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Thursday, April 30, 2015

AB 775: Forcing CPCs to Recommend Abortion in CA

On Tuesday, April 28th, California State Assembly Bill 775 passed the State Assembly’s Committee on the Judiciary (vote of 7-3) and is now on its way to the Appropriations Committee of the State Assembly. AB 775 is also known as “The Reproductive FACT Act” (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency), which just sounds so positive and unobjectionable, but it should have more accurately been named “The Reproductive CRAP Act” (Coerced Recommendations for Abortion Practices) to reflect its true nature.

According to rhrealitycheck.org, AB 775 requires any clinics which provide pregnancy-related services, including Crisis Pregnancy Centers, to “inform patients that California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care, and abortion, for eligible women.” 

In other words, facilities that provide abortion want to require CPCs, by law, to advertise cheap abortion for them (I’m surprised they aren’t requiring CPC workers to do a jig and present this information in the form of a song)(oh right, that’s the next bill).


Opponents point out that the bill’s requirements amount to forced abortion referrals, which CPCs are protected from under the Hyde/WeldonConscience Protection Amendment. A lawyer representing the bill’s opposition, Sheldon Hadley, says, “The authors of AB 775 know the Hyde/Weldon Amendment prohibits abortion referrals and discrimination or forced abortion referrals, and therefore were careful to avoid using the word ‘referral’ in the bill. But a rose is still a rose under any other name.” 

But I suppose it wouldn't be beyond proponents to feign ignorance when it comes to the definition of “refer” in order to avoid respecting the Weldon Amendment protections. We can only hope ignorance isn't a valid argument in court, because this bill surely amounts to abortion referrals. Check it:

5)Requires licensed covered facilities to disseminate the following notice in English and in minority languages pursuant to the federal Voting Rights Act, that states the following:

"California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion, for eligible women.  To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number]. "

The patient would then call the given number, and social services would recommend x, y, and z abortion centers in the area. But yeah, totally not a referral.



A very similar abortion-referral bill is also on its way to being approved in Illinois. It passed the Senate by a 34-19 vote and is now in the General Assembly House. Funny how 39 years ago, the same state’s Republican Congressman, Henry Hyde, sponsored the Amendment that this very law is attempting to undermine. Oh how times (read: politicians) change.       



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Today is Denim Day

Image via the National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Denim Day, an event to bring awareness to violence against women, is observed today. Participants wear denim and donate to rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and similar causes.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center describes the origin of Denim Day as follows:
In 1992, in a small town outside of Naples, Italy, a young woman accused her 45-year-old driving instructor of brutally raping her during a driving lesson. She told police that he drove her to an isolated area, forced her out of the car, and raped her. 
He was convicted on lesser charges and later convicted on all charges by an appeals court in 1998. He was sentenced to 34 months in prison before the case made its way to the Italian high court. There, the sentence was overturned based on the justices’ belief that since the victim wore tight jeans that were not easily removed, she must have helped her rapist remove them. 
The justices declared that this was not an act of rape, but consensual sex. This decision outraged lawmakers and organizations not only in Italy, but worldwide. Female members of Italian Parliament protested on the steps of the Supreme Court by wearing jeans. Immediately, this image spread. In Sacramento, Calif., members of the California Senate and Assembly followed suit by wearing jeans on the steps of the Capitol.
Whether or not you wear denim today, we encourage you to give to anti-violence groups in your community. Cash donations are the obvious option. Women's shelters also report a need for toiletries and hygiene items.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This family chose life in more ways than one

From the United Kingdom comes the amazing story of a child whose tragically short life is having a tremendous impact:
Newborn Teddy Houlston, who died 100 minutes after his birth, became Britain's youngest ever organ donor after his kidneys and heart valves were used to save a man's life.
The newborn died on April 22, 2014, but news of his miraculous organ donation only came to light this week.
Houlston's mother, Jess Evans, was 12 weeks pregnant when she learned that one of her unborn twins had a fatal abnormality. The baby was suffering from anencephaly, a serious birth defect which prevents part of the brain and skull from developing.
Teddy's parents refused to abort him and "discussed the possibility of organ donation as the pregnancy continued."

We have written before about abortion in cases where the child is doomed to die, and the reasons that parents decline abortion in such cases—often, despite immense pressure from their own health care providers. We noted that "parents may reject abortion because giving birth to the child allows the family to arrange for organ donation; although the child's life is brief, he or she can leave a tremendous legacy by saving the lives of other newborns."

In February, when I presented at the American Association of Pro-Life Ob/Gyns conference, I had the opportunity to chat with fellow presenter Amy Kuebelbeck, who runs PerinatalHospice.org. I asked her about this and she told me that most parents who reject abortion for babies with lethal diagnoses are not motivated by the possibility of organ donation. This is because, in laymen's terms, the stars have to align for such organ donations to be medically feasible. Typically, she said, that involves placing the newborn on life support so that physicians can move quickly at the moment of death. In Teddy's case, "[d]octors at the University Hospital of Wales performed the surgery to remove his organs three minutes after he died."

But perhaps with greater awareness, more parents will consider the option of organ donation. The Independent reports that an Irish family has made an organ donation plan for their unborn daughter Annie, who also has anencephaly. They have been in touch with Teddy's parents for support.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Brief to Supreme Court misses the point


[Today's guest post by Rebecca Downs is part of our paid blogging program.]

By now you may have heard about a brief submitted to the Supreme Court, on behalf of those opposed to same-sex marriage, which claims recognizing such marriages could cause 900,000 abortions. 

Gene Schaerr also wrote for The Daily Signal explaining the claim and summarized the brief for Public Discourse. 

The argument is that recognizing same-sex marriage will lead to a decrease in marriage for couples of the opposite sex. Unmarried women are more likely to have abortions than married women. Therefore, with fewer straight women getting married, there is a connection between same-sex marriage and abortion. 

This purported correlation of abortion with same-sex marriage is shaky at best. While same-sex marriage is recognized in more and more jurisdictions, the abortion rate is actually declining, and recently hit its lowest level since Roe v. Wade.

Besides, the case that the Supreme Court is hearing tomorrow is clearly about one topic: same-sex marriage. The case is not about abortion. And unfortunately, the Court has not yet overturned Roe v. Wade. Since the Supreme Court continues to allow abortion, even treating abortion as a constitutional right, why would the Court find the "same-sex marriages means more abortions" brief compelling?

Whether you are in support of or are opposed to same-sex marriage, the brief ought to strike you as outrageous, desperate, and embarrassing. 

Those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons should especially be angered by this claim for stifling more legitimate discussion and debate. 

Perhaps the worst part about this claim is how exclusive and alienating it is. The pro-life movement includes those who identify as LGBT, and even more who support same-sex marriage. If the movement truly wishes to focus on saving preborn children, it should welcome all. We need not be distracted by same-sex marriage, or other issues. 

Isn't it good to have diversity in our movement? We certainly don't want our foes to be accurate when they stereotype us! More importantly, our diversity demonstrates that concern for the right to life is paramount and transcends all sorts of differences. 

I have my opinions on abortion, on same-sex marriage, and on a whole other host of issues. But to me, protecting innocent, vulnerable and defenseless life is the most pressing issue of our day. Regardless of any and all of our differences, if you stand with me to protect life, I am proud to have you by my side.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Exhale: Post Abortive Support and Pro-Voice Listening

I recently had the unique opportunity to spend time with Elizabeth, who is a volunteer with Exhale. Exhale is known as one of the only post-abortion support groups in existence that is not affiliated with the pro-life movement. Its website includes links to the National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood, but no abortion alternatives/pregnancy care centers.

Nevertheless, Exhale shies away from the "pro-choice" label. They prefer the term "pro-voice," which it coined to express a commitment to listening to the voices of women who have had abortions. Exhale promotes pro-voice communication as a non-violent practice that can be applied to any stigmatized human experience. The Pro-Voice Counseling Guide states: "We have found that speaking from personal experience allows people to have nuanced conversations about abortion, and invites a diversity of wisdom and values to be expressed."

Exhale operates as a call center, but the agents work from home and calls are dispatched to them directly. All agents work on a volunteer basis, and participate in an extensive training program designed to teach agents the skills relevant to their role. Elizabeth is a call center agent.

When discussing this with Elizabeth, I was surprised to learn several things about her experience as a volunteer.

The opinions of the agents are diverse. While there are not any volunteers that she would describe as pro-life, she said that differences of opinion on when abortion is justifiable were not discouraged. She explained that some of the questions asked throughout the training pertained to their personal feelings on abortion. One she example provided was the question "Would you feel differently about a woman who aborts at age 32 versus age 16?" She felt that all views expressed were respected.

The agents are not therapists. They are there to listen without judgement, to acknowledge the callers feelings, and to build upon their strengths. Callers who are deciding whether or not to actually have an abortion are referred to other (pro-choice) organizations.

Women and men experience emotional pain after an abortion.  This often seems like one of the hardest things for the pro-choice camp to admit, yet Elizabeth confirms that this is undeniable. She shared with me that her volunteering years with Exhale have made her to understand how devastating and troubling abortion can be. Many of the callers are family members or boyfriends of women suffering from an abortion decision. Many times, these men and women feel helpless to offer any support to those they care about and just need to talk to someone. It is important for agents to understand the tragedy of abortion, even if only for how it affects those already born.

Most of the callers are not religious. When I asked Elizabeth how she would handle a call from someone that is not religious, she said that religion rarely comes up at all. She shared that sometimes the caller will say something like "I feel like everyone is judging me," and Elizabeth will ask "who is judging you, is it your family, God, friends?" and that the callers almost always say "Oh, not God." Any religious concerns are referred out to another hotline. This really surprised me because of course abortion advocates generally frame negative feelings about an abortion as being religious in nature, claiming that post-abortion trauma is just a product of religious brainwashing. But secular women too experience profound emotional distress because of abortion.

The most traumatized callers took RU 486. As a pro-lifer, I've always viewed surgical abortion, in which the embryo or fetus is dismembered, as the most traumatic abortion method for the fetus. I always assumed that surgical abortions were more traumatic for the woman involved too. Not so. According to Elizabeth, during a surgical abortion, most women will not see the fetal remains. Rather it is the at home procedure when women witness the reality of the abortion, and when women see the fetal remains, that is when they feel the most isolated, scared, and unsure of their choice.

* * *

You may be asking yourself: why would we care about Exhale? Why should we, pro-lifers, who view abortion as a human rights violation, care about an organization that fails to explicitly denounce the practice, a group that will not even evaluate abortion on moral or legal grounds?  I have come up with a couple of things I hope you will consider.

Many women have not been exposed to the moral implications of abortion. How did you hear about abortion growing up? For many, it was through a friend's experience, or in high school debate class. In some places the only known resource for a crisis pregnancy situation is Planned Parenthood, basically everyone is pro-choice, and the only moral question presented is "are you ready to have a child"? (Exhale began in the extremely pro-choice community of Oakland, CA.)

Once someone with that background has an abortion and trauma unexpectedly begins to surface, where can she go for support? Speaking one-on-one with someone who has no broader political motivation may be the only way many of those struggling emotionally can be reached at all.

Pro-voice listening techniques are relevant to the pro-life cause. What would happen if we all started listening to each other? Would we have, as Exhale's counseling guide states, more nuanced conversations about abortion? Would we have a greater chance of being heard if we are willing to listen?

Josh Brahn, founder of the pro-life Equal Rights Institute, stated in his November newsletter that "When you go out of your way to understand people ... you help create an environment where you can have meaningful conversations with others, which does not happen if you just follow the temptation to dismiss their view."  If we  want to be persuasive and change hearts and minds, I suspect it will be helpful to not only be pro-life, but to also be pro-voice.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When mothers refuse life-saving abortions, how should we respond?

I just finished reading Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Trumps Modern Medicine by Dr. Paul Offit. The main focus of the book is religious refusal of life-saving medical treatment for one's children. However, Dr. Offit does devote a chapter to abortion.

He does an admirable job handling the subject; unlike Bill Nye, he fully acknowledges the science of prenatal development and does not dismiss concern for the unborn child as a foolish superstition. Rather, he focuses specifically on religious disagreements about abortion when the life of the mother is in danger. Secular Pro-Life, recognizing that it is better to save one life than zero, does not oppose such abortions, so I have little to add to Dr. Offit's thoughts. But I want to highlight one passage that I found thought-provoking:
Furthermore, while [Catholic] church officials claim that the life of the fetus and mother are equivalent, their actions speak otherwise. In the eyes of the church, the fetus is an innocent; the mother isn't. No story has made the Church's preference for the unborn clearer than that of Gianna Beretta Molla, a thirty-nine-year-old pregnant woman who suffered from uterine cancer. In April 1962, rather than remove her uterus to save her life, Gianna chose to take her pregnancy to term. "If it is a question of choosing between me and the child," she said, "do not have the least hesitation. Save it!" Gianna gave birth to a healthy baby girl and died several days later. Her ultimate sacrifice led to her beatification. "Gianna Beretta Molla knew how to give her life in sacrifice so that the being which she carried in her womb could live," said Pope John Paul II. "She was aware of what awaited her, but she did not flinch before the sacrifice, thus confirming the heroic nature of her virtues. We wish to pay homage to all brave mothers who devote themselves unreservedly to their families and who are then ready to make all sacrifices. We thank you, heroic mothers, for your invincible love!"
When pro-lifers applaud mothers who go to their death refusing abortion, is this an indication that we value the baby more than the mother?

Molla and two of her four children
I don't think that necessarily follows. After all, society routinely applauds people who sacrifice their lives for others. Fallen police officers are an obvious example. Memorializing fallen police officers certainly doesn't imply a judgment that police officers have less moral worth than the people they save.

But I also get where Dr. Offit is coming from, because the statement he quotes is way too cheerful. So cheerful it's creepy, if you ask me. A person's death may be heroic, but it's still a tragedy, not a cause for celebration and thankfulness. Maybe I feel this way because I don't share the Catholic belief in an eternal paradise, which may be assuaging their grief... but I don't think that's the sole thing discomforting me here. I'm having a hard time putting it into words.

What say you? Is this problematic?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Update from Fargo, ND

Earlier this month, we shared a call to action from Students for Life of America (SFLA) on our facebook page. SFLA reported that two Fargo, North Dakota teenagers—Brigid and Katie—wanted to form pro-life clubs at their high schools but were facing a stubborn pro-censorship administration. School officials declared that the proposed clubs were "too controversial" and "put these students through extensive questioning, including inappropriate questions about their religious affiliations." Pro bono lawyers stepped up to advocate for Brigid and Katie's freedom of speech and association. SFLA called on pro-lifers to send messages of support to Brigid and Katie.

Secular Pro-Life's message to these awesome young women was:
Hello Brigid and Katie! This is Kelsey from Secular Pro-Life. I myself didn't get involved in the cause until college. You got a head start on me! SFLA mentioned that school officials have been prying into your religious beliefs; I'm guessing they're part of the "all pro-lifers must be Christian fundamentalists" brigade? Well once your club is approved (and it will be, because you're in great hands!) I would be HONORED to come up and give a presentation about why the right to life matters to people of any faith and no faith—and I'll do it free of charge!!
We recently received an update from SFLA, which includes some more detail on the religious aspect of this mess:
At the end of last week, the Fargo School District answered our letter and said they will now make changes in the way they handle student groups and encouraged Katie and Brigid to submit paperwork to get their group started.
The problem with this response is that it makes it seem like the girls have done something wrong, that they didn't do what was needed, which is not the case. Brigid previously started a Book Club at her high school so she knew exactly what she needed to do when she applied for her Students for Life group.
Katie has been working for more than eight months and Brigid for more than two months to start their Students for Life groups. Never once has "lack of paperwork" been cited in the schools' denials of our groups. The schools always told the students they weren't allowed to be official, not even giving Katie the paperwork to fill out for her group, because they consider being pro-life to be "religious and too controversial." In fact, one of their principals went as far as saying that the scientific fact that "life begins at conception" is simply a religious view and religious views can only be spoken where everyone agrees with them!!!! Outrageous.
The District is hoping that they can play off this denial of constitutional rights because Katie and Brigid are young and seemingly naive. That's just wrong.
Everything about this is wrong, from the unconstitutional denials to the conflicting excuses to the scientifically illiterate high school principal. These schools clearly need pro-life clubs!

We'll continue to pass along information about this story as we receive it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Are Unborn Children Just Like Born Children?

I was reading a pro-choice blog in which the author had an experience with a pro-life woman. The author asked this woman if a child who dies in a car accident is just like a child who is aborted. Incredulous that the woman would believe this, the author says, "I them [sic] pointed to my boyfriend's aunt who lost her child in a car accident last her [sic] and told her to tell that woman that people that make the decision to have an abortion is [sic] on the same level of her losing the child she raised and loved for sixteen years."

The pro-life woman and the pro-choice author talked right past each other. Several things went wrong here.

The woman the author was talking to possibly could have benefited from training from an organization like Equal Rights Institute about holding productive conversations. At the very least, she might have suggested continuing the discussion at a later time instead of just walking away.

The pro-choice author is making some unwarranted assumptions as well. When a pro-life person says that the unborn are just like born children, although this may be a sloppy way of putting it (again: preparation helps!), what we really mean is that fundamentally, there is no difference between unborn and born children. They have the same human nature, they are full-fledged members of our species. Of course there are differences. Older children have many abilities that unborn children do not; they can talk, form relationships, think about themselves and their place in the world, and so on. But in the morally relevant sense, an unborn child is fundamentally and numerically the same entity as his/her older self.

Further confusion appears when the author points out that the child who died in the car accident had been raised and loved for sixteen years, and an unborn child who is killed by abortion hasn't. That's a factually correct statement, but somewhat beside the point in this conversation. Being raised and loved does not make you a member of our species.

No, it's not exactly the same thing to kill a child in abortion and to lose a child you have invested in for 16 years. It's also not exactly the same thing to lose a newborn to SIDS and to lose a spouse of 50 years, or to lose a child to miscarriage or to lose your own parents. Everyone grieves differently in different situations and that's completely valid.

In all of these cases the same kind of entity has died: a human being. But it would be wildly insensitive to walk up to a grieving person and compare their tragedy to someone else's in order to score points in a random political debate. The pro-life woman was obviously right not to do so.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Seeking MDs for one-time volunteer assignment

[Editor's note: portions of this article were published earlier.]

Secular Pro-Life is seeking pro-life licensed physicians to review medical literature for an upcoming educational campaign.

This campaign, which will launch in late May or early June, focuses on a long-term risk of induced abortion. I can't reveal all the details yet, but in very general terms, the campaign involves the presentation of medical literature to the public along with personal stories. It's similar to the Truth and Tips From Former Smokers public health campaigns against tobacco.

We need physicians to review our educational materials for accuracy and endorse the project. (The materials have already been prepared with the help of a wonderful pro-life medical student.) Your name will appear on the campaign website as a physician endorser.

All areas of practice are welcome. If you are willing to give an hour or two of your time, please email info@secularprolife.org with the subject line "Volunteer Physician." Thank you!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On the start of presidential campaign season

Those of you not living under rocks have undoubtedly noticed that the 2016 presidential campaign is underway. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has formally announced her candidacy and is cruising to the nomination. On the Republican side, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio are officially seeking the GOP nomination for president, and many others are sure to join in.

Election season is a lonely time for secular pro-lifers. We care about the right to life, which puts us at obvious odds with Clinton. We also care about church-state separation, which puts us at odds with... just about everyone, actually, but while candidates of both parties are guilty of religious pandering, Republicans are (on average) louder.

Secular pro-lifers are all over the map politically. Some of us are single-issue pro-life voters, others balance abortion along with other issues that are important to us, and still others are so disgusted with the process that we don't vote at all or vote third party. We are liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and centrists.

Secular Pro-Life itself is strictly nonpartisan. Our role here is to foster community and friendly debate, in the hope of helping one other stay sane through the next 19 months.

So we open the floor to all of you. What factors are you weighing as you consider the candidates? Do you have a favorite? Or are you inclined to find a rock to hide under until November 9, 2016?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Website Under Deconstruction: Blue Mountain Clinic

Today's post is part of our "Website Under Deconstruction" series exploring abortion center websites.

The Blue Mountain Clinic is an abortion business in Missoula, Montana. It's somewhat unusual in that it combines abortion with the provision of legitimate health care like treatment for diabetes and other common afflictions, annual physicals, and mental health care. In their words, they want to "normalize" abortion "within the continuum of mainstream care."

That includes, worryingly, care for newborns.

Why do I say worryingly? Not because I think abortionists are utterly incapable of recognizing the humanity of babies outside of the womb. True, the line between abortion and infanticide is fuzzy, as the "pro-choice" opposition to born-alive infant protection laws attests. But Blue Mountain only commits abortions on babies in the first 16 weeks.

Rather, I'm concerned by this proud statement:
As per our choice-based mission, Blue Mountain Clinic offers alternative vaccination scheduling!
Oh dear.

Look. I know vaccines stir up all kinds of passions. I know from past experience that any comment about vaccines will attract a ridiculous amount of controversy, and I say that as someone who writes about abortion multiple times a week.*

But apparently I'm a glutton for punishment today, because I have to say it: alternative vaccine schedules have no scientific basis whatsoever. They are driven by a fear that recommended schedules expose children to more than their immune systems can handle. ("Too many too soon" is the catchphrase.) That fear is unfounded; experts point out that the immune system reacts far more aggressively to common throat infections than to vaccines.

Alternative vaccine schedules may also be driven by a desire for compromise. With scientists saying one thing and vocal activists saying another, I'm sure it's tempting for concerned parents to seek out a middle ground. The problem is that this isn't the type of issue where spitting the difference is productive.

There is no evidence to suggest that delayed vaccinations are any safer than vaccinations given on the regular schedule. In fact, the only effect of an "alternative schedule" is to extend the amount of time that children are left unprotected from potentially life-threatening infectious diseases.

I've got to hand it to Blue Mountain Clinic; at least their ideology is consistent. The facts don't matter. The mother's "choice" rules even if it harms the child, whether born or preborn.


*Because it's come up before, allow me to anticipate a tangent. I can appreciate ethical concerns about how certain vaccines are produced. I happen to agree with the Catholic position on this one: those concerns don't justify vaccine refusals that threaten herd immunity. But I have more sympathy for ethics-based opposition to vaccines than for opposition based in pseudoscience.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Coerced Abortion Awareness Week

Graphic via UnChoice

April 12-19 is coerced abortion awareness week. At Secular Pro-Life, we recognize the harm that coerced abortion causes both to women and their preborn children.

Coerced abortion can take many forms. Perhaps the best known is state-sponsored coerced abortion in China. Organizations working to end this human rights atrocity include Women's Rights Without Frontiers and All Girls Allowed.

But coerced abortion is by no means limited to tyrannical regimes. It happens here too, as a matter between individuals. An abusive partner may use physical violence to force a pregnant mother to have an abortion. The coercion can also be emotional or financial, as with a partner who threatens to end the relationship or withdraw needed support unless she has an abortion. For more information and to read women's stories, visit UnChoice.

Tragically, we sometimes see that pregnant teens face coercion from their parents to abort an "unwanted" grandchild. The pro-life legal team at the Center Against Forced Abortion provides a free defense to teens in this situation. As a first step, you can download template letters, to the parents and to the abortion business, which set forth the teen's rights and threaten a lawsuit if the abortion goes forward.

Finally, for even more resources, follow our friends at Feminists for Nonviolent Choices; they'll be releasing information and graphics about coerced abortion throughout the week.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Words Matter

Language is one of the most important aspects of being human. It's what sets us apart from animals. Language is how we communicate our desires and our needs. Language helps us understand and make sense of the world around us, and it lets us make distinctions so we can know how one thing differs from another.

It's also true that words can affect our perception. In a controversial discussion like abortion, society can be affected by the words you use in your discussions. That's one of the reasons abortion advocates were able to effectively win the culture over to their side in the mid-20th century. They were very deliberate about the words that they used. It's not a child, it's a "choice." They knew that if they could keep the focus off of what the unborn entity is and keep it entirely focused on women, on women's "rights", on women who "need" abortion in order to be equal with men and to live a full life, they could make abortion not just legal, but acceptable to the larger public.

This sometimes results in abortion advocates denying science itself. It sometimes results in highly counterintuitive notions, such as that parents don't have natural obligations to their own children (which was Thomson's point in her famous essay "A Defense of Abortion"). Either way, since abortion supporters have largely been successful in using ambiguous and vague terms (such as "choice" without defining what, exactly, the choice is) to obfuscate the issue, they have been able to convince our culture that abortion is morally good (or at least, morally neutral), even though many people still have no idea what an abortion is or what it does to the unborn child.

This allows abortion advocates to easily make pro-life people out to be monsters. They focus exclusively on women and on their needs. They can portray pro-life people as "misogynistic haters of women" because abortion advocates support women's rights (as if abortion is the only right enjoyed by women), and pro-life people are trying to take them away. Then when pro-life advocates try to explain that abortion supporters take a position that allows unborn human children to be legally killed, they can deny that the unborn child really is a child and get away scot-free. They can even accuse us of making "emotional arguments" by trying to focus on the unborn child. Then we're back at square one, appearing as if we don't think women deserve rights, and the abortion advocates come off looking heroic, since they can just flat-out deny that the unborn child is really a child deserving of human rights and respect.

So we need to be very deliberate about the words we use. It's true that we can make a well-reasoned case against abortion without having to use terms like "child" or "baby." But even if our arguments are sound, that doesn't necessarily make them emotionally convincing. If an abortion supporter intellectually assents to the soundness of your argument but still doesn't feel an emotional attachment to the entity that they are justifying the killing of, they might not actually be persuaded that it's worth protecting them. It might be tempting to try and "play by the abortion advocate's own rules" because we don't want to make unduly emotional arguments, but by the same token, it's equally true that the terms abortion advocates use can completely remove emotion from the equation, which is exactly what they need in order to justify their position.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A new beginning for AbortionSafety.com

Three years ago, Secular Pro-Life launched AbortionSafety.com. The woman-centered website warns potential abortion clients about abortionists with a history of malpractice lawsuits, abortion centers with health code violations, and similar red flags—and offers practical nonviolent alternatives.

Those three years have been incredible. Despite our limited advertising budget, AbortionSafety.com had over 28,000 unique visitors! Most of them were abortion-minded women drawn to the site by our Google advertisements for abortion-related search terms. This has been a life-saving project.

And it's about to get even better.

We're handing over our baby to Online for Life, which will integrate AbortionSafety.com into its already extensive efforts to reach abortion-minded women online. We are very impressed by their commitment to measurable success; they are constantly tweaking their approach based on metrics. They have already saved 2,880 children, and those are just the ones that they know about!

The bottom line is that we are making this transition because it's what's best for unborn children. Nobody "owns" a pro-life project. There is no room for pride. It should be run by the organization that is best equipped.

We've found that it's just not realistic to expect SPL's volunteers to stay on top of the constant reports of malfeasance and negligence at abortion centers. Online for Life, with a full-time staff, is in a better position to keep the site up-to-date. It also has a much larger advertising budget, enabling it to reach more people in need. And although Online for Life was founded by Christians, it has experience with secular projects (such as the awesome Faces of Pro-Life) and has made a commitment to maintain AbortionSafety.com's secular character as well.

So what's next? Now that we've placed AbortionSafety.com in Online for Life's capable hands, we are focusing our attention on a brand new campaign! I can't tell you much about it now, except to say that it too is a woman-centered educational project. We expect it to launch in late May or early June. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Website Under Deconstruction: Robbinsdale Clinic

Today's post is part of our "Website Under Deconstruction" series exploring abortion center websites.

Robbinsdale Clinic is an abortion business in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Unlike many of the abortion businesses we have previously profiled, Robbinsdale refrains from outright lies, malpractice cover-ups, and misinformation. Robbinsdale solves the problem... by giving no medical information at all:


The link at the end takes you to the homepage of the National Abortion Federation, an abortion industry trade/lobby group. "Information on the actual abortion procedure" is several clicks away and not easily found.

But never mind information about abortion. Robbinsdale's website has flowers!


How about some pretty nature photos?

Let's throw in a random seagull. Everybody likes seagulls.

All fluff, no substance. I can't say I blame them; the substance is gruesome.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions


We recently received an email from a student who is working on a paper about abortion and religion and had some questions for us. Although the final question reveals that the student probably isn't all that interested in what we have to say, we answered anyway for the sake of being helpful. The Q & A may also be of benefit to you, so we are reprinting it here. Please feel free to use this exchange as a framework for your own conversations.

1) What can you tell us about your organization? 
Secular Pro-Life is a non-religious pro-life group with a focus on educational outreach.

2) Does your organization focus on religion? If so, which religion? 
As the name implies, Secular Pro-Life is secular. Our officers are atheists and agnostics, but we welcome religious allies as regular members.

3) Do you feel that religious views have impacted your organizations stance on abortion? 
No.

4) Under the circumstances that a women were raped and impregnated, does your organization still feel that abortion would be the wrong choice for her if she felt adoption were not an option? 
SPL does not require members to take a stance on the rape exception but we encourage debate. You can read more here.

5) If the life of an unborn child and mother were endangered, does your organization feel that abortion is still not an appropriate choice? 
SPL, like most pro-life organizations, recognizes that abortion to save a mother's life is tragic. Women in that situation do not view it as a "choice." It is better to save the life of the mother than to lose both mother and child.

6) Does your organization believe that abortion is wrong in all cases or is abortion acceptable in only some cases? If so, in which cases is it okay to have an abortion? 
See above.

7) Does your organization believe abortion is a sin or simply morally unjustified? 
Morally unjustified.

8) What advice can your organization give a woman if she became pregnant with an unwanted pregnancy? 
The pro-life movement must, and does, provide practical support to women in crisis pregnancies. SPL compiles resources at http://www.secularprolife.org/#!links/c19od. In addition, we focus on sex education to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

9) In many cases, children who have been exposed to adoption and/or foster care have been mistreated or malnourished. Does your organization believe that adoption over abortion is a better state for unwanted pregnancies? 
Child abuse sadly occurs both in biological homes and adoptive homes. The solution is not to end the lives of its potential victims, but to rigorously prosecute child abusers whatever the setting. Adoption is not right for everyone, and no woman should ever be pressured into an adoption placement-- but done right, adoption can be a great solution for all parties and that option should remain on the table.

10) Lastly, if abortion were again declared illegal, is it safe to say that your organization would be okay with the millions of women who would risk their lives in back alley abortions? Or the thousands of babies who may be tossed away in garbage bags due to unwanted pregnancies they were not allowed to terminate? 
In 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal nationwide, the CDC reports that 39 women died in illegal abortions and another 24 died in legal abortions (a handful of states legalized abortion before Roe). The myth that tens of thousands of women died in illegal abortions quickly falls apart when you examine the evidence (see below graph from the National Center for Health Statistics). To see thousands of maternal deaths from illegal abortion, you have to go way back to the years before the invention of antibiotics, when all surgical procedures were extremely dangerous.


I also have seen no reliable evidence of "thousands of babies tossed in garbage bags," but it's worth mentioning that Safe Haven laws have been passed since Roe v. Wade. These laws allow women to drop off unwanted infants at hospitals, police stations, and similar facilities with no questions asked. 

Finally, I direct you to a key SPL article on the subject: "Back-Alley" Argument Disrespects Women's Intelligence.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pro-life nation of Malta pioneers bodily autonomy protections for intersex babies

Above: Intersex advocates protest cosmetic genital surgery on children
The European island nation of Malta is known for its strong pro-life stance. Despite pressure from the European Union, Malta continues to recognize the right to life of preborn babies.

It is also, interestingly, a champion of bodily autonomy:
MALTA has become the first country in the world to outlaw medical practitioners or other professionals from conducting any involuntary or coerced surgical intervention on minors with intersex variations. 
... The new law officially recognises the right to bodily integrity and physical autonomy and protects intersex infants and children from non-necessary medical interventions.
The legislation was passed with cross party support and prohibits "any sex assignment treatment and/or surgical intervention on the sex characteristics of a minor which treatment and/or intervention can be deferred until the person to be treated can provide informed consent." In other words, the surgery must wait until the child is old enough to have a say.

Infants with intersex conditions are often subject to genital surgery that is entirely cosmetic, with the aim of making the genitals look more typically male or female. Advocacy groups for intersex people, such as Inter/Act and the Intersex Society of North America, speak out strongly against such unnecessary, non-consensual procedures. As one intersex youth put it: "Surgery is a last resort for everyone else. Why should it be different for us?"

The pro-life relationship with bodily autonomy is often combative, because bodily autonomy is so often used as a rationalization for violence. We should look to Malta as an example and realize that bodily autonomy is more than just another pro-abortion argument to debunk. Bodily autonomy does matter. Yes, it's been much abused, and no one has the right to harm others. But it can serve important and noble functions, such as prohibiting eugenics-driven sterilizations, requiring informed consent, and preventing kids from undergoing medically unnecessary genital surgeries.

Kudos to Malta for showing us that the right to life and the right to bodily autonomy are entirely compatible. Indeed, in this case, they are two aspects of the same mission: protecting children who are too young to speak for themselves. Malta's abortion-supporting neighbors would be wise to follow its lead.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Website Under Deconstruction: Downtown Women's Center

Today's post is part of our "Website Under Deconstruction" series on abortion center websites. Read more here.

The Downtown Women's Center abortion facility in Portland, OR has this to say about how totally safe abortion is (emphasis added): 


Not a single death from abortion since it was legalized in 1973? That's demonstrably false. Setting aside the deaths of the preborn, twelve women died from legal abortions in the U.S. in 2008 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Perhaps Downtown Women's Center's ambiguous statement only meant to claim that there has never been a death due to legal abortion in Oregon. It didn't take long for me to find one: Loretta Morton, a 16-year-old who died of an abortion-related pulmonary embolism in 1984.* Although I'm unable to access her death certificate, she apparently died in Multnomah County, Oregon (which includes Portland). Several years later, her death was mentioned in a scholarly article in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

It's also worth pointing out that Seth Jackson Huntington, an abortionist with Downtown Women's Center, was once sued for perforating a woman's uterus during an abortion. She apparently survived, but uterine perforation can be lethal.

Oregon's political environment is highly pro-abortion and it is unlikely that the state will do anything about Downtown Women's Center's false advertising. Nevertheless, we have notified Oregon Right to Life.


*I don't mean to suggest that Ms. Morton is the only woman ever to die in a legal abortion in Oregon. Information about her death happens to be the most readily available online.