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A tale of two sex hormones

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By Anthony Esolen
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March 19, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - In 1999, at the ripe old baseball age of 35, Barry Bonds, one of the five or six greatest players ever to carry the bat, was finally beginning to wear down. Even aside from the effects of aging, the long baseball seasons take their toll on the body: nagging little injuries, a pulled muscle here, a sprain there, a touch of arthritis, a fractured bone that never quite healed right. The muscles don’t contract with the same old lightning speed. You’re smarter, and you make fewer mistakes, but your batting average drops, you lose range in the field, and you’re out of the lineup more often. So it was with Bonds that year. He batted just .262 and played in 102 games, his lowest figures in a decade. What with his power and his batting eye, he was still a great player, but his best years were behind him.

Except that they weren’t, not exactly. Bonds arrived in camp the next year with a new body. He had put on weight, but lost body fat. And his bat speed was breathtaking, so much so that pitchers were afraid of leaving the ball anywhere over the plate. In 2001, the 37-year-old Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, 24 more than he had ever hit before, and slugged .863, almost 200 points more than his previous high. From 2000 through 2004, Bonds’ records are wholly unlike those of any other player in baseball history, as witness his unimaginable 232 walks in 2004, when he was 40 years old.

Well, we know the reason for these strange results, and for the sudden ability of otherwise ordinary infielders to slam the ball over the fence to the opposite field. It’s “steroids,” the popular term for artificial testosterone, ingested to repair and build muscle. Some of these steroids may be legally prescribed for certain medical conditions, normal aging not among them. Similar drugs that were legal at the time, like the androsterone taken by Mark McGwire in 1998 when he hit 70 home runs, meet with the reproach of fans anyway. Lovers of baseball have, with remarkable unanimity, decried these years as the “steroid era.” They accuse the players of a kind of cheating that goes far beyond the gamesmanship, say, of a pitcher “cutting” the ball on his belt buckle, or a man on second stealing signs from the catcher. In fact, they seem unwilling to elect any of the cheaters to the Hall of Fame, at least until many years pass by.

They are also not going to accept the argument that the ingestion of testosterone is a matter of individual choice. That is because of the nature of the game. It would give an advantage to the players who “juice”—a considerable advantage, as it turns out. It would also compromise the venerable history of the game, making it impossible to judge the worth of contemporary players against that of players past. In other words, to allow the use of testosterone would immediately immiserate those who do not use it; and it would alter the game itself. It would do so, moreover, by means of a tissue-growing hormone that poses obvious medical risks: the growth of cancerous tissue, for instance.

Yet, when one compares this sex hormone, testosterone, to the sex hormone now in the news, estrogen, it is hard to see why, on medical and social grounds alone, the one would be severely restricted and the other so freely dispensed that people are ready, not simply to affirm its legality, but to mandate that people and institutions violate their religious faith to purchase it for women who want it.

There are some medical uses for estrogen, as there are some medical uses for testosterone. These are not at issue. The Catholic Church does not oppose the use of estrogen to treat a disease. But there is also an immediate health-related benefit that testosterone secures. It builds and repairs muscle. That is, taken by itself, a good thing. If it helped Barry Bonds to swing a bat, it would help Barry the Miner to swing a pickax, or Barry the Infantryman to climb up a cliff, or Barry the Roadworker to heal from the battering his frame takes when he spends a day with the jackhammer. Yet we judge, correctly, that these Barries should not be ingesting testosterone. As I see it, we do so for three reasons: the benefit is not necessary; the benefit is outweighed by the risks of the drug; and the use of the drug by some men would put others at an unfair disadvantage—it would immiserate them. The first two reasons have to do primarily with the individual; the third, with society.

Now compare this drug to estrogen. Unlike testosterone, estrogen does not confer any obvious medical benefit upon a woman who ingests it. Its use when ingested for non-medical reasons is to fool the body into the condition of pregnancy when it is not actually pregnant. If anything, the drug is attended by a host of troubles, from minor annoyances to those severe enough that some women cannot use it. Testosterone will help Barry lift things up and put them down, and that, considered alone, is a good thing. We need strong men to lift things up and put them down. But estrogen enhances no such practical performance.

Someone might justify the use of testosterone on the grounds that our bodies are always repairing muscle; indeed the only way to build muscle is to tear it down and “persuade” the body to compensate by building even more. I do not buy the argument. I only note that it makes at least a superficial claim to being medical in nature: it has to do with a bodily function that needs repair. But the use of estrogen as contraception is not medical at all. Quite the contrary. A couple who use estrogen to prevent the conception of a child do not ingest the drug to enhance the performance of their reproductive organs, or to heal any debility therein. Their worry is rather that those organs are functioning in a healthy and natural way, and they wish they weren’t. They want to obtain not ability but debility. They want not to repair but to thwart.

Here it is usually argued that the drug is medical because it prevents a disease. But that is to invert the meaning of words. When the reproductive organs are used in a reproductive act, the conception of a child is the healthy and natural result. That is a plain biological fact. If John and Mary are using their organs in that way, and they cannot conceive a child, then this calls for a remedy; that is the province of medicine. It is also the province of medicine to shield us against casual exposure to communicable diseases—exposure that we cannot prevent, and that subjects us to debility or death. Childbearing and malaria are not the same sorts of thing.

Moreover, estrogen, like testosterone, is a tissue-growing hormone, and therefore subjects the woman who ingests it to a much higher risk of developing cancer, not to mention other serious medical troubles. Indeed, if it were not dangerous, drug companies would not be struggling to keep the dosage as low as possible. So the widespread use of estrogen actually involves widespread and grave medical harm. In a country as large as ours, with breast cancer as common as it is, even a smallish increase in the risk of cancer would mean thousands of deaths; and the increase in risk is not small.

And this brings us to the heart of the matter. The argument for the use of this drug is not medical (since it does not remedy anything, it does not shield against communicable disease, and it actually subjects the user to medical risk). It is social. It is simply this: Without the drug, many millions of sexually active women would become pregnant who do not wish to be so. But now we are not in the realm of individual choices alone. We must address the whole of society. We must address the common good.

Here is where the comparison with testosterone helps clarify matters. Again, if Bonds uses the drug, that immediately immiserates those who do not wish to use it. It helps this player, here, turn on the inside fastball. But no player is an island unto himself. The drug hurts everyone, because it hurts the game itself; it is destructive of the common good.

The same is true of the artificial estrogen. It “helps” this couple, here, do the child-making thing, without making a child. It “helps” that couple, there, do the marital thing without being married. But it immiserates all those couples who, in a healthier age, would not wish to do so. It alters everyone’s view of what marriage and sexual congress are for. The result is, as anyone with a little common sense could predict, that there are far more children born out of wedlock now than there were before the artificial estrogen changed the whole nature of the game. We have produced now generations of people who have never known an intact marriage. The sexual revolution has devastated the lower classes, and renders us ever less willing to practice the difficult and self-denying virtues, while we are ever more willing to surrender genuine liberty for the illusions of license.

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Anthony Esolen is Professor of English at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Ironies of Faith. He has translated Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata and Dante’s The Divine Comedy.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

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By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

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By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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