iPhones are pro-life

Indignant complaints about Siri, the virtual personal assistant on the new iPhones, which will give you information about just about everything, but not where you can get an abortion:

If you ask Siri for an abortion clinic in New York City, it will tell you “Sorry, I couldn’t find any abortion clinics.” A simple Google web search—which Siri itself uses to find results—gives you seven to start with, some within walking distance of where I’m located.

• If you ask the same question in the city of Washington DC, Siri won’t direct you to a nearby clinic, but to one 26 miles away.

• A reader reported that when he asked “find a pregnancy termination clinic” Siri responded: “I found a number of medical centers fairly close to you.” Then “it showed me seven results and four of them were chiropractors, two were acupuncture specialists, and one was an emergency room.” Update: Indeed, after we tested this, it’s true.

Apparently, women across the country are having similar experiences.. To make matters worse, the iPhone 4S’ smart assistant will not direct you to a place where you can obtain emergency contraception if you ask for it. Instead, it gives you a definition.

via Is Siri Pro Life? Apparently Yes (Updated).

A pro-life movement in Russia

In Russia, the most commonly-used method of birth control is abortion.  It has the world’s highest abortion rate:  73 for every 100 births.  But now a pro-life movement has started up in Russia, led by the Orthodox Church, and the Russian parliament, faced not only with the church’s lobbying but with a population collapse,  is expected to pass a law imposing sharp restrictions (though not prohibition) of the practice:

Backed by the Russian Orthodox Church, an influential anti-abortion lobby is driving a moral crusade to tighten legislation and shift public attitudes that are largely a legacy of the Soviet era.

Adding to the debate is the Russian government’s effort to reverse a population decline caused by low birth rates combined with very high death rates. With Russians dying nearly twice as fast as they are born, the United Nations predicts that by 2050 its population will shrink by almost one fifth to 116 million.

Women’s rights groups voice outrage that the Church would play a role in shaping Russia’s secular laws and say abortion must remain a choice. They acknowledge the statistics point to a public health travesty but suggest the problem would be better resolved by sex education.

At the heart of the debate is an amendment to Russia’s law on health that is all but guaranteed to pass in the lower house after it was approved in a critical second of three readings on Oct. 21.

The law would cap abortions at 12 weeks, impose a waiting period of up to one week from initial consultations and require women over six weeks pregnant to see the embryo on ultrasound, hear its heartbeat and have counseling to determine how to proceed.

“Our two main motives are the fact that Russia is dying out and our religious tradition. We cannot forget our faith,” Yelena Mizulina, chair of the family issues committee that fielded the law, told Reuters. “Despite the long Communist period, it is seen as murder, as a violation of the Ten Commandments.”

via Orthodox Church-backed abortion bill sparks protest in Russia | FaithWorld.

Consciousness in “a vegetative state”

Don’t call people in a coma “vegetables.”  That’s a dehumanizing figure of speech.  And, as researchers have recently discovered, it isn’t necessarily an accurate description:

All the patients had the same terrible diagnosis: brain damage that marooned them in a “vegetative state” — alive but without any sense of awareness of themselves or the world around them.

But then an international team of scientists tried an ambitious experiment: By measuring electrical activity in the patients’ brains with a relatively simple technique, the researchers attempted to discern whether, in fact, they were conscious and able to communicate.

In most of the cases, there was nothing — no signs that any sentience lingered. But then one man, and another, and, surprisingly, a third repeatedly generated brain activity identical to that of healthy volunteers when they were asked to imagine two simple things: clenching a fist and wiggling their toes.

The findings, reported online Wednesday by the journal the Lancet, provide startling — and in some ways disturbing — new evidence confirming previous indications that a significant proportion of patients diagnosed as being vegetative may in fact be aware.

But, most important, the widely available, portable technology used in the research offers what could be the first practical way for doctors to identify and finally communicate with perhaps thousands of patients who may be languishing unnecessarily in isolation. Doctors could, for example, find out whether patients are in pain.

“You spend a week with one of these patients and at no point does it seem at all they know what you are saying when you are talking to them. Then you do this experiment and find it’s the exact opposite — they do know what’s going on,” said Damian Cruse, a postdoctoral neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada who helped conduct the research. “That’s quite a profound feeling.”

The results and similar findings could also provide crucial insights into human consciousness — one of the most perplexing scientific puzzles — and lead to ways to better provide diagnoses and possibly rehabilitate brain-injury patients, the researchers said.

“Can you imagine spending years without being able to interact with anyone around you?” Cruse said. “We can ask them what it’s like to be in this condition. Do they know where they are? Do they know who is around them? What do they need?’ This will lead to very profound implications.”

Other experts, while praising the research, cautioned that much more work is needed to confirm the findings and refine the technology.

via New technique spots patients misdiagnosed as being in ‘vegetative state’ – The Washington Post.

Personhood amendment voted down

The people of Mississippi rejected a state constitutional amendment that would classify a human embryo as a “person” entitled to all legal protections.  According to the latest count, the margin was 59% to 41%.  This, even though both Republican and Democratic leaders in that conservative state supported the amendment.  See Mississippi anti-abortion ‘personhood’ amendment fails at ballot box – The Washington Post.

Some pro-life activists opposed the tactic of trying to push through a personhood laws, something also being considered in other states, reasoning that while it can be demonstrated scientifically that a fetus is a human being, the notion of “personhood” adds all kinds of philosophical considerations that are likely to be voted down, to the harm of the pro-life cause.

If a personhood amendment can’t be passed in Mississippi–MISSISSIPPI!–then where can it be passed?  And this failure suggests certain inconvenient truths:

(1)  The voting public is not as conservative as conservative activists. Voters are not liberal, exactly, probably more centrist or center-rightists.  But they will vote against anything they consider, rightly or wrongly, “extremist.”  We conservatives, being purists, tend to hunt for the most conservative candidates.  But the most conservative candidates cannot be elected.  (I lament that, but I submit that this is a fact.  As I do so often, I hope I am wrong.)

(2)  Christians and Christian causes these days are not popular in the political arena.  We think people like us, but they don’t.

(3)  These two points are not reason to pull away from political engagement, properly entered into, but they make it harder than certain activists realize that it will be.

The discovery of pro-life women

The Washington Post’s Lisa Miller discovered something that really seems to have surprised her, that the leaders of today’s pro-life movement are actually women, and young well-educated women at that.  She seems to have assumed that only men would be against abortion, that all women were surely on the pro-choice side of this “women’s issue.”   She gets her head around the issue:

Recent news stories about the new vitality of the antiabortion movement and its legislative achievements — more than a dozen states enacting record numbers of abortion restrictions this year — have glossed over one crucial fact. The most visible, entrepreneurial and passionate advocates for the rights of the unborn (as they would put it) are women. More to the point: They are youngish Christian working mothers with children at home.

There’s Dannenfelser. There’s her friend Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, who also has five children. There’s Penny Nance, chief executive of Concerned Women for America, with two. (“I feel like an underachiever compared to Marjorie,” she says.)

Shannon Royce, president of Chosen Families, and Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life, each have two. Lots of working women have children, of course. But these crusaders make their personal experience of motherhood part of their public lives. Sarah Palin drew attention to her strong antiabortion stance by gathering her children — including Trig, who has Down syndrome — around her on the stump. Now these leaders are taking the word “choice” away from the left. Their choice, they’re saying through example, is to have the children and work it out.

Abortion rights activists, take note. These women represent a major strategic shift in the abortion war, and not just because they are generally more likable than the old, white fathers of the antiabortion movement: Jerry Falwell, Henry Hyde, Jesse Helms and Pat Robertson, who in 1991 accused Planned Parenthood of “teaching kids to fornicate, teaching people to have adultery, every kind of bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism — everything that the Bible condemns.” Their approach to working and mothering — “I’m just doing the best I can, like you” — also reverses decades of harsh judgments from such female leaders on the right as Beverly LaHaye and Phyllis Schlafly.

Most important, they are revising the terms of engagement. Antiabortion activists have traditionally focused their energies on the rights of the fetus. But on the question of women’s rights and women’s health, the old-school warriors have been more vulnerable. What is a poor woman with no support system and a bunch of kids at home to do in the event of an unwanted pregnancy? The old white men couldn’t give an answer. They came across not just as unsympathetic. They were uncomprehending. Simply put, they could not relate.

What these women offer is relatability. They converse frankly and easily about the travails of working mothers: Sometimes you’re full time, sometimes you’re part time; sometimes you’re on a deadline as kids squabble in the background. You ask husbands and mothers-in-law for help and you hire a babysitter when you have to. “I do all the things that every other mom does,” says Nance. “Soccer games and birthday parties and teacher meetings. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s difficult.”

They are well-educated women. Dannenfelser received her undergraduate degree from Duke University; her first job out of college was in the Reagan White House. Yoest received a PhD from the University of Virginia. Religious faith undergirds their political convictions in all cases. Dannenfelser describes her conversion from the Episcopal Church to Roman Catholicism as being motivated in part by the Catholic emphasis on Mary and the “feminine genius” she represents. “The reality,” she says, “is that we are all called to serve each other.”

This is strong stuff, and it touches the abortion question at its most sensitive core: Most Americans see abortion as morally wrong, yet most also want it to be legal some of the time. And that’s because Americans see what these women’s lives don’t show — that there are imaginable occasions when a pregnancy is not, in fact, a blessing. And that we might serve the world equally well by supporting policies that care for the children who live here already.

via A feminine face for the antiabortion movement – The Washington Post.

HT:  Jackie

Personhood amendments

Mississippi voters will decide on Tuesday whether or not to amend their state constitution to define human embryos as persons before the law.  But some pro-life groups don’t think this is a good idea.

An antiabortion movement that is gaining momentum nationwide is hoping for its first electoral victory Tuesday, when Mississippi voters will decide whether to designate a fertilized egg as a person and potentially label its destruction an act of murder.

If approved, the nation’s first “personhood” amendment could criminalize abortion and limit in-vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control. It also would give a jolt of energy to a national movement that views mainstream antiabortion activists as timid and complacent.

“They’ve just taken an incremental approach,” said Les Riley, the founder of Personhood Mississippi and father of 10 who initiated the state’s effort. “We’re just going to the heart of the matter, which is: Is this a person or not? God says it is, and science has confirmed it.”

“Life-at-conception” ballot initiatives in other parts of the country, including Colorado last year, have failed amid concerns about their far-reaching, and in some cases unforeseeable, implications.

But proponents of the amendment — who were inspired partly by the tea party movement — say they are more confident of victory in Mississippi, a Bible Belt state where antiabortion sentiment runs high and the laws governing the procedure are so strict that just one clinic provides abortions. . . .

Still, the measure has broad backing across party lines, with both the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates voicing support for it (the Democrat, Johnny DuPree, has expressed concern about how it would affect birth control and in-vitro fertilization).

For years, the strategy favored by conservative activists nationally has been to gradually decrease access to abortion by cutting government funding and imposing restrictions, such as requiring women to view ultrasound images before the procedure.

The aim has been to reduce the number of abortions while awaiting a mix of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court that would be inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

An energized group of activists has grown impatient with that approach. They take an uncompromising position on abortion, opposing it even in cases of rape and incest. Some also oppose making exceptions to save the life of the mother, arguing that both lives are equal and that doctors do not have the right to choose to save one over the other. Some even object to the term “fertilized egg.”

“It’s an embryo,” said Walter Hoye, a California pastor and president of the Issues 4 Life Foundation. “Calling it a fertilized egg is dehumanizing.”Personhood efforts are underway in more than a dozen states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Ohio. The movement has grown recently with the help of passionate young antiabortion advocates and more seasoned activists who have grown disenchanted with the pace of change.

via Antiabortion movement hoping for electoral victory in Miss. – The Washington Post.

Do you think this is a good tactic for the pro-life movement?


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