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Showing posts with label fetal rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fetal rights. Show all posts

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Medicalization of Abortion in 19th Century France

[For the purposes of this blogpost, I am using a medical definition of “abortion” as the expulsion of a non-viable fetus, as opposed to the Catholic definition (“an attack on the fetus”). This is for the sake of brevity and clarity, and also because this is how 19th century physicians would have defined it.]

In the first half of the 19th century, France was a very conservative country when it came to the unborn. Although abortions were performed for emergency situations, especially to save the mother’s life, these abortions were not officially sanctioned by the Academy of Medicine, the French national medical association.

This all changed in 1852. At that time, an obstetrician by the name of Lenoir submitted a report to the Academy of Medicine regarding a premature expulsion of a non-viable fetus on a woman whose pelvic diameter was only 5 centimetres, which was too narrow to allow for natural childbirth at term. (I blogged about this case here./187/2016/12/the-launch-of-abortion-debate-in-france.html#more) He wanted the Academy members to discuss his paper at the society’s weekly meetings with the goal of officially legitimizing this procedure so that other physicians would have no hesitation in performing the same operation when faced with the same dilemma.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Blessed Jean-Martin Moye: Advocate for the Unborn

Blessed Jean-Martin Moye (1730-1793) is remembered by the Church as the founder of the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence. As a missionary in China, he organized the first group of Chinese religious sisters.

But this figure also had a stint as an advocate of the unborn. In 1764, while he was a priest in Metz, France, he published a pamphlet entitled On the Extreme Care That We Must Have For the Baptism of Children in the Case of Miscarriage or in the Death of a Pregnant Woman. (I translated it-- please read it!)  He was mostly likely inspired by Francisca Cangiamila’s book Sacred Embryology, which addresses this very topic.

As the title suggests, Moye was trying to encourage people to baptize the babies of dead, pregnant women, as well as miscarried babies.

Regarding when the body is animated with the soul, he cites a number of possibilities: 40 days, 30 days, and even conception (which is a belief that can be traced back to the 17th century.) But he says that the most competent physicians state that animation begins at 20 days.

He does not explain why they think animation happens at 20 days. But I have a theory.

Before the age of cell theory, life was defined, biologically, according to whether an entity had functioning organs. It only makes sense: organisms have organs. The heart is the first organ to develop. In humans, it starts working at about three weeks or 21 days. The presence of a functioning heart would indicate the presence of a human soul. This is perhaps why physicians believe animation occurred at 20 days.

Even though this pamphlet corresponds to Catholic teaching, Father Moye was demoted by his bishop for publishing it. His enemies complained to his bishop about unfair comments about midwives and clergy in the pamphlet. For this, and other “transgressions”, he was appointed vicar of Dieuze, a fairly isolated village, away from the action in Metz.   He was, in effect, penalized for his zeal.

What I find interesting about this person is that he is an example of a saint who took seriously the idea that the unborn are human beings before their birth. Institutionally, this was of course the Church’s official stance. But judging from the need to write about this topic, it does not seem that, on the ground, priests routinely baptized the miscarried, or encouraged the faithful to do so. If they had done that, there would be no need to write a pamphlet encouraging the practice.

Monday, November 27, 2017

18th Century Poem Expresses Abortion Regret

The following poem was published in the January 1740 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine in London. No author is listed.

* On a Child killed by procured Abortion, in order to hide the Mother's Shame who had been debauched. Supposed to be spoken by the Mother. 

Thou! whose eyes were clos'd in death's pale night,
Ere fate reveal’d thee to my aching fight;
Ambiguous something, by no standard fix’d,
Frail span!  of nought, and of existence mix’d;
Embryo, imperfect as my tort’ring thought,
Sad outcast of existence and of nought;
Thou, who to guilty love first ow'st thy frame,
Whom guilty honour kills to hide its shame,
Dire offspring!  form'd by love's too pleasing pow'r!
Honour's dire victim in a luckless hour!
 Soften the pangs that still revenge thy doom:
Nor, from the dark abyss of nature's womb,
Where back I cast thee, let revolving time
Call up past scenes to aggravate my crime.
Two adverse tyrants rul’d thy wayward fate,
Thyself a helpless victim to their hate;
Love, in spite of honour's dictates, gave thee breath;
Honour, in spite of love, pronounc'd thy death.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Paolo Zacchia on Abortion and the Unborn in 17th Century Italy

Paola Zacchia (1584-1659)  was a well-respected Roman medical expert. Three times he was named Proto-physician – 1638, 1658 and 1659.  He was effectively the “Surgeon-General” of the Holy See, supervising all things medical in the papal states. Between 1621 and 1650 he published his most famous work Quaestiones Medico-Legales, a compendium of medical-legal knowledge, covering a vast array of subjects. It was published in three tomes that in total contained nine books. It as a mammoth work of reference, and as soon as the first book was published in 1621, it was an international best-seller—translated into a number of languages and re-printed in several editions right into the eighteenth century. It has earned him the title of Father of Forensic Medicine.

This background information is important to know, because his words would be highly influential on a host of subjects, including abortion.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pro-Lifers: Don't Get TOO Excited Over an Andrew Scheer Win

The victory of Andrew Scheer in the Conservative Party Leadership is about the best outcome that pro-lifers could have expected.

It's not just that he won. But we won with the second- and third-place votes of people like Pierre Lemieux and Brad Trost-- whom I was shocked to see go eleven rounds. (And I was rooting for him!)

He proved that social conservatives are still an important force in the party.

We can pat ourselves on the back for our effort to mobilize the vote.

That being said, there are two realities we must bear in mind about an Andrew Scheer victory.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Another Feminist Distortion on the History of the Ultrasound...

I interrupt my blogging hiatus to comment on this article in The Atlantic entitled: How Ultrasound Became Political. (According to my facebook feed, the original title seems to have been How the Ultrasound Pushed the Idea that a Fetus is a Person.)

I will limit my comments to historical aspects of the article, otherwise I will have to write a lengthy essay.

Moira Weigel is a PhD candidate Comparative Literature and Film and Media Studies. She is not a historian. In my experience, literature and arts students are notorious for making historical claims that are not backed up by the facts.

First, let’s address the title: How Ultrasound Became Political. In fairness, it may not even be her title. Ultrasound has been political for a very long time. Ian Donald, the inventor of the ultrasound, used it to campaign against abortion in the 1970s.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Sacred Embryology by Francesco Cangiamila

Francesco Cangiamila

Translated into French by Abbé Joseph Dinouart, 1766. Second French Edition.
Originally published in Sicilian in 1745 and in Latin in 1758.

In this day and age, the most salient issue for pro-lifers is abortion. No other issue concerning the unborn comes in at a close second. In the 18th century, things were different. Pro-lifers-- those preoccupied with the fate of the unborn-- had a completely different issue. Their main concern was making sure that every child received baptism, including those babies whose mothers died in labour, and who risked being unbirthed.

Hence: Sacred Embryology; subtitled: Or a Treaty on the Duties of Priests, Physicians, Surgeons Midwives Towards Children in the Womb of their Mothers. It was originally written in Italian by Francesco Cangiamila of Palermo, Sicily, where he worked as the Archdiocesan inquisitor.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Launch of the Abortion Debate in France in the Nineteenth Century

Anglosphere conceives of the abortion debate as something that primarily takes place in the twentieth century. There was virtually no debate that abortion was ever acceptable. If abortions did take place, doctors just did what they thought they had to do, and kept quiet about it.

In France, the situation was quite different.

Monday, December 05, 2016

How Did We Get to Roe v. Wade Anyway?

Glanville Williams

How did we start down the road to Roe v. Wade anyway?

In the 1940's and 1950's, abortion was generally opposed, and there wasn't a lot of outspoken support for it. There were abortions being done in hospitals for medical reasons, but not the abortion on demand that we know today. Women sought abortions for social reasons, but there was a a lot of social stigma for doing so, and you had to know someone to be able to find an abortionist. Opposition to abortion was based on affirming human life but also on not enabling loose sexual mores. 

And on top of that, the only regimes that legalized abortion were communist regimes (and Japan). That stigmatized abortion, too.

The man who broke the ice on abortion in the United States was an eminent legal scholar by the name of Glanville Williams who taught at Cambridge University in English . He was a Welsh-born humanist who had written a famous book called The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law.  In it, he criticized Catholic opposition to sterilization, contraception, euthanasia and-- of course-- abortion. It was seen as the basis for the criminalization of all these procedures.  In 1956, Glanville Williams gave a  presentation during Carpenter lecture at Columbia University, in which he called for the reform of abortion law. He said, among other things, that the unborn were not persons until the 28th week of pregnancy, because they had no EEG activity. He would, of course, be proven wrong. But this lecture got the ball rolling in legal circles in the United States. It led to the American Law Institute's adoption of a resolution to call for abortion law reform in the United States in 1959.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Francesco-Emmanuele Cangiamila: Obscure But Important Figure in ProLife History

In researching my Timeline of Pro-Life History, I came across a number of people whom nobody has ever heard of, but whose influence on the welfare of the unborn was monumental.

And one of these figures is Father Francesco-Emmanuele Cangiamila (1702-1763).

Friday, November 25, 2016

How We Came to Believe That Life Begins at Conception

The belief that life begins at conception is at the heart of the pro-life cause. But I'm amazed that virtually nobody has asked themselves how we came to believe in it. It's rather taken for granted.

Many people assume that the origin of the belief lies in the dogmas of the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception. While these dogmas reinforced the belief in the value of pre-natal life, they were never reference points for natural philosophy or science.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Timeline of Pro-Life History: An Introduction

This Timeline of Pro-Life History is my humble attempt to document those events relevant to the rights, welfare and cause of the unborn.

Every other human group seems to have a history dedicated to it, it seems that it's about time for the unborn to have history written about them as well.

In this timeline, I focused on events. So it doesn't give the whole picture: not the trends, or statistics, or general practices. I simply wanted to give people an idea of what a history of the unborn could look like; what type of events, ideas and discoveries contributed to the situation of the unborn today. One might think that the history of the unborn would focus solely on abortion. I have found that to be untrue. There is a lot to write about the unborn, and a lot left to be studied and written.

Rather than write a book, I thought it was more useful and expedient to write an accessible and searchable survey of the history of the unborn. I started from the Christian era because when one writes a chronology, dating is very important, and dates can be very uncertain in the Ancient period. There is a lack of information for late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. I mostly focused on those periods for which I knew I could get information easily: The late Middle Ages, the Early Modern and Modern periods and especially contemporary history.

I scanned a number of academic (and non-academic) sources to cull these dates. But my most important source was the archives of LifeSiteNews.com. I scanned every headline page from 1998 to 2016 (up to the election of Donald Trump.)  I tried to focus on the important events, the ones that have an impact on either the legal or cultural situation of the unborn.

If you like my Timeline, please share it. I also encourage you to blog about pro-life history. In the 1980's it was often said: If abortion is murder, act like it! Well, we can't stop abortion right now. I would simply like to rephrase that and say: If the unborn are human, act like it! Write their history! I promise you right now there is a historiographical effort to denigrate the unborn and their rights. If we can't have the unborn respected through politics or popular culture, we can do it through history.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Combat Creeping Censorship of Social Conservatism

From CHP leader Rod Taylor:

A couple of recent examples come to mind. In Whitby, Ontario, Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes is sponsoring an e-petition calling on Parliament to ban images of the victims of abortion. The images, of course, are terrible to look at. They show what abortion really does. This makes Planned Parenthood look bad. Ms. Cesar-Chavannes and other defenders of abortion-on-demand don’t want people thinking about the suffering of the pre-born or the tragedy of their being killed. They want people to think happy thoughts about “choice” and “empowerment.” 
In Ontario and BC, provincial governments have drawn the curtain on statistics relating to abortion procedures. Taxpaying citizens are not permitted access to the numbers of abortions, the statistical causes, the negative health outcomes, or the cost to provincial coffers. It is censorship and that of the worst kind. They do not censor pornography or lewd displays during the so-called “pride” parades. They only censor important health statistics relevant to their favourite cause: abortion-on-demand. 
Another example is the recent action by the City of Hamilton to remove three bus shelter ads sponsored by CHP Hamilton Mountain. These ads show a man entering a door marked “Ladies Showers” and pose the question, “Competing Human Rights—Where’s the Justice?” It appears that some at the City do not want people questioning public policy, which is public information and thus subject to public scrutiny. There is something very wrong when any public policy is sheltered from public scrutiny.

If we're going to ban abortion imagery, then ban all violent imagery. If children shouldn't be subjected to pictures of abortion, then they shouldn't be subjected to any violent imagery. No more public pictures of abused animals, casualties of war, decapitated hostages, drunk driving victims or the like. All of it, banned! For the children.... Let's shield the images of dead children to protect children.

Meanwhile, lewd pictures in the public square are A-OK!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Science and Logic are Not Enough: What Pro-Lifers Are Up Against

Once upon a time, it was widely believed among pro-lifers (and still is) that if we educate the public about prenatal life, we could convince them that life begins at conception and they would in turn recognize the humanity (and by extension) equality of the unborn child.

Seasoned pro-life activists who have come across educated abortion supporters know that this isn't true. There are many well-educated people in the world who can be persuaded to say that human life begins at conception, but that life does not amount to an equal human being.

I think the pro-life argument is based on air-tight logic. 

But here is what I have learned in debating abortion: There is more to knowledge than facts and logic.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Links: ProLife, Gay Marriage, RU486, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, etc

I have so many good links I said to myself: what the hay? Let's do a links blogpost.

People in homosexual ‘marriages’ almost 3 times more likely to commit suicide: study Because of homophobia, I'm sure.

NOW president: ‘I don’t care’ if life scientifically begins at conception, and if babies have to die in the name of reproductive autonomy, so what? Right feminists? Right.

Mifegymiso (abortion pills) Official Update -- It appears the restrictions on RU486 will remain. See also: Restrictions on abortion pill in P.E.I. give doctors ‘access to an excuse’ not to supply them: critics

No, Donald Trump did not eject a baby. I want to make it clear: I don't necessarily want Donald Trump to win, but I absolutely want Hillary Clinton to lose. So I do post links and messages that are both supportive and critical of Donald Trump. In truth, Donald Trump makes me want to cry, and I'm devastated he's the one who has to win in order for Hillary to lose. I would have been happier with practically anyone else. Except Justin Trudeau. That's how bad he is.

The American Catholic bishops denounce a politician who officiated at a same-sex marriage
, but won't name him. Which I think is cowardly. Do your job guys.

Pro-Lifers and Freedom Lovers: GET OUT YOUR CREDIT CARD. Please donate to Pat Maloney's GoFundMe campaign that will help fund her court case against the Ontario government. She is trying to get the Government to reveal to her the actual number of abortions performed in Ontario. There is a statute that explicitly forbids access to information requests on abortion, which is outrageous. We have a responsibility to support all those activists who do the heavy lifting and move the pro-life agenda forward. So please. Give! And be generous. And of course, share this on your social media.

UK: Mothers abort 20 IVF babies a year after discovering their child would be born with Down's syndrome "Down’s is the chief reason why women who have paid for expensive IVF treatment have terminated their pregnancy, according to analysis by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority."

Marco Mastromonaco raises a pertinent issue:

A recent homily given by a young priest hit a nerve among many of the Faithful and perhaps caused us to pause and to think. Father Jacques Hemel, the martyred 86yr old french priest who went willingly to his death caused by two young ideologically bent followers of radical Islam. The content of the homily was simple,.. 'Where were the men in the Parish to rush and protect this priest?' We heard about the women and the nuns who assisted at the Mass,.. So where were the 'dudes' so to speak?

He goes on to decry the crisis on manhood in the Church.

The Use of Twitter Bots to Target 'Harassment' : A must-read if you frequently engage on Twitter.

Just an interesting abstract: The average age for pregnancy detection is 5.5 weeks and hasn't changed in 23 years.

The Conservative Media Echo Chamber Is Making the Right Intellectually Deaf

VIDEO: Priest Tells It Like It Is: You Can't Vote for a Pro-Abortion Politician

I encourage you to share this with your Catholic acquaintances....

A Pro-Choice Blogpost from the Future

We are on the precipice of voting in a new right in Parliament. A right that feminists have struggled for in the name of reproductive rights.

Feminists have struggled to actualize the phrase “my body, my choice.” Today, almost every reproductive choice is open to everyone: eugenic selection, sex-determination, gene selection from multiple parents, mass embryo creation to select the ones with the most potential, selective reduction on demand, commercial surrogacy. All these gains we have made to achieve reproductive freedom. 
Today, Parliament will vote to eliminate all restrictions on infant euthanasia. The final gain we need to make to have absolute control over our own bodies.

What happens if you order a baby and that baby didn’t quite turn out? What happens if the baby is born with a debilitating disability or a facial deformity? Did you (or a surrogate) just gestate a pregnancy for nine months without getting what you want? Ultrasound doesn’t always catch everything. Neither do prenatal screenings. If parents create a baby to specifications and the clinic fails to produce them, are they to live with the results of someone else’s incompetence?

The anti-choice movement, those Charlie Browns of Canadian politics—who have lost every single battle they have ever fought—are setting themselves up against women yet again. They want to shame and guilt-trip women for making this often heart-wrenching and painful choice of euthanasia for their child. They want to make it sound like people are cruel for choosing what’s best for them and their baby.

Let me ask you this: should a child grow up unwanted? Because that's what will happen if the child doesn't meet the parents' specifications that they demanded at the clinic. The parents will always see in the undesired traits the wound of the injustice of not being presented with the baby they asked for, as is their right.

Parents should unconditionally love their children, but some don’t, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to. Should any child live have to live with the reality that their parents don’t love them? That’s cruel!

And people like to harp on about the right to life, but that issue was settled decades ago. Infants are not necessarily persons. What is the developmental difference between a third trimester fetus and a newborn? Nothing. Third trimester fetuses aren’t persons, so logically newborns aren’t either.  They're developmentally identical. Besides, infants are often euthanized for their own good because of life-threatening defects. This would be the same thing, with the same goal: that of sparing the child a life of misery and pain. 

It goes without saying that quality of life matters far more than biological life. Anti-choicers still haven’t understood this yet. What good is a right if it leads to a life of pain? You might as well not have it at all. 

Monday, July 11, 2016


Ellen McCormack: Pro-Life's Presidential Candidate of 1976

Ellen McCormack, 1975.

40 Years Ago this week, Ellen McCormack, pro-life columnist, wife and mother, was nominated for president at the Democratic National Convention (July 14th, 2016). She wasn’t a household name, although she did have some name recognition—her columns were carried in Catholic publications like The Wanderer and her other claim to fame was having organized the first large-scaled pro-life march in New York City in 1971, rallying 10 000.

Ellen McCormack ran for president at the behest of a small pro-life group—The Pro-Life Action Committee—that operated out the Cure of Ars Parish in Merrick, New York. The goal was to use the campaign as a platform to educate the public on pro-life issues by taking advantage of election rules which required the media to give all candidates equal time. Relying on thousands of grassroots pro-lifers across the country, she managed to raise $5000 in small contributions in 20 states, becoming the first woman in American history to qualify for matching funds. Her campaign was not without some controversy. Her single-issue candidacy annoyed political elites so much that they voted a change in funding rules in the middle of the election. As of May 1976, any candidate who did not gain more than 10% in two successive primaries would no longer be eligible for public money. Nevertheless, she had managed to raised $280 00 in small donations, received $240 000 from matching funds for a grand total of half a million dollars, of which $330 000 paid for television advertising.

McCormack was also the first woman candidate to qualify for Secret Service protection, which, considering the fringe nature of her operation, led to some humorous situations. For instance, when McCormack was scheduled to speak at a ballroom, the Secret Service told PLAC’s New Jersey representative that they would have to “sweep the ballroom”. “Oh you don’t have to bother,” said the na?ve rep, “I’ll sweep the ballroom before Ellen speaks!”

Overall, she received 243 000 votes in 20 States, with a total of 1.4% of the vote, placing 11th in a field of 18 candidates. Her best showing was in Vermont, where she gained 8.6% of the Vote, and in Nebraska, where she placed third in the primary. She won a total of 22 delegates. Jimmy Carter’s nomination for President was not unanimous, as some sources had maintained.

Her main accomplishment was in keeping the abortion issue alive in a period where politicians desperately wanted the issue to go away. She was featured in human interest stories in newspapers and magazines. (Here's an article on her in New York magzine.) The mainstream political media mostly ignored her, except to complain of her single-issue candidacy. However, her commercials educating people on pro-life issues reached a total of 190 million people. (See below)

Anyone in reading up on the McCormack campaign can read Jane Gilroy’s book: A Shared Vision: The 1976 Ellen McCormack Presidential Campaign. (Only $1.99!)

Former MP Stephen Woodworth to Launch "Democracy Defence Initiative"

As read on Facebook:

Stephen Woodworth will be speaking at a luncheon in Saskatoon on Monday, August 8, 2016. A former Member of Parliament, Woodworth will be introducing his new project, Democracy Defence Initiative “to oppose recent efforts to eliminate fundamental freedoms in Canada.” The Conservative MP for Kitchener Centre (Ontario) until October 2015, explains that “obvious examples of freedoms being eliminated include freedom of conscience for doctors, freedom of speech for pro-life university students and freedom of religious belief and of association in the Trinity Western case."
In April, 2012, Woodworth introduced Motion 312 in Parliament, describing it in these terms: “I have concluded that the point of complete birth is not a rational or a reasonable point at which a child suddenly transforms from a non-human into a human being…” As a legislator, Woodworth was following the instructions made possible by Justice Bertha Wilson in the Morgentaler 1988 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada: “Morgentaler… does not foreclose Parliament’s right to regulate (abortion) by setting “reasonable” limitations on access to it.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Changing Pro-Life Movement

Alan (a trans) and Billie (a lesbian) showed up at the March for Life last Thursday. Alan writes:

 To the marchers, it seems, even if we're heathens, queers and humanists are allies in a struggle that transcends any lesser differences. But to the counter-protesters, we're a clear and present danger. We're evidence that this isn't just the campaign of religious patriarchy they want to dismiss it as, but a movement that can and will involve all kinds of people, and is doing so more and more every year. I think that worries them, and I think that's a really, really good sign.

The pro-life movement is still overwhelming religious and Catholic. Let's not go crazy.

That being said, there will come a time when secular people and queers will become more numerous.

And I think religious people need to prepare for that.

I don't think you can stop religious people from being religious. I think the March for Life will always have an opening prayer and a bunch of religious dignitaries on the podium.

But there may come a time when secular pro-lifers will stage their own events. ( I hope they do!) They will not ask God for his blessing. They won't play religious music. And part of their message may even be sinful or blasphemous.

We have to be prepared for that. We're not going to agree on a lot of issues.

This is one reason I have often emphasized the phrase fetal rights. That is the basis of agreement. The term "pro-life" is actually somewhat divisive when you think about it (though it's accurate.)  If you support the death penalty, are you pro-life? If you support just war, are you pro-life? If you oppose social programs, are you pro-life? If you support  non-abortifacient contraception, are you pro-life?

As a fetal rights activist I say: who cares? These issues have their importance. But we mustn't lose our focus: social recognition of the unborn as equal human beings and legal protection for them.

Social movements are made up of people who disagree on many things, but agree on the big picture. Our big picture is to end up abortion, and especially to get legislated enacted. Let's not get too bogged down by differences. It's true that the pro-life movement is one of the few remaining places where religious people can be openly religious. But for the sake of saving children, we may have to sacrifice that religious monopoly. We may have to take into account the wishes and beliefs of other people. This doesn't mean we stop being religious, but it may mean that we have to accommodate different attitudes and behaviours.

It's a matter of tolerating lesser evils to eradicate a great big one.