Monday, March 19, 2018

"I believe you've killed someone, but I will fight for your right to do it!"

Pro-choice Democrat Conor Lamb is the newest member of the House of Representatives, having squeaked out a special election win in Pennsylvania with just 641 more votes than his Republican opponent. The race was seen as a referendum on President Trump, who won the conservative district by 19 points in 2016.

There has been no shortage of commentary about what this means for the 2018 midterms, and in particular, whether Lambs' "personally pro-life, politically pro-choice" schtick should be replicated by Democrats in other red districts. But much of this coverage has ignored a key variable, namely, the reason Pennsylvania was having a special election in the first place.

Remember Tim Murphy? He held the district and was forced to resign after he was revealed to be Lamb's polar opposite: politically pro-life, but personally pro-choice. Pro-life organizations and voters alike were outraged when it came to light that Murphy had not only had an extramarital affair, but had encouraged his mistress to have an abortion. (She turned out not to be pregnant.)

There is no data to suggest that the district's residents suddenly abandoned their pro-life principles en masse, but such a betrayal from a traditionally pro-life candidate could have made Lamb's "personally pro-life" pitch more appealing. That doesn't make either Lamb or his voters correct, of course—Lamb's claim that he must vote pro-choice for reasons of church-state separation is particularly laughable—but I can understand why voters might have felt their vote wouldn't necessarily lead to a truly pro-life legislator anyway, so why bother.

Abortion extremists, of course, are busy eating their own. At Slate, Christina Cauterucci writes that "personally pro-life" politicians have been known to back Choose Life license plates (the horror!) and popular, common-sense limitations like parental consent for abortions on minors and prohibitions on taxpayer subsidies to the abortion industry. Cauterucci also makes this interesting point:
By broadcasting his belief that, lawmaking aside, a fertilized egg is a human life, he’s essentially scolding women who’ve had abortions. "I believe you've killed someone, but I will fight for your right to do it!" may be the best progressives can hope for from those who are morally opposed to abortion, but it’s also a good way to alienate people on both sides of the issue.
While I obviously disagree with Cauterucci on the morality of abortion, she's hit upon a critical insight here. In recent years, the abortion movement has been trying to distance itself from its traditionally anti-science lines of argument (e.g. "it's just a clump of cells") in favor of a more modern approach that acknowledges the lethal reality of abortion but justifies it anyway. Salon's 2013 article "So what if abortion ends life?" is a paradigmatic example. If Cauterucci is right that "I believe you've killed someone, but I will fight for your right to do it" alienates people, what messaging options does the abortion lobby have left?

The fundamental problem is that, in the long run, there is no way to both be honest and portray abortion in an attractive light. Abortion kills. Abortion targets the most vulnerable members of our human family. We must demand politicians who wholeheartedly oppose abortion—both personally, and politically.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

In One Week: Rally for Life and Freedom of Speech

Exactly one week from today, on March 20, pro-life advocates will rally outside of the Supreme Court while the Justices hear arguments in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra. As we previously wrote, this lawsuit challenges an extreme California law that requires pro-life pregnancy clinics to post advertisements for abortion. This law is a plainly unconstitutional gift to the abortion industry that neglects mother's real needs. It cannot stand.

When you're at the rally, keep an eye out for SPL rep Terrisa Bukovinac! Terrisa (pictured right) is also the head of Pro-Life San Francisco; she is traveling across the country to fight for California babies, parents, and pro-life advocates.

Other organizations participating in next week's rally include Students for Life of America, Rehumanize International, and of course NIFLA itself, along with a host of others.

This case is incredibly important for the future of the pro-life movement and freedom of conscience and expression. If there is any way you can be there, we strongly encourage you to attend!

P.S. If you happen to be in D.C. a few days earlier, the Newseum is hosting a legal panel discussion of the case this Friday, March 16, that looks really interesting.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Behind Enemy Lines: Undercover at a NARAL training session

All over the country, student and activist pro-life groups regularly meet to discuss the intimidating task of developing a sound messaging program to effectively reach members of their communities. Which key words will connect with women the most? How do we handle the most difficult questions with the appropriate amount of care? Often overlooked in all this is that simultaneously, as a foil to this work, abortion rights advocates are meeting in these very same communities, discussing these very same issues of messaging. Just as pro-lifers grapple with how to message about issues such as restricting reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and abortion in the case of rape, conversely, abortion rights activists are laboring to present their views on parental consent, late-term abortion, and public financing of abortions in the most palatable terms to the general public. 

Out of a desire to better understand our opponents’ viewpoints and be prepared for the types of messaging young women at risk for abortion may be hearing, our Students for Life group decided to secretly infiltrate a NARAL training session in California. What we encountered there was a pro-choice movement that is both shrewd in its marketing and emboldened in its goals.

Messaging Tactics                   
The messaging tactics seem to be emotionally aware and politically savvy. The issue of abortion was highly shrouded in the language of social justice. The “lived experiences of women” and “meeting women where they are at” were highly emphasized. It seemed that the objective question of “the morality of abortion” was countered with the subjective “lived experiences” of women obtaining abortions—as if obtaining an abortion was a form of identity, that could not be understood or questioned beyond the person experiencing it. Euphemisms were also used abundantly. As the trainer noted, while many Americans do not mind abortion being legal, a clear majority of Americans have strong ethical qualms with abortion. As such, the word “choice” can lose its power if many people view the choice as immoral. Therefore, incorporating more universal terms such as “economic security” can be more effective. As pro-lifer writer Jill Stanek has noted, “The pro-choice movement has been reduced to euphemisms about euphemisms.”

In a moment of shocking honesty in a portion on parental notification, the trainer noted that many parents do not feel that their children should have rights to abortion, prioritizing their child’s safety over their child’s personal privacy. She added that it’s important to relay to the parents, that of course their kid will come to them, but what about children who are more unfortunate and don’t have anyone to trust? Never mind that they’re advocating for the right of all children to circumvent their parents; at least the parents they’re talking to feel good about their kids. For someone willing to be so disingenuous with parents, she was strikingly honest with us about these tactics.

Above: Pro-abortion signs with "access" messaging
Policy Goals
Another component that jumped out at us was how far the conversation has shifted as the pro-choice has become more dissatisfied with the status quo and more emboldened in their policy goals. Long gone are the reverence for the trimester regime of Roe, the regulations provided for by Casey, the consensus of Hyde and the cautious verbiage of the 90’s which sought to make abortion “safe, legal and rare.” In their absence, “accessibility” has become the catch-all word. The NARAL spokeswoman made it clear that this prioritization of accessibility is the main driver behind 2018’s SB 320 in California, and the 2016 Democratic party platform, explicitly including the overturning of the Hyde Amendment. When directly asked about this by one of our members, the spokeswoman said that assuming a Democratic victory in 2020, the overturning of Hyde will be a top legislative priority in 2021. She also acknowledged that she never imagined a day when two national candidates would both advocate overturning Hyde. How far we’ve come. It is clear to us, that within the next 5 years it is highly likely that the battle over Hyde will be the front lines in the abortion debate.

The Litmus Test
Being as the training was held at a county Democratic Party office, it was only natural that the infamous “litmus test” question to arise. Ever since Tom Perez’s well-known snafu, Democrats have been contentiously debating whether their big tent can tolerate the presence of pro-lifers. It was here that the level of extremism was made evident. The NARAL spokeswoman said that if they feel confident their candidate can maintain the Democrat seat in question, then they would primary the only three Democrats that voted for the 20 week abortion ban. She also noted that NARAL endorsed Hillary over Bernie. This is rather remarkable, given that they did not endorse Hillary in 2008; but Bernie, who has a 100 percent voting rating from NARAL and a 0 rating from the National Right to Life, made the unpardonable sin of endorsing a pro-life Democrat from Nebraska. Apparently it is not just pro-life Democrats who will not be tolerated by NARAL, but also stalwart pro-choicers who merely wish to co-exist with pro-life Democrats.

Having discussed the abortion issue for over 10 years now, I felt a strange connection with the people there. I could relate to their passion and excitement about the issues being discussed. I myself have been in many similar pro-life talks and have the same types of conversations they have with the public week in and week out. It was interesting to think that these people have devoted their lives to defending that which my moral intuition tells me is the greatest moral wrong. In that moment, I realized perhaps they view me and my friends as doing the same and being equally misguided. 
Although, I can say that the evening did not end with moral ambiguity. As the training was wrapping up the spokeswoman did a brief Q&A. Answering one question she tongue-in-cheek replied “We’re very live and let live here” and then belly-laughed saying, “Sorry, I have a very dark sense of humor.” Dark indeed. 

At last: something we can agree on.

[Today's guest post is by Jeremy R.]

Friday, March 9, 2018

Jake and Amanda's Story: A Terrifying Diagnosis

I don’t think any man is prepared for hearing that a pregnancy he helped create may be the cause of death for the mother of his child. I know the father of my child wasn’t prepared to hear that, but he did nonetheless. In his words: "You hear people say a person could die having a baby, but we don’t really think about what that looks like. It’s so different than say a person having cancer because we see that and know what it looks like. People just don’t talk about what it’s like when you’re told you’re gonna die having a baby." I wanted to present our story from his perspective because men are often overlooked in maternal issues.

Mine and Jake's relationship began in July 2016. We hit it off immediately and felt there was something solid about the connection we had. Jake had no children and I had 3. I told him immediately that I didn't want more kids and in fact wasn't able medically to become pregnant. He said he was okay with loving the children I had, so we continued our budding romance. However, in August 2016 we discovered the doctors had been wrong and that I could become pregnant because I was definitely pregnant.

We were in disbelief and although he was shocked and scared, he handled it with grace. He was excited despite the fact we'd only been together a month. Unfortunately we both knew that with my medical history, our pregnancy would be difficult and statistically the odds were in favor of miscarriage. I'd had a uterine ablation a few years back and that makes conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy exceptionally difficult. We miscarried at 6 weeks... but at 12 weeks found out we were still pregnant. We had lost a twin.

It was then that my doctor presented us with the scary statistics of my pregnancy and that if I continued with it, my fatality was the overwhelming outcome. We chose to continue the pregnancy. Jake was angry when we were told to terminate, and scared for the implications of not terminating, but he supported my decision.

At 26 weeks I had a massive hemorrhage and was admitted to the hospital. We lived over an hour away from the hospital so he and I moved into a hospital room together. He got up each day, went to work and came "home" to me and did everything in his power to keep our lives normal. I can't imagine how difficult those days were for him but he says they weren't hard, it was just our life. It's funny how you can adjust to anything as long as you're with the one you love.

We had to stay in the hospital until my delivery, which was set for 33 weeks. The days leading up to my delivery were hard for Jake. This was his first and only child, but due to my medical issues I'd have to be under general anesthesia for delivery which meant he couldn't be in the room when our daughter was born. He would have to wait until she was stabilized to see her because of her prematurity, and he'd have to meet her without me because I'd still be in surgery.

On March 8, we were scheduled for delivery. Both of us were scared and anxious. Our main concern was would our daughter be okay? Would she have complications? It's so hard to be excited when your whole pregnancy has been doom and gloom. But we held fast to the belief that our daughter was a fighter and that she would be okay.

At 1:45 that day, Sadie Kayte Holliday entered the world weighing 5 lbs and was 17 inches long. She was every bit the fighter we knew she would be and came off intubation within the first hour of her birth. Jake only knew she had been born via a phone call to the waiting room from a nurse. He didn't get to meet her for several hours. It was only upon him getting to meet our daughter that he learned things were seriously wrong with me.

I was still in surgery, he was told. He knew I should have been out by now and that something was wrong. Later that evening my doctors met with Jake and my family and told them they'd done all they could do but it wasn't enough. I had bled out several times during surgery and they couldn't find or stop the bleeding. My body had had enough, so they packed my incision and stapled me up and put me on life support until they could come up with a new plan.

Jake finally got to see me in ICU around 11pm that night. He says seeing me like that was the hardest part. He held my hand, cried, and prayed for me to live. He thought about how life would be raising Sadie without me. He never left my side and slept with his head on my damaged body.

The next day I was operated on again. The doctors successfully found and fixed the arteries that had been damaged. I’ll never forget the look of relief on Jake's face or our hug through his tears when I saw him after surgery in ICU.

We are about to celebrate our daughter's first birthday. We are now married. Our experience shaped our relationship in so many ways. We grew together and became so strong. We could have so easily said we haven't been together long enough to have a baby, or the doctors know best, but we didn't. We chose to fight together instead of doing what was convenient, and I am grateful for that every day.

[Today's guest post by Amanda Solomon is part of our paid blogging program. She is Vice President of Life Defenders.]

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

You asked, we answered: The ethics of vaccines

A Secular Pro-Life supporter who shall remain anonymous wrote to us in search of advice.

* * *

Dear Secular Pro-Life,

Hey! Love the cause! I have a big, conflicting question which I believe affects many with our pro-life beliefs.

I recently had newborn twins and am starting the process of immunizations but am at a crossroads. The Hep A, measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox vaccines contain fetal stem cells collected from abortions. I'm not worried about not giving the chicken pox or rubella because it's rare to die from them and I am okay with the possibility of my children having them... but I'm scared as Hep A and measles are much more dangerous and can be deadly. I don't want to potentially endanger them by not giving them such a readily available shot but my gut says no. Especially since vaccines don't always work. I'm conflicted.

As much as I love my babies, I don't think I can give it to them in good conscience. "To save my baby's life, I'll support the death of another..." It just doesn't seem right to me. I was wondering if maybe you could pose a question about this so maybe I could see more perspectives. Not about vaccines as a whole, as that is so widely debated, but just those originating from abortions. Thanks!

~Concerned Mother

* * *

Dear Concerned Mother,

Thanks for writing in. Vaccines do not contain fetal stem cells; however, fetal remains from abortion victims were used in the development of certain vaccines, and that gives many parents pause.

As you ponder the ethics of this situation, please factor in that vaccines not only protect your children from illness, but also help prevent the spread of disease and thus protect others in society—including people with certain disabilities and babies who are too young to be vaccinated. (This is the concept sometimes called "herd immunity.") If a pregnant mother contracts measles, the virus can cause a miscarriage or stillbirth. There are lives on both sides of this equation.

The preborn lives lost in connection with unethical vaccine development cannot be brought back, and refusing the vaccine will not stop any future abortions. In my humble opinion, the moral weight is in favor of vaccination. Of course, this is something you should discuss first and foremost with your doctor.


* * *

Got a question for Secular Pro-Life? Email us at or message us on facebook.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

PP and SFLA announce big plans for battleground states

Planned Parenthood will spend at least $20 million in 2018 battleground states, the abortion chain disclosed last Thursday. The funds will focus on Senate and gubernatorial races in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. They are also spending money to defeat the few remaining pro-life Democrats, like Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, in the primaries. 

Planned Parenthood spokespeople told reporters that focusing on "reproductive health issues" (by which they of course mean the dismemberment of unborn children) is a winning strategy, even claiming that abortion messaging moved voters to support Ralph Northam in the most recent race for governor of Virginia. Historically, however, pro-life candidates have enjoyed a default advantage over their pro-choice counterparts, because pro-lifers are more likely to be single-issue voters.

Pro-life groups are organizing to beat back Planned Parenthood's well-funded propaganda. Students for Life of America recently announced a tour through West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Kentucky, focused on ending taxpayer subsidies of Planned Parenthood. From the press release:
Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins observed that defunding the nation’s largest abortion vendor to redirect scarce resources to real medical centers “is priority number one for students in the more than 1,200 chapters working with us nationwide. This tour is even more significant in light of Planned Parenthood’s announced effort to spend $20 million dollars in an attempt to keep politicians in office who will force taxpayers to continue to give the abortion Goliath more than half-a-billion dollars annually,” said SFLA’s Kristan Hawkins. We don’t need Planned Parenthood, but with fewer women choosing them all the time, they sure need our money.”
SFLA doesn't have $20 million to throw around, but the pro-life movement has the truth, compassion, and the courage that comes with knowing we are on the right side of history. I'll take that over blood money any day.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Major pro-life rally March 20 on the steps of the Supreme Court

If you live in the D.C. area or are able to travel there, we strongly encourage you to rally outside the Supreme Court on March 20 as the Justices hear arguments in NIFLA v. Becerra. The rally will officially begin at 9:00 a.m., but the abortion industry is sending protesters, so you'll want to arrive early to secure a good location.

NIFLA (the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates) has sued California Attorney General Becerra to challenge a law that requires pro-life pregnancy resource centers and clinics in California to post signage in their waiting rooms advertising taxpayer-funded abortion. A webcast held last week described the case in significant detail. For those who can't listen, here are the key themes:

The abortion industry does not need free advertising, least of all from pregnancy centers. Several pregnancy care workers spoke on the webcast and expressed serious concern about the impact the law would have on their patients. Why on earth should pregnancy clinics make a referral for a medical procedure before the woman has even had a chance to speak with a nurse? And what message does such a sign convey to the woman sitting in the pregnancy center lobby who is already under significant pressure to abort? For that matter, the legally mandated signs promote abortion to women who haven't even have confirmed their pregnancies yet!

NIFLA attorneys liken the law to forcing Alcoholics Anonymous to serve cocktails, or demanding that the American Lung Association promote cigarettes. It's ridiculous, and a clear violation of the First Amendment. An adverse ruling would seriously undermine freedom of speech, not only for pro-lifers, but for all Americans.

For that very reason, pro-life leaders are optimistic about NIFLA's chances. One attorney noted that NIFLA not only expects to win, but hopes for a unanimous verdict in its favor. That's not crazy; although five Justices are pro-abortion, they do hold principled views on the First Amendment. In the controversial 2012 case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, all nine Justices ruled in favor of the church's position that its decision to fire a teacher was protected by freedom of religion, despite the teacher's claim that the real motive was disability discrimination. (Disclosure: one of my law professors argued Hosanna-Tabor.) And in 2011, the Court ruled 8-1 that Westboro Baptist Church, of "God hates fags" fame, has a First Amendment right to picket military funerals.

Ultimately, this is about money. As the abortion rate plummets, abortion businesses are desperate for customers. Pregnancy centers are a direct competitor, and thus a prime target. As Abby Johnson put it: "If you weren't making a difference, you wouldn't be going to court." The Supreme Court should reject California's cynical and unconstitutional attempt to make pro-lifers prop up the dying industry of death.

Again, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in NIFLA v. Becerra on March 20, and the pro-life presence outside the Court will begin early in the morning. A final decision from the Court is expected in June.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Perpetual March for Life?

The March for Life recently announced that the 2019 event will be held on Friday, January 18. At the end of the announcement email, March for Life president Jeanne Mancini wrote: "And please save the date to join us in 2019, so that one day soon, we no longer have to march."

It's a common sentiment. Every January, I hear people say that they hope to never march again. The implied hope is that this will be the year Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

I too fervently hope that Roe v. Wade will soon be overturned... and I also very much hope to participate in the March for Life every January between now and my death. 

I mean no disrespect to Jeanne, of course, and I admire her commitment to putting herself out of a job. Perhaps I'm just being my unnecessarily contrarian self, but hear me out. The reversal of Roe v. Wade should not cause the March for Life to end. There are at least three excellent reasons to keep the March going in perpetuity:

1. To restore the right to life everywhere. The reversal of Roe v. Wade could result in immediate restoration of the right to life, if the Court holds that unborn children are Constitutional persons entitled to equal protection of the law. But the more likely path for reversal is that the Court will simply allow each state to enact its own laws on abortion. This would be a huge victory and save many lives in pro-life states—but woe to the child with the bad luck to be conceived in New York or California. Nationwide, you can be sure that the abortion industry will push to remake the Court and reverse the reversal. The pro-life movement's work must continue. The March for Life is, and will remain, a critical networking tool for a nationwide cause. 

Moreover, why should we limit our concern to the United States? Sure, it makes strategic sense to start close to home, but our success here should not be the end of the story. It should be a springboard to protect preborn children throughout the world. The March for Life could refocus in that direction.

2. To support mothers in need. After Roe v. Wade is reversed, women will need the pro-life network of pregnancy support more than ever before. Continued pro-life enthusiasm after Roe's reversal will be necessary to bolster that network. Pregnancy resource centers, adoption programs, and the like all benefit from an annual gathering. And I haven't even mentioned the March for Life's role in post-abortion healing.

3. To memorialize the victims. Suppose abortion ended tonight, completely, totally, everywhere in the world. The death toll is already in the hundreds of millions—over 60 million in the United States alone. We must never forget those children. The political environment may one day allow for a permanent physical memorial in Washington, D.C., but I think a living memorial of pro-life marchers is more fitting.

I'll see you on January 18.