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Youth Protecting Youth: A reflection of “SLED”

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by ypyinfoofficer. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

SLED

When you click on the heading “Why Abortion is Wrong” on the menu bar of Youth Protecting Youth’s website, these words appear on your computer screen:

During an abortion, the life of a fetus or embryo is ended – that much is universally agreed upon. This is euphemistically referred to as ending the pregnancy. Abortion is wrong because fetuses and embryos are innocent human beings, and killing human beings is wrong because all human beings, born and unborn, have inherent value and dignity.

This section of the blog (one of our most-read) was included because we decided that online visitors who don’t have time to read more (or aren’t inclined to do so) should have access to a quick, very simplified pro-life position statement.[1]

We have been including pro-life explanation pieces over time to make the blog into better pro-life information source. But because many other resources (some of which can be found on the side-bar under “Pro-Life Apologetics Resources,[2]“) do a fine job of speaking in defense of the pro-life position, we offer unique perspectives that may be specially relevant to UVic students and community members while trying to summarize concepts, instead of re-inventing the wheel – or the sled:

The acronym “SLED” was invented[3] to describe the characteristics that distinguish unborn from born humans: size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. If one accepts that humans are valuable and worthy of protection, then considering that these are the only differences between the born and the unborn and that these characteristics continue to change throughout someone’s entire life should lead to the conclusion that abortion is wrong.

Size

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.[4]” The elephant in Dr. Seuss’ famous book recognized the worth of some very small beings, but Horton’s antagonists weren’t used to acknowledging very small beings, and they forgot something about Whos that applies equally well to us: The value of human beings is independent of size.

This sounds obvious when stated so bluntly. It also seems obvious when we compare born people to one another: a newborn is no less valuable than an adult despite being smaller, and Steve Nash is no less valuable than the other Phoenix Suns players despite being shorter. Actually, having been named MVP twice, might he be even more valuable than they are? Does Steve Nash’s value as a person depend on his basketball skills? The next section will help to answer that question.

Level of Development:

Third-year engineering students are further developed in knowledge and ability than first-year engineering students[5], but this doesn’t make the third-years more valuable as human beings. Toddlers are much less developed than teenagers, but we don’t treat toddlers as any less human.

All humans are of equal worth, regardless of their respective levels of development. The lack of brain activity or absence of a heartbeat at certain stages of development don’t disqualify unborn children from being persons worthy of protection. Nor does their lack of life experience. If we were to conclude that these things do make a difference, we would have to concede that human worth varies according to ability and development, and we only achieve our full worth (which would be less than the worth of people with more ability, according to this philosophy) when we arrive at adulthood. Steve Nash may be a better basketball player, but you and I are just as valuable as he.

Environment:

Pro-lifers make the assertion that someone’s location doesn’t determine his or her value. Like the size argument, this is also obvious when stated explicitly: I’m not made any more or less valuable as a person when I come into the SUB from a Frisbee game on the Quad. But I guess sitting in the SUB does put me at the mercy of the UVSS’ maintenance contractors; if they choose to ignore sprinkler system upkeep and there is a fire, I might perish. Should they have a responsibility to protect me or is my life no longer worthy of protection, since I’m now dependent on them?

Degree of Dependency:

Of course, the UVSS’ maintenance people have a responsibility to uphold my right to life when I’m in the SUB by maintaining its sprinkler system. A toddler is more dependent on his or her parents than a teenager, but that doesn’t make a difference to the human value of either one – the toddler should be protected simply because of his or her humanity. A newborn is entirely dependent on his or her parents for survival, and they are responsible for the life of their newborn, and the situation is the same for the unborn. For more information on how the degree of dependence of the unborn doesn’t nullify their right to life, see this video[6].

From these four points, we see that human value is not a function of development, dependency, size or location. Rather, it is an immeasurable constant that is equal for humans of all colours, creeds, religions and races.


[1] For the more thorough learner, the hyperlinks on that same page lead to more information.

[2] Side note: Because of its Greek root, the word “apologetics” can be mistakenly seen to connote remorse. Apologetics means “speaking in defense,” not “apologizing.”

[3] Stephen Schwarz in “The Moral Question of Abortion” (Loyola University Press, 1990, p. 17.)

[4] From Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!

[5] If ever in doubt about this, just ask any third-year engineering student.

[6][6] Toward the end of this video is a brief section that is graphic in nature; it shows the results of abortion.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: YPY Member Interviewed on “The Koala Bear Writer”

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by ypyinfoofficer. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

As part of National Sanctity of Life month, Youth Protecting Youth’s current vice-president, Catherine Shenton, was interviewed by Bonnie Way, writer of the Koala Bear Writer blog. In the interview, Catherine shared some of her experiences from working in the pro-life field, as well as gives some insight into what YPY does on the campus of UVic. The interview can be read here.

Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Abort73.com – a website for exploring the issue of abortion

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by ypyinfoofficer. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

    

Abort73.com

 Honoured by a Webby Award for excellence on the internet (the Grammy’s of website design), Abort73.com exists to provide the reader with an engaging abortion education. Including abortion facts and statistics from around the world, and easy-to-read articles on topics ranging from the philosophical question of personhood, to frequently asked questions and common objections, to the controversial debate on stem cell research, Abort73 has something for everyone. The site’s page on prenatal development features a clear photographic timeline of a human’s development from conception to birth, a real-time video of an embryo moving its arms around in the womb only eight weeks after conception, and excerpts from various embryology textbooks. Abort73.com is updated frequently and openly welcomes your feedback. Check it out; but be warned-you might learn something you’ll never forget.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Latimer granted full parole

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by ypyinfoofficer. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Robert Latimer, who killed his daughter Tracy in 1993, has been granted full parole. Tracy had cerebral palsy. Here is a reflection from Rebecca Richmond of NCLN on the matter, pointing out that while cerebral palsy made Tracy’s life more difficult, it did not make her life any less valuable:

“The headline of the CBC article jumped out at me this morning, bringing with it many memories and a good deal of anger.  I was only 6 when Robert Latimer killed his daughter Tracy, who was 12 years old at the time.  I recall my mother’s fury and the letter-writing campaign she helped organize to inform politicians of the significance of this issue.  When I was a bit older and Latimer was appealing his sentence at the Supreme Court, I joined her efforts.  The leniency shown towards Latimer angered me then, and angers me now.  Yet what concerns me even more is the absence of condemnation of his actions on the part of the general public.

Consider the reaction to the murder of Karissa Boudreau, strangled to death by her own mother Penny.  Public outrage was enormous and the judge who ruled on the case told Penny, “You can never call yourself mother.”

Yet, if you read the comments posted on today’s article with news of Latimer’s full parole, you will see an entirely different reaction: Latimer is welcomed back, called a hero, and even suggested as a Member of Parliament because of his ‘integrity’.  It seems to me that the only thing more horrific than a father killing his daughter and calling it “love” is having the general public sympathize and support that father.

Growing up, I knew a young man with cerebral palsy.  The doctors said he would never walk or communicate.  Well, he proved those doctors wrong.  Life was difficult for his family and for him, yet his value was no less.  And as we grew up with him at school, we were taught that love meant sacrificing a bit of ourselves.  We took turns spending lunch hours with him.  We started learning sign language to better communicate with him.  Eventually the rest of the class moved ahead in grades, we moved into a different wing of the school and eventually to a different school.  But I don’t think we’ll ever forget our time with him, the wide smiles he gave us and the laughter that we shared.  He enriched our lives and made us better people.

I don’t doubt that life was difficult for Tracy and difficult for her parents, who struggled to see her suffer.  But how do we measure and quantify suffering?  Tracy was described as a generally cheerful girl who loved music and visits to the circus.  I’ve known people – with no physical pain – whose suffering was so deep they could not even smile.  Yet their right to life was never questioned.  So why is it that shooting a severely depressed teenage daughter, for example, would outrage the public while gassing Tracy, a cheerful 12 year old with cerebral palsy, is considered compassionate?

Tracy did not have the same capabilities as many of us.  She lived her life differently and was quite vulnerable, vulnerability her father took advantage of.  Her dependence and her simple mental state do not give us, however, any special right to determine her life’s value and whether or not we will care for her or kill her.

The reality is that love involves sacrifice and it means suffering alongside those we love.  And no matter how we spin the story, it never means killing.

For more background, see the Lifesitenews article here.”


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Reflection on support for mothers

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by ypyinfoofficer. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

An article recently appeared on Fox News, reporting on an organization called Students for Life of America investigating the University of North Carolina’s student health plan. Another organization known as Feminists for Life also offered its reflection on the UNC health plan and the actions of Students for Life of America. In their reflection, Feminists for Life president, Serrin Foster, points out that “the issue is not just the school’s insurance coverage”, but that “it is also common for students to have no maternity coverage in their health insurance” In other words, not only is it a sad reality that abortion is covered by many student health care plans and health packages offered by employers in both the United States and Canada, but there is also commonly very little support for student mothers in general, such as no maternity coverage for students in the health insurance plans. In British Columbia, all abortions are tax-funded. According to the University of Victoria’s Housing website, there are 181 housing units designated as “Family Housing Units” with reasonable rent costs, although in order to be eligible, parents must be taking a full load of courses. In addition, it is recommended that mothers apply a year in advance due to the high demand for these units. The reality for many women is that the prospect of no health insurance coverage and minimal financial support services to help off-set the cost of raising a child can be a significant factor in pushing a woman to decide to abort her child. Women who are pregnant should feel that they have the support to be able to give birth to and raise a child while still being able to pursue her education. As a society, we need to better support women in this regard. Women need to know that there are services and support available to help them to choose life for their child, rather than feeling that abortion is the only option.

 In the meantime, we are very excited to announce that Youth Protecting Youth will be offering an annual bursary for single mothers on campus. This bursary exists to support mothers and help enable them to pursue a university education while still supporting a child.  This bursary can be applied for by completing a General Bursary Application. We hope that this bursary will be a building block in the effort to change the culture and the way society views children in the context of education. It can never be acceptable to kill a born child for the reason that the child would interfere with the education of the parents. We will continue to work towards the day when this will also be true for the pre-born child. For more information about services in the Victoria area, see the “Need Help” section of the YPY blog.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Carleton Lifeline Aftermath

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by ypyinfoofficer. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Earlier in the term, we reported on an event at Carleton University, in which 5 students were arrested for trespassing while attempting a peaceful pro-life display on campus. That post can be found here. Since then, a number of further events have occurred as a result. The club had it’s club status and funding revoked by the Carleton University Students Association (CUSA), resulting from a disagreement over statements in the club’s Constitution. A series of letters have been sent back and forth between the CUSA and Carleton Lifeline, which can be found at the Carleton Lifeline blog. Most recently, Carleton Lifeline has threatened to take legal action against the CUSA regarding the de-certification of Carleton Lifeline and the manner in which it was done. A press release regarding this matter can be found here. Youth Protecting Youth stands in solidarity with Carleton Lifeline and will continue to oppose discrimination based on political and ideological values.


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Compassion and Choices

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by ypyinfoofficer. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Compassion and Choices is an American organization dedicated to improving care and expanding choice at the end of life.

Dying with Dignity is a similar organization based in Canada, and is dedicated to improving the quality of dying and to expanding end of life choices in Canada. They declare themselves to be “Canadians’ voice for choice at the end of life.”

Better care, increased choices, and dying a dignified death – these are things we all want in our old age. But words can be misleading. Both of these organizations maintain that end of life choices must include physician assisted suicide (PAS), an option they define as a “compassionate choice”.

But what does true compassion entail? Is PAS really a compassionate choice that upholds a person’s dignity?

In April 2010, 74% of the Canadian Parliament voted against legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Soon after the vote, the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care (PCPCC) was created, a committee that is “dedicated to promoting awareness of, fostering substantive research and constructive dialogue on palliative and compassionate care in Canada.”

This past Tuesday, November 9th, the committee held a hearing in Victoria which featured multiple presenters speaking on elder abuse and the need to change our current medical framework to provide better care for the elderly. All the speakers had a passion for building a better health care system to support our aging population.

One of the most pressing questions to be answered was: should this system include euthanasia or physician assisted suicide (PAS)? Many speakers saw a potential need for PAS, but “not yet”: we must first build a better palliative care system, and then assess the need for PAS down the road. We must note the difference between euthanasia and PAS. Euthanasia is defined as when one person, usually a medical professional, directly and intentionally ends the life of individual. Assisted suicide is defined as the aiding, abating, or encouraging by an individual to another individual such that the victim is able to end their own life.

According to Wanda Morris, a spokesperson for Dying with Dignity, compassionate care must include PAS, and ensuring this choice is available is the fundamental principle in providing a person with a dignified death.  Let us look to see what this compassionate choice really involves before we succumb to this deceptive use of “choice” and “compassion”.

Organizations that advocate for legalizing PAS state that end of life decisions are a matter of autonomy, and “the only way that every person can be assured of [their] dignity is through legally protected choice.” But our autonomy and dignity is not solely dependent on our ability to make choices. If this were the case, then any request to die would have to be respected, including ones from people who are close to death, and ones based on momentary feelings or clinical depression. Therefore those who are not terminally ill would have to be allowed to choose to die. What then would stop a teenager from making the legally protected choice to have assistance in ending their life when they are depressed after a bad break up? Would we call it compassion that allowed that individual to be killed and not counselled? 

If such actions are justified merely because one must be allowed to exercise their autonomy in making a choice, who then will have the authority to draw the line and say that some choices are wrong? Under the illusion of “choice” we would be creating a society that legally allows individuals to harm themselves or other human beings.

And does the power to make these choices reside solely with the patient, or will outside influences affect the decision made? Whether intentionally or subconsciously, pressure may be placed on those who are ill, disabled, or elderly, influencing their choice on whether or not to further burden their family or health care system. Studies reveal that where euthanasia and PAS are legal there have been abuses, and people have not been cared for appropriately.

A recent study [i]regarding euthanasia practice in Belgium found that 66 of 208 euthanasia deaths were performed without explicit request or consent. Is this compassionate? None of these people had a choice in their premature death.

In Oregon in 2007, 49 people[ii] were reported to have died by assisted suicide. None of these people were offered a psychological or psychiatric assessment. Furthermore, a study[iii] published in October 2008 showed that 26% of people requesting assisted suicide were depressed or experiencing feelings of hopelessness. Is society showing these people compassion by allowing them complete access to death, or would it be more compassionate to give them life-affirming options that reveal their dignity is not dependant solely on their choices?

One of the principal precepts of medical ethics is, first, do no harm.” The majority of society adheres to this principle, and agrees that intentionally killing is wrong. But when the killing is disguised with terms such as “choice”, “dignity”, and even “compassion,” people lose sight of the tragic reality of the deed being done.  True autonomy is an essential component of human dignity, but it does not include the freedom to do harm.

Dignity can only be affirmed, realized, and answered through true compassion. This compassion recognizes and instils the beauty and inherent value of life in those who have forgotten it, or who have been otherwise convinced that their lives no longer possess it. True compassion must include better palliative care for the dying; this is something all the speakers wanted, as do Canadians.

In a recent Environics group survey[iv] , 71% of the respondents stated that the government needs to place a greater priority on improving palliative care rather than legalizing euthanasia. In addition the study found that support of legalized euthanasia is decreasing.  63% of the respondents were afraid that the elderly would feel pressured into being euthanized in order to avoid health care costs, and 78% were afraid that individuals would be euthanized without giving their consent.  As we can see by the studies in Belgium, these abuses can easily turn into a reality.

Is physician assisted suicide a compassionate choice? I would conclude that it is not. We must not get caught up in the euphemistic terms of “choice” and “compassion”. People who kill themselves or have others do so in order to gain a “dignified” death have in fact lost their sense of dignity and self worth. The dignity of a human being is not dependent on our state of pain or level of ability. Dignity is something that is inherent to all people, and the only way to affirm it is not to kill the sufferer, but rather to support and protect the individual by providing life-giving, compassionate choices, and doing our best to alleviate their suffering. A society that kills the most vulnerable in our society, the frail, suffering, and lonely, effectively confirms these people’s thoughts that their life is no longer worth living; such a society shows itself to be uncompassionate.


[i] Kenneth, C., et al (2010). Physician-assisted deaths under the euthanasia law in Belgium: a population-based survey. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 182 (9).

[ii] Oregon`s Death with Dignity Act- 2007. Death with Dignity Act. http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/docs/year10.pdf

[iii] BMJ-British Medical Journal (2008). Assisted Suicide Laws May Overlook Depressed Patients. ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/10/081007192534.htm

[iv] Environics group (2010). Canadians’ Attitudes Towards Euthanasia.  http://www.lifecanada.org/html/resources/polling/2010_Environics_Report-Euthanasia_Eng.pdf


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Nazis?

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by ypyinfoofficer. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

On Tuesday, October 26th, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) will host a speaker from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR) who will compare abortion to genocide.

YPY held a debate last October which also featured a member of CCBR. The debate included discussion surrounding abortion and graphic media showing it, and was difficult to watch. Outrage, conflict and controversy accompanied the event, and YPY’s club status was revoked (it has since been reinstated[1]). But subjecting oneself to such controversial views and unpleasant material is important because this inflammatory comparison is worthy of critical, reasoned academic consideration.

Exploring emotional responses to vocabulary is a good place to begin. The ability to talk about things constructively is affected by individual emotional responses to them. For example, words like “Nazi,” “genocide” and “abortion” appearing so closely after one another may elicit emotional responses that can blind people to the content of a message and prevent critical consideration. Different ideas about the words’ meanings can also prevent a reasoned exchange; the words “Nazi” and “genocide” are associated with universally deplored, horrible situations involving large loss of life, but we can’t immediately understand the subtleties of what is (or isn’t) implied by their use unless we continue listening. Looking beyond the words and the distress they cause enables deeper investigation of the ideas they attempt to describe.

When someone refers to genocide, it is often assumed that because the speaker is describing a terrible crime against humanity, he or she is implying that its perpetrators are pure evil. That isn’t always the case; genocide is simply a word, coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin as a tool of language to describe the Holocaust. It has undergone minor changes in meaning[2] but it is well-described as the intent to destroy an identifiable group systematically. The use of the term “genocide” doesn’t immediately imply that its perpetrators are extraordinarily terrible people. Indeed, those involved in it are usually normal people:

In the 1960s, researchers at the University of Yale carried out a now-famous set of experiments to test the effect of authority on people’s consciences and decision-making. The experimental psychologist, Stanley Milgram, explains:

In the basic experimental designs two people come to a psychology laboratory to take part in a study of memory and learning. One of them is designated a “teacher” and the other a “learner.” The experimenter explains that the study is concerned with the effects of punishment on learning. The learner is conducted into a room, seated in a kind of miniature electric chair, his arms are strapped to prevent excessive movement, and an electrode is attached to his wrist. He is told that he will be read lists of simple word pairs, and that he will then be tested on his ability to remember the second word of a pair when he hears the first one again. Whenever he makes an error, he will receive electric shocks of increasing intensity…

The teacher is a genuinely naive subject who has come to the laboratory for the experiment. The learner, or victim, is actually an actor who receives no shock at all. The point of the experiment is to see how far a person will proceed in a concrete and measurable situation in which he is ordered to inflict increasing pain on a protesting victim.

The results of the experiment are well-known. Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, the majority of subjects continued to administer shocks right up to the supposed maximum voltage, by which time the “learner” had ceased screaming in agony and was silent as if unconscious.

The ethics of doing this research were contested, but the results were even more controversial. The experiment, carried out shortly after WWII, was conducted with German citizens’ submission to Nazi authority (and American citizens’ susceptibility to similar coercion) specifically in mind. Milgram states:

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.[3]

In conclusion, the perpetrators of genocide need not be evil incarnate – coercion and the reassurance of being in accord with authority alone are enough to suppress most consciences. When women are confronted with an unplanned pregnancy, they can be coerced into choosing abortion by society’s failure to support them. They can be reassured about its legality and safety by practitioners, who are medical authorities. Having been deceived and possesing no malignant intent, they fall prey to promptings to abort in the same way that the “teachers” of Milgrams experiment relinquished responsibility for their actions and cached in their consciences when put under pressure.[4]

Pointing this out isn’t meant to excuse genocide. Nor does YPY condone abortion. It is meant to show that comparing abortion to genocide doesn’t necessarily involve condemning the women who choose it.  Indeed, it shouldn’t; YPY doesn’t believe in condemning people. A crucial distinction must be made between condemning actions and condemning people, and recognizing this distinction is central to being pro-life.[5]

An echo resembles its origin but remains distinct. Many similarities exist between abortion and widely recognized instances of genocide, as do some differences. These can be brought forth and examined critically – in the spirit of inquiry that is so important at university – if there is room for compassion and careful understanding of language and ideas. At this year’s fall presentation, these similarities will be explained and their substance revealed. Take action to consider the urgent consequences for our society if such comparisons do have merit, and make an informed decision by attending “Echoes of the Holocaust” and preparing for the question period that will follow.

Presentation will take place Tuesday, October 26th at 5:30 pm in the Bob Wright Centre: SCI B150.


[1] http://youthprotectingyouth.com/2010/07/19/uvic-pro-life-students-settle-out-of-court/

[2] http://www.unmaskingchoice.ca/genocide.html

[3] Milgram, Stanley. (1974), “The Perils of Obedience.” Harper’s Magazine. Abridged and adapted from Obedience to Authority.

[4] It is worth pointing out that YPY believes men to be just as vulnerable to the destructive forces described above as women are. The pressures that society puts on women in such situations are immense, and attempting to sympathize about the anguish of these women doesn’t presume them to be weak or incapable of choosing life.

[5] http://youthprotectingyouth.com/help-for-crisis-pregnancy/


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.