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Friday, September 29, 2017

Illinois Governor kills life-saving ban on abortion funding through Medicaid


#HelloHyde, my name is Stargift.
Last year on September 30, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the life-saving Hyde Amendment with a social media photo campaign, using the hashtag #HelloHyde. Tomorrow is the 41st anniversary, and while 41 may not be as eye-catching, the Hyde Amendment remains a crucial tool to protect low-income children from abortion

Sadly, we mark this anniversary with tragic news: Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner just signed legislation that will destroy the Hyde Amendment in Illinois.

 #HelloHyde, my name is Gina.
First, some background: the Hyde Amendment is a limitation on taxpayer funding of abortion through the Medicaid program (which serves low-income families). The Hyde Amendment is an annual federal budget rider, first passed in 1976 and renewed every year since. A white paper issued on the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment found that it has prevented over two million abortions. Of all the children born through the Medicaid program over the past 41 years, one in nine would be dead today without the Hyde Amendment.

Last year, our #HelloHyde campaign focused on Medicaid kids, presenting their photos (complete with #HelloHyde name tags) and challenging abortion supporters: who among these people should have died a taxpayer-subsidized death?

  #HelloHyde, my name is Noah. 
Though the Hyde Amendment is great a pro-life success, it isn't all-encompassing. The Medicaid program is jointly funded by both federal and state revenues; the Hyde Amendment only covers the federal portion. Most states have followed suit and instituted their own Hyde-like protections, but a handful have not.

Naturally, the abortion industrystruggling to stay afloat as the abortion rate plummetswants a government bailout, which means destroying the Hyde Amendment wherever possible. Subsidizing abortion will increase abortions, and therefore increase abortion profits; it's Econ 101. And they set their sights on preborn children in Illinois.

#HelloHyde, my name is Cateri.
The Illinois legislature recently passed a disastrous bill known as HB40 that would eviscerate Illinois' Hyde Amendment protections. The Charlotte Lozier Institute reported that the Hyde Amendment has saved the lives of over 144,000 low-income children in Illinois, and Illinois Right to Life projected that HB40 would, if enacted into law, cost the lives of 12,000 preborn babies annually.

A few days ago, HB40 landed on Governor Rauner's desk for signature. Governor Rauner had given mixed signals. He is a pro-choice Republican who at one point said that taxpayer funding of abortion was too extreme and promised that he would veto HB40. But he started wavering, and the abortion lobby put him under immense pressure to sign the bill.

#HelloHyde, my name is Jackie.
Of course, the pro-life movement pressured him too. I personally called his office, and so did many of you. But it was an uphill battle: he never respected preborn children for the human beings they are.

Yesterday, he signed a death sentence for approximately 24,000 babies.

I say 24,000 because that's 12,000 times two years; Governor Rauner is up for re-election in 2018, and we will defeat him. We must reverse this horrific decision as soon as possible. Not only Governor Raner, but every legislator who voted in favor of HB40, will face the full electoral wrath of the pro-life movement. These politicians have effectively told 144,000+ constituents that they should be dead! We are not going to let that slide. Let the attack ads begin. And let them feature Illinois residents born through Medicaid.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Not Your Grandmother’s Adoption: Modern Adoption and How the Pro-Life Community Keeps Up

Portrait of the author, Kelsey Vander Vliet

For the pro-life community, it often seems as though we are chasing after the changes in adoption, but never quite catching up to speed. We get caught up in tedious rhetoric that delays true education and action on the subject. Is adoption the alternative to parenting, or is it the alternative to abortion? For some, it is the first; for others, the latter. Would it shift your outlook if adoption was put on an even playing field? In 2017, modern adoptions can run with the big dogs. On average, two percent of women facing unexpected pregnancies choose adoption for their child. For many of these women, adoption may not be a last-minute backup plan. Adoption is a choice that a number of women believe to be their absolute best intuitive decision.

For myself, that is what adoption turned out to be. At 22 years old and fresh out of college, I found myself to be pregnant after a short-lived summer fling. That’s the mainstream culture in young America, and it has been that way for decades – publicized or not. With a bank account balance of about $1,000 and having no support from the father of my baby, I knew that pregnancy and single parenthood would be a long road of struggle and pain. The father told me we had no other option but to get an abortion, because he was now seeing someone new. I agreed to make the trip to Planned Parenthood, hoping that abortion would at least wash my hands of the heartbreak.

I was reluctant, but I didn't have the courage to storm out of the abortion center. Instead, I rushed through the stages of grief. There on the operating table, before the abortion began, I was bargaining – pleading with god to protect my child! Looking back, the cognitive dissonance of it seems absurd. But I believed that I was past the point of no return. I gave the okay for them to put me to sleep and perform a surgical abortion procedure.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room to a very apologetic nurse informing me that the abortion procedure did not work, but that I could come back tomorrow to “try again.” She explained that my cervix was so hardened, they just couldn’t get through. Later that day, I decided not to return, thus causing the father to be furious. I made the decision to move forward from termination and make an adoption plan. So, was my adoption decision an alternative to abortion? At the time, sure. However, had I known how modern adoption worked and had support from the very beginning, I believe I would have chosen adoption without giving abortion a second thought.

Fast forward to the current year. I now work as the Marketing Director at a reputable adoption agency in Indianapolis. I see birth mothers choose different kinds of adoptions… Every. Single. Day. The best part about this is that birth mothers are calling the shots when making their adoption plan; the power is in their hands. Open adoption is a relatively new concept, and has been continuously advancing through the years. Open adoption in 2017 does not bear much resemblance to the open adoptions of 1997. Furthermore, today’s adoptions certainly have progressed from the many coercive and forceful adoptions of the twentieth century. All too often, women were sent to homes for unwed mothers, their children were ripped from their arms shortly after birth, and they were told to go back to their lives pretending nothing had ever happened. Well, now it’s 2017, and as I often say when comparing modern adoption to the dark days of adoption coercion, “This ain’t that.” – and this is good news. Our sisters who came before us were treated as stains on society. We will no longer stand for such disgusting degradation.

There are certainly guidelines and standards for open adoptions. Many variables within the open adoption relationship are customizable, provided that the stability and safety of the child are guaranteed. In Indiana and many other states, open adoption agreements for infant adoptions are not legally enforceable. However, in several other states there is a rising trend in legal representation for the birth parents, which allows a post-adoption contact agreement to be enforced. For our Indianapolis agency, I am especially happy to report that adoptive parents are generally having positive responses to openness agreements, especially after receiving adoption education. We are seeing birth mothers request various combinations of pictures, phone calls, FaceTime, letters, and visits. In return, several adoptive families are also requesting that they be allowed to provide these updates and continue to build a relationship as well. Not only is open adoption proving to be advantageous for the bulk of birth mothers and adoptees, the adoptive parents are reporting positively as well. Adoption creates roles for everyone in the adoption triad; the openness of the adoption gives security to these roles.

Though there are definitive roles in an open adoption, negative perceptions of birth mothers still exist. It’s no secret that negative stigmas still remain for single mothers in general. For the typical birth mother, the negative stigma does not end with pregnancy. After she places her child, the general public questions every move she makes, as if it is society’s duty to match her choice with the life she is now living. During post-placement, a birth mother grieves over her child who is still alive, and tries to navigate through her new season of life. The grief process weighs heavily on these women as they try to move forward. Many birth mothers come home to their other children as well, and are left to answer an abundance of questions. During this vulnerable time, counseling and support groups are encouraged for healing by many agencies and firms, but unfortunately, not all. How can adoption be an option for all women when support isn’t guaranteed? Education is the key in reforming adoption across the board and offering support for post-placement healing.

As members of the pro-life community, what is our role in this and how do we keep up? Plain and simple: our role is to proudly stand beside these women. So maybe you’re still wondering, is adoption the alternative to abortion or is it the alternative to parenting? The answer to that ever-irritating question, is: who cares? Adoption is not a last resort. The role that pro-lifers have in adoption is to advocate for the women who choose it, support the positive advancements in the open adoption relationships and post-placement healing process, and talk about adoption in a positive light for the true choice that it is: a realistic and potentially rewarding opportunity for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. The best way to keep up with what’s going on in adoption is to ask. When the pro-life community starts asking women what they need instead of telling them, keeping up won’t leave us out of breath.

Today's guest post by Kelsey Vander Vliet is part of our paid blogging program. Kelsey is a birth mother living in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the Marketing Director at Adoption Support Center, an adoption agency, where she provides statewide education to mother and baby healthcare providers and pregnancy resource centers, and leads advertisement campaigns for the agency. She is the Indiana Birth Mother Mentor for Talk About Adoption and blogs at fromanothamotha.com. Kelsey hopes to help bridge the gap of understanding between adoptive families, adoptees, and birth parents, as well as advocate for the rights and support of birth mothers in her state.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ohio Bill to Help Teen Moms Falls Short, Requires Amendment


One of the more disturbing articles I've read this week comes from an Ohio affiliate of National Public Radio, and it is entitled "Unaccompanied In Pain: Gaps In Ohio Law Hurt Teen Moms." It describes how pregnant teens who are estranged from their families are caught in a horrific legal loophole: without the consent of their absent parents or guardians, they cannot obtain epidurals or C-sections. That is, to put it mildly, incredibly troubling. But the article concludes on a hopeful note: there is a bill in the Ohio legislature to address this issue.

As a lawyer, I was interested to examine the approach the bill takes. Unfortunately, I found that House Bill 302 is a poorly drafted piece of legislation. It defines "health care" in a way that does not clearly include epidurals—but which very well could be interpreted to include abortions. All it takes is one activist judge. 

Here's the language in question:
(A) As used in this section, "health care" means only treatment or services intended to maintain the life or improve the health of either a pregnant minor or the unborn child she is carrying.
(B) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a minor may consent to receive prenatal health care, health care during delivery, and post-delivery health care. Such care includes family planning services. Such consent is not subject to disaffirmance because the minor has not reached the age of majority. The consent of any other person is not needed to authorize the provision of health care under this section...
"Health care" is defined, but "health" is not. Does an epidural "improve the health of ... a pregnant minor"? Or is short-term pain management a matter of personal preference rather than health? I have an opinion, and you probably do too, but it doesn't matter: as long as the bill is silent on the question, it's left to the case-by-case judgment of the doctor. The goal here is to allow all teen moms to obtain epidurals, including those who would be physically safe without one. This legislative drafting falls short of that goal and must be amended.

But the definition of "health" has a long history in another context: abortion. The Supreme Court has defined abortion for "health" reasons to include "all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age—relevant to the wellbeing of the patient." (In other words, an abortion for a legal "health" reason may be indistinguishable from an elective abortion for socioeconomic reasons.) If a judge uses this definition of "health" to interpret House Bill 302, Ohio's parental consent law on abortion would be totally eviscerated; remember, under this bill, a pregnant minor may obtain "health" services "notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary." 

The statement "Such care includes family planning services" is troubling for the same reason. There is a long history of abortion advocates trying to include abortion in the definition of "family planning," and the term "family planning" is not defined in the bill.

It's ironic that a bill which aims to support teen mothers, and which uses the phrase "unborn child" multiple times, could wind up having a pro-abortion effect. Happily, there's a simple fix. The bill already contains a paragraph which provides: "Nothing in this section abrogates or limits any person's responsibility under section 2151.421 of the Revised Code to report child abuse..." which is of course crucial. A similar paragraph could provide assurance that House Bill 302 does not abrogate or limit Ohio's parental consent law on abortion.

But this is where it gets dark. The bill has two primary sponsors and nine co-sponsors. Both primary sponsors and seven of the nine co-sponsors are endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. This raises the possibility that the bill is not poorly drafted at all, but a Trojan horse.

Capitalizing on pro-life compassion for teen moms in pain, and tricking pro-life legislators into thinking this is a fine bill by using the phrase "unborn child," would be a low blow indeed. But I can't put it past them; remember, this is the same NARAL affiliate that defended an abortion committed on a woman too high on drugs to consent.

I kind of have to admire the sick genius of it. Any pro-life opposition to this bill will result in an immediate "war on women" responsedespite the fact that the bill doesn't even guarantee teens access to epidurals like it's supposed to. They're counting on low-information voters to look no further. Therefore we must tread carefully. This bill requires amendment, not outright rejection. It is poorly drafted and more likely to result in abortions than in epidurals. Stay on message.

The Ohio legislature has a strong pro-life majority. If we are disciplined, we can transform House Bill 302 into the pro-life, pro-woman legislation it needs to be. Ohio's teen moms are counting on us.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Ewing Family's Story


[Today's guest post by Feleica Langdon is part of our paid blogging program. Feleica is a provincial pro-life speaker in Newfoundland, founder of Life Defenders, and the regional coordinator in NL of Campaign Life Coalition working alongside the provincial coordinator, Margaret Hynes.]

When Jeannie Ewing was pregnant with Sarah—her second child with her husband Ben—everything seemed to be progressing normally. The Ewings opted out of the amniocentesis and nothing abnormal showed up on ultrasounds. When their daughter was born, it was discovered that she had Apert Syndrome.

Upon physician consultation they were told what Apert Syndrome was and the challenges they and their daughter would face.

Apert Syndrome is a condition that causes people's skull and facial bones to harden prematurely, which means they don't have the soft spot (fontanelle) as babies on their heads. Their skulls are already fused at particular sutures. These sutures need to be opened up in order to allow the growing brain room to expand. Because of this, people like Sarah have very distinct facial features and often misshapen heads. They have droopy eyes, a small nose, protruding forehead, and small mouth.

Throughout their lifetime, people with Apert Syndrome undergo on average between 20 and 60 surgeries. It's a very mysterious disease and there is still much research to be done. Some people with this condition die prematurely from complications of surgeries and undiagnosed secondary conditions, like seizures or heart ailments. It's a very sneaky disease.

The couple was shocked! They didn't know how long that they would have with Sarah or even what their lives would look like, but their love for her surpassed any prognosis they were given. They certainly didn't want a life full of surgeries and therapists and specialists, but she was their precious baby girl!

Sarah's life has taught them to never take time for granted and that every person has a special purpose in this word. No one on earth is guaranteed a long life.

The Ewings have gotten to know other families of children with Apert Syndrome; tragically, three of those children have died prematurely. The Ewings weep for those children taken far too young, and their parents who are left with unfathomable grief. They also reflect on their own daughter and are faced with the question of if the condition will cut their little girl's life short too.

Apert Syndrome is a fragile condition; it is like a sniper that attacks seemingly at random. As with many diagnoses, Apert Syndrome  doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care how old you are, how many loved ones will be left behind to grieve, or what great moments that will be missed out on. It is because of Sarah that her family hold their loved ones that much tighter!

Their big-hearted warrior has also taught them that we all have our own unique attributes, challenges and imperfections, all of which should be embraced. Every challenge we face has something beautiful to teach us and the world. Jeannie says:
Sarah, because she looks different, reminds people who encounter her that we are all fallen and broken in some way. She wears that on her face, while some people's brokenness is hidden. In her brokenness, there is beauty. There is joy. There is love. She is very social. She accepts everyone wholeheartedly and allows people to be comfortable in who they are around her. It is because of that I have had incredible conversations with perfect strangers when her and I are in public. Sarah gets to the heart of what matters to people.
Families who are faced with extra needs need extra support. The Ewings' hearts fill with gratitude for all of the help they have received. They had several friends who helped keep house, offered free babysitting, helped with fundraisers, sometimes made monetary or gift card donations, and prepared meals after surgeries. Jeannie's friend, Julie, has also been there for her personally:
I think, when you are a caregiver, it's easy to get lost in the person for whom you're caring. But my friend saw that and frequently came to our house to check on me, not Sarah. She asked if I was getting enough rest, if I needed anything, how I was coping, etc. She brought over "mommy" care packages with dark chocolate, nice lotions and soaps and local honey.
In addition to this, a gentleman named Brian Sapp made cherished videos of the Ewings. He is a professional videographer/photographer and teaches media to middle school students. He spent hours interviewing the family and putting together a video for their website.

If you have been given a prenatal or post-natal diagnosis, reach out to life-affirming and supportive resources around you. Get educated, connected to support groups, and accept help from your inner circle. Embracing life knowing you are supported EMPOWERS!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rock you like a hurricane

Your president Kelsey Hazzard here with a quick personal note. I am in the path of Hurricane Irma and need to devote some time to prepping. Also, while I'm reasonably confident about my physical safety during the storm, reliable internet is probably too much to ask. Therefore I will be on hiatus for a bit. SPL's co-admins in California may have time to contribute a blog post or two, and they'll still be sharing items of interest on the SPL facebook page, but expect less activity. Your patience is appreciated.

Meanwhile, if you haven't already done so, I encourage you to contribute to the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort. Please give money, not stuff. Well-meaning people who give random items from their closets often make things worse. I'm aware of two pro-life organizations in Texas taking financial donations; they are on the ground and know what items are needed:
Thanks,
Kelsey

Being pressured to abort? Pro-lifers want to help.


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

The Supreme Court said there’s a right to abortion. However, it also said there’s a right not to have one, and that right applies to minors. Unfortunately, this is something many won’t accept: mothers often feel pressured to abort, and can face blackmail, financial coercion, and threats of violence when they refuse. If you're in this situation, then there's a lot to worry about. The good news? Pro-lifers want to help.

The Justice Foundation created its Center Against Forced Abortions “to provide legal resources to mothers who are being forced or coerced into an unwanted abortion.” It provides letters that can be given to partners, parents, and abortion staff detailing the potential legal consequences of a forced abortion. You can get additional information or contact an attorney by calling (210) 614-7157 or sending an email to info@txjf.org.

Similar organizations include Alliance Defending Freedom, the Thomas More Law Center, the ACLJ, Liberty Counsel, the American Freedom Law Center, Life Legal Defense Foundation, and The Foundation for Moral Law. Of course, if you or someone you know is in physical danger, call law enforcement immediately.

Legal assistance might not be the only support you require; for practical aid, try going to a pregnancy care center. Among the largest pregnancy center networks is Care Net; its local affiliates offer free pregnancy tests, pregnancy related information, adoption counseling, and material resources. Some locations also provide consultations with licensed medical professionals, ultrasounds for pregnancy confirmation, and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Information about other centers and maternal housing can be found at OptionLine.com or by texting the word “HELPLINE” to 313131.

Regardless of whether you're being pressured to abort, finding affordable health care can be tough. To help with that, a coalition of pro-life groups created GetYourCare.org. It's a website showing your nearest federally qualified health center, which accepts patients regardless of ability to pay.

And finally, even if you've already started a chemical abortion, you may still have options. For more information,visit AbortionPillReversal.com and call (877) 558-0333. The line is staffed 24 hours a day and can put you in touch with a doctor who's ready to help.

Sadly, the choice to have an abortion is frequently made under duress. That’s something pro-lifers want to fix.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Transcript: You call this reproductive justice?

[This is a video transcript. For the video, click here.]

Hey everybody, Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard here. I want to talk to you about an article, and normally this kind of thing would appear on our blog, but I just don't think that the written word can quite capture how I'm feeling about this.

But for those of you who are deaf or hard of hearing, or just watching this at work (naughty naughty), there is a link to the transcript in the description, as well as a link to the article that I'm talking about.

So there's this photojournalism piece with the journalism contributed by, I'm going to butcher this woman's last name sorry, Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, with photos by Carolyn Van Houten. It appeared in the San Antonio Express News in late July, and more recently a version of it was published in the New York Times.

It's about abortion in Texas, and there's a lot to dislike about it; like, it's a very obviously biased pro-choice piece. Among other things, they refer to babies being "saved" from abortion, in scare quotes; like, are you suggesting they would have survived? I mean, that has happened, but it's extraordinarily rare, and I don't think that's what you were getting at. You were getting at... something weird.

Right out of the gate they've got their claim that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, which is a blatant lie that has been debunked repeatedly, including by the Washington Post.

And they also found the most religious people they could possibly find, although to be fair, it is Texas.

But let's set all of that aside, because I want to talk about one aspect of this article that really leapt out at me, and it came from an interview with a young woman named Renee Rivas. Renee is described as being a student at the University of Texas where she is involved in a group called URGE, or Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity—which sort of like the pro-choice counterpart to Students for Life of America. #ProLifeGen

URGE is one of these "reproductive justice" organizations that tries to make abortion more palatable by attaching it to every other cause you can think of. So for instance, URGE has a parenting page on its website where it talks about the need for "affordable prenatal care, accessible child care, quality jobs and financial and moral support to continue their education," all of which sounds awesome.

Let's see how cynical you are. Let's see if you can guess where this is going.

We have a lovely picture of Renee, and it is captioned that she had an abortion because, without it, she would not have been able to pursue an internship with URGE.

If you really want to support mothers in the workplace, you might, I don't know, start with your own friggin' internship. Now, from the article, it's unclear whether she came to URGE with her unplanned pregnancy and they flat-out told her she needed to get an abortion—which would be illegal—or if she just, through her years of campus advocacy on behalf of the organization, knew that it wasn't worth asking... and actually, the latter is more damning.

Either way, she did have her internship this past summer, at the cost of one human life. Shame on you, URGE. Just... shame on you.

"Encounter Youniverse" launch party to feature sneak peek of "Only Human"

An excerpt from Only Human, the life-affirming screenplay by SPL president Kelsey Hazzard, will be displayed as part of the Encounter Youniverse launch party for Create|Encounter!

The event will take place during the Life/Peace/Justice conference on October 20-22 in Pittsburgh.

Encounter Youniverse is a project of Rehumanize International (which also organizes the L/P/J conference). Its mission is "to uphold human dignity by sharing human stories," building empathy and breaking down the barriers that cause dehumanization. Encounter Youniverse is throwing the launch party for its newest initiative, Create|Encounter, which (as you might guess) advances this mission through creative works.

Only Human is a perfect fit. It is a story about what a sidewalk counselor has in common with the abortionist she protests; about radical openness and love for women facing crisis pregnancies; and about a unique ethical dilemma highlighting the fundamental tension between compassion and justice.

It's early, so we can't be more specific than that just yet. For all the latest updates, like Only Human on facebook.

P.S.—The launch party will also feature other artistic works, selected from over 100 submissions to the Create|Encounter contest earlier this summer. A full list is not yet available, but keep your eyes open.