Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Teen Mom Speaks: Your Life Isn't Over!

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

There you’re waking up in the morning just like any other morning, but this morning turns different quickly. This morning you are stuck with an overwhelming feeling that you are about to vomit and you don’t know why. The smell of the eggs you’re cooking for breakfast, that never bothered you before, is now seeming to hit you so strong, it’s like a skunk sprayed you directly in your face. The next thing you notice is your period is a week late and you don’t know why, so you opt to take a pregnancy test.

As you take that test there are so many things running through your mind. I can’t be pregnant. I’m only 16. I have no money to raise a baby, I have no one to support me, and I can’t handle giving up my youth. You wait the next two minutes and nervously pick up the test to see the result, and bam you see two lines—you're pregnant! Now you’re thinking what can I do? I must have an abortion; I’m not ready to become a mom.

Like many young adults and teens I have found myself in the same situation or similar situation you’re in. I want you to know that you’re not alone and someone out there is going through the same thing.

The author, at 16, with her baby
My story started when I was in high school; I was in 11th grade and had so many dreams before me. When I took my pregnancy test, I had many of the same thoughts in my head, but for me my biggest one was: how was I going to tell my parents? I found myself going to school sick as a dog, worrying about what all the other students said about me. Furthermore, I was worried about what my grandmother was going to say about me. My story was slightly unique in that my grandmother had mainly raised me from when I was a year old. My grandmother had her first child when she was just 15, and had dropped out of school in the 8th grade, so as you can imagine she had high hopes for me to do better in life.

I will never forget the day when she asked me if I was pregnant, while I was sitting on her living room couch; I bet if you were there you could probably hear my heart beating from across the room. I was honest with her and told her I was indeed pregnant, but as I told her she began to fall on her knees and cry. It took my grandmother 9 months to speak to me again, because after that day she disowned me.

I also was told numerous times: Well, you ruined your life, basically no hope for you now. It was hard not to sketch that in my brain, because I too was down about my future. I had plans to go to college for a least 4 years to be a nurse, then eventually become a doctor. I also realized I’m pregnant and may never finish high school, so now what do I do? Although this story seams glum now, it does have a happy ending.

Erica's daughter now
I was told by counselors at school about a program to help me graduate faster. I went to a program that allowed you to get your credits you needed to graduate online. I could work at my own pace, have a small classroom setting with people just like me, and still have help from instructors. I ended up graduating early; in fact, I finished up before my baby was even born. At the time, I also received help from a local organization called the Pregnancy Resource Center. The program allowed pregnant families to watch parenting videos in exchange for mommy dollars. Mommy dollars was a blessing because you could use the mommy dollars to purchase diapers, clothes, strollers and bottles for your baby. The program even did free medical visits, so you could have ultrasounds even if you didn’t have insurance. In addition, I had help from WIC which is a program that pays for free healthy food for you and your baby.

I’m now 23 with three children, I’m married and have a rewarding job. No matter what the obstacle is you're going through, you can get through it without abortion!

According to the CDC, 22 out of a 1000 births are born by girls ages 15-18, and the total births in 2015 where around four million. As the statistics show, there's an abundance of young people having babies, so please don’t feel alone. Along with births, there also comes assistance. I personally want to introduce you to some helpful links and programs:

In closing, there are so many resources for pregnancies: you can talk to guidance counselors at school, go to your local social services, or even just join a mom support group like Baby Center online. I know you feel like your life is over or you’ve been told your life is over but it’s not, your life is just beginning. You have a choice to have a beautiful bundle of joy, but also still thrive in your life. Take it from experience nothing compares to hearing that babies heart beat inside you, feeling those little feet kick you, and kissing the head of the one you made!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tomorrow: Pro-Life Students Deliver Baby Socks to Congress

Above: Maryland students participate in a #SockIt2PP state-level rally.               Tomorrow, we go national.

Thanks to Students for Life of America, federal lawmakers will soon be confronted by a powerful symbol of the helpless lives destroyed by Planned Parenthood.

Tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. EST, pro-life advocates from across the country will gather on Capitol Hill to display over 160,000 baby socks, representing just a fraction of the abortions committed by Planned Parenthood every year. The socks were gathered through the #SockIt2PP campaign that has been going on for the past month. Together, the collected socks weigh five tons!

In the words of Students for Life of America:
When we launched our #Sockit2PP campaign in March, we knew we could make a significant visual impact when we brought our socks to Congress – and that time has finally come!
On Wednesday, April 26th, we are going to bring over 160,000 baby socks to the lawn of the Capitol for a stunning display of Planned Parenthood’s callous disregard for human life.
And we want you to join us.
We’ve collected over half of our goal of baby socks and while our campaign continues, Congress needs a wake-up call right now. They need to see the devastation that Planned Parenthood wrecks on the lives of preborn babies and their mothers every single day. Every day that Planned Parenthood remains taxpayer-funded is another day that 888 little lives are lost to abortion.
The pro-life movement's number-one priority right now is to redirect Planned Parenthood's federal funding—a jaw-dropping half-billion dollars a year—to the nonviolent women's health clinics that deserve our support. Tomorrow's rally will bring some much-needed attention to the urgency of this cause.

Can't make it to D.C. tomorrow? Consider making a donation to the Fund Women's Health campaign, a fabulous pro-life feminist effort (led by Secular Pro-Life!) to raise money for better alternatives to Planned Parenthood.

And don't forget that your local #ProtestPP event is happening this weekend—Friday the 28th in some locations, Saturday the 29th in others. Find your information here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: "You Carried Me" by Melissa Ohden

Melissa Ohden
You Carried Me is an autobiographical memoir by Melissa Ohden, who is best known in the pro-life community as a vocal abortion survivor. She was subjected to a saline abortion in 1977, and was born alive, at 31 weeks gestation.

I have met Melissa many times at pro-life conferences, but the book still held surprises for me. Her story is much more complex than a typical banquet speech can cover. While the basics of her story are of course well known, the multitude of ways that being an abortion survivor affects a person over the course of a lifetime never occurred to me. Dealing with pro-choice classmates who ostracize you because your existence makes them uncomfortable; wondering how much to tell prospective boyfriends, and when; horror upon learning that your birth control provider also does abortions; trepidation at giving birth in the same hospital (St. Luke's) where you almost died; random internet trolls, the Washington Post, and even a psychologist denying the truth of your origins—Melissa has faced all of that and much more.

But take note, pro-choice readers: through all of this, Melissa has always been thankful to be alive. The solution to her problems was not a "successful" abortion. It was no abortion.

I can't give away too much, of course, because you really should buy the book. But I will share one passage that impacted me. At this point in the story, Melissa knew a few basic facts about her birth mother, but not yet enough to make contact with her. As she began to share her story in public speaking engagements, post-abortive women came out of the woodwork, hoping to be Melissa's birth mother:
I received an email one day from a woman who wrote that she had an abortion at St. Luke's in 1977. She thought that I might be her child, because she was sure she had heard her baby cry after the abortion procedure. She had read about me in a flier distributed in her church and tracked me down. I had to tell her that I wasn't her child . . .
In the years since, I've received many messages like hers from people who are grieving over a child lost to abortion, often hoping against hope that, like me, their child is alive. One woman was haunted by the memory of an abortion she was coerced into by her mother. She was five months pregnant at the time of the procedure and was convinced that she had heard her baby boy cry before he was taken away. She begged me to help her find him. Another woman wrote to me about being taken to Mexico by her mother at the age of eighteen for a saline abortion of the twin boys she was carrying. She was in labor for twenty-four hours before she delivered her dead babies. "For decades I sobbed every time I recalled what I did" she wrote.
Abortion's devastating effects ripple out to mothers, fathers, family members, and society at large, and Melissa has had a front-row seat. As she puts it: "Each time I spoke, I met people who had been directly hurt by abortion and suffered in silence. I knew how it felt to be marginalized and stifled and disbelieved. It takes tremendous courage for women, and men, to share their abortion experience; each needs to do it in their own time, in a way that feels safe for them. I felt increasingly called to be a voice not for myself, but for others." And Melissa, who is a former social worker, does a masterful job demonstrating how pro-life concerns, women's empowerment, child advocacy, and other causes are forever interconnected.

One final note. Melissa's Christian faith, particularly its emphasis on forgiveness, is a source of strength for her, and that comes through in the memoir. The Christian references in the book might annoy some non-Christian readers, although they are not proselytizing. I encourage you to read You Carried Me anyway. It's a biography, after all, and it's entirely appropriate for a biography to explore the role that religion plays in the subject's life. More important, Melissa has spent most of her adult life in a struggle against those who would silence her. If anyone deserves a platform to tell her story exactly how she wants to tell it, it's Melissa Ohden.

You Carried Me is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A unique reward for our donors

Above: where I'm not going

A while back, I hid out in a cabin and wrote a screenplay, because I am a shameless cliché.  

Only Human follows Maya Sonder, a sidewalk counselor in her early 20s whose convictions are put to the test; Nathan, Maya's justice-driven fiancé; Yesenia, a young woman with an unplanned pregnancy who takes shelter in Maya's apartment; and Dr. Andrew Zef, the town's elderly abortionist, who faces a health crisis that shatters his autonomy. The story is chock-full of obscure references that only pro-life activists will appreciate. (For example, if you noticed the irony of an abortionist with the surname Zef, congratulations! You are part of the comically small audience for this film.) It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. And naturally, there's a pro-life moral. Actually, several pro-life morals.

In other words, there is no way in hell this movie is ever going to be produced.

But that's OK! Because you can see Only Human on the best screen of all:

In all seriousness: if you use this link to make a donation to Secular Pro-Life, we'll give you a copy of the screenplay. You can donate any amount you like, as long as it is through that link.

Secular Pro-Life is a small, volunteer-run organization. With no paid staff or office rent to pay, we keep our expenses to a minimum and don't have to ask for money very often. But we do need your financial support from time to time; after all, pamphlets don't print themselves.

So if you like what we're doing, I hope you'll take this opportunity to give, and to get a story in return. Here's that link again. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

March for Science this Saturday!

This Saturday, the March for Science will be held in communities around the world:
The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest. 
The March for Science is a celebration of science. It's not only about scientists and politicians; it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.
Nevertheless, the march has generated a great deal of conversation around whether or not scientists should involve themselves in politics. In the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery, we might ask instead: can we afford not to speak out in its defense?
There is no Planet B. Join the #MarchForScience.
Saturday is also Earth Day, and many Marchers for Science are emphasizing their support for environmental and climate science. That's unsurprising in light of President Trump's stances on those subjects. But science can inform (and pseudoscience can misinform) countless areas of public policy—including, of course, abortion.

Prenatal development denialism ("it's just a clump of cells," "it's not human until it's born," etc.) has poisoned rational discourse for decades. Widespread reliance on bad/outdated data on "back-alley abortion" obscures the lessons we can learn from pro-life nations like Chile and Ireland that have achieved lower maternal mortality rates than their pro-choice neighbors. And politically motivated failure to hold abortion to the regulatory standards applied to other surgical procedures has cost women their health, and sometimes even their lives.

In short, the pro-life movement has a strong stake in robust, adequately funded scientific inquiry. So let's get out there and march! You can find your nearest march here.

Our friends at Rehumanize International have prepared March for Science pro-life activism kits, including signs and brochures, which you can get below cost for just $10. Order today to make sure you receive your kit in time!

Monday, April 17, 2017

One week, two abortion businesses disrupted

Above: Abortion advocates demonstrate in support of Heritage Clinic, an abortion business operated by domestic abuser Thomas Gordon. This photo was taken in April of 2014. In April of 2017, Gordon's medical license was suspended.

Last week, two abortionists found themselves out of work, at least temporarily.

Michigan abortionist Thomas Gordon has had his medical license suspended for 60 to 180 days for his failure to report several criminal convictions to the state Department of Licensing and Medical Affairs. Gordon is the sole abortionist at a Grand Rapids abortion business named Heritage Clinic.

The suspension is a start, but not enough. Gordon's criminal past is extremely troubling, and he has no business practicing medicine whatsoever, let alone having intimate access to women in crisis situations:
Gordon was not complying with the state's Public Health Code by not reporting convictions for aggravated assault, domestic violence, disorderly person and operating while intoxicated.
In 2010, Gordon's wife, Shelly, claimed he had beaten her and put a gun to her head in seeking a personal protection order.
In the 2012 domestic violence incident that involved the criminal conviction, police reports indicated Gordon said to his then wife, "I'll shoot you and any one that ________ with me."
Always remember: the abortion industry IS. NOT. FEMINIST. Sadly, as is too often the case, Michigan officials are letting Gordon off with a slap on the wrist, requiring him to undergo "independent mental health and chemical dependency/substance abuse evaluations."

Also last week, the Louisiana Right to Life Foundation (LRTLF) learned that a Shreveport abortion business has closed its doors:
The LRTLF obtained a letter from attorney David Brown with the Center for Reproductive Rights, addressed to Federal Judge John W. deGravelles on April 3. The letter stated that the Bossier City Medical Suite, a plaintiff in June Medical Services LLC vs. Rebekah Gee, closed on or around March 30.
Bossier City Medical Suite “ceased business and returned its license, by mail, to the Louisiana Department of Health,” Brown wrote.
The letter also stated that Bossier’s physician, identified only as John Doe 3, M.D., “intends to continue providing abortion care to Louisiana women at a clinic yet to be determined.”
Bossier City Medical Suite was staffed by abortionist James C. Degueurce III. He previously worked at Causeway Medical Suite, another now-defunct Louisiana abortion center; according to a 2011 state inspection report, Causeway failed to adopt appropriate protocols to report sexual abuse of minors.

In a statement, the Center for Reproductive Rights claimed: "Bossier City Medical provided high-quality, safe, legal care to women in Louisiana for decades and we are saddened that they have closed their doors."

Friday, April 14, 2017

Advice: How do I meet like-minded people?

 "M" writes Secular Pro-Life for advice, saying:
I haven't made any new friends in ten years because I'm afraid that if I get close to anyone, they'll find out that I'm bisexual and pro-life, and one of those things will lead them to dump me as a friend. Back in college I had more than one friend find out I was pro-life and tell me they couldn't be friends with me anymore - not because I was trying to proselytize to them or even talking with them about the topic, but just because they found out we had different views about abortion and I guess they weren't tolerant of that. I haven't had pro-life friends cut ties with me because I'm bisexual, so I suppose I could try to make friends through a pro-life organization, but it seems like the ones in my area mostly consist of older and more outwardly religious people. (I'm in my early thirties and, while I'm religious, I'm also an introverted, private person who has never been comfortable around exuberant displays of faith.)
My sexual orientation and views on abortion aren't things that would necessarily come up in the course of making friends, but they probably will eventually if I get close to someone. All the polarization around the last presidential election has left me even more pessimistic than usual about most people's ability to be friends with someone who has different beliefs than they do. It's been years since I've had someone I could call and make plans to see a movie with, much less a really good friend. I'm very lonely and would be unbearably so if it weren't for my husband and my parents. I've talked with two different mental health professionals about this and neither one really had any useful ideas. Any advice you have would be very appreciated.
Dear M,

I'm sorry you're going through this. I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that there are tons of pro-lifers who are also LGBT, and even more who (like myself) are straight but accepting of LGBT people. I will be very pleased to introduce you to the squad!

Above: some of your future friends
The bad news is that these relationships are best cultivated through social media, because we are scattered all over the place geographically. Local friendships are a taller order.

I live in a retirement town where befriending anyone my age is a challenge, let alone finding the people my age who also happen to agree with all of my idiosyncratic sociopolitical views. My solution, which I now recommend to you, is bifurcation.

I joined a local young woman's club that is apolitical and strongly focuses on philanthropy; think fundraising for scholarships, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, etc. Through that, I've met wonderful people in my area with at least some shared values, and when I want to go out for a glass of wine, they're my tribe. When I want to talk religion and politics and abortion and all those other "volatile" topics, I have my facebook tribe. I'll only see members of the facebook tribe in person 2-3 times a year, like at the March for Life or at certain conferences. (Next one is the Pro-Life Women's Conference in Orlando in June—I hope you can come!) But we talk all the time and support one another.

Of course, over time, some of my local philanthropy friends have friended me on facebook. As a result, I'm sure most are aware of my pro-life views. I neither keep them a secret nor bring them up unprompted. So far, I haven't lost any friends over it. In fact, a couple have mentioned to me that they're pro-life too. I know other members of the philanthropy group to be pro-choice; I don't reject them for it, and they don't reject me, because we're all adults.

It sounds like you had the misfortune of meeting some incredibly lame people in college, and that sucks. Now that you are in your 30s, and people in your age cohort have had the opportunity to mature, I hope you'll give humanity another chance. There is no shortage of people on both sides of the aisle who are sick of the political polarization and do not have friendship litmus tests. Again, I think the place where you are most likely to meet those people is in a civic or volunteerism-oriented group.

I hope that helps. Readers, if you have any further advice, please share!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fund Women's Health update

It's now been a week since we launched the Fund Women's Health campaign to raise money for community health centers across the country that put Planned Parenthood to shame. And in that short time, our amazing pro-life feminist supporters have already donated $1,365!

Here's where our beneficiaries stand, starting with those who are most in need of your support:

Swope Health Services, MO/KS: $35 raised
With nine locations plus a mobile health unit, Swope serves low-income patients throughout the Kansas City region. It offers complete women’s health care – pregnancy, routine gynecologic care or addressing health issues – from adolescence to maturity. Services include family planning, prenatal care, HIV/AIDS treatment, and WIC.

Wyoming Health Council, WY: $110 raised
The Wyoming Health Council is a Title X provider with clinics throughout the state. Its family planning services include pregnancy testing, contraception, counseling, STD testing and treatment, and services for people trying to conceive. It also administers special programs for HIV-positive Wyoming residents.

Tampa Family Health Centers, FL: $155 raised
Tampa Family Health Centers is a comprehensive medical provider serving the needs of low-income families. It recently opened its 17th Federally Qualified Health Center location, and also has a mobile unit. Its women’s health services include family planning, obstetric care, well woman exams, pap smears, and HIV testing.

ODA Primary Health Care Network, NY: $155 raised
ODA is a federally qualified health center offering care 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with on-call availability 24 hours a day. Its Brooklyn, NY health center locations provide a wide range of care to people in need, including a women's facility dedicated to affordable obstetrical and gynecological services.

Gila River Health Care, AZ:  $175 raised
Gila River Health Care exists to provide a broad range of clinical services for the Gila River and Ak-Chin Indian communities. Its comprehensive care includes cancer screenings, gynecological care, prenatal services for both routine and high-risk pregnancies, and a family planning mobile unit.

La Clinica, OR: $180 raised
La Clinica provides comprehensive care to a primarily low-income, Hispanic population. Its Family and Women’s Health Center specializes in women’s health from puberty through a woman’s child-bearing years and into menopause and beyond. Offerings include prenatal care, midwifery, general gynecological care, and family planning.

Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic, TX: $275 raised
Los Barrios Unidos offers affordable bilingual healthcare to low-income families in the Dallas area. Its women's health services include family planning, clinical breast exams, screening mammograms, pap smears STD testing and treatment, well-woman care, prenatal exams, and birth and postpartum care. It is also a WIC provider.

Health Imperatives, MA: $280 raised
With locations throughout southeast Massachusetts, Health Imperatives offers contraception, reproductive health exams for women and men, STD testing and treatment, and specialized services for at-risk populations such as LGBTQ youth and people fleeing domestic violence. Health Imperatives is also a WIC provider.

Of course, we're not stopping there. We want to raise as much money for women's health as humanly possible. So if you haven't already, go to and make a difference today!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

TONIGHT: Webcast in support of David Daleiden

David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, who exposed Planned Parenthood's gruesome trade in the remains of abortion victims, has been charged with 15 felonies for his undercover work. Xavier Becerra, the California prosecutor who brought these charges, received campaign contributions from the abortion industry.

Tonight, David and his lawyers will present a webcast to bring us all up to date on his legal battle. Secular Pro-Life is not an official sponsor of this webcast, and it is guaranteed to include some religious content, because the organizers are going with a David vs. Goliath theme. (To be fair, that's a hard allusion to pass up under the circumstances!) Regardless, I'm sure it will be of interest to our readers. It's hard to overstate the impact that the Center for Medical Progress has had on the pro-life movement.

Register to attend the webcast at The webcast will begin at 9pm Eastern (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific).

P.S.—Students for Life of America recently released this video putting David's felony charges into context:

P.P.S.—David will be arraigned in San Francisco on May 3rd. It just so happens that SPL's west coast coordinator, Terrisa Bukovinac, also heads up Pro-Life Future of San Francisco. They will have a presence outside the courthouse to support David during this difficult time. The time of the arraignment is TBD, but stay tuned for details.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Have you socked it to Planned Parenthood yet?

A few weeks ago, Students for Life of America (SFLA) launched its #SockIt2PP campaign. Their goal is to collect 323,999 baby socks—in memory of the 323,999 preborn babies killed by abortions at Planned Parenthood last year—and deliver them to Congress, calling for defunding of the nation's largest abortion chain. SFLA is asking supporters to purchase a pair of baby socks, deliver one to SFLA, and pin the other to our backpacks as a conversation-starter.

I'm a little late to the party. To make up for that, I didn't just buy a pair. I bought the 8-pack:


According to the #SockIt2PP website, shipping one sock costs six forever stamps. I wasn't sure how much it would be for seven socks, so I went to the post office. It wound up costing a whopping $1.19.

Pfft, like I'm going to tell the internet where I live.

As for the remaining sock, I'm no longer a student and the backpack stage of my life is behind me. So I decided to hang it from my rearview mirror instead. My hope is that it will be a daily reminder of the victims of abortion, and motivate me to work ever harder for the day that the right to life is restored.

"What have you done to end abortion today? Nothing?? DISHONOR! Dishonor on you! Dishonor on your sock-cow!"

#SockIt2PP is continuing to collect socks through April 18, so no more procrastinating. If you want Congress to get your message in time for the Planned Parenthood defunding vote, now is the time!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Slate hits peak science denial in article on "mystery" of prenatal life

Another day, another ridiculous "we don't really know when life begins" hot take, this time from Slate author Elissa Strauss:
But despite the insistence of anti-abortion activists, the notion that life begins at the bright line of conception is at odds with many ethical traditions. In a number of religions, when an embryo or fetus becomes a person remains a mystery, something that occurs not in a single moment but in a series of moments, none necessarily more important than the next. And, for all the anti-abortion side’s embrace of ultrasounds, the medical community tends to agree.

“Many scientists would say they don’t know when life begins. There are a series of landmark moments,” said Arthur Caplan, professor and founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center. “The first is conception, the second is the development of the spine, the third the development of the brain, consciousness, and so on.” That perspective, it turns out, has deep roots. It’s also one that resonates for many pregnant women who experience the embryo’s gradual passage to personhood on a visceral level. 
Good grief, people. No one disputes that life means growth, and that growth is a process. The question is when that life, that growth, that process, begins. We keep on growing and experiencing biological milestones until the day we die. What does that have to do with our right to not be killed? Just saying "it's a process" answers exactly nothing.

There's a right answer, and it's that your life began when you formed as a zygote, and the same applies to the lives of every human being you have ever met. The science is absolutely, without a doubt, unequivocally settled on this point. Denying the science of when life begins for political reasons makes it difficult for me to take you seriously when you argue about climate change and evolution. And I say that as someone who accepts climate change and evolution!

Compounding the frustration, Slate has tried to position itself as a beacon of objective truth in the sea of fact-optional chaos that is the Trump administration. It doesn't matter if you feel like immigrants are dangerous, says Slate; the objective truth of the matter is that they are less likely to commit violent crimes than people born in the United States. We don't care if President Trump's wiretapping claims resonate with him, says Slate; there's no evidence it happened.

But when it comes to abortion, all that objectivity is instantly defenestrated in favor of what "resonates," what various religious traditions believe (which of course is no way to approach public policy in a secular state), and what "view" might "free us" to cling to "mystery" in the face of plainly obvious facts.

It doesn't get any "truthier" than this passage:
In the debate over life’s beginnings, the heartbeat is a metaphor, a visceral and potent symbol of life that some can’t help but interpret as proof of life itself. It’s hard to be unmoved by the coursing of blood through an embryo or fetus’ heart, something many women and men now bear witness to in the exam room, with our eyes, ears, and, yes, hearts.

Still, the heartbeat deceives. It renders the grayscale beginnings of life in black and white, in refutation of the fact that this is a mysterious process with many possible ends. Denying this doesn’t just threaten women’s reproductive rights, but also limits the way we think and talk about pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and childbirth. This mystery is what makes it possible for the same woman to choose an abortion and then grieve a miscarriage, or to pray for the survival of the 5-day-old embryo implanted in her womb by a fertility doctor while being at peace with the fact that, if that one makes it, the other half-dozen in the freezer will be destroyed. When we view life as evolving in stages, it frees us to experience all these moments in all their fullness and complexity.
This may shock you, but heartbeats aren't a "metaphor." They're actually a really efficient means for pumping blood through our bodies. People "can't help but interpret [them] as proof of life itself" because that is exactly what they are. The heartbeat does not deceive.

Your willful blindness would be hilarious... if it didn't rationalize the deaths of millions of innocent people.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Announcing our new women's health campaign

Secular Pro-Life is thrilled to launch our newest initiative, Fund Women's Health!

We are proud pro-life feminists. We believe that every woman deserves quality health care that is affordable and ethical. We are horrified by Planned Parenthood's betrayal of women. And we are putting our money where our mouths are.

While Planned Parenthood raises millions of dollars off of politics, women's health centers that don't do abortions are getting hardly any attention -- despite serving far more patients, in far more locations. They need the financial support of the pro-life movement.

Go to to put your pro-life, pro-woman principles into action!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Explainer: Planned Parenthood Defunding Votes

The AHCA, which included a Planned Parenthood defunding provision, tanked. Last week, a Planned Parenthood defunding measure passed the Senate and awaits the President's signature. Now, pro-life organizations are demanding another Planned Parenthood defunding vote. If you're not intimately familiar with these battles, your understandable reaction must be what on earth is going on?? Today's blog post is for you.

The first thing to understand is that taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is doled out via multiple government sources. These include Medicaid (which funds health care for the poor) and Title X (which is a grant program for contraception). In both cases, pro-life groups want the funds to be redirected from Planned Parenthood to community health centers. This is not an argument about the amount to be spent, but about where to spend it.

AHCA battle: The American Health Care Act, President Trump's measure to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, included a provision to redirect Planned Parenthood funding to community health centers. That was one of the few provisions that was certain. Negotiations between the White House and various Congressional factions caused the remainder of the bill to change day-to-day. Maternity coverage was threatened at one point, which caused many pro-lifers consternation. Although eventually an amendment designated a pot of funding for maternity care, that couldn't save the AHCA, which was plagued with way more problems than I'm qualified to explain. No wonder only 17% of the American public supported it. Planned Parenthood tried to take credit for the AHCA tanking, but that seems unlikely in light of the...

Title X/HHS "parting gift" battle: States have some control over the distribution of Title X grant money, and over the last few years, many have decided to prioritize grants to their own health departments, community health centers, etc. rather than Planned Parenthood. Naturally Planned Parenthood responded with lawsuits (quite the sense of entitlement!), with the legal outcomes varying by jurisdiction.

Toward the very end of the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a rule that was widely derided as a parting gift to Planned Parenthood. In essence, it required an outcome in Planned Parenthood's favor for all of those lawsuits. The negative implications of the rule were numerous, and we outlined them in our official comment while the rule was still pending. Unfortunately, the rule was adopted. But because it was so new, Congress had the opportunity to reverse it under the Congressional Review Act. That's what the Senate did last week, in legislation spearheaded by Sen. Joni Earnst. Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

Last week's vote to revoke the HHS parting gift basically puts everyone in the position they were in last September with respect to Title X. Still, it's a significant pro-life victory. It's also a very strong indication that we have the Senate votes to stop other taxpayer sources of Planned Parenthood funding, which brings me to...

What's next: On Friday, a coalition of 77 pro-life organizations (including Secular Pro-Life), led by the Susan B. Anthony List, sent a letter to members of Congress that states in part:
It is time for Congress to re-direct funds away from Planned Parenthood. Instead, fund community health centers, which outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities by at least 20 to one and offer a full range of primary health care, unlike Planned Parenthood.
You have a clear path to accomplish this goal. Pass a reconciliation bill that cuts off the largest funding streams for Planned Parenthood. Reconciliation language to do this already cleared procedural hurdles in the last Congress. Moreover, Congress has the votes to get it done now, and President Trump has promised his signature. Now it’s time to act on this opportunity.
The grassroots we represent expect you to stop funding this abortion giant. For years promises have been made, and the time has come to deliver. We urge you to pass a reconciliation bill that redirects Planned Parenthood funds to community health centers before the April recess. There are no excuses for inaction.
Reconciliation is a process available for budget-related bills that bypasses the Senate filibuster. (The AHCA vote, had it been attempted, would have been via reconciliation.) With a filibuster, 60 votes are needed to advance legislation. But without the filibuster, only a majority is needed -- and the Title X vote just demonstrated that we have a Senate majority in favor of redirecting Planned Parenthood funding to community health centers. 

The pro-life movement is aiming high. We want to defund Planned Parenthood at every level. Not just Title X. Not just in pro-life states. Not dependent on what happens to Obamacare. We're talking about every possible federal funding stream, redirected to the community health centers that deserve it. And we want it before Congress leaves for April recess, which in practical terms means this week.

Planned Parenthood's days of cruising on the taxpayer dime while killing helpless preborn children may soon be over.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Pro-Life Movement Exists to Save Lives. Pride Must Take a Back Seat.

[Today's guest post by Conor Beck is part of our paid blogging program. Conor is a student at Rice University.]

For an issue characterized by such passion and urgency,
there has still been no seismic shift in public opinion over the last 20 years.

What is the pro-life movement? The best definition I found is “the political, cultural, and human rights movement to end abortion and protect the sanctity of every human life.” I like this definition because it portrays the truth: laws must be enacted to protect innocent life so cruelly left unprotected, but hearts and minds must be won over too to reach a critical tipping point.

Though there is a unified Republican and therefore “pro-life” government and an increasingly pro-life American youth, we are very far from reaching a pro-life stronghold in this country, as shown above in a Gallup tracking poll. And with increasingly polarized politics, the term “pro-life” is read by some outside the movement as an attempt to force values down others’ throats. Given the gravity of abortion and how important it is to sway public opinion on this, pro-lifers everywhere need to be committed to swiftly changing tactics and appeal to people that don’t fit the traditional pro-life mold.

Pro-lifers by and large are failing at this crucial test. Though it’s become a cliché to point out that pro-lifers can do a poor job of moving the uninitiated, many are more than just unideal activists. Some make it seem they forget the cause they’re fighting for, and are frankly doing an impressive job of making saving more babies difficult.

Twitter, where many pro-life activists congregate, provides a microcosm of the pro-life movement, and proof that many self-identified pro-lifers are fighting a different battle. I saw one interesting thread where an anti-abortion conservative said he thought that white supremacy is more evil than abortion. Though he wasn’t an extremely well-known user, many pro-lifers on Twitter pounced and gawked at how wretched his opinion on abortion was: someone, may I remind you, who happened to think abortion should be illegal.

I wonder how this exchange would read to someone on-the-fence about abortion. Regardless of what actually is worse between those two, “there are things worse than white supremacy” is a horrible hill to die on. No good ever comes from this weird little “what is worse” game, and the episode paints the pro-life movement as callous and out-of-touch to the people it needs to reach the most.

I urge pro-lifers to consider this lesson when talking about pregnancies resulting from rape; I applaud pro-lifers for sticking up for babies who don’t always get support even within the pro-life movement. However, while language like “You can’t be pro-life if you support abortions after rape!” might impress pro-lifers, it will almost certainly sit poorly with people who haven’t heard a steady, sincere case against abortion. And it does not imply moral relativism to prefer that someone support saving 99% of babies from abortion rather than 0%.

It should upset no one to suggest that the mission of the pro-life movement should be to save as many babies as possible. And every iota of pro-life activism you do should reflect that; it’s not to demonstrate that pro-choicers are dumb, that feminism is gross, or that liberals are evil, or to impress other pro-lifers. It’s to save more babies. Don’t forget that.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Next #ProtestPP dates announced

The next series of nationwide #ProtestPP events will take place on Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29.

The nature of the events will vary by location. Some will be religious prayer vigils. Others will be of a secular nature (rallies, pickets, etc.).

The national organizers are currently accepting applications to lead local events. Secular Pro-Life encourages you to apply if your local Planned Parenthood location is not already covered. We'd especially love to see some rallies led by atheists, agnostics, and religious minorities!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Handicapped people lead great lives

[Today's guest post is by Lizzy Cannon. She recently founded Make Ableism Wrong Again.]

As a teen living with Spina Bifida, I hear arguments from the pro choice community about how people born with handicaps will have “horrible lives”. I’m here to explain that that is a GIANT LOAD OF BLEGH.

Unfortunately, I have noticed how doctors usually give the worst case scenario about life with Spina Bifida. I have the worst form,called myelomeningocele. I wasn’t supposed to walk, but I have never even used a wheelchair (besides for long shopping trips and amusement park visits). Yet abortion advocates think that the majority of people with handicaps can’t do anything. People with my handicaps who use wheelchairs to get around have also accomplished wonderful things. A wheelchair is a source of freedom and independence for many people. Most people with handicaps lead wonderful lives, yet the pro-choice community continues to discriminate against us.

Our handicaps should not be a death sentence. You have no idea what a handicapped person will accomplish if you don’t give them a chance. We can have our own homes, drive, get married, have friends, get a job, get an education, and despite many people thinking we can’t, we can indeed have sex. A handicapped person is not a burden. Many programs exist to help parents of handicapped kids. But... what upsets me is, my continence supplies are super expensive! We shouldn’t have to spend a bunch of extra money to get the supplies we kinda sorta need so we don’t die or get some crazy infection in our private parts.

I want to tell you that having a handicap is not all bad. I can play instruments, play adaptive sports (there are sports created for handicapped people, cool eh?), crochet, ride a bike. I love to inspire people. If you are carrying an unborn child with any handicap, I want you to know that you are badass. You can do anything. Your child will accomplish great things and inspire people. You will find love anywhere, and there are people who will support you no matter what. I promise. Give them a chance at life; I promise you it is so worth it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

March 21 (3/21) is World Down Syndrome Day—because Down Syndrome (or as Steven of Born This Way likes to call it, Up Syndrome) is caused by a third copy of the 21st chromosome. Clever, eh?

Today, we celebrate the lives of people with Down Syndrome and their special accomplishments. We advocate for their human rights and access to educational and job resources. And we speak out against "search and destroy" prenatal testing, which victimizes too many Down Syndrome babies in the womb.

Head over to our facebook page, where we'll be sharing Down Syndrome-related items throughout the day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Testimony in opposition to Connecticut S.B. 939

The Connecticut State Capitol
The following written testimony was submitted by Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard in opposition to Connecticut Senate Bill 939. The Public Health Committee is holding a public hearing this morning.

Dear Members of the Public Health Committee,

My name is Kelsey Hazzard. I am an attorney and an atheist. I am the founder and president of Secular Pro-Life, which advocates for abortion limits on non-religious grounds. I submit this testimony in opposition to S.B. 939, An Act Concerning a Patient’s Right to Know. S.B. 939 is poorly written and will have negative consequences that go far beyond its ostensible purpose of improving access to health care.

As drafted, S.B. 939 defines “religious beliefs” to mean “any set of philosophical, moral, ethical or religious guidelines, decrees, directives or other instructions determining patient care that is not based on legal, peer-reviewed or scientifically accepted standards of health care.” This definition is wildly overbroad.

Under S.B. 939, a physician who declines to perform abortions for ethical reasons will be legally deemed to have a “religious belief” against abortion—even if that physician is an atheist!

A December 2016 poll found that among American adults who do not practice a religion, 39% oppose abortion completely or with limited exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. 25% believe that abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy, and 15% believe that abortion should be limited to the first six months of pregnancy. Only 21% take the position that “abortion should be available to a woman any time she wants one during her entire pregnancy,” which is the law in Connecticut.

S.B. 939 would force atheist and agnostic physicians who decline to perform abortions for ethical reasons to post a conspicuous notice to their patients stating that they will not provide services “contrary to [their] religious beliefs.” It would force them to misrepresent that they have “religious beliefs” when in fact they do not. It would force them to lie, publicly, about their deeply held personal values.

This effect of S.B. 939 would even extend to abortion businesses. Many Connecticut abortion businesses only offer early-term chemical abortions, and not surgical abortions. Unless these abortion businesses can prove that their decision not to offer surgical abortions is “based on legal, peer-reviewed or scientifically accepted standards of health care,” and not a personal philosophical or ethical preference, they too will be forced to post signage declaring their supposed “religious belief” against certain abortions. The only way to avoid this outcome is by unconstitutionally selective enforcement of the law.

The clear effect—and, I would also argue, the insidious intent—of S.B. 939 is to smear all opponents of abortion on demand as religious fanatics. This is an abuse of the legislative power and likely unconstitutional. I urge the Committee to reject S.B. 939.

Kelsey Hazzard

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pro-life online etiquette

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

Don't be this guy.
With the dawn of social media, the last decade has undoubtedly revolutionized our understanding of human communication. Although it used to be self-evident that maintaining relationships requires time, effort and physical proximity, many of us seem to be taking this old, tried rule somewhat lightly these days. Much has been said about the good, the bad and the downright ugly effects that social media revolution had on our lives. We are indeed able to connect and reconnect with others in a simpler manner, to the benefit of our private lives as well as our careers. But the simplicity involved also proved to be a temptation to “share” our ugliness which we’re taught to suppress in the face-to-face communication. Consequently, while scrolling through a newsfeed it is not uncommon to come across a stream of thinly disguised exhibitionism, narcissism and even vengefulness. You may sometimes wonder: Is this intricate mess that social media creates a good place for your everyday political and social activism at all?

If, according to the old-school definition, human communication requires effort, activism requires it to even greater extent, as clearly implied by the word “active” inscribed in it. While thinking about pro-life activism many of us probably picture an image of a fundraising event or sidewalk counseling. On a second thought, online activity of organizations such as Secular Pro-Life itself may come to mind. Yet social media revolution has caused many ordinary, otherwise passive people to be involved in activism, even if they’re not fully aware of it. At a first glance, it may seem to be a positive thing, but as experience shows, unskilled activists can bring in more harm than good.

“What would it be like if we acted in real life, like we act on Facebook” has lately proved to be a popular theme among satirists. In a BuzzFeed video exploring this concept, a man interrupts his work to stand up and proudly announce to a bunch of uninterested colleagues: “Hey guys, just so everyone knows, it’s my dog’s birthday.” A goofy scene that can make as crack a bitter smile, as we’re reminded of silliness that we tend to indulge in way too often these days. Now, let’s modify the image a little and have him solemnly declare: “I’m here to announce you once and for all… abortion is immoral!” only to rush out of sight loudly shutting the door behind him. Awkward? That’s to put it mildly! Still, that’s how lazy, passive-aggressive activists of the digital age often appear to their numerous online “friends” (most of whom are truly just acquaintances). Sadly, they give bad name not only to themselves, but also to the whole movement that they come to represent.

As social media tend to make it easy for us to access and share information, we are tempted to overshare. The key is to focus on quality, not quantity. If we happen to come across a number of interesting pro-life items in one day, sharing every single one of them at once will only make as look like a spambot – a malicious pest that wants your attention and money without giving anything truly meaningful in return. No one wants that horrible association. In order to avoid it, cutting on the number of posts (or spreading them out over the course of a few days) may be necessary. The next step is personalization of content. Before we decide to click the “publish” button we should always think through the following: 1) Who is likely to see this post? 2) What may their reaction be? 3) What do I ultimately want to achieve by sharing it?

We all like to be approached as individuals; and after all, respect for the uniqueness of human individuals is a core pro-life value! The targetless attempts at grabbing attention of everyone and no one in particular tend to backfire, as we easily see through the laziness behind it and sense lack of respect that it implies. We need to think carefully about our target audience. One the one hand, sharing controversial material within an ideologically homogenous community that is only likely to congratulate us for having such great views is like a narcissistic pat on the back – nothing is boosted but our ego. On the other hand, in a more balanced situation many people are likely to disagree with our pro-life stance; some will just quietly sneer at the sight of the pro-life content, some other will complain about it in private to their pro-choice friends, but finally, some may indeed take a moment to share their opposing views with us. That's a good thing! The worst response at this point would be to ignore them or even – goodness forbid! – delete their comment.

Not every person can boast great argumentative skills and controversial content tends to arouse strong emotions, so – willingly or not – we sometimes can come across as aggressive or spiteful while trying to defend our position. It is quite probable then that we’ll find the comment section of a political post flooded with arguments ad hominem, strawman arguments or even straight-up insults. On rare occasions, this may cross the line into abuse and an end to the conversation is justified. But make a good-faith effort at a genuine discussion. Do not to be the man who cowardly flees the scene loudly shutting the door behind him, as it’ll appear to our opponents that not only do we (and the movement we represent by extension!) lack counter-arguments, but also that we do not have even basic respect for those holding different views. Dealing with a messy comment section can be upsetting, but we have to remember that we’re not talking to random internet trolls, but people whom we have invited into our lives, even if only in the digital form.

We can never forget that ideally we aim at an honest, thoughtful conversation with other human beings. It’s not a game or a competition, so winning an argument is not the end goal. Reaching to other people – whose motives and emotions may be complicated – should be the goal instead. It is easy to forget about it in the digital age, when it sometimes seems that we’re talking to mere avatars, but falling under the illusion of social media which paints a simplified view of the world is taking the wrong path when we hope to make a change in the world.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The "Pro-Birth" Fallacy

Via the Life Matters Journal, a consistent life ethic publication
[Today's gust post is by Adele P.]

There’s been a lot of talk in pro-choice circles and on social media recently about the “pro-birth movement.” If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, effectively the pro-birth movement is a name given to pro-lifers who are pro-life strictly from an anti-abortion standpoint, but who, in all other ways, appear to be unsupportive of unborn children, their future well-being, and their mothers. Sometimes this extends to claims that pro-lifers, in order to call themselves “pro-life,” must also subscribe to a rather prescriptive list of additional values. Not only that, they must also be actively involved in the broader life movement by addressing everything from world hunger to advancing women’s rights. More often than not, the picture of the “pro-birth” movement is attached to a whole host of other undesirable qualities, faulty assumptions, and extremist political agendas.

I have a few problems with this…

Ever heard of the strawman fallacy? That is a form of an argument based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. I would like to take the stand that this so-called “pro-birth” individual who cares nothing about the child after the child is born, who cares nothing for the mother, who cares nothing about the state of life otherwise in the world, does not actually exist. This is just a strawman manufactured in large part by the pro-choice movement as a tool to demonize and tarnish the pro-life movement. Now, I have no problem with pro-choicers wasting their time attacking an opponent that does not exist. What I do have a problem with is using the whole “pro-birth” notion to gather support for a cause based on false and extremely divisive claims. The truth of the matter is that if a woman is looking for financial, educational, occupational, social, or psychological support with regards to her pregnancy, she is FAR more likely to find this support from pro-life groups such as Feminists for Life, Feminists for Non-Violent Choices, Students for Life, and countless crisis pregnancy centres (to name a few) than she is at, say, Planned Parenthood.

Then you have the claim that to be truly pro-life (rather than pro-birth), you must also hold a cohesive set of values regarding issues of immigration, foreign aid, social programs, world hunger, health care, etc. While many pro-lifers do in fact embrace what's known as the “consistent life ethic” (which abortion advocates, by definition, oppose), we should also recognize that no one has the time to be active in every worthy cause. Moreover, an individual’s belief system is complex, personal, and shouldn’t be subject to partisan notions or guided by what external sources deem to be cohesive. To say that one who is pro-life must also be, say, pro-immigration is as logical as claiming that to be pro-immigration you must first be pro-life. It doesn’t make sense. On this point, it should also be noted that individuals who call themselves pro-life but who are inactive in the movement for whatever reason, are still welcome to identify themselves as pro-life (even if it offends your sense of decency). There may be many reasons that person is inactive in the movement. They may be occupied with other causes, they may lack the time and resources to participate, or they must be have good intentions that simply don’t translate into action. These issues are not unique to the pro-life movement.

Here’s another thing that may surprise some. As a pro-lifer, I have no issue with being called “pro-birth.” Believe me, I have been called much worse for my stance on human rights. To illustrate my point, I’ll choose an example that everyone (pro-choice or pro-life) can relate to… Say I'm at the park with my kids and I see a person with the means and the intent to brutally and imminently end the life of a child. I, like you, would do everything in my power to stop that person from committing that act. I would not encourage any passerby in this situation to turn their back on the imminent violence and to go volunteer at the food bank or to attend a protest for equal pay. I wouldn’t think it wise to let that person execute their plan and then try to address the desperation that led them to such a grievous act. A significant part of the pro-life movement does and should continue to focus on stopping the act of abortion head-on—to act first and ask questions later, so to speak. For those of us who see abortion as the ending of a human life, getting a child to the point of birth so they may actually have a chance to enjoy other rights like freedom of speech, equal pay, healthcare, or food and water is a HUGE victory, one I will not apologize for.

Monday, March 13, 2017

2017 "Defending Life" legislative guidebook released

Americans United for Life has released the 2017 edition of Defending Life, a free resource that analyzes legal trends and offers model pro-life legislation. From AUL's press release:
“This year’s edition focuses on AUL’s innovative Mother-Child strategy which seeks to legally protect and advance the interests of both a mother and her unborn child and to effectively refute the abortion industry’s callous propaganda that a woman’s interests are often opposed to those of her child,” said Americans United for Life’s Vice President of Legal Affairs Denise Burke, the editor of Defending Life and the author of many of the featured pieces of model legislation. “The uniquely successful Mother-Child strategy, which has precipitated the enactment of scores of protective abortion-related laws, is encompassed in AUL’s Women’s Protection Project and Infants’ Protection Project and the 16 pieces of model legislation that compromise them.”
“AUL’s emphasis on these two initiatives is driven, in part, by the Supreme Court’s controversial and anti-woman ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, striking down a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety standards as other facilities performing invasive surgical procedures and mandating that individual abortion providers have local hospital admitting privileges to facilitate emergency care and the treatment of abortion complications.
“AUL’s model legislation has been updated and refined to directly address this tragic ruling, while also advancing the goals and objectives of the Women’s Protection Project and Infants’ Protection Project. These two highly effective initiatives are perfectly calibrated to advance the cause for life after Hellerstedt.”
While modern safety regulations hold the spotlight, Defending Life is also a valuable guide for legislation that has been around for a long time, like informed consent and parental notification. Just last week, Wyoming enacted its first pro-life laws in 28 years, requiring abortionists to offer ultrasound and banning experiments on the bodies of abortion victims. No state should be considered a lost cause. Defending Life offers a state-by-state analysis including recommendations for priority legislation in each.

I was an AUL legal fellow during my first year out of law school, and I cannot say enough good things about the organization. The model legislation in Defending Life has spared many families from abortion. Even if you aren't a lawyer, lobbyist, or legislator, it is worth a read to see the progress of the pro-life, pro-woman movement and where we are headed.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Day with Created Equal

This post contains photos of abortion victims.
Back in January, I made the acquaintance of some delightful human beings from the Created Equal staff. There are two pretty significant differences between Secular Pro-Life and Created Equal:
  1. Religion. The Created Equal staff is not only merely Christian, they're really most sincerely Christian.
  2. Strategy. Created Equal displays graphic photos of abortion victims on a regular basis; Secular Pro-Life does show such photos on occasion, but much more sparingly.
Despite these differences, we hit it off immediately. And when they found out that I live in Florida, they invited me to meet up with them during Justice Ride. Justice Ride is Created Equal's spring break bus tour that takes students to universities and abortion centers throughout Florida to conduct pro-life outreach.

And so it was that I took Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday off from work (coincidentally coinciding with the Day Without a Woman) and drove three hours to Tampa.

Tuesday Night
The 55 riders (most of whom I did not know) had been conducting outreach all day, and I met up with them just in time for the R&R part of the itinerary. We stayed at a retreat center featuring bunk beds in cabins, human foosball, and delicious food. After dinner and games, it was time for... praise and worship, which I spent in the back of the room, inventing harmonies and sharing knowing glances with the people who were aware of my atheism.

Immediately following worship, Created Equal director Mark Harrington publicly introduced me and my affiliation, which caused dozens of people to suddenly realize that an atheist had been with them the whole time. (Good thinking to wait until after worship, Mark!) Everyone was very welcoming toward me and gave me a warm round of applause.

Later, a smaller group broke off and enjoyed a jam session with Created Equal's intern on guitar. He performed Elvis Presley's "Devil in Disguise" for me, to much laughter. [Note to Christians: He got away with it because he is a personal friend who understands my weird sense of humor and knew that I would find it charming. Do not try this at home.]

We went out to University of South Florida to conduct pro-life outreach from about 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. We were joined by students from USF Bulls for Life. Signs were placed throughout a common green area near the library. Some featured photos of abortion victims; some featured photos of living preborn children; and others highlighted women killed by the legal abortion industry, like Tonya Reaves and Jennifer Morbelli. We stood by the signs inviting passers-by to engage ("What do you think about abortion?") and handing out pamphlets. I'm pleased to report that all of the signs and pamphlets are secular. Good job, Created Equal!

I had some great interactions with middle-of-the-road people who were trying to draw a line. First trimester? Brain activity? Ability to feel pain? I'm all about discussing how those criteria might apply and what that would mean for human rights. A lot of it was simple myth-debunking. For example, one person I spoke to was under the mistaken belief that if a pregnant woman were to place her child for adoption instead of aborting, that child would go into the foster care system. Once I explained that birth mothers actually have the opportunity to select a permanent family for the child, and that there is a long list of waiting families, he saw adoption as a much more realistic and compassionate alternative to abortion. In addition to conversing with folks on my own, I was also summoned to join conversations in progress that had gone on convoluted religious sidetracks. Glad to be of service!

These were interesting, thought-provoking conversations that got people moving in a more pro-life direction. Most important, they were civil. One person shared that a few days earlier, a street preacher had been on campus shouting hellfire and damnation at people. He had claimed to be pro-life... and also a prophet, so, probably not the picture of mental health. I was glad we were there to give an alternative picture of what our movement is about, and undo a bit of that damage.

I had expected to hear more from strong abortion supporters. After all, if the tables were turned and an abortion advocate engaged me with "What do you think about abortion?" I would be trying to convert them to my point of view! I assumed the reverse would also happen. Not so. Those most interested in speaking with me were from the "mushy middle" or unsure where they stood. The abortion supporters weren't inclined to defend their position. A handful briefly carried signs with pro-choice slogans, or wrote them with chalk on the nearby sidewalk. Some yelled profanities at us as they walked by, but hey, freedom of speech. Nothing we haven't heard before. They mostly stayed within lawful bounds... with one very memorable exception.

A woman grabbed one of Created Equal's signs and started running off with it. I watched her as she made it around a bend, then tripped over herself and fell down HARD. It was not pretty, and it got everybody's attention. Yes, she brought it upon herself, but I genuinely felt sorry for her. I didn't see what happened next, but I have it on good, contemporaneous authority that she (a) was pretty bruised up but is going to be okay, and (b) for some reason flashed her breasts at the people who were trying to help her.

All in all, it was quite an experience, and I wish I could have stayed for more than 24 hours. If you're interested, Created Equal will be at University of North Florida in Jacksonville today. That will conclude this season's Justice Ride. The dates for next one should be announced on their website soon. Tell 'em Kelsey sent you.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Poll: Many Americans call themselves "pro-choice" but want increased abortion restrictions

I'm a few months late to this poll—which was conducted from December 12 through 16 of last year—but better late than never. There are a few reasons that this particular poll is worth discussing.

First, it was conducted by Marist College, which has an A grade from FiveThirtyEight (indicating low bias).

Second, it asked about abortion in specific scenarios, rather than asking if abortion should be "legal in most circumstances" or "illegal in most circumstances." My problem with the "most circumstances" language commonly used in other polls is that it invites an availability heuristic problem. The availability heuristic leads people to assume that events which receive significant media/public attention—and therefore come to mind readily—must be common. The classic example is plane crashes, which are quite rare, but are always the top story when they do happen; this causes people to fear flying more than driving, when the latter is actually more dangerous, just less newsworthy.

In the abortion debate, abortion in "hard cases" like rape and incest—and, on the other end, elective partial-birth abortions—are talked about in wild disproportion to how often they actually occur. If there's such a thing as a typical abortion, it is a first-trimester abortion done for purely socioeconomic reasons. What does the average survey-taker imagine "most circumstances" to be? Who knows. Asking about abortions in each trimester and isolating the "hard cases" is more illuminating.

Third and finally, Marist identified which of its survey-takers were religious ("practicing") and not religious ("non-practicing") and kindly broke down the data for each.

So what did they find?

When merely asked if they were "pro-life" or "pro-choice," the results were stark. Among practicing adults, it was 58% pro-life and 37% pro-choice. But among non-practicing adults it was 28% pro-life and 66% pro-choice. In other words, a non-religious American is a whopping thirty percentage points less likely than a believer to identify themselves as pro-life.

But the more detailed questions showed that, in fact, support for abortion among the non-religious is not nearly that high (click to enlarge):

Only 21% of non-practicing Americans take the abortion-on-demand position held by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the like. 15% oppose third-trimester abortions, and 25% oppose both third- and second-trimester abortions. Banning abortions after the first trimester would require the reversal of Roe v. Wade. A ban on second-trimester abortions is murkier, but would arguably require the reversal of Roe's companion case, Doe v. Bolton.

26% of non-practicing Americans believe abortion should be limited to cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, and 13% oppose abortion with no exception for rape and incest. In short, 39% of non-practicing Americans oppose the vast majority of abortions, and another 25% stand in stark opposition to the pro-choice establishment by advocating a ban after the first trimester. And yet only 28% will say that they are pro-life!

Moving to the next row of data, it's clear that people are calling themselves "pro-choice" for reasons other than actual support for abortion. Adding together those who want a ban after the first trimester and those who want abortion in "hard cases" only, a majority (54%) of self-described pro-choicers want abortion to be more restricted than it is now!

This is why we do what we do. Non-religious Americans come to pro-life conclusions, but don't adopt the pro-life label because they assume the pro-life movement is just a religious thing, or because they fear social ostracism from secular pro-choicers. They think they're alone, because—availability heuristic again—pro-life atheism isn't talked about in their networks of friends. If this sounds like you, Secular Pro-Life is ready to accept you with open arms!

There's quite a bit more to explore in the poll, including breakdowns by sex and race. (Spoiler alert: you're more likely to support abortion on demand if you're male and white. Duh.) But since the religion angle is kind of our thing, we'll end here.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Yeah, about that whole "allowing doctors to lie" thing. It's bogus.

A young person sits in a wheelchair and wears a t-shirt
that says "Disabled lives are worth living."

There's a lot of talk going on about proposed legislation that will, allegedly, make it legal for doctors lie to their patients. That is not what is happening. Since I happen to be a lawyer, allow me to explain what is going on.

Texas Senate Bill 25 provides in full:
WRONGFUL BIRTH. A cause of action may not arise, and damages may not be awarded, on behalf of any person, based on the claim that but for the act or omission of another, a person would not have been permitted to have been born alive but would have been aborted.
To understand the type of conduct being addressed by this law, let's imagine a hypothetical family.

Jack and Jill have conceived a daughter, Sally, who is still in the womb. Sally has spina bifida, a condition that can cause paralysis of the legs and other serious symptoms. Jack and Jill do not know that Sally has spina bifida. They go to a prenatal appointment, and the doctor does not tell them that Sally has spina bifida. When Sally is born, Jack and Jill are stunned to learn that she has a serious disability, and furious at their doctor.

Suppose that Jack and Jill sue their doctor, claiming that if they had received a timely diagnosis for Sally, they could have pursued prenatal surgery that would have improved Sally's condition. The legal harm is their lost opportunity to improve Sally's condition. Such a lawsuit is not based on the claim that Sally "would not have been permitted to have been born alive but would have been aborted." Accordingly, the lawsuit is allowed.

Conversely, suppose that Jack and Jill wanted to be parents, but had no particular interest in being Sally's parents. If they had received the spina bifida diagnosis before she was born, they would have aborted her in order to "try again." Under these circumstances, their claim would be a "wrongful birth" claim, based on the notion that Sally should be dead. That claim would be prohibited by SB 25.

You'll notice that the reason for the doctor's failure to deliver the diagnosis is completely immaterial. Wrongful birth lawsuits have nothing to do with whether or not a doctor lied. Whether the doctor simply failed to recognize the signs on a sonogram, or told an underling to relay the bad news but the underling forgot, or stayed silent to save Sally from abortion, or even lied and told Jack and Jill that Sally was perfectly healthy to avenge some petty personal grievance against them, it doesn't matter. All that matters is the type of legal harm that the plaintiffs seek to remedy.

Here's another example. Suppose Mallory receives a tubal ligation from a shoddy doctor. He does not perform the procedure correctly. He knows he's no good at tubal ligations but he lies, assuring Mallory that all is well and there's no need to use contraception. Mallory, to her shock, conceives a baby. She gives birth and decides to raise the child herself. She sues the doctor for medical malpractice and seeks the amount of her pregnancy and parenting expenses, arguing that she would not have incurred those expenses if he had done the tubal ligation correctly. This remains a cognizable claim under the Texas bill, because while it obviously implies that the child should not have been conceived, it does not imply that the child should have been aborted. This is a "wrongful conception" lawsuit, not a "wrongful birth" lawsuit.

The reason for banning wrongful birth lawsuits is articulated well by Jennifer Allmon, as quoted in the Texas Tribune:
We believe that a lawsuit that begins as its premise that "we should’ve had the opportunity to kill our disabled child" sends a terrible message to those disabled children in Texas. To hold a physician financially responsible for a disability he did not cause presumes a level of control over human development that physicians and parents simply do not have.
Given the nationwide scope of the disability rights movement, it should come as no surprise that Texas is not the first state to consider a ban on wrongful birth lawsuits. As of 2012 (if you can find a more current summary please let me know), 28 states permitted wrongful birth lawsuits, 9 states had explicitly banned them, 2 states were considering a ban, and the rest had no legal precedent.

In short: the abortion lobby's posture that Texas SB 25 is some new and unique crusade to give doctors license to lie to women is nonsensical.