Tag Archives: Bioethics

Scott Klusendorf discusses abortion and euthanasia at the Summit Forum

Scott Klusendorf, President of the Life Training Institute
Scott Klusendorf, President of the Life Training Institute

Here’s the video, featuring one of my favorite pro-life speakers Scott Klusendorf. Scott is the founder and President of the Life Training Institute. LTI’s mission is to make a rigorous, rational defense for pro-life positions with respect to a variety of ethical issues.

Three topics:

  • right to life of the unborn
  • reproductive technologies
  • end of life questions

40 minutes of guided discussion, 20 minutes of Q&A. This video was apparently recorded in the summer of 2016.

Abortion:

  • the 1-minute case for the pro-life position (excellent)
  • dealing with those who dismiss the pro-life case as religious
  • how and when do people win arguments?
  • how does one get better at discussing moral issues?
  • who are some of the best books to get informed about life issues?
  • what are some of the best books from the other side?
  • what is the SLED test? do pro-abortion scholars accept it?
  • if abortion were illegal, who should be punished and how much?
  • is it inflammatory and dangerous to say that abortion is killing?

Assisted reproductive technologies:

  • how should we speak to people considering ARTs?
  • what is the underlying issue in ART discussions?
  • should pro-lifers be opposed to all use of ARTs?
  • what should pro-lifers think about surrogacy?
  • which books provide an introduction to ART ethics?

End of life issues:

  • what is the central issue in end of life discussions?
  • should treatment always be continued or are there situations where treatment can be withdrawn?

Final issues:

  • if a student wants to take courses in bioethics, where should they go to take courses or do a degree?
  • what is the policy situation for pro-lifers in terms of legislation and SCOTUS decision-making?
  • what are some policies that pro-lifers can support as incremental measures that move the issue in the right direction?

I liked this discussion. I tried to listen as someone new to the issue and he did a good job of not assuming any prior knowledge of the debate. My favorite part was his survey of books and arguments on the other side, and what they say. I don’t think that most people realize what the implications of the pro-abortion worldview really are for things like infanticide, and so on. The discussion about who should be punished for abortion and how much was new to me – and that actually came up during the last election, during the GOP primary. Personally, I would let the woman get off, and just prosecute the doctor.

It’s very very good to listen to crystal clear thinking on these controversial issues from someone who has encountered the other side in their writings, and in public debates with them. Not to mention having to interact with people making decisions in these areas.

What is the best introductory book about pro-life apologetics?

I'm Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this decision
I’m Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this message

Do you like to argue about controversial things? Of course you do. And so does Scheming Unborn Baby.

Here’s an excellent book review of the best pro-life book for ordinary people. It’s by Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Institute.

Excerpt:

The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf is an absolutely outstanding defense of the pro-life position with regard to the abortion debate. Being familiar with Scott’s work through Stand to Reason I was looking forward to this book with much anticipation. Scott is one of the most able, articulate, persuasive, and winsome pro-life speakers in the country and his book does not fail to deliver.

He’s got chapter-by-chapter breakdowns, so let’s look at some of them:

In chapter five Scott addresses the nature of truth and the topic of moral relativism, a view of morality our culture is saturated with to the core. Addressing this topic becomes absolutely necessary given its prevalence and the fact that often the claims of pro-lifers are misunderstood. This is seen in such cliches as “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one!” or “I’m personally opposed to abortion but I think it should remain legal.” In short, pro-lifers are not making subjective preference claims when they say abortion is morally wrong but rather objective truth claims. Scott lays out some fundamental problems with moral relativism as well as a brief history outlining the move from moral realism to moral non-realism.

In chapter six Scott exposes the myth of moral neutrality. Both sides of the abortion debate have views they want to legislate and it is impossible for the state to remain neutral. However, it is often pro-lifers who are accused of trying to “legislate morality” while pro-abortion choice advocates get a free pass. In short, pro-lifers are dismissed as “religious” because of an unwillingness by pro-abortion choice advocates to address the issues. This is intellectually dishonest. How bout we stick with science?

And more:

In chapters ten through fifteen Scott addresses some of the most common arguments put forth by pro-abortion choice advocates. These include “Women will die from illegal abortions,” “You shouldn’t force your view on others,” “Pro-lifers should broaden their focus,” “Rape justifies abortion,” “Men can’t get pregnant,” and “It’s my body, I’ll decide.” The fundamental problem with most of these objections is that they beg the question. They assume the unborn is not a human person.

One more chapter – I’ve never seen chapters like this before:

In chapter sixteen Scott outlines four essential tasks that pastors concerned with biblical truth need to accomplish:

First, Christian pastors need to emphasize a biblical view of human value and ensure their congregation understands that abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. Second, they need to equip their congregation with pro-life apologetics so they can compete in the marketplace of ideas. Third, they need to emphasize the healing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and preach repentance and forgiveness for post-abortion men and women. Finally, Christian pastors need to overcome their fear that abortion is a distraction, their fear of driving people away who might otherwise hear the gospel, and their fear of offending people with abortion-related content.

If you want to see Scott speak, here’s a new-ish 42-minute lecture:

If you like that, consider getting the book. Scheming Unborn Baby recommends it, and so do I.

What is the unborn? A look at the scientific evidence

This is from National Right to Life.

Excerpt:

Before deciding how we ought to treat the unborn—a moral question—we must first be clear about what the unborn is. This is a scientific question, and it is answered with clarity by the science of human embryology.

The facts of reproduction are straightforward. Upon completion of the fertilization process, sperm and egg have ceased to exist (this is why “fertilized egg” is an inaccurate term); what exists is a single cell with 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) that is called a zygote. The coming into existence of the zygote is the point of conception—the beginning of the life of a new human organism. The terms zygote, embryo and fetus all refer to developmental stages in the life of a human being.

Four features of the unborn (i.e., the human zygote, embryo or fetus) are relevant to his or her status as a human being. First, the unborn is living. She meets all the biological criteria for life: metabolism, cellular reproduction and reaction to stimuli. Moreover, she is clearly growing, and dead things (of course) don’t grow.

Second, the unborn is human. She possesses a human genetic signature that proves this beyond any doubt. She is also the offspring of human parents, and we know that humans can only beget humans (they cannot beget dogs or cats, for instance). The unborn may not seem to “look” human (at least in her earlier stages), but in fact she looks exactly like a human at that level of human development. Living things do not become something different as they grow and mature; rather, they develop the way that they do precisely because of the kind of being they already are.

Third, the unborn is genetically and functionally distinct from (though dependent on and resting inside of) the pregnant woman. Her growth and maturation is internally directed, and her DNA is unique and different from that of any other cell in the woman’s body. She develops her own arms, legs, brain, central nervous system, etc. To say that a fetus is a part of the pregnant woman’s body is to say that the woman has four arms and four legs, and that about half of pregnant women have penises.

Fourth, the unborn is a whole or complete (though immature) organism. That is, she is not a mere part of another living thing, but is her own organism—an entity whose parts work together in a self-integrated fashion to bring the whole to maturity. Her genetic information is fully present at conception, determining to a large extent her physical characteristics (including sex, eye color, skin color, bone structure, etc.); she needs only a suitable environment and nutrition to develop herself through the different stages of human life.

Thus, the unborn is a distinct, living and whole human organism—a full-fledged member of the species Homo sapiens, like you and me, only at a much earlier stage in her development. She is a human being.

That’s what they assert in the introduction. The rest of the article cites textbooks, scientists and even a Senate Judiciary report to substantiate the claims, then refutes common objections. Not many pro-abortion scholars are going to contest the full humanity of the unborn, but it’s still nice to review the science. In case this is your first time looking at this, might want to save it for later. Also, if you want a good introductory book on the case for the pro-life view, there’s none better than Scott Klusendorf’s “The Case for Life“.

Must pro-lifers be more concerned about born children before they save unborn ones?

I was busily working away on a new project this week, mostly doing Oracle database stuff – schema stuff and trigger stuff. Our team lead and I were talking about the problem of fatherlessness and he said that pro-lifers ought to be more concerned with born children instead of being so lopsidedly concerned with unborn children.

So, I decided to quote this little illustration from Life Training Institute to make a point:

Joe found the young girl unconscious in her upstairs closet. By the time he got there, the structure was a raging inferno. No one else dared go inside. Scooping up the girl, he took his only exit, straight out the second story window and into the bushes below. The girl lived. For his part, Joe sustained three cuts and two sprained ankles—and an avalanche of questions. The media wanted to know how he planned to pay for the girl’s food, clothing, and health care now that he’d rescued her. The evangelical pastor asked if the time spent saving the girl from temporal flames might be better spent saving people from eternal ones. The social justice coordinator of the Catholic parish insisted that if Joe truly cared about saving lives, he’d care about all life and spend equal time rescuing poor workers from corrupt corporations. The local Congressman asked if he supported tax hikes aimed at reducing fire risk. Joe just kept looking at the girl.

Remember that next time someone gives you a similar objection.

Does abortion produce fewer out-of-wedlock births, less child abuse, and lower crime rates?

Here’s an article that commenter Scott sent me from the Public Discourse.

Topic snippet:

In the 1960s and 1970s, abortion advocates used a variety of arguments to advance their cause. Some emphasized women’s liberty and autonomy. Others tried to persuade people that easy access to abortion would benefit society as a whole. Consider just two representative quotations:

“A policy that makes contraception and abortion freely available will greatly reduce the number of unwanted children, and thereby curb the tragic rise of child abuse in our country.” (NARAL, 1978)

“The impact of the abortion revolution may be too vast to assess immediately. It should usher in an era when every child will be wanted, loved, and properly cared for.” (NARAL co-founder Larry Lader, 1974)

Legal abortion, advocates argued, would result in fewer out-of-wedlock births and less child abuse, and would ensure that every child was wanted. Over time, these arguments lost credibility because neither out-of-wedlock births nor child abuse was decreasing.

In the early 2000s, academics Steven Levitt (University of Chicago) and John Donohue (Yale University) published a study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, titled “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,” claiming that legal abortion unexpectedly lowered crime rates in many American cities during the 1990s. Groups supporting abortion rights generally distanced themselves from this argument, fearing its eugenic implications. Though the findings have received some widespread credibility because of Levitt’s popular book Freakonomics, they have been much criticized by other academics.

In this essay I show that easy access to abortion during the past forty years has not benefited society as a whole. Legal abortion has not reduced out-of-wedlock births, child abuse, or crime rates.

And here’s a sample: (I chose one that I haven’t posted about before)

Abortion advocates frequently argued that legal abortion would decrease child abuse. Children who were wanted, they claimed, would be less likely to suffer from abuse than those who were unwanted. But social science data suggest that this logic is flawed. A landmark study of 674 abused children by Edward Lenoski (University of Southern California) found that 91 percent of the parents admitted that they wanted the child they had abused.  A 2005 study by Priscilla Coleman (Bowling Green University) showed that women who obtained abortions were 144 percent more likely to abuse their own children.

At a more theoretical level, Dr. Philip G. Ney, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Canada, has outlined why abortion can lead directly to child abuse.

  1. Abortion decreases an individual’s instinctual restraint against the occasional rage felt toward those dependent on his or her care.
  2. Permissive abortion diminishes the taboo against aggressing [against] the defenseless.
  3. Abortion increases the hostility between the generations.
  4. Abortion has devalued children, thus diminishing the value of caring for children.
  5. Abortion increases guilt and self-hatred, which the parent takes out on the child.
  6. Abortion increases hostile frustration, intensifying the battle of the sexes, for which children are scapegoated.
  7. Abortion cuts the developing mother-infant bond, thereby diminishing her future mothering capability.

Overall, American statistics paint a clear picture. Legal abortion did not reduce child abuse. In fact, the exact opposite happened. The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect has reported that child abuse has increased more than 1,000 percent since the legalization of abortion in 1973. According to data from the US Statistical Abstract, deaths due to child abuse continued to rise after the Roe v. Wade decision and increased by 400 percent between 1972 and 1990. Obviously, child abuse is caused by a variety of complicated factors. Still, our experience in the United States provides no evidence that legal abortion reduces child abuse.

This is a good one to bookmark, I’ll bet you will be able to use it in a debate. By the way, if you want more of a rebuttal of Freaknomics, you can check out John Lott’s book “Freedomnomics“. It has a whole section on abortion and crime.