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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

March with us in January

'Tis the season for March for Life/Walk for Life planning! If you're going to be in D.C. or San Francisco next month, be sure to meet up with Secular Pro-Life in person.

Washington, D.C.
The March for Life takes place on Thursday, January 22, 2015. Meet us in front of the Smithsonian "Castle" on the National Mall between 11:00 a.m. and 11:50 a.m. The Castle is a landmark, but if you have trouble finding us, just look for the 14-foot-tall, bright blue, can't-miss teardrop banner! We'll be marching together with such awesome youth-led, forward-thinking groups as the Life Matters Journal, New Wave Feminists, Feminists for Nonviolent Choices, and more. All the details you need are in this facebook event

There are no concrete plans for after the March, but more than likely we will end up going to a restaurant. (You should definitely eat beforehand, though; there's nothing worse than being cold and hungry.)

The next day, Friday the 23rd, is the Students for Life of America East Coast National Conference. Secular Pro-Life will have an exhibition booth, where you can pick up a FREE secular outreach kit for your school! Registration is required, and the conference is known to sell out, so go to sflalive.org for all the details and to sign up.

San Francisco
It's deja vu all over again: a march and an SFLA conference, this time on the west coast!

The West Coast Walk for Life is on Saturday, January 24th, and the gathering of awesome groups (technically it's called the #LifeMatters Meetup) will begin at 11:30 a.m. in front of the Asian Art Museum. Here's the facebook event. Our West Coast coordinator, Monica, will be there carrying 1) her preborn daughter Clara, and 2) everybody's favorite banner message:


The next day, Sunday, January 25th, is the Students for Life of America West Coast National Conference. Again, use sflalive.org to register, and visit our table to get in-person tips from real live non-religious pro-lifers. (We exist!

Can't make it?
You can still help make this commemoration of Roe v. Wade count. This is the most expensive time of the year for SPL, as the costs of purchasing booth space and educational materials for thousands of pro-life campus advocates add up quickly. Please consider donating to Secular Pro-Life. We really appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What to do if you face pregnancy discrimination at work


[Today's guest post is by Chris Perez.]

Working women of childbearing age and the public at large have taken quite an interest in the recent story of Peggy Young, a former UPS employee who alleges that she was discriminated against for being pregnant. This case has gone all the way to the Supreme Court and has inspired strong feelings on both sides.

If you are pregnant and believe that you have been fired, demoted, or otherwise mistreated by your employer because of it, there are several steps you can take to protect your rights.

Don't settle immediately: Your employer may assure you that "cuts were coming anyway," to avoid the appearance of discrimination. Your employer may even offer a severance package. And maybe cuts were coming anyway. But you need time to evaluate the situation fully. Don't simply to take an offered severance package and disappear into the night. Don't allow yourself to be pressured; tell your employer you need time to weigh the offer. Not jumping all over a severance offer will enable you to be the one in control. More important, it will give you the opportunity to...

Consult a lawyer: Gather any relevant memos, emails, and other paperwork and then get to an attorney who deals in employment issues. It's important to get a lawyer's outside perspective; he or she can give a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and offer valuable advice. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations. If you are unable to afford a lawyer, and the lawyer believes that you have a strong case, you may be able to make a contingent fee arrangement.

Keep your cool: It's understandable to feel rage toward your former employer if you have experienced discrimination. That can be a good thing; it can motivate you as you navigate the slow, frustrating aspects of the legal process. But be careful about directing your vitriol toward specific people, like a former supervisor or co-worker. You may never know who is just towing the company line and who really believes the things that they are saying. You need to keep your emotions out of the equation and focus on getting the greatest possible recovery from the company.

Pregnancy discrimination is illegal, and women have every right to be both mothers and wage earners. Procreation is a natural part of life, and no mom should have to give up her job simply because she conceived a child.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Attention students: "Pregnant on Campus" initiative needs your help!


When I first became involved in the pro-life movement, as a student at the University of Miami, our Respect Life club created UMiamiPregnancy.org. At the time, it was a pretty basic site (it looks much better now, thanks to a new class of students), but we were proud of it because we knew that it would help women in need. We were also proud because our organization was one of the first students for life groups in the country to start such a project.

Today I'm 26 years old, practically a dinosaur in pro-life years, and such websites are commonplace. I felt really old when I learned that students at the University of New Mexico had opened a pregnancy resource center on their campus. It just gets better and better!

But of course, these resources are useless if they aren't advertised properly. That's why Students for Life of America (SFLA), building upon these student initiatives, launched PregnantOnCampus.org. The aim of the site is to provide local, campus-specific information for students at hundreds of schools across the nation. It will also allow for a greater degree of continuity, so that students don't have to worry about website maintenance after they graduate.

SFLA is counting on pro-life students to crowdsource the information. Right now, because the site is brand new, most of the campus pages contain only generic information about nationwide resources (e.g., the WIC program). To really make PregnantOnCampus shine, SFLA needs you to step up and submit information about local resources that can help mothers at your school.*

Many students for life groups already have this information, from having done projects like UMiamiPregnancy.org, from sidewalk counseling, or from participating in Feminists for Life's "Perception is Reality" audit. This is entirely doable.

And it's incredibly necessary:
“Becoming unexpectedly pregnant while in college can be a scary situation for so many women. Over half of abortions are done on women under the age of 25 and many of these students have no idea about the resources available to them on their college campuses to help them stay in school and parent their children, which is why this website is so unique and needed,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of SFLA. “Instead of running to the nearest Planned Parenthood, this website will help pregnant women find resources that are available on their campus right now.” ...

“SFLA’s own research shows that nearly 80% of Planned Parenthood facilities are located within five miles of a college or university. College students are prime targets for the largest abortion provider in the country,” said Hawkins. “No woman should have to choose between continuing her education or having a child, even it was unplanned and unexpected. SFLA has worked with universities across the country to help provide pregnant students on campus a one-stop-shop with all the information they need to keep their child and continue their education.”
*Trolls, the information is screened before it's added, so don't bother. Desperate women are going to rely on this site and SFLA won't tolerate your shenanigans.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The "abortions" that weren't


By now, you've probably heard about the arrest of Oklahoma abortionist Nareshkumar Patel. He "is being accused of fraud, telling women they were pregnant when they weren’t and then giving them abortion-inducing drugs."

Nothing about the abortion industry truly surprises me anymore, but this did strike me as a little odd. Are there not enough real crisis pregnancies to keep all the abortion centers in business? Or did he just get greedy?

Interestingly, Patel isn't the first to pad his clientele this way. In fact, his scam is over three decades old.

In 1978, Chicago Sun-Times reporters went undercover and got enough dirt for a twelve-part series, The Abortion Profiteers. They found that "abortions" on women who weren't pregnant were a regular occurrence. Mind you, that was long before the era of RU-486; they were doing surgical procedures on women who weren't pregnant. Patel merely updated the practice.

Without regular undercover investigations, it's impossible to say how common this is. It certainly raises some questions:
  • Activists on both sides of the aisle generally treat the Guttmacher Institute's abortion statistics as the most reliable, but those figures originate with reports from the abortionists themselves. Are non-lethal "abortions" being counted? 
  • Have any women been injured or killed by complications from fake abortions? 
  • And how many women are beating themselves up for having killed their children... who didn't?
I don't have any answers to those questions, but I hope to see more undercover investigations of this nature.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A salute to the pro-lifers of the internet

[Today's guest writer is anonymous.]

It’s easy to dismiss online pro-life work as slacktivism. Sure, you might say, sharing your opinion on the internet will expose you to ad hominem attacks and insults—but if you really want to make a difference, go volunteer in the real world, reaching out to abortion-minded women. And of course reaching out to families in need is a great thing. But I want to challenge the assumption that internet activism is solely about the realm of ideas, while real-life activism is about actually helping people. It’s entirely possible for pro-lifers to assist pregnant mothers in need, without even leaving their homes.

There are numerous websites out there which (inadvertently) provide pro-lifers with the ability to dissuade individuals from seeking abortions. Simply Googling such sites (including forums, message boards, and blogs) will return a litany of locations where people are asking for advice about whether or not they should make a destructive, tragic decision about their unborn child. Yahoo! Answers often features such sad questions in sections regarding Women's Health, Pregnancy, and Adolescent. If people are directly asking for internet opinions about whether their unborn children should live or die, pro-lifers have a duty to speak up—and to go further by sharing local resources that can provide material assistance.

Yahoo! Answers is uncensored. Other forums are unfortunately run by administrators who want to prevent women from hearing the pro-life perspective. Ironically, one of the worst offenders is BabyCenter.com. You’d think that a site called BabyCenter would have no involvement in the end of babies’ lives, but you’d be wrong. On that site, there are two forums dedicated to encouraging abortions: one for abortions for socioeconomic reasons, and one for abortions done because the baby has been diagnosed with a disability, such as Down Syndrome. BabyCenter.com actually does provide extensive information about prenatal development, revealing the humanity of the unborn child—but keeps that information segregated from the forums where they are most desperately needed. The admins block pro-lifers on both of the abortion boards; abortion is never discussed in less-than-positive terms, and the unborn child is dehumanized to the point of obscurity. It's truly troubling and deeply depressing stuff, especially when one considers how many lives those two forums have taken in the span of roughly six years.

And yet, despite this, the censors haven’t won: BabyCenter’s direct messaging system remains available for pro-lifers to share the truth to women considering abortion. On BabyCenter, Yahoo! Answers, and a plethora of other sites, a compassionate, understanding pro-life advocate—taking a religiously neutral position, of course—can indeed provide a lifeline to women who are struggling.

I understand people feeling discouraged. Some days you look at the internet and see little more than pro-abortion trolling. But the internet is an incredibly valuable asset to the pro-life movement. It provides pro-life individuals with practical outlets to make their visions of peace and nonviolence into a reality. So hook up your laptop and get to it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What's up with the pro-choice anger over abortion pill reversal?

I'd like to think that if I were pro-choice, I wouldn't be freaking out about abortion pill reversal. In a nutshell: a mother who takes the first pill (mifepristone) of the chemical abortion, then regrets it, is prescribed the pregnancy hormone progesterone to prevent the embryo's death. While nobody's suggesting it will work 100% of the time—obviously if the mifepristone has already killed the embryo, there's nothing you can do—early intervention could provide women with the ability to affect their choice for life. That's both pro-life and pro-choice, right?

Of course, Amanda Marcotte begs to differ. And she really ties herself in knots doing it.

First there's the issue of whether mifepristone is actually effective. She initially says that it's an important component of the two-pill procedure:
Misoprostol can work on its own—many black-market abortion pills are just misoprostol—but, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, taking the mifepristone improves the likelihood of a safe, complete abortion.
Then Marcotte quotes Dr. Daniel Grossman from Ibis Reproductive Health (which supports abortion). In his account, the second pill (misoprostol) is the key and mifepristone alone does basically nothing,* to the point that an abortion pill reversal amounts to a placebo:
Mifepristone "by itself is not an effective abortion regimen," he said, and so many women who just take the first pill will not miscarry if they simply don't take the second. If he had a patient who changed her mind halfway through, he explained, he would recommend doing nothing and monitoring the pregnancy to make sure it's continuing normally.
Marcotte also can't decide where she stands on the safety of the progesterone injections. In one breath, she denounces it as a dangerous "experiment."** (Of course, when abortionists deviate from the FDA protocol for the abortion pills themselves, killing eight women in the process, the correct term is "making it easier on the patient.") In the next, she returns to Dr. Grossman, who "says that the progesterone probably won't hurt a woman if she’s under medical supervision." Which she would be, because shockingly, pro-life doctors are doctors too.

With all these contradictions it's hard to figure out what Marcotte's really getting at... until the piece's final quote. Dr. Grossman is
concerned that the advertising of this procedure could mislead the public about the prevalence of abortion regret. "In my experience caring for women seeking abortion, they don’t go into this lightly. They’re very clear about their decision..."
Can't have women running wild through your carefully manicured narrative.

*EDIT, 9:20 AM EST: Dr. Grossman's characterization of mifepristone's role contradicts Planned Parenthood's educational materials, which state that mifepristone "works by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down, and pregnancy cannot continue." 

**The reversal protocol is only two years old, so published research is scant. I'd certainly like to see more. So far, though, there's nothing to suggest that progesterone is harmful to pregnant women who have taken mifepristone. That's unsurprising, since progesterone is naturally present in a pregnant woman's body. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Which came first, the atheism or the support for abortion?

Polls consistently show that a strong majority of self-identified non-religious Americans call themselves pro-choice. That's in stark contrast to the American public at large, which is roughly 50-50, though leaning pro-life in recent years.

Some pro-choice atheists use this polling data as evidence that the pro-choice position is correct. The argument, in a nutshell, is that atheists become atheists because they are logical thinkers, and then become pro-choice for the same reason. Pro-life atheists are explained away as being still, partially, under the influence of religion.

While some people do become atheist and then become pro-choice, atheist author and Pitzer college professor Phil Zuckerman suggests that it's more commonly the other way around:
With an emphasis on seeking to make abortion illegal . . . conservative Christians have found a warm welcome within the Republican Party, which has been clear about its openness to the conservative Christian agenda. . . . What all of this has done is alienate a lot of left-leaning or politically moderate Americans from Christianity. Sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer have published compelling research indicating that much of the growth of “nones” in America is largely attributable to a reaction against this increased, overt mixing of Christianity and conservative politics. The rise of irreligion has been partially related to the fact that lots of people who had weak or limited attachments to religion and were either moderate or liberal politically found themselves at odds with the conservative political agenda of the Christian right and thus reacted by severing their already somewhat weak attachment to religion.
The key here is to understand that while people on the fringes are the loudest, most people don't take their religion all that seriously. People don't necessarily take their churches as authorities on moral and political issues, and where church teachings deviate from their personal views, they may leave one religion in favor of another or of none at all. (Zuckerman focuses on liberals, but I note that this works for conservatives as well; in recent years, reconsideration of same-sex marriage by church leaders has threatened schisms in the Episcopal, Methodist, and Presbyterian denominations.)

That's not to say that logical reasoning doesn't play a role in what people believe; it absolutely does. I am an atheist myself, and Christianity's unanswered questions had a lot to do with that. But the decision to publicly identify as an atheist—to lose your church community, expose yourself to scorn from the general public, and possibly damage family relationships—is a highly emotional one. And it's a lot easier to do if you already disagree with your church about abortion.

Conversely, if you've lost your faith in God but remain pro-life, and are part of a pro-life denomination,* there's less reason to publicly identify as an atheist. You might as well just remain another doubter in the pews, invisible to the pollsters.

*My own secular identification was made easier by the fact that I belonged to the Methodist Church, which disagreed with me both on abortion (pro-choice) and same-sex marriage (opposed).

Friday, December 5, 2014

Notes on the Supreme Court pregnancy discrimination case


On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Young v. UPS, which concerns the interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The interpretation being advocated by the defendant would seriously undermine protections for pregnant mothers in the workplace—creating increased pressure to abort. As a result, the case attracted numerous amicus briefs, including one signed by 23 pro-life organizations. While Secular Pro-Life was not among the groups tapped for the amicus brief, we fully support those efforts and would like to take this opportunity to share excerpts of statements from a few of those groups.

All Our Lives and Feminists for Nonviolent Choices (joint press release):
“Our society claims to value children and motherhood so highly, and yet we don’t value them enough to put them before the maximization of profit,” said Jennifer Roth of All Our Lives. “Without reasonable accommodations, a pregnant worker might have to choose between protecting her health and her baby’s on the one hand, and supporting her family on the other. If their lives really matter, they’re worth the cost of a few extra water breaks or a light duty assignment.”
Americans United for Life:
As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in Young v. UPS, “the need for society to respect a woman’s choice for LIFE will be front and center,” said Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest. The case involves the 36-year-old Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and whether it offers any real protection to women who choose life for their unborn children. “Pro-life and pro-abortion advocates agree: This case is about protecting pregnant mothers from employment discrimination,” noted Dr. Yoest. “Women should not suffer physical hardship at work or lose their jobs because they are having a baby. Most especially, pregnant mothers should not be refused the same accommodation offered others with similar work challenges.”
Democrats for Life of America:
With oral argument approaching in the Supreme Court pregnancy discrimination case of Young v. United Parcel Service, UPS has announced that (as the Washington Post reports), “[S]tarting January 1, the company will offer temporary light duty positions not just to workers injured on the job, which is current policy, but to pregnant workers who need it as well.” The change in policy was announced to employees and in UPS’s brief filed in the Court.
This is great news for UPS’s female workers, those who are and those who will become pregnant. It also sends a high-profile message that accommodating pregnant workers is the just thing to do, especially when similar physical conditions stemming from (e.g.) on-the-job injuries are accommodated.
Susan B. Anthony List:
The Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum argued that the previous ruling in favor of UPS was incorrect on the basis of “misconceiving gender stereotypes in pregnancy discrimination.” Americans United for Life has filed an amicus brief, which the Susan B. Anthony List, among other pro-life groups have signed on to, coming from a different approach, standing up for the unborn and women. The brief argues that in creating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Congress was trying to “protect women from economic pressure to abort their children because of pregnancy discrimination.”
So what's next? The wheels of justice move slowly, and it will be months before a decision is reached. Dahlia Lithwick's analysis suggests that the Supreme Court might kick the case back down to the District Court so that the record can be developed more fully; if that happens, the issue may not be wholly resolved for years. In the meantime, there's always the possibility that Congress could step in to strengthen the language of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A review of pro-life short film "The Appointment"



I'm curious for pro-life and pro-choice feedback on the above video. (Watch it first; spoilers ahead.)

First the criticism: I do find it kind of annoying when pro-life authors make unborn babies "speak." I see it all the time, especially in poems, and it just comes across as... kinda cheesy. Pro-choicers would probably attack it as dishonest, and I can kind of see where they're coming from; on the other hand I note that nobody gets up in arms about, say, talking infants in eTrade commercials. Yes, it's artistic license... but since it's so easily discredited, why go there?

But I'm willing to make an exception in this case, mainly because it's framed as something like a dream sequence, within the mother's own mind. I find that much more tolerable than all those god-awful, first-person, mommy-please-don't-kill-me poems/songs/videos.

And I've got to give the filmmaker credit for absolutely nailing current trends in pro-choice rhetoric. "The only significance he has is what you decide to give him." Ultrasounds "only complicate things." "He is draining you, physically and emotionally."

Yes, pro-choicers: this is how we pro-lifers hear you.

I especially love the line "I am not someone to fear." It reminds me of the "face of the enemy" series of posters Feminists for Life put out several years ago (example at right).

Readers, what are your impressions?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I'm thankful for my maternity home


[Today's guest post is by Heather Crandall. We briefly mentioned her last week during our Thanksgiving series, but her whole story is worth the read.]

Having kids is hard. Having a child out of wedlock and alone feels like a running a marathon with a boulder attached to your foot.

I had gotten pregnant, after my marriage ended, by an ex-boyfriend/roommate in May of 2013. I was already a mother to a little boy with autism. My life was going in all directions, and the pregnancy forced me to pause. My family and I don't always see eye to eye; they were pretty much done with me, and with this new baby on the way. Bad circumstances with the father led me to move to Clearwater, FL, where my cousin's family lives.

Needing more resources, I started searching for programs for pregnant women in the area. Online, I found several maternity homes: all of them run by private, church-funded ministries, with a Bible study component. I didn't find any state-funded ones. I'm not especially religious but I applied anyway and was accepted into a program called Manasota Solve, out of Bradenton, FL. There was just one opening in Solve's second house in Englewood, FL.

It was exactly what I needed. The home was a safe place that catered to the needs of pregnant women. In addition to the Bible studies there were volunteers who came by to teach skills like sewing baby clothes. Lots of baby clothes and maternity items were always coming in. There was also mandatory counseling, provided by a counselor who came down from Sarasota.

After my daughter Ivory was born, I moved to Sarasota feeling like a new person. Being around pro-life, pro-mother people gave me hope to be a mom again, but mostly they helped me to see myself as the new, strong woman I am!

I would like to thank several people. First would be Rose Ann, the "house mom," for letting me know there was nothing wrong with my looks and that it was okay to be me. Second would be April, the volunteer photographer who takes pregnancy and baby pictures for the home residents. She took amazing photos of me and Ivory on the beach (see the photo at the top), and was there in the delivery room too. I cherish those pictures. Third, I thank "Mr. Bill," the counselor. The sessions I had with him went deep, resolving emotional issues that stretched back to my childhood. Because of him, I now feel that I can live my life like I did before my depression and bad marriage. Fourth, I thank "Miss Carol," a volunteer who often brought food and gifts for the residents. And finally I thank my pro-life friend Kelsey, who knew that my family wouldn't be at the hospital and drove to Sarasota the day after Ivory was born to spend time with us.

My three months at the maternity home changed my life. I had no idea that pro-life maternity housing programs even existed, until I needed one. I used to think that pro-lifers just stood outside of abortion centers without really doing anything to address the situations young women are facing. I was wrong. There are people out there who see the root problems and actually do something about them. Those dedicated people have a powerful influence.

As for the rest, it may seem like most people are too apathetic to do anything, but I think a lot of people would help when presented with the opportunity. Now that I've returned to the Roanoke, VA area, my dream is to see a program like Manasota Solve to help girls here.