Sorry Anti-Abortionists. A Fetus Is Not A Child Until It’s Born

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Doug Berger 0:02
In this episode, we take a deep dive into the abortion issue. Because the US Supreme Court is looking at a Mississippi law that ignores established science and bans abortion at 15 weeks. We look at the history of abortion rights in this country. And why the Christian nationalist argument that a fetus is a child is factually wrong. I’m Doug Berger. And this is secular left. This episode of secular left is sponsored by our merch store, check us out at secular

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Doug Berger 0:58
Today, what I wanted to do was take a deep dive on the abortion issue. It’s come back up into the news today because this this month really because the United States Supreme Court decided to hear arguments in a case called Dobbs versus Jackson, Women’s Health Center, I believe it’s the title. It is a case against a Mississippi law that banned abortion or would ban abortion at 15 weeks. And what it is is a culmination of many years of effort by Christian nationalists to overturn Roe versus Wade that was decided in 1973. And also Planned Parenthood versus Casey, which is decided in 1992. Both of those court decisions basically made a right to an abortion a civil right. The US Supreme Court heard arguments over the Mississippi law on December the first, the court took the case because of challenges Roe versus Wade. Now, just to kind of give you an idea, they want to ban abortion at 15 weeks. 15 weeks is approximately three and a half months. So a woman would have been pregnant three and a half months, maybe they have known for a couple of months or a month or two that they are pregnant. Ohio’s heartbeat bill, as a comparison, puts the band at six weeks, which is even less, the fetus is even less of a form child. Let me show you an example of what a fetus looks like at six weeks. And the person’s hand is for size reference. It’s a little looks like a by the size of a maybe a grain of rice or maybe a large grain of rice. That is at six weeks. That’s what a fetus looks like at six weeks. And that’s what they want. That’s what Ohio wants to ban abortions after before or after six weeks. Let me give you just a little bit of a background in January of 1973. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution provides a right to privacy. And that protects a pregnant woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It’s similar to the ruling Griswold v. Connecticut several years before that, that allowed people to receive contraceptives and information about contraceptives. Because before that time, it used to be against the law, for you to receive condoms for stores to sell them and for you to receive information about it. And at that time when they ruled on that particular issue. The court ruled that you know what you do in the privacy of your home own home in regards to your health is up to you and your doctor. And it’s not the government’s concern there is not a government interest in policing whether or not you have condoms or or birth control or information about birth control that your family planning is up to the family. Okay. So they essentially use that same thinking in ruling on Roe versus Wade. But they also ruled that the right to abortion is not absolute and must be balanced against the government’s interest in protecting women’s health and protecting prenatal life. So it’s not something that

Doug Berger 4:59
abortion is not absolute in that, that you can do it anytime, anyplace anywhere. Most most civil rights we have today, First Amendment, Second Amendment, all those. Those aren’t absolute either they have qualifications, they have regulations. And the court at the time in 1973 said regulations are okay, in order to protect the women’s health and prenatal life now. Part of where we’re at today, especially here in Ohio, is that they’ve used that the force birth people have used that interest in protecting women’s health and protect your prenatal life to essentially restrict access to abortion. And so what the determination is, for the Supreme Court in a lot of these cases, is called undue burden. You know, does this regulation or law put an undue burden on a woman from practicing her right to an abortion? Generally, if it does, it’s struck down, it’s unconstitutional. I’m going to read a little bit here about from the majority of opinion on Roe vs. Wade. They wrote whether it stated that there was a federally federally enforceable right to privacy, whether it be founded in the 14th amendment’s concept of personal liberty, and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or as the district court determined in the ninth amendment’s reservation of rights to the people is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Now, before Roe was decided there was a patchwork of abortion laws, it was left up to the states, and essentially the force birthers now, want to let it be up to the states. That’s what they say. But they wouldn’t do that unless they were assured that they would be able to ban it in the States, because it’s a lot easier to ban abortion or take away somebody’s civil rights in particular states where you can control who gets elected and who votes for it. So you have these massively gerrymandered districts like here in Ohio, that have people that are pro pro life, voting on these bans. And everybody says, well, that’s democracy. And if you don’t like it go to another state. I don’t believe that the right to abortion should be up to a vote of people. It should be a civil right, like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s right there. Due Process Clause, you should have a due process clause. She covered that you do have a right to privacy. And as I said before Roe, there was a patchwork of abortion laws. Some states like Texas, banned abortions outright. That’s where Roe v Wade came from was from the state of Texas. And some states like New York and California had more liberal rules, regulations. They were more permissive about on demand abortions. Just as an example, at the time that I was born in the late 1960s. Here in Ohio, if a woman wanted an abortion, or something like a tubal ligation, which is a contraceptive method, she had to have her husband’s permission, or a panel of medical people at the hospital, mostly men had to approve the procedure. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine and we only do this for they only did this to women. You know, second class citizens they didn’t believe that they had they should be making these decisions. It should be men making these No, no. grassroots efforts led to more and more states liberal liberalizing their abortion laws up to when Roe vs. Wade was decided. And so the pendulum had swung towards more liberal abortion access. And it also came during the peak of women’s of the women’s liberation movement of the late 60s, early 70s. And that took place in in jobs and fat, you know, factories and, and credit cards, banking, things like that. There was a lot of things that women could not do in the early 70s. And so once the Roe v Wade was decided that pretty much started the dominoes falling for other things. One of the reasons that there was an effort to liberalize abortion laws was that there were a sizable number of women that died each year from botched abortions. Because it was illegal. There were no regulations.

Doug Berger 9:55
You didn’t even know if the person that was performing it was qualified. These were the These This was of course, the time before YouTube. So, you know, somebody had to read a book a medical book. There were some doctors that performed it. You don’t know if they were qualified to do it, or maybe they didn’t have a valid license. And so before Roe was decided in 1973 of women died each year, from complications of illegal abortions was hundreds, in the 1930s and 40s, before antibiotics became really extensively available, the number of deaths were in the 1000s Mainly from infections. Or somebody improperly did the abortion and and damaged the organs and that caused the problems. Some of these women would never be able to bear children again, even if they wanted to, because the the procedure was so aggressive and so inappropriate that it just wrecked just made them really, you know, not able to have children after that. But legalizing abortion in 1973 helped significantly to lower the death rate. Still, conservatives today still try to cast abortion as dangerous or unsafe for women’s health, when it isn’t any more dangerous than any common medical procedure. It’s not zero, but it’s not anywhere near where it was in 1973. In fact, abort abortion procedures are barely safer than the pregnancy itself. There’s a lot of complications with pregnancies that that people don’t understand that could happen. The Casey ruling in in 1992, it was planned parenthood V. Casey changed legal abortion to be based on the viability of the fetus. Before that Roe versus Wade, they’ve had it set up by trimesters. There was three trimesters first, second and third. First, you were fine. You could get an abortion anytime you wanted it. Second, not so much. Third, no. But the trimester version was hard to determine. When a pregnancy started, it was hard to determine it still kind of is hard to determine today. And so they needed more of a line that you would not cross and it would be it was called viability. And viability basically is just at the point where a fetus could survive outside the womb. For example, the average the average length of a pregnancy is 40 weeks. The limit to viability where doctors and scientists believe a fetus could survive outside the womb is as low as 21 weeks. So about half of that. Anything less than 21 weeks, is very, very, very rare. I have not I’ve not been able to find any, any fetus that has survived outside the womb, after it was born before 21 weeks, I’ve found two people that two children that were born at 21 weeks and that they survived. But any sooner than 21 weeks. It does require massive amounts of medical intervention. And even then there’s a small tiny chance of the child living past a few hours or days it’s not 50/50 it’s more like 70/30 There’s a 30% chance to live. You know, it’s the it’s I wouldn’t gamble with those odds. I would not. I would not go play blackjack with those kind of shots. It’s just very small. The fetus at 21 weeks is only an inch or so long. And it’s organs haven’t developed completely. One of the articles I was reading about a girl that was born at 21 weeks, her skin was so thin it you could see through it

Doug Berger 14:39
because it hadn’t finished developing that even if a premature child lives there’s a strong possibility it will have severe medical complications, brain damage, lung respiratory problems, muscle problems, you name it, you could have it and as I said in my research, I’ve Found only two examples of a premature birth at 21 weeks, living more than a few hours. And one of those child is two years old now, and was given a Guinness Book of World Records recognition for being the youngest premature birth that ever survived. Yes, a child born before at 21 weeks, and lives is such an unusual event that it got recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. Most abortions occur occur in what’s called the first trimester the first several weeks of, of pregnancy. Most women when they choose to have an abortion, they try to choose to do it as early as possible. The least likely time that there’s an abortion is between 20 Something like 25 weeks or 30 weeks and 40 weeks. And usually that only happens either because it’s a supine, spontaneous abortion due to a miscarriage. Or there’s something medically wrong either with the mother or with the fetus, and the fetus doesn’t survive, or the mother is in danger, and they need to terminate the pregnancy. And those are rare. The late term abortions are very rare. But this is what these people these force birthers want to do is ban abortion completely, with no exceptions.

Doug Berger 16:34
For more information about any of the topics covered in this episode, check out our show notes at secular

Doug Berger 16:46
So I was watching a news story about the Supreme Court arguments. And they had a comment from a pro life woman who was pleased as punch that she didn’t abort her 29 week premie. The as I said, the common time for an average pregnancy is 40 weeks, and that the majority of intended abortions happen in the first few weeks. Ohio and some other states passed a heartbeat bill that ignored science, the science of viability, and arbitrarily said that if a heartbeat is detected, there can be no abortion. And fetus at one point is just a clump of cells. And one of those cells as it’s dividing and subdividing, and dividing again, takes on the characteristics of a heart in that you can see it beating. But it is not a heart like we have. It’s not a heart, it doesn’t beat to move blood. It’s like it’s like a reaction. It’s like a chemical reaction. And so you know that that is going to probably turn into a heart if the pregnancy is come to turn. But you saw, you know, I saw you that showed you the picture. Let me show you again. That’s a six week old fetus. That is that is not a child that is a fetus. The other thing to consider, too, is that a lot of these religious people believe that life begins at conception. That’s when the sperm swims and meets the egg and fertilizes the egg. The problem with that is that that now fertilized egg isn’t a child. It isn’t anything. It’s just a clump of cells again, that are dividing, subdividing. What happens next is that that clump of cells then attaches itself to the wall of the womb and then starts developing. So technically, a pregnancy starts when that clump of cells attached to the to the uterus. Now, that is also not a guarantee that doesn’t happen 100% of the time. There are many common occurrences of where these clump of cells get spontaneously aborted and miscarried. That’s what we call a mess. That’s what a miscarriages is a spontaneous abortion. And they get ejected from the body and get flushed down the toilet. So if we were to believe these religious people, that mom had just had a miscarriage, killed her baby down the toilet. Does that seem logical or rational to you? It doesn’t to me. Now, as I said, a lot of what is driving this effort to ban abortions is the fact that these religious people believe that they are protecting children. Even though as I pointed out The six week, fetus is not a person, the clump of cells, before attaches to the wall womb is not a person. It’s not a person until viability until the child is either born naturally or by C section. That’s when it is a child when it is born, not when it’s in the womb. And just to give you an example here is I have a clip from the Supreme Court arguments from December the first, it’s Justice Sotomayor, and a solicitor general from Mississippi talking and she wants to know, if his belief in the arbitrary 15 week ban that this law is supposed to come up with if that is religiously based. And so let’s take a look at that clip.

MS Solicitor General 21:02
I mean, Your Honor, will always have a diversity of views. But I think that’s the point. I think,

Justice Sotomayor 21:08
our society isn’t that the point that there’s

MS Solicitor General 21:11
a diversity of views and people can vigorously debate and make

Justice Sotomayor 21:13
Exactly. And that’s what we’re doing under undue burden, but we haven’t been doing it on the viability line,

MS Solicitor General 21:20
and neither one has worked well, the viability line discounts and disregard state interests, and the undue burden standard has all of the problems in

Justice Sotomayor 21:29
your interest, anything but a religious view. issue of when life begins, has been hotly debated by philosophers since the beginning of time. It’s still debated in religions. So when you say this is the only right, that takes away from the state, the ability to protect the life? That’s a religious view, isn’t it? Which message assumes that a fetus is live? At once when you’re not showing here? When do you suggest we begin that

MS Solicitor General 22:12
way? You’re on I, aside from

Justice Sotomayor 22:15
putting it aside from religion.

MS Solicitor General 22:18
I’ll try to I think there might be more than one question. And I’ll do my very best, Justice Sotomayor. I think this quote and Gonzalez pretty clearly recognized that before viability we are talking with unborn life with a human organism. And I think the philosophical questions, your honor mentioned, all those reasons that they’re hard, they’ve been debated. They’re they’re important. Those are all reasons to return this to the people because the people should get to debate these hard issues. And this court does not in that kind of a circumstance,

Justice Sotomayor 22:46
when does the life of a woman and putting her at risk. Enter the calculus meaning right now, forcing women who are poor, and that’s 75% of the population. And much higher percentage of those women in Mississippi, who elect abortions before viability, they are put at a tremendously greater risk of medical complications and ending their life 14 times greater to give birth to a child full term than it is to have an abortion before viability. And now the state is saying to these women, we can choose not only to physically complicate your existence, put you at medical risks, make you poorer by the choice, because we believe what that

MS Solicitor General 23:54
sure you’re on I think to answer I think the question I think you you, but it’s still on the same issue is as to when does a woman’s interest enter as far as we’re concerned, it’s there the entire time. Our point is that all of the interests are there the entire time and Roe and Casey improperly prevent states from taking account and weighing those interests. However they think best.

Doug Berger 24:13
That’s the thing when when these force birthers are doing these trying to go after banning abortion. They never want to equate it with religion, because they equate with religion, then it starts bumping up to the First Amendment concerns. You know, if the intent is religious, then it would not be constitutional. The other thing about the religious aspect of it too is not all religions are against bortion. The most prominent one is Jewish people. The Jewish religion does not have a prohibition against abortion. In fact, they put the primary the at the primary head is the woman The mother potential mother is her health and safety is paramount to anything else. So they do not ban abortion or have anything. You know, they’re not anti abortion as a religion, religion and, and really neither is Christianity. It’s not mentioned in the Bible. There was a there’s been abortions and, and pregnancy terminations of all kinds, contraceptive use of all kinds throughout history. So it’s it, it’s just these conservative force birth people that are justifying it with religion and they’re wrong. Just like they’re wrong that a child unborn child is a child it’s not it’s a fetus. It’s not a child until it’s born until it’s out of the womb living on its own. And so I have another clip that I wanted to play for you is the governor of Mississippi in an interview with Jake Tapper from CNN. And notice how he talks about the unborn child moreso than the health of the woman.

Jake Tapper 26:21
So the state of Mississippi also has a law on the books that would ban all abortions, with exceptions only for rape in the life of the mother that would snap into effect that’s called a snap back law snap into effect just days after roe is overturned if roe is overturned. If that happens, would you start enforcing that in your state? The the almost complete ban, regardless of how many weeks of the pregnancy?

Gov. Reeves 26:50
Well, Jake, clearly it is dependent upon how the court rules and exactly what those opinions allow us to do if in fact, roe is overturned. And by the way, I believe very strongly, as do many Americans, that the the justices on the Supreme Court today could look at the Roe v Wade case and come to the conclusion that the court just simply got it wrong. In 1973. If you read the Constitution, in my opinion, there is no guaranteed right to an abortion in our US Constitution. And furthermore, not only is there not a guaranteed, right, there’s also nothing in the Constitution that prohibits individual states from enacting their own laws. And after all, that’s really what the Founding Fathers intended for any issue that is not explicit in the Constitution, it should be left to the states in the state legislatures and in the democratic process. And so I just want to make sure everyone is clear that if Roe v Wade is overturned, that doesn’t mean that no, no one in America is going to have access, although that might make people like me happy. But what it does mean is that all 50 states, the laboratories of democracy are going to have the ability to enact their own laws with respect to abortion. And I think that’s, that’s the way it should be in America.

Jake Tapper 28:14
So is that a yes that that if Roe v Wade is overturned, you will enforce the almost total abortion ban in Mississippi that exists in the inevitability or in the situation where Roe v Wade is overturned? Yes.

Gov. Reeves 28:26
Yeah. Jake that is a yes. Because if you believe as I believe very strongly that that innocent unborn child in the mother’s womb is in fact, a child, the most important word when we talk about unborn children is not unborn, but its children. And so yes, I will do everything I can to protect the lives of those children.

Jake Tapper 28:50
So the country has been here before before 1973. And what happens in reality is women of means are still able to get abortions. But poor women, young women, vulnerable women end up often seeking abortions in ways that can cause them severe harm, mutilation, if not death, in some cases. So do you acknowledge that this step will result in some women and almost almost certainly getting seriously hurt some even dying?

Gov. Reeves 29:24
Well, I certainly would hope that that would not be the case. But what I would tell you, Jake, is that since Roe was enacted in 1973, there have been 62 million American babies that have been killed through this process. And and I think that those babies in their mother’s womb don’t have the ability to stand up for themselves. And that’s why they have to have people like me and others around this nation that for years have tried to stand up for unborn children, I think.

Doug Berger 29:53
And as you saw there, the governor the Republican governor of Mississippi believes that an unborn child is a child and that protecting that child standing standing up for that child is far more important than the health and safety of the mother. And also that Mississippi has like low infant mortality rate. They have high numbers of hungry children, terrible health outcomes for poor people in the state. And so they want to force women to give birth. The other thing I wanted to mention about about the religious aspect is Amy Coney Barrett, the justice that stole the seat from that was previously Ruth Bader Ginsburg seat. And Trump, President Trump, former president, whatever his name was Trump stole that seat and put Amy Coney Barrett on there in order to strike down Roe v. Wade. She’s a flaming Catholic. Even worse than Alito, and, and some of those other guys on the on the bench. She did an article in when she was teaching at law school at Notre Dame talking about how the Catholic judge judge who is of the Catholic faith would have to recruit recuse themselves from death penalty cases. Because according to their religion, they are supposed to be against the death penalty. And but she but a judge can’t not do their job. And but the religion, their religious beliefs should trump them doing their job. So they would need to recuse themselves. I mean, step down from the case and not hear it. Yeah, so that was an interesting take. And so the Hill website have an opinion on an opinion column about that. And let me just quote from it.

Doug Berger 32:07
It says Barrett tells us in the same article, that in the context of abortion, the case for a Catholic judges recusal is even stronger. Unlike the death penalty, the Catholic Church’s prohibitions against abortion and euthanasia are absolute. And also unlike the death penalty, abortion and euthanasia, take away innocent life. Abortion, she says is always immoral. Barrett’s conscience and her fidelity to the teachings of the Church. Thus do not allow her to affirm a woman’s right to enter pregnancy, as that would be formally cooperating in an absolutely immoral act. But neither May she betrayed the public trust by manipulating constitutional law and precedent in order to save unborn lives. Nor May she suspend her moral conscience while she decides Dobbs, even if she were able to do so for that, too, would violate her religious beliefs. But she heard the case she’s there. You know, that’s, that’s how these religious beliefs work. You know, they only, you know, are important when they need to be important to the person. There’s no consistency, it’s it’s all hypocrisy. And that’s what it is. But, you know, using her logic, she would need to recuse herself from the case and she did not force birthers also like to point out that there are laws on the books that prosecute people who caused the death of a fetus. And so they just want to go one step further and outlaw abortion to the problem is that assaulting a woman in order to kill a fetus or cause a miscarriage is against the law, and it’s against the law because it’s an assault. The woman didn’t ask for it. some third party did it. You know, religious force birthers like to have abortion as a black and white issue, and point out that the hypocrisy while ignoring their lack of a majority opposition to the death penalty, and many religious force birthers support the death penalty. And they also like to ignore some who argue that vaccine mandates violate people’s rights to bodily autonomy. So some of them believe that you have bodily autonomy, autonomy, not to accept vaccines, but a woman doesn’t have a right to an abortion. And then they’ll say oh, it’s because it’s a it’s a human being in there.

Doug Berger 34:41
And see, that premise is totally false. And it just the whole argument just collapses on itself. Because the science and philosophical consensus is a fetus is a fetus and is not a child until it’s born. It’s a simple fact. And until that changes, then their whole argument is, is ridiculous. But because the we have the same people that believe that on the courts, it gets supported. So basically, the conclusion is that, that however this case is decided, and many people think that they’re going to overturn Roe v. Wade. I don’t know. I think there they were making a call for overruling precedent, then it was Kavanaugh or might have been. Gorsuch had a list of cases in the past that had been decided incorrectly and were overturned later. Plessy versus versus Ferguson to name one that allowed segregation. And of course, somebody has to point out that, that when the court has overturned previous precedents, it’s usually to expand rights, not to restrict them. That argument that he talked about, those are like, well, we should let the people decide it should go to the States. Well, that’s what they said about same sex marriage. That’s what they said about segregation. We have these list of rights that you can’t tread on. Because the federal government protects them. And this is something that the federal government like voting rights, you know, I’ve made the argument that voting should be federalized completely, than it should be a national agency that goes into the states and conducts elections. Because it’s just the right it’s just too important. The same with abortion. A woman should have an absolute right to decide her reproductive things. Whatever it is, you know, she wants to have it to turn and give it up for adoption, that should be her choice. If she wants to abort it, that should be her choice. It should be her choice completely without the state butting in. And as the governor of Mississippi, or I think it was Jake Tapper, and that that clip I play pointed out, abortion is still going to happen. No matter what the court rules, people with means will find somewhere to get an abortion. And most of the time, even in places that have it banned. Now, if you have the money, you can find a hospital that will perform it and and fudge the paperwork. You know, call it a miscarriage and miscarriage has some stigma. It is an abortion. But most people understand that and sympathize with a miscarriage. So, you know, I could see some suburban soccer mom, going into a local hospital, and then claiming that she had a miscarriage, their baby like, oh, okay, we sympathize with you. And in fact, she had an abortion. I’m sure there’ll be clinics, for celebrities or people that are rich, that will pop up private clinics like there is with plastic surgery, and they’ll be able to get any kind of abortion they want. The people that are going to suffer are going to be the people that can’t afford it. That can’t afford the cost. That giving birth in gives you, you know there’s a cost to go into a hospital and have a baby, there’s a cost and the doctor bills to make sure that the baby is healthy, because you know, the state’s not going to help you. You know, they’re going to ban it, they’re going to force you to have that baby, but they’re not going to they’re going to do everything they can to not help you keep it safe and healthy. You don’t have to, you know, kick and scream trying to get help to for free health care, or whatever food and, and things like that because a lot of these force birthers they don’t care once the baby’s born. They don’t care about it. Not at all, as the perfect example Mississippi, with the with low infant mortality and, and the hunger issues and and the red states, the Republican states are like that for sure.

Doug Berger 39:28
Poor people will be probably be able to travel to the state that allows abortions. With the assistance they’ll probably be some groups that get formed that will help transport people to clinics that allow abortions and you’ll probably be able to donate them they and some play cases like with that new Texas law that prosecutes people that help it you probably probably won’t say hey, we’re transporting abortion people, patients now. It’ll be something else. And then of course, then you’ll still have your back alley clinics, your you know, you go into a doctor’s office, some doctor will do it after hours for 200 bucks. Or it might be somebody whose day job, their housekeeper, a bus driver, and they and there was a video on YouTube, because you know, there will probably be a video on YouTube on how to do it. And they’ll do it for a few 100 bucks or whatever you can, can spare. So, you know, it’s, it’s gonna be I, I hope that Roe v Wade doesn’t get overturned and I hope that Casey doesn’t get overturned. A lot of the analysis, though going is, you know, it’s ripe. They have the people they have the numbers, they can do it if they want. You know, I hope they do the right thing, and don’t do it. But, you know, religion is an insidious disease in cases like this, you know, I know, from looking at the science, that a fetus is a fetus, and it is not a child until it’s born. That’s just a simple fact. And people that are religious, I understand their point of view, but they’re wrong. Their premise on their argument is they’re wrong. You know, and there’s just going to, it’s going to cause a lot of problems going forward. Once this case gets resolved, crossing fingers that they don’t, but I’m preparing myself for that inevitability.

Doug Berger 41:52
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