For the Least of These, For Alfie Evans

Alfie Evans, days after his ventilator was removed

It has been some time since we at Rational Catholic have been able to use our blog. There have been babies born and other life changes for many of us since this blog first started. However, the particular case of the toddler Alfie Evans requires us to respond.

Many of us at Rational Catholic are the parents of children with disabilities. Some of us have disabilities ourselves. We pledge ourselves to the proclamation of what is true, in faith and in accord with reason. End of life issues are always difficult, even moreso when a child is the person whose death approaches. Here is our response to this incredibly painful and difficult case.

We believe that, while there has been no firm diagnosis for the specific cause for Alfie’s condition, the ballpark diagnosis of a progressive neurodegenerative condition that will be fatal is likely to be correct. We believe that Alfie has a terminal illness, even though it is not clear why this happened or the specific mechanism by which his brain is being destroyed. We believe that this is likely a condition for which, at this point, medical science has no possible treatment or cure. I would encourage people to read the expert testimony to get a more clear picture of the clinical issues in play.

However, we believe that the actions of this hospital and the judges, particularly the decisions to remove the parents’ right to determine the appropriate treatment for their child, are unconscionable and evil. There is a difference between a discussion of care that is futile, and hastening the death of a toddler for the reasoning that he is not dying quickly enough and his life has been determined to be not worth living. A failure to die on a timeline that conserves the most resources for the health care system is not an offense that should be remedied by passive euthanasia.

We believe that this child’s condition is as it has been represented: terminal. We also believe that this child has a right to every single moment in his mother’s embrace, every loving word from his father’s mouth. It beggars belief that this needs to be said, but while he approaches death he has a right to non invasive supportive care like oxygen, and to food and water. I cannot believe that it has to be stated that a dying toddler should not be starved. This is not a case where the child’s body can no longer take in nutrition, such that feeding could actually increase suffering. That scenario can and does exist, but it is not the case here.

There have been many discussions of Alfie’s state being “semi vegetative” and statements that there is virtually nothing left of his brain. However, it is a profound error to believe that a life has value only insofar as it meets certain arbitrary standards. A human person has value because of who he is, not because of what he is able to do. Age, IQ, race, gender, disabilities, location, stage of development, and so many other qualities are *accidents.*. They do not make someone a human being of value, or not. They do not make someone’s life worth living, or not. They do not change the fundamental dignity of the human person, nor do they change his vocation in life: to know God, love God, and serve God in this life and to be happy with Him forever in the next. The powers of the soul are not dependent upon the function of the brain.  Alfie has the same value as the scientist working to cure cancer, the nun praying without ceasing, the embryo in the first moments of life, the professor scribbling away at the masterpiece he will never finish, and the cashier at the gas station. Every one of those people is equally made in the image and likeness of God. This day, Alfie Evans is a better Christian than I am. He is a better Christian than you are. And the lives of the little ones such as Alfie are precious in the sight of God.

What we do for the least of these, our brothers and sisters, determines, who we are. Christ hungers in His Son, Alfie. Christ thirsts. And He does this with parents who have faced fierce and irrational hatred for their unwillingness to bend to the pagan demands that they submit to their child’s earlier death as being somehow in his best interest. Prayers for Alfie and his family, and for a society that says that death is better for a child than life.


Round about the Roundabout and Back to HPV

Recycling is good for the environment and, apparently, in rekindling the motivated reasoning that fuels HPV vaccine fears. If you’re new to Rational Catholic Blog, please consider starting at “The Rabbit Hole to HPV” since my goal is to avoid repeating too many of the same points. Suffice it to say, I have heard the arguments against vaccination (initially being swayed by some of them myself), and they cannot be supported. Almost no “new” arguments exist; they are, by and large, simply rehashes of the same (misrepresented/misrepresentative) studies or the same ideologically-motivated reasoning.

The “new” statement by the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) is no exception.

Now, some writers have been focusing on ACP itself, the accusation being that they put ideology over sound science. The ACP is not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the major professional organization of pediatricians. While there is something to be said of the trustworthiness of a source, I would like to focus on the statement. After all, having ideological principles doesn’t disqualify you from making valid arguments and use of science… though, as I will explain, ACP does neither.


Alarm? A bell pull at most

Despite the headlines circulating around the anti-vaccination world (“American College of Pediatricians Sounds Alarm…”, “Pediatricians Association Admits HPV Vaccine causes Ovarian Failure”, etc.), the actual statement by the ACP, while still highly problematic, was actually very modest in nature. Their concluding remarks admit “there is no strong evidence of a causal relationship between HPV4 and ovarian dysfunction”, and they have not found their concerns to be so compelling as to withdraw their current guideline on HPV vaccination, which states, “Given the effectiveness of these vaccines against HPV infection and its morbidities, the American College of Pediatricians favors offering HPV vaccination to all children and young adults even if they are committed to abstinence until marriage.”

Scathing, no?

Now, this is not to say that ideology might not be playing a significant role in their “concerns” because from an objective standpoint, their statement is schizophrenic and scientifically unjustifiable.


Manipulating History by Removing Context

As this blog has pointed out in the past, VAERS reports cannot and do not prove anything about vaccine safety. They do not even rise to the level of a published case report as they are often submitted by laymen or lawyers. Still, they can be useful in raising flags for potential rare adverse reactions. The ACP states:

[S]ince licensure of Gardasil® in 2006, there have been about 213 VAERS reports (per the publicly available CDC WONDER VAERS database) involving amenorrhea, POF or premature menopause, 88% of which have been associated with Gardasil®… This compares to the pre-HPV vaccine period from 1990 to 2006 during which no cases of POF or premature menopause and 32 cases of amenorrhea were reported to VAERS.

Many adolescent females are vaccinated with influenza, meningococcal, and tetanus vaccines without getting Gardasil®, and yet only 5.6% of reports related to ovarian dysfunction since 2006 are associated with such vaccines in the absence of simultaneous Gardasil® administration. The overwhelming majority (76%) of VAERS reports since 2006 with ovarian failure, premature menopause, and/or amenorrhea are associated solely with Gardasil®. When VAERS reports since 2006 are restricted to cases in which amenorrhea occurred for at least 4 months and is not associated with other known causes like polycystic ovary syndrome or pregnancy, 86/89 cases are associated with Gardasil®, 3/89 with CervarixTM, and 0/89 with other vaccines administered independently of an HPV vaccine. Using the same criteria, there are only 7 reports of amenorrhea from 1990 through 2005 and no more than 2 of those associated with any one vaccine type.

My reaction: “Well, duh.” Let’s unpack this statement to explore how unremarkable it is.

We know that primary ovarian insufficiency/premature ovarian failure, premature menopause and amenorrhea (cessation of menses) occur even in the absence of vaccination. It’s a bit more complicated, but essentially, you would be looking for something that indicated that the rate of POF/amenorrhea was greater than the background incidence if you were trying to implicate a vaccine as the cause.

Here’s the problem: OF COURSE there would be more cases of POF et. al. reported after 2006 by coincidence alone! You have to be an adolescent or older to be diagnosed with those conditions and, prior to 2006, there were hardly any vaccines given at that age. Of course you would have few reports correlated with vaccination because there weren’t many people getting vaccines at the ages when those diagnoses could be made. If you look at the current vaccination schedule, the vaccines that a preteen or teen get are Tdap, influenza, meningococcal, and HPV. But, this is the current schedule, not the schedule that applied prior to the introduction of Gardasil.

I entered university in 2002. At that time, I needed to get one shot because university students were part of the “at risk” population for meningococcal meningitis. I hadn’t had a shot in years. There was no Gardasil. I was like the unfortunate majority and was not getting an annual flu shot. And I was still up to date from the tetanus booster I got well prior to menarche (first menses). If I were to have developed ovarian failure in my prime teen years, there was no possible way for it to have been correlated, even loosely, with vaccines because I wasn’t getting any. But now, simply by virtue of the vaccination schedule changes, we should expect correlation of “several weeks to years” to increase independent of any causal link; there simply are substantially more menstruating adolescent girls being vaccinated. Completely unremarkable.

quote-Mark-Twain-facts-are-stubborn-but-statistics-are-more-100651_1Further, the presentation of the statistics is clearly prejudiced against Gardasil. 213 VAERS reports in the span of about 9 years (Gardasil was licensed in 2006 and was officially incorporated into the CDC schedule in 2007). Even if we consider how incredibly small that is compared to the 80 million doses administered during that same time— 0.00027%— it is still overinflated. The skeptical mind always tries to change the statistical representation. Does it say that 12%— more than 1 out of 10 reports— had absolutely no association with Gardasil? No. Does it say that less than half of the reports (89 total) had both amenorrhea of at least 4 months and were not associated with a known risk factor? No. But these are all simple ways of restating ACP’s own statistics.


Polysorbate 80 Flimflam
The numbers alone should give a person pause before taking these “concerns” too seriously. However, what follows regarding vaccine components should cement in the reader’s mind just how vacuous these “concerns” truly are.

ACP states:

[P]otential mechanisms of action have been postulated based on autoimmune associations with the aluminum adjuvant used1 and previously documented ovarian toxicity in rats from another component, polysorbate 80…

Few other vaccines besides Gardasil® that are administered in adolescence contain polysorbate 80.

Zounds, the chemikillz! Seriously, nothing screams desperation and bias like selectively and inconsistently zeroing in on a “toxin” with no regard for dosage.

I think they allot more focus for polysorbate 80 as the “toxin” of choice because they know what a dead end it would be to focus on aluminum adjuvants. Aluminum adjuvants have been used in vaccines since the 1930s and millions of reproductive-aged women have been recipients of those vaccines, such as for their tetanus boosters, with no fertility concerns raised or realized over the decades (save by anti-vaccinationists like Lucija Tomljenovic, ophthalmologist-turned-vaccine-faux-expert).

Turning to polysorbate 80, it is a ubiquitous surfactant. It is used as an emulsifier in everything from ice cream to soaps to vaccines. Europeans and Americans consume about 100 milligrams (mg) of polysorbate 80 per day. The entire polysorbate 80 content in the 3-dose, 6-month Gardasil series is only 150 micrograms (µg) or 0.15 milligrams, less than one six-hundredth of the average daily consumption. Given this information, we would require clear and compelling evidence that such low amounts of polysorbate 80 could plausibly cause deleterious effects, but there is none presented.

“But what about the effects in the ovaries of rats?”
What about them? If anything, they demonstrate the sheer absurdity of the polysorbate 80 hypothesis. The colloquialism is “the dose makes the poison.” The evidence offered by the study cited by ACP (by the same Dr. Little whose anti-Gardasil work I have previously mentioned) of the deleterious effects of polysorbate 80 was a 1993 study entitled “Delayed effects of neonatal exposure to Tween 80 on female reproductive organs in rats”. In that study, the experimental groups of rat pups were given one 0.1mL IP injection of 1%, 5%, or 10% polysorbate 80 (aka Tween 80) on days 4, 5, 6 and 7 after birth and subsequently examined.

Consider the following: The rats had exponentially higher doses of polysorbate 80. The density of polysorbate 80 (aka Tween 80) is 1.06 g/mL. When we do the calculations, we find that the experimental groups received totals of 4240µg (1% group), 21200µg (5% group) and 42400µg of polysorbate 80. Again,the total in the whole Gardasil series is only 150µg.

Thumbelina probably should consider not getting the full human vaccine dosage.

2)The rats are exponentially smaller than humans. The rats in this experiment were pups, injected on days 4-7 of life. At that age, their weight will not top 20 grams (0.02kg), less than an ounce, and likely they would be far lighter. The average weight of an 11-year-old girl is 79 lbs, or 35.8 kg. Compare: girls over the course of the Gardasil series would receive 4 µg/kg body weight of polysorbate 80. At the most conservative minimum, the rats pups received, 212,000 µg/kg body weight up to greater than 2,120,000 µg/kg. In order to get even close to the same exposure from the Gardasil series as the rat pups, your 11-year-old girl should weigh no greater than 0.7g or less than the weight of a paperclip!

3) The experimental design is completely incongruous to Gardasil vaccination. The icing on this pseudoscience cake is the fact that there are so many disparities between the experiment and vaccination scenarios beyond the mind-boggling dosage disparity. Gardasil injections are intramuscular; the rat injections were IP (into the body cavity adjacent to the reproductive organs). Gardasil injections are spaced over 6 months; the rat injections were over 4 consecutive days. Gardasil injections are given to adolescents; the rat injections were given to rapidly developing newborns.


Selective, dishonest paranoia
If one statement were to indicate the clear bias of ACP’s statement, it would be this: “Few other vaccines besides Gardasil® that are administered in adolescence contain polysorbate 80.”

That statement is so deceptive and takes a dishonest liberty with the word “few”. We already know that there are few vaccines scheduled to be given in adolescence. But of the four disease categories (Tdap, influenza, meningococcal, HPV), the majority (Tdap, influenza, HPV) have at least one formulation with polysorbate 80! Further, the early pediatric schedule is riddled with vaccine formulations containing polysorbate 80. But you know what does not have polysorbate 80? Cervarix, the other HPV vaccine.

And yet, only HPV vaccines are of “concern” to the ACP? Why? The reason cannot be found from an objective, consistent, or rational standpoint. And, really, that’s kind of the point…


Round about the roundabout…

Fully vaccinated and adorable.

I wrote “The Rabbit Hole to HPV” to launch this blog in 2014. I was pregnant with my 3rd living child, who is now an adorable and painfully heavy toddler. NOTHING. HAS. CHANGED. It’s the same players, the same game. Oh sure, there might be the occasional new faces or new twist, but it always boils down to something exhaustingly familiar, something other than the science.

Why did the ACP release this statement despite the painfully obvious shortcomings? I can’t answer for them. The only answer that seems reasonable to me is that, intentionally or not, they are seeking to validate those eschewing vaccination for human papillomavirus with a phony veneer of scientific credibility.

But it’s all a façade.

And I pray that someday I won’t have to point that out again.

“Are ya’ Achin’? (Yup, yup, yup!)”

I’m sure you’ve gotten word via text, or seen it on your Newsfeeds. Perhaps you were sent it in an email (Wait, are those are obsolete?)

Hot dogs, bacon, processed meats linked to cancer
Bad Day For Bacon: Processed Meats Cause Cancer, WHO Says

Hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats cause cancer, World Health Organization declares

Headlines abound! It seems every major news outlet has reported on the World Health Organization’s newest statements regarding bacon and other processed meats… or have they? USA Today informs that “each 50 gram portion… of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%,” while Washington Post reminds us that “the panel’s decision was not unanimous.” Still, NPR claims that processed meats are now in the “same category of cancer risk as tobacco smoking and asbestos,” which is patently false. What did the WHO actually say?

It seriously peeves me when articles do not include a link to the document they are quoting, as, you guessed it, all of the aforementioned publications have failed to provide. This is nothing short of lazy journalism, because it was the first result when I googled “IARC red meat.”

Processed meats are classified as Group 2A carcinogens, meaning they are probably carcinogenic to humans. Cisplatin falls into this group, but remains on the WHO’s List of Essential Medicines, as does Procarbazine. Both are used to treat cancer.

One step down is 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans. Cocamide, which is in most cosmetics, shampoos, and coconut oil, is in this group. Also included are radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (including those associated with wireless cellphones) and caffeic acid, found in coffee. Caffeic acid occurs in even higher levels in sage, rosemary, thyme, and spearmint.

Should we stop washing our hair, brushing our teeth, and chewing gum? Should we refrain from drinking coffee and using cellphones? Should we stop following Simon & Garfunkel’s advice on how to deliciously season soup?! No, because there are no randomized-controlled trials that prove causation for any of these compounds.

Group 1 carcinogens, on the contrary, are definitely carcinogenic to humans. In this group we find tobacco smoking and asbestos. No real surprise. Also in this group: alcohol and hormonal birth control pills, but no one is jumping out of their seats about that, now are they? If we are opposed to bacon, because it’s probably carcinogenic we should also avoid the Precious Blood, which retains its earthly properties and thus is definitely carcinogenic. Additionally, there can be no legitimate medical uses for birth control pills.

“All lies and jest. Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

Processed meats include any meat with a modified shelf life, either by curing, smoking, or adding preservatives like salt. So, onto the important questions.

Should we limit our intake of processed meats?
Yes. Some of my dear friends seem to think that you can’t over-consume proteins like meat (processed or un-) because we evolved to eat them. This is true, but excess consumption is associated with numerous negative health outcomes – kidney disease, heart disesase, and type 2 diabetes to name a few.

Should we all become vegetarians?
Not necessarily. Beef, lamb, and pork with no curing could still serve as a good source of protein, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D3, omega-3 fatty acids, the list goes on.

It seems like every day, there emerges a new forbidden fruit, a new deadly compound that the natural-is-better crowd can add to their list of What Not to Eat. For them, the question of healthy food is more than a matter of expert opinion, research, or critical thinking. It is an issue of faith, where pure, healthy foods become an idol. In response, I’ll describe with but one word, those fate-sealing apples that grew on Eden’s Tree of Knowledge: organic.

Pig to Man and Man to Pig Again: The Intersection of “Skepticism” and Fundamentalism

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
― George Orwell, Animal Farm

Mostly, I just weep for humanity and swear at the computer screen. But I must confess to a small sense of schadenfreude when I see “skeptics” being close-minded, gullible chumps. It’s the irony. Their entire self-proclaimed identity revolves around reason, critical thinking, and science, and then they give the most entrenched fundamentalists a run for their money as they poo-poo those things to adhere to their beliefs. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the reaction of so-called “skeptics” to the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood (PP) representatives released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).

Regardless of the ethical problems in obtaining the videos (I’ll leave that to others to continue to debate), these videos and transcripts are out, and we have to face them. And they’re to greater or lesser degrees damning, disturbing, disgusting— lots of “d” words— but the skeptics are blindly latching onto only one: dubious.

When I first became aware that Rational Catholic Blog had been quoted in the Daily Beast and Science Blogs regarding our assessments of Dr. Deisher’s work, it seemed reasonable as we were a Catholic voice calling out that malarkey. But, then, it immediately turned to, “Wait, what? How is this relevant? Pssh, ‘skeptics’ indeed!”

Let’s look at the opposite side of the anti-critical-thinking coin, where philosophical loyalties and political expedience trump science, reason, and critical thinking.
Irony everywhere

“Who is Daniel Daleiden?” Who cares?!

One of the most inane defenses of Planned Parenthood coming from the “skeptics” is nothing more than a conglomeration of logical fallacies that attempt to deflect from the accusations against Planned Parenthood by focusing on Daniel Daleiden, the man behind the Center for Medical Progress, which made and released these videos. That would be bad enough as an obvious ad hominem-style attack, but they take it a step further. They’ve turned to focusing on the people he has associated with in the pro-life movement, such as the anti-vaccine Dr. Theresa Deisher. By lumping him in with that lot, the fallacious argument goes, anything that might be released should be swiftly ignored and reviled, regardless of its merit.

Now, I obviously acknowledge that Dr. Deisher has a somewhat hostile relationship with scientific scholarship and the truth in general. She was quoted in the NCR as saying that it “is not legal to sell to them, and she [Nucatola] did say sell in the video.” Well, I went through the macabre sojourn of reading the 168 pages of transcripts and watching the videos. Dr. Nucatola never uses the word “sell” outside of what the “buyers” can do to “sell” themselves to a potential partnering clinic or what Planned Parenthood does not want to appear to be doing. So, yes, Dr. Deisher is, at minimum, incredibly lacking in thoroughness. CTRL-F is not scholarship, after all.

But so what? It is totally irrelevant.

As Kirsten Powers wrote, “When Mitt Romney was caught by ‘secret video’ making his 47% remarks, the means of attaining the information was not the focus of the story.” Skeptics rightly point out how ridiculous it is when pseudoscience advocates play the guilt by association game. They chortled right along with me when Debi Vinnedge said I was “non-credible” because I’m involved with Voices for Vaccines (as in I let them publish my pro-vaccine conversion story… once). Because Stanley Plotkin supports VFV, and he has some Midas touch that turns everything and everyone into pure abortion-sullied evil… or something. Skeptics mock those who cry “Ties to Big Pharma!” and “Aaaah, Monsanto!” in a desperate attempt to ignore evidence and argument. And yet, here they are crying “Ties to anti-vaxxers!” and “Aaah, Theresa Deisher!”

Glug, glug, glug…
Of course, it makes for something to write about if you’ve uncritically drunk the Kool-aid of Planned Parenthood’s talking points. And it’s quite obvious that the “skeptics” have.

“This is obviously a made up, ridiculous accusation,” says “Skepchick”, Rebecca Watson. Obviously. Have you ever noticed how acolytes of pseudoscience use the same talking points regardless of whether they logically follow to enhance their argument? How they never take a skeptical look at their canned arguments?

Orac and Watson say:

• Even though abortion services make up only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s activity… Planned Parenthood remains a target of the antiabortion movement.

• Even if they were selling baby parts, 3% of all Planned Parenthood’s activities are related to abortions…

So, oh, poor, poor Planned Parenthood to be victims of this unjust attack from those rotten anti-humanist zealots! In reality, not so much. Even if we assume that 3% to be a proper statistic, what does it actually mean? Skeptics always like to point out when anti-vaxxers manipulate statistics to make things seem “small” (e.g. “Only 0.5% of infants will die of whooping cough.”) Can you imagine them nodding in acceptance of a doctor if “only 3%” of doctor’s recommendations were homeopathic?! Yet they don’t bother to unpack this Planned Parenthood talking point.

If you tallied up the total “services” Planned Parenthood completes annually, 3% of the total would be in the abortion category. That’s it. Simple services like pregnancy tests (11%) are tallied with equal weight as involved procedures like second trimester abortions. Most STD and pregnancy testing requires little more than a blood draw or urine sample, but surgical abortion requires anesthesia, medication, post-operative surveillance, human tissue disposal (both maternal and fetal), etc. So while 3% of the health services tally may be abortion, it is not just 3% of the revenue or time. Far, far from it.

The “skeptics” would know what a red herring that 3% talking point is if they had, I don’t know, maybe watched the videos before they started pontificating out of their behinds. Dr. Nucatola says:

I’m telling you, Family Planning Associates, they may go for the money. Private providers, they are definitely private clinics…. In most markets, their volume’s not going to compare to Planned Parenthood’s volume. We have 40% of the [abortion] market in the whole country. (1:05:12)

Planned Parenthood knows they’re the largest abortion provider in the United States. That’s a selling point for a procurement company to work with Planned Parenthood. That’s why California Planned Parenthoods are “saturated” with partnering agreements. But, no, let’s make it seem like the prolifers are bat crap crazy for “attacking” Planned Parenthood by focusing on a manipulative statistic.

… and a pinch of bad science
I, honestly, didn’t think that I would be finding blatantly false science in these posts. But, then again, sloppy science will inevitably follow when you have an ideology to maintain. Watson seems to have confused being a smart aleck with being smart and accurate. While she can muster a heaping helping of snark for the inaccuracies of some prolifers, she says:

And, of all the abortions they do, about 90% of them happen around the first trimester when the fetus is approximately the size of a kidney bean. So nobody is looking at that tiny kidney bean and saying, “Let’s dice that up and sell its parts for money.”

To ironically quote her, “that should be enough to convince you that holy [expletive], we need better sex education everyone.”

Now, before I discuss those inaccuracies, I will state upfront that I wholly reject the notion that a person’s size, development, dependency, disability, utility, or any other qualifier can arbitrarily set a point where someone ceases to be or becomes human. But, since Watson obviously does, she should at least have her facts in order.

A developing human in the 10th week GA.
A developing human in the 10th week GA.
Here is the partial truth: About 90% of abortions happen in the first trimester. True. That is a national statistic, so I can’t say that it is true for Planned Parenthood, per se, but we’ll roll with it. But, as anyone who has ever been pregnant knows (and I have been 4 times) babies are not just a “tiny kidney bean” during the first trimester. Their crown-to-rump length (CRL) is only ½” and lower prior to 9 weeks from LMP. For those who are unaware, the gestational age of a pregnancy is based on the woman’s last menstrual period (LMP) so conception takes place as the start of the third week of pregnancy. The post-ovulation age that is used in more technical sources will be labeled 2 weeks less than the more colloquially used gestational age (GA) and represents actual time-in-existence. Even prior to 9 weeks GA, the “kidney bean” is surprisingly advanced from a blob of miscellaneous “tissue.” Beating heart, brain, arms, legs— all there.

Technically, though, that’s not a fetus. A developing human is only a fetus 8 weeks post-ovulation (10 weeks pregnant) when the embryonic stage of development ends. So, yes, no one is collecting fetal tissue from a “kidney bean”, not only because often those abortions will be medical where there is no tissue collection to begin with, but because it’s a scientifically incoherent proposition.

My daughter sucking her thumb at 13 weeks 0 days.
My daughter sucking her thumb at 13 weeks 0 days.
But what about the other weeks that make up the first trimester? By 9 weeks, all of the baby’s essential organs have begun to grow and he has detectable brain wave activity. In the 10th week, the baby is swallowing fluid. By the end of the first trimester, the baby has unique fingerprints. She hiccups and sucks her thumb and is unmistakably human in appearance. No longer a “kidney bean”, she’s closer to 3 inches in length. And, of course, the fetus only becomes larger and more “usable” in the second trimester in the event of abortion, which happens on a regular basis at Planned Parenthoods. (Dr. Nucatola estimates PP-Los Angeles at 3,000 second trimester abortions annually (p.26). Dr. Gatter says PP-Pasedena will perform 60 (p.11). Later, we learn from Dr. Savita Ginde that PP-Rocky Mountains has one or two every day (p.27))

Watson would know that Planned Parenthood isn’t dealing with some mass of indeterminate “tissue” with the abortions in question— that biotech companies are looking for and successfully acquire specific “parts”— if she had watched even the edited video with Nucatola:

[We’ve] been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.

Yes, Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts, you ****ing idiots.

My son in the second trimester at 18 weeks.
My son in the second trimester at 18 weeks.
Planned Parenthood and its defenders can play a rhetorical game for public and legal relations (and to appease their consciences) but that is all it is: a rhetorical game. A game where you use euphemism and selective truth to make your “side” look good. Think about how they call it the “woman’s tissue.” Sure, you could argue that she owns the fetus as some kind of biological property or to distinguish it from someone else’s baby, but the tissue is that of her fetus, her baby, a diploid genetic code distinct from her own. And the “tissue” that is procured comes in the form of discrete organs, discrete parts. No one says to an expectant mother, “Let’s see if we can hear your fetus’ tissue beat.” No expectant father goes to his parents saying, “Look, Mom, you can see the tissue on the ultrasound!” No. We all refer to it as a baby. When we see all those little body parts on the ultrasound— heart, head, arms, feet— we can’t wait to show people our baby. So, yes, the commodities in question are baby parts.
18wk Foot
And, yes, they are selling these parts. Honestly, I went into this thinking that this part was spin, and with lesser points, yes, there is some spin. But, taking the Planned Parenthood footage in totality, this is a sale. This is especially apparent now with the footage of Dr. Savita Ginde (the abortionist who says, “It’s a baby” while poking at the dismembered body of a fetus she had just killed.) I’m not happy to see evil in others (1 Cor. 13:6) no matter what utility it might serve; I’m not happy to arrive at this conclusion.

In the first footage with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, she is very clear that she does not want Planned Parenthood affiliates to be seen as selling fetal tissue or seeing it as a revenue stream. It is also clear that she feels very altruistic about using the “waste” for research. There is no evidence in that video that she is some profit-driven demon feasting on the flesh of aborted babies. (In fact, the confluence of her humanity with casual, ghoulish barbarism was what had me most disturbed in that video… as in visceral, I-need-to-dull-this-with-alcohol-to-sleep disturbed.)

But, conceding that does not alter the ultimate assessment. What was discussed was a business transaction, a sale. The truth is, these people have only a vague notion of what the “compensation” is actually compensating, just that it needs to appear “reasonable and customary”. That’s why it’s so ridiculous for people to speculate, especially if they are not taking into account that Planned Parenthood is not the procurement company. And did you notice that one of these “experts” was Advanced Bioscience Resources, a fetal tissue procurement company? Did it ever occur to the “skeptics” that ABR is currently “compensating” abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood, probably at a similar rate, and to say otherwise would expose them to the legal ramifications of being a buyer in fetal tissue sales? Come on!

In these videos, they don’t know what their logistics are, who will be doing what, with what and whose staff, what space would be occupied and when. That’s what these meetings were discussing and “brainstorming”! And yet… there is already price tag.

A price tag that is “haggled” by Dr. Gatter (p. 9). That is not editorializing by CMP; it’s the only way a remotely objective reader can interpret it. She also very clearly understands that they’re haggling over usable, intact specimens, not hey-see-if-you-can-get-anything-but-you-might-not specimens:

Buyer: So I’d like to start at around $100.
Gatter: Okay. Now this is for tissue that you actually take, not just tissue that the person volunteers but you can’t find anything, right?
Buyer: Exactly. Exactly. What is, what we can use, what is intact.

This is more disturbingly true for Dr. Savita Ginde:

No, and the, I think a per-item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it. [Proceeds to talk about logistics of tools for procurement.]

And since Nucatola makes it clear that Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) has “no guidelines… nothing in stone” regarding affiliate “compensation” (p. 47) and given the subjective definition of what is “reasonable”, this could fly. (Obviously, it couldn’t really fly because it was a fake company, and there could— and should— be ramifications for signing a partnering contract under false pretenses.)

Then, factor in that every Planned Parenthood representative said they were open to violating the informed consent of the patient (whether you think that consent is silly isn’t really the point) by expressing willingness to modify the abortion procedure for the purpose of tissue procurement:

• With that said, if you maintain enough of a dialogue with the person who’s actually doing the procedure, so they understand what the end-game is, there are little things, changes they can make in their technique to increase your success. — Nucatola p. 36

• [If] our usual technique is suction, at 10 to 12 weeks, and we switch to using an IPAS or something with less suction, and increase the odds that it will come out as an intact specimen, then we’re kind of violating the protocol that says to the patient, “We’re not doing anything different in our care of you.” Now to me, that’s kind of a specious little argument and I wouldn’t object to asking Ian, who’s our surgeon who does the cases, to use an IPAS at that gestational age in order to increase the odds that he’s going to get an intact specimen, but I do need to throw it out there as a concern. —Gatter p. 26

• We have to kind of see the baseline of how things are getting extracted now and see if we can do any work with them to maybe be more gentle.— Ginde p. 14

Now, I can take Nucatola and Gatter at their word that they aren’t in this for the money and still call this a sale. I can take Dr. Paul Offit at his word that he didn’t go into vaccine research for the money, and still call the money exchanged for his share of the rotavirus patent a sale. Even if Planned Parenthood were to come back with what is essentially the no-kidding production cost, they’re still selling the fetal tissue to companies who are acting as fetal tissue wholesalers. The intentions of the people are pretty gosh darn irrelevant to the fact that a commodity is being exchanged for money, companies are making money, and people are getting paid.

Cecile Richards, President of PPFA, apologizing for the “tone” of Dr. Nucatola’s remarks.
Speaking of getting paid, I wonder if the “skeptics” ever question that there might be a financial stake for people like Cecile Richards, President of PPFA, when they parrot her talking points that the video is “highly edited”, the claims are “outrageous,” and that Planned Parenthood does not profit “in any way” from fetal tissue donation. (How you can call Nucatola’s suggestion of offering “services in kind” (p. 23), which would reduce PP’s operating costs, thus increasing net revenue not profiting “in any way” is a bit of a puzzlement to me, but I digress.) You know, legitimate conflict-of-interest in divulging the whole truth? It doesn’t shock me, but it might shock the Planned Parenthood apologists who’ve bought the romanticized talking points to know that Cecile Richards makes well over $500,000— well over half a million dollars— in executive compensation, over 4x the median compensation for nonprofit CEOs Do you really think she could live such a cushy lifestyle… er… be so “compensated” if something threatened to remove over half a billion dollars in federal funding?

Truly, I have no problem with people making money. When accomplished in a just way, it can be a societal good, not just a good for the individual. But, please, when people’s livelihoods are on the line— particularly a very privileged livelihood like that of a Planned Parenthood executive or the organization’s $127 million in excess revenue over expenses—would it be too much to ask the “skeptics” to display a shred of the skepticism they have when it’s someone else’s livelihood?

Wherein I can’t even anymore…

At first, I thought it was hilarious that “skeptics” were simultaneously decrying and praising a blatant ends-justifying-the-means utilitarian ethic. Apparently, when it is prolifers trying to achieve their goals, it’s BAD:

• Even if you do believe abortion is a great evil, is it not also evil to misuse your scientific knowledge and credentials to spread a lie…. So willing is [Deisher] to spread it that she got into bed with activists willing to represent themselves as being part of a fake company…. —Orac

• And I realize, that if it helps you achieve your goals — whether they be persecuting people of a different faith or cutting funding for poor women’s health care — it becomes surprisingly easy to believe something unbelievable. —Watson

But, if it’s experimenting on human remains that were just going to go to “waste”, it’s praiseworthy, a horrible injustice to humanity to not make use of it. As Watson says:

How dare PP allow women to, instead of throwing something in the garbage, allowing scientists to use it and research it in order to help, I don’t know, cure HIV or Parkinson’s. How dare they use that garbage for the betterment of humanity!

But then, I went through it all— the videos, the transcripts, the footage. Every abominable minute of this macabre waltz through humanity blended with the most grotesque utilitarianism that is the pro-abortion ethic. And this is where I just can’t even anymore.

I’m looking from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again and seeing the same bloody thing: people completely uninterested in truths that may conflict with their deeply held beliefs. People completely uninterested in looking at and answering the hard challenges presented by logic or science to their arguments.

I get it; blind adherence sure is easier. It’s a lot easier to rationalize your beliefs— the banality of preventable disease, the necessity of torture, the “good” of abortion— if you don’t have to look them in the face. It’s easier to rationalize stripping away the humanity from a person and turning him into an object, an animal, a conglomeration of tissue when you refuse to see the humanity staring you in the face.

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you...
Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…

Under the aspect of the good

The Rational Catholic blog has recently been cited in reference to the role of Theresa Deisher’s participation in the discussions regarding the videos newly released showing profoundly disturbing conversations between high level staff at Planned Parenthood and a potential buyer of fetal tissue.


These videos left many of us simply without words.  To see such nonchalance in describing the deliberate killing of a child in such a manner as to leave his or her organs in the best state for purchase is beyond what I could have imagined.  I am horrified for the children who were treated as convenient vehicles for the procurement of human organs.  I am horrified for the mothers who may have chosen abortion, who now have to wonder what exactly happened to the children they chose abortion for.  I am moved with pity for the doctors, the nurses and support staff who have performed or supported these procedures.  I am angry that this is the world in which I live, and raise my children: where a human child can be seen as having less intrinsic value than his dismembered body can fetch on the open market.


These videos depict evil, and evil almost always comes through good people who are acting with varying degrees of good intentions.  People don’t do things thinking that they are evil.  All things are done under the aspect of the good, in pursuit of the good, although what we perceive as good and what is actually good are not always the same.  This is what has happened when good doctors who have seen great suffering decide to provide as a service the deliberate destruction of human life at the request of the parents of the child to be disposed of.  It also happens when good people who oppose abortion are willing to find any possible, plausible sounding reasoning to use to make other people more pro-life, never mind the collateral damage caused.  We stand firmly in favor of good science and good ethics, and believe that both science and ethics lead to a pro-life and pro-vaccine position.


A pro-life position is pro-science position.  There can be absolutely no question that a human zygote, embryo or fetus is an individual member of the human species.  Toddler, teenager, senior… these are all positions on the continuum of personal development.  That spectrum doesn’t begin until conception, but it doesn’t begin after that point either, at an arbitrary number of weeks or faculty gained.  Any qualification concerning who counts as a human person beyond simple belonging to the human species is ultimately not a scientific one, and is often an utilitarian tool used to decide who has earned existence and who can be treated as less than human.  Artificial lines such as race, sex, infirmity, disability, sexual orientation and age have all been used as justifications to abuse and disenfranchise human persons throughout history.  And they have all been evil.  The doctors performing these abortions, by their own descriptions of how they perform these procedures, are well aware of what… of who they are crushing and turning into breech positions.


To be pro-life and to be pro-science is to be pro-vaccine.  Science tells us that vaccines work.  A pro-life conviction tells us that we have an obligation to ourselves to treat our bodies well (including preventing preventable diseases) and that the weakest among us have a particular claim to our defense.  This is particularly true in the case of vaccines, when so many of them protect the weak, including those babies who have not yet reached birth.


To the pro-vaccine community, I urge you to take seriously the concerns of those who are so deeply outraged by the treatment of fetal remains.  Immunization is an universal good, but it is something that requires that we all be able to walk together towards control or eradication of these diseases.  It is legitimate to be concerned about whether a child before birth can be so worthless as to be killed but their organs to have sufficient value for a doctor to crush their small bodies in the manner best for the purchaser of their tissue.  To belittle these concerns undercuts everything you work for, and it makes it difficult for people with pro-life convictions to trust in the ethics of the medical community at large.


To the pro-life community, I ask you to not allow your righteous anger, sadness and frustration to be placed on anything other than where it rightly belongs: the deliberate destruction of human life and the sale of bodies of children who have been killed.  Focusing on other issues will only make these legitimate evils seem like one in a laundry list of complaints by members of a minority position, and we lose all claim to respect when in our zeal to fight against abortion we are willing to endanger the lives of the innocent by taking as important a tool as immunization (acknowledging the moral issues with some vaccines) and lumping it in with the absolutely horrifying evils we have seen discussed in these videos.  


The actions described in these videos have no place in a just society.  They have no place in a compassionate society.  We can and must do better than this.


Still singing “Hakuna Matata”? Measles death on American soil.


In “Hakuna Matata: Being anti-vaccine in an outbreak“, I pointed out the illogic of those downplaying the seriousness of measles in pointing to a lack of recent fatal cases:

Sears, and Heimer state:

[Death from measles] hasn’t happened here in at least ten years…–RS

Everything can be potentially deadly but is measles inherently deadly? Absolutely not.
Did you notice that the case mentioned above was from 1990? That was 25 years ago people. It makes perfect sense though. One couldn’t use a case from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, etc. because not a single child died from measles. –M

Therefore, hakuna matata, measles isn’t a real danger here.

I explained

[This] is exactly what we expect when there is extensive uptake of an effective vaccine for a disease. Thank God, death from measles is rare (1-5 deaths per 5000 cases) and the 2-dose MMR vaccine schedule has kept measles epidemics at bay, with only a handful of imported cases and outbreaks in unvaccinated clusters….

As we’ve had larger and less isolated pockets of unvaccinated, the cases rise. The roulette wheel is spun more and more times, increasing the likelihood of landing on death.

And, now, I am making far more somber movie allusions:

It is with sadness that I report that our luck has run out in this delusional game of roulette we’ve been playing. Washington State Department of Health has reported that this spring, a woman died due to a measles infection acquired on American soil.

The Clallam County woman, spokesman Donn Moyer reports, was most likely exposed at a local medical facility during the recent outbreak, being there at the same time as a contagious person.

Let’s be clear: this outbreak is directly attributable to the unvaccinated.

The first case was an unvaccinated man who infected an unvaccinated child. The first man infected another unvaccinated man, the third case. The child infected her unvaccinated sibling, the fourth case. The only case in a vaccinated person was a relative, vaccinated decades ago, who was infected by one of the unvaccinated children.

And it was one of these people who infected the Clallam County woman who died, unable to fight off the pneumonia, caused by the measles, which ultimately killed her.

This is a pro-life issue.

I can’t help but feel swells of anger when I think of how anti-abortion-not-necessarily-pro-life people will likely ignore this woman’s preventable death as one might ignore carrion on the side of the road. It doesn’t fit the hakuna matata narrative that they need to tell themselves to keep the cognitive dissonance of being “pro-life” and anti-vaccine from splitting their heads in two.

This woman is going to be forgotten like the thousands of nameless victims of the Culture of Death. But there won’t be marches in protest of her preventable death. There won’t be masses said for her memory from the people who say it is not the victims of preventable disease, but the vaccine refusers who “deserve our support.” No, this thus-far nameless victim will be forgotten in their ranks.
Because all lives are created equal… but apparently some lives are more equal than others.


Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

A reflection on the passage of Senate Bill 277

I know the reaction for many religious conservatives, of which I consider myself one, is to recoil at the passage of Senate Bill 277. (SB277, if you recall, is a California state bill that removes non-medical exemptions for vaccine requirements for school settings.) But I’m not recoiling. Here’s why—

I think that we can agree that the role of the state is protection of the common good— enforcement of laws, protection from aggression between individuals or transnational aggression, etc.— that would not occur in anarchy. It’s not a black and white line, surely. But there are a few reasons why SB277 can arguably be a proper exercise of that role:Read More »