Rep. Tim Murphy and Right Wing Virtue Signalling

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) reminds us that Republicans and right wingers can virtue signal with the best of them. Murphy is a solidly pro-life Republican who urged a woman with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion (emphasis added),

A text message sent in January to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy by a woman with whom he had an extra-marital relationship took him to task for an anti-abortion statement posted on Facebook from his office’s public account.

“And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options,” Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist in Pittsburgh with whom the congressman admitted last month to having a relationship, wrote to Mr. Murphy on Jan. 25, in the midst of an unfounded pregnancy scare.

A text from Mr. Murphy’s cell phone number that same day in response says, “I get what you say about my March for life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don’t write any more. I will.”

. . .

It was early this year that the text exchange over abortion was prompted by a Jan. 24 Facebook post by Mr. Murphy: “The United States is one of just seven countries worldwide that permits elective abortion more than halfway through pregnancy (beyond 20 weeks). It is a tragic shame that America is leading the world in discarding and disregarding the most vulnerable,” he wrote.

It’s interesting that one of the criticism’s of the term “virtue signaling” as commonly used is that it is uncharitable, citing Sam Bowman as writing,

The other problem with the term is that it assumes your opponents are disingenuous. This is of course very common but it is probably the single worst thing about political debate. It comes from an underlying assumption that the world is straightforward and your views are obviously correct.

An alternative analysis would be that much political debate in the United States is disingenous and the arguments therein too often are mere window dressings and facades.

Just ask Tim Murphy.

ACLU on Pennsylvania Woman Jailed for Trying to Arrange an Abortion for Her Daughter

This story highlighted by the American Civil Liberties Union is really outrageous,

Earlier this month, a judge sentenced a Pennsylvania mother to up to a year and a half in prison for helping her 16-year-old daughter end a pregnancy by purchasing abortion medication online. The mother, who has a low-paying job, ordered the medication online because there was no health center that provides abortions nearby, and she lacked health insurance to pay for an abortion at a hospital. She was sentenced after pleading guilty to performing an illegal abortion.

. . .

Pennsylvania, where the family lives, has a law that requires a woman seeking an abortion to make an extra, medically unnecessary trip to the clinic before she can get an abortion. Just last week in Missouri, state legislators overrode a governor’s veto to institute a 3-day forced delay for abortion, even though Missouri voters clearly said they don’t want this law. The mandatory delay applies no matter how long a woman has considered her decision before coming to the health center. Now, a woman will have to wait 72 hours for an abortion, after talking to a healthcare professional, no matter how firm she is in her decision.

That such laws keep getting passed is just another example of how the pro-life movement is beating the pro-choice movement at the long game. (Hint: burying your head in the sand and crowing about winning the “cultural war” isn’t going to stop abortion clinics from continuing to close).

US District Court Smacks Down Obama Administration Ruling Against Selling Morning After Pill OTC

Plan B, the emergency oral contraception, should have been available completely over the counter years ago.

The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all endorsed making Plan B available OTC.

Plan B is already available in 31 countries without requiring a prescription, and in 2003 an FDA advisory committee recommended the medication be approved for OTC sale in the United States. In 2006, the Bush administration approved Plan B for “behind the counter” sales — women 17 and older could obtain it from a pharmacist without a prescription, but women under 17 still require a prescription.

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration caved to its anti-abortion base and rejected the recommendation. What was surprising, however, was that the Obama administration also decided to put politics above science and in 2011 Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that she also was rejecting the FDA’s recommendation that Plan B be sold over the counter.

FDA has recommended approval of this application in its Summary Review for Regulatory Action on Plan B One-Step. After careful consideration of the FDA Summary Review, I have concluded that the data, submitted by Teva, do not conclusively establish that Plan B One-Step should be made available over the counter for all girls of reproductive age.

The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible, acting through the FDA Commissioner, for executing the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Today’s action reflects my conclusion that the data provided as part of the actual use study and the label comprehension study are not sufficient to support making Plan B One-Step available to all girls 16 and younger, without talking to a health care professional. Plan B One-Step will still be available over the counter to women ages 17 and older.

Because I do not believe enough data were presented to support the application to make Plan B One-Step available over the counter for all girls of reproductive age, I have directed FDA to issue a complete response letter denying the supplemental new drug application (SNDA) by Teva Women’s Health, Inc.

Apparently, the Obama administration believed this decision would give them political cover to address other women’s issues that they deemed more critical.

Anyway, US District Court Judge Edward R. Korman was having none of it,

This case is not about the potential misuse of Plan B by 11-year-olds. These emergency contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over-the-counter, the number of 11-year-7olds using these drugs is likely to be miniscule, the FDA permits drugs that it has found to be unsafe for the pediatric population to be sold over-the-counter subject only to labeling restrictions, and its point-of-sale restriction on this safe drug is likewise inconsistent with its policy and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act as it has been construed. Instead, the invocation of the adverse effect of Plan B on 11-year-olds is an excuse to deprive the overwhelming majority of women of their right to obtain contraceptives without unjustified and burdensome restrictions

Secretary Sebelius’s directive to the FDA to reject the Plan B One-Step SNDA forced the agency to ride roughshod over the policies and practices that it has consistently applied in considering applications for switches in drug status to over-the-counter availability.

Korman ordered

Add the war on science to yet another crazy Bush war that Obama insisted on continuing.

How to Show You’re Not to Be Taken Seriously

I’m going to pick on Daniel Florien for a minute because I absolutely detest the basic form of his blog post, How to Stump Anti-Abortionists With One Question. Florien is hardly the only person to offer one of these “how to stump xyz with one questions” guides. I’ve seen how to stump pro-abortionists, atheists, Christians, Darwinists, creationists, etc. etc. in one question essays.

For the most part, the argument that is allegedly a show stopper is surprisingly lame. Consider, for example, what Florien considers to be a show stopping argument against anti-abortionists,

Just ask them this:

If abortion was illegal, what should be done with the women who have illegal abortions?

Now watch their faces as the cognitive dissonance sets in. They believe abortion to be murder. Murder deserves severe punishment. Thus, women who have illegal abortions should receive severe punishment — like life in prison or the death penalty. That’s the logical conclusion.

That’s just stupid on a number of levels.

First of all, it simply does not logically follow that if abortion is wrong that it should result in “severe punishment — like life in prison or the death penalty.” That’s not a logical conclusion, that’s a straw man.

In fact, prior to Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal in most states, women were rarely prosecuted for having illegal abortions. Rather if there was a prosecution, the state would generally go after the doctor performing the procedure. Similarly, abortion is banned throughout Ireland, and yet prosecutions of women who have illegal abortions are extremely rare there.

On the other hand, it is also certainly possible for anti-abortion states to prosecute women. Portugal, after all, does actively prosecute women who have illegal abortions as well as the doctors who perform them. Unfortunately for Florien, the penalties are from from his Draconian straw man — for example, a couple of women acquitted of having abortions in 2005 faced up to three years in jail if they had been convicted.

Apparently Florien needs to first convince both Ireland and Portugal that they simply cannot ban abortion without sentencing women to life in prison or the death penalty.

I’m sure there are, nonetheless, anti-abortionists who may be stumped by this lame argument, just as I assume there are jurors who may be convinced by the Chewbacca defense. All Florin’s post shows is that he takes the arguments for or against abortion about as seriously as those dimwits he seeks to stump. Personally, I wouldn’t be bragging about that.

Finally, Florien felt the need to update his blog post with the usual tripe from “pro-choice” types,

First, a clarification. I’m not pro-abortion. I support the legalization of abortion. I do not like abortion nor do I usually counsel it. However, I do think it should be available for women who want it, especially if they were raped or have zero interest in caring for a child.

I would like abortion to be safe, legal, and rare. We can all work together on the rare part.

God, I hate this line of thinking. Can you imagine this nonsense being deployed in any other medical contest? I’m not pro-viagra. I would like viagra to be safe, legal and rare. Why do “pro-choicers” always feel the need to apologize for their support of legalized abortion in this way?

I am pro-abortion. I want abortion to be safe and legal and occur in whatever frequency women freely choose.

Anyone adding the “and rare” clause needs to define a) just what sort of abortion rate would qualify as rare, and b) how they would go about reducing the number of abortions from the >1 million annually in the United States to whatever rate is acceptable as “rare.”

The Ethics of Embryonic Sex Selection

The New York Times has a typical article on sex selection. What is always odd in such stories is to see the hypocrisy of groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which, as the Times notes, opposes sex selection,

Regardless of the method, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes sex selection except in people who carry a genetic disease that primarily affects one sex. But allowing sex selection just because the parents want it, with no medical reason, may support “sexist practices,” the college said in an opinion paper published this month in its journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The same people and organizations who will talk about “reproductive freedom” and a “woman’s right” when it comes to killing an embryo all of a sudden get all squishy when that “reproductive freedom” is used to bring about an outcome with which those people and groups are uncomfortable with.

The arguments against sex selection tend to rely on the very same arguments that are typically rejected when they are applied to abortion. For example, most of us think sex discrimination is wrong and so the ACOG cites sex selection as supporting “sexist practices.” Of course much the same argument is made against abortion by pro-lifers who argue that abortions contribute to a “culture of death.”

Such arguments by nominal defenders of abortion merely highlight the vacuous, empty nature of the idea of “choice.” Rather than being a serious argument, “choice” is simply a handy justification which is typically abandoned the second reproductive issues deviate from the ethics of abortion.

Source:

Girl or Boy? As Fertility Technology Advances, So Does an Ethical Debate. Denise Grady, The New York Times, February 6, 2007.

Kill the Premature Infants — They Cause Too Much Stress

The United States is a bit odd — on the one hand we have some of the least restrictive abortions laws in the world, while simultaneously also generally going far beyond what hospitals in other countries will attempt to save very premature births (which is one of the major reasons the U.S. infant mortality rate appears so much higher than comparable countries).

In Europe, however, it’s become fashionable for the intellectual elite to ponder whether or not it might be better to actively euthanize such infants who may have a “poor quality of life”.

An unsigned article/editorial published in the November 9, 2006 edition of The Economist does an excellent job of showing the dangers of going down that route.

Responding to a Nuffield Council on Bioethics report that recommending broader public debate about active euthanasia of infants, The Economist wrote,

There is another reason, too, why baby euthanasia needs discussing, but talking about it is virtually taboo. Families who bring up massively handicapped children often find the stress too much for them.

Take the case of Charlotte Wyatt, born at 26 weeks in 2003 with severe disabilities. Her doctors wanted to withhold treatment but her parents argued successfully that she should be kept alive. Now the parents have separated and Charlotte is up for adoption. Disabled children are nine times more likely than others to end up in the care of the state.

Tiny babies do tug at the heartstrings but raising a severely impaired child is heartbreakingly hard. It is brave of doctors to question whether they should save the life of each and every one.

The Charlotte Wyatt case does raise a number of questions about the sort of care offered to premature infants. Only weighing 1 pound at birth, Wyatt suffers from brain damage and lung problems. Three years after her birth, she has to be constantly hooked up to oxygen and fed through a nose tube.

Total costs of keeping her alive so far have topped 1.1 million pounds. No one would (or should) object if her parents were footing that bill, but under Great Britain’s socialized health care system the 1.1 million pounds spent taking care of Charlotte Wyatt is 1.1 million pounds that can’t be spent addressing other health care concerns.

There will always be questions in cases like Charlotte’s over just how much extraordinary (and incredibly expensive) medical intervention should be undertaken.

But it is a huge jump from that cost-benefit driven issue to whether or not Charlotte should have been euthanized because she would stress her parents out.

It is true, as The Economist writes, that “now the parents have separated and Charlotte is up for adoption,” but this is a bit of a lie through omission. Yes, her parents have separated, but both Debbie and Darren Wyatt have also cited the legal battle they had to fight to obtain life saving support for their daughter as a major strain on their marriage. One could just as easily deduce from the episode that the state and hospitals should immediately give in to such requests, because doing otherwise could dissolve the marital bonds of the two people most able to care for the child in question.

Second, The Economist gives the impression that Charlotte’s health problems are so severe that her parents no longer want to care for her. In fact, her father has applied to the court overseeing the case to have Charlotte come home to live with him, but that court has ruled that a single parent is incapable of meeting all of Charlotte’s medical needs. Instead, she is expected to be released to foster care once she is well enough (and presumably if her parents reconcile or remarry, they might regain custody of Charlotte provided they can demonstrate they can adequately care for Charlotte).

The Economist’s view that it is “brave” to consider actively terminating a child’s life to avoid undue stress on the parents is very close to Peter Singer’s formulation that we should not consider infants as “persons” until they reach their 31st day of life. After all why stop at stress caused by severe disabilities? Taking care of an healthy child can be extremely stressful, especially for women predisposed to having post-partum depression. If the amount of stress an infant will impose upon its parents is a valid consideration in deciding whether or not to kill a baby, then why not for other cases where even infants with mild disabilities (or, in the extreme, even perfectly health infants) may impose great stress on their parents?

Which is exactly why active euthanasia should be completely off the table when it comes to medical interventions with infants.

Sources:

Suffer the little children. The Economist, November 9, 2006.

Baby Charlotte faces foster care as parents can’t cope. Neil Sears & Dan Newling, The Daily Mail, October 16, 2006.

Charlotte Wyatt set to be fostered. Portsmouth.Co.Uk, December 20, 2006.