‘The biggest issue will be population collapse’

Maureen Malloy Ferguson writes on anti-natalism, the idea that having children is to be avoided or minimized as much as possible:

Ever since the Garden of Eden, we have been told to be fruitful and multiply. Affirmation of this commandment is now coming from the strangest places.

The quirky futurist Elon Musk recently issued a dire warning. “Most people think we have too many people on the planet, but actually, this is an outdated view … The biggest issue in 20 years will be population collapse. Not explosion. Collapse.”

The New York Times normally devotes considerable ink to the supposed problem of overpopulation, but is now sounding the alarm about declining fertility in a fascinating article headlined “The End of Babies”. Demographers agree that global fertility rates will fall below replacement levels by 2070, a dramatic prediction with devastating implications.

What, then, is to be done? A simple and beautiful place to start is to contemplate the wisdom of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.” …

Newlyweds today often seem somewhat startled at the mention of babies, as if children are a separate endeavour to be considered after many other milestones are met. Jack Ma, the visionary co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (double the size of Amazon), tells employees: “Marriage is not for the purpose of accumulating wealth, not for buying a house, not for buying a car, but for having a baby together … Have more children!” …

I’ve taught in these Pre-Cana programmes for years, and there is surprising receptivity to the Church’s vision for marriage and family. It is often the first time couples hear that children don’t need to be planned like a business plan. Sometimes the best things in life are surprises. Joys are multiplied in large families, and the sorrows are shared with more loving hearts. Studies show that having sisters and brothers makes you a better person (middle children – known for being peacemakers – are an endangered species). You will never regret the children you have, but it is common to regret the children you never had. It is good to say yes to God when He wants to give you a gift.

“You will never regret the children you have, but it is common to regret the children you never had.”

Supermajorities in favor of common sense

Michael New writes on our recent Americans United for Life/YouGov national poll:

Last month, the pro-life group Americans United for Life (AUL) released the results of a survey on abortion clinic regulations commissioned through YouGov. The results indicated that super-majorities of Americans favor common sense regulations abortion facilities.

Specifically, it found that 75 percent of respondents think that abortion doctors should be held to the same medical standards as any other physicians.  Similarly, the poll also found that 70 percent want to hold abortion facilities to the same standards as hospitals. Finally, the results indicate that 78 percent of respondents believe physicians performing abortions should be able to transfer patients directly to emergency rooms.

These new polling results are welcome addition to the ongoing national debate over sanctity of life issues. While there is probably more polling data on abortion than any other public policy issue – many specific abortion policy questions have often received little attention from pollsters or survey research firms. …

This October, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear June Medical Services v. Gee,  a case involving the constitutionality of a Louisiana law which requires that any doctor performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. This will certainly increase the salience of health and safety regulations for abortion clinics in the coming months.

Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that Supreme Court decisions about morality policy issues are often sensitive to public attitudes. As such, AUL should be commended for commissioning this poll, which demonstrates that regulations of abortion clinics enjoy widespread public support.

We want to continue to do more polling like this, if for no other reason that the importance of documenting American attitudes on this issue—regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court ends up ruling in June Medical Services v. Gee next year.

State-level purity tests

Noah Brandt writes on the decision of the Democratic Attorneys General Association to make abortion on demand a litmus test for any future endorsements:

President Donald Trump likes to say he’s going to win so much, you’ll get tired of winning. Maybe Democrats have taken the president too literally.

The Democratic Attorneys General Association is leading the charge to excise all abortion moderates from the good graces of the party. It announced it will not endorse or assist any candidates who do not support unfettered abortion access.

While state AGs may not seem incredibly relevant, they are an important stepping stone toward governors’ mansions in many states. So, considering the Democrats’ weak bench for plausible candidates in red states, the decision not to compete for attorney general is significant. That is what national Democrats are doing by supporting only abortion absolutists in pro-life states — they are deciding not to compete. …

Consider this state-level purity test in light of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ recent reelection. In a time of increasing state polarization, it should have been a huge victory for the Democrats to retain the governor’s mansion in ruby-red Louisiana. But it wasn’t the Democratic Party that ultimately secured Edwards’ reelection.

What makes Edwards different from the sea of losing Democratic nominees in a myriad of red states? It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure it out. He won on the strength of his abortion position.

Edwards was running against a well-funded, if somewhat uninspiring, Republican challenger. Edwards won a tough race, exceeding expectations and clearly illustrating how a Democrat can win in a challenging atmosphere. And he did so by defying what is now the litmus test of another official organ of his party.

The imposition of this state-level purity tests for Democrats ensures that the national party will become less representative of American attitudes in many states. It will contribute to a growing rift between the roughly two-thirds of states that are broadly pro-life and the remaining states which aren’t simply permissive of practices that most Americans view as extreme, but are increasingly moving to enshrine as a publicly-funded right. Why would the Democratic Party want fewer leaders like Gov. John Bel Edwards in states they would otherwise certainly lose?

Americans want abortion clinics held to same medical standards as hospitals

Earlier this year we commissioned an Americans United for Life/YouGov national poll in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signing late-term abortion into law in New York, and we found that a supermajority of self-identified pro-choice Americans oppose New York-style late-term abortion.

And earlier this month we released another Americans United for Life/YouGov national poll in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to consider Louisiana’s Democratic-sponsored 2014 “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act,” which ensures that no woman can be abandoned by an abortion practitioner, and that when a woman’s life is threatened from complications arising from an abortion, emergency transfer laws will ensure her access to life-saving medical care. Madeline Fry puts this issue into context:

For some abortion supporters, regulations that require certain medical standards from abortion clinics are a trap — literally, a TRAP: targeted regulation of abortion providers.

Included among this supposed scheme are laws requiring abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. A paper in the American Public Health Association calls them “stringent” and “medically unnecessary.”

Yet a majority of Americans aren’t buying it. The pro-life organization Americans United for Life commissioned a poll by YouGov, a non-partisan polling firm, which surveyed more than 1,300 adults last month to ask them about these medical standards.

What did we find? We found that supermajorities of Americans supporting common sense life-affirming law and policy:

  • A vast majority of Americans (78.2%) believe that physicians performing abortions should be able to transfer women who experience complications directly to the emergency room;
  • 70% agree that abortion facilities should be held to the same medical standards as any ordinary hospital;
  • 73.8% support states being able to pass safeguards that ensure abortion facilities are in compliance with basic medical practices and sanitation;
  • Three out of four Americans agree that abortion doctors should be held to the same medical standards as ordinary physicians; and
  • Of those surveyed, 43.3% were self-identified pro-choice, 35.5% were pro-life, and 23.9% were neither.

We also spoke with Alexandra DeSanctis on “Life, Liberty, and Law” about the AUL/YouGov poll and SCOTUS as we look ahead to 2020 and its planned hearing of oral arguments in late winter.

Peter Singer and friendship

Charlie Camosy writes on his relationship with Peter Singer, Princeton’s infamous analytic philosopher:

I saw that, even if Singer was a committed atheist, he had a lot of common ground with Catholic social teaching, Thomas Aquinas, the church fathers and Jesus himself. More surprising to me, I began to find his views on abortion and euthanasia more interesting.

Though I considered him clearly wrong about moral status and who counts as a person, he was wrong in interesting and informative ways. And, again, he was one of the few in his camp who was willing to follow his arguments wherever they led him — even if it was to a deeply uncomfortable place.

After I arrived in my current place at Fordham University, I began to think about a book project exploring Singer’s work, which would eventually become “Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization.” …

We have never papered over our differences. Indeed, as one does when one is an analytic philosopher, he honored our friendship by inviting me to debate him in various places, from his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, to his classroom at Princeton. …

As I reflect back on our 10 years of friendship, I’ve come to realize that, especially in our current context, Singer’s significance arises from his unwavering commitment to facts and arguments. Despite decades of attempts to “cancel” him (an audience member once leapt on stage, ripped off his glasses and smashed them with his foot), Singer refuses to bend to the temptation to use raw power to marginalize those with whom he disagrees.

His approach is the only way out of our current mess of a public discourse. Indeed, as far as I can tell, it is the only way to give the vulnerable and marginalized a shot at having their point of view taken seriously by those who hold power over them.

I spoke with Charlie a few weeks ago, and we touched on Singer and the value he had as one of the rare opponents of the human right to life who was willing to “follow the logic” where it leads. When Singer advocates for lawful infanticide and other barbaric practices, he’s following the logic of a culture that rejects human dignity as innate. And at least to the degree that he’s being honest with where the logic of that attitude toward human life leads, we should be grateful for his willingness to say what others will not say.

Charlie’s friendship with Peter Singer is instructive in another way, too. Without instrumentalizing friendships, it bears keeping in mind that only through friendship can we hope to soften or change another’s heart.

Procreation v. reproduction

Agnes Howard writes on “moral labor” in First Things, in a piece that’s of evergreen value:

There are conflicting Christian opinions on childbearing. But a good place to begin is with the idea of procreation. It is an archaic-sounding word, and though sometimes made to stand in as a synonym for “reproduction,” there are crucial differences between the two. Reproduction depends on industrial and mechanical metaphors, making copies of the human species. In contrast, procreation roots sexuality and childbearing deeply within two relations: that of the man and woman, and that between the couple and God. In the first, the sexual embrace of husband and wife opens them to receive a child. In the second, procreation places human intimacy in the context of a divine work, with husband and wife as co-workers alongside God in the creation of a unique human soul.

While procreation implicitly defines the whole process from conception to birth, most often the word is used particularly for the parents’ physical union. Given the profundity and physical character of pregnancy, though, a woman’s continuing efforts to nurture a fetus should also be described as a moral act, her cooperation with God in bringing forth life. Indeed, the woman is particularly burdened and particularly honored in the process. She is the first to witness the creation of the new human being, never before introduced to the created order but present in her. “God creates the soul of the new child in her body,” Alice von Hildebrand writes of this maternal privilege. “This implies a direct ‘contact’ between Him and the mother-to-be, a contact in which the father plays no role whatever.” …

The transformation of our embryology has immense implications for human experience, but a reductive scientism should not have the first and last words in describing human life. A sperm-meets-egg-makes-cluster-of-cells narrative is inadequate to explain our origins: not false, only not sufficient. As Pope John Paul II emphasized in his 1994 Letter to Families, “Man’s coming into being does not conform to the laws of biology alone, but also, and directly, to God’s creative will, which is concerned with the genealogy of the sons and daughters of human families.” Our aim should not be to reclaim folk beliefs about how babies are made, but given the biological and clinical frameworks of maternity today, return to philosophy and theology to help describe the import of what we are doing.

The knowledge (and self-knowledge) imparted by medicine alters the way women view and live pregnancy. Even before that knowledge informs action, it is morally significant. Human gestation resembles the same process in other mammals except for this distinction: We are very much aware of it and we, in some measure, understand what is happening. Carrying a baby is a conscious act. …

What medicine reveals about the mechanics of gestation, rather than stressing woman’s passivity, instead allows us to see pregnancy as a moral act. “Feeling fine, just tired,” a mother-to-be might politely answer when asked how she is doing. Just tired: bone-tired, spent as though having performed a strenuous task. A mother is doing something strenuous, not “making” a baby directly, like hammering out a shape in a forge, but growing tissue, crafting a placenta, carrying weight.

Pregnancy is not just waiting but real work. Exactly what kind of work is it? Terms offered by the market are not much help: It is not evaluated like salaried tasks, and phrases like “maternity leave” construe the event as though it were vacation or hiatus from meaningful employment. We might better avail ourselves of theological categories to help make sense of women’s labor in this phase of procreation: Hospitality describes the mother as welcoming a needy guest, self-denial honors the pains and costs of that nurture, and stewardship observes the boundaries of her agency in respecting Providence.

Scripture and the early Church enjoined hospitality as a duty, and St. Benedict commended it in his Rule. Believers were to extend kindness, such as the acts of charity itemized in Matthew 25, to strangers as though to the Lord himself: “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” An expectant mother welcomes and serves a child as a stranger. Ultrasound pictures notwithstanding, the fetus is a person she does not yet know but whom she is uniquely qualified to help. Doctors may not encourage “eating for two” any more, but an expectant woman comes to live as two. Her whole being is stretched to accommodate another person. Her body, clothing, time, rest, and food are shared, and the most intimate areas of life reflect the presence of another person. Consider those notorious food cravings. Women develop aversions to edibles formerly counted as favorites, or desires for things normally detested, or for great quantities or in strange combinations—as in the venerable jokes about pickles and ice cream. These cravings point to something fundamental about pregnancy. Wanting something you usually do not like attests to this: You are not yourself. At least, you are not only yourself. You are acting on behalf of someone else, wittingly and unwittingly.

We devalue when we reduce human life and human experience to only its biological aspect, as if we are not ethical and moral creatures. Agnes’s piece helps recover a richer sense of ourselves as moral agents—as father and mother—at the same time that she helps make the distinction between our reproductive and procreative powers clearer.

Abortion before the court

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider the issue of abortion for the first time in three years:

The U.S. Supreme announced today that it will hear the petition filed by June Medical Services, a Louisiana abortion business, and the cross-petition filed by the State of Louisiana. The cases provide the Court with the first opportunity to speak to the abortion issue since the Hellerstedt decision three years ago, and potentially the continued viability of the constitutional right to abortion announced in Roe v. Wade (1973) and affirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).

“Americans United for Life welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to review both the commonsense Louisiana admitting privileges law and the legal question whether an abortionist should be able to stand in the shoes of his patients to challenge a medical requirement that is designed to protect them from him,” said AUL’s President, Catherine Glenn Foster. “Louisiana’s long and sordid history of dirty and dangerous abortion businesses being shuttered one by one in order to protect women from fly-by-night and dangerous abortionists should tell the Court all it needs to know, both about the legal benefits of this law and the dubious right of abortionists to sue to overturn laws designed to protect their own patients.”

June Medical’s petition seeks review of the constitutionality of a Louisiana law requiring all abortion doctors to have admitting privileges – the ability to directly admit a patient from the abortion clinic into a nearby hospital when emergencies arise – within thirty miles of their abortion facility. The U.S. Supreme Court held a similar Texas provision unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016, but did not rule on the overall validity of such provisions. Louisiana now argues that since its admitting privileges law would leave abortion centers open in both population centers in the state, it does not create an “undue burden” on abortion access in Louisiana in violation of Casey.

Abortion law has been a mess for decades. We’ll see how things look in 6-9 months.

‘Life begins with breath’

Clarke Forsythe writes on Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s attempt to hand-wave away the issue of abortion by, of all things, invoking the Bible:

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg appeals to Scripture to defend his opposition to restrictions on abortion. “There’s a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath,” he told a radio audience Sept. 5, adding that no matter what anyone thinks about “the kind of cosmic question of where life begins,” it ought to be up to “the woman making the decision.” …

Mr. Buttigieg’s religious musings obscure that America’s legal tradition—going back to the English common law—has long protected unborn children to the greatest extent possible given existing medical understanding. As Justice James Wilson noted in the 1790s, “With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life, from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction but from every degree of actual violence, and, in some cases, from every degree of danger.”

Rulings from as long ago as the 17th century show that English common law prohibited abortion at the earliest point that medicine could detect that a developing human was alive (the stethoscope wasn’t invented until 1816). English and American law subsequently prohibited abortion at earlier points during pregnancy, as medical understanding and technology allowed.

We know scientifically when human life begins—when the process of human development starts. What we need is the ethical and legal and judicial courage to protect human life comprehensively based on what we know to be true—and based on what is consistent with our own social/moral tradition as Clarke outlines it.

Roe and abortion in American life

Catherine Glenn Foster, President & CEO of Americans United for Life, appeared at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia tonight.

I left Washington mid-afternoon and caught a train from Union Station to Philadelphia to be there for the hour-long conversation—ostensibly about Roe v. Wade, but in fact about whether abortion represents a public good, and whether the Supreme Court should be made to preserve abortion as America’s most controversial public policy.

It’s worth watching as an introduction to two diametrically opposed factions in American life: one faction that ignores the scientific and embryological facts concerning what abortion itself is and does and is concerned with its utility as an alleged means of empowerment, and the second faction which views abortion as fundamentally incompatible with the constitutional human right to life as much as it is incompatible with justice and equality.

I was disappointed by how much politics and elections drove the conversation among the former faction, and was encouraged that Catherine Glenn Foster was able to move the conversation toward the more important teleological questions behind abortion-as-public-policy.

Unreasonable foreign assistance

Lauretta Brown of National Catholic Register reports on the increasing push amongst Democrats to make it a priority for American tax dollars to fund optional, non-medically indicated abortions for foreign nations. I’m quoted in the piece:

As the 2020 Democratic presidential race heats up, many of the candidates have called for the repeal of a long-standing ban on the use of U.S. taxpayer funds for abortion overseas.

Seven of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates recently confirmed their opposition to the Helms Amendment, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, author Marianne Williamson and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

Permitting taxpayer dollars to fund abortions overseas also was included recently on the wish list of a coalition of abortion groups and was added to the Democratic Party platform in 2016.

The Helms Amendment, named for its author, the late Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., says that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” It was enacted as a permanent amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1973 shortly after abortion was legalized in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. …

Tom Shakely, the chief engagement officer at Americans United for Life, agreed, telling the Register that the 2020 Democrats were making an extreme break against long-established bipartisan bans on taxpayer-funded abortion.

“When Roe was imposed on America in 1973 by seven men on the U.S. Supreme Court, elected officials responded by making clear that no American taxpayer would be expected to fund abortion overseas and that no taxpayer dollars could be used to either coerce or motivate anyone to perform abortions overseas,” he emphasized. “That’s what the simple, commonsense Helms Amendment makes clear.”

“It has been the American consensus for nearly a half-century, and it’s a sign of the needless extremism of our time that some politicians believe that trashing the Helms Amendment and spending precious American tax dollars to promote abortion internationally makes any fiscal or ethical sense,” he said.

Reasonable foreign assistance can take many forms, but never abortion or other forms of violence or encouraged self-harm.