Judie Brown
Pay-grade sophisms
By Judie Brown
December 8, 2008

Recently, during a visit to Boise, I had the honor of speaking at a Christmas banquet hosted by Idaho Chooses Life. http://idahochooseslife.org/ My theme was "Obamaism versus Truth," and I segued into the president-elect's "above my pay grade" statement at the Saddleback Church presidential candidates' forum to make a salient point that must be addressed repeatedly.

You will recall that Obama's "above my pay grade" statement was made in this context: http://blogs.reuters.com/frontrow/2008/08/16/obama-says-pointed-abortion-query-above-his-pay-grade/

    Asked at what point a baby gets "human rights," Obama, who strongly supports abortion rights, said: "... whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity ... is above my pay grade."

He tried to clarify that silliness a few days later on ABC's This Week: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=13742

    What I intended to say is that, as a Christian, I have a lot of humility about understanding when does the soul enter into ... It's a pretty tough question. And so, all I meant to communicate was that I don't presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions.

Obama's statement rings as false today as it did when Supreme Court Justice Blackmun wrote, in Roe v. Wade, http://www.rightgrrl.com/carolyn/roe.html

    We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theologies are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.

My point in Boise, which American Life League has been making for 30 years now, is that scientists do know when a human being begins, philosophers do know when a person begins and theologies based on the Word of God support what is undeniable according to science: A human being begins at his beginning. This is why the personhood effort is gaining ground, and this is why, at the end of the day, those who make flippant statements similar to the above-cited "Obamaism" are people who will say or do anything to deny that abortion kills an innocent human being.

But it is these sophisms of denial that place the personhood goal directly in the headlights of the careening pro-abortion machine. Just a couple of days ago, pro-abortion blogger Wendy Norris wrote, http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2008/12/04/antiabortion-group-pushes-failed-personhood-strategy

    Despite a crushing 3-to-1 loss of a pioneering, but controversial, state constitutional amendment to confer civil rights on fertilized human eggs, an American Life League spokesperson made a curious slip of the tongue in a weird silver-lining statement about the organization's future plans to ban abortion.

Norris apparently thinks that American Life League communications director Katie Walker's brilliant comment during an interview was actually an admission of defeat. Walker is quoted as saying,

    The idea of personhood in this movement is really the only thing, the only option left to us [emphasis in original], and it's one of the best options and one of the most beautiful concepts I've heard in a long time... We're very excited about it.

But let me clue you in on why Norris is really nearly apoplectic about Walker's accurate assessment and the future of the personhood movement. Norris, like Obama, has the strange perspective that when pro-life America speaks of personhood, we are attempting to assign human dignity to a "fertilized egg." Norris is in denial, and she chooses to avoid being honest enough to tell her readers that the human being whose life begins at the union of sperm and egg is immediately a human being. By using the term "fertilized egg," Norris attempts to dehumanize the baby, thus giving her the opportunity to deny that scientific fact has anything whatsoever to do with the personhood of individual human beings.

She may think she is clever by making such a statement, but in fact, she is as dishonest at her "pay grade" as Obama is at his. But that is the way sophisms grow and flourish. We all know this and have taken great care because of it.

When American Life League developed the language of the Federal Personhood Amendment, http://www.clmagazine.org/backissues/2008SO_brown.pdf we worked with astute scientists and attorneys in order to carve out language that could not be misinterpreted by the likes of Obama and Norris. This is why the FPA clearly defines a "human being" as

    any organism, including the single-cell human embryo, irrespective of the method of reproduction, who possesses a genome specific for and consistent with an individual member of the human species.

It goes on to define "personhood" as

    the legal recognition of a human being's full status as a human person that applies to all human beings; irrespective of age, health, function, physical dependency or method of reproduction; including their unborn offspring; at every stage of their biological development.

American Life League's goal is to help Americans of every "pay grade" understand the basic science of the human being and, from there, recognize why restoring personhood is, as Walker said, the only option left to us. In fact, personhood is the only option that pro-lifers should have been pressing for during the past 35 years.

We cannot go back and undo history, but we can begin now to make history. Pro-life Americans have a golden opportunity to take each and every sophism that we encounter, and shed the light of truth on it for all to see and understand. There is absolutely nothing that would do the babies more good than for each of us committed to this struggle to address personhood whenever there is an opportunity to speak about the reasons why we are pro-life.

One of my favorite examples of doing precisely this is sidewalk counselors, who never pass up an opportunity to share the truth with an expectant mother who is about to permit the killing of one person and the devastation of another in ways she cannot possibly imagine. Sidewalk counselors know the truth, and that is why they plead with expectant mothers to keep their babies. It is also why each they offer to help the expectant mother in whatever way is necessary so that the baby need not die and the mother therefore need not suffer the loss of her baby by such a tragic decision.

While I know very well that sidewalk counselors certainly do not have a "pay grade," I know they possess the truth. Let us hope that people like President-elect Obama and Wendy Norris take a moment to think about the simple facts of the matter, rather than run away from them and hide behind statements that only expose their ignorance.

© Judie Brown


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Judie Brown

Judie Brown is president and co-founder of American Life League, the nation's largest grassroots pro-life educational organization... (more)


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