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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Infanticide is Officially Up for Debate

On Monday, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act died in the Senate. The common-sense law would have required doctors to provide the same care for a baby born alive after an abortion as they would for any child of the same gestational age. Protection for newborns is absolutely not an attack on "women's health," unless you believe women's health requires dead babies, which of course is exactly what abortion industry groups have revealed themselves to believe.

Although a majority of Senators—50 Republicans and 3 Democrats—voted in favor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, it needed 60 votes to pass. That allowed the abortion lobby to kill the bill with just 44 votes. (The numbers don't add up to 100 because 3 Senators were not there vote, reportedly due to flight delays. Those three votes would not have been enough to tilt the scale.)

Find your Senators below. If they voted yes, thank them. If they voted no, express your opposition. And either way, remember in November.

YEAs—53 
Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blackburn (R-TN)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Abortion survivors Melissa Ohden, Josiah Presley, and Claire Culwell
Read and watch their stories
Braun (R-IN)
Burr (R-NC)
Capito (R-WV)
Casey (D-PA)
Cassidy (R-LA)
Collins (R-ME)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Cotton (R-AR)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Enzi (R-WY)
Ernst (R-IA)
Fischer (R-NE)
Gardner (R-CO)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hawley (R-MO)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (R-WI)
Jones (D-AL)
Kennedy (R-LA)
Lankford (R-OK)
Lee (R-UT)
Manchin (D-WV)
McConnell (R-KY)
McSally (R-AZ)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Perdue (R-GA)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Romney (R-UT)
Rounds (R-SD)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-FL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Sullivan (R-AK)
Thune (R-SD)
Tillis (R-NC)
Toomey (R-PA)
Wicker (R-MS)
Young (R-IN)

NAYs—44 
Baldwin (D-WI)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Coons (D-DE)
Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Duckworth (D-IL)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Harris (D-CA)
Hassan (D-NH)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Hirono (D-HI)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Leahy (D-VT)
Markey (D-MA)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Peters (D-MI)
Reed (D-RI)
Rosen (D-NV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Sinema (D-AZ)
Smith (D-MN)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-NM)
Van Hollen (D-MD)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Not Voting3
Cramer (R-ND)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Scott (R-SC)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Master post: 21+ week abortions usually aren't medically necessary

Despite conventional wisdom, there's zero quantifiable data to support the idea that all or even most late-term abortions are medically necessary.

Defining our terms.

First, the phrase "late-term abortion" is ill-defined. We've had past posts where we were including anything after the first trimester, but to be more conservative, this post is only for abortions performed at 21 weeks or later.

Second, when we say "medically necessary" we're referring to abortions where the reasons cited were risk to the woman's life, risk to the woman's health, or fetal abnormalities.

Objections to the "medically necessary" definition.

We understand that many pro-life people object to characterizing some or all of these situations as "medically necessary abortions." Some people don't consider a procedure that destroys a fetus an "abortion" if the procedure is done to save the woman's life. Some don't believe there are any scenarios where a woman's life or health is better protected by late-term abortion than by induction of labor or c-section. Some view abortion due to fetal abnormalities as a type of involuntary euthanasia, not medically necessary to the woman and not clearly in the best interest of the fetus. Some especially object to calling abortions "medically necessary" for fetal abnormalities because not all such fetal abnormalities are life-threatening to the fetus (possibly the most controversial example being the very high rate of abortion when the fetus has Down syndrome).

SPL recognizes some relevant points here (see Further Reading for more thoughts on these subjects). But for this blog post, we leave all that aside. Here we're not debating whether and when abortion is justified for maternal health and life or for fetal abnormalities. We're demonstrating that even if you believe all of these reasons constitute medically necessary abortions, most late-term abortions are still not medically necessary.

In reality, most women seek 21+ week abortions for non-medical reasons, such as:
  • Not realizing sooner that they were pregnant, 
  • Struggling to find the time and money for later abortion procedures (which are more complicated and expensive than earlier procedures), and 
  • Difficulty deciding whether they wanted to continue carrying the pregnancy.
Here is a list of further resources, including data and studies, interviews of abortion providers and other pro-choice sources, and interviews of women who obtained non-medical late-term abortions.


Data and studies:

1. More evidence that most late-term abortions are elective - Arizona state data over several years showed ~80% of 21+ week abortions were not for maternal or fetal health issues.

[The above link summarizes the AZ data, but go here to see exactly which Arizona reports and which tables in those reports we referenced to get this info.]

2. Clinton Off on Late-Term Abortions FactCheck.Org, September 29, 2015.
"A spokesman for Clinton’s campaign told us that she meant that many late-term abortions — not all or even most — are because of medical reasons. But that’s not what she said. Her statement left the impression that the majority, if not all, late-term abortions are medically necessary. The available evidence does not support that assertion."
3. Who seeks abortions at or after 20 weeks? Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2013.
"Data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment."
4. An answer to pro-choicers on Kermit Gosnell. Slate, January 24, 2011. Pro-choice author Will Saletan outlines quite a bit of research suggesting late-term abortions are often not for medical reasons (see parts 8 and 9 of his piece).

Interviews: 
[All emphasis added.]

1. Fake News About Abortion in Virginia. The New York Times, February 1, 2019. Frances Kissling, president of the Center for Health, Ethics and Social Policy:
“Our talking point is, most of these procedures are on women who discover abnormalities late in the pregnancy,” Kissling said. “We don’t know if that is true.
5. An Abortion Rights Advocate Says He Lied About the Procedure. New York Times, February 26, 1997.
In the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along, Mr. Fitzsimmons [Executive Director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers] said. ''The abortion-rights folks know it, the anti-abortion folks know it, and so, probably, does everyone else." 
3. Interview with Dr. Susan Robinson, One of the Last Four Doctors in America to Openly Provide Third-Trimester Abortions, The Hairpin, September 20, 2013. Dr. Robinson explains the women who seek third trimester abortions not for medical reasons, but because they didn't realize they were pregnant earlier:
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.
4. Abortion is 'never, ever a casual decision,' The Irish Times, September 21, 2013. Dr. Shelly Sella explains why women come to her for third trimester abortions:
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.
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.
6. The truth about later abortions, according to someone who actually had one. ThinkProgress, February 2, 2019. A woman obtained a $12,000 non-medical abortion around the 5.5-6 month:
I wanted an abortion because my partner wasn’t supportive and I wanted to finish my studies. And if I didn’t have enough money for me or a place, how could I have a baby, you know? So sometimes it is for our future. It’s not the right time.
7. What It Was Like To Get A Later Abortion Teen Vogue, February 8, 2019. A woman obtained a non-medical third trimester abortion because she didn't learn she was pregnant until late in the second trimester and then struggled to find both a clinic that would perform such a late abortion and the $12,000 to cover the cost.
Despite living in Oregon, a state with one of the most progressive abortion laws in the nation, I encountered so many obstacles to accessing abortion just because of my situation [how far the pregnancy had already progressed].
8. What to Know About So-Called "Late-Term Abortion" Teen Vogue, February 12, 2019. A woman obtained a non-medical late second trimester abortion because she didn't find out she was pregnant until she was already in her second trimester.
“Ultimately I knew I just would have no financial stability, and I also knew, too, if I were to have a child I didn’t want, I would definitely drop out of college.”


Further Reading:

Reasons for abortion after the first trimester.
 
These resources relate to women seeking abortions after the first trimester, but the information is not limited to only 21+ week abortions.
  1. Responding to 8 common pro-choice claims about late-term abortion. Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, February 1, 2019
  2. Characteristics and Circumstances of U.S. Women Who Obtain Very Early and Second-Trimester Abortions. PLoS One, January 2017 (Study found "Timing of pregnancy recognition was the factor most strongly associated with obtaining a very early or second trimester abortion.")
  3. No, most late-term abortions are not medically necessary Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, October 20, 2016 (Links to data for proportion of 13+ and 16+ week abortions done for medical reasons.)
  4. Attitudes and decision making among women seeking abortions at one U.S. clinic. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, June 2012. (In this study, 81% of abortions were sought in the first trimester and 1% of abortions were sought for fetal anomaly. Even assuming all of the fetal anomaly abortions were in the second trimester, it would still mean only ~5% of second trimester abortions were sought for fetal anomaly.)
  5. Later Abortions and Mental Health: Psychological Experiences of Women Having Later Abortions--A Critical Review of Research, Women's Health Issues, February 2011. ("Research suggests that the overwhelming majority of women having later abortions do so for reasons other than fetal anomaly.")
  6. Predictors of delay in each step leading to an abortion. Contraception, April 2008. (Study found that regardless of the gestational age at the time of the abortion, women were delayed more often by not taking a pregnancy test sooner than by delays in contacting a clinic or obtaining an abortion. "Our findings suggest that interventions which are aimed at improving women's ability to identify a pregnancy at an earlier gestation could be helpful in facilitating women obtaining abortions earlier in their pregnancy.")
  7. Timing of steps and reasons for delays in obtaining abortions in the United States. Contraception, April 2006 (Study of women obtaining second trimester abortions found the top reasons for delay were the time it took to learn they were pregnant/how far along they were, the time it took to raise money for the abortion, and the difficulty of making the decision to abort. See Table 1.)
  8. Risk Factors Associated With Presenting for Abortion in the Second Trimester Obstetrics & Gynecology, January 2006 (Study finding that later suspicion of pregnancy and delaying factors such as difficulty obtaining state insurance were major influences on obtaining second rather than first trimester abortions.)

Unsubstantiated claims about medical necessity.
Note none of these articles includes links or even citations to any quantifiable evidence.
  1. Later Abortion: A Love Story. Jezebel, February 21, 2019: "Few people get [later abortions] (only one percent of abortions happen after 21 weeks), and nearly all of the parents who do are grappling with devastating diagnoses like mine."
  2. Hillary Clinton tweet, February 12, 2019: "Only about 1% of abortions happen later in pregnancy—almost always because a woman’s health or life is at risk, or the pregnancy is no longer viable."
  3. Before judging 'late-term abortion,' understand what it means, doctors say, CNN, February 6, 2019, Dr. Barbara Levy of American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists: "Abortions later in pregnancy typically occur because of two general indications: lethal fetal anomalies or threats to the health of the mother."
  4. What Is Late-Term Abortion? Trump Got It Wrong, New York Times, February 6, 2019. "When they occur, it is usually because the fetus has been found to have a fatal condition that could not be detected earlier, such as a severe malformation of the brain, or because the mother’s life or health is at serious risk."
  5. What Doctors Want Politicians To Know About Abortion. Huffington Post, October 21, 2016. "Only 1.3 percent of abortions take place at or after 21 weeks, pointed out [Dr. Sarah] Horvath, and the majority are conducted because the fetus has severe birth defects."
  6. Donald Trump confuses birth with abortion. And no, there are no ninth month abortions. Huffington Post, October 20, 2016. Dr. Jennifer Gunter: "1.3 percent of abortions happen at or after 21 weeks and 80 percent are for birth defects."
  7. Face The Nation, CBS, September 20, 2015. Hillary Clinton: "I think that the kind of late-term abortions that take place are because of medical necessity."
  8. Congress introduced 6 anti-abortion bills in its first 7 days, Yahoo Health, January 16, 2015. "Again, the majority of late-term abortions are performed because of tremendous dangers posed to the health of the mother."
  9. Anti-abortionists on Trial, New York Times, July 25, 2012. "Later abortions mostly often involve severely troubled pregnancies that pose risks to a woman’s health or life."

Objections to the "medically necessary" definition.
Late-term abortion to save a woman's life or protect her health.

Late-term abortion for fetal abnormalities.
Late-term abortion as euthanasia.

Late-term abortion and ableism.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Pregnancy from rape: how do abortion businesses and PRCs respond?

The blog “The Abortioneers” is a place where abortion workers write about different aspects of their jobs. In one post, an abortion worker describes the conversations she frequently has with women who come to the abortion facility after being raped:
I was raped ... 4 weeks ago, 2 months ago, in August or July, it was a while back and now I’m pregnant ... 
[After offering a hotline number for rape victims] Are there any family members you have told about your situation? 
No ... 
Can you lie to anyone to get money? 
No. 
I want to help you figure this out, but you will have to find a way to scrape together the money if you want to get an abortion ... 
... Even when a woman shares the most difficult of stories with me I have to be the stern yet supportive voice on the other end of the phone saying, "You have got to get this money in order to get an abortion."
Aside from giving the woman the phone number to a hotline, which she could have easily found in any phone book or online, the abortion facility offers her no help. If she doesn’t have the money for an abortion, they will do nothing for her. She is told to try and get the money, and if she can’t, she is on her own.

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash
Pro-choicers say they support women, but abortion businesses, in general, offer no support to pregnant women and no services to them except abortion. And they only offer abortion if the woman has the money to pay for it.

Contrast this to what pro-life activists do for women.

In an article in Live Action News, a woman named Michelle told her story. Michelle lost her job due to health problems and found herself living on the street. All the homeless shelters were full. While sleeping on the street, she was raped and became pregnant. She wanted to keep the baby but had nowhere to go. A friend said Michelle could move in with her, but only if she aborted her baby. Eventually, Michelle found another friend to stay with, but she had no money to care for a baby.

That’s when Michelle went to a pro-life pregnancy resource center. The center helped her with everything she needed for the baby. Michelle writes:
All of the programs to help women were really awesome. I went to several of their classes and the lady that counseled me volunteered to go with me when I gave birth. I didn’t have anyone else to go with me. She was there by my side. After I gave birth, they gave me baby clothes, diapers, and a basket of goodies like blankets. After you’ve had your baby you can keep going back to them for support. 
The center made sure that Michelle had everything she needed for the baby. They continued to help her after the baby was born. Now Michelle is back on her feet and runs a Facebook group for mothers who conceived in rape. She has no regrets about having her daughter.

Had Michelle gone to an abortion business, she would have been sent on her way with no support. But the pregnancy resource center workers rallied around her and gave her all the support she needed. Pro-choice activists sometimes call pro-lifers misogynists and claim we don’t care about women. But pregnancy resource centers do far more for women than abortion facilities do.

Kristin Monahan, who volunteers at a pregnancy resource center, writes:
[W]e provide all services for free. They are for low-income pregnant and parenting women. We have free baby clothes, toddler clothes, shoes, maternity clothes, pregnancy tests, breast pumps, nursing bras, diapers, baby wipes, bottles, baby/toddler dishes, formula, food, toys, books, car seats, strollers, cribs, cradles, jumpers, and any other pieces of furniture or big toys when we get them. I have seen pretty much anything you can think of that deals with pregnancy or parenting, come into the clinic. We also give referrals to various social services, such as WIC. ... We don’t make them pay a single cent, unlike places like Planned Parenthood. So we truly offer purely free items for struggling families.
Pro-life volunteers throughout the country staff pregnancy resource centers where they give women countless baby items and maternity clothes at no cost. Whereas no abortion facility I have ever heard of has ever given a woman anything for free. They collect her money, do her abortion, and send her home. Sometimes, they do a two week follow up check-up. All for about $450 in the first trimester and more in the second and third. And if the woman has no money, they give her nothing. Which group of people cares about women?

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

Tonight: "Keep your ideology off my biology" presentation

At 7pm EST, Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will present "Keep your ideology off my biology," hosted by Boilermakers for Life at Purdue University. We plan to livestream the presentation on our facebook page. If we encounter technical difficulties, video will be posted later.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Male abuser gets abortion pills online; vendor shows no remorse


Mother Jones has an article in its April/May issue entitled "She Started Selling Abortion Pills Online. Then the Feds Showed Up."

Quick pause for alternate headlines that more accurately capture the tone of the piece:
  • She Broke The Law. But It Was An Abortion Law, So It Shouldn't Have Counted.
  • Evil Police Fail to Recognize That Brave Abortion Provider is Above the Law. 
  • Abortion Access Uber Alles 
Anyway, moving on. The article is about Ursula Wing, who sold abortion drugs out of her apartment and advertised in the comments section of a blog. This is, unsurprisingly, illegal. As stated in the article, abortion drugs "may be distributed only in a clinical setting by a certified provider" per FDA regulations. 

Ms. Wing did it anyway, because "she needed money to pay legal fees during a protracted custody dispute with her former partner." She didn't see herself as an activist at first, although she was an abortion supporter and had herself terminated the life of one of her children with drugs purchased over the internet before becoming a vendor.

She sold abortion drugs to over 2,000 customers before finally getting caught. And how was she caught? Glad you asked:
An attorney told her that the FDA learned about her business when a Wisconsin man named Jeffrey Smith was arrested in February 2018 for allegedly slipping mifepristone into the drink of a woman who was pregnant with their child. Smith had twice ordered packages from Wing’s site, according to police documents. He has pleaded not guilty to attempted first-degree homicide of an unborn child. Wing is still waiting to be indicted.
If Ms. Wing were actually "pro-choice," actually a feminist, actually cared at all about women, you'd think she would be horrified that her product was used to end a wanted pregnancy against a woman's will. You'd expect, at the very least, some discussion of how online abortion vendors might verify that their customers are actually pregnant. (Kind of like those FDA-certified people verify in a "clinical setting." Gosh, might there be a reason for that requirement?)

But no, of course not.
Among people advocating or providing access to self-managed abortion, there is some tension between those who aim to serve women in need without drawing attention and those who want to stir things up. Wing has found herself unexpectedly in the latter group. She was glad to go on quietly undermining the law, providing pills to customers who came across her website. Now, against her own attorney’s advice, she’s speaking out. “I want some copycats,” she says. “There’s not enough people doing this.”
She wants copycats. She wants more women put at risk. She thinks she's a hero

I hope Ms. Wing is indicted as an accessory to homicide, and soon, before anyone else gets hurt.

P.S.—In October 2017, the ACLU sued the FDA to get rid of the abortion drug restrictions. If the ACLU is successful, abortion will become even more "accessible" to abusive men. The lawsuit is ongoing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Life: A Difficult Choice, but Still the Right Choice


I still remember the day I was sitting on the toilet in the bathroom watching the second blue line on my pregnancy test appear. My heart started racing and the room darkened as if I was about to pass out.

My daughter is the most beautiful person I have ever met. She was unplanned.

I have always had deeply held pro-life beliefs. Abortion never entered my mind as an option. But when I looked at my positive test—I knew the fear of unplanned pregnancy firsthand.

I was scared. Being pregnant was more than a little inconvenient. I was in the middle of law school. I was not married. I also came from a Christian upbringing that valued the notion of no sex before marriage. Worse yet I was a hypocrite who publicly embraced the ideology.

I knew people were going to judge me. I didn’t know if I would be able to finish law school. I didn’t know how my boyfriend (now husband) would react when I told him. How were we going to afford it? We were both living off of student loans and our living arrangement would not allow for a baby.

There were so many uncertainties and fears. I could see how a woman’s mind would wander to abortion. But even with that fear, I had no right nor desire to end my little girl’s life.

I’m sure many who read this will say, “Well that’s your choice. Not everyone has to do the same.”

“Choice.” That word we put up on a high pedestal and worship. We are America after all, land of the free. When it comes down to it though—some choices are inherently wrong. If I were to choose to end my child’s life in order to hide my hypocrisy, to ensure I could continue on my career path, so I wouldn’t suffer financial hardship; I would be committing a serious injustice and assault on another human’s life.

Yes, I know some of you will go on to say it’s not unjust or that she wasn’t alive yet. We as humans are capable of all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify our actions. I had no right to trade in my little girl’s life for the sake of convenience.

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes there aren’t any easy options and the path ahead is too narrow for comfort. You just need to be strong and make the most of your situation and you may find out it’s better than the dream you envisioned for yourself.

Some may be thinking, “Well you didn’t have it as hard as many other women.” Indeed, I am fortunate to have a strong man by my side and we had loving people who helped us through a challenging start to our little girl’s life. But that’s not the point.

You don’t need to be in the worst situation possible (or even be a woman) to speak up and say abortion should not be a choice. You just need to know that the sacrifice of time and comfort a woman gives for her child is much less than the loss her child faces if she chooses abortion.

Women don’t need abortions. We need acceptance, love, encouragement…we need resources to allow our children to thrive while we still persevere at our personal goals. I was fortunate to find all these things on my journey. I am now a wife, a mom, and an attorney. Nothing brings me as much joy as being a mom.

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

Events This Week


There are three events this week which may be of interest to our readers.

First, tonight, over 100 Students for Life of America chapters are screening the film Gosnell, followed by a live-streamed Q&A. Check the list of schools here to find a screening near you.

Second, on Thursday evening, Equal Rights Institute is putting on a free webinar about "trotting out the toddler" in abortion debates. Register here.

Third, on Friday evening, Boilermakers for Life at Purdue University will host Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard for a free presentation entitled "Keep your ideology off my biology: An atheist's approach to discussing abortion." Details in the facebook event. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Dear Hillary Clinton: late-term abortions are *not* "almost always" medically necessary.

On September 20, 2015, HRC appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" and stated:
I think that the kind of late-term abortions that take place are because of medical necessity. And, therefore, I would hate to see the government interfering with that decision. 
FactCheck.org took Clinton to task for this claim [emphasis added]:
A spokesman for Clinton’s campaign told us that she meant that many late-term abortions — not all or even most — are because of medical reasons. But that’s not what she said. Her statement left the impression that the majority, if not all, late-term abortions are medically necessary. The available evidence does not support that assertion.
I doubt Clinton actually did mean to say "many" instead of implying "all" or "most." The "always medically necessary" talking point regarding late-term abortions is ubiquitous. Today Clinton repeated the claim, this time even more explicitly:

(Click to enlarge)

I can't really fully blame the average pro-choice person for believing this idea when authoritative figures assert it--and the media repeats their assertions uncritically. Here's a CNN article from just a week or so ago interviewing OB-GYN Dr. Barbara Levy of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dr. Levy explains that her discussions about "late-term" abortion (a vague term) refer to abortions at 21 weeks or later. She goes on to assert:
Abortions later in pregnancy typically occur because of two general indications: lethal fetal anomalies or threats to the health of the mother.
If Dr. Levy had said something more vague such as "often" or "frequently," we could argue that she isn't trying to infer most or all late-term abortions are for medical reasons. But no, she states "typically," as in these are the representative cases which happen more often than not.

But, as we've said many times over, there is zero data to support this idea. The FactCheck.org article (linked above) summarizes as much, and some of the more nuanced (read: honest) pro-choice people involved will readily agree. In a recent NY Times op-ed, the president for the Center of Health, Ethics, and Social Policy, Frances Kissling, states:


But it's not just that we don't know; it's that we have good reasons to believe it's not true. Guttmacher published a report explaining the common non-medical reasons women seek abortions at 21+ weeks. Arizona data suggest about 80% of their 21+ week abortions aren't for medical reasons. Pro-choice author Will Saletan outlined quite a bit of additional research suggesting women often get later abortions because they simply didn't realize they were pregnant earlier or weren't sure earlier that they wanted an abortion.

Every single time someone tells me that most or all late-term abortions are medically necessary, I ask for a citation. So far there have been zero. Heartbreaking anecdotes, yes. Data that would justify a quantifiable claim? No. Not ever.

But most people will keep believing it because (1) ACOG representatives and powerful politicians keep saying it and (2) it's what people would really rather believe anyway. The average pro-choice person doesn't want to face the fact that highly developed fetuses are being killed for non-medical reasons. That reality is just too uncomfortable.

If you do have data showing most 21+ week abortions are for medical necessity, please email us at info@secularprolife.org.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Comfortable pro-choice people: can we just not talk about the "killing babies" part?

Recently the FB group Defund Live Action posted this:


I can see an argument for avoiding the word "baby" while discussing abortion, but this post is more like "Can we just not discuss the other organism involved in this controversy at all? Can we please only use the euphemisms that keep me comfortable?" This kind of clingy vision tunnel version of pro-choice thought inspired the speech I did a couple weeks ago about "the comfortable pro-choice people."

Not all pro-choice people do this. Plenty will own the fact that abortion kills humans and move to discussions of bodily rights or more nuanced discussions of fetal personhood. In particular, abortion providers don't have the luxury of the above meme's ridiculous dishonesty. They have to actually work with the blood and body parts. A couple months ago I came across the 2017 paper "Dangertalk: Voices of abortion providers." One of the central themes of the piece was the chasm between pro-choice rhetoric and abortion provider experiences. Providers often feel they can't be honest about their experiences or various emotions about their work because it would undermine the pro-choice narrative. But when they are free to be blunt, as in this piece, many (not all) providers talk quite frankly about how abortion absolutely is killing. Excerpts:

(click to enlarge)

From my perspective, elements of the pro-choice side are trying harder all the time to re-frame abortion away from any discussion of fetal death and on to the woman and only the woman. I don't believe that strategy will ever really succeed, because they can't change the reality that human organisms are destroyed in abortion--that's the point of abortion. We've seen that in recent arguments about late-term abortion, where some abortion rights advocates argue women should have the right to destroy even healthy, viable fetuses for no medical reason (see #7 in 8 common pro-choice claims about late-term abortion). As Kelsey put it in her recent NY Daily News op-ed:
These policies do not vindicate a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. They vindicate a right to a dead baby.
Those who insist abortion has nothing to do with killing are kidding themselves. And every time they do, it underscores to me how difficult it must be for most people to be pro-choice with eyes wide open.

Students for Life of America launches action arm

Above: SFLA staffer Tina Whittington speaks at #ResistInfanticide rally in Richmond, VA

For years, Students for Life of America (SFLA) has organized students and young people to promote the rights of children in the womb. Its many activities—which I can only begin to list here, but include educational displays, speakers, rallies, direct aid to pregnant and parenting students, and much more—have all taken place under a 501(c)3 umbrella, limiting SFLA's ability to act on legislation.

That's changing with the recent launch of Students for Life Action, which is organized under section 501(c)4 of the tax code. As the Houston Chronicle explains:
IRS regulations prohibit 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations from engaging in most political and legislative activities. A (c)(3) nonprofit may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates. It may engage in certain nonpartisan educational and participation activities, such as sponsoring debates and voter registration campaigns. In contrast, IRS regulations allow a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization to engage in some political and legislative activities. It may lobby for legislation essential to its social welfare mission.
Students for Life Action's first order of business is to lobby against extreme legislation, like that introduced in New York and Virginia, that would permit third-trimester abortions and in some cases imperil babies who are born alive after an attempted abortion.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

How #ShoutYourAbortion Changed My Mind


I was raised pro-life. My parents were so passionate about the cause, in fact, that when my four brothers and I got old enough to drive, any new car had to be fitted with a pro-life bumper sticker or it wasn’t allowed on their property. All through childhood, I never questioned this idea. It seemed self-evident that everyone should have the right to not be killed—most especially helpless babies. The notion that the tiniest and most helpless among us should prove the single exception seemed absurd.

In my late teens, though, I started doubting the faith I was raised with and subsequently, the value structures it carried—including the supposed implicit value of the unborn life. The pro-life stance, like many other views I’d inherited, was not as simple as I’d thought. Through experiences of my friends and also articles written about the plights of women across the globe, I learned to stop condemning women in desperate circumstances. They already had plenty of that. What these women needed was compassion. No one wanted an abortion, I realized. Some situations simply have no good solution. I decided that the way forward was through helping people make the decisions they deem best for themselves, not by foisting my own moral code onto their backs. For over ten years, even after having two kids of my own, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind: the pro-choice movement was on the right side of history.

Then #ShoutYourAbortion happened.

The internet flooded over with stories, not of downtrodden women facing impossible circumstances, but of regular women, just like me, killing the growing embryos/fetuses inside them because they just didn’t feel like being pregnant. At first, I assumed these stories were made up—that they were actually pro-life radicals masquerading as post-abortive women, to make the pro-choice camp appear to be fueled by vacuous narcissism rather than high-minded ideals.

I pored over story after story told by women in my own demographic who got pregnant, sometimes through birth control failure, sometimes because birth control had seemed too big a bother at the time. There were a few stories I would have expected to see: people in dire straits with no easy “right” solution. Far more common, though, were stories with the same punchline: abortion—for anyone and for any reason—is simply a part of women’s healthcare. Specific reasons were incidental. The incidental nature of reasons actually seemed to be the point.

According to the new narrative being shaped, the very notion that people should have to justify their choice was problematic because it suggested that the fetus, itself, mattered in some way. In fact, terms like fetus or embryo weren’t even used (probably because they suggest a being, however primitive, existing beyond the mother). Almost exclusively, the human embryo or fetus was referred to as simply “the pregnancy.” A very clever linguistic turn, especially if you believe, as I do, that our ability to think is restricted by the words we use.

It seemed the pro-choice movement had officially moved on from mantras like “safe, legal, and rare.” If abortion is a humane service (so went the new argument), why on earth should it be rare? My side—the side which recognized that sometimes the best solution available is the least-bad of a host of terrible ones—had abandoned all pretense of engaging with the harsh ambiguities of life. Now, abortion was just good. Full stop.

I’d thought #ShoutYourAbortion would alienate other pro-choice people, but no one else seemed fazed. I started to wonder whether the pro-choice side had actually moved at all. Maybe they just finally felt free to express their views openly. Maybe I was just one of a handful of naive people on the pro-choice side who’d actually believed the earlier, feel-good narrative. Maybe, for all my belief that I was on the side of compassion and justice, all I’d really been was the pawn of an ideology which left no room for conviction that our lives have any inherent value.

For the first time, I felt utterly unqualified to make any definitive claims on the subject of abortion. Yet I needed to. In some way that I couldn’t understand, I knew this specific culture clash was rooted in something bigger.

I had to start somewhere, and I figured looking at my local culture (I live in the United States) was as good a place as any. From its inception, this country was united by a novel concept based around the ideas of John Locke: that all of mankind was created equal—that everyone had the right to their own life and destiny—because among equals, no one can rightfully render the life or will of another subservient to their own. We were never united by any specific belief system, but the dogged belief that the individual transcends even belief systems.

It sounds pretty great, but of course, it was never actually put into practice. From the genocide of Native American populations (obvious to any non-frontiersman), to the manifest injustice of slavery (obvious to any non-slaveholder), and countless other stains on our national conscience, we keep falling into the same trap over and over again.

I’d thought that people just couldn’t allow themselves to see human rights violations when their own livelihoods depended upon those violations. But the problem was so much more insidious than that. I don’t think it’s actually that hard for most of us, when directly faced with own hypocrisy, to admit that what we’re doing is wrong. What we can’t confront is the structural injustices our own tribe depends upon.

This is the difference between taking a good hard look in the mirror, versus walking up to your neighbor, brother, sister, your closest of friends, holding up this mirror to them, and saying: “Look! This is what you really are. You, who’ve brought me soup and bread every time my family fell on hard times, were only in a position to share your wealth because you’re propped up by the labor of your slaves!” Or “Son! You think you’re out there, on the edge of the frontier, risking your life to protect your family from savages, but let me tell you the truth! Those are innocent people—people just like you and me—and they were here first! They’re just defending themselves and what it rightfully theirs! You, son, are no hero. You are the savage.” How could any parent say this? Especially if they had already lost another son, as many had, in the service of that same cause?

Here is the dark, seedy underbelly of the beautiful, loyal, deeply social nature of the human psyche. Before anything, even our most sacred beliefs, come those people we love. Condemning them goes against our very deepest intuitions. This is how injustice to the Other is propagated again and again and again. Because, while our most cherished doctrines teach us that all humans are people with inalienable rights, our hearts only bind us to some of them. Our love for some effectively blinds us to existential reality of others. And there are very good reasons for this. But when this trait is exploited and deployed on a societal scale, the effects are disastrous.

This is at the heart of liberal Americans’ support of abortion rights for women. How could we acknowledge that many of our close friends killed their own children in the name of convenience? Only a monster could kill their own child. And our friends have proven themselves to be good, kind people. People who have been there for us when we needed them. How could we ever acknowledge a truth which would render them monsters—when we know, on as deep a level as we know anything, that our friends are not monsters?

And so they did not kill their child, we say. And they do not ever wish to do such a thing. What they want is simply control over their own body. We shove our cognitive dissonance down, telling ourselves stories of how a pregnancy involves only the woman—that even if there is some other human involved, that it doesn’t count. We say that it’s okay because in their early stages, humans almost certainly can’t experience much—not even pain. Yet we’re simultaneously outraged over the idea that killing a human in any other circumstance could be justified if only it was painless. We tell ourselves that the embryo or fetus has nowhere near the developmental capacity which renders human beings special, furiously stamping down the realization that this argument equally justifies infanticide.

I find myself more and more convinced that this is not a religious issue, and that it never really was. No mainstream religion has ever solved the myriad conflicts of interest that arise from people pursuing conflicting goals, or people who want to use other people as mere tools for their own end, or people who don’t want to be shackled to the tiny human who (for at least a little while) can’t survive without them. I know that people see this as a religious issue. But why? Why should it be necessary to believe each of us possesses a soul in order to oppose abortion?

If anything, belief in the soul acts as consolation in the case of abortion. If there is no immortal soul, whenever someone’s life is stripped away, this loss is permanent. All the potential of a unique, singular human being gets snuffed out—not merely relegated to place beyond this world—but finally, utterly, destroyed. I can’t imagine any moral weight heavier than that. 

I think no one else in the pro-choice camp was bothered by the #ShoutYourAbortion movement because, subconsciously, they’d long ago realized the only sustainable way to support abortion on demand is to assume there’s no person being obliterated. No person, no loss. Just a woman and her uterus. Once people have taken that idea firmly onboard, of course, of course, this new movement couldn’t be seen as horrific.

What is required here is imagination. The ability to honestly face conflicts of interest for what they are. The ability to say to our friend who finds herself tied to a human of her own (possibly unwitting) creation, “I am here with you. You are strong enough to do this.” We do not need to feel love toward the unborn, or anyone else who is being “othered” in order to defend their right to not be killed. All we need is to recognize that, intrinsic to their being, is the potential to love and be loved—that no one, not even those we love most, has a monopoly on that.

We must figure out a way, as a society, for all of us to finally count as people. It’s a hell of a thing to ask of ourselves; anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t thought enough. But I believe we’re capable of creating such a reality. I don’t know the precise path that will get us there. But I do know this: seeing ourselves as a potential force for good—and recognizing this potential also lives inside the youngest of us—will get us a hell of a lot farther than, say, shouting our abortions.

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

Monday, February 4, 2019

Retraction: The terrifying trend of "telemed" abortion.

Hello readers,

This morning we published a guest blog about telemed abortion claiming it is a particularly dangerous practice. After push back from FB and blog commenters alike, we took a closer look and agree the post is off-base, so we have unpublished it. In the interest of transparency I'm posting this replacement note in case you came to the blog looking for that post. We should have vetted the post more carefully, and we apologize for the misleading information.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Take heart, the pro-life side is doing well.

I know it's been a frustrating couple weeks with NY, VA, and the many conversations that have ensued. But big picture, guys:

1) Abortion rates continue to decline. They peaked at 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women in 1980; in 2014 it was 14.6.

2) Abortion clinics continue to close every year.

>>The number of U.S. abortion clinics or medical facilities that perform more than 400 abortions annually, peaked in the late 1980s at 705. By 2011, 553 remained. The clinics have been closing at a record pace, according to a new Bloomberg analysis: One-hundred-sixty-two have closed since 2011, while 22 have opened.<<

3) More women are carrying unplanned pregnancies to term.

>>In 1981, 54 percent of unintended pregnancies resulted in an abortion. By 2011 that figure had fallen to 42 percent. Additionally, preliminary analysis of more recent data indicates that percentage has continued to fall during the past several years.<<

4) Over the last few decades, significantly more people consider themselves pro-life (see Gallup), and that trend is holding fast even as the public veers more left-wing on other issues (e.g. LGBT issues, drug legalization).

So take heart, people. Never give up, never surrender!


Friday, February 1, 2019

Responding to 8 common pro-choice claims about late-term abortion.

In the wake of New York's Reproductive Health Act, I've seen a lot of pro-choice assertions about late-term abortion that I'd like to address here.


1. Pro-lifers actually think New York legalized abortion up until birth! It's ridiculous. No one is legalizing abortion into the ninth month.

The Reproductive Health Act allows abortion for any reason up until 24 weeks (~6 months) gestation. That's not new--New York already allowed that. The difference is their old laws restricted abortion after 24 weeks unless the woman's life was in danger, whereas the Reproductive Health Act allows abortions after 24 weeks if the woman's life or health is in danger. This is an important distinction because "health" isn't limited to physical health problems; it can include psychological and familial issues as well. The definition stems from Roe v. Wade's sister case, Doe v. Bolton, which defined health as:
...the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health. This allows the attending physician the room he needs....
So if a healthcare practitioner determines that a woman's emotional or psychological well being is threatened or her familial situation is at risk, that practitioner can legally perform an abortion at any stage in the pregnancy. This is why pro-lifers assert New York's law effectively allows abortion at any stage for a wide variety of reasons.

But at least New York pretends to have gestational limits on abortion. There are currently seven states that make no pretense: in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont it's actually legal (not just effectively legal) to get an abortion at any stage for any reason. It's not a coincidence that the abortion providers who have openly discussed aborting healthy, viable third trimester fetuses all operate out of these states.

Now Virginia has been considering a bill that would also allow abortion at any stage if the woman's life or health were impaired. Here is video footage of the bill's sponsor, Delegate Kathy Tran, agreeing her bill would legalize abortion even moments before birth.


Partial transcript:
(Chairman) Gilbert: How late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion if he indicated it would impair the mental health of the woman?
Tran: Or physical health.
Gilbert: Okay. I'm talking about the mental health.
Tran: So, I mean, through the third trimester. The third trimester goes all the way up to 40 weeks.
Gilbert. Okay, but to the end of the third trimester?
Tran: Yep. I don't think we have a limit in the bill.
Gilbert: So where it's obvious that a woman is about to give birth. She has physical signs that she is about to give birth. Would that still be a point at which she could request an abortion if she was so certified? She's dilating.
Tran: Mr. Chairman, that would be a decision that the doctor, the physician and the woman would make at that point.
Gilbert: I understand that. I'm asking if your bill allows that?
Tran: My bill would allow that, yes.

2. Just because it's legal to abort at any stage doesn't mean it's actually happening. Late-term abortions are extremely rare. 

Depends on how you define "rare," I guess. It's true that only 1.3% of all abortions take place after 21 weeks gestation. I would call that relatively rare because abortion is so incredibly common. There were an estimated 926,200 abortions in 2014; that amounts to 12,040 21+ week abortions, or about 33 per day.

And no honest and informed person can revert to the "clumps of cells" euphemisms here. The fetuses we're talking about are an average of 10.5 inches long, organ systems developed, flirting with viability.

Here's a premature girl at 24 weeks (though born at 21 weeks). Source.


I believe people dismiss late-term abortion as "extremely rare" largely because even at this late stage, they don't internalize fetal development or assign any real moral worth to the fetus. But try to remember that pro-life people tend to think of ^these kiddos as morally equivalent to newborns or toddlers. If we had a structure to legally kill three dozen 2-year-olds every day, would you call that "extremely rare"?

Or consider, for example, if, in the wake of yet another absurd and heartbreaking school shooting, you pointed out that dozens of children are killed (not only injured, but killed) in school shootings in this country every year (numbers here). Imagine if the people you bring this up to responded "Statistically that is an almost nonexistent number. Stop pretending this is such a huge deal. What's your real motivation here?"


3. But that picture is misleading because it's a healthy preterm baby. Late-term abortions are done for medical reasons, like major fetal anomalies or if the woman's life is in danger.

Sadly, no. Secular Pro-Life has discussed this misconception extensively. It would be a lot more comfortable to believe that we legally poison and dismember late-term fetuses only in the most dire of medical tragedies, but that's just a reassuring fiction. There's quite a lot of evidence to suggest that many or even most late-term abortions are not done for physical health reasons at all. Here's a quick list:

[Edit 2/26/19: We have since consolidated most of the links below, plus more information, here: Master post: 21+ week abortions usually aren't medically necessary.]
  1. No, most late-term abortions are not medically necessary (SPL blog post about abortions after 13 weeks and after 16 weeks, with links to all the original data)
  2. More evidence that most late-term abortions are elective (SPL blog post about abortions in the 2nd trimester and abortions 21 weeks or later)
  3. Even third trimester abortions are done for non-medical reasons| (SPL blog post with links to interviews of third trimester abortion providers)
  4. Clinton Off on Late-Term Abortions (FactCheck.Org calls out HRC for suggesting late-term abortions are all for medical reasons.)
  5. Who seeks abortions at or after 20 weeks? (Guttmacher research listing primary reasons for non-medical abortions at 20 weeks or later)
  6. The truth about later abortions, according to someone who actually had one (ThinkProgress interview of a woman who got an abortion 5.5-6 months into her pregnancy for reasons unrelated to serious health issues.)


4. Well a nine month abortion never actually happens. Anti-choice activists try to act like women are getting abortions right before birth, but abortion in the ninth month does not exist.

Women have gotten abortions in the ninth month (see Kate Carson's story here), but I agree that it's probably incredibly rare (both relatively and actually rare). Even Dr. Susan Robinson, one of the abortion providers who openly discusses performing non-medical third trimester abortions, has also discussed how she will refuse to do an abortion that's near the very end of pregnancy because it would be unsafe to the mother.
I had a patient from France and she just desperately did not want to be pregnant — but she was 35 weeks, and gestational age is plus or minus three weeks, so she could’ve been at 38 weeks, and that’s just too far along. It wouldn’t be safe.
However further answers in this interview and elsewhere suggest that as long as an abortion is safe for the mother, Dr. Robinson is open to performing it even if it's very late-term and even if there are no serious health problems. Here's a quote from the same interview above:
So how do you draw the line in the case of a healthy fetus? It’s hard. Essentially I have to say to myself, “Is this a very compelling story?” And I feel very bad about that because who am I to say, “Well, it’s compelling because you’re 11,” and then I see a similar case when the girl’s 14 and I think, okay… but then, what if you’re 15, what if you’re 16? How do we draw these lines? What is the ethical difference between doing an abortion at 29 and 32 weeks? Is there a meaningful ethical difference? Can I justify it? Will I have to justify it, and to whom?
Here's a quote from a different interview:
I have to admit, you know, when I started doing this, I thought, "Well, if someone came in to me at 38 weeks, could I do an abortion on a 38-week pregnancy? You know, it'd have to be a pretty good story." And then I started thinking, "What do ya mean a pretty good story? Is this how you earn your abortion? By telling good stories?"
So while I agree that a nine month non-medical abortion probably almost never happens, I don't think it's clear that it literally never happens. More to the point, if it literally never happens, why would it need to be a legal option? Can you imagine if we were having this conversation about anyone other than full-term fetuses?

Side A: We should legalize killing toddlers under these very niche, never-gonna-happen situations even though it would still be totally unnecessary.
Side B: What? That's horrifying. Why would we do that?
Side A: Wow, stop being so dramatic. It's never going to come up anyway!
Side B: In which case, again, why would we legalize it?


5. It needs to be a legal option because a woman could have an emergency medical situation in the ninth month that requires a life-saving abortion!

First of all, all gestational limits on abortion include an exception if the mother's life is at risk (see the "Exceptions" columns of the table at the bottom of this Guttmacher link). If the concern is to make sure that even in the ninth month she can get an abortion to save her life, that's already covered. Concerns about life-of-the-mother situations don't explain why abortion should be legal through the end of pregnancy for a much wider variety of reasons.

But that aside, what situations, exactly, would risk a woman's life if she could not get a 24+ week abortion?

Some OBGYNs have asserted no such situation exists. In fact usually when asked for specifics, the pro-choice side offers many stories about threats to fetal health, but so far none (that we're aware of) that established the woman's life was threatened in a way that abortion would save her but delivering a live child would not. That last point is key here, because very late-term abortions are just as--if not more--complicated than giving birth itself (see this interview with a late-term abortion provider which describes abortion after 25 weeks as "an agonising four day-trial" that still involves labor "as arduous as with a live baby.") So while there can definitely be emergency medical situations in the ninth month of pregnancy, we are aware of none that would be better resolved by an extremely late-term abortion than by giving birth.

Neither Virginia bill-sponsor Tran nor the NARAL lobbyist alongside her were able to describe a single instance where such an abortion would be medically necessary. Here's more partial transcript from the same video above:
Gilbert: Delegate Tran, what are some of the conditions that a woman could be experiencing in a third trimester late-term pregnancy for which an abortion and not delivery would be the optimal result to protect either her life or health or that of the child, if that's even an interest? What would be the--is there any commonly accepted medical decision to terminate the pregnancy in the late-term? Other than deliver the child? If the mother's health or life is actually in danger?
Tran: I'm aware that there are certain medical conditions where that might be an option for the mother, and I would actually turn over to Galina (sp) from NARAL to see if she has those specific medical examples.
NARAL lobbyist: So hi. I don't have a lot of specific examples because I'm not a physician, I'm an attorney, so we unfortunately do not have, the physicians could not be here today because they are seeing patients at the moment. I know that there are certain central nervous system anomalies that cannot be determined until later stages in the pregnancy. I also know that certain anomalies like the absence of certain organs…
Gilbert: Okay, so you're talking about the child. Let me just leave that out of the equation then. In terms of the health or life of the mother, what conditions are there that can't be resolved by delivering the child rather than undergoing an abortion?
NARAL lobbyist: Again, I am not a physician. I can point to a case that happened in Ireland. That's the first one that comes to my mind that I'd be happy to find for you and send you the article about. I can send you that article, and if you'll give me some time I can ask our physicians to provide you with a list of maladies that can lead to a woman having to have an abortion at the late stage of pregnancy. I do know that those cases exist.
Gilbert: But you don't know what they are?
NARAL lobbyist: Like I said, not a physician. I do not have those specifics about the woman. I have some specifics about the fetus. I do not have specifics about the woman.
Gilbert: And again since you yielded, you don't have any specifics on that, obviously.
Tran: No, I don't.

6. Pro-lifers act like women just wake up one morning and casually decide they no longer want to be mothers. Late-term abortion is not that simple.

I actually agree with this one. It's irritating how pro-choice people insist that late-term abortions are only done for severe medical reasons when that is clearly not the case, but that doesn't mean the non-medical reasons are casual reasons. The options aren't limited to:
  1. Women only ever seek late-term abortion because their child is going to suffer terribly or they themselves are going to die, or
  2. Women casually and cheerfully decide very late in a pregnancy they just don't want to be moms after all.
The reality is more like (3) a higher proportion of late-term abortions are due to physical health problems, most late-term abortions aren't for physical health reasons, but they are often for other very serious reasons. In her interview with The Irish Times, late-term abortion provider Dr. Shelly Sella describes some of the circumstances of women who go to her for third trimester abortions:
In the past few weeks Sella has cared for a nine-year-old impregnated by rape. Because she had never had a period, and because the rapist threatened to hurt her if she said anything, the pregnancy went unnoticed.

In another recent case, a teenager pregnant by rape and too traumatised to tell anyone was brought in by her mother, who was highly religious and anti-abortion – but not in the case of her daughter. “The mother feared coming home to find her daughter hanging dead in the closet,” says Sella.

A mother of three came to the clinic because, at 26 weeks, her husband was killed in a car crash, destroying her family emotionally and financially, so she felt she could not cope with a new baby.
I don't think pro-lifers always internalize the hardships that lead some women to seek late-term abortion.

But on the other hand, I don't think pro-choicers are willing to face the reality that women also seek late-term abortion not because of any horrifying physical health issues or personal circumstances, but because either (a) they simply didn't realize they were pregnant earlier or (b) they struggled to decide whether they wanted an abortion (or both).

Dr. Robinson describes women who come to her for third trimester abortions because they didn't realize they were pregnant until near the end of the 2nd trimester. Guttmacher research from 2013 lists "not knowing about the pregnancy" and "trouble deciding about abortion" as two of the most common reasons women sought abortions at 20 weeks or later. And Slate's Will Saletan outlines quite a bit of research suggesting unawareness of pregnancy and ambivalence to abortion are major reasons women abort later:
In the 2004 Guttmacher survey, nearly all second trimester patients said they wished they’d had their abortions earlier. Of these women, 67 percent said it had taken a long time to arrange the procedure. But 50 percent said (in addition or instead of that answer) that they’d taken a long time to decide. A 2002 study in Northern California found a narrower gap: 63 percent of second-trimester patients cited logistical factors, while 51 percent cited emotional factors such as changing their minds or difficulty making the decision. And in a third study, conducted in England and Wales in 2005, the most common reason cited by second-trimester patients for the lateness of their abortions was that “it took me a while to make my mind up and ask for one.”

The next most common reasons cited in the English study were 2) “I didn’t realize I was pregnant earlier because my periods are irregular,” 3) “I thought the pregnancy was much less advanced than it was,” 4) “I wasn’t sure what I would do if I were pregnant,” 5) “I didn’t realize I was pregnant earlier because I was using contraception,” and 6) “I suspected I was pregnant but I didn’t do anything about it until the weeks had gone by.” The most common logistical factor—”I had to wait more than 5 days before I could get a consultation appointment”—was eighth on the list. Abortion Review, a news update service produced by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, concluded: “Perhaps the most striking finding of this study is the extent to [which] the delay in obtaining an abortion arose, not from factors within the abortion service such as lack of appointments, but from women’s delay in seeking an abortion in the first place.”

7. Well even if women abort very late-term healthy fetuses for non-medical reasons, it's none of your business. It's her body and her decision.

I'm glad to say that most Americans really don't agree with this, including even most of the people who describe themselves as pro-choice. And why should they? We're talking about killing healthy viable humans for no medical reason. Many people would consider that a human rights violation, and most people don't find "mind your own business" very persuasive in response to human rights violations.

I've always thought bodily rights arguments are the stronger pro-choice arguments (though not airtight), but they make a whole lot less sense when we're talking about late-term abortion. The idea behind bodily rights arguments is that no one can use your body against your will. Even if we accepted that this generally applies to pregnancy and abortion, it ceases to make sense once the fetus is viable. In that case the woman can restore her bodily autonomy by giving birth, so what justification is there for restoring her autonomy only by killing another human? As mentioned above (see #5), late-term abortions are not easier or less complicated than giving birth; in fact in the latest stages the woman still has to endure equivalent labor and delivery. So the distinction here is not what her body goes through; it's only whether she delivers a live child or a dead one. What do bodily rights have to do with it?

Most late-term abortions aren't about restoring a woman's bodily autonomy; they are about ensuring she doesn't birth a live baby.


8. Women who want late-term abortions will get them whether it's legal or not. Legal restrictions just make it more dangerous for the woman.

This is another misconception. While it's undoubtedly true that some nonzero amount of women will seek abortion even when it's illegal, it's also true that laws against abortion decrease abortion rates. Here's another quick list:

  1. Myth #3: Abortion restrictions don't stop abortion. (SPL video presentation explaining the flaws in the international Guttmacher data which suggests there's no relationship between abortion law and abortion rates.)
  2. International "unsafe abortion" studies are highly flawed. (SPL post outlining more issues with international Guttmacher data.)
  3. Pro-life laws stop abortions. Here's the evidence. (SPL blog post with links to original data, including some international data.)
  4. More evidence that abortion restrictions decrease abortions. (SPL blog post linking to studies for the United States specifically.)
  5. Evidence that pro-life laws mean fewer unplanned pregnancies. (SPL post linking to studies in the United States that find correlations--and sometimes causal relationships--between abortion law and a population's sexual behavior, including contraception use, STD spread, and pregnancy rates.)
  6. Stop saying that making abortion illegal won't stop people from having them. (Rewire article [pro-choice author] explaining how abortion laws do affect abortion rates.)
  7. I Got An Abortion In One Of The Most Restrictive States - This Is What I Went Through. (Example anecdote in which a woman explains if Ohio had already passed its 'heartbeat bill,' she would have ended up carrying her pregnancy to term rather than aborting.)
Note that the above information is for abortion at any stage in pregnancy, but it's likely the law's effects will be even more profound at the later stages. 

First, later abortion procedures are more expensive, time-consuming, complicated, and risky than earlier procedures. Few people are willing to legally provide late-term, especially third trimester, abortions in the first place. Few if any would be willing to chance trying to secretly and illegally provide one. 

Second, there are very few women desperate enough to try to get an illegal late-term abortion. There are relatively few women interested in late-term abortion in the first place (see #2). A higher proportion of those women seek such abortions due to severe medical issues (see #6), but nearly all state gestational limits make exceptions for maternal health issues (see #5), and many also make exceptions for severe fetal health problems. Late-term abortion restrictions are less likely to affect the women in the worst situations and more likely to apply to women without any serious maternal or fetal health conditions.

Abortion laws do decrease abortion, and that's especially likely to apply to (relatively) rarely sought difficult complicated procedures which are still legal for the absolute worst situations anyway.



In summary:

  1. Plenty of states effectively legalize abortion at any gestational age for a wide variety of reasons; seven states have no gestational limits on abortion in the first place.
  2. 21+ week abortions occur roughly 33 times per day in the United States. They aren't that rare.
  3. Most late-term abortions are not done because of significant physical health problems; most aren't done for medical reasons at all. Even in the third trimester, women seek abortions for non-medical reasons.
  4. Abortions in the ninth month are probably incredibly rare, but there's reason to believe that, yes, even those do happen.
  5. All gestational limits on abortion in the United States include an exception if the woman's life is in danger, so pointing to life-threatening situations to justify broad late-term abortion laws doesn't make much sense. Also, we don't know of any circumstance where a woman's health is better preserved by a very late-term abortion than by giving birth.
  6. Some women seek late-term abortions for very serious reasons, even if they aren't medical reasons. However other women seek late-term abortion simply because they didn't realize they were pregnant earlier and/or they couldn't decide if they really wanted an abortion.
  7. Bodily rights arguments don't justify aborting healthy viable fetuses that could simply be delivered live instead.
  8. Abortion restrictions significantly decrease abortion, and this is likely even more effective for later abortions than earlier ones.

If you read this far, wow--good dedication.


Further Reading: Are Women "Forced to Carry a Dead Baby" Due to Anti-Abortion Laws?

(While I personally haven't seen this claim, others have said they talk to many pro-choice people who believe late-term abortion laws need to be relaxed because otherwise women are forced to carry their dead fetuses. One of our followers, JoAnna Wahlund, wrote an extensive blog post explaining that even states with the most restrictive abortion laws specifically state their restrictions don't apply to removing a dead fetus.)