Readings for September 27, 2015

Reading 1 Nm 11:25-29

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad,
were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp.
They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent;
yet the spirit came to rest on them also,
and they prophesied in the camp.
So, when a young man quickly told Moses,
“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, “
Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’aide, said,
“Moses, my lord, stop them.”
But Moses answered him,
“Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”


Reading 2 Jas 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded,
and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.
You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers
who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;
he offers you no resistance.

Gospel Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

At that time, John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”

Our priest today remarked, “Well, that’ll wake you up on a Sunday morning,” and then proceeded to preach favorably on Pope Francis.
I, of course, will not take anything away from Pope Francis – but should we have even the slightest inclination to take anything away from the message of our Lord?
Though Abraham is the father of Judaism – and also of Christianity, and also of Islam – Moses is regarded as the chief prophet and leader of the Jews.  He is the great law giver and rescuer, after all.
In fact, he is the very worldly savior of the Jews – literally rescuing them from their worldly bondage, bringing them to their promised home.  It should not surprise us to find so many ready parallels with the Savior who would follow, Christ Jesus.
Here we see both men have the same reaction to “rogue” prophets.  One of their camp – a steady loyalist in both cases – observes another working great deeds without the official sanction of his leader.  He hurries to that leader and notes the conflict in power and influence that appears to be brewing.
And in both cases – with Moses and Jesus – we see the leader say, no, this is not our enemy.  Anyone doing as we do is on our side; in fact, it is impossible that they could do these things and oppose us!  Therefore, do not trouble them.
The modern, relativistic temptation is to project this onto our own times, and say that the lesson applies across religions, perhaps even into non-religion.  But this is obviously nonsense.
There is, after all, a certain integrity to what both Jesus and Moses are saying.  It’s not a message of inclusion – it’s a message of alliances, and of a generous spirit where authentic holiness is concerned.  There is still a bar to clear, and it is high.
And the second reading, after all, does give us something of the spirit of Pope Francis – more St. Francis, by the urgency and abandon – though our Pope casts his language a bit more gently.  On the other hand, if we learn anything from Jesus in the Gospel, it is the truth, spoken harshly if necessary, which is genuine charity for sinners.

Debunking the Debunker – 6

Drawing to a close:

Common Argument #10: Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for things they find morally disagreeable.

Your Response: By that rationale, America also shouldn’t have a military, since that’s funded by taxes, and many taxpayers find American foreign policy morally disagreeable. Also, the Hyde Amendment prevents most public funds from going toward abortions. But that’s a moot point, because these are two separate arguments. Believing that abortion should be legal doesn’t require you to also believe that taxpayer dollars should fund abortions.

Again, he’s right, but then this is an odd argument to bring up.  Perhaps he has encountered it in his own discussions – and perhaps, in the course of those discussions, it somehow becomes relevant.

Naturally, the best response is to effect some change, which is why there is a March for Life every year, and which is also why abortion is one of the only issues on which Conservatives have gained ground over the last few decades.

Common Argument #11: What if your mother had aborted you?

Your Response: Well, if I’d never come into existence in the first place, I probably wouldn’t have any strong feelings on the matter. Anyway, I love my mother very much and respect her right to make whatever decisions are right for her body and life.

Well, again, this isn’t much of an argument one way or another – it’s rhetorical at best – and probably added to make Millstein’s list look more substantial.  Debunking 11 arguments sounds a lot better than debunking 6.

But have a second read of Millstein’s response.  It’s a bit stupid, no?  In fact, he has given that much more power to the meme, “Now that I’m born, I’m pro-choice!”

If I were a typical Progressive, I would tar him for his lack of compassion, and lynch him as fetalphobic.  We who resist the Progressives, however, prefer the use of reason.

Does he (retroactively, of course) respect his mother’s right-to-life when she was a fetus?  No?  Huh…one wonders what would have become of all of this praise-worthy love and respect, if his mother had been aborted, and he never conceived.

Progressives pretend that arguments end wherever they (arbitrarily) decide that they end.  But Biology determines that they end elsewhere.

And the fact is, absolutely nothing comes of it.  That is why it is part of the culture of death.

In the culture of life, untold bounties of goodness, love, respect, and intelligence are realized.  Millstein has just enough of these things to fake like he has them all.  And I honestly hope he can be open-minded and open-hearted enough to fulfill them.

Debunking the Debunker – 5

Into the home stretch…

Common Argument #8: What if Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King had been aborted?

Your Response: Are you saying abortion policy should be influenced by how good of a person a fetus ends up becoming? If that’s the case, what if Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot had been aborted?

Are you saying it’s ok to abort people who would have been good?  (Rhetorical questions can always swing back around).

Granted, this is not a particularly effective argument, neither intellectually nor emotionally; Millstein is correct about that.  But let’s answer the rhetoric:

It would have been wrong to abort all of those babies.  At the moment they were (hypothetically) aborted, they were innocent.  It is always wrong to take an innocent life.

Now, there may be an argument in suggesting that the abortion of Joseph Stalin would have been a lesser evil, compared with the evil he did; and there’s the elephant in the room – what is the role of free will here?; in any event, none of this would make abortion good.


Common Argument #9: Many women who get abortions regret their decision later on.

Your Response: This is a pretty common argument. As with shaming of teen moms, it pops up in subway ads…

…and anti-abortion rallies.

We bet you do, dude.

This is a bad argument. Should the government ban people from doing things they sometimes regret? Think of everything you’ve ever regretted — not moving after college, dating the wrong person — and ask yourself if you wish there had been a law to prevent you from doing that thing. You probably don’t, because you probably believe people should be able to choose their own paths in life regardless of whether they regret those choices later on. I agree, which is part of why I’m pro-choice.

Again, Millstein is correct:  As an argument for banning abortion, this is a bad one.  And while I have never seen a man holding that particular poster, it’s at least a legitimate (albeit lighthearted) criticism of men entering the abortion debate.  I’m not aware of any others.

And so – again – we will not seek to revive this particular argument, but deduce what it was pointing at.

Namely, people tend to regret bad decisions, not good ones.  They regret them when the look back and realize the decision was the wrong one.

It is interesting, therefore, that Millstein cites this as a reason why he’s pro-choice:  He thinks people should have room to make bad decisions (one presumes, in order to learn from them).  First, someone may want to warn him that he’s starting to sound like a conservative…

Second, I fully agree with the principle, to an extent.  And our justice system is based on the notion of proportionate punishment (certain grievances notwithstanding).

What does it say when taking an innocent born life is punished severely, but taking an innocent unborn life is “a common medical procedure”?

The regret – as many women explain – is a recognition not just that their abortion was a bad decision, but a profoundly bad decision.

As I say, Millstein is still correct.  Regret is perhaps indicative of having done something wrong – it might even reach the level of certainty, with any given individual – but it can’t reliably tell us how grave an act is, or whether it should be illegal.

Debunking the Debunker – 4

More from Seth Millstein:

Common Argument #6: When abortion is legal, women just use it as a form of birth control.

Your Response: Do you have evidence of this? Considering that contraceptives are cheaper, easier, less painful, less time-consuming, less emotionally taxing, and more readily available than abortions, it seems odd to suggest that women who’ve already decided to use birth control would select abortion as their preferred method. It’s more likely the opposite: Historical and contemporary data suggests that women will seek abortions regardless of whether or not they’re legal, but that when birth control and contraceptives are more widely accessible, abortion rates go down.


Common Argument #7: Abortions are dangerous.

Your Response: When performed by trained professionals, abortions are one of the safest procedures in medicine, with a death rate of less than .01 percent. The risk of dying while giving birth is roughly 13 times higher. Abortions performed by people without the requisite skills and training, however, are extremely unsafe. An estimated 68,000 women die every year from back alley abortions, which are generally most common when abortion is illegal and/or inaccessible.

If you’d like to examine the health impact of banning abortion, consider Romania, which banned abortions in 1966. That policy remained in place for just under fifteen years, during which time over 9,000 women died from unsafe abortions, and countless others were permanently injured. That’s around two women dying every day. When the policy was reversed, maternal mortality rate plummeted to one-eighth of what it was at its peak under the no-abortion policy.

The negative health effects of prohibiting abortion don’t end with the mothers. Romania’s abortion ban sparked a nationwide orphan crisis, as roughly 150,000 unwanted newborns were placed in nightmarish state-run orphanages. Many of those orphans now suffer from sever mental and physical health problems, including autism, reduced brain size, schizoaffective disorder, and sociopathy.

When abortion is illegal, it becomes exponentially more unsafe for both women and their children. You may not like the fact that women will seek abortions even when they’re illegal, but it is undeniably a fact nonetheless.


Let’s do something unusual, and grant him everything he’s said here.  What of it?

Abortion is still wrong, because it is the taking of innocent life.

In a link Millstein provided, there is heavy emphasis on “unintended” pregnancies.  Again, this is merely a confession of foolishness:  Pregnancy is always possible when sex occurs.  Whether intended or not, one should understand the possibility of pregnancy.  (Millstein and others speak as though people might die if they don’t have sex.  Obviously, it’s quite the opposite).

Now, we can distill these two sets of objections – which are both off-point, but we will take them anyway – to the notion that, given pregnancy, a significant percentage of women will seek abortion, regardless of laws.  And when abortion is illegal, those who nevertheless procure abortions are at greater risk of death.

In the first case, it seems to me that this will always be the case, to the extent that there will always be a non-zero murder rate in the world.  We don’t have to like it, but there appears to be nothing we can do about it.

Now, if the fetus is a human life, I still see no reason to legalize taking that life.  Just because it is bound to happen anyway, does not mean we should just let it happen.  No more than we would just let another person be mugged.

Take the mugging example further, as pro-choicers are wont to do:  Imagine the mugger has a family to feed, and they are starving.  Not only is he out to take some wallets, but he will even do so recklessly.  He just will; there is no preventing him.

Do we then grant him the legal right to mug innocent people, simply because, otherwise, it might be dangerous for him?

(And if you are a Liberal, you might be saying that this is a good case for government assistance.  This is where I say, “Is that so?”  Reflect and grieve – you should be pro-life.  Liberals should own this cause, the cause of the unborn, but you’ve let your hearts be hardened).

No, neither of these arguments has the least effect against the cause of the unborn, because they completely lose sight of the point.  And even if we agree to squint along with him, Millstein’s arguments aren’t consistent with other universally accepted ethical principles.

Debunking the Debunker – 3

Next couple of arguments…

Common Argument #3: But I’m okay with abortions in cases of rape.

Your Response: Why only in those cases? Are the lives of children who were conceived by rape worth less than the lives of children who were willfully conceived? If preserving the life of the child takes primacy over the desires of the mother — which is what you’re saying if you if you oppose any legal abortions — then it shouldn’t matter how that life was conceived.

In all possible seriousness and sincerity, I thank the author for this bit of cogency.  He’s exactly right.  If you’re ok with abortion in the case of rape, you’re simply walking an incoherent middle ground.  You’re on the fence, and the discomfort follows accordingly.


Common Argument #4: If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

Your Response: Go home, Todd Akin, you’re drunk.

This is a distraction, but I understand why it was included.


Fisking the response:

Common Argument #5: Adoption is a viable alternative to abortion.

Your Response: This implies that the only reason a woman would want to get an abortion is to avoid raising a child, and that isn’t the case.

Our friend relies a lot on implication, and not enough on the actual words used in his own presentation of the argument.  It’s like a rainbow strawman – if you’ll just look way over there, and perhaps squint, you’ll see this argument is just fraught with implications.

Whether or not a pro-life person felt this way, whatever follows is already off the rails:  Adoption is a viable alternative to abortion.  As anyone who was given up for adoption, instead of being aborted.

Depending on the circumstances, the mere act of having a child in a hospital can cost between $3,000 and $37,000 in the United States.

A fair point, but if we’re on the subject of adoption, the adoptive parents will often help with or cover these costs.

Giving birth is dangerous, too: In the United States, pregnancy complications are the sixth most common cause of death for women between the ages of 20 and 34.

It is true, and the risk cannot be waved off.

Let the honest mind consider:  Many things a young woman may be doing – in addition to risking pregnancy – are associated with risks.

In fact, the greatest danger to women in this age bracket is death by unintentional injuries – in the younger subset, this risk is greater by a factor of 14; for the older subset, the greater risk approaches a factor of 10.

Now, if Millstein is out there, un-unintending lots of consequences for the sake of women’s health, then we might work our way down past suicide, cancer, heart disease, and homicide before we get to complications in pregnancy.  (But this is rhetorical reasoning, fitting for a Progressive, but not for us).

My question is first:  What level of risk would be acceptable?  And isn’t that always an arbitrary number?

Would we say that, once the risk is 5%, then the mother has a greater right-to-life than the child in her womb? 10%?  51%?

My question is second:  Isn’t this beside the point?  We have already seen how pregnancy is not an arbitrary consequence of sex, but a well-established and perfectly natural one.  Even when pains are taken to prevent it.

And so, if a woman wants to avoid the sixth leading cause of death in her age group, she might do well to avoid sex.  Once all of that is said and done, the crux of the argument rests with the fetus’ right to life.

Even before birth, there are costs to pregnancy. In addition to the whole “carrying another human being around in your stomach for nine months” thing, many women, particularly teens, are shunned and shamed for their pregnancies — not only by friends, families, employers, and classmates, but also by advertisements in the subway. There’s also the risk of violent retribution from abusive partners and parents.

While I have heard testimony that conditions are much better than they used to be, and in fact, teenage pregnancy is on the decline, this is an honest and deserved concern.

We should work on this.  I don’t know how, or exactly what the answer is.  I just know the kinds of things I would do in a given situation (or I like to think so).

Cutting to the chase, however – how much shame justifies the killing of innocent life?  Is there an objective measure for this, or should we accept the subjective sense that the shame is “too much” and approve the taking of an innocent life?

As for violence, whether one is pregnant or not, there are measures that can be taken; in the context of an argument, this is a red herring at best.  At worst, it is the same problem a non-pregnant woman faces in an abusive relationship, and one imagines the answer, if there is one, is the same in both cases.

It is awful beyond words, I grant you.  But so is abortion.  Let’s find a way to save both lives.
In short, there are a lot of reasons a woman might seek an abortion. Adoption doesn’t address all of them.

I am tempted to parse this for Millstein, because I am kind*.  One imagines it made sense to him.  But it’s late, and we must leave Millstein some margin to come side with the angels.

*Keep your humor – I’m being facetious.

Debunking the Debunker – 2

See the first post to get your bearings.  Not strictly necessary.


I said before that Millstein is a step ahead of the usual arguments, but in this case, it’s only because he uses more words than most memes.  There’s something like bait-and-switch going on here, but in a burst of verbosity that seems uncharacteristic for him, the writing is not quite tight enough to accuse him of it.  It approaches word salad.  “Word bruschetta,” perhaps.

Myself, I have no trouble being verbose as the need arises, and here it does.  Indeed, I will “fisk” this one, gently, so as to better answer it.  Millstein in italics, myself in regular type.


Common Argument #2: If a woman is willing to have sex, she’s knowingly taking the risk of getting pregnant, and should be responsible for her actions.

This seems pretty tight to me.

Your Response: You’re asserting that giving birth is the “responsible” choice in the event of a pregnancy, but that’s just your opinion.

Appropriation of The Dude aside, the author presents his opponent’s argument, then proceeds to answer…some other argument.  If anyone has information as to the whereabouts of this other argument, please let us know.

Anyway, yes – if a fetus is a human being, then it is wrong to kill her.  Doing the wrong thing is always irresponsible, by definition; doing the right thing is acting responsibly.

Ergo, if a woman becomes pregnant, the responsible thing to do – because it is the right thing to do – is to give birth to that child.

 I’d argue that if a mother knows she won’t be able to provide for her child, it’s actually more responsible to have an abortion, and in doing so prevent a whole lot of undue suffering and misery.

No mother knows this for sure.  Moreover, an inability to provide is not a legal justification for killing anyone in any other case.

The taking of an innocent human life on a hypothetical – “I won’t be able to provide for her” – is no justification at all.  The natural option in that case is to give the baby up for adoption.

But let’s look at this argument a bit further. If you think getting an abortion is “avoiding responsibility,” that implies that it’s a woman’s responsibility to bear a child if she chooses to have sex.

Only if the sex results in pregnancy, which is always a possibility.

That sounds suspiciously like you’re dictating what a woman’s role and purpose is, and a lot less like you’re making an argument about the life of a child.

No one is dictating a woman’s role, except nature.  The principle in play is that the fetus is a human being, and therefore has a right to life.  Whether the mother recognizes her natural, biological capacities or not, that is a matter of education and self-examination.  If she knows how to have sex, one assumes she is aware of the consequences of sex.  (Likewise with the male, whom we agree has a legal responsibility toward the child).

And if you’re following along closely, you will see that the argument is entirely about the life of the child.


(Huh – Forgot that he continued below the fold.  Very well.)

According to Millstein:

Common Reply: No, because women can practice safe sex and avoid getting pregnant. If she refuses to use contraception and gets pregnant as a result, that’s her fault, and her responsibility.

Your Rebuttal: Not everyone has easy access to contraception, nor does everyone have a good enough sex education class to know how to use it or where to obtain it. But let’s just suppose, for the sake of argument, that everyone had access to free contraception and knew how to use it correctly.

Even then, no contraception is 100 percent effective. Presumably, you oppose abortions even in cases where contraception fails (and it does sometimes fail, even when used perfectly). If that’s true, you’re saying that, by merely choosing to have sex — with or without a condom — a woman becomes responsible for having a child. And that’s a belief that has everything to do with judging a woman’s behavior, and nothing to do with the value of life.

(On the other hand, he hasn’t really said anything new, or unanticipated).

The short, redundant reply is:  A potential and natural consequence of sex, even when using contraception, is pregnancy.  If there is a woman who does not know this, that does not negate her responsibility.

Why not?  Because we are judging her behavior?

(Please, faithful reader, hold your laughter.  How will the Progressives listen if that which terrifies them most is happening right in front of them?)

No, we are judging the human being in her womb to be possessed of dignity.  We are concerned with the right to life.

Debunking the Debunker – 1

I will never tire of series.

My bright and dreamy eyes have been directed toward a site called, which appears to be all things Progressive.  Among its pages is a set of “11 common arguments against abortion access debunked,” or so says the URL.

I will say the author, one Seth Millstein, demonstrates an admirable economy of language and restraint on gif’s and images.  Not that they are well chosen, only that they are modest in quantity.

He’s also a step further along the path.  Much of the debate is happening in memes, and the memes cannot be reliably distinguished from drunken ranting.  Anyway, let’s get on with it, and perhaps there is yet more depth to be found.


Thus says Bustle:

Common Argument #1: A fetus is a human being, and human beings have the right to life, so abortion is murder.

Your Response: I’m probably not going to convince you that a fetus isn’t a life, as that’s basically the most intractable part of this whole debate, so I’ll be brief:

  • A fetus can’t survive on its own. It is fully dependent on its mother’s body, unlike born human beings.
  • Even if a fetus was alive, the “right to life” doesn’t imply a right to use somebody else’s body. People have the right to refuse to donate their organs, for example, even if doing so would save somebody else’s life.
  • The “right to life” also doesn’t imply a right to live by threatening somebody else’s life. Bearing children is always a threat the life of the mother (see below).
  • A “right to life” is, at the end of the day, a right to not have somebody else’s will imposed upon your body. Do women not have this right as well?


I answer that…

The argument is really better phrased like this:  A fetus is both human and alive.  Anything that is human and alive has a right to life.  Therefore, abortion is wrong because it takes a human life.

And when we rephrase it that way, the first part of the objection – “a fetus isn’t a life” – falls away.  In fact, there is really no coherent way to argue that a fetus isn’t alive.  This is precisely why pro-lifers push the ultrasound – the fetus is thus revealed to be clearly human, and clearly alive.

With that rephrasing, how does the rest of his objection hold up?

  • A fetus can’t survive on it’s own.”  Right, until it’s 22 weeks or so, and medical technology is reducing that number all the time.  (Science, for the epic motherfreaking win!).  In any event, this is a non-sequitur – there’s no argument made here.
  • “…the “right to life” doesn’t imply a right to use somebody else’s body…”  Well, why not?  The very same mother used someone else’s body to get where she is.  May we consider her life illegitimate, and strike her down for the past grievances of her own mother?  Why, exactly, did the claim on her life end when she was born?  (It sounds silly, but that’s actually a point that would cause a lot of trouble).
  • But the real point here is that Progressives – in so many ways – want to separate themselves from reality.  The reality is that when men and women engage in sexual intercourse, the woman may become pregnant.  This objection treats that reality as arbitrary, as something the man and woman might not reasonably expect.  (See, Science(TM)).
  • Moreover, virtually everyone recognizes the gravity of abortion.  Pro-choicers are fond of saying it should be rare, safe, and legal.   Well, why rare?
  • And so, if abortion is a thing to be avoided as much as possible, and if a woman might reasonably expect to become pregnant as a result of sex, the choice occurs well before the human being is conceived.  And notice that virtually everyone is pro-choice about that.*


The next couple of objections run along with this one, but we will note their nuances and continue to develop the counter-objection:

  • The “right to life” also doesn’t imply a right to live by threatening somebody else’s life.”  We should make clear that “threatening” someone is usually a voluntary act, not something we could reasonably ascribe to a fetus.  The fetus is not threatening anyone; the accidents of his existence may run into conflict with the existence of another.  But the heart of this objection is really in the notion that one’s bodily autonomy cannot be compromised, which is implicitly based in one’s self-determinism and right to life.
  • Thus, another counter-objection can be seen starkly here:  When there are competing claims on a right to life, who trumps whom?  Do we simply side with the stronger person – does might make a greater right?  Does the weaker have to die just because he is weaker?
  • But the probability of death in abortion compared with maternal death in childbirth is nowhere near equal.**
  • Therefore, it would seem unacceptable to take the life of one person to protect against the remote prospect of death for the other person.  And where that prospect is more imminent, most pro-life arguments accept the use of measures to preserve the life of the mother.
  • A “right to life” is, at the end of the day, a right to not have somebody else’s will imposed upon your body. Do women not have this right as well?”  When did their right to bodily autonomy begin, if not when their bodies began?
  • First of all, somebody may legitimately impose their will on your body without your permission.  The police, for example, when you are being arrested.
  • Or again, a bouncer may impose on your body if you are instigating a fight on private property.  Even a perfect stranger may legitimately impose on your body to break up a fight, or to save your life.
  • No, a right to life depends on the concept of human dignity, or something like it.  This is considerably more supple than the rigidity of Progressive thought, because it implies a right to self-determination combined with certain responsibilities, like respecting the dignity of others and their right to life and accepting the consequences of our actions.
  • In fact, we could go on the offensive and ask the Progressive why the fetus’ bodily autonomy is being violated.  Sure, he is dependent now, but dependency is no reason for killing.  We do not permit killing the lame, the sick, those with special needs, or infants, even if they are a great burden on us.
  • And if accepting human dignity is a true understanding of reality, then anyone who is human and alive possesses it.  Or else, you will have to make quite a convoluted argument which excludes fetuses but no one else.  (And that sounds like bigotry).


*This begs the question of rape; Millstein treats this later on, so I will leave it for now.

**It is worth observing that the rate of death in abortions is nearly 100%; the rate of maternal death in childbirth is 18.5 out of 100,000.  Please understand – this is still an abject tragedy when it happens, and I am not diminishing that fact.  It is a devastating possibility.  But we are not talking about perfect symmetry here.

Defunding PP – The layman’s legal case – 3

Where we’ve been:


Legal Case – 1

Legal Case – 2

Having seen in #2 that there is ample reason to believe that Planned Parenthood’s leaders are involved in illegal activity, and having acknowledged in #1 that anyone breaking the law must be held accountable, we now take up the question of punishment.  Who should be punished, and how?

It is clear, for example, that any doctor caught altering the abortion procedure for the purpose of preserving organs should be held accountable; likewise, any particular individual selling fetal organs at a profit must be made to pay the penalty.

But the argument being made by the Center for Medical Progress, and such Senators as Joni Ernst and such Representatives as Diane Black, is that this is a systemic problem.  That is, Dr. Nucatola and Dr. Gatter are not simply admitting what they are, personally, willing to do.

They speak for Planned Parenthood, in a leadership capacity.  They speak for the way things are, organization-wide.

Consider also, that Planned Parenthood has not denounced the words or actions of either of these leaders, but has only apologized for their “tone.”  PP’s President, Cecile Richards, says they would take swift action over any wrongdoing, but there have been no reported repercussions for the relatively straightforward admissions of illegal activity.

Therefore, if Planned Parenthood does not discipline its own employees, and if the problem appears to be systemic, it is only fitting that the organization, as a whole, is punished.

The bills that have been proposed as a result of the CMP videos act to withdraw federal (taxpayer) funding from Planned Parenthood.  They do not actually shut down PP, nor dry up all of their funding, nor prohibit them from continuing to do abortions, nor prohibit anyone else from doing abortions.

Rather, if an organization is to be held accountable for violating federal law, it seems reasonable to deny them federal support.  One does not pay the mugger for the privilege of being mugged.

This is, as far as I can tell, straightforward and fair.  After all, any taxpayers who are especially supportive of PP’s mission can always donate more money to the organization.  There would not be any restriction on this.

Moreover, the bills introduced by Rep. Black and Sen. Ernst would redirect the $500+ million to other, (one presumes) equally worthy women’s health centers.  So, taxpayer money would continue to support women’s health at exactly the same rate as now.  The only difference is that different health centers would benefit from that money, rather than the single health center that enjoys it all now.

In summary, one large women’s health organization, which we have reason to believe is engaged in illegal activity, would be denied taxpayer funding; 9,000 other women’s health organizations, which we have reason to believe are providing legal services to women, would benefit from a collective windfall of $528 million.

Defunding PP – The layman’s legal case – 2

See the first two posts – Prolegomena and #1 – for an introduction to this series.

The first video released by the Center for Medical Progress depicts Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood, meeting with actors posing as buyers from a human biologics firm.  (Note:  There is a video edited for length and content, and a full, unedited video below the fold).

Recall from the first post that it is illegal to change the abortion procedure in any way for the purpose of preserving fetal organs and tissue.  Now:

2:54 – Dr. Nucatola notes that livers are in demand, and that they will use ultrasound guidance to “crush” the right parts of the fetus, in order to preserve certain organs.

3:53 – Dr. Nucatola explains how the abortion provider will sometimes change the “presentation” of the fetus for the purpose of preserving certain organs.  In medical terms, she explains that if the baby is presenting head-first, then they will have to crush the head; but if they can turn the baby around to feet-first, then the head will probably be able to come through without damage.  There is no mention of the safety of the mother.  The motivation is entirely the preservation of fetal tissue.

5:57 – Dr. Nucatola, on hearing that her buyers are interested in certain tissues, explains that she can “maintain dialogue” with the abortion providers, and they can make changes to the process to increase the success of preserving tissue.


Recall also that it is illegal to profit from the sale of fetal tissue.

7:13 – Dr. Nucatola advises that the legal arm of PP said they needed to steer away from the idea that PP is a middleman, because it could look like they are selling tissues.  She goes on to reiterate that their pricing is “per specimen,” which belies the fact that they are not simply recovering their costs.  That is, a liver from one abortion might be more costly than a liver from another abortion – but they will charge a standard price, rather than charging for the actual costs of the procurement.


The second video features a conversation with Dr. Mary Gatter, PP’s President of Medical Directors’ Council.  (The edited and unedited videos are, again, both presented).

Clips pertaining to selling fetal tissue at a profit:

0:22 – Actor posing as buyer asks what price Dr. Gatter is expecting.  Dr. Gatter responds with a negotiation tactic (as she later admits) – why don’t you tell me what you’re used to paying?

1:21 – Dr. Gatter refers to “our volume” – the number of abortions – from which the supply of organs will come.  This is indicative of her view that she is trading in a commodity, rather than simply offering donated tissue as it happens to become available.

1:48 – Dr. Gatter explains that, in some cases, there was essentially nothing for PP to do in order to provide tissues to a buyer; but compensation was still expected and exchanged.

2:22 – Buyer asks what sort of compensation is usually offered for “in tact” fetal tissue.  Dr. Gatter responds, “Why don’t you tell me what you are used to paying?”  But if PP was only recovering their costs, this would be irrelevant.

A little later, Dr. Gatter explains that, “You know, in negotiations whoever throws out the figure first is at a loss, right?”  The buyer pushes further, and Gatter responds with $75 per specimen.

The buyer responds that this is too low – she would be willing to pay more – and Dr. Gatter admits she was willing to pay $50 per specimen.  Again, negotiation would be irrelevant if PP was simply recovering costs.

6:49 – She conditionally accepts the $75 per specimen, but says she will go and find out what other affiliates are getting.  Of course, it should not matter what other affiliates are getting – she only has to know what it costs Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley Planned Parenthoods in order to procure the tissues in question.


Once more, recall that altering the abortion procedure in any way, for the purpose of preserving tissues, is illegal.  Note:

4:38 – Buyers ask about getting second trimester specimens, and Dr. Gatter explains that there is a little bit of a problem with this.

Ordinarily, they use one technique, but if they want to preserve the specimen, they have to use a technique that applies less force by suction.  She admits that this is a violation of protocol, which both PP and the patient have signed and agreed to.

However, she personally finds the argument against changing the procedure to be specious, and she will consult with the legal arm of PP to see what they can do.

And she admits, a second time, that the consent says there’s to be no change in procedure, in accordance with the law cited.

6:11 – If the business relationship with the buyers goes forward, Dr. Gatter will follow-up on the legality of using a “less crunchy” technique to procure the tissues requested.


By my estimation, there is enough reason here, in just these two videos, to suggest that systemic illegal activity is at work within Planned Parenthood.

Systemic, because these are leaders within the organization, and not dismissible as rogue agents.  In fact, at the end of the first video, Dr. Nucatola is explicitly lauded as “amazing” by Cecile Richards, President of PPFA.

Illegal, as demonstrated above.

There are more videos, and I will note the evidence of illegal activity in further posts.  However, the main thrust of the legal case will continue in the next post.

Defunding PP – The layman’s legal case – 1

To date, six undercover videos have been released by The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and it is these videos which have touched off the current push to defund Planned Parenthood.

In the context of the videos and in the surrounding debate, it is alleged that Planned Parenthood has violated two laws:


1.   Purchase of Tissue

It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.

(Related)  The term valuable consideration’ does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.’.


2.  Informed Consent of Donor 

No alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue.


In brief:  1) You can’t sell fetal tissue at a profit, you can only recover your costs, and 2) You have to do the abortion the typical way, you can’t change the way you’re doing the abortion in an attempt to obtain tissues.

What CMP and their allies claim is that Planned Parenthood breaks both of these laws, and the videos prove it.  We will return to this claim.

Since they believe the claim is self-evidently true, they are seeking to defund PP.  But what does that mean?

Two bills have been introduced in Congress, one in the House and one in the Senate.  The bill in the Senate was recently introduced in a procedural vote, to see if it would garner the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster, and the measure failed 53-46.  Therefore, there has been no federal law passed to defund PP.

The House bill calls for the prohibition of federal funds given to any women’s health agency that provides abortions; the Senate bill is limited to defunding Planned Parenthood.  Both bills provide for the funds to be redistributed to other women’s health agencies; neither bill affects the legal right of women to have an abortion.

PP received $528.4 million in fiscal year 2013-14, according to their own annual report.  This comprises about 41% of their total revenue (see page 20).  Naturally, this would be a significant blow to their budget, and defenders of PP argue it would be unjust.  This objection will be treated in a later post.

Ultimately, it is a matter of fact that if Planned Parenthood has broken the law, they should be held accountable.  No friend of justice will debate this.

In the following posts, I will seek to show, in light of CMP’s videos, that there is reasonable cause to believe that PP has broken the law.  Then, I will argue that nothing short of federal defunding will rectify the situation, until or unless PP should give up providing abortions.