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”

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.

When she got a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis, her doctor wouldn’t stop suggesting abortion.

The author and her family.


Kaylen
Before Kaylen, my husband Darrin and I were happy to be average—to not stick out in a good or bad way. Darrin worked as a mental health clinician in a prison; I had quit teaching after our second child and was running an in-home daycare. Our two sons were school age, our daughter was still home with me, and we had just started considering a fourth child when I took a positive pregnancy test.

I was 35 and had two prior miscarriages, so my doctor considered mine a higher risk pregnancy. During the first ultrasound my daughter was amazingly active and I thought “Whoa—something is different with this kiddo.” I loved the chances to see her on ultrasound and hear her heartbeat, and she grew and measured as expected. Everything was proceeding in the average way we were comfortable with.

Since I was now of “advanced maternal age,” in the second trimester the doctor recommended a triple screen blood test. I felt that any additional information was helpful, so I agreed. Not long after, I received an almost tearful phone call from a nurse who said “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but your blood test shows elevated risk. We’re sending you to a perinatologist for more information.” She apologized repeatedly and sounded so upset that I ended up reassuring her that it would be okay. Some quick internet searches told me that false positive results for the triple screen were relatively high. In fact I had two friends who had received positive results only for their babies to be born without issues. They reassured me that it would all be fine and suggested I just enjoy a 4D ultrasound.

I went into the office of the perinatologist (I will call him Dr. X) fully prepared to receive good news and leave with some great pictures. I enjoyed the 4D ultrasound—I got to relax in a darkened room and see my baby in more detail. The technician measured body parts while answering all my questions about what she was doing. When she finished, she went to get Dr. X. He entered the room, and I knew something was wrong as soon as he started with “Unfortunately…”

They found that she had some “soft markers” for Down syndrome, such as shortened long bones and fluid in a certain part of her brain. I still wasn’t clear on the odds; I thought she had perhaps a 1 in 300 chance of having Ds, but Dr. X said it was more like 1 in 4. That was when I knew our life would be different. She might not even survive to birth, and if she did, my husband and I would join the alien group of “parents of children with disabilities.” The doctor gave me a long list of negative health conditions involved with Down syndrome and emphasized that carrying a baby with Ds increased my risk of miscarriage. He emphasized it shouldn’t be hard for me to get immediately pregnant after an abortion if I wanted to “try again for a normal baby.”

I hate uncertainty, so I asked about getting an amnio to find out for sure. Dr. X said there were three reasons people had amnios: if they (1) were considering terminating (I shook my head and said “We’re not going to do that”), (2) would be too stressed out by the uncertainty (“Yup, that’s me”), or (3) would change medical and birth plans based on the information, for example switching hospitals or doctors (“Yup, me again.”). He discussed the risks, including the risk of miscarriage, but also said he had never had a patient miscarry because of an amnio, and he had done thousands of them. I said “Well, this is still my first.” Still he said he could do it during that same visit, so I began filling out the paperwork. He emphasized that if I did decide to terminate, we’d need to find out quickly because I was nearing the cutoff date. I told him flatly that there was no way we were going to kill our child. He performed the amnio and said they had to mail the sample to the lab and we should have the results in about a week.

I rushed from the building to my car and burst into sobs. I felt as if everything comfortable and sure in my life was gone. My joy in carrying my baby was now replaced with stress and worry. I was angry at myself for needing the reassurance of the amnio, but I also had the grieving thought “Well maybe if she does have Ds and I miscarry, that would be sad but okay,” followed by the question “What if she doesn’t have Ds and I cause her to miscarry because I wanted to know for sure?” I was sickened and ashamed that I would even think that way, as if somehow her life was worth more if she had the typical number of chromosomes and less if she had one extra.

Eventually I was able to stop crying long enough to call Darrin, but when he answered I couldn’t even speak. I burst into tears again. He said “Oh wow. It didn’t go well.” I gulped “I think she has it. I did the amnio.” He said “She? It’s a girl?” I only then realized the doctor had referred to our baby as “her” when we hadn’t yet known the gender. I had been too preoccupied with thoughts of how our life was going to change in so many unknown ways. I asked Darrin “What are we going to do?” and he calmly answered, “Well, we’re going to love our daughter.” And suddenly I didn’t feel so alone in our new reality.

I collected myself and drove to a friend’s house. I told her about the testing and the amnio and she said “I trust a mom’s intuition about these things. Do you think she has it?” I admitted that I thought so. Somehow, admitting it to someone other than my husband gave me peace. She hugged me. We moved on to conversation about childhood memories and had a wonderful visit. Being able to mix conversations about my disabled child with “every day” topics was just what I needed—it was the beginning of adjusting to my new normal.

Over the next few days, Darrin and I researched Down syndrome as we prepared for how our lives might change. We picked out her name and kept our new secret from the world. Two days after the amnio, Dr. X called with the results. He again began the conversation with “unfortunately,” but actually finding out for sure that our daughter had Down syndrome made me smile. Now we had information and could move forward. Dr. X reiterated that if we wanted to terminate, we had to get scheduled quickly. I told him to stop mentioning abortion because we weren’t going to kill our child, and he responded that he just wanted to make sure that we knew all of our options.

My next perinatologist appointment was for a fetal echocardiogram to see if our daughter was in the 50% of children with Ds who need heart surgery. I was excited again, though with more caution. The technician did her work, but this time when the perinatologist entered, it was a different man (I will call him Dr. Y). As soon as Dr. Y walked in he congratulated me on my daughter. His response was a beautiful reminder that I was carrying a little person and not just a list of medical problems. He said that he had a sister with Ds and that raising a child with Ds would be more similar than different from raising our other children. He made sure we had a good support system and plenty of resources, and he invited us to an upcoming Walk for Ds fundraiser.

Dr. Y showed me the same list of medical issues that Dr. X had emphasized, but this time Dr. Y also pointed out that people with Ds don’t end up with all of these issues; some have just a few and some have more. He suggested we try not to focus on the negatives, pointing out that even ‘typical’ children have medical issues and parents just deal with them as they come up. He said those challenges do not define the child, and each person with Ds is an individual with his or her own talents, skills, and interests. Dr. Y’s support and encouragement made all the difference. He made us feel as if we had been accepted into an elite group: the group of people who know and love someone with Down syndrome.

We told our immediate family of Kaylen’s diagnosis but waited a bit to make a public announcement. Some family members prayed that Kaylen would be healed of her bonus chromosome before she was born. I believe that they were trying to be supportive and helpful, and that there response came from lack of experience with Ds and a desire to spare us from extra challenges that her diagnosis would bring. We told them we were okay with her having Ds, and asked them to change their prayers.

The rest of the pregnancy involved some poignant and pointed moments mixed in with everyday life. An online friend who had recently had a daughter with Ds signed me up for a statewide Ds group that sent a large box of information, resources, and books. I dug through it feeling thankful for all the resources, and then happy cried when I found an adorable little pink dress at the bottom. It was nice to have others acknowledge the ‘sweet little baby girl’ part of the pregnancy. At one point I sat in the doctor’s waiting room while another pregnant mama loudly spoke on the phone, telling someone how hugely relieved she was to have “passed” the test and learned her baby didn’t have Down syndrome. From time to time people would ask if we were going to find out the gender or didn’t have a preference “as long as it’s healthy.” How do I answer when I know most people wouldn’t consider my baby “healthy”?

It took us some time to decide how to announce Kaylen’s diagnosis—we didn’t want it to be her defining characteristic but also didn’t want to suggest we were hiding or ashamed of it. We announced on social media that our daughter would be born with an extra chromosome. There were a few “I’m so sorry” comments but overall the support and congratulations were encouraging.

I found a lot of support. I learned of old friends who also had children with disabilities, and our pediatrician connected me with two local moms of children with Ds. We also joined statewide and national Ds groups to hear perspectives from people with experience. And through online parent support groups, I connected with new friends from around the world who were in the same situation I was. To my surprise, the majority of comments in these groups were celebrating successes and offering support and encouragement. Most of these moms considered themselves part of “the lucky few,” and the most frequent challenge seemed to be trying to get society to value people with differences, especially those with visible cognitive disabilities.

My pregnancy continued with increased monitoring. We switched to a hospital that had an OB/GYN who specialized in high-risk pregnancies and a NICU so we wouldn’t be separated if Kaylen needed extra help after she was born. The OB/GYN was scheduled for vacation on Kaylen’s due date, so we scheduled an induction the day before. The drive to the hospital felt like a sweet farewell to our life’s familiarity and a journey into the unknown, but it wasn’t so scary as long as we were together.

I had read that babies with Ds sometimes have trouble nursing, so I chose not to have an epidural which might make her more sleepy and less likely to latch. I was induced and Kaylen was born 3 hours later. While they were cleaning her up and giving her oxygen, the nurses sang her “Happy Birthday” and my heart nearly burst with joy.

The next few years were more ‘typical’ than we originally expected. There were more medical appointments that first year, but we took each one as they came and learned as we went. One difference between raising Kaylen versus our other children was how we celebrated more of the little things. Milestones and accomplishments were HUGE because of all the step-by-step work it took to reach them. We also felt more relaxed and free to not keep up with anyone else. Of course, there were and still are some twinges of grief when we see a gap between where her peers’ development and her own. We try to embrace the idea that “comparison is the thief of joy,” but there are still moments of grief over the loss of the way that we thought life would be and over moments when people see her only for her disability, instead of getting to know her as a unique person.

Lilly
Still, overall the gap between Dr. X’s grim outlook and our joyful experiences inspired us to support other people in our situation. We decided to get our foster care license specifically to accept children with Ds. We were told it was highly unlikely a child with Ds would come into our foster care region, so we also got a private adoption home study and we registered with NDSAN (National Down Syndrome Adoption Network). NDSAN counsels families who receive a prenatal Ds diagnosis; it also matches families who want to adopt a child with Ds to such children available for adoption. NDSAN’s goal is to ensure every child born with Down syndrome has the opportunity to grow up in a loving family. We waded through paperwork and training and then waited… and waited. After about a year we began considering looking for another way to help, but then the phone rang and NSDAN appeared on our caller ID.

I felt like I had stopped breathing. I answered, and the voice on the other end said, “It’s a girl!” We had been matched with a baby girl to be born the following month in a neighboring state. We waited in nervous anticipation until we got the call asking if we could pick up our daughter.

When Lilly was placed in my arms, I wasn’t prepared for my reaction. I felt the same amazing love for her that I felt at the birth of our biological children, but I simultaneously felt heartbreak and overwhelming loss for Lilly’s birth mom. She chose a family she felt could better navigate caring for a child with Down syndrome; the magnitude of her love for her child still brings me to tears. We have since learned that adoption is not simply placing a child with parents, but actually melding two families. We feel as though we also adopted Lilly’s first parents. They love her fiercely, and we keep connected through email and social media.

I wholeheartedly believe our family is better and stronger for having children with disabilities. Most days are just a beautiful normal, and I feel as if I’ve stepped out of the ‘rat race’ onto a more peaceful, leisurely path that is filled with all kinds of beauty. It’s as if I never realized I was colorblind until I put on glasses that showed me color. Also my priorities have changed. Conflict was always uncomfortable for me, but having children with disabilities has brought my ‘Mama Bear’ much closer to the surface; I’m now quite comfortable standing up and advocating for my children. Growing up, I had never been around many people with disabilities, so I didn’t know how to act or what to say, but I am learning.

Parenting Kaylen and Lilly has mostly been like raising our other children. Lilly loves books, playing outside, dancing and singing, and playing with friends. Kaylen is now fully included in her 3rd grade classroom. She thinks Lilly is annoying when she makes loud noises and likes it when her older siblings play games with her. There is a stereotype that people with Ds are happy all the time, but the reality is that they experience a full range of emotions, like all of us. Kaylen and Lilly do seem a bit more honest and without pretense.

Parenting our ‘typical’ children alongside Kaylen and Lilly has had good effects too. I believe they are more likely to include people of all kinds because of their siblings. In fact researchers Richard Urbano and Robert Hodapp found that parents of children with Ds are more likely to stay together and medical geneticist Dr. Brian Skotko found that siblings find rich value in having a family member with Ds and nearly 99% of people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives. All of this data beg the question: why does society (and the medical community) encourage abortion in cases like Kaylen’s and Lilly’s?

Follow-up questions:
What are your thoughts on prenatal testing for Down syndrome?
There’s no one right answer. For me, prenatal testing was a tool to help me prepare and reduce the stress of the unknown. For a good friend of mine, the test results weren’t going to change anything for her, so she declined and got her daughter’s diagnosis at birth. I’m glad to note that prenatal testing is improving. Right after Kaylen was born, researchers developed a less-invasive blood test with very high accuracy and no risk of miscarriage. I don’t think prenatal testing is inherently a problem; the issue is how society uses the test results and doesn’t protect and value life.

What would you say to a parent who just received a Down syndrome diagnosis?
When I got our diagnosis, I immediately felt unqualified and feared I would be a bad parent. That’s not an unusual response. Find support teams—both online and in-person, if possible—to ask questions, vent to, and celebrate with. Know you don’t have to be a super-advocate. Your life can just continue on in the regular, everyday way it does now. There are days when we don’t even think about Down syndrome. You’ll learn to parent as you go, just like parents do with any other child. 

What would you say to someone who would be inclined to abort in the event of a prenatal Ds diagnosis?
I would want to invite them over for coffee and to meet our girls. I would encourage them to first learn about Ds and make sure they don’t have an ill-fitting stereotype in mind (as most people do). And then if they still believe that they’re not ready to parent a child with Ds, I would steer them towards NDSAN and encourage them to find a family for their baby.

Additionally, medical professionals need updated information on Ds and training on how to provide a diagnosis. It would be great if the person giving the diagnosis also had some awareness of what life as a person with Ds is actually like. I believe if expectant moms were given updated, encouraging information instead of doom and gloom, it would make a huge difference.

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

“Bill Barr, do your job!” SPL joins rally outside DOJ to demand PP indictment

Watch the full live stream of the rally here.

Multiple pro-life organizations rallied outside the offices of the US Attorney General to demand indictment of Planned Parenthood (and its business partners) for fetal organ harvesting and organ trafficking after three years of an open investigation. Signs with messages such as “PP sells body parts” put succinctly their calls for indictment.

Terrisa (right) preparing to kick off the DOJ protest.
Photo courtesy of Pro-Life San Francisco.

Our own Terrisa Bukovinac began the proceedings by calling on AG Barr to indict PP now that even more evidence of PP’s long term practice emerged from the Daleiden trials. Bukovinac noted her FOIA requests to the UCSF for records on fetal harvesting have been significantly delayed: “I shouldn’t have to sue for what the DOJ already has.” She believes actual DOJ prosecution would challenge and inhibit the crime of fetal organ harvesting and trafficking. 
Pro-life protesters with a sign quoting parts of the agreements to sell fetal organs.
Photo courtesy of Rehumanize International.
Jamie Jeffries of Abortion on Trial spoke on just how common the practice of fetal organ harvesting is, and the perverse incentives it produces on medical providers to encourage abortions. These same providers rarely ask for maternal consent to harvest organs. Jeffries introduced Nicole Atkins, who was injured by an abortion which was altered — without her consent — so that the abortionist could extract her baby’s brain; Atkins spoke on the need to inform women on the “mental, emotional, and physical toll” of abortion, including death, as her sister, Keisha Atkins, died from an abortion. A lack of law enforcement on this practice has real victims.

Photo courtesy of Rehumanize International.

Rehumanize International likewise called on Barr to begin prosecutions “now,” given the quantity of evidence produced by the graphic conversations recorded by the Center for Medical Progress and by the subsequent trial of the undercover reporter. (Watch Aimee Murphy’s full speech here.) Other speakers pointed out that after two Congressional investigations and FBI inquiries, the foundation for the DOJ to act is well established. One characterized the “harvesting of human organs from victims of violence” as “disgusting.”

Several speakers, including Mayra Rodriguez (former Employee of the Year of PP of AZ) cataloged serious legal infractions from PP: helping minors avoid parental reporting laws; failing to investigate human trafficking; committing Medicaid fraud; falsifying medical records to hide medical malpractice; having unsanitary practices; and harvesting and trafficking in fetal organs. Herb Geraghty of Rehumanize International and The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians noted his shock that Planned Parenthood still receives taxpayer funding at all (watch his statement here). Planned Parenthood as a whole has a widespread culture of corruption.

Bill Barr can and must prosecute Planned Parenthood for its crimes. There is more than enough evidence for an indictment. Democrats for Life argued that Trump’s election was in large part a pro-life mandate, and many chanted “Bill Barr, do your job!”

The attorney general is the top cop. “When someone traffics in baby parts, we expect the cops.”
Photo courtesy of Rehumanize International.

Poll: Pro-choicers support a lot more abortion restrictions than you’d expect.

When polls regarding abortion ask Americans about Roe v. Wade, most people say they want the Supreme Court decision upheld. But when the same polls ask people when they think abortion should be legal, most believe there should be more restrictions than Roe v. Wade actually allows. I’ve summarized these contradictory results before. Today I was reading a 2019 NPR/PBS Marist poll which captured the same phenomenon.

The poll asked: In 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court established the constitutional right for women to legally obtain an abortion. Over time, other laws have expanded or restricted this ruling. Do you think the U.S. Supreme Court today should decide to:

  • Overturn Roe v. Wade
  • Keep Roe v. Wade but add more restrictions
  • Keep Roe v. Wade but reduce some of the restrictions
  • Expand Roe v. Wade establishing the right to abortion under any circumstance
  • Keep Roe v. Wade the way it is
  • Unsure
The poll found that 39% of respondents thought Roe v. Wade should either be overturned or have more restrictions compared to 51% who thought Roe v. Wade should either be kept as is or strengthened. Broken down by self-identified pro-life vs pro-choice labels, the results looked like this:
(Click to enlarge)
So
  • As you’d expect, pro-life people were more likely to say Roe v. Wade should be overturned or further restricted and pro-choice people were more likely to say the opposite.
  • Even so, 18% of self-described pro-lifers said Roe v. Wade should be kept as is or strengthened, and 21% of pro-choicers thought it should be further restricted or overturned.
The poll described Roe v. Wade as establishing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, but it did not explain the specifics. Roe v. Wadealong with Doe v. Bolton, made it difficult if not impossible to constitutionally limit abortion in the first two trimesters. (Planned Parenthood v. Casey moved the standard from trimesters to fetal viability, but the situation is largely the same: restrictions in the first or second trimester are difficult to pass or uphold.)

I don’t think most people are aware of that level of detail, which may explain why some of the same people who say they support Roe v. Wade also think abortion shouldn’t be allowed in some of the circumstances Roe v. Wade specifically mandates.
The same poll asked: Which one of the following statements comes closest to your opinion on abortion?
  1. Abortion should be available to a woman any time she wants one during her entire pregnancy.
  2. Abortion should be allowed only during the first six months of pregnancy.
  3. Abortion should be allowed only during the first three months of pregnancy.
  4. Abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.
  5. Abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the woman.
  6. Abortion should never be permitted under any circumstance.
47% of respondents chose options 4-6, i.e. abortion should be permitted only in the “hard cases,” or not at all. Only 29% thought abortion should be allowed after the first three months of pregnancy. 
Based on my experiences with pro-life and pro-choice activists, I would expect pro-lifers to mostly say abortion should be allowed only in the hard cases, or never at all, and I’d expect pro-choicers to mostly say abortion should be allowed in at least the first 6 months of pregnancy. Here are the actual responses:
Compared to my expectations, 12% of pro-lifers answered differently (9% said abortion should be allowed in the first three months, 3% said it should be allowed even later). And a whopping 54% of pro-choicers answered differently: 33% said abortion should be allowed only in the first three months, and 21% said it should be allowed only for the hard cases. In other words, over half of self-identified pro-choice people believe abortion should be restricted in ways Roe v. Wade absolutely does not allow
I also wonder how many of them realize that the hard cases account for less (probably much less) than 5% of abortions performed in the U.S. If the data above are accurate, about 1 out of 5 pro-choicers think over 95% of abortions (those performed on healthy fetuses carried by healthy women in pregnancies resulting from consensual sex) shouldn’t be allowed.
Also worth noting: contrary to the “old white men” trope, white people tended to be more pro-choice (more likely to support abortion in more circumstances) than everyone else:
A 45% plurality of people under age 45, and 45% of women, say abortion should be limited to the hard cases. Only 32% of people under age 45 and 27% of women believe abortion should be allowed after the first three months of pregnancy.
One more interesting tidbit: a full 68% of pro-choicers said they would support a measure requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges. You’d think such a law would be easy common ground, middle-of-the-road type stuff, but June Medical Services v. Russo suggests otherwise.
Meanwhile, the poll also asked people to explain when they believe life begins. Specifically: do you believe human life begins…
  • at conception
  • within the first eight weeks of pregnancy
  • within the first three months of pregnancy
  • between three and six months
  • when a fetus is viable and can live outside the womb
  • at birth
  • unsure
A plurality (38%) said life begins at conception; 16% said life begins at birth. Broken down by pro-life and pro-choice labels:
Pro-lifers are relatively monolithic on this (72% said life begins at conception), whereas pro-choice people are much more evenly divided (and twice as likely to say they’re unsure). No doubt some of these answers reflect the respondents’ philosophical views about when a human becomes a person, as opposed to their understanding of biology (e.g. when an organism is a living member of the species homo sapiens). Still, I continue to suspect that a significant proportion of pro-choice people aren’t just conflating philosophy with biology but are actually misunderstanding biology itself. Indeed, a survey of pro-choice people found that if it were common knowledge that a fetus is a biological human, 90% believed abortion rates would decrease and 83% believed support for legal abortion would decrease.
This NPR/PBS poll was filled with information suggesting that the legal status quo for abortion in the U.S. is actually pretty dramatically at odds with what most Americans think makes sense. So how did NPR cover the poll?
Mmmk.

Poll: Pro-choicers support a lot more abortion restrictions than you’d expect.

When polls regarding abortion ask Americans about Roe v. Wade, most people say they want the Supreme Court decision upheld. But when the same polls ask people when they think abortion should be legal, most believe there should be more restrictions than Roe v. Wade actually allows. I’ve summarized these contradictory results before. Today I was reading a 2019 NPR/PBS Marist poll which captured the same phenomenon.

The poll asked: In 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court established the constitutional right for women to legally obtain an abortion. Over time, other laws have expanded or restricted this ruling. Do you think the U.S. Supreme Court today should decide to:

  • Overturn Roe v. Wade
  • Keep Roe v. Wade but add more restrictions
  • Keep Roe v. Wade but reduce some of the restrictions
  • Expand Roe v. Wade establishing the right to abortion under any circumstance
  • Keep Roe v. Wade the way it is
  • Unsure
The poll found that 39% of respondents thought Roe v. Wade should either be overturned or have more restrictions compared to 51% who thought Roe v. Wade should either be kept as is or strengthened. Broken down by self-identified pro-life vs pro-choice labels, the results looked like this:
(Click to enlarge)
So
  • As you’d expect, pro-life people were more likely to say Roe v. Wade should be overturned or further restricted and pro-choice people were more likely to say the opposite.
  • Even so, 18% of self-described pro-lifers said Roe v. Wade should be kept as is or strengthened, and 21% of pro-choicers thought it should be further restricted or overturned.
The poll described Roe v. Wade as establishing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, but it did not explain the specifics. Roe v. Wadealong with Doe v. Bolton, made it difficult if not impossible to constitutionally limit abortion in the first two trimesters. (Planned Parenthood v. Casey moved the standard from trimesters to fetal viability, but the situation is largely the same: restrictions in the first or second trimester are difficult to pass or uphold.)

I don’t think most people are aware of that level of detail, which may explain why some of the same people who say they support Roe v. Wade also think abortion shouldn’t be allowed in some of the circumstances Roe v. Wade specifically mandates.
The same poll asked: Which one of the following statements comes closest to your opinion on abortion?
  1. Abortion should be available to a woman any time she wants one during her entire pregnancy.
  2. Abortion should be allowed only during the first six months of pregnancy.
  3. Abortion should be allowed only during the first three months of pregnancy.
  4. Abortion should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.
  5. Abortion should be allowed only to save the life of the woman.
  6. Abortion should never be permitted under any circumstance.
47% of respondents chose options 4-6, i.e. abortion should be permitted only in the “hard cases,” or not at all. Only 29% thought abortion should be allowed after the first three months of pregnancy. 
Based on my experiences with pro-life and pro-choice activists, I would expect pro-lifers to mostly say abortion should be allowed only in the hard cases, or never at all, and I’d expect pro-choicers to mostly say abortion should be allowed in at least the first 6 months of pregnancy. Here are the actual responses:
Compared to my expectations, 12% of pro-lifers answered differently (9% said abortion should be allowed in the first three months, 3% said it should be allowed even later). And a whopping 54% of pro-choicers answered differently: 33% said abortion should be allowed only in the first three months, and 21% said it should be allowed only for the hard cases. In other words, over half of self-identified pro-choice people believe abortion should be restricted in ways Roe v. Wade absolutely does not allow
I also wonder how many of them realize that the hard cases account for less (probably much less) than 5% of abortions performed in the U.S. If the data above are accurate, about 1 out of 5 pro-choicers think over 95% of abortions (those performed on healthy fetuses carried by healthy women in pregnancies resulting from consensual sex) shouldn’t be allowed.
Also worth noting: contrary to the “old white men” trope, white people tended to be more pro-choice (more likely to support abortion in more circumstances) than everyone else:
A 45% plurality of people under age 45, and 45% of women, say abortion should be limited to the hard cases. Only 32% of people under age 45 and 27% of women believe abortion should be allowed after the first three months of pregnancy.
One more interesting tidbit: a full 68% of pro-choicers said they would support a measure requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges. You’d think such a law would be easy common ground, middle-of-the-road type stuff, but June Medical Services v. Russo suggests otherwise.
Meanwhile, the poll also asked people to explain when they believe life begins. Specifically: do you believe human life begins…
  • at conception
  • within the first eight weeks of pregnancy
  • within the first three months of pregnancy
  • between three and six months
  • when a fetus is viable and can live outside the womb
  • at birth
  • unsure
A plurality (38%) said life begins at conception; 16% said life begins at birth. Broken down by pro-life and pro-choice labels:
Pro-lifers are relatively monolithic on this (72% said life begins at conception), whereas pro-choice people are much more evenly divided (and twice as likely to say they’re unsure). No doubt some of these answers reflect the respondents’ philosophical views about when a human becomes a person, as opposed to their understanding of biology (e.g. when an organism is a living member of the species homo sapiens). Still, I continue to suspect that a significant proportion of pro-choice people aren’t just conflating philosophy with biology but are actually misunderstanding biology itself. Indeed, a survey of pro-choice people found that if it were common knowledge that a fetus is a biological human, 90% believed abortion rates would decrease and 83% believed support for legal abortion would decrease.
This NPR/PBS poll was filled with information suggesting that the legal status quo for abortion in the U.S. is actually pretty dramatically at odds with what most Americans think makes sense. So how did NPR cover the poll?
Mmmk.

Cultivating a life-affirming culture in Australia

[Today’s post is by pro-life Australians Matthew Reid and Therese Hungerford-Morgan. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Australian abortion laws have become significantly less restrictive in the last decade. Abortion up to birth has been decriminalized across the country. Specifically, abortion is available on request up to a gestation limit, typically 20-24 weeks depending on the state/territory (one territory, the Australian Capital Territory, has no legal limit). After the gestation limit, abortion is permitted up to birth with the approval of medical practitioner(s). Medical practitioners are legally required to consider the current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances of the mother [1][2]. The broad scope and vague wording of these circumstances leaves medical practitioners with the power to authorize abortions based on subjective value judgments without risk of criminal prosecution for wrongful killing. In the absence of a rigorous, fact-based legal code of ethics, the decision to abort can be influenced by uninformed philosophical, religious, and ideological beliefs that devalue human life and allow for the killing of innocent human beings.

It is difficult to know precisely how many late-term abortions occur, however in the state of Victoria, where historical data is available, official estimates indicate that each year approximately 300 to 350 abortions occur after 20 weeks [3][4]. A simple projection based on population size indicates there may be in excess of 1000 post-20 week abortions each year in Australia.

The liberalization of Australian abortion laws is a reflection of dominant cultural attitudes favoring abortion. Most Australians support elective abortion. While the majority of Australians who identify as religious also support elective abortion [5][6], the vast majority of active pro-lifers are religious, typically Roman Catholic or evangelical. Secular pro-lifers lack a visible presence in Australia, and political parties with strong secular identities are staunchly pro-choice. The pro-life position is often erroneously interpreted as merely religious dogma, a matter of private belief, and generally given little consideration in the public sphere. To overcome this stereotype, and save lives, it’s important that we promote an intellectually robust, ethical, and compassionate alternative to killing babies. We must cultivate a life-affirming culture that values the well-being of all humans and protects innocent human life. We must challenge and debunk the widespread belief that babies in the womb are not valuable human beings. We must seek to dramatically expand the pro-life community to encompass the entire political and religious/secular spectrum. And we must support women experiencing crisis pregnancies by providing real alternatives to abortion.

Late last year our team began a grassroots initiative that aims to challenge Australia’s cultural acceptance of abortion-on-demand. The initiative is called 365Life, and involves the distribution of packs of information cards to hundreds of pro-life volunteers, who in turn distribute cards within their community where the message can help people. The idea is that each volunteer passes on one card a day, 365 days a year. The cards feature visually appealing, clear, positive messages intended to spark interest and compassion as opposed to hurt, anger and violence. One card shows a newborn baby with the caption “Me”, while the reverse side shows an ultrasound of a baby with the caption “Still me”. Another card quotes Dr Seuss, “A person’s a person no matter how small”, with baby footprints at 12 weeks on the reverse side. The cards direct people to our site (https://www.voice4life.com.au) with helpful links to local community crisis pregnancy centers that support women and their families. It’s early days and we are actively experimenting with different card designs to find what works best.

As we promote a cultural shift of ideas, we hope to change demographics, expanding the numbers of those who support life. Our hope is that discomfort with liberal abortion laws and practices will eventually lead to more conversations about life, more families teaching children to protect life, more churches and community groups engaged in supporting life, and eventually more pressure on politicians to legislate to protect of life.

References:
  1. Ismay, L. (2019). Issues Backgrounder Number 3: Abortion law and the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019. [online] NSW Parliamentary Research Service. Available at: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/researchpapers/Documents/Abortion%20law%20and%20the%20Reproductive%20Health%20Care%20Reform%20Bill%202019.pdf [Accessed 23 May 2020].
  2. Summary of Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 (2019) [online] NSW Health, Available at : https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/women/pregnancyoptions/Pages/aborton-bill-summary.aspx [Accessed 28 May 2020].
  3. Paxman, A. (2017). Later-term abortions: Stigma versus reality. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/laterterm-abortions-stigma-versus-reality-20170720-gxf4ym.html [Accessed 23 May 2020].
  4. This is what happened to abortion statistics after it was decriminalised in Victoria. (2019) [online] ABC News. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-04/fact-check-nsw-abortion-law-victoria/11474570 [Accessed 23 May 2020].
  5. Law of Abortion: final report. (2008) | Section 4: Surveys of Attitudes [online] Victorian Law Reform Commission. Available at: https://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au/content/4-surveys-attitudes [Accessed 23 May 2020].
  6. Gibson, Rachel; Wilson, Shaun; Denemark, David; Meagher, Gabrielle; Western, Mark, (2017). Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, 2003, doi:10.4225/87/8VUHRY, ADA Dataverse, V1. Available at: https://dataverse.ada.edu.au/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.4225/87/8VUHRY [Accessed 23 May 2020]

Cultivating a life-affirming culture in Australia

[Today’s post is by pro-life Australians Matthew Reid and Therese Hungerford-Morgan. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Australian abortion laws have become significantly less restrictive in the last decade. Abortion up to birth has been decriminalized across the country. Specifically, abortion is available on request up to a gestation limit, typically 20-24 weeks depending on the state/territory (one territory, the Australian Capital Territory, has no legal limit). After the gestation limit, abortion is permitted up to birth with the approval of medical practitioner(s). Medical practitioners are legally required to consider the current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances of the mother [1][2]. The broad scope and vague wording of these circumstances leaves medical practitioners with the power to authorize abortions based on subjective value judgments without risk of criminal prosecution for wrongful killing. In the absence of a rigorous, fact-based legal code of ethics, the decision to abort can be influenced by uninformed philosophical, religious, and ideological beliefs that devalue human life and allow for the killing of innocent human beings.

It is difficult to know precisely how many late-term abortions occur, however in the state of Victoria, where historical data is available, official estimates indicate that each year approximately 300 to 350 abortions occur after 20 weeks [3][4]. A simple projection based on population size indicates there may be in excess of 1000 post-20 week abortions each year in Australia.

The liberalization of Australian abortion laws is a reflection of dominant cultural attitudes favoring abortion. Most Australians support elective abortion. While the majority of Australians who identify as religious also support elective abortion [5][6], the vast majority of active pro-lifers are religious, typically Roman Catholic or evangelical. Secular pro-lifers lack a visible presence in Australia, and political parties with strong secular identities are staunchly pro-choice. The pro-life position is often erroneously interpreted as merely religious dogma, a matter of private belief, and generally given little consideration in the public sphere. To overcome this stereotype, and save lives, it’s important that we promote an intellectually robust, ethical, and compassionate alternative to killing babies. We must cultivate a life-affirming culture that values the well-being of all humans and protects innocent human life. We must challenge and debunk the widespread belief that babies in the womb are not valuable human beings. We must seek to dramatically expand the pro-life community to encompass the entire political and religious/secular spectrum. And we must support women experiencing crisis pregnancies by providing real alternatives to abortion.

Late last year our team began a grassroots initiative that aims to challenge Australia’s cultural acceptance of abortion-on-demand. The initiative is called 365Life, and involves the distribution of packs of information cards to hundreds of pro-life volunteers, who in turn distribute cards within their community where the message can help people. The idea is that each volunteer passes on one card a day, 365 days a year. The cards feature visually appealing, clear, positive messages intended to spark interest and compassion as opposed to hurt, anger and violence. One card shows a newborn baby with the caption “Me”, while the reverse side shows an ultrasound of a baby with the caption “Still me”. Another card quotes Dr Seuss, “A person’s a person no matter how small”, with baby footprints at 12 weeks on the reverse side. The cards direct people to our site (https://www.voice4life.com.au) with helpful links to local community crisis pregnancy centers that support women and their families. It’s early days and we are actively experimenting with different card designs to find what works best.

As we promote a cultural shift of ideas, we hope to change demographics, expanding the numbers of those who support life. Our hope is that discomfort with liberal abortion laws and practices will eventually lead to more conversations about life, more families teaching children to protect life, more churches and community groups engaged in supporting life, and eventually more pressure on politicians to legislate to protect of life.

References:
  1. Ismay, L. (2019). Issues Backgrounder Number 3: Abortion law and the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019. [online] NSW Parliamentary Research Service. Available at: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/researchpapers/Documents/Abortion%20law%20and%20the%20Reproductive%20Health%20Care%20Reform%20Bill%202019.pdf [Accessed 23 May 2020].
  2. Summary of Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 (2019) [online] NSW Health, Available at : https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/women/pregnancyoptions/Pages/aborton-bill-summary.aspx [Accessed 28 May 2020].
  3. Paxman, A. (2017). Later-term abortions: Stigma versus reality. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/laterterm-abortions-stigma-versus-reality-20170720-gxf4ym.html [Accessed 23 May 2020].
  4. This is what happened to abortion statistics after it was decriminalised in Victoria. (2019) [online] ABC News. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-04/fact-check-nsw-abortion-law-victoria/11474570 [Accessed 23 May 2020].
  5. Law of Abortion: final report. (2008) | Section 4: Surveys of Attitudes [online] Victorian Law Reform Commission. Available at: https://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au/content/4-surveys-attitudes [Accessed 23 May 2020].
  6. Gibson, Rachel; Wilson, Shaun; Denemark, David; Meagher, Gabrielle; Western, Mark, (2017). Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, 2003, doi:10.4225/87/8VUHRY, ADA Dataverse, V1. Available at: https://dataverse.ada.edu.au/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.4225/87/8VUHRY [Accessed 23 May 2020]

“Don’t define me by my disease.” On abortion and ableism.

[Today’s guest post is by Deb Jones. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Deb and Shooter

One of the main staples of the argument that abortion needs to stay legal is for those with disabilities, those diagnosed with diseases, syndromes and things of that nature. Why? Because those people suffer and we want to eliminate the suffering. Let me explain why that argument is offensive, bigoted, ableist, disgusting, and just plain incorrect.

I live with Behcet’s disease, a rare autoimmune disease where I’m in constant pain (the pain began 12 years ago when I was 15, the diagnosis for the pain wasn’t solidified until I was around 23). Medication and exercising through walks usually help me keep the pain at a manageable level. There are some days, however, where wearing even the loosest, softest, gentlest clothing is excruciating (some days, I can’t even be touched or touch myself) because my nerves are so sensitive and no amount of medicine can even take the edge off.


When people suggest a person with a disability is better off dead (having been aborted), it is a slap in the face because they’re telling me I would be better off not existing. Yes, life is hard. Yes there are some days I feel so low I don’t know what to do or how to feel or how to cope. There are some times where I have to take it one day, one minute, one second, one breath, one heartbeat at a time….but that’s part of the human experience. 
If I didn’t have the low parts of life, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the high parts. If anything, my disease has helped me more than hindered me. I’m more compassionate and empathetic than I was before the pain started. Yes, it’s made my life more difficult but it’s also been the epitome of creating beauty out of tragedy and brokenness. I am like a glowstick: once dull and grey at the beginning or my life, then broken (with my disease) to become vibrant and beautiful.

Don’t define me by my disease. I am more than my disease. And my disease has made me more.

My disease does not define me or decide my worth.
Read more:

The people whose lives you suggest aren’t worth living? They can hear you. Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, May 24, 2019

Lucky to Be Alive: Zika Coverage, Ableism, and the Terror of Disabled Bodies, Huffington Post, February 5, 2016
How the Pro-Choice Movement Excludes People With Disabilities, Rewire News, October 17, 2014
“Didn’t you get tested?” Salon, April 28, 2013

“Don’t define me by my disease.” On abortion and ableism.

[Today’s guest post is by Deb Jones. If you would like to contribute a guest post, email your submission to info@secularprolife.org for consideration.]

Deb and Shooter

One of the main staples of the argument that abortion needs to stay legal is for those with disabilities, those diagnosed with diseases, syndromes and things of that nature. Why? Because those people suffer and we want to eliminate the suffering. Let me explain why that argument is offensive, bigoted, ableist, disgusting, and just plain incorrect.

I live with Behcet’s disease, a rare autoimmune disease where I’m in constant pain (the pain began 12 years ago when I was 15, the diagnosis for the pain wasn’t solidified until I was around 23). Medication and exercising through walks usually help me keep the pain at a manageable level. There are some days, however, where wearing even the loosest, softest, gentlest clothing is excruciating (some days, I can’t even be touched or touch myself) because my nerves are so sensitive and no amount of medicine can even take the edge off.


When people suggest a person with a disability is better off dead (having been aborted), it is a slap in the face because they’re telling me I would be better off not existing. Yes, life is hard. Yes there are some days I feel so low I don’t know what to do or how to feel or how to cope. There are some times where I have to take it one day, one minute, one second, one breath, one heartbeat at a time….but that’s part of the human experience. 
If I didn’t have the low parts of life, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the high parts. If anything, my disease has helped me more than hindered me. I’m more compassionate and empathetic than I was before the pain started. Yes, it’s made my life more difficult but it’s also been the epitome of creating beauty out of tragedy and brokenness. I am like a glowstick: once dull and grey at the beginning or my life, then broken (with my disease) to become vibrant and beautiful.

Don’t define me by my disease. I am more than my disease. And my disease has made me more.

My disease does not define me or decide my worth.
Read more:

The people whose lives you suggest aren’t worth living? They can hear you. Secular Pro-Life Perspectives, May 24, 2019

Lucky to Be Alive: Zika Coverage, Ableism, and the Terror of Disabled Bodies, Huffington Post, February 5, 2016
How the Pro-Choice Movement Excludes People With Disabilities, Rewire News, October 17, 2014
“Didn’t you get tested?” Salon, April 28, 2013