Monday, October 11, 2010

40 Days, and the halfway point

Today marks the halfway point in the 40 Days for Life campaign. Today's blog post at their site is especially poignant:

Last week I showed you pictures of the 40 Days for Life vigil in Reno, Nevada — where the abortionist uses a sprinkler system to soak the people praying outside his fence. Despite this aggressive hostility, we just received an incredible report from that location.

A woman driving out of the abortion center’s parking lot stopped to ask one of the local volunteer for her phone number. Shortly after, the volunteer received a text message.

This text sums up what 40 Days for Life is about — and the impact a local vigil can have. Here is the exact text message:

I just wanted to send you guys a text to let you know that what you do out there does make a difference.

When I went to that abortion clinic last week to drop off my money to terminate my pregnancy, I saw people standing out there with signs. I didn’t expect to see that and part of me felt ashamed.

I drove through the gates anyway and went inside, gave them my money and made an appointment for 2:30pm today.

As I was driving away I couldn’t help but think that maybe there was another way. All this week I thought and prayed about it and I realized in my heart what the right thing to do was.

I can’t help but think, that had you guys not been there that day to remind me that I had another choice, that maybe one more baby would have died today.

Don’t stop what you’re doing. It matters. It did to me. From the blonde lady in the white SUV who picked up her money instead of aborting her baby today.


Wow, indeed! 40 Days for Life has saved more than 3,000 babies since they started back in 2007.

That's three thousand women who courageously choose life, and three thousand people who would be dead today if they had not.

It's an amazing thing to think about, and to realize. May God be praised for these women, for the volunteers and prayerful people who helped them choose life, and for all who help promote a culture of life.

And let's pray today for women who are planning to kill their unborn children. Let's pray for them to choose life for their babies, too.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Good work. Win over every heart and mind this way, and overturning Roe v. Wade will be a moot point. I really don't mind at all. If part of this woman felt ashamed, then it is undoubtedly a good thing someone was there to witness to her. Sooner or later, she would have hated herself for proceeding.

John Thayer Jensen said...

@NC - you said:

"There's this strong belief that you hold, that life begins immediately after consummation. That's the way it is, and you aren't going to change your mind on that. Unfortunately, the fact that you hold so firmly to this tenet prevents you from truly understanding that other people don't see it that way."

Actually not consummation, NC, but rather when zygote is formed.

But does it matter how other people see it or what their opinion is?? I really don't understand the relevance of this. If I don't see my black neighbour as a fully human being - I mean, if that's my personal opinion - it doesn't make him not a human being.

The individuality of the zygote is not in question. It's legal status very much is in question, but the question of what it is is certainly not in question. It's a human being. To call it a 'cluster of cells' is perfectly accurate - and irrelevant. I myself am a cluster of cells. So is my cat - and the tree in my back yard.

Indeed, the newly-formed zygote isn't even a cluster of cells; it's a single cell. Nevertheless, it, like you and me - and unlike my cat and my tree - are human beings. This isn't a matter of how I see things nor of my personal opinion; it's simply what the thing is. I may have the legal right to kill that zygote - or blastocyst - or 12-week-old foetus. It is argued by some - but, as I am convinced, wrongly - that I have the moral right to kill these un-born human beings. But they are certainly human beings.


Red Cardigan said...

John, I wouldn't bother replying to Nameless Cynic. He/she posted the same comment in a thread below, and I already replied with the scientific information, but he/she clearly isn't interested in engaging the issue.

I'm considering Nameless Cynic a troll. If he/she wants to be considered otherwise, he/she can email me at my contact info.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Ah - ok. I thought maybe he is just confused. I was waiting for a reply something like "it's a foetus" or "it's a zygote" - but then of course the thing growing inside of my newly-mated cat is a zygote, and then a foetus. The question, of course, is what kind of zygote or foetus. And, naturally, the thing we are concerned with in abortion questions is a human foetus.

Whether the word 'hate' applies depends very much on what you mean by 'hate.' If you mean the objective character of the act, then of course, killing is hatred. If you mean an act of the will, then it may well depend on cases. If you mean an emotion - well, you see what I mean.

I would like it if NC sees what I mean :-)

Nameless Cynic said...


I apologize. Blogger told me that it choked on posting that, and I didn't go back and check. My apologize.

I'll go check your response now.

Nameless Cynic said...

("my apologize"? Oh, well...)

Red Cardigan said...

Thanks for clarifying that, NC, and please feel free to respond up here.

If I jumped to the troll conclusion hastily, I, too, apologize. Usually when someone starts pasting multiple versions of the same comment in different threads without responding to anybody's comments or questions that's a red flag for me.

Nameless Cynic said...

So, let's see.

1. Is an acorn an oak?

2. Is every abortion murder? An act of evil?

3. If abortion is murder, is a miscarriage manslaughter?

4. How did "40 Days for Strife" save more than 3000 babies in 4 years? 750 a year? Almost 2 a day? I don't buy it.

John Thayer Jensen said...


1. Is an acorn an oak?

Yeah, sure. What else is it? It isn't a beech. Or a fish.

I think there is some confusion here. A human zygote is a human - at a certain stage of life. The individual ovum and spermatozoon that will become that zygote is human (using 'human' as an adjective), but it is not a human - not individuated.

A foetus - a blastocyst, say - is a human being at a certain stage of development. It is quite correct to call it a foetus - or a 'bunch of cells.' That is true, but so am I. I am a human being at a later stage of development.

When I die my body will no longer be a human being - because it is no longer alive - no longer formed by my soul. And - by the way - my disembodied spirit - whatever that really means and I don't pretend to know! - is not a human being, because it is not united to my body. At the resurrection of the dead then I will be a human being again - I hope a glorified, rather than the other thing :-)

2. Is every abortion murder? An act of evil?

The word 'murder' is a bit loaded here - gets mixed up with intent and legal issues and a lot of other stuff. It is certainly an evil act - evil in the sense of a bad thing to have happen; evil in the sense of a morally evil act on the part of the person who wills it; evil in the sense of an imputable sin on the part of the person who wills it with knowledge of its moral wrongness, and freedom from coercion to will it.

3. If abortion is murder, is a miscarriage manslaughter?

No, of course not. Again, using the quasi-legal terms, 'manslaughter' means killing someone by an act that you ought to have been able to avoid. There is assumed not to be the intention to kill - but there was lacking the intention to be prudent and take proper care so you wouldn't kill.

If I am driving down the street and a child zips invisibly from behind a parked car on his skateboard and I kill him, I am not guilty of manslaughter - assuming I wasn't driving carelessly, and so forth.

A miscarriage is an evil in the sense of a bad thing that happens - like falling and breaking my leg, which is an evil, but not a moral evil, nor a sin (again, unless I am culpably careless).

4. How did "40 Days for Strife" save more than 3000 babies in 4 years? 750 a year? Almost 2 a day? I don't buy it.

I have not, I am afraid, paid any attention to what this is about so am not the person to ask. I just happened across your comment about abortion and thought there might be some unclarity here - particularly about the difference between labels for things that describe how they are (e.g. 'foetus' describes the stage of life of a human being), and what they are - that is, both the foetal me and the new-born me and the teen-aged me and the adult me are one and the same human being - John Jensen.



John Thayer Jensen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Siarlys Jenkins said...

John, the question, is this zygote a human being does have an objective answer. There is an absolute truth to the universe which does not depend on your opinion or mine. But, what we are discussing is what you believe or perceive to be true, vs. what I believe or perceive to be true. There is no uncontested test for either hypothesis.

The zygote is a chemically unique individual cell. Whether it is a human being remains in dispute. And, given that dispute, I would be cautious about trying to impose a legal resolution.

John Thayer Jensen said...


"The zygote is a chemically unique individual cell. Whether it is a human being remains in dispute."

I don't understand - what's to dispute? Every cell of every living creature is surely chemically unique. A human zygote is ... well, it's a human zygote! It's a 'being' - I mean, it "be's" - it exists - and it is human. I don't understand what there is to dispute.

You added:

"And, given that dispute, I would be cautious about trying to impose a legal resolution."

Well, as I said, I don't understand that there is anything to dispute about what the thing is. The only question is as to what our duty to it is. Do we have a duty to try to keep it alive - or at least not deliberately to kill it? Or not? That is, indeed, disputed.

From the bits of your posts I have had time to read - I apologise that my reading has had to be sketchy, just the odd thing that catches my eye - I suppose you would put the point at which I no longer have the right to kill it at something like the possibility of mentation. I think I understand where you are coming from - Descartes kind of started us on that path - and of course I think you are mistaken.

But I don't see how there can be any dispute about whether this thing - this zygote - this being - is a human being or not. I just don't understand what other sort of being it can be!


PS - you may be relieved to know that from tomorrow I may run out of time for these essays. I am about to get a bit frantic :-)

Anonymous said...

My daughter was told while she was pregnant that her ultra sound results were abnormal and that there were problems with the baby's heart. She had a second test with the same technician. Same results. Finally she changed doctors and had another ultrasound, which showed normal. The baby was born completely normal and is now a beautiful 9 month old boy.

My friend was told while pregnant that her baby had Downe's syndrome. She was offered the choice of abortion. She refused. Her baby was born completely normal and is now a healthy 2 year old girl.

Science is not always correct. Imagine if either of these women had aborted their children because of faulty science. What a tragedy that would have been. And yet, we simply don't know how often these types of abortions occur each year. I would say it's quite common.

Moreover, to abort a supposedly "abnormal" child is always a selfish choice. Actually, ALL abortion is a selfish choice. Even if your own life is in danger it is a selfish choice, beccause you are choosing yourself over the baby.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla should be an example for all women. She refused an abortion despite having a uterine tumor during her pregnancy, and she died shortly after her baby was born. Now she is a saint, and the daughter whose life she saved by refusing an abortion is her biggest admirer.

Abortion = selfishness, nothing more.

Nameless Cynic said...

Aw, John, don't go yet.

"(Abortion) is certainly an evil act - evil in the sense of a bad thing to have happen; evil in the sense of a morally evil act on the part of the person who wills it; evil in the sense of an imputable sin on the part of the person who wills it with knowledge of its moral wrongness, and freedom from coercion to will it."

See, I want you to hold that thought in mind. Abortion is evil.

The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.
(Hosea 13:16)

In Genesis 38:24, there's a pregnant woman convicted of prostitution. Though the leaders of Israel knew the woman was carrying a fetus, they still decided to burn her. Why does the fetus have to die for the mother's crimes?

At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women. (2 Kings 15:16)

So you're saying that abortion is always evil, until God in His mercy wills it?

John Thayer Jensen said...

Well, very briefly because I have first rehearsal for a concert tomorrow and am getting very, very busy :-)

If you read what I said above, evil is a word we use with a number of meanings:

- cancer is an evil - it is a bad thing

- miscarriage is an evil - it is, again, a bad thing to have happen

- deliberating doing an evil thing - if, for instance, I deliberately give you cancer (don't worry, I wouldn't even if I knew how), then I have committed a moral evil - a sin.

So, yes, abortion is an evil, just as a miscarriage is an evil. Whether it is a moral evil depends, amongst other things, on intent. Your analogy with manslaughter is relevant here. If I completely accidentally and unavoidably run over someone and kill him, it is an evil - a tragic evil. But it is not a moral evil on my part unless I at least was negligent.

Looking at cases in the Old Testament in which unborn babies were killed doesn't help us unless you want to examine all the cases in which born human beings were also killed - and I certainly am not going to get into that now!!


Siarlys Jenkins said...

John, there is no question that a human zygote is a HUMAN zygote, but I use the term "human being" to mean capable of mentation.

Is it wrong to destroy a zygote? God does it all the time. Or random chance, whatever you believe. Every skin cell on my arm has a unique genetic signature. Is it murder to scratch my arm? Murder is the deliberate killing of a being that has developed self-awareness, not the destruction of genetically unique cells.

John Thayer Jensen said...


"I use the term "human being" to mean capable of mentation."

Yes, I know you do. That's what I said above. All of these discussions are going past one another, based on the whole disagreement of what is a human being in the sense of a being that has the right to life.

God destroys not only human zygotes, but born, adult, 'mentating' human beings as well. Every human life is ultimately destroyed by God.

You see, the question ultimately rests on whether God created the world - the world, the whole system, not just individual persons. If He did, the order of the world is that sexual intercourse produces those things which can know and love Him. The cells in your arm cannot do that. If, by the way, at some point they work out how to clone a human being from a cell in your arm, then, indeed, such a cell now returned to the state of being able to develop into a full-grown human person is a zygote.

In interacting with NC, I said that the word 'murder' is one with a lot of baggage that may or may not belong here. Nevertheless, then, certainly, in the sense that the deliberate killing of a person is murder, deliberately killing a zygote. There is nothing whatever to tell us that murder has to be aimed only at a being that has developed self-awareness. Indeed, killing a person who is in a 'persistent vegetative state' is - in that use of the word 'murder' - murder.

I rather wish people wouldn't persist in using words they know to be emotionally loaded - like 'murder' - in this context. I do not think it at all helpful. But if you wish, I can use it.

A human zygote is a genetically unique cell. So is a bacterium. It is not the destruction of a genetically unique cell that we are talking about, but of a human zygote, a cell capable, in proper conditions, of becoming one of those self-aware beings. Self-awareness does not seem to me the most important thing about a man, but it is certainly one important thing.

And by 'capable' I do not mean 'will inevitably.' I am capable of getting up tomorrow - if I don't have a heart attack tonight. Some people are so genetically malformed that they are not actually going to make it to birth. Nonetheless, the kind of thing that a zygote is is the kind of thing that becomes a man.

Enough! I promised to shut up and I must.


Nameless Cynic said...

See, Siarlys, there's your problem. They start talking about "that cluster of cells that has a chance at becoming human," as if it inevitably will. Ignoring the hundreds that fail to implant, or are spontaneously aborted, or miscarry. If every single egg and every sperm is precious and important to God, why does God throw so many of them away?

Scroll up - you'll note that John's answer to the question "Is an acorn an oak?" is yes. Because people like this have no perspective. It's all-or-nothing.

Must be rough to live in a world with no shades of grey.

John Thayer Jensen said...


"Must be rough to live in a world with no shades of grey"

We are talking fundamental philosophical differences here - whether we live in a world of Heraclitean flux, or one in which things are ordered towards ends, whether they reach those ends or not. Most acorns never reach maturity; they are embryonic oak trees, nonetheless, because their end is to grow into a mature oak.

Some - most? I wouldn't know how many! - human zygotes never reach their end, which is to be a mature person. Some, indeed, reach that end only imperfectly - Down Syndrome children, for example. The question is whether there are indeed such ends - given quite apart from the actual historical experience of those things - that they are made for, and, if so, whether in the case of human zygotes we have the moral right directly to intervene to frustrate those ends.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

NC, by and large I agree that a clump of cells that could become a human being is not something that inevitably will. Raw biology is a numbers game. Essentially, different opinions here reflect different views as to when something uniquely precious, uniquely human, has emerged from that biological numbers game.

On the other hand, JTJ is wise when he says "I promised to shut up, and I must." No purpose is served in anyone trying to have "the last word." It is true, we are working from different premises, so naturally we reach different conclusions.

Its good to keep up the conversation. If I spend all day talking to people who think exactly the same way I do, there is no integrity in that. I need the challenge of seeing whether I can read all that Erin says, all that John says, and still justify, to myself, what I believe. No doubt they find the same reinforcement, although sometimes, when I see no attempt to respond, I wonder whether I have made someone think twice about what they were saying.

Finally, its good to talk honestly about this simply to reaffirm that we do share a common humanity, however far apart we are. If a constitutional amendment is ever passed decreeing that a zygote is a "person" within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, it will be the law of the land. I will still have the right to proclaim that that amendment was an error and should be repealed. For now, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land; Erin has the right to proclaim that that is evil and should be overturned.

But, there are only so many times it is worth saying the same thing in any one conversation.

Anonymous said...

Ultrasound of a certain physiological area of fetal development may used along with other identified risk factors such as age of mother to indicate a possibility of trisomy 21, but as trisomy 21 is a genetic defect, a sample of DNA would've been used to detect it, not an ultrasound.

Unless the physician examined a sample of the baby's DNA, it would be unlikely that the physician could have determined early in the pregnancy that the fetus had Down's. Like cystic fibrosis, there are differing 'degrees' of expression of the genetic materials.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Anonymous, I am neither a doctor nor a lab technician, and I have never been a father, because I have never married, but as far as I have read, a thickening of the neck, and other physical symptoms shown by ultra-sound, are considered clinical signs of possible Down's Syndrome. The recommended follow-up is to test the genetic patterns via amniocentesis. The physical symptoms can be mis-read, and are not conclusive, even if accurately identified.

It is my firm conviction that a parent who says "I will not grow my baby from such deformed genetic material, I will not inflict this disease on my child" has every right to abort. Those who believe "This IS my child, I will not kill it" have every right to carry their pregnancy to term. That a person of one conviction would be horrified by the other's perspective is something we all have to live with.