Friday, May 31, 2019

Making Sense of Arizona's Late-Term Abortion Statistics

Above: a 28-week-old baby
I don’t know about you, but I often use the data brought to my attention by the SPL blog post "More evidence that most late-term abortions are elective." A lot.

It’s an excellent case study in the disconnect between rhetoric and reality. As a reluctant online debater, it’s the one thing I’ve felt comfortable bringing to the attention of my pro-choice friends who repeat the idea that late term abortions are mostly done for tragic reasons such as a fatal fetal anomaly or maternal health. We’ve already hashed out the moral underpinnings and philosophical stances we believe. This data offers them an opportunity to demonstrate the rigorousness with which they came to their conclusion.

But reading data and fact sheets can be difficult, especially if you are not used to doing so. Let’s break down how SPL comes to the conclusion that roughly 80% of late term abortions are done for elective reasons (i.e., neither maternal nor fetal health reasons).

Go ahead and pull up your 2017 abortion report from the Arizona Department of Health Services, located here. There is a lot of data. Let’s parse through what is important to our question.

Our first visit is going to be to page 17, Table 9, "Gestational age at time of abortion, Arizona residents, 2017."  This table will give us a breakdown of all abortions performed, filtered by the age of the pregnancy at the time of the abortion. Our interest here is in abortions of older fetuses, highlighted below. For the year of 2017, there were 157 abortions performed on fetuses anywhere from a few weeks away from viability (24+ weeks), to birth. There is no further breakdown from the 21 weeks or older group. From a pregnancy perspective, this encompasses all of the third trimester, and the tail end of the second trimester.

Our next step is to compare that with data on the numbers of late term abortions done for the cause of maternal and fetal health. Luckily, there is data to help us here. Let’s start with maternal health which can be found on page 15 of the 2017 report: Table 7, "Maternal characteristics and maternal medical conditions cited for obtaining an abortion, Arizona residents, 2017."  Note that "maternal characteristics" refers to the age of the mother and the age of her pregnancy. "Maternal medical conditions" refers to her physical health which was identified as the reason for the abortion.

Again, I have highlighted the relevant data. Note that it is empty, and the reason for this, stated in the footnote, is that the number is extremely low: five or fewer. In my experience with Institutional Review Boards (IRB) – a necessary review process for anyone wishing to report data on legally identified people – this is likely a way to make it impossible to identify individual cases with specifics. At very most, this number could be 5, but it is equally probable the number is 1. In either case, it's a very low number, which makes sense since no medical conditions post viability are actually alleviated by abortion (a multi-day process) that wouldn’t more easily be alleviated by ending the pregnancy with induction of a live birth (usually a one-day process).

Next up is fetal conditions. We will find those on the next page, Page 16, Table 8: "Maternal characteristics and fetal medical conditions cited for obtaining an abortion, Arizona residents, 2017."  Relevant information is shown below. Again, "maternal characteristics" refers to the age of the mother and the age of her pregnancy. "Fetal medical conditions" refers to the health condition of the fetus which was identified as the reason for the abortion. The relevant line is highlighted. Note, this is a higher number. Of the 157 abortions performed on pregnancies equal to or greater than 21 weeks, 31 were terminated for reasons of fetal health. Also listed are some truly tragic fetal conditions, as well as some that are unclear (e.g. musculoskeletal, twin abnormality). We are also unable to determine which of those conditions match up with the later term abortions.

Here is a handy graph for where to find the relevant data for prior years (link to each): 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Total Abortions ≥21 weeks
Page 17 / Table 9
Page 17 / Table 9
Page 23 / Table 10
Page 26 / Table 10
Page 27 / Table 10
Page 21 / Table 8
Page 13 / Table 1D-3
Total Abortions
≥21 weeks
Maternal Health
Page 15 / Table 7
Page 15 / Table 7
Page 21 / Table 8
Page 24 / Table 8
Page 25 / Table 8
Total Abortions
≥21 weeks
Fetal Health
Page 16 / Table 8
Page 16 / Table 8
Page 22 / Table 9
Page 25 / Table 9
Page 26 / Table 9

Since 2010 and 2011 lack the relevant data, let’s take a look at 2012 – 2017:    

Now, remember I mentioned that there are some maternal health tables that don’t give a number, but are non-zero? Let’s assume the worst, that the number is as high as could be without triggering reporting (5). 

That still gives us a 77.0% elective abortion rate. If you substitute those numbers with an average of 2.5, the result is 78.5%. However you slice it, the vast majority of later abortions (21+ weeks) are for elective reasons, and not for reasons of maternal or fetal health.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How do I know these numbers haven’t been fudged by some third party?
Answer: A good question. The simple answer is found in the introduction of the 2017 report:
Beginning July 29, 2010, abortion data is reported using a secure, web-based reporting system. The reporting system was designed to meet the statutory requirements. Reports submitted using the web-based system do not include personally identifiable information (i.e., name, address, birthdate, social security number) and are submitted by password-authenticated personnel only.
Question: How do I know the people reporting are being honest in their reporting?
Answer: Somewhat ties in with the last question. The people reporting this are the abortion facilities themselves, and those people have a paper trail. You can actually see the reporting form on the 2017 report, page 23.

Next, you’d want to question motive. Again, I refer you to the introduction: “Reports submitted using the web-based system do not include personally identifiable information (i.e., name, address, birthdate, social security number)…” The data is collected anonymously, so there is no fear of the data coming back to a patient. More importantly, the doctor is doing the abortion. They would (in theory) be the first person to know if a termination was occurring for a medical reason.

If anything, the incentive for the abortion provider would be to inflate numbers for health reasons, as to follow the narrative that most late term abortions are done for those reasons. Personally, I take the data as it is, with no fudging of any numbers. But I would be more inclined to believe an over-reporting on later term abortions for health reasons than an under-reporting. But this ties into the next question.

Question: How do I know the doctor/ reporting personnel didn’t make a mistake?
Answer: This is a question that comes up all the time in self-reported surveys. The simple truth is that people are humans, and we all do make mistakes. We mitigate that problem by collecting more of it. A mistake can go both ways, over-reporting and under-reporting. The more data we collect, the more see those mistakes cancel each other out, so to speak.

Your Statistics 101 class will tell you that you need a minimum of 30 observations to have data powerful enough to say much of anything. Even just looking at the late term abortion data, we have 674 observations from 2012 to 2017. When we have more data, we can also begin to see patterns. Every year we see relatively the same pattern: very low maternal, slightly higher fetal reasons. It is possible that several clinics are all making the same mistake in data recording every year, but it is not probable.

Question: Well, maybe there are other tragic reasons that have nothing to do with health that aren’t getting reported!
Answer: This isn’t really a question, but I’ll give you a brief opinions on this. Perhaps that might be the case. But the news reporting should match reality – regardless of the topic. If the news wishes to classify financial situation or educational situation or any other thing as tragic enough to warrant the purposeful killing of an individual human being who either could live outside the womb, or are extremely close to it, they are free to make that case. Instead what I see from beloved news outlets are stories of fetal demise, or incompatibility with life.

[Today's guest post is by K. B. Click here to learn more about becoming a guest author.]

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Recap: Senate Symposium on Sex Trafficking

Secular Pro-Life co-leader Terrisa Bukovinac here. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a symposium at the United States Senate entitled “Trafficking and Women’s and Children’s Health.” The event brought survivors of sex trafficking together with doctors and legal experts to discuss the serious and pervasive concerns of sex trafficking in America and how it relates to abortion, women’s health, and the health of their children. Americans United for Life hosted the event, and Secular Pro-Life was proud to co-sponsor.

From left to right: Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life; Terrisa Bukovinac of Secular Pro-Life; Patrina Mosley of the Family Research Council; Jamie Ballew of Concerned Women for America 

According to the Polaris project, from 2007 to 2017, their National Human Trafficking Hotline has received reports of 34,700 sex trafficking cases inside the United States. In 2017, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 7 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.8 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. This is a major cultural problem.

This symposium was intended to influence Senate staff and inspire new legislation protecting and helping the victims of trafficking and their families. Listening to the survivors personal testimonies was undoubtedly the most heartbreaking and moving part of the day.

Three takeaways:

Trafficked people often experience extreme reproductive harm. Most survivors who testified experienced, or witnessed those who experienced, severe injury including infertility, cervical cancer, hysterectomies, and other conditions as a direct result of being trafficked. According to Dr. Yaro Garcia, a clinical psychologist and expert on human trafficking, the average trafficked woman sees between 20 and 30 clients a day. Trafficking disproportionately affects minority communities, and with a known bias in healthcare against women of color coupled with a lack of resources, access to necessary medical treatment can be out of reach. The women who spoke all called for free healthcare for victims of human trafficking and survivors of modern day slavery. They also called for, and some have implemented, training hospital staff to recognize signs of trafficking victims and action steps to take to get help.

Trafficked women experience forced pregnancy and abortion. Many of the panelists experienced both pregnancy and abortion. Some were forced to abort, while others were permitted to keep their pregnancies because their hourly rate would sometimes increase. Many were forced to work throughout their pregnancies and continue working directly after experiencing abortions. Allan Parker of the Justice Foundation pointed out that forced abortion is illegal in every state, making each abortion a serious crime to which the pimp or trafficker can be held accountable. He also suggested that states with fetal homicide laws can help deliver harsher sentences for traffickers.

The children of survivors experience mental health issues. Some of those who were trafficked were also trafficked by their parents as children, and many of them raised children in that life. Trauma experienced in the early years of life can culminate in addiction and other mental health issues. The survivors stressed the importance and need for mental health programs, treatment, and greater awareness of the needs of the children raised in the world of trafficking.

While the event was open to all Senate staff, it seemed only to be visited by conservative staffers. I wish more Democratic leadership saw the value in listening to these brave survivors and subject experts. This is a crucial issue affecting millions of people across the globe and women and children’s lives are at stake. I look forward to seeing positive legislation on the issue come soon to the Senate floor.

Jeanne Allert of The Samaritan Woman

Monday, May 27, 2019

Baby Chris is Nine Weeks Old

[This is part 10 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

One week into the fetal period, Baby Chris is exhibiting new behaviors. According to the Endowment for Human Development, "thumb sucking begins and the fetus may swallow amniotic fluid. The fetus can also grasp an object, move the head forward and back, open and close the jaw, move the tongue, sigh, and stretch. By 9 weeks, the nerve receptors in the face, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet can sense and respond to light touch. Following a light touch on the sole of the foot, the fetus will bend the hip and knee and may curl the toes."

Baby Chris is about an inch and a half long from crown to rump. He or she has developed eyelids, which are fused together. Vocal chords are also developing at this point, as are the uterus and ovaries if Baby Chris is female.

You can learn more about Baby Chris' life in the womb by downloading the free See Baby app.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The people whose lives you suggest aren't worth living? They can hear you.

[The original FB post where we collected these answers can be found here.
We've since created a FB album with more such perspectives here.]

Recently, "The Good Place" star Jameela Jamil tweeted the following:

Text reads: "I had an abortion when I was young, and it was the best decision I have ever made. Both for me, and for the baby I didn't want, and wasn't ready for, emotionally, psychologically and financially. So many children will end up in foster homes. So many lives ruined. So very cruel."

As we've discussed before, it's one thing to argue for abortion for the sake of the woman who doesn't want to be pregnant/bear a child; it's quite another to argue abortion is in the best interest of the human being aborted. But Jamil is definitely not alone in believing abortion is a mercy. We hear sentiments like her own frequently:

Text reads: "Ending abortion will bring nothing but pain. Not only for women, but for children. Children will be born to parents who can't afford them, parents who aren't ready, or they will live their lives in foster care. More poor kids, more abused kids, more traumatized kids."

Text reads: "hi there are thousands of neglected children in foster care, it's more brutal to put them into the system than to abort them before they're even a life."

Text reads: "Unpopular opinion: I'd rather have my tax dollars fund a $600 abortion than my tax dollars support a child growing up in the system for 18 years never knowing what it's like to be loved or cared for."

These views prioritize abortion over foster care, but we've seen similar sentiments prioritizing abortion over a life with disabilities or generally being poor, etc. Those advocating for abortion as mercy rarely seem interested in the voices they are allegedly advocating on behalf of--the very people who have grown up in foster care or lived with disabilities or poverty. So in this post we try to amplify some of those voices.

Video of Frank Stephens' testimony before Congress regarding abortion in the case of Down Syndrome. "I don't feel I should have to justify my existence."

Text reads: "I was put up for adoption by my birth mother because she knew she couldn't financially care for me. She ignored the pressure from family to abort, and chose to give me life. I thank god for her selflessness every day. Because of her my two beautiful girls exist."

Text reads: "My mom was told to abort me because she got pregnant with me at 19 with no job, and the doctors insisted I would be severely disabled. The nurses essentially begged my mother to abort me after saying I would be 'slower than the other kids.' She didn't, and it turns out I am autistic. But I'm about to graduate university with a first in physics and a grad scheme already lined up. I'm the first in my family to go to university for a STEM subject. My mom tells me I'm the best thing that ever happened to her. F*** those nurses and doctors who thought me being disabled made me worth less. I'm not better off dead!"

Text reads: "I was a textbook abortion case...child of rape. Mother couldn't afford me, dad not in the picture. No money. No family. Failure to thrive in the womb. I get to write this Tweet because my mom chose life. I thank God every day for it. Murder is not a human right. #AlabamaAbortionBan."

Text reads: "As a product of the statutory rape of a 14 year old...and also adopted...I can assure you that comments about what an atrocity, a burden and an injustice it must have been for my birth mother NOT to have killed me...and then laughing at the solution of extremely dehumanizing and hurtful. It sends a very loud message that my life is less valuable than others, and that not only was the pregnancy unwanted but that I as a person am also not wanted."

Text reads: "I'm a 20-year-old woman with spina bifida myelomeningocele. I live with chronic pain & illness, which have helped me to love more deeply. While I'm not obligated to prove that I deserve the right to life, I'm happy to say I live a beautiful one, and I am not better off dead."

Text reads: "As an adoptee, don't you dare presume to speak for me. Knowing the true, self-sacrificing love my birthmother had for me has only strengthened by pro-life beliefs. My life was never an option for her. It's appalling anyone would believe another person's life is optional."

Text reads: "'Abortion is better than leaving these kids in the foster care system.' Well, I was in foster care. Are you saying my birth mother should have killed me instead?"

Text reads: "Having spent my entire childhood in foster care, I feel physically SICK every time I see a tweet saying we are all basically better off dead."

Text reads: "'Feminists' have been telling my autistic little sister and I all day that we aren't convenient enough to exist right now, because we were born to a drug addicted single mother and different fathers. But our biological mother chose LIFE. I will not stay silent. #Adopted."

Text reads: "You know, I did actually hear 'But how much of that suffering would you have been spared if your mum *had* decided not to have you?' How do you even respond to that? It was meant with all the care in the world, but...damn."

Text reads: "As a kid in foster care, I can tell you I would rather be where I am right here with my foster family rather than being aborted and not being able to love. To live. To meet new people and to grow."

Text reads: "People are saying my mom should have aborted us so we wouldn't have went through foster care and that's absolutely crazy. Never kill a baby because you think their life will be tough. Give them a chance. That tough life has made me a strong and wise young man."

Text reads: [Jameela Jamil's original tweet followed by] "Wow. I was a foster kid. Even though I have some deep wound, my life has turned out beautifully. I'm truly saddened by this and just so disappointed. My wounds are so sorth the life I live - and *love* - today. Just so worth it."

Text reads: "Best decision?? You have ever made? That is not right. I was adopted into a rough home with a lot of mental illness - but I am so glad I'm alive, and turned it around to bring two other great people into the world. Thank you to the mom out there who didn't think like you."

(Click to enlarge.)
Text reads: [Original "unpopular opinion tweet, followed by multiple comments:]

"Wow I'm sure every kid in foster care feels great after reading this..."

"Eh this post is kind of embarrassing and offensive. Pro-choicers are starting to make it seem like all kids in foster care have lives that are complete shit and don't grow up to be great people and do great things. They have aspirations, hopes and dreams and desires just like anyone else. Many of them find great families and wouldn't change their lives for anything. Those kids and adults that are or were in foster care have to keep seeing stuff like this that is basically strangers saying they would rather them be dead."

"I'm a foster child and I feel highly offended."

"I am pro-choice, however, as a child raised in the system, who was constantly moved from home to home, this post is so off base. If you're so concerned about children living in bad homes and not feeling loved, go be a foster parent and show those kids love and what a good home is."

"I was in foster care most of my childhood. It's not all bad. I'm happy to be alive, thanks."

Text reads: [Original "ending abortion will bring nothing but pain" tweet, followed by:] "I was terribly abused and grew up in a single-parent welfare home. Stop using lives like mine for validation. Because I like my life, warts and all--and you know what would've helped when I was a child? If pro-choice people stopped insisting people like me were better off dead."

Often when people speak out about their lives and their worth, pro-choice people will respond with something like "No one is saying you're better off dead. We're only saying that women should have a choice." But if you read through these conversations again, you can see that's not the case. The argument is not merely that abortion is necessary for the sake of the woman; the argument is also that abortion is better for the sake of the human being aborted. If abortion is supposed to be a better outcome for the child than being born into poverty, disability, foster care, etc., then the argument very much is that these people would be better off dead or having never lived. And it makes sense for all people in these circumstances to take that argument personally.

Further Reading:

Top recommended:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

We asked, you answered: why did you convert from being pro-choice to pro-life?

Original FB post here. At the time I started organizing these answers, there were about 200 comments.

Many people became pro-life because of their own pregnancy experiences:

Sasja: I was pro choice, and even against the gestation of embryos that showed signs of hereditary diseases or birth defects ... And then I fell in love when I first saw the beating heart of my 12 weeks into development unborn child—at that time nothing more than a blinking lo-res pixel on the ultrasound screen.

Myles: Having our first child and thinking we were going to lose him at one point during the pregnancy. Made it crystal clear.

Cassie: I was raised by a feminist mom to be pro-choice. I believed it was a "blob of tissue" until I was pregnant with my first child. When they handed me all the info on prenatal care and my "growing baby" I was like, "Wait what?" I pretty much changed my mind right then and there though it probably took me 3 or 4 more years to talk about my change of mind with friends and family.

Mandy: Seeing my 12 week old baby miscarriage.

Rachael: Pregnancy changed my mind. I had an unplanned pregnancy and I just felt different after that. It is hard to explain.

Heather: I was rather uncommitted either way, just not a problem I had to consider. Until I miscarried at 5 weeks. That was a life. I felt real loss, real grief. And the pro-abortion side tells me it's just a clump of cells. It wasn't. It mattered. It had meaning. I know that now.

I found myself getting pressured into abortions with both my kids by people in the healthcare and mental health services industry. Later on, I was told that I should have not even had kids if I had an intellectual disability. On top of that, my boyfriend wanted me to abort.
I made two appointments with PP who were actually fair saying I have to really want it. I dreamed my baby was being attacked by a large snake. I had to protect and defend my baby as her mother! That's when I knew I wasn't going through with it.
Things actually worked out for us. Section 8 gave us a home. When things went south with my relationships, there were shelters, I had a legal advocate and counselors, we always had enough food. Later on, we got a new apartment and thrived. Point being things were never as bad as things were painted.
I want to advocate for other women going through this. I want them to know the Truth that someone dies during an abortion and someone could be saved and things can turn out even when things are at their worst when they choose life!
I think when I was very young I didn’t give it much thought. Then gradually as Roe v. Wade was passed I thought more about it and my understanding of how the baby developed brought me to be pro-life. Lastly becoming a mom cemented it in me. Especially mother of a baby who died at 22/3 weeks gestation.

I still can’t reconcile how people can be sympathetic to that sort of loss and yet still think abortion is okay. Yet I know pro-choice folks who were very appropriate to me at that time and later when I lost three grandbabies. How do they say "I understand your loss is painful" but at the same time say it’s okay to take the life of a baby in the uterus? Is a baby at that stage valuable in one circumstance but not the other?
Rhonda: I was one that said I wouldn’t do it unless there was an extreme abnormality, but then our first pregnancy ended up being a partial molar pregnancy. Our baby died at 15 weeks and I had to deliver him. Watching my husband hold our fully formed baby and confirm his gender at this early stage did it for me. Doctors tried to comfort me with the fact that if he had survived he would have had severe problems. But to me the pain and emptiness I was feeling was worse than anything else I could imagine. It’s been 20 years and I still grieve that loss. And for people to dismiss his humanity cuts right through me.

Whitney: Incredibly, I used to be pro-choice even though I was given up for adoption as a baby. I thought it wasn't my business what other women did with their bodies. Changing my mind was a process. It started with seeing my daughter on an ultrasound. I knew then that I could never have an abortion and that she was a living person. It took years to break down the mental walls, though, before I became fully pro-life.

Phoebe: I was more of like its not my business, but I was not gonna go out and fight for choice either. Then I carried a child, a child I almost lost. I spent a week in a NICU and saw babies smaller than my hand. That was my turning point. A few years later I realized if I was pro-life I also needed to stop supporting the death penalty. That's my evolution.

Lesli: I was because I was ignorant of how babies developed and what the procedure was actually like. Once I became pregnant, learned about fetal development and found out they have a heartbeat so early on my entire outlook on it changed. Then I read about the procedures themselves and became disgusted that I ever supported it.

Alexis: I've had two unplanned pregnancies. One when I was 17. Abortion was thrown around by others around me, but that wasn't an option. I was determined to raise that baby. Unfortunately she didn't survive and her heart stopped at 16 weeks. My second unplanned pregnancy was when I was 21. I JUST started my career as a paramedic and was not in a committed relationship. I had been on birth control since 18. Once again abortion was thrown around by others, and once again I wouldn't hear it. My beautiful daughter is now 8 years old; my husband and I (her father) have two more children together. We chose life with the odds stacked against us, and we are thriving. Not all stories are like mine. All these babies have a purpose and it is not right to kill them. Abortion is legalized genocide.

Karen: I was. I saw my child on ultrasound and realized she was a child. I expected to see a blob, not a baby sucking her thumb, at 20 weeks gestation. I knew then I'd been lied to and was furious.

For others it was their experiences with abortion itself (or abortion providers) that changed their minds:

Valerie: I was raised pro-life, but became pro-choice in adulthood. It wasn’t until the devastation of my own abortion that I realized those pro-lifers really knew what they were talking about.

Autumn: Working in an abortion clinic changed my mind. It took time.

Monique: I was pro-choice just not for me. Then I had an unexpected pregnancy and went to Planned Parenthood to confirm. They pushed me to not tell anyone and have an abortion. The more I resisted, the more aggressive they got. I literally had to run out of the office. She's 7 now, I'm married to her dad, and just thinking about the possibility of not having our little family is crushing. Abortion hurts women and most are coerced into it.

Rachel: My best friend was 17 when she became pregnant. I went with her for the pregnancy test at PP. She was scared but wanted to keep the baby. Her parents and boyfriend pushed her to terminate. Our state had a mandatory ultrasound and 48-hour waiting period; she shared the ultrasound photo with me. It was not a clump of cells. We could see the head, the defined jaw and chin, a small arm. She wanted to refuse. Her parents sedated her and forced her to go in for the termination. She had a total breakdown. In the months that came she drank, did drugs, became self-destructive. She later killed herself. Every time I hear someone say "clump of cells" and "not human," I think back to an ultrasound photo from 1996.

For some it was increased knowledge of biology:

Lauren: Me. #1 Science; recognizing that's a human in the early part of the human life cycle and we shouldn't kill humans. I can't reason out of that fact.

Jackie: I’m liberal so being pro-choice came with the territory, but I'm also a professor and I’ve been teaching Anatomy & Physiology since 2002. When I started teaching an advanced Human Physiology class in 2008, something huge shifted inside of me. I can't teach about the wonders of development and ignore the wonders of development. I'm also inherently a tree-hugger and can’t handle it when trees and animals are harmed and the cognitive dissonance started breaking.

I was pro-choice for many years. I finally found it too exhausting trying to justify abortion while also supporting my values in science, equality, non-violence, and non-discrimination.
The science doesn't lie. It's a scientific fact of biology that life begins right after the fusion of the two cells, where our unique human genetic makeup now exists, with our own individual DNA.
Every pro-choice person (including me once) tries to say this may be what happens to the cells but it's not "alive." Which is ridiculous! I was that once. A zygote. We all were.
So if I wasn't "alive" then, then how am I here now? That's when I changed. I can't deny the science.
No human should lose their only chance to experience this physical conscious life as we are enjoying, simply because we ignored the reproduction process that's been happening for thousands of years, and don't want to take responsibility for our actions.
Andrew: I used to think that it was nobody's business. I was against abortion being funded publicly but if people wanted to pay for their abortion procedures I thought that was fine. But then I read about and started to think about when human life begins and biologically speaking it starts at conception and saying it begins somewhere after that is to impose your scientifically unfounded beliefs. And if that is a human life you cannot kill it just because it inconveniences you.

Some people changed their minds after talking to pro-lifers:

Karen: A discussion with a pro-life person outside a Planned Parenthood in Washington D.C. At the time, I was assisting PP with political strategies. And thought I was doing so as a strike against the Patriarchy. This woman challenged me to read what the first feminists had to say about abortion. That led to more reading and finally the scales fell from my eyes.

Mike: I was pro-choice because of the media. Eddie Vedder was my hero and I took a lot of my social justice beliefs from him. Once I met pro-life people and started having open discussions about it, I realized I had no foundation to why I believed the government should not be involved in a woman's decision. Once you recognize a fetus as a human life, or even a potential human life, you can't stay pro-choice very long.

Heidi: I read Abby Johnson's book seven years ago. Completely changed my mind. I started educating myself and learning more about what abortion really was and how we can embrace life and protect it at its most vulnerable stage. How can we be a species that kills our young simply because it’s convenient?

Darinka: I thought I'd never do it, but I wouldn't dictate the choice to someone else. But then a friend asked me a simple question. "Why would you never do it?" And when I thought about it, I realized that it's for the same reasons nobody else should.

Kristin: I was pro-choice until a few years ago. A close pro-life family member was challenging my conscience with facts against abortion. I felt I had to strengthen my argument with facts too, so I went on a mission to educate myself with as much unbiased information as I could find. That journey led me to the truth, and the truth led me to becoming pro-life. I watched "The Silent Scream" and an interview with Dr. Levatino, and I was forever changed, and glad for it.

Abby: I started to change my mind when I held my own miscarried baby in my hands. I completely changed my mind when I read about Abby Johnson. If she could cross over to pro-life I could too and it didn't make me a hypocrite.

Ellen: I was heavily indoctrinated into everything hard left, including radical support for abortion, coming of age in a large east coast city government school environment. I was also raised Catholic, while my catechesis was... Not great... So that probably planted the seeds of a consistent view on the dignity of human life. As a young adult, I decided I was personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice (I didn't want to force my view on others). It was my then-boyfriend (now husband), who identified as atheist/agnostic at the time, who highlighted the logical inconsistency of my position; if I was against abortion personally, the fact that it was a human rights violation didn't change depending on who was committing it. Over the next few years, I formed a highly consistent life ethic—all human life, regardless of circumstances, from conception through natural death.

And, maybe surprisingly, some changed their minds after talking to pro-choicers:

Stephen: I met other pro-choicers, heard their arguments, tried to research some of them, and ended up finding a good number of fallacies or terrible ethics. Sooner or later I adopted into my moral philosophy that all humans have an intrinsic value, and abortion under any circumstances is incompatible with that philosophy.

Shelby: I used to be pro-choice as I believe that if you get rid of it before it has a heartbeat it isn't as bad. But what pushed me to just be pro-life is pro-choicers pushing for second and third trimester abortions. Acting like abortions are normal.

Cian: To an extent I still am pro-choice but what's driving me out of that camp is seeing the enthusiasm and wanting to terminate and display it as something that should be celebrated.

Stephanie: I was always an "Abortion is murder but..." thinker but the left's cultural shift from "Abortion is a necessary evil sometimes" to "celebrate your abortion" has prompted me to think "Abortion is murder." Period. I cannot be on board with the celebration of the murder of the most innocent for convenience's sake.

Katherine: Two things: (1) going to a sex week event in college and seeing pro-choice people misrepresent statistics. I thought "If we have the right argument, we shouldn’t need to lie and manipulate numbers." (2) I shadowed in a hospital and went through pages and pages of women's gynecological history, seeing that most of the women had at least one abortion. The prevalence was shocking. Then I came across a 24-year-old woman who had been pregnant ELEVEN times and had SEVEN abortions. THAT is the moment I completely switched to pro-life and realized abortion is completely abused and not "rare."

See more stories about conversion on FB here. Also check out this Twitter thread by a pro-choice woman explaining how her friends and family's experiences made her views on abortion "more cautious."

Monday, May 20, 2019

Baby Chris is Eight Weeks Old

[This is part 9 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

Since his or her conception eight weeks ago, Baby Chris "has grown from a single cell into nearly 1 billion cells forming over 4000 distinct anatomic structures" and "now possesses more than 90 percent of the structures found in the adult." He or she is about the size of a kumquat. This marks the end of the embryonic period; from now until birth, Baby Chris is referred to as a fetus.

Above: Human embryo at 7 weeks and 4 days, via the Endowment for Human Development
Baby Chris now has distinct fingers and toes. His or her kidneys are beginning to filter toxins from blood and produce urine, which is released into the amniotic fluid. The hypothalamus is forming in the brain. His or her heart has beat over 7 million times. Skeletal development continues, with bones ossifying in the arms and legs. The skin is thickening, and as a result, Baby Chris's internal organs are no longer visible. If Baby Chris is biologically male, testosterone production has begun. And unlike the Mona Lisa, Baby Chris now has eyebrows.

Baby Chris continues to move frequently, exercising his or her developing muscles and joints. According to the Endowment for Human Development, "[t]he earliest sign of right- or left-handedness begins around eight weeks, with 75 percent of embryos already exhibiting right arm dominance."

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion, reports that 14.5% of abortions in the United States occur between 7 and 8 weeks after fertilization (or between 9 and 10 weeks using the LMP method of dating pregnancy). With approximately 1 million abortions taking place in the United States annually, this amounts to 145,000 abortion victims every year who are about the age Baby Chris is now. For comparison, 143,396 people live in Syracuse, NY.

Download the See Baby app for more information on how prenatal children develop in the womb.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, May 22 (Washington, D.C.): A coalition of anti-human-trafficking and pro-life organizations will hold a symposium entitled "Human Trafficking and Women and Children's Health" in the Russell Senate Building from noon to 5:00 p.m. The organizers state:
Human trafficking impacts all aspects of the victim's health, but especially gynecological, reproductive, procreative, and other related health issues. In sex trafficking, but also in labor trafficking and domestic servitude, women and girl children endure serious acute and chronic health problems related to pregnancy and childbearing. Sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, injuries to reproductive organs, breast and ovarian cysts and cancers are some of the health consequences of human trafficking. In addition, studies show that females have multiple pregnancies, miscarriages, and abortions in trafficking, and that traffickers misuse and abuse contraception, Plan B and RU-486. Substance use and abuse, which are common in human trafficking, also affect pregnancy and childbirth. Finally, studies indicate that thousands of children are born into and raised in trafficking situations in the U.S. today.
While there is little research on this problem, the negative physical, mental and emotional repercussions for such children are considerable and deserve further attention. This half-day event brings together academics, experts, physicians, service providers and survivors of human trafficking to examine the public and private health issues as well as discuss treatment and prevention programs to safeguard at risk women and children. focused on reproductive and procreative health issues including pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, and childbirth in trafficking, all important but neglected aspects of this problem. 
These topics are particularly critical for us to address, as abortion advocates are pushing for unaccountable online chemical abortion sales and sexual predators have already begun to take advantage.

Wednesday, May 22 (Nationwide): Created Equal is promoting a day of protest against Stericycle, a medical waste hauler that serves abortion facilities. By disposing of the bodies, Stericycle performs a key support function in the abortion industry and allows abortion centers to stay open. More information here.

Friday, June 21 to Sunday, June 23 (New Orleans): Secular Pro-Life will proudly exhibit at the fourth annual Pro-Life Women's Conference, a little over a month away. If you haven't already purchased your ticket and made travel arrangements, now is the time! Details here.

Friday, October 18 to Sunday, October 20 (New Orleans): Our friends at Rehumanize International just announced the dates and location for their 2019 annual conference! Mark your calendar and stay tuned for more information.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The zygote is the beginning of the human life cycle: everyday examples.

The human zygote is the first developmental stage in a human life cycle. 

A zygote is different in kind from sperm and unfertilized eggs, which are gametes, not organisms. The zygote is different from any random cell that has human DNA, such as your skin cells (also not organisms). The zygote is a separate and biologically unique human.

In the abortion debate, people treat this statement as if it were a belief, rather than a fact. They seem to assume the demarcation of the zygote as a human's beginning is just one belief of many, brought up only to support an anti-abortion agenda.

But pro-lifers didn't invent the idea that the zygote is the start; we're merely acknowledging that already existing reality. And I notice that whenever biology comes up outside of the abortion debate, science communicators readily acknowledge this basic biological fact too.

Here is my toddler's ABCs of Science book, part of the Baby University series. I couldn't help but notice that the final page states "Z is for Zygote. A zygote is the first stage of development in living things."

Similarly, here's a page out of the (pretty delightful) children's book You Are Stardust, which reads "You started life as a single cell. So did all other creatures on planet earth."

(Click to enlarge.)

In the meiosis video of Crash Course's biology series, Hank Green exclaims "If you're not suitably impressed by the fact that we all come from one single cell and then we become this [gestures to himself] then I don't—just I don't know how to impress you!"

Here's a photo from Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in late 2018. MSI had a room you can walk through that shows prenatal human development using real specimens. Just outside the exhibit is a display which reads in part "All of us start as a single cell and then begin a wondrous journey of change in—and with—our moms."

(Click to enlarge.)

We begin as zygotes. This is a basic (and typically readily acknowledged) biological fact. It doesn't necessarily follow that human zygotes are morally relevant or are "people"—the personhood debate is an important but separate discussion. But before we can discuss which human organisms count as "people," we need to have a shared understanding of when human organisms begin in the first place.

Further Reading:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Baby Chris is Seven Weeks Old

Figure via the Endowment for Human Development
[This is part 8 of a multi-part series chronicling a pregnancy through the lens of "Baby Chris." Click here for other parts.]

Seven weeks after fertilization, Baby Chris has brainwaves! In fact, brainwaves have been detected by EEG as early as six weeks and two days.

Baby Chris's heart, which has been beating since 18 days after conception, now has a more matured four-chamber structure. It now beats between 167 and 175 times per minute; it will decline to about 140 beats per minute at birth.

The reproductive system is emerging with the formation of ovaries or testes. (We chose the gender-neutral name "Baby Chris" to represent unborn children of all sexes.)

Fingers and toes are starting to separate but are still somewhat webbed. Until now, Baby Chris's skeletal system has consisted solely of cartilage and membranes, but that is beginning to change as bones ossify in the collar bone and jaw. Also appearing by seven weeks: taste buds, elbows, and hiccups!

Baby Chris is approximately 14 mm long and continues to grow at a rapid pace. For more information on Baby Chris's development in the womb, download the free See Baby app on your smartphone.