abortion

Created Equal, a pro-life group that traces its lineage to the civil rights movement, is trying to make hay against Indiana Wesleyan University for one theater professor’s fraught attempt to explain why he’s both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” in a campus debate.

IWU, as you might guess, is a Christian university affiliated with the Wesleyan Church, which has a strong anti-abortion plank.

You can read about the “Life versus Choice” debate, sponsored by the student government last month, in The Sojourn, or watch the entire 82-minute debate, courtesy of Created Equal.

But the crux of the group’s objection is a three-minute video, also posted this week, spliced together with comments by the professor, Greg Fiebig, and his (fully) pro-life antagonists. The closing statement from Created Equal in the video: “Killing young humans is defended even at universities claiming to be Christian.”

My first thought was: You’re just noticing this?

The offending statements from Fiebig, professor of communications and theatre:

I don’t know if you know what cognitive dissonance is. It’s somebody who holds two opposing views equally. I am equally pro-choice and pro-life. And that may drive people crazy. … This is our belief, that life begins at conception. It is not the world’s belief. And so if we start telling the world how to live their lives, and hold them to a morality that we believe, that is a little bit akin to playing the Holy Spirit.

His antagonists then ask him if he feels the same about sex trafficking and slavery, and whether abortion “should remain legal” or be made “illegal.” Naturally, Fiebig tries to duck that last question but eventually answers “I am not prepared to go in that direction right now.”

Created Equal summed it up this way in an email blast:

This is the state of many universities affiliated with the Christian Church—having on staff professors who condone evils prohibited by the God they claim to follow. And this is why we must defend the truth even on these campuses.

Revering ‘tension’ is a hallmark of Christian colleges

Fiebig’s have-it-all response sounds like about half of the professors I had at Seattle Pacific University, which is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church (whose roots are also abolitionist). Not just on abortion, but on anything. They revel in playing it loose.

It’s particularly acute for humanities professors. Look for the “tension” in the Scriptures that seem to contradict each other, an Old Testament professor told our class. That’s where God is trying to tell you something. Saying one interpretation is right or wrong, or pulling out black-and-white lessons from a particular passage, is just poor taste.

A residence life official once told me with a smile that he was pro-life unless, you know, there was some problem in the womb. He seemed to think this was a typical view at a Christian college. It probably was.

Leave it to a theater professor to think it’s persuasive to say you believe two contradictory things, but Fiebig is probably pretty indicative of his colleagues. I don’t find his argument remotely convincing – human life indisputably begins at conception, whereas personhood is a legal question, and one no less serious than trafficking or slavery – but I understand exactly where he’s coming from.

We all eat the fruit, including abortion

Fiebig himself filled in some of the blanks in a letter to the editor following The Sojourn‘s story: He and his wife had a pregnancy that their (Catholic) doctor considered too risky to continue, but the Fiebigs trusted the counsel of a second doctor who told them he could safely deliver their child (and did).

I’m really playing down the theatricality of the letter, so read it yourself. He starts with some second-rate theology from Genesis that treats abortion the way you might treat smoking: a bad habit you should kick if you can.

Regardless of whether abortion is legal or illegal, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, people still have the right to choose, just as Adam and Eve had the right to choose against God’s command in the Garden of Eden.

Obviously, this has problems with trafficking and slavery. Then extrapolating from his wife’s challenging pregnancy:

So you see, my cognitive dissonance is strong. I believe theologically in free will while at the same time believing practically in the sanctity of life. While my wife and I chose life, I must recognize that other young couples in our situation may have chosen to terminate the pregnancy, and quite frankly, I would have understood why.

And then a total misunderstanding of “personal choice” when it comes to Wesleyan thought. Fiebig should never be the first person called upon to coherently argue why Christians can live with abortion the same way they live with Internet porn.

But Fiebig isn’t the only making some leaps.

The pro-life activists’ basic error

Like the pro-life activists, I’d prefer that Christian college professors didn’t think of abortion as a bad habit like smoking. They have fundamentally adopted the pro-choice framing of the issue.

But Fiebig’s antagonists aren’t exactly portraying this debate accurately either.

In asking Fiebig whether abortion “should remain legal” or be made “illegal,” the activist is presenting a straw man. Abortion has never been completely illegal or completely unregulated. There’s a fairly wide range of thought under the pro-life tent about what is politically feasible in a country with a strong history of individual self-determination and a rubric of federalism. (Personhood amendments, in my view, have grave constitutional problems that have nothing to do with Roe.)

It’s precisely that all-or-nothing presentation that has made progress in reducing abortion so challenging. Media surveys of Americans rarely give them the options to reflect their own cognitive dissonance. If Roe falls, abortion will be illegal, many of us think (it won’t).

I don’t fault Created Equal for having a clear abolitionist approach to abortion (the group features gruesome pictures of aborted fetuses on its website), but playing gotcha with a Christian professor whose thoughts are more personal and cliched than rigorously formulated won’t do much to horrify their target audience.

They’re already ambivalent.

Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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IMAGE: Public domain

 

Catholic colleges and other religious employers in California have a new ally in their fight against the state’s newly applied abortion mandate in health plans.

Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent federal agency, wrote to Department of Managed Health Care Director Shelley Rouillard to protest her decision that all abortions are “medically necessary” so must be covered in state-approved health plans.

Federal law prohibits California from forcing state residents to pay for abortions if it wants to drink from the federal spigot, Kirsanow said:

California is displaying just such contempt for religious liberty through the enforcement of the [state-level] Knox-Keene Act in defiance of the [federal] Weldon Amendment. California may be free to do so. What California may not do is take billions of dollars in federal money while flouting a federal statute that forbids it from discriminating against individuals and organizations that do not wish to pay for or facilitate abortions. …

The issue here is less what California law requires, but what federal law requires. However, it is also questionable whether the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan of 1975 actually requires health plans to cover abortion as a basic health care service, or whether that is a recent interpretative gloss on the statute. …

Abortion services are not specifically listed as “basic health services.” In fact, it appears that the word “abortion” only appears twice in the text of the entire Knox-Keene Act, and it is not in regard to requiring plans to cover abortions.

Kirsanow notes that California’s interpretation of the Weldon Amendment’s reach has changed over the years:

If California believed from 2005-2008 that the Weldon Amendment prohibited it from discriminating against people and institutions that conscientiously objected to facilitating or performing medically necessary abortions, why does it today claim that the Weldon Amendment does not prohibit it from requiring conscientious objectors to fund elective abortions?

Kirsanow wrote a similar letter to the District of Columbia, whose city council is considering an abortion mandate in health plans, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Read Kirsanow’s letter to Rouillard.

h/t Alliance Defending Freedom

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The University of California-San Francisco’s new online abortion course raises serious concerns about whether its format and curriculum will interfere with its ability to safely and effectively teach its subject matter, experts on massive open online courses (MOOCs) and medicine told The College Fix.

The sheer size and non-simultaneous nature of MOOCs are inherent limitations that are especially problematic for abortion as a medical matter, said Rachelle Peterson, a research associate at the National Association of Scholars who studies MOOCs and took one offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a research project.

The course’s website says that “Abortion is safe and has lower morbidity and mortality than childbirth,” but those are general findings, not necessarily applicable for every abortion, Peterson said.

“[B]ecause the practice of medicine requires a wealth of knowledge that is then applied to each specific case, this MOOC will offer limited value to the practice of medicine and could actually jeopardize health,” said Peterson in an email.

The Daily Beast reported in October that an estimated 3,000 people have signed up for the free course, and one of its creators, professor of obstetrician and abortion activist Jody Steinauer, said its purpose was to “inspire” students to “increase access to safe abortion and decrease stigma about abortion.”

Since the course is open to anyone, a student considering an abortion may decide that having one would be a safe, advisable decision, without taking personal factors into account, Peterson said.

“The decision to have an abortion is a deeply tragic one; a woman facing such a decision deserves personal counsel and advice, not broad, aggregate statistics presented impersonally in a pre-recorded video,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the deficiencies in the class format are exacerbated by the lack of rigorous analytical demand placed on students. The only assessments – multiple-choice questions and two peer-reviewed essays – do not hold students to a high standard of careful analysis of presented data, she said.

It’s not clear whether students are expected to be able to perform abortions upon completion of the class, but if the course does “attempt to teach procedures for performing surgical abortions, this would present a serious danger,” Peterson said.

The course presents some people as “experts” whom students should look at skeptically, said Rebecca Oas, associate director of research for the Center for Family and Human Rights Institute, a Catholic organization advocating “the dignity of the human person.”

Oas, who has a Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology and is herself taking the university’s abortion MOOC, cited Rebecca Gomperts as one such questionable expert. Gomperts’ Women on Waves organization helps women perform chemical abortions on themselves in countries where it’s illegal.

“It is evident in many of the interviews [with the course’s creators] that one of the goals of the course is to ‘de-medicalize’ abortion – that is, to take it out of the context of the doctor-patient relationship and out of a regulated health care system,” Oas said in an email.

“The instructors discuss obtaining illegal abortion drugs from black market sources and inducing abortions outside a clinical context using directions obtained online from dubious and legally problematic sources,” Oas said. “Encouraging this kind of medical vigilantism is simply irresponsible.”

Oas has previously catalogued abortion advocates’ use of “stealth training” to provide access to abortion through workshops on “miscarriage management” – using a papaya to simulate a womb – among other methods.

The abortion class implies that the medical community approves of the de-medicalization of an inherently medical procedure, misleading future health care workers, Oas said.

That not only gives credibility to those who sell fake or contaminated drugs to women or give them potentially deadly instructions on dosage and complications, Oas added – it hurts the credibility of the healthcare system and its regulatory institutions.

More troubling than the limitations of the course’s online format is the bias in the curriculum, Peterson and Oas said separately.

Peterson said the course blurs together medical information and political advocacy. While a MOOC can convey information like an encyclopedia does, simply listing procedures and their uses or risks, “conveying information is very different from presenting arguments in favor of abortion,” she said.

Oas said that “while the instructors acknowledge that the subject matter is ‘sensitive,’ the pro-life perspective is excluded except when filtered through the words of those who disagree with it.”

College Fix reporter Genevieve McCarthy is a student at Thomas Aquinas College.

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A pro-family group is trying to get St. Norbert College in Wisconsin to drop Gloria Steinem as a speaker for an April event, citing her abortion-rights advocacy.

The school describes Steinem as a “founder of the women’s movement,” advocate for “social justice” and “spokeswoman on issues of equality,” but doesn’t mention her abortion advocacy.

TFP Student Action, a project of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, is gathering signatures to pressure St. Norbert to cancel Steinem’s talk. As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition has reached two-thirds of its 20,000-signature goal.

Calling Steinem “a radical pro-abortion promoter,” the group lists several of Steinem’s public quotes that are at odds with Catholic teaching:

[T]he invitation is causing confusion and scandal.  Pro-life students and alumni are deeply troubled by the decision which, if not canceled, will give a Catholic platform to a notorious activist who publically promotes the killing of innocent children. …

How on earth can a woman like Gloria Steinem who has such a public pro-abortion and anti-Catholic record be invited to give a lecture at a Catholic institute, which ought to be a cornerstone in the defense of innocent life and moral values?

Read the petition.

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A trend seen by prolife activists that frequently engage college students on campuses nationwide is the growing acceptance of post-birth abortion, or killing the infant after he or she is born, campus prolife outreach leaders tell The College Fix.

Anecdotal evidence by leaders of prolife groups such as Created Equal and Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust said in interviews that not only do they see more college students willing to say they support post-birth abortion, but some students even suggest children up to 4 or 5-years-old can also be killed, because they are not yet “self aware.”

“We encounter people who think it is morally acceptable to kill babies after birth on a regular basis at almost every campus we visit,” said Mark Harrington, director of Created Equal. “While this viewpoint is still seen as shocking by most people, it is becoming increasingly popular.”

Campuses where the high school, college students, local activists and staff members of Created Equal have encountered this opinion include Purdue, University of Minnesota, and University of Central Florida. And at Ohio State earlier this year, the group captured a debate on video between one of its members and an older woman on campus who defended infanticide.

“This is the whole problem with devaluing human life at any stage—it will naturally grow to include other groups of humans; in this case, born humans as well as preborn humans,” Harrington said. “[I] talked with one young man at the University of Minnesota who thought it was alright to kill children if they were under the age of 5 years old, as he did not consider them persons until that age.”

Kristina Garza, spokeswoman for Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, a prolife organization that often sets up anti-abortion displays on campuses along the West Coast, said her group also frequently encounters college students who accept infanticide.

“For those who are firmly for abortion, because they understand it kills a human being, it’s very easy for them to accept killing a human being after birth,” Garza said. “There is this notion that is common on campus, that it’s OK to kill babies because somehow we don’t become human until we are self aware.”

“A common number that is going around is 4 years old,” she adds.

As for the trend, Garza said there’s an explanation for it. For one, the arguments put forth by Peter Singer and other philosophers who support infanticide are given as reading assignments to college students.

Singer wrote in 1979 that “human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons … [therefore] the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

“He has been saying things like this since the 70s, but I think it has been more recently that this type of ideology is being promoted on college campuses,” Garza said. “When he said this stuff, there was a very select few who accepted it. But nowadays, we have become so desensitized, and college students lacking in a moral fiber easily accept this kind of strange ideology.”

But prolife advocacy and engagement on campuses has helped turn students away from pro-choice stances, she adds.

“While the number of students who believe it is OK with killing children after birth is growing, the number of students who accept that life beings at conception is also growing, and that is growing at a larger and faster rate than those who accept infanticide,” Garza said.

“The trends I am seeing is it’s not so much students are better grounded in morals, it’s that we as a prolife movement have done our job in presenting a better argument, and we are pushing people out of the middle,” she said. “We are seeing more students who see the logic and choose to be anti-abortion.”

Yet staunch opposition to the prolife philosphy remains.

Asked about the incident at Ohio State, at which a woman responded to a prolife display by defending infanticide, a pro-abortion activism group at the campus stated its views were similar to those of the woman in the clip.

“As for post-birth abortion, I would imagine that my colleagues would think the ‘post-birth’ part was largely irrelevant, as we believe very strongly in abortion on demand, without apology, and it’s plain and simple that we should look to the woman’s morals and not shove our opinions where they, frankly, don’t belong,” Devin Deitsch, leader of VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood at Ohio State University, said in an email to The College Fix.

“Speaking as the primary leader of VOX, I assure you we are very pro-choice,” Deitsch also noted. “… We are not here to advocate for women to get abortions, we advocate for her ability to make that choice without fear, heckling, or barriers. Essentially, we ask for a woman (and her body) to be respected. Nothing more, nothing less.”

College Fix reporter Mairead McArdle is a student at Thomas Aquinas College.

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IMAGE: Created Equal Facebook screenshot

UPDATED

The Penn Democrats wrote an op-ed in defense of “reproductive rights” for the Daily Pennsylvanian, arguing that women have the right to employer-paid abortion drugs and that abortion-clinic safety rules are “unnecessary.” Fair enough.

But these defenders of bodily integrity make a curious case for their contention that America’s abortion laws are “decades behind many other countries”:

While European countries provide free access to contraceptives and encourage comprehensive sex education, in America, women’s health care autonomy is limited by the religious and moral views of others.

The Penn Democrats are either woefully ignorant of Europe’s abortion laws or masters of omission, because America is far more permissive of abortion than most of Europe.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Cynthia Allen made this point in a Tuesday column on the Texas governor’s race, pitting pro-life Republican Greg Abbott against Democrat Wendy Davis, who made her name on a filibuster of a Texas bill to ban late-term abortions:

In Western Europe — a bastion of liberalism that many progressive policymakers look to with admiration — abortion laws are far more restrictive than those in the U.S.

In Germany, women seeking first-trimester abortions are subject to a mandatory three-day waiting period and a counseling session. Abortions after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are forbidden except in cases of grave threat to the mother’s physical or mental health. France’s laws are similar.

Other nations like the Netherlands, which requires a five-day wait, and the United Kingdom make abortion illegal after viability, generally considered to be between 22 and 24 weeks.

Davis’ absolutist position on abortion puts her to the left of the Netherlands, home of legalized prostitution, marijuana bars and physician-assisted suicide.

Are the Penn Democrats saying they’d rather have stricter laws on surgical abortion in tandem with wide access to birth control? Probably not, because then they would sound like Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in the Colorado Senate race.

Read the Daily Pennsylvanian op-ed.

CORRECTION: The original article incorrectly said Rep. Cory Gardner was a candidate in the Colorado governor’s race. He is a candidate in the Senate race. The article has been updated to reflect this.

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