Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Link collection: Evidence that pro-life laws mean fewer unplanned pregnancies.

Pro-life laws decrease abortion in two ways. The direct and more obvious way is by decreasing the number of pregnant women who get abortions. A wide body of research (part 1, part 2) demonstrates that when abortion is restricted abortion rates go down and birth rates go up.

But pro-life laws also decrease abortion in an indirect way: by decreasing unintended pregnancies. The idea is that people perceive abortion as an insurance policy. As Donahue & Levitt explain:
The decline in births is far less than the number of abortions, suggesting that the number of conceptions increased substantially—an example of insurance leading to moral hazard. The insurance that abortion provides against unwanted pregnancy induces more sexual conduct or diminished protections against pregnancy in a way that substantially increases the number of pregnancies.
If people know that in the event of unplanned pregnancy they can always get abortions, they're more likely to engage in risky sex.

There's quite a lot of research to suggest this is true. Liberalized abortion policy has been associated with increased STD rates, decreased use of effective contraception, and the aforementioned increase in unintended pregnancies. Below, in chronological order, are studies that found these and other similar results.


"An analysis of 12 years of state-level data indicate that restrictions are associated with a reduction in abortions and either no change or a reduction in births, implying fewer pregnancies." The Effect of Medicaid Abortion Funding Restrictions on Abortions, Pregnancies, and Births, Journal of Health Economics, October 1996

"In particular, the results suggest that residents in counties with longer travel distances to the nearest abortion provider have lower abortion rates and lower pregnancy rates." The impact of provider availability on abortion demand, Contemporary Economic Policy, April 1996

"We find that countries which changed from very restrictive to liberal abortion laws experienced a large reduction in births, highlighting the insurance value. Changes from modest restrictions to abortion available upon request, however, led to no such change in births despite large increases in abortions, indicating that pregnancies rose as well." Abortion as Insurance, National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2002

"We find that gonorrhea and syphilis incidences are significantly and positively correlated with abortion legalization. Further, we find a divergence in STD rates among early legalizing states and late legalizing states starting in 1970 and a subsequent convergence after the Roe v. Wade decision, indicating that the relation between STDs and abortion is causal." The effect of abortion legalization on sexual behavior: evidence from sexually transmitted diseases. The Journal of Legal Studies, June 2003

"Parental involvement laws resulted in fewer abortions for minors resulting from fewer pregnancies; there is no statistically significant impact on births. The reduction in pregnancy seems to be attributable to increased use of contraception rather than a reduction in sexual activity." Parental involvement laws and fertility behavior. Journal of Health Economics, September 2003

"Legalization itself is found to reduce the number of unwanted births. Beyond that, imposing moderate abortion restrictions do not appear to significantly increase unwanted births; abortions and pregnancies decline instead." Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility, Society, May 2004

"First, the availability of abortion providers has the expected effect of reducing the supply of infants relinquished, particularly relative to the demand for abortion. Second, abortion law has an unexpected negative effect. This suggests that as abortion laws become more restrictive the total number of unwanted births may decrease." The supply of infants relinquished for adoption: Did access to abortion make a difference? Economic Inquiry, July 2007

"Our results indicate that the enactment of parental involvement laws significantly reduces risky sexual activity among teenage girls." Abortion Access and Risky Sex Among Teens: Parental Involvement Laws and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 2008

"Taken together the empirical results are consistent with the hypothesis that women's sexual behavior is influenced by the direct and indirect cost of obtaining an abortion." Abortion costs, sexual behavior, and pregnancy rates, The Social Science Jounral, March 2008

"We find restrictions on abortion availability (through abortion legislation mandating parental consent or notification) induce women to utilize birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies, while pro-choice sentiments in the legislature may have the opposite effect." Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws Matter? International Journal of Business and Social Science, September 2011

"A state’s antiabortion attitudes, which likely contribute to the enactment of restrictive abortion laws in a state, are a major factor in inducing greater use of highly effective contraceptive methods by adult women at-risk of an unintended pregnancy." Restrictive abortion laws, antiabortion attitudes and women’s contraceptive use, Social Science Research, January 2012

"While county‐level access to emergency contraception was unrelated to trends in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and abortions before access changed, access afterwards led to a statistically significant increase in STD rates (gonorrhea rates), both overall and for females. We do not find, however, an impact of pharmacy access on abortion or birth rates." The effects of increased access to emergency contraception on sexually transmitted disease and abortion rates, Economic Inquiry, December 2012 (Note: This study was not examining abortion policy as related to pregnancy. It is a similar study examining how the availability of emergency conctraception was associated with increases in STDs. Like with abortion, emergency contraception may decrease the perceived risk of sex and so increase the instances of less protected sex.)

"Fewer abortion providers increase the likelihood of women using the pill." Utilization of oral contraception: The impact of direct and indirect restrictions on access to abortion, The Social Science Journal, March 2014

"We find that providing individuals with over‐the‐counter access to EBC leads to increase STD rates and has no effect on abortion rates." Access to Emergency Contraception and its Impact on Fertility and Sexual Behavior, Health Economics, February 2015 (Note: Like the Economic Inquiry study above, this study is not examining abortion policy and pregnancy, but it demonstrates a similar phenomenon wherein people make riskier sexual decisions when they have an 'insurance' policy available such as emergency contraception.),

"Our findings reveal that restrictions on abortion funding have a significant and positive impact on a woman’s decision to use the pill." The Role of Restrictive Abortion Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use, Clinics in Mother and Child Health, October 2015

"Similarly, women in states characterized by high abortion hostility (i.e., states with four or more types of restrictive policies in place) were more likely to use highly effective [contraceptive] methods than were women in states with less hostility." State Abortion Context and U.S. Women's Contraceptive Choices, 1995–2010, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, June 2015

"We find evidence to suggest that [Parental Involvement] laws are associated with an increase in the probability that sexually active minor teen females use birth control." The effect of parental involvement laws on teen birth control use. Journal of Health Economics, January 2016

Further reading: This article from The Cut illustrates the thought process that can connect unplanned pregnancy rates and abortion availability. In this case, the woman is clearly educated about reproduction and she has knowledge of and access to contraception, but she is not as careful as she may otherwise have been partly because she knows she can get an abortion if need be.
I knew that the time I was sloppy with protection right before ovulation would put me at risk for getting pregnant. I’m the kind of woman who learns about fertility for fun, who genuinely enjoys reading about cervical fluid, egg freezing, and progesterone spikes. Which is why I knew I should have taken Plan B after that slipup and was hard on myself when I didn’t. But I also knew that if an unplanned pregnancy did occur, I’d have options in New York City.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Last chance: send comments to HHS on the Protect Life Rule

Tomorrow is the deadline to submit your comments to the Department of Health & Human Services in support of the Protect Life Rule. This regulation limits the ability of abortion businesses to obtain government subsidies through the Title X program. Title X is intended to fund contraception, not abortion. The Protect Life Rule will prioritize funding for federally qualified health centers and other community clinics that provide legitimate healthcare, including contraceptives, without killing anybody.

You can read the proposed rule here and submit your supportive comment here. I wrote:
I strongly support the proposed rule. For too long, Title X funds have subsidized abortion vendors. The provision of taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood—which has repeatedly defrauded Medicaid and failed to report the sexual abuse of children, among other scandals—is especially troubling. Federally qualified health centers and other community clinics are far more deserving recipients of Title X funds, and are fully capable of meeting women's nonviolent family planning needs.
Abortion lobbyists have predictably mischaracterized the Protect Life Rule as a "gag rule" that censors doctors. That's nonsense. Abortionists remain welcome to say whatever they like. And the government remains free to direct its tax revenue to deserving healthcare providers that do not destroy innocent human lives.

The Protect Life Rule is not even particularly novel. A similar rule was briefly put in place by the Reagan administration (but soon reversed by the abortion-friendly Clinton administration). Abortion industry groups brought a legal challenge at the time, which the Supreme Court rejected, holding that the funding limitation did not run afoul of the First Amendment; rather, the government "has merely chosen to fund one activity [family planning] to the exclusion of the other [abortion]."

Planned Parenthood would stand to lose, and nonviolent clinics would stand to gain, $60 million a year when the Protect Life Rule is enacted. While we'd still have a long way to go in removing Planned Parenthood's total government subsidy of approximately $500 million a year, this is a substantial first step. Submit your comment today!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Secular Pro-Life at the DFLA Conference!

This weekend I had the honor of attending and speaking at the Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) Conference in Denver, Colorado. I myself am a registered Democrat and pro-life activist operating in San Francisco, one of the most left-leaning of America’s progressive cities.

A progressive local group in Colorado had purchased a billboard sign attached to a truck that read “Hey, DFLA Attendees! Abortion Access is a progressive value” and hosted a press conference to denounce DFLA with speakers from NARAL as well as local Democratic leaders. Their protest was met with members of DFLA holding signs that read “Planned Parenthood is Anti Union” and “Pro-Life For the Whole Life”. We outnumbered them and chanted “Love Both”. A few of us interrupted the press conference with slogans like “You can’t achieve equality by killing people” and “Stop killing the poor”. We also ensured that there were pro-life signs visible throughout the speeches.

The conference itself was well organized and featured a diverse set of speakers with a range of subjects. Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and I first did a panel on pro-life feminism where we discussed the relationship between feminism, pro-life values, and progressive thought (video here). I covered some dos and don’ts when communicating with feminists and left-leaning people like myself. I also spoke on a second panel about cultivating the whole life movement through secular and Millennial outreach. The message, while controversial for many audiences, was very well received by the democratic participants.

It’s no mystery that the Democratic Party has actively been silencing pro-life leadership and while still a significant minority, pro-life Dems are losing ground. But yet we are hopeful. The statistics show Millennials, although very left-leaning, are still undecided on abortion. Democrats cannot likely win elections in key areas without the support of pro-life Democrats. Based on my first-hand experience in San Francisco, there is reason to hope that the anti-capitalist and socialist movements will recognize the immense political and financial greed emanating from Planned Parenthood and the monstrous profit margins from the destruction of innocent human lives. Ending Planned Parenthood’s influence the democratic party must remain a top priority and with a pending FBI investigation as we speak, it’s all hands on deck. And when we make democrats pro-life we will achieve cultural victory.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

More evidence that abortion restrictions decrease abortion rates.

As a follow up to our previous post (Pro-life laws stop abortions. Here's the evidence.) here in chronological order are more studies suggesting that abortion restrictions do decrease abortion—and not just legal abortion, but abortion in general. Note how many of the studies focus on how abortion policy affects birth rates rather than only the abortion rate itself.

"If all states observed the Hyde Amendment restrictions, many thousands of Medicaid-eligible women who would have obtained abortions under the 1977 funding policy would not receive them." The impact of restricting Medicaid financing for abortion. Family Planning Perspectives, June 1980

"Analysis of statewide data from the three States indicated that following restrictions on State funding of abortions, the proportion of reported pregnancies resulting in births, rather than in abortions, increased in all three States." Trends in rates of live births and abortions following state restrictions on public funding of abortion. Public Health Reports, December 1990

"The data show that 13% fewer had abortions in August through December than would have been expected on the basis of the number who had abortions in January through July." The Effects of Mandatory Delay Laws on Abortion Patients and Providers, Family Planning Perspectives, October 1994

"A maximal estimate suggests that 22 percent of the abortions among low-income women that are publicly funded do not take place after funding is eliminated." State Abortion Rates: The Impact of Policies, Providers, Politics, Demographics, and Economic Environment, Journal of Health Economics, October 1996.

"Access variables, including the restrictiveness of state laws regulating abortion, state funding of abortions for poor women and the availability of hospital abortions, affect abortion rates directly." The role of access in explaining state abortion rates, Social Science & Medicine, April 1997

"The incidence of abortion is found to be lower in states where access to providers is reduced and state policies are restrictive." The effects of economic conditions and access to reproductive health services on state abortion rates and birthrates. Family Planning Perspectives, April 1997

"The decline in geographic access to abortion providers during the 1980s accounted for a small but significant portion of the rise in the percentage of women heading families." State abortion policy, geographic access to abortion providers and changing family formation. Family Planning Perspectives. December 1998

"States legalizing abortion experienced a 4% decline in fertility relative to states where the legal status of abortion was unchanged." Roe v. Wade and American fertility, American Journal of Public Health, February 1999

"The Texas parental notification law was associated with a decline in abortion rates among minors from 15 to 17 years of age." Changes in Abortions and Births and the Texas Parental Notification Law, The New England Journal of Medicine, March 2006

"Our results indicate that much of the reduction in fertility at the time abortion was legalized was permanent in that women did not have more subsequent births as a result." Abortion Legalization and Lifecycle Fertility, The Journal of Human Resources, 2007

"Overall, the results show that laws that increased minors’ access to abortion in the 1960s and 1970s had a larger impact on minors’ birthrates than laws that increased oral contraceptive access." Fertility Effects of Abortion and Birth Control Pill Access for Minors, Demography, November 2008

"Approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable ... Studies have found little evidence that lack of Medicaid funding has resulted in illegal abortions." Restrictions on Medicaid Funding for Abortions: A Literature Review, Guttmacher Institute, June 2009

"Robustness tests supported the association between access to abortion and decreased birthrates, while the relationship between access to the pill and birthrates received less support." Abortion or Pill Access Is Associated with Lower Birthrates Among Minors, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, March 2009

"Minors in states with mandatory waiting periods were more than two times as likely to report an unintended birth." How Are Restrictive Abortion Statutes Associated With Unintended Teen Birth? Journal of Adolescent Health, August 2010

"A series of regressions on a comprehensive time series cross-sectional data set provides evidence that several types of state-level anti-abortion legislation result in statistically significant declines in both the abortion rate and the abortion ratio." Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, March 2011

"[If Roe v. Wade were overturned] abortion rates would fall by 14.9 percent nationally, resulting in at most, 178,800 additional births or 4.2 percent of the U.S. total in 2008. A ban in 17 states would result in a 6.0 percent decline in abortions and at most, 1.7 percent rise in births." Back to the Future? Abortion Before & After Roe, National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2012

"The empirical results add to the substantial body of peer-reviewed research which finds that public funding restrictions, parental involvement laws, and properly designed informed consent laws all reduce the incidence of abortion." Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era - A Reassessment, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, July 2014

"We estimated that each year more than 4000 US women are denied an abortion because of facility gestational limits and must carry unwanted pregnancies to term." Denial of Abortion Because of Provider Gestational Age Limits in the United States American Public Health Association August 2014

"I estimate an increase in the birthrate of 4% to 12% when abortion is restricted. In the absence of anti-abortion laws, fertility would have been 5% to 12% lower in the early twentieth century." The Effect of Anti-Abortion Legislation on Nineteenth Century Fertility, Demography, June 2015

"Counties with no facility in 2014 but no change in distance to a facility between 2012 and 2014 had a 1.3% (95% CI, −1.5% to 4.0%) decline in abortions. When the change in distance was 100 miles or more, the number of abortions decreased 50.3% (95% CI, 48.0% to 52.7%)." Change in Distance to Nearest Facility and Abortion in Texas, 2012 to 2014 Journal of the American Medical Association, January 2017

"Increases in distance have significant effects for women initially living within 200 miles of a clinic. The largest effect is for those nearest to clinics for whom a 25-mile increase reduces abortion 10%." How Far is Too Far? New Evidence on Abortion Clinic Closures, Access, and Abortions National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2017

"This law caused an increase in viewing rates and a statistically significant but small increase in continuing pregnancy rates." Evaluating the impact of a mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound viewing law: A mixed methods study PLoS One July 2017

"We estimate that over the past 25 years, parental involvement laws have resulted in half a million additional teen births." Did Parental Involvement Laws Grow Teeth? The Effects of State Restrictions on Minors' Access to Abortion, Institute for the Study of Labor, August 31, 2017 (See the SPL blog post about this specific paper here.)

"Trends in sexual behavior suggest that young women’s increased access to the birth control pill fueled the sexual revolution, but neither these trends nor difference-in-difference estimates support the view that this also led to substantial changes in family formation. Rather, the estimates robustly suggest that it was liberalized access to abortion that allowed large numbers of women to delay marriage and motherhood." The Power of Abortion Policy: Reexamining the Effects of Young Women’s Access to Reproductive Control, Journal of Political Economy, November 2017

"Participants were asked if they had considered abortion for this pregnancy and, if so, reasons they did not obtain one...more participants who had considered abortion in Louisiana than Maryland reported a policy-related reason (primarily lack of funding for the abortion) as a reason (22% Louisiana, 2% Maryland, p < 0.001)." Consideration of and Reasons for Not Obtaining Abortion Among Women Entering Prenatal Care in Southern Louisiana and Baltimore, Maryland, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, October 2018

"Existing estimates suggest 10% of Louisiana pregnancies end in abortion. If Medicaid covered abortion, this would increase to 14%. 29% of Medicaid eligible pregnant women who would have an abortion with Medicaid coverage, instead give birth." Estimating the proportion of Medicaid-eligible pregnant women in Louisiana who do not get abortions when Medicaid does not cover abortion BMC Women's Health, June 2019

"We find that a hundred-mile increase in distance to the nearest clinic is associated with 25 percent fewer abortions and 4 percent more births." Undue Burden Beyond Texas: An Analysis of Abortion Clinic Closures, Births, And Abortions in Wisconsin National Bureau of Economic Research, October 2019

"Greater exposure to ARs [abortion restrictions] was associated with increased risk of UIB [unintended birth]." Implications of Restrictive Abortion Laws on Unintended Births in the U.S.: A Cross-Sectional Multilevel Analysis APHA's 2019 Annual Meeting and Expo, November 2019

"...the abortion rate is predicted to fall by 32.8% (95% confidence interval 25.9-39.6%) in the year following a Roe reversal." Predicted changes in abortion access and incidence in a post-Roe world Contraception, November 2019

"We examine characteristics and experiences of women who considered, but did not have, an abortion for this pregnancy....Interviewees who considered abortion and were subject to multiple restrictions on abortion identified material and instrumental impacts of policies that, collectively, contributed to them not having an abortion." Complex situations: Economic insecurity, mental health, and substance use among pregnant women who consider – but do not have – abortions PLOS ONE January 2020

"A highly restrictive policy climate, when compared with a less restrictive one, was associated with a significantly lower abortion rate by 0.48 abortions per 1000 women, representing a 17% decrease from the median abortion rate of 2.89 per 1000 women." "This study provides evidence that a highly restrictive state legislative climate is associated with a lower abortion rate. The methodology used suggests that this abortion rate drop is related to the imposition of restrictive policies rather than other factors that may drive the abortion rate." Association of Highly Restrictive State Abortion Policies With Abortion Rates, 2000-2014, JAMA Network, November 2020

"Restrictive state-level abortion policies are associated with not having an abortion at all." State abortion policies and Medicaid coverage of abortion are associated with pregnancy outcomes among individuals seeking abortion recruited using Google Ads: A national cohort study, Social Science & Medicine, April 2021

Further reading:

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Upcoming Events

Mark your calendars for these upcoming pro-life events!

August 5-11: #Justice4Life Bus Tour and Rallies
Students for Life of America is organizing a nationwide effort to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The #Justice4Life bus tour will cover town halls and campaign rallies of Senators in West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri, and Alaska. On August 11, students will lead #Justice4Life rallies in cities across the country. Want to bring a rally to your community? Download the Rally Captain kit here.

Tuesday, August 7: The Missouri Republican Primary
Secular Pro-Life does not endorse candidates for elected office, and our membership includes every political persuasion under the sun. That said, we are watching this primary closely because an openly agnostic pro-life candidate is running for Senate: Austin Petersen, whose opposition to abortion is inspired in part by SPL. His GOP primary opponent is Josh Hawley, a pro-life Protestant who currently serves as the Attorney General of Missouri. The winner will go on to face Missouri's incumbent Senator, Democrat Claire McCaskill, who has consistently voted against the right to life of children in the womb.

Saturday, September 8: Pro-life conference at University of California, Berkeley
Pro-Life San Francisco—which is headed by SPL's fearless pro-life feminist atheist volcanic eruption of amazement Terrisa Bukovinac—is organizing the Let There Be Life Conference 2018 (a play on the University of California's motto, "Let there be light"). The conference invites California activists "to participate in a one day conference where you will be inspired, connected, and equipped to help pregnant people in-need, strengthen our communities, and promote the values of equality, nonviolence, and nondiscrimination for all Californians!" Speakers will include Terrisa Bukovinac and Karen Rose of Pro-Life San Francisco, Josh Brahm of Equal Rights Institute, Cessilye Smith of Abide Women's Health Services, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists, and 40 Days for Life co-founder David Bereit. Register here.

Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30: Pro-life conference at Yale University
Yale pro-life students put on the Vita et Veritas conference every year and it's always top-notch. Secular Pro-Life is proud to be a sponsor. This year may be of particular interest to our readers because the theme is "Science and the Pro-Life Movement." Sign up for email updates to be notified when registration opens. 

Friday, October 12 through Sunday, October 14: Rehumanize Conference
The Rehumanize Conference (formerly known as Life/Peace/Justice Conference) will be held at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. This conference, organized by our friends at Rehumanize International, brings together people from various movements for nonviolent change—including opposition to abortion, the death penalty, human trafficking, racism, nuclear weapons, and more—to learn from one another and advance our common goals. 

Although the speaker list is not yet posted to the conference website, we can tell you that Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will speak alongside Rehumanize International staffer and fellow atheist Rosemary Geraghty on the topic of "Radical Inclusivity." In addition, Sarah Terzo (whom you may know from her guest posts on this blog, as well as her regular writings for Live Action News and Clinic Quotes) will speak on disability rights. And on Sunday morning, while religious conference attendees take time for worship, we will host a secular breakfast. Register for the conference here

Monday, July 23, 2018

Strike this word from your abortion debate vocabulary

The word is "consequence."

"Consequence" has two closely related meanings. First, it can be used to indicate a cause-and-effect relationship, synonymous with the word "result." A consequence may be positive, negative, or neutral:
  • Monique studied hard over the weekend. As a consequence, she aced her final exam.
  • Joe smoked cigarettes for thirty years. As a consequence, he has an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
  • Allison decided to move across the country. As a consequence, she has notified her landlord that she will not renew her lease.
That's all well and good, but "consequence" is so frequently used with a negative connotation that it has acquired a second meaning: "punishment."
  • Son, you're grounded for two weeks. Bad behavior has consequences.
  • It's little wonder some victims of sexual assault decline to report the attack to police. Even when a report is made, rapists rarely face any consequences for their actions.
Now, compare the following two statements:
  • After a period of sexual abstinence, Maria and her husband decided that they wanted to conceive. They resumed having sexual intercourse, and as a consequence, Maria became pregnant.  
  • Anne had a one-night stand and her partner did not use a condom. As a consequence, Anne became pregnant.
Both statements make the exact same point: pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse. And in the context of the abortion debate, that fact is relevant to the legal allocation of risk. But while no one would think that I'm out to punish Maria, abortion supporters will leap over tall buildings to conclude that I'm out to punish Anne.

This is how we get President Obama's infamous proclamation that he supports abortion because if his daughters were to "make a mistake, I don't them punished with a baby." The pro-life movement immediately cried foul at the notion that babies are punishments; babies are of course people, inside the womb and out, and the rewards of parenthood are many.

But when we use the word "consequence"—or, even more problematically, speak derisively about a desire for "consequence-free sex"—pro-choicers and fence-sitters come away with the impression that we agree with Obama about babies being punishments. Because many pro-lifers come from religious traditions that view premarital sex as sinful (and abortion activists love to exploit that fact), the odds of listeners automatically applying the negative connotation of "consequences" are very high.

When we're trying to change minds to save lives, it doesn't matter what you actually meant. It only matters what they hear. So stop saying "consequence." There are plenty of neutral alternatives available, like "result," "effect," and "outcome." It's one small change that could have very positive consequences for the cause of life. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Pro-life laws prevent abortion primarily by preventing unplanned pregnancy.

Today's guest post is by Conner Alford.

Women and their partners are generally forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior.

Within our society’s broader debate on abortion, two particular pro-choice arguments have occupied a great deal of attention among political activists and leaders alike. The first and stronger of these arguments postulates that legal restrictions make abortion more dangerous but that they do not make it any less common. The underlying logic here is that pro-life policies simply replace safe, legal terminations with an equal number of dangerous, illegal and self-induced or ‘back-alley’ abortions (AGI 1999, 2009). In other words, if a woman is pregnant and does not want to be, she will not consider the legality of her actions or the risks to her own health when deciding whether or not to abort. Any woman willing to get a safe, legal abortion is also willing to get an unsafe, illegal one. When the former is harder to obtain, she will trade it in for the latter. When the latter is no longer necessary because laws have been liberalized, she will trade it for the former. This is the argument articulated by the Alan Guttmacher Institute[1] (AGI) and its affiliated researchers (Tietze 1973; Juarez et al 2005; Sedgh et al 2007b; Singh et al 2010).

The second argument makes a somewhat contradictory claim. According to this narrative, pro-life policies do in fact mitigate abortions. However, they only do so by replacing those abortions with unwanted births. Women trade abortions for babies. As a result, the story goes, these undesired offspring either wind up in state custody or eventually wash out to become criminals (Levitt and Donahue 2001). Either way, the conclusion that we are supposed to draw is that pro-life policies are generally ill-advised. However, both of these arguments are deeply inconsistent with the empirical record and based on a fundamental misconception about the primary way in which abortion laws actually work and operate.

First, studies have shown that while legal restrictions on abortion do reduce the rate at which it occurs, they do not necessarily result in an increase in the birth rate (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et al. 1997). Second, the claim that pro-life policies simply lead to an increase in maternal deaths by driving pregnant women to seek unsafe abortions is directly challenged by the empirical record. The lowest maternal mortality rates (MMR) in Europe, for example, occur in Poland, Malta and Ireland—all of which have extremely restrictive policies (Mundial 2010; Hogan et al. 2010). Further, a plethora of systematic analyses examining countries from around the world continuously challenge the idea that legal restrictions on abortion increase MMRs or hospitalizations.[2]  This, then, undermines a key assumption in the AGI narrative about illegal abortions. Third, it is important to note that within the academic community the debate is, generally speaking, no longer about whether legal restrictions reduce abortions so much as how they manage to do so. That pro-life policies mitigate abortion is a point that has been repeatedly illustrated by literally dozens of independent, peer-reviewed studies over the course of several decades.[3]

There has, however, been some disagreement about the exact causal mechanism responsible for this relationship. Herein we find the chief problem with the two perspectives introduced at the beginning of this essay. Not only are their key assertions inconsistent with the empirical record, their entire arguments are fundamentally oblivious to recent academic insights on how abortion laws actually operate. Traditionally, scholars have tended to assume that such policies function to minimize abortions by acting on the posterior “…decision of a woman who is pregnant not to have the child” (Medoff 1988, p. 354). In other words, the law was presumed to affect a woman’s behavior only after she had already become pregnant. The AGI and other pro-choice advocates have adopted this outdated presupposition.

Since the mid 1990s, however, the academic understanding has evolved in light of new evidence. A substantial number of independent, peer reviewed studies have consistently shown that legal restrictions on abortion work primarily by reducing the rate at which unplanned pregnancies occur in the first place (Kane and Staiger 1996) and only secondarily by influencing the behaviors of women who are already pregnant (Levine 2004a)! In other words, pro-life policies address both the symptom and the cause! To be more specific, research has shown that women and their partners are generally forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior. They do not wait until after a pregnancy has already occurred before deciding whether they should take steps to preempt parenthood. As a result, pro-life policies actually help to reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate by incentivizing couples to take additional precautions prior to a potential pregnancy rather than waiting to obtain an abortion after the pregnancy has already occurred. Conversely, the opposite is also true. When abortion is readily accessible, this very availability reduces the incentive to avoid becoming pregnant by offering a sort of ‘insurance policy,’ should you or your partner happen to do so. For example, studies have persistently shown that more permissive policies are causally connected to an increase in unprotected sex whereas more restrictive policies lead to an increase in contraceptive usage (Levine 2004b; Medoff 2008a, b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011, 2014, 2015). There is also some evidence to indicate that legally restricting abortion leads to a change in the overall amount of sexual activity (Alford 2016).

Of course, many readers are likely to find this logic somewhat counterintuitive or even offensive. Despite this, it has been overwhelmingly supported by the empirical record (Kane and Staiger 1996; Levine et al. 1996; Levine 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004; Levine and Staiger 2004; McNabb 2007; Medoff 2008a, b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011). It also helps to explain the previously puzzling findings of several studies which suggested  that abortion laws were able to reduce the number of abortions without an increase in births (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et al. 1997) or harming maternal health outcomes (see footnote 3). Furthermore, it is consistent with previous findings that the legalization of abortion is associated with an increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases whereas pro-life policies have the opposite impact (Kick and Stratmann 2003; Klick and Neelsen 2012). Studies examining the impact of abortion policies on the number of infants available for adoption have, similarly, supported the hypothesis (Gennetian 1999; Bitler and Zavodny 2002; Medoff 2008b).

In conclusion then, it is important to understand that the primary interaction between pro-life policies and individual fertility decisions happens before a potential pregnancy. Men and women are generally rational, free and forward-thinking when it comes to their sex lives. They consider the risks and potential costs of an unwanted pregnancy before making decisions about whether to engage in sexual activity or to utilize contraception. When those costs are subverted by liberalized abortion laws, this provides a sort of ‘insurance policy,’ which encourages uninhibited sexual activity. When those costs are reinforced by pro-life policies, however, the opposite occurs. Contraceptive usage goes up and unplanned pregnancies go down. As a result, legal limitations on abortion are capable of reducing abortion rates without actually impacting the overall number of births. Where pro-life policies do lead to an increase in births, this change is secondary and relatively modest as compared to the decline in unplanned pregnancy. As a result of this, restrictions on abortion are also able to operate without a concomitant risk of unsafe abortions. After all, you cannot illegally terminate a pregnancy that never occurred. This helps to explain why there does not seem to be any positive relationship between legalized abortion and maternal health outcomes.[4] The arguments introduced at the opening of this essay must, therefore, be dismissed in light of new academic evidence and empirical data. The science simply does not support them. It does, however, indicate that pro-life laws do not merely address abortion as a symptom but that they attack the underlying cause of abortion—unplanned pregnancy—at its source. 

Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI). 1999. “Sharing Responsibility: Women, Society & Abortion Worldwide.” New York.
__________. 2009. “Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress.” New York.
Alford, Conner. 2016. "The Economics of Abortion: A Comparative Analysis of Mexico and the United States." Proquest Dissertations. Available at:
Bitler, Marianne and Madeline. Zavodny. 2002. "Did Abortion Legalization Reduce the Number of Unwanted Children? Evidence from Adoptions." Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 34(1) 25-33.
Donohue III, John J and Steven D. Levitt. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime." The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 116(2): 379-420.
Felkey, Amanda J. and Lybecker, Kristina M. 2011. "Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws Matter?" International Journal of Business and Social Science. 2(16): 1-12.
_____. 2014. “Utilization of Oral Contraception: The Impact of Direct and Indirect Restrictions on Access to Abortion." The Social Science Journal.  51: 44-56.
 _____. 2015. “The Role of Restrictive Abortion Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use.” Clinics in Mother and Child Health. 12(4): 1-10.
Gennetian, Lisa A. 1999.  "The Supply of Infants relinquished for Adoption: Did Access to Abortion Make a Difference?" Economic Inquiry. 37(3): 412-431.
Gober, Patricia. 1994. "Why Abortion Rates Vary: A Geographical Examination of the Supply of and Demand for Abortion Services in the United States in 1988." Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 84: 230-250.
Guldi, Melanie. 2008. "Fertility Effects of Abortion and Birth Control Pill Access for Minors." Demography. 45(4): 817-827.
Haas-Wilson, Deborah. 1993."The Economic Impact of State Restrictions on Abortion: Parental Consent and Notification Laws and Medicaid Funding Restrictions." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 12(3): 498-511.
Hansen, Susan B. 1980. “State Implementation of Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion Rates since Roe v. Wade.” The Journal of Politics. 42: pp. 372-395.
Hogan MC, Foreman KJ, Naghavi M, Ahn SY, Wang M, et al. 2010. "Maternal mortality for 181 countries, 1980-2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5." Lancet 375(9726): 1609–1623.
Kane, Thomas J. and Douglas Staiger. 1996. "Teen Motherhood and Abortion Access." The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 111(2): 467-506
Koch, Elard Miguel Bravo, Sebastián Gatica, Juan F. Stecher, Paula Aracena, Sergio Valenzuela, IvonneAhlers. 2012A. “Sobrestimacióndel Aborto Inducido en Colombia y otros Países Latino Americanos. [Overestimation of induced abortion in Colombia and other Latin American countries].” Ginecol Obstet Mex. 80(5): 360-372.
Koch, Elard, John Thorp, Miguel Bravo, Sebastian Gatica, Camila X. Romero, Hernan Aguilera, IvonneAhlers. 2012b. "Women's Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities, Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957 to 2007." PLoS One. 7(5): 1-16.
Koch, Elard, Calhoun, Paula. Aracena, Sebastian Gatica, and Miguel Bravo. 2014. "Women's education level, contraceptive use and maternal mortality estimates." Public Health, 128(4): 384-7.
Koch, Elard, Monique Chireau, Fernando Pliego, Joseph Stanford, Sebastián Haddad, Byron Calhoun, Paula Aracena, Miguel Bravo, SebastiánGatica, and John Thorp. 2015. “Abortion legislation, maternal healthcare, fertility, female literacy, sanitation, violence against women, and maternal deaths: a natural experiment in 32 Mexican states."BMJ. 5(2): e006013–e006013.
Levine, Phillip B., Amy B. Trainor, and David J. Zimmerman. 1996. “The effect of Medicaid abortion funding restrictions on abortions, pregnancies and births.” Journal of  Health Economics. 15: 555-578.
Levine Phillip B., Douglas Staiger, Thomas J. Kane and David J. Zimmerman. 1999. "Roe v. Wade and American Fertility." American Journal of Public Health. 89(2): pp. 199-203.
Levine, Phillip B. 2002. The Impact of Social Policy and Economic Activity throughout the Fertility Decision Tree.” in Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis. E.D. Jonathan Gruber. National Bureau of Economic Research, pp. 167-218.
 _____. 2003. “Parental Involvement Laws and Fertility Behavior.” Journal of Health Economics. 22(5): 861–878
_____. 2004a. "Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility." Society, 41(4): 79-85.
_____. 2004b. Sex and Consequences: Abortion, Public Policy, and the Economics of Fertility. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
 Levine, Phillip B. and Douglas Staiger. 2004. "Abortion Policy and Fertility Outcomes: The Eastern European Experience." Journal of Law and Economics. XLVII (April): 223-243.
Matthews, Stephens David Ribar and Mark Wilhelm. 1997."The Effects of Economic Conditions and Access to Reproductive Health Services On State Abortion rates and Birthrates." Family Planning Perspectives. 29(2): 52-60.
McNabb, Leland. 2007. “Public Policies and Private Decisions: An Analysis of the Effects of Abortion Restrictions on Minors’ Contraceptive Behavior.” Available at:
Medoff, H. Marshall. 1988. "An Economic Analysis of the Demand for Abortion." Economic Inquiry. 26: 353-359.
 _____. 2008a. "Abortion costs, sexual behavior, and pregnancy rates." The Social Science Journal. 45: 156-172
. _____. 2008b. “The Effect of Abortion Costs on Adoption.” International Journal of Social Economics. 35(3): 188-201.
Mundial, Banco. 2010. "Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2008." Available at:
New, Michael. 2004. "Analyzing the Effects of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion During the 1990s."
_____. 2007. “Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among Minors.”
_____. 2011. “Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post Casey Era”. State Politics & Policy Quarterly. 11: pp. 28-47.
_____. 2014. “Analyzing the Impact of U.S. Antiabortion Legislation in the Post-Casey Era A Reassessment.” State Politics & Policy Quarterly. 11: pp. 28-47.
Trussell, J., J. Menken, B.L, Lindheimand B. Vaughan. 1980. “The impact of restricting Medicaid financing for abortion.” Family Planning Perspectives 12, 120-130.

[1] The AGI is a pro-choice lobbying organization and the semi-official research division of Planned Parenthood. Its statement of purpose is to promote the liberalization of worldwide abortion laws.
[2] Similarly, in South and Central America, Koch et al (2014) finds no relationship between the restrictiveness of state policies on abortion in Mexico and maternal mortality, while a time series analysis of Chile failed to show any relationship between historical changes in abortion policy and either maternal mortality or abortion related hospitalizations (Koch et al. 2012a). Systematic analyses in Eastern Europe and studies examining the impact of legalized abortion in Mexico City also undermine the AGI narrative (Levine and Staiger 2004; Klick and Neelsen 2012; Koch et al 2012b).
[3] Hansen 1980; Medoff 1988, 2008a, 2008b; Haas-Wilson 1993; Gober 1994; New 2004, 2007, 2011a, b; Guildi 2008; Koch et al. 2012a, b, 2014…the list goes on. 
[4]  In fact, some research indicates the opposite: that more liberal abortion laws may actually lead to an increase in maternal mortality and morbidity (Alford 2016). Although these findings have yet to be fully explained, one possibility is that women who obtain abortions are able to become pregnant again more quickly and/or are more likely to return to former levels of sexual activity. As a result, this leads to an increase in the overall number of pregnancies a woman experiences and therefore her overall risk of experiencing a potentially life threatening complication. This may also help to explain why countries with more restrictive abortion policies in both Latin America and Europe tend to have maternal mortality rates that are lower than the regional average (see above) and why the abortion mortality ratio decrease by almost 96% subsequent to an abortion ban in Chile (Koch 2013).

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Highlights from Justice4Life webcast

Last night, Students for Life of America hosted a webcast on the topic of its Justice4Life campaign, a grassroots effort to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. A recording will be available soon, but in the meantime, here are my notes.

Emcee David Bereit
  • David uses the word "opportunity" constantly. An historic opportunity, an opportunity to restore the right to life as established in the Constitution, an opportunity we've waited for for decades... 
  • He emphasizes Justice Kennedy's swing role; he was "not a vote we could ever count on," although he did vote the right way in NIFLA v. Becerra
Former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese
  • "For too long, we have had people on the Supreme Court who have ignored what the Constitution actually says." 
  • Religious minorities flocked to the early United States because of our protections for freedom of conscience; preserving that freedom is critical
  • "Throughout his career, [Kavanaugh] has demonstrated his fidelity to the Constitution." 
  • Notes that Federalist Society has vetted nominees, including Gorsuch and Kavanaugh
  • Communicate with your Senators with the goal of seating Kavanaugh before the next term begins on October 1st. True, every Senator won't read every letter/email, but staffers compile reports about the numbers of letters sent. Write letters to the editor of your local paper too! 
  • The effort starts now, as Senators have one-on-one meetings with Kavanaugh.
Ken Klukowski, First Liberty Institute
  • His critical concern is what replacing Kennedy means for First Amendment rights
  • Underlying judicial philosophy matters; result-driven decisions may go your way, but set bad precedents for you next time. We want a Justice who will "embrace democracy" and allow legislators who are accountable to the people to decide most policy questions. 
  • Klukowski takes on criticisms of Kavanaugh's past decisions from non-lawyers. Kavanaugh has been "faithful to his role as a subordinate judge on an inferior court," where he must apply Supreme Court precedent; that doesn't necessarily mean that he agrees with those precedents.
(I missed a significant portion of the webcast here, which I gather was focused on Judge Kavanaugh's qualifications, because I got a phone call. So sorry!)

Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List
  • Individual people have ALL the power in America. "We can either use it, or we can let it go by the wayside... This moment is decades in the making. There is no overstating, in my opinion, the moment we are in right now."
  • Recounts President Trump's promise to nominate Scalia-like Justices and submission of a list to the American people before the election
  • Breakdown of the Senate: we have 49 solid pro-life votes, but Sen. McCain is . The two pro-choice Republicans could derail everything, but we can offset them with pro-life Democrats who previously voted for Gorsuch. The pressure on Sens. Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin (and to a lesser extent Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama) is intense. The abortion industry knows what's at stake. "Tier 2" Senators (harder to get, but possble) are McCaskill and Nelson. 
  • "No matter where you live, the most important thing you can do is ensure that the Senate understands the intensity of this moment. ... It has an echo effect, even if you're not in those [swing] states."
  • Students for Life and Susan B. Anthony List have rallies planned for Senators' district offices.
  • Older Senators care about phone calls; younger ones care about tweets; everybody cares about email. 
  • Millions of children can be saved by just a handful of votes.
Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life of America
  • Go to; students can sign up for the national tour happening the first week of August! Anyone, student or not, can download an action kit with information on how to contact your Senator, advice to write/submit a letter to the editor, sample tweets, etc.
  • On Saturday, August 11, there will be rallies throughout the nation. Sign up to be a rally captain (again, at to bring a rally to your community!
  • David chimes in: you don't have to have special skills to be a rally captain. Ordinary people are the agents of change.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Abortion and Disability Rights

Every life has equal worth. However, not all lives are treated with dignity. For instance, society commonly favors the lives of non-disabled people over disabled people. This preference even appears in the debate about the legality of abortions. A common argument pro-choicers pose is that a woman should get an abortion if she is not comfortable bearing and/or raising a child with disabilities. An abortion would be better than birthing an unwanted child into this world, correct? I would argue otherwise.

Financial issues are still prevalent in today’s economy. Admittedly, raising a disabled child does require additional expenses than it would raising a non disabled child. However, abortion should not be posed as the best answer to a parent’s financial troubles. Abortions are a band aid solution to poverty. A better alternative would be improving the safety net for guardians. Perhaps then fewer people would feel it is financially obligatory to terminate pregnancies.

The most discussed disability in the debate is Down Syndrome (DS). Iceland recently announced they have an extremely low percentage of citizens with DS. In the article What kind of society do you want to live in?: Inside the country where Down Syndrome is disappearing, Julian Quinones and Arijeta Lajka from CBS News reported the cause. Icelandic mothers get prenatal screenings and get abortions after finding the child has DS. This is upsetting for various reasons. One justification for abortion is that kids with DS are likelier to get put in and stay in the foster care system; Abortion would end any chance of possible emotional suffering. However, ableism is the underlying issue. People with DS and other disabilities are as valuable as people without disabilities, and should be viewed as such.

The rights of disabled people is close to my heart. I personally have a speaking impediment, which has led to me sometimes being treated differently. I do not want sympathy, but my past has influenced my political beliefs. The existence of disabled people should not be used to justify abortion; our lives have meaning too.

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Happening Sunday...

This Sunday, July 15, is a big day for two reasons:

1. It's the submission deadline for Create|Encounter! The second annual Create|Encounter contest, organized by our friends at Rehumanize International, is home to creative works of all kinds—poetry, narrative fiction, paintings, scripts, music, photography, sculpture, video, you name it—that relate to human rights and freedom from violence. That naturally includes abortion, but since Rehumanize International is a multi-issue group, you can also submit pieces that address war, human trafficking, the death penalty, racism, poverty, and other social ills.

Full submission guidelines can be found here. Winners get free admission to the Rehumanize conference October 12-14 in Pittsburgh, and may be published in the Life Matters Journal! Need inspiration? Check out last year's winners and honorable mentions here.

2. It's my 30th birthday! Yes, birthdays are arbitrary. But I love an excuse to celebrate, and 30 is a nice round number. It also makes me reflect on how I'm a "real adult" in the eyes of all the student pro-life activists who I was one of just a blink of an eye ago, I swear...

If you'd like to do something nice for me on my birthday, I'd love nothing more than a $30 donation to Secular Pro-Life. Help me start a new decade of advocacy on the right foot. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

SBA List Poll: Voters in Key States Want Kavanaugh Confirmed to SCOTUS

In case you've been living under a rock, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court seat made empty by Justice Kennedy's retirement. Speculation is rampant that Kavanaugh could be the fifth vote necessary to repeal Roe v. Wade—or at the very least, allow states to regulate abortion businesses like the medical facilities they purport to be, which the Court rejected in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.

The confirmation process is bound to be nasty and partisan. The GOP currently holds the slimmest of majorities in the Senate. Possible surprises could come from Republican abortion supporters Sen. Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Collins of Maine, and/or from any of the several Democratic Senators who are up for re-election in red states.

Yesterday, the Susan B. Anthony List released a poll from some of those states. Respondents in Florida (Sen. Nelson), Indiana (Sen. Donnelly), Missouri (Sen. McCaskill), North Dakota (Sen. Heitkamp), and West Virginia (Sen. Manchin) were asked if they wanted their Senators to confirm Trump's then-unnamed nominee. Even without knowing it would be Kavanaugh, who is widely considered a safe pick, strong majorities supported confirmation:
  • 56% in Florida
  • 56% in Indiana
  • 57% in Missouri
  • 68% in North Dakota
  • 59% in West Virginia
The numbers highlight the bind those five Democratic Senators face. Will they follow the will of their constituents by confirming Kavanaugh, and risk displeasing their base? Or will they vote against Kavanaugh and have that vote become the subject of attack ads which will resonate with a majority of voters? Neither is ideal heading into November. 

The pollsters followed up with a fascinating second question: “Do you think that the U.S. Supreme Court should decide abortion policy for [Name of State], or do you think abortion policy should be decided by the people of [Name of State] through their elected officials?” 

This is a great way to ask the question. As many have pointed out, polls that ask whether a person supports or opposes Roe v. Wade are highly problematic. Roe is a complex case that legal scholars have written volumes about; it's unfair to assume that the average person understands it. And when pollsters try to explain Roe's holding as part of the question, they invariably do a bad job. Framing the question in terms of who makes abortion policy is much less confusing. It's not perfect—for one thing, it doesn't account for subsequent cases like Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzalez v. Carhart that gave states a bit more room to legislate—but it beats the alternatives. 

And the answers are quite illuminating. In all five states surveyed, voters much preferred that abortion policy be set by legislatures instead of the Supreme Court: 
  • 54% in Florida
  • 65% in Indiana
  • 57% in Missouri
  • 67% in North Dakota
  • 57% in West Virginia
Those results are great news for the right to life, but we should not take anything for granted. Remember to contact your Senators, especially if you live in one of those key states!