Editorial cartoon combines fallacies


Scott Shepler’s editorial cartoon in a recent Community Word is an interesting example of a combination of the straw man fallacy and an ad hominem argument.

The art was run in conjunction with an editorial by Clare Howard about the Feb. 11 Defund Planned Parenthood rallies, so it appears to be referencing that event.

I realize editorial cartoons involve exaggerations, but this one was too extreme, irrational and ironic to pass up, especially considering that its depiction of the event was the opposite of what actually transpired on that day in the 2700 block of Knoxville Avenue in Peoria.

Scott’s cartoon was an ad hominem attack in one sense because it tried to make the side he disagreed with look ridiculous. It was a straw man argument because it misrepresents arguments made by the pro-life side.

The person on the left, wanting Planned Parenthood to be defunded, is portrayed as practically ejaculating his opinion, nearly apoplectic. The person on the right, defending PP, is calm and cool and rational in her responses.

For the two hours that I was at the actual competing rallies, however, the pro-lifers exhibited self-control and respect, while some—not all, but some—PP supporters didn’t. Here are a few observations that conflict with Scott’s cartoon:

  • The main organizers and most of those appearing on the pro-life side were women, not men.
  • Profanity and vulgarity were used among the pro-PP group, both on signs (“This is my bitch face”) and in speech. Not true with the pro-lifers.
  • As pro-lifers gathered at the northern end of the block, several Planned Parenthood supporters, not content with superior numbers, decided to move down the street and stand in front of the pro-lifers to block passing drivers’ view of them (see photo below). One of those blocked from view was a pro-life woman in a wheelchair. To accomplish this, the PP supporters had to stand in the street. Police came by to tell them to get back onto the sidewalk, which they did for a minute. Then they stepped back into the street.
  • Pro-lifers extended kindness to those supporting Planned Parenthood, going through the crowds of the latter and offering hot chocolate (it was a chilly morning), granola bars, and bottles of water. Again, portraying pro-lifers as belligerent contradicts what actually went on.
  • As food and drink were being offered, some Planned Parenthood supporters either tried to block the path of the person offering the treats or told others “Don’t take it.” 
  • One PP supporter entered the ranks of the pro-lifers yelling insults.

As for the arguments being made in the cartoon, real life is, of course, more complex. Here is one organization’s “Top 12 Reasons to Defund Planned Parenthood Now.” They’re not quite as simplistic as Scott  would have us believe.


Finally, it’s not business as usual

We’re seeing it all over, in federal government and state governments. Here’s an example:

Kansas’ decision to take federal family planning funds away from Planned Parenthood has put the state in a vise.

That any state, and there are now several, would dare to challenged an entrenched NGO like Planned Parenthood is amazing.The states that have done so are now being challenged by the federal government, setting up a conflict there as well.

We’ve got a long way to go before we get back to sanity in this country, but at least it’s not business as usual.

Life Line, June 7, 2009

About 75 people, from 4 months old to 85 years old, showed up along War Memorial Drive in Peoria, Ill., from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 7, to pray for an end to abortion.

Life Line was organized by Bradley University freshman Alexandria Reynolds. Though it was intended to be youth-centric, plenty of older folks showed up, too, to lend their support.

For a first-time event, it went off very well. Alexandria and her friends had prepared hand-painted signs with instructions on the back, including ideas for prayer.

Participants stood along War Memorial Drive, also known as U.S. Route 150 — probably the busiest street in Peoria — holding signs with such messages as “Better Off Alive” and “Yay for Kids.” Reynolds emphasized the positive nature of the event, which came one week after the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller but had been in the planning stages for months. It was an opportunity to show the peaceful nature of the pro-life movement.

Most drivers honked and waved their support. Only a few made some, uh, negative hand gestures.

Links to news coverage are here and here.

Below are some photos I snapped:

Participants in Life Line line up along War Memorial Drive in Peoria, Ill., on June 7 to pray for an end to abortion.
Participants in Life Line line up along War Memorial Drive in Peoria, Ill., on June 7 to pray for an end to abortion.
Young pro-lifers show their support for the movement.
Young pro-lifers show their support for the movement.

Committing murder is not trusting in God

This from the WSJ.com health blog about the man accused of killing abortionist George Tiller:

Morris Wilson, a past member of the Kansas Unorganized Citizens Militia who has since renounced his ties to the group, told the WSJ that (Scott) Roeder had been a fellow member. He spoke strongly against abortion and “felt he needed to do something,” Wilson said.

There is a frustration that comes with being pro-life, frustration that very little seems to change as babies are slaughtered in the womb every day.

Murder is not the answer to that frustration.

If we believe in the sanctity of life, we also need to believe in the God who gives that life sanctity. And if we believe in that God, the God of the Bible, then we need to trust that He is working in the perfect way to bring this tragedy to an end. “For we know Him Who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people'” (Hebrews 10:30).

He will judge us on how we address this situation. Do we murder, like our opponents do everyday in abortion clinics, or do we sacrifice and extend love through crisis pregnancy centers, adoption? Will we “visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27)?

Justice will ultimately out. If we believe in God, we have to believe that. Our job is to keep at it in peaceful ways.

George Tiller’s life, as reprehensible as his actions were, was just as precious to God as everyone else’s life. Up to his very last breath, the possibility of repentance and salvation was there for Tiller. No one had the right to take his life without the due process of law. Unfortunately, the law does not at this time consider abortion to be murder. What Tiller did was legal. Our entire nation will be judged for that. And Scott Roeder will be judged for murder.

Pro-life blog

Central Illinois Right to Life now has a blog to go along with its Web site. Contributors include the Revs. James McDonald and Mark Henninger as well as Bradley University student Alexandria Reynolds, who is coordinating the June 7 Life-Line event at Peoria Stadium; Dennis Dillard, who oversees CIRTL’s online presence; and Dan Smith, member of the CIRTL board.

Pro-lifers encouraged to keep the faith

On a dark day for the pro-life movement with the inauguration of the staunchly pro-abortion Barack Obama, Derrick Jones of National Right to Life and local speakers brought some much needed light to Peoria-area pro-lifers.

Jones, a Springfield native who is now communications director for the national organization, was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Central Illinois Right to Life’s annual Sanctity of Human Life Rally at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Peoria.

The annual event marks the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

Now sporting graying temples, Jones opened his speech to the 300-400 people gathered by recalling that he started in the pro-life movement by stuffing envelopes as a 4-year-old in the Springfield Right to Life office.

Jones quickly pointed out that “while we join with the nation in celebrating a peaceful transition of power,” the injustice of abortion still needed to be recalled.

If unchecked, Obama’s policies toward the unborn could have an impact for decades to come.

“The man who admonished us to give hope a chance is in league with the worst enemy of life,” Jones said.

After mentioning Obama’s frequent citations of Abraham Lincoln, Jones said there is a “profound disconnect” between the two presidents. Lincoln’s worldview sought to protect the guarantees of the Constitution and the language of the Declaration of Independence — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In his first inaugural address, the 16th president talked about the “better angels of our nature.” But anyone who could vote against a bill protecting unborn children from partial-birth abortion “cannot be the second coming of Abraham Lincoln.” (Obama has since said he voted against the bill because a similar law was already on the books. He has consistently, however, as an Illinois legislator and U.S. senator, consistently voted against pro-life legislation.)

He could be known, potentially, as the “abortion president,” Jones said, an ironic situation considering the “growth market and target audience” of the abortion industry is young black women.

Jones also refuted claims by “moderates” in the abortion debate that they want to change the tone of the discussion. All that Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Rights Action League want are an executive order rescinding the Mexico City policy, which requires all nongovernmental organizations that receive federal funding to refrain from performing or promoting abortions; partial-birth abortion rights; elimination of conscience clauses; nomination of pro-abortion judges and justices; all-purpose improved access to abortion; and the “egregiously named Freedom of Choice Act.” (You can sign a petition against the act here.)

“How much more ‘moderate’ can you get than this?” Jones said. “All they want is everything.”

But the speaker then switched to encouragement mode.

“It’s easy at this time to feel discouraged,” he said, referring to decades of effort by pro-lifers. But now is exactly the time when pro-lifers need to stand firm.

“Fighting principalities and powers as we do every day will test anyone’s mettle,” Jones said.

True, the last election was a big disappointment, but it likely was lost because the economic concerns swamped social justice concerns.

But progress has been made.

“We’re a lot closer now than we were in 1973” to having a pro-life majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones said, estimating that the court is now a sometimes 5-4 pro-life majority rather than 7-2 pro-abortion, as it was when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973.

“As true pro-lifers, we know that we will not give up,” he said.

One key is to change women’s attitude toward abortion. “On this front, we’ve made great progress,” he said.

Progress also has been made through educational efforts surrounding debates over such issues as partial-birth abortion and the morning-after pill. Legislative successes include the Hyde amendment, which bars use of federal funds to pay for abortions and the partial-birth abortion ban, which survived court challenges.

The availability of sonograms at crisis pregnancy centers such as the Women’s Pregnancy Center in Peoria enables women to see that what is within them is “not a cluster of cells, they see a baby.”

“The challenges that we face have never been more daunting, the stakes have never been higher,” Jones said. “Thank you for being here, for showing that we will work for the next four years. We’re not going anywhere.”

Encouraging words also were spoken by Myfanwy Saunders, executive director of the Women’s Pregnancy Center, and Sondra McEnroe of the CIRTL board.

“We have no right to ask women to carry to term if we aren’t willing to walk alongside her,” Myfanwy said, calling that attitude “the height of hypocrisy.”

She said the WPC sees 80 to 100 new clients per month, about 300 monthly. The WPC gives them options and information about the life that’s inside of them so they can make an informed choice to carry their babies.

“Desperation can become a trap that produces decisions that only produce more pain and despair,” Myfanwy said.

But the pro-life movement can succeed if those involved in it obey the mandates to love the Lord their God with all their heart, souls and minds, and to love their neighbors as themselves.

Sondra McEnroe, the grandmother of 50, told those at the rally that what they do — walking on a cold night in the March for Life, standing outside the abortion clinic in prayer, bailing out a mom who needs to be with her kids — makes a difference.

Relationships also are important, she said. A nurse from the Peoria abortion clinic called her earlier that night to wish her a good trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life scheduled for Jan. 22.

“Next year, I’ll ask her to go with us,” Sondra said.

She also said a woman recently brought a baby to show her and told her how she had made the decision not to abort the child. A year previous, 11 women sitting inside the abortion clinic at 7501 N. University St., Peoria, had heard the loud prayers of a minister outside and had decided, one by one, not to abort their babies. Clinic personnel, however, would not let them leave until the pray-ers had left.

The rally was preceded by a March for Life from the Peoria County Courthouse to the church. Dan Botkin, pastor of Gates of Eden Messianic Congregation, also offered a heartfelt confession of prayer, asking that God spare the United States from His wrath over abortion.

While a photographer from WMBD-TV showed up to interview Derrick Jones and took shots of the march, it doesn’t appear that the story made it to the air. That was the only media representative. Perhaps coverage by dwindling news staffs was too much to hope for on the day an Illinois senator and first African-American was inaugurated as president.

Michael Miller

Peoria Life Chain

Gates of Eden Messianic Congregation member Kathy Levine holds a sign while standing in the median on Northmoor Road near University Street at Oct. 5’s LIfe Chain rally in Peoria.
Photo by Diana Glenn courtesy Peoria Journal Star, Copyright 2008


Sunday’s Life Chain in Peoria, Ill., an event intended to draw public attention to the abortion tragedy, drew more people (400-500) than last year’s rally against abortion, but failed to link Esther House, a ministry for women, to the city’s abortion mill. Granted, such a feat was challenging, given the approximately two miles of people standing every 20-25 feet it would have required. But we could have and should have done much better.

Not that it was a waste of time. By no means. We managed, I believe, to get the message out to the many motorists who passed. As they drove by, they saw signs with messages like “Abortion Kills Children” and “Pray for an end to abortion.” But what was even more important was that they saw families out there. They saw children who had not been aborted. They didn’t see any of the 40 million children who have been aborted.

We’ve got to do a better job next year of getting more people out there. A co-worker of mine who took part suggested we move the rally to a different site with more traffic, although the streets we stood along, Northmoor and University, were pretty busy with traffic. One lady from our church, Gates of Eden Messianic Congregation, even stood on a median on Northmoor to make sure passing cars saw her sign. Thirty-nine Gates of Eden members took part.

Providence Church was out in force again. You could tell that as they arrived from their new digs in Morton in — according to my son’s count — seven conversion vans. Last year, the Covenant Presbyterian congregation brought 93 members to the chain.

One of their members, James Lansberry, ventured out onto a median strip on Northmoor late toward the end of the hour to stir us up with a reminder — shouted to the best of his ability over traffic noise — that 40 million have died and that it has to stop now. He then led us in two hymns, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” and “Amazing Grace.”

Being able to take part at all was a joy for me, despite the solemn meaning of the Life Chain. Until July, when I left the local newspaper, the Journal Star, participating in the event would have been a conflict of interest for me. I was a religion reporter there and covered abortion activism as part of my beat. Now, though, I can publicly express my opinions (although I’m sure they leaked through in my columns) and use my talents in the cause.

The best moment of the day, though, came afterward as my family and I headed to my mom’s for a visit (strangely appropriate now that I think about it). My 7-year-old son asked me what abortion was. I explained to the best of my ability and as tactfully as I could that it was when a woman decided not to have a baby and went to a place called an abortion clinic, where a doctor killed the baby inside of her and then removed it.

His response was, “Why would they do that?”


(The Peoria Journal Star’s coverage is here.)

Democrats ‘Party of Death’

I strongly disagree with the Catholic Church theologically on many fronts, and wasn’t too impressed with how it handled and continues to handle the sex-abuse crisis, but you have to give it this: The Vatican continues to take the lead on life issues, speaking boldly on the matters. Reuters has a story here on the Vatican’s denunciation of the Democratic Party as the “party of death.” I couldn’t agree more.