Friday, May 29, 2020

Female Republican politicians were the most vocal about defunding Planned Parenthood

On May 18 the Journal of Women, Politics, & Policy published "Standing Up For Women? How Party and Gender Influence Politicians' Online Discussion of Planned Parenthood." In this study, researcher Morgan Johnstonbaugh analyzed tweets by members of the 114th House of Representatives regarding Planned Parenthood. She narrowed the focus to tweets made between July 1 and Novemeber 1, 2015, during a heated debate on whether to defund PP in response to the CMP videos suggesting PP sells fetal organs.

Johnstonbaugh hypothesized that women would write more tweets about Planned Parenthood than men, and Democrats would write more than Republicans.

For her hypothesis about gender, Johnstonbaugh theorized that "men may be disinclined from dicussing and addressing women's issues because feminine issues are perceived as having lower status." (If she is aware of the "no uterus, no opinion" factor — the vocal and persistent insistence that men have no right to speak about abortion — she doesn't mention it.) Johnstonbaugh's analysis did find that female Democrats are more vocal about this issue than male Democrats, and female Republicans are more vocal about the issue than male Republicans.

For her hypothesis about political party, Johnstonbaugh theorized that there would be more PP-related tweets from Democrats than Republicans because Democrats focus more than Republican's on women's issues. To her surprise, though, her analysis found the opposite to the be the case.
Female Republicans constituted 5% of the House and wrote 12.6% of the tweets about Planned Parenthood while male Republicans made up 51.7% of the House and wrote 68.6% of the tweets about Planned Parenthood.
While it is clear that women write more tweets about Planned Parenthood than men within their political party, female Republicans are the most active members in the online discussion.
Female Republicans were the most vocal group, followed by male Republicans, female Democrats, and lastly male Democrats.

Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah

As I read these results I wondered if they reflect the "intensity gap" between pro-choice and pro-life people: the idea that those of us against abortion are more likely to feel passionately about the issue than those who support the status quo. For example, according to PRRI, "Americans who oppose the legality of abortion (27%) are significantly more likely than those who support the legality of abortion (18%) to say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on the issue."

Apparently Johnstonbaugh didn't enterain the intensity gap theory, though. Instead she speculated that Republicans wrote more PP-related tweets because pro-life ideas are simplistic, whereas the pro-choice perspective is too nuanced to convey over Twitter:
This unexpected finding may be related to the ease with which provocative pro-life propaganda can be spread on Twitter by incorporating videos, images, and only 140 characters for each message, compared to regulations or statistics meant to support Planned Parenthood, which may require a greater amount of text or explanation.
This theory is so transparently biased I actually laughed a little when I read it. I expect pro-lifers will continue to mystify researchers who can't see past their own worldviews.

Not all pro-choice tweets require a lot of nuance.

Johnstonbaugh points out that previous research found female Democrats are traditionally the most vocal about women's issues, suggesting an apparent contradiction with this study's finding. However the contradiction exists only if we view Planned Parenthood solely through a "women's issue" lens. Johnstonbaugh's additional analysis confirms that many people see more factors in the PP controversy.

She examines how often House members framed the Planned Parenthood discussion in the following ways:
  1. Women's Issue: defunding PP is important particularly to women
  2. Planned Parenthood Healthcare: defunding PP will harm people who rely on the org for healthcare
  3. Alternative Healthcare: there are better healthcare options than PP
  4. Fetal Rights Issue: defunding PP will help protect unborn children
  5. Condemn Planned Parenthood: defunding PP is a way to condemn PP for immoral treatment of fetal tissue
Unsurprisingly, she found almost exclusively Democrats used the frame "Planned Parenthood Healthcare," while Republicans used the frames "Alternative Healthcare," "Fetal Rights Issue," and "Condemn Planned Parenthood." Both parties used the frame "Women's Issue," though Democrats used it more. But here's the important part:
While both female Republicans and Democrats discussed Planned Parenthood as a women's issue and healthcare issue, Republican women also discussed it as a fetal rights issue.
If you have any understanding of the pro-life perspective, this finding should be predictable. Pro-life people recognize the fact that abortion kills humans. We view those humans as children (morally relevant young humans deserving protection). So we view abortion first and foremost as a human rights violation. Of course pro-life politicians are going to discuss Planned Parenthood in the context of fetal rights. That's basically another way of saying pro-life people will discuss abortion from a pro-life perspective.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri

Johnstonbaugh's finding about Republicans vs Democrats is mystifying only if you view PP solely through the "women's issue" framing, but I don't know why anyone would do that. You don't have to be that involved in the abortion debate to know that many people view PP as a more complicated and controversial organization. Huge swaths of the country — including countless women, btw — see abortion as an issue that affects not only women but also preborn children. Pro-life Republican women might be less vocal about women's issues generally, but Planned Parenthood is not simply a "women's issue" topic. It goes well beyond that.

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana

Johnstonbaugh called her findings about Republicans vs Democrats "unexpected," "counterintuitive," and "surprising," but they shouldn't be. Pro-lifers have been quite vocal, for decades, about the facts that we view abortion as a human rights issue and we care deeply about the problem. If pro-choice people could internalize our most basic premise — not agree with it necessarily, just recognize it's what we think — they would be caught off guard less often.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A former late-term abortion nurse speaks out

Warren Hern is one of the few people in the United States who openly performs abortions even after 24 weeks gestation. He performs abortions in Colorado, one of a handful of states that have no gestational limits on abortion — that is, it is legal to perform abortion for any reason at any point in the pregnancy. (Pro-life advocates on the ground are working to change that.)

3D image of a 28-week-old baby in the womb
Hern has gone on record explaining that the later abortions he performs are not always for women facing any grave medical outcome. He has also published work exploring how abortion workers (both doctors and nurses) are emotionally and psychologically impacted by late-term abortion. His work has been incredibly frank, providing a sharp contrast to the strident euphemisms of many pro-choice advocates.

Julie Wilkinson worked as a nurse in Hern's clinic for years, but she is now passionately pro-life and works in a NICU instead. I recently read a piece in New American about her conversion. Here are a few random thoughts a bit too long for a FB post:
Though an abortion was not something I ever planned to have, I rationalized the deaths of the infants: All the abused babies and children were better off going to heaven than being born and suffering if they were unwanted.
Several notes about this mentality:
  1. Usually religiosity correlates with being anti-abortion. Still it's interesting (and disheartening) to see how belief in an afterlife can help people feel complacent about taking lives. This is in line with what we've previously written about the "Abortion Religion," in which abortion supporters appropriate supernatural concepts like reincarnation to justify violence against children in the womb.
  2. The idea that children born of unintended pregnancies will be unwanted is largely a myth. Research has found that the vast majority of women who sought but were denied abortion and went on to birth their children raised their children themselves and bonded to their children just fine.
  3. Notice that very few (if any) people take the above mentality and apply it to born children. We don't argue that the solution to child abuse is to euthanize the children being abused, so they can be better off in heaven.
I was raised a Christian and still considered myself one, mind you, but I attended church rarely.
This makes sense. Being pro-choice is inversely correlated with church attendance.
After a few weeks, I was taught how to assist with late cases, 13-24 weeks. … I would hand sterile instruments to the doctor so that he could withdraw amniotic fluid from the uterus and replace it with a concentrated urea (salt) solution, which I was responsible to mix. He said that the solution caused the placenta to separate from the uterus, resulting in the fetus dying. The truth was, the babies likely suffered terribly in the salt solution, their fragile skin and lungs being burned.
Good time to suggest everyone read the January 2020 Journal of Medical Ethics article "Reconsidering Fetal Pain," which argues the fetus may feel pain as early as 13 weeks.
An early troubling situation occurred when a married, successful couple came to visit the clinic. They wanted a child, but they found out at 16 weeks that she was carrying twins and were not sure if twins would fit into their lifestyle. That visit bothered most of the workers, but it was no trouble for the doctor, who aborted the couple's healthy babies a couple weeks later.
Another example of how later abortions are not exclusively done for medical reasons. On the contrary, based on what information we can find, it appears later abortions are usually not for medical reasons. In fact, Hern himself has published research saying only 30% of his patients seek second and third trimester abortions for reasons of fetal abnormality.
After a couple years, I believe the Holy Spirit began to nudge me.
I feel conflicted about this idea. On the one hand, I'm grateful for every person who moves from a pro-choice to a pro-life position, and I recognize that faith plays a role in those conversions for some people. On the other hand, if it's the Holy Spirit doing this work, why the subtlety? Why a "nudge"? Why not a massive shove in the other direction, similar to Saul on the road to Damascus?

But I'm an atheist, so for me these questions are really just rhetorical. Whatever her reasons, I'm glad Julie changed her mind.
However, my heart didn’t change overnight. Time was necessary to change my years-long belief in a woman’s "right to choose."
She's not alone here. A lot of conversions are stories of a slow process, often over years. Please remember that factor when you're talking about abortion with people who disagree. Be patient as you plant ideas, and don't worry if you don't see any major changes immediately. Just keep going.
After I left Boulder, I never told people what I had done there. I got married, and we had three beautiful daughters. I did not tell them my story either; I just made sure they were raised to be pro-life. It felt very lonely to keep that dreadful secret.
Julie's reaction demonstrates why it's so tricky to conduct accurate research regarding people's feelings about their own choices — people who feel shame, regret, guilt, deep sorrow, or other negative emotions are less likely to speak up than people who are satisfied with their decisions. This problem is one of the major limitations of the recent highly touted study claiming 95% of women do not regret their abortions. Read more here.
Then a few years ago, another person told me I should reach out to Abby Johnson, who was a former abortion clinic director who held retreats for ex-abortion workers. So I did. I found a small, generally invisible group of people who are passionately pro-life. We have seen abortion from the inside, and we know the truth.
Abby Johnson's pro-life work is unique and so needed. I'm glad she has created this space for former abortion workers.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Another abortion facility bites the dust!

Created Equal, a pro-life organization based in Columbus, Ohio, broke the welcome news last week that an abortion vendor in their backyard is closing.

Founder's Women's Health Center
Image via Loopnet listing
Founder's Women's Health Center opened shortly after Roe v. Wade, making it the oldest abortion center in Ohio. It has an extensive record of complications, with 22 reported incomplete ("failed") abortions in 2018 and 2019 alone. Another disturbing element: Founder's employed abortionist Thomas Michaelis, a known sexual predator, until his medical license was revoked when he was caught possessing child pornography in 2014. (He is serving a 15-year prison term.) 

Created Equal reports that the closure appears unrelated to the center's medical troubles and sordid past. The owners are retiring, and the building is under contract with a buyer whose plans for the facility do not include abortion.

This closure leaves eight abortion businesses in the state, down from sixteen in 2011. Ohio has enjoyed a corresponding drop in its abortion numbers: 24,764 in 2011 versus 20,425 in 2018 (the last year data is available), a 17.5% percent decrease. 

For more on Created Equal's work, check out "A Day with Created Equal." And for information about a notorious Ohio abortion center that unfortunately remains open, read "Two years without justice for victim of Dayton, OH abortion business."

Friday, May 22, 2020

The problem with "If you don't like abortion, don't get one"

A frequent tactic used by supporters of abortion access to dismiss criticism or scrutiny from opponents is to tell them that if they are so personally opposed to abortion, “just don’t get one.” There’s a deep deception hidden within this dismissive and frankly borderline contemptuous mandate: it deliberately misrepresents the pro-life movement as predicated on a steadfast opposition to the exercise of free choice and free will, as being made up of a group of people seeking only to impose their personal lifestyle choices upon others.

Photo credit: American Life League
The same argument was used in the 19th century by Southern slave-holders as one of many ways to justify to Northerners the practice of owning another human being. If the North was so against slavery, they didn’t have to allow it in their states, but they were crossing the line by dictating to the South what they could and couldn’t do. Why couldn’t they mind their own business? In both cases, supporters of the practice take to framing the issue as one of personal freedom and preference — of choice — ignoring the real reason for their opponents opposition: that the choice being made infringes upon another's inherent rights. Supporters of legalized abortion might as well consider next legalizing something unrelated to life or death; how about legalizing theft, and telling those opposed to the infringement of rights represented by taking of another’s property “Don’t like theft? Don’t steal.”

Abortion opponents, like most everyone else, support choice — so long as that choice doesn’t hurt others and violate their rights. Abortion opponents are not on an underhanded mission to strip away agency from women, or thwack everyone across the head with a Bible as is often the portrayal; the pro-life movement consists of people from all religions and no religion, as evidenced by the existence of Secular Pro-Life. Abortion opponents are concerned with the uniform protection of rights regardless of age, size, health, ability, or any other criterion. They reject the legalization and normalization of the denial of rights based on stage of development, holding that unique human life from the moment of conception (that’s right, upon conception a human organism with its own set of DNA is formed) is worthy of protection, and that one's status as born or unborn is not a determinate of their right to or consequential to the valuation of their life.

The pro-choice movement's adoption of rhetoric that is intentionally dismissive and ignorant of the true purpose and goal of their opponents is disingenuous and reveals something that they will never, ever admit: they know that they can’t overcome the merits of the true pro-life argument if they are forced to engage on it, so they’ve created a different — and false — one instead

[Today's post is by guest author "J." If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to for consideration.]

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Statement on Norma McCorvey's Alleged Renunciation of the Right to Life

In case you've been under a rock, a new FX documentary claims that the late Norma McCorvey — the "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade who famously changed sides to join the pro-life movement — never actually supported the pro-life cause and was just putting on a decades-long act for money. Pro-life advocates who knew her strongly contest that claim, and you can read their open letter to FX here.

The leaders of Secular Pro-Life did not know Norma McCorvey personally, but there are many aspects of this story which give us pause. For one thing, the documentary alleges that Protestant groups were paying her off, which doesn't make a ton of sense in light of her very public conversion to Catholicism. Norma McCorvey also gave testimony under oath in pro-life lawsuits, so she's effectively being accused of perjury — a serious charge from which she cannot defend herself.

We join the call for the filmmakers to follow the example of the Center for Medical Progress by releasing their raw, unedited footage online.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Two New Secular Pro-Life Videos

The coronavirus hasn't kept SPL president Kelsey Hazzard down. She's done several remote interviews recently, two of which are now online. First, here is her May 11 appearance on the "Extra Pro-Life" webinar, hosted by National Campus Life Network in Canada:

And second, Thursday night's "Pro-Life Live" with Students for Life of FAU (Florida Atlantic University), which streamed on Instagram:

Want a Secular Pro-Life speaker to come to you, virtually? Email and we'll do our best to make it happen!

(Kelsey says: "I just realized I wore the same shirt for both webcasts. Guess that's my official webcast shirt now.")

Monday, May 18, 2020

Colorado Pro-Life Ballot Initiative Needs Signatures!

Colorado has no gestational limits on abortion. As permitted by Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the state gives no protection whatsoever to babies in the womb — not even in the third trimester. That's why infamous late-term abortionist Warren Hern works there. According to Americans United for Life, Colorado is one of the worst states in the country for preborn children.

The "Due Date Too Late" campaign is working hard to change that, with a citizens' initiative to put a 22-week abortion limit on the ballot. They have already submitted over 100,000 signatures, but they they need more to qualify. (If you previously signed, you can check here to see if the state counted your signature.) Unfortunately, the campaign is playing catch-up because of the COVID-19 crisis and related stay-at-home order. They have until Friday, May 29 to obtain an additional 10,000 signatures. 

You must be:
If you don't live in Colorado or otherwise meet the requirements, please share this post with someone who does!

Image Description: Signature collection volunteers wearing face masks
hold signs in support of the petition to end late-term abortion in Colorado.
Photo credit: Due Date Too Late on Facebook 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

"Pro-Life Live" with Students for Life at Florida Atlantic University!

Students for Life at FAU (Florida Atlantic University) has organized a "Pro-Life Live" interview series on Instagram. Their next guest will be Kelsey Hazzard, president of Secular Pro-Life! Tune in on Thursday, May 14 (tomorrow) at 6pm EST. Their Instagram handle is @faustudentsforlife and Kelsey's is @hazzardtoabortion.

Monday, May 11, 2020

We Asked, You Answered: Would You Partner with Pro-Choice Moderates?

We recently asked our followers on social media: "If an organization opposed abortion after 21 weeks but supported earlier abortions, would you be willing to work with them publicly to outlaw the later abortions? Why or why not?" (The question was purely hypothetical; to the best of our knowledge, no such organization exists.) A lively, civil discussion ensued. In no particular order, here are a few of the top responses:

Mikalea B.: Yes, basically. Politics is like public transportation. If there isn't a bus going directly to where you want to be, you take the one going the closest...

Rachel M.: No. What’s the difference between killing a 6 week old child and a 22 week old child? None. A younger human is not less valuable or less worth saving than an older human.

Chris S.: Tough call. I would feel bad aligning with such an organization since they fundamentally differ in the most important way. Also only around 2% of abortions happen after 20 weeks. But of course it would be good to save even those few lives.

Ultrasounds of a 20-week-old baby
Rafael G.: I’d be more inclined to ask them why they would support the choice to have an abortion at 20 weeks, 23 hours, and 59 seconds, but not one second after.

Tess S.: If we had to trade giving up attempts to restrict earlier abortion in order to work with them to restrict later abortion, then no. If there was no expectation for a trade off then yes.

Devonie B.: No. I'm not willing to compromise on the fact that abortion kills a unique human being at whatever stage it occurs. Also, if their 20 week cut off is based on pain perception, more recent research suggests that its possible to feel pain at around 13 weeks.

Lisa R.: Yes for sure. No qualms. However when I’ve talked with pro-choice friends about this, they are playing defense. They say "I'll agree to banning late term abortions if you’ll agree to allow and stop fighting to end earlier abortions." So we agree late term abortions are bad, but they don’t want to work with me to ban them because they perceive it as giving me something I want and getting nothing in return from me.

sweetwonderbear: Only if there was no better option. Drawing the line anywhere other than conception is still based on their own personal feelings rather than science. It’s better than nothing but we should instead be supporting organizations that aim to educate people and outlaw abortions as close as we can get to conception.

Rebecca D.: I personally would. Especially because so many people in my life are pro-choice, I strive to find common ground wherever I can. This is true when this position is reflective of what the American public thinks on abortion, which I think is helpful for pointing out on the abortion issue in this country; people might be more easy to convince if they’re on the fence about late-term abortions if they understand how most people feel on the issue. When the United States has some of the most relaxed abortion laws in the entire world, this is absolutely a necessary initial step when it comes to our laws.

Michael S.: I wouldn't work with them, because I wouldn't want to be interpreted in any way as condoning abortion during any stage. By working with them, anyone can come back at you later and say "but you worked with an organization that supported legalized abortion during part of the pregnancy".

Kyle T.: Working with an organization isn’t equivalent to supporting it. I wouldn’t be averse to working with any organization actively campaigning for some legislation akin to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act or a late-term abortion ban. Of course, this would be while simultaneously working with other organizations like the National Pro-Life Alliance on legislation like the Life at Conception Act which bans all abortions with no exceptions. There wouldn’t be any public doubt as to my own position, and yet I’d be doing all I can in regards to coalition-building to get any legislation that saves any lives passed. Incremental legislation is only problematic if we forget to focus our energies on non-incremental legislation like the Life at Conception Act. But if we work on such legislation simultaneously, we are keeping both goods of working to save any lives possible and working to establish the right to life for all embryonic and fetal people.

Ryan N.: Yes. While all abortions should be outlawed, if progress can be made to outlaw abortion and save lives (even if they may be few) it should be pursued. The lives of the preborn lost by abortion should outweigh any animosity held against those who may think differently than us.

Shae-Lynn K.: I would, simply because it is a start. That’s usually how you should begin with addressing the pro-life movement with those who are pro-choice. Reasoning with them on late term abortions makes it easier for them to eventually see all abortions as wrong. Just my experience.

Keena Y.: Yes. But I would also continue to work with groups that ban abortion after the first trimester. And groups that want heartbeat laws. And groups that want the practice outlawed entirely. Let’s save some babies even if we can’t save all the babies.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Secular Pro-Life Urges FDA to Crack Down on Illegal Online Abortion Drug Vendors

Earlier this week, Secular Pro-Life joined a broad coalition of pro-life organizations, led by the Susan B. Anthony List, to call for a crackdown on illegal businesses that are selling abortion drugs over the internet.

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn (pictured), the pro-life coalition notes that the FDA sent warnings to several offending websites over a year ago — and yet they remain operational. These online abortion schemes threaten women's health and brazenly violate FDA safety protocols:
Mifeprex (or its recently-approved generic), used in combination with misoprostol, is the only FDA-approved regimen for drug-induced abortion. Mifeprex is subject to a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), which, as stated in the warning letters, “is intended to mitigate the risk of serious complications associated with Mifeprex.” Further, “[c]onsistent with the REMS, Mifeprex is not sold through retail pharmacies or over the internet.” 
In fact, the Mifeprex REMS requires that the drug be dispensed only at a healthcare facility, by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber, after a patient signs an agreement form. These requirements also protect women and unborn children from predators who would force or trick pregnant women into taking Mifeprex. Tragically, internet access to abortion-inducing drugs has enabled these crimes. However, AidAccess and websites within Rablon’s network continue to flagrantly subvert the REMS by marketing mifepristone to U.S. customers. 
While we appreciate the FDA's earlier warning letters, they have proven insufficient. Abortion vendors have a hero complex and believe themselves to be above the law. The only solution now is force: the FDA should immediately exercise its authority to seize the offenders' domain names and shut down this lethal marketplace.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Secular Pro-Life April Recap

[Editor's note: After a long while of letting our email list gather dust, we've finally gotten in the good habit of sending a monthly recap. If you'd like to subscribe, click here.]

Through April we did what work we could under shelter-in-place conditions. Kelsey's pre-recorded interview with the EWTN series "Defending Life" aired on April 23 (unfortunately, a replay is not currently available). She also created her Instagram account, so if that's your thing go follow her!

Meanwhile Terrisa has been sidewalk counseling outside Planned Parenthood, and early in April her efforts led to a run-in with the San Francisco Police Department. The City initially warned her that she was in violation of shelter-in-place orders, but later quietly walked back their unlawful enforcement (the local order allows nonprofits to "provide food, shelter, and social services" to the economically disadvantaged). Read media coverage here.

We gained 149 new followers, bringing us to 11,606 total. We sent 86 tweets, which were viewed 217,200 times, including rebutting Planned Parenthood's talking points about COVID-19 and abortion and laying bare the insincerity of most "pro-birth" accusations:

(We debunk the "pro-birth" myth further in point #7 here.)

In April we gained 128 followers, bringing us to 32,576 total. Our content was viewed over 267,000 times, including 22,622 views of our meme pointing out that biologists are not confused about when human life begins:

(For more information on biologists' views, see here.)
Our three most-read blog posts for April, in increasing order:
All three of our most read posts this month were from guest bloggers. Guest posts help us cover a more diverse range of perspectives, topics, and experiences. If you have an idea for a piece you'd like to submit, please email us at to discuss.

Thank you to our supporters
Thank you to those of you who donate to help support our work. SPL is run by dedicated volunteers, and we would not be able to devote the time and energy without the help of donors like you.

That said, we are in a better position to get through this tumultuous situation than many orgs, so if you do have the ability to donate, we recommend contacting your local pregnancy resource centers. If you're looking for a specific suggestion, we are particularly fond of Abide Women's Health out of Texas. You can check out their Amazon Wish List for in-kind donation ideas or donate to them directly here.

If you would prefer to donate to Secular Pro-Life, here is our PayPal. If you don't use PayPal, you can also go to our Facebook page and click the blue "Donate" button under our cover photo on the right. If you would like your donation to be used for a specific need (e.g. travel costs, conference sponsorships, social media advertising, etc.) please email us ( with your instructions.

And if you haven't already, come find us on social media!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Pregnant Patients Deserve Pro-Life Doctors They Can Trust

Black-and-white photo of a C-section in progress
Would you trust someone who denies your child's humanity in the womb to deliver that child?
Photo credit: Patricia Prundente on Unsplash

When news broke last year of a Vermont nurse who sued the hospital she was employed by for forcing her to assist in an abortion, many pro-choice activists responded with the rallying cry of "If you don't want to provide abortions, don't go into healthcare!" In an op-ed published in Vice on September 3, 2019, Monica R. McLemore, an associate nursing professor at UC San Fransisco, goes to far as to say that "we need to be more discerning about who is worthy of serving the public." She goes on to say that the nurse in the above mentioned case should have put her patient's "need" for an abortion (although privacy laws mean we have no way of knowing if there was a medical need or whether it was an elective abortion) over her own "discomfort."

The use of the word "discomfort" to describe the pro-life objection to abortion shows that McLemore, and those who agree with her, do not understand where that objection comes from. It's not about our comfort level. It's about deliberately taking the life of a growing, developing, genetically unique human. It's not about feelings, it's about one's human rights stance.

But that's not the whole issue. Not only should a health care worker be able to opt out of helping take a human life, patients should be able to, as well. My "pro-life origin story," which was related to me often as I grew up, made that clear to me. When my mother, who had me the year before Roe, had pregnancy complications, she faced a constant fight while hospitalized. Her doctor repeatedly suggested she allow him to "do a D&C," telling her that if I hadn’t died already, I would be born disabled — as if that was a good reason to end a human life. She had strong reasons to suspect her doctor was so insistent because she was poor and mentally ill. This story impacted my lifelong view of the value of human life.

When I was having my children, a couple of decades ago now, I sought a midwife who shared my values. This was important to me because I wanted the person managing my pregnancies to value the children I was carrying as patients, as people equal to me, who she viewed as worthy of protection as born human beings. I know many other pregnant parents who have done the same, in some cases driving an hour or more to find an OB or midwife who shared their values. Advocates for reproductive choice must understand that includes the right of parents to receive obstetric care from providers who share their values — and that means including pro-life doctors, nurses and midwives in the field.

[Today's guest post is by Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe. ]

Friday, May 1, 2020

Destiny's Destiny: Pro-Life Lessons from a Horse Farm

The announcement was certainly easy to miss in all of the virus goings-on, but last month, something quite rare and fantastic happened in the equine world: a British horse farm announced the arrival of a pair of twins! Even crazier, Destiny, the mare (horse mother), had already birthed twins in 2018. Thankfully, Destiny and both of her double sets are happy and healthy.

As a former farm girl and avowed hippie-hick who once lived in the UK, any weird rural news catches my eye. Twins may not sound like a big deal (sheep do it all the time!), but for horses, they hardly ever happen. Because not only are horses simply less likely to conceive twins (at least in most breeds), the vast majority of owners will take drastic steps to ensure that any twin pregnancies finish as singletons.

Yes, horse abortion is a thing, happening as late as nine months into an 11- or 12-month pregnancy.

The primary school of thought in the veterinary world is that the equine uterus is not designed to handle two foals or colts. There is a high possibility of losing one or both, or even the mother. So rather than chance it, most owners abort the smaller, weaker twin (or, as one horse chat room user called it, "the pregnancy that was more convenient"). After all, horses are quite expensive to keep, and stud fees can be up to six figures. Not to mention that horses are often considered part of their owners’ families, and losing a beloved horse is heartbreaking.

Still, one can’t get too excited about an unasked-for invasion of an innocent animal that ends in the death of its offspring — especially when it's done as standard procedure and without indication of maternal or fetal distress. In Destiny's case, for example, the owners repeatedly stressed to media that if they had known she was pregnant with two babies, they would have taken "immediate action in a timely fashion upon the discovery of such."

Translation: they would have "pinched" either the colt or filly, the common equestrian vernacular for abortion. Another way of looking at it: the farm would have been short two healthy, "highly athletic" money-makers.

When I was a teenager, I worked in a livestock office. I got to "know" each horse on paper, paying bills for their feed and training, filing away medical reports and organizing racing or breeding information. One day, I learned one of our mares was pregnant with twins! When I expressed my excitement to a co-worker, however, her face fell. "You know they’re just going to pinch it soon, right?"

The reason it’s called pinching is literal; when detected early in pregnancy, a vet physically pinches the horse embryonic vesicle until it bursts and therefore dies. Later on, vets can choose between the "disturb and dislodge" technique, needles to kill the unlucky twin or physically reaching into the mare and snapping the baby’s neck so it dies a few days later (maybe Gosnell should have been a vet?). Each procedure (especially the later ones) carries a risk to the mare and "wanted" twin.

I’ll never forget how gross I felt when I filed the invoice for the hit on that horse. It simply felt wrong to be forcing an invasive, possibly dangerous procedure on a healthy creature for the sake of money (these horses were not pets; they were earners). It just didn’t seem right to pay a vet to kill instead of heal ("mercy killing" of suffering animals notwithstanding).

Though the comparisons obviously aren’t perfect — domesticated creatures aren’t usually given any choice over their bodies — Destiny and human mothers who are "supposed to" abort have a few things in common:
  • At 19, Destiny is an "old" horse mother. Older humans are more likely to conceive twins, while at least four percent of abortions in 2015 were to mothers ages 40 and over. Selective reduction of twins and beyond is certainly not an unusual occurrence in humans, and as we now know, horses. 
  • Though no firm research exists on exactly how many doctors pressure mothers to abort, anecdotal evidence abounds. Googling "doctor pressuring abortion" yields nearly a million results, for example. It’s fair to say that Destiny never wanted anyone to kill either of her "extra" offspring, and neither do many women. This should be an easy rallying point for both pro-lifers and pro-choicers; no woman should be coerced to abort a wanted child, especially by medical providers who financially profit from said child's death. 
  • Owners abort baby horses because their horses — no matter how loved — are property, and any perceived risk to that property will be strictly avoided. In that same vein, women’s bodies are often seen as property to be "risk mitigated" by abusive boyfriends, rapists, misogynist bosses and/or embarrassed families. Instead of finding solutions for horses to gestate and deliver twins safely (as Destiny and other mares have proved is quite possible), it’s cheaper and easier for vets just to keep pinching. In the same vein, instead of finding actual solutions for pregnant and parenting women (paid parental leave, quality medical care, affordable daycare, access to birth control, a culture of support, etc.), it’s cheaper and easier (and dare I say cooler) for the powerful in society to just keep "pinching" human babies.
  • Destiny defied the odds — like getting struck twice by lightning, her owners said. Had the farm aborted either of her twin sets, it would have been done in the name of "Destiny’s health," yet she proved them wrong. (In cases of imminent physical risk to the pregnant mother, Secular Pro-Life fully supports delivering the baby as soon as necessary to provide both him/her and the mother the highest-quality life-saving care.) Millions of women have done the same, giving birth to completely-healthy children deemed "incompatible with life," carrying multiples to term when told they couldn't, raising children into thriving members of society when others predicted they would be a "burden," etc. No one can predict the future with 100 percent accuracy — for horses nor homo sapiens. 
May Destiny and her fillies and colts live long, happy, full lives — and may the women of the world think of her when told by the powerful that abortion is in their and their children’s best interest.

[Today's guest article is by Crystal Kupper. Photo credit: GFS Sporthorses facebook page.]