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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"May your character be so solid..."

I've not previously commented about this, in the interest of not giving attention to ideas that do not deserve it, but now that it has become a news story I feel compelled to speak out.

The pro-life, pro-woman organization New Wave Feminists (NWF) was founded by Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, and for a long time, her second-in-command was a woman named Kristen Hatten. Around the time President Trump took office, Kristen had a sudden change of philosophy and adopted alt right, "ethnonationalist" ideas... crudely expressed in the form of disturbing, racist memes which I will not link to here. Destiny immediately removed Kristen from NWF and brought on Cessilye Smith (who is black) as her new co-leader.

In other words, Destiny did everything right, and as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished. Destiny's punishment arrived yesterday in the form of a venomous Huffington Post article, which—despite being about a pro-life organization's rejection of racism—takes every opportunity to falsely portray pro-lifers and racists as natural allies. It contains such gems as: "throughout the history of the abortion wars, a great deal of violent energy has been generated at the confluence of anti-abortion activism and white supremacy," "the movements share heroes," and "the kinship isn’t hard to understand: both are movements of the status quo, dedicated to preserving a white patriarchal order."

(Yes, you read that right. The pro-life movement, whose raison d'ĂȘtre is the reversal of a 45-year-old Supreme Court decision, wants to preserve the status quo. Whatever you say, HuffPo.)

It's a depressing read with an accusatory subtext: that NWF (and, by extension, pro-life advocates in general) cynically distanced itself from Kristen for purely optical reasons. As opposed to, you know, because we value people of color.

I would like to turn this around into something positive. People of color, like all people, are valuable first and foremost because human beings have inherent worth. But allow me to also shed some light on the valuable accomplishments of pro-life people of color—because Secular Pro-Life would look a lot different without them.

The #HelloHyde campaign? That was led by women of color. Our 2017 Students for Life of America conference presentation? Yup. Our upcoming project that launches in June—I'm not at liberty to discuss it yet, but you're going to love it—brings back the #HelloHyde volunteers plus many more.

At the foundation, I don't think I would have become a pro-life activist at all if not for the support I received from people of color. I got involved in the pro-life movement as a college student, attending the University of Miami—where the overwhelming majority of the pro-life student organization was Latinx. If they hadn't been there, who knows? I could have dedicated my time to some other club and Secular Pro-Life wouldn't even exist.

I'm just speaking from my own experience, of course, and I don't want you to come away with the impression that racial diversity in the pro-life movement is somehow new. People of color have made substantial contributions to the cause from the beginning. What I would give for Hollywood to make a Mildred Jefferson biopic!

I don't really know how to end this article, so I'll close with some good advice by Cessilye Smith of New Wave Feminists:

"May your character be so solid, that people would never think that your silence is low key acceptance of something evil."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Secular Pro-Life has applied for 501(c)3 status

This is a transcript for a live video which was posted to our facebook page on Sunday.

Hi, everybody, it's Kelsey Hazzard, the President of Secular Pro-Life, and as you can tell by the title of this video, I'm not going to make it a big surprise or anything, we've applied for 501(c)3 status and I just wanted to talk a little bit about the history and why it is that we're doing it so you can be fully informed.

Secular Pro-Life was actually, we've been around for almost ten years now. We got started in January of 2009, so we are coming up on our 10 year anniversary. And this whole time we have not had any special tax status with the IRS. We have been incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in the state of Florida, which is where I live, and obviously that comes with responsibilities to manage your donations wisely. But we haven't gone that next step of getting the 501(c)3 status.

The main reason for that was that we've traditionally relied on donors who are gonna give no matter what, who are just so invested in our mission, and a lot of our donors are young adults who are kind of just getting started in life and take the standard deduction. So offering that tax deductibility for your donations didn't really matter to most of our donors.

But as we've gotten bigger and as we've developed as an organization, we started considering the 501(c)3 tax status and we put up a poll on facebook a while ago asking you all, would it make a difference if we were a 501(c)3? And about half of you said yes. And in the comments, the feedback that we got for that was, a lot of you said it wasn't so much about the tax deduction as it was about the status itself and the legitimacy that brings and the transparency you get with the annual form and that kind of thing, for the financials. And again, just to be clear, we have had that legal responsibility from the beginning to use your donations wisely and we've obviously abided by that, but people wanted that additional transparency and thought that that would be valuable, and we agree.

So we have gone ahead and submitted our application for 501(c)3 status! And we should hear back, the IRS says it's on average 90 days, so we hope to hear back soon. In the meantime, the way it works is that once the status is conferred, it's retroactive. So if you were to make a donation today, and then we get the tax-deductible status, your earlier donation would become tax-deductible. So that's how that operates, and yeah, we should hear back pretty soon. I don't expect any... obviously there are no guarantees but I don't expect any issues with our application. It's a pretty straightforward process.

I really want to thank you guys for your support, and if you do feel it in your heart to make a donation, you can do that on our website; it's just secularprolife.org/donate. And again, thank you all so very much and we look forward to continuing to our cause in the future. Bye!


Monday, April 16, 2018

No, defunding Planned Parenthood did not make maternal mortality skyrocket in Texas


In 2011, Texas redirected taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood to federally qualified health centers and other comprehensive healthcare providers. The next year, maternal mortality in Texas allegedly skyrocketed. Pro-lifers were immediately blamed. Planned Parenthood funding had been saving lives! Post hoc, ergo propter hoc!

That explanation was unsatisfying, because Planned Parenthood doesn't offer birth care. Nor would Planned Parenthood's provision of contraceptives explain it; FQHCs offer contraception too, and besides, the maternal mortality rate is calculated per 100,000 births, so it should be unaffected by changes to the pregnancy rate and birth rate.

So what was causing more Texas mothers to die? And what could the pro-life movement do to prevent these deaths?

Nothing — because in fact, the maternal mortality spike was an illusion. The Washington Post reports:
For the past few years, Texas’s maternal mortality rate was so high it seemed unbelievable.
As it turns out, according to a study released this week it was, indeed, not to be believed.
This week, the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force released a study in Obstetrics & Gynecology that found the maternal morbidity figures from 2012 — which had Texas mothers dying at rates that shocked experts and the public — were based on sloppy and erroneous data collection.
So sloppy, in fact, that more than half of the deaths that were recorded as pregnancy-related that year were recorded that way in error.
Specifically, the phantom mortality increase arose from changes to Texas death certificates, which resulted in more coroners incorrectly checking a box to indicate pregnancy-related death.

A recently published report combed through this data and determined that "after all of the data-collection errors were excluded, Texas’s 2012 maternal mortality rate was corrected from 38.4 deaths per 100,000 live births to 14.6 per 100,000 live births." That's considerably lower than the current (2015) national average of 26.4 deaths per 100,000 births. Put another way, not only did Planned Parenthood defunding not cause a spike in maternal mortality, it's actually safer to give birth in Texas than it is to give birth in the United States as a whole.

To be clear, even one pregnancy-related death is too many. None of this takes anything away from the fantastic pro-life initiatives, like Abide, that are working hard to improve the health of Texas mothers and babies. And as the Washington Post points out, the United States has a long way to go before it matches the maternal mortality rates of other developed countries.

Friday, April 13, 2018

#ProtestPP returns on April 28


"Today, we're going on the offense."

That's what Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens told the media just a few weeks ago. She went on to declare, "We're pushing for efforts in all 50 states."

More than ever, we must push back against the nation's largest abortion chain. There have been positive signs; the abortion rate is at a record low, and just this week, the state of Tennessee turned off its spigot of taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood. But the organization remains flush with cash, and is investing it to expand abortion. It has its eyes on the midterm elections, where it hopes to use Trump's unpopularity to oust pro-life politicians at all levels of government.

In light of these challenges, #ProtestPP organizers have announced the third annual event, to take place at Planned Parenthood locations across the country on Saturday, April 28. A full list of locations can be found here. The nature of the event varies by location; some will be religious prayer vigils, while others will be of a secular nature (rallies, pickets, etc.).

We strongly encourage you to participate, and send us pictures of your most creative protest signs! Above all, remember to stay safe and protect those around you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Celebrating Human Dignity Through Art

Last year, our friends at Rehumanize International launched Create|Encounter, an art and creative writing contest for works that explore life-related themes and elevate the inherent value of every human being. Winners were exhibited at the October Life/Peace/Justice Conference in Pittsburgh.

Rehumanize International just put all of the winning pieces and honorable mentions online, and they are definitely worth your time. Bias alert: an excerpt from my screenplay, Only Human, is included (or you can get the pdf version here). But don't limit yourself to that! There are many works to explore, including some truly beautiful poetry.

In more good news, Create|Encounter is officially coming back in 2018! Get those creative juices flowing, because the call for submissions will open on May 1, just three weeks from today.

And finally, the dates for the 2018 Life/Peace/Justice conference have been announced. It will take place from Friday, October 12 to Sunday, October 14, again in Pittsburgh. Save the date now, and tickets will go on sale in June.

One of my personal favorites, by Maria Oswalt.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Study confirms safety, efficacy of abortion pill reversal

A peer-reviewed study published in Issues in Law and Medicine confirms that the abortion pill reversal protocol can, when administered promptly, block the effects of a chemical abortion and allow children to grow to term.

A little background. "The abortion pill" is a misnomer. Chemical abortions actually consist of two medications. The first, mifepristone, blocks the crucial pregnancy hormone progesterone. Without adequate progesterone, the endometrium breaks down and the embryo's nutrient supply is destroyed, which causes the embryo to detach and die. The second, misoprostol, expels the embryo's body. The abortion pill reversal protocol is used when a woman takes the first pill, then changes her mind. The reversal technique involves the administration of extra, synthetic progesterone to supplement the woman's natural progesterone and overwhelm the anti-progesterone effect of the mifepristone.

As we've pointed out before, synthetic progesterone has been around for a long time and is a standard treatment for low progesterone in pregnant mothers. The fact that a woman's low progesterone is caused by mifepristone, rather than by some internal cause, does not change the mechanics of the treatment. The abortion pill reversal protocol has been portrayed as "experimental," when it's really just an application of existing treatments to a relatively new situation. (Chemical abortion was not approved in the United States until 2000; the reversal protocol was launched in 2009.)

Therefore, the results of the Issues in Law and Medicine study do not come as a surprise for anyone who's been paying close attention. However, there are two aspects of it that deserve special notice.

First, it should forever put to rest the pro-abortion argument that mifepristone is usually ineffective on its own (with the second pill, misoprostol, apparently doing the real work), so the reversal protocol amounts to a placebo. I've always found "we're selling women a pill that doesn't actually do anything" to be a questionable defense, but setting aside the ethics of it, it's factually wrong. Previous studies found that without any intervention—that is, if a woman changes her mind and doesn't take the second pill, but doesn't seek any help for the first pill she's already taken—the embryo only survives 25% of the time. But with the abortion pill reversal intervention, administered less than 72 hours after the mifepristone was taken, survival rates are nearly twice that at 48%. The abortion pill reversal protocol is significantly more effective when given orally at a high dose (68%) or intramuscularly (64-100% depending on dosage); vaginal administration of progesterone was considerably less effective, bringing down the overall average, and I expect it will not be used going forward based on this study. The age of the embryo also made a difference, with older embryos being much more likely to survive than younger ones.

Second, the study found no evidence that the abortion pill reversal protocol creates any risk to the child. The birth defects rate for children born after an abortion pill reversal was no different than the general population. They were also far less likely to be born prematurely, perhaps a side effect of more careful medical monitoring than the average mother receives in pregnancy.

In response, Slate's Ruth Graham wrote an article acknowledging the safety and efficacy of the abortion pill reversal protocol, but nevertheless expressing skepticism. The article was titled "Abortion Reversal Seems Possible. We Still Shouldn't Promote It." Graham has written about Secular Pro-Life before and I found her to be fair; I suspect that the headline came from an editor, not from Graham herself. Still, this article is disappointing. She writes:
Regardless of whether abortion-pill reversal works, it’s important to note that the percentage of women who regret a medication abortion halfway through is decidedly tiny. [The abortion pill reversal] hotline received 1,668 calls between June 2012 and June 2016 ... Meanwhile, medication abortions now make up almost half of all abortions in the United States, according to a Reuters analysis in 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest count, 123,254 women underwent the procedure in 43 states in 2014—a very conservative estimate, since large states including California and Illinois didn’t report their numbers ... Even going with these incomplete numbers, the number of women who regret their medication abortion halfway through clocks in at just 0.3 percent, with fewer than half asking for the reversal.
She misses the obvious point—women can't request a treatment they don't know about! Pro-life organizations have promoted the protocol with word of mouth and an online presence, but it's not like we have multi-million-dollar advertising budgets. Of those who do know about it, many have likely been dissuaded by the years of false accusations that the protocol is "experimental" or no better than doing nothing (including a recent billboard campaign). Only four states currently require disclosures about the abortion pill reversal protocol as part of their informed consent laws, and those four states account for just 2.1% of abortions in the United States.* Graham's argument becomes circular: few women make use of this, therefore we shouldn't promote it, therefore few women will make use of it, therefore we shouldn't promote it...

She also writes that "the goal when administering the abortion pill should be to make sure patients feel fully confident in the decision, rather than telling them they can always undo it later if they change their mind." Dave Andrusko of the National Right to Life Committee pilloried this quote in particular, saying: "You have to keep the abortion train rolling. Don't tell a woman she could have a second chance. She might take it!" His interpretation is valid, but interestingly, I've heard sidewalk counselors express a similar sentiment: that they don't talk about abortion pill reversal (or other post-abortion resources) on a woman's way into an abortion facility, but only as she is leaving.

The ideal outcome is for a woman not to take the mifepristone at all, and suggesting that she "can always undo it" might make her more cavalier about the decision. I am thankful for the abortion pill reversal protocol and applaud the pro-life medical professionals who have developed and promoted it. But as effective as it is, it does not save the child's life 100% of the time. It is only one tool in our toolbox.

If you are pregnant and have taken the first pill of the chemical abortion regimen, call the Abortion Pill Reversal hotline right away at 877-558-0333.


*Graham's article refers to ten states which have introduced such laws, but according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, only four have actually implemented them: Arizona, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Utah. Those states had a combined total of 20,880 abortions in 2014 (AZ 12,780/1.2%; AK 4,590/0.5%; SD 550/0.1%; UT 2,960/0.3%). 2014 is the most recent year for which complete Guttmacher data is available. Note that many of those 20,880 abortions were presumably surgical, not chemical, making the reversal protocol inapplicable; unfortunately, I could not find that data at the state level.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Making Trouble on Cecile Richards' Book Tour

Cecile Richards recently came out with a ghostwritten memoir, Make Trouble, that glamorizes her role at the helm of the nation's largest abortion chain, Planned Parenthood. Pro-life advocates are peacefully protesting outside every stop on her book tour to ensure that her faux feminist narrative does not go unchallenged.

Students for Life of America volunteers are distributing an excellent pamphlet, "Getting Into Trouble," that summarizes Planned Parenthood scandals you won't find in the book—including Medicaid fraud in Texas ("Charging taxpayers for contraceptives for patients who were already sterilized seemed like a good idea at the time"), Planned Parenthood's support of disability-based and race-based abortions, and the precipitous drop in prenatal care services during Richards' tenure.

At her Washington, D.C. stop, Richards was also greeted with tongue-in-cheek references to Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble."


This Wednesday, Richards' book tour takes her to San Francisco, where Pro-Life San Francisco (led by SPL's own Terrisa Bukovinac) will rally in opposition outside the Norse Theater beginning at 7:00 p.m. local time.

The remaining stops on the book tour are:
  • Tonight, April 9: University of Washington bookstore, 1415 NE 43rd, Seattle, WA at 7:00 p.m.
  • April 10: Powell's Books, 1300 SE Stark Street, Portland, OR at 7:30 p.m.
  • April 11: San Francisco, described above
  • April 12: Dominican University Angelico Hall, 50 Acacia Way, San Rafael, CA at 7:00 p.m.
  • April 13: First Congregational Church, 540 South Commonwealth Ave., Los Angeles, CA at 7:00 p.m.
  • April 14: Nicholas Senn High School, 5900 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL at 4:00 p.m.
  • April 15: McIntyre's Books, 220 Market Street, Pittsboro, NC at 2:00 p.m.
  • April 21: Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington, NY at 3:00 p.m. 
  • April 22: Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, 177 College St., New Haven, CT at 2:00 p.m.
  • April 23: Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, 10 East 66th St., New York City, NY at 7:00 p.m.
  • May 9: Parnassus Books, 2400 Blakemore Ave., Nashville, TN at 6:30 p.m.
  • May 22: Chappaqua Public Library, 195 S. Greeley Ave., Chappaqua, NY at 7:00 p.m. 
We encourage pro-life advocates in each of those regions to peacefully protest those locations in memory of the more than 3.5 million lives snuffed out by Planned Parenthood during Richards' term as its CEO.

Richards announced her resignation from Planned Parenthood in January, but her replacement has not yet been named. Former Texas legislator Wendy Davis, infamous for her unsuccessful filibuster of abortion safety regulations, is rumored to be in the running.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Three Excellent Reasons Not to Execute Women Who Have Abortions

The Atlantic recently hired, and then promptly fired, conservative columnist Kevin Williamson due to outrage over his position that abortion should not only be illegal, but a capital offense.

Having been a pro-life activist for over a decade now, I can state authoritatively that Williamson's view is fringe. After all, the pro-life movement is driven in significant part by post-abortive women who learned the hard way that abortion is not "empowering" and want to help others avoid the same mistakes.
Kevin Williamson

That being the case, a number of commentators have responded to the Williamson fiasco with accusations that pro-lifers who disagree with Williamson about the penalty for abortion are hypocrites. If we really believe abortion kills innocent human beings, shouldn't we want abortion to be treated like any other homicide, with the death penalty on the table?

No, for at least three reasons. (If you, like me and many others in the pro-life movement, oppose the death penalty in general, that gives you a fourth reason. However, Secular Pro-Life welcomes people with differing views on capital punishment.)

1. Abortion coercion is common, and poorly understood. Hard numbers are unfortunately difficult to come by. A much-cited report by pro-life researchers found that 64% of abortions involve outside pressure, ranging from violence or the threat of violence to blackmail, illegal workplace discrimination, kicking women out of the house, and other coercive tactics. Researchers affiliated with the abortion industry have little incentive to devote resources to the question, but have nevertheless observed and reported the phenomenon in connection with studies of intimate partner violence.

A woman who has experienced a coerced abortion is a victim, not a perpetrator. She certainly isn't deserving of execution!

While it's true that criminal defendants can assert duress as a defense, that is an uncommon scenario—and many states have disallowed duress as a defense in homicide cases. I can think of no other crime in which duress may occur more than half the time. Our system of criminal justice is simply not equipped to handle that.

(A common pro-choice retort is that pro-life concerns about coerced abortion amount to "infantilizing women." If that's you, I humbly suggest, on behalf of all my strong and intelligent friends who've experienced domestic abuse, that you can go embrace a cactus.)

2. Intent is a key element of homicide, and the abortion industry has heavily invested in propaganda to make people believe abortion is harmless. Imagine if eating meat was not only criminalized overnight, but made a capital crime! Even strong animal rights supporters (of which there are many in the pro-life movement) would oppose that as being wildly unfair. Likewise, bringing abortion within homicide law would not do justice. Despite our best efforts, many women still enter the abortion facility believing that abortion destroys mere "tissue." Abortionists are often deceptive, and 21 states don't even have informed consent laws.

Again, this is not about infantilizing women. Everyone, no matter their gender, is entitled to trust the guidance of their doctors—and should not be subject to criminal prosecution when they follow the bad advice of an unscrupulous doctor.

3. Resources are better spent focusing on abortionists. For the same reason that we should prosecute pimps rather than prostitutes, and drug kingpins rather than low-level dealers and addicts, law enforcement efforts to end the abortion epidemic should focus on suppliers. An abortion customer ends one life; an abortion vendor ends thousands, and does so with the full knowledge that abortion is the killing of a living human being.

For all of these reasons and others, women were not jailed for abortion (let alone sentenced to death!) in the years before Roe v. Wade. After Roe is reversed and the right to life is restored, I am confident that Mr. Williamson's ideas will still have no traction.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

TODAY: Rally against California SB320

At 11:00 a.m. Pacific time, pro-life advocates will rally outside the Office of the President at UC Berkeley (1111 Franklin St., Oakland, CA) in opposition to California SB 320. This disastrous bill would turn campus health centers into chemical abortion facilities. You can read more about SB 320 here.

Our very own Terrisa Bukovinac (right), who is also the head of Pro-Life San Francisco, will speak at the rally. Come join us! You can also follow the rally on twitter using the hashtag #StopSB320.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

What publications do you want to see from us?

Secular Pro-Life is the process up updating our publications—including our flagship pamphlet, Why Should Non-Christians Care About Abortion? In addition, we're giving some thought to adding publications on new topics, like bodily autonomy, pro-life feminism, and the "Abortion Religion."

What topics would be most helpful to you? Do you have a favorite blog post that you'd love to have in pamphlet form? Let us know in the comments!

And if you happen to have graphic design skills and would like to volunteer your services, please shoot us an email at info@secularprolife.org with the subject line "Literature Design."

Monday, April 2, 2018

Film Review: Pro-Life Feminist

Pro-Life Feminist is a 30-minute documentary film that has been out for a few months now, but better late than never! This film beautifully integrates interviews of three of my favorite people—Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa (New Wave Feminists), Aimee Murphy (Rehumanize International) and Christina Marie Bennett (various organizations)—with historical footage from the time of Roe v. Wade, along with modern-day headlines and scenes from the Pro-Life Women's Conference, the March for Life, and the Women's March.

This film is less about pro-life feminist arguments (although they are included) and more about getting to know pro-life feminists as people. Granted, I know the three main subjects of the film personally; I'm biased. But showing where pro-life feminists are coming from—all three have relevant personal histories that color their perspective—might be our best hope for shattering the stereotypes that have held the pro-life movement back. Sometimes, we must humanize ourselves before we can humanize children in the womb.

Pro-Life Feminist is incredibly wide-ranging. Topics of discussion include everything from sexual assault, to the intersection of abortion and race, to pro-choice lawyers' exploitation of the plaintiffs in Roe and Doe, to "bro-choice" objectification, to the strong women who inspire us, and so much more. And yet the narrative flows smoothly. The cinematography is gorgeous, too.

I happen to know the religious affiliations of all three women profiled, but you won't. Other than a fleeting mention of prayer that gives Christina away, there's nothing to indicate anyone's religious leanings, let alone any proselytizing.

I truly cannot say enough good things about this film. You can rent or own it on demand through Vimeo, or get a physical copy on Blu-Ray. Public screening kits are also available; this would be a great documentary for student audiences in particular. Check it out at LifeFem.com.