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Tag: Science

A Few Thoughts on Abortion and the Planned Parenthood Videos

planned parenthood

I’ve been asked to give my take on the Planned Parenthood videos.

When it comes to Planned Parenthood’s mission, to provide healthcare to women, I am 100% in their corner. Providing abortions is a small part of Planned Parenthood’s services, and defunding Planned Parenthood would have a deleterious effect on the health of poor women. Attempts to defund Planned Parenthood are driven by religious belief and bad science. We live in a secular state, one that supposedly separates church and state and one that values science; yet, when it comes to abortion, the debate is framed by religious claims that result in skewed interpretations of science.

Strident pro-lifers, based on their religious beliefs, say that abortion is murder. I have written about this before in a post titled 25 Questions for Those Who Say Abortion is Murder. The abortion-is-murder view is irrational and is a denial of what science tells about fetal development and life. Just last week, Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher and a candidate for President, said he supports personhood for zygotes (see Personhood USA). That’s right, Huckabee wants constitutional protection conveyed the moment a man’s sperm unites with a woman’s egg. This means that Mike Huckabee, along with those who support personhood for fetuses and believe abortion is murder, think that the following should be considered a person protected by the constitution and those aborting them are murderers:

3 day old human embyro
Three Day Old Human Embryo.
4 week old fetus
Fetus at 28 days
human fetus
Fetus at 56 days, 1/2 inch long

Fact: 63% of abortion take place within eight weeks of pregnancy.

This is what a fetus looks like at 12 weeks:

12 week fetus
Fetus at 12 week

Fact: 89% of abortions take place within 12 weeks (first trimester) of pregnancy.

When I look at the science along with the aforementioned photographs, I see potential life. I don’t see a person, one deserving constitutional protection. (Please see Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contractions.) All the religious posturing and moralizing in the world won’t change my view on this matter. Why? Because it is rooted in scientific fact and reason.

As the fetus continues to grow it moves from being potential life to actual life. Usually this is around weeks 20-24. Fetuses can and do survive when born prematurely, and it is for this reason I support greater protection for them under the law. The state has a vested interest in protecting human life, not potential life. I do not agree that abortion after viability should be a decision made between a woman and her doctor without any regard to the fetus. Once viability is reached there is a third party — the baby — who should have rights. Not absolute rights, mind you. There are times, due to health concerns or fetal abnormality, that is it medically prudent to terminate a pregnancy after viability. Since the overwhelming majority of abortions occur before viability (98.8%) or post viability as a result of health concerns or fetal abnormality, I see no reason to oppose abortion.

Why is it that pro-life groups rarely use the aforementioned photographs to make their case? Why do they always graphically display fetuses aborted late in a pregnancy? Shock value. I wonder if some who say abortion is murder would think differently if they were presented with a picture of a zygote and not a picture of a full term fetus?

The recent videos concerning Planned Parenthood are disturbing. The group behind the videos are using highly edited footage, releasing them over a long period of time in hopes of maximizing the damage, inflaming passion, and bolstering the campaigns of pro-life candidates for President. (Please see People of the American Way post  The Activists and the Ideology Behind the Latest Attack on Planned Parenthood.)

Despite my opposition to the group behind the videos, I do find the videos troubling. Is Planned Parenthood selling fetus parts? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that they are selling at cost various fetus parts to researchers, but no in the sense that it isn’t a huge revenue stream for Planned Parenthood. What Planned Parenthood is doing is legal, no different from harvesting organs for transplant.

I am sure someone is going to say, but Bruce, look at how nonchalant the Planned Parenthood people were on the videos. I agree, this is troubling, but is their crassness any reason for the government to defund Planned Parenthood or for abortion to be outlawed or criminalized? Of course not. Again, I go back to the science. Like it or not, in most cases, the aborted fetus is a blob of developing cells. Since these developing cells are potential life, not human life, why shouldn’t researchers be permitted to use these cells and developing organs to find cures or treatments for diseases that are afflicting and killing humans?

I think the crassness displayed on the videos is troubling, but explainable. Take doctors. Doctors are around sickness and death every day. Imagine a group of doctors sitting around a table talking shop. How do you think the discussion would go? A bit of morbidity, humor, and deflection? This is their way of coping with the work they have been called to do (and yes, I think many of the people who work in abortion clinics have a sense of calling, a deep desire to help women in a time of great need). The same could be said for coroners, morticians, homicide detectives, crime scene investigators, CDC investigators, and crime scene cleaners. As someone who lives with the ugly specter of death lurking in the shadows, I have a gallows sense of humor about death. Some family members and friends are appalled by my humor, yet it is how I cope with the reality that death is stalking me and will ultimately seize me as its prey. People who are around death often use humor to cope and often seem detached from their work, and I think that is exactly what is shown on the Planned Parenthood videos.

What Planned Parenthood has is an optic problem. They allowed themselves to be snookered by ideologically driven religious nut jobs who want to make abortion, along with birth control, illegal. Planned Parenthood needs to do a better job of vetting whom they are talking to. They also need to put some of their workers and executives through sensitivity training. We say that getting an abortion is a monumental decision for a women. If this is true, then our behavior and demeanor should reflect this, not unlike our response to someone who is dying and has decided to stop medical treatment.

I am sure those on either side of this issue will disagree with me and that’s why I have been hesitant to write about it. My position on abortion is informed and quite developed, so I don’t waste my time arguing about it. I recently had several dust-ups on Facebook with people who think anyone who is pro-choice or supports Planned Parenthood is a sick, vile, evil, murderer. Rather than continue to read such drivel, I unfriended 30 or so people, including family members (and yes, I tried to educate them before I unfriended them).

I find it interesting that the same people who are so ardently pro-life are very same people who are pro-war, pro capital punishment, anti-homosexual, anti-same sex marriage, anti-immigration, and anti virtually anything that has to do with care and compassion post-birth. It seems the only life they care about is the one in the womb. These same people say they are anti-abortion, yet they oppose free birth control and standardized sex education, two things that we know reduce the need for an abortion. There’s one word for people who think like this: hypocrite.

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Evidence for the Existence of Evangelical God: Bruce, Look at the Stars

carl sagan dot

Evangelicals believe the Christian God reveals himself to every human through:

  • Creation
  • Conscience
  • Divine Revelation (The Bible)

In this post, I want to focus on the Christian God revealing himself to us through creation. On a clear night, I can look skyward and see a vast array of stars and planets. Recently, Jupiter and Venus were in perfect alignment, a wonder to behold in the Western sky. Last week, the New Horizons spacecraft sent back pictures of Pluto, amazing both the atheist and the Evangelical.

Both atheists and Evangelicals look to the sky and contemplate its vastness and awesomeness. When Evangelicals look at the sky they see the handiwork of their God. They are certain that the Christian God created everything. Atheists, however, point to science and its explanations of the universe. They have a lot of questions, questions science has not yet answered. These questions may or may not be answered in the future. Evangelicals, using the creation framework in Genesis 1-3, are satisfied that the Christian God created the universe. No matter what science tells us about the universe, the Bible explanation is the superior and final explanation. If science conflicts with the Bible, science is wrong.

When Evangelicals use the creation argument with me, I agree with them. I don’t really agree with them, but for the sake of argument, I say, OK, I agree that someone can look at the night sky and wonder if a God created everything. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that a God, a divine force, the first cause, the master holographic programmer created or designed the universe. Since science has yet to tell us all we need to know about the beginning of the universe, perhaps one day we will discover that a God of some sort created everything. I doubt it, but it is certainly possible, just like it is possible the Cincinnati Reds will overcome a 16.5 game deficit in the standings and win the World Series.

Once I grant the Evangelical position, I then ask, how does one get from A GOD to THE GOD, the God of the Evangelical Bible? What is there in the night sky that says the Evangelical God created the universe? It is at this point the Evangelical says, THE BIBLE SAYSIn the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Once Evangelicals appeal to the Bible, they’ve lost the argument. Why? Because science tells us that the creation account in Genesis is not true. Once drawn back into the confines of the printed page, Evangelicals are forced to defend all sorts of absurd beliefs, beliefs that can only be swallowed with a large dose of blindness and faith.

But, Bruce, look at the various creation myths. Don’t they ALL testify to there being a creator? Again, Evangelicals are not arguing for a generic, adaptable creator. They are arguing for a specific creator, the one spoken of in the Bible. Even here, I am willing to grant the Evangelical’s assertion. The question remains the same. Why is the Evangelical creation myth true and all others false? Why should I believe the Evangelical myth and not one of the other creation myths?

By appealing to the Bible and the creation account recorded in Genesis 1-3, Evangelicals also must defend everything from a talking, walking upright snake to polytheism. Since the night sky itself is not enough to tell us the Evangelical God created the universe, Evangelicals must appeal to the presuppositions they’ve derived from the Bible. With one hand, they point to the sky and with the other hand point to the Bible. As I have stated many times before, the Abrahamic religions are text-based. For Evangelicals, the Bible is the foundation upon which their religious house is built. Destroy the foundation and the Evangelical house comes tumbling down.\

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Sacrilegious Humor: God Moments by Dara O’Briain

This is the fourteenth installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is God Moments by Dara O’Briain.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

Sacrilegious Humor: Science Doesn’t Know Everything by Dara O’Briain

This is the thirteenth installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is Science Doesn’t Know Everything by Dara O’Briain.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contradictions

when women have abortions
When Women Have Abortions, 2010 Guttmacher Institute

Here are the FACTS about abortion:

Very few abortions occur at late or full term. 89% of all abortions occur in the first trimester, with 63% occurring in the first nine weeks. 98.8% of abortions take place before viability. Late term abortions after twenty week are 1.2% of all abortion procedures performed in the United States. Out of 1.2 million annual abortions, 14,400 are after 20 weeks. Most of these abortion are medically necessary due to the health of the mother, the fetus, or both.

These FACTS can be found at the Guttmacher Institute.

I realize that almost half of Americans are pro-life, or at least when polled  they say they are pro-life. I am not at all convinced that as many people are pro-life as the polls suggest.

I wonder how pro-lifers would respond to polling questions like these:

  • Your eleven year old daughter is raped by a serial rapist and she became pregnant. Would you support your daughter having an abortion?
  • Your wife is raped by an AID’s infected man. Her rape was a Todd Akinlegitimate” rape and she became pregnant. Would you support your wife having an abortion?
  • Your wife is pregnant with a fetus that tests show will be born without a brain. Would you support your wife having an abortion?
  • Your wife is in danger of dying  if her fetus is carried to term. The doctor says unless she has an abortion she will die. Would you support your wife having an abortion?
  • Your wife is carrying a dead fetus. Should she have an abortion to remove the fetus? Why? Perhaps almighty God will work a miracle and breathe the breath of life back into the fetus. Shouldn’t you wife wait to see if God works a miracle?

When faced with reality and not political talking points I wonder how many people would actually stand by their no-exceptions anti-abortion stance?

Some pro-lifers say they support exemptions for rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is at stake. However, these exceptions are antithetical to the pro-life view. If life begins the moment the egg and sperm unite, then any abortion is the killing of a human life. It is inconsistent and hypocritical to call yourself pro-life and then turn right around and say, in some circumstances, it is permissible to kill the fetus. Shouldn’t this life and death choice be left in the hands of God?

In February 2015 I wrote:

According to anti-abortionists, life begins at conception. At the very moment the sperm and egg unite a new life is created. Anti-abortionists are intractable when it comes to their position. Life begins at conception…end of debate.

Let me tell you a story……

This story takes place at the We Make Life Possible Fertility Clinic.

Sue gave birth to a beautiful baby girl through in vitro fertilization. Her baby girl is 1 month old . Sue stopped by the Fertility Clinic to show off her newborn to the Clinic staff.

While Sue was at the clinic, a huge explosion rocked the place and the clinic was engulfed in flames. Later speculation on World Net Daily, suggested a supporter of Barack Obama was behind the attack.

John, named after John THE Baptist, a pro-life activist, happened to be passing by the clinic when the explosion took place. John went running into the clinic hoping to perhaps save someone from the fire.

John had been to the We Make Possible Life Fertility Clinic before. His wife Patience had problems conceiving, and not wanting to wait on God to open her womb, John and Patience went to Clinic. While the treatment was successful, Patience miscarried a few months into the pregnancy.

John knew the Clinic stored hundreds of fertilized eggs (embryos) in a freezer. As he rushed into the Clinic, John saw Sue huddled in a corner with her newborn daughter trying to get away from the fire. John thought “Surely I should save these two.”

John thought for a moment, asking himself What Would Jesus Do? Suddenly, he realized the fire was going to destroy all the frozen embryos. John told Sue and her baby Sorry, maybe Jesus will come rescue you, and he rushed to the freezer where the frozen embryos were stored. Through John’s heroic effort, hundreds of frozen embryos were saved. Sadly, Sue and her newborn daughter were burnt to death.

Who among us would fault John? After all, he acted according to the greater good. Who wouldn’t save 200 lives at the expense of 2 lives?

The above story follows the logic of the life begins at conception viewpoint to its illogical conclusion.  There is no difference between 200 embryos and Sue and her baby.  Life is life. It makes perfect sense for John to save the frozen embryos and not Sue and her little one. Surely John would be praised for saving the 200 embryos, right? If the clinic is unable to reopen, perhaps the frozen embryos can be put up for adoption. After all EVERY embryo is a life.

If life begins at conception and terminating a pregnancy is the murder of a baby as pro-life zealots claim, then the following conclusions can be made:

  • The woman who has the abortion is a murderer
  • The doctor who performs the abortion is a murderer
  • The nurse who helps with the abortion is a murderer
  • The receptionist who books the abortion appointment is a murderer
  • The person who took the woman to the clinic is a murderer

If these conclusions are true, then it means that none of these people will go to heaven when they die. Why? The BIble says:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8

It is also fair to conclude that people who kill innocent men, women, and children in war are murderers too. Where are the same pro-life zealots proclaiming the evil of war? It seems that killing a zygote is murder, but killing an Afghan child or mother is not. It seems that the only life pro-lifers protect is that which has not yet been born. Why is this?

I have come to the conclusion that pro-lifers who do not condemn war are guilty of facilitating murder.(use their logic and exegesis)  Pro-lifers charge those who believe abortion should be rare, safe, and legal with facilitating murder. Pro-lifers make it quite clear that those who promote and facilitate abortion cannot be a Christian. How can they be since they are facilitating murder? I ask then, what about pro-lifers who promote and facilitate war. How can they be Christian and support the murder of innocent men, women,children, and the unborn? It seems to me that heaven is going to be quite empty if murderers are barred from entering. If you still doubt that no murderers will enter heaven:

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. Revelation 22:14,15

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 19:17-19

(If you have not done so, please read 25 Questions for Those Who Say Abortion is Murder.)

In 2011 I wrote:

In about 17 months there will be a Presidential election. Republicans know they have a fight on their hands. They need to make sure that the faithful turn out in record numbers and vote for the Republican candidate. They need to appeal to the value voters, those who hold to right-wing political and social beliefs.

One of the key issues that will make it to the ballot in 2012 is whether or not a fertilized egg is a person. Personhood USA is circulating petitions in all 50 states hoping to get politicians to enact personhood laws. According to Rachel Maddow, there are already eight states debating personhood legislation and with 2012 being a Presidential election year it is quite likely that there will be a concerted effort to get personhood initiatives on the ballot.

One of the implications of Personhood laws is that they could make the use of birth control pills illegal. (since birth control pills are an abortifacient and can, and do cause spontaneous abortion) 46 years ago in Griswold v. Connecticut the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the right of privacy extended to the use of contraceptives and states could not ban the sale of contraceptives. (it is hard to believe there was a time when selling birth control was illegal)

Personhood laws could upend not only Roe v. Wade but Griswold v. Connecticut. If a fertilized egg is a person, then any deliberate effort to kill the fertilized egg would be considered murder. A quick perusal of The Pill Kills website will make it clear that the personhood crowd is dead serious about banning abortion and birth control.

What is the implications of a personhood law?

  • All abortion would be illegal, including abortion in the case of rape and incest
  • Abortion to save the life of the mother would be outlawed since it is illegal to murder one person to save another
  • Using any form of birth control that is an abortifacient would be illegal
  • Our entire legal code would need  rewriting to reflect that a fertilized egg is a person
  • A person causing a woman to miscarry could be charged with murder.
  • Parents would be able to claim the fertilized egg as a dependent on their income tax return
  • Fertilized eggs would be eligible for adoption
  • Stem cell research would be curtailed and possibly banned

I can imagine a new Evangelical evangelism outreach to fertilized eggs. “Winning People to Jesus, One Fertilized Egg at a Time.”

We must not sit on the sidelines while right-wing Christians attempt to push their social agenda down the throat of the American people. We must consistently and continually point out that personhood laws are fraught with legal implications that will turn the legal code into a mine field.

Right-wing Christians are not going away. Obama being elected President was a wake up call and they have no intentions of sitting idly by and letting liberal, fertilized egg killing Democrats win in 2012. I expect a vicious fight, not only on the federal level, but the state and local level too.

Look at the graphic below. Is what you see a baby? Is aborting this the same as murdering your mother, father, or grandmother?

3 day old human embyro
Three Day Old Human Embryo.

Only those blinded by their religious ideology can conclude that this is a picture of a baby. At best, it is potential life, but not life itself.

Now let me get personal for a moment.

If you believe people who support a woman’s right to an abortion are murderers or evil people, then why do you have anything to do with me? If this is your view, why would you want to associate with a neighbor, friend, husband, father, father-in-law, or grandfather who advocates m-u-r-d-e-r? IF I am a murderer because I support the slaughter (your word) of over a million babies a year, then aren’t I just as evil as Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy?

And herein lies the problem with your shrill rhetoric. I am a kind, decent, loving neighbor, friend, husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather. Yes, I am an atheist but I am more “Christian” than many of the Christians you know.

How about asking me WHY I support a woman’s right to an abortion? If asked, you would find out that:

  • I don’t think human life begins at conception. Potential life, yes, but human life? No. Science tells me that this is true, not a pre-science, antiquated religious text.
  • When I look at the embryo above I don’t see a “baby.” It is a group of cells, not a baby.
  • I support a woman’s right to use birth control to keep from getting pregnant. I know that some forms of birth control might cause a spontaneous abortion, but I have no problem with this since I don’t think life begins at conception.
  • Since 89% of abortions occur in the first trimester, long before viability, I fully support a woman’s unfettered right to an abortion. This right includes over the counter access to morning after drugs.
  • I do not support abortion on demand after viability. However, only 14,400 a year occur after viability, and, in most cases, these abortions are medically necessary due to the health of the mother, the fetus, or both.

I am an atheist. I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe the teachings of the Bible. My beliefs are not governed by the Bible or the teachings of a sect. When I came to the view I now hold on abortion it was because of the science behind the abortion debate.

I am also a husband, father, father-in-law, and a grandfather. If ANY of the women in my family were raped or were carrying a fetus that could cost them their life, I would want them to have access to every medical and psychological means necessary to help them. I am most concerned for the LIVING.

I didn’t come to this position easily. I have a daughter with Down Syndrome. I know many women have an abortion when they find out they are carrying a fetus with Down’s. I can’t imagine our life without Bethany. My brother was born three months premature, not too many weeks past the viability line. I can’t imagine life without my little brother.  My point is this: everything doesn’t fit neatly in a pro-life or pro-choice box. Life is messy and we are often forced to make hard decisions.

This post is an attempt to get people to see that it is simplistic and offensive when people label someone like me a murderer or evil. But, I don’t do that, you might say. Are you sure you don’t? Every time you post to your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest that people who support abortion are murderers or evil, you ARE saying I am a murderer or evil. This is the inescapable conclusion of your rhetoric and moralizing.

abortion facts
Just substitute abortion for climate change. This is how I often feel when trying to talk with someone who confuses their beliefs for facts.

I have come to the conclusion that there is no common ground to be had with people who are pro-life.  They start with religion and not science, and I see no way of finding common ground. All I can do is present the facts about abortion and work to keep them from causing any further harm to women.

I understand the pro-life view, I really do. I was pro-life for most of my adult life. I fully understand the why’s of being pro-life. I know all the proof-texts and I think the Bible supports the pro-life view, along with the pro-slavery, pro-polygamy, pro-incest, pro-genocide, pro-war, pro-peace view.

I understand where you are coming from. Now it is time for you to give me the same courtesy.

Bruce Gerencser