Monday, June 28, 2010

Pro-Life Endorsement & WI Governor's Race

Over at Uppity Wisconsin Xoff today plays doctor and priest. Unfortunately, he does so with all the subtlety of a freight train. The endorsement of Scott Walker and Mark Neumann by Pro-Life Wisconsin prompts him to write:

Because hormonal birth control can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the wall of the uterus (hence the name "contraception",preventing conception), the group believes the pill, patch, shot, ring, all cause abortions

Without a careful reading, it's easy to miss the rhetorical trick of this statement. Xoff equates implantation with conception. This is a conceit that has confused many people and served groups like Planned Parenthood well for many years, but it's not entirely clear that what he is saying is accurate. Since neither of us is actually a medical doctor, maybe we should just try to apply some common sense reasoning to this question. Here is WebMD on conception:


If sperm does meet and penetrate a mature egg after ovulation, it will fertilize it. When the sperm penetrates the egg, changes occur in the protein coating around it to prevent other sperm from entering. At the moment of fertilization, your baby's genetic make-up is complete, including its sex. Since the mother can provide only X chromosomes (she's XX), if a Y sperm fertilizes the egg, your baby will be a boy (XY); if an X sperm fertilizes the egg, your baby will be a girl (XX).


Within 24-hours after fertilization, the egg begins dividing rapidly into many cells. It remains in the fallopian tube for about three days. The fertilized egg (called a zygote) continues to divide as it passes slowly through the fallopian tube to the uterus where its next job is to attach to the endometrium (a process called implantation).
So it would seem that there are two distinct processes here, fertilization and implantation. As Xoff correctly states, one of the ways hormonal birth control works is by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. An egg that, as WebMD notes, contains the complete genetic makeup of a new human being. I'd say it's more than possible, likely even, that some people would be taken aback by this idea. Some people who previously had been supportive of hormonal birth control without knowing this was one of the mechanisms it used. Too bad you won't get even a hint of any such thoughtful reflection from Xoff's post.

Aside from the fact that Xoff isn't doing his readers any favors by uncritically repeating the Planned Parenthood line, I'm not sure this even works as a political tactic. His argument, presumably, is to persuade centrist-minded voters that Walker and Neumann are too extreme to consider. But Xoff's preferred alternative, Democrat Tom Barrett, has a record of voting to allow partial birth abortion when he served as a congressman.

So undecided voters have a clear choice in this matter. On the one hand you have speculation about the attitude of Walker and Neumann on hormonal birth control. Speculation clearly intended to scare them away from these candidates. On the other hand, you have Tom Barrett with his public record of voting to support a procedure many Americans find morally abhorrent.

I think I can safely say that both Walker and Neumann would be happy to have this conversation with voters any and every time Xoff is willing to bring it up.

No comments: