Author archives: Michael Fragoso

Sometimes a Fetus is Just a Fetus

by Michael Fragoso

July 8, 2008

One way of seeing that Bill is right about how the South Dakota decision reflects a growing change in abortion jurisprudence, is by looking at the reaction from some parts of the left.  Emily Bazelon of Slate, is in a bit of a tizzy over it.  The bee in her bonnet is the informed consent law’s provision that doctors must tell women seeking abortions that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

Apparently this is unacceptable.  Bazelon informs us,

Planned Parenthood argued that the state is legislating morality because to call a fetus a “whole, separate, unique, living human being” is an ideological statement, not a medical one.

I was unaware that there was any debate in contemporary medical science as to whether or not a fetus- defined as a developing, distinct member of the species homo sapiens-was in fact a developing, distinct member of the species homo sapiens.  (Bazelon refers to this line of thinking as “tautological.”  Perhaps it is, but just because something happens to be true via tautology doesn’t negate the fact that it’s true.)  Perhaps some long-suffering practitioners of Aristotelian medicine might argue that the fetus is a vegetable or an animal, and not yet a human?  Surely this cannot be what Bazelon would count as a “medical” opinion.

She goes on:

The Supreme Court has told the states that it’s not for them to resolve when life begins-and it should certainly follow from this that they can’t force any such resolution on doctors.

Never mind that the authoritative medical textbooks and the longstanding orthodoxies of embryology and developmental biology are crystal clear about when life begins, the Supreme Court has told us that we can’t legislate based on those facts.  It is reassuring to know that America has the likes of Anthony Kennedy and Harry Blackmun to be the arbiters of permissible scientific knowledge.

And the kicker:

As the 8th Circuit dissent by Judge Diana Murphy points out, the question “in some sense encompass[es] the whole philosophical debate about abortion.”

Judge Murphy and Ms. Bazelon don’t seem to understand the “the whole philosophical debate about abortion.”  The question at hand is not whether or not the fetus is a human being, but whether or not, as a human being, it is worthy of respect and in possession of an inviolable right to life.  As Bazelon notes, almost in passing, the Supreme Court has pronounced “no” on the matter of the fetus’ personhood and rights.  Pace Bazelon and her liberal judge friends, the Supreme-or any-Court is incapable of pronouncing “no” on the question of the fetus’ fetushood and biological status as a human being.  This is merely the factual starting point for any fair-minded and reasonable analysis of the abortion question.  If Bazelon and Murphy want to argue that these young human beings lack dignity and are not deserving of our respect due to their age, their location, their dependency, or mere caprice, they are welcome to do so.  Maybe now that in South Dakota misinforming pregnant women through omission or commission isn’t an option, they’ll have to.

Under the Banner of Kennedy

by Michael Fragoso

July 3, 2008

On the same day that Justice Kennedy ruled that “the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law authorizing the castration of child rapists.  Certain sections of the comentariat-up to and including Fox News-have ridiculed the measure.

Jindal’s law replacing execution with castration, however, is not without precedent.  When William of Normandy conquered Anglo-Saxon England in 1066 he abolished the death penalty at the urging of the Roman Catholic Church-under whose banner he had won the Battle of Hastings.  Nonetheless, a punishment was necessary for capital crimes, so in his Coronation Charter King William said, “I also forbid that anyone shall be slain or hanged for any fault, but let his eyes be put out and let him be castrated…” Justice Kennedy, having followed the inclinations of Bishop Odo, finds himself faced with Bobby Jindal deploying edicts suited to King William.  Plus ca change…

This is further evidence that when Kennedy references any sort of “evolving standards of decency” his referent is likely a fiction, and he is merely citing his own preferences and proclivities.

Re: From the New York Times

by Michael Fragoso

April 2, 2008

While the piece to which Pat links certainly displays the courage of the leaders of Harvard’s True Love Revolution, I have to say I was not a fan of it. It struck me as a brutally unfair portrayal of what is going on in Cambridge. For example, the author asks one of the co-presidents his thoughts about the other and coaxes from him some fairly awkward comments. The author then relays these comments to the other co-president. What purpose does this serve other than to sow discord? At the same time, the Times has a long history of making young conservatives seem incredibly strange, and TLR probably could have been more cautious going in.

One nasty piece by a snarky journalist doesn’t change the interesting facts of this chastity phenomenon, though. It’s a growing and exceedingly complex movement. Pat mentions Princeton’s Anscombe Society as the college chastity prototype, describing it as “an Ivy League version of True Love Waits.” While True Love Waits and Anscombe certainly have many of the same goals, I’m not sure if that accurately reflects Anscombe’s mission. In a rare example of good reporting, the Times piece describes Anscombe as justifying its views on chastity through rigorous intellectual means. That certainly conforms to my observations in college of both the society itself and of the people who were in it. Princeton’s chastity society was inspired by the profoundly rigorous essay “Contraception and Chastity” by Elizabeth Anscombe (the English philosopher who occasionally bested C.S. Lewis in argument). On the other hand, True Love Revolution and True Love Waits come at the question in a very different way. Which approach happens to be better is beside the point. It is important to note, though, that there are wildly different approaches to promoting chastity in young people, and that they are flourishing in the Ivy League of all places. No wonder the New York Times felt inclined to try and take a hatchet to one of them!

Common Sense from Down Under

by Michael Fragoso

March 6, 2008

Last night former Australian Prime Minister John Howard gave the Irving Kristol Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual dinner. PM Howard is well known as a relentless foe of radical Islam and an indefatigable supporter of Australia’s special relationship with the United States, so the conservative views he expressed on the War on Terror and Geopolitics were to be expected. What was surprising, however, was his treatment of marriage and family as the foundation of any flourishing society. He said:

It remains a reality in Western societies that two of the greatest contributors to poverty are joblessness and family breakdown.

We should maintain a cultural bias in favour of traditional families. That doesn’t mean discriminating against single parents but it does mean ceaselessly propounding the advantages for a child of being raised by both a mother and father.

Marriage is a bedrock social institution - with an unmistakable meaning and resonance. It should be kept as such.

He only goes on from there to lay out strong family policy he introduced-the entire speech is worth checking out. What can one say but, “Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!”

An Inconvenient Leak from the Vatican

by Michael Fragoso

September 24, 2007

Recent reports from the Vatican show that Pope Benedict will use his upcoming talk at the United Nations to deliver a powerful warning over climate change. Allegedly the Holy Father will seek to make the prevention of climate change a moral obligation for us Catholics throughout the world. Of course, the Church has long taught that we have a clear obligation to be good stewards of our planet, hearkening back to Genesis. The actual policy obligations that stewardship entails, however, are debatable propositions on which reasonable people can disagree according to the determinations of prudence. Pope Benedict is possibly the greatest mind of our age, but these reports from the left remind me of an exchange from Brideshead Revisited:

Fr. Mowbray: Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said [the climate must be changing], would that be bound to happen?

Rex Mottram: Oh, yes Father.

Fr. Mowbray: But supposing it didnt?

Rex Mottram: I suppose it would be sort of [changing] spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it…

Pro-Life Praise for GOP

by Michael Fragoso

June 11, 2007

It isnt often that I am impressed with Republicans in their handling of pro-life issues, but last week’s floor debate in the House on easing the Presidents restrictions on stem cell funding was one of those times. The arguments by the largely Republican opponents of the stem cell legislation were measured, rational, and scientific. In contrast the arguments of the bills supporters shouldnt even qualify as demagoguery. Histrionics would be more apt.

In speaking out against the bill Republicans were on top of their game. They clarified thatin spite of their opponents spinthere is no ban on embryonic stem cell research. They pointed out that the research is not struggling or under-funded, but already has over $4 billion designated for it over the next decade from the public and private sector. In response to the perennial charge that they and the President are against science they reminded the listener that the current bill is in essence one passed two years ago and that two years is an eternity in cutting edge science. They argued that embryo-destructive research is quickly becoming yesterdays news. One member even pointed out that the Nuremburg Code should make us weary of deriving medical knowledge from the destruction of a humanno matter how small or young it happens to be.

Their opponents, in contrast, seemed to have grown intellectually flabby, gorging on their perceived high levels of public support. They made specious arguments that by only allowing supernumerary IVF embryos to be destroyed they were instituting needed ethical constraints. (Note that currently the ethical constraint for federal funding is that no embryos be destroyed. This argument assumes the part to be greater than the whole, known to be a fallacy for centuries.) They vaguely and generically referenced America falling behind the rest of the world in stem cell research. They belittled the usefulness of adult stem cells, in the face of most evidence. And when all else failed, they fell back to lame arguments from authorityfrom thousands of scientists (both the well meaning and the self-interested), to that pillar of cellular-biological erudition, Michael J. Fox.

Perhaps most reprehensible was the way in which many members invoked sick friends, family, and loved ones. One cannot help but sympathize with them in their struggles, and pray for their well being. At the same time, when embryonic stem cellsand only those derived from destroyed embryosare presented as the only possible hope for every ailment, large or small, one cannot help but detect a despicable cynicism at workeven for politicians.

Following thirty minutes of the pro-life forces arguing against the bill dispassionately, from bases in reason, science, and secular ethics, Speaker Pelosi ended the floor debate by calling embryonic stem cell research biblical in its power to cure. Speaker Pelosi defended the bill by invoking the Good Book, and yet her ilk would have us think its the pro-lifers who thump their Bibles in opposition science. The pro-life Republicans who spoke yesterday are owed a debt of gratitude for showing just how wrong that view is.

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