Cheryl Sullenger

New docs reveal horrific details of botched 35-Week abortion in New Mexico disciplinary case

Cheryl Sullenger
By Cheryl Sullenger
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ALBUQUERQUE, NM, January 31, 2013, (Operation Rescue) -- New documents, including transcripts of a Medical Board disciplinary hearing held in November, 2012, indicate that late-term abortionist Shelley Sella committed four acts of gross negligence during a 35-week abortion on a woman with a history of previous Cesarean Section that resulted in a ruptured uterus.

The documents were released recently by the New Mexico Medical Board in response to an open records request made by Tara Shaver of Project Defending Life. Both Mrs. Shaver and Operation Rescue had filed the original complaints with the NMMB after receiving a 911 recording of a medical emergency that took place at Southwestern Women’s Options, a late-term abortion clinic in Albuquerque, on May 12, 2012. The records also show that it is the position of Sella and her attorney, Joseph Goldberg, that the complaints should not have been considered by the Board due to the fact that pro-life activists filed them.

The NMMB plans to issue a formal “Decision and Order” on the case against Sella on February 7, 2013. Possible discipline ranges from public censure to license revocation.

Also on the agenda is the appointment of a Task Force to amend Board regulations on Complaint Procedures.

“The New Mexico Medical Board should be thanking us for filing these complaints, not devising ways to cut us out of the complaint process based on our deeply held convictions,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue and Pro-Life Nation. “We have uncovered an extremely dangerous abortion practice taking place on a weekly basis that is seriously endangering the lives and health of women. Instead of criticizing us for bringing this to the attention of the Board, they should be grateful that we uncovered the violations during dangerous late-term abortions that fall well below the standard of care.”

Gross negligence

After hearing two days of testimony from Sella and two expert witnesses before Hearing Officer David K. Thompson, Administrative Prosecutor Daniel Rubin has recommended that Sella be disciplined for “gross negligence” for breaching the standard of care during her treatment of a patient referred to as “ML”. Those four breaches included:

  • Administering Misoprostol, a uterine contracting agent, during a “trial of labor after cesarean” or TOLAC.
  • Sent M.L. to a hotel where she could not be monitored after administering misoprostol.
  • Administered Misoprostol and Pitocin, another uterine contracting agent, simultaneously.
  • Attempted to abort ML’s fetus in a clinic rather than a hospital.

“The Respondent [Sella] was well aware of the risks of uterine rupture associated with her treatment of M.L., but willfully ignored such risks,” wrote Rubin in his Closing Arguments and Proposed Finding of Fact, dated January 4, 2013.

National implications

The case has national implications and could affect ability of abortionists to continue doing risky third trimester abortion in “stand-alone clinics” using a drug that is known to cause unpredictable and often powerful contractions.

Disturbingly, Sella worried, (as if it was unthinkable), that women with previous C-sections “would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term,” should there be an adverse ruling.

“It is possible that this case will set a new standard of care for third-trimester abortions, which those currently doing this barbaric procedure cannot meet. The implications are huge,” said Newman.

Currently, there are no set national standards for third trimester abortions that are currently being done in four “stand alone” clinics throughout the United States. Abortionists that admit to doing the procedures, in addition to Sella and her New Mexico associate Susan Robinson, are Lee Carhart in Germantown, Maryland; Warren Hern in Boulder, Colorado; and Josepha Seletz in Los Angeles, California. Sella told the Board that she is currently training Carmen Landau to do third trimester abortions in Albuquerque.

Misoprostol poses risks of rupture

The case began when ML, a 26-year old woman with a history of a previous cesarean section delivery, traveled to Southwestern Women’s Options, a late-term abortion clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for an abortion of her pre-born baby at 35 weeks gestation. Her New York physician recommended the abortion after the baby was diagnosed with an abnormally large head and brain. The baby’s head was estimated to be the size of a baby at 40 weeks. Sella agreed to do the abortion on the basis of the fetal anomaly and the supposedly distraught mindset of the patient.

Sella argued strenuously that obstetric standards and warnings issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists simply did not apply to abortions. ACOG does not support the trial of labor after cesarean (TOLAC) in a non-hospital setting and prohibits the use of Misprostol to induce or augment labor in women with histories of previous cesarean deliveries.

Misoprostol, also known as Cytotec, was originally developed to treat stomach ulcers but was later discovered to have the unfortunate side effect of initiating uterine contractions in pregnant women. Misoprostol use in abortion is unpredictable and can cause intense uterine contractions.

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Despite the risks, Misoprostol is used in two ways during a third trimester abortion. First it is administered vaginally to “ripen” the cervix and prepare it for the delivery of the dead baby. Secondly, it is administered buccally (between the cheek and jaw) to induce or augment labor.

Women who have had previous C-Section deliveries like ML are at greater risk for uterine rupture during labor. Misoprostol dramatically increases that risk and that is why ACOG considers it to be too dangerous to use on these women.

The Tiller Protocols

Sella claimed that protocols developed by Wichita abortionist George Tiller should be used for the standard of care for third trimester abortions rather than the tougher obstetrical, ACOG standards.

However, Dr. Gerald L. Bullock, an expert for the Board, testified that obstetrical standards are appropriate because there is essentially no difference between the procedure used in a third trimester abortion and an instance of a women in her third trimester whose baby has spontaneously died in the womb. Obstetrical standards are the unquestioned standard in the latter circumstance.

Sella learned to do the third trimester abortion procedure from the late George Tiller. Sella testified that she worked for Tiller at his infamous late-term abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas, from 2002 until his death in 2009. Tiller developed the controversial abortion process and was considered the national authority on third trimester abortions.

Not mentioned in the Sella disciplinary proceedings was the fact that Tiller faced an 11-count petition for illegal late-term abortions brought by the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts that would likely have cost him his medical license, had he lived.

Another Tiller associate that also worked with Sella in Wichita, Ann Kristin Neuhaus, had her medical license revoked last year on a nearly identical petition. Both the Neuhaus and Tiller actions were based on complaints filed by Operation Rescue.

Sella testified that she uses the Tiller protocols in third-trimester abortions as do all other abortionists that do these grisly procedures, which are opposed by nearly 90% of Americans.
The testimony at Sella’s November disciplinary hearing revealed a time-line of events that led to ML’s uterine rupture and subsequent transfer to UNM hospital for emergency surgery. It paints a graphic picture of what can go wrong when abortionists consider themselves exempt from accepted medical standards.

May 10, 2011

On the morning of May 10, 2011, ML arrived at Southwestern Women’s Options (SWO) in Albuquerque for her first appointment. ML has been interviewed by a telephone “counselor”– likely an unlicensed and unqualified clinic worker — who took information about her state of mind and medical history – including her history of previous cesarean section – and relayed it to Sella and her associate, Susan Robinson, who also does third-trimester abortions at SWO. The two consulted and agreed that ML was a good candidate for the Induction abortion used at SWO.

On the day of ML’s arrival, Sella initiated “fetal demise” by vaginally injecting Digoxin into ML’s fetus. This drug stops the baby’s heart. After an ultrasound confirmed that the baby was dead, the patient’s cervix was packed with laminaria, which are seaweed sticks that slowly expand and dilate the cervix in preparation for labor and delivery. Sella then administered 100 micrograms of Mispropstol vaginally for the purpose of “softening the cervix.”

Dr. Bullock testified on behalf of the prosecution that the standard dosage of Misoprostol generally used for induction of labor is 50 micrograms, half of the dosage given by Sella when there was no intention of inducing labor. Afterwards, ML was sent to her hotel where no monitoring of her condition occurred. Dr. Bullock considered this a serious breech in the standard of care.

Sella testified that she intended to use the frequent dosing of Misoprostol along with numerous laminaria insertions and removals to prepare ML’s cervix for labor induction on the fourth day. Sella denied that she was inducing labor by administering Misoprostol vaginally on the first day.

To that, Dr. Bullock responded, “Well, yeah, I would agree that she probably intended to soften the cervix, but whether you intend to induce labor or not, that is what it did, and the lady came back in the second day in the late evening in active labor, and you can’t call that spontaneous labor, and you can’t call that spontaneous labor. This was Misoprostol induced labor. If the lady had stayed at home and hadn’t been at the clinic, she would have never gone into labor that day.”

Water breaks

On the second day, May 11, ML returned to the clinic in the morning. Sella changed out her laminaria, gave her another dose of Misprostol, and again sent her back to her hotel with instructions to take yet another dose of the drug at 3:00 pm. ML took the drug as instructed.

At about 5:00 pm that same day, ML returned to the clinic for another laminaria change and Misoprostol dose. However, while Sella was inserting new laminaria, she inadvertently broke her bag of water.

While it is unknown exactly when ML’s contractions began, Dr. Bullock testified that this incident likely stimulated the onset of labor. In fact, there was great debate from expert witnesses about the times and dosages of Mispropstol and other medications administered to ML due to confusing medical records kept by the clinic, including some inaccurately recorded dosage times.

The onset of labor prompted ML report back to the clinic for a third time on May 11, the second day of the process, near the midnight hour. Sella was forced to scrap her plan to begin labor on the fourth day of the abortion and took steps to manage ML’s labor in preparation for an early delivery.

The final day

At shortly after midnight on May 12, Sella checked the progress of ML’s cervical dilation and again administered Misoprostol. At the same time, Sella began to give her patient Pitocin, another uterine stimulant that is not supposed to be used simultaneously with Misoprostol.

It is estimated that the Misoprostol was in ML’s system along with the Pitocin for 3½ hours. Meanwhile, ML was given pain medication, sedated, and placed in the gurney room. She was supposed to sleep through the night in mild labor and be checked for progress again around 7 am. There was never any testimony concerning how well ML actually did through the night or what her pain/comfort level was during this ordeal.

The large size of the baby’s head created an increased risk of uterine rupture, a fact was apparently ignored by Sella, as noted in the Board documents. ML had received a lower transverse incision during the surgical delivery of a previous child. That incision type is supposed to be less likely to rupture that the classical vertical incision, but even so, that did not prevent the Sella’s reckless practices from inflicting harm.

In the morning of May 12, Sella removed the laminaria and checked ML’s cervix. Sella had intended to collapse the skull in order to make it smaller and easier to deliver. However, she could no longer feel the baby’s head as she had expected. She conducted an ultrasound and discovered that the baby was now lying sideways in the womb. At that moment, she suspected that the uterus had ruptured.

Sella had an office worker call 911 and request an emergency transport for ML to UNM. Since Sella has no hospital privileges, she had to call one of three abortionists from the UNM Center for Reproductive Health, a stand-alone abortion clinic affiliated with the UNM Medical Center, to treat ML at the hospital. But those abortionists have problems of their own. Several 911 calls placed from the UNMRHC that have been obtained by Project Defending Life and Operation Rescue indicate a regular pattern of botched abortions at that facility as well.

A 7.5 pound baby?

It took 24 minutes from the time 911 was called for ML to arrive at the emergency room.

Once there, ML was rushed into surgery where her dead baby was removed and her uterus repaired. A unknown hospital physician noted on her chart that the baby weighed 7.5 pounds. Sella vigorously disputed that assessment. She opined that the baby was never weighed and that ultrasound measurements placed the baby’s weight at 5 pounds, 13 ounces. We may never know the truth.

“There is little difference if the baby weighed 7.5 pounds or just under 6 pounds. This was a baby that was the size of many full term babies. The entire revolting discussion on the record attempting to justify this is completely barbaric,” said Newman.

“A thousand wonders”

Dr. Bullock noted that the rupture occurred when the baby’s over-sized head came down and stretched the c-section scar, where the uterus was weak. The head broke through the scar and tore the uterus, forcing the baby – at least partially – into the woman’s abdominal cavity.

“Well, you know, everybody was really lucky this time, because quite often, particularly the way this rupture went, it was a thousand wonders that it didn’t extend another centimeter into the uterine arteries, which would have had a horrendous bleeding episode if that had happened,” he said.

Dr. Bullock described ML’s injuries and the harm done to her:

“Yes, the understood harm is going to be another cesarean, a scar that went caddywhompus, the scar that went crossways…all the way down to the cervix, which will make it more hazardous. In fact, one of the doctors at UNM said that she should not get pregnant again.”

Rules written in blood

The written Closing Argument document submitted by Board prosecutor Daniel Rubin states that no specific national standard exists with respect to late-term abortions and that obstetrical standards should be applied in this case.

“In other words, these late-term abortionists just make things up as they go along,” noted Newman. “According to Sella’s own testimony as well as her expert witness, Phillip Darney – himself an admitted late-term abortionist – all third-trimester abortionists are engaging in horrifically dangerous procedures with drugs that should not even be used in settings where there is no access to immediate emergency care. Yet, they continue to insist that the higher obstetrical standards should not apply to them. But each one of those rules in written in blood. ACOG and other standards prohibit the conduct that Sella engaged in because at some point, someone died from similar circumstances.”

Defense expert’s vested interest

Darney is the head of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California San Francisco. This is the same organization that is training non-physicians to do abortions. The training program made news last when a California lawmaker proposed changing the law to allow these non-physicians to do abortions without the supervision of licensed doctors.

Darney had every reason to speak favorably about Sella’s third-trimester abortion protocols. He admits that he does abortions at the Women’s Option Center in San Francisco General Hospital and that some of those abortions are in the third trimester. Darney’s organization also as established a training program through the University of New Mexico that uses Sella and Southwestern Women’s Options as a training facility for abortionists in his program.

Shadowy world of regulatory gaps

In the end, ML’s unfortunate experience has revealed a shadowy world of regulatory gaps where abortionists make up their own rules. In the abortionist’s world, time-tested standards of care simply do not apply. They simply make up their own. This is a world where abortionists can subject women to dangerous practices that would not be tolerated in any other medical discipline, yet expect to be treated like they walk on water.

By filing these complaints, Project Defending Life and Operation Rescue have attempted to close those gaps and return the abortionists to the real world of medical accountability and ethics.

Abortionists often consider themselves a special class that is exempt from the mundane rules that apply to everyone else. That arrogant attitude is fed by liberal politicians and other pro-abortion society-influencers. Earlier this month, Sella was featured along with Robinson, Hern, and Carhart in a film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival called “After Tiller.” The four third-trimester abortionists were lionized and applauded for their bravery in providing abortions for which few have the stomach.

One has to wonder how much courage it really takes to kill a defenseless baby in the womb and inflict upon vulnerable women dangerous practices that fall well below national standards.

To illustrate this, one can imagine that on one hand, there is a 35-week pregnant woman with a history of c-section that hasn’t felt movement for awhile and is tragically informed that her baby has died in the womb. On the other hand, there are women like ML, who has her 35-week baby killed by an abortionist. At that moment, one might think that both women share a common circumstance, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The first woman will be treated according to the highest standards of medicine in order to protect her life, her health, and her future fertility, while women undergoing abortions are subjected to dangerous practices, prescribed drugs that endangered their lives, and as in ML’s case, robbed their ability to bear children.

“Sella was glowingly presented in her disciplinary hearing as an expert who was ‘well trained’ in third trimester abortions. If this is the best abortionists have to offer, it just isn’t good enough,” said Newman. “We cannot and will not stand idly by while women are abused by the reckless indifference of the abortion cartel. We will continue to hold abortionists accountable for their negligence, just as we have endeavored to do with Sella. As far as the Board’s highly anticipated decision goes concerning her professional fate, we are simply praying for justice.”

 

Documents:

This article originally appeared on Operation Rescue and is reprinted with permission.


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‘It’s a miracle’: Newborn girl survives two days after being abandoned in a field

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

The survival of a baby who was abandoned by her mother and left in a field for two days has been described as "a miracle" by the doctor attending the newborn girl.

"She had been left alone naked, and weighed less than a kilogram, in part because she was so severely dehydrated," said Doctor Barbara Chomik at the hospital in the northern Polish city of Elblag, according to a report from Central European News.

"It is a miracle that she survived under those conditions for so long. It is simply a miracle," Dr. Chomik said.

The report said that the child's mother, Jolanta Czarnecka, 30, of Ilawa in northeastern Poland, had concealed her pregnancy from friends and fellow workers, and had given birth in a field during a lunch break, then returned to work.

When blood was noticed on her clothing, the woman at first claimed she had accidentally given birth in the toilet and the baby had gone down the drain.

However, when investigation found no evidence supporting her claims, Czarnecka admitted to having given birth to the child in a nearby field and leaving her there.

When searchers found the child, two days after her birth, the little girl was dehydrated and covered with insects.

Czarnecka is facing charges of attempted murder for allegedly abandoning her child.

Czarnecka, who has entered a not guilty plea to the charges against her, could be sentenced to five years in prison if she is convicted.


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To the Christians who think 50 Shades is all sorts of awesome: Please, stop and THINK

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By Jonathon van Maren

It’s pretty depressing when you realize that, in 2014, many people seem to think that destruction of human dignity is a small price to pay for an orgasm.

I suppose when I write a column about a book that just sold its 100 millionth copy I shouldn’t be surprised when I get a bit of a kickback. But I have to say—I wasn’t expecting hundreds of commenters, many saying they were Christian, to come out loudly defending the porn novel 50 Shades of Grey, often tastelessly interspersed with details from their own sex lives.

People squawked that we “shouldn’t judge” those who practice bondage, domination, sadism and masochism (BDSM), and informed me that “no one gets hurt” and that it “isn’t abuse” and said that it was “just fantasy” (as if we have a separate brain and body for fantasy).

Meanwhile, not a single commenter addressed one of the main arguments I laid out—that with boys watching violent porn and girls being socialized to accept violence and torture inside of a sexual relationship, we have created a toxic situation in which people very much are being hurt.

In response to the defenders of this trash, let me make just a few points.

  1. Not all consent is equal.

People keep trumpeting this stupid idea that just because someone consents to something or allows something to happen, it isn’t abusive.

But if someone consents to being beaten up, punched, slapped, whipped, called disgusting and degrading names, and have other things done to them that I will choose not to describe here, does that make it any less abusive? It makes it legal (perhaps, but it certainly doesn’t make it any less disgusting or violent.

Would you want your daughter to be in a relationship with Christian Grey? Would you want your son to turn into Christian Grey? If the answer is yes to either of those, someone should call social services.

Anyone who works with victims of domestic and sexual assault will tell you that just because someone permits something to happen or doesn’t extricate themselves from a situation doesn’t mean it isn’t, in fact, abuse. Only when it comes to sex are people starting to make this argument, so that they can cling to their fetishes and justify their turn-ons. Those women who defend the book because they think it spiced up their sex life are being incredibly selfish and negligent, refusing to think about how this book could affect other women in different situations, as well as young and impressionable girls.

In the words of renowned porn researcher and sociologist Dr. Gail Dines:

In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Christian [Grey of 50 Shades of Grey] is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.

The most likely real-world ending of Fifty Shades of Grey is fifty shades of black and blue. The awful truth in the real world is that women who partner with a Christian Grey often end up hightailing it to a battered women's shelter with traumatized kids in tow. The less fortunate end up in graveyards.

  1. 50 Shades of Grey normalizes intimate partner violence…

…and sickeningly, even portrays it as romantic and erotic. Amy Bonomi, Lauren Altenburger, and Nicole Walton published an article on the impact of 50 Shades last year in the Journal of Women’s Health. Their conclusions are intuitive and horrifying:

While intimate partner violence (IPV) affects 25% of women and impairs health, current societal conditions—including the normalization of abuse in popular culture such as novels, film, and music—create the context to support such violence.

Emotional abuse is present in nearly every interaction, including: stalking (Christian deliberately follows Anastasia and appears in unusual places, uses a phone and computer to track Anastasia’s whereabouts, and delivers expensive gifts); intimidation (Christian uses intimidating verbal and nonverbal behaviors, such as routinely commanding Anastasia to eat and threatening to punish her); and isolation (Christian limits Anastasia’s social contact). Sexual violence is pervasive—including using alcohol to compromise Anastasia’s consent, as well as intimidation (Christian initiates sexual encounters when genuinely angry, dismisses Anastasia’s requests for boundaries, and threatens her). Anastasia experiences reactions typical of abused women, including: constant perceived threat (“my stomach churns from his threats”); altered identity (describes herself as a “pale, haunted ghost”); and stressful managing (engages in behaviors to “keep the peace,” such as withholding information about her social whereabouts to avoid Christian’s anger). Anastasia becomes disempowered and entrapped in the relationship as her behaviors become mechanized in response to Christian’s abuse.

Our analysis identified patterns in Fifty Shades that reflect pervasive intimate partner violence—one of the biggest problems of our time. Further, our analysis adds to a growing body of literature noting dangerous violence standards being perpetuated in popular culture.

  1. Really? Sadism?

I notice that commenters rarely break down what the acronym “BDSM” actually stands for: bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. If they did, they could no longer make the repulsive claim that “love” or “intimacy” have anything to do with it.

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The definition of sadism is “enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain, especially sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone…a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others.”

As one of my colleagues noted, we used to send sadists to a therapist or to prison, not to the bedroom. And 100 million copies of this porn novel have been unleashed on our society informing people that getting off on hurting someone is romantic and erotic. It is a brutal irony that people who scream about water-boarding terrorists are watching and experimenting with sexual practices far more brutal. As one porn researcher noted, some online BDSM porn promotes practices and behaviors that would be considered unlawful under the Geneva Convention if they were taking place in a wartime context.

It seems the Sexual Revolutionaries have gone from promoting “safe sex” to “safe words”—just in case the pain gets too rough. And none of them seem to be volunteering information on just how a woman is supposed to employ a safe word with a gag or bondage headgear on.

But who cares, right? Just one more casualty on our culture’s new Sexual Frontier.

  1. “It’s just fiction and fantasy and has no effect on the real world!”

That’s total garbage and they know it. I’ve met multiple girls who were abused like this inside of relationships. Hotels are offering “50 Shades of Grey” packages replete with the helicopter and private suites for the proceedings. According to the New York Post, sales of rope exploded tenfold after the release of the book. Babeland reported that visits to the bondage section of their website spiked 81%, with an almost 30% increase in the sale of things like riding crops and handcuffs.

I could go on, but I won’t. As Babeland co-founder Claire Cavanah noted, “It’s like a juggernaut. You’d be surprised to see how very ordinary these people are who are coming in. The book is just an explosion of permission for them to try something new in the bedroom.”

  1. What does this book and the BDSM movement say about the value of women and girls?

I’d like the defenders of this book to try stop thinking with their nether-regions for just a moment and ask themselves a few simple questions: What does sadism and sexual torture (consensual or not) say to our culture about the value of girls? What does it say to boys about how they should treat girls? The youth of today are inundated with porn and sexually violent material—is nobody—nobody—at all worried about the impact this has on them? On the girls who are being abused by boys who think this is normal behavior—and think it is normal themselves?

Dr. Gail Dines relates that when speaking to groups of women who loved the book, they all grow deathly silent when she asks them two simple questions: Would you want your daughter to be in a relationship with Christian Grey? Would you want your son to turn into Christian Grey?

If the answer is yes to either of those, someone should call social services.

__

This book and the sadism it promotes are an assault on human dignity, and most of all an assault on the worth and value of girls and women. Please consider the impact you will have on your daughters and the vulnerable and confused people around you when you read and promote this book. Anastasia Steele is, thankfully, a fictional character. But real girls are facing these expectations and demands from a culture that elevates a sexual sadist to the level of a romantic hero. Ask yourselves if you want their “love” and “intimacy” to include sadism and domination, or real respect.

Because you can’t have both.

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Ryan T. Anderson

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New York Times reporter: ‘Anti-LGBT’ people ‘deserve’ incivility

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By Ryan Anderson

As I recounted Monday at The Daily Signal, The New York Times reporter Josh Barro thinks some people are “unworthy of respect.” Yesterday Barro doubled-down and tweeted back at me that “some people are deserving of incivility.” He argued that I am such a person because of my views about marriage policy. You can see the entire exchange on my twitter page.

What Josh Barro says or does doesn’t really affect me. I’m not a victim, and I’ll keep doing what I do. But incivility, accepted and entrenched, is toxic to a political community. Indeed, civility is essential for political life in a pluralistic society.

It also has deep roots.

The Hebrew Bible tells us that all people are made in the image and likeness of God and have a profound and inherent dignity. Sound philosophy comes to a similar conclusion: as rational beings capable of freedom and love, all human beings have intrinsic and inestimable worth. And so we should always treat people with respect and dignity—we should honor their basic humanity. We should always engage with civility—even when we sharply disagree with them. Faith and reason, the natural law and the divine law, both point to the same conclusion.

Just as I think the best of theology and philosophy point to the conclusion that we should always treat people with respect, so I think they show that marriage is the union of a man and a woman—and that redefining marriage will undermine the political common good.

The work that I’ve done for the past few years for The Heritage Foundation has been at the service of explaining why I think this to be the case. Bookish by nature, I thought the best contribution I could make to public life was to help us think about marriage. So while my early work after college was in philosophy and bioethics, and my graduate coursework was in the history of political philosophy, I put my dissertation about economic and social justice on hold so I could devote myself to this debate at this crucial time.

Along with my co-authors, a classmate of mine from Princeton and a professor of ours there, we set out to write a book making what we considered the best philosophical argument for what marriage is and why it matters. Our book seemed to help the Supreme Court think about the issue, as Justice Samuel Alito cited it twice. The reason I’ve written various and sundry policy papers for Heritage, and traveled across the country speaking on college campuses, and appeared on numerous news shows (including, of course, Piers Morgan) is that I know the only way forward in our national debate about marriage is to make the arguments in as reasonable and civil a spirit as possible.

Some people, like Barro, want to do everything they can to shut down this discussion. They want to demonize those who hold contrary viewpoints. They want to equate us with racists and claim we are unworthy of respect and ought to be treated with incivility. This is how bullies behave. In all of recorded history, ours is the first time where we can have open and honest conversations about same-sex attraction and marriage. This discussion is just beginning. It is nowhere near being over.

All our fellow citizens, including those identifying as LGBT, should enjoy the full panoply of civil rights—the free exercise of religion, freedoms of speech and press, the right to own property and enter into contracts, the right to vote and have a fair trial, and every other freedom to live as they choose, consistent with the common good.

Government redefinition of marriage, however, is not a civil right—nor will redefining marriage serve the common good. Indeed, redefining marriage will have negative consequences.

We make our arguments, in many fora, as transparently as possible. We welcome counterarguments. And we strive to treat all people with the dignity and respect they deserve as we carry on this conversation.

One of the most unfortunate parts of my exchange with Barro last night was his reaction toward those who identify as LGBT and aspire to lives of chastity. They freely choose to live by their conviction that sex is reserved for the marital bond of a husband and wife. Some of them also seek professional help in dealing with and perhaps even diminishing (not repressing) their same-sex sexual desires.

I have written in their defense and against government coercion that would prevent them from receiving the help they desire, as New Jersey and California have done. Barro describes my support for their freedom as “sowing misery…doing a bad thing to people…making the world worse.”

There really is anti-LGBT bigotry in the world. But Barro does a disservice to his cause when he lumps in reasonable debates about marriage policy and the pastoral care that some same-sex attracted persons voluntarily seek out as, in his words, “anti-LGBT.” If we can’t draw a line between real bigotry and reasonable disagreement, we’re not helping anyone.

This debate isn’t about restricting anyone’s personal freedom. However it goes, people will remain free to live their romantic lives as they choose. So too people who experience same-sex attraction but aspire to chastity should be free to lead their lives in line with their beliefs, and to seek out the help they desire. We can have a civil conversation about which course of action is best—but let’s leave aside the extremism.

Barro asks, “Why shouldn’t I call you names?” My answer is simple: you should not practice the disdain and contempt you claim to abhor.

All my life, I’ve been educated at left-leaning institutions. Most of my friends disagree with me about these issues. But they’re still friends. And their feedback has made me a better person.

My final tweet to Barro is where I still remain committed: “people on all sides of LGBT debates and marriage debates need to find a way to discuss these issues without demonizing anyone.”

Reprinted with permission from the Daily Signal, where you can find Ryan Anderson's Twitter exchange with Barro.


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