being I will be, though in ordinary speech we might say the person that I am can easily change. This is why the new idea of “personhood” is so dangerous. Our “personhood,” defined as the sum total of the choices we make, shifts and dies and is reborn constantly. Our self-consciousness alters beyond recognition, we abandon the companions, the ideals, the tastes of our youth, remodel our selves and our futures, constantly rewrite our own histories. But nonetheless through all this shifting and changing and transformation, we each remain the same human being that we were, from conception through birth, teething, childhood, puberty, adolescence, adulthood and senescence, until death do us part from our humanity.”
And so that’s Maggie Gallagher for you. And you might say, well, this is philosophy, this is religion, but no, it’s not, there’s no religion here. Whenever we abort a fetus or a blastocyst or any stage after that moment of conception, we are aborting the person that is, the person that will be. In the same way we mourn a child, when we hear on the news that a child has died, we feel much more sorry than we would if it had been someone that was 60 years old. Because that person’s potential has been cut short at a very tender age.
In that same way, whenever, we abort a fetus or child, we are cutting off their life, and it may be at a much earlier stage of life than we are accustomed to talking about, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not ending their life, or we’re not ending a life at all.
So that’s basically the argument for why life begins at conception. And now I’d like to talk a little bit about fetal development, so in case you weren’t convinced by that or need more scientific proof to counter pro-choicers, I think that this is also pretty convincing.
I’d like to talk about how an unborn child rates against our normal standards for judging life and death, which are usually things like a heartbeat, growing cells, brain waves, things like that. So I brought some pictures of a developing fetus, and I’ve heard often abortion advocates talk about a fetus as a “blob of cells” and that’s kind of harsh, but if you look at the very early picture, this is a human embryo at about 28 days after conception, so four weeks, and you can that it does look kind of like a blob of cells. And that is, I mean you can see the shape taking place, you can see some of the organs in there, and at this stage just four days later, you can already see, I think this is the heart, you can see the head, you can see it taking shape. This happens very quickly. At 37 days, I think this is 9 days later than the previous picture. You can see even more it’s taking shape there. Here you can see the beginnings of the hands and the feet. This is only at 41 days.
And I’ve got some more pictures. Here we have a human embryo at 44 days. It already looks very much like a baby. You can see the hands, the feet, the head, the eyes. At 50 days, even more so, you can see the little finger and toes, I think there’s still webbing between them at that stage. Then on to 54 days, you can see the toes, the hands, it looks like a baby. Here at 56 days, this is less than two months after conception, this is less than 8 weeks, it really looks like a baby doesn’t it.
And of course these changes aren’t solely visual. The visual aids merely show the appearance of the fetus through time, but I think that the fact that this fetus transforms so rapidly, from 28 days to less than a month later, it goes from looking like a blob of cells, as abortion advocates talk about, to looking like a baby. And this tells us obviously that it’s not just this growth that happens naturally, there’s actually a code directing the growth of this baby. This baby has an identity. And maybe you couldn’t see that it looked like a baby in the very first picture, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not growing and changing, that it’s not developing, according to everything that was there at the moment of conception. That organ that was there. That’s what’s growing and evolving during the nine months of pregnancy.
These changes aren’t solely visual. Between days 18 and 25, so that’s even before the first picture I showed you, the fetal heartbeat begins. About that same time, the baby is pumping blood of it’s own blood type through it’s own closed circulatory system. It already has veins. This is before one month has passed from conception.
By day 40, the baby’s skeleton is fully formed, it has reflexes, and we can also detect brainwaves. In the future, we may even be able to detect brainwaves earlier, but obviously it’s difficult because there’s so many layers of fluid surrounding the baby. Basically, by eight weeks into the pregnancy, less than that, the fetus already has a heartbeat and brainwaves. So when we’re talking about judging a fetus by our normal standards of life and death, well, it seems to be alive. It has human DNA, it has brainwaves, it has a skeleton, it has hands, it has feet and it has a heart pumping blood of its own blood type. It’s certainly not just the mother’s cells. It’s a baby. I don’t see how you can have a different blood type than your mother and still be part of her body.
After this point, the baby obviously becomes even more developed. By about seven weeks, 49 days, we have pictures of baby’s sucking their thumbs in the womb. This is still less than two months into the pregnancy. By about eight weeks, all of the body systems are present, by nine weeks the baby can squint, can swallow, can make a fist, things like that, and by eleven weeks it can make spontaneous breathing movements, it can move around, even though the mother won’t be able to feel it yet. So, by 12 weeks the first trimester ends. Proponents of abortion usually like to tell you that 88% of all abortions take place within the first trimester. And that’s true—they’re right about that. But that means that 88% of abortions take place before this time, before 12 weeks, when the baby already has a heartbeat and brainwaves, and all these other things that would categorize it, by all our scientific definitions, as life. So I don’t see how they can possibly say that it’s not a living human being because according to all our medical definitions, it is.
I’d like to talk about partial birth abortion too, I know that it’s a very difficult topic, but first I’d like to show you a picture, and no, it’s not a picture of an abortion. It’s actually kind of a cheerful picture, by contrast. It’s just a little bit bloody, but it’s not bad at all. It’s a picture of fetal surgery. You may have seen this in the New York Times magazine about a year ago, July 15th 2001. It’s a picture of a….a very pro-life family, in fact, learned that their child had Spina Bifida, and were able to go do this very careful medical procedure whereby they perform surgery on the fetus. They sedated the mother, pulled her uterus out onto her belly, and saved the fetus. And you’ve probably seen this. Hopefully this won’t disturb you, knowing that the baby is alive and well.
You can see that’s the mother’s uterus, and that’s the baby’s hand. The baby’s hand poked itself out of the womb during the surgery and the doctor very gingerly picked it up and you can see obviously, this fetus is 24 weeks old, it’s fully formed, and it has a hand that looks just like a baby’s. It’s in fact even a patient in this situation. I thought it was kind of interesting, and perhaps shows a bit of the media bias, that if you look at the caption here it says, “Dr. Joseph Brunner with Kelly Hasten’s uterus,” it doesn’t mention the baby, so I thought that was kind of interesting, just from the pro-life perspective on how the media treats abortion.
And that’s obviously a very cheerful image, because they’re actually saving this baby. The baby was born, and I believe is now healthy. But many babies at the same age, are unfortunately not saved. In fact, abortion is still legal at this point.
The youngest age at which a baby can survive outside the womb is said to be about 20 weeks. Now it’s very, very unlikely that a baby at 20 weeks post conception is going to be able to survive, it has maybe a 1% chance, but it’s possible. That’s the earliest possible age. And the number of abortions performed after that point is 1.4% of the total. Now that may sound small, and when people talk about partial birth abortion as being very rare, it is rare compared to all the number of abortions that occur otherwise. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen a lot, because if you consider that, let’s say there’s 1.2 million abortions a year in America. It’s actually more like 1.3 million, quite possibly more, considering that these figures come from the people who provide them, but even using the very conservative estimate of 1.2 million abortions a year in America that means that when you take 1.4% of that number, you get 16,800. So that means there are 16,800 cases where a baby about that stage [as in the NYT photo], maybe a little earlier, is aborted each year in the US. That’s a lot. These are babies that could at least possibly have survived outside of the womb and I don’t see how anyone can justify that.
It’s also true that the youngest age at which it’s possible to survive gets earlier and earlier and has for the last couple decades. At 23 weeks, the baby has only a 15% chance of survival. But at 24 weeks into pregnancy, one week later, it’s 56%. So it’s this huge jump, that’s about a 40% jump. And at 25 weeks, it’s 79%. So about a week after that picture with the baby’s hand coming out was taken, 80% of all babies who are born at that point will survive. So this isn’t a case of these being children who can’t live outside the womb. Often they are.
Now I’m sure you’ve heard that most descriptions of partial birth abortion are right-wing propaganda. That’s definitely not true, and to prove that, again I’m sorry to have to talk about this because it’s really just a very gruesome and traumatic procedure, but I’d like to quote from the case opinion in the Supreme Court case of Stenberg v. Carhart, which was a case decided just a couple years ago about partial birth abortion.
There was a law in Nebraska that banned partial birth abortion, except in cases of the life of the mother, they even made that exception, the Supreme Court struck down this law, because they said it didn’t provide an exception for the health of the mother. That’s sort of a weird thing, because you might think if it’s life-threatening that would mean the life of the mother, however the “health of the mother” is often inserted into abortion law clauses because it allows for exceptions for, say, mental health, things that aren’t really talking about the mother being physically endangered. It’s kind of a loophole, which is really very disturbing. And the Supreme Court in that case ruled that they needed to provide this loophole in the law, otherwise they couldn’t allow it.
So I’m going to quote, this is from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists describing what’s called the D&X procedure, which is partial birth abortion, essentially. This is from the court record.
Step one is: “deliberate dilatation of the cervix, usually over a sequence of days”
That’s the opening that the baby would come out from, needs to be opened so that the baby can actually come out.
Then step two: “instrumental conversion of the fetus to a footling breech”
If you’ve heard of breech babies, that means when a baby comes out feet first. It’s actually a very dangerous condition, because you want the baby to be able to get it’s first breath of air very quickly. So what they’re doing is they’re deliberately repositioning the baby so that it comes out feet first, so that it doesn’t have a chance to take a breath.
Step three is: “breech extraction of the body excepting the head”
That is, they pull it all out except the head.
And Step four is: “partial evacuation of the intracranial contents of a living fetus to effect vaginal delivery of a dead but otherwise intact fetus.”
Basically, they suck the baby’s brains out and pull it out. And this is not right right-wing propaganda. This is from the Supreme Court case, and you can look it up if you want. So when they say, “partial birth abortion is rare, partial birth abortion doesn’t happen, it really isn’t like that,” well this is from the Supreme Court record which in fact decided in favor of the pro-choice side in this case. So I don’t see how they can possibly say that.
I want to say one more thing about that case, actually, which is to tell you a little about Justice Scalia’s reaction to it. Perhaps you know Scalia, he’s one of the most conservative justices on the court, if not the most. And he dissented to the court’s opinion in this case, saying:
“I am optimistic enough to believe that, one day, Stenberg v. Carhart will be assigned its rightful place in the history of this Court’s jurisprudence beside Korematsu and Dred Scott.”
Now you probably know what those cases are. Korematsu was the decision that allowed Japanese-Americans to be imprisoned during World War II and Dred Scott was the decision that said that African-Americans are not citizens of the United States and never can be. That’s how bad Scalia thinks this is, and I agree with him.
And there are actually many, many parallel’s between the situations of slavery and abortions in America. For one thing, they both involve classes of human beings that were declared not to be persons. If you think about it, this is really the best parallel for it. In slavery, black Americans were considered not to be human beings deserving of human protections and the same thing is being said for fetuses, despite all of the scientific evidence to the contrary.
It’s kind of interesting that back in the days of slavery, there were some who would say things like, “black Americans don’t have souls, they belong to an inferior class of beings.” Things like that. This is the science of eugenics, which in fact Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood, you’ve probably heard, took up in her quest to provide birth control and abortions to everyone who wanted them. And she even set up clinics in predominantly black areas of the nation, in order to facilitate that. She thought that black people were having too many children and wanted to eliminate them. And so she set up clinics in places like Harlem and Nashville to provide that.
So there’s really the same pseudo-science at work here. In the same way that eugenics is a very false science, it’s not true at all, these scientific claims that when we’re talking about abortion we’re not talking about killing a human being are entirely false. It is a human being. A blastocyst is a human being. That’s the stage a fetus is at just four days into pregnancy. It has human DNA, human cells, very shortly it will have a fetal heartbeat and brainwaves, and I don’t see how we can possibly say it’s not a human being.
Perhaps you’ve heard the slogan: “Against Abortion? Don’t have one.” Well, this is kind of a radical answer, but the response to that should be, “Against Slavery? Don’t own one.”
And that’s not to say in any way that slavery is justified of course, it’s to say that the parallel is the same. If such an awful evil exists in the world, you need to fight it. You can’t just say, “Oh, okay, you can do what you want, you can own slaves, and well, I’m opposed to it, I’ll just live in my own little society and not think about it.” No! We live in one nation, and we need to think about this. We can’t accept this moral evil in our society.
So to conclude, I’d like to give you just a few suggestions for when you talk about abortion, because hopefully some of what I’ve shown you today will give you some ammunition for when you next have to discuss this with people who take the pro-choice side.
I’d say, first, bring up scientific data whenever you can. Don’t let them say, “This is just about your religion,” because it’s not, it’s not about religion. There are religious reasons of course, and certainly I think that we do in some way need to invoke a god in order to justify the human dignity of all human beings overall. But that’s not to say that the abortion debate itself is about religion. It’s not. it’s about science, and whether these people can be considered human beings. Scientifically, they are.
I’d also say, I know that this is a very difficult issue to talk about, it gets people worked up, and gets them very angry. I personally don’t think it helps to use picture of aborted fetuses when talking with people who don’t agree with the pro-life position already, because it obviously shocks them, but I don’t think it shocks them in the right way. I think it just makes them so angry and so disgusted that they’ll just walk away and won’t even think about it. I think that in some ways you have to lead up to this issue gradually. And that’s just my personal opinion, that’s why I didn’t bring anything like that today.
I’d also say that there are many things that you can do to help. There are places like crisis pregnancy centers, where women go when they are pregnant and don’t know what to do. And these places do help out with food and medical supplies, things like that, to help women have babies. These are great places to volunteer at. There’s also sidewalk counseling, pro-life organizations you can work for, all those kind of things.
And I wanted to add, to the men in the audience, especially, don’t think this is only an issue for women. I’m sure you’re often told that by the left, but it’s not, it’s a human issue.
And that’s not to say that women aren’t sometimes better at approaching other women about this issue, personally. But this is an issue on which everyone can speak, not just women, though it’s good to note that of most of the pro-life organizations, the national ones, women are the heads of almost all of them. So it’s not like this is a conspiracy of old white men against society. It’s not.
So I’d just like to add, in conclusion, that when such a tremendous evil exists in our society, by legal mandate, we must do whatever we can to fight it, and I hope you will do your part.