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Monday, May 10, 2021

How Baby Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Survived Planned Parenthood

At a recent Congressional hearing on the Black maternal health crisis, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) stated that her mother obtained prenatal care from Planned Parenthood and called herself a "Planned Parenthood baby." AOC was quoted as saying: "If we want to talk about Planned Parenthood let's talk about how many lives Planned Parenthood has saved. And how many babies have been born because of the prenatal care provided by Planned Parenthood."

Those remarks were roundly mocked in pro-life and conservative spaces. Fox News' coverage of AOC's comments noted, correctly, that Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report shows 354,871 abortions versus only 8,626 prenatal services — a tragic ratio of 41 to 1. 

So what's going on here? Did an unborn AOC narrowly survive 41-to-1 odds at Planned Parenthood, only to perversely grow up to be an abortion advocate?

Planned Parenthood's ratio of abortions to prenatal care has changed over time, and so has the way Planned Parenthood measures prenatal care. Representative Ocasio-Cortez lived in the womb in 1989. That year, according to Planned Parenthood's annual report, AOC's mother was one of only 3,400 women to obtain prenatal care from Planned Parenthood, versus 111,000 women who obtained abortions. The ratio of babies killed to babies receiving prenatal care was 32 to 1.

In AOC's youth, Planned Parenthood reported the number of patients to whom it provided prenatal care. That practice continued through 2008, when Planned Parenthood performed abortions on 342,008 pregnant mothers and gave prenatal care to 9,433, a ratio of 36 to 1. But the following year, Planned Parenthood started reporting the number of prenatal services provided, allowing the same mother to be counted more than once if she had multiple prenatal appointments. This caused an illusory high point in 2009, when Planned Parenthood committed 331,796 abortions and provided 40,489 prenatal care services — a ratio of 8 to 1. 

And yet despite the rosier prenatal care metric, Planned Parenthood went from 8:1 in 2009 to 41:1 today! (Imagine how much worse today's ratio would look if the 1989 metric of number of women served had been maintained!) Why the jump? The best available explanation is a major policy shift in 2010. Planned Parenthood operates on a franchise model. In 2010, Planned Parenthood's national office required all of its regional affiliates to offer abortions or lose the right to the Planned Parenthood name. Prenatal care was not similarly mandated. So much for "choice."

To be clear, I am not arguing that Planned Parenthood was a virtuous organization once upon a time, or that its good at any point outweighed its bad. Planned Parenthood was founded by a eugenicist for racist purposes. It has covered up statutory rape. It has participated in gruesome organ-harvesting schemes. It has a long history of discrimination against its own employees. And it has killed millions of unborn babies since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973.

My argument is much narrower: women who went to Planned Parenthood in decades past may have encountered an organization that did not have as strong an "abortion-first" orientation as it does today. Many of these women are no longer of reproductive age and have not set foot in a Planned Parenthood in years; they have no reason to know that Planned Parenthood now kills 41 babies for every one prenatal service. Outdated memories may guide their policy positions and votes. And in some cases, evidently, they have passed their gauzy misconceptions of Planned Parenthood along to their children. We have our educational work cut out for us.  

None of this excuses Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's false claim that Planned Parenthood saves lives. She is an elected official with staffers employed to conduct research for her; she should know better. And whether the odds were 41 to 1 or 36 to 1 or 8 to 1, AOC is lucky to have left Planned Parenthood alive. It's a shame she doesn't want her youngest constituents to get the same chance.

[Photo credit: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Facebook page. Special thanks to Jim Sedlak for his archival research assistance.]

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Ableism of Abortion

Two men smiling; the man on the right has facial features consistent with Down Syndrome

Merriam-Webster defines ableism as "discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities." It's a term that gets thrown around as our society becomes increasingly aware of the ways that disabled people have historically been discriminated against. This includes everything from a lack of accessibility for those in wheelchairs to excluding those who look or act differently. I'm glad to see a growing awareness of the harms of ableism and the celebration of all people, regardless of their abilities. However, this understanding has unfortunately not been applied to babies with disabilities. Many people continue to view abortions based on prenatal screening tests as completely moral. How is this not also ableism?

Abortions of babies with Down Syndrome, according to prenatal tests, is on the rise in America along with other locations. The most extreme example is found in Iceland, where people with Down Syndrome are all but disappearing due to the practice of aborting babies with Down Syndrome. According to this 2017 CBS article, close to 100% of women who "who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy." This overemphasis on the health of children and choosing whether or not to keep a child has long been a concern, both inside and outside of pro-life circles. If parents are permitted to abort their less-than-"perfect" children, what does that say about the ableism prevalent in our society despite our efforts to remove it? If we are to truly make an equitable world that is inclusive of those with differing abilities, it must start with banning the abortion of babies due to their medical conditions. 

Down Syndrome is only one example, of course; however, it is one of the most powerful. It is not life-threatening and there are a multitude of examples of men and women with Down Syndrome living healthy, fulfilling lives. Just this past year, Ellie Goldstein, a model with Down Syndrome, was featured on Vogue’s Italia website. However, a person should not have to prove their worth to society in order to earn the right to life. One does not have to be a "contributing member of society" in order to be alive. There are many ways to live a fulfilling life and impact others and they do not all involve the same thing. You would think that the current emphasis on stamping out ableism would put to rest some of these fallacies, but it has yet to do so definitively. Our society emphasizes accepting people for who they are but apparently only once they are considered worthy of being born. 

However, there is hope on the horizon. A law has been upheld in Ohio prohibiting abortions based on a Down Syndrome diagnosis. Arizona recently followed suit with a law banning abortions based on a genetic abnormality, including Down Syndrome. However, legislation alone will not fix the problem. We need a culture shift. The current wave of accommodations and acknowledgement of the struggles of those with disabilities must extend to those in the womb to protect the most important right: life. 

[Today's guest article is by Laura Wallace. Learn more about becoming a guest author here. Photo credit: Nathan Anderson on Unsplash.]

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Reflections on National Foster Care Awareness Month

Silhouette of adult and child playing at a beach

May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. Although foster care is not an abortion alternative (for reasons discussed at length here), the pro-life and foster care communities significantly overlap, united by a common concern for vulnerable children. People who grow up in foster care have been especially vocal about the harms of pro-choice rhetoric suggesting they should have been aborted. Foster children deserve caregivers who will affirm their humanity and dignity.

In January — coincidentally, right around the time of the canceled March for Life — I became a licensed foster parent and welcomed a teenager into my home. The friends I have cultivated over my dozen years of pro-life advocacy (give or take) have been tremendously supportive, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Without oversharing any personal details about my foster daughter, I'd like to offer some general thoughts and encouragement for pro-life readers who may be thinking about becoming a foster parent.

The licensing process

The process of becoming a foster parent varies by jurisdiction. In my case, I contacted the agency in September and obtained my license four months later. The process included two home inspections, various safety purchases to come into compliance (e.g. a refrigerator thermometer, fire extinguishers, and cabinet locks), a background check and fingerprinting, and weekly Zoom classes and homework assignments to become educated about childhood trauma.

The training involved many difficult, heartbreaking topics. To get a flavor, I highly recommend the Removed series of short films, available on YouTube (part 1, part 2, part 3).

I am single and I work full time. I do not have medical training. My home has stairs and cannot accommodate a wheelchair user. All of these things have been taken into account. My license is only for children between the ages of 6 and 17 who do not have serious medical needs. My agency is careful to match children with suitable homes, and I was always encouraged to speak up about what I could and could not offer. 

Expect the unexpected

If you are devoted to a strict routine and react poorly to deviations, foster parenting probably is not for you. My foster daughter was originally placed in my home "just for the weekend," but when Monday rolled around, she wanted to stay with me and the only other option was a group home. A consensus quickly emerged that my home was indeed in her best interest. 

Here are just a few of the issues we encountered: not having her medications; not having her glasses; a week-long administrative delay getting her enrolled in school; her prescriptions being sent to a pharmacy that didn't take her insurance; delays in setting up her therapy appointments; and, not two weeks into the placement, an urgent care visit because she took a bad step and injured her foot. (Don't worry, she's fine. Toenails grow back.)

These situations were all quite stressful, but I am gradually learning, as she'd say, to "take a chill pill." It's all worth it to give her a safe environment that meets her needs.

A team effort

If you're thinking "I could never handle all that," remember that you won't be going it alone. The adage that it takes a village to raise a child is especially true for foster parenting. I have support from many quarters, including my family, friends, neighbors, Secular Pro-Life co-leaders, a therapist, a doctor, case managers, school staff, and licensing supervisors. I'm especially fortunate to have a good relationship with my foster daughter's mother, who is working to regain custody.

This is not a solo endeavor. Coming up for air every now and then is crucial. Don't be afraid to ask for help!

"You don't have to be perfect, to be a perfect parent."

Remember these public service announcements? I've been thinking about them a lot lately. I am far from perfect. Sometimes I say the wrong thing. I often fall behind on chores and errands. I take misbehavior too personally. I waste time comparing myself to imaginary, impossible standards. 

But every Friday at 8:00 p.m., my foster daughter and I celebrate another week together — and that's enough. Getting to know her and care for her has been a privilege. Whatever happens, we will always have a bond.

There is a tremendous need for loving foster homes. The opioid addiction epidemic has shattered countless families and overwhelmed child welfare programs. If any part of you is drawn to the idea of becoming a foster parent, you owe it to both the children and yourself to contact a local agency and learn more. You don't know what you're missing!

[Photo credit: Lauren Lulu Taylor on Unsplash]

Monday, May 3, 2021

April Recap

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April Recap

Projects
This month we launched HowToBeProLife.com, a website Monica created to encourage people against abortion to get involved. There are ideas for introverts, busy people, broke people, and even pro-choicers who want to decrease abortion. We launched the website with enough suggestions to feature one idea per week for a year, but we plan to expand the list substantially over time. Follow the project on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and share your ideas with us about how people can do pro-life work.

On April 24, both Kelsey and Terrisa presented at the 2021 Consistent Life Virtual Conference, where they spoke about being bold and sharing personal, relatable stories in our pro-life messaging.

And on April  9 & 10 we participated in the Save Hyde National Day of Action (created by Democrats for Life). Terrisa spoke at the National Press Club to condemn the Democratic Party's plans to introduce the first budget in 40 years that would include taxpayer funding for abortion. The next day Terrisa protested in Washington DC, and on the opposite coast Monica (and her daughters) protested in Sacramento.


Twitter
We gained 351 new followers, bringing us to 13,521 total. We sent 241 tweets, which were viewed 647,000 times, including this tweet, viewed over 30,000 times, in which we tried to explain (again) the distinction between being "life" and being living human organisms.

See our collection of biology books here.

Facebook
We are at 35,196 followers on Facebook. Our content was viewed 319,377 times, including 19,101 views of  this post (one of Monica's "red pen" meme corrections):

See more corrected memes here.

Blogger
Our three most-read blog posts for April, in increasing order: Like what we do and have something to contribute? Consider writing a guest post. 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 info@secularprolife.org.

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.

If you like our work, please consider donating: 


Paypal
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