Ted Cruz signed a document declaring that abortion should be outlawed even if a woman is brutally raped and does not wish to carry her attacker’s child to term.
Of the four Republicans currently leading the pack in the presidential race—Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio—one candidate would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. That candidate, it should surprise no one, is Cruz.
As I pointed out yesterday, Cruz signed Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) PACs’ “Statement of Principles.” Those principles state: “GRTL opposes abortion for pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.” Cruz signed his name agreeing “to uphold these principles and positions.” (Note: GRTL’s web page is down as of this writing; I’ve archived copies of the relevant documents.)
Just to be clear: Ted Cruz signed a document declaring that abortion should be outlawed even if a woman is brutally raped and does not wish to carry her attacker’s child to term.
Apparently, Cruz and his supporters live under the delusion that he can win the general election with that position.
Not even Marco Rubio shares Cruz’s position here. True, reports the Associated Press, previously Rubio denied that he’d allow exceptions for rape and incest. However, more recently, he has said, “I, as president, will sign a bill that has exceptions” for rape and incest.
Ben Carson advocates the use of the “abortion pill” RU-486 in cases of rape and incest.
Perhaps we should congratulate Cruz for making Trump appear to be the voice of reason on an issue (comparatively speaking); even Trump advocates an abortion ban with exceptions for “rape, incest, if the mother is going to die.”
Anybody with that position [against abortion in the case of rape and incest] will get creamed. I would never tell a woman who’s been raped she’s got to carry the child of the rapist. . . . I appreciate your passion for the pro-life issue but you’re outside the mainstream and you cannot get elected.
(See also LifeNews.com’s report on Graham’s remarks on the matter elsewhere.)
Recently I described how Cruz is actively allying himself with religious conservatives, including some outright theocrats. Add that to his backing of “personhood” legislation, with its total ban on abortion, and I just don’t see how Cruz is electable.
An aside: As my long-time readers are aware, I have an affinity for Ayn Rand’s work. Rand called her philosophy Objectivism. What might Rand have made of the fact that there currently is an “Objectivists for Ted Cruz” Facebook community? We can get some idea from the fact that Rand denounced Ronald Reagan on the grounds that he opposed “the right to abortion” and allied himself with those who sought the “unconstitutional union of religion and politics.”
When it comes to allying with theocratic conservatives, Ted Cruz makes Ronald Reagan look like a piker.
If Cruz takes seriously the policies he explicitly endorses, then, yes, he does want to ban some types of birth control.
Does Ted Cruz want to ban birth control? Stated so broadly, the answer obviously is no, he does not wish to ban all forms of birth control. However, if Cruz takes seriously the policies he explicitly endorses, then, yes, he does want to ban some types of birth control.
Cruz’s policies do not imply any restrictions of true contraceptives—forms of birth control that prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg, such as a condom—but they imply that any form of birth control that does or can act as an abortifacient—preventing an embryo from implanting or growing in the uterus—should be banned. That includes the copper IUD, among other things.
Arguably, Cruz’s policies imply that the hormonal birth control pill and hormonal IUD should be banned as well, because those things might sometimes act as abortifacients. It is unclear (to me) whether Cruz thinks the hormonal birth control pill and the hormonal IUD can act as abortifacients. The FDA thinks that they can, and many of Cruz’s allies claim that they can and that therefore they should be banned (details below).
Certainly Cruz’s policies would ban “the abortion pill” RU-486, brand named Mifeprex, which can be used “in the first 49 days of pregnancy.” We can pick nits over whether we should call drug-induced abortion a form of “birth control.” I think the way most people use the term “birth control,” and the most sensible use of that term, is to refer to any method that prevents a pregnancy from occurring or proceeding, except for a surgical abortion. Thus, birth control includes some methods that act exclusively as contraceptives and some methods that do or can act as abortifacients.
There is another problem with the language we must address: Most doctors consider a “pregnancy” to begin after fertilization, when an embryo implants in the uterus. So is it accurate to call a form of birth control that prevents implantation an “abortifacient,” even though pregnancy has not yet begun? I think it makes sense to use the term “abortifacient” in this context; otherwise, there’s no word to describe a form of birth control that acts after fertilization to prevent implantation. Certainly it makes no sense to refer to something that prevents implantation of an embryo as a “contraceptive”; it’s not preventing conception. By my schema, then, “contraception” and “abortifacient” cover all possible types of birth control (where some types can act as either a contraceptive or an abortifacient).
Before picking back up with the technicalities of birth control, let’s turn to recent discussions about Cruz’s views on on the matter. On November 30, someone asked Cruz about birth control. Cruz’s reply was both rhetorically masterful and deeply evasive. Here’s what he said (relying on ABC’s transcription):
Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila. So, yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utter made-up nonsense issue.
Now, listen, I have been a conservative my entire life. I have never met anybody, any conservative, who wants to ban contraceptives. As I noted, Heidi and I, we have two little girls. I’m very glad we don’t have 17. . . .
So what do you do [if you’re Hillary Clinton], you go, “Ah ha, the condom police. I’m going to make up a completely made-up threat and try to scare a bunch of folks who are not paying a lot of attention into thinking someone’s going to steal their birth control.” What nonsense.
On December 1, Clinton’s team replied with an article titled, “Ted Cruz says no one’s trying to ban contraception. Here are 5 times Ted Cruz tried to ban contraception.”
Note how both Cruz and Clinton rely on confusion about the terms at hand. Cruz says conservatives don’t want to “ban contraceptives”—ignoring the fact that many conservatives want to ban abortifacients and consider the pill and IUD to be abortifacients. And Clinton misuses the term “contraception” to refer to all types of birth control.
Clinton also promotes the confusion between banning something and declining to subsidize it with tax dollars or otherwise promote it with government force. I agree with Cruz that people should not be forced to subsidize birth control and that government ought not interfere with freedom of contract (which can involve employment policies regarding birth control). Three of Clinton’s five points pertain not to proposed bans but to taxes and employment regulations.
Clinton’s fifth point claims that Cruz wants to “try to ban emergency contraception.” But nothing in Clinton’s piece, or in the Salon article that Clinton references, support her claim.
Clinton’s remaining point, her first one listed, is that Cruz “supported a so-called personhood amendment, which could criminalize abortion and could ban some forms of birth control.” On this score Clinton is absolutely right—except that “personhood” not merely “could” but certainly would ban some forms of birth control (if implemented fully).
Let’s establish the facts showing that Cruz supports “personhood.” Georgia Right to Life PAC endorses Ted Cruz for president. The organization clearly lays out its “criteria for consideration of candidate endorsement” in its “endorsement guidelines.” Candidates must read proclaim that they agree with the organization’s “GRTL PAC Pro-Life Principles.” Those principles state, among other things, that RU-486 should be banned (except for possible “non-abortion related purposes”). This document also states that “personhood begins at the moment of fertilization” and that, by signing the document (as Cruz did), candidates agree to protect the “civil rights” of embryos from fertilization. Thus, the document implies, but does not explicitly state, that any form of birth control that may act as an abortifacient should be banned.
A media release from Georgia Right to Life confirms: “Senator Cruz received the endorsement after reviewing his activities supporting personhood and receiving his signed GRTL PAC Personhood Affirmation, which asks that candidates support a personhood amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
I don’t think anyone was confused about whether Cruz wants to ban Mifeprex; obviously he does. The major remaining question is whether he wants to ban the birth control pill or IUD.
So far as I’m aware, Cruz has never explicitly stated whether he wants additional legal restrictions or bans on any form of hormonal birth control pill or IUD. (I contacted Cruz’s campaign asking for clarification but never heard back.)
There are two related issues involved. First, does the pill or IUD, in fact, ever act as an abortifacient, or does it always act only as a contraceptive? Second, does Cruz believe that it does? If Cruz doesn’t think the pill or IUD acts as an abortifacient, then he can coherently claim he doesn’t want to ban them as a supporter of “personhood.” On the other hand, if Cruz concludes that the pill or IUD can act as an abortifacient, then, logically, by supporting “personhood” he has committed himself to seeking a ban.
GRTL takes no position on birth control methods, which are contraceptive rather than abortive in their actions. We are opposed to those birth control methods which act as abortifacients. These could include forms of the pill which act to prevent implantation of the newly formed human into the lining of the womb; forms of the IUD, which can act the same; and prostaglandin suppository drugs, which act to cause delivery of whatever size baby the uterus contains.
Georgia Right to Life, then, certainly thinks that the “personhood” statement that Cruz signed does (or at least “could”) entail a ban on the pill and IUD.
Now, some people on the left ridicule conservatives who claim that forms of birth control that prevent implantation are “abortifacients.” For example, the Salon article that Clinton references in turn cites a document published by Princeton and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, which says this:
[U]sing emergency contraceptive pills (also called “morning after pills” or “day after pills”) prevents pregnancy after sex. It does not cause an abortion. (In fact, because emergency contraception helps women avoid getting pregnant when they are not ready or able to have children, it can reduce the need for abortion.)
Emergency contraceptive pills work before pregnancy begins. According to leading medical authorities—such as the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants in the lining of a woman’s uterus. Implantation begins five to seven days after sperm fertilizes the egg, and the process is completed several days later. Emergency contraception will not work if a woman is already pregnant.
That line of argument is deeply dishonest (and also deeply stupid, insofar as it ignores the obvious literal meaning of “contraception” as preventing conception). For religious conservatives who care about these issues, the entire discussion hinges on whether a form of birth control prevents fertilization or acts to destroy an embryo—whether or not it has implanted in the uterus. The document cited essentially plays a word game to artificially define “contraceptive” to include something that causes the destruction of a pre-implanted embryo.
The stronger argument is that “emergency contraception” is just that—contraception—and that it acts to prevent fertilization. That’s what Planned Parenthood maintains happens: “Emergency contraception pills work by keeping a woman’s ovary from releasing an egg for longer than usual. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no egg to join with sperm.”
The main official page for Ella, a major brand of emergency contraception, claims the same thing, that the drug “works by preventing ovulation, even during the time in your cycle when you’re most fertile, for five full days following unprotected sex.” If that’s all that “emergency contraception” does, then there’s no reason to ban it according to to the commitments of “personhood.”
However, the FDA-approved prescription information for Ella claims that its methods of action are broader: “The likely primary mechanism of action of ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception is therefore inhibition or delay of ovulation; however, alterations to the endometrium that may affect implantation may also contribute to efficacy.”
In other words, if the prescription information is accurate, then Ella can act either as a contraceptive or as an abortifacient (in the sense that it can prevent implantation of an embryo).
So what about the standard birth control pill and the IUD? Here again, the official prescription information claims that they can act as an abortifacient (as defined here).
For example, the prescription information for Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo states: “COCs [combined oral contraceptives] lower the risk of becoming pregnant primarily by suppressing ovulation. Other possible mechanisms may include cervical mucus changes that inhibit sperm penetration and endometrial changes that reduce the likelihood of implantation.”
The prescription information for the Mirena IUD states: “Mirena may work in several ways including thickening cervical mucus, inhibiting sperm movement, reducing sperm survival, and thinning the lining of your uterus. It is not known exactly how these actions work together to prevent pregnancy.”
Obviously if the lining of the uterus thins, that could prevent implantation of an embryo. The language that it is “not known exactly” how the device works is not likely to comfort most advocates of “personhood,” who regard a just-fertilized egg as the moral equivalent of a born baby.
Nevertheless, writing for the Federalist, David Harsanyi confidently proclaims that, while “personhood” bans abortion in principle, “it certainly doesn’t ban condoms or the birth control pill.” But, somehow, I suppose that advocates of “personhood” measures will be more impressed with the official, government-approved prescription information than with Harsanyi’s groundless certitude.
But maybe the FDA-approved prescription information is wrong: Maybe the pill and IUD never act by preventing implantation. That’s what many people argue, at least regarding the pill and hormone-based (as opposed to copper) IUD.
Pam Belluck’s 2012 article for the New York Times argues that the pill and hormonal IUD, along with emergency contraception, don’t prevent implantation (or at least that there’s no reason to think they do).
By contrast, scientists say, research suggests that the only other officially approved form of emergency contraception, the copper intrauterine device (also a daily birth control method), can work to prevent pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized.
So, by the logic of “personhood,” at least the copper IUD should be banned, along with the abortion pill, even if the regular pill and hormonal IUDs are found not to prevent implantation. (As Belluck adds, “Despite the accumulating evidence” about hormonal pills and IUDs, “several abortion opponents said they remain unpersuaded.”)
Of course, it would be very easy for Cruz to issue a statement along these lines: “I, Ted Cruz, believe that the abortion pill [should / should not] be banned; that emergency contraception [should / should not] be banned; that the hormonal birth control pill [should / should not] be banned; that hormonal IUDs [should / should not] be banned; and that copper IUDs [should / should not] be banned.”
If Cruz would issue such a statement, as I’ve asked him to do, that would count as definitive evidence of his views in these matters. (Of course, depending on Cruz’s answers, one might argue that they either comport or conflict with his stated position on “personhood.”)
I would be shocked if Cruz in fact issued such a clear-cut statement. After all, politics today is not about clearly articulating one’s views on the issues; it is about obfuscating one’s views in order to pander to as many voters as possible. And Cruz can obfuscate with the best of them.
Regardless, given Cruz’s explicit commitment to “personhood,” he has also logically committed himself to trying to ban the abortion pill and copper IUD—and, if they are found to sometimes act as abortifacients (a big “if”), the birth control pill and hormonal IUD.
Let’s see Cruz try to parse all that going into the general election, if he makes it that far.
No one can reasonably question my pro-choice credentials—I’ve been a vocal opponent of the so-called “personhood” measures in Colorado; I’ve coauthored a paper defending a woman’s right to seek an abortion; and I’ve coauthored the article, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.” So, as a matter of policy, on this issue I stand opposed to Idaho’s Republican state representative Vito Barbieri, who is anti-abortion and who advocates legal restrictions of abortion.
But just because Barbieri is wrong on the issues, doesn’t mean he deserves to be lied about and defamed—yet what various media outlets have done precisely is lie about Barbieri, take his remarks grossly out of context, and defame him.
I advocate legal abortion, but I do not advocate only that; among many other things, I also advocate honesty in media and basic human decency. The media outlets in question have failed both those tests. Because initially I was suckered by their dishonest reports, and because I published a Tweet mocking Barbieri (which I subsequently corrected), I now feel some responsibility to help set the record straight.
The context, according to an Associated Press article by Kimberlee Kruesi, was that the Idaho legislature was hearing “testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine.” A doctor who testified against the bill, Julie Madsen, drew a comparison to a camera swallowed for a colonoscopy, which can be useful in telemedicine. To this, Barbieri sensibly inquired whether a camera might also be useful for a chemically-induced abortion—the topic at hand—and Madsen admitted it cannot be useful for that, because, she said, “swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.” In other words, Madsen is the one who brought up swallowed cameras, and Barbieri is the one who pointed out that swallowed cameras are useless when it comes to investigating a pregnancy. As Kuesi reports, “Barbieri later said that the question was rhetorical and intended to make a point.” By any reasonable interpretation of the events, that is obviously what happened.
Yet numerous media outlets completely reversed the facts to make it seem as though Barbieri thought a swallowed camera might be useful for pregnancy, and that Madsen was “educating” him that the digestive tract is not connected to the vagina. But that was precisely the fact of which Barbieri was reminding Madsen, to point out that that portion of her testimony was, in his view, off-topic.
As soon as I read Barbieri’s remarks in context, it was pretty clear that various media reports about those remarks were flatly wrong. So I did something that is apparently unusual in the world of journalism today: I actually contacted Barbieri to get his side of the story. His comments square perfectly with the account I’ve given; here is what he emailed me, in full:
Thank you for contacting me in regard to my comments in the House State Affairs committee. Unfortunately, this is an example of the media taking an issue and warping it to fulfill their own agenda.
Please review the remarks made in context.
While discussing the efficacy of long-distance ‘telemedicine’, the doctor testifying was making an invalid comparison between two vastly different medical procedures, citing a colonoscopy was many times more dangerous than a chemical abortion. I was highlighting the absurdity of this comparison by taking her example of a patient swallowing a camera capsule to ascertain the condition of that patient’s digestive tract “from thousands of miles away” (her words) and, by asking my question, emphasizing that such technology could not be used in the case of a pregnant woman.
With respect to the issue at hand: It is a paramount responsibility of the Legislature to act for the benefit of the health and safety of all its citizens. To that end, and to protect the expectant mother, this bill proposed a physician must first physically examine her prior to dispensing these powerful chemicals. The first chemical will deprive the baby of nutrients which of course starves her/him to death and then, the second chemical, induces hemorrhaging thereby expelling the fetus. The expectant mother is home, alone, having no idea whether the amount of bleeding she is experiencing is normal for this procedure or is the product of a serious complication. This bill merely requires a doctor to physically examine the woman and should be at hand and available in the latter case.
Here is a transcript of the full exchange (with thanks to Betsy Russell, from the Spokesman Review, you can link to a copy of her blog “Eye on Boise” here):
Barbieri: “You mentioned the risk of colonoscopy , can that be done by drugs?”
Dr. Julie Madsen: “It cannot be done by drugs. It can, however, be done remotely where you swallow a pill and this pill has a little camera, and it makes its way through your intestines and those images are uploaded to a doctor who’s often thousands of miles away, who then interprets that.”
Barbieri: “Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?”
Madsen: “It cannot be done in pregnancy, simply because when you swallow a pill, it would not end up in the vagina.” (Hoots of laughter from the audience)
Barbieri: “Fascinating. That certainly makes sense, doctor.”
Again, thanks for sharing your perspective on this very important issue and know I will continue to be steadfast in protecting woman’s health as well as the unborn.
Rep. Vito Barbieri
Now, as a matter of policy, I think Barbieri is clearly wrong. Doctors are more than competent to determine whether telemedicine is safe and appropriate regarding chemically-induced abortions. (Further, doctors’ insurance providers will take steps to ensure they are competent; otherwise, the doctors would get sued.) Further, I think Barbieri’s concerns about bleeding are a mere rationalization to mask his deeper, anti-abortion agenda. On that point, Madsen’s comments are on-topic, for they show that Barbieri (apparently) wants to restrict telemedicine only with respect to abortion, not with respect to other medical conditions.
Barbieri’s policy position is, in my view, unjustifiable—which means that it can be defeated based on facts and logic. Defaming Barbieri, as various media outlets have done, only distracts attention away from the important issues at hand and makes Barbieri’s supporters quite legitimately feel persecuted by a dishonest media.
I will hold out hope that the journalists who defamed Barbieri are in fact journalists, and that they have enough journalistic integrity to publish corrections and apologize to Barbieri.
I confess that I tried not to look too closely at the Republican candidate for my Colorado senate district (number 19), Laura Woods, because I was afraid of what I might find. After gleefully witnessing the fall of Evie Hudack following her reckless, Bloomberg-inspired campaign against peaceable gun owners (after which Democrats replaced her with Rachel Zenzinger, now the Democratic candidate), I really wanted the seat to turn Republican.
After the fiascos of ObamaCare (implications of which played out in the state legislature), the Democrats’ persecution of gun owners, the Democrats’ war on energy producers and consumers, and other matters, this would have been an excellent year for the GOP to punish the Democrats and win back some seats. But, Republicans being Republicans (aka “The Stupid Party”), Republicans in my district nominated a candidate I cannot possible vote for.
Thus, just a couple of weeks after announcing I planned to vote a straight-Republican ticket, I now have to make an exception and declare that I cannot and will not vote for Laura Woods. The basic problem is that Woods enthusiastically endorses total abortion bans, including the insane and horrific “personhood” measure on the ballot this year.
(I won’t vote for Zenzinger either. I’ll probably just blank that vote, unless I can figure out how to write in “Turd Sandwich.”)
So congratulations to Mainstream Colorado, “Ashley Stevens, registered agent,” for prompting me to take a closer look at Woods and to thereby change my vote. (This is the first time I can recall in which a political ad has actually had any influence whatsoever on my voting.)
I’ll begin by reviewing a couple of campaign mailers I received from Mainstream. One ad cleverly borrows the language of the right by touting, “Freedom. Responsibility. Hard Work. These are the values Coloradans have cherished for generations.” The ad continues (in part), “Rachel Zenzinger believes women have the right to make their own health care decisions [but not their own self-defense decisions] with their family, their doctor and their faith—without government or bosses getting in the way.” Of course, the bit about “bosses” is a reference to the ObamaCare requirement forcing insurers to cover birth control. Although I don’t agree with Zenzinger on that issue, I definitely agree with her that women have a right to get an abortion.
Then comes the ad’s attack on Woods:
Laura Woods would take away a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions. . . . Laura Woods doesn’t think women are responsible enough to make their own decisions [except regarding their self-defense]. Woods supports an extreme plan that would ban all abortions, including in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. The plan would criminalize doctors who treat women and allow law enforcement to investigate women who suffer miscarriage. She even supports a constitutional amendment that could ban common forms of birth control.
Although some of that language is imprecise and incomplete, it is essentially correct.
A second ad from the outfit makes the same basic claims.
So what are the facts behind the claims in question? Colorado Campaign for Life claims, “Laura Woods answered her Colorado Campaign for Life Survey 100 pro-life (sic).” (The organization also likens Woods’s opponent, Lang Sias, to the baby murderer Kermit Gosnell.) And Colorado Right to Life, which asks candidates if they “oppose all abortion,” affirms that Woods “has rigorously affirmed she is pro-life (sic).” As CBS Denver reports, Woods is a “staunch supporter of the Personhood ballot issue.”
As for why women have a right to get an abortion (and to use the birth control and in vitro fertility treatments of their choice), and for why the “personhood” measure is not about personhood and is indeed anti-life rather than “pro-life,” see the detailed paper on the matter by Diana Hsieh and me.
If there’s one thing that makes me more angry than politicians endorsing stupid policies, it’s journalists writing biased and fact-distorting “news” stories. Frankly I usually don’t expect any better from politicians. But I do expect better from journalists, who are supposed to be the defenders of truth, justice, and America’s constitutional republic.
John Frank’s recent article in the Denver Post, “Bob Beauprez’s IUD Remark in Debate Generates Controversy,” represents the worst kind of biased (and frankly partisan) “reporting.”
By way of background, it is no secret that I advocate a woman’s right to get an abortion and that I strongly oppose the so-called “personhood” ballot measure. Indeed, I’ve spent many hours researching and writing about the “personhood” efforts over the years (see the paper I coauthored with Diana Hsieh). In 2006, the last time Beauprez ran for governor, I endorsed Democrat Bill Ritter over Beauprez, largely over “Beauprez’s religious stand against abortion.” This year, I have (tentatively) endorsed Beauprez over incumbent John Hickenlooper, partly because Beauprez has substantially run away from his efforts to outlaw abortion, and largely because I’m sick of Hickenlooper’s antics.
But whatever my personal positions, and whatever Frank’s personal position may be, intellectually honest people can at least be open and candid about the facts. On that score Frank has failed, miserably.
Frank correctly notes that, in a recent debate, “Beauprez suggested that intrauterine devices, known as IUDs, cause abortion.” Specifically, he said, “IUD is an abortifacient.”
Then Frank writes,
Beauprez drew a rebuke from experts in the medical community who called his assertion false. . . . The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and 10 other physician organizations, as well as the Federal Drug Administration, define IUDs as contraceptives that prevent a pregnancy. . . . Dr. Daniel Grossman, an ob/gyn who does reproductive research and who practices in San Francisco, said the definition of a pregnancy as the implantation of a fertilized egg is an established scientific standard. He said IUDs are not abortifacient.
But the relevant debate is not whether an IUD can kill a zygote once it has implanted in the uterus; rather, it is whether an IUD can kill a zygote before it implants in the uterus—and for Frank to ignore that issue is journalistic incompetence (or else intentional fraud). Basically, Frank is trying to trip up Beauprez on a definition, rather than address the substantive underlying issues.
So what are the facts? In 2012, Pam Belluck wrote for the New York Times:
By contrast [to hormonal birth control pills], scientists say, research suggests that the only other officially approved form of emergency contraception, the copper intrauterine device (also a daily birth control method), can work to prevent pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized.
A web site for Paragard, a brand of copper IUD, states, “The copper in Paragard . . . interferes with sperm movement and egg fertilization. Paragard may prevent implantation.” Implantation of what, you may ask? Obviously, of a zygote. And what happens if a zygote does not implant in the uterus? It dies. The FDA-approved prescription information for Paragard states, “Mechanism(s) by which copper enhances contraceptive efficacy include interference with sperm transport and fertilization of an egg, and possibly prevention of implantation.”
In other words, the copper IUD can work by preventing fertilization, and it can work by preventing the implantation of a (fertilized) zygote. If it works by the first means, it is a “contraceptive,” meaning that it prevents conception. But if it works by the second means, calling it a “contraceptive” is misleading, which is why the so-called “pro-life” crowd calls it “abortifacient.” But, by the definition of Frank’s “experts,” it’s not an abortion if it kills a zygote before it implants in the uterus. Well, they can define it that way if they want, but the definition used does not alter the underlying facts.
Let’s use another example to illustrate the point. I could define a “journalist” as a writer of news stories who gets his facts straight and who does not omit relevant facts. By that definition, John Frank is not a “journalist” (“hack” might be a better descriptive, at least in this case). But another common meaning of “journalist” is simply anyone who gets paid to write for a news organization. By that definition, Frank is a “journalist.” But real journalists (in the first sense of the term) do not play “gotcha” games with definitions as a way to obscure the relevant issues.
I believe the editors of the Denver Post do have integrity and do try to publish good, factually complete stories, so I call on them to issue a correction to Frank’s story.
Of course, as a matter of policy, it should matter not at all whether an IUD can act to prevent the implantation of a zygote. Women have a moral right to use the birth control methods of their choice and to seek an abortion if they wish to do so. A zygote is not a “person” and does not have rights. Frank does helpfully report that Beauprez said “in an interview after the debate” that “the use of IUDs [is] a ‘personal choice.'” Indeed it is—and it should continue to be.
As Jason Salzman points out at Bigmedia.org, both Bob Beauprez (Colorado Republican candidate for governor) and Cory Gardner (Republican candidate for U.S. Senate) endorsed federal “personhood” bills to give just-fertilized zygotes full legal rights. “Beauprez supported federal personhood legislation in 2005,” Salzman notes, and Gardner is a current sponsor of “personhood” legislation.
Salzman concludes: “The question left hanging is, why would Beauprez (and Gardner) support personhood at the federal level but oppose it in Colorado when the results here would be the same?”
The obvious answer is that both candidates reasonably believe that endorsing Amendment 67—this year’s “personhood” ballot measure in Colorado—would be political suicide. From a strategic standpoint, probably the worst thing to happen to Republican candidates this year in Colorado is to have run with “personhood” on the ballot. The measure will certainly bring more left-leaning women to the polls, and it will remind all voters that “personhood” is very much a live issue with many Republican candidates.
Over at Townhall.com, Katie Pavlich writes, “In an ad released today attacking his opponent, Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, Udall claims Gardner wants to ‘ban common forms of birth control.’ This statement is completely false.” The headline calls Udall a liar. But if Udall is a liar for telling half the truth, then so is Pavlich. So let’s get to the bottom of things.
Udall’s ad cites Garder’s “8-year crusade that would ban common forms of birth control.” Did Gardner lead such a crusade? Yes, he did, insofar as the so-called “personhood” measures he actively supported would have had that effect if passed and fully implemented. Gardner even circulated a “personhood” ballot initiative, as Personhood USA brags. For details about the impact of “personhood” on birth control, see the 2010 paper by Diana Hsieh and me. But, more recently, Gardner decided “he was wrong to support previous personhood efforts” because of their possible impact on birth control, reports Lynn Bartels for the Denver Post. In June, Gardner wrote an op-ed advocating the legalization of “oral contraception for over-the-counter purchases by adults.” That’s a very bold and a very pro-liberty move, and not one I’ve seen Udall support. Of course, Gardner still supports abortion bans.
So Pavlich misrepresented Udall’s claims about Gardner, but in his ad Udall did not reveal important facts about Gardner’s change of heart. “Half the truth is a great lie.”
“A federal judge Monday morning ruled that a portion of a 2013 Alabama law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospitals posed an undue burden on women’s abortion rights, and was unconstitutional,” reports the Montgomery Advertiser. The courts also recently ruled against a similar regulation in Mississippi. For details on why such regulations are wrong, see the article by Diana Hsieh and me, “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties.”
As those who follow my work know, I’ve written extensively against the so-called “personhood” proposals that seek to grant full legal rights to embryos and fetuses from the moment of conception. Diana Hsien and I coauthored a 2010 paper on the subject; we wrote a broader article for The Objective Standard; and I wrote a follow-up article for TOS’s blog. Now Hsieh is raising funds for her and me to update the 2010 paper in order to discuss the 2014 Colorado “personhood” ballot measure, officially Amendment 67. To read about the effort and to contribute funds to it, see the page at the Coalition for Secular Government.
As Diana Hsieh and I discuss in “The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties,” conservatives in various states have sought to regulate abortion clinics out of existence, thereby borrowing a political tactic the left commonly uses in other contexts. The Onion satirizes such laws: “New Anti-Abortion Legislation Requires Doctors To Scale 18-Foot Wall Surrounding Clinic.” Partly as a consequence of such laws, Mississippi has only a single abortion clinic—Jackson Women’s Health Organization—which nearly shut down when its doctor was unable to obtain admitting privileges to a local hospital, as state law requires, as Emily Le Coz reports for the Clarion-Ledger. But, as Le Coz reports, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a preliminary injunction against the law in question, (perhaps) “essentially dooming the state law that had threatened to close” the clinic.