Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The clarity of the pro-life position

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

Read the following statements. There'll be a pop quiz afterward:
“I think it’s safe to say that the entire abortion industry is based on a lie.”
“I'm dedicated to spreading the truth about preserving the dignity of all human life.”
“We live in a society today where these children can be wanted children. Even if you don't want to keep this child after you've had it, there are plenty of young couples out there who want children.”

Who made these statements? (This is a secular pro-life blog. Stick with me for a minute.)
A. Michelle Bachmann
B. Phyllis Schlafly
C. Mother Teresa

The answer is ... none of the above. I know -- that wasn't one of the choices. If it had been, you'd have figured it out immediately, and what fun would that be? The correct answer is Norma McCorvey. You may know her better as Jane. Jane Roe. As in Roe v. Wade. The plaintiff in this landmark case died last Saturday at the age of 69.

Norma led a rough life marred by abandonment (her father), alcoholism (her mother and herself), physical and sexual abuse (family members and her husband), and run-ins with the law. The child whom she sought to abort when lawyers Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington were looking for a test case to challenge Texas's anti-abortion law was actually her 3rd child; she had already given birth to 2, one of whom she raised and the other whom she placed for adoption. Roe v. Wade took 3 years to reach the Supreme Court, during which time Norma did not have an abortion but instead gave birth to her 3rd child and placed her for adoption. After that, Norma spent 20 years working at an abortion clinic. And then "Jane Roe" changed her mind about abortion. Here's what happened when she saw a poster depicting the stages of fetal development:
The progression was so obvious; the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart just looking at them. I ran outside and finally it dawned on me. 'Norma,' I said to myself, 'They're right.' I'd worked with pregnant women for years. I'd been through 3 pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should've known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, 'That's a baby!' It's as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth - 'That's a baby!' I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn't about 'products of conception.' It wasn't about 'missed periods.' It was about children being killed in their mother's wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit [in Roe], I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this 1st trimester, 2nd trimester, 3rd trimester stuff. Abortion, at any point, was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.
The truth changes minds, hearts, lives. Pro-life advocate Dr. Alveda King (niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.), who had 2 abortions and attempted a 3rd, knows this. Former abortionists Drs. Anthony Levatino and Yvonne Moore know it. Former abortion clinic workers Carol Everett and Abby Johnson know it. The late judge Robert Bork knew it (he initially opposed Roe on legal grounds; his later opposition was on the basis of research on fetal pain).The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson -- "the abortion doctor who changed his mind" -- knew it. And Norma McCorvey, once at the center of it all, finally knew it, too.

Where are those who converted the other way? Where are those who believed in the inalienable right to life and the humanity of the unborn but then decided it really was just a "mass of dependent protoplasm," after all? Where are those who decided someone had it backwards? -- that it was really a choice, not a child? Is it even possible to un-believe that the unborn deserve protection and have a right to live? There are politicians who have changed their position on abortion, going from pro-life to pro-choice-to-abort. But politicians being, well, political, one never knows if their previous pro-life stance was authentic, if their current pro-choice stance is the real deal, or if in fact they have any conviction at all about it.

The people who converted from pro-choice to pro-life are not muzzled by any such ambiguity. They know what is true and real and right -- because, in the words of Norma McCorvey, it is so clear.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Join us in Orlando for the Pro-Life Women's Conference

Secular Pro-Life's presentation at the 2016 Pro-Life Women's Conference

Last summer, the inaugural Pro-Life Women's Conference was held in Dallas, TX. Although it was originally envisioned as an every-other-year affair, it was so successful that the organizers have decided to make it an annual event! The 2017 Pro-Life Women's Conference will be held in Orlando, FL on the evening of Friday, June 23 and all day Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25.

I cannot recommend this conference enough. While online organizing is great, there's something special about building connections in person. Last year's conference was extremely informative, including a private screening of Planned Parenthood's abortion "counseling" instructional videos (Cliff's Notes: you're not supposed to suggest that she may need more time to make a decision) and a whole lot more. As I summed it up at the time:
The diversity was incredible. Beyond being pro-life women, we had little else in common. People old enough to remember 1973 mingled with high school students. Mothers brought their young children. A significant fraction of attendees and speakers were people of color. The conference was friendly to wheelchair users.
I encountered stridently conservative Christians, and members of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. I met the president of Democrats for Life, and a woman who is running for state office as a libertarian. And we came from all segments of the pro-life movement: pregnancy center leaders, campus activists, abortion survivors, sidewalk counselors, political lobbyists, birth mothers, and former abortion workers. 
I also had the privilege of speaking at last year's conference:

This year's schedule hasn't been announced yet. But whether or not I speak, Secular Pro-Life will definitely be there. We have already signed up to sponsor a booth, and I am counting down the days to June 23. Hope to see you there!

P.S.: When we have booths at conferences, we always bring lots of secular pro-life literature for attendees to take home and distribute in their communities. That costs money, so if you'd like to chip in, we'd greatly appreciate your donation.

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Disgusting so-called people"

The #ProtestPP rallies earlier this month sparked a debate between Planned Parenthood and more radical abortion groups, particularly those with a socialist bent. Planned Parenthood strongly discouraged counter-protests, apparently fearing violence from their own supporters:
“When we think about a counterprotest happening, even folks with the best intentions,” Adrienne Verrilli of Planned Parenthood of New York City says, “all it takes one person to react to an ‘anti’ and things can escalate very quickly.”
But the radicals defied Planned Parenthood and showed up anyway, albeit not at all of the hundreds of #ProtestPP locations; not surprisingly, the socialist effort was mainly contained to liberal cities. In an article published two days after #ProtestPP on a socialist news site, entitled "It was right to confront the anti-choice bigots," the author quoted a Boston abortion supporter as saying:
I'll keep protesting until the day I die if I have to. No one should have to walk through the gauntlet of those disgusting so-called people.
When I read that quote, and particularly the dehumanizing line referring to me and my friends as "so-called people," a strange feeling arose in my stomach.

I had felt it once before, in 2013, after reading the then-viral article "So what if abortion ends life?" at Salon. There, author Mary Elizabeth Williams fully acknowledged the humanity of unborn children, but defended abortion anyway by boldly declaring that "All life is not equal." Chillingly, she concluded the article as follows:
[Abortion] saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time—even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.
It was not lost on me that if a fetus—whose life, again, Ms. Williams fully acknowledged—can be "sacrificed" because he or she is in the mother's way, there was no logical reason why my friends and I could not also be sacrificed for the cause of gender equality. After all, our defense of unborn children makes us just as much a "roadblock" for women as the unborn children themselves.

Pro-choice violence against pro-life advocates is not unheard of, although it is largely ignored by mainstream media. So far, it has claimed only one fatality that I know of. (The violence of abortion itself, women maimed and killed by abortionists, the Gosnell scandal, etc. are outside the scope of this article.) Thankfully, anecdotal reports from #ProtestPP indicate that while some pro-lifers were attacked, the incidents were mild grabbing-and-shoving affairs (and, in one case, whipping with plastic jump ropes) with no serious injuries.

But I worry that conditions are ripe for a significant increase in violence against pro-life advocates. Human beings, whatever their political persuasion, are much more prone to violence when the cause seems hopeless and desperate. (That's an observation, not an excuse.) For most of the past fifty years, abortion advocates simply haven't had much reason to feel that way. Not so anymore. And when a group looks to justify violence, dehumanizing language is always the first step.

I hope that the abortion movement does not take the short step from dehumanizing preborn children to dehumanizing pro-lifers. I hope my advice is never needed. But at the risk of sounding alarmist, I want to suggest a few tips for dealing with this possibility.

We do not know when or where pro-choice violence will arise, but we can be smart about our interactions. The most important thing is to shield the families and elderly people in the group. If you are a healthy young person with no dependents, you may need to physically put yourself on the front line for the protection of others. Visualize in advance what you will do in that situation. Have a plan.

If, FSM forbid, you are attacked, I generally recommend that you do not fight back. Yes, self-defense is morally justified, and it might be appropriate depending on the circumstances. But remember the schoolyard rule: adult bystanders notice the second kid to throw a punch, not the bully who threw the first punch. Or, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it much more eloquently than I ever could, "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."

And finally, everybody has a cell phone these days. Talk to your friends before each event and agree that if any one of you is attacked, someone else will film. Ideally, live stream it to facebook so that no one can credibly accuse you of "deceptively editing" the footage.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Pro-choice" is NOT morally neutral

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

A common self-perception that I have noticed among the pro-choice crowd is one of moral neutrality. Many see their position not as one which condones abortion, but as one which simply chooses not to answer the question of whether abortion is right or wrong. Some may even say “Well, personally I would never get an abortion (or encourage my partner to get an abortion), but I support a woman’s right to choose.”

They think that by removing themselves from the “choice,” they are removing themselves from the moral responsibility. Let’s test this approach with other laws. “Personally I wouldn’t rape anyone but I support a man’s right to choose” and “Personally I wouldn’t rob someone’s home, but I support a person’s right to choose” are clearly not morally neutral positions to take. It is, in fact, immoral to support someone’s right to choose an action that harms someone else. So, why the exception for abortion?

What initially appears to be mere hypocrisy reveals itself, upon further examination, to be an indication of the speaker’s true position. To see “pro-choice” as a morally neutral stance is to deny the personhood of the fetus, plain and simple. This stance implies that the fetus’ life is not worth the same level of protection and justice under the law as is afforded anyone else’s life. It is, essentially, to paint abortion as a victimless crime.

This inaccurate portrayal of the pro-choice position may be a thoughtless mistake for some, but it is a useful strategy for others. Framing pro-choice as the morally neutral, intellectually detached, “reasonable” position serves an important purpose—to paint the pro-life stance as fanatical, irrational, and extreme. We must fight this perception fiercely, as this is one of the main reasons why many people are turned off by the term “pro-life” and are shocked to learn that there are groups and individuals within the pro-life movement that are secular, feminist, and even sex-positive.

The next time you hear someone shrug their shoulders and say “It’s up to the woman. Who am I to decide?”, ask them if they think abortion is a victimless crime. Implore them to consider the life and perspective of the fetus. Explain to them that abortion is not an issue where one can comfortably sit on the fence, deaf to the scientific facts and blind to considerations of morality, ethics, and justice. This conversation will, at the very least, get them to glance over to our side of the fence, and, perhaps, start to lean in and wobble, losing poise on a previously sturdy point…

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What would repealing the Johnson Amendment do for the abortion debate?

Over the course of his campaign, and again since assuming the presidency, Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated for repeal of the Johnson Amendment. Although this is widely being framed as a church-state separation issue, it actually involves non-profits of all stripes, not just churches. The New York Times summarizes the Johnson Amendment as follows:
Under the provision, which was made in 1954, tax-exempt entities like churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly participate in any campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate. Specifically, ministers are restricted from endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. If they do, they risk losing their tax-exempt status.
But SPL, you're wondering, I've seen lots of non-profit organizations endorse candidates. Didn't "charitable" Planned Parenthood spend something like $30 million in its failed attempt to get Hillary Clinton elected? True. On both sides of the abortion debate (and other debates), the work-around is to set up a political arm with a separate bank account. These political arms typically take the form of a political action committee (PAC) or a 501(c)(4), which don't enjoy the same tax advantages for donors that a 501(c)(3) charitable organization does. As a result, it's harder to raise funds for the political arm.

Conservative religious groups, including some pro-life organizations, have voiced support for repealing the Johnson Amendment. Respectfully, I must disagree. My argument, in a nutshell: (1) what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and (2) the abortion industry has more money than we do because the pro-life movement is disproportionately young and low-income.

If the Johnson Amendment is repealed, Planned Parenthood (and organizations like it, but I'll use PP as an illustrative example) will no longer have to raise funds for political activity separately from its general "charitable" budget. That's critical, because according to Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report (p. 31), it has $634 million in unrestricted net assets. If it could tap into that tax-exempt money for campaigning? Thirty million dollars to Clinton might as well be nothing. Plus, they'll attract more wealthy political donors if those donors are able to deduct the contribution on their taxes.

And for what? Churches can already condemn abortion, and pro-life organizations are free to say who the pro-life candidate is. And, in fact, they can explicitly endorse political candidates—if they are willing to give up their tax exemption.

Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from the consequences of speech. It certainly doesn't mean that taxpayers should have to effectively subsidize your speech by giving you a tax exemption. You might recognize this as being very similar to the argument pro-lifers have made for decades: government funding of the abortion industry is wrong because it forces taxpayers to subsidize activity they consider morally abhorrent. Tax exemptions are less direct, but they're still a subsidy. Bad enough that Planned Parenthood can claim tax-exempt status for any part of its billion-dollar empire, but repeal of the Johnson Amendment would effectively give Planned Parenthood donors a tax break for funding attack ads on pro-life candidates!

Yes, the reverse is also true. But that just leads to a monetary arms race, and for the demographic reasons discussed at length here, I don't believe we would win it.

I'll close with a wise comment from Non-Profit Quarterly:
Allowing nonprofit organizations to join more openly into the political conversation is not inherently controversial. But allowing them to become fundraising engines for candidates and parties would change the philanthropic landscape and ultimately make it harder for the nonprofit sector fulfill its core purposes, which includes campaigning for social change.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidential Pro-Life Quotes

[A version of this post was originally published on Presidents' Day 2013.]

Happy Presidents' Day to our readers in the United States! In honor of the occasion, here are some pro-life quotes from previous occupants of the White House. I do realize that some of these quotes are pro-life only in a broad sense, and not specifically about abortion, because they predate the abortion movement. So sue me.

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government." ~Thomas Jefferson

"This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in." ~Teddy Roosevelt

"Provision for others is a fundamental responsibility of human life." ~Woodrow Wilson

"I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born." ~Ronald Reagan

"Renewing the promise of America begins with upholding the dignity of human life." ~George W. Bush

Friday, February 17, 2017

Could PP ever deserve taxpayer funding?

Yesterday, the House of Representatives took the first step to dismantle a recently issued Dept. of Health & Human Services rule that prohibits states from prioritizing their own local health departments and other health care providers for funding. It's been aptly described as a "parting gift to Planned Parenthood" from the Obama administration. But the legislature has the power to reverse it under the Congressional Review Act, and under the CRA, it won't be subject to filibuster in the Senate; a simple 51-vote majority is all we need.

The House vote came shortly after we asked you on facebook: "What reforms would you need to see from Planned Parenthood before you would be comfortable with it receiving taxpayer funding? Would cessation of abortions be enough, or do you have additional concerns?"

Some of you thought that cessation of abortion would be enough. On the other end of the spectrum, many of you offered that you do not want to see Planned Parenthood funding under any circumstances, because you believe Planned Parenthood is too corrupt to be meaningfully reformed. (A few of you also made a case for defunding on libertarian grounds.)

The most-liked answer by far came from Sarah M., who wrote:
I would want to see them held accountable as mandatory reporters for abuse/trafficking/prostitution. Remember the reports of the staff helping pimps use the right words to explain the girls they were bringing in for birth control? And IIRC, reports of stepfathers bringing in daughters for abortions of babies they fathered.
In Illinois, there is a new law that hair stylists cannot renew their license if they are not trained to recognize domestic abuse. Surely in a "healthcare" environment we could do something like that and more.
Right on, Sarah. Other conditions you suggested:

Susan M.: "I want Planned Parenthood to consider life sacred. I know I'm speaking to secular folks. I don't mean in the narrowly religious sense, I mean that respect for human life in all forms, to treasure it, is the beginning of all civilization, everything flows from that. We need to respect the woman, if she chooses to want pregnancy or not, and if she does, to celebrate that choice. I want them to treat each [woman] as a person, not a profit center. And no referrals out to other abortion providers."

Ellen K.: "Quit the kind of lobbying I've seen in my state: threatening that their clients will lose health care if the state denies a contract to the local PP affiliate, while the affiliate spends more than that amount on 'public policy' work."

Ben C.: "More mammograms. If they expect to receive federal tax money and champion reproductive health in general, they need to put their money where their mouth is."

Julie D: "To be honest with women about the science of human reproduction, and the science of abortion."

Helena P.: "The only issue I have with PP is their practice of non-medical, elective abortions and their media monopoly on women's healthcare. Their 'we are the only saving grace left, no other centers can help you like we can!!' rhetoric has to go. There are plenty of local women's clinics as well as the city health department that all offer many of the same services, they aren't helping women as they claim to by trying to discredit other options in order to secure clients.

James P.: "Quit calling yourself nonprofit when your CEO makes 6 figures. Disown the racist beliefs of your founder. Report sex trafficking to authorities if people come in that you suspect are being abused. Oh one other thing, if abortion really only makes up 3% of your total health services, why do you care if you'd have to drop that to receive taxpayer funding? See what I mean about being intellectually honest?"

Kristin S.: "At first I was going to answer 'Yes' - that I would be okay with funding PP if it did not provide abortions, but after reading the many good points made here, I think it needs to go away entirely."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Pro-Life Feminist Balance Sheet

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

Pro-life feminism claims that the institution of legal abortion is bad for women. Is it true?

This article will focus on the U.S., and the thesis will be: the population of American women can be divided into three groups. The first group will clearly benefit when abortion is made illegal. While my personal sense about the second group is that it will also benefit when abortion is made illegal, that group will be harmed if we grant certain pro-choice claims that are arguably true. And the third group will be little affected when abortion is made illegal. So if we concede the pro-choice claims I just alluded to, then whether American women overall will benefit will depend on the sizes of Groups 1 and 2, and the degree to which Group 1 will benefit and Group 2 will be harmed.

Group 1 is women who are pregnant when abortion is banned, or will become pregnant later in their lives, and who would never wish to get an abortion, except under circumstances that anti-abortion laws would probably consider an exception anyway (in particular a likelihood of grave physical injury for themselves).

Group 2 is women who are pregnant when abortion is banned, or will become pregnant later in their lives, and who, if abortion remained legal, would willingly decide to get at least one abortion.

Group 3 is women who are not pregnant when abortion is banned and will never become pregnant later in their lives.

I’m aware that the sizes of Groups 2 and 3 are not fixed and that reduced access to abortion would cause some in Group 2 to fall into Group 3. But I’m assuming that this effect will not be enough to change the outcome.

If abortion becomes illegal, Group 1 women, who do not want to abort, will lose nothing. What will they gain?

1. It will be more difficult for boyfriends and parents to pressure them into abortions.

2. As I previously wrote:
If a child is conceived and is unwanted by the father, but its birth seems unavoidable because abortion is illegal, the father may feel morally obligated to help. But if abortion is legal, the father’s attitude is likely to be "She chose to have that child against my will. I will only do the bare minimum required by child support laws."
This change of attitude benefits Group 1.

3. Similarly, employers will no longer be able to resist pressure for paid maternity leave and other benefits by saying, “Women are free to abort, so if a woman chooses to have the child, that’s her problem.”

4. Mounting pressure by women and their supporters for a society that gives more honor and support to pregnant women and mothers, and that takes ultimate responsibility for quality child-raising, will no longer be defused by the “escape valve” of legal abortion, the easy way out. That social pressure will likely reach a mass where it will get results.

5. Women will no longer have to live in a society that gives official sanction to the idea “The best way for women to have status in society is to be like men (unpregnant). The contributions to society that women can make will likely be insufficient to deserve the rewards that society confers on successful professionals, if the women are pregnant or mothers. Often, the female sex can become equal to the male only by assaulting a female function and moreover, in the eyes of many, throwing another human being under the bus. A fundamental female function is a disease to be cured surgically rather than a natural function to be accommodated.”

6. Pro-lifers feel that considering all the factors under discussion in this article and also the harm done by abortion to the unborn (which is not directly under discussion here), it is a moral imperative to outlaw abortion. Pro-choicers of course dispute this and say that to outlaw it would be morally wrong. But if the pro-life view is correct, and it is morally right to outlaw it, then in addition to the above gains for the women of Group 1 specifically, everyone in society will benefit morally by outlawing it.

I have now noted that pro-choicers claim abortion rights not to be a moral wrong for society. Another claim they make in contradiction to many pro-lifers is that women who abort normally suffer no psychological harm from it. The truth or falsity of these two claims will of course affect, at least to some extent, the calculation we are attempting of the harm or benefit that women will derive overall when abortion is made illegal. We have now seen what happens to Group 1 women when abortion becomes illegal (it’s all positive); what happens to Group 2, that is, women who get pregnant and do wish to abort?

The Group 2 women, who do wish to abort, will lose in these ways: 

1. Abortions will become less accessible and a little less safe. But I would expect them to become only marginally less safe (not to say that the legal abortions we have now are necessarily as safe as is often claimed), because a) dangerous abortions have continued to occur after Roe; and b) when abortion was illegal prior to Roe, the vast majority of abortions, contrary to legend, were done by physicians as certified and competent as those now doing legal abortions. (Moreover, maternal abortion deaths were already way down from earlier in the century due to medical advances, particularly antibiotics.)

2. For many, their psychological sense of body ownership will be offended, and many will feel that their bodily rights are being violated.

3. Those who obey the law and carry to term will lose some freedom in their lives.

4. For those who obey the law and carry to term, there will be a health toll. Anti-abortion laws will be written so as not to result in deaths or serious injuries for women, but there will be an assumption that the value of protecting the unborn unfortunately requires that women do pay a price at a certain level in terms of physical health. We should not whitewash this.

We can see that this loss becomes offset to an extent, however, if we take two facts together: abortions carry their own adverse health consequences, even if done in safe conditions; and anti-abortion laws will deter many women from abortions (thus saving them from those consequences – see below about how laws do successfully deter).

I’m assuming that just as before Roe v. Wade, when abortion is made illegal, the women involved will not be punished. Otherwise those punishments would have been another “loss” for Group 2.

5. If pro-choicers are correct and it is morally wrong to outlaw abortion, then in addition to the above losses for the women of Group 2 specifically, everyone in society will lose morally by outlawing it. 

And what will the Group 2 women gain? 

1. They will gain points 5 and 6 listed above for Group 1 women, the same as will those women.

2. On occasions when the pregnancy is one that they do not wish to abort, they will additionally gain points 1-4 listed above for Group 1 women, the same as will those women.

3. Those who obey the law and carry to term will be spared any psychological harm that the abortion might have caused. Julius Fogel was pro-choice and an obstetrician who, according to a columnist who interviewed him in 1989, had already performed over 20,000 abortions. But he was also a psychiatrist, and he believed that women invariably harmed themselves psychologically through abortion, though they might not recognize the harm. The columnist quoted him as saying:
I’ve had patients who had abortions a year or two ago – women who did the best thing at the time for themselves – but it still bothers them. Many come in – some are just mute, some hostile, some burst out crying . . . Every woman – whatever her age, background or sexuality – has a trauma at destroying a pregnancy. A level of humanness is touched. This is a part of her own life. When she destroys a pregnancy, she is destroying herself. There is no way it can be innocuous. One is dealing with the life force. . . . There is no question in my mind that we are disturbing a life process. The trauma may sink into the unconscious and never surface in the woman’s lifetime. But it is not as harmless and casual an event as many in the pro-abortion crowd insist. A psychological price is paid. It may be alienation, it may be pushing away from human warmth, perhaps a hardening of the maternal instinct. Something happens on the deeper levels of a woman’s consciousness when she destroys a pregnancy. I know that as a psychiatrist. 
Coleman McCarthy, “The Real Anguish of Abortions,” The Washington Post, Feb. 5, 1989.

I personally agree with Fogel that the harm must be inescapable, though I share his awareness that his insights are not a scientific proof. I also think that a significant part of the passion of the abortion-rights side is driven by the psychological denial of those who have had abortions. But of course pro-choicers would strenuously contest this.

Some pro-choicers might say that even if women ever do suffer psychological harm from abortion, anti-abortion laws will not save any of them from it because no one will obey the law. But as researcher Dr. Michael New often reiterates, various studies have shown that when abortion is legally restricted, fewer women abort. Even the Guttmacher Institute recently admitted, “. . . the wave of abortion restrictions passed at the state level over the last five years could also have contributed to the decline [in abortion rates].” And those laws actually banned hardly any abortions; they merely made access somewhat more challenging.

I personally believe that the institution of legal abortion is morally wrong, and also believe that it psychologically harms women. So I believe that, if we factor that wrongness and harm into all the above, in the way indicated by some of the points, then making abortion illegal would ultimately benefit even the women of Group 2. But if I am mistaken about that wrongness and harm, then I would concede that the women of Group 2 would, in net, be harmed by making abortion illegal.

And what about the women of Group 3, women who will never become pregnant? 

Apart from what may be won or lost by everyone in society under the above point concerning the morality of outlawing abortion, they will lose nothing. They will gain a little in terms of the point about female functions above (Group 1, #5).

So to wrap this up: Will all women, as one big group, be better off when abortion is illegal (which is the pro-life feminist claim)? The answer depends mostly on the losses and gains, the costs and benefits, for Groups 1 and 2. Group 1 will clearly be better off, and Group 2 will, let’s say for the sake of argument, be worse off. So now the answer depends on how many women fall in each group, and the comparative degrees of “better off” and “worse off.” Suppose (for the sake of making the calculation process clear) that in the US the number of women who are pregnant when abortion is banned, or will become pregnant later in their lives (Groups 1 and 2 together), is 100 million. If 80 million of them do not want to abort (Group 1) and 20 million do want to abort (Group 2), and if what a woman in Group 1 typically gains is anywhere near as significant as what a woman in Group 2 typically loses (if that group really loses anything), then clearly women overall will be better off. The real proportions are not likely 80 to 20, but this makes clear how it would be possible to come to a conclusion. (When we come to estimate the real proportions, we will have to remember that many women who identify as pro-choice say that they themselves would never abort, which places them in Group 1.)

If pro-choicers are correct that it is morally wrong to outlaw abortion and correct that abortion does not psychologically harm women, then I would concede, as already mentioned, that the women of Group 2 will be harmed in net when abortion becomes illegal; but the gross amount of harm will be offset by a very significant gross amount of benefit. Because even if the legality of abortion is morally neutral and abortion does not psychologically harm women, there is no question that reliance on the practice to solve various problems denigrates women’s femaleness, instead of honoring it and demanding that society accommodate it (remember the point about female functions above); and no question that on occasions when the pregnancy is one that they do not wish to abort, the women of Group 2 will gain in important ways. So even if the women of Group 2 will lose, they will not lose as much as might appear at first sight; while for the women of Group 1, making abortion illegal will be practically an unqualified win.

And all that is not even counting what making abortion illegal will do for the unborn – half of whom are female.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Data show pro-life movement must work harder in less religious states

Gallup recently asked residents of all fifty U.S. states to identify themselves as "very religious," moderately religious," or "nonreligious," and used this data to rank the states by religiosity. It found that Mississippi has the largest percentage of residents who are "very religious," at 59%. The least religious states are concentrated in New England: Vermont (21%), Maine (23%), and Massachusetts (25%).

The following table compares states' religiosity against two measures of its progress (or lack thereof) on the right to life: its legal ranking, via Americans United for Life, and its abortion rate, via the Guttmacher Institute. (We previously explored the correlation between pro-life laws and low abortion rates.)

% Very Religious
AUL Rank (#1 being most pro-life)
Abortion Rate (per 1,000 women of reproductive age; national rate is 14.6)
South Dakota
South Carolina
North Carolina
North Dakota
West Virginia
New Mexico
New Jersey
New York
New Hampshire
Rhode Island

Clearly, a correlation exists: more religious states tend to enjoy better pro-life laws and lower abortion rates.* The correlation is not perfect; to take one example, New Mexico and Indiana are very similar in terms of religiosity (41% "very religious" and 30% "nonreligious"), but New Mexico ranks far lower on AUL's list and its abortion rate is nearly double that of Indiana. 

Nevertheless, there is cause for concern. A faith-based pro-life movement is bound to be ineffective in the states where preborn babies most urgently need our help: New York (only 31% "very religious" and a sky-high 29.6 abortion rate); New Jersey (34%, 25.8); Maryland (36%, 23.4); Florida (37%, 20.6); California (31%, 19.5); Nevada (27%, 19.4); and Connecticut (28%, 19.2).

Let us leave no unborn child behind. If you support a secular approach that meets people where they are, please donate to Secular Pro-Life

*For the math nerds, I ran the data through an online coefficient calculator and found a correlation between % very religious and AUL Life List rank of -0.7185; between % very religious and abortion rate of -0.5051; and between AUL Life List rank and abortion rate of 0.4602.