Month Archives: February 2020

Callous and Cruel: The Senate Fails to Uphold Human Dignity

by David Closson

February 26, 2020

Yesterday, the United States Senate voted on two significant pieces of legislation: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Although a majority of senators supported the bills, both fell short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture (i.e., end debate and move to a vote on the bill) and overcome a Democrat-led filibuster.

The Senate voted 53-44 on the Pain-Capable cloture vote and 56-41 on the Born-Alive cloture vote. The votes were largely along party lines. Two Democrats (Casey and Manchin) voted in favor of Pain-Capable, and three (Casey, Manchin, and Jones) voted in favor of Born-Alive. All Republicans voted for Born-Alive, while two Republicans (Collins and Murkowski) voted against Pain-Capable. The three Democratic senators currently running for president (Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren) were not present for the vote, though all have voted against both measures in the past.

From a Christian worldview perspective, the Senate’s inability to pass these pieces of common-sense legislation represents a massive moral failing. Unfortunately, opponents of the legislation—including the abortion lobby—launched a massive misinformation campaign to deny the need for these bills.

First, they denied scientific evidence that babies in utero can feel pain at 20 weeks. Doctors understand this scientific reality, which is why they administer pediatric anesthesia during fetal surgeries. This reflects an understanding that fetal surgeries have two patients: the mother and the child.

Moreover, the legal framework under Roe v. Wade allows abortion up to the moment of birth. Currently, unless individual states take legislative action to restrict abortion later in pregnancy, abortion on demand is legal through all nine months of pregnancy. According to FRC’s new pro-life map, 22 states allow abortion on demand right up until birth. The United States is one of only seven countries in the world (including North Korea and China) that allow abortion after 20 weeks.

Considering these facts, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is a necessary bill, and the Senate’s failure to pass it reflects a callous and cruel disregard for the dignity and value of human life.

Second, opponents of Born-Alive denied that infants can be born alive following an abortion procedure and claimed the bill was a solution in search of a problem. However, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2003 and 2014, at least 143 infants were born alive after an abortion procedure and later died. Moreover, only eight states require reporting data on infants who survive abortion, meaning the available data is almost certainly an underestimate. FRC has identified at least 170 additional born-alive abortion survivors, beyond the 143 abortion survivors reported in the CDC’s death statistics. This means there are, at an absolute minimum, over 300 cases of infants surviving an abortion.

Born-Alive explicitly requires health care practitioners to exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to an infant who survives an abortion as they would for any other baby born at the same gestational age. To reiterate, children who have already been born are the focus of this legislation. Thus, this bill is not even about abortion; it’s about born-alive infants!

Moreover, the legislation would create criminal penalties for any health care provider who fails to render medical aid to infants born alive and for any health care facility that does not report a failure to provide care. Although a 2002 federal law defines born-alive infants as full persons, there are currently no provisions in the law to hold abortionists accountable for killing or denying medical care to infants who survive abortion.

The failure to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act amounts to a moral dereliction by every senator who voted against it. The fact that 41 senators could not take a stand on infanticide is horrifying.

A person’s worldview has consequences. In the political arena, this is certainly true; a legislator’s worldview provides the framework for his or her policies and political positions. Yesterday, a minority of United States senators disclosed a worldview with a deficient moral framework when it comes to caring for the most vulnerable members of society. The worldview divide in the Senate on this issue could not be starker, as evidenced by yesterday’s votes.

The Trump administration revealed its own worldview with the issuance of a statement of administrative policy shortly before the Senate’s vote. In part, the statement said: “Our most helpless Americans cannot protect themselves from pain or from those who would callously allow them to die. The government, therefore, has a compelling responsibility to defend the rights and interests of these babies, including to be free from excruciating or unnecessary pain. All babies have the same dignity. They should not have to endure pain, and they should receive critical life-saving care regardless of whether they are born in a hospital, at home, or in an abortion clinic.”

Christians should pray for every senator who voted yesterday. We should thank God that most senators voted to protect babies who feel pain and babies who are born alive following abortion procedures. We should also grieve that so many senators lack the compassion to stand up for children who need their help. We should lament their decision to vote “no,” and commit to praying that their hearts and minds will change.

Keep Your Kids Home on Transgender Propaganda Day This Thursday!

by Cathy Ruse

February 25, 2020

Do you want your child to be psychologically manipulated at school on Thursday? Might be a good day for a Mommy Date at the museum!

The anti-Christian Human Rights Campaign and their pals at the powerful National Education Association are pushing public schools to recognize this Thursday as “Jazz and Friends National Day of School & Community Readings.” 

One of the books they are promoting is I Am Jazz, a transgender propaganda book designed for children. It is based on the real-life story of “Jazz,” a child who was convinced that he was born in the wrong body. As a child he was injected with hormones to block his normal sexual development, and recently he had radical surgery to complete his “transition” to another sex. Which, of course, is impossible.

Activists groups are trying to make the reading of this book an annual event. 

The day will be used to promote gender deviance and LGBT politics to vulnerable children. Not all schools are doing it. Yet. But some are.

In one Arlington, Va. school, “mystery readers” are scheduled to come and read to the children. The school has not revealed to parents who they are and what they will read. Wow.

Here’s what a group of concerned parents in Arlington are doing about it.

If you do find out your child’s school is hosting a “Jazz and Friends” event, you can also opt your child out. Here is a template for an opt-out letter to use.

Find out what’s happening in your school!

Ninth Circuit Rules in Favor of the Protect Life Rule, Again

by Patrina Mosley , Connor Semelsberger

February 25, 2020

After a months-long legal battle, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (9th Circuit) ruled 7-4 that the Protect Life Rule, which separates federal Title X Family Planning funding from abortion facilities, can go into full effect.

In July 2019, an 11-judge panel sitting en banc in the 9th Circuit reinforced a decision that the Protect Life Rule could go into effect temporarily while the merits of the case against the rule filed by Planned Parenthood and several liberal states were argued. Since this July ruling, HHS has enforced this new rule which requires physical and financial separation between clinics that receive Title X funds for family planning services and facilities that perform abortions. It also prohibits physicians at Title X family planning clinics from referring patients for abortions.

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit finally ruled that the Protect Life Rule is constitutional and can go into full effect. This victory in the historically liberal 9th Circuit is a welcome sight and was made possible in part by the great work of President Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate to confirm 51 federal appeals court judges, including two 9th Circuit judges who took part in yesterday’s ruling. However, it would not be a surprise if Planned Parenthood and the other plaintiffs decided to appeal this ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, but even at the highest court in the land there is precedent for the Protect Life Rule to be upheld. In 1991 in Rust v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court upheld similar regulations governing Title X finalized under President Ronald Reagan. The decision in Rust was a crucial part of the opinion issued by the 9th Circuit yesterday, and suggests a similarly favorable outcome should this case reach the Supreme Court.

For far too long, the people’s tax dollars have been entangled with the abortion industry. Trump’s “gag rule” only gags the dishonesty and lack of integrity that has been taking place for decades, so ultimately the court’s decision to uphold the restrictions is a win for life and a win for women.

Under the Protect Life Rule, abortion is no longer considered to be “health care” or “family planning.” Abortion-performing entities like Planned Parenthood, who have decided not to comply with the new Title X restrictions, have by default opened up more opportunities for life-affirming health care centers like federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and Obria, which provide even more services to women than Planned Parenthood.

To see a list of the Grantees who voluntarily withdrew from Title X grant awards, see our blog here.

As a result of restoring integrity to the Title X regulations, there will be an increased diversity of health care providers available for women to choose from in the federal family planning program, and the taking of innocent life will no longer be accepted as “family planning” in America.

Is the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act Necessary?

by Ingrid Skop, M.D.

February 24, 2020

In today’s divisive society, legislation that places any limit on abortion is immediately protested by abortion providers and activists, usually followed by lawsuits, and sometimes judicial prohibition. This is true of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, even though this proposed legislation does not address abortion provision at all. It merely mandates medical care for an infant if he is born alive after a failed attempt at abortion.

Vocal abortion advocates state that this legislation is unnecessary because a liveborn infant after attempted abortion never occurs. There is substantial evidence, however, that this is not true. Some pro-life leaders, such as Gianna Jessen and Melissa Ohden, are themselves survivors of failed abortions. In 2013, Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder for euthanizing three infants born alive after he failed to kill them in the abortion attempt. The CDC documented 143 instances of infants surviving abortion between 2003 and 2014. However, only eight states require the reporting of infants who survive abortions. It should be intuitive that when abortion suppliers are unsupervised and allowed to voluntarily report their own complications, they will not willingly confess that they have committed infanticide. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is necessary because it would ensure that medical care be given to infants who survive abortion.

In order to understand how a live birth after an attempted abortion could possibly occur, one needs to understand the abortion techniques that can be used to perform abortions after the first trimester. Survival is highly unlikely with a dilation and evacuation (dismemberment) abortion because the fetal parts are removed in a piece-meal fashion and the fetus dies from blood loss and trauma. Even so, Josiah Presley survived his dismemberment abortion but is missing an arm because of it. An intact dilation and extraction (partial-birth) abortion is illegal by federal law, but undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress suggest that this procedure may be secretly used in order to obtain more complete fetal bodies for research purposes. A hysterotomy abortion (C-section) is rarely performed. However, labor is often induced for very late abortions, because the larger, more developed fetus cannot be dismembered easily.

The CDC reports that 1.2% of abortions occur after 20 weeks gestation, which is near the gestational age where many babies can survive. Thus, in 2018 at least 11,500 fetuses were aborted who had the ability to live separated from their mothers (estimates range from 9,100 to 15,000). Likely, almost all of these extremely late abortions are performed by labor induction. A European study demonstrated that over half of 241 peri-viable fetuses (between 20-24 weeks gestation) survived labor induction despite having abnormalities for which they were being terminated.

Although it is often assumed that abortions after viability in the U.S. are only performed for severe fetal abnormalities or to save the mother’s life, the reality is that most are performed for elective reasons, just as early abortions are. Reasons frequently given for late abortions are: “not knowing about the pregnancy,” “trouble deciding about the abortion,” and “disagreeing about the abortion with the man involved.” It appears that indecision and partner abandonment and coercion are far more common reasons for the elective killing of pain-capable and viable fetal humans than truly heart-breaking situations.

Thus, it is likely that at least half of the estimated 11,500 viable fetuses who are intended to be aborted by induction may survive the labor process yearly, unless they are killed by the abortionist prior to labor. So, the question must be asked, do abortionists routinely perform feticide prior to induction abortion? They can certainly do that safely. There are at least 12 studies documenting the safety of at least six different feticide procedures.

There are drawbacks to feticide for the woman and the abortionist (though none for the fetus, who presumably would prefer to die quickly without excruciating pain). Feticide usually requires an injection of a cardiotoxic agent such as digoxin or potassium chloride into the amniotic fluid or directly into the fetal heart. The injection necessarily passes through the women’s abdominal wall into the uterus and can be uncomfortable for the woman. It requires extra time and skill on the part of the abortionist and adds an additional expense to the procedure. Again, because there is no mandatory reporting of abortion procedure details, there is a high likelihood that many abortionists performing later abortions will forego this step, which they may consider unnecessary.

As an OB/GYN in Texas, I have seen evidence of this personally, when a Texas law required feticide prior to a later abortion due to concerns about the potential for fetal pain. Abortionists argued against complying with this law by saying that feticide would be dangerous for a woman (despite the numerous studies they have published demonstrating its safety). The truth is, they did not want to take the extra time and effort to euthanize the fetus before the abortion. There are likely thousands of viable infants delivered alive after failed abortions yearly in our country, who are then killed by the abortionists. They can operate with impunity because they know no one is watching them.

Thus, it is clear that the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is necessary legislation. Thousands of elective abortions are performed yearly in the U.S. on healthy fetuses after the gestational age at which they can survive separated from their mothers. Induction of labor is commonly performed, and studies show that the labor process often fails to kill these babies. Abortionists have proven their resistance to euthanizing the fetus first, so although the abortionists are unwilling to voluntarily report this dreaded complication, it undoubtedly does occur in numbers far larger than most imagine.

We must prevent abortionists from crossing the line from killing a living fetus in utero, which is permissible by law, to killing an infant after birth, which our society has always considered morally reprehensible. The slippery slope so often warned against by pro-life advocates is in front of our eyes. Can we draw a line against infanticide? Or have the decades of dulling our consciences by allowing elective abortions eroded our moral sensibilities to the point where killing an infant capable of being resuscitated is no longer taboo?

Ingrid Skop, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. has been a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist for 22 years. Dr. Skop is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a Board Member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), and a Charlotte Lozier Institute Associate Scholar. She is the author of Top 10 Myths About Abortion.

The Atrocity of Forced Marriage in Pakistan

by Arielle Del Turco

February 20, 2020

A tragic situation has ended in the best possible way for one Pakistani Christian girl who had been kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and forced to marry a Muslim man in January. Fourteen-year-old Sneha has been recovered by authorities and reunited with her family, but not before enduring a traumatic abduction and being raped multiple times.

Sneha had refused the proposal of a Muslim man, who later kidnapped her with the help of six other men. The men beat her and forced her to sign blank sheets of paper on which they later forged a fake marriage certificate and certificate of conversion to Islam.

Sneha’s family continues to receive threats from the kidnappers, who pressured the parents to withdraw their legal case. In response, the family has moved to an undisclosed location for their own safety. 

Unfortunately, Sneha was lucky compared to the hundreds of other Christian and Hindu girls that are kidnapped and forced to marry Muslim men in Pakistan every year. Not all the girls who face this situation are rescued, and not all the families of these victims find sympathy with the authorities or in court.

Just a few weeks ago, a Pakistani court ruled against the family of another 14-year-old Christian girl, Huma Younus, who was taken from her home and forced to marry a Muslim man on October 10, 2019. The Sindh High Court in Karachi ruled on February 3, 2020 that the forced marriage of this underage girl wasn’t against the law.

Christians face widespread persecution and discrimination in Pakistan, and young Christian women are among those most harmed by it.  

In its 2019 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recognized that approximately “1,000 young women are forcibly converted to Islam each year; many are kidnapped, forcibly married, and subjected to rape.”

Pakistan’s culture and legal system create an environment that leaves religious minorities particularly vulnerable to abuse. Christian communities are among the poorest in Pakistan and are often geographically segregated from the larger Muslim population. Christians are often resigned to take menial jobs which carry heavy social stigmas in Pakistani culture. These factors leave Christians without many resources to stand up to discrimination and violence.

The stigmatization and marginalization of Christians has consequences in the legal system as well. When a case is brought before authorities, the courts are often reluctant to help Christian victims. USCIRF’s report noted that the Pakistani government “has not adequately prosecuted perpetrators of violent crimes against religious minorities.”

Furthermore, USCIRF reports that local police and political leaders in Pakistan are often accused of being complicit in forced marriage and conversion cases by refusing to investigate them. In some cases that are investigated by authorities, young women have been questioned in front of the very men who they were forced to marry, creating environments that intimidate women into lying for their abusers. Pakistan’s legal system has proven itself unwilling and unable to ensure justice is served for the perpetrators of these crimes, and that needs to be met with strong international criticism. 

Pakistan’s failure to enshrine religious freedom and protect its own religious minority groups leaves innocent girls and young women vulnerable to forced marriage and the unspeakable abuses that entails. The government’s unwillingness to bring those who perpetrate crimes against Christians to justice only compounds the problem.

These human rights abuses shouldn’t be met with silence from the rest of the world. The U.S. government should take every opportunity to pressure Pakistan to protect Christians and other religious minorities and bring the perpetrators of crimes against religious minorities to justice. Until real legal protections are enforced on behalf of everyone in Pakistan, including religious minorities, this issue will only get worse.

Ending Abortion One Pregnant Woman at a Time

by Daniel Hart

February 19, 2020

Why do women have abortions, and what can the pro-life movement do to help these women so that they don’t have them?

In terms of directly saving unborn lives, this question should be at the heart of pro-life activism.

Numerous studies have been conducted asking women who have had abortions what their reasons were for going through with the procedure. The primary reason that most women give is financial hardship—depending on the study, between 40 percent and 73 percent say they could not afford the baby.

Emily Berning and her husband founded Let Them Live in 2017 to help solve this problem. In an interview, Berning described how she wanted to start an organization dedicated to helping women with unplanned pregnancies financially after she realized that “there is an untapped market for financial aid and financial support for women who are on the edge, about to have an abortion, to help bring them back and choose life instead.”

According to Berning, the pro-life movement needs to “refocus on these moms because, ultimately, they’re the ones walking into that abortion clinic and they’re the ones who [are] ultimately deciding to [have the abortion].”

Let Them Live’s unique approach to helping women begins with posting a story about a pregnant woman in financial need on their website, with the estimated amount of money the woman will need to get back on her feet and carry her baby to term. By gathering donations through their website (often called “crowdfunding”), Let Them Live has been able to save 26 babies from abortion in the last year. To protect the donations from being misused, Berning says that Let Them Live pays the bills of women in need directly to the utility company or the landlord.

Berning has also emphasized that paying for the short-term financial obligations of pregnant women in need cannot be where their help ends. “We never want to leave the moms we help high and dry so we also connect them with local resources, jobs, and financial literacy classes to ensure their future success.”

Let Them Live is an inspiring example of a startup pro-life organization that is meeting the needs of women with unplanned pregnancies where they are at in order to prevent them from aborting their babies. What is especially encouraging is that a similar strategy for saving unborn lives is being put into practice in a big way by Human Coalition, which has been in operation since 2009.

What makes Human Coalition so innovative is that they are able to provide a whole host of different services all within their organization. First, through the use of online marketing outreach on Google and other popular search services, they reach thousands of people who are looking for abortion facilities.

Once a contact is made, Human Coalition is able to direct the abortion-minded person to their own contact center which is staffed with trained counselors who give encouragement and guidance so that the woman (or boyfriend, husband, or family member) can be directed to services that can assist with helping the woman carry her unplanned pregnancy to term.

After Human Coalition has established this vital connection through their contact center, they can direct the person to one of over 45 pro-life pregnancy centers spread across the country in which they serve and support directly. In addition, Human Coalition owns and operates their women’s care clinics which are “specifically tailored to the abortion-determined client and their families, and offers a range of services designed to support women in crisis” and are now available in six major metropolitan areas. To date, Human Coalition has been able to save 4,483 babies.

But as discussed earlier, the care for women with unplanned pregnancies cannot end once their child is born. That’s why Human Coalition has a “Continuum of Care” program that “coordinates long-term assistance through a network of support services already in place.” These services include “financial, job-training, job placement, maternity housing, health care, etc.”

Let Them Live and Human Coalition are filling a gap in the pro-life movement that is overlooked but highly needed—to specifically target the needs of pregnant women who are seeking out abortion so that they carry their babies to term and are given the resources to thrive post-birth. Let us support organizations like these and pray that their ministries may continue to grow so that our culture will truly and authentically become one where every life is lovingly welcomed, every mother is supported, and abortion becomes unthinkable.

Susan B. Anthony Advocated for “Natural Rights.” We Must Carry On Her Work.

by Adelaide Holmes

February 15, 2020

Today is Susan B. Anthony Day, so it’s a perfect time for Christians to learn from the life and activism of Susan B. Anthony. Although she had a diverse and at times unorthodox Christian background, she believed that all of humankind was equal under God. This inspired her activism. Anthony’s life reflects a belief that our culture desperately needs to hear from Christians that the value and natural rights of every human being comes from God and deserves to be protected.

It’s imperative that Christians understand that the idea of God-given rights and equal value are not merely human inventions. While both Anthony and the Founding Fathers claimed that all of mankind was created equal by God, this idea was not unique to them. Instead, it derives from biblical principles of justice.

Anthony claimed that mankind received their rights from God rather than the government. In her speech “Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?” she says, “Before governments were organized, no one denies that each individual possessed the right to protect his own life, liberty and property.” Anthony believed that mankind had these rights long before there was a government.

But if the government didn’t give us our most basic rights, where did they come from? Anthony believed that these rights are natural, meaning they are given by God. Thus, a just government should protect them, not create them. She asserts, “The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the constitutions of the several states and the organic laws of the territories, all alike propose to protect the people in the exercise of their God-given rights.” Anthony further quoted from the Declaration of Independence to prove her point in her speech: “All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

If Anthony is right that mankind was endowed with rights by God, we should see something in Scripture about it. While the language of “natural rights” is not explicitly stated in scripture, we can see that the principles of rights are supported in the commands given by Jesus and Moses.

In Mark 12:31, Jesus instructs his followers to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This confirms what is expressly stated in Matthew 7:12, that we should treat others as we would want to be treated. This means that if you love your life, liberty, or property and desire for those things to be respected, you should love and respect your neighbor’s life, liberty, and property as well.

While Mark 12 does not contain the language of rights, the Ten Commandments show that God expects His creation to respect the life, liberty, and property of others. In Exodus 20, the second table of the Ten Commandments directly command us not to end another person’s life or to steal their property. While the specific language of “rights” is not present here, violating someone’s life or property was considered a serious moral failing under the law and subject to governmental punishment. By putting these commands in the moral and legal law for the Israelites, God set an example for just government that the Founders reaffirmed through the protection of these natural rights in the Constitution.

Not only is there biblical support for the idea of natural rights, but there is also a case for equality in how we respect other’s rights. In Leviticus 24, the Mosaic law requires that the laws of restitution and penalties for murder and stealing are to be the “same rule for the sojourner and for the native.” God is perfectly just, and justice requires that the protection of natural rights be unbiased towards external factors like one’s nationality.

While there is strong biblical support for the principles behind natural rights and equal respect of other’s rights, there are times when our natural rights are not adequately protected in the U.S. When this happens, Christians need to go a step further. It happened in Anthony’s day with the unequal protection of women and African Americans. But she refused to sit by apathetically and watch injustice occur around her. Instead, she took action to advocate for their rights. Whether or not she realized it, Anthony acted out the command in Micah 6:8 to “do justice.” Every Christian should do the same today.

In America, Christians can advocate for the rights to life, liberty, and property of their neighbors. Every day in America, preborn children are killed because of “choice,” women and children are enslaved in sex-trafficking because of other’s “pleasure,” and Christians lose their jobs or are forced to close their businesses because their consciences aren’t “tolerant.” We have the opportunity and duty to love these neighbors around us and advocate for the protection of their rights, just as Susan B. Anthony did.

Do Puberty-Blocking Drugs Make Transgender Kids Less Likely to Commit Suicide, or More?

by Peter Sprigg

February 13, 2020

Puberty blockers” are hormones originally intended to deal with “precocious puberty,” in which a child experiences the physical signs of puberty prematurely. Now, however, puberty blockers are being used as a treatment for “gender dysphoria.” The theory is that a child who is already unhappy with his or her biological sex may become even more unhappy when his or her body begins to develop.

The most extreme claim is that transgender children forced to undergo normal puberty will kill themselves. Into this debate came a new academic study published in the Pediatrics medical journal that resulted in headlines like these: 

There’s only one problem. These headlines are wrong.

The word “suicide” implies a fatality. The Pediatrics study was not a study of suicide—because none of its subjects were dead. It was based upon answers given in the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.

The key outcome referenced in the article was “lifetime suicidal ideation.” This means thinking about committing suicide. The finding that those who received puberty blockers had lower “lifetime suicidal ideation” than those who wanted them but did not receive them got the attention because it was the only one that reached the level of “statistical significance.”

However, “lifetime suicidal ideation” was only one of nine mental health outcomes that were listed in the study.

On four of the nine outcome measures—nearly half—the outcomes for those who received puberty blockers were worse than for those who did not. Most of these differences were small, but one figure jumped off the page. Those who received puberty blockers were twice as likely to have had a suicide attempt resulting in inpatient care (i.e., hospitalization) in the last 12 months as those who did not (45.5 percent vs. 22.8 percent). While we cannot reach definitive conclusions because of the small numbers involved, this raises important questions that are at least worthy of further research.

Also, the lifetime rate of suicidal ideation for those who received puberty blockers were lower than for those who didn’t—but it was still astonishingly high, at 75 percent. This hardly suggests that administering puberty blockers makes most children with gender dysphoria mentally healthy.

The authors acknowledge the study’s design “does not allow for determination of causation.” But they go further, raising doubt that puberty blockers cause lower rates of suicidal ideation—because it may be that people with suicidal ideation were simply considered poor candidates to receive puberty blockers.

Let’s be clear—we cannot conclude from this study that children who take puberty blockers are more likely to commit suicide than those who don’t.

But we also cannot conclude that they are less likely to commit suicide—notwithstanding the breathless media coverage.

Legislators considering restrictions on radical gender transition procedures for minors should make those decisions based on the harmful physical effects and risks of those interventions, many of which are well-known—not based upon the misinterpretation of psychological studies whose implications are far from clear.

The Evidence Suggests Gender Transition Procedures for Minors are Experimental

by Peter Sprigg

February 13, 2020

Several states have introduced bills that would prohibit certain physical procedures that alter the normal development or body of a child or adolescent for the purpose of facilitating a “gender transition.” These laws (sometimes called “Vulnerable Child Protection Acts”) would ban the use of puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, or gender reassignment surgery in minors.

One of the arguments raised by opponents is that these procedures should not be restricted because they represent a standard of care that is “evidence-based.” “Evidence-based” is something of a buzzword in medicine, indicating that medical practices should not just be based on opinion (even “expert” opinion), but on sound scientific research.

But just how good is the “evidence” cited in support of gender transition procedures—especially for minors?

The Endocrine Society’s Influential Guidelines

One of the most recent and influential sets of guidelines for the medical care of transgender people was published in 2017 by the Endocrine Society (W. Hembree et al., “Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline,” Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism 102(11), November 2017, p. 3869-3903). This document explicitly sought to adopt an “evidence-based” approach:

The task force followed the approach recommended by the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation group, an international group with expertise in the development and implementation of evidence-based guidelines.

The Endocrine Society issued specific guidelines in five separate areas:

  1. Evaluation of youth and adults (5 guidelines)
  2. Treatment of adolescents (6 guidelines)
  3. Hormonal therapy for transgender adults (4 guidelines)
  4. Adverse outcome prevention and long-term care (7 guidelines)
  5. Surgery for sex reassignment and gender confirmation (6 guidelines)

Evaluating the Quality of the Evidence

The key question is—what is the quality of the evidence in support of the guidelines? I decided to examine that issue.

There are three types of guidelines:

  • An “Ungraded Good Practice Statement”—essentially supported by no evidence (beginning “We advise . . .”)
  • A “weak recommendation” (beginning “We suggest . . .”)
  • A “strong recommendation” (labeled “We recommend . . .”)

Only with the strong recommendations does the task force express “confidence that persons who receive care according to [them] … will derive, on average, more benefit than harm.”

Then for each of the “recommendations” (weak or strong) they give a rating of the “quality of the evidence” in support of that recommendation, on a four-point scale: very low, low, moderate, or high.

How Strong is the Evidence Regarding Gender Transition Procedures for Minors?

If we omit category 3 (which applies only to adults), there are 24 guidelines that are generally relevant to the procedures at issue in Vulnerable Child Protection Acts—puberty blockers, hormones for adolescents, and surgery.

Of these 24 guidelines:

  • 5 are ungraded good practice statements (no evidence);
  • 2 are weak recommendations with very low evidence; and
  • 9 are weak recommendations with low evidence.

That means only 8 of the 24 “guidelines” are even “strong” recommendations—one third of the total. Of those:

  • 2 are supported by very low evidence;
  • 5 are supported by low evidence; 
  • Only 1 is supported by even “moderate” evidence;
  • None are supported by “high quality” evidence.

Evaluating the Recommendations

Several of the “strong recommendations” and other guidelines relate to controlling the potential negative side effects of gender transition, rather than actually recommending the transition procedure.

For example, the lone guideline supported by even “moderate” evidence was one warning patients to look into “fertility preservation” (some method of storing sperm or eggs), because the procedures may permanently sterilize the individual:

1.5. We recommend that clinicians inform and counsel all individuals seeking gender-affirming medical treatment regarding options for fertility preservation prior to initiating puberty suppression in adolescents and prior to treating with hormonal therapy of the affirmed gender in both adolescents and adults.

Some of the guidelines actually support what Vulnerable Child Protection Acts would do. Very few procedures which actually follow the Endocrine Society guidelines would also violate South Dakota’s VCPA, HB 1057.

For example, they recommend strongly (with low evidence) initiating cross-sex hormone treatment only after confirming “sufficient mental capacity to give informed consent, which most adolescents have by age 16 years” (2.4). (Guideline 2.5 says there may be exceptions to this, but it is supported by “very low” evidence.)

In addition, a “weak recommendation” with low evidence (5.5) suggests “that clinicians delay gender-affirming genital surgery … until the patient is at least 18 years old.”

Another weak recommendation (supported by very low evidence) suggests the timing of breast surgery be determined case by case, because “There is insufficient evidence to recommend a specific age requirement.” However, the lack of evidence would suggest that such radical, body-altering surgery should be postponed to a later age if possible, not accelerated.

Meanwhile, the key guidelines in support of puberty suppression (2.1 and 2.2) are only weak recommendations, supported by low evidence. The strong recommendation that some patients (over age 18) be referred for genital surgery is supported by “very low” evidence.

A Weak Evidence Base

In summary, the claim that these treatments are “evidence-based” is misleading, because the quality of the evidence in this field (even for the Endocrine Society’s “strong” recommendations) is low.

Until the quality of the evidence becomes higher, gender transition procedures must be considered experimental procedures at best.

We’re Going to Succeed”: Kobe Bryant’s Inspiring Marital Steadfastness

by Daniel Hart

February 12, 2020

Following the tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant (along with eight others including his daughter) in a helicopter crash on January 26, many stirring tributes have been written about his tenacity, relentless drive to always improve, and ferocious competitiveness on the court as a player. One of his most inspiring character traits was how he applied his legendary competitiveness and refusal to give up to all aspects of his life, particularly when dealing with the potential end of his marriage to his wife Vanessa.

After an incident in 2003 in which he was accused of sexual assault (and was eventually acquitted in court), Kobe publicly admitted to committing adultery and apologized to his wife at a press conference. Eight years later, his wife filed for divorce due to “irreconcilable differences,” but in 2013 the couple announced that they had called off the divorce. Clearly, Kobe and Vanessa went through some extremely challenging periods in their marriage, but they persevered and remained committed to their vows. In an interview, Kobe described his drive to succeed in his marriage in the same terms he often used to describe his work ethic in basketball: “Commitment and [the] competitiveness of ‘We’re going to succeed.’” He went on to describe his marriage in this way: “That’s all the beauty of it: having the persistence and determination to work through things — very, very tough things — and we’ve been able to do that.”

Kobe and Vanessa’s perseverance and tenacity to fight for their marriage no matter what the circumstances is a stirring example for all married couples to have the resolve to never give up on their marriage, no matter how insurmountable difficulties may seem.

In honor of National Marriage Week, here are some tried and true ways that couples can work through challenges and maintain peaceful and happy marriages:

  • In general, be kind. As written about in The Atlantic, numerous studies have all concluded that “kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage.”
  • When you see something that needs to be done around the house, do it as quickly and quietly as you can without mentioning anything to your spouse, even if you feel that they should have done it. This builds trust between spouses and is a visible sign of how much you love and care for them, which most likely will be noticed and appreciated the more you do it.
  • Be “teachable.” In other words, be willing to compromise or do things differently than how you grew up doing them or used to do them before marriage.
  • Acknowledge that your own shortcomings may be a result of wounds that you received in your past, likely in childhood from those closest to you. It is imperative that you seek the root cause of these wounds in order to be authentically healed, which will in turn create tremendous healing in your own marriage.
  • A key outlook during difficult times in marriage is to see suffering as having redeeming value, just as Christ suffered for us in order to redeem us from our sins. If you don’t see the cross as something bad, this changes everything. In order to have true love for our spouse (to will the good for them), we must be willing to serve them by practicing sacrificial love, to sacrifice our own wishes and desires for the sake of our beloved. It may seem like a paradox, but it’s true—when we sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, we find true fulfilment.
  • Express gratitude to your spouse on a regular basis. When you thank them for even the small things they do—washing the dishes, cleaning up the spilled oatmeal off the floor—your spouse will feel loved and appreciated. This goes a long way toward maintaining marital harmony.
  • Never stop trying. Even when things are not going smoothly in your marriage, always be willing to keep trying to make things right by putting in the effort, even if you don’t feel like it. Your spouse will almost certainly notice this. There’s nothing more disheartening for a spouse then when they feel like their own efforts are not being noticed and, even worse, are not being reciprocated. If your spouse feels like you are not trying your best in the relationship, they will feel less motivated to keep trying themselves, which can create a larger mess than before.
  • Don’t let small annoyances about your spouse anger you. Let them be an opportunity to grow in the virtue of patience. If there is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed, bring it up as calmly and deliberately as you can so that you don’t hurt your spouse in the process.
  • When you feel hurt by the words or actions of your spouse, don’t swallow it and let it fester. Pick a good time to talk about how and why they hurt you as gently, honestly, and openly as possible. Depending on the severity of the issue, it may not be a good idea to immediately hash it out with your spouse just after the hurtful incident occurred, since this could lead to further insensitive words being said in the heat of the moment. It may be prudent to pick a time at least a day or two later after things have cooled down. You may even discover that your spouse had no idea that the incident in question hurt you, and will be glad to know about it so that they can be more thoughtful in the future.
  • Challenging times in marriage are opportunities to grow closer together. This can especially be achieved by praying together as a couple.
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