Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Remembering the impact of Mildred Jefferson



Often it can seem a deep-seated problem is too impossible to resolve, too broken to fix, and a single voice can’t make an impact.

Dr. Mildred Jefferson was a testament to the power one voice can have to address a problem that sometimes seems impossible to resolve and beyond our abilities to repair.

In the few years before the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973, abortion activists were blitzing state legislatures, convincing several of the merits of taking away the right to life of unborn children. Even Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, was not immune to this advocacy. At first, very few voices rose in defense of the rights of the unborn. The American Medical Association once was dedicated to protecting the rights of unborn children and protecting medical professionals from being turned into merchants of death. Yet even they were undermined by the movement to embrace abortion, and in 1970, they endorsed the policy of abortion-on-demand.

When pro-abortion forces came to Massachusetts in earnest in 1970 to change state laws there, one doctor took a different path: Dr. Mildred Jefferson.

By 1970 Dr. Jefferson already had a brilliant history of firsts. Born and raised in small town Texas, Dr. Jefferson always wanted to be a doctor, but being a Black woman in a town with segregated schools in the 1940s wasn’t exactly an easy path to medical school. That didn’t even begin to hold her back, however.

Dr. Jefferson was only 15 when she graduated high school and went on to a small historically-Black college, Texas College. She was too young to pursue medical school after graduating from Texas College, so she bided her time by working on her master’s degree from Tufts University, way up in Massachusetts. It was a short trip from there to her next destination in nearby Cambridge.

In a truly momentous first, Dr. Jefferson became the first Black women to graduate from Harvard Medical School. Then she achieved another one, becoming the first female intern at Boston City Hospital, and another one when she became the first female surgeon at Boston University Medical Center.

The sky was her limit. She could have spent the rest of her life basking in the glow of her achievements, perhaps becoming a universally-celebrated historical figure for breaking down so many racial and gender barriers. History, however, set a different path before her.

Appalled by the idea that a doctor should engage in taking human life, Dr. Jefferson accomplished another first, helping to officially found the prolife movement in Massachusetts under the name Massachusetts Citizens for Life. She went on to be a founding member of the National Right to Life Committee, a chair of their board in 1974, and president of the organization from 1975 to 1978.

At the beginning of the prolife movement, Dr. Jefferson was our national spokesperson. She was not just an eloquent speaker, but impactful on her listeners. One such listener was that former California governor who legalized abortion in his state, Ronald Reagan. After seeing Dr. Jefferson speak about the issue, he wrote a note thanking her. Part of the note read, “I wish I could have heard your views before our legislation was passed. You made it irrefutably clear than an abortion is the taking of a human life. I’m grateful to you.”

Ronald Reagan was the first prolife president since Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973. Helped by the persuasive words of Dr. Jefferson, he went on to galvanize the prolife movement at a time when most of the learned minds and voices of the day were still predicting that prolifers would gradually vanish from America. We’re still here, and our voices are louder than ever.

For Dr. Jefferson, being a doctor was inseparable from being prolife. She once said, “I became a physician in order to help save lives. I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live.”

Abortion has not yet ended; it still ravages communities in America. Dr. Jefferson’s mission has yet to be achieved. Yet, there is progress: an increase in prolife protections at the state level, decisions chipping away at Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, and an abortion rate in decline for nearly 30 years.

Sadly, Dr. Jefferson died in 2010, before she was able to see Roe v. Wade reversed. At her death she was still dedicated to the prolife movement, serving on the board of the National Right to Life Committee. Though she began her career as a physician saving individual patients, she will be most remembered as a person who helped lay the foundation for saving millions of lives.

Just one voice can indeed change the world around them and the course of history.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Missing history during Black History Month

Black History Month has a long and venerable tradition. It began with a press release in 1926 celebrating a week to showcase the advancement of the Black community from bondage to freedom. It was set in February to coincide with the birthdays of two great men: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. These men sacrificed much for the principle that every member of the human race enjoys the same inalienable rights.

While the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution have done much to protect the inalienable rights of every American, abortion is a gaping hole in the foundation of our inalienable right to life. Millions of lives have disappeared into this hole, and no community has been more affected by abortion than the Black community.

Since 1973 there have been more than an estimated 19 million abortions in the Black community. Today in America there are 43 million Americans who are Black. A third of Black History Month is missing because a third of the people whose stories make up that history are gone.

There are many problems facing the Black community today, but abortion is frequently overlooked. Since 1973 abortion has taken more Black lives than every other cause of death combined. Let’s repeat it, and reflect on this: if you add up every death for every reason for every member of the Black community since 1973, it doesn’t equal the amount of Black abortions.

That’s the bad news. The good news is abortion rates in minority communities are declining, though very slowly. In Michigan additional effort by the prolife movement is being focused on reaching out to communities with high abortion rates, particularly Detroit. Though they don’t get much media attention, many prolife people serve in organizations whose mission is to help women and men in crisis pregnancies.

What more can be done? This is a complex issue. Women have abortions for many reasons, including diverse issues like economics, relationships, and futures. There are many complicated reasons for high Black abortion rates, and these reasons can’t be addressed overnight.

The most important roadblock to addressing this problem is not its complicated nature; it’s the failure of many to even identify there’s a huge problem here.

Facing complex problems is difficult, especially one touching issues that already generate controversy. Yet Black History Month remains a living testament that America has the resolve to face down difficult challenges.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Stem cell hucksters back for more cash

The CIRM was to be the great hope for cures for millions of Americans suffering from incurable diseases. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was created by 59 percent of California voters in 2004 and given $3 billion in tax dollars to pursue cures by killing human embryos and taking their embryonic stem cells.

Now, 16 years later, CIRM is running out of cash and needs to come back to California voters and ask for more funding. Will voters give it to them?

The first question all people should ask is this: what price should society put on purposefully taking one human life to help another? For people who value every human life, the answer is each life is invaluable, and that such actions erode the fundamental nature of rights. It also subtly subverts the fundamental role of medicine in saving lives.

The second question—for those who aren't persuaded by those arguments—is this: will it work? What will the return on their investment be? How many cures have the CIRM researchers developed using human embryonic stem cells?

Zero.

The CIRM was not the only player in the gold rush for stem cell cures in the first decade of the 21st century. Michigan voters narrowly approved a state constitutional amendment to allow taking human life for medical research in 2008. Other states saw votes and debates as well. Presidents and Congress clashed over this issue. One thing in common to all of these debates were promises of endless cures for basically every major condition you can think of, even conditions like Alzheimer's that appear to be incurable through stem cell treatments.

Opposing these wild claims were prolife groups and others who pointed out the extensive problems with human embryonic stem cell research ever being utilized, including risks, practicality, and basic science. Prolifers pointed out that ethical alternatives like adult stem cells had already shown real results and newer forms of personalized regenerative medicine would quickly overtake human embryonic stem cell research.

Let's revisit these claims.

In 2004, now-disgraced vice presidential candidate John Edwards promised voters that if they voted for John Kerry for president, famous actor Christopher Reeves and others with spinal cord injuries will walk again. Today, no treatment for spinal cord injuries exists using human embryonic stem cell research. Adult stem cell treatments continue to be pioneered, however, and have shown real benefits.

Also in 2004, Ron Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan, spoke at the Democratic National Convention about human embryonic stem cells. He promised listeners cures to Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and more. Today no treatments for those conditions exist using human embryonic stem cell research and no cure is even on the horizon.

Contrary to Reagan's promises, current research using induced pluripotent stem cells is moving towards a clinic trial for Parkinson's. Adult stem cells have been able to reduce symptoms in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. Researchers are attacking diabetes in mice by combining adult stem cells with drug therapy. These are just a handful of examples of ethical stem cell sources that show as much promise as human embryonic stem cells once did, or are actually helping treat some patients today. 

In Michigan, supporters of Proposal 2 in 2008 promised cures as well. They touted a study claiming 770,000 lives could be saved. They also made a bevy of other promises: a renaissance for regenerative medicine in the state, a solution to Michigan's health care crisis, health care savings of $80 million a year, business revenue of $27 million. Michigan would step out of the "dark ages" and become a global leader in fighting disease.

After 10 years, did these claims actually come true? Did we even get a biomedical renaissance for the price of sacrificing human life? The most vocal University of Michigan researcher backing the proposal, Dr. Sean Morrison, left the state for Texas a couple of years after passage. Maybe Michigan is still in the dark ages after all.

So far the only people who truly benefited from Proposal 2 were the campaign consultants and signature gatherers paid to promote the constitutional amendment.

Voters in California will hopefully reexamine the many claims backers of the CIRM made and the false hope they promised to people suffering from terminal illness. So far the only success the CIRM is relying on for their latest sales pitch involves adult stem cells. If regenerative medicine institutes had abandoned Quixotic and unethical forms of research at the beginning, imagine how much closer we might be to effective treatments for suffering patients. Maybe backers of the CIRM could turn a new leaf and not lie to voters this time?

It's understandable that people suffering from disease and their family members want to see cures right around the corner. These people deserve many things, including honesty. Every human being deserves the promise that their life will be valued and respected, and ignoring the value of some human beings will never benefit us all in the long-term. 

It's well past time for Americans to abandon unethical research with diminishing hope of ever working out.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Late-term abortion ban fuel emotions of abortion advocates

Last week’s Senate vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act once again sent abortion advocates into a tail spin. Unfortunately it was clear the bill was not going to get enough votes to overcome a filibuster, and the cloture vote on it failed. It is effectively dead for now. Pro-abortion groups didn't rest on their laurels, however, and were busy deceiving people about abortion statistics and medical research.

The failure of this bill came after a poll was released showing that 60 percent of Americans who say they are "pro-choice" believe that second and third trimester abortions should be restricted. New York Times writer David Brooks wrote a high-profile article as a hypothetical Democratic Party political consultant urging the national party to abandon their platform of unlimited tax-funded abortions. Brooks' fictitious consultant realizes that such an extreme position on abortion alienates millions of voters that would otherwise be a part of their base.

The popularity of late-term abortion bans and the extreme unpopularity of our current status quo of abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy forces the abortion industry to deceive as many people as possible in order maintain the state of the law.

The news website Salon.com recently provided an excellent example. Writer Amanda Marcotte slammed the prolife movement’s recent push towards late-term abortion bans, saying we are now openly challenging Roe v. Wade. Her article makes a claim that "legitimate scientists" say that the earliest possibility that unborn babies can feel pain is at 29 weeks.

Let's consult one, shall we? How about Dr. Robin Pierucci, a board-certified neonatologist in Michigan?

Dr. Pierucci wrote an article for the website The Federalist last week talking about how the premature babies she works with—some at 23 weeks gestation—are obviously capable of reacting to painful or uncomfortable procedures.

Dr. Pierucci said, "For example, when you poke them for blood work, the babies wrinkle up their faces, kick their feet, clench their hands into tiny fists, curl their toes, arch their backs and try to wriggle away, or smack at the offending person. Just ask the nurses."

Will Amanda Marcotte claim these babies aren't actually reacting to painful stimuli and showing natural reactions to pain every other human being does? If these babies born at 23 weeks can feel pain outside of the womb, wouldn’t that mean that they would also be able to feel pain inside the womb?

Who are those "legitimate scientists" Amanda Marcotte mentioned, anyway? Marcotte is relying on a 2005 article written to oppose efforts to ban partial-birth abortions; it wasn't an actual study. The first author listed is a lawyer who worked for NARAL, not a scientist. Her co-authors include abortionists who financially profit from late-term abortions. Would you say that's a slight conflict of interest? It's doubtful Amanda Marcotte took the time to actually read who the authors were, or perhaps to even read the article herself.

If you want to read what actual scientists with expertise on studying and caring for unborn children have to say, click here.

The abortion industry's understanding of science is stuck in 1876, back when we still only had theories that fertilization was the beginning of every human life (and even then theories were compelling enough for the unborn child to be protected in law).

There is no denying that Americans generally oppose late-term abortions. It is going to be very difficult for abortion-on-demand supporters to hold up their claims forever when they are so easily rebutted.