Public Comment: RU-486

RU-486 is a dangerous regimen, and it has no place in our community.

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Dear #Pro-Choice

Please, come talk to me.

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Alone If Necessary: Of Nicea, Nixon, and Nerve

I do not care very much what men say of me,
provided that God approves of me.
~ St. Thomas More

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Of Down Syndrome, Anne of Green Gables, and Van the Man

You can’t stop us on the road to freedom
You can’t stop us ’cause our eyes can see.
Men with insight, men in granite,
Knights in armor bent on chivalry.
~ Van Morrison

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A Celebration of Katharine and Geriatric Pregnancy


Whatever the statistical realities may be, the number of those who choose abortion after a prenatal diagnosis is far too high. It should be none.
~ Mark Bradford, Jérôme Lejeune Foundation USA

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Why We Need HB 1337: A Story

sedem and nick

Synchronicity can be so ironic. Take the confluence of two events in my life recently.

First, the other morning, my daughter Joan sent me word about an effort her friend organized to raise awareness about (and funds for) Sedem, a Ghanaian boy with Down syndrome who requires heart surgery – just like Joan’s little brother, Nick, who also has Down’s and who required heart surgery when he turned one.

Later that same afternoon, I got an email alert about House Bill 1337 which, among other things, promotes alternatives to abortion for kids like Sedem and Nick. Governor Pence supports the bill, and apparently he’s getting hassled about it from doctors and pro-choice advocates.

So, on the one hand we have college students advocating for the poor and most vulnerable, doing what they can to help those who are still marginalized in our world, even in this enlightened age. On the other hand, we have those who claim that some poor and vulnerable – kids with Down syndrome for example, kids like my Nicky – don’t deserve a chance at life. That the world is better off without them. That the easiest way to deal with their challenges is to deny them the light of day.

Ironic, don’t you think? And the contrast between the two groups is sad. So sad.

Those of us who love people with special needs – and who are loved by them – know that the group opposing HB 1337 is simply wrong. Governor Pence, stay strong. The bill makes sense, and you’re right to support it, no matter the political fallout.

A version of this letter originally appeared on the St. Joseph County Right to Life website. Governor Pence signed HB 1337 on March 24, 2016, and the law now states, “Indiana does not allow a fetus to be aborted solely because of the fetus’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down Syndrome or any other disability.”

Of Planned Parenthood, Politics, and the Catholic Glass Ceiling


Because I’m pro-life, my religion is always thrown in there like some little code word saying, “Watch out for this guy. He’s a Catholic. He’s one of those people.”
~ Robert P. Casey, Sr.

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Of Catholic Schools, Down Syndrome, and Hospitality

Julian of Norwich

He willeth we know that not only He taketh heed to
noble things and to great, but also to little and to small, to low and to simple.

For He willeth we know that the least thing shall not be forgotten.

~ Dame Julian of Norwich

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Statement to the St. Joseph County Council

IMG_8321-e1285773229972-531x251 The “Patient Safety Ordinance” (Bill 69-14) would have, among other things, required abortionists in our community to have hospital admitting privileges, either directly or indirectly, like other doctors working in outpatient surgery centers. It went down in defeat early Wednesday morning after a lengthy period of public testimony. I was unable to attend the debate, but I prepared a statement anyway. Parts of it were read to the Council on my behalf; here’s the full statement for the record.

There was a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal last Friday that revealed something I didn’t know about Fr. Richard John Neuhaus – the archconservative intellectual and author. Apparently, in his younger days, Neuhaus “proudly marched in Washington alongside his friend and fellow Democrat, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.” and “was also a Vietnam War protester.” The letter-writer went on to recall that in his speeches, Neuhaus would often refer back to his more liberal days, and would add, “I remain a Democrat in all but my voting practices.”

That describes me to a “T,” but with a significant exception: Whereas Neuhaus no doubt voted Republican later in life, I have chosen to cast blank ballots in every major national election for years. Why? In part because of the very issue before us this evening: I just can’t bring myself to vote for Republicans, but since the Democrats are so committed to abortion on demand, I can’t vote for them either.

And make no mistake: Bill 69-14 is about abortion. As April Lidinsky pointed out in her South Bend Tribune letter on Saturday, St. Joe County Right to Life wouldn’t be pushing this bill unless it was about abortion. However, the flipside is also true: Ms. Lidinsky and others who oppose this ordinance do so only because of how it could impinge on women’s access to abortion.

So, here’s full disclosure: I’m a devout Catholic, and hence passionately pro-life. Also, I am employed by Bethel College – a pro-life institution. Clearly, I am utterly opposed to the horror of abortion, and it’s no surprise that I’d support this ordinance since it would make abortion more difficult – even impossible – to obtain in my community. Would that we could make it impossible to obtain everywhere!

But I’m also a Registered Nurse, and on that basis alone, I support this bill. As a nurse, I am appalled that a clinic performing surgical abortions – an invasive procedure that puts women at risk for infection, perforation, and severe hemorrhaging among other complications – would be held to a lower standard than other freestanding surgery centers. This is especially egregious given the fact that all the patrons of abortion clinics are women – and often women already in distress and/or desperate financial straits.

It’s unthinkable that, under other circumstances, such a failure to protect vulnerable women would be ignored by the American Left. Instead, we’d expect to see Democrats flying to the aid of these women, demanding parity with other clinics in terms of medical regulation and oversight.

This ought to be a non-partisan issue, but it’s not. Nonetheless, I implore you, regardless of your party affiliation, to adopt this ordinance. If you can’t do it because you’re against abortion, do it because it promotes patient safety – that is, women’s safety. Either way, it’s the right thing to do.

Of Autism, Prenatal Testing, and the Seventh Extinction

People say, ‘The price of genetic diseases is high. If these individuals could be eliminated early on, the savings would be enormous.’ It cannot be denied that the price of these diseases is high…, [b]ut we can assign a value to that price: It is precisely what society must pay to be fully human.
~ Jérôme Lejeune, French pediatrician, geneticist, and Down syndrome research pioneer

brain3_0ac27ea9c169f18cd259c0d38219c6cdCulture of life, culture of death – how big is the divide? Here’s one measure.

The other day I caught a story on NPR about researchers identifying genetic signals in utero of future mental illness. The following is a quotation from the transcript. Read it, and then jot down the first word that pops in your head:

Having a map like this is important because many psychiatric and behavioral problems appear to begin before birth, “even though they may not manifest until teenage years or even the early 20s,” says Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

OK, what was your word? “Provocative,” perhaps? “Fascinating,” or “Wow!” even?

How about “Abortion?” That was my first thought, and my wife reacted similarly when I I brought the story to her attention. If you’re committed to building a culture of life, I imagine that was your reaction as well.

But could it be that we pro-lifers just tend to be a bit paranoid? Could it be that my wife and I simply overreact to stories like this, discerning nefarious anti-life implications where none are warranted?

I don’t think so.

To begin with, it’s no surprise that the story itself is unabashedly rooted in abortion. The researchers obtained the brains they studied from four aborted fetuses, “a practice,” the NPR story notes, “that the Obama administration has authorized over the objections of abortion opponents” – you know, paranoid pro-lifers like you and me. So, even if the research does in fact lead to life-affirming therapies, it will be forever and inexorably tainted by it’s life-destroying origins.

And what of those potential life-affirming therapies? The NPR report is curiously silent on this point. Perhaps that is not unusual since this is ground-breaking research in its earliest stages. Nevertheless, there are telling gaps in the story where at least some speculation regarding future clinical applications would’ve been appropriate – maybe even expected. Take, for instance, this observation regarding autism, including a comment from Ed Lein of Seattle’s Allen Institute for Brain Science:

[T]he map shows that genes associated with autism appear to be acting on a specific type of brain cell in a part of the brain called the neocortex. That suggests “we should be looking at this particular type of cell in the neocortex, and furthermore that we should probably be looking very early in the prenatal stages for the origin of autism,” Lein says.

_65307055_autistic_boy-spl-1We all know that autism advocacy is very prominent these days, so shouldn’t a report on these exciting brain mapping developments include some kind of comment regarding the possibility of a prenatal cure? Instead, what follows in the NPR story is a discussion of how human brains differ from mouse brains, and how fetal brains differ from adult brains. The autism question is sidelined.

In a separate NBC News story, Lein held out a little more in the way of hope:

The findings are also in line with other research suggesting that early intervention can make a big difference for children with autism. “There’s converging evidence on a place in space and time where we should be putting our focus,” Lein said.

More hope for autistic children already born, yes, but still very vague with regards to prenatal implications – at least from the researchers’ vantage point. But those of us who follow such stories closely, the prenatal implications are all too clear: Once the genetic markers for mental illnesses like autism are identified and confirmed, and a test is developed that is cost effective from the heath insurers’ perspective, parents will be encouraged to screen their pregnancies accordingly, and babies destined for autism will be eliminated just as Down syndrome children are.

Does that sound crazy? Maybe, but it’s really just Margaret Sanger’s eugenicist dream come true. Sanger, the founder of what has become the international Planned Parenthood organization, was known to rail against those she labeled “morons,” “imbeciles,” and “mental defectives,” and she especially advocated for expanded birth control access for the lower strata of society in order to be rid of such persons. Sanger declared that “the greatest crime of modern civilization” was “permitting motherhood to be left to blind chance, and to be mainly a function of the most abysmally ignorant and irresponsible classes of the community.” And what Sanger wasn’t able to accomplish with birth control alone, her heirs are certainly accomplishing with prenatal testing and selective abortion.

And it’s not just mental illness and Down syndrome in the eugenicist cross hairs. Consider these sobering words from Nick Cohen writing in The Observer:

Suppose researchers claim to identify gay genes. Their discovery would be pseudo-science. A Gordian knot of environmental, cultural and hormonal influences would be as important in determining sexual preference. But there they would be on the web and in the text books: gay genes. Parents, who hated the idea of a gay child, could demand screenings and abortions. Why not? Parents who hate the idea of a daughter have unleashed a “gendercide” across China and northern India, where there are now 120 boys being born for every 100 girls.

age-dinosaur-bones-1The new research on fetal brain development is hot off the press, but we’d have to be naive to think that there aren’t people already thinking about how they can cash in on this new research – and I’m not talking about prenatal curative therapies. Let’s face it: Getting rid of a problem (in this case, human beings with a problem) is always easier (and sometimes more lucrative) than solving the problem itself.

Which calls to mind another story I heard on NPR – this time, about Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent book, The Sixth Extinction, in which she argues that, following on the heels of five massive natural extinctions, mankind is currently responsible for another ongoing global extinction of species that is as big as its predecessors, and could prove to be one of our most significant legacies on the planet.

Serious as Kolbert’s claims are, they pale in comparison to what some are calling a Seventh Extinction, in which man is projected to, in essence, wipe himself out.

Projection? It’s already happening. First, it was Down’s and girls; next it could be autism and other brain disorders; perhaps later, gays and lesbians; and then, who knows?

In any case, given the current penchant for cleansing the gene pool, it’s not a bad idea to be on guard, especially when your obstetrician starts talking to you about prenatal testing. And as far as the new fetal brain mapping is concerned, I like this comment from Brussels researcher Pierre Vanderhaeghen: “It’s always difficult to know what will come out of it.”

No argument there.


A version of this story appeared on Crisis.

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