July 01, 2014

#HobbyLobby — does the IUD really cause #abortion and other issues

Whether or not SCOTUS was right in extending the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to undercut a bit of Obamacare, many secularists, or reproductive choice liberals in general, want to call both the 5-man SCOTUS majority and Hobby Lobby anti-science for claiming that the birth control methods to which they object, like IUDs, cause abortion. Here's one sample from the New York Times.

But, not so fast.

Contra some people's claims that IUDs don't do this, a place like WebMD says they do. That's not their primary, or intended, methodology of birth control, but, they can do that.  WebMD isn't Dr. Oz, either. It's a popularizing site for a variety of medical information, but it's mainstream medical information.

On the other hand, Hobby Lobby and The 5 want to ignore, if they're even aware of, something else entirely, namely, per biologist Francisco Ayala, that "God is the greatest abortionist of them all."

Ayala, one of the world’s greatest evolutionary biologists, spells that out in battling the Intelligent Design types, while also standing up for theistic evolution:
In fact, he said, evolution “is more consistent with belief in a personal god than intelligent design. If God has designed organisms, he has a lot to account for.”

Consider, he said, that at least 20 percent of pregnancies are known to end in spontaneous abortion. If that results from divinely inspired anatomy, Dr. Ayala said, “God is the greatest abortionist of them all.”

Or consider, he said, the “sadism” in parasites that live by devouring their hosts, or the mating habits of insects like female midges, tiny flies that fertilize their eggs by consuming their mates’ genitals, along with all their other parts.

For the midges, Dr. Ayala said, “it makes evolutionary sense. If you are a male and you have mated, the best thing you can do for your genes is to be eaten.” But if God or some other intelligent agent made things this way on purpose, he said, “then he is a sadist, he certainly does odd things and he is a lousy engineer.”
So, there you go.

To further riff on Ayala, and further refute some "end of science" types, it's clear that we still don't know everything in the world about the gestation process.

We do have a good idea, though, that it does NOT cause creation of a metaphysical soul. Well, if you really, really want to stretch that idea, if you're of the ilk of Hobby Lobby,  or Catholics, then, in the case of chimeras, you have to quadruple down on the biblical myth of Jacob and Esau in the womb, and believe that one of two fraternal twins, in many births, is a cannibalistic soul-devourer. Or else, it's a physical cannibal with two souls "attached" to what on the outside seems to be one body, with one brain.

That said, on the IUDs, etc. Since preventing implantation is not their intended methodology, at least, where was Team Obama on this? If the Justice Department knew this was at least part of Hobby Lobby's rationale and didn't try to refute it, that's not good lawyering at all. Who knows? Maybe Dear Leader told the solicitor general's staff to take a dive.

In short, of the science actually presented in this case, Hobby Lobby wasn't so far off the mark. In terms of the broad world of available reproductive science, Hobby Lobby's ignorant and Team Obama was either AWOL or definitely taking a dive.

Because this wasn't based on First Amendment issues, it's unclear how narrow or wide this case's potential precedent could be. A lot of the religiously liberal and secularists have already pointed out that there's theoretically no stopping SCOTUS from agreeing with a Scientology-owned business not paying for psychiatric meds, a Jehovah's Witness-owned company not paying for blood transfusions or a Christian Science-owned business ... not paying for health insurance at all.

That's because Justice Ginsberg raised that issue herself:
Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)? According to counsel for Hobby Lobby, each of these cases …would have to be evaluated on its own…apply[ing] the compelling interest-least restrictive alternative test. Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision.
That, in turn, reminds me a bit of Town of Greece vs. Galloway, and how  SCOTUS seemingly thinks that it can sideline sectarian Christianity, let alone non-Christian religion. 

While not getting too much into detailed speculation, this blog covers the general ground, albeit with a fair amount of bias of its own. It's a bit toward the Gnu Atheist area, which most of Patheos' atheist blogs are. In addition, it's by a layperson, not a lawyer. See Scotusblog for a good overview of the ruling from a pro-choice supporter who filed an amicus, but who is also a lawyer, and presumably not a Gnu Atheist. This overview, more importantly, notes that Kennedy's controlling concurrence greatly muddied the waters.

Finally, per a thread on Facebook? American law on abortion, combined with this ruling, isn't "sharia." And, a Canadian pointing to Canada's unlimited abortions law (while Canada's gender pay gap is no greater than that of the US) is a good starting point.

Here's a short roundup of abortion laws throughout the world. Let's note a few countries generally considered more liberal than the US.
Although a 1995 law makes abortion illegal, neither doctors nor women are prosecuted if the mother is a victim of rape and the procedure is performed within 12 weeks of conception. A similar waiver exists in the first trimester for cases in which the mother has received counseling to encourage carrying her baby to term but still wants an abortion. After the first trimester, abortion is available only to preserve the life or mental or physical health of the mother. State insurance generally does not pay for the procedure except in cases of financial need.
More conservative than the US.
Since 1974, abortion has been legal in Sweden in all circumstances within the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. After this point, abortions are only permissible to save the life or physical health of the mother, or if approval is granted by the National Board of Health and Welfare. To date, abortion has not been a politically controversial issue in Sweden.
More conservative than the US, unless the national board is very, very liberal on its exemptions.
Great Britain
Abortion is freely available in Great Britain due to a broad interpretation of the Abortion Act of 1967, which permits abortion for a variety of reasons if certified by two physicians. Within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, these reasons may include: to save the life of the mother, to protect her physical or mental health, to terminate pregnancies involving fetal abnormality, or for social or economic reasons. In cases in which the mother’s life or health is “gravely threatened” or there is significant risk for fetal abnormality, there is no time limit on when an abortion may be performed.
About the same as the US, if one averages out state laws.

And, per Wikipedia, Australian law also varies by state/territory, and on average, is of about the same restrictiveness as the US.

And, this is why I don't blog about reproductive choice issues more. (Weirdly, one former Facebook friend, whose views I generally thought I agreed with, unfriended me over this issue. Or maybe, for him, it was a "last straw" related to other issues.)

I'm generally a social liberal, but, after a point of fetal viability, I oppose unlimited abortion, like Canada allows. I'm on the left-hand side of the great American center on this issue. Since becoming a secularist, nothing has empirically or logically moved me to anywhere near an unrestricted abortion stance. That said, unlike a secularist such as Nat Hentoff, nothing's led me back to the pro-pregnancy stance I held while religious.

And, as fetal viability issues show, BOTH poles on this issue can be selective about their science. Of course, one can be even uglier, like P.Z. Myers, and on paper at least, support post-birth infanticide on a very narrow definition of viability.

And, on the Patheos thread linked above? Contra one commenter, availability of services is an entirely different issue than "abortion on demand." I've blogged here before opposing undue restrictions on access to services. But, in the clear demonstration that they're different issues, Western Europe has high access to services, certainly in the three countries mentioned, but, unlike Canada, does not have abortion on demand.

Also, some people there assume that because I don't support "abortion on demand," I'm a heartless conservative otherwise. Actually, no. I've blogged before that I think Medicaid should still pay for poor people to have abortions, albeit within the viability restrictions I've mentioned.

As for the idea that a, say 22-week window for viability runs up against the normal 15-20 week period for amniocentesis? Well, a procedure like chorionic villus sampling, though somewhat more limited, can be done at 10-12 weeks. And, again, those "liberal" countries of western Europe and Australia that don't have a theocratic patriarchy deal with very similar issues.

I'm also learning that at least per nonscientific sampling "abortion on demand" folks tend to overestimate the percentage of severe disabilities in premature births, even very early ones. And, trying to discredit referencing Wikipedia, as if it doesn't link to actual medical research in its articles on preterm birth or fetal viability? You're coming close to obfuscation.

And, when I otherwise present statistics, claiming they're wrong? Or presenting your own claims to statistics without links? You're getting as close to being as fact-free as you claim the Hobby Lobby folks are.

And, to any social justice warrior types, ready to say, "You're not a woman," I'll respond that "You're not a 25-week-old post-viability fetus. And, something similar to that eventually came up on the thread. I cited a 25-week-old contracting encephalitis vs. a 2-year-old contracting encephalitis, both eventually with equally severe mental handicaps. I was told that was "some ridiculous academic discussion. I then brought up real-world infanticide; even if P.Z.'s stance is only on paper, or cyberpaper, infanticide.

I had turned off notifications of updates in the thread before that. Well, after that, fighting fire with fire, I said I'd leave because, after I was accused of illogic, and other things, I said we'd probably be in social justice warrior territory next. I wound up blocking one person as we got near to what I expected to become mansplaining terrritory. I took the use of the word "dude" as being the first concrete hint of that possibility.

The other reason I don't blog much on this issue is illustrated by that FB thread. On this issue, both polarities generally have the "if you're not for us, you're against us" stance.

Update, July 5: In a related issue, re Wheaton College, SCOTUS has made clear that, despite Justice Alito's claims, this is NOT a narrow ruling. It was this follow-up that drew the special ire of the three female justices. And, given that what SCOTUS first says, we're finding out, is not necessarily the officially final word but far from it, stay tuned.

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