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Monday, July 23, 2018

Strike this word from your abortion debate vocabulary

The word is "consequence."

"Consequence" has two closely related meanings. First, it can be used to indicate a cause-and-effect relationship, synonymous with the word "result." A consequence may be positive, negative, or neutral:
  • Monique studied hard over the weekend. As a consequence, she aced her final exam.
  • Joe smoked cigarettes for thirty years. As a consequence, he has an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
  • Allison decided to move across the country. As a consequence, she has notified her landlord that she will not renew her lease.
That's all well and good, but "consequence" is so frequently used with a negative connotation that it has acquired a second meaning: "punishment."
  • Son, you're grounded for two weeks. Bad behavior has consequences.
  • It's little wonder some victims of sexual assault decline to report the attack to police. Even when a report is made, rapists rarely face any consequences for their actions.
Now, compare the following two statements:
  • After a period of sexual abstinence, Maria and her husband decided that they wanted to conceive. They resumed having sexual intercourse, and as a consequence, Maria became pregnant.  
  • Anne had a one-night stand and her partner did not use a condom. As a consequence, Anne became pregnant.
Both statements make the exact same point: pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse. And in the context of the abortion debate, that fact is relevant to the legal allocation of risk. But while no one would think that I'm out to punish Maria, abortion supporters will leap over tall buildings to conclude that I'm out to punish Anne.

This is how we get President Obama's infamous proclamation that he supports abortion because if his daughters were to "make a mistake, I don't them punished with a baby." The pro-life movement immediately cried foul at the notion that babies are punishments; babies are of course people, inside the womb and out, and the rewards of parenthood are many.

But when we use the word "consequence"—or, even more problematically, speak derisively about a desire for "consequence-free sex"—pro-choicers and fence-sitters come away with the impression that we agree with Obama about babies being punishments. Because many pro-lifers come from religious traditions that view premarital sex as sinful (and abortion activists love to exploit that fact), the odds of listeners automatically applying the negative connotation of "consequences" are very high.

When we're trying to change minds to save lives, it doesn't matter what you actually meant. It only matters what they hear. So stop saying "consequence." There are plenty of neutral alternatives available, like "result," "effect," and "outcome." It's one small change that could have very positive consequences for the cause of life. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Pro-life laws prevent abortion primarily by preventing unplanned pregnancy.

Today's guest post is by Conner Alford.

Women and their partners are generally forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior.

Within our society’s broader debate on abortion, two particular pro-choice arguments have occupied a great deal of attention among political activists and leaders alike. The first and stronger of these arguments postulates that legal restrictions make abortion more dangerous but that they do not make it any less common. The underlying logic here is that pro-life policies simply replace safe, legal terminations with an equal number of dangerous, illegal and self-induced or ‘back-alley’ abortions (AGI 1999, 2009). In other words, if a woman is pregnant and does not want to be, she will not consider the legality of her actions or the risks to her own health when deciding whether or not to abort. Any woman willing to get a safe, legal abortion is also willing to get an unsafe, illegal one. When the former is harder to obtain, she will trade it in for the latter. When the latter is no longer necessary because laws have been liberalized, she will trade it for the former. This is the argument articulated by the Alan Guttmacher Institute[1] (AGI) and its affiliated researchers (Tietze 1973; Juarez et al 2005; Sedgh et al 2007b; Singh et al 2010).

The second argument makes a somewhat contradictory claim. According to this narrative, pro-life policies do in fact mitigate abortions. However, they only do so by replacing those abortions with unwanted births. Women trade abortions for babies. As a result, the story goes, these undesired offspring either wind up in state custody or eventually wash out to become criminals (Levitt and Donahue 2001). Either way, the conclusion that we are supposed to draw is that pro-life policies are generally ill-advised. However, both of these arguments are deeply inconsistent with the empirical record and based on a fundamental misconception about the primary way in which abortion laws actually work and operate.

First, studies have shown that while legal restrictions on abortion do reduce the rate at which it occurs, they do not necessarily result in an increase in the birth rate (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et al. 1997). Second, the claim that pro-life policies simply lead to an increase in maternal deaths by driving pregnant women to seek unsafe abortions is directly challenged by the empirical record. The lowest maternal mortality rates (MMR) in Europe, for example, occur in Poland, Malta and Ireland—all of which have extremely restrictive policies (Mundial 2010; Hogan et al. 2010). Further, a plethora of systematic analyses examining countries from around the world continuously challenge the idea that legal restrictions on abortion increase MMRs or hospitalizations.[2]  This, then, undermines a key assumption in the AGI narrative about illegal abortions. Third, it is important to note that within the academic community the debate is, generally speaking, no longer about whether legal restrictions reduce abortions so much as how they manage to do so. That pro-life policies mitigate abortion is a point that has been repeatedly illustrated by literally dozens of independent, peer-reviewed studies over the course of several decades.[3]

There has, however, been some disagreement about the exact causal mechanism responsible for this relationship. Herein we find the chief problem with the two perspectives introduced at the beginning of this essay. Not only are their key assertions inconsistent with the empirical record, their entire arguments are fundamentally oblivious to recent academic insights on how abortion laws actually operate. Traditionally, scholars have tended to assume that such policies function to minimize abortions by acting on the posterior “…decision of a woman who is pregnant not to have the child” (Medoff 1988, p. 354). In other words, the law was presumed to affect a woman’s behavior only after she had already become pregnant. The AGI and other pro-choice advocates have adopted this outdated presupposition.

Since the mid 1990s, however, the academic understanding has evolved in light of new evidence. A substantial number of independent, peer reviewed studies have consistently shown that legal restrictions on abortion work primarily by reducing the rate at which unplanned pregnancies occur in the first place (Kane and Staiger 1996) and only secondarily by influencing the behaviors of women who are already pregnant (Levine 2004a)! In other words, pro-life policies address both the symptom and the cause! To be more specific, research has shown that women and their partners are generally forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior. They do not wait until after a pregnancy has already occurred before deciding whether they should take steps to preempt parenthood. As a result, pro-life policies actually help to reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate by incentivizing couples to take additional precautions prior to a potential pregnancy rather than waiting to obtain an abortion after the pregnancy has already occurred. Conversely, the opposite is also true. When abortion is readily accessible, this very availability reduces the incentive to avoid becoming pregnant by offering a sort of ‘insurance policy,’ should you or your partner happen to do so. For example, studies have persistently shown that more permissive policies are causally connected to an increase in unprotected sex whereas more restrictive policies lead to an increase in contraceptive usage (Levine 2004b; Medoff 2008a, b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011, 2014, 2015). There is also some evidence to indicate that legally restricting abortion leads to a change in the overall amount of sexual activity (Alford 2016).

Of course, many readers are likely to find this logic somewhat counterintuitive or even offensive. Despite this, it has been overwhelmingly supported by the empirical record (Kane and Staiger 1996; Levine et al. 1996; Levine 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004; Levine and Staiger 2004; McNabb 2007; Medoff 2008a, b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011). It also helps to explain the previously puzzling findings of several studies which suggested  that abortion laws were able to reduce the number of abortions without an increase in births (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et al. 1997) or harming maternal health outcomes (see footnote 3). Furthermore, it is consistent with previous findings that the legalization of abortion is associated with an increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases whereas pro-life policies have the opposite impact (Kick and Stratmann 2003; Klick and Neelsen 2012). Studies examining the impact of abortion policies on the number of infants available for adoption have, similarly, supported the hypothesis (Gennetian 1999; Bitler and Zavodny 2002; Medoff 2008b).

In conclusion then, it is important to understand that the primary interaction between pro-life policies and individual fertility decisions happens before a potential pregnancy. Men and women are generally rational, free and forward-thinking when it comes to their sex lives. They consider the risks and potential costs of an unwanted pregnancy before making decisions about whether to engage in sexual activity or to utilize contraception. When those costs are subverted by liberalized abortion laws, this provides a sort of ‘insurance policy,’ which encourages uninhibited sexual activity. When those costs are reinforced by pro-life policies, however, the opposite occurs. Contraceptive usage goes up and unplanned pregnancies go down. As a result, legal limitations on abortion are capable of reducing abortion rates without actually impacting the overall number of births. Where pro-life policies do lead to an increase in births, this change is secondary and relatively modest as compared to the decline in unplanned pregnancy. As a result of this, restrictions on abortion are also able to operate without a concomitant risk of unsafe abortions. After all, you cannot illegally terminate a pregnancy that never occurred. This helps to explain why there does not seem to be any positive relationship between legalized abortion and maternal health outcomes.[4] The arguments introduced at the opening of this essay must, therefore, be dismissed in light of new academic evidence and empirical data. The science simply does not support them. It does, however, indicate that pro-life laws do not merely address abortion as a symptom but that they attack the underlying cause of abortion—unplanned pregnancy—at its source. 




Bibliography
Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI). 1999. “Sharing Responsibility: Women, Society & Abortion Worldwide.” New York.
__________. 2009. “Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress.” New York.
Alford, Conner. 2016. "The Economics of Abortion: A Comparative Analysis of Mexico and the United States." Proquest Dissertations. Available at: https://search.proquest.com/openview/5e138d6c2e46744301e5f1706efbfa4c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
Bitler, Marianne and Madeline. Zavodny. 2002. "Did Abortion Legalization Reduce the Number of Unwanted Children? Evidence from Adoptions." Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 34(1) 25-33.
Donohue III, John J and Steven D. Levitt. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime." The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 116(2): 379-420.
Felkey, Amanda J. and Lybecker, Kristina M. 2011. "Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws Matter?" International Journal of Business and Social Science. 2(16): 1-12.
_____. 2014. “Utilization of Oral Contraception: The Impact of Direct and Indirect Restrictions on Access to Abortion." The Social Science Journal.  51: 44-56.
 _____. 2015. “The Role of Restrictive Abortion Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use.” Clinics in Mother and Child Health. 12(4): 1-10.
Gennetian, Lisa A. 1999.  "The Supply of Infants relinquished for Adoption: Did Access to Abortion Make a Difference?" Economic Inquiry. 37(3): 412-431.
Gober, Patricia. 1994. "Why Abortion Rates Vary: A Geographical Examination of the Supply of and Demand for Abortion Services in the United States in 1988." Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 84: 230-250.
Guldi, Melanie. 2008. "Fertility Effects of Abortion and Birth Control Pill Access for Minors." Demography. 45(4): 817-827.
Haas-Wilson, Deborah. 1993."The Economic Impact of State Restrictions on Abortion: Parental Consent and Notification Laws and Medicaid Funding Restrictions." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 12(3): 498-511.
Hansen, Susan B. 1980. “State Implementation of Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion Rates since Roe v. Wade.” The Journal of Politics. 42: pp. 372-395.
Hogan MC, Foreman KJ, Naghavi M, Ahn SY, Wang M, et al. 2010. "Maternal mortality for 181 countries, 1980-2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5." Lancet 375(9726): 1609–1623.
Kane, Thomas J. and Douglas Staiger. 1996. "Teen Motherhood and Abortion Access." The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 111(2): 467-506
Koch, Elard Miguel Bravo, Sebastián Gatica, Juan F. Stecher, Paula Aracena, Sergio Valenzuela, IvonneAhlers. 2012A. “Sobrestimacióndel Aborto Inducido en Colombia y otros Países Latino Americanos. [Overestimation of induced abortion in Colombia and other Latin American countries].” Ginecol Obstet Mex. 80(5): 360-372.
Koch, Elard, John Thorp, Miguel Bravo, Sebastian Gatica, Camila X. Romero, Hernan Aguilera, IvonneAhlers. 2012b. "Women's Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities, Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957 to 2007." PLoS One. 7(5): 1-16.
Koch, Elard, Calhoun, Paula. Aracena, Sebastian Gatica, and Miguel Bravo. 2014. "Women's education level, contraceptive use and maternal mortality estimates." Public Health, 128(4): 384-7.
Koch, Elard, Monique Chireau, Fernando Pliego, Joseph Stanford, Sebastián Haddad, Byron Calhoun, Paula Aracena, Miguel Bravo, SebastiánGatica, and John Thorp. 2015. “Abortion legislation, maternal healthcare, fertility, female literacy, sanitation, violence against women, and maternal deaths: a natural experiment in 32 Mexican states."BMJ. 5(2): e006013–e006013.
Levine, Phillip B., Amy B. Trainor, and David J. Zimmerman. 1996. “The effect of Medicaid abortion funding restrictions on abortions, pregnancies and births.” Journal of  Health Economics. 15: 555-578.
Levine Phillip B., Douglas Staiger, Thomas J. Kane and David J. Zimmerman. 1999. "Roe v. Wade and American Fertility." American Journal of Public Health. 89(2): pp. 199-203.
Levine, Phillip B. 2002. The Impact of Social Policy and Economic Activity throughout the Fertility Decision Tree.” in Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis. E.D. Jonathan Gruber. National Bureau of Economic Research, pp. 167-218.
 _____. 2003. “Parental Involvement Laws and Fertility Behavior.” Journal of Health Economics. 22(5): 861–878
_____. 2004a. "Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility." Society, 41(4): 79-85.
_____. 2004b. Sex and Consequences: Abortion, Public Policy, and the Economics of Fertility. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
 Levine, Phillip B. and Douglas Staiger. 2004. "Abortion Policy and Fertility Outcomes: The Eastern European Experience." Journal of Law and Economics. XLVII (April): 223-243.
Matthews, Stephens David Ribar and Mark Wilhelm. 1997."The Effects of Economic Conditions and Access to Reproductive Health Services On State Abortion rates and Birthrates." Family Planning Perspectives. 29(2): 52-60.
McNabb, Leland. 2007. “Public Policies and Private Decisions: An Analysis of the Effects of Abortion Restrictions on Minors’ Contraceptive Behavior.” Available at: https://econ.duke.edu/uploads/assets/dje/2006/McNabb.pdf
Medoff, H. Marshall. 1988. "An Economic Analysis of the Demand for Abortion." Economic Inquiry. 26: 353-359.
 _____. 2008a. "Abortion costs, sexual behavior, and pregnancy rates." The Social Science Journal. 45: 156-172
. _____. 2008b. “The Effect of Abortion Costs on Adoption.” International Journal of Social Economics. 35(3): 188-201.
Mundial, Banco. 2010. "Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2008." Available at: http://www.bvcooperacion.pe/biblioteca/bitstream/123456789/7523/1/BVCI0006645.pdf
New, Michael. 2004. "Analyzing the Effects of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion During the 1990s."
_____. 2007. “Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among Minors.”
_____. 2011. “Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post Casey Era”. State Politics & Policy Quarterly. 11: pp. 28-47.
_____. 2014. “Analyzing the Impact of U.S. Antiabortion Legislation in the Post-Casey Era A Reassessment.” State Politics & Policy Quarterly. 11: pp. 28-47.
Trussell, J., J. Menken, B.L, Lindheimand B. Vaughan. 1980. “The impact of restricting Medicaid financing for abortion.” Family Planning Perspectives 12, 120-130.




[1] The AGI is a pro-choice lobbying organization and the semi-official research division of Planned Parenthood. Its statement of purpose is to promote the liberalization of worldwide abortion laws.
[2] Similarly, in South and Central America, Koch et al (2014) finds no relationship between the restrictiveness of state policies on abortion in Mexico and maternal mortality, while a time series analysis of Chile failed to show any relationship between historical changes in abortion policy and either maternal mortality or abortion related hospitalizations (Koch et al. 2012a). Systematic analyses in Eastern Europe and studies examining the impact of legalized abortion in Mexico City also undermine the AGI narrative (Levine and Staiger 2004; Klick and Neelsen 2012; Koch et al 2012b).
[3] Hansen 1980; Medoff 1988, 2008a, 2008b; Haas-Wilson 1993; Gober 1994; New 2004, 2007, 2011a, b; Guildi 2008; Koch et al. 2012a, b, 2014…the list goes on. 
[4]  In fact, some research indicates the opposite: that more liberal abortion laws may actually lead to an increase in maternal mortality and morbidity (Alford 2016). Although these findings have yet to be fully explained, one possibility is that women who obtain abortions are able to become pregnant again more quickly and/or are more likely to return to former levels of sexual activity. As a result, this leads to an increase in the overall number of pregnancies a woman experiences and therefore her overall risk of experiencing a potentially life threatening complication. This may also help to explain why countries with more restrictive abortion policies in both Latin America and Europe tend to have maternal mortality rates that are lower than the regional average (see above) and why the abortion mortality ratio decrease by almost 96% subsequent to an abortion ban in Chile (Koch 2013).


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Highlights from Justice4Life webcast

Last night, Students for Life of America hosted a webcast on the topic of its Justice4Life campaign, a grassroots effort to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. A recording will be available soon, but in the meantime, here are my notes.

Emcee David Bereit
  • David uses the word "opportunity" constantly. An historic opportunity, an opportunity to restore the right to life as established in the Constitution, an opportunity we've waited for for decades... 
  • He emphasizes Justice Kennedy's swing role; he was "not a vote we could ever count on," although he did vote the right way in NIFLA v. Becerra
Former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese
  • "For too long, we have had people on the Supreme Court who have ignored what the Constitution actually says." 
  • Religious minorities flocked to the early United States because of our protections for freedom of conscience; preserving that freedom is critical
  • "Throughout his career, [Kavanaugh] has demonstrated his fidelity to the Constitution." 
  • Notes that Federalist Society has vetted nominees, including Gorsuch and Kavanaugh
  • Communicate with your Senators with the goal of seating Kavanaugh before the next term begins on October 1st. True, every Senator won't read every letter/email, but staffers compile reports about the numbers of letters sent. Write letters to the editor of your local paper too! 
  • The effort starts now, as Senators have one-on-one meetings with Kavanaugh.
Ken Klukowski, First Liberty Institute
  • His critical concern is what replacing Kennedy means for First Amendment rights
  • Underlying judicial philosophy matters; result-driven decisions may go your way, but set bad precedents for you next time. We want a Justice who will "embrace democracy" and allow legislators who are accountable to the people to decide most policy questions. 
  • Klukowski takes on criticisms of Kavanaugh's past decisions from non-lawyers. Kavanaugh has been "faithful to his role as a subordinate judge on an inferior court," where he must apply Supreme Court precedent; that doesn't necessarily mean that he agrees with those precedents.
(I missed a significant portion of the webcast here, which I gather was focused on Judge Kavanaugh's qualifications, because I got a phone call. So sorry!)

Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List
  • Individual people have ALL the power in America. "We can either use it, or we can let it go by the wayside... This moment is decades in the making. There is no overstating, in my opinion, the moment we are in right now."
  • Recounts President Trump's promise to nominate Scalia-like Justices and submission of a list to the American people before the election
  • Breakdown of the Senate: we have 49 solid pro-life votes, but Sen. McCain is . The two pro-choice Republicans could derail everything, but we can offset them with pro-life Democrats who previously voted for Gorsuch. The pressure on Sens. Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin (and to a lesser extent Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama) is intense. The abortion industry knows what's at stake. "Tier 2" Senators (harder to get, but possble) are McCaskill and Nelson. 
  • "No matter where you live, the most important thing you can do is ensure that the Senate understands the intensity of this moment. ... It has an echo effect, even if you're not in those [swing] states."
  • Students for Life and Susan B. Anthony List have rallies planned for Senators' district offices.
  • Older Senators care about phone calls; younger ones care about tweets; everybody cares about email. 
  • Millions of children can be saved by just a handful of votes.
Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life of America
  • Go to Justice4Life.org; students can sign up for the national tour happening the first week of August! Anyone, student or not, can download an action kit with information on how to contact your Senator, advice to write/submit a letter to the editor, sample tweets, etc.
  • On Saturday, August 11, there will be rallies throughout the nation. Sign up to be a rally captain (again, at Justice4Life.org) to bring a rally to your community!
  • David chimes in: you don't have to have special skills to be a rally captain. Ordinary people are the agents of change.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Abortion and Disability Rights

Every life has equal worth. However, not all lives are treated with dignity. For instance, society commonly favors the lives of non-disabled people over disabled people. This preference even appears in the debate about the legality of abortions. A common argument pro-choicers pose is that a woman should get an abortion if she is not comfortable bearing and/or raising a child with disabilities. An abortion would be better than birthing an unwanted child into this world, correct? I would argue otherwise.

Financial issues are still prevalent in today’s economy. Admittedly, raising a disabled child does require additional expenses than it would raising a non disabled child. However, abortion should not be posed as the best answer to a parent’s financial troubles. Abortions are a band aid solution to poverty. A better alternative would be improving the safety net for guardians. Perhaps then fewer people would feel it is financially obligatory to terminate pregnancies.


The most discussed disability in the debate is Down Syndrome (DS). Iceland recently announced they have an extremely low percentage of citizens with DS. In the article What kind of society do you want to live in?: Inside the country where Down Syndrome is disappearing, Julian Quinones and Arijeta Lajka from CBS News reported the cause. Icelandic mothers get prenatal screenings and get abortions after finding the child has DS. This is upsetting for various reasons. One justification for abortion is that kids with DS are likelier to get put in and stay in the foster care system; Abortion would end any chance of possible emotional suffering. However, ableism is the underlying issue. People with DS and other disabilities are as valuable as people without disabilities, and should be viewed as such.

The rights of disabled people is close to my heart. I personally have a speaking impediment, which has led to me sometimes being treated differently. I do not want sympathy, but my past has influenced my political beliefs. The existence of disabled people should not be used to justify abortion; our lives have meaning too.

[Today's guest post by Angelica Del Pilar is part of our paid blogging program.]

Friday, July 13, 2018

Happening Sunday...


This Sunday, July 15, is a big day for two reasons:

1. It's the submission deadline for Create|Encounter! The second annual Create|Encounter contest, organized by our friends at Rehumanize International, is home to creative works of all kinds—poetry, narrative fiction, paintings, scripts, music, photography, sculpture, video, you name it—that relate to human rights and freedom from violence. That naturally includes abortion, but since Rehumanize International is a multi-issue group, you can also submit pieces that address war, human trafficking, the death penalty, racism, poverty, and other social ills.

Full submission guidelines can be found here. Winners get free admission to the Rehumanize conference October 12-14 in Pittsburgh, and may be published in the Life Matters Journal! Need inspiration? Check out last year's winners and honorable mentions here.

2. It's my 30th birthday! Yes, birthdays are arbitrary. But I love an excuse to celebrate, and 30 is a nice round number. It also makes me reflect on how I'm a "real adult" in the eyes of all the student pro-life activists who I was one of just a blink of an eye ago, I swear...

If you'd like to do something nice for me on my birthday, I'd love nothing more than a $30 donation to Secular Pro-Life. Help me start a new decade of advocacy on the right foot. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

SBA List Poll: Voters in Key States Want Kavanaugh Confirmed to SCOTUS

In case you've been living under a rock, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court seat made empty by Justice Kennedy's retirement. Speculation is rampant that Kavanaugh could be the fifth vote necessary to repeal Roe v. Wade—or at the very least, allow states to regulate abortion businesses like the medical facilities they purport to be, which the Court rejected in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.

The confirmation process is bound to be nasty and partisan. The GOP currently holds the slimmest of majorities in the Senate. Possible surprises could come from Republican abortion supporters Sen. Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Collins of Maine, and/or from any of the several Democratic Senators who are up for re-election in red states.

Yesterday, the Susan B. Anthony List released a poll from some of those states. Respondents in Florida (Sen. Nelson), Indiana (Sen. Donnelly), Missouri (Sen. McCaskill), North Dakota (Sen. Heitkamp), and West Virginia (Sen. Manchin) were asked if they wanted their Senators to confirm Trump's then-unnamed nominee. Even without knowing it would be Kavanaugh, who is widely considered a safe pick, strong majorities supported confirmation:
  • 56% in Florida
  • 56% in Indiana
  • 57% in Missouri
  • 68% in North Dakota
  • 59% in West Virginia
The numbers highlight the bind those five Democratic Senators face. Will they follow the will of their constituents by confirming Kavanaugh, and risk displeasing their base? Or will they vote against Kavanaugh and have that vote become the subject of attack ads which will resonate with a majority of voters? Neither is ideal heading into November. 

The pollsters followed up with a fascinating second question: “Do you think that the U.S. Supreme Court should decide abortion policy for [Name of State], or do you think abortion policy should be decided by the people of [Name of State] through their elected officials?” 

This is a great way to ask the question. As many have pointed out, polls that ask whether a person supports or opposes Roe v. Wade are highly problematic. Roe is a complex case that legal scholars have written volumes about; it's unfair to assume that the average person understands it. And when pollsters try to explain Roe's holding as part of the question, they invariably do a bad job. Framing the question in terms of who makes abortion policy is much less confusing. It's not perfect—for one thing, it doesn't account for subsequent cases like Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzalez v. Carhart that gave states a bit more room to legislate—but it beats the alternatives. 

And the answers are quite illuminating. In all five states surveyed, voters much preferred that abortion policy be set by legislatures instead of the Supreme Court: 
  • 54% in Florida
  • 65% in Indiana
  • 57% in Missouri
  • 67% in North Dakota
  • 57% in West Virginia
Those results are great news for the right to life, but we should not take anything for granted. Remember to contact your Senators, especially if you live in one of those key states!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Which decreases abortion rates more: contraception access or abortion restrictions?

Pro-choicers frequently claim that making abortion illegal won't decrease the number of abortions; it will only decrease the number of safe, legal abortions. They suggest that there is no practical use to restricting abortion legally and that if pro-lifers really cared about decreasing abortion rates, they would focus on decreasing unplanned pregnancies (through better access to contraception, better sex education, etc.)

So pro-choicers claim.

But there's a lot of research to show that abortion law affects abortion rates--and not just legal abortion rates, but total abortion rates. Studies often measure the changes in fertility in areas where abortion access recently changed. Secular Pro-Life has compiled a list of such studies if you're interested.

I've now had a few conversations where I point out this reality, and the pro-choice person's response is to claim that even if abortion restrictions have some nonzero effect on abortion rates, that effect is dwarfed by the decrease in abortions thanks to contraception access. It's easy for me to believe that both more access to contraception and less access to abortion will decrease abortion rates, and personally I'm for taking both approaches. But the claim that the effect of contraception access trounces the effect of abortion access sounds like just a slightly watered down version of the false claim that abortion access doesn't affect abortion rates at all. That is, it's an ad hoc, ill-founded claim to justify our country's incredibly liberal abortion laws, but the evidence (at least what I've seen so far) doesn't bear it out.

For example, in late 2017 the Daily Mail published "Abortion rate plummets to an historic low, CDC figures reveal." Specifically the article claims
While the drop mirrors the closure of abortion clinics nationwide, experts say the figure is likely down to more effective use of contraception and the falling pregnancy rate.
The article references this CDC report, which has found a net decrease in the abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44) of 22% (from 15.6 to 12.1). This is great news, but it's not clear from the CDC report the extent to which different factors contributed to the decrease. The CDC authors explain
One factor that might have contributed to this decrease is the increase that occurred during the same period in the use of the most effective forms of reversible contraception, specifically intrauterine devices and hormonal implants, which are as effective as sterilization at preventing unintended pregnancy (102–105). Although use of intrauterine devices and implants has increased in recent years, use of these methods remains low in comparison with use of oral contraceptives and condoms, both of which are less effective at preventing pregnancy (102,104).
So contraception likely played a role, but the CDC can't quantify it, and they still find that the most effective forms of contraception are not used much compared to the less effective forms. They certainly aren't asserting that the entire 22% decrease is due solely to contraception access, and their report doesn't attempt to compare the effects of contraception access to the effects of abortion access. 

There are studies that looked at both factors. For example, this Guttmacher report found that between access to the Pill and access to abortion, abortion was associated with a birth rate decrease twice that for the pill.
Among white minors, having had access to the pill was associated with a 9% drop in the overall birthrate and an 8% drop in the rate of nonmarital first births. In this same group, access to an abortion was correlated with a 17% decline in the nonmarital birthrate and a 16% decline in the rate of nonmarital first births.
Another study found that, for women under age 19, "liberalized abortion policy predicts a 34 percent decline in motherhood" whereas "the results do not provide evidence that pill policies had a substantial effect." The author explains
The birth control pill’s effects on family formation are theoretically ambiguous: The pill was a technological innovation in contraception, but with a failure rate of about 9 percent in the first year of typical use (Trussell, 2004), it still provides an imperfect means of preventing pregnancy. Trends in sexual behavior suggest that any reductions in unintended pregnancies among teens due to safer, pill-protected sex were offset by large increases in sexual activity. Difference-in-difference estimates also provide little evidence to support the view that pill policies had a substantial influence on age at first birth and marriage. Results in Goldin and Katz (2002) and Bailey (2006, 2009) that suggest otherwise are not robust to reasonable perturbations of the authors’ research designs including addressing discrepancies in the legal codings, choosing alternative data sets, and/or adjusting sample selection procedures. Rather, the results robustly point to policies governing abortion, a second, less lauded but more certain means of preventing unwanted births, as the driving force behind delayed family formation in the 1970s. [Emphasiss added]
This study is not a perfect comparison to claims about more modern contraception. The idea is that the most effective forms of contraception (e.g. IUDs instead of the Pill) do a better job of decreasing unintended pregnancy rates because even if users increase their sexual activity as a result, the increase in risk-taking behavior does not offset the decrease in risk these more effective contraceptive methods provide.

Note also that research suggests when abortion is legalized the abortion rate increases more than the birth rate decreases. See Footnote 8 of this report, p8 of the PDF, which explains in part:
Note, however, that the decline in births is far less than the number of abortions, suggesting that the number of conceptions increased substantially --and example of insurance leading to moral hazard. The insurance that abortion provides against unwanted pregnancy induces more sexual conduct or diminished protections against pregnancy in a way that substantially increases the number of pregnancies. [Emphasis added]
People are less cautious about avoiding pregnancy when they know they can get abortions as a back up option. This idea is further substantiated by a study published in the June 2015 edition Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health which concluded:
Women who lived in a state where abortion access was low were more likely than women living in a state with greater access to use highly effective contraceptives rather than no method (relative risk ratio, 1.4). Similarly, women in states characterized by high abortion hostility (i.e., states with four or more types of restrictive policies in place) were more likely to use highly effective methods than were women in states with less hostility (1.3).
This research also suggests that teasing out the effects of abortion access compared to contraception use may prove challenging, since the two appear to be inversely correlated.

So with that brief overview of just a few studies, so far these are the conclusions I'm drawing:
  1. Abortion restrictions decrease abortion rates (and likely also unintended pregnancy rates).
  2. Access to the most effective forms of contraception decrease abortion rates.
  3. Abortion restrictions probably decrease abortion rates more than access to less effective contraception (e.g. the Pill) does, and
  4. It's unclear whether abortion restrictions or access to the most effective forms of contraception (e.g. IUDs) decrease abortion rates more.
I'm open to other suggestions or studies if you have them.

[This article is reposted with permission from Difficult Run.]

Thursday, June 28, 2018

This post is going to get lost

Because Justice Kennedy has retired, and why would any other topic appear in your newsfeed?

But for those lucky few who do see this, I will be speaking at the National Right to Life convention in Overland Park, Kansas this Saturday. My topic is "Making the Pro-Life Argument from the Secular Perspective" and it will go from 1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. I'll talk about the historical reasons abortion is treated as a "religious issue," why it's so important for us to push back against that stereotype, and how to make the case against abortion without presuming the existence of a deity.

In addition, I will of course be promoting the #NextNominee petition to replace Justice Kennedy with a pro-life woman. If you haven't already signed it, do it now.

Finally, an apology to our readers: I know the blog has been off-schedule lately. The Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday routine has gone completely out the window. Life got hectic. I promise we'll be back on track by mid-July.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Three takeaways from NIFLA v. Becerra


Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in favor of the pregnancy centers challenging a California law that required them to post signage advertising state-funded abortion. The majority opinion, which found that the pregnancy centers were protected by the First Amendment, was written by Justice Thomas and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Alito, and Gorsuch. The dissent was written by Justice Breyer and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor.

The case has been amply covered by media of all stripes, so I'll just offer a few thoughts.

We desperately need a pro-life woman on the Court. All three women Justices—who I should note are past childbearing age and come from high-SES families—shamefully voted against the charities that aid low-income mothers in crisis. Already, pro-abortion groups are touting the sad fact that the Court's free speech supporters are all male. This must change. If you haven't already done so, sign the #NextNominee petition to make our next Justice a pro-life woman! A vacancy could come any day.

The central disagreement was how to apply Casey. In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court held that states could require abortion businesses to disclose the procedure's risks and alternatives without running afoul of the First Amendment. Abortion supporters argued that California's law was analogous to the law in Casey. I previously offered my counter-argument, which I'm pleased to see is similar to the majority ruling:
The licensed notice at issue here is not an informed consent requirement or any other regulation of professional conduct. The notice does not facilitate informed consent to a medical procedure. In fact, it is not tied to a procedure at all. It applies to all interactions between a covered facility and its clients, regardless of whether a medical procedure is ever sought, offered, or performed. If a covered facility does provide medical procedures, the notice provides no information about the risks or benefits of those procedures. Tellingly, many facilities that provide the exact same services as covered facilities—such as general practice clinics, see §123471(a)—are not required to provide the licensed notice.
The dissent's counter-argument rests on the claim that childbirth, like abortion, is a "medical procedure that involves certain health risks." Without getting into the longstanding feminist debate over the medicalization of childbirth, the notion that birth is a medical procedure is certainly news to all the mothers who've given birth without the involvement of any medical professional whatsoever. And while no one doubts that childbirth has risks, going to a pregnancy center does not in any way increase those preexisting risks; if anything, it decreases them by giving women access to free ultrasound exams and other resources. By contrast, the risks of abortion are the creation of the abortionist, and therefore the abortionist should bear the burden of explaining those risks.

Justice Kennedy's concurrence stole the show. The majority did not explicitly rule on the question of whether California's law was meant to discriminate against pro-life people (i.e., unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination), but of course it was. The Justices in the majority debunked the neutral rationales California put forward; for instance, they saw through the argument that California just wants to educate low-income women, noting that if that were the true motivation, the law would not have exempted most clinics that serve the poor.

But Justice Kennedy took it a step further in his concurring opinion, which was joined by all the majority Justices save Thomas (emphasis mine):
This separate writing seeks to underscore that the apparent viewpoint discrimination here is a matter of serious constitutional concern. See ante, at 6, n. 2. The Court, in my view, is correct not to reach this question. It was not sufficiently developed, and the rationale for the Court’s decision today suffices to resolve the case. And had the Court’s analysis been confined to viewpoint discrimination, some legislators might have inferred that if the law were reenacted with a broader base and broader coverage it then would be upheld.
It does appear that viewpoint discrimination is inherent in the design and structure of this Act. This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression. For here the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions. This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, beliefs grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts, or all of these.
Check out that last sentence. Four Supreme Court Justices just acknowledged that an anti-abortion stance can be based on philosophical and ethical precepts rather than just religious ones! Go us!


P.S.: Want more NIFLA v. Becerra coverage? NIFLA itself is holding a webcast tomorrow night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Join us at the Pro-Life Women's Conference THIS WEEKEND!


The Third Annual Pro-Life Women's Conference is happening this weekend in St. Louis, and Secular Pro-Life is proud to once again be an exhibiting sponsor. Come by our booth to learn more about our #NextNominee campaign to put a pro-life woman on the Supreme Court (have you joined yet?), and get free stuff!

The conference begins on Friday night with a dinner program featuring keynote speaker Serrin Foster of Feminists for Life; her talk is entitled "Ending The Feminization of Poverty that Drives Women to Abortion!" Saturday and Sunday are jam-packed with informative sessions on topics like the menstrual cycle, how to educate your kids about sex, frozen embryos, coping with pregnancy loss, empowering single moms, birth trauma, adoption, enacting pro-life laws, addressing sexual harassment, and so much more.

There's still time to register, so don't miss out!

We will be too busy to blog over the next few days, but check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for regular updates.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Three takeaways from Gallup abortion polling

Gallup recently released a series of articles on its latest abortion survey, which goes into much more detail than previous years. There's far more data than I can realistically cover in a blog post, but here are three things that caught my eye.

Confusion about why women seek abortions: 60% of Americans say that abortion should "generally be legal" in the first trimester. (Second- and third-trimester abortions do not have majority support.) But when asked about specific reasons for having an abortion in the first trimester, a different picture emerges (click to enlarge):

Side note: the questions about first-trimester abortions for fetal disabilities don't make sense. Down Syndrome and other issues are generally diagnosed later in pregnancy.

Abortion when the woman does not want the child for non-medical reasonsthat is, elective abortionis opposed by a majority of Americans, even in the first trimester! So how is it that 60% believe first trimester should generally be legal, while only 45% support first trimester elective abortion? "Generally legal" means allowing elective abortions! It's the same question asked two different ways!

Unless... people are under the mistaken impression that most first trimester abortions are not elective. That explains the results. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of abortions—upwards of 75%are sought for socioeconomic reasons, not medical ones. Rape and incest account for less than 1.5% of abortions. Nearly a quarter of women cited "husband or partner wants me to have an abortion" as a reason.

We should emphasize the reasons women abort in our educational efforts. It's also important to explain that widely supported limits on abortions after the first trimester cannot be put into place until Roe v. Wade and its progeny are overturned.

No Trump effect. I worried publicly that the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, and pro-life organizations' support for him, would tarnish the movement's reputation and impair our ability to save lives. At the very least I thought that people with anti-abortion views would become shy, telling pollsters they were pro-choice or undecided in an effort to distance themselves from President Trump.

I'm very glad to have been wrong about this one. While Trump obviously remains a divisive figure, thankfully this hasn't turned the public away from support for human life. In fact, the pro-life position has gained a couple of percentage points since 2016.

"Personally pro-life" is dead. In addition to asking whether abortion should be legal or illegal in various circumstances, Gallup also asks about the morality of abortion (emphasis added):
By a slim five-percentage-point margin, 48% to 43%, Americans believe abortion is wrong from a moral perspective. In fact, abortion is the moral issue among those tested on which the public is most closely divided.
The 43% who believe abortion to be morally acceptable matches the percentage who say it should be legal in all or most circumstances.
Since Gallup first measured attitudes about the morality of abortion in 2001, an average of 41% have regarded it as acceptable and 49% as wrong. Though attitudes have fluctuated, at no point have more Americans said abortion is morally acceptable than have said it is morally wrong.
Read that sentence again. Everyone surveyed who said abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances also said that abortion is morally acceptable. The bloc saying that abortion is morally unacceptable, but should be legal anywaythe infamous "personally pro-life" compromisehas vanished. And good riddance! It was always a cop-out. Now we can have a real debate about what abortion is and does.

Friday, June 15, 2018

#NextNominee petitions President Trump to nominate a pro-life woman for the next Supreme Court vacancy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Young adult anti-abortion advocates organized by Secular Pro-Life have launched #NextNominee, a campaign to fill the next Supreme Court vacancy with a pro-life woman. The centerpiece of the campaign is a petition hosted at petitions.whitehouse.gov, a federal website that allows concerned citizens to voice their concerns directly to White House officials. If the petition receives at least 100,000 signatures in the next 30 days, the Trump administration will respond.

Link to petition: petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/nominate-pro-life-woman-next-supreme-court-vacancy 
Link to #NextNominee website: NextNominee.com 

Although approximately half of American women oppose abortion, no pro-life woman has ever served on the nation’s highest court. Current Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, have all been consistent votes in favor of the abortion industry.

“Supreme Court opinions claim women ‘rely’ on abortion to succeed in the workplace, which is insulting. My success does not depend on anyone's death,” said Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard, who is also an attorney.

The majority of American women support common-sense abortion limits. According to a December 2017 poll by Marist University, 62% of American women support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks (5 months) of pregnancy—an issue that is likely to be heard by the Supreme Court. The survey also found that 51% of American women either want abortion to be illegal in all cases, or legal only in cases of rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life; that 60% oppose the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions; and that 52% believe abortion does more harm than good.

“Discrimination starts in the womb,” said Beth Fox, a #NextNominee spokeswoman who has a rare genetic condition called Myotonic Dystrophy. “My entire life people have used the name of choice to justify their belief I never should have been born. I, like many others, am fed up with it. We need a female pro-life Justice who will stand for equal rights for all.”

“The pro-life female voice needs to be heard in this country, and what better way than to start from the top!” added #NextNominee spokeswoman Gina Mallica. “Pro-abortion does not equal pro-woman."

There are currently no vacant seats on the Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the “swing” vote responsible for many 5-4 decisions in favor of abortion, has been the subject of retirement rumors for years. He is 81 years old. Justice Ginsburg, age 85, is the oldest Justice on the Court. The third oldest, 79-year-old Steven Breyer, is also pro-abortion.

President Trump has pledged to nominate anti-abortion Justices to the Court and has publicly released his short list of potential nominees. There are six women on the short list: Hon. Amy C. Barrett of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; Hon. Allison Eid of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, in the position previously occupied by Justice Gorsuch; Hon. Britt Grant of the Supreme Court of Georgia, whose nomination to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is currently pending; Hon. Joan Larsen of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals; Hon. Margaret Ryan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces; and Hon. Diane Sykes of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Full Text of Petition

Four women have served on the Supreme Court, and all four have consistently ruled in favor of the abortion industry. They have even endorsed the misogynistic notions that women rely on abortion for professional success and that women cannot “enjoy equal citizenship stature” without abortion.

The majority of American women support common-sense abortion limits, and we deserve judicial representation. A pro-life woman on our nation’s highest court will be a living rebuke to those who falsely equate abortion with women’s empowerment.

We therefore call upon President Trump to nominate a pro-life woman to the Supreme Court at his earliest opportunity.

About the Organizers

The #NextNominee campaign is coordinated by Secular Pro-Life, an organization that unites people of every faith and no faith to promote the right to life. It is also endorsed by Pro-Life San Francisco, a non-partisan, non-sectarian group of pro-life Millennials connecting families with resources and resisting the abortion lobby in the Bay area, and New Wave Feminists, an anti-abortion feminist organization that believes all humans should be free from violence for the duration of their lifetime.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Another waste disposal company quits working with abortion vendors

Last week, Operation Rescue announced its discovery that Biomedical Waste Services was the disposal company picking up the remains of victims at thirteen surgical abortion facilities in Maryland—including the notorious late-term abortion center operated by Leroy Carhart. Carhart has killed several women in the course of his practice, in addition to untold numbers of children in the womb.

Just three hours later, after receiving multiple calls from pro-life advocates, Biomedical Waste Services cancelled the contract!

As we wrote in connection with a similar victory achieved by Created Equal's "Project Weak Link" in the Midwest late last year:
What remains to be seen is whether this will result in the closure of any abortion businesses. This effect is likely to be delayed, because many facilities have the capacity to keep the remains of their victims in refrigerated storage for a time. In an undercover video, abortionist Renee Chelian indicated that she could store five months' worth of aborted bodies in this fashion.
However, that is a temporary solution to their gruesome problem. Chelian concluded: "We are all one incinerator away, or one incinerator company away, from being closed."
Operation Rescue president Troy Newman states that the organization will "remain watchful," and notes that if any other companies take over  for Maryland abortion businesses, "we know our amazing supporters can once again be counted on to jump into action!"

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Make your voice heard!

Two critical life-related matters are open for public comment. The first is a proposed federal regulation that would protect Title X funds from Planned Parenthood. The second is a proposal before the American Board of Medical Specialities (AMBS) to create a new board specialty in "Complex Family Planning"—code for late-term abortion.

Title X Regulation
As we previously reported, pro-life organizations are urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to restore Reagan-era regulations that disentangle Title X family planning funds from abortion vendors. HHS has responded with a proposed rule, which must go through a public comment period before it can be fully implemented. Planned Parenthood is rallying its troops to keep its taxpayer funds flowing, so it's crucial for HHS to hear from us!

You can read the proposed rule here and submit your supportive comment here. I wrote:
I strongly support the proposed rule. For too long, Title X funds have subsidized abortion vendors. The provision of taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood—which has repeatedly defrauded Medicaid and failed to report the sexual abuse of children, among other scandals—is especially troubling. Federally qualified health centers and other community clinics are far more deserving recipients of Title X funds, and are fully capable of meeting women's nonviolent family planning needs.
HHS is accepting comments through July 31.

Board Certification in Late-Term Abortion
The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) has sounded the alarm about a proposed board certification program for "Complex Family Planning." AAPLOG warns:
The application includes things which all ob/gyns are already trained in:  contraception, miscarriage management, management of complicated pregnancies. This part of the application is a smokescreen.
What is unique to this board certification, and is the focus of the fellowship is SECOND and THIRD TRIMESTER ABORTION TRAINING. 
Training in contraception, and miscarriage management and complicated pregnancy management is already done in an ob/gyn residency. There is no need for an additional board certification.
Training in management of high risk pregnancies is already accomplished through a maternal fetal medicine subspecialty board certification. There is no need for an additional board certification.
The uniqueness of the proposed board certification is in training physicians to kill fetuses in utero. This practice should have no place in the field of medicine, much less have the imprimatur of the ABMS.
You can read the application for the proposed specialty here and submit your comment in opposition here. Comments from medical professionals will naturally carry more weight, so we particularly encourage you to participate if you work in the medical field; however, the comment form allows "private individuals" to comment as well. I wrote:
I urge AMBS to reject the proposed certification in complex family planning. The vast majority of items included in this proposed certification, such as the provision of contraception and management of miscarriage, are matters that all ob/gyns should master and are already adequately addressed by other certification programs. What sets this proposed subspecialty certification apart is its training in late-term abortion methods. Late-term abortion is a gross violation of a physician's oath to do no harm. Accordingly, abortions in the second and third trimester are opposed by the vast majority of Americans, including those who identify themselves as pro-choice. If AMBS approves this subspecialty certification, it will introduce a source of distrust into the already strained relationship between medical professionals and the general public. 
This comment period is open through July 6.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Former Planned Parenthood workers say Planned Parenthood covered up statutory rape

The pro-life group Live Action has released a series of videos documenting cases where Planned Parenthood failed to report statutory rape and sent underage girls home with their abusers.

In every state, a young teen who has sex with an adult is considered a victim of statutory rape and sexual exploitation. Some of these are cases of incest, where a girl is coerced into sex with a father, step-father, or other family member. In these cases, the girl is caught in an abusive situation. When young girls “date” and have sex with adult men in their late twenties and thirties, they are being taken advantage of by adults who manipulate and intimidate them. These relationships are based on exploitation.

Former Planned Parenthood workers have admitted that they sent underage girls back to their abusers without reporting the abuse. In a video released by Live Action, workers talk about their experiences.


Former sex educator Monica Cline was asked to train Planned Parenthood workers about reporting cases of statutory rape. She describes what happened when she told a group of workers about mandatory reporting:
I was teaching on human trafficking and statutory rape and was telling Planned Parenthood staff of Corpus Christi and the Gulf Coast basically, you’ve got to report when you see a girl coming in with an older man who that you can tell is not her father. You know something’s wrong, you’ve got to report that, it’s considered human trafficking. It is also considered statutory rape; you’ve got to report this. And they started laughing. And I said, “I don’t think there was anything I said that was funny. What’s going on here?” And the response was, “Honey, if she’s not having sex with this man this week she’ll have another one next week.” … One of the things that they even mentioned was, they adopted George Bush’s don’t ask, don’t tell in the military for homosexuality, so they said well if it’s good enough for Bush, it’s good enough for us. If we don’t ask how old her partner is, we don’t have to tell.
Cline was so troubled by the workers’ attitudes that she spoke to her superior about it. Her superior told her that her job was to give the information, not to worry about whether the abortion workers followed it. She was advised not to push the issue.

Former Planned Parenthood manager Sue Thayer was also interviewed by Lila Rose in the video. Thayer says:
We were all required to be mandatory reporters, but if we saw a case… questionable abuse, or even for sure — I mean, this kid is being abused – um, we really were discouraged from calling it in, just because, uh, they didn’t want to have the trouble, the angry parent, the angry boyfriend, whatever it was. So, more than once I was told, “No, that is not reportable – you don’t need to call it in.”
Lila Rose then asked Thayer if Planned Parenthood changed its policy on reporting statutory rape after Live Action’s investigation in 2008. In that investigation, Lila Rose went to Planned Parenthood facilities claiming to be the victim of statutory rape. She recorded Planned Parenthood workers advising her to lie about her age so that the abuse would not have to be reported.

Rose wanted to know whether Planned Parenthood changed their policies after this happened. Thayer told her that soon after the undercover videos came out, Planned Parenthood put Lila Rose’s picture on the wall and encouraged workers to look out for her. However, they did not take steps to change their policy about statutory rape. They did not retrain the workers or change their policies.

Thayer also recalls one time where she did report a situation of statutory rape and Planned Parenthood’s reaction:
I actually did call in a suspected case one time, and I got in trouble for that. [I] should've called management first and found out if that was reportable or not, and I just called it in because I knew that it needed to be reported, and I was a mandatory reporter because of being a foster parent as well. So I felt like I really needed to. But that was frowned upon.
Former Planned Parenthood worker Catherine Adair had a similar story:
So many things would happen in that counseling room that really bothered me. There'd be girls coming in with their abusers. Against all protocol, the abuser would be you know, let in to the counseling room that was where they were supposed to be separated from who they were with – men were never allowed back there, but with these young girls, they'd be allowed back there because – even if they knew – even if I would go to the manager, and I said, “Look, there's something going on here.” – She would say, “She's better off with the abortion. We can't do anything about what's going on at home but at least we can give her the abortion.”
Not only did Planned Parenthood not report cases of statutory rape, they gave the girls’ abusers extra privileges to shadow the girls while they were having their abortions. In this way, Planned Parenthood actively aided the abusers.

Although Planned Parenthood sets itself up as a champion for women, it is clear that they do not have women’s best interests at heart. In this and many other cases, Planned Parenthood exploits women for financial gain. They are not protecting vulnerable teens who come to them seeking abortions or birth control. Instead, they are helping their abusers.

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