Inside an Abortion Clinic

 Posted by on 3 June 2015 at 10:00 am  Abortion, Ethics, Law
Jun 032015

From Working at an abortion clinic challenged my pro-choice views — and confirmed them:

All of [the women at the clinic] had their reasons for not wanting to carry their pregnancy to term.

And there were some who never thought it would happen to them, like the one who sat across from me, her long blond hair pushed back with a hairband. Her eyes were curt as she tried to look everywhere but at me.

“I don’t even believe in abortion,” she finally told me. “I’m Catholic.”

“Then why are you here?” I said.

“My family would freak out if they knew I was pregnant. My boyfriend and I aren’t married.” She folded her arms. “Honestly, I don’t know how you can do this job.”

“I do it because I believe that women should have a clean and safe place to go if they have an unplanned pregnancy and it’s not a good time for them to have a baby,” I said.

She didn’t really have a response. And she went through with the abortion. I always wondered if she was grateful to at least have a hygienic place with a respectful and non-judgmental staff to turn to in her predicament, or if she struggles to this day with the choice she made, or both.

Read the whole thing.

Mar 312015

Trans woman shows how ‘ridiculous’ bathroom bans are with urinal selfie campaign:

A transgender woman in Canada has launched a social media campaign to show how ‘ridiculous’ bathroom bans are. Brae Carnes, 23, is posting photos of herself in men’s toilets to protest a proposed law that would make it illegal for trans women to use female bathrooms.

‘As a trans woman I’m not even safe from discrimination at the pub or public transit. What’s going to happen if I’m forced into a men’s changeroom?,’ she wrote on Facebook. The Victoria resident said it is uncomfortable for everyone when she enters a men’s bathroom, and she looks completely out of place applying lipstick and posing for mirror selfies while men urinate in the background.

I love this, and better still, she inspired a trans man to do the same in ladies rooms: Trans man takes on selfie campaign to fight ‘ridiculous’ bathroom bans.

As some of you might recall, I answered a question about restrooms for the transgendered in transition on the 30 October 2011 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the relevant segment of the podcast here:

For more details, check out the question’s archive page. The full episode – where I answered questions on the purpose of bankruptcy law, restrooms for the transgendered in transition, private versus state prisons, revealing atheism to religious parents, and more – is available as a podcast too.


My latest Forbes piece is now out, “Does Your Right To Life Include The Right To Die?

I discuss the revived debate over physician-assisted suicide, especially in the wake of Brittany Maynard’s decision to end her life following a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. This issue is being debated in several state legislatures, including New Jersey and California, so we will be hearing much more about this in coming months.

I recognize that this is a controversial topic and that good physicians can disagree on this issue. Nonetheless, I believe this should be a legal option for patients, provided that there are appropriate safeguard to protect both the patient and the physician.

In my piece I cover three main subpoints:

1) Your life is your own.

2) The state has a legitimate (even vital) role to play in assisted suicide.

3) Physicians must not be required to participate

For more details, please read the full text of “Does Your Right To Life Include The Right To Die?

(Much of this material is drawn from the recent Philosophy In Action podcast by Diana and co-host Greg Perkins in their 1/18/2015 segment, “The Right To Die“.)


(Photo: Brittany Maynard by Allie Hoffman; Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike)


 Posted by on 28 October 2014 at 2:00 pm  Culture, Law, Marriage
Oct 282014

This XKCD graph on the legal recognition and social acceptance of interacial marriage versus gay marriage is fascinating.

As the alt text says, “People often say that same-sex marriage now is like interracial marriage in the 60s. But in terms of public opinion, same-sex marriage now is like interracial marriage in the 90s, when it had already been legal nationwide for 30 years.”

And… HOLY *%@*!&*, a majority of people disapproved of interracial marriage until the mid 1990s? Sometimes, it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come as a culture in my own lifetime.


Despite the defeats of “personhood” measures in 2008 and 2010, Colorado voters will once again vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to grant all the rights of born persons to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses in November 2014.

The Coalition for Secular Government is pleased to announce an updated and expanded paper on the “personhood” movement by Ari Armstrong and myself, titled “The ‘Personhood’ Movement Versus Individual Rights: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.” The paper is currently available for download as a PDF or for reading as an HTML page.

Formats: HTML / PDF

Please share it with friends and on social media!

Here’s our media release on it:

New Paper Criticizes “Personhood” Movement and Colorado’s Amendment 67
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Coalition for Secular Government:

A new paper criticizes the “personhood” movement and Colorado’s Amendment 67, a measure that would treat abortion as murder under the law; outlaw abortion even in cases of rape, incest, risks to a woman’s health, and severe fetal deformity; outlaw some types of birth control; outlaw common forms of in vitro fertility treatments; and ban embryonic stem-cell research.

The 54-page paper, coauthored by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong, offers extensive historical and scientific background on the “personhood” movement, abortion, and related matters. The paper also offers philosophic arguments supporting a woman’s right to seek an abortion.

“Amendment 67 is extremely misleading in its language,” Hsieh said. “The proponents of the measure apparently want voters to believe that it is about protecting pregnant women from vicious criminal attacks, but the reality is that the measure would treat women as murderers for getting an abortion or even for using certain types of birth control or in vitro fertility treatments.”

Amendment 67 seeks to extend full legal protections to “unborn human beings,” which its sponsors define as all embryos from the moment of conception.

As the new paper discusses, Colorado law already establishes criminal penalties for harming a pregnant woman’s embryo or fetus against her consent.

If you have any questions about the paper, please email me.

Campaign Finance Trial on Friday

 Posted by on 2 October 2014 at 9:00 am  Campaign Finance, Free Speech, Law
Oct 022014

This Friday, the Coalition for Secular Government? will be in federal court, arguing that Colorado’s campaign finance regulations on “issue committees” violate our free speech rights. (Our case is being argued by the fine attorneys of the Center for Competitive Politics.)

Basically, I don’t want to have to do the equivalent of filing taxes every two weeks just so that Ari Armstrong and I can publish a very wonkish policy paper on abortion rights. Our policy paper isn’t like a campaign ad, yet it’s treated like one by the law… which sucks. (For details, read my December 2011 testimony to Colorado’s Secretary of State.)

If you want to see litigating for liberty in action, the trial will be held on Friday, starting at 10 am, in the federal courthouse at 901 19th Street in Denver. We’re before Judge Kane.

We have a good shot at making a dent in these unjust laws… and I’m very excited!

The Racial Double Standard

 Posted by on 22 August 2014 at 11:00 am  Justice, Law, Police, Racism, Rights
Aug 222014

When I was an undergrad at Washington University in St. Louis, I worked as a server in a restaurant in Clayton. (Clayton is a very upscale business part of town.)

The head cook was a very good (black) man, albeit with a very checkered past. He’d served time for attempted murder: fellow drug dealers went after his pregnant wife, and he fully intended to kill them in retaliation. However, in prison, he’d gone straight. When I knew him, he was a great kitchen manager, he worked crazy-long hours, and he was a devoted father. He also worked hard to keep the younger (black) kitchen staff on the straight and narrow and out of trouble with the law. He was the kind of guy that I’d trust with my life, without hesitation.

One night, he told me that if he was driving home alone — or with another black person in the car — he’d get home without incident. However, if he was giving a ride to one of the (white, female) servers, he’d be sure to be pulled over by the cops and questioned.

Can you imagine living with that?

I’m used to going about my business without interference from the police — unless I’m speeding or whatnot. If I’m pulled over, I can expect to be on my way in a few minutes — perhaps with a ticket but without being questioned about my private business, let alone searched. That’s not the case for too many people, I think.

The Magistrate’s Rebellion?

 Posted by on 13 May 2014 at 2:00 pm  Law, Privacy, Rights
May 132014

Judge denies Gmail search warrant, notes “Technorati are … everywhere”:

A federal judge in Silicon Valley took the unusual step last week of rejecting a routine email search request, and suggested that Google and the government take steps to halt the now-routine practice in which tech companies hand over the entirety of their customer’s cloud-based computer accounts.

“The Technorati are … everywhere,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal. “And yet too few understand, or even suspect, the essential role played by many of these workers and their employers in facilitating most government access to private citizen’s data.”

Grewal’s ruling also includes a discreet swipe at Google:

“While Google has publicly declared that it challenges overbroad warrants, in three-plus years on the bench in the federal courthouse serving its headquarters, the undersigned has yet to see any such motion.”

Hear, hear! This is a tiny step, but I hope it leads to much more. Thank you, Judge Paul Grewal.

How Not to Advise a Disgruntled Teenager

 Posted by on 25 March 2014 at 2:00 pm  Ethics, Law, Parenting
Mar 252014

You remember that story of the teenager who sued her parents for support? Happily, the lawsuit was recently withdrawn, and she’s back at home. But here’s the kicker… her lawsuit was facilitated — and surely encouraged — by the father of a friend of hers.

“Canning had been living in Rockaway Township with the family of her best friend. The friend’s father, former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino, was paying for the lawsuit.”

This father-of-a-friend deserves a bitchslap or two, particularly given that the girl has become such a public spectacle. What a mess.

Jan 222014

I’m a bit late in blogging this news, but I’m delighted to report that the Institute for Justice has created a Food Freedom Initiative:

A new national initiative launched [November 19, 2013] by the Institute for Justice seeks to make sure the government stays out of some of the most personal decisions people make every day: What we eat and how we get our food. This nationwide campaign will bring property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that dictate what Americans can grow, raise, eat or even talk about.

To kick off the initiative, IJ is today filing three separate lawsuits challenging Miami Shores, Florida’s ban on front-yard vegetable gardens; Minnesota’s severe restrictions on home bakers, or “cottage food” producers; and Oregon’s ban on the advertisement of raw–or unpasteurized–milk. Each case demonstrates how real the need for food freedom is in every corner of the country.

“More and more, the government is demanding a seat at our dining room tables, attempting to dictate what we put on our plates, in our glasses and, ultimately, in our bodies,” said Michael Bindas, an IJ senior attorney who heads up the new initiative. “The National Food Freedom Initiative will end government’s meddlesome and unconstitutional interference in our food choices so that Americans can once again know true food freedom.”

  • IJ is challenging Miami Shores’ front-yard vegetable garden ban in state court on behalf of Herminie Ricketts and Tom Carroll, a married couple who grew vegetables on their own property for their own consumption for nearly two decades before Miami Shores officials ordered them to tear up the very source of their sustenance or face fines of $50 per day. Learn more about their case:
  • Minnesota allows food entrepreneurs to make certain inherently safe foods–such as baked goods–in home kitchens, but it: (1) prohibits their sale anywhere other than farmers’ markets and community events; and (2) limits revenues to $5,000 per year. Violating these restrictions can lead to fines of up to $7,500 or up to 90 days in jail. IJ is challenging these restrictions under the Minnesota Constitution on behalf of cottage food entrepreneurs Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck. Learn more about their case at:
  • In Oregon, it is legal for small farmers to sell raw milk, but they are flatly forbidden from advertising it. If they do advertise their milk, they face a fine of $6,250 and civil penalties as high as $10,000–plus one year in jail. IJ is challenging this ban under the First Amendment on behalf of farmer Christine Anderson of Cast Iron Farm. Learn more about Christine’s case at:

These three cases raise important constitutional questions that show how meddlesome government has become in our food choices: Can government really prohibit you from peacefully and productively using your own property to feed your family? Can government really restrict how many cakes a baker sells and where she sells them? Can government really ban speech about a legal product like raw milk? The answer is no.

IJ’s President and General Counsel, Chip Mellor, said, “For 22 years, IJ has been on the forefront of protecting Americans’ property rights, economic liberty and freedom of speech. With our National Food Freedom Initiative, IJ will now bring that experience to bear in the most fundamental area–food–so that Americans can be truly free to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice.”

If you care about your access to foods of your own choosing and the rights of food producers to engage in voluntary trade, please consider donating to IJ! IJ is extremely effective and principled in their advocacy of liberty, and I know that my donor dollars are going to very good use.

P.S. With this initiative, the Institute for Justice is tackling a really important and growing aspect of statism in a way that resonates with ordinary Americans. They’re doing so on the basis of sound principles and facts, and they’re likely to effect change through the courts and public outreach. In contrast, ARI’s only activity in this area has been a series of propagandistic blog posts in defense of GMOs by an astrophysicist without an adequate understanding of relevant principles of biology. Basically, ARI’s approach seems little better than what Christian Wernstedt satirized here: The Tragedy of Milkia®: The Luddite Attack Against Industrial Dairy Progress. For this reason and about a hundred others, I’m glad that my donor dollars have long gone elsewhere, particularly to IJ.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha