“My Decision” but only if you’re pro-choice

Dr Bernard Nathanson
Dr Bernard Nathanson, one of the founders of NARAL and ex-abortionist holds my first-born at a pro-life conference in Auckland, New Zealand.

On Sunday, ALRANZ launched a new website “My Decision” which aims to intimidate and bully pro-life doctors through naming them and publishing women’s stories about their experiences with “hostile or unhelpful health professionals”.

Through the website ALRANZ wants to take options away from women by publishing the names of these individuals and organisations.  By doing this, it is being inferred that they are archaic, putting their own beliefs over and above good medicine, good science.  But these pro-life health professionals and crisis pregnancy centres are being honest, not only about their beliefs, but the science and medical evidence which shows that human life begins at the moment of fertilization and that some so-called contraceptives are abortifacient.

The irony of the site has not gone unnoticed.  Somehow, in the mixed up world of  “choice” every woman is free to make their own decision regarding “her body” as long as she embraces pro-choice rhetoric.

If she suffers after her abortion – it couldn’t be possible.

If she realises the reality of her decision to abort her child and then speaks out – she must be silenced.

If she approaches a pro-life doctor or a crisis pregnancy centre for help and support – she’s been sucked in to a world of lies and deceit and has been coerced into bringing her preborn child to birth.

If she chooses Natural Fertility methods over artificial birth control and abortifacients – she is seriously backward, and brainwashed by those religious zealots.

ALRANZ says that women must be able to access “reproductive health services” as a right.  They say this because it is critical to the religion of CHOICE.

But what about those of us who are pro-life and want to make our own decisions?

For us real choice does not exist.

It’s pretty hard for the average person to find out which medical professionals are directly involved in abortion in New Zealand.  In 2012, Southlanders for Life attempted to find out which practitioners were working at the newly opened Southland Hospital abortion facility.  ALRANZ were quick to say that this was a “dangerous bullying tactic”.

I think we could use the same words to describe the “My Decision” site.

And how’s this for pro-choice bullying?

I have given birth to seven children.  Each of their births were very difficult and six of my pregnancies were deemed high risk, complicated by gestational diabetes, occasional cholestasis of pregnancy and repeat cesarean sections.

Immediately after the birth of our third child the surgeon told me never to have another child.

Each of my last four pregnancies were difficult times – partly because of my health, but mainly from the outside stress from repeatedly being told by midwives and obstetricians that I MUST have a tubal ligation.

When I say repeatedly, I mean over and over again for each of the four pregnancies.  I have heard stories of women being asked once and then that is it.  That never happened to me.

One of my worse experiences was less than 24 hours after the birth of our fifth child.  I was desperately sick.  I had cried the whole way through that first night, trying to care for my newborn daughter while constantly vomiting and being restricted in my movement because of the cesarean section.

That morning,  the lead midwife (not my LMC), who I saw from time to time, came into my hospital room with the lecture that most people would be afraid to hear while well and happy.  In that lecture she told me that next time I would DIE.  My husband was completely irresponsible – and where was he anyway?  (Um looking after four kids at home while he too was unwell)…  Forget my religion – I could get a dispensation from my Bishop… I just HAD to have a tubal ligation… didn’t I get it?  She was RIGHT and I was WRONG.

Tell me where was MY DECISION in that conversation?  This midwife wanted to strip me of MY CHOICE  because I didn’t fit her pro-choice mold of contracepting and limiting my family size to two or three children.

Had I been a weaker person – and believe me it wouldn’t have taken too much more – I would have agreed with her.  I would have signed that bit of paper and been done with it.

That was not the only time I was spoken to like that in regards to having a tubal ligation, although it was the worst experience.  There were many other times – approximately 15 in all.  Most times my request to refuse the tubal ligation was NOT written in my notes, meaning I was asked over and over again.

I was terrified that one day someone would take matters into their own hands and sterilise me anyway.  Lucky for me, tubal ligation can only be performed with a patient’s permission.

I suspect that at times I was cared for by doctors, midwives and others who were involved in abortion and sterilisation.  It goes without saying that all of them prescribed birth control.  How I wish I could have made the CHOICE not to be treated by those who disregard human life on one hand while rejoicing in it on the other.

It’s a great thing that health professionals that promote and protect life in all it’s stages can stay true to their convictions, and do so with the protection of the law.  They should be able to do it without being bullied by those who want to change the rules to suit themselves.

So as ALRANZ harp on about a woman’s right to make her own decision, maybe they would like to consider that sometimes that decision will be for LIFE.  And that is not a bad thing.

Yes, there are women out there that don’t buy the pro-choice rhetoric and will stand up to the intimidation and bullying tactics.  I am proudly one of them.

 

 

 

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The Edges of Life

Grandpa and baby

The edges of life are controversial. On one side there are the debates about contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilisation. At the end of life the debates are about euthanasia, organ transplantation, and its cousin, brain death.

Trauma surgeon Peter Rhee is rewriting the rules on brain death. Normally when we see this, it’s someone wanting to declare people dead sooner so their organs can be harvested for transplantation into other sick patients. Peter Rhee is taking the definition in the other direction.

While Dr Rhee’s name might not be that well known, some of his patients are. He was one of congresswoman Gabby Giffords doctors. Dr Rhee knows about death. He’s a trauma surgeon who has seen mass shooting patients in the United States. He’s also been to Iraq and Afghanistan to save the lives of soldiers, even going behind enemy lines to treat the injured. He’s even been selected as a personal surgeon to the president of the US on an overseas trip.

But it’s patients in the US that might be rewriting the rules on when death occurs. He’s part of a team that’s been experimenting on ‘suspended animation’, to save trauma patients. The team has permission to start human trials on trauma patients who have gone into heart failure and can’t be resuscitated by current techniques. The team will rapidly cool the patient’s body to 10°C (50°F), where metabolic activity slows almost to a stop. In this state, the heart is stopped, there is no breathing, and no detectable brain activity. This would be normally be considered clinical death. But the surgeons have 2 hours to repair their patient’s injuries before slowly warming them up and reviving them. If their prior work holds up in human trials, up to 90% of patients could survive the cooling and rewarming procedure itself.

And that 2 hours is time the surgeons wouldn’t normally have for life saving surgery. This technique will only work if they are able to apply it to the patient in the minutes after heart failure before brain damage starts to take place. Previous work has so far shown no brain damage or impaired function from the cooling and rewarming procedure. The team will be following their patients closely to see if this is also the case in the human trials.

Some of Rhee’s comments on the research and his clinical work are telling, “Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution”.

Dr Rhee is saying that the current definition of death is inadequate and often premature. We often see that definitions of life and death are based on what is convenient. Some organs can only be ‘harvested’ from a ‘dead’ person where there is a heartbeat. Some of these ‘dead’ people have woken on the operating table, moments before their organs were going to be harvested.

Definitions also chip away at the other end of life too. Many medical and legal organisations now define ‘established pregnancy’ as starting at implantation, not conception (fertilisation). Once pregnancy is defined at implantation, and abortion is defined as ending a pregnancy, then emergency ‘contraception’ doesn’t cause ‘abortions’. And if you jump through the same linguistic hoops, hormonal contraceptives don’t cause abortions either. Despite the words and definitions, human embryos are still being destroyed by so called ‘contraceptives’.

The extreme view of this is held by Australian ethicist Peter Singer, and Nobel prize winning molecular biologist James Watson, who have stated that new-born infants shouldn’t be declared alive straight after birth. These frightening ideas were put forward to allow new-borns to be left to die, or even directly killed. Pro-abortion organisations have even opposed regulations that protect the life of a child born alive after abortion.

Given these developments, we should applaud the efforts of scientist and doctors where they are true to their profession and work to save lives, especially when they are able to save the life that couldn’t previously be saved.

The Pope praises Humanae Vitae

ImageEarly this week an interview of Pope Francis was run by a major Italian newspaper. As is typical with Pope Francis, he is relaxed with the media, and shows a great deal of skill and honesty with his answers. He’s not afraid of the tough questions, and says he even welcomes them when it’s a chance for dialogue.

The interview didn’t avoid any tough questions, it covered the sexual abuse scandal, divorce, remarriage and civil unions, globalisation, Marxism and many other topics.

He also touched on several topics of interest to the pro-life movement, including contraception, and end of life treatment.

He was asked on non-negotiable values, he was adamant that these values are essential. He rejected the idea that these values are like trading cards, which can be swapped and traded, while keeping a few favourites. He compares these ‘values’ to parts of his own body. In his own words:

I never understood the expression “non-negotiable values.” Values are values and that’s that. I can’t say which of the fingers of the hand is more useful than the rest, so I don’t understand in what sense there could be negotiable values. What I had to say on the topic of life I have put in writing in “Evangelii Gaudium.”

The Pope expresses much about values and morals in Evangelii Gaudium. He says that individual doctrines of the Church must be understood as part of the gospel, and joyfully expressed. This links these values to the whole of the Church’s teaching and to the person of Christ himself. So these ‘values’ are no longer dry doctrines, but a living, breathing expression of a Christian’s joyful faith.

The Pope praised Humanae Vitae:

It all depends on how the text of “Humanae Vitae” is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism.

Pope PauI VI certainly had the courage to go against the majority. With more than 40 years of experience with contraception, it’s now obvious the damage that it’s causes. When Paul VI wrote Humanae vitae, that damage was much less obvious. But the Pope predicted it accurately. And despite this bold and prophetic proclamation of the truth, document is very gently written, with the heart of a pastor. I think it’s this that resonates with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis reminds us of the need for confessors to show “much mercy and attention to concrete situations”. This is reminiscent of the much misrepresented comments of Benedict XVI on condoms. It’s not a dilution of the teaching, but working with people to bring them to a full understanding of the truth. In many cases, it will not be an instant conversion. We don’t need to change any teaching or approve of any sin.

Pope Francis is also asked about end of life care for the people in a ‘vegetative state’. The Pope reiterated the Church’s teaching on end of life care. He also acknowledged that he isn’t a bioethicist, and the need for palliative care.

In these answers, Pope Francis has demonstrated that he is a “son of the Church”. He follows and protects the doctrines of the Church, but more than that, he wants to show us that they all come from the person of Christ. He wants to make these doctrines or ‘values’ make sense and have a meaning and purpose in the faith of the Christian.

And one year on into his Papacy, the world is still watching and taking notice. Let’s hope that they truly hear the message he preaches.

St John Paul II, Pope of the family

ImageThis last weekend was historic. It has been described as the day of 4 Popes. Pope Francis canonised two of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II, while Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was present.

For us in the pro-life movement, the canonisation of Pope Saint John Paul II is particularly special. He was a fearless defender of human dignity, human life, and the family. And his insights into human interpersonal relations, including sexual relations was profound, and has been described as one of the Church’s best kept secrets.

Pope Francis in his Regina Coeli address after told the pilgrims of Bergamo and Krakow “Dear ones, honour the memory of these two holy Popes by following their teachings faithfully.”

St John Paul II’s life was remarkable.

He grew up in the town of Wadowice, Poland. A town with a large Jewish population, some of which he counted as his close friends.

It’s ironic, but the “Pope of the Family” lost all of his family by the time he was twenty. An elder sister died before he was born. His mother died when he was eight years old. His older brother when he was twelve, and finally his father died when he was twenty, leave the future Pope as the only surviving member of his family.

At the time of his father’s death, Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. He had to take manual labouring work at a mine, and then a chemical factory to avoid being deported. He is also credited with protecting many Jews from the Nazi authorities. It was at this time that he began to feel the call to the priesthood. He started his studies for the priesthood in an underground seminary and eventually had to go into hiding from the Nazi authorities until the end of the war.

As a priest he became popular with young people and as Pope he started World Youth Day, which he and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are now the patrons. As a bishop, he was involved in Vatican II, and had a role in preparing influential documents for the council. He also published his important book “Love and Responsibility”. As Archbishop he was influential in the writing of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

He was a walker, runner, kayaker and skier. As a cardinal he was asked if it was becoming for a cardinal to ski, his reply was, “It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly”. He continued to run and weight train in the Vatican during the first few years of his pontificate.

His election as Pope was a surprise. He was the first non-Italian Pope in over 460 years. His energy and achievements as a Pope were outstanding. He travelled to 129 countries and fearlessly preached to all who would listen. Dictatorships fell after his visits, notably in Chile and Haiti and Paraguay. His support for the solidarity movement in Poland was the catalyst that brought down communism in Poland, which started a chain reaction in the eastern bloc countries.

St John Paul II sent out a call to defend life, faith and family before the Cairo conference on Population and Development, and as a result the attempt the make abortion a “human right” failed.

Wherever he went he attracted large crowds, as many as 5 million attended the 1995 world youth day in Manila, the Philippines. His funeral attracted 4 million to Rome, with over 250 000 within the Vatican.

Defence of life, faith and family was his personal mission. His weekly angelus audiences for the first years as Pope were devoted to the “theology of the body”. It’s a teaching that is slowly gaining popularity within the Catholic Church, and recently within other Christian Churches too.

St John Paul II was a priest, Pope, theologian, writer, poet, actor and sportsman. He wrote 14 encyclicals, beatified 1340, canonised 483 and improved relations with Judaism, Islam and other Christian denominations. He was shot and critically injured, but survived, then meet and forgave his attacker.

But he will be remembered as Pope Francis said, “the Pope of the family”.

Did you exist before your mother was pregnant?

Is it possible for someone to exist before their mother was even pregnant? Sounds like I’m are talking about IVF, but I’m are actually talking about normal, natural pregnancy. If your local contraceptive promoter is correct, then you existed before your mother was pregnant with you. Here’s the (il)logic of it:

Not long after the pill was discovered, it was found that it could prevent an embryo from implanting into the uterus. By the definition of pregnancy used back then (and commonly used now), this is an abortion. One solution to the ‘problem’ was to redefine pregnancy to start at implantation. This is exactly what ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) and many pro-abortion organisations did.

So how widely is this definition of pregnancy used? Pretty much exclusively for the promotion of abortifacient contraception, and human embryo research.

It’s not the definition that’s used for estimating due dates in maternity care.

When a pregnant women has her due date worked out by her doctor or midwife, the calculation starts from her last menstrual period. This is her gestational age. It’s a convenient measure of pregnancy, because the last menstrual period is a notable event to start calculations. Conception (fertilisation) is a hidden event, and generally takes place approximately 15 days after the ‘start’ date. But the counting here is a convenience, and no one tries to mislead the women that she was ‘with baby’ before fertilisation. Most online pregnancy calculators even calculate an estimated date of conception (fertilisation)1. Any good doctor or midwife will explain this to the pregnant women.

The second way of dating pregnancy is foetal age (sometimes called embryonic age or fertilisation age). It’s used in ultrasound, because in early pregnancy its possible to use the size of the growing baby to work out his or her age. This is the age from fertilisation. Although for convenience, it’s often converted to gestational age.

Both measures of pregnancy include fertilisation.

So why this new, and not so well used definition of pregnancy?

It’s purely political. And it leads the ridiculous situation when a women is told that she wasn’t pregnant for about the first week of her baby’s existence. This isn’t a simple convenience in dating the pregnancy, it’s actually meant to mislead women. If she’s considering using an IUD or taking the morning after pill, and asks if it can cause an abortion, she will be told “No”. That might suit the definition of pregnancy of the person giving the answer. But it’s not addressing the concerns of the women. And by the commonly held and used definition of pregnancy, that answer has the moral equivalence of a lie.

This is also an issue when interpreting the consumer information on ‘contraceptives’ too. When a medication can prevent implantation, the manufacturer’s description almost always says that it ‘prevents the implantation of a fertilised egg’. That’s when they bother to mention it at all. At this stage of human development, the ‘fertilised egg’ is called a blastocyst. And just before implantation the blastocyst has 200-300 cells, not just the single cell of a fertilised egg. There is even differentiation of tissue into cells that will become the placenta. A ‘fertilised egg’ isn’t a good decryption anymore. It’s an attempt to dehumanise the baby, In the IVF industry, they use the more generic term of embryo at this stage. They reserve the term ‘egg’ to describe the ova that they collect from women undergoing IVF.

There was once a defence for the ‘pregnancy at implantation’ claims. When the claim was first made, it wasn’t possible the detect pregnancy until after implantation. That is no longer true. There is an assay that can detect pregnancy 24-48 hours after fertilisation. It’s called the Rosette inhibition assay. Unfortunately it isn’t commercially available. But it has been used in research, and it allows scientists to eavesdrop on part of the early biochemical conversation between the child and their mother. A conversation that begins before implantation.

During this time the tiny baby (blastocyst) announces their presence biochemically to his or her mother. And the mother responds by altering her immune system so she can nurture and protect her child. It’s intimate and nurturing interaction.

Surely this deserves to be called pregnancy.

  1. http://www.babycenter.com/pregnancy-due-date-calculator, http://www.pregnancycalculator.co.nz/, http://pregnancy.about.com/cs/pregnancycalendar/l/blpregcalc.htm, http://www.huggies.co.nz/pregnancy/early-stages/due-date-calculator/ 

A Pro-life view of ‘Tolerance’

“Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions.” G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Something about ‘tolerance’ has always made me uncomfortable. I’ve long been aware that the loudest preachers of tolerance are the ones who are the most intolerant of my own beliefs. I’m well aware of that, and the contradiction of it, but somehow it never really was the reason.

And those who preach tolerance are full of conviction. It’s their followers who they expect to abandon their convictions, or conform to what is politically correct. We all know plenty of them. I’ve also been aware of this for a long time, but it was never the whole source of what was bothering me about ‘tolerance’.

There was always something else that I could never put my finger on.

Then I was blessed enough to hear Fr Jim Brand from Vatican radio talking about ‘tolerance’, and my eyes were opened. “What might we tolerate?” he asked, “A fly buzzing around…”

Essentially he was reminding us all that when we only ‘tolerate’ something bad or irritating. When we declare our tolerance of a person, it’s actually a put down. And that’s a problem for a Christian. The worth of each and every person comes from them being made in the image and likeness of God. Whether it’s a ‘reproductive rights’ protestor, an expectant mum at a pregnancy centre, or her preborn child. Another human being is never a ‘thing’ to be ‘tolerated’, but a chance for us to practice our Christian vocation of love.

So tolerance is far below the standard required of a Christian. If an expectant Mum came into our centre, and I merely tolerated her because of her beliefs about abortion, then I have failed her, myself and our Lord.

Her, because she will pick up the difference between a ‘tolerant’ attitude and a true Christian attitude of unconditional love. It’s the reason that faith based crisis pregnancy centres have been so effective. I’ve failed myself because I’ve failed to live up to my Christian vocation, and it doing so, I’ve failed our Lord too.

But there is the call to be intolerant. Yes, Christians are called to be intolerant. Our Lord himself showed a great deal of intolerance towards the practice of ‘money changing’ in the temple.

While we are not to be intolerant of people, there is plenty we are called to be intolerant too: Abortion, contraception, poverty, human trafficking, violence and anything that robs people of their God given dignity.

It’s our mission and vocation to bring the Gospel of Life, a world where everyone experiences God given grace and dignity, from conception to natural death. And it’s our job to be intolerant to a culture of death that robs people of their God given dignity, and then so often, their lives too.

And in this, may we never be that man without a conviction!

“All men are equal as all pennies are equal, because the only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the King.” G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

The things we don’t know…

As I have been reviewing the literature related to life issues, one thing has struck me, how much we don’t know.

Here I’m primarily talking about how ‘contraceptives’ work. And it is concerning just how comfortable people, especially pro-abortion people are in using and advocating the use of contraceptives when some of the key pieces knowledge of them is missing.

Some things are easy to study in contraception. Ovulation isn’t hard to detect. It can be inferred from analysing a woman’s hormones over time, or it can be observed directly by ultrasound. However, many modern ‘contraceptives’ aren’t effective in inhibiting ovulation. And some don’t inhibit it at all.

Once ovulation occurs, so called ‘contraceptives’ have several mechanisms to pregnancy or birth.

Many cite the changes to the cervical mucus as a major mode of action. The pill and the morning after pill both cite this as one of their mechanisms of action. The evidence for the morning after pill is weak. Where changes are found, although the changes are substantial, the effects were not absolute. Unlike inhibiting ovulation, the effect causes a reduction in fertility, not a complete absence.

Hormonal methods with synthetic progestins (the pill, the morning after pill and some IUDs) can affect the transport in the fallopian tube. If it’s gametes, the effect is contraceptive. If the transport of the embryo is affected, the effect is likely to be abortifacient.

There are a number of other effects on male gametes that are contraceptive, but no one knows what contribution these have to the contraceptive effect. At best they would only seem to cause a reduction of fertility.

The final effect is the endometrium becoming unreceptive to a human embryo. This causes early abortions. The human embryo is a new human being. He or she is genetically different from his or her mother, and clearly and individual human in their own right.

The language used by drug companies to describe this abortifacient affect is often obscure. One example is “the endometrium is rendered unreceptive to implantation” or even as obscure as, “controlling the monthly development of the womb lining so that it is not thick enough for you to become pregnant”. Some organisations have redefined pregnancy to only start after implantation, and refuse to use the word ‘abortion’ before then, even when it most clearly describes the death of these tiny human beings. This definition is one of semantics. All of the people who use that definition existed before they were implanted in their mother’s womb.

But how often do the synthetic hormones in contraceptives cause these early abortions? The answer is that we just don’t know. There are some ways to find out, but no one is doing that research, or if they are, they aren’t publishing it. Does the mini pill cause early abortions in 50% of cycles, or in only 1%? We just don’t know. And most women using these medicines and devices have no idea that they can cause early abortions.

Many of them would be concerned if it was clearly explained to them. But the companies who sell these medicines and devices jump through linguistic loops to make sure you can read their information, and not realise it causes early abortions, unless you know exactly the language to look for.

When a women is taking these synthetic chemicals, she has no idea of how they work on any given cycle. And thanks to the deliberately vague manufacturer information, she may have no idea that they can kill tiny humans before implantation. This isn’t empowerment. It’s exploitation.

It a just world, the exact modes of action of these synthetic chemicals would researched, quantified, published and then clearly explained to the users.

And in a truly grace filled world, we would all use the women friendly methods of Natural Fertility Regulation if we needed to avoid pregnancy.