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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

20 Weeks Is A Number - Not A Policy

Category: Women's Issues
Posted: 05/20/15 16:38

by Dave Mindeman

OK, I'm going to be talking some science here - so I'm sure a lot of GOP supporters will be leaving and especially MCCL members, but here goes anyway.

Let's discuss this 20 week abortion ban that has become the new mandatory issue for Republicans. I'm going to refer to an article on the LifeNews site that gives us all the new "evidence" about scientific fetal research.

The article has a very provacitive title:

Medical Expert Confirms Unborn Children Feel Excruciating Pain During Abortions

The medical expert involved here is David A. Prentice, Ph.D., Vice President and Research Director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Notice that there is not an MD in the title...not that I have anything against Ph.D's, but when you talk medical, I automatically think doctor.

And if you look up the Charlotte Lozier Institute you will get this explanation:

The Charlotte Lozier Institute is the 501(c)(3) research and education institute of the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization dedicated to electing candidates and pursuing policies that will reduce and ultimately end abortion.

Ok - so we know where the credentials are coming from, so let's talk about the article. Mr. Prentice gives us an explanation about the 20 week ban...

The science is pretty conclusive at this point. And there are always going to be people, especially those in favor of abortion, who will say, "Oh that really doesn't happen, and they'll throw up a smokescreen. And what they usually do is they refer to an old study back in 2005 that was published actually by people who had associations with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. But the real science - and there's some new things in fact, that have come out in the last few months - but the science pretty conclusively demonstrates: Young babies still in the womb at 20 weeks after conception, and probably even earlier, do indeed feel pain, and in fact, may feel more intense pain than a newborn or an adult.

Wow. Conclusive is a pretty strong word - especially when the experts tend to go pretty much the opposite way on this.

But there is another quote which I find even more suspect....

Question: So one of the arguments that's made is that at twenty weeks the baby doesn't have a mature cerebral cortex. What do you say to that argument?

Prentice: Well, if your listeners aren't up to speed on brain anatomy, the cortex is sort of the outermost part that is, in terms of your conscious thoughts and so on, it's the last part of the brain to develop.

There is indication that some of that neuronal material in your brain is already present, starting to be formed certainly by twenty weeks after conception, but it also turns out that that's not the most important part of your brain for pain perception.

There's another deeper layer that forms early in your brain called the thalamus, deep inside your brain. It forms even earlier in development - probably about 8 to 12 weeks is when you start to see it forming, and those nerve tracks already connect to the thalamus by the time you are 20 weeks after conception, or after fertilization.

In fact, there are individuals who are born without the cerebral cortex, and they feel pain. We know that for a fact.

So, you don't need that cortical layer to actually feel pain. What you need are these deeper parts of the brain and simply the neural tracks for sensation. And those are definitely formed, intact, and responding by twenty weeks after conception.


There is a difference in having pain receptors which can be stimulated and the actual perception of pain - which requires brain development.

Although the thalamus starts to develop in the 8 to 12 week period, the inner workings of the thalamus are not complete until 24 to 26 weeks of gestation. In addition, most scientists believe that the perception of pain requires consciousness, sentience, and external stimuli. Outside of a rudimentary thalamus, the fetus has none of those criteria.

Anti-choice activists have used this "science" of fetal pain to promote a sympathetic ear among legislators - many of which have an anti-choice slant anyway.

A fetus can "react" to pain stimuli in much the same way as a sleeping person might have a reflexive action to being touched. It is not perceived by a brain that can interpret it and to actually attribute a sentient action is not a rational extrapolation.

Humans are conditioned to think of fetal protection and protecting a person. It is a necessary condition and a natural reaction for people who have kids or want kids.

And I am not going to question anyone's beliefs about abortion. That is a personal choice and belief. But this "pain" argument is not scientific and it is not something upon which to base a legislative policy decision.

When it comes to choice decisions in a pregnancy, it is easy to use human emotion to push an agenda. And I would hope that human emotion is never removed from the choice process. But to make a blanket legislative policy on disputed and questionable science - and promoting it as fact - is just not rational and must be rejected.

20 weeks is a number...and only that.
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Yes, We Are Ready For Hillary

Category: Women's Issues
Posted: 04/12/15 13:51

by Dave Mindeman

As a progressive I know I am supposed to be skeptical...but I do want and support Hillary Clinton to be our next President.

I supported her in 2008 as well, (doing an enthusiastic transition to Obama when that became a reality) - I just think it is past time for this country to have a woman as President. And since being a woman cannot be the main reason for qualifying for the job, Hillary Clinton brings all of the needed other attributes to the table.

Yes, I worry that she is a bit too cozy with Wall Street. That she was too quick to sign on to the Iraq War when she was in the Senate. And I am also worried about the very fact that John McCain likes her.

But I am enough of a pragmatist to know that she is the Democrats best chance to hold the White House in 2016.

Yes, I would follow Elizabeth Warren to the ends of the earth if she was a candidate - but I don't think she can win just yet. Her fundraising ability would not be as strong and the Republican attacks would have to go unanswered.

Frankly, I think Elizabeth Warren would be an incredible Majority Leader in the Senate (assuming the Democrats can take back the majority in 2016). Not only would she move the Senate Democrats to the progressive left, but she could act as a buffer to "President" Clinton's potential problem issues.

The thought of a President Clinton....a Majority Leader Warren....and a Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a Democratic leadership dream.

As usual the Democrats appear to be going with an inferior Senate leader in Chuck Schumer - yes, that Chuck Schumer....the guy in the hip pocket of Israel and a Wall Street shill. That always seems to be part of the Democratic problem - the progressive message gets watered down by the money interest picks at leadership.

But in an era where money is king, we have to work for the small victories that are attainable. And right now, we need to hold the Presidency -- and that means we are Ready for Hillary.

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In Women's Athletics - Even Success Is Not Enough

Category: Women's Issues
Posted: 12/19/14 20:13

by Dave Mindeman

When you try to talk about women's equality issues, it is hard to correlate that with college athletics.

Take the case of Minnesota Duluth Women's Hockey.

Shannon Miller by any measure has been one of the most successful women's hockey coaches since women's hockey gained major college status.

She started the UMD program from scratch and has achieved 5 national championships in 15 years of coaching. Her current team is ranked 6th in the country and has won 12 of its last 13 games.

But apparently that is grounds for dismissal.

The UMD athletic director says ....

"UMD Athletics is not in a position to sustain the current salary levels of our women's hockey coaching staff. However, we remain committed to supporting the Bulldog women's hockey program."

Shannon Miller made $215,000 (her men's counterpart with less tenure and less success makes $235,000; and she offered to take a pay cut). She had two full time assistants (both also fired) and a part-time director of operations (who is also the softball coach- but will no longer be involved in the hockey program).

It is hard to imagine that UMD alumni can seriously believe that UMD is still "committed to supporting the Bulldog women's hockey program"....because if they were, you would not be removing the most essential cog in its success.

Yes, women's hockey does not attract nearly the same fan base that the men's program does....but do you seriously believe that turning out a highly successful coaching staff to begin a completely new program is going to improve attendance?

Not to mention the potential loss of star players, who came to UMD because they were recruited by this successful coach.

This is just more evidence that university athletic directors do not view women's athletics in the same way as the men's counterparts. They do not support them in the same way, they do not promote them in the same way, and they do not hire in the same way.

Yes, the women's programs do not bring in the same kind of revenues - but if your advertising and promotional budgets all go to men's athletics, what do you expect?

Currently women's athletics have to be successful to promote themselves. And apparently, in UMD's case, even that is not enough.

Women have come a long way? Well, in the final analysis, maybe not so much.
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