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July 03, 2008


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I'm curious - why is it that right-to-lifers focus virtually all of their resources protesting embryonic stem cell research, and not in vitro fertilization? After all - it's legal and is the source of the embryonic stem cells that researchers want to use (which would otherwise be discarded).



Your use of the term 'pro-abortion' is deliberately and obstinately inaccurate, designed to inflame an emotional response.

I have never in my life met someone who is pro-abortion. There are millions of people -- a majority, in fact -- who are pro-choice; who advocate a woman's right to have an abortion while finding the procedure itself to be unfortunate or even abhorrent. But please, introduce me to the person who goes around saying 'Yes, abortions are fantastic! Where can I get one?'

I may disagree with those who support our failed venture in Iraq, but I don't confuse their support of the war with a gleeful desire to kill people. Your use of the term 'pro-abortion' does precisely that.

The Executive Director

Hi, Seth.

Because life begins at conception, it is inconsistent to oppose embryonic stem cell research but not in vitro fertilization if the rationale is that no human being exists as the instrument or property of another. Indeed, that is the only rationale for political opposition to abortion, ESCR, and IVF that is consistent with liberty in a pluralistic country like the United States.

Therefore, a large portion of the pro-life movement does oppose IVF. Why that opposition doesn't have a higher profile in the media probably comes down to pro-lifers picking their political battles.


The Executive Director

Hi, Brandon.

I think you are putting a connotation on the prefix "pro" that it doesn't have.

For example, regarding Iraq I can be "pro-war" without taking delight in the death and destruction that comes of war. The same for abortion. If you are not anti-abortion, then you are pro-abortion, however regrettable you may believe every single legally-procured abortion is.

However, let me be clear. I know that those who support legalized abortion do not like to be called "pro-abortion". I think that is a bit disingenuous, especially when they use the term "anti-abortion" to describe their opponents. Therefore, with that understanding, I deliberately used the term "pro-abortion" in the article to skewer a politician who has been less than forthright regarding his positions on the life issues.




How does not being 'anti-abortion' (politically speaking) automatically equate to being pro-abortion (i.e., in favor of abortion)? With due respect, I think you're the one who's being disingenuous.

The literal distinction between the terms is perhaps subtle, but the intent, clearly, is to portray those who are pro-choice as having a wanton disregard for life, as though they advocate the use of abortion on a whim without giving the issue so much as a passing thought.

The intent is not unlike the use of 'Democrat Party' instead of 'DemocratIC Party' by those on the right; it's a dig, a subtle insult designed to paint the other side in a personally unflattering light, quite apart from the relative merits of their position on a given issue.

I'm perfectly content to admit a fair degree of squeamishness on the abortion issue. The question of when life truly does begin is a difficult one for me. My sense is that it's equally difficult for most people [who aren't unambiguously pro-life in the political sense] ... if they're honest about it. Regardless, it still remains that your use of the term 'pro-abortion' is -- as I suggested previously -- designed to instigate and inflame an emotional response and not a reasoned one.

The Executive Director


Abortion: The right that dare not speak its name. Hence the insistence of those who support the abortion license to be called "pro-choice".

Of course, this gives rise to the question, "The choice to do what?" To select the school you want to send your kids? No. To pick whatever you want off the drive-thru menu? Not exactly.

How about a mother's choice to abort her unborn child? Um, yeah.

So, I'm not inclined to cut you much slack on labels, Brandon. If you can claim "pro-choice" as an ellipsis of "pro-choice on abortion" to put as sunny a face on the matter as possible, then I'll stick to "pro-abortion" as an ellipsis of "pro-abortion rights" to keep at the forefront the very thing at issue.

I cannot help it if pro-choicers do not like, to the point of emotional distress, having the label for their position include the word "abortion". After all, what they support is the 30+ million actual choices women have made since Roe v. Wade to abort their children.

If you support the choice to abort, how is that not pro-abortion? If supporting that choice disturbs you enough that you do not want your position to be labeled for what it is, then give some thought to why that might be so.

Start not with what the pro-lifers argue. Start with what the biologists tell us as a scientific fact: Upon conception an organism is created and that organism is a human being. That is why decent people like yourself are squeamish about abortion; they know in their hearts what is at stake.

As you consider this, keep in mind that to oppose abortion is not a refusal to acknowledge that there are often two victims in an abortion. We live in a rotten society that, for all the cant about sexual equality, is quite content to value a woman for sexual pleasure, wage-earning, and housekeeping -- and then cast her aside when we're done with her. Sometimes that results in her cruel abandonment to the abortionist.

With that said, you can see that I too believe that we shouldn't reduce pro-choicers and pro-lifers to one-dimensional zealots. So I respect that you are uneasy about your political position on abortion. Indeed, Brandon, I respect your thoughtfulness well enough that I won't pull any punches on the points you are wrongheaded about.

Regards, Bill


"After all, what they support is the 30+ million actual choices women have made since Roe v. Wade to abort their children."

That is incorrect, and it exemplifies the very point I've been trying to make, which is that the use of the term 'pro-abortion' carries with it the deliberately misleading connotation that those who self-identify as pro-choice actually advocate abortion as a positve thing.

What they support is the *right* of those 30+ million women to have had those abortions, and that's an important distinction. It's important because despite the apparent ease with which you claim otherwise, there *is* no consensus on when life actually begins. If there were, then those 30+ million women (and presumably their doctors) would have been convicted of some form of murder in a court of law and sentenced accordingly.

The Executive Director

Sorry, Brandon, but your argument doesn't wash.

You can't have it both ways. It is nonsensical to claim you support the right to an abortion but you don't support the EXERCISE of that right (otherwise, the right is a dead letter). So if you support the right, then you support -- legally, if not morally -- the ACTUAL ABORTIONS PERFORMED under that right.

Compare this to the right of free speech. If I support the right of free speech, and so its exercise, I do so EVEN when that right is exercised to express ideas I find repulsive. In other words, because I support the right of free speech, I support the ACTS of speech that in fact occur as an exercise of that right even when I despise what has been said.

As for the claim that there is no consensus as to when life begins, facts are hard things. They are true regardless of what any of us wants to believe.

Understandably, pro-choicers prefer to deny that the life of a human being is taken when aborted -- otherwise, commonsense dictates that abortion is an evil act. Unfortunately for pro-choicers, the plain facts of biology make that preference an evasion of the truth.

But that is all I'll have to say against abortion, Brandon. This discussion has moved from the semantics of political labels to the subject of abortion itself, and there is truly little to argue about.

To wit:

[1] If you support the right to an abortion because you deny that the unborn child is a living organism (i.e., has a life) or a human being or a person or some other evasion of its human dignity, then you are not being serious. We may as well argue about whether or not the earth is flat.

[2] If you acknowledge that the unborn child is what it is, a human being, but still support the right of its mother to kill it, to address such a monstrous belief, even to refute it, is to give it too much justification.

There is no middle ground, Brandon, except that held in ignorance or indifference. I'll offer you the comfort of neither -- and I'd be surprised if you really wanted it.

Regards, Bill


Like you (I presume), I'm not interested in playing out the abortion debate. However, you have now boldly asserted as given fact, more than once, that life begins at conception [full stop].

If you would be so kind as to tell me where and how I can verify this fact, I would be perfectly content vanquish all ambiguity on the abortion issue and join the pro-life movement.

The Executive Director

Hi, Brandon.

If you want to learn more about the beginning of human life, I would recommend checking out from the library most any textbook on human embryology. Typical of what human embryologists have to say on the subject are:

[1] T.W. Sadler: "The development of a human being begins with fertilization." [Sadler, T.W. 1990. Langman's Medical Embryology, 6th Ed. p 3. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore.]

[2] Kevin Moore: "This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being." [Moore, Keith L. 1988. Essentials of Human Embryology. p. 2. B.C. Decker Co., Toronto.]

[3] Kevin Moore again: "Human development is a continuous process that begins when an oocyte (ovum) from a female is fertilized by a sperm (spermatozoan) from a male." [Moore, Keith L. and T.V.N. Persaud. 1993. The Developing Human, 5th Ed. p. 1. W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia.]

[4] William Larsen: "Gametes ... will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual." [Larsen, William J. 1993. Human Embryology. p. 1. Churchill-Livingston, New York.]

As a matter of science, there is no question that conception marks the creation of a new and unique organism (i.e., living being) that will continue to grow and develop until it is killed or otherwise dies.

What people may argue to get around that scientific fact (e.g., the majority in Roe v. Wade) is another matter.

Regards, Bill


Well, with that kind of logic being employed, I can see the pointlesness of continuing the discussion.

The Executive Director

The blind will not see ...

The Executive Director


Perhaps I was a little too quick to close this discussion with a clever remark. If you aren't sure of what the scientific jargon means in the citations I posted, perhaps this summary by C. Ward Kischer, another human embryologist, will help:

"Virtually every human embryologist and every major textbook of human embryology states that fertilization marks the beginning of the life of the new individual human being.

"The reason why this is true is the following:

"From the moment when the sperm makes contact with the oocyte, under conditions we have come to understand and describe as normal, all subsequent development to birth of a living newborn is a fait accompli. That is to say, after that initial contact of spermatozoon and oocyte there is no subsequent moment or stage which is held in arbitration or abeyance by the mother, or the embryo or fetus. Nor is a second contribution, a signal or trigger, needed from the male in order to continue and complete development to birth. Human development is a continuum in which so-called stages overlap and blend one into another. Indeed, all of life is contained within a time continuum. Thus, the beginning of a new life is exacted by the beginning of fertilization, the reproductive event which is the essence of life."

[C. Ward Kischer, "When Does Human Life Begin? The Final Answer"]

Other scientists have stated plainly that a human life begins at conception (which I had not cited earlier, because the statements were not from embryology textbooks):

[1] Professor Hymie Gordon of the Mayo clinic: "By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception." [Report, Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981]

[2] Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth of the Harvard University Medical School: "It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception." [Ibid.]

[3] Geneticist Ashley Montague of Harvard and Rutgers: "The basic fact is simple: Life begins not at birth, but conception." [Ashley Montague, Life Before Birth, p. vi. New York: Signet Books, 1977]

There is no shortage of these statements by experts, because "life begins at conception" is a scientific fact. It's up to you now, Brandon, what you will do with that fact.

Regards, Bill


That the biological process of an individuated organism begins at conception is not in dispute. At what point these overlapping processes begin to constitute a conscious human being is very much in dispute. If it weren't, then one of the two sides of the abortion debate would be compelled to admit defeat and our laws would be amended accordingly.

Therefore, I stick to my claim that your line of reasoning is disingenuous and that my initial point about using the term 'pro-abortion' as linguistic sleight-of-hand is still the case.

The Executive Director


You wrote:

"If you would be so kind as to tell me where and how I can verify this fact [i.e., life begins at conception], I would be perfectly content vanquish all ambiguity on the abortion issue and join the pro-life movement."

As you now acknowledge that fact as true and even uncontroversial BUT apparently have not joined the pro-life movement as promised, I'm pretty sure I'm not the one being "disingenuous" and using "linguistic sleight-of-hand" to rationalize my position on abortion. I'm not the one who has now changed the standard for the right to life from living human being to conscious human being.

By abandoning the dignity of life as the standard for the right to life, you've gotten yourself in a thicket, Brandon. For example, by substituting consciousness for life as the measure of whether one human being can lawfully kill another, do you really mean to say that I lose my right to life if I am asleep, anaesthetized, or comatose?

As with any of these pro-choice gambits to get around the inherent dignity of a human life, a fundamental truth must be denied: A human being is an organism, a single substance of matter and form that is indivisible and uncombinable with any other substance throughout the course of its existence -- i.e., its life.

In other words, a human being is the SAME being from its conception to its death. From embryo to child to adult, it is all one human life, all one human being. This is a plain fact that only a flat-earther would deny.

And you no longer appear to deny the fact. So we agree that the life of a pre-natal human being is the same life of the post-natal human being he will become, assuming nature is allowed to take her course. They are one and the same person.

Because that is true, then your support for abortion must hang on the belief that it should be lawful to kill certain classes of human beings. It seems you're OK with killing those human beings lacking consciousness, but the implications of that standard lead, as I already pointed out, to the justification of killing granny during her afternoon nap.

Surely you understand the evil of that, Brandon, and so you cannot apply the standard of consciousness consistently to target only unborn children as unworthy of life.

Regards, Bill



You're entitled to your opinion that life begins at conception, but one could just as easily argue that life begins before conception; sperm and ovum must be alive in order for conception to take place.

I would tend to agree with you that picking political battles is why the RTL movement doesn't target in vitro fertilization. Were they to do so - they would be even further marginalized than they already are (and they would alienate a sizable contingent of ignorant supporters who are unaware of the mechanics of IVF - and who may even utilize IVF).


Brandon -

Inaccuracy and outright falsification are hallmarks of the pro-life movement. It's why they still propagate the myths that abortion is an unsafe medical procedure, that abortion causes breast cancer, and that anyone can legally obtain an elective late-term abortion (or "partial-birth abortion," the nonsensical term they've created to describe 'dilation and extraction'). Most "pro-life" websites still tout abortion statistics from the 1990s (because the rate has declined in recent years).

The movement's chief weapon is fear which is why the national right to life opposed the release of the HPV vaccine: it lessens the effect of HPV infection as one of the things they can use to scare people away from sex (which is the core of RTL's abstinence-only sex education curricula).



I’m not substituting consciousness for life. I’m saying that consciousness – call it a soul, if you like – is a prerequisite for equating abortion with murder. It’s easy enough to label the act of abortion as unnatural – ripping a fetus from a womb is at least that. But if the organism is not imbued with whatever it is that makes us sentient beings, then killing it is something less than murder. Heinous? Grotesque? Unfortunate? Undesirable? Perhaps. You can use whatever adjective you like, but it seems awfully difficult to argue that in the immediate aftermath of fertilization, a mere division of one cell into two, and then two into four, is something that constitutes a conscious human life in any realistic definition of the term.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. I’m open to that possibility. But you’re the one stipulating that you have proof, not I.

The Executive Director

Fair enough, Brandon. I then recommend giving further thought to the nature of an organism, because it does in fact at its earliest stages have the properties that make it a sentient being. If it didn't, then those properties would have to come from outside the organism, which I think we agree they don't.

Regards, Bill

The Executive Director


You wrote: "You're entitled to your opinion that life begins at conception, but one could just as easily argue that life begins before conception; sperm and ovum must be alive in order for conception to take place."

Well, no. Life is the property of an organism, which the zygote -- i.e., fertilized egg -- is and individual sperm and eggs are not.

Regards, Bill



There are few events in human history where millions upon millions of men and women not only support, but actively engage in the killing of fellow human beings to the level that is seen by abortion in America since January 22, 1973 when Roe V. Wade became law of the land.

In China under Chairman Mao an estimated 40-50 million killed

In the Soviet Union under Stalin an estimated 25-35 million killed

In Germany under Hitler an estimated 12-15 million killed

In Africa under numerous dictators and despot regimes exact numbers unknown, but estimates put the number in the millions who have been killed

One thing that stands out about these countries noted above is that in China, the Soviet Union, Germany, Africa and other countries, these deaths occurred while evil dictators were at the helm, active warfare was in progress, famine, drought and/or plague were scourging the land. Much like these dictators indoctrinated a new generation to go along with their plans for elimination of other humans (ie, eugenics, the final solution, etc.). abortion agencies and abortion supporters do the same here.

You know, we must abort for incest cases. We must abort for rape cases. We must abort youth pregnancies. Sadly, too many abortions done have nothing to do with incest, rape and age. Most full under the category of unwanted and inconvenient. You know, like candidate for President Obama noted that if his girls got pregnant he wouldn’t want them punished with an unwanted child thus, his approval and support of all stages in the abortion process.

Sadly, The United States of America, home of the brave, land of the free, nation of rights, do we allow a modern day holocaust to happen in every state in the union in times of relative PEACE. No active warfare on our soil. No famine. No drought. No plague. No evil dictators. It boils down to the fact we have no excuse for what we are doing. Only we can claim in times of relative peace to have witnessed the destruction of 30 million innocent Americans by the hands of other Americans. The abortion doctors and nurses may physically wield the instruments in the abortuary, but all citizens who support and participate in this devastating procedure make the killing possible.

The only way such massive loss of life can happen in the abortion industry (and make no mistake about it, it’s a multi-million dollar industry funded by taxpayers whether you like it or not) is to make sure those selling the concept and reality of abortion have plenty of buyers for the product they are selling. And isn’t life they are selling. They are sellers of death. Ugly as that sounds, that is what it is. People who call themselves pro-choice are doing just what Bill said, they are buying the goods and the goods are abortion of life from it’s earliest conception all the way through the eighth month. Such thoughts are vulgar to those who value life in all its forms and at its earliest stages. In order to actively participate in the business of death, people must be taught to believe what is being discussed is not a real life, they must discredit the research, they have to ignore the facts and in the end, they must justify the final result no matter what it takes. The bottom line is if you are not choosing life, you are choosing death. No rational, sane and decent human being is willing to wear the title of killer, murderer or taker of life. So, those who wear this faux pro-choice label, which is really pro-abortion badge do so with blinders on.

Keep in mind, abortion has allowed further slippery slopes to evolve, ie.,the morning after pill, embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, euthanasia, etc. What’s next? Hope grandma remains safe as Bill noted earlier. It’s quite clear, if we don’t value what’s in a mother’s womb, we won’t value what comes out of it later.

Fortunately, in the last decade research is showing that people are becoming more educated on all aspects to this issue, especially those who had abortions themselves and realize the wrong done, and others are making the choice of life over death. The growing opposition to abortion and the original ruling under Roe V. Wade is a positive result of education and a returning to core values. I continue to believe there is still hope for the little ones. Surely a day will come when the value of life, all life, wins out against those who support the agenda of death. That is the kind of HOPE and CHANGE a person running for Presidency of The United State of America and real Americans should consider and support passionately.


Bridget Dupont-Tingley
The Local Area Watch


Well, I don't know that there's much more to be said after a politely written propaganda piece like that.

My only point in any of this was to try to convince you that using the term 'pro-abortion' was (is) a counterproductive tactic in the debate. Why go out of your way to inflame people's already firmly held passions instead of toning down the rhetoric as a means of establishing some common ground with your opponents on the issue (and yes, I level the same charge at those on the pro-choice side who berate pro-life advocates with labels like 'anti-choice').

I don't know. Perhaps I've wasted too much bandwidth discussing something that no one else on the planet has resolved any more successfully, so why would we?

You'll notice that at no point have I described myself, personally, as pro-choice. As I stated previously, I do have legitimate questions about abortion. Like any complex issue that's worth investing one's time and energy into working out, my guard gets raised and my gag reflex activated whenever I hear someone assert so boldy that 'X' is true with absolute certainty. Makes me want to run for the hills, and so in that vein, I reckon I'll say goodbye to this one and wait and see what other interesting stories you'll be posting in the days and weeks ahead.


Bill -

Only some definitions of "organism" would not include sperm and ovum. Others (like this one from the OED) would: "an assembly of molecules that function as a more or less stable whole and has the properties of life."

Even if that weren't the case, organisms are not the only forms of life. The term describes one form of life (and it sometimes excludes other forms of life like viruses).

If it's fair to call a blastophyte a "baby," I think it's fair for me to call sperm and ovum "life."


There's no shortage of irony that in most (if not all) of the totalitarian regimes Bridget mentioned, abortion was highly illegal.

By the way - there's no slippery slope: The morning after pill is not an abortificient. It's physically impossible for it to be one because it is a hormonal method of birth control that can only delay the descent of ovum - that's why its success rate isn't 100% - because if fertilization has already taken place, it won't stop that already-existing pregnancy from continuing forward.

Researchers used to hypothesize that the increased/decreased doses of hormones like progestin might interfere with pregnancy - but subsequent study has proven that not to be the case.

The Executive Director


The fact that Bridget was able to write on this subject with a certitude you lack doesn't make her statement propaganda.

Unless you subscribe to the belief that the truth is inherently unknowable, and so no one can ever have certain knowledge of anything, you cannot have any principled objection to the mere fact of another's certitude. And you cannot have an objection on the rights and wrongs of this particular matter, because you state that you yourself aren't sure about that regarding abortion.

Labeling Bridget's writing as "propaganda" because she is certain that she knows the truth while you are uncertain appears to belittle Bridget for her certitude for no better reason than you lack it. A case of sour grapes, I would say.

Regards, Bill

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