Why I Would Argue for the Earliest Definition of Life


    In my last two blogs, “Abortion: Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Both Right?”and “Abortion: Why Both Sides Will Lose in the Supreme Court (Again)” I explained why the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was not a clear win for either pro-choice or for pro-life supporters and why I thought that both sides would once again be disappointed if a modern Supreme Court consented to review the case. 
    But while my reading of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, modern medicine, and our current political climate lead me to believe that a review of Roe would not be substantially different than it was in 1973, I do think that there are compelling reasons that argue for a dramatic change.  Instead of beginning with biblical, theological or doctrinal reasons (which I obviously have), let’s begin with reason and logic. 
    As I have explained, Roe v. Wade was a decision that attempted to find a balance between two rights guaranteed by the Constitution, a right to privacy on the part of the mother, and a right to life on the part of the infant.  In my reading of the court’s ruling, it seems that there was never a question that both rights existed and the both deserved to be protected.  The question was, if two rights are in conflict, which has a superior claim and when (or if) does that superiority change?  I have a right to privacy in my own home, but if I were to commit criminal acts, particularly those that harmed other human beings, my right to privacy is superseded by the other person’s right to life and liberty.  This delineation is well accepted as both moral and legal.  This same question, when brought into the realm of abortion, becomes a question of a) is a pre-born infant a human being, and if yes, b) when does it become one?  The Supreme Court answers to these questions in 1973 were a) yes, and b) at the earliest point at which the infant is viable (with medical intervention).
    In 1973 the womb was something of a “black box.”  We knew that an infant developed in the mother’s womb and developed from a fertilized egg, we had all sorts of microscope slides and fetuses in jars that had been aborted at various stages of development.  What we didn’t have were the spectacular images that we have today.  Today expectant parents can sit in the office of their OB/GYN and see live 3D images of their child.  They can see that preborn infant scratch its nose, cough, sneeze, and suck its thumb.  So real are these images, that 78% of women who were considering abortion changed their minds after they had seen them.
    I’m not saying we were ignorant in 1973 and we are now “enlightened,” but what we know and what we have learned, seem to make it much harder to draw a line in the sand and say that “this” is a person with Constitutional rights, and a moment earlier “that” was not a person.  Does an infant become a person because it’s larger than it was yesterday?  If so, do tall people have more rights than short people, or do adults have a stronger right to life than children?  Does it suddenly become a person because it is no longer in the womb?  The human rights of any other “person” do not change based on location.  A person in Detroit, Michigan has no more or less rights than a person in rural China.  Location cannot, logically, convey basic human rights or take them away.  Is a preborn infant not a person because it is dependent upon its mother?  If so, then do adults on life support surrender their right to life?  We are all, in one way or another, dependent upon others for our lives.  Simply because an infant needs its mother cannot imply that it somehow has fewer rights than an infant only days or weeks older.  At other times in history, groups of people were declared a separate “class” of human being so that their rights could be denied, Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, and others.  Can we, in good conscience, declare a group of human beings, with measurable human DNA, to be a separate “class” of humans that are not entitled to human rights? 
    Biblically speaking, we know that God loves all of his children equally.  All human beings are of sacred worth.  The redemption of every person on earth was purchased by Jesus Christ at the cost of his own life.  We cannot gamble that God cares more about an infant more today, simply because yesterday it was in the womb and today it is not, or because today it is one day older than yesterday.
    I have heard various arguments from the position that Old Testament references did not consider an infant to be a “person” under the law until after it was born.  While this is arguable on a number of points, it assumes that people who lived four thousand years ago could have known any differently.  Asking this question would seem to place an unfair moral burden on ancient cultures.  How would any culture with little understanding of fetal development, no ability to detect a fetal heartbeat, no ultrasound, and no modern medical understanding of neural development have fairly ruled that a preborn infant is equal to one who independently draws breath?  Their decision on personhood was, much as it was in 1973, based upon viability.
    Please understand that I value my privacy as much or more than anyone, but regardless of my feelings or personal opinion, privacy has always taken a backseat to more important rights, and the right to life is among these.   Legally, I understand that declaring an infant to be a person too early can create other difficulties, such as the potential for criminal investigations against women who have miscarriages and certainly I understand those who struggle with knowing at what point an infant ought to be considered to be a person, especially in the earliest stages of development.    For me, however, I have few such doubts.  I believe that morals, logic and scripture declare in chorus that an infant is a person, and if an infant is a person at any point, it must be one from the very beginning.
To me, these arguments seem reasonable and logically sound.  If you can find error in the logic, I am interested in hearing your viewpoint.
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Abortion: Why Both Sides Will Lose in the Supreme Court (Again)

    As I stated in my last blog (Abortion: Pro-Life/Pro-ChoiceBoth Right?), many people on both sides of the abortion debate would like to see the Supreme Court revisit their 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion in many states.  Some hope that the court would ban abortions altogether and others hope that the court would clarify and broaden Roe v. Wade so that all abortion is legalized.  At the same time, others would prefer that this not happen because, as is often the case, once the court opens the case for arguments, anything can happen.  Based on what I have read, I think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  I think that if the Supreme Court is ever willing to reconsider Roe v. Wade, both sides will be unhappy with the outcome.

Why?  
     In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the court affirmed that a woman had a constitutionally protected right to privacy until the second or third trimester[i].  The court later abandoned the trimester “framework” but affirmed that a woman had a right to abortion until the infant was viable.  Wikipedia says that “The Roe decision defined “viable” as being “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid”, adding that viability “is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”[ii]
    For the court, the argument was never whether or not a woman had a right to abortion, but about how to discern when one right can be superior to another when two constitutionally protected rights, life and privacy, are in conflict.  For the court, there was never really a question of whether or not there was a right to life or a right to privacy.  The question was how to choose which holds a superior claim and when.  For the court in 1973, viability was the measure that worked.  When the baby was developed enough that it could survive, even with “artificial aid,” then the right to life held the superior claim.
    Neither “side” could declare a clear victory in 1973.  Abortions could be performed but could still be restricted and regulated by the states after the point of viability.  If the court were to reconsider Roe, I suspect that both sides would again be unsatisfied with the results.  Here’s why I think so: Science.
    In 1973 the court chose to use viability, even with artificial aid, as the point at which an infant secured a right to life, but the tools available to the courts, and to medical science, were limited.  It wasn’t until 1975 that ultrasound technology began to be introduced to obstetrics.  At that point, two years after Roe, a fetal heartbeat could be detected and ultrasound could show the skull and a general body shape.  Today, the available technology is dramatically different.  Now, ultrasound technology can provide three dimensional images of the fetus and parents can go home from the doctor’s office with “photographs” of their baby months before birth and long before “viability.”  While the 1973 court looked to viability as a means to determine when life began, medical science is now pushing against that boundary.  While infants in 1973 were considered viable at 28 weeks and possibly to 24 weeks, infants today routinely survive at 25 weeks and as early as 22 weeks.  While there were limited options in determining the beginning of life in 1973, today’s technology can detect a fetal heartbeat at 22 days gestation, brainwaves at six weeks and a fully functioning nervous system at 20 weeks (and some argue for an even earlier date).
    Based only on the court’s 1973 ruling, the present capabilities of medical science, and the current political winds, I think that it is very likely that a rehearing of Roe v. Wade would uphold a right to privacy (and thus a right to choose an abortion) but would also uphold more restrictive definitions of what constitutes life, when life begins, and the point at which an infant secures a right to life. 
Once again, both sides would win…
…and lose…
…and neither side would be happy with the outcome.

Sexual Predators: The Hunters and the Hunted


    I suppose it isn’t news that there are sexual predators on the Internet.  Most of us know that we live in a dangerous world and we do our best to protect our children from the worst of it.  I am an engineer and have a natural curiosity about technology.  As a result, I’m pretty comfortable, and good at, computer stuff.  Our computers at home have a firewall between the world and our little local network, another firewall on each computer, everything is password protected, we have anti-virus and anti-spam programs, and we have a fairly effective parental control program that further limits the ability of our children to roam the dark and dangerous neighborhoods of the Internet.  I thought we were doing pretty well… until Saturday.

    On Saturday my wife and I attended a seminar and listened to Detective Bobby Grizzard (pronounced like ‘lizard’ except with a ‘g’) from the Massillon Police Department.  Detective Grizzard knows more about the dangers of the Internet than your average person.  Why?  Because for five years, Detective Grizzard,  who is six-foot something and who is built more like a linebacker than an office jockey, has been “undercover” as a teenage girl pursuing online predators with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. 
    One of the first things that Detective Grizzard told us, was that before the end of the day, as a demonstration, he would go online and engage a predator in conversation, and, if possible, would get that person to call us.  For the next several hours we learned about privacy settings, which I knew pretty well, but also about cell phone apps and devices that could give my children a shortcut around our firewalls, security settings, and parental controls.  I learned about smartphone apps with built-in virus hacks that can force your phone’s camera on so that a predator can watch and listen to what is happening in your home.  I did not know all of this and, with three teens in our home, I realized that I still have a few things to learn.
    At the end of his talk, Det. Grizzard did just as he had promised, but the demonstration was more than I expected.  He went online and within seconds had engaged several predators in conversation (posing as 15 year old girl).  In less than ten minutes he was “chatting” with ten or more of them and more were added every few minutes.  In ten more minutes he had two of these begging for his (her) phone number to call and talk live.  One of the women from the seminar volunteered to be the voice of the girl (at work, Det. Grizzard had software that changes his voice) and spoke with the man for a few minutes.  I couldn’t hear everything that he said over the speakerphone, but it was obvious from the looks of shock on the faces of some of the women in the room that the man wasn’t talking about the weather.
    When Det. Grizzard finally picked up the phone the predator immediately hung up.  It didn’t matter.  The phone number that he had called passed through the police department before being routed to our seminar.  The police department had already captured the name, address and phone number of the man before he had said his first word.
    I have always been active in maintaining the security of my children at home and on the Internet.  I thought I was doing pretty well, but I found that I have more work to do.  I always knew that there were people out there who wanted to victimize my children, but I discovered that there are more of them than I imagined.  There is new technology coming out every day.  Much of it is good, but there is some really evil stuff out there as well.
    I took two things home with me Saturday.  One, there is evil in the world that is smarter, sneakier, craftier and more persistent than we give it credit for.  Predators are cruising the Internet in search of victims.  As parents in the twenty-first century, we must me more vigilant than ever before and we must educate ourselves in order to keep our kids from becoming victims.  Two, I thank God every day for people like Detective Grizzard who go to work every day and spend time hunting for, and chatting with the vile, loathsome, scum that prey on children.  Because of men and women like Detective Bobby Grizzard all of our children are safer and we can all sleep a little better.  Thanks.

What’s the Big Deal About Sex?


    Early this month a group of Secret Service Agents as well as military personnel (presumably male), were in Columbia as a part of President Barack Obama’s trip there for a multinational conference.  As most of us have seen in the news, these individuals had a grand time partying with prostitutes after hours prior to the President’s arrival.  Once they returned home, this exploded into a scandal of epic proportions.  But so what?  From the perspective of faith and the church, I could easily make a list of why this was not a good thing for these men to do, but I really wonder if Congress’ shock at the behavior of the Secret Service is only for show during an election year.  After all, what’s the big deal about sex?  Here are a few questions that are being raised:
    Whose money did they spend?  Congressman Peter King wants to know if the money these men spent was taxpayer per diem.  So what if it was?  Per Diem (literally, per day) is money paid to persons who are on special duty or special assignment.  It is, simply, a paycheck.  If these men were paid per diem, it is because they were working on a job where they earned it.  If Congressman King believes that we the people have a right to control how someone spends a government paycheck then he is going to have an awful lot his fellow representatives looking over their collective shoulders.
    They work for the government.  So what?  They were not ‘at work,’ it was after hours, they were on their own time.  How often have we heard that what we do on our personal time is nobody’s business?
    It’s illegal.  No it isn’t.  Prostitution might be illegal in most places here in the United States, but it isn’t in Columbia.  Besides the financial transaction, this was simply an arrangement between consenting adults.
    It’s immoral.  What?  We in the church have been told loudly and often that we shouldn’t force our moral values on others.  In our modern culture, we are told, it is perfectly acceptable and normal for adults to determine their own morality.  In that environment, who should judge whether the behavior of these men is immoral or not?  Besides, in recent decades Congress seems to have made a hobby of turning a blind eye to the moral and sexual indiscretions of their peers.  Judge not, lest ye be judged, right?
    What these men did certainly violates many of the teaching of Christianity but with increasing regularity we are reminded that the United States is increasingly multi-cultural, multi-religious and increasingly non-religious.  Even the President said “Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.” (Barack Obama, June 28, 2006)  And so again I ask, so what?
    Certainly I realize that there are national security concerns that come with allowing our Secret Service personnel to cavort with prostitutes but historically, one major concern was that such behavior would result in blackmail.  In this era of new morality, why is that a concern either?  If these men are free to dictate their own morality and what they were doing was perfectly legal, then what leverage remains for blackmail?
    I don’t doubt that there were rules in place both by the Secret Service and by the military and I don’t doubt that rules were broken.  But if we, as an enlightened and liberated society, have refused to legislate morality and if we have cast off the bonds of propriety, allowing morals to be defined by every individual, then all that we have left to guide us are rules, and frankly, rules aren’t much to count on as the underpinning of an entire society.
    I want to be clear, I don’t agree with what these men did.  What they did was both wrong and stupid, but I say these things to make a point.  It may indeed be true that we are no longer a Christian nation, but once we have cast off the lines that tie our culture to a fixed and immovable standard of decency and morality, the coastline can get pretty fuzzy.