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Friday, January 29, 2021

Virtual Pro-Life Events Tomorrow


The March for Life will not be held in person this year, a first in its decades-long history. The reasons for making that call were sound, and you can watch live as a small group of pro-life leaders symbolically march in place of the hundreds of thousands of people who normally would. Still, it's a tough environment and we all hope that we will be in Washington, D.C. this time next year.

One of the major benefits of the annual March for Life is networking. It is an opportunity for pro-life people from various states to join in our nation's capital, learn from one another, and develop new strategies to save babies' lives from abortion. We are doing our best to replicate that in a virtual setting, with two events tomorrow (all times Eastern).

(1) The Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life, traditionally held at Georgetown University, will be held remotely beginning tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Secular Pro-Life appreciates this opportunity to connect with Catholic university students and help them reach their secular classmates with the pro-life message. Stop by our virtual exhibit booth between 12:15 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. and say hello! Registration is required

(2) Tomorrow night from 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., we will join our friends at Rehumanize International and other organizations for a virtual game night! Tickets are pay-what-you-want. Each organization will host a game, and Secular Pro-Life has selected Family Feud; you can help by taking this survey in advance. 

We hope to see you soon!

[Photo credit: Chris Montgomery on Unsplash]

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Our cultural gaslighting of women who miscarry before 20 weeks

In early 2019, I miscarried one of my twins. I had already known how common miscarriage is, and I suspected that when I began talking publicly about my miscarriage, people I've known for years would quietly let me know they had also had pregnancy losses. It was bittersweet for that prediction to come true; their understanding and support meant a lot to me, but I was sorry to learn of their own heartbreaks.

It helped me process to talk about my lost babe with others who have been through it. I joined some online support groups for pregnancy loss where I found additional consolation and connection. Miscarriage is common, but people don't speak about it much publicly. As I talked privately with so many other women about their losses, I began to see why. 

First, many women feel guilty that they miscarried; they worry that some action they took caused their miscarriage, even though there's usually no reason to believe that's the case. Some even think the miscarriage is some kind of fate—a punishment for some past mistake or a reflection of their inability to parent. It's terrible. Grief is hard enough on its own, without added layers of guilt and shame.

Second, many women worry their grief is stupid or irrational. They experience a lot of gaslighting—nearly all of it, I think, unintentional—from medical personnel, friends, and family. And the lack of compassion seems to get more pronounced the earlier in pregnancy we miscarry.  

Research has found that "gestational age was not shown to affect the degree, intensity, or duration of the grief, anxiety, or depression" for mothers who had miscarried, and yet one of the hallmarks of early miscarriage is "the minimization of the loss by others." My pregnancy loss groups regularly feature posts lamenting when loved ones make well-meaning but dismissive comments ("You can always try again." "At least you weren't further along." "At least it wasn't an actual baby.")

Even therapists don't always react appropriately. I lost my babe around 6 weeks. The first counselor I saw commented about how that gestational age is "super early." During our session she mentioned more than once that I may find my grief over miscarrying is a surface emotion for other, deeper issues—seeming to imply losing a baby, on its own, wouldn't normally warrant this much anguish. At the end of our session, she said "Well I'm glad to work with you, and we can work on processing your... well I guess it's like a miscarriage, isn't it?" (I did not continue seeing her.)

These responses are tragic but not especially shocking. Thanks to our fiery, never-ending national abortion debate, there are countless voices loudly and incessantly insisting that human embryos and fetuses are not babies. Worse, they often go further and imply that viewing preborn humans as children is ignorant or superstitious. Example:

Original tweet here.

This kind of condescension insults and silences people (pro-choice and pro-life alike) who grieve their miscarriages as the deaths of their children. 

Original tweet here.

In an article about miscarriage and post-traumatic stress, the BBC interviewed a woman whose reaction underscores the problem:

Toni Edwards-Beighton, 36, says she felt she was losing her mind after a miscarriage in 2016. "I felt my grief was wrong because it wasn't a real baby - but I was in complete shock," she says. ... "It wasn't 'tissue' to me, it was our baby," Toni says.

My miscarriage broke my heart, but stories like the above make me grateful I have so many pro-life friends and family. I have people in my life who affirm the value and significance of my lost babe not merely as a potential child who will not come to be, but as my actual child, once living and now gone. I have never felt my grief is misplaced or irrational. I have never struggled to reconcile my overwhelming instinct about the reality and value of my child with cultural messaging or social circles persistently arguing otherwise. I have had four children; three of them are with me now, and one is gone. The grief is difficult, but I'm thankful I don't have to also navigate the gaslighting.

Unfortunately, in addition to dealing with dismissive comments in their interpersonal relationships, people struggling through miscarriage often also encounter insensitive responses from the medical community.

In her recent article "Hospital attitude adds to couple's heartache," Sarah Terzo highlights these themes. Lindsey and April Woods lost their daughter through miscarriage in the second trimester, and their grief was only compounded when medical staff repeatedly referred to their baby as "tissue" and—only after persistent requests—provided their daughter's remains for burial in a bright orange biohazard bucket.

This apparently indifferent approach has been all too common in medical settings. In 2010, Critical Care Nursing Quarterly published "Proof of life: a protocol for pregnant women who experience pre-20-week perinatal loss," in which the authors conducted a literature review and found there were no protocols for the emotional care for women who experience pregnancy loss prior to 20 weeks gestation. The authors suggested options for better respecting the experience of loss (such as offering a prayer, moment of silence, naming ceremony, referral for perinatal support groups, etc.). But implementation of such protocols has been slow. A 2017 article in the Journal of Perinatology explained that, in an emergency room setting, women under 20 weeks gestation who miscarry get appropriate physical care, but "psychological and bereavement support they need is provided less consistently, or, more often, not at all." The research found that when women do not receive appropriate emotional and psychological support, their grief is deeper and longer-lasting, and their losses are more likely to trigger unresolved grief and depression during subsequent pregnancies. In contrast, providing proper emotional support to women who have miscarried improves both their mental health outcomes and medical personnel's work satisfaction.

To that end, in the last few years key stakeholders in emergency room management and pregnancy loss bereavement have worked together to create a position paper addressing care for women miscarrying—at any gestational age. The paper details best principles and practices, emphasizing sensitive and dignified care for the family such as offering bereavement care and culturally competent options for disposition of the child's remains.

This is a step in the right direction, and I'm hopeful more medical staff can access the education and training needed to better care for people mourning miscarriage. I'm less optimistic about positive changes in our culture as a whole. It's difficult to see how the abortion rights narrative—that prenatal life is effectively irrelevant—can coexist with our lived experiences of our offspring alive, then gone. I expect as long as so much of society is incentivized to dehumanize our children, my pregnancy loss groups will continue to have posts like this:

"It is just a fetus, tissue, they say
But I know better
It was my child, my baby
A living being
A part of my family"

Monday, January 25, 2021

No, the Mexico City Policy does not drive up international abortion rates.

[Today's post is by guest blogger Candace Stewart.]

One of the first actions the new Biden Administration is expected to take (which has yet to happen as of this writing) is the repeal of the Mexico City Policy. The policy originated under Ronald Reagan and prevents US foreign aid funds for family planning from going to organizations that perform abortions or advocate for their legalization in developing nations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

This policy has fluctuated since its foundation, as it has been reversed under all Democratic presidents since Clinton and then re-enacted under all Republicans since Reagan.

Pro-choice critics of the policy, labeling it the “global gag rule,” argue that restricting funds from family planning organizations in Africa harms women by making access to contraception and clinical abortions difficult or impossible. In fact, these critics point to a few studies that seem to confirm this (one in 2011, one in 2018, and the latest in 2019). The 2019 study, published in Lancet Global Health by Brooks et al., is more comprehensive than the previous studies and analyzes data from three administrations (Clinton, W. Bush, and Obama). They analyze data on abortion and modern contraceptive use in 26 African countries and label some “high exposure” (hereafter HE) if they are most dependent on US foreign aid, and therefore more affected by the Mexico City policy, and others “low exposure” (hereafter LE) if they are least affected. The authors explain:
Our paper finds a substantial increase in abortions across sub-Saharan Africa among women affected by the US Mexico City Policy. This increase is mirrored by a corresponding decline in the use of modern contraception and increase in pregnancies under the policy. This pattern of more frequent abortions and lower contraceptive use was also reversed after the policy was rescinded.
Based on this summary, one might conclude that Brooks et al found that when the Mexico City policy is in place, abortions rise and contraception use decreases, and once the policy is reversed, abortions decrease and contraception use increases, especially in HE countries. And yet this relationship is not what the study found. As the authors explain in the supplemental material (Figure S4):

(Click to enlarge)

There is no clear pattern here of contraception use decreasing and/or abortion rates increasing during the policy. In fact, the pattern of increasing contraceptive use in both HE and LE countries is consistent regardless of whether or not the Mexico City policy is in place. HE countries had lower contraceptive use from the beginning, but use increased more sharply around 2005, during the Bush administration, and continued to increase under Obama at a steadier pace.

The abortion rate chart is much more scattered, possibly reflecting unreliable reporting (more on that below), but taken at face value, the trends seem mostly independent of the Mexico City Policy. Abortion rates in HE countries started off low and trended up during Clinton’s administration and into the Bush administration until around 2007, when there was a slight decrease. The only consistent pattern is that abortion rates in both LE and HE countries rose sharply under the Obama administration, which seems to directly contradict the authors’ implications about the policy’s effects.

This lack of correlation is obscured in the main paper, because the authors focus on differences between abortion rates among HE and LE countries. Here is how they put it:
Our regression estimates show that relative to women in low-exposure countries, women living in high-exposure countries used less modern contraception, had more pregnancies, and had more abortions when the policy was in place compared with when the policy was rescinded…when US support for international family planning organisations was conditioned on the policy, coverage of modern contraception fell and the proportion of women reporting pregnancy and abortions increased, in relative terms, among women in countries more reliant on US funding.
Now it is true that abortion rates of HE countries were more similar to the LE countries under Obama then they were under Bush, but Brooks et al don’t mention that this is because rates for both groups sharply increased after plateauing at lower levels during the Bush years. There also was a larger gap in contraception use between LE and HE countries under Bush, but this gap narrowed years before Obama reversed the Mexico City policy.

The Supplemental Material contains another important chart (Figure S3). The authors color code the abortion rate per 10,000 woman-years in each African country studied for the study’s time period (1995-2014). Some countries included a lot fewer data. For example, from 1995-2014, Brooks et al have only 7 years for Swaziland and 6 years for Comoros, Gambia, and Liberia. Nearly all the countries have data missing for at least some years.

Brooks et al use data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), a nationally representative household survey. These surveys track reported abortions and live births, with spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) and induced abortions categorized together. Here’s how the authors differentiated between the two:
A termination was classified as induced if it occurred following contraceptive failure, if the terminated pregnancy was unwanted… or if the woman was under age 26 years and was not married or in a union. Terminations were not classified as induced if they occurred in the third trimester, if the woman indicated that contraception had been discontinued to allow for pregnancy, or if the woman was married or in a union with no children.
As the basis for their algorithm, the authors cite this study conducted in Turkey in 1996 using DHS data from the country. Brooks et al note their own limitations with the DHS:
Abortions are often under-reported in survey data, and the DHS is no exception.
Even if abortions did go up during the Mexico City Policy and down without it (not the case), given all the uncertainties and missing data, it would be hard to draw any sweeping conclusions from these surveys. Similarly, pro-lifers should be cautious about assuming Obama’s reversal of the policy caused the apparent abortion rate jump under his administration; the jump could reflect more accurate reporting, or the abortion rates may not be reliable to begin with.

But even if all the data presented is accurate and representative, it still doesn’t support the authors’ grim picture of the Mexico City Policy. The average abortion rate of all the 26 countries studied was apparently lower when the policy was in effect under Bush than when it was rescinded under Obama.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Remembering the Victims of Roe v. Wade

Today is the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the brutal Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion and stripped the right to life from unborn children in the United States. 

Despite being the leader of a pro-life organization, I don't dwell on abortion often. I find the horror of it too paralyzing. I know abortion kills human beings, and I know that killing human beings is wrong—so why not just focus on what I can do to change minds and save lives, here and now? Over 62.5 million lives lost to abortion is impossible to wrap my head around anyway; as the saying goes, one death is a tragedy, while millions is a statistic.

That emotional distance serves me well most days, but those millions of departed children deserve my sustained attention and mourning—especially on the anniversary of the injustice that sanctioned their slaughter. I offer this meditation.

In 1973, a baby boy was secretly aborted. His mother and the abortionist have both passed away. The baby's memory died with them.

In 1974, a baby was killed in a saline abortion.

In 1975, a baby was aborted in Los Angeles.

In 1976, a teenager aborted her baby because she didn't want her conservative religious parents to know that she'd been having sex. 

In 1977, a teenager aborted her baby because her parents threatened to kick her out of the house.

In 1978, a baby was aborted because his mother feared losing her job. She did not know that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act would be signed into law just a few months later. 

In 1979, a woman had an abortion; she never learned that she had been carrying twins.

In 1980, a baby girl was aborted because her parents felt they were too young.

In 1981, a baby boy was aborted because his parents felt they were too old.

In 1982, a baby boy was aborted because his father left and his mother lacked support. 

In 1983, a baby was aborted in Chicago.

In 1984, a baby was aborted in Miami.

In 1985, a baby was aborted after a contraceptive failure.

In 1986, a baby boy was aborted after his parents made no effort to use contraceptives.

In 1987, a baby girl was aborted because her mother did not think she could finish college if she gave birth.

In 1988, at the very moment I was born and my parents joyfully welcomed me, another innocent baby girl was torn limb from limb before she had a chance to take her first breath.  

In 1989, a baby was aborted in Nashville.

In 1990, a baby was aborted in New Orleans. 

In 1991, a baby was killed in a dismemberment abortion.

In 1992, a woman had an abortion she deeply regrets.

In 1993, a woman had an abortion and has been "shouting" it ever since. 

In 1994, a woman had an abortion and never spoke of it again.

In 1995, a baby was killed in an aspiration abortion.

In 1996, a baby was aborted in New York City.

In 1997, a baby was aborted in Houston. 

In 1998, a young woman aborted her baby after being assured that "it's just a clump of cells." Years later, she conceived a planned child, scheduled her first ultrasound, and was horrified to discover that she had been lied to.

In 1999, a medical resident aborted her baby. She knew the reality of prenatal development full well, but callously disregarded her child's life.

In 2000, a baby was killed in a partial-birth abortion.

In 2001, a baby girl was aborted. Her body was recovered by pro-life advocates and given a proper burial.

In 2002, a baby boy was aborted and his body was stored in an abortionist's garage.

In 2003, a baby girl was aborted. Her little broken body was treated as medical waste. 

In 2004, a baby boy was aborted and his body was exploited for laboratory research.

In 2005, a baby boy was conceived in rape due to sex trafficking, and aborted at the insistence of his mother's pimp. The abortion business looked the other way.

In 2006, a baby was killed in a chemical abortion.

In 2007, a baby girl was aborted because her parents wanted a boy.

In 2008, a baby boy was aborted because his parents wanted a girl.

In 2009, a baby girl was killed in a "selective reduction" abortion. She had the bad luck of being the easier target for the abortionist to reach. Her twin sister survives, living with the vague sense that something is missing. 

In 2010, a baby was aborted in Phoenix.

In 2011, a baby was aborted in Charlotte.

In 2012, a baby was aborted and the abortionist was paid with state taxpayer funds. 

In 2013, a baby was aborted and the abortionist was paid by a private "charitable" abortion fund.

In 2014, a baby was aborted after he was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome.

In 2015, a baby was aborted at a Planned Parenthood.

In 2016, a baby was aborted at an independent abortion business. 

In 2017, the baby of a teenage immigrant in a government-run shelter was killed after the ACLU went to court to strike down the shelter's anti-abortion policy. 

In 2018, a baby was aborted in Memphis.

In 2019, a baby was aborted in San Francisco.

In 2020, a baby was aborted after her parents lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and feared that they could not afford to raise a child.

Today, a baby is scheduled to die in your town. 


Image credit: 6-week ultrasound provided by a Secular Pro-Life supporter.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Bring it on, President Biden

Today, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States of America, and Kamala Harris will be inaugurated as Vice President. Pro-life advocates are bracing for a hostile four years, as abortion industry interests dominate Washington, D.C.

Since the Supreme Court's brutal and unjust decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, there have been many ups and downs, victories and defeats, and constant shifts in the balance of power. But some things never change.

Human life still begins at fertilization.

All human beings are still worthy of protection from violence.

Abortion is still the violent act of killing a human being.

Abortion is still a matter of life and death, not a mere religious issue or political debate. 

The cause of life still attracts millions of dedicated people of every faith and none, from diverse backgrounds.

Pro-life Americans still have the truth on our side. 

Social and legal change takes time. To put our struggle in context, Roe v. Wade will be 48 years old on Friday; we remember that it took 58 years for the Supreme Court to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson and reject "separate but equal" racism. The pro-life movement is in it for the long haul. 

We will continue to save as many babies as we can, while we strive for the day that the right to life is restored. No matter who is in the White House, no matter who is in Congress, no matter who is on the Supreme Court, no matter who dismisses and mocks us, we aren't going anywhere

Monday, January 18, 2021

We Asked, You Answered: What Pro-Life Things Would You Do With A Lottery Jackpot?

With both the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots at unusual highs ($730 million and $850 million, respectively, as of this writing), we wanted to know: what kind of pro-life work would you do if you won the lottery? Here are a few of your ideas.

Reming M.—Start a secular pregnancy center and/or shelter for families. Then throw money at all the whole life/secular/pro-life organizations I like. I'd be like Oprah, "you get a million dollars, you get a million dollars, everyone gets a million dollars!"

Ginnie P.—I already am making plans and preparations for a mobile midwifery clinic. I'd have a whole clinic van fleet staffed!

Samantha T.—Start a foundation to help with basic living expenses for single mothers so they don't have to stay with abusers or family members who may try to force them to abort or to just help them get on their feet. And also fund scholarships so they can go to college or trade school.

Herb G.—Create and fund a pregnant person's bail fund. 

Kristin M.—I've thought about this a lot. I would buy myself a house, give myself a salary to hold me for the rest of my life and put that away in savings, and then literally spend the rest on the non-stereotypical pro-life non-profit organizations such as Secular Pro-Life while seeing if I can volunteer more in my free time too.

$100 bills
Adam P.—I would buy all the billboard space in and around the top 30 most populous cities in America for a year and advertise for local pregnancy centers and pro-life groups, or just general pro-life messages.

Sophie T.—Pay for a chain of pro-life, nonreligious maternity homes and shelters for women and children fleeing domestic violence. Fund pro-life/CLE orgs that I like. I'd also like to pay for a storytelling project for women who were coerced into abortions, because I feel like it happens more frequently than most people think, with factors like financial support and emotional manipulation. I'd also like to do what Let Them Live does: meet the immediate physical or financial needs of pregnant women so the pressure eases.

Gabriella B.—I would create a company focusing specifically on changing the culture. It would produce movies, TV shows, documentaries, music, publish novels, make clothes, make food, and even commission art work that promoted the pro-life message in some way.

And finally, in a case of great minds thinking alike...

Jessica B.—I would start an alternative to Planned Parenthood that offers all the things except abortion; would try to partner with existing places that are close to the same if possible to lower overhead.

Laura P.—Start Unplanned Parenthood ® where we do everything that PP does (and more) sans abortion. I mean, UP does sound a lot better than PP anyway.

It's clear that an amazing amount of good would come from a pro-life winner. Best of luck!

P.S.—Secular Pro-Life does not take a position on the morality or wisdom of state-run lotteries; we were just being topical. If you struggle with compulsive gambling, we encourage you to seek help.

P.P.S.—We asked a similar question in October 2018, when the jackpot was over a billion dollars. Our social media following has grown a lot in the past two years! Here's what folks had to say back then

Friday, January 15, 2021

Pro-Life Perspectives on Abortion-Tainted Vaccines: Part 2

Editor's Note: Many readers have asked us about the ethics of receiving vaccines that were developed in part by exploiting the bodies of abortion victims. In part 1, guest author Stacy Trasancos outlined factors to be considered in confronting this dilemma. In this article, Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard offers her thoughts.

In 1951, Henrietta Lacks went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, complaining of a "knot" in her womb. Mrs. Lacks had a difficult life. She grew up in poverty and worked in tobacco fields from childhood. She gave birth to her first child when she was just 14 years old. She had a total of five children, including a developmentally disabled daughter who tragically died as a teenager. On top of all that, Henrietta Lacks was Black in the era of Jim Crow; Johns Hopkins was the only area hospital that would treat her. Johns Hopkins gave her a devastating diagnosis: cervical cancer. 

Without her knowledge or consent, Johns Hopkins took a sample of Henrietta Lacks' cancerous cells and gave it to a researcher, Dr. George Otto Gey. He then used the sample to create a cell line known as HeLa, taken from the first two letters of her first and last names. Due to its unusually high replication rate, the HeLa line became ubiquitous in medical research and remains so to this day. According to Wikipedia, nearly 11,000 patents involve HeLa.

Henrietta Lacks' cancer metastasized, and she died at the age of 31. Her family had no idea until decades later that her cells lived on and were generating profits for white-dominated medical industries. Researchers even made the HeLa DNA sequence public, jeopardizing her descendants' privacy. By modern standards, the origin of HeLa is wildly unethical. And while general protocols for obtaining patient consent have improved, Black women continue to face alarming discrimination from medical providers—especially when it comes to reproductive care. 

Does accepting a HeLa-connected medical treatment signal approval of this manifestly wrong state of affairs? Does it encourage further maltreatment of Black patients and their families? Should those 11,000 products be pulled from the market in the name of racial justice, even if doing so costs lives? I humbly suggest that the answer is no, and that the same logic should apply to vaccines and other medical products which are connected to the injustice of abortion. 

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the two COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in use (by Pfizer and Moderna) do not use fetal cell lines in their production. However, Pfizer and Moderna have used some fetal cell lines for related laboratory tests, e.g. vaccine quality control. At Public Discourse, Nicanor Austriaco explains the origins of three popular fetal cell lines: 

WI-38 cells were derived from cells obtained from a 12-week old fetal lung taken from an aborted fetus in the early 1960s; MRC5 cells were derived from cells taken from the 14-week old fetal lung of an aborted fetus in 1966; and HEK293 cells were isolated from cells taken from a fetal kidney of unknown gestational age in 1973.

Though HEK293 is commonly believed to have been obtained from an aborted human fetus, I received an e-mail a few months ago from Professor Frank Graham, who established this cell line. He tells me that to the best of his knowledge, the exact origin of the HEK293 fetal cells is unclear. They could have come from either a spontaneous miscarriage or an elective abortion. Regardless, the abortions that gave rise to the three cell lines—or in the possible case of HEK293, the miscarriage—happened decades ago.

In my view, taking a COVID-19 vaccine cannot be reasonably interpreted as an endorsement of those two or three historical abortions, let alone the continuing travesty of abortion today—just as using a HeLa-derived treatment is not an endorsement of how Henrietta Lacks was treated or of current racial inequities. Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 does not encourage more abortions. Babies are not being killed to produce more vaccine doses. 

On the other side of the equation, the benefits of vaccination are substantial. This is particularly the case if you fall within some of the categories Stacy Trasancos mentioned, such as being a healthcare worker or living with an immunocompromised person; your vaccination could be directly life-saving. But even for those who are not at high risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, vaccination could save lives indirectly by creating herd immunity and allowing the economy to reopen sooner.

This could even save babies from abortion. We know that nearly three quarters of abortions are motivated by financial distress, and there is solid (albeit anecdotal) evidence that the pandemic and related lockdowns have led more pregnant mothers to choose death. The sooner we can get the coronavirus under control, the better.

I do wish that a vaccine with zero fetal cell line involvement were available. If it were, I would certainly choose it over the current options. But I cannot justify getting there via a boycott while COVID deaths continue to climb.

Photo credit: CDC on Unsplash

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Pro-Life Perspectives on Abortion-Tainted Vaccines: Part 1

Editor's Note: Many readers have asked us about the ethics of receiving vaccines that were developed in part by exploiting the bodies of abortion victims. In this post, guest author Stacy Trasancos outlines factors to be considered in confronting this dilemma. In part 2, coming Friday, Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard will offer her thoughts.

There is a logical angst that goes with being pro-life in a country where abortion is legal. In the United States, an estimated 3,000 unborn children are killed in abortion clinics daily. A pro-life person might wonder why she is not running into those buildings and demanding that it all stop, the same way she would fight like hell if two-year-old toddlers were being systematically killed by an industry. Yet, Americans live in a pluralistic society where almost half the population thinks it is acceptable for a mother to kill the unwanted child in her womb. Pro-life advocates know they must find peaceful ways to cause change, so their reality is that merely living daily life in a country with legal abortion feels like manifest hypocrisy. 

Nothing, however, brings that cognitive dissonance home like making a decision about using a vaccine whose existence depends on the use of cell lines derived from an aborted child. Instead of wondering about abstract laws and clinics in another part of town, the choice impacts the pro-life advocate individually. Our own health, our immediate families, and our communities are affected by the decision we make. 

One might wonder, then, can you be pro-life and receive an abortion-tainted vaccine? If doing so is not, itself, inherently immoral, such as making the decision to murder someone, then the decision becomes a matter of informed conscience. 

This is called discernment. Think of it like an equation. There are variables that go into the decision, and each variable has different coefficients and powers. In the calculus, the factors that affect your decision will be weighted differently depending on your specific circumstances during any given period. The good news is we have the freedom to think and make choices. The bad news is that discernment is not easy when the decision is complex. At times, it can be heart wrenching. 

The person making the decision about vaccines is not at fault, in the moment, for the fact that he or she may be presented with only vaccines produced using fetal cell lines and no other alternative. She did not ask to be in this position. She never consented to the abortion that occurred, no matter how long ago or far away it happened. She is simply trying to keep herself, her family, and her community safe, which is a good intention. The weight applied to these variables differs. 

Health. Are you already immunocompromised? Are you elderly? Are you at risk? Is someone in your family at risk? Or is it likely that you would tolerate the virus well? Do you have access to medicines to alleviate the duration of the viral infection? 

Vocation. Are you a caregiver? Are you a medical professional or healthcare worker? Do you work in close contact with a lot of people? Does your family depend on you to go to work? Could you lose your job for refusing to be vaccinated?

Location. Do you live in a place where the virus is already rampant? Can you effectively maintain social distancing measures? Can you move about with a mask and six feet distance between you and everyone else not in your bubble? Do you live in the country or the city?

Timing. Can you wait for an ethically produced vaccine? Are there ethically produced vaccines coming? Will you have access to ethically produced vaccines where you live? Do your local health care providers work to gain access to ethical vaccines?

Impact. There can many more variables, but there is one I want to argue that pro-lifers should weight heavily. I propose that we seriously consider how our choice will affect the community and nation. 

A person making a decision about using an abortion-tainted vaccine may not be at fault for the immediate set of options in the moment, but every person’s choice does impact the market, and therefore affects the decisions of industries, university researchers, and government agencies going forward, however small. 

Each choice to use or not use a single dose of a vaccine is a vote. 

“Yes, I will accept a benefit even though it depends on the use of an aborted child.” 

“No, even if it makes my life more difficult, I will not accept this vaccine.” 

We cannot draw an imaginary boundary around ourselves either temporally or spatially. About half of Americans consider themselves pro-life, which is about 164 million people. It is, therefore, an objective and mathematical fact that if even a quarter of those people (41 million) demanded the availability of ethically produced vaccines with no connection to any aborted fetal cell line in development or production, then the scientific, academic, industrial, and governmental communities would be compelled to accommodate that stand. In time, if even a smaller fraction of the pro-life community refused such vaccines, ethically produced vaccines (and other medicines) would appear in the market. 

In this sense, pro-life advocates do share some remote responsibility in the choices available to us. If we know the stakes that factor into our decision now, then we know those decisions will affect the future situation. And, true to the adage that ignorance is bliss, we cannot excuse our obligation as pro-lifers to make choices that build a more just civilization for the children of today. 

We may not be able to storm into an abortion clinic and shout a protest to save those babies being killed by abortion. Some of us may legitimately need an available vaccine for safety. But we can — and should — choose to accept some risk and discomfort if at all possible when faced with an abortion-tainted vaccine. 

Stacy Trasancos has a PhD in chemistry and was senior research chemist at DuPont. She has an MA in dogmatic theology and is now chief research officer for Children of God for Life and executive director of St. Philip Institute for Bishop Joseph Strickland in Tyler, TX. Stacy has seven children and six grandchildren.

Photo credit: CDC on Unsplash

Monday, January 11, 2021

Our March for Life Plans (Updated)

UPDATE, JANUARY 15: The March for Life has cancelled the in-person event. The information for Friday, January 29 is no longer accurate. The Democrats for Life of America rally will not happen either. We apologize for the inconvenience. 

Every January for the past 46 years, pro-life Americans have gathered lawfully and peacefully in Washington, D.C. to protest the travesty of Roe v. Wade. After last week's siege of the Capitol building, we believe it is more important than ever to demonstrate what a non-violent and life-affirming movement looks like. COVID-19 will make things a bit different in 2021 (read: social distancing and no indoor events), but we are committed to safely making a stand for children in the womb. We hope you will participate, whether you in person or virtually.

Like everything else this year, the following schedule is subject to change. Please subscribe to our emails for the latest updates. 

Ongoing through January 23: Midwest "Moving the Movement" Tour and Diaper Drive

As we've previously written, the March for Life Chicago is adapting to COVID-19 with a series of smaller parking lot and road rallies throughout the Midwest. (They're partnering with local radio stations so people can listen to pro-life speakers from their cars; how cool is that?) Secular Pro-Life is pleased to co-sponsor the tour. Events have already taken place in Madison, WI; Des Moines, IA; and Omaha, NE. The next stops on the tour are Fort Wayne, IN (January 16); Mundelein, IL (January 17); Indianapolis, IN (January 22); and of course, Chicago, IL (January 23). At the Chicago stop, check your goodie bag for a treat from Secular Pro-Life! NOTE: Registration is strongly encouraged.

The tour organizers are also collecting diapers for families in need at each location, with a goal of 130,094—one for every baby annually aborted in the Midwest. Whether or not you live in the Midwest or are able to participate in the tour, we encourage you to contribute online

Friday, January 29: The March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Prior to the March, we will join Democrats for Life of America for a socially distanced outdoor rally at 1000 Jefferson Drive SW. (Look for our 14-foot-tall, bright blue banner; you can't miss it!) SPL president Kelsey Hazzard will speak about what the Democratic Party could do to appeal to pro-life independents like herself. For those who cannot attend, we will do our best to live-stream it, or at the very least post a video after the fact.

While supplies last, we will be distributing FREE masks and signs featuring our classic slogan "Call me an extremist, but I think dismemberment is wrong." We could use another volunteer or two to help with the distribution; if you're interested, please email info@secularprolife.org. 

From there, we will march to the Supreme Court building. The March for Life will offer live coverage for supporters participating remotely.

Saturday, January 30 (day): Virtual Pro-Life Student Conference

The Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life, traditionally held at Georgetown University, is going remote this year. Secular Pro-Life appreciates this opportunity to connect with Catholic university students and help them reach their secular classmates with the pro-life message. Stop by our virtual exhibit booth and say hello! Registration is required

Saturday, January 30 (evening): Virtual Game Night Fundraiser

Sadly, our traditional karaoke fundraiser is not possible during the pandemic. Instead, we are partnering with Rehumanize International for a virtual game night! The event begins at 7:30 p.m. EST and tickets are the excellent price of whatever donation you wish to make. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Pro-Life Art Contest Submissions Open

Create | Encounter, a project by our friends at Rehumanize International, is once again seeking submissions of artwork in any media (poetry, prose, painting, sculpture, music, you name it) that explores themes related to the value of human life. Abortion-related works are common, but since Rehumanize International is multi-issue, submissions concerning other forms of aggressive violence (including war, human trafficking, and abuse) are also welcome.

Click here for the full submission guidelines, and get creative! The contest will close on February 20, with winners announced on March 5. Then, on March 27, Rehumanize will host a "virtual afternoon of the arts" to display the winning works! Tickets are pay-what-you-want and available here

[Photo credit: Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash]

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

What It's Like to Be a Secular Sidewalk Counselor

 

The author stands on a sidewalk with prenatal development education materials.

"What parish do you attend?" That's the question I often get when someone new arrives. When I respond that I'm secular, I get a look of amazement and whispered apologies, as if their question was somehow offensive to me. It isn't. 

I've been doing sidewalk counseling outside of a local abortion facility for almost two years now. I've gotten used to the fact I'm the least likely person you'd expect out there. After all, it seems majority of those who are pro-life tend to be of some religious background. What I didn't expect was to be standing on the sidewalk with so few.

My greatest frustration (aside from mothers going in to terminate their babies, and dads who sit in the parking lot playing games on their phone while it happens) is the lack of involvement from those who are of faith. 

I live in a city with a population over 300,000, in a county with a population over 2 million, with over 100 churches. Yet on any given Saturday, one of the busiest abortion days, there's usually no more than three or four people trying to reach these moms and dads with help before they go inside. On a weekday, you're lucky if there's one person on the sidewalk. 

When there is nobody in front of the abortion center, mothers are not made aware of the local resources for help, fathers are not encouraged to step up and save their baby, and nobody hears the truth about how destructive abortion is for all involved. I shudder to think what would have happened to those mothers who chose life on the sidewalk, if no one had been there that day.

So what can secular pro-lifers do? Get involved in sidewalk counseling. If nobody is outside at your local abortion center(s), be that person who shows up. Don't allow yourself to feel like you have no place out there. The need for sidewalk advocates, especially secular ones, is huge! I am thankful for the small group of people who stand with me. Despite our differing religious beliefs (or lack thereof), we work together and have saved lives. 

We still have much work to do. Won't you join us?

[Today's article is by Christine Sorrell. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

(Check out the list of ways you can support sidewalk counselors from HowToBeProlife.com.)


Monday, January 4, 2021

Tomorrow's Georgia Runoff Elections Have Huge Implications


Which party will control the Senate? That question will be answered by the people of Georgia, who will elect both their Senators in a runoff election. Incumbent Sen. David Purdue (R) faces Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, while incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) faces Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock. Early voting has concluded, with over 3 million ballots already submitted. Tomorrow is the final opportunity for Georgians to cast their votes.

Control of the Senate could have a tremendous impact on abortion policy, especially when it comes to confirming judges and protecting the 60,000 lives saved each year under the Hyde Amendment. Senators Purdue and Loeffler both have anti-abortion voting records, while Ossoff and Warnock have the backing of the abortion industry. CNN reports that Planned Parenthood has spent six figures in the race; on the pro-life side, the political arms of groups like the Susan B. Anthony List and Students for Life of America are heavily invested. 

Raphael Warnock, who is a pastor, has tried to persuade the state's religious voters that the Bible is compatible with violence against babies in the womb. Secular Pro-Life is not qualified to opine on matters of Biblical interpretation, and we do not believe that ancient sacred texts should determine today's laws. Modern scientific and ethical considerations are sufficient to support anti-abortion policy. That said, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that Warnock is an outlier; most Christian leaders support the vulnerable unborn members of their communities, and prominent Black pastors in Georgia have signed an open letter condemning Warnock's position

Georgia is generally considered a pro-life state—it enacted a heartbeat law and is ranked #14 on Americans United for Life's 2021 Life List—but that does not make it a sure thing for Republicans, as its support for Joe Biden in November clearly demonstrated. FiveThirtyEight's polling summary shows both races are incredibly close.

[Photo credit: Alejandro Barba on Unsplash]

Friday, January 1, 2021

2020 Year in Review

Left: Terrisa sings carols outside PP in San Francisco.
Middle: Kelsey marches in DC.
Right: Monica presents at a pro-life conference in Oregon.


I know: OOF. 2020 is not a year most of us are eager to look back upon. But despite unprecedented challenges, Secular Pro-Life continued our vital work in defense of unborn children. 

In January, we Marched for Life in Washington, D.C., were interviewed by multiple news outlets, and connected with pro-life youth activists at the Geaux Forth rally, the National Pro-Life Summit, the O'Connor conference, and (for the first time) a gathering for Ivy League students.

In February, Monica gave her "Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths" presentation at the Together We Advocate Conference in Oregon. On the blog, we debunked the hilarious claim that "big money" is behind the pro-life cause (I wish!), interviewed pro-life Democrats, spread awareness of kinship caregiving, and publicized the scientific consensus that life begins at fertilization. On a more personal note, "Baby J," whose mother had been living with Kelsey since October 2019, was born! Our friends at New Wave Feminists organized an incredible virtual baby shower for them. 

In early March, Terrisa spoke at a rally outside the Supreme Court on the day of oral arguments in June Medical v. Russo. Then COVID-19 reared its ugly head. Baby J and his mom left Kelsey to join family out of state before the lockdowns hit. Secular Pro-Life pivoted to socially distanced activities and encouraged donations to pregnancy care centers. Kelsey gave a virtual presentation to Students for Life of America's Florida Leadership Workshop. And finally, after a long while of letting our email list gather dust, Secular Pro-Life began sending monthly e-newsletters (subscribe here). 

In April, Terrisa stood up to San Francisco authorities who tried to use COVID-19 to crack down on socially distant sidewalk counseling (while those same authorities dutifully ignored the elective, PPE-wasting procedures happening inside the abortion centers). Kelsey's pre-recorded interview with the EWTN series "Defending Life" aired, and she also appeared on an Irish radio program. Three of the year's top blog posts were published in April. 

In May, Kelsey gave Zoom presentations for the National Campus Life Network and Students for Life at FAU. Secular Pro-Life signed a coalition letter to the FDA, demanding a crackdown on illegal online abortion drug vendors. Terrisa appeared on "Defending Life" to share the secular case against abortion with a Catholic audience. On the blog, Monica interviewed John Bockmann, co-author of the groundbreaking paper "Reconsidering Fetal Pain."

June was dominated by the tragic news that the Supreme Court struck down Louisiana's common-sense regulation of abortion facilities in June Medical v. Russo. Chief Justice John Roberts, previously thought to be a pro-life vote, turned out to have no spine. (We can only hope for better results now that Justice Barrett is on the Court.) Meanwhile, Monica published a series of interviews with sidewalk counselors, both secular and religious.

In July, we published our initial exposé of abortion businesses and lobby groups that took taxpayer funds via the Paycheck Protection Program. We also explained the extreme pro-abortion records of Joe Biden's prospective running mates (including Kamala Harris). After an activist judge suspended the FDA's safety requirements for the abortion drug Mifeprex—which (among other things) requires that the abortion pill be administered in person, to combat the horrific practice of abusers slipping the drug into unaware women's drinks—SPL joined Live Action and other organizations in demanding that the FDA pull Mifeprex off the market altogether. Both Kelsey and Terrisa began mentoring pro-life student leaders via Students for Life of America's fellowship programs.

In August, SPL co-sponsored the Rehumanize Conference, which went virtual for the first time. Kelsey appeared on a Denver radio station and on the YouTube channel Modern-Day Debate. Terrisa rallied pro-life Democrats in an unofficial caucus outside the Democratic National Convention.

In September, we held a virtual rally to celebrate the 44th anniversary of the life-saving Hyde Amendment. The abortion lobby has the Hyde Amendment in its crosshairs, and with a pro-abortion White House administration, we will have to give everything we've got to preserve the Hyde Amendment for the next generation. Secular Pro-Life also actively promoted Colorado's Proposition 115, which would end late-term abortion in that state (sadly, it did not pass). 

In October, we rallied outside the Department of Justice to demand indictment of Planned Parenthood (and its business partners) for fetal organ harvesting and organ trafficking after three years of an open investigation; rallied outside the Supreme Court in support of Justice Amy Coney Barrett's nomination as the first pro-life woman on the Court; and spoke at a virtual conference for pro-life advocates in Ireland.

We all know what happened in November. Although pro-life candidates had a 5-point advantage, it wasn't enough to overcome the many weaknesses of the GOP, the economy, and the coronavirus response. Pro-life advocates are looking at a very difficult political environment in the short term; just how difficult we can't say until after the Senate runoff elections in Georgia. Whatever happens, we are united in our support for the right to life and are not going anywhere. In non-election-related November news, Kelsey gave virtual presentations to students from the University of Georgia and Ave Maria School of Law, and Terrisa got arrested while protesting research on abortion victims' remains.  

In December, in response to updated Small Business Administration data, we expanded our exposé of abortion businesses and lobby groups that took taxpayer funds via the Paycheck Protection Program. We publicized new abortion data from the CDC, new state rankings from Americans United for Life, and the amazing Congressional testimony of Christina Bennett in support of the Hyde Amendment. And of course, we are making plans to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January—subject to COVID-19 precautions.

None of this would have been possible without our donors, volunteers, and supporters. Thank you all so much for your help in this trying year. Here's to 2021!

So many Zooms...