Kavanaugh’s Opinion in Doe v. District of Columbia is not pro-abortion

In recent weeks, there have been a few articles in left-leaning media outlets concerning Judge Kavanaugh’s opinion in the case of Doe v. District of Columbia, with some suggesting that the opinion allows coerced abortions on people with disabilities. And to be abundantly clear, support for coerced abortions on people with disabilities would be an immediate deal-breaker for pro-life advocacy groups—which is why I was immediately suspicious of the claim. Doe is a 2007 case. How on earth could the Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation, White House bureaucrats, and all of the the dozens of pro-life organizations with an interest in the next Supreme Court nominee all fail to catch an 11-year-old coerced abortion decision while vetting Kavanaugh?

Last week National Review published a rebuttal which called the Doe controversy a “vicious distortion” of Kavanaugh’s record and helpfully included a link to his opinion. I happen to be a lawyer, so I decided to analyze the Doe opinion myself. With the Kavanaugh hearings beginning today, now is as good a time as any to sort this out.

I won’t keep you in suspense. The Doe case has nothing to do with abortion and the criticism is baseless.

The central issue in Doe was the District of Columbia Department of Disability Services’ procedures to authorize surgeries for a small subset of people whose intellectual disabilities prevent them from making medical decisions. Specifically, the case concerned D.C. residents for whom all of the following are true:

  1. The person lacks capacity, meaning that he or she “lacks sufficient mental capacity to appreciate the nature and
    implications of a health-care decision, make a choice regarding the
    alternatives presented or communicate that choice in an unambiguous
    manner.” The capacity determination must be made by two physicians, at least one of them being a psychiatrist. Not all intellectually disabled people lack capacity under this test.
  2. The person has always lacked capacity, and therefore the District can’t rely on any previously expressed wishes concerning medical treatment.
  3. The person does not have a proxy to make medical decisions for him or her. As stated in the opinion (citations omitted): “D.C. law creates a hierarchy of individuals authorized to make
    healthcare decisions for persons who have been certified … as lacking mental capacity. That list includes, in order of priority: a court-appointed guardian
    or conservator; a spouse or domestic partner; an adult child; a
    parent; an adult sibling; a religious superior, if applicable; a
    close friend; or the nearest living relative. The [Department of Disability Services] Administrator makes healthcare decisions for an incapacitated
    patient only if none of the above individuals is available and willing
    to do so.”
  4. And, last but certainly not least, the potential surgery in question is not an abortion. Again, as stated in the opinion: “The D.C. Code also explicitly provides that abortions, sterilizations,
    and psycho-surgeries may not be authorized, at least absent a court
    order.”

To recap: when a person has a lifelong intellectual disability that has always prevented him or her from appreciating the nature and implications of a healthcare decision, and that person sadly has no guardian, spouse, child, parent, sibling, clergy member, close friend, or living relative to serve as a healthcare decision-maker, and that person has a medical issue that may call for a surgical intervention—other than abortion, sterilization, or psycho-surgery—the Department of Disability Services has to have protocols in place to address all competing considerations and try to reach an outcome that will further the person’s health.

The plaintiffs alleged that those protocols were inadequate and failed to give enough weight to the person’s wishes. The District of Columbia countered that the person’s wishes were impossible to ascertain, and in any event, the protocol did include “efforts to discuss the surgery with the patient at the level of patient comprehension.”

Judge Kavanaugh ruled that the District of Columbia’s protocols were legally sound. If you read the opinion, maybe you’ll agree, and maybe you won’t. It’s a fairly debatable issue. What’s not fair is ignoring the explicit exclusion of abortion in order to paint Kavanaugh as some eugenicist monster.

If pro-choice groups want to find an actual villain, they might look in the mirror: Roe v. Wade itself cites the notorious forced sterilization case of Buck v. Bell with approval.

Kavanaugh’s Opinion in Doe v. District of Columbia is not pro-abortion

In recent weeks, there have been a few articles in left-leaning media outlets concerning Judge Kavanaugh’s opinion in the case of Doe v. District of Columbia, with some suggesting that the opinion allows coerced abortions on people with disabilities. And to be abundantly clear, support for coerced abortions on people with disabilities would be an immediate deal-breaker for pro-life advocacy groups—which is why I was immediately suspicious of the claim. Doe is a 2007 case. How on earth could the Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation, White House bureaucrats, and all of the the dozens of pro-life organizations with an interest in the next Supreme Court nominee all fail to catch an 11-year-old coerced abortion decision while vetting Kavanaugh?

Last week National Review published a rebuttal which called the Doe controversy a “vicious distortion” of Kavanaugh’s record and helpfully included a link to his opinion. I happen to be a lawyer, so I decided to analyze the Doe opinion myself. With the Kavanaugh hearings beginning today, now is as good a time as any to sort this out.

I won’t keep you in suspense. The Doe case has nothing to do with abortion and the criticism is baseless.

The central issue in Doe was the District of Columbia Department of Disability Services’ procedures to authorize surgeries for a small subset of people whose intellectual disabilities prevent them from making medical decisions. Specifically, the case concerned D.C. residents for whom all of the following are true:

  1. The person lacks capacity, meaning that he or she “lacks sufficient mental capacity to appreciate the nature and
    implications of a health-care decision, make a choice regarding the
    alternatives presented or communicate that choice in an unambiguous
    manner.” The capacity determination must be made by two physicians, at least one of them being a psychiatrist. Not all intellectually disabled people lack capacity under this test.
  2. The person has always lacked capacity, and therefore the District can’t rely on any previously expressed wishes concerning medical treatment.
  3. The person does not have a proxy to make medical decisions for him or her. As stated in the opinion (citations omitted): “D.C. law creates a hierarchy of individuals authorized to make
    healthcare decisions for persons who have been certified … as lacking mental capacity. That list includes, in order of priority: a court-appointed guardian
    or conservator; a spouse or domestic partner; an adult child; a
    parent; an adult sibling; a religious superior, if applicable; a
    close friend; or the nearest living relative. The [Department of Disability Services] Administrator makes healthcare decisions for an incapacitated
    patient only if none of the above individuals is available and willing
    to do so.”
  4. And, last but certainly not least, the potential surgery in question is not an abortion. Again, as stated in the opinion: “The D.C. Code also explicitly provides that abortions, sterilizations,
    and psycho-surgeries may not be authorized, at least absent a court
    order.”

To recap: when a person has a lifelong intellectual disability that has always prevented him or her from appreciating the nature and implications of a healthcare decision, and that person sadly has no guardian, spouse, child, parent, sibling, clergy member, close friend, or living relative to serve as a healthcare decision-maker, and that person has a medical issue that may call for a surgical intervention—other than abortion, sterilization, or psycho-surgery—the Department of Disability Services has to have protocols in place to address all competing considerations and try to reach an outcome that will further the person’s health.

The plaintiffs alleged that those protocols were inadequate and failed to give enough weight to the person’s wishes. The District of Columbia countered that the person’s wishes were impossible to ascertain, and in any event, the protocol did include “efforts to discuss the surgery with the patient at the level of patient comprehension.”

Judge Kavanaugh ruled that the District of Columbia’s protocols were legally sound. If you read the opinion, maybe you’ll agree, and maybe you won’t. It’s a fairly debatable issue. What’s not fair is ignoring the explicit exclusion of abortion in order to paint Kavanaugh as some eugenicist monster.

If pro-choice groups want to find an actual villain, they might look in the mirror: Roe v. Wade itself cites the notorious forced sterilization case of Buck v. Bell with approval.

Former Planned Parenthood workers say Planned Parenthood covered up statutory rape

The pro-life group Live Action has released a series of videos documenting cases where Planned Parenthood failed to report statutory rape and sent underage girls home with their abusers.

In every state, a young teen who has sex with an adult is considered a victim of statutory rape and sexual exploitation. Some of these are cases of incest, where a girl is coerced into sex with a father, step-father, or other family member. In these cases, the girl is caught in an abusive situation. When young girls “date” and have sex with adult men in their late twenties and thirties, they are being taken advantage of by adults who manipulate and intimidate them. These relationships are based on exploitation.

Former Planned Parenthood workers have admitted that they sent underage girls back to their abusers without reporting the abuse. In a video released by Live Action, workers talk about their experiences.


Former sex educator Monica Cline was asked to train Planned Parenthood workers about reporting cases of statutory rape. She describes what happened when she told a group of workers about mandatory reporting:

I was teaching on human trafficking and statutory rape and was telling Planned Parenthood staff of Corpus Christi and the Gulf Coast basically, you’ve got to report when you see a girl coming in with an older man who that you can tell is not her father. You know something’s wrong, you’ve got to report that, it’s considered human trafficking. It is also considered statutory rape; you’ve got to report this. And they started laughing. And I said, “I don’t think there was anything I said that was funny. What’s going on here?” And the response was, “Honey, if she’s not having sex with this man this week she’ll have another one next week.” … One of the things that they even mentioned was, they adopted George Bush’s don’t ask, don’t tell in the military for homosexuality, so they said well if it’s good enough for Bush, it’s good enough for us. If we don’t ask how old her partner is, we don’t have to tell.

Cline was so troubled by the workers’ attitudes that she spoke to her superior about it. Her superior told her that her job was to give the information, not to worry about whether the abortion workers followed it. She was advised not to push the issue.

Former Planned Parenthood manager Sue Thayer was also interviewed by Lila Rose in the video. Thayer says:

We were all required to be mandatory reporters, but if we saw a case… questionable abuse, or even for sure — I mean, this kid is being abused – um, we really were discouraged from calling it in, just because, uh, they didn’t want to have the trouble, the angry parent, the angry boyfriend, whatever it was. So, more than once I was told, “No, that is not reportable – you don’t need to call it in.”

Lila Rose then asked Thayer if Planned Parenthood changed its policy on reporting statutory rape after Live Action’s investigation in 2008. In that investigation, Lila Rose went to Planned Parenthood facilities claiming to be the victim of statutory rape. She recorded Planned Parenthood workers advising her to lie about her age so that the abuse would not have to be reported.

Rose wanted to know whether Planned Parenthood changed their policies after this happened. Thayer told her that soon after the undercover videos came out, Planned Parenthood put Lila Rose’s picture on the wall and encouraged workers to look out for her. However, they did not take steps to change their policy about statutory rape. They did not retrain the workers or change their policies.

Thayer also recalls one time where she did report a situation of statutory rape and Planned Parenthood’s reaction:

I actually did call in a suspected case one time, and I got in trouble for that. [I] should’ve called management first and found out if that was reportable or not, and I just called it in because I knew that it needed to be reported, and I was a mandatory reporter because of being a foster parent as well. So I felt like I really needed to. But that was frowned upon.

Former Planned Parenthood worker Catherine Adair had a similar story:

So many things would happen in that counseling room that really bothered me. There’d be girls coming in with their abusers. Against all protocol, the abuser would be you know, let in to the counseling room that was where they were supposed to be separated from who they were with – men were never allowed back there, but with these young girls, they’d be allowed back there because – even if they knew – even if I would go to the manager, and I said, “Look, there’s something going on here.” – She would say, “She’s better off with the abortion. We can’t do anything about what’s going on at home but at least we can give her the abortion.”

Not only did Planned Parenthood not report cases of statutory rape, they gave the girls’ abusers extra privileges to shadow the girls while they were having their abortions. In this way, Planned Parenthood actively aided the abusers.

Although Planned Parenthood sets itself up as a champion for women, it is clear that they do not have women’s best interests at heart. In this and many other cases, Planned Parenthood exploits women for financial gain. They are not protecting vulnerable teens who come to them seeking abortions or birth control. Instead, they are helping their abusers.

[Today’s guest post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program.]

Former Planned Parenthood workers say Planned Parenthood covered up statutory rape

The pro-life group Live Action has released a series of videos documenting cases where Planned Parenthood failed to report statutory rape and sent underage girls home with their abusers.

In every state, a young teen who has sex with an adult is considered a victim of statutory rape and sexual exploitation. Some of these are cases of incest, where a girl is coerced into sex with a father, step-father, or other family member. In these cases, the girl is caught in an abusive situation. When young girls “date” and have sex with adult men in their late twenties and thirties, they are being taken advantage of by adults who manipulate and intimidate them. These relationships are based on exploitation.

Former Planned Parenthood workers have admitted that they sent underage girls back to their abusers without reporting the abuse. In a video released by Live Action, workers talk about their experiences.


Former sex educator Monica Cline was asked to train Planned Parenthood workers about reporting cases of statutory rape. She describes what happened when she told a group of workers about mandatory reporting:

I was teaching on human trafficking and statutory rape and was telling Planned Parenthood staff of Corpus Christi and the Gulf Coast basically, you’ve got to report when you see a girl coming in with an older man who that you can tell is not her father. You know something’s wrong, you’ve got to report that, it’s considered human trafficking. It is also considered statutory rape; you’ve got to report this. And they started laughing. And I said, “I don’t think there was anything I said that was funny. What’s going on here?” And the response was, “Honey, if she’s not having sex with this man this week she’ll have another one next week.” … One of the things that they even mentioned was, they adopted George Bush’s don’t ask, don’t tell in the military for homosexuality, so they said well if it’s good enough for Bush, it’s good enough for us. If we don’t ask how old her partner is, we don’t have to tell.

Cline was so troubled by the workers’ attitudes that she spoke to her superior about it. Her superior told her that her job was to give the information, not to worry about whether the abortion workers followed it. She was advised not to push the issue.

Former Planned Parenthood manager Sue Thayer was also interviewed by Lila Rose in the video. Thayer says:

We were all required to be mandatory reporters, but if we saw a case… questionable abuse, or even for sure — I mean, this kid is being abused – um, we really were discouraged from calling it in, just because, uh, they didn’t want to have the trouble, the angry parent, the angry boyfriend, whatever it was. So, more than once I was told, “No, that is not reportable – you don’t need to call it in.”

Lila Rose then asked Thayer if Planned Parenthood changed its policy on reporting statutory rape after Live Action’s investigation in 2008. In that investigation, Lila Rose went to Planned Parenthood facilities claiming to be the victim of statutory rape. She recorded Planned Parenthood workers advising her to lie about her age so that the abuse would not have to be reported.

Rose wanted to know whether Planned Parenthood changed their policies after this happened. Thayer told her that soon after the undercover videos came out, Planned Parenthood put Lila Rose’s picture on the wall and encouraged workers to look out for her. However, they did not take steps to change their policy about statutory rape. They did not retrain the workers or change their policies.

Thayer also recalls one time where she did report a situation of statutory rape and Planned Parenthood’s reaction:

I actually did call in a suspected case one time, and I got in trouble for that. [I] should’ve called management first and found out if that was reportable or not, and I just called it in because I knew that it needed to be reported, and I was a mandatory reporter because of being a foster parent as well. So I felt like I really needed to. But that was frowned upon.

Former Planned Parenthood worker Catherine Adair had a similar story:

So many things would happen in that counseling room that really bothered me. There’d be girls coming in with their abusers. Against all protocol, the abuser would be you know, let in to the counseling room that was where they were supposed to be separated from who they were with – men were never allowed back there, but with these young girls, they’d be allowed back there because – even if they knew – even if I would go to the manager, and I said, “Look, there’s something going on here.” – She would say, “She’s better off with the abortion. We can’t do anything about what’s going on at home but at least we can give her the abortion.”

Not only did Planned Parenthood not report cases of statutory rape, they gave the girls’ abusers extra privileges to shadow the girls while they were having their abortions. In this way, Planned Parenthood actively aided the abusers.

Although Planned Parenthood sets itself up as a champion for women, it is clear that they do not have women’s best interests at heart. In this and many other cases, Planned Parenthood exploits women for financial gain. They are not protecting vulnerable teens who come to them seeking abortions or birth control. Instead, they are helping their abusers.

[Today’s guest post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program.]

Chemical Abortion and the Law

You may have read that last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a law regulating chemical abortion in Arkansas. The law requires chemical abortion vendors to partner with doctors who have hospital admitting privileges. As a result, two Arkansas abortion centers that do only chemical (and not surgical) abortions, and which cannot find willing partners, are expected to shut down.

This is encouraging not only for Arkansas—where at least 608 chemical abortions took place in 2014, the last year for which data is available—but for the pro-life movement nationally. The implications are significant.

Over the last few years, the abortion lobby has emphasized the strategy of expanding chemical abortion. Industry-friendly publications like Marie Claire and The Guardian have openly mused about a future in which abortion pills are available over the counter, bypassing clinics and all the regulation that goes with them.

This would be disastrous not only for the babies at risk of death and the women at risk of complications, but also for women with wanted pregnancies. There is simply no way to increase access to abortion pills for women without also increasing it for abusive men, who have already shown their willingness to force chemical abortions by slipping pills into their partners’ drinks. And those cases are just the tip of the iceberg; since chemical abortion mimics a natural miscarriage, most victims have no idea what has happened.

Last October, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Hawai’i, seeking to make abortion pills available in retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreen’s. Although this case doesn’t involve removing the prescription requirement (yet), other safeguards to screen out abusers—such as the requirements that vendors receive training and certification from the manufacturer, maintain signed patient agreement forms, and supervise the dispensation of the pills—are very much on the ACLU’s chopping block. Those legal proceedings have been delayed, and the government defendants are expected to respond by the end of this month.

It’s hard to believe that the Supreme Court which declined to intervene in the Arkansas chemical abortion case would buy the ACLU’s arguments for chemical abortion expansion in the Hawai’i case. Stranger things have happened, and Secular Pro-Life will continue to monitor the proceedings, but I would not be feeling optimistic if I were an ACLU attorney. That’s bad news for abusers, and great news for mothers and children.

Chemical Abortion and the Law

You may have read that last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a law regulating chemical abortion in Arkansas. The law requires chemical abortion vendors to partner with doctors who have hospital admitting privileges. As a result, two Arkansas abortion centers that do only chemical (and not surgical) abortions, and which cannot find willing partners, are expected to shut down.

This is encouraging not only for Arkansas—where at least 608 chemical abortions took place in 2014, the last year for which data is available—but for the pro-life movement nationally. The implications are significant.

Over the last few years, the abortion lobby has emphasized the strategy of expanding chemical abortion. Industry-friendly publications like Marie Claire and The Guardian have openly mused about a future in which abortion pills are available over the counter, bypassing clinics and all the regulation that goes with them.

This would be disastrous not only for the babies at risk of death and the women at risk of complications, but also for women with wanted pregnancies. There is simply no way to increase access to abortion pills for women without also increasing it for abusive men, who have already shown their willingness to force chemical abortions by slipping pills into their partners’ drinks. And those cases are just the tip of the iceberg; since chemical abortion mimics a natural miscarriage, most victims have no idea what has happened.

Last October, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Hawai’i, seeking to make abortion pills available in retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreen’s. Although this case doesn’t involve removing the prescription requirement (yet), other safeguards to screen out abusers—such as the requirements that vendors receive training and certification from the manufacturer, maintain signed patient agreement forms, and supervise the dispensation of the pills—are very much on the ACLU’s chopping block. Those legal proceedings have been delayed, and the government defendants are expected to respond by the end of this month.

It’s hard to believe that the Supreme Court which declined to intervene in the Arkansas chemical abortion case would buy the ACLU’s arguments for chemical abortion expansion in the Hawai’i case. Stranger things have happened, and Secular Pro-Life will continue to monitor the proceedings, but I would not be feeling optimistic if I were an ACLU attorney. That’s bad news for abusers, and great news for mothers and children.

Three Excellent Reasons Not to Execute Women Who Have Abortions

The Atlantic recently hired, and then promptly fired, conservative columnist Kevin Williamson due to outrage over his position that abortion should not only be illegal, but a capital offense.

Having been a pro-life activist for over a decade now, I can state authoritatively that Williamson’s view is fringe. After all, the pro-life movement is driven in significant part by post-abortive women who learned the hard way that abortion is not “empowering” and want to help others avoid the same mistakes.

Kevin Williamson

That being the case, a number of commentators have responded to the Williamson fiasco with accusations that pro-lifers who disagree with Williamson about the penalty for abortion are hypocrites. If we really believe abortion kills innocent human beings, shouldn’t we want abortion to be treated like any other homicide, with the death penalty on the table?

No, for at least three reasons. (If you, like me and many others in the pro-life movement, oppose the death penalty in general, that gives you a fourth reason. However, Secular Pro-Life welcomes people with differing views on capital punishment.)

1. Abortion coercion is common, and poorly understood. Hard numbers are unfortunately difficult to come by. A much-cited report by pro-life researchers found that 64% of abortions involve outside pressure, ranging from violence or the threat of violence to blackmail, illegal workplace discrimination, kicking women out of the house, and other coercive tactics. Researchers affiliated with the abortion industry have little incentive to devote resources to the question, but have nevertheless observed and reported the phenomenon in connection with studies of intimate partner violence.

A woman who has experienced a coerced abortion is a victim, not a perpetrator. She certainly isn’t deserving of execution!

While it’s true that criminal defendants can assert duress as a defense, that is an uncommon scenario—and many states have disallowed duress as a defense in homicide cases. I can think of no other crime in which duress may occur more than half the time. Our system of criminal justice is simply not equipped to handle that.

(A common pro-choice retort is that pro-life concerns about coerced abortion amount to “infantilizing women.” If that’s you, I humbly suggest, on behalf of all my strong and intelligent friends who’ve experienced domestic abuse, that you can go embrace a cactus.)

2. Intent is a key element of homicide, and the abortion industry has heavily invested in propaganda to make people believe abortion is harmless. Imagine if eating meat was not only criminalized overnight, but made a capital crime! Even strong animal rights supporters (of which there are many in the pro-life movement) would oppose that as being wildly unfair. Likewise, bringing abortion within homicide law would not do justice. Despite our best efforts, many women still enter the abortion facility believing that abortion destroys mere “tissue.” Abortionists are often deceptive, and 21 states don’t even have informed consent laws.

Again, this is not about infantilizing women. Everyone, no matter their gender, is entitled to trust the guidance of their doctors—and should not be subject to criminal prosecution when they follow the bad advice of an unscrupulous doctor.

3. Resources are better spent focusing on abortionists. For the same reason that we should prosecute pimps rather than prostitutes, and drug kingpins rather than low-level dealers and addicts, law enforcement efforts to end the abortion epidemic should focus on suppliers. An abortion customer ends one life; an abortion vendor ends thousands, and does so with the full knowledge that abortion is the killing of a living human being.

For all of these reasons and others, women were not jailed for abortion (let alone sentenced to death!) in the years before Roe v. Wade. After Roe is reversed and the right to life is restored, I am confident that Mr. Williamson’s ideas will still have no traction.

Three Excellent Reasons Not to Execute Women Who Have Abortions

The Atlantic recently hired, and then promptly fired, conservative columnist Kevin Williamson due to outrage over his position that abortion should not only be illegal, but a capital offense.

Having been a pro-life activist for over a decade now, I can state authoritatively that Williamson’s view is fringe. After all, the pro-life movement is driven in significant part by post-abortive women who learned the hard way that abortion is not “empowering” and want to help others avoid the same mistakes.

Kevin Williamson

That being the case, a number of commentators have responded to the Williamson fiasco with accusations that pro-lifers who disagree with Williamson about the penalty for abortion are hypocrites. If we really believe abortion kills innocent human beings, shouldn’t we want abortion to be treated like any other homicide, with the death penalty on the table?

No, for at least three reasons. (If you, like me and many others in the pro-life movement, oppose the death penalty in general, that gives you a fourth reason. However, Secular Pro-Life welcomes people with differing views on capital punishment.)

1. Abortion coercion is common, and poorly understood. Hard numbers are unfortunately difficult to come by. A much-cited report by pro-life researchers found that 64% of abortions involve outside pressure, ranging from violence or the threat of violence to blackmail, illegal workplace discrimination, kicking women out of the house, and other coercive tactics. Researchers affiliated with the abortion industry have little incentive to devote resources to the question, but have nevertheless observed and reported the phenomenon in connection with studies of intimate partner violence.

A woman who has experienced a coerced abortion is a victim, not a perpetrator. She certainly isn’t deserving of execution!

While it’s true that criminal defendants can assert duress as a defense, that is an uncommon scenario—and many states have disallowed duress as a defense in homicide cases. I can think of no other crime in which duress may occur more than half the time. Our system of criminal justice is simply not equipped to handle that.

(A common pro-choice retort is that pro-life concerns about coerced abortion amount to “infantilizing women.” If that’s you, I humbly suggest, on behalf of all my strong and intelligent friends who’ve experienced domestic abuse, that you can go embrace a cactus.)

2. Intent is a key element of homicide, and the abortion industry has heavily invested in propaganda to make people believe abortion is harmless. Imagine if eating meat was not only criminalized overnight, but made a capital crime! Even strong animal rights supporters (of which there are many in the pro-life movement) would oppose that as being wildly unfair. Likewise, bringing abortion within homicide law would not do justice. Despite our best efforts, many women still enter the abortion facility believing that abortion destroys mere “tissue.” Abortionists are often deceptive, and 21 states don’t even have informed consent laws.

Again, this is not about infantilizing women. Everyone, no matter their gender, is entitled to trust the guidance of their doctors—and should not be subject to criminal prosecution when they follow the bad advice of an unscrupulous doctor.

3. Resources are better spent focusing on abortionists. For the same reason that we should prosecute pimps rather than prostitutes, and drug kingpins rather than low-level dealers and addicts, law enforcement efforts to end the abortion epidemic should focus on suppliers. An abortion customer ends one life; an abortion vendor ends thousands, and does so with the full knowledge that abortion is the killing of a living human being.

For all of these reasons and others, women were not jailed for abortion (let alone sentenced to death!) in the years before Roe v. Wade. After Roe is reversed and the right to life is restored, I am confident that Mr. Williamson’s ideas will still have no traction.

Supporting women with unplanned pregnancies: can we find common ground with the pro-choice side?

(Shop artist Alisha Vernon on Etsy.)

A few weeks ago the New York Times ran “The Women the Abortion War Leaves Out,” a refreshingly objective op-ed about the high costs of motherhood that drive many to choose abortion. Author Michelle Oberman, a law professor and self-described feminist from California, wanted to better understand the goals of the American pro-life movement, so she decided to go to crisis pregnancy center in Oklahoma–Birth Choice–and interview the women who run it.

Despite her initial nervousness, Oberman found that the ladies who run Birth Choice were more than willing to show her their work. She said the Birth Choice employees spoke with “deep compassion” about the women they serve, many of whom are grappling with unplanned pregnancies in dire circumstances, including:

  • Violent partners 
  • Living out of a car 
  • Children lost to foster care 
  • Mental illness 
  • Addiction 
  • Undocumented status and unable to speak English 

Birth Choice works hard to support these women, offering services such as pregnancy tests, registration with Oklahoma’s Medicaid, weekly meetings with case workers, counseling, drug abuse treatment, and vocational training. For women with particularly trying circumstances, Birth Choice also has Rose Home, a shelter which can house up to five pregnant women and up to 13 children at a time.

As Oberman learned of all Birth Choice does for these women, she realized, as she puts it, that the abortion debate involves us “[hurling] rhetoric about choice and life, while remaining distracted from the reality that so many women have far too little of either.”

The rhetoric of “choice” and “life” encourages us to see a pregnant woman as if she’s balancing a scale, with abortion on one side and motherhood on the other. Which will she choose? Tilt her one way and she might get to finish high school or college, gaining time to plan for the child she wants. Tipped another way, she might become a mother or allow a childless couple to adopt.

The women living at Rose Home reveal the shallowness of that metaphor.

Women face the surprise of an unplanned pregnancy as if on train tracks, with a locomotive barreling toward them. The only variation lies in how many other trains are coming from other directions. Homelessness, violence, addiction and the biggest of all: poverty.

I don’t mean to suggest money is the only factor that shapes many women’s response to an unplanned pregnancy, but let’s be clear about how much it matters. One of the largest research studies on the question of why women choose abortion surveyed about 1,200 abortion patients and found 73 percent said they could not afford a baby at the time.

Oberman is describing the part of the abortion debate that should be common ground for the pro-choicers who want to support and liberate women and the pro-lifers who want to protect fetal life. As we have said many times over, many women get abortions precisely because they feel they don’t have a choice, and that should be a problem for activists on both sides of the debate. The pro-choice side is quick to point out the many ways unplanned pregnancy can devastate a woman’s life, but if the implication is that she is choosing abortion because of these external reasons–and not because she specifically doesn’t want children–these are precisely the situations when even pro-choicers should see abortion as a travesty, not a panacea. If most women choose abortion because they feel they have to, then it’s backwards and even a bit grotesque to model abortion as women’s liberation. As the stats Oberman quoted suggest, for most women abortion is the result of fear, not freedom.

Pro-choicers and pro-lifers can hopefully agree that women who don’t actually want abortions shouldn’t feel pressured, economically or otherwise, into getting abortions. Broadly speaking, from the pro-choice view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because that pressure takes away their agency over a life-changing and fundamentally important, intimate decision. From the pro-life view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because they are being pressured to destroy innocent human beings. Both sides can recognize that this decision can have grave consequences (emotionally, psychologically, socially) for the woman; the pro-life side also recognizes the decision has grave consequences for the fetus. So while the two sides should be able to come to a similar conclusion–we want a society in which women never feel pressured to abort–the thought processes that lead us there mean coerced abortion is where our common ground ends.

This distinction is crucial and often misunderstood. A few years ago I did a brief interview for The Friendly Atheist podcast to discuss the secular pro-life posistion and what it’s like for us secularists to work with a predominantly Christian movement. I emphasized that SPL cares about education and resources for women as methods of decreasing abortion, and the hosts asked me if that’s where SPL’s advocacy ends. I know we would be much more palatable to the pro-choice side if we advocated for decreasing abortions in every way except legally, but it would be dishonest to suggest that is SPL’s full position. So I explained that no, we do not end at education and resources; we also believe that abortion should generally be illegal and we support some legislative efforts to that end. I explained that for many pro-lifers, education and resources–even if they prevented nearly all abortions–would still not be enough, because killing innocent human beings should be illegal in itself, as a baseline position.

I can’t count how many times the pro-choice side has misunderstood this basic pro-life premise. They often assume no one truly cares about fetal life and then try to understand pro-life efforts from that flawed lens. Even Oberman, who I believe wishes to be objective and fair in her descriptions, misunderstands pro-life motivation in her op-ed when she claims that pro-life laws aimed at closing abortion clinics are “designed to drive up the costs of abortion.” We aren’t trying to close clinics to make abortion more expensive; we are trying to close clinics to make abortion impossible, because abortion kills innocent human beings. (It’s also worth noting that Oberman seems to believe the pro-lifers trying to close clinics are distinct from the pro-lifers trying to support women facing unplanned pregnancies. I’m not sure there’s such a bright line there.)

But even as the two sides sharply disagree about the legality of abortion, we can agree that we should decrease abortion by increasing support for women facing unplanned pregnancies. (And given Live Action’s recent work demonstrating that, contrary to common assertions, Planned Parenthood rarely provides prenatal care, it’s more obvious than ever how much work we have ahead of us.) If you believe the best way to support these women is through government-run programs such as WIC or Medicaid, fight for those. If you believe the best way to do it is through private charitable efforts such as the work of CPCs like Birth Choice, contribute to those. I care less about how you think we should increase support and more about whether you are working to make it happen.

More reading:
7 things pro-lifers wish our pro-choice friends understood about us.
So I met some sidewalk counselors.
In-depth interview with a millennial sidewalk counselor.
In-depth interview: Kristi Burkhart, Executive Director, Pregnancy Care Center

Supporting women with unplanned pregnancies: can we find common ground with the pro-choice side?

(Shop artist Alisha Vernon on Etsy.)

A few weeks ago the New York Times ran “The Women the Abortion War Leaves Out,” a refreshingly objective op-ed about the high costs of motherhood that drive many to choose abortion. Author Michelle Oberman, a law professor and self-described feminist from California, wanted to better understand the goals of the American pro-life movement, so she decided to go to crisis pregnancy center in Oklahoma–Birth Choice–and interview the women who run it.

Despite her initial nervousness, Oberman found that the ladies who run Birth Choice were more than willing to show her their work. She said the Birth Choice employees spoke with “deep compassion” about the women they serve, many of whom are grappling with unplanned pregnancies in dire circumstances, including:

  • Violent partners 
  • Living out of a car 
  • Children lost to foster care 
  • Mental illness 
  • Addiction 
  • Undocumented status and unable to speak English 

Birth Choice works hard to support these women, offering services such as pregnancy tests, registration with Oklahoma’s Medicaid, weekly meetings with case workers, counseling, drug abuse treatment, and vocational training. For women with particularly trying circumstances, Birth Choice also has Rose Home, a shelter which can house up to five pregnant women and up to 13 children at a time.

As Oberman learned of all Birth Choice does for these women, she realized, as she puts it, that the abortion debate involves us “[hurling] rhetoric about choice and life, while remaining distracted from the reality that so many women have far too little of either.”

The rhetoric of “choice” and “life” encourages us to see a pregnant woman as if she’s balancing a scale, with abortion on one side and motherhood on the other. Which will she choose? Tilt her one way and she might get to finish high school or college, gaining time to plan for the child she wants. Tipped another way, she might become a mother or allow a childless couple to adopt.

The women living at Rose Home reveal the shallowness of that metaphor.

Women face the surprise of an unplanned pregnancy as if on train tracks, with a locomotive barreling toward them. The only variation lies in how many other trains are coming from other directions. Homelessness, violence, addiction and the biggest of all: poverty.

I don’t mean to suggest money is the only factor that shapes many women’s response to an unplanned pregnancy, but let’s be clear about how much it matters. One of the largest research studies on the question of why women choose abortion surveyed about 1,200 abortion patients and found 73 percent said they could not afford a baby at the time.

Oberman is describing the part of the abortion debate that should be common ground for the pro-choicers who want to support and liberate women and the pro-lifers who want to protect fetal life. As we have said many times over, many women get abortions precisely because they feel they don’t have a choice, and that should be a problem for activists on both sides of the debate. The pro-choice side is quick to point out the many ways unplanned pregnancy can devastate a woman’s life, but if the implication is that she is choosing abortion because of these external reasons–and not because she specifically doesn’t want children–these are precisely the situations when even pro-choicers should see abortion as a travesty, not a panacea. If most women choose abortion because they feel they have to, then it’s backwards and even a bit grotesque to model abortion as women’s liberation. As the stats Oberman quoted suggest, for most women abortion is the result of fear, not freedom.

Pro-choicers and pro-lifers can hopefully agree that women who don’t actually want abortions shouldn’t feel pressured, economically or otherwise, into getting abortions. Broadly speaking, from the pro-choice view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because that pressure takes away their agency over a life-changing and fundamentally important, intimate decision. From the pro-life view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because they are being pressured to destroy innocent human beings. Both sides can recognize that this decision can have grave consequences (emotionally, psychologically, socially) for the woman; the pro-life side also recognizes the decision has grave consequences for the fetus. So while the two sides should be able to come to a similar conclusion–we want a society in which women never feel pressured to abort–the thought processes that lead us there mean coerced abortion is where our common ground ends.

This distinction is crucial and often misunderstood. A few years ago I did a brief interview for The Friendly Atheist podcast to discuss the secular pro-life posistion and what it’s like for us secularists to work with a predominantly Christian movement. I emphasized that SPL cares about education and resources for women as methods of decreasing abortion, and the hosts asked me if that’s where SPL’s advocacy ends. I know we would be much more palatable to the pro-choice side if we advocated for decreasing abortions in every way except legally, but it would be dishonest to suggest that is SPL’s full position. So I explained that no, we do not end at education and resources; we also believe that abortion should generally be illegal and we support some legislative efforts to that end. I explained that for many pro-lifers, education and resources–even if they prevented nearly all abortions–would still not be enough, because killing innocent human beings should be illegal in itself, as a baseline position.

I can’t count how many times the pro-choice side has misunderstood this basic pro-life premise. They often assume no one truly cares about fetal life and then try to understand pro-life efforts from that flawed lens. Even Oberman, who I believe wishes to be objective and fair in her descriptions, misunderstands pro-life motivation in her op-ed when she claims that pro-life laws aimed at closing abortion clinics are “designed to drive up the costs of abortion.” We aren’t trying to close clinics to make abortion more expensive; we are trying to close clinics to make abortion impossible, because abortion kills innocent human beings. (It’s also worth noting that Oberman seems to believe the pro-lifers trying to close clinics are distinct from the pro-lifers trying to support women facing unplanned pregnancies. I’m not sure there’s such a bright line there.)

But even as the two sides sharply disagree about the legality of abortion, we can agree that we should decrease abortion by increasing support for women facing unplanned pregnancies. (And given Live Action’s recent work demonstrating that, contrary to common assertions, Planned Parenthood rarely provides prenatal care, it’s more obvious than ever how much work we have ahead of us.) If you believe the best way to support these women is through government-run programs such as WIC or Medicaid, fight for those. If you believe the best way to do it is through private charitable efforts such as the work of CPCs like Birth Choice, contribute to those. I care less about how you think we should increase support and more about whether you are working to make it happen.

More reading:
7 things pro-lifers wish our pro-choice friends understood about us.
So I met some sidewalk counselors.
In-depth interview with a millennial sidewalk counselor.
In-depth interview: Kristi Burkhart, Executive Director, Pregnancy Care Center