Monday, October 24, 2011

Bad Media: Shaking Up the Starkville Daily News

If you'd like to see an example of what's wrong with our media, check out the article by Gwen Sisson in the Starkville Daily News. Besides being strictly one-sided reporting, the article repeats a lot of mistakes and lies with absolutely no rebuttal. How can anyone get any factual information from an article that is simply not fact-checked? So we took it upon ourselves to pick apart this nonsense and try to provide some information to counter what was presented.

According to Mississippi’s Secretary of State’s office, if passed Initiative 26 would amend the state constitution by the addition of an new section to read: “Section 33: Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, ‘The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

This is true and the SDN completely failed to tell you the most important truth of all - amending the Bill of Rights through ballot initiative is 100% illegal. Let me explain:

(5) The initiative process shall not be used:

(a) For the proposal, modification or repeal of any portion of the Bill of Rights of this Constitution;

Here is the language of 26 straight from the site:

Article III is the Bill of Rights and, as shown above, it CANNOT be modified by ballot initiative. So 26 is already illegal on its face. SDN should have told you that. But let's not sit here and hope our judges do the right thing. Let's continue through this letter and see how else it fails.

Executive Director of Yes on 26 Brad Prewitt said this amendment is not as big a step for the state of Mississippi as the opposition makes it. “You should know that personhood already exists in Mississippi law. Criminal statutes hold the fetus is a person from conception forward,” Prewitt said.

If Mississippi law already acknowledges the personhood of the fertilized egg, then why the need for 26? The MS Code of 1972 says in Sec. 97-3-37.(1):

(1) For purposes of the offenses enumerated in this subsection (1), the term "human being" includes an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth and the term "unborn child" means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb:

So why 26? Because supporters want the legal personhood of the unborn recognized in every single law - not just homicide statutes. That tells you right there that the intention goes far beyond ending abortion and extends into the domain of giving the unborn rights superior to that of the mother. The difference between the homicide statute and general personhood is not one that most Mississippians have probably considered. Most people have no idea the chaos that will be created when every single Mississippi law must be reinterpreted with the rights of the fertilized egg in mind.

Prewitt said Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have a $1 billion interest in abortion and are fighting this initiative.

What SDN didn't tell you is that Planned Parenthood only has one clinic in Mississippi and they do not do abortions. Also, the ACLU doesn't make money on abortion issues when abortion is legal. They make their money fighting strict legislation that reduces women's access. Both these groups stand to make money from legal fees when they take on personhood laws and win. If they are indeed funneling money into the state for the No campaign, none of us has seen any of it.

“Personhood also corrects the falsehood that unborn persons are simply tissue or property,” Prewitt said. “That will inject a new dynamism in battling not only abortion but some of the unethical scientific research in cloning, embryonic stem cell research and beyond, such as the monstrous scientific experimentation that is transforming humanity beyond the image of God but into some hybrid animal-human creation.”

Prewitt and other 26 supporters seem to enjoy sensationalizing cloning as if it were some 1950's B sci-fi movie. I suspect this is because it helps them peddle personhood and because they really have absolutely no idea what cloning is, how it works, or why it's done (aside from whatever they've read in the Daily Mail.)

As we've stated before here, cloning occurs in nature every day when multiple births, usually twins, occur. Now this is not the same kind of cloning that happens in labs but we present this so you can understand that cloning, in and of itself,  is not the product of some new, diabolical technology. Therapeutic cloning is used in medical areas to research new regenerative medicines from adult cells. The hope is that we can eventually grow tissues and organs specific to each person for transplantation. Imagine a world where no person needs to be put on a list for a kidney, liver, or heart transplant. Reproductive cloning is generally used for fertility treatments though it might have some other applications.

These therapies have great potential use and are not nearly as scary or evil as 26ers pretend. There are some ethical questions that need to be addressed but by fearmongering and trying to ban these procedures, 26 supporters are taking their voices out of the equation completely.

Mississippi is the first state to bring this issue to the voters to amend the state constitution with the “personhood” addition.

Nice try but Colorado has already done this twice and failed miserably both times (see Amendment 62 and be sure to check out their "Birth" Control Talking Points where they say that birth control is abortifacient and their misinformation about steroids where they claim that Plan B is the same as anabolic steroids). That's why they've brought their dog-and-pony show (and all the money they can squeeze out of donors) to a more right-wing, less educated state. They seemed to think Mississippians are so stupid that they'll pass this initiative no questions asked. We're proud to be part of the group that proved them wrong.

“But (the opposition) are scared because Mississippi’s law will burst the bubble of the lie that the unborn person does not matter and has no rights,” Prewitt said. “That lie is essential to their billion-dollar business, which includes fetal tissue sales. It is gruesome but it is real.”

No, we are afraid that this amendment will diminish or negate the rights of the mother and give undue power to the government. Roe v Wade established that unborn do matter and the state has an interest in protecting them; however, that interest must be reasonably balanced against the mother's rights.

This also perpetuates another lie there is some nefarious get-rich-quick scheme going on whereby aborted fetuses are harvested and sold like garbage. While it is true that fetal tissue from legal abortions may be sold and used in research, these measures fall under very strict guidelines. The purpose of the research is to better understand birth defects and disease, to develop cures for cancer and other serious ailments, and previously to develop powerfully effective vaccines. The research done legally on these tissues has saved countless human lives. While 26ers love to claim that the unborn are being slaughtered for profit, the truth is that a Congressional investigation in 2000 showed absolutely zero evidence of any wrongdoing.

Prewitt said there are some birth control approaches which would be called into question - such as some IUDs, the morning after pill, other embryocidal pharmaceuticals, but not the hormonal birth control pill. “If you are trying to prevent pregnancy, that is fine, but if you are trying to end a pregnancy, then that is an issue,” Prewitt said.

And here is probably the worst lie of all. IUDs, the morning-after pill and the birth control pill all work on the same principle. You can't ban one without banning the others. The problem occurs because 26 grants personhood at the moment of fertilization and all three of these methods may act after fertilization has happened. 

Adoption agencies are begging for babies. There are as many parents awaiting babies as abortions each year. That's a fact - proven.

Except, of course, that it's not proven. In order to prove this claim, we need to compare abortion statistics for a given year to the adoption availability for that same year. The closest year we could find numbers for both on was 2009. In that year, there were 820,151 legal abortions performed in the U.S. Also there were 423,773 kids in foster care and only 276,266 of those exited. Of those who did exit, only 20% (roughly 55,684) were adopted out. The number of children waiting to be adopted out in 2009 was 114,556  and they'd been on the waiting list an average of 38 months. Of those on the waiting list, 52% were black and Hispanic while only 38% where white. We don't have figures on private adoptions but the numbers seem to suggest that we have more kids in the country than are wanted and, when children are wanted, whites are preferred.

As Christians, we are asked to do the right thing, according to God’s Word. We must be committed, and that is not always comfortable, as Dr. Jimmy Porter says. But we must do the right thing here. Personhood is right because it is Biblical, it is scientific, it is fair and just. It is common sense.”

Who gets to ultimately decide what God wants and why should we enshrine any one group or person's religious opinion into law? How can personhood at fertilization be scientific when the science clearly states that pregnancy is not established until implantation? And how can 26 be "fair and just" when it robs couples of their guaranteed Constitutional rights and gives them instead to something that has no awareness and no life experience upon which to decide anything?

“In an ideal world, Amendment 26, the Mississippi Personhood Amendment, would not be necessary,” McKibben said. “We should not have to define personhood -- it should be a given. But, unfortunately, there are folks out there are who want to kill the unborn for mostly selfish reasons. There are truly no unselfish reasons — although some may attempt a weak argument based on one’s perception of quality of life." 

In an ideal world, people like McKibben who don't know anything would ask questions until she has learned enough to intelligently speak on a subject. She is confusing the acknowledgment of a fetus as a human being with a fetus as a legal entity. There is a tremendous difference. As for the selfish reasons of these evil sluts who abort, I wonder if she's ever been forced to bear her rapist's (possibly even a father or grandfather's) child. I wonder if she's ever had to terminate a wanted pregnancy because her life was in danger. I wonder if she's ever had any kind of life experience that would give her authority to say such words.

McKibben said she feels this initiative is not unconstitutional, it only seeks to define “person.” “It will not outlaw birth control methods that prevent fertilization,” McKibben said. “It may effect methods work after fertilization that cause spontaneous abortions.”

What McKibben "feels" isn't worth a red cent. She is wrong for reasons that she either could not or did not articulate. She's also wrong about the birth control for reasons mentioned above. A lot of 26ers are supporting the amendment based on their "personal beliefs" and how they "feel" when they see pictures of cute babies. That is not a solid basis on which to make laws. And when she vacuously states:

The opposing side, of course, wants to confuse the electorate. They have dollars and an errant ideology at stake.

We'd like to remind her that her side has the money, the celebrities, and a rabid, religious ideology at much so, that her side has changed its FAQ page a number of times in order to deceive the voters. We've stuck to the same script because we're backing up our position with scientific and legal facts. We've also donated our time, efforts, and money into spreading our message because we do not have out-of-state financial backers who can ship in truckloads of propaganda materials for us.

Another citizen, Rebecca Haffey, says:

“I have not found any reason not to wholly support it as it is written right now, and I do not understand how someone who claims to be pro-life would not take this monumental opportunity to make positive change in the law. I am unequivocally pro-life, and if I were to not vote yes on 26, I would be a hypocrite.”

Unfortunately, Haffey buys into the fallacy that if one is pro-life, one must support 26. The number of pro-lifers in our anti-26 groups proves that this is untrue. One wonders why she has found no reason to support 26 - is it that she hasn't really read up on the law or is it that she hasn't lived long enough to experience a problem pregnancy? We cannot know but, if she is like most Mississippians, she naively believes that her favorite pro-family organizations and her pastor would never sell her out. Perhaps she will soon discover otherwise.

Then comes in our favorite, Nikki Langford. She is a psychology student at MSU, not a M.D. candidate as is obvious from her total lack of knowledge about how birth control works and that she buys into the pseudoscientific claim that abortion is traumatic. 

“Not to mention that if these women were using the birth control to begin with, abortions wouldn’t be needed. Plus, there is only one way to make sure you don’t get pregnant and if you’re not ready to have a baby, then you’re not ready for sex.”

Langford seems to be oblivious to the fact that 54% of women who have abortions had to do so because their birth control methods failed. She also seems to be ignorant of the fact that 61% of abortions are had by women who already have a child. It's hardly reasonable to tell a woman not to have sex with her husband when some religions tell her that it is her duty to gratify him sexually upon demand lest he be tempted to stray.

And about rape exceptions, Langford says:

“No, they will not be allowed to abort the baby, but in my many hours of research, I have found that this actually ends up being better for the mother anyways,” Langford said. “They can give the child up for adoption and not have to face the physically and psychologically traumatic experience of abortion. It is physically traumatic in that it damages the uterus and increases the likelihood of future miscarriages. Abortion is psychologically traumatic in that another negative experience -- the abortion -- is compounded onto the experience of the rape. There is a sense of guilt and shame that comes along with abortion where as mothers (rape victims) who chose adoption over abortion felt a sense of joy at having brought happiness to someone who could not have children.”

Langford apparently doesn't know that, according to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion complications requiring hospitalization are less than 1% and, when done in the first trimester, pose almost no risk to future pregnancies. They do not increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer. Most importantly, and this is something a psychology student should know, abortion poses no risk to a woman's mental health.

She continues to fail on basic biology by saying:

“It is dependent on but not part of the mother’s body,” Langford said. “To clarify this point, consider that 50 percent of developing babies (boys) have an X and a Y chromosome in each of their cells. They also have two eyes, two ears, a nose, a brain and male genitalia. If we are to believe that the child is part of the mother’s body, then we must accept that she has both male and female chromosomes, four eyes, four ears, two noses, two brains, and a set of male as well as female genitalia. Of course this is absurd.”

Well, of course it's absurd because it's nothing more than a strawman argument. We all know that the fetus is a separate entity from the mother but it is also part of her and cannot survive without using her tissues. And while it's true that a baby's sex is generally determined at fertilization by the presence of X or Y chromosomes, it's also true that the embryo is essentially female until the middle of week 6 when certain genes turn on the necessary hormones that will create male or female genitalia. Keep in mind also that defective Y chromosome males can develop into females so this biology is nowhere as simple and surefire as Langford states. Much of what the developing embryo will become is based on the environment of the womb so the rights and health of the mother must be considered.

We strongly suggest, therefore, that Langford switch her major to journalism and go work for the AFA or some other organization with substandard guidelines rather than pursue psychology any longer. It is clear that she lacks a basic understanding of science and a willingness to seek out the evidence before making authoritative statements. This is unacceptable in a scientist of any kind.

And we'd also like to wrap this up by suggesting that the Starkville Daily News and its writer, Gwen Sisson, should take some remedial journalism courses themselves. By publishing such sloppy opinion uncritically, they have done our community a major disservice. I urge everyone to let the paper know that this level of incompetence will not be tolerated. If SDN wants to give a bully pulpit to 26 supporters, they should at least have the stones to be honest about it. And if they want their newspaper to have the shoddy reputation of publications like the Daily Mail, then they are well on their way.