Constructive Things Pro-Lifers Can Do to Reduce Abortion

The religious right has roiled the emotional waters on the issue of abortion to such an extent that meaningful dialog is all but impossible. To many people, a fetus is a baby and anyone standing in the way of live birth is a “baby killer” who is less than human. Armed with righteous indignation, the religious right has sought to leverage the government to penalize abortion providers and the injure very women who they expect will raise the child they’re trying to save.

From the left, the “Pro-Life” movement looks like a band of thugs intent on wielding government power in difficult and personal life decisions—decisions that directly interfere with the intimate relationship between a woman and her doctor. The right seems intent on forcing women to bear unwanted children. Where there may have been one poor person, now there are two. I wonder how many in the religious right have been a single mother of a newborn? A little empathy, please.

If you hate the idea of abortion, here are ten constructive (and welcome) things you and the religious right can do to improve the situation.

  1. Make sure that all young adults are given proper sex education, including an understanding of the various contraceptive methods and their effectiveness. It astounds me that this is controversial, but the religious right has hobbled sexual education in a lot of communities. Abstinence-only education policies are a proven failure. This misinformation has to stop. People have bodies and they need to understand how they work. Let’s help people take responsibility.
  2. Wherever possible, reduce and eliminate impediments to contraceptive use. Make them available in schools. Make them a mandatory part of health plans. Prevent irresponsible religious nuts from interfering with contraceptive use. Stop politicizing and slut-shaming people who use contraceptives.
  3. Celebrate and encourage family planning. Family planning allows people to raise strong and healthy children. It’s good for those families. It’s good for society. It’s good for the world. Overpopulation is the root cause of a huge variety of moral problems.
  4. Learn to have a little respect for the person most impacted by a pregnancy and the responsibilities of child rearing. They are a better judge of their capabilities than you are. Child birth is still more dangerous to the woman than abortion. If you don’t have skin in the game, please stay off the court.
  5. Keep your laws and protests out of the doctor-patient relationship. Politicians and ideologues are not qualified. Until you are part of that relationship, what happens there does not concern you.
  6. Learn that laws that restrict abortions don’t stop abortions. They make abortion more dangerous. Anybody who tries to restrict abortion is just being a mean-spirited jerk who is more concerned about dispensing medieval justice than the people they’re trying to “help.”
  7. Stop manipulating women when they are needing to make a difficult decision. Crisis pregnancy centers are there to manipulate women and they have zero liability or responsibility for the outcome of that manipulation. Sadly, these fraudulent organizations are often government funded. This has to stop. Deception and manipulation has no part to play in public policy and it only shows the fraudulent nature of the backers of these organizations.
  8. Provide health care (and especially pregnancy-related care and neonatal care) to all. Reducing the risk of pregnancy and child birth is a great way to mitigate some of the valid concerns surrounding the uncertainty of child birth.
  9. Stop with the abortion torture porn. We get you’re uncomfortable with abortion procedures. Would you also prevent colon or brain surgeries because you’re squeamish? Should we de-fund the lancing of boils because of the ick factor? If you are uncomfortable about the pain a fetus might feel, consider that if it’s a dead human as you say, the Christian god will be torturing that fetus for all eternity for the “sin” of not believing in Jesus. If you’re really into torture porn, isn’t that the thing to really get bent out of shape about?
  10. If you still feel that you are called to intervene in the “sanctity of life” of a fetus, consider being responsible. Put the money necessary to raise and educate the child through college in a trust and give it willingly and without strings to a women who might otherwise have an abortion. Sign a legal contract to provide the money for twenty plus years and then stay out of that child’s life after signing. It’s possible you could save a life this way as many women seek abortions because they lack the resources to raise a child. If your church has an opinion on the sanctity of life, you can measure your church’s effectiveness by counting how many lives they have saved this way. If instead, your church is spending money on property and buildings, entertainment equipment, ministers, or missions, your tithe is contributing to the murder of innocent children. Matt 19:21: “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” Churches are anything but poor. Put your money where your morals are.

So, if you’d really like to reduce the abortion rate the above suggestions would have a real effect and we can abandon the failed Christian-based abortion policies in favor of ones that are similar to many European countries and possibly drop the abortion rate dramatically. Even better, we can achieve these goals without being jerks, supporting religious fraud, and treating women like cattle.

Stop being surprised that the pope is not your friend

All last week I had to listen to reporters falling all over themselves to praise Pope Francis’s performance in front of Congress. And then Francis had a private meeting with prominent anti-gay activist Kim Davis, and all of a sudden everyone is feeling confused and betrayed.

I feel the need to remind people occasionally that you should be listening to The Non-Prophets, because we’ve talked plenty about Pope Francis’ “progressive” persona, and we’ve been openly skeptical of him since the beginning. So here’s your reminder, because even Bill Maher used to gush about this guy:

I think the pope might be an atheist like I think Obama is. He said this week, ‘Pope Frank’ said the Lord has redeemed all of us, not just Catholics, even the atheists. And I was like, I’m going to book my flight to heaven right now.

The fact is that the Catholic Church was not ever becoming as progressive as anyone media seemed to think. On day 1, the pope hired a PR guy who used to work for Fox News. No, seriously, read all about it here. Francis was really good at saying platitudes that sounded like forward movement on certain issues, but were really just repackaging of traditional Catholic dogma.

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Texas Right to Life demonstrates more of the fraud of Christianity

In today’s Austin Statesman, PolitiFact Texas fact checks a claim made by Texas Right to Life concerning an informal poll they did on the University of Texas campus. (Note: the article should appear later on the PolitiFact Texas web site.) Texas Right to Life made a claim that University of Texas Students “signed a petition seeking the legal right to abort newborn babies up to five-years-old.” Yes, that’s right: “aborting” infants, otherwise known as infanticide.

Sadly, Politifact Texas had to rate the lurid claim as half true. In their poll, Texas Right to Life approached students to “sign a petition,” concerning women’s rights and not being terribly honest about the true contents of the poll. Many student signed thinking it was about empowering women. The “poll” apparently involved exactly 30 students, 12 of whom were tricked into signing it. Those that understood the true nature of the poll where aghast. When asked later, one student was shocked at what she had signed. “Had I fully understood the actual position of the organizer was advancing, there is absolutely no way I ever would have signed the petition.”

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How We Can Really Prevent Fetal Pain

The religious conservatives are once again being dishonest in their quest to control others’ reproductive organs in Texas. In the 60s, the religious conservatives argued that the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds would help with juvenile delinquency (by blatantly violating the highest law in the land). In the Texas Legislature, they are working to close down Planned Parenthood clinics because they provide abortions. They don’t seem to care that Planned Parenthood actually prevents more abortions than the Christian God, the Bible, Prayer, rosaries, holy water, or Christian bullying in the name of “love”, combined, has ever prevented.

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Stand With Texas Women rally

Today, Jeff, Manda, Lynnea and I went to the Texas capitol for the Stand With Texas Women rally. We heard speeches by State Senator Wendy Davis and NARAL president Ilyse Hogue. The majority of the crowd were women, although a lot of men showed up as well. People showed solidarity by wearing orange shirts. Here are some pictures I got.

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An estimated crowd of 5,000-6,000 people showed up.

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All kinds of signs on display

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Even more signs from people facing the stage

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Inside the rotunda, people packed the balconies on all levels and sang a variation of Amazing Grace.

In case you’ve been missing the details, the Texas Legislature has been trying to ram through some fairly draconian anti-abortion laws, which would effectively shut down most clinics that perform abortions, and criminalize the procedure after 20 weeks, which is long before the Supreme Court determined was constitutional. Last week Wendy Davis filibustered the bill for 13 hours straight, and it failed to pass. The next day Governor Rick Perry announced a new special session to get it done, and denounced the crowd of Davis’ supporters as an “unruly mob.” Many of the signs and speeches referenced this description in a mocking way.

More hearings were held today and they will continue tomorrow.

Latest news: Texas Anti-Abortion Bill Fast-Tracked By GOP

Texas vs. Planned Parenthood (or Religion vs. Society’s Best Interests)

OK, first article I see in today’s paper, and why it pisses me off:

  1. Texas has successfully defuned Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas. Their propaganda point has consistently been “we don’t want tax dollars going to abortions.” However, it has been consistently reported that we already do not allow tax money to go to abortion services, and NONE of the PP clinics in the state funding program offered abortion services. From the article:

    “Lawyer Pete Schenkkan said Planned Parenthood officials will decide whether to press ahead with that trial in hopes of winning a permanent injunction that would reverse Texas rules excluding Planned Parenthood’s health clinics because they are affiliated with other Planned Parenthood groups that provide abortions or promote abortion rights.”This was *always* the issue—simply punitively punishing the clinics because they have a “PP” shingle over the door. It was never about keeping funding from going to abortions—that was an outright falsehood propagated to gain public support for the action.

  2. PP had to demonstrate two points in court. According to the judge, they were able to demonstrate that what the state was doing would harm women in Texas. What they didn’t show is that Texas didn’t have a legal right to do it. From the article:

    “Planned Parenthood, Yelenosky ruled, met only one of two legal hurdles when it showed that being excluded from the health program would probably cause harm to the organization and the low-income women it serves. However, he added, Planned Parenthood failed to show that it would likely prevail in a full trial on its claim that state law doesn’t give Texas officials the authority to exclude the organization from the program.”

  3. Texas had tried to say that other clinics will take up the slack for PP, but here is what the local paper found when they tried to set up an appointment with another clinic:

    “An American-Statesman spot check of 29 of 186 doctors and clinics listed in an area 30 miles around Austin found eight that weren’t participants or weren’t accepting new patients and two that offered only limited services.”“For example, a state health department website, intended to direct low-income women to participating health care providers, contains numerous mistakes, including practices that don’t provide contraceptive care.”Please note that women with a good income won’t be very impacted by this—only women who don’t have much in the way of resources. Imagine you’re poor, and rely on public transport (which sucks in Austin), you have a clinic you’re already set up with, and then you’re told Texas is just shutting it down for no good reason. Then you call and call and call, and can’t find a clinic taking new patients, and when you do make an appointment, you show up and they can’t renew your birth control prescription, because they don’t offer those “services.”

    The state does offer a phone number (866-993-9972) to help match women with clinics—but this is ALL so unnecessary. And as a result, fiscally, Texas now has to make up for federal funds we’re losing by doing this stupid, stupid thing.

  4. So, this morning when they said we need another bond package to pay for road improvements, I wanted to slap someone. If we don’t have funding to take care of necessary infrastructure improvements, is it really wise to pass legislation to punitively punish a clinic that is keeping to your rules, just to appease your religious base of constituents? Well, if you’re Rick Perry, the answer to that question is “of course.”

    “At the urging of Republican Gov. Rick Perry, Texas launched a state-run, state-financed Women’s Health Program on Jan. 1 after almost a year of unsuccessful efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from a program that had been 90 percent funded by the federal government. U.S. officials cut off that money on Dec. 31, saying efforts to exclude Planned Parenthood violated federal law on Medicaid spending.”

  5. When people ask me why I’m an active atheist and why I care about religion so much or what other people believe—this is why. If you care and want to do something about this, consider a donation to Planned Parenthood.

Rick Perry for Dick of the Year

There isn’t an official contest, but maybe there should be. I nominate Texas Governor Rick Perry for the Dick of the Year Award. Granted, Perry’s work was part of a team effort, with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, and a host of conservative Christian Texas legislators giving assistance. Rick and his pals have largely dismantled the Texas Women’s Health Program, a program for low-income women to get reproductive health care. The program has been about 9/10ths Federally funded. Part of the agenda there is to stop unwanted pregnancies as such pregnancies increase federal costs down the road to cover those pregnancies. It is good public policy. Or, rather, was.

The point of contention is that the program would fund Planned Parenthood to provide many of these services, much as it has done with public and private of funding. In the minds of Christians, though, “Planned Parenthood” is synonymous with “abortion.” Yes, Planned Parenthood does provide abortion services, but state and Federal funding are never used for this purpose. In fact, Planned Parenthood works very hard to prevent unwanted pregnancies through its education efforts and providing contraceptives.

Rick and the Christian chorus have argued that because money is fungible, giving any money to Planned Parenthood is effectively funding abortions. By that logic, tax breaks to or public funding of any Catholic organization is equivalent to government funding of an international pedophilia ring.

To make his point, Perry barred funding of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s health program. Planned Parenthood sued, but lost.  Perry’s lawyers argued that to be acceptable to the state, Planned Parenthood would have to change their name and distance themselves from any abortion services. So this is a case of Christians using the power of the state to screw over an organization they have unjustly vilified.

The Obama Administration declined to have its Women’s Health Program hijacked by a bunch of Texas dicks and de-funded TWHP. Miffed, Perry and Abbott sued in Federal court to have the funding restored. Just this week, a Federal court ruled that their attempted exclusion of Planned Parenthood violated Health and Human Services guidelines and threw out their claim. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has won a temporary Federal injunction from being barred from TWHP funding. I’ll bet someone’s feeling a little blue in the balls over this.  Thankfully, for Rick there will be little political fallout.  His conservative Christian base is cheering him on.

For now, Texas is left to fund the program on its own. Given Texas’ history of ideological sex ed in schools and state funding of Christian-based crisis pregnancy centers that provide manipulation instead of information, I’d be very surprised if Texas properly funded an effective program. Meanwhile, they are doing an effective job of dismantling women’s reproductive health in Texas.  Many smaller clinics have already shut their doors over funding uncertainties.

So Perry deserves the Dick of the Year award.  In a mad quest to prevent abortion, Perry and his Christian pals have sabotaged a public health organization (Planned Parenthood) and a Federal program that would have prevented unwanted pregnancies and women seeking abortions to end those pregnancies. It is well documented that legal restrictions on abortion do not reduce abortion rates, but they do increase the health risks associated with those abortions. Thus, abortion laws mostly serve to increase suffering and death under the pretense of morality. Perry clearly lacks compassion for the women involved, many of whom are poor.  About 3/4ths of women seeking abortion say that they lack the resources to raise a child.

I know of two solutions to the abortion problem. The first solution is to take the claims of Christians at their word and address the lack of resources. Christians say they have a special relationship with an all-powerful god who answers prayers. They also claim to care deeply about the welfare of the unborn child (at least until birth). They claim to follow Jesus, who cared for the poor. Churches even get tax breaks for their alleged charity. So the solution is simply set up a registry where pregnant women who lack the resources to have a child sign up to get financial support for themselves (as care giver) and the child until the child graduates from college or vocational school. In the case of a disabled child, care should be funded until death. Churches and their members would be taxed to provide the necessary funds. Think of it! Poverty would be reduced instead of increased. Christians would have a compassionate way of demonstrating the courage of their convictions. Children would have church and state support instead of the church using the state to punish them and their mothers.  Christian leaders could even offer up one of their own to be killed for women who die in childbirth (i.e. Exodus 21:23). They should want to be held to their God’s laws as an example to their flock.

How would churches find the money for such a program? Simple. They can pray and God will provide. Each Church’s petitioners would pray to God for reimbursement and there would be no net loss to the church. Churches promoting false religions or out of favor with God would not be reimbursed and their assets would be liquidated to cover their share of the program. The ministers of such churches could go out and make an honest wage that go toward the expenses. If that weren’t enough, members could be taxed. I can’t imagine a Christian wanting to have a child that they brought into the world starve or otherwise suffer due to their moral failings.

We know that this is not a viable solution, simply because Christianity is a fraud. We all know there isn’t a god that someone can pray to to get the things they want, despite Jesus’ claims to the contrary. If prayer worked, Christians could simply pray abortion away and not have to hijack the government and uteruses to make future tithers. Everyone knows that God can’t. God also can’t make more sycophant believers, so women’s reproductive organs have to be co-opted to perpetuate the fraud.

The only tools Christians have in their arsenal that really works are manipulation and thuggery.  If they can’t manipulate women into keeping their unborn child (such as through guilt, ultrasound baby pictures, or lies about mental health harm), they can always rely on thuggery, such as vindictive abortion laws, trans-vaginal ultrasounds, intruding in personal and medical decisions, forcing women to bear children they don’t want, risk their lives with child birth, and commit many of them (and their child) to a lifetime of poverty.  Rick Perry and his Christian pals are completely on board with this manipulation and thuggery, making Rick my nomination for dick of the year. To end the year, Rick Perry vowed to outlaw all abortion in Texas.

The second solution to the abortion problem is to make them safe and rare, through reproductive education, contraceptive availability, and family planning.  First world countries do this and they are successful at keeping their abortion rates down without being dicks to the women involved. Rick and his pals would never think to use a proven effective means of reducing abortion. Instead, U.S., Christian conservatives seemingly work to increase unwanted pregnancies, and then wonder why U.S. abortion rates are so high. They are all dicks, in my opinion.  They want the power to make a decision for someone they don’t’ know but they run away from the responsibility of such a decision.

It’s hard to understand these small minds and hearts.  If men like Rick want control over a vagina, they should have a sex change operation. Their god clearly knew they couldn’t handle control over even one.  Perhaps they’re so insecure over their own manhood that they have to cause women to suffer to feel good about themselves.  Perhaps Rick and his pals get some sort of sexual pleasure out of controlling other’s reproduction.  Regardless, he is nothing more than a dick and everyone should know that fact.

Post election open thread

Okay, okay, I know not all atheists are behind Barack Obama… so congratulations or condolences depending on where you happen to land on that question.  However, I offer some reasons for the great majority of us to be cheerful today:

  1. Gay marriage.  Maine and Maryland became the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote.  Washington state reaffirmed it.  Minnesota shot down a bill to outlaw it.
  2. With apologies to Kristine and our great friends at Secular Pro-Life (whom Matt recently vowed to continue debating until the entire organization is dismantled)… abortion.  Todd “legitimate rape” Akin got the smackdown. Richard “gift from God” Mourdock is out too.
  3. Diversity.  The 2012 Congress will have 19 women as Senators, the highest number in history.
  4. God lost this election… repeatedly.  In the Republican primaries, three candidates — Perry, Bachmann, and Cain — all stated that God wanted them to run for president.  None of them even made it past the first few rounds.  Romney said no such thing; nevertheless, 74% of Evangelical Christians got over their revulsion for Mormonism and stated their intention to vote for Romney.  Lou Engle, a self-styled prophet, let us know that God was DEMANDING that we vote for Romney: “I sensed the Lord saying, Will you stand with Me in my covenantal faithfulness? Will you stand for my ancient covenant with My people? A deep abiding ‘yes’ began to conquer my arguments…”  But ya know, even the full force of the Almighty’s endorsement does jack squat for a the candidate, apparently.
  5. Math.  It works.  So says xkcd.


Texas Freethought Convention, with political thoughts

I had a great time at the convention yesterday.  I was a bit of a lightweight, only putting about six hours into it and not sticking around for the keynote speech (Sorry, PZ!  I’m sure it was great!) or the pub crawl afterwards.

Picked up PZ Myers at the airport at 12:30 on Monday and got him to his hotel by 1.  After that I slept in and then Lynnea and I drifted to the capitol steps around 11, just missing a speech by the head of Camp Quest Texas.

There were some protesters there.  We got pictures!

Lynnea Glasser and protester at the Texas Freethought Convention


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Let’s Treat them Like a Country

The Vatican would like to be a religious concern when it wants to inflict its “moral teachings” on non-Catholics, control Cardinals and Bishops based on church teachings, and not pay taxes. On the other hand, the Vatican would like to be a country when the Pope is named in lawsuits or when they would like to sweep their minions away to the Vatican when they face legal trouble in some country. The Vatican has done a great job of advancing their agenda with this sleight of hand. For those of us with a shred of skepticism, it smacks of a con game. “Heads I win, tails you lose.” Since being a religion has never helped the Catholic Church with its depravities, let’s force them to just be the little tin-pot country they want to be.

The first thing that has to happen is that the Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests here in the US all need to have their country loyalty questioned. One cannot serve two masters. Are they American citizens subject to US law? If so, then there should be no cover-ups, no hiding behind “church state separation” (where it suits their needs), and no misdirection of the legal system. Those who swear their loyalty to the Pope or god or some other authority should have their US citizenship revoked.  If the Vatican wants to issue them passports, that’s fine. However, let’s be clear: they are guests in our country and subject to our laws.  If they violate them, those involved should be prosecuted or deported. If they behave as organized criminals, then subject their institutions to racketeering laws and have their assets seized until they have had a proper trial. With their stonewalling, that could take centuries.  So be it. Since their criminal activities run internationally, such as money laundering and sex crimes, then let them be subject to international courts, where needed, to bring them into line.

Tax favoritism of Catholic properties should be stopped immediately. There is no reason why the US Government should be subsidizing foreign governments, especially those that have harmed American children. As a point of comparison, Saddam Hussein never harmed Americans, let alone on our own soil. An objective look at their government activities leads one to the conclusion that they are not a friendly nation. Let their activities be scrutinized by the CIA. Let’s stop publishing their press releases in our newspapers.  The USA should not be foreskin-whipped by a bunch of child molesters and their enablers.

Just this month, “US” Catholic Bishops have thrown a little tantrum over their “religious freedom.” Like frothing Muslims when someone draws a cartoon, they have learned that behaving like bratty children gets media attention. This time, they want the US government to bend US laws so that they can control the reproduction of others. Why, exactly, have we let foreign governments control our nation’s hospitals? Why are they holding so many medical ethics board seats? Supreme Court seats? What about the real religious freedom of skeptics not to have to subsidize blatantly criminal organizations?

The Catholic “pro life” stance is just self-serving ploy. Those familiar with the history of the church should be aware of the centuries of torture and genocide it has perpetuated. Remember the Crusades? The Cathars? Witch Burnings? The Inquisition? Auto-da-fé? The rape of the Americas? After its silent assent of the Holocaust (“I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”), the Catholic Church contrived its pro-life policy out of a sense of survival. An educated Europe turned away from this horrible murderous institution. How will the parasite nation go on? We all know that God will not provide and nothing fails like prayer. Its only means of survival is to get its clutches into the next generation, the poorer and more gullible, the better. Buy low, sell high.  Their newfound “value” of human life is strangely proportionate to that life financial value as a potential tither. If the Catholic Church would like to manufacture humans, then let them fund their project themselves. If they will not fund the children they want to create, then they are the abortion murderers, are they not?

It’s time to treat the Vatican as a country—one with its own self-interests almost universally at odds with ours. Let’s make them stop using Americans and America for their ends.  Let’s bring the crime ring to justice.