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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

"The people want Roe to stay."


Polls asking about support for Roe v. Wade

Polls about Roe v. Wade consistently find that a strong majority of Americans don't want Roe overturned. Examples:

About seven-in-ten Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, Pew Research, January 3, 2017. "Would you like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe v. Wade decision, or not?" 69% answered "No, do not overturn."

Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Want Roe v. Wade to Stand, Gallup, July 12, 2018. "Would you like to see the Supreme Court overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision concerning abortion, or not?" 64% answered "No, not overturn."

Support for Roe v. Wade hits new high, NBC, July 23, 2018. "Should Roe v. Wade be overturned?" 71% answered "No, do not overturn."


Polls asking about the time frame in which abortion should be legal.

Polls that ask about when abortion should be legal (e.g. by trimester or more specific gestational age) find that most Americans--including most people who call themselves pro-choice--increasingly oppose abortion as the pregnancy goes on. Examples:

Americans' Opinion on Abortion, Marist, January 2018

"Which comes closest to your opinion on abortion: (1) Available to a woman any time during her entire pregnancy, (2) only during the first six months of pregnancy, (3) only during the first three months of pregnancy, (4) only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, (5) only to save the life of the mother, (6) should never be permitted under any circumstances."
  • 11% of Americans said abortion should be available only during the first six months of pregnancy (including 19% of people who identified as pro-choice)
  • 12% of Americans said abortion should be available anytime during the pregnancy (including 21% of people who identified as pro-choice)
  • In other words, only 23% of Americans (including 40% of pro-choice people) chose options that allowed abortion after the first trimester.
Millennials have a surprising view on later-term abortions, Washington Post, January 31, 2018

"If a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy were enacted in the state in which you live, would you support or oppose that policy?"
  • Americans were exactly split, with 46% saying they'd oppose and 46% saying they'd support.
  • 36% of Democrats, 45% of Independents, and 56% of Republicans said they'd support the ban.
  • Strangely, every age demographic was more likely to support than oppose the ban except those aged 65 and older.
Americans' Support For Abortion Rights Wanes As Pregnancy Progresses, NPR, June 13, 2018
"Gallup finds that 60 percent of Americans believe abortion generally should be legal during the first three months of pregnancy, known as the first trimester. That support drops by more than half, to 28 percent, once a pregnancy reaches the second trimester; it falls to 13 percent in the third trimester, at which point the fetus is often viable with medical support."
Polls asking about the circumstances under which abortion should be legal.

And polls that ask about why abortion should be legal (e.g. for rape, life of the mother, fetal abnormalities, socioeconomic reasons) find that most Americans think abortion should be legal only for the most dire of reasons, i.e. if the woman was raped or if the pregnancy threatens her life. But those situations constitute less than 5% of all abortions, meaning people think nearly all instances of abortion today should be illegal.

The State of Abortion in the United States, National Right to Life, January 2014

“Which of the following statements most closely describes your own position on the issue of abortion: (1) Abortion should be prohibited in all circumstances; (2) Abortion should be legal only to save the life of the mother; (3) Abortion should be legal only in cases of rape or incest, and to save the life of the mother; (4) Abortion should be legal for any reason, but not after the first three months of pregnancy; (5) Abortion should be legal for any reason, but not after the first six months of pregnancy; or (6) Abortion should be legal for any reason at any time during a woman’s pregnancy.”
  • 53% said abortion should be illegal either (a) in all circumstances, (b) all circumstances except to save the life of the mother, or (c) all circumstances except cases of rape and to save the life of the mother
  • 42% said abortion should be legal for any reason either (a) any time during a woman's pregnancy, (b) only in the first six months, or (c) only in the first three months (only 22% of Americans thought abortion should be legal for any reason after the first three months.)
Americans' Opinion on Abortion, Marist, January 2018

"Which comes closest to your opinion on abortion: (1) Available to a woman any time during her entire pregnancy, (2) only during the first six months of pregnancy, (3) only during the first three months of pregnancy, (4) only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, (5) only to save the life of the mother, (6) should never be permitted under any circumstances."
  • 50% of Americans said abortion should either (a) never be permitted, (b) be permitted only to save the life of the mother, or (c) be permitted only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
  • When broken down by "pro-life" vs "pro-choice" labels, the same poll found 88% of pro-life people and 19% of pro-choice people held those more restrictive views.
Trimesters Still Key to U.S. Abortion Views, Gallup, June 13, 2018

  • 83% of Americans think abortion should be legal in the 1st trimester if the woman's life is endangers; 75% say the same for 3rd trimester
  • 77% think abortion should be legal in the 1st trimester if the pregnancy was caused by rape; 52% say the same for 3rd trimester
  • Only 45% think abortion should be legal in the 1st trimester for any reason; 20% say the same for 3rd trimester

Republicans divided over abortion, The Hill, September 6, 2018

"Which comes closest to your views: (1) Abortion should be illegal under all circumstances, (2) abortion should be legal in limited circumstances such as rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother, (3) abortion should be legal under most circumstances until the point of viability (start of the 3rd trimester), or (4) abortion should be legal under all circumstances."
  • 55% of Americans said abortion should be either illegal in all circumstances or legal in limited circumstances such as rape and to save the life of the mother.
  • When broken down by demographics, the poll found that 44% of Democrats, 51% of Independents, 57% of Millennials, and 71% of Republicans held those more restrictive views.
These poll results are incompatible.

When asked about trimesters, most Americans think abortion should be illegal after the first trimester, which ends at about 13 weeks gestation. Yet when asked about a ban on abortion at 20 weeks (almost 2 months into the 2nd trimester), Americans are evenly split on whether they'd support or oppose such a ban. This implies a large group of Americans think abortion should be illegal after 13 weeks but also oppose a ban at 20 weeks.

More importantly, when asked about Roe v. Wade most Americans want the case upheld. Yet simultaneously most Americans think abortion should be illegal after the first trimester and about half think it should be illegal outside of the hard cases of rape or life of the mother. This implies many Americans want Roe v. Wade upheld but also want abortion restrictions that Roe v. Wade makes impossible.

Roe means abortion can't be restricted to the first trimester (through the first 13 weeks). It enforces the right to elective abortion until at least viability--that is, Roe protects abortions for non-medical reasons until at least 23 weeks into the pregnancy. Read for yourself:
For the period of pregnancy prior to this "compelling" point, the attending physician, in consultation with his patient, is free to determine, without regulation by the State, that, in his medical judgment, the patient's pregnancy should be terminated. If that decision is reached, the judgment may be effectuated by an abortion free of interference by the State. 
With respect to the State's important and legitimate interest in potential life, the "compelling" point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother's womb. State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications. If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion [410 U.S. 113, 164] during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.
That last line is crucial because of the way the Supreme Court defined "health of the mother." On the same day Roe v. Wade was decided, SCOTUS also ruled in Roe's companion case, Doe v. Bolton. In Doe, SCOTUS defined health as:
All factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the wellbeing of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.
This broad definition of "health" means post-viability abortion is legal even when both mother and fetus are physically healthy, as long as the physician asserts the abortion is necessary for the woman's emotional or psychological wellbeing. Such a wide loophole explains why most late-term abortions are elective. In other words, Roe makes it impossible to restrict abortion to only the limited circumstances of rape, incest, or life of the mother.

Americans want Roe upheld because they don't know what Roe is.

Polls asking about Roe v. Wade either don't describe the decision at all or describe it vaguely as "relating to abortion" or "establishing a right to an abortion." But Roe goes far beyond establishing a right to an abortion to establishing a right to non-medically necessary abortion at least through 5 1/2 months of pregnancy and in many cases even later.

Given roughly a third of Americans don't even know Roe relates to abortion at all, it's unlikely most people polled realize the extent to which Roe enforces extremely permissive abortion law. If people mistakenly believe overturning Roe would mean outlawing abortion in all circumstances, it makes sense that the same people who think abortion should be permitted in only the first trimester or only very limited circumstances would also answer that Roe should be upheld. It would be interesting to see a poll on Roe that described the decision as "establishing the right to elective abortion up to 5 1/2 months gestation." I doubt 7 in 10 Americans would support it.

Do you support bans on sex-selective abortions? Or bans on abortions for non-fatal conditions such as Down syndrome? Do you think selective reduction abortions (when a woman is pregnant with multiples but wants only one child) should be outlawed? Are you against the idea of the same women getting repeat abortions? Do you have a problem with elective abortion in the 3rd trimester? Then you should have a problem with Roe v. Wade.


Further reading:

What Do Americans Think About Abortion? Difficult Run, February 26, 2014
Nathaniel Givens explains the drawbacks of polls that ask only whether abortion should be legal, legal most of the time, illegal most of the time, or illegal; Givens further explains why polls are more informative when they ask under what circumstances abortion should be legal.

The Worst Poll Ever on the Roe v. Wade Decision, Townhall, August 14, 2018
Michael New explains why polling on Roe v. Wade is usually flawed because the polls fail to explain (1) the policy implications of Roe v. Wade and (2) the implications of reversing Roe v. Wade. In general people seem to think (1) Roe v. Wade merely establishes a right to abortion, rather than legalizing abortion-on-demand and making it difficult to restrict even late-term abortions and (2) if Roe v. Wade were overturned abortion would be banned, rather than abortion policy being left up to each state.

Hill.TV Conducts a Useful Survey on Americans' Abortion Views, National Review, September 14, 2018
Michael New goes over the results of The Hill poll (linked above) but also notes the bizarre way The Hill chose to frame those results.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Rehumanize Conference Ticket Giveaway!

We have three extra passes to the Rehumanize Conference, to be held Friday, October 12 through Sunday, October 14 in Pittsburgh!

If you want a chance to win a FREE three-day conference pass, tell us (either in the comments to this post or on our facebook page) how you first learned about Secular Pro-Life. At 10:00 p.m. EST, we'll pick three winners at random. Please note that this giveaway only includes the ticket itself and does not cover any travel costs.

Rehumanize Conference is always an awesome gathering. It brings together people from various movements for nonviolent change—including opposition to abortion, the death penalty, human trafficking, racism, nuclear weapons, and more—to learn from one another and advance our common goals. This year, Secular Pro-Life is involved in four different ways:
  1. SPL will have an exhibit booth, manned by SPL president Kelsey Hazzard and VP Terrisa Bukovinac, throughout the conference.
  2. Kelsey submitted a piece to the Create|Encounter art contest, which won first prize in the mixed media art installation category. You can view her piece, "Dilation & Evacuation," along with the other winners and honorable mentions at the Create|Encounter release party on the night of Friday, October 12. The artists, including Kelsey, will be available to answer questions about their works. 
  3. SPL will host a breakfast on the morning of Sunday, October 14, for secular folks to enjoy while religious conference attendees are at worship services. 
  4. On Sunday afternoon, Kelsey will co-host a discussion forum (with Rehumanize International's Herb Geraghty) on the topic of radical inclusivity. 
We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

SPL President to Speak at Yale in Ten Days

Secular Pro-Life President Kelsey Hazzard will speak at the Vita et Veritas conference at Yale University on Saturday, September 29 at 9:00 a.m. The title of her speech is Mystery Solved: When Human Life and Rights Begin.

Here's a sneak peek!

* * *

What do the Stoics, Jewish scholars, Aristotle, and modern-day physicians have in common?

The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade treated the Stoics, Jewish scholars, Aristotle, and modern-day physicians as equally valid, competing sources of wisdom on the question of when a human life begins. Let that sink in. In 1973, seven of the nine most powerful jurists in the United States turned a blind eye to the reality of life in the womb – and to justify it, they cited the opinions of people who lived hundreds, even thousands of years ago, people who did not have the benefit of the scientific method, let alone ultrasound technology.

This is what the Court said in Roe:
We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer. 
It should be sufficient to note briefly the wide divergence of thinking on this most sensitive and difficult question. There has always been strong support for the view that life does not begin until live birth. This was the belief of the Stoics. It appears to be the predominant, though not the unanimous, attitude of the Jewish faith.
And then the Court speaks about Protestantism for a bit, and about English common law, I’m going to skip ahead, pick up the quote again:
The Aristotelian theory of mediate animation, that held sway throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe, continued to be official Roman Catholic dogma until the 19th century, despite opposition to this ensoulment theory from those in the Church who would recognize the existence of life from the moment of conception. The latter is now, of course, the official belief of the Catholic Church. As one brief amicus discloses, this is a view strongly held by many non-Catholics as well, and by many physicians.
In a legal system with separation of church and state, and in a country that values policymaking based in reality, of that entire list, the only source worth mentioning is “many physicians.” That should have been dispositive. What do the physicians say? What do the scientists say? No offense to the Stoics, but their thoughts on prenatal development have no business guiding our laws today. Perhaps we should count ourselves lucky that the Supreme Court didn’t cite Spartan philosophy, which permitted infanticide.

 * * *

To hear the rest, register for Vita et Veritas!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Family of botched abortion victim files wrongful death suit

The mother and sister of Keisha Atkins, who died last year at the age of 23, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the notorious late-term abortion business Southwestern Women's Options (SWO). The University of New Mexico, which referred Atkins to SWO for an elective abortion at 24 weeks, is also named as a defendant, as is the pathologist who designated the botched abortion death as "natural."

According to Albuquerque news outlet KOB4:
The lawsuit states that Atkins went to SWO on February 1, 2017, for the abortion and claims SWO violated the New Mexico Unfair Trade Practices Act in its discharge orders that "instructed Keisha Atkins not to contact or consult any medical facility, hospital, doctor, emergency room or nurse outside of employees, agents and/or staff of the SWO clinic."
According to the lawsuit, Atkins returned to SWO on February 3, 2017 with a high fever and troubled breathing. Ten hours later, the suit claims doctors at SWO called for an ambulance to take Atkins to UNM Hospital where she later died. 
Also named in the lawsuit is Pathologist Dr. Lauren Dvorscak of the UNM Office of the Medical Investigator. The suit claims that Dvorscak conspired in a cover-up of Atkins' cause of death.
The suit says "Dr. Dvorscak wrote a report listing the cause of death as 'natural' due to pregnancy."
This is not the first time Southwestern Women's Options has botched an abortion. Far from it. SWO abortionist Shelley Sella -- lauded as a hero in the pro-abortion propaganda piece After Tiller -- has been disciplined for gross negligence in an abortion at 35 weeks that ruptured a woman's uterus, and ambulances have been called to SWO many times. In 2015, a former customer sued SWO for failing to disclose that her unborn child's body would be used for research. And the House Panel on Infant Lives has referred both SWO and the University of New Mexico for criminal investigation related to their roles in trafficking abortion victims' organs.

Time and time again, SWO has escaped justice. We hope the Atkins family's lawsuit will fare better, and that they succeed in finally shutting down this menace to women's health and babies' lives.

Friday, September 14, 2018

A mother with postpartum depression seeks advice


Every now and then, this blog hosts an informal pro-life advice column. Such is the case today. All identifying details of the advice-seeker have been changed, for reasons that will become apparent.

Anonymous: I joined an outpatient program for postpartum depression (PPD), which I'm attending with my infant. The problem is that the program takes place in the same building as a well-known abortion center.

Bringing my baby into a building that houses an abortion center gives me the creeps, frankly. It's not something I need to be dealing with while I'm already going through PPD with intrusive thoughts. However, the program is really good, and I think this is pretty much the only local option for intensive PPD therapy. I'd appreciate any thoughts you have on this.

I'm also hesitant to mention this as a problem to any of the staff there because they brought in a sex educator from a very pro-choice local clinic (she didn't talk about abortion, but I Googled the clinic) to talk to us and I'm not sure if they'll understand why this is such a problem. I'm also not sure how to express my problem without sounding like I'm being judgmental of others.

My response: Oh my gosh. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. 

Is it possible to participate via video chat? It couldn't hurt to ask... preferably in an email, and if anybody prods, you can cite vague "transportation issues."

But if you think you can handle it—and again, doing it via email rather than in person might help—I hope you can disclose the real reason, because you probably aren't the only one who's uncomfortable.

If you like, I can solicit more advice from the Secular Pro-Life community—with your name and location redacted, of course.

Anonymous: I'm not sure the video chat thing would work, because the group aspect is supposed to be an important part. There are also various staff members we see during the course of the day, so I don't know how video chatting with all of them would work. I'd love more advice from the SPL community. Thanks.

Which brings us to here: Have any of our readers experienced a similar issue? How did you handle it? What words of compassion and wisdom do you have for Anonymous?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Recap: Let There Be Life Conference 2018 at UC Berkeley

The Let There Be Life Conference co-hosted by Berkeley Students for Life and Pro-Life San Francisco was a smashing success. Not only did each speaker cover very different content, but the style of each speech was entirely different. There were speeches in the style of spoken word poetry, rigorous academic discussion, sermon*, humorous dialogue, rousing call to action, and many others. It was engaging and inspiring to see so many different types of people uniting to educate and empower one another to work against abortion.

But let me back up. Fellow SPL co-leader Ellen and I arrived at UC Berkeley around 7:30 am and set up the Secular Pro-Life table. I was impressed at how many pro-life groups tabled for this event. We were right next to the table for Abide Women’s Health and across from our buds Rehumanize International and of course Josh Brahm’s Equal Rights Institute, but there were many great groups all around. People came up to chat with us about SPL and grab a brochure, and we got to say hi to many pro-life friends from around the state and country who I rarely get to see in person. That’s always one of the best parts of making it to a pro-life conference.

After about an hour of breakfast and chatting, Terrisa used her iconic bullhorn to get the conference underway. Pro-Life San Francisco very thoughtfully had staff to keep an eye on the tables so the tabling people could go inside and watch all the talks. The morning speeches went like this:

A Unified, Diverse Pro-Life Movement
Elijah Thompson


Elijah started off the conference with a talk about “blooming where you’re planted” i.e. focusing on your strengths and your natural circles of influence.

Building a Pro-Life California
Terrisa Bukvinac & Karen Rose


Terrisa & Karen outlined a strategy for persuading more pro-choice Californians to consider the pro-life position. They especially emphasized unifying the diverse pro-life groups around our similarities and de-emphasizing our (many) differences.

The Most Persuasive Pro-Life Argument
Josh Brahm


Josh, in usual comedic style, illustrated how to engage pro-choice people in a non-threatening, convincing way through open-mindedness, clarifying questions, and respectful dialogue. He finished his talk by outlining the Equal Rights Argument, which his team has found very effective at helping people see the pro-life view.

Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths
Monica Snyder


Speaking probably a bit too quickly, I gave an overview of the data surrounding three commonly perpetrated pro-choice myths: (1) we don’t know when human life begins, (2) most late-term abortions are for medical reasons, and (3) pro-life laws don’t decrease abortions. (You can see the sources for the presentation here.)

Bad Words: How Our Words Dehumanize
Herb Geraghty


Herb gave a passionate, honest talk about the language society has historically used (and continues to use) to dehumanize and marginalize vulnerable groups before oppressing and often killing people in those groups. Sadly, even pro-lifers sometimes use dehumanizing language regarding certain topics, which can undermine our credibility when we say all humans have equal value. "Whether it’s the violence of war, torture, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, human trafficking -- all of these acts are perpetuated by dehumanizing language that makes the victim seem somehow 'subhuman.'" Check out this excellent graphic Rehumanize International created to illustrate the point.

Or The Culture Will Decline
Walter Hoye


In a talk almost like a sermon*, Walter cut deep to the truth with facts about the rapidly declining fertility rate of black Americans which threatens to eliminate black culture. He specifically addressed the staggering abortion rates among the black population, and the targeting of black people by the abortion industry.

*The content here was not that of a sermon; it was not about religion at all. But the style very much reminded me of a sermon with the speaker’s variable pace and the way he engaged the attendees.

After Walter's talk the conference stopped for lunch. Everyone stretched their legs and walked out to a beautiful warm day. We grabbed our sunglasses and sandwiches, chips, and cookies (included with the conference tickets) and Ellen and I continued tabling for Secular Pro-Life. Many attendees came up to congratulate us on SPL's talk, which they enjoyed very much, and to get copies of our 5 page source list. Several of the attendees said they appreciated the analytical approach, and shared that they too had backgrounds in STEM and so were partial to a more data-centered discussion. I'm always pretty happy to meet other STEM pro-lifers. It may be the first conference Ellen or I have attended where we talked a lot more about the research and not as much about religious diversity, although there were several of those discussions too. Either way everyone was friendly and encouraging, and we ended up giving away all but one of our copies of the source list. There was a lot of interest, which was pretty great.

In what seemed like no time, lunch was over and we were ready for the second half, which included the following talks:

Pro-Life When It Counts
Marie Stettler


Marie shared her story about her unexpected pregnancy, in which she made a hesitant decision to abort, tried to use abortion pill reversal to undo it, but ultimately lost her child. She has since become a nurse with Culture of Life Family Services, the same organization that had tried to help with the reversal. You can read more about her journey here.

Pro-Life and the Church
Amy Ford


Amy shared her own experiences with an unplanned teen pregnancy and emphasized the importance of the church being a safe place for pregnant women and girls.

Strange Fruit
Cessilye Smith

Image may contain: one or more people

Cessilye opened by darkening the room and showing Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit. Cessilye then spoke softly but poetically and movingly about the disproportionate struggles black women face with pregnancy and childbearing, all while a silent array of powerful photos of black women faded in and out to a darkened room.

Accelerating the End of Abortion
David Bereit


David gave a rousing speech about how even one person can make a huge difference in creating a culture of life and called on all of us to work together and coordinate our efforts.

Bringing Life to the Golden State
Catherine Glenn Foster


Catherine discussed the importance of voter education in California. She also talked about the need for unity amidst diversity in the movement (a recurring and excellent theme for the conference).

Don’t be an A**hole
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa


Destiny talked about building bridges with pro-choice feminists, explaining how treating people respectfully and being approachable makes it easier to work together, whereas being more aggressive and assertive has the opposite effect.

The Wild West Coast: PP Sells Baby Parts
David Daleiden


David showed us (1) the CMP video he took of Dr. Deborah Nucatola detailing how she surgically obtains and sells fetal organs for money, (2) documents explicitly listing prices for fetal organ costs separate from the already-listed cost reimbursements, and (3) advertisements from procurement companies explicitly highlighting the financial gains abortion clinics may realize if they sell late-term fetal organs and other tissues.

Despite David's dispassionate and informative demeanor, the presentation was horrifying and infuriating. It was interesting that the conference organizers chose to end on this note, as I think it left attendees feeling a strong sense of urgency to continue and expand their pro-life efforts.

Overall it was a phenomenal conference. It seemed like there were speakers to represent such a wide variety of pro-life people and I think a lot of people left feeling we are united, so I guess the conference organizers really hit the target theme. If you are able to go to a Pro-Life San Francisco event in the future, we recommend it. You can see more pics from this year's conference here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Pro-choice states have just as many unintended pregnancies, and far more abortions

If you're into a lot of graphs and number crunching, read on. If you're not, here's the bottom line: compared to pro-life states, pro-choice states have more insurance coverage of contraception yet have roughly the same rates of unintended pregnancies and much higher rates of abortion.

In early 2015 the Washington Post published the article "States that are more opposed to abortion rights have fewer abortions — but not fewer unintended pregnancies." Author Aaron Blake notes:
In fact, some of the states that oppose abortion the most also have some of the highest rates of unintended pregnancies -- particularly in the South. And on average, the states that favor abortion rights the most have slightly lower levels of unintended pregnancies.
Blake elaborates:
Mississippi, for instance, is the state that opposes abortion rights the most, according to Pew, with 64 percent generally opposing the procedure. It is also the state with the most unintended pregnancies, at 62 percent of all pregnancies, according to Guttmacher. After accounting for fetal loss, about two-thirds of those unintended pregnancies were brought to term.
By contrast, Massachusetts is one of the most pro-abortion-rights states, with just 28 percent of people opposing the procedure. But it's also on the low end as far as the percentage of unintended pregnancies (44 percent). Far fewer -- 43 percent -- of those pregnancies were brought to term.
In both his article's title and text Blake seems to imply a correlation between anti-abortion attitude and higher proportions of unintended pregnancies. This implication seems plausible because Blake focuses on only two data points among all 50 (51 if you count the District of Columbia). In fact if you plot the two states Blake highlights--Mississippi and Massachusetts--you get this graph:

So anti-abortion views mean more unintended pregnancies. The irony!


And yet the only time Blake addresses trends across the whole country, he admits:
On average in the 10 states that oppose abortion the most, 51 percent of pregnancies are unintended. In the top 10 states that most favor abortion rights, it's 50 percent. From here on I refer to states that oppose abortion as "pro-life states" and states that favor abortion rights as "pro-choice states."
In other words, the two groups hardly differ at all. Out of curiosity I dug up the numbers used to measure unintended pregnancy (from Guttmacher) and abortion opposition (from Pew Research Center). (I found slightly different data than the numbers Blake cites. I suspect we're drawing from Pew Research data sets in different years.) Instead of comparing only the 10 most pro-life states to the 10 most pro-choice states, I looked at all 50 states (and DC). Here's what it looks like when you don't cherry pick:

I guess reality was too boring for WaPo.

So when you look at the whole data set (instead of only Mississippi compared to Massachusetts, or only the top 10 pro-life states compared to the top 10 pro-choice ones), there appears to be no relationship at all between views on abortion and unintended pregnancy.

Note the above graphs look at the proportion of pregnancies that were unintended, not the proportion of women with unintended pregnancies (called the "unintended pregnancy rate"). However I checked that data too (it's available in the same Guttmacher link above), and when you compare abortion sentiment to unintended pregnancy rate, the result is basically the same, with an R^2 of 0.0011.

I found this lack of correlation interesting. Pro-choicers often claim the best way to decrease abortion is not through outlawing abortion but through better access to contraception. If that theory is true, I would expect the states most open to abortion to also have lower unintended pregnancy rates, because (1) pro-choice states are more left-leaning, (2) left-leaning states are more likely to support better access to contraception, and (3) better access to contraception is supposed to decrease unintended pregnancies and thus abortion rates.

And yet the above graphic suggests that pro-choice states have no lower unintended pregnancy rates than pro-life states. Why is that? A few possibilities jump to mind:
  1. Pro-choice states don't necessarily have better access to contraception than pro-life states.
  2. Pro-choice states do have better access to contraception, but that doesn't actually decrease unintended pregnancy rates (and thus abortion rates).
  3. Pro-choice states have better access to contraception, and better access does decrease unintended pregnancy rates, but some other factor in those states increases unintended pregnancy rates, thus cancelling the contraception effect.
I decided to dig a bit more. I used the same Guttmacher and Pew Research data linked above for unintended pregnancy info and state attitudes about abortion. To measure state access to contraception I used data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which outlines which states require coverage of prescription contraception, related outpatient services, and no cost contraception coverage. I also looked at data collected by the National Women's Law Center regarding which states have contraceptive equity laws (i.e. laws that require insurance plans to cover a full range of contraceptives for women). I assigned each state a contraception score by giving 1 point for each law or coverage requirement, with a maximum of 4 points.

Pro-choice states have more contraception access requirements. States with zero contraception coverage requirements had an average of 49% of their populations say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. States with 2 or 3 contraception coverage requirements had 41% and 38% say abortion should generally be illegal. And states with all 4 contraception coverage requirements had only 32% of their populations say abortion should be illegal all or most of the time.

States with more contraception access requirements don't see lower unintended pregnancy rates. I then averaged the unintended pregnancy rates for states based on their contraception score and it looked like this:


(There were no states with a score of 1. Every state that had contraception access requirements in place had two or more such requirements.)

The states with the most contraception coverage requirements had the lowest unintended pregnancy rate at 44 per 1,000 women age 15-44. The states with zero contraception coverage requirements had the next lowest rate at 45.95. The states in between—with 2 or 3 contraception coverage requirements—had higher unintended pregnancy rates at 50.25 and 49.08 respectively. In other words, there's no obvious relationship between states' contraception coverage requirements and their unintended pregnancy rates.

States with no contraception access requirements have lower abortion rates. Since I already had the data handy, I also compared state contraception access requirements to abortion rates:



The states with zero contraception coverage requirements had the lowest abortion rates at 9.68 abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44. States with 2, 3, and 4 contraception coverage requirements had rates of 14.58, 15.14, and 14.00, respectively.

This result could imply that contraception access actually increases abortion rates, and many pro-lifers try to make that claim. Their theory is that whenever you have a desirable but risky action (sex), the more you lower the risk, the more often people will take that action. If people think the risk is lowered more than is actually the case (e.g. if the contraception they're using or the way they're using it isn't as effective as they think), then they may be actually increasing their risk exposure by taking a risky action more often without proportionally decreasing the risk in each instance. This theory is plausible because states with more contraception access requirements do not have lower unintended pregnancy rates. Perhaps these populations lower the risk of a given instance of sex by using contraception, but increase their overall risk exposure by having sex more often without using contraception consistently or correctly.

Pro-choice states have higher abortion rates. Alternatively, perhaps the high contraceptive states have higher abortion rates simply because they are more pro-choice states. Given roughly equal unintended pregnancy rates, we'd expect the populations that support abortion to have higher abortion rates, and the data bears that out.



This trend may be due to social influences. It's possible that women experiencing unintended pregnancies in more pro-life states experience more pressure not to abort, more encouragement and support to carry their pregnancies, or both, and that women in more pro-choice states experience the opposite. It's hard to measure how much social pressures influence these decisions.

Either way, though, there's little doubt that legal restrictions also influence women's choices. To measure state-by-state legal restrictions, I again turned to Guttmacher. I assigned each state points based on whether they had the following restrictions in place and, if so, to what degree. The potential restrictions include:
  1. Whether the abortion must be performed by a licensed physician
  2. Whether and when the abortion must be performed at a hospital
  3. Whether and when a second physician must be present
  4. Whether and when abortion is prohibited (except life or health of the mother)
  5. Whether partial birth abortion is banned
  6. Whether public funding can be used for most abortions or very few abortions
  7. Whether private insurance has to cover abortions
  8. Whether individuals can refuse to participate in abortions
  9. Whether and when institutions can refuse to participate in abortions
  10. Whether there is mandated counseling regarding either an abortion breast cancer link, fetal pain, negative psychological effects, or any combination of those factors
  11. Whether and how long mandatory waiting must be
  12. Whether parents have to be notified or have to consent to their kids' abortions
States with more legal restrictions garnered more points with a maximum possible 12 points. Unsurprisingly, there was an inverse correlation between the number of abortion restrictions and the proportion of unintended pregnancies aborted.



Contraception is not a panacea for abortion. Pro-choice people repeatedly claim that if we truly care about lowering abortion rates we should support pro-choice policies and politicians who promote contraception access. As I've written about previously, this theory isn't backed by the evidence. There's some research to suggest contraception access—especially access to long acting reversible contraception—can help, but so far, the evidence I've found continues to show that the abortion rate decreases more when there are more abortion restrictions than it does when there is more access to contraception.

Secular Pro-Life supports contraception as non-violent healthcare for women, but it is only one tool in the abortion prevention toolbox. It is not a substitute for laws that recognize the rights of human beings in the womb.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Even third trimester abortions are done for non-medical reasons.

We've written before (part 1, part 2) about how most late-term abortions are elective, i.e. performed for non-medical reasons (maternal or fetal).

The data we've been able to find looks at abortions after the first trimester but doesn't get specific about third trimester abortions. It may not even be possible to find quantifiable data on the reasons women abort in the third trimester* because such abortions are relatively rare and highly stigmatized. The third trimester begins at 27 weeks gestation. Abortions after even 21 weeks of pregnancy account for only 1.3% of all abortions.

Source: Guttmacher, accessed September 2018

Conservative estimates put the total number of abortions in the United States at hundreds of thousands a year. In 2014 the CDC had reports accounting for 652,639 abortions, and not all states report their abortion data to the CDC. Even this lower estimate would mean at least 8,400 abortions after 21 weeks. Still, that's a small sample set from a very discreet group, and the number will be even smaller for only those abortions after 27 weeks.

Third trimester abortions are rare enough that there are only four doctors left in the country who perform them in clinics (as opposed to getting one in a hospital). Those doctors are Dr. Susan Robinson and Dr. Shelley Sella, both of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Dr. Warren Hern of Boulder, Colorado; and Dr. Leroy Carhart of Bethesda, Maryland.

In various interviews, at least three of these four doctors have gone on record explaining that they provide abortions for non-medical reasons. 

In a 2013 interview for The Hairpin, Dr. Robinson explained the women who come to her because they hadn't realized earlier that they were pregnant:
They think they just got pregnant. They have no idea they’re in their 24th week. So they make an appointment for an abortion, and it takes a few weeks, and they have their ultrasound and find out that they’re at 27 weeks, which is too far for an abortion anywhere. So then what happens? They either give up or have a baby, or they go on the Internet and they find us.
Also in 2013, Dr. Sella was interviewed by The Irish Times, which reported:
The women Sella treats fall into two categories: those who discover foetal abnormalities; and those with healthy, viable babies whose maternal circumstances mean they could not cope with the baby.
In 2015, a Colorado-based paper called The Daily Camera interviewed Dr. Hern:
He doesn't share his clinic's statistics and rarely speaks of individual cases, but Hern has said he also performs late abortions for women who are not facing any grave medical outcome.
This information doesn't indicate what proportion of third trimester abortions are for non-medical reasons. In general, at later gestations a higher proportion of abortions are done for medical reasons.

Even so, many people insist no one ever gets an elective (read: non-medical) abortion as late as the third trimester. The doctors providing third trimester abortions would disagree.


*If you have quantifiable data on the reasons for third trimester abortions, please email us at info@secularprolife.org.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Sources for Secular Pro-Life's "Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths" speech.

Today at the University of California, Berkeley, Pro-Life San Francisco is hosting the Let There Be Life Conference, which is designed to promote pro-life unity and education among Californians. Secular Pro-Life will be doing a speech on three pro-choice myths, including where those myths come from and exactly why they are misleading. We hope to post video of the speech in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, here are the sources used to create the presentation.


Myth #1: We don’t know when human life begins.

Articles:

Biology and embryology textbooks and relevant quotes:
  • Scott Gilbert, Developmental Biology, 11th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2016: “Fertilization accomplishes two separate ends: sex (the combining of genes derived from two parents) and reproduction (the generation of a new organism).”
  • T.W. Sadler, Langman's Medical Embryology, 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006:"Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote."
  • Erich Blechschmidt, Brian Freeman, The Ontogenetic Basis of Human Anatomy: The Biodynamic Approach to Development from Conception to Adulthood, North Atlantic Books, June 2004: "We talk of human development not because a jumble of cells, which is perhaps initially atypical, gradually turns more and more into a human, but rather because the human being develops from a uniquely human cell. There is no state in human development prior to which one could claim that a being exists with not-yet-human individuality. On the basis of anatomical studies, we know today that no developmental phase exists that constitutes a transition from the not-yet-human to the human." & "In short, a fertilized egg (conceptus) is already a human being."
  • Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003: "Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." And "A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo)."
  • Scott Gilbert, Developmental Biology, 6th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2001:“When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult. But the dog is a “dog” from the moment of fertilization of a dog egg by a dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore, the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from fertilization through death.”
  • Ronan R. O'Rahilly and Fabiola M├╝ller, Human Embryology & Teratology, 3rd Edition, New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001: "Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte."
  • Ida G. Dox, B. John Melloni, Gilbert Eisner, The HarperCollins Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 2001: “An Embryo is an organism in the earliest stages of development.”
  • Human Embryology, William J Larsen, 3rd Edition, 2001: “In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual.”
  • William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998: "Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization... This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development."
  • Bruce M. Carlson, Patten's Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996: "Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)... The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual."
  • Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993: "Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The common expression 'fertilized ovum' refers to the zygote."
  • Clark Edward Corliss, Patten's Human Embryology: Elements of Clinical Development. New York: McGraw Hill, 1976. "It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual."
  • E.L. Potter and J.M. Craig, Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant, 3rd edition. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1975: "Every time a sperm cell and ovum unite a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live unless its death is brought about by some specific condition."
  • J.P. Greenhill and E.A. Friedman, Biological Principles and Modern Practice of Obstetrics. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1974: "The term conception refers to the union of the male and female pronuclear elements of procreation from which a new living being develops. It is synonymous with the terms fecundation, impregnation, and fertilization."
  • Leslie Brainerd Arey, Developmental Anatomy, 7th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1974: “The formation, maturation and meeting of a male and female sex cell are all preliminary to their actual union into a combined cell, or zygote, which definitely marks the beginning of a new individual. The penetration of the ovum by the spermatozoon, and the coming together and pooling of their respective nuclei, constitutes the process of fertilization.”

Relevant Secular Pro-Life posts:


Myth #2: Most or all late-term abortions are medically necessary.

Articles:

Polls:

Data:

Interviews of late-term abortion doctors:

Relevant Secular Pro-Life posts:


Myth #3: Abortion restrictions don’t stop abortions.

Articles:

Data (Worldwide):

Data (National):

American studies:

Relevant Secular Pro-Life posts: