Possibly the Worst New York Times Op-Ed in the History of New York Times Op-Eds

Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times, brings us a truly head-scratching opinion piece today, entitled, “Why I Am Pro-Life”.

Thomas Friedman

I have this thing about letting ridiculous statements go unchallenged. This piece has enough ridiculous statements to warrant its own blog post.

{SPOILER WARNING…Friedman isn’t actually pro-life}

Friedman begins:

Hard-line conservatives have gone to new extremes lately in opposing abortion. Last week, Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, declared during a debate that he was against abortion even in the event of rape because after much thought he “came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

New extremes? It’s hardly “new” for a pro-life politician to believe that all unborn children are equally valuable in the eyes of God – regardless of the circumstances of their conception.

If it’s offensive to even suggest that a fetus conceived through rape is valuable and intended by God, then what kind of message is this sending to the children and adults living among us who were also conceived through rape? As I observed recently on Facebook, the hostile reactions to Mourock’s comments bring to mind a time in the not-so-distant past when “bastards” were socially stigmatized as adults for the circumstances of their birth. For more on this controversy, I urge you to read this outstanding article from GetReligion.

Friedman goes on to educate us on the “mainstream consensus in America” on the issue of abortion:

That consensus says that those who choose to oppose abortion in their own lives for reasons of faith or philosophy should be respected, but those women who want to make a different personal choice over what happens with their own bodies should be respected, and have the legal protection to do so, as well.

Actually, it turns out that pro-life Americans now outnumber pro-choice Americans by a nine-point margin. So I’m really not sure where he’s getting this “mainstream consensus”. No sources were provided.

He continues:

You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a “pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.”

The effectiveness of the Head Start program has been called into question by a number of conflicting studies. At the very least, it should be recognized that opposition to this federal program shouldn’t be equated with opposition to helping disadvantaged children.

As to the implication that pro-lifers only care about children before they’re born…I defer to a recent Facebook status from a friend of mine: “Was told today that Pro-Life people are monsters because we don’t care about children after they’re born. So I got my phone out and went through my contacts one by one and pointed out which folks were adoptive parents to children in America, which ones were adoptive parents to children from overseas, which ones were social workers, which ones work as detectives for crimes against children, which ones ran orphanages overseas, which ones are highly involved in ending human trafficking and sex-slavery, which ones are currently digging water wells and striving to improve sanitation in africa….come to think of it…I think almost every pro-life person in my entire life is committed to the welfare and health and happiness of children in this country and around the world. Then I threw a chair at her. lol just kidding, it was a bar stool.”

Friedman’s only getting warmed up, though:

“Pro-life” can mean only one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.” And there is no way that respect for the sanctity life can mean we are obligated to protect every fertilized egg in a woman’s ovary, no matter how that egg got fertilized…

I have to stop this one mid-sentence. And no, it isn’t because of the innocent “sanctity life” typo. I’m much more disturbed by the complete lack of understanding Friedman reveals about human reproduction. For those who remember from high school biology, fertilized eggs aren’t located in a woman’s ovary. The haploid female egg cell is actually ejected from the ovary (a process called “ovulation“) into the Fallopian tube, where it sits around waiting to be fertilized.

This mistake is pretty egregious, considering the entire article is dedicated to issues involving fertilization. I’m not going to claim that it automatically invalidates everything else Friedman has to say…but doesn’t it, kind of?

…but we are not obligated to protect every living person from being shot with a concealed automatic weapon.

Wait, a concealed AUTOMATIC weapon?

“Hold on, let me just slip this under my jacket.”

But in all seriousness…is Friedman honestly trying to equate the killing of 1.2 million unborn children each year in the United States with the relatively rare cases in which a psychopath gets his hands on an AR-15 (which is semiautomatic, FYI)? I’m all in favor of having a discussion about the availability of certain types of firearms…but this just isn’t a valid comparison. Also: automatic weapons have been illegal for decades.

I have no respect for someone who relies on voodoo science to declare that a woman’s body can distinguish a “legitimate” rape, but then declares — when 99 percent of all climate scientists conclude that climate change poses a danger to the sanctity of all life on the planet — that global warming is just a hoax.

I think Friedman disqualified himself from talking about “voodoo science” when he mentioned “every fertilized egg in a woman’s ovary” in the previous sentence.

Also, a source for the 99 percent figure would be really cool.

Friedman closes by holding up New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a shining example of the kind of “pro-life” politician he would like to see more of. The kind of politician who respects the sanctity of life by banning the sale of “giant sugary drinks”, and by requiring restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus.

Not to be cliché…but I seriously couldn’t make this stuff up.

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A Pre-Election Post: Abortion and Right of Conscience

As a general rule, I try to avoid using this blog as an outlet for my political beliefs.

Then again, there’s a presidential election taking place in two weeks. Which is kind of a big deal.

Rather than launching into a full-blown endorsement of an individual candidate, I want to take this opportunity to talk about two specific issues, and why they determine how I vote.

Abortion

Without question, this is the most pressing moral issue of our time.

About 1.2 million abortions are performed in the United States each year – approximately equal to the total number of American deaths in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, and WWII combined.

I’ve written before on the question of when life begins, so I won’t rehash that here. For Christians, however, the answer ought to be abundantly clear. I might catch some flak for this, but I frankly don’t understand how a professing Christian can possibly support a political candidate who views the ongoing genocide of the unborn as morally permissible.

So speaking to my fellow believers: If a candidate were actively and enthusiastically supportive of murdering 1.2 million schoolchildren each year, would you vote for him simply because you agreed with his economic policies? If you believe that God values the life of a 7-year-old more than the life of an unborn child, can you provide any evidence – Scriptural or otherwise – to support that position? I’m sincerely open to discussing this in the comment section.

Right of Conscience

This issue is sometimes overlooked, but it goes hand-in-hand with abortion. As a future physician, it affects me personally.

“Conscience is the most sacred of all property.” -James Madison

Only a month after taking office, President Obama announced that he would be rescinding HHS regulations protecting the conscience rights of healthcare workers:

“[Specific publicly-funded entities may not] discriminate in the employment, promotion, or termination of employment of any physician or other health care personnel because he performed or assisted in the performance of a lawful sterilization procedure or abortion, because he refused to perform or assist in the performance of such a procedure or abortion on the grounds that his performance or assistance in the performance of the procedure or abortion would be contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions, or because of his religious beliefs or moral convictions respecting sterilization procedures or abortions…” 

In April 2009, these rules were officially eliminated. Then, in 2011, the administration approved the now-infamous HHS contraception mandate, requiring employer-provided insurance plans to cover birth control and early-term abortion drugs…regardless of the provider’s religious objections. (As an aside, I highly recommend R.J. Snell’s article, “The Contraception Mandate and Secular Discourse”.)

Other recent attacks have centered around the Weldon Amendment (2004), which prohibits federally funded agencies from discriminating against health care providers who refuse to provide, pay for, provide coverage for, or refer for abortions.

Additionally, a 2009 online survey of 2,865 faith-based healthcare professionals found that:

  • 39% of faith-based healthcare professionals have “experienced pressure from or discrimination by faculty or administrators based on [their] moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”
  • 20% of faith-based medical students say they are “not pursuing a career in Obstetrics or Gynecology” because of perceived discrimination and coercion in that field.
  • 12% of faith-based healthcare professionals have “been pressured to perform a procedure to which [they] had moral, ethical, or religious objections.”
  • 91% of faith-based physicians agreed with the statement, “I would rather stop practicing medicine altogether than be forced to violate my conscience.”

So aside from the clear injustice of legalized abortion, my interest in this election is based on a desire to learn and practice medicine without being pressured to violate my moral convictions. Not to belittle the importance of other social, economic, and foreign policy issues, but these will be my overriding concerns in the ballot box.

See also:

Real-life examples of discrimination in healthcare

J.W. Wartick pro-life resources

Apostasy, Virtue, Uselessness, and Morality

It turns out I have a bad habit of surfing the Christian blogosphere when I should be paying attention during lecture.

This means I have some catching up to do – academically speaking – before I resume my regularly scheduled blogging activities. It also means I have some really fascinating stuff to pass along:

1. The Problem with Ex-Christians (Sententias)
“Earlier today I was listening to Dan Barker talk about how he knew that he was a born again Christian. He went to all these church events and was heavily involved with evangelism–all the Christian things Christians do. Well, Dan Barker no longer describes himself as a Christian. He, and many people like him, are very emphatic when they say that they were once Christians and they actually were saved or born again. However, if anyone is going to claim to be an Ex-Christian they’re going to have to say that they never were saved to begin with…(continue reading).”

2. Sneering at Virtue and Beauty (the Ink Slinger)
“[We must] instill in our students the easy habit of sneering at virtue and beauty. I say it is an easy habit, because a little veneer of intelligence will usually suffice to persuade one that all the people in the world who lived before one’s time – say, all the people who lived before two in the afternoon on July 2, 1965 – were knaves an fools. They all believed the world was flat; they kept slaves; they burned witches; they smoked cigarettes; whatever easy stupidity or immorality can be pinned on them, we pin it. They cannot answer the charges themselves, and students ignorant of history can’t answer them either. So we talk glibly about traditional manhood and traditional womanhood, with a knowing wink – meaning brutality and idiocy. That such men and women, possessed of virtues we ignore, tamed a continent, is not to be considered…(continue reading).”

3. Humans are Useless (Bad Catholic)
“Beauty begets love. A flutter and twitch of female lashes can crush a man’s heart like a Bud Light can under a steamroller. A father who spends the day immersed in the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley returns by night with hugs for his children and a softer touch for his wife. Beauty begets love, as sunlight wakens sleepers, and I hope this an obvious experience, if not an obvious phrase…(continue reading).”

4. Jerry Sandusky and Ultimate Right and Wrong (ACWords)
“…in the ancient Greco-Roman world, homosexual relations between an older man and a boy (between 12 and 17) were completely acceptable. This was the age range that Sandusky happened to target. In other words, if Sandusky had done what he did 2000 years ago, no one would have thought much of it and we wouldn’t have found him guilty of anything. The rise of Christianity, with its Judeo-Christian sexual ethics, according to Wilker, was the main thing that ended up instilling a new morality so that most of us now view such acts with disgust….(continue reading).”

Abortion Methods: An Overview

“…I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it,
nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.
Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.
In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art…”

(Hippocratic Oath)

———————————————————

Most people hold strong opinions on the issue of abortion…yet in my experience, there is a widespread lack of understanding surrounding the actual procedure.

In the political realm, abortion is debated as an abstract concept. It’s dehumanized. For many, the word evokes only a vague understanding that a “clump of cells” is being removed from a woman’s uterus. Even the word “abortion” is being abandoned in favor of euphemisms like “women’s reproductive rights”.

In this post, my goal is simply to present the various methods used to carry out abortions. I’ll be relying mostly on diagrams, testimonies, and excerpts from medical resources. I’ve intentionally avoided using gory photographs for shock value, but be forewarned that some content is, nonetheless, quite graphic.

If you believe there’s nothing morally or ethically wrong with abortion, then none of what follows should be troubling.

———————————————————

1. The most common abortion method in the United States is vacuum aspiration, accounting for 88.3% of all procedures in 2003 (1). This method is used for both first and second trimester abortions, though the majority take place between 6-9 weeks gestation. For reference, a heartbeat is typically present by 5-6 weeks gestation; by weeks 8-9, “everything that is present in an adult human is present in the developing embryo.” (2) The limbs and major organ systems are in place, and the child has begun to kick and move.

During this procedure, “a tube is inserted through the cervix into the uterus. Either a hand-held suction device (MVA) or a suction machine (D&C) gently empties the uterus. A separate curette may be used to help remove the tissue that lines the uterus.” (3)

Vacuum Aspiration

2. Approximately 7.7% of abortions are drug-induced “medical abortions” (1). The pregnant woman typically receives oral doses of mifepristone (a progesterone receptor antagonist, which results in endometrial degeneration) and misoprostol (a PGE1 analog, which induces uterine contractions). The developing embryo is torn from the uterine wall and expelled through the vagina, usually in the privacy of the woman’s home.

3. A less common type of first-trimester abortion is the dilation and curettage procedure. Although still used in many countries, this method has been largely replaced by vacuum aspiration in the United States. The overall procedure is similar to a vacuum aspiration, except that a metal rod is used to scrape the wall of the uterus. The small body is torn to pieces and pulled out through the cervix. As with vacuum abortions, the nurse will often reassemble the arms, legs, head, and torso to ensure that the entire body has been removed.

4. Dilation and evacuation abortions generally take place during the second trimester. The procedure is described below by Dr. Anthony Levatino, who performed approximately 1200 abortions in the early 1980’s, including 100+ dilation and evacuation abortions.

Transcript:

“A second trimester D&E abortion is a blind procedure. The baby can be in any orientation or position inside the uterus. Picture yourself reaching in with the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can. At twenty-four weeks gestation, the uterus is thin and soft so be careful not to perforate or puncture the walls. Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard – really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about six inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.

The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face may come out and stare back at you. Congratulations! You have just successfully performed a second-trimester Suction D&E abortion.” (4)

5. Instillation abortions are also used during the second trimester. Although quite common in the 1970’s, this type of abortion has declined in popularity.

“A long needle is inserted through the mother’s abdomen directly into the sac, and a solution of concentrated salt is injected into the amniotic fluid. The salt solution is absorbed both through the lungs and the gastrointestinal tract, producing changes in the osmotic pressure. The outer layer of skin is burned off by the high concentration of salt. It takes about an hour to kill the baby by this slow method. The mother usually goes into labor about a day later and delivers a dead, shriveled baby.” (5)

You can read about a woman who survived such an abortion HERE.

6. Another type of late term procedure is the hysterotomy abortion. This is essentially a Caesarean section. The baby is surgically removed from the uterus, and either killed outright or allowed to die of neglect.

7. In rare cases, intact dilation and extraction abortions are used. These are commonly referred to as “partial-birth abortions”, and were outlawed in the United States by the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003. This act was narrowly upheld by conservative Supreme Court justices in a 5-4 decision back in 2007.

“Partial-birth” Abortion

“IDX first involves administration of medications to cause the cervix to dilate. Dilation usually occurs over the course of several days. Next, the physician rotates the fetus to a footling breech position. The body of the fetus is then drawn out of the uterus feet first, until only the head remains inside the uterus. The physician then uses an instrument to puncture the base of the skull, which collapses the fetal head. Typically, the contents of the fetal head are then partially suctioned out, which results in the death of the fetus and reduces the size of the fetal head enough to allow it to pass through the cervix. The dead but otherwise intact fetus is then removed from the woman’s body.” (6)

Sources

(1) Abortion Surveillance – United States, 2003 (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5511a1.htm

(2) American Pregnancy Association: Concerns Regarding Early Fetal Development. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/earlyfetaldevelopment.htm

(3) Planned Parenthood Association of Utah: Procedures. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/utah/procedures.htm

(4) Dr. Anthony Levatino testimony before US House subcommittee, May 17, 2012

(5) “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” by CE Koop and FA Schaeffer

(6) Medical Dictionary – The Free Dictionary. Abortion, partial birth. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/partial+birth+abortion