Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Planned Parenthood's latest report: more abortions, less health care

Student activists at a #SockIt2PP rally
Planned Parenthood just released its 2015-2016 annual report. Since its annual report is usually released in January, countless pro-life leaders publicly predicted that Planned Parenthood's numbers wouldn't support its political narrative. And what do you know? The pro-life movement was absolutely right.

Here's the 2015-2016 report, the 2014-2015 report, and a breakdown of key statistics:
  • 2.4 million patients, a decline of 100,000 over last year.
  • 321,700 breast exams (NOT mammograms) performed, a decline of 42,103 over last year.
  • 2,808,815 contraceptive services, a decline of 136,244 over last year.
  • 9,419 prenatal care services, a decline of 8,000 over last year.
  • 328,348 abortions, an increase of 4,349 over last year.
  • In addition, there is a new line item this year, "miscarriage care" (2,073 provided), which may be a covert reference to abortion.
One last number, with a huge caveat: I don't trust the number of unintended pregnancies Planned Parenthood claims to prevent, because it doesn't disclose its formula for calculating this and historically the number has had no discernable relationship to Planned Parenthood's provision of contraceptives. However, it's worth noting that Planned Parenthood claims to have prevented 557,672 unplanned pregnancies in 2015, which is a decline of 21,009 from the 578,681 unplanned pregnancies it claimed to have prevented in 2014.

As expected, Planned Parenthood continues to follow the same pattern we've seen over the past decade: a decline in legitimate health care, and an increased focus on abortion. The rise in abortions from 2014 to 2015 may seem modest, but it comes against the backdrop of a plummeting abortion rate. Planned Parenthood is maximizing its share of the abortion market. Meanwhile, as Planned Parenthood backs away from responding to low-income women's real needs, regional charitable healthcare providers like the ones featured at are forced to pick up the slack.

Other highlights from the latest report:
  • Planned Parenthood obtained 41% of its revenue from "government health services reimbursements and grants." Its total annual revenue was $1.14 billion dollars.
  • The 2015-2016 report works very, very hard to whitewash the organization's racist roots, beginning with a section entitled "History of Our Movement" which claims that Margaret Sanger opened a clinic in Harlem "in response to many black women being denied access to health and social services" (ignoring her well-documented eugenicist motives); highlights its first president of color in 1989; and claims that "women of color ignite[d] the reproductive justice movement" in 1994. There is also a section of the report, "Fueling the Movement" (beginning on page 17), devoted to "combating ... anti-abortion tactics that target Black women" and infiltrating the strongly pro-life Latinx community.
  • Planned Parenthood brags about having 300 campus groups—paling in comparison to 1,140 Students for Life of America campus groups!
  • It spent about $4 million on efforts to "refresh our brand."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When pro-life politicians behave badly

Last Thursday, Montana held a special election to fill its sole seat in the House of Representatives (because its prior representative, Ryan Zinke, left to become Secretary of the Interior). The top candidates for the position were Republican Greg Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist.

Going into the election, pro-life organizations had a lot of reasons to like Gianforte. As the Susan B. Anthony List pointed out, "Greg and his wife Susan are both pro-life champions who have long supported Montana’s network of pregnancy resources centers serving mothers in need." His pro-life commitment wasn't just talk. In stark contrast, Quist took the extremist (but today, sadly, standard Democratic) position of supporting abortion on demand, subsidized by taxpayers. The Susan B. Anthony List knocked on more than 31,000 doors, urging voters to elect Gianforte.

And then, the day before the election, Gianforte got into a physical altercation with a reporter. Police investigated the matter and quickly concluded that Gianforte was the aggressor, charging him with misdemeanor assault. The New York Times reports:
Three of the state's largest newspapers, The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian and The Independent Record, quickly rescinded their endorsements of Mr. Gianforte. But prospects that the altercation could tip the race to the Democrat, Rob Quist, were complicated by Montana's early-voting tradition: Over half the estimated total ballots in the contest had been returned by Wednesday.
Unlike the newspapers, pro-life groups did not rescind their endorsements. And when Gianforte won the election as predicted, they issued standard celebratory press releases containing no comment on the assault charge. In response to the National Right to Life Committee's tweet congratulating Gianforte on his win, professor and author Charlie Camosy (who is pro-life) quipped, "Hey @NRLC, I think @NARAL has hacked your account. Better change your password." He certainly was not the only one to comment on the bad optics of the situation.

But what was the alternative? NRLC, the Susan B. Anthony List, and others had already done the vast majority of their work for Gianforte during the early voting period. Seventy percent of ballots had already been cast. Neither pro-life groups nor voters could have foreseen what would happen. And when the assault occurred, what were pro-life groups supposed to do, encourage people to vote for an abortion advocate? That would have been a disgrace to their mission and a betrayal of preborn children.

Perhaps there's a middle ground to be found, like: "We are pleased that the people of Montana rejected Rob Quist's extreme pro-abortion stance. At the same time, we acknowledge that Congressman Gianforte's alleged violent conduct on the eve of his election is disturbing and inexcusable. The pro-life movement rejects violence against people of all ages, and in the event that Congressman Gianforte is convicted and removed from office, we will work to replace him with a peaceful pro-life advocate."

But my cynical side says that the days of such political nuance are behind us. After all, the above statement wouldn't fit in a tweet. And given the public relations nightmare currently occupying the White House, maybe we should just count our blessings that Greg Gianforte didn't grab anyone by the pussy.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Your Stories: Unwed Pregnancy and the Church

On Monday, Secular Pro-Life published an article about Maddi Runkles, a high school senior whose private Christian school has banned her from her graduation ceremony because she is pregnant. We joined a chorus of pro-life organizations, led by Students for Life of America, condemning the school's action and pointing out that penalizing women for being pregnant is a surefire way to encourage abortions.

Maddi's story generated a lot of social media attention and discussions within the pro-life community, and our article was no exception. Numerous current and former Christians took to our facebook page to share stories from their schools and churches. While far from being a comprehensive scientific survey, these comments do offer up an interesting qualitative picture. Here's what you had to say:

Holly M.—My mother went to Catholic school and was forced to drop out of her high school when she got pregnant with my brother at 16. She was punished. She had to get her GED and did not get to graduate with her class at the school she went to her whole life. I went to that same Catholic school. They have since changed that rule and don't force pregnant teens to drop out but the fact that they once did and they did it to my mother is very upsetting to me. It IS definitely making abortion an incentive by "punishing" pregnant young girls like that.

Christi R.—I am a Christian. This is an issue that does need to be addressed in the Christian community. I teach my children abstinence only, but still inform them of birth control. Abstinence is the only way to avoid pregnancy, but if they make poor choices they need to know what protection there is to prevent pregnancy even if the protection isn't 100%. In many Christian communities, the idea is of you teach options you are encouraging options. Sex is still a sensitive subject that is avoided and left to parents. Meanwhile, the Christian schools have an abstinence only stance. If you have a prominent student who has obviously broken that rule, it is a hard decision on how to handle it in the fact broken rules cannot be rewarded. If they appear to sanction the behavior of premarital sex, they risk losing families who send their children to these schools in hopes of surrounding them with like-minded families. It can be destructive to a school's population. I don't support the actions they chose, but I can understand it was a difficult one.

Kali F.—I walked pregnant at graduation (at a public school). The gowns are so loose that you couldn't tell I was pregnant, even though I was about 6 or 7 months. This isn't about what the other students would think; they just want to punish her for going against their morals.

Barbara S.—I went to a Catholic university and I remember a couple of pregnant students; a girl used to bring her baby to class sometimes, another spoke in class about initially wanting an abortion and then changing her mind... nobody judged them or anything.

Tiffany M.—My parents got pregnant with me while attending Bob Jones University. You can imagine the chaos that ensued.

SheriLynn H.—A classmate of my son's graduated with him yesterday from a Catholic high school in the most conservative diocese in the US, cap, gown, shook the bishop's hand, etc., and she is about 6 months pregnant. Another graduate had a 10-month-old baby in the audience. I am happy that pro-life really means pro-life around here.

Kaitlyn V. (in reply to SheriLynn)—I knew we must be from the same area when I read "most conservative diocese in the US"! And I was right :-) My high school treated a similar situation very differently when I attended. Just makes me happy to hear that another local Catholic school is focusing on what truly matters.

Nicole P.—A lot of churches need a heavy dose of grace. Before I joined my church I asked about their pro life views. They said when there were pregnant teens they embraced them & gave them showers just like they would married women.

Abigail G.—My sister was not allowed to attend our church's senior banquet because she was pregnant. I was enraged at the way they treated us (I say "us" because I had a child outside of marriage, and I could sense the judgment from some of the other church goers).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Evidence-based" pro-choice atheist uses emotional appeals for abortion

A friend asked us to rebut this 2015 pro-choice video. Better late than never!

The interviewee, atheist and science communicator Cara Santa Maria, says that she is "evidence-based thinker" who "listen[s] to the science first, and then make my political decisions based on that." So far, so good. But when asked why she supports abortion, she offers no scientific support whatsoever. Instead, she relies exclusively on emotional arguments and how she feels about how "complicated" pregnancy is. This disconnect is so painfully obvious that I feel embarrassed for her, watching it.

She begins by saying that the pro-life viewpoint comes "purely from religion," which of course isn't true. Then she clarifies that her definition of "pro-choice" includes opposition to coerced abortion, which I'm certainly glad to hear, but which tells me nothing at all about the ethics of abortion in general.

And then begins the stream of emotional appeals in favor of late-term abortion. What if a woman doesn't find out she's pregnant right away? What if a pro-lifer talks her into keeping the baby (or "pressures" her), and later she "realizes she has these options"? What if her financial situation suddenly becomes precarious? What if she finds out the baby has a genetic abnormality? (It wouldn't be a pro-choice "ethics" session without a dose of ableism!)

Not a word about prenatal development. Not a word about how legislation impacts abortion rates. Not a word about anything that could possibly be construed as evidence-based. I have a science-based comment, though: if you turn this video into a drinking game in which you take a shot every time she says "complicated" or "nuanced," you will get alcohol poisoning. Don't do it.

She adds that "maybe this is easy for me to say because I don't have kids," and since her argument is based entirely on emotion, that may well be true. I do hope, if Ms. Maria becomes pregnant, that she will recognize the humanity of her own child and follow that path where it leads. But I would much prefer that Ms. Maria evaluate the evidence today. I am confident that if she sets aside her emotional preconceptions (no pun intended), she will come over to the side of equality. Secular Pro-Life is here to welcome her with open arms.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Abstinence-obsessed Christian schools incentivize abortion

On Saturday, the New York Times published an article about the hypocrisy of "pro-life" Christian schools that incentivize abortion for pregnant students. Appropriately titled Pregnant at 18. Hailed by Abortion Foes. Punished By Christian School., the article begins:
Maddi Runkles has never been a disciplinary problem.
She has a 4.0 average at Heritage Academy, the small private Christian school she attends; played on the soccer team; and served as president of the student council. But when her fellow seniors don blue caps and gowns at graduation early next month, Ms. Runkles, 18, will not be among them.
The reason? She is pregnant.
The decision by school officials to bar Ms. Runkles from "walking" at graduation — and to remove her from her student council position — would have remained private, but for her family's decision to seek help from Students for Life. The anti-abortion group, which took her to a recent rally in Washington, argues that she should be lauded, not punished, for her decision to keep her baby.
"She made the courageous decision to choose life, and she definitely should not be shamed," said Kristan Hawkins, the Students for Life president, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade the administrator of Heritage Academy to reverse the decision. "There has got to be a way to treat a young woman who becomes pregnant in a graceful and loving way."   
Kristan Hawkins is absolutely right, and I applaud Students for Life for taking up Ms. Runkles' cause. Let's be real: if you penalize premarital sex, all you're actually doing is punishing people who get caught having premarital sex. And thanks to the quirks of human biology, those who are caught will (1) almost exclusively be women, and (2) almost exclusively be pro-life. (I say "almost" to allow for those students who, say, have sex in an unlocked room on campus — but I have never heard of a young father being punished the way Ms. Runkles was.)

I know Kristan Hawkins personally, so I know that she is a Christian. I'm sure it isn't easy for her to fight a public relations battle against an organization that shares her faith. But it is the right thing to do. I'm glad that there are Christians like her working within their own communities to reform attitudes toward young mothers. The Times article also mentions a Christian group called "Embrace Grace" that does some work on this front.

I also think that this incident highlights the need for secular advocacy. When Heritage Academy was asked for comment, an administrator told the Times that the staff had engaged in "much prayer" about Ms. Runkle's pregnancy. That's not a real answer. When you're working from religious premises, just saying that you've prayed about it is apparently enough to excuse devastating school policies. It ends the conversation. From a secular point of view, that is unacceptable.

Then there's this facepalm-worthy comment by Rick Kempton of the Association of Christian Schools International:
She's making the right choice. But you don't want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, "Well, that seems like a pretty good option."
Not killing your unborn child should be seen as a pretty good option! If you honestly believe that seeing a pregnant classmate walk at graduation is going to cause young women to get pregnant on purpose, you do not give teens enough credit and you have no business being an educator. Also, Ms. Runkles is not trying to celebrate her pregnancy; she is trying to celebrate her graduation. Shockingly, becoming visibly pregnant did not erase every other aspect of her life! What does it say about these Christian school administrators' view of women that they treat the very presence of an unwed pregnant belly as an insurmountable distraction?

No one is saying you can't promote abstinence. No one is saying you should expect all your students to have sex, tell them "everyone is doing it," and shame virgins. All we are saying is that when your students fall short of your sexual expectations, be there to catch them. Don't push them to kill a child to cover up their "sin."

P.S. — There is one bright spot to this story. Somehow, someone got the New York Times to refer to Ms. Runkle's unborn son as a "baby." That's a refreshing change from the Grey Lady's usual practice of using dehumanizing language to protect abortion.

P.P.S. — Check out additional comments from Pro-Life Humanists here and here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Pro-Life Women's Conference approaches!

The second annual Pro-Life Women's Conference is just five weeks away! It will run from Friday, June 23 through Sunday, June 25 in Orlando, Florida. Secular Pro-Life is pleased to co-sponsor this conference and engage pro-life women from around the nation at our exhibit booth.

Since the last time I talked about the conference on this blog, the organizers have announced more details about the lineup. My dear friend Aimee Murphy of Rehumanize International (formerly known as Life Matters Journal) will speak on "Why Consistency Matters in the Pro-Life Movement." There will be breakout sessions on the topics of sex trafficking, sidewalk counseling, and adverse prenatal diagnosis.

Several prominent pro-life physicians will discuss developments in the medical arena. A panel on "Engaging the Black Community" includes one of my favorite people: Christina Bennett, who you may remember from our insightful and hilarious (and humble) joint presentation at the Students for Life of America national conferences last January. And abortion survivor Melissa Ohden, a longtime friend of Secular Pro-Life, will give a speech and sign copies of her book.

Last year's conference was awesome, and I can't wait to reconnect with this fantastic nationwide sisterhood next month. (Pro-life men, a handful of you attended last year, and you were great sports. You're welcome too!)

If you're on the fence about attending: DO IT. Register now and join us in Orlando. I'm excited to see you!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Celebrate National Women's Health Week

May 14 to 20 is National Women's Health Week! So naturally, we are renewing our focus on the Fund Women's Health campaign that Secular Pro-Life and several like-minded organizations launched last month. Fund Women's Health is a pro-life feminist effort to raise money for community clinics that serve low-income women in need, without destroying human life in abortions.

We've made progress, but this week especially, we encourage you to give! Here's where our beneficiaries stand, starting with those who are most in need of your support:

Wyoming Health Council, WY: $110 raised
The Wyoming Health Council is a Title X provider with clinics throughout the state. Its family planning services include pregnancy testing, contraception, counseling, STD testing and treatment, and services for people trying to conceive. It also administers special programs for HIV-positive Wyoming residents.

Swope Health Services, MO/KS: $135 raised
With nine locations plus a mobile health unit, Swope serves low-income patients throughout the Kansas City region. It offers complete women’s health care – pregnancy, routine gynecologic care or addressing health issues – from adolescence to maturity. Services include family planning, prenatal care, HIV/AIDS treatment, and WIC.

Tampa Family Health Centers, FL: $215 raised
Tampa Family Health Centers is a comprehensive medical provider serving the needs of low-income families. It recently opened its 17th Federally Qualified Health Center location, and also has a mobile unit. Its women’s health services include family planning, obstetric care, well woman exams, pap smears, and HIV testing.

Gila River Health Care, AZ:  $225 raised

Gila River Health Care exists to provide a broad range of clinical services for the Gila River and Ak-Chin Indian communities. Its comprehensive care includes cancer screenings, gynecological care, prenatal services for both routine and high-risk pregnancies, and a family planning mobile unit.

La Clinica, OR: $230 raised
La Clinica provides comprehensive care to a primarily low-income, Hispanic population. Its Family and Women’s Health Center specializes in women’s health from puberty through a woman’s child-bearing years and into menopause and beyond. Offerings include prenatal care, midwifery, general gynecological care, and family planning.

Health Imperatives, MA: $280 raised
With locations throughout southeast Massachusetts, Health Imperatives offers contraception, reproductive health exams for women and men, STD testing and treatment, and specialized services for at-risk populations such as LGBTQ youth and people fleeing domestic violence. Health Imperatives is also a WIC provider.

ODA Primary Health Care Network, NY: $340 raised
ODA is a federally qualified health center offering care 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with on-call availability 24 hours a day. Its Brooklyn, NY health center locations provide a wide range of care to people in need, including a women's facility dedicated to affordable obstetrical and gynecological services.

Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic, TX: $410 raised
Los Barrios Unidos offers affordable bilingual healthcare to low-income families in the Dallas area. Its women's health services include family planning, clinical breast exams, screening mammograms, pap smears STD testing and treatment, well-woman care, prenatal exams, and birth and postpartum care. It is also a WIC provider.

We are grateful to everyone who has donated so far. Our goal is to raise at least $500 for each of the above charities. So if you haven't already, please go to and make a difference for women today!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Tale of Two Reality Shows

Full disclosure: I have never watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I just never got the concept of people "being famous for being famous." The series' 2.8 out of 10 stars on IMDB suggests I'm not alone.

So when the Kardashians did an Instagram promotion in support of Planned Parenthood, which is also likely to feature on the show itself, I shrugged. Celebrities do sponsored social media posts all the time, and Planned Parenthood certainly has the P.R. budget to get in front of the Kardashians' audience (in yet another example of why they don't need taxpayer funding). It's mildly disappointing, but not a huge surprise. Planned Parenthood has long pursued a celebrity-centric marketing strategy. And look how well that turned out for them in the presidential election!

But I do have pro-life friends who are big Kardashian fans, and this news hit them hard. Maybe that's the real purpose of Planned Parenthood's Hollywood campaign—to demoralize pro-lifers with a parade of beloved celebrities endorsing the nation's largest abortion chain.

So allow me to suggest a better reality TV show you could be watching instead. Oddly, it's produced by the same company as Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but it couldn't be more different. It has 8.5 stars on IMBD. It won an Emmy last season. And its stars are the last people the abortion industry wants you paying any attention to.

Also, its third season premiere happens to be tonight at 9pm EST on A&E.

Born This Way follows seven young adults—John, Rachel, Steven, Megan, Cristina, Sean, and Elena—who have Down Syndrome. The very premise of the show is a blow against ableist arguments for abortion. These seven amazing people are living their best lives. Last season, among many other things: John recorded a rap single (available on iTunes, by the way), Cristina placed in a ballroom dance competition, and Sean vacationed in Vegas. Previews for the coming season indicate a romantic relationship between Steven and Megan (finally!), Cristina getting her own apartment, and Elena learning to surf.

Only rarely do the Born This Way cast members make explicit statements about abortion. But they don't have to. Just by watching them in action, the message is abundantly clear: people with disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, can do wonderful things when given the chance. They deserve that chance at life, just like anyone else.

So, which reality show will you be watching this week?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Gosnell, Four Years Later

This past Saturday marked the anniversary of Kermit Gosnell's 2013 murder conviction. Although Gosnell had countless victims, only four were the subject of the conviction. Three were newborn infants who died when Gosnell "snipped" their necks. One was Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old Bhutanese refugee who Gosnell killed in a botched abortion.

The Susan B. Anthony List writes:
Four years ago today, abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted on 3 counts of murder of babies who he was attempting to abort. Even though the media tried to ignore the case, pro-lifers ensured it got national attention, opening America's eyes to the barbarism of late-term abortion-on-demand.
By the way - what was the only difference between these 3 babies and the thousands of others Gosnell killed? They were on the *outside* of the womb when he killed them. Think about that for a minute.
The Gosnell case galvanized support for two key abortion reforms: increased facility regulations, and bans on abortion after 20 weeks.

On facility regulations, the Supreme Court tragically prioritized abortion industry profits over women's safety in Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt. Pro-life organizations continue to sound the alarm and make the case that the abortion industry cannot police itself; if you haven't already, read over Americans United for Life's incredibly thorough Unsafe report. Until we have a better Supreme Court makeup, we will do the best we can to close dangerous abortion businesses with the few regulations we do have. Thankfully, some of the worst facilities shut down while strict regulations were in effect, and have yet to reopen.

Twenty-week bans have been more successful. Just last week, Tennessee became the twenty-first state to enact one. Of those twenty-one states, ten passed their legislation after Gosnell's conviction. No pro-abortion group has brought a Supreme Court challenge on 20-week bans yet, probably for fear that they will lose and establish a pro-life precedent, as happened with partial-birth abortion bans. Instead, they've brought challenges only in jurisdictions with judges who are known to support abortion, with the result that three states (Idaho, Georgia, and Arizona) cannot enforce their laws. That still leaves eighteen states where medically unnecessary, barbaric late-term abortion procedures are illegal.

We have made progress. But we have a long way to go. May the memory of Gosnell's victims compel us to work harder!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mother's Day Compilation

Mother's Day is this Sunday. At Secular Pro-Life, he celebrate moms of all stripes. Here a few of our favorite articles about motherhood we've published on this blog over the years:
A Pregnant Passion
I'm thankful for my maternity home
Your miscarriage stories
My Almost Abortion Experience
Her Story: Helping Her Become a Mom and Her Story: Letting Go (birthmother)
To My Daughter's First Parents (adoptive mother)
I Thank My Birth Team
A Teen Mom Speaks: Your Life Isn't Over! 

Got a story you'd like to share on the SPL blog? Learn more about becoming a guest author.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What do you call the embryos conceived through IVF, then destroyed?

Above: Then-President Bush cradles a snowflake baby

You've probably seen the story that went ridiculously viral last week. You know—the one about embryos conceived in vitro, then killed, and their tiny bodies preserved and incorporated into jewelry for their parents to wear.

That was a mouthful. But what else can we call these young victims?

The original article called them "extra IVF embryos." LifeNews described them as "human embryos left over from IVF." On the other end of the political spectrum, Slate also went with "extra," but added that women in online forums sometimes call them "snowbabies" or "frosties." I also saw the phrase "unused embryos" in some media outlets.

None of these descriptors are adequate.

What does it mean to be an "extra" person? I think of China, where being "extra" carries a terrible weight. I also think of Bill Nye, who last month was rightly criticized for suggesting that parents should be penalized for having "extra" children. Calling someone "extra" defines the person negatively, in contrast to people who are just enough, whatever the hell that means. It's dehumanizing.

LifeNews' phrasing comes closer to giving these embryos some measure of dignity, but "left over" has some of the same connotations as "extra," and has the added problem of making me think of food in my fridge.

"Snowbabies" and "frosties" reminds me of "snowflake children"—the term pro-lifers and others have used to describe babies born alive after IVF, cryogenic storage, and embryo donation. I have no real problem with this language from a moral standpoint, but as a practical matter, most people will not know what you are talking about when you say that jewelry is being made from snowbabies. In this day and age, they might think you're talking about overly sensitive college students!

And then there is the word "unused," which certainly captures the commodification of the embryos in question. As with "extra," I worry that the language we employ might support the very dehumanization we are denouncing. I also object that the descriptor "unused" is not accurate; the embryos were, tragically, used in the end.

I mean no disrespect to LifeNews or any of the many other journalists who covered this disturbing story. My point is that we don't have humanizing, concise, familiar language to describe the victims of this practice. And that's a problem. How can we humanize someone, when we don't even have the words to call them to light?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt's Arraignment in San Francisco

On Wednesday, May 3rd 2017, members of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were arraigned in San Francisco at the Hall of Justice. Prior to the check-in I was standing outside the hall with my standard sign I bring to all pro-life events in San Francisco, bearing the slogan for the organization which I represent, Secular Pro-Life. It reads “Call me an extremist, but I think dismemberment is wrong – Pro-Life Atheist”. The very first person I encountered was Sandra herself!  She seemed in good spirits and was excited to see some support. She wanted to know right away about the secular point of view and insisted we exchange numbers so that we could talk more about secular outreach! She explained that she was prepared to be taken into custody that morning and was ready for whatever happened.  We took a selfie together and I gave her a hug of support.  

Then more of our group began to arrive. We had about 10-15 young people holding pro-life signs in a matter of minutes on the steps of the hall. Thanks to the efforts of SFLA’s Camille Rodriguez we had attracted young people from all over California. Their signs read “PP buys Becerra”, a reference to the California Attorney General who has charged David and Sandra, and who has publically accepted thousands of dollars in donations from Planned Parenthood. Other signs included “Planned Parenthood Literally Sells Baby Parts” with a copy of the actual contract between PP Mar Monte and Stem Express. Also “We Stand with David”, “We Stand with Sandra”, and the ever popular “We are the pro-life generation”. We had quite a presence by the time David arrived and he seemed pleased and optimistic about the day, despite the seriousness of it all. 

Shortly after the check-in at 8:30, David was released and Sandra was taken into custody. David had been booked previously in Los Angeles and posted bail at that time. The arraignment was set for 1:30PM that afternoon. We agreed to reconvene at that time.

By 1:00 PM almost our entire initial group, including some additions, gathered again on the steps of the Hall to ensure a display of support for David as he arrived once again. We were quite the spectacle and I was pleased with the turn-out.

We entered two separate courts where we were asked to proceed to another room. Finally, the third being the charm, the arraignment began. The courtroom was small, but we filled it completely. It was a satisfying display of support.  

Sandra’s counsel argued for her release based on the unlikelihood that she might flee. He pointed out that she was faced with similar charges in Texas and flew to the state to face those charges. She does not have  a passport, the case is not new (dating back to 2015), and the fact that she is a grandmother living with her daughters were all highlighted by her attorney. The Deputy District Attorney arguing on behalf of Attorney General Becerra argued that although Sandra was not a flight risk, there were 15 “victims” (meaning those individuals recorded without their consent-in public spaces!) bail should remain at $75,000. The judge agreed with the Deputy District Attorney. 

David and Sandra’s new hearing was set for June 8th, 2017. Likely arguments will be heard at that time so mark your calendars now!

After the hearing Pro-Life Future of San Francisco, of which I am the President, arranged a press conference outside the hall. Words were shared from David, myself, Jonathan Keller of California Family Council, as well as others.  

Please continue to support David and Sandra by donating to their defense, and spreading the news that they are innocent and Planned Parenthood and their paid-for-prosecutors are guilty!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Abortion workers share their stories with Feminists for Life

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

In the latest issue of Feminists for Life’s The American Feminist magazine, a number of former abortion workers told their stories for an article entitled “An Insider’s Look Into the Abortion Industry”. I recommend reading the full article. One thing that stood out for me was how frequently former abortion workers admitted to lying to the women who came in for abortions.

Clinic worker Julie explained how clinic workers kept women from seeing their aborted children. Most first trimester abortions are done by suction aspiration. (At this time, only 22% of abortions are done using the chemical method, sometimes known as RU-486.) In a suction aspiration abortion, a tube attached to an instrument called a cannula is inserted into the woman’s uterus. The tube is also attached to a suction machine and a small jar. When the suction machine is turned on, the force of the suction tears apart the preborn child and pulls the pieces into the clear glass jar.

In Julie’s clinic, the workers wanted to prevent women from seeing the contents of that jar. They didn’t want the women to catch a glimpse of the baby’s remains. In order to hide the blood and body parts from women, the clinic covered the jar with a “cute calico cover.” This way, a woman would not catch a glimpse of a dismembered arm or leg.  The clinic could maintain the deception that an unborn baby is only an unformed mass of tissue.

A former abortion worker at a different clinic spoke about another lie clinic workers told women: “We would lie to them! We lied to patients all the time!… People asked, “What’s going to happen to my baby [after the abortion]?” We were told to tell them whatever made sense, that it’s like if someone is in a bad car accident and lost a leg. It’s medical waste and it goes into an incinerator… We didn’t use biohazard bags back then.”

Instead, they ground up the remains and sent them down the sewer.

Women do ask clinic workers what they do with the bodies of the babies. In the book Pregnancy and Abortion Counseling, a manual for abortion workers, it says that “How do they get rid of it, it is burnt?” is one of the “difficult” questions a woman might ask (p.94).

Margo also commented on the guilt she felt at being involved in abortion for so long. She laments that she participated in “tens of thousands” of abortions and says, “It literally took my breath away… I helped murder almost a football stadium of people.”

It is very valuable when abortion workers tell their stories. Due to the emotional trauma of coming to terms with their actions, many abortion workers have a hard time discussing what went on in their clinics. Those who do speak out should be supported by the pro-life movement and lauded for their courage.

Pro-lifers need to keep educating people about abortion and what it does to preborn babies and their mothers. The abortion business will not tell women the truth.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist?"

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

So far as I know, the recent “Why Can’t a Feminist Be Pro-Life?” panel at the Catholic University of America marked the first time that pro-choice feminists, who are the feminist mainstream, entered a formal setting where they found undeniable confirmation of the existence of pro-life feminists, and had to grapple with pro-life feminist minds. If “the winning future for the pro-life movement is . . . young, feminist, and disproportionately people of color,” as Prof. Charles Camosy has written, that event may have had an importance that is hard to estimate. But here I will simply outline most of the arguments on each side, while attempting an evaluation of only a few of them. Then I will try to identify a few of the highlights and illuminating moments.

The arguments really concerned not just one, but three issues:
  1. whether a feminist should be pro-choice or pro-life
  2. whether abortion can be moral
  3. whether abortion should be legal.
In looking at the arguments, I would like to focus first on two that came up, one from the pro-life side and one from the pro-choice side, that I would like to see all of us phase out:

In relation to issue 3 above, pro-lifers often point out that legal abortion is called “pro-choice,” and then proceed to object (as at 15:43 in the video) “It’s not pro-choice when we feel like we have no choice.” This quip does make a good point about social conditions, but it is framed as if it demolishes either the term “pro-choice” or the pro-choice policy; and does it really succeed in doing either? I think that all this argument really does is to play on two different meanings of the word “choice.” There is no real inconsistency here in pro-choicers’ position.

Then from the pro-choice side we regularly hear a guilt-by-association argument that could be called the “pro-birth argument.” The argument goes, in effect, “Because many who identify as pro-life on abortion hold obnoxious positions and harm women’s interests on other issues, the pro-life position on abortion must also be obnoxious and harmful to women’s interests.” On the panel, this was the argument on which Pamela Merritt mainly relied (though she did refer, more briefly, to some other arguments).

Merritt certainly argued convincingly and memorably that many pro-life politicians are destructive in many ways to the well-being of the female gender (and everyone else). But what does that really prove in terms of whether abortion is moral, whether abortion should be legal, or whether a feminist should be pro-choice or pro-life? As an argument against the pro-life positions even of the Missouri politicians she focused on, hers was an ad hominem, and against the pro-life positions of three of her fellow panelists, it was a strawman as well.

Differences of perception about the moral value of the unborn are the single main source of the big divide in the abortion debate overall, and those differences were key to understanding the divide between the two groups of panelists at CUA also. (Though bodily-rights arguments normally accept the personhood of the unborn in a nominal way, I contend that even in such arguments, pro-choicers’ particular perception about the humanity of the unborn, or rather their perception that the unborn lack humanity, is the real subtext.) “. . . when life begins [is a] question with no answers that can be proven” came up (at 11:25) in the first presentation, that of Megan Klein-Hattori, and was echoed by the other two on the pro-choice side. Robin Marty put her finger on that question as the key, saying at 50:31 “We’re not disagreeing on the definition of ‘equality,’ and we’re not disagreeing on the definition of ‘feminism.’ We’re disagreeing on the definition of ‘people’.”

And when she said that, things came to a head. Aimee Murphy suggested that the word “person” could be dispensed with, since “if we’re talking human rights” what we want to know is who is a human. “At the moment of fertilization you have two human gametes; they fuse; it’s a member of the same species.” Merritt tried to dismiss that with “We’ve got science on one side, we’ve got science on the other side,” but Murphy shot back, “Do you have an embryology textbook that can back that up?” Merritt replied, “For every textbook that you have, there has been a textbook produced on the other side.” The two were not in a situation where they could immediately produce their documentation, so that discussion ended there. But I think that anyone who does delve into the documentation will decide that Murphy won that debate.

Marty’s above input had come in response to Murphy’s main argument for issues 1, 2 and 3 above. Murphy had said in her opening presentation (29:18) that she is “dedicated to . . . the core principles of feminism: equality, non-discrimination, and non-violence.” She had also said, “I push for . . . the abolition of the social construct that holds the wombless male body as normative. . . . if the male body is seen as the norm, then pregnancy is seen as a disease condition.” This last point is not an argument in relation to issue 2 or 3 above, but it is an argument in relation to 1. The institution of legal abortion, to the extent that it seems designed as a crutch without which women cannot be equal to men, helps perpetuate a negative perception of femaleness, and thus denigrates femaleness.

That presentation of Murphy’s ended with: “If feminism is truly in support of equality of human beings, then my question is actually ‘Is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist?’ ”

At 18:13 Merritt said, “Feminism is an action agenda to secure the social, economic and political equality of women. The pro-life movement seeks to deny women access to abortion . . .” She clearly meant that lack of access to abortion will undermine women’s equality. But this contains a big assumption – the assumption that being equal often requires being unpregnant, and that there are not ways to be both pregnant and equal. See “Next Steps for the Pro-Life Feminist Movement.”

At 37:37 Merritt offered the common argument that abortion can’t be prevented and that therefore the only issue is whether it will be done safely. At another point Klein-Hattori said the same. But I’m convinced it’s not true that laws cannot save unborn lives; see “A Pro-Life Feminist Balance Sheet.”

At 37:43 Merritt said, “Women have been controlling their reproductive lives since the dawn of women.” See Herndon-De La Rosa’s reply below.

Though the bodily-rights argument is the strongest pro-choice argument in relation to issues 2 and 3 above, and also important in relation to 1, the pro-choicers on the panel mentioned it surprisingly little. I have discussed it elsewhere and will not try to evaluate it here. As another pro-choice argument that I won’t try to evaluate here, but that clearly leaves some things unexplained, Klein-Hattori said (at 9:20) that “all reproductive rights, including to abortion. . . . are central to feminist politics . . .” At 39:37 Merritt suggested that access to abortion results in “communities that are free from violence and oppression.” Beyond observing that this sounds awfully ironic, I won’t try to evaluate it here. And as a pro-life argument that resonates with my intuition but might not with everyone’s, see Cessilye Smith’s remark below about “barbaric.”

The highlights, for me:

Aimee Murphy at 91:22: “I am 100% for restricting abortion and making it illegal in all cases, as with all forms of aggressive violence.”

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and Cessilye Smith do not advocate legal restrictions on abortion as many pro-lifers do, but with their clear-eyed grip on the humanity of the unborn and their passion that the right choice be made, no one could be more pro-life than they. At 41:00 Herndon-De La Rosa said (in reply to Merritt), “. . . there’s a lot of horrible atrocities that have been around since the dawn of time. We exploit people. We objectify others. We have slaves and human trafficking. . . . there’s all these things that we see for the evil that they are. But any time in history that we have had one group . . . and said this group . . . is less than human, we always look back with horror that we have done that. . . . And I think that in the future, we will look back and say the same thing about the unborn.”

At 24:17 Cessilye Smith said of abortion, “We put a pretty bow on it and we call it empowerment. . . . We have taken something completely barbaric and attempted to normalize it . . . . we’ve made abortion . . . a pillar of feminism. Something is wrong with that.”

Other illuminating moments:

Klein-Hattori and Merritt found their stereotypes of pro-lifers exploded. Merritt said at 90:20 “What you’re describing is not pro-life that I experience and that millions of people experience . . . [it] is really blowing my mind.” Klein-Hattori said at 67:40 “One of the things that has me most excited is to hear the way that the pro-life women up here are talking.”

Merritt said at 47:34: “I don’t view abortion as evil at all. I think abortion is a really important social good.”

At 9:28 Klein-Hattori said, “I’m proud to donate to Planned Parenthood.” (Attention Congress: Planned Parenthood does not need tax money.)

The discussion was more than civil, it was very friendly. All seemed to feel that hearts were in the right place. Seeing that some pro-lifers I admired felt the pro-choicers’ hearts were in the right place, I was forced to try that attitude myself!

What’s the answer?
So is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist? In the discussion we saw a mixture of principle-based arguments and utilitarian arguments. (One does not need to be a utilitarian to feel that utilitarian outcomes should not be ignored.) Smith’s “barbaric” is a principle-based argument. Merritt’s argument about better communities is a utilitarian argument. Personally I feel that the pro-life side wins with either philosophical approach, and wins both in the moral dimension and the legal dimension.

Those who find it inconceivable that American women could benefit in a utilitarian way from making abortion illegal are usually overlooking, first and foremost, one simple thing: the fact that most American women, if faced with an unplanned pregnancy, would not choose to get an abortion even if it is legal. So right off the bat, most American women have nothing to gain from the institution of legal abortion; while that group of women win in several ways, though perhaps not obvious ways, if it is illegal. Let’s start with that reality and go on and do the math.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Upcoming events

"Life Empowers Women" is the theme for next month's Pro-Life Women's Conference
It is shaping up to be a busy summer for Secular Pro-Life! Here's where you'll find us.

Wednesday, May 3 (tomorrow!) in San Francisco
David Daleiden, head of the Center for Medical Progress, will be arraigned at the San Francisco Superior Court (400 McAllister Street) San Francisco Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant Street; sorry for the last-minute change! Prosecutors claim that his undercover investigation of the Planned Parenthood "baby parts" scandal violated California privacy laws. His attorneys say that's nonsense; the videos were recorded at conferences and restaurants where anyone could overhear the abortion workers' damning statements. Although the exact time of David's arraignment is still uncertain, he will need to be at the courthouse by 8:30 am. His supporters are gathering outside the building at that time to show him moral support. Our very own Terrisa Bukovinac, who is also the president of Pro-Life Future of San Francisco, will make a statement to the press. Then everyone will join David inside once the court is in session.

Friday, June 23 through Sunday, June 25 in Orlando
We are thrilled to co-sponsor the second annual Pro-Life Women's Conference. Last year's event in Dallas was so inspiring and informative. Come by the Secular Pro-Life exhibit booth and say hello!

Saturday, July 1, in Milwaukee
Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will once again present at the National Right to Life Convention on making the secular case against abortion. This annual convention brings people together from all fifty states. The convention will begin on Thursday, June 29, with Kelsey's presentation on the final day.

Saturday, August 5, in St. Davids, PA (just outside Philadelphia)
The Consistent Life Network will hold its 30th anniversary conference at Eastern University from Friday, August 4 through Sunday, August 6. Kelsey will speak in a Saturday afternoon session opposite Catholic advocate Tony Magiano. Other workshop topics include sex trafficking, restorative justice, messaging, pacifism, and the just war theory.

Saturday, October 21 in Pittsburgh
Life/Peace/Justice is back! This wonderful conference is organized by our dear friends at Rehumanize International (a.k.a. the organization formerly known as Life Matters Journal). Kelsey will be among the speakers; the full list has not been finalized, but like Consistent Life, this conference typically covers a wide range of threats to human life and dignity. This year, the pro-life student organizations from Pitt and Duquesne will co-host.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Abortion to save the planet?

On Saturday, thousands of people from all walks of life participated in marches to combat climate change. The flagship march was in Washington, D.C., and most of the marchers carried on-message signs like "There is no Planet B" and "Climate change is real," and my personal favorite:

With both the pro-life movement and the movement against climate change being so concerned about future generations, you'd think we could get along. Instead, this happened:
At 15th Street, where the march began to turn north to begin the loop around the White House, the movement encountered a pro-life protester with a bullhorn. “Abortion is destroying human life,” he said.
The protesters sat on the concrete and began clapping as they steadily chanted, “My body, my choice.”
The ideological reflexes being demonstrated here are very disturbing. The pro-life movement has long been distrustful of the environmentalist movement, going back to the time of Roe v. Wade, when abortion campaigners used incorrect (and frequently racist) claims about impending overpopulation as a scare tactic. More recently, not-a-scientist-but-plays-one-on-TV personality Bill Nye, whose unscientific approach to the abortion issue is well-known, was once again in the hot seat for suggesting that parents should be penalized for having "extra" children.

But there surely were pro-lifers at the climate march too, who did not receive press coverage. Abortion and renewable energy are clearly separate issues. I care about keeping the earth habitable for future generations and I know many of our readers do too. If you believe that fossil fuel use and other human activities pose a threat to the environment, it doesn't follow that killing humans is the appropriate solution! We desire to improve the planet for future generations; therefore, instead of resorting to violence against children in the womb, we should seek to change behavior.

I fear that politics are becoming ever more tribal, with the "tribe" determining all of a person's positions on a wide range of issues that, once upon a time, could each be evaluated on their own merits. True, this has always been a problem (there's a reason we have political parties), but the election of Donald Trump to the White House has intensified matters significantly. That's bad news for the pro-life movement, the environmentalist movement, and the country as a whole. Just as our national discourse suffers when abortion is tied to same-sex marriage, it suffers when any policy debate is primarily governed by distrust of "them" on the "other side."

Save babies. Save the planet. There is no good reason the two can't go hand in hand.