Monday, March 06, 2006

The Winning Argument

Today the Governor of South Dakota signed a bill outlawing all abortions except in cases when the mother's life is in danger. This law is scheduled to take effect on July 1 but will probably never do so because of legal action. The true purpose of this bill is to force Planned Parenthood to sue the state so the issue can be raised in the supreme court.

While it will probably be years until the high court hears this case, the action by the legislature and governor of South Dakota has once again catapulted the issue of abortion into the public eye. Both sides are digging their trenches. Activists on the pro-life and pro-choice sides are preparing for the imminent public debate surrounding this new law.

And I am ready to join the fray.

Many arguments have been made to support abortion over the years. The popular one today is that it is a woman's choice what she wants to do with her body. In general I would agree with that. There are exceptions of course. A woman is not allowed to destroy her body with drugs, nor is she allowed to sell her body for sex (though I bet many abortion rights activists would say women should be allowed to do these things too). But in general I would accept this principle as appropriate and moral. But there is a problem. A big problem. And we are going to have to go back to Biology 101 to find out what it is.

In the legal system today, identity is most firmly established by DNA evidence. The ability to detect and decode the DNA of an individual is a relatively new technology, yet it has already changed the legal system dramatically. Convicted criminals have been exonerated and suspects have been convicted based on DNA evidence. Men and women have proven their relation to long lost sons, daughters, and parents with this technology. No other innovation has reshaped the courts so significantly since the fingerprint was first admitted as evidence. DNA evidence is so powerful for two reasons:

First, DNA is absolutely unique to each individual. No other person dead, living, or yet to be born has the same genetic code as me. If hair with my genetic information is found in a hotel room, that means either I was in that room, or someone put my hair there. But there is no doubt that the hair is mine.

Second, for the most part, DNA is consistent in every cell of a persons body. My hair has the same genetic code as my skin or my saliva. Now I say for the most part because there is one exception. Reproductive cells only contain half the genetic information of an individual. But this information is still a part of the whole which means it can be identified as a particular individual's.

This is where we find our problem. The consistency of DNA is prevalent in every woman, meaning we can identify the cells that belong to a woman's body by their genetic code. And because genetic codes are unique we can identify to which woman those cells belong.

But what about an unborn baby (or fetus if you're pro-choice)? If a fetus is really part of its mother's body it should have the same genetic code right? But it doesn't. The DNA of the fetus is completely different from its mothers. Oh it does contain half of the information from the egg of the mother but legally that is not enough (you can't convict a man when you find the DNA of his son at a crime scene). Therefore an unborn baby cannot legally be considered part of its mother's body. It may live inside the mother's body, but location and nature are entirely separate matters.

So Planned Parenthood it looks like your argument doesn't really work. A woman does have the right to do what she wants with her body, but she does not have the right to do whatever she wants with another individual's body, even if that body is living inside her. Looks like it's back to the drawing board for the abortion rights activists.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A new type of faith

This past week, the town of Dover, Pennsylvania removed eight incumbent school board members in their local election. Proponents of the change cited the school board’s support of teaching Intelligent Design as the cause for the landslide victory. Groups like the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have praised the results of the recent election claiming a victory for the first amendment. Yet, ignoring the claims of intelligent design for the moment and the age old constitutional debate of the role of religion in society, this does bring to light a very important question. Since when did the theory of evolution become infallible and unassailable? After all, isn’t it only a theory?
Talking to many scientists and professors you wouldn’t think so. Many believe evolution is as certain as gravity or the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. But there is an inherent problem with evolution that reveals the weakness of such beliefs. The scientific method states that to find truth scientifically one must create a hypothesis; test that hypothesis; observe the results of the tests; redo the test several more times; and draw conclusions from the results. Yet evolution cannot be tested this way despite the efforts of many scientists. Despite the efforts of scientists like Jack Szostak of Harvard University and Richard Lenski over the past 20 years, no lab has ever produced life out of inanimate material nor has any lab observed one species evolve into another. Because of their lack of success scientists must turn to fossil evidence to draw their conclusions about evolution. This is the same procedure that cosmologists use to determine their theories of the origin of the universe, observing historical material and drawing conclusions from it. However, these theories are not held in such high regard as the theory of evolution. In the hierarchy of scientific certainty, both cosmology and evolution are at the bottom of the food chain.
Yet despite the logical frailties of the evidential basis for evolution, scientists continue to proclaim evolution as factual. And that creates a problem. The problem is that the faith scientists have in evolution precludes any legitimate attempt to propose an alternate theory for the origin of life on earth. Anyone who casts doubt on evolution is branded a religious extremist (even if their ideas have nothing to do with religion) or a bad scientist. I was always taught to question the status quo in the search for truth. But I guess for the time being the scientific community will rely on blind faith. So much for evolution not being religious.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A New Covenant

On February 14, Valentines Day, Governor Mike Huckabee and Janet McCain re-celebrated their marriage after 31 years. No, they were not renewing their vows. They were adding to them. In front of 5,000 supporters in an Arkansas Sports arena, the governor and his wife changed their marriage to a Covenant marriage.

First added into law in Louisiana in 1997,Covenant Marriages commit couples to seek counseling before considering a divorce, and only allow a handful of reasons for a divorce to take place legally. Covenant Marriages can now also be obtained in Arkansas and Arizona according to a New York Times article.

In a world where the political debate over marriage is usually focused on whether homosexuals have the right to marry, it is refreshing to see a new movement designed to strengthen traditional marriage. Don't misunderstand me, the debate on gay marriage is an important one that needs to be addressed. However, with 23 percent of all first time marriages ending in divorce, and 50 percent of all marriages going under, it is clear that this blessed union before God is in a crisis, with or without gay influence.

So far the movement has not encountered much political pressure. Some social workers have expressed the fear of children being caught in dysfunctional families that cannot be separated because of the rules of a Covenant Marriage, but their concern has not led to any sort of counter movement like we usually see. That being the case it is disappointing that the movement, started in 1997, has been so sluggish in getting started. So far only 3 states have created Covenant Marriage laws, and the law in Arkansas is by far the strongest. 24 states have considered adding their own laws but all of them decided against it.

Will this movement change the face of marriage in America over the last half of this decade? Barring any sort of national spiritual revival, I doubt it. It seems that the idea of "til death do us part" is too strict for even many conservatives to accept. However, for the few thousand couples who have made this new covenant, and the ones who will do so in the future, Covenant Marriage may make the difference between whether or not a marriage becomes one more statistic in a world afraid of commitment.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Sonogram Politics

Far be it from me to lavish praise on The New York Times, but they really stepped up this time.

On the front page of today's issue there is an article on the latest front in the abortion war. The use of ultrasounds. The article begins with the account of a woman who was going to have an abortion but first received an ultrasound at a church run crisis pregnancy center. After seeing the image of her baby and hearing the heartbeat, 24 year old Andrea Brown said, "after that [the ultrasound] there was no way I could do it."

Indeed the latest strategy of pro-life groups like Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention is to provide crisis pregnancy centers with sonograms in order to offer ultrasounds to pregnant women regardless of whether they desire to have an abortion or not. The results have been striking. The article points to a survey by a Christian research organization, the Heidi Group, that counseling in crisis pregnancy centers convinces 70 percent of women wanting an abortion to change their minds. When ultrasounds are included the number increases to 90 percent.

You would think that Planned Parenthood would rejoice with the sudden call for more sonograms. Of course you would be wrong. Susanne Martinez, vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood says of women wanting abortions that "from the time they walk into these centers they are inundated with propaganda...".

Propaganda? Since when are ultrasound images propaganda?

The real question is why do simple ultrasound machines scare one of the largest, most powerful Democratic lobbyists in America today? Perhaps it is because they realize the startling implications that surround this latest development in the fight over abortion. The fact is, the distribution of this medical technology could be the beginning of the end of abortion as a mainstream solution to unwanted pregnancy.

This terrifies organizations like Planned Parenthood for two reasons. Number one it assaults their strongly held feminist belief that there is no genetic motherly nature ingraned in all women. The fact is, there have been stories of dozens of pregnant women who after seeing the images of their ultrasound choose not to have an abortion. Why? Because they felt the sudden need to protect their baby. Yes baby. Not fetus, or thing, or growth. Baby. The natural desire to protect and nurture new life is revealed when a pregnant woman truly realizes that the "thing" inside her is a living person.

The second reason this terrifies Planned Parenthood is because if the trend of declining abortions continues, it will really hurt the pocketbook of this organization. Many of you probably don't know this, but Planned Parenthood receives most of its capital not from donations or grants, but from performing abortions. What is also disturbing is the percentage of their profits atributed solely to performing abortions has been steadily rising over the last 5 years. What does this mean? No more abortions, no more Planned Parenthood.

If only God would be so merciful.

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