Monday, October 31, 2016

PLAGAL at the Pro-Life Women's Conference

[Today's guest post by Sarah Anne first appeared in a newsletter for the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL) and is reprinted with permission.]

June 24, 25th, and 26th of 2016, the first annual Pro-Life Women's Conference was held in Dallas, Texas. The conference was the vision of Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director, now pro-life and an advocate for abortion workers. Her organization, And Then There Were None, helps provider abortion clinic workers with a way out, and financial, legal, emotional, and spiritual support as they leave the industry. The three-day conference's goal was to provide women with a place to come together and help reclaim the narrative of what empowerment, justice, equality, and even feminism can do to support the pro-life position, and women in unplanned pregnancies.

The conference buzzed with excitement the entire weekend and women with many different stories and experiences shared the ways they are helping out in the movement. Feminism, advocacy (both on the sidewalk and digitally), religious, secular, and even a Spanish language series of presentations were available throughout the weekend. Many who attended the conference were from Texas, but there were a decent amount of representatives from pregnancy centers and organizations across the United States. I got to attend the conference thanks to the generosity of PLAGAL members and I helped educate and inform people attending the conference about our organization at the table we set up. From the website for PLAGAL:
PLAGAL strives to promote a respect for life within the gay community and encourage gay and lesbian participation [in] the pro-life cause. Membership includes women and men of various sexual orientations, political affiliations, and geographic locations -- all committed to raising awareness of the pro-life ethic as consistent with the gay and lesbian struggle for human rights.
I wasn't sure what to expect from the atendees as we set up the PLAGAL table in the Marsalis Hall. Would there be shock or hostility? Curiosity or dismissal? What I realized about the weekend after I hugged my friends goodbye was the following:

  1. We were well received. People were genuinely curious about our organization's existence and after only having talked with them briefly about who we are, they eagerly took a brochure and expressed that they were happy we were there. 
  2. We are desperately needed. As great as it is to have twenty pro-life Christian organizations represented and out helping the cause, we fill a gap that those organizations just can't. We say, regardless of your religion or sexual identity/orientation, you are welcome to stand with us (not saying some religious groups would not be welcoming). However you are, whoever you are, if you are for mothers and babies, you belong here. This is the type of unity that gets BIG things done, and frankly, the pro-life side seriously needs to embrace this message. We are the messengers and voices for those who might otherwise feel less than welcome. 
  3. We still have a ways to go. I hate to say it, but the conference was lacking racial and ethnic diversity. Obviously there were some Latina women present for the Spanish presentations and conference overall, but there were only a few black women present. I saw maybe one Asian girl, and I don't know if anyone besides atheists and Christians were represented as far as religions go. [Editor's note: Secular Pro-Life had a pagan volunteer.] While I realize our main goal is to stop abortion, I can't help but wonder where the women from these backgrounds are, and why aren't they coming to this conference? How can we help them more as fellow advocates? 
  4. I thought most people who were gay are liberal and support abortion. Why do we even exist? Similar queries were often posed by people who walked by our table and stopped to talk and take a brochure. Who we are, why we exist as a group, and why we are an essential part of the pro-life movement, are sometimes things that don't come across a computer screen. As a representative of PLAGAL, I tried to express the importance of solidarity, camaraderie, and openness to working with people who are different to the people who came to talk to us. I tried to say, with my words and my heart, that we need to work together, embrace new ideas, and respond with love to not only pregnant women in crisis, but to those who want to take up the mantle of the cause. 
  5. We need YOU. You may have been hurt before in the past by an organization not wanting to accept you as a volunteer or feeling like you couldn't be involved in some way. Please don't let that stop you from trying again. Use your gifts! Your talent, passion, and caring spirit are what we need to reach everyone! “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” -Theodore Roosevelt. 
The 2017 Pro-life Women's Conference will be held in Orlando, Florida on June 23-25. Check out their Facebook page for more information regarding the conference and hotel selection.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tune in Wednesday night for "Election Whine"

CORRECTION: This post previously referred to "Tuesday, November 2nd." November 2nd is actually Wednesday. Sorry about that.

Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard here.

With both major-party candidates sporting negative approval ratings, with people unfriending each other on social media over politics, and with voters wondering out loud which candidate has the least bad record on sexual assault, this presidential election season is objectively awful.

The ugly divisiveness of this election is a huge problem for the United States in general, but it specifically threatens the pro-life movement. Building a strong majority to prevent abortion has always required some reaching across the aisle—but the aisle has gotten a lot wider.

I'm pleased to announce my participation in Students for Life of America's effort to make this election a little less awful:

This will be a friendly debate, live-streamed on facebook, between two pro-lifers who respectfully disagree about the presidential election. It will be a place to air our respective best cases, while reaffirming our commitment to working together in the future. Best of all, there will be wine.

I will represent the #NeverTrump position, while Lauren Muzyka of Sidewalk Advocates for Life will represent the pro-Trump position. Students for Life of America selected us because (a) we can play nice, and (b) we're both lawyers.

So pour yourself a glass of wine and tune in live on the Students for Life of America facebook page this Wednesday night at 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific. You've earned it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The State of the Abortion Debate in Poland

[Today's guest post is by SPL supporter Sylwia Gryciuk. She lives in Wrocław and is 25 years old.]

It is a popular myth of our times that free access to abortion reflects society’s high level of cultural development. Another widely adopted view holds that we – as human civilization – gradually struggle towards greater equality and thus respect for (broadly understood) human rights. There are some exceptions, of course, as certain communities divert from the expected path, stripping their members of the previously held rights.

Such narrative was mostly favored by the Western media reporting on recent events in Poland: on October 3 around 100k women nationwide excused from work and dressed in black to protest on the streets against the bill proposal which – in the highly unlikely event of its adoption – would nearly completely ban legal access to abortion in the country, leaving the physicians room for medical intervention only if women’s life was in imminent danger. Considering the already strict pregnancy termination laws in Poland (abortion is only allowed in the cases of danger to woman’s life/health, fetal anomalies and rape/incest), many ordinary foreign commentators lamented Polish women’s situation, perceiving it as a reflection of oppressive government’s violation of women’s rights. As it often turns out, the truth is much more complex and even basic research into the history of Polish abortion law proves that the modern pro-“choice” mindset largely depends on distorted – if not deceitful – historical narratives.

At first and very superficial glance it may appear that in Poland the moral evaluation of abortion should be more or less a settled question. Poland is an ethnically and religiously homogenous country with roughly 93% of its population being nominally Catholic; even though mere 40% of them are church-goers, only 6% of the population as a whole declare themselves to be non-believers. Taking into account the Catholic church’s staunch and consistent opposition to abortion in all cases expect danger to mother’s life, one might expect to find the reflection of this position in the opinions of the church’s Polish members. Indeed, recent studies reveal that 75% of Poles oppose legalization of abortion on demand, that is the abortion of healthy embryos and fetuses carried by healthy women. The percentage dramatically shifts though in the cases of less desirable pregnancies: 73% of respondents support legal access to abortion in the event of rape or incest, with mere 11% voicing their opposition, while the legal access to abortion due to fetal anomalies is approved by 53% of the respondents and condemned by only a third.

The findings unsurprisingly show that even though the moral stances of religious authorities do to some extent correlate with the values held by their communities, the majority of the population tend to develop their conscience independently when it comes to critical moral issues. Among other things, it shows that there indeed is a place and a need for secular opposition to abortion even in communities with strong religious component to their identities. Its lack inevitably leads to primitive ideological war in which the unborn children – the ones who should remain in the forefront – are often pushed to the background.

Indeed, the public debate on abortion in Poland has often been reduced to a manifestation of deeply held prejudice and destructive hate. It is not uncommon for the Polish mainstream media to organize quasi-discussions on abortion with a priest representing the pro-life movement and a radical feminist (boasting about the abortion she allegedly underwent on an important Catholic holiday) on the pro-choice side. The outcome is obviously a disaster, with many ordinary people refusing to take a definite stance on the issue of abortion which they view as a red herring, diverting attention from the “real” problems Poland faces. But the problem of abortion in its legal dimension has in Poland a long and thought-provoking history whose importance is often trivialized.

The controversial bill draft which resparked the national debate was prepared by Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture - a secular and independent foundation self-described as: “[gathering] academics and legal practitioners aiming at promotion of legal culture based on the respect for human dignity and rights.” The petition to have the draft considered by the Polish Parliament was subsequently signed by nearly 500k adults eligible for voting, which is quite an impressive number for the country with the population of 38 millions. Sadly, deeper research reveals Ordo Iuris is a highly conservative organization opposing not only abortion but also sex education and homosexual unions – a view which not only alienates more liberally-minded pro-lifers but also in many people’s minds waters down the abortion issue to a politically and religiously motivated battle. In consequence, on October 3 it was not uncommon to see protestors holding signs attacking Catholic church and current conservative government, even though neither was officially involved in the preparation of the draft bill. The protests also floated Polish Internet with memes and satirical drawings representing both sides of the abortion argument. One of the recurrent motifs was… Adolf Hitler. A popular tongue-in-cheek meme says: “Hitler was fighting for Polish women’s right to abortion before it was cool”. As propagandist as this may sounds to some, the meme’s message is backed by historical facts.

Above: an anti-abortion meme that circulated in Polish social media. Its English translation: "Hitler was fighting for Polish women's right to abortion before it was cool."

Poland is quite unique among other European countries in that in the course of the last 70 years its abortion laws have not been growing more liberal but restricted. The current law, the so-called “abortion compromise” came to force in 1993 after Poland has (at least officially) stopped being a puppet state of the former USRR and started seemingly regaining its own political and cultural identity. Under communist regime, abortion in Poland was additionally allowed in the case of difficult economical situation of the pregnant woman (but in practice it was easily available on request). Only once in the history of the country was abortion on demand ever legally obtainable and this was in the Nazi-occupied Poland. In the pro-choice revisionist history of the Nazi regime Hitler’s ban on abortion for German women is a crystal-clear example that abortion restrictions go in pair with totalitarianism and disrespect for human rights. The truth points in quite a different direction, though. In all fairness, the abortion ban in the Nazi Germany was not initiated by the ruling class’s concern for life, but rather the pragmatic desire to expand the German population. For the regime exterminating the disabled and minorities the concept of human rights simply does not exist. This is exactly why on various occasions abortion appears to them as an attractive tool of genocide as well.

For Poles it is widely known fact that the Nazis viewed Slavs as subhumans and intended on exterminated a significant number of them to subsequently turn the rest into a nation of slaves. Eventually, nearly 20% of Polish citizens lost their lives in the course of World War II. Most of them were civilians and about a half were ethnic Poles whose relatives are now the vast majority of Poland’s population. Importantly, this shocking number still does not include the victims of legally obtainable unrestricted abortion.

In order to be ideologically consistent, supporters of legal abortion should conclude that in 1943 Hitler’s regime granted Polish women fundamental reproductive right which their own pre-war government had denied them. Considering all the atrocities that Polish citizens suffered at the hands of the Nazis to say so would be beyond embarrassing, if not downright offensive. Granting free access to abortion in the war-torn Poland was obviously motivated not by concern for women’s rights, by rather by lack of any respect for the lives of Polish women and children on the part of the occupants. It was Hitler himself who concluded that:

In view of the large families of the Slav native population, it could only suit us if girls and women there had as many abortions as possible. We are not interested in seeing the non-German population multiply…We must use every means to install in the population the idea that it is harmful to have several children, the expenses that they cause and the dangerous effect on woman’s health… It will be necessary to open special institutions for abortions and doctors must be able to help out there in case there is any question of this being a breach of their professional ethics.

A statement chilling mostly because of how reminiscent it is of the current policies and viewpoints related to abortion.

Frederica Mathewes-Green, a pro-life feminist, once famously wrote: “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.” For many desperate Polish women caught in the trap of World War II legal abortion on demand offered by ruthless occupants might indeed seem like the only way out of their miserable situation. But would anyone in their right mind claim that the Nazis gave Polish women a right to choose? Comparing the life in the worn-torn areas to the relative luxury of first-world countries seems disrespectful to say the least but in truth, individual people of every cultural and historical background experience their private tragedies, sometimes pushing them towards abortion which they perceive as the only way out of their problems. It is nothing but revisionist narratives though which make some of us claim that by undergoing abortions these fearful women are executing their right to choose or that politicians who introduce a law allowing women to kill their unborn offspring are by definition mindful of the lives of women and children. Sadly, we often quickly forget the valuable lessons of history and turn to tenuous ideologies instead. It should not surprise us then that there are Polish women (and men) who genuinely believe that support for abortion on demand equals support for freedom and compassion.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Life/Peace/Justice Conference was AMAZING

The latest Life/Peace/Justice Conference (LPJ) took place at the University of Texas - Austin last weekend, and what an incredible gathering it was. LPJ is a consistent life ethic conference, meaning that abortion is not the only topic on the table. Our areas of advocacy ran the gamut, from foreign policy to subsidized child care to the death penalty.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that pro-lifers stop caring after birth. Those aren't the pro-lifers I know.

Of course, Secular Pro-Life is primarily focused on abortion, and we brought our expertise to LPJ. Yours truly (SPL president Kelsey Hazzard) had the pleasure of joining Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists, Life Matters Journal president (and LPJ organizer) Aimee Murphy, and Cecilia Brown of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians in a panel discussion on "Being Unconventionally Pro-Life." We live-streamed it on facebook and you can watch it here.

Later, I gave a solo presentation on how pro-life student leaders can make their campus organizations open to people of every faith and no faith. You can watch that one here.

More videos:
As cool as the live-streaming feature was, it's so much more fun to be there in person. I hope you can make it for LPJ 2017! The date and location are TBD, but in the meantime, we have the March for Life (D.C.) and Walk for Life (San Francisco) in January. Many of the organizations featured at LPJ march together. We will publish the details of the meetup spot as soon as they're available.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Journey and Launch of Pro-Life Future of San Francisco

[Today's guest post is by Terrisa Bukovinac.]

When I first set out to launch a Pro-Life Future chapter in San Francisco, I was at the Life/Peace/Justice 2016 Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Traveling to the city of Philadelphia for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the history of our (well I think great) nation. I was so inspired by the story of our forefathers, their desire to create a nation where all were treated equally and where the idea of basic human rights was put into law. We may take these rights for granted from time to time, but the influence the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” has had on my life is undeniable. And although tragically not all persons have had access to these rights throughout our history, I pretty much live by a code of constantly treating myself to whatever I like, whenever I want it (as long as i'm not hurting anyone!). It’s amazing. Thanks, America.

Anyway, so I’m in this moment. I’m inspired. I want to make a difference. I’m pro-life. And along comes C.J Williams of Pro-Life Future. For those of you who may not be aware, Pro-Life Future is an offshoot of Students For Life of America. It is a way for young professionals to come together and make a difference in their local communities. I made a promise to her shortly after the conference (like maybe a day later) that I would start a chapter in SF.  

For those of you who are not totally familiar with SF, you may not quite understand just how vehemently pro-choice the city really is. For example, two of my closest friends (I’m quite social) have held full time positions with NARAL Pro-Choice America, and most of the women I know have done at least some volunteer work with Planned Parenthood. The marriage between being a true progressive liberal, and holding a pro-choice position is prevalent to say the least. And basically everyone here would say they are a progressive. Including myself really. In many ways I am a textbook San Franciscan. I’ve lived in SF almost a decade, and I adore it.

But obviously, I’m pro-life. And I’m an atheist. So the struggle of making any pro-life connections in SF was real. C.J. assured me that I would only need two others to launch my group. That seemed reasonable at first. But after months and months of attempting to reach out to church groups and other local pro-life groups, I was at a complete loss. I had met and spoken with dozens of people, yet not one was willing to commit to a leadership position. I knew I had a more leftist vision for the group, likely more liberal and secular than most of the religious people I'd encountered were really comfortable with. And then one day, CJ sent me the facebook event invitation to my launch party. I thought there wasn’t a hope in the world that we would have more than just me showing up. But then the tide turned. I met a wonderful writer for Live Action, Laura Peredo. She was totally on board with my message, and gave me the hope that I needed that we could recruit and bring a group together to make a difference in our local community.

Long story short(er), the group launched on Oct. 18th, and we had over 25 attendees! I almost couldn’t believe it. And what a good looking group too! I mean, let’s face it, we can’t sell the pro-life cause unless it’s cute.  

On that night, I delivered a three page speech, but I’ll include just a sample of those remarks.

The intention of this group is to magnify a pro-life voice in San Francisco, which I think is not only a tall order, but is desperately needed… It is crucial to understand that this is not as simple as democrat vs. republican, or Christianity v. secularism... as champions of the right to life for all persons, it is essential that we address all life issues. In addition to helping under-served communities, and making our city a better place to live, we seek to make it harder for the pro-choice constituency to dismiss our position on abortion. When we have demonstrated that we stand by what we proclaim, that all human life is valuable and worthy of protection, we will gain credibility. We will stand with secularists, with the needs of women, with LGBTQ people, and with black and brown lives. We are here to introduce, and explore for ourselves, what it means to adhere to a consistent life ethic. We meet to bring peace to our community and peace will not be achieved without acknowledging the grievances of those most severely impacted by violence and discrimination. Our value as humans is not based on our circumstances, our religion, our political affiliations, our cultural backgrounds, the color of our skin, our sexuality, our gender, our gender preference, our level of development, or our abilities.  Our value is grounded in our shared humanity.
So many told me they felt inspired by the message and were excited to be part of something new, something that maybe hasn’t been done before.  A pro-life group of young professionals, dedicated to reaching progressive liberals, would you ever think it possible? We were even covered by the SF Newsfeed. I think it’s safe to say that that night, we all felt energized, and ready to do the necessary work to bring the pro-life message to San Francisco. There’s so much more to come.  

I encourage you to follow our progress on our facebook page. We’re ready to make a difference here in SF, and if we can do it here, we can do it everywhere.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

No, most late-term abortions are not medically necessary.

[Editor's note: This post was originally published on July 13, 2016 and has recently been updated.]

When it comes to The Abortion Debate, both sides often try to focus on facets which make the opposition look worst. For example, pro-lifers like to talk about late-term abortions. Pro-choicers like to talk about rape and medically necessary abortions. Both of these are small fractions of all abortions. Nevertheless, they all warrant thoughtful responses.

It's not uncommon for pro-choicers to sincerely believe that most late-term abortions are done for medically necessary reasons. After all, 97% of pro-choicers and 69% of pro-lifers support the legal option of abortion when the woman's life is in danger. Likewise 96% and 68% support it when "the woman's physical health is endangered" (2011 Gallup).

Claiming late-term abortion is usually done out of medical necessity may help counter the public’s overwhelming disapproval of the practice: 64% of all US citizens believe abortion should be illegal in the 2nd trimester, 80% in the third trimester (2013 Gallup). Note that second trimester is week 13 to 26; definitions of "late term" vary, most I've seen include anywhere from 16 to 20 weeks and onward.

Yet, to the best of our knowledge, most late-term abortions are not done for medical reasons.

This 1988 study surveyed 399 women seeking abortion at 16+ weeks. The study found women were obtaining late-term abortions instead of earlier-term abortions (i.e. reasons for delaying) because:

  • 71% Woman didn't recognize she was pregnant or misjudged gestation
  • 48% Woman found it hard to make arrangements for abortion
  • 33% Woman was afraid to tell her partner or parents
  • 24% Woman took time to decide to have an abortion
  • 8% Woman waited for her relationship to change
  • 8% Someone pressured woman not to have abortion
  • 6% Something changed after woman became pregnant
  • 6% Woman didn't know timing is important
  • 5% Woman didn't know she could get an abortion
  • 2% A fetal problem was diagnosed late in pregnancy
  • 11% Other
But, again, these are reasons for delaying abortion, not necessarily reasons for seeking abortion. This is an important distinction because, for example, a woman may have delayed her abortion because it was hard to make arrangements for it, but she may be getting the abortion due to medical necessity. If we want to know why women getting late-term abortions seek abortion in the first place, we need to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, sources discussing this seem to be very hard to come by.
(If you know of any statistics looking only at late-term abortions and women's reasons for obtaining abortion in that time-frame -- NOT reasons for delaying -- please email it to or message us on the Facebook page.)

According a 2004 study by Guttmacher, 1,160 women seeking abortion (not just late-term) gave overall reasons for obtaining an abortion at all stages (may list more than one):
  • 74% Having a baby would dramatically change my life
  • 73% Can't afford a baby now 
  • 48% Don't want to be a single mother or having relationship problems
  • 38% Have completed my childbearing
  • 32% Not ready for a(nother) child
  • 25% Don't want people to know I had sex or got pregnant
  • 22% Don't feel mature enough to raise a(nother) child
  • 14% Husband or partner wants woman to have abortion
  • 13% Possible problems affecting the health of the fetus
  • 12% Physical problem with my health
  • 6% Parents want me to have an abortion
  • 1% Woman was victim of rape 
  • <0.5% Became pregnant as a result of incest
The same Guttmacher study has statistics for later term abortion (13+ weeks gestation, see Table 6). According to Guttmacher, 21% of women who had abortion at or past 13 weeks were doing so for fetal health concerns, and 10% for personal health concerns. This would mean, at most, 31% of these later term abortions were for health reasons. In other words:

At least 69% of 13+ week abortions are not done for fetal or maternal health concerns.

But in fact the percent of elective abortions will be higher than 69% because in some cases the same woman who had personal health concerns also cited fetal health concerns, meaning there is overlap between these two groups. Furthermore the 69% figure relies on a heavily generous interpretation: it assumes health concerns always equal medically necessary abortions. As the study explains:

Women who felt that their fetus’s health had been compromised cited concerns such as a lack of prenatal care, the risk of birth defects due to advanced maternal age, a history of miscarriages, maternal cocaine use and fetal exposure to prescription medications. Concerns about personal health included chronic and life-threatening conditions such as depression, advanced maternal age and toxemia. More commonly, however, women cited feeling too ill during the pregnancy to work or take care of their children.

A risk—not even a certainty--of a birth defect could include something as minor as a cleft lip. A risk of cleft lip gets included in the “medically necessary” category. In other words, many health problems are not serious enough to warrant the phrase "medically necessary abortion" yet are still included here. Pro-choicers often use the phrase “medically necessary” to conjure up images of things like ectopic pregnancies, but the reality is many of the abortions categorized as “medically necessary” are not nearly so impactful, much less fatal. 

Examples of common birth defects

Some people say “late-term” abortion should only include abortions at or after 16 weeks gestation. I’ve only been able to find reasons for abortions at or after 13 weeks data, which is slightly different. One could argue that the proportion of medically necessary abortions after 16 weeks would be higher.

And it probably would be. However there’s no indication it would be so high as to constitute even a majority of late-term abortions, much less “nearly all” late-term abortions. The data available suggests that (a) it’s true women seeking late-term abortions are more likely to be doing it for medical reasons than women seeking earlier term abortions and (b) it’s also true that most late-term abortions are not done for medical reasons.

Remember that at 13+ weeks, at most 31% of women were seeking abortion for medical reasons. Let’s be generous and guess that at 16+ weeks, it’s now 50% of women seeking abortion for medical reasons. According to Guttmacher, about 1,000,000 abortions are done every year, and 4.8% of those are done at 16+ weeks gestation ( = 48,000 abortions). Even if a full half of those are for medical reasons (very unlikely), that means 24,000 late-term abortions done annually for non-medical reasons. So: At least 65 late-term abortions are done every day in the U.S. for non-medical reasons. That is worth our attention, and if as many people are as opposed to late-term abortions as Gallup reveals, then it's worth everyone's attention! 

Follow up: More evidence that most late-term abortions are elective

Editor's note: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Guttmacher finds at least 75% of 13+ week abortions are for non-medical reasons. The 75% figure is for all abortions, not only abortions after 13 weeks. We have corrected the figure for 13+ weeks to the 69% minimum based on the Guttmacher report.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Big plans

Secular Pro-Life is riding high.

On September 30, our #HelloHyde campaign celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which has saved the lives of over 2 million children born through the Medicaid program. We educated tens of thousands of people about the life-saving power of the Hyde Amendment and highlighted the faces and stories of Medicaid kids. We built an alliance of pro-life organizations that will continue to put Medicaid kids first as the Hyde Amendment comes under attack by the radical abortion lobby.

Last week, we caught the attention of the left-leaning news outlet Slate, which featured Secular Pro-Life in a fantastic article about the Millennial generation of pro-life advocates. We are building on the work of pro-life pioneers, incorporating new ideas, and busting stereotypes. Young people are increasingly liberal on "social issues" like marriage, but we aren't budging on abortion. We recognize that the right to life for all ages is a fundamental human rights issue, and we're not going anywhere.

And this weekend, we're off to Austin for the Life/Peace/Justice conference, where pro-life advocates focused on abortion, the death penalty, suicide prevention, etc. will network and learn from one another.

Our busy schedule doesn't end there. January's anniversary of Roe v. Wade is just around the corner. As always, we will be at the March for Life in D.C., the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, and speak at the west coast and east coast Students for Life of America conferences corresponding to each. And in 2017, for the first time, we will be at the March for Life expo, which is attended by pro-lifers of all ages, from all over the country. We're so excited to help them make the secular case for life in their communities!

All of this costs money. The #HelloHyde campaign in particular was expensive, as we used paid advertising to reach people with our campaign videos. That was 100% worth it, but our bank account needs to be replenished as we gear up for January.

If you're able, please donate to Secular Pro-Life. We greatly appreciate your generosity.

Thank you for your continued support of our life-saving mission. Together, we will change hearts and minds until the day abortion is unthinkable for all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Chilean survivors of mine collapse speak out for the preborn

Pro-life, pro-woman advocates have long cited Chile as a model country. Since 1989, Chilean babies have been protected by law from conception. Instead of treating abortion as synonymous with women's rights, Chile invested in women's access to education and health care. As a result, Chile's restoration of the right to life corresponded with significant improvements in maternal health outcomes. In fact, pro-life Chile has the lowest maternal mortality rate in all of Latin America.

The international abortion lobby can't stand that fly in its crystal chardonnay of a narrative, so it has put pressure on Chile to weaken its pro-life laws. Like pro-lifers in the United States, they have adopted an incremental strategy. Their current proposal seeks to legalize abortion for babies with serious disabilities and babies conceived in rape, as a stepping stone to eventual abortion on demand.

But abortion advocates are swimming against a strong cultural current. 

Few people understand the inestimable value of human life better than those who have come close to losing their own lives. The Chilean miners whose dramatic rescue from a collapsed mine captivated the world in 2010 know a thing or two about "hopeless cases." They have taken the sixth anniversary of their rescue as an opportunity to promote the pro-life cause, in an editorial published in the major Chilean newspaper El Murcurio:

Click to enlarge

My Spanish is more than a little rusty, but even I can tell you the meaning of "no aceptamos leyes que no respeten la vida humana"—we do not accept laws that do not respect human life.

Well done, sirs.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Study: "Extra" Embryos Do Not Aid Infertility Treatment Compared To eSET

CORRECTION 10/17/16: The study we referenced below is specifically comparing elective single embryo transfer (eSET) to transfer of multiple embryos. eSET involves creating multiple embryos, using certain criteria to choose the embryo most likely to be viable, and transferring just that embryo to the mother. This process is in contrast with non-elective single embryo transfer, when only one embryo is created and so that specific embryo must be the one transferred to the mother. The study referenced below did not examine the live birth rates and multiple birth rates for non-elective single embryo transfer, but it is unlikely that creating and transferring a single embryo would be as effective as creating multiple embryos and transferring either the most promising embryo or more than one embryo.

A storage tank containing frozen embryos

Religious authorities widely oppose in vitro fertilization (IVF)—that is, fertilization outside a woman's body—as being unnatural or against the will of a god. From a secular point of view, IVF is not necessarily unethical... but often is in practice. There is nothing inherently good or bad about where conception takes place. The critical question is: how is the resulting embryonic human treated?

From the early days of IVF, fertility clinics have made a habit of creating far more embryos than the parents actually intend to raise. The idea is that by creating and implanting "extra" embryos, you can offset any embryos who might die naturally from miscarriage and therefore increase the odds of at least one baby being carried to term.

In practice, however, many of these "extra" embryos are not introduced to the womb with their siblings. Instead, they are kept frozen for subsequent IVF attempts. And if a baby is born on the first try and the subsequent attempt at pregnancy never comes? Some of the "extra" embryos are adopted by other infertility patients. Others are killed, sometimes for research. Over half a million remain in a frozen limbo.

Ethicists have written mountains of articles about the conundrum posed by frozen embryos. No one can seem to agree on a good solution. But it has to start with stemming the tide of all these "extra" embryos. As it turns out, creating and implanting "extra" embryos doesn't actually aid fertility treatment.

A new study destroys the underlying premise that implanting multiple embryos increases the odds of a healthy birth. Researchers found that an infertility patient is just as likely to give birth if only one embryo is implanted. "Extra" embryos aren't offsetting miscarriages, resulting in one healthy newborn. The real effect of implanting those "extra" embryos? Twins and triplets, of course:
The study, published in this month’s issue of Fertility and Sterility, analyzed data collected in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 467 of the country’s fertility clinics. Researchers took into account the age of each patient, the stage at which each embryo was transferred, and the number of embryos each patient had available. Still, they found no significant difference in birth rates as the number of embryos transferred increased, though rates of multiples increased.
Most parents pursuing fertility treatment welcome multiples, but sadly, not all; the abortion of one twin or two triplets in a "selective reduction" after IVF is not unheard of.

Why create "extra" embryos, and cause such an ethical dilemma, when it doesn't actually benefit infertility patients? Fertility clinics should scale back and create only the number of embryos that the parents are prepared to raise or place for adoption.

Friday, October 14, 2016

In one week: Life/Peace/Justice Con in Austin!

Awesome people at the last Life/Peace/Justice Conference

It's not too late to sign up for the Life/Peace/Justice Conference next weekend (Friday October 21 and Saturday October 22) at the University of Texas at Austin. Tickets are just $45 for adults and $35 students. Children under 12 attending with a parent/guardian are free!

Life/Peace/Justice is organized by our dear friends at the Life Matters Journal, and they never fail to put together an incredible speaker list. Secular Pro-Life is proud to co-sponsor. We will have a table, and SPL president Kelsey Hazzard will speak on Saturday afternoon. Other participating organizations include New Wave Feminists, the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and Consistent Life Network.

Hope you can make it!

P.S.—Many thanks to Texas Students for Life for hosting us! Here's a little video promo I did for them:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

I usually despise "awareness" campaigns. Like, we all know that breast cancer exists by now. I'm all for breast cancer research, but "awareness" is a waste of everybody's time.

I'll make an exception for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, because miscarriages and stillbirths are astoundingly under-discussed in proportion to how common they are. Many people don't have the first idea how to respond to the news that someone they know has lost their baby. Awareness is actually needed.

Pro-life President Ronald Reagan was the first to declare October Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. He said:
When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses his or her partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn't a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost their children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.
The lack of language to talk about the deaths of very young people is made even worse by abortion advocates, who (intentionally or not) harm grieving parents by using dehumanizing phrases like "clump of cells" and "tissue" to describe unborn children. As Constance T. Hull put it recently in The Federalist:
It is a lie that my grief is unwarranted. The world’s greatest deception today is the dehumanization of the unborn. Of course they are human. That is scientific fact, but even beyond the science, mothers and fathers know they have lost a child when there is a miscarriage. The grief is just as powerful and intense as the loss of any child born full-term.
Miscarriage has been largely shut out of public discussion, because our experiences betray the lies of the abortion lobby. We know the loss of a child or children. No level of cognitive dissonance can take away the truth. Mothers who have bled out their own child know better.
We need to stop grieving silently. We need to stop letting people tell us that we did not lose a child. We did lose a child, and our grief is real. No rational human being would grieve over tissue, but a mother who was united in love to her child knows the great loss that has been suffered.
Unlike abortion advocates, pro-lifers do not carry ideological baggage that prevents us from acknowledging parents' pain after the loss of a child before (or shortly after) birth. Accordingly, we have a responsibility to take the lead on raising awareness.

Secular Pro-Life has had guest authors write in memory of their miscarried children on a number of occasions, and we welcome similar guest posts in the future. Learn more about becoming a guest writer here. And as long as we're sharing stories, I should share mine. About 25 years ago, I lost a sibling to ectopic pregnancy. I'm beyond grateful that my mom came out of that harrowing experience with no ill health effects. Sadly, doctors could not save the baby. I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like to grow up with two younger siblings instead of just one. I know my parents wish they could have had a larger family. But there was nothing that could have been done differently.

If someone in your life has lost a baby, consider purchasing a card here; the creator of those cards is a psychologist and has had a miscarriage herself, so she knows a thing or two about saying the right thing. Do not say "God has a plan," "Everything happens for a reason," etc. These sentiments are particularly offensive to non-religious parents, although my Christian friends have expressed annoyance with them too.

Finally, as the daughter of a Southerner, my go-to response when someone loses a loved one (of any age) is to bring over food. They have enough on their minds as it is, without worrying about how to feed everyone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The future of the pro-life movement

Today's cover story in Slate is about the future of the pro-life movement, and Secular Pro-Life is prominently featured. Although the author is pro-choice, she is incredibly fair and the reporting is stellar. Check it out!

Monday, October 10, 2016

What You Can Do on Planned Parenthood's 100th Anniversary

This Sunday, October 16, marks the 100th anniversary of Planned Parenthood. It's a sordid history. Planned Parenthood began as a contraceptive provider... but for all the wrong reasons. In the words of its founder, Margaret Sanger:
It has been conservatively estimated that no less than one quarter of the gross incomes of our states is expended upon the upkeep of asylums for the feeble-minded and insane, the mentally defective, the criminal, the congenitally defective, the delinquent and the dependent. We are spending billions, literally billions, keeping alive thousands who never, in all human compassion, should have been brought into this world. We are spending more in maintaining morons than in developing the inherent talents of gifted children. We are coddling the incurably defective and neglecting potential geniuses.
We have not chosen this Sisyphean task; it has been forced on us because we have left the production of American children to chance, instead of bringing this most important of all human functions within the sphere of choice.
Until the leaders of American business decide to cooperate in this analysis of our biological and racial problems we shall be at a loss to answer such critics as Luther Burbank, to whom American civilization is deeply indebted. In a recent interview he is quoted as asserting:
"America . . . is like a garden in which the gardener pays no attention to the weeds. Our criminals are our weeds, and weeds breed fast and are intensely hardy. They must be eliminated. Stop permitting criminals and weaklings to reproduce. All over the country to-day we have enormous insane asylums and similar institutions where we nourish the unfit and criminal instead of exterminating them. Nature eliminates the weeds, but we turn them into parasites and allow them to reproduce."  
Today, Planned Parenthood's racist and ableist roots, and its hatred of the "weak," are on display in its vehement promotion of abortion. Millions of preborn children have lost their lives in Planned Parenthood facilities. In recent years, Planned Parenthood has ruthlessly expanded its share of the abortion market, while reducing its provision of legitimate healthcare.

Pro-life advocates can respond in a number of ways:
  • Protest your local Planned Parenthood celebration. Planned Parenthood affiliates are throwing parties and other events throughout the month of October. We hope to see a peaceful pro-life presence outside every one of them. Wealthy donors should be reminded of the horror their funds support. A map of celebrations can be found here. Note that some locations require you to sign up before revealing the address, like that's going to stop us. Some are also holding their events in the middle of the work day.
  • Protest at your local Planned Parenthood facility this Saturday, October 15. #ProtestPP, which organized the nationwide protests in the wake of the "baby parts" videos last year, is back to organize protests of Planned Parenthood's 100th anniversary. Hundreds of locations are registered. Unfortunately, the event appears to be much more prayer-based this time around. We encourage secular participants to bring their own signs. 
  • Submit a video. Rock for Life and Students for Life of America are teaming up to give Planned Parenthood a 100th "birthday present"—a video compilation of young people speaking out against Planned Parenthood. Want to be part of the campaign? Record a short video that begins "I am offended that Planned Parenthood..." or "Planned Parenthood offends me because..." and submit it to or use the hashtag #rflstreetteam.
Here's my video submission (which is loosely based on this blog post):

Friday, October 7, 2016

Ableism, False Compassion, and Abortion

The author at the March for Life

[Today's guest post is by Rebecca Stapleford.]

A common trope of the pseudo-progressive idealization of late term abortion performed on disabled fetuses is this notion that it is a loving choice, the best choice for the child, who would assuredly be born into unimaginable suffering otherwise. Writer Miranda Sanchez, in her piece for the website Narratively, affirms this trope with a sickening vengeance when talking about the late term 20 week abortion she had performed on her son, because she felt like his life would not be worth living. Her doctors told her that “Their consensus is that he will probably live, but he will need spinal surgery every six months until he’s fully grown, and there are likely other complications unseen” and that “he may never walk or move his limbs outside of the womb.” On account of this, Miranda and her husband, because they, in her words “value the quality of life, not the length of it” decide to abort her son. Sanchez and her husband never sought the advice of people who were born and living with her son’s condition. She never considered stepping outside of her position of able-bodied privilege and contemplating the fact that “quality of life” is relative and often based on ableist constructs and able-bodied privilege.

Worse still, Narratively’s largely progressive readers apparently saw nothing wrong with this mindset, congratulating the writer on her alleged “compassion” for her son and scolding a commenter who was born with a birth defect and was horrified by Sanchez’s ableism. The reality is, ableist narratives that privilege the opinions and beliefs of non-disabled parents and doctors above the disabled person's own opinions about their quality of life are not progressive, they are regressive. Just because Sanchez, a relatively able-bodied person, would not find a life like her son's to be worth living does not mean that he would share that opinion.

As a woman living with both developmental and physical disabilities, as a woman who was hospitalized for almost a year in high school, as a sister to a woman in a wheelchair, as a sister to another woman who is intellectually and physically disabled, as a friend to many other disabled people, some of whom suffer from chronic excruciating pain, narratives like the ones promoted with Sanchez fill me with rage. Yes, I am pro-life. Sanchez’s narcissistic little rant about doing whatever she wants with her body, which does nothing at all to explain why she should have the right to have her son’s body poisoned and dismembered like she did, is something that I obviously philosophically disagree with. However, if I were a die-hard pro-choicer, I would still find Sanchez’s ableism disturbing and her narrative oppressive. Judging from the number of disabled pro-choicers who have written about the underlying attitude of ableism in the pro-choice movement and how it contributes to the oppression of disabled people, I’m not alone.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pro-life film "Voiceless" in theaters Friday

Voiceless being screened outside the Supreme Court last Sunday night

How cool is this?
The producers of a movie opening in theaters nationwide next weekend didn’t hold a red carpet premiere in New York or Los Angeles to celebrate the release of their film. Instead, they chose the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court. 
Voiceless,” a pro-life film opening Oct. 7, held its premiere Sunday evening outside the nation’s highest court, where abortion was legalized nationwide in 1973. Organizers said that the film’s premiere marks the first time the court has allowed a movie to be shown on the sidewalk in front of the building.
Full disclosure: I know one of the producers, Jason Jones, personally. He has a passion for pro-life filmmaking. Past credits include Bella, which won the Toronto Film Festival's People's Choice Award for its moving depiction of unplanned pregnancy and adoption, and the short film Crescendo, which... actually, just go watch it on YouTube right now. I'll wait.

I had the opportunity to see Jason's latest offering, Voiceless, at a pro-life conference earlier this year. The story is about a young pastor who must rally his apathetic church to do something about the abortion business across the street.

As you might guess, atheists like myself are not the intended audience. Co-producer Stuart Migdon says: "This is a movie written for the church, to the church, to motivate the church." No doubt such a project is needed. And if anything can kick politely-silent-on-abortion Christians out of their stupor, it's Voiceless.

The overt religiosity aside, I liked it. This is a film with strong character development and production values. I especially appreciate the fact that the film features a realistic whole-life protagonist, beating back the slanderous stereotype that pro-lifers only care until the baby is born.

If you want to see Voiceless, click here for theaters.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Babies with easily treated intersex condition targeted for abortion

Above: results of a genetic test showing Klinefelter Syndrome recently published an interesting article about "Kevin," a man with an intersex condition known as Klinefelter Syndrome. Men with Klinefelter Syndrome have an extra X chromosome—XXY rather than XY, which impedes testosterone production. The resulting hormonal imbalance can lead to poor development of secondary sexual characteristics (and all the teenage social hell that follows), difficulty concentrating, and an increased risk of certain cancers.

About 1 in every 400 men have Klinefelter Syndrome, but the majority don't know it, because the symptoms are mild and can easily be confused with other medical conditions, or with plain old non-medical social awkwardness. Getting a diagnosis is the tough part. As Cracked puts it:
Once Kevin's stupid chromosomes were identified ... all he needed was a shot. "The treatment for me is an injection of testosterone substitute called Sustenon that I get via a muscle-mass injection (in the buttocks) every three weeks," he says. The whole time, it could have been that easy.
Clearly the lesson here is that doctors should routinely screen boys for Klinefelter Syndrome so that XXY boys can receive timely, appropriate testosterone injections to mirror the natural puberty experienced by their peers... right?

If only.

The Cracked article links to a 2013 article from the Korean Journal of Urology, in which the researchers examined the incidence of Klinefelter Syndrome among 18,049 fetuses whose mothers had undergone prenatal testing. Only 22 had Klinefelter Syndrome. Of those 22, nine (40.9%) were aborted.

That is absolutely insane. Granted, we're talking about a sample of mothers who volunteered for prenatal testing, and many pro-lifers decline prenatal testing out of principle, so the 40.9% figure is high and can't be applied to the general population. But the fact that even one person would rather abort their baby than go through the inconvenience of arranging for their son to have testosterone shots... it breaks my heart.

To be abundantly clear, aborting babies with Klinefelter Syndrome would be awful even if a cure weren't available, and even if the disability were more severe. Birth is not a privilege to be earned. I share this because I just can't fathom the mentality that preborn life is so completely worthless, a minor and easily corrected health issue is sufficient cause to kill your own son.

Monday, October 3, 2016

What's next for #HelloHyde

[Cross-posted from the #HelloHyde campaign]

The #HelloHyde campaign has a three-part mission: to celebrate, preserve, and expand the Hyde Amendment. Part one, celebrate, was implemented last Friday, September 30: the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment.

We’re pleased to say that the celebration was successful! You’ll be scrolling quite a while to get through all the #HelloHyde tweets. Many of you made use of our automated platform to tweet the photos and stories of Medicaid kids, plus state-by-state statistics of the lives saved by the Hyde Amendment. We’re glad that was helpful and will definitely keep that feature.

We had hoped to get #HelloHyde trending; unfortunately, that did not happen. But the opposing hashtag, #BeBoldEndHyde, didn’t trend either. We expected that at the very least, the two hashtags combined would at least cause “Hyde Amendment” to trend. That didn’t happen. What that tells us is that the narrative is still very much up for grabs. Most people aren’t engaged on the Hyde Amendment either way. Seeing as it’s been in place with bipartisan consensus for 40 years, the abortion lobby has a tough road ahead if they’re going to convince the American public that they should subsidize the deaths of low-income children. We’re going to make that road even tougher.

Which brings us to what we think is our biggest victory so far: our influence on messaging. In the past, the pro-life movement has talked about the Hyde Amendment primarily in terms of taxpayer conscience; somehow, all the human beings alive today because of the Hyde Amendment got lost in the shuffle. Not anymore. Numerous pro-life organizations have gotten on board with our Medicaid-kids-first message. The taxpayer conscience message is still part of the equation (as it should be) but is now secondary (as it should be).

In particular, we worked in close partnership with the Charlotte Lozier Institute to center the focus on Medicaid kids. Their report that the Hyde Amendment has saved the lives of over 2 million people got a huge amount of attention, both from pro-life organizations and from media outlets. A Google News search for “Hyde Amendment 2 million” brings up over 58,000 results!

So what comes next?

The “celebrate” portion of our mission continues at the March for Life, which announced that the theme for this year’s march will be “The Power of One.” In making the announcement, March for Life president Jeanne Mancini specifically pointed to Henry Hyde as an example of one person making a tremendous difference in the lives of others. #HelloHyde will definitely have a presence at the March for Life, which will take place on January 27, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Stay tuned.

Then there’s parts 2 and 3: preserving and expanding the Hyde Amendment. The pro-life movement’s next steps in this area will largely depend of the outcome of the November elections. As you might remember from high school civics, spending bills must originate in the House, and the House is expected to retain its pro-life majority. But if the Senate is overtaken by pro-abortion radicals, they could attempt to pick a fight on the Hyde Amendment and even cause a government shutdown. Conversely, if November goes well for the pro-life movement, making the Hyde Amendment permanent law rather than an annual budget rider will be a top priority. Either way, #HelloHyde will be involved to ensure that the faces of Medicaid kids are seen and that the voices of Medicaid kids are heard.

As you can see, we still have a lot of work to do! In addition to spreading this message, you can help us in our next phase by making a monetary donation to Secular Pro-Life (our parent organization). The abortion lobby is very well-funded, but our cause is greater and with your help we can go head-to-head with them. Every contribution makes a difference. The anniversary may have passed, but Medicaid kids are still being conceived every day. The Hyde Amendment has been protecting the most vulnerable members of the human family for 40 years. Now, more than ever, we must protect the Hyde Amendment.

Click here to give

For Life,

Stargift, Gina, Valerie, and Kelsey
Your #HelloHyde organizers