Catholic hospitals in CT to give rape victims emergency contraception

Catholic Hospitals to Follow Plan B Law

The hospitals will be allowed to provide Plan B without ovulation tests “since the teaching authority of the church has not definitively resolved this matter and since there is serious doubt about how Plan B pills work,” the statement reads. “To administer Plan B without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act.”

It’s a huge concession for the bishops to admit that there is serious doubt about whether Plan B prevents implantation. I hardly think that this will settle the debate in the minds of people who are sure, despite recent studies, that it does. With any luck, though, people who genuinely weren’t aware of the recent research might find out about it now.

The power of the Catholic Church to bring attention to abortion-related issues really is a blessing and a curse.

Amnesty’s own words: states must ensure access to abortion “in almost all cases”

(note: all of the links to Amnesty documents lead to its members-only site. Those of you who are not members can read the local copies I’ve linked. All are PDFs.)

Amnesty International has been claiming that its new policy on abortion (local copy) is limited in scope, because it will only push for states to guarantee access to abortion “for women who become pregnant as a result of rape, sexual assault or incest — or whose lives or health are at grave risk due to pregnancy.” Think about what the phrase “health at grave risk” means to you. It probably conjures up images of injury or illness that brings a person near death, or that may result in permanant disability. It probably doesn’t bring to mind a situation in which a healthy mother carrying a healthy baby seeks an abortion due to poverty or abandonment by the child’s father.

What does the health clause mean to Amnesty International?
(more…)

Dishonest pseudo-biology constitutes “informed consent” in New Jersey

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently dismissed a woman’s claim that she was denied proper informed consent when she had an abortion:

Plaintiff said that she asked defendant “if it was the baby in there” and that defendant replied, “don’t be stupid, it’s only blood.” Defendant could not recall how he responded but believes he likely would have told her that a “seven-week pregnancy is not a living human being,” but rather it “is just tissue at this time.”

Note that he doesn’t dispute that he gave her false information in response to her direct question, he just doesn’t remember whether his response was quite as false — and heartless — as she says it was.

Oh, but it’s not lying to a patient (in the state of New Jersey) to say that the seven-week embryo is “only blood” or “just tissue”, because scientific concepts such as “organism” and “species” don’t have meaning if you can find someone who will testify that they don’t:

Plaintiff is prepared to present expert testimony to establish, as a biological fact, that her embryo was “an existing human being” –- “a member of the species Homo sapiens” — at the time of the abortion. Defendant, however, can present expert witnesses who will dispute the point and who will assert that plaintiff’s characterization of the embryo as a living human being is a moral, theological, or ideological judgment, not a scientific or biological one. Clearly, there is no consensus in the medical community or society supporting plaintiff’s position that a six- to eight-week-old embryo is, as a matter of biological fact — as opposed to a moral, theological, or philosophical judgment — “a complete, separate, unique and irreplaceable human being” or that terminating an early pregnancy involves “actually killing an existing human being.”

I guess if you can get expert witnesses to say that the earth is 6,000 years old, you can get expert witnesses to say that a six- to eight-week-old embryo carried by a human mother is not a living organism belonging to the species Homo sapiens. And the best part is, they’ll never even have to convince a jury that they’re credible!

Do you think this works for other kinds of litigation?

Plaintiff: When I asked my doctor whether I should quit smoking because of my asthma, he said, “Don’t be stupid, my mother smoked every day of her life and she lived to be 119.”

Defendant: I can present expert witnesses who will dispute the point that smoking causes lung disease and who will assert that, in fact, it makes you cool.

New Jersey Supreme Court: Good enough for us! Case dismissed!

Credit where credit is due

To say that the American Life League and I see eye-to-eye on very little would be to state the case in the mildest possible way. That said, I have to hand it to them. I think this is perhaps the most strongly worded statement against clinic violence I’ve yet seen from a pro-life organization.

My favorite part:

In furtherance of this purpose, we call on:

[…]

  • All perpetrators of violence to recognize that, far from being pro-life crusaders, they are nothing more than common criminals

Yes, exactly.

September 11

Have been avoiding the news today. I don’t need the media to tell me what I remember. I’ll read about the Petraeus report, but I’ll do it tomorrow, as I refuse on general principles to go along with this latest effort by the Bush Administration to pretend that the Iraq war had anything to do with September 11.

Instead, observed “Patriot Day” by writing my members of Congress to beg them to try to stop George Bush from attacking Iran.

Hey, the warmongers have their definition of patriotism, and I have mine.

Jena 6

Dave posted a great video about the Jena 6 situation over at the mindful mission.

For those of you who haven’t heard about the case: you can get an overview by watching the video or reading about it (Word document) at Friends of Justice. In a nutshell:

On the morning of September 1, 2006, three nooses dangled from a tree in the High School square in Jena, Louisiana. The day before, at a school assembly, black students had asked the vice principal if they could sit under that tree.

Characterizing the noose incident as an innocent prank, a discipline committee meted out a few days of in-school suspension and declared the matter settled.

At the end of November, the central academic wing of Jena High School was destroyed by fire. Over the weekend, a stream of white-initiated racial violence swept over the tiny community, adding to the trauma and tension. The following Monday, a white student was punched and kicked following a lunch-hour taunting match. Six black athletes were arrested and charged with conspiracy to attempt second-degree murder. If convicted, some defendants are facing sentences of between twenty-five and 100 years in prison without parole.

(Charges for three of the six have since been reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy, with a possible sentence of 22 years. Keep in mind that the victim was briefly treated in the hospital and released, and he attended a social function later that evening.)

It shouldn’t need to be said, but looking around, I can see that it does: nobody is condoning the violence against the white student. It was wrong. It would make everything so much more clear-cut if all of the Jena 6 were innocent of any wrongdoing, but that’s apparently not the case.

But the fact remains that six young black men could have their lives ruined by a wildly out-of-proportion prosecution. The fact remains that several threatening and criminal acts by whites against blacks were dealt with lightly or not at all. The fact remains that black kids who dared to sit under the “white tree” got a reminder that people like them used to get lynched not so long ago. That some or all of the Jena 6 were also in the wrong doesn’t make any of that racism disappear.

Terminology confusion

I keep seeing people claiming that pro-lifers have their own made-up, unscientific definition of “pregnancy”. For a representative example, see “A Christian Intra-Religious Translating Dictionary” at religioustolerance.org.

It goes like this:

  • Pro-choicer points out that pro-lifers say pregnancy begins at conception.
  • Pro-choicer then points out that medical professionals say pregnancy begins at implantation.
  • Presto! Pro-choicer gets to claim that pro-lifers are at odds with medical professionals. All those pro-lifers running around talking about conception are just ignorant.

Seriously, I see this all the time. And people fall for it, because it fits into what they want to believe about pro-lifers — that we’re backwards, anti-science, etc.

I assume anyone reading this who is pro-life has spotted the flaw. In reality, what pro-lifers say is that the life of an individual human being — not pregnancy — begins at conception. I don’t think I’ve ever once heard a pro-lifer actually say “Pregnancy begins at conception.”

Pregnancy is a particular type of relationship between a mother and her child, a relationship in which the child is living inside the mother, physically connected to and dependent upon her. That relationship begins at implantation. But life precedes pregnancy. The embryo that implants is already a living human organism.

The beginning of life is not the same as the beginning of pregnancy. But planting that equivalence in the audience’s mind works in pro-choicers’ favor in a couple of ways. First, it lets them pretend there are no ethical questions about the prevention of implantation.* Second, it lets them distort pro-lifers’ arguments. If life = pregnancy, then discrediting the strawman statement that “pregnancy begins at conception” both makes pro-lifers look bad and prejudices the audience against the true statement that “life begins at conception”.

Where are pro-choicers even getting the notion that pro-lifers say “Pregnancy begins at conception”? Follow the bouncing ball again:

  • (Some) pro-lifers say that hormonal conception is abortifacient, because they believe that it prevents implantation and thus ends the life of the embryo. They’re using a colloquial definition of abortion that means “killing an embryo/fetus”.
  • Medical professionals say that even if it does prevent implantation, it isn’t abortifacient because pregnancy hasn’t begun yet. They’re using a technical definition of abortion that means “the premature ending of a pregnancy”.
  • Pro-choicers ignore the obvious fact that there are two different definitions in play, and conclude that to call something abortifacient is to imply that pregnancy has begun, ergo pro-lifers are claiming that pregnancy begins at conception.

I’d argue that the colloquial usage of the term “abortion” is justifiable in this context, in that it’s closer to the way the word is used by the general public. Still, it might be time to find better terminology when referring to something that might prevent implantation.

* Regardless of what you might have heard, it is not a known fact that hormonal birth control prevents implantation. I’ve just had that argument recently, and I don’t feel like rehashing it right now. But pro-choicers tend to argue that even if it does happen, it doesn’t matter because the pregnancy hasn’t started yet.