Fixed that meme for you

Secular Pro-Life does not take an official position on what gun control measures are best suited to end the scourge of school shootings in America. We do, however, take an official position on ignorant bullshit memes: we are opposed. So when we saw this questionable meme comparing gun policy to abortion policy, we felt the need to make a few corrections:

Let’s break this down, shall we?

Gun purchase waiting periods are already a thing. Like abortion waiting periods, the specifics vary from state to state. In my home state of Florida, the gun purchase waiting period is three business days. Want a longer waiting period in your state? Contact your legislators!


Rather than imposing parental consent laws, most states outright ban minors from buying guns. There are some gaps here, as detailed by The Guardian, because states have different laws for different types of guns. I expect this to be an area of significant focus for gun policy reformers in the coming months. Nevertheless, laws on guns for minors are already stricter than laws on abortions for minors, because Supreme Court precedent prevents enforcement of any age requirement for abortion.

What does informed consent for guns look like? The closest analogue is mandatory training. About half of states require gun owners to take a class before they can obtain a concealed carry permit. Slightly more than half of states require informed consent for abortion. Both pro-life advocates and gun safety advocates have a way to go in this area.

Whoever made the original meme clearly has no idea what pre-abortion ultrasounds are for. Abortion vendors use ultrasound to determine how far along the pregnancy is, which is how they decide which abortion method to use and how much to charge. Ultrasound is also used to detect ectopic pregnancies. Ultrasound laws have nothing to do with whether or not an abortionist will do an ultrasound; they will, as standard procedure. Rather, ultrasound laws exist to stop abortionists from hiding the ultrasound images from their patients. None of this “turn the screen away from her, it’s just a clump of cells, ho-hum” nonsense.

Oh, and the wand is optional; you can get an ultrasound with no penetration of any bodily orifices.


Abortion businesses are, sadly, plentiful. There are over 700 abortion businesses in the United States. Only a handful of states are down to one abortion facility. But the number of abortion businesses has decreased substantially in recent years. One factor is decreased demand: fewer women are having unplanned pregnancies, and of those who do, more are choosing life. Another factor is enforcement of the health and safety regulations that shoddy abortionists routinely violate.

Gun control advocates are more than welcome to follow the pro-life movement’s example. Want to decrease demand for guns? Educate people on gun hazards and offer alternative self-defense methods. Want to close gun shops? Investigate potential legal violations by your local firearms vendor, and if current laws aren’t stopping bad actors, lobby for stricter standards.

On that note, why not emulate sidewalk counselors? There is nothing stopping you from protesting on public sidewalks outside gun shops. Hold up those victim photos. Plead with firearms customers to reconsider. You have the right to freedom of speech… at least until gun vendors respond by enacting “bubble zones” to censor your advocacy. These laws are unconstitutional and the pro-life movement has been fighting them in court for decades.

Abortion is lethal. No doubt, a gun in the wrong hands can be incredibly destructive in a very short period of time. In responsible hands, a gun is unlikely to kill anyone at all. Abortion instruments won’t slaughter a room full of people all at once, but abortion consistently takes lives one or two at a time (except in the very rare case of abortion survivors). Over 60 million human beings have lost their lives to abortion since Roe v. Wade. It’s not “health care.”

Asking whether it makes more sense to stop abortion or to stop gun violence imagines a zero-sum game where none exists. It cynically pits victims of different injustices against one another for no reason.

Fixed that meme for you

Secular Pro-Life does not take an official position on what gun control measures are best suited to end the scourge of school shootings in America. We do, however, take an official position on ignorant bullshit memes: we are opposed. So when we saw this questionable meme comparing gun policy to abortion policy, we felt the need to make a few corrections:

Let’s break this down, shall we?

Gun purchase waiting periods are already a thing. Like abortion waiting periods, the specifics vary from state to state. In my home state of Florida, the gun purchase waiting period is three business days. Want a longer waiting period in your state? Contact your legislators!


Rather than imposing parental consent laws, most states outright ban minors from buying guns. There are some gaps here, as detailed by The Guardian, because states have different laws for different types of guns. I expect this to be an area of significant focus for gun policy reformers in the coming months. Nevertheless, laws on guns for minors are already stricter than laws on abortions for minors, because Supreme Court precedent prevents enforcement of any age requirement for abortion.

What does informed consent for guns look like? The closest analogue is mandatory training. About half of states require gun owners to take a class before they can obtain a concealed carry permit. Slightly more than half of states require informed consent for abortion. Both pro-life advocates and gun safety advocates have a way to go in this area.

Whoever made the original meme clearly has no idea what pre-abortion ultrasounds are for. Abortion vendors use ultrasound to determine how far along the pregnancy is, which is how they decide which abortion method to use and how much to charge. Ultrasound is also used to detect ectopic pregnancies. Ultrasound laws have nothing to do with whether or not an abortionist will do an ultrasound; they will, as standard procedure. Rather, ultrasound laws exist to stop abortionists from hiding the ultrasound images from their patients. None of this “turn the screen away from her, it’s just a clump of cells, ho-hum” nonsense.

Oh, and the wand is optional; you can get an ultrasound with no penetration of any bodily orifices.


Abortion businesses are, sadly, plentiful. There are over 700 abortion businesses in the United States. Only a handful of states are down to one abortion facility. But the number of abortion businesses has decreased substantially in recent years. One factor is decreased demand: fewer women are having unplanned pregnancies, and of those who do, more are choosing life. Another factor is enforcement of the health and safety regulations that shoddy abortionists routinely violate.

Gun control advocates are more than welcome to follow the pro-life movement’s example. Want to decrease demand for guns? Educate people on gun hazards and offer alternative self-defense methods. Want to close gun shops? Investigate potential legal violations by your local firearms vendor, and if current laws aren’t stopping bad actors, lobby for stricter standards.

On that note, why not emulate sidewalk counselors? There is nothing stopping you from protesting on public sidewalks outside gun shops. Hold up those victim photos. Plead with firearms customers to reconsider. You have the right to freedom of speech… at least until gun vendors respond by enacting “bubble zones” to censor your advocacy. These laws are unconstitutional and the pro-life movement has been fighting them in court for decades.

Abortion is lethal. No doubt, a gun in the wrong hands can be incredibly destructive in a very short period of time. In responsible hands, a gun is unlikely to kill anyone at all. Abortion instruments won’t slaughter a room full of people all at once, but abortion consistently takes lives one or two at a time (except in the very rare case of abortion survivors). Over 60 million human beings have lost their lives to abortion since Roe v. Wade. It’s not “health care.”

Asking whether it makes more sense to stop abortion or to stop gun violence imagines a zero-sum game where none exists. It cynically pits victims of different injustices against one another for no reason.

Abortion “counseling” is really a sales pitch

[Today’s blog post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind ClinicQuotes.com.]

Nurse Brenda Pratt-Shafer worked for three days at a late-term abortion center that did partial-birth abortions. Although pro-choice when she was hired, she was so horrified by the graphic nature of the abortion procedures she witnessed that she went on to testify before Congress in favor of the partial-birth abortion ban. Partial-birth abortions were banned nationwide in 2003; the Supreme Court initially struck down the ban, only to reverse itself in 2007.

The procedure consisted of first delivering a late second trimester or early third trimester preborn baby partially out of the mother’s womb. Then, when only the head was left inside, the abortionist punctured the skull and drained out the brain matter, finally removing the dead child with a crushed head from the woman’s body.

Witnessing several of these abortions was enough to turn Brenda-Pratt Shafer into a pro-lifer. In her book, What the Nurse Saw, she describes in detail both partial-birth abortions and D&E (dismemberment) abortions that she saw.

But another thing Pratt-Shafer discussed in her book was the way abortion clinic workers were told to interact with women coming in for abortions. They were supposed to validate the woman’s reasons for wanting an abortion, regardless of what they were. The abortion facility wanted everything to run smoothly; the abortionist did not want women to change their minds at the last minute. Therefore, he instructed Pratt-Shafer and his other clinic workers to emphasize the choice of abortion and encourage women to go through with it.
Pratt-Shafer says:

I was told in no uncertain terms to always validate the mother’s reasons for having the abortion.

If the mother was still in school, we’d tell her she didn’t need to be a mother right now; rather she needed to finish school and then start her family. If she was having financial problems, we would not offer her other solutions; we would just tell her that she could not afford a baby and that she was doing the best thing. If she was young, we would tell her she was too young to have a baby and it would probably ruin her life. Having this abortion was the right thing to do; then she could get on with the rest of her life. We also told the women that abortion was a simple procedure, and it was the answer to their problems and that they would be relieved afterward. After all, this abortion clinic was in the business to make money from abortions, not to offer solutions for crisis pregnancies. Any excuse the mother had to want an abortion, we were in agreement and supportive of that reason.

The clinic workers were also under strict orders not to promote abortion alternatives or tell women the details of the abortion procedures:

Options like adoption or even carrying the baby to full-term were never discussed. … I was told if they asked me if it was a baby to tell them no, that it was just a mass of tissue and at this stage, it was not a baby. Many women that came in those three days were already showing at the time. But we still continued to tell these lies the entire time I was there. It was just part of how business was conducted.

Women who did not already know the facts of fetal development would not learn them at the abortion facility. Rather, they would be encouraged to abort, and told that their preborn baby was not developed. Those running the abortion center knew that if women were told their babies had arms, legs, fingers and toes, and that by the late second trimester babies reacted to pain, some of them would back out. This would decrease clinic revenue and slow things down.

A woman who was having an abortion out of fear would have her fear reinforced. Even if the woman was reluctant to go through with her abortion, the clinic workers would not offer her other options. While some women no doubt came to the clinic with their minds firmly made up, dedicated to having an abortion, others may not have been so sure.

David Reardon conducted a study where he interviewed women who regretted their abortions. He determined that 44% of the women he interviewed had been “actively hoping to find an option other than abortion” when they arrived at the clinic. 66% of these women said that their abortion counselor was biased in favor of abortion, and 90% said they did not receive enough information to make an informed decision.

If such a large of the women in David Reardon’s sample came to abortion clinics hoping for a better answer, the fact that abortion counselors do not explore options and give unbiased information could definitely sway them towards having an abortion.

Of course, the 44% statistic comes from a group of women who regretted their abortions, and might not be representative of all women seeking abortion. But other abortion workers have revealed that some women change their minds about having abortions, even at the last minute. For example, in a May 2000 piece for the Ottawa Star, Leonard Stern interviewed an abortion center director who stated that 20% of women scheduled for abortions at her location did not show up for their appointments. Another abortion counselor told an interviewer:

Maybe 30 percent [of the women] are kind of talking through doubts, maybe 5 percent go away. 

Another abortionist, who complained about having to give women state-mandated information about fetal development and abortion’s risks, told the New York Times in that one in 10 women left the clinic without aborting after receiving the information. And in yet another article, in the Christian Science Monitor, an abortionist also discussed the phenomenon of women turning away from abortion after watching an educational video that the abortion clinic was forced to show by law.

So some women do change their minds. Even if women willing to change their minds and consider options are in the minority, lives could’ve been saved if the abortion workers had told the truth. Of course, this would work against the clinic’s bottom line.

As more abortion workers come forward with their stories, there are more examples of biased or dishonest abortion counseling. There are many similar stories from abortion workers, as well as testimonies from women about this that can be found here. Until abortion workers are willing to be honest, pro-lifers need to spread the truth about abortion so that women know exactly what will happen to them and their preborn babies if they abort. The abortion businesses cannot be relied upon to tell the truth, and pro-lifers need to step into the gap and educate the public about abortion.

Abortion “counseling” is really a sales pitch

[Today’s blog post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind ClinicQuotes.com.]

Nurse Brenda Pratt-Shafer worked for three days at a late-term abortion center that did partial-birth abortions. Although pro-choice when she was hired, she was so horrified by the graphic nature of the abortion procedures she witnessed that she went on to testify before Congress in favor of the partial-birth abortion ban. Partial-birth abortions were banned nationwide in 2003; the Supreme Court initially struck down the ban, only to reverse itself in 2007.

The procedure consisted of first delivering a late second trimester or early third trimester preborn baby partially out of the mother’s womb. Then, when only the head was left inside, the abortionist punctured the skull and drained out the brain matter, finally removing the dead child with a crushed head from the woman’s body.

Witnessing several of these abortions was enough to turn Brenda-Pratt Shafer into a pro-lifer. In her book, What the Nurse Saw, she describes in detail both partial-birth abortions and D&E (dismemberment) abortions that she saw.

But another thing Pratt-Shafer discussed in her book was the way abortion clinic workers were told to interact with women coming in for abortions. They were supposed to validate the woman’s reasons for wanting an abortion, regardless of what they were. The abortion facility wanted everything to run smoothly; the abortionist did not want women to change their minds at the last minute. Therefore, he instructed Pratt-Shafer and his other clinic workers to emphasize the choice of abortion and encourage women to go through with it.
Pratt-Shafer says:

I was told in no uncertain terms to always validate the mother’s reasons for having the abortion.

If the mother was still in school, we’d tell her she didn’t need to be a mother right now; rather she needed to finish school and then start her family. If she was having financial problems, we would not offer her other solutions; we would just tell her that she could not afford a baby and that she was doing the best thing. If she was young, we would tell her she was too young to have a baby and it would probably ruin her life. Having this abortion was the right thing to do; then she could get on with the rest of her life. We also told the women that abortion was a simple procedure, and it was the answer to their problems and that they would be relieved afterward. After all, this abortion clinic was in the business to make money from abortions, not to offer solutions for crisis pregnancies. Any excuse the mother had to want an abortion, we were in agreement and supportive of that reason.

The clinic workers were also under strict orders not to promote abortion alternatives or tell women the details of the abortion procedures:

Options like adoption or even carrying the baby to full-term were never discussed. … I was told if they asked me if it was a baby to tell them no, that it was just a mass of tissue and at this stage, it was not a baby. Many women that came in those three days were already showing at the time. But we still continued to tell these lies the entire time I was there. It was just part of how business was conducted.

Women who did not already know the facts of fetal development would not learn them at the abortion facility. Rather, they would be encouraged to abort, and told that their preborn baby was not developed. Those running the abortion center knew that if women were told their babies had arms, legs, fingers and toes, and that by the late second trimester babies reacted to pain, some of them would back out. This would decrease clinic revenue and slow things down.

A woman who was having an abortion out of fear would have her fear reinforced. Even if the woman was reluctant to go through with her abortion, the clinic workers would not offer her other options. While some women no doubt came to the clinic with their minds firmly made up, dedicated to having an abortion, others may not have been so sure.

David Reardon conducted a study where he interviewed women who regretted their abortions. He determined that 44% of the women he interviewed had been “actively hoping to find an option other than abortion” when they arrived at the clinic. 66% of these women said that their abortion counselor was biased in favor of abortion, and 90% said they did not receive enough information to make an informed decision.

If such a large of the women in David Reardon’s sample came to abortion clinics hoping for a better answer, the fact that abortion counselors do not explore options and give unbiased information could definitely sway them towards having an abortion.

Of course, the 44% statistic comes from a group of women who regretted their abortions, and might not be representative of all women seeking abortion. But other abortion workers have revealed that some women change their minds about having abortions, even at the last minute. For example, in a May 2000 piece for the Ottawa Star, Leonard Stern interviewed an abortion center director who stated that 20% of women scheduled for abortions at her location did not show up for their appointments. Another abortion counselor told an interviewer:

Maybe 30 percent [of the women] are kind of talking through doubts, maybe 5 percent go away. 

Another abortionist, who complained about having to give women state-mandated information about fetal development and abortion’s risks, told the New York Times in that one in 10 women left the clinic without aborting after receiving the information. And in yet another article, in the Christian Science Monitor, an abortionist also discussed the phenomenon of women turning away from abortion after watching an educational video that the abortion clinic was forced to show by law.

So some women do change their minds. Even if women willing to change their minds and consider options are in the minority, lives could’ve been saved if the abortion workers had told the truth. Of course, this would work against the clinic’s bottom line.

As more abortion workers come forward with their stories, there are more examples of biased or dishonest abortion counseling. There are many similar stories from abortion workers, as well as testimonies from women about this that can be found here. Until abortion workers are willing to be honest, pro-lifers need to spread the truth about abortion so that women know exactly what will happen to them and their preborn babies if they abort. The abortion businesses cannot be relied upon to tell the truth, and pro-lifers need to step into the gap and educate the public about abortion.

Pro-choicers oppose informed consent. Again.

Texas law mandates that women seeking an abortion must be given an informational pamphlet on abortion and then wait 24 hours before undergoing an abortion procedure. This pamphlet was created in 2003 and is now being updated to reflect more current knowledge of fetal development and the effects of abortion. The new pamphlet was made publicly available by the Texas Department of State Health Services on June 28th.

Before I delve into the controversy, here’s a quick review of the pamphlet. In the introductory page, the writers stress the importance of discussing with your doctor not just the medical risks of abortion but also of giving birth. The pamphlet then gives week-by-week facts about embryonic and fetal development. Next, the writers talk about risks of abortion (death, mental health risks, infertility, etc), the process of obtaining an abortion with emphasis on informed consent, information on support services, and then abortion procedures and their side effects. The last section talks about the risks of giving birth, including common medical risks of pregnancy, risks of birthing, and postpartum problems.

This is already more impartial than most abortion providers. Pro-choicers show their true colors when they fight tooth and nail to prevent facts from being given to abortion-minded women regarding prenatal development, the effects of abortion, and alternatives to abortion. If your worldview requires keeping women in the dark, I have to wonder how you can unironically claim the title of “feminist,” “pro-woman,” or any of the other empowering titles we see pro-choicers crown themselves with.

That is the core of this Texas pamphlet issue.

These 2016 updates (but not the pamphlet itself) are open to public comment until today, Friday, July 29, 2016 (send an email to WRTK@dshs.state.tx.us if you’d like to comment on the new material). Naturally, pro-choice leaders are rallying their followers to send in critical comments. 

Alexa Garcia-Ditta of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas said her organization and other abortion rights groups statewide have teamed up to generate more than 5,000 comments criticizing the latest draft.

Hopefully these are all worthwhile complaints, i.e. against factual inaccuracies. Somehow I doubt it. But allow me to address some complaints I saw in recent news articles.

1. TERMINOLOGY

While I think that calling the pamphlet “state-mandated abortion propaganda” is hyperbolic, I also think they have a point here. The article says:

Among major changes, the new draft uses “your baby” when describing gestation development as early as four weeks, rather than medical terms, such as “fetus.” 

In the previous version, the term “baby” was used more sparingly and accurately. While the term “baby” has been defined as “a very young child” and “an unborn child; a fetus,” and I understand its colloquial use, when you’re writing a pamphlet detailing clinical risks/outcomes it is in bad form to use colloquial language in place of clinical terminology. And I could see how a pro-choicer would see this as deceptive. It’s no better than when pro-choicers insist on using the term “fetus” in a casual conversation. Certain terms are meant for certain modes of communication, and choosing the inappropriate term is a manipulation of language for an agenda. The listener is bound to detect this agenda, causing them to lose trust in the impartiality of the speaker. Why undermine our credibility when the facts are already on our side?

2. LACK OF EXTRANEOUS POLICY

The same article takes issue with the fact that the writers included this…

You have a greater risk of dying from the abortion procedure and having serious complications the further along you are in your pregnancy.

…but did not include the conclusion of the article they cited to support this claim. That conclusion said, “increased access to surgical and nonsurgical abortion services may increase the proportion of abortions performed at lower-risk, early gestational ages and help further decrease deaths.” In other words, the authors of the study pointed out that increased access to abortion could decrease deaths from later-term abortions. For some reason they think this should have been included in the pamphlet. But this seems like a tangential issue (public policy proposals), unrelated to informing women of their current projected risks. I’m sure with birth as well there are risks which could be mitigated by new policies, yet bringing up possible future policies in an informational pamphlet doesn’t make much sense.

3. NO OVERT DEATH RATE COMPARISON

Opponents also complained that this information wasn’t included:

Moreover, a 2012 study found that abortion is “markedly safer than childbirth.” The study found that the risk of death from carrying a pregnancy to term “is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion.”

However if you read the pamphlet, the authors give the exact risk of death for various gestational ages and for vaginal and cesarean delivery:

There is one death per every one million abortions for women who are eight weeks pregnant or less, one death per 29,000 abortions for pregnancies at 16 to 20 weeks of gestation, and one death per 11,000 abortions at 21 weeks of gestation and later.

Vaginal Delivery: Possible side effects and risks… Death (very rare — one per 500,000 vaginal deliveries of a live-born infant).

Cesarean Birth: Possible side effects and risks… Death (very rare — one per 45,500 cesarean deliveries of a live-born infant).

I suppose one could complain that the authors said “very rare” only for the birth risks but not for the early-term abortions which are far more rare. One might also complain that risk of death between 8-16 weeks is not given even though this is a pretty common gestational age to obtain an abortion. However, complaining that they did not explicitly compare the rates rings pretty hollow when they clearly provided rates for both abortion and childbirth.

4. BREAST CANCER RISK

Lastly:

Unchanged in the latest version is language saying giving birth, rather than having an abortion, makes women “less likely to develop breast cancer in the future.”

“Research indicates that having an abortion will not provide you this increased protection against breast cancer,” it reads. But the American Cancer Society refutes that on its website, saying “scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer.”

You may notice that these two quotes are not mutually exclusive. In fact both are true. Here is what the pamphlet says about breast cancer in its entirety:

Your pregnancy history affects your chances of getting breast cancer. If you give birth to your baby, you are less likely to develop breast cancer in the future. Research indicates that having an abortion will not provide you this increased protection against breast cancer. In addition, doctors and scientists are actively studying the complex biology of breast cancer to understand whether abortion may affect the risk of breast cancer. If you have a family history of breast cancer or breast disease, ask your doctor how your pregnancy will affect your risk of breast cancer.

Giving birth lowers your chance of breast cancer, so of course if you choose to not give birth you will miss out on that protective effect. That’s all completely true. And that’s how they phrased it. So the quote from the ACS is refuting something nobody claimed. Good job, guys.

Overall this is not a very credible list of complaints. And these are just the ones credible enough to mention in news articles. The pamphlet gives valid and useful information which women would not otherwise receive — certainly not in its entirety since a doctor’s visit is a mere 15-20 minutes. Pamphlets are a great way to close this knowledge gap, especially for patients who don’t have the resources, time, and discerning ability to go find it all themselves. As a pro-lifer I fully support keeping women informed on all these topics, and do not seek to hide or manipulate information. You would think this would be a great common-ground principle to share with pro-choicers, as their name implies. But this pamphlet backlash is a prime example of the fact that it is not.

If you want to submit comments in support of the revisions, you can do so via email to WRTK@dshs.state.tx.us. Today is the deadline. Additional information is available here.

Pro-choicers oppose informed consent. Again.

Texas law mandates that women seeking an abortion must be given an informational pamphlet on abortion and then wait 24 hours before undergoing an abortion procedure. This pamphlet was created in 2003 and is now being updated to reflect more current knowledge of fetal development and the effects of abortion. The new pamphlet was made publicly available by the Texas Department of State Health Services on June 28th.

Before I delve into the controversy, here’s a quick review of the pamphlet. In the introductory page, the writers stress the importance of discussing with your doctor not just the medical risks of abortion but also of giving birth. The pamphlet then gives week-by-week facts about embryonic and fetal development. Next, the writers talk about risks of abortion (death, mental health risks, infertility, etc), the process of obtaining an abortion with emphasis on informed consent, information on support services, and then abortion procedures and their side effects. The last section talks about the risks of giving birth, including common medical risks of pregnancy, risks of birthing, and postpartum problems.

This is already more impartial than most abortion providers. Pro-choicers show their true colors when they fight tooth and nail to prevent facts from being given to abortion-minded women regarding prenatal development, the effects of abortion, and alternatives to abortion. If your worldview requires keeping women in the dark, I have to wonder how you can unironically claim the title of “feminist,” “pro-woman,” or any of the other empowering titles we see pro-choicers crown themselves with.

That is the core of this Texas pamphlet issue.

These 2016 updates (but not the pamphlet itself) are open to public comment until today, Friday, July 29, 2016 (send an email to WRTK@dshs.state.tx.us if you’d like to comment on the new material). Naturally, pro-choice leaders are rallying their followers to send in critical comments. 

Alexa Garcia-Ditta of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas said her organization and other abortion rights groups statewide have teamed up to generate more than 5,000 comments criticizing the latest draft.

Hopefully these are all worthwhile complaints, i.e. against factual inaccuracies. Somehow I doubt it. But allow me to address some complaints I saw in recent news articles.

1. TERMINOLOGY

While I think that calling the pamphlet “state-mandated abortion propaganda” is hyperbolic, I also think they have a point here. The article says:

Among major changes, the new draft uses “your baby” when describing gestation development as early as four weeks, rather than medical terms, such as “fetus.” 

In the previous version, the term “baby” was used more sparingly and accurately. While the term “baby” has been defined as “a very young child” and “an unborn child; a fetus,” and I understand its colloquial use, when you’re writing a pamphlet detailing clinical risks/outcomes it is in bad form to use colloquial language in place of clinical terminology. And I could see how a pro-choicer would see this as deceptive. It’s no better than when pro-choicers insist on using the term “fetus” in a casual conversation. Certain terms are meant for certain modes of communication, and choosing the inappropriate term is a manipulation of language for an agenda. The listener is bound to detect this agenda, causing them to lose trust in the impartiality of the speaker. Why undermine our credibility when the facts are already on our side?

2. LACK OF EXTRANEOUS POLICY

The same article takes issue with the fact that the writers included this…

You have a greater risk of dying from the abortion procedure and having serious complications the further along you are in your pregnancy.

…but did not include the conclusion of the article they cited to support this claim. That conclusion said, “increased access to surgical and nonsurgical abortion services may increase the proportion of abortions performed at lower-risk, early gestational ages and help further decrease deaths.” In other words, the authors of the study pointed out that increased access to abortion could decrease deaths from later-term abortions. For some reason they think this should have been included in the pamphlet. But this seems like a tangential issue (public policy proposals), unrelated to informing women of their current projected risks. I’m sure with birth as well there are risks which could be mitigated by new policies, yet bringing up possible future policies in an informational pamphlet doesn’t make much sense.

3. NO OVERT DEATH RATE COMPARISON

Opponents also complained that this information wasn’t included:

Moreover, a 2012 study found that abortion is “markedly safer than childbirth.” The study found that the risk of death from carrying a pregnancy to term “is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion.”

However if you read the pamphlet, the authors give the exact risk of death for various gestational ages and for vaginal and cesarean delivery:

There is one death per every one million abortions for women who are eight weeks pregnant or less, one death per 29,000 abortions for pregnancies at 16 to 20 weeks of gestation, and one death per 11,000 abortions at 21 weeks of gestation and later.

Vaginal Delivery: Possible side effects and risks… Death (very rare — one per 500,000 vaginal deliveries of a live-born infant).

Cesarean Birth: Possible side effects and risks… Death (very rare — one per 45,500 cesarean deliveries of a live-born infant).

I suppose one could complain that the authors said “very rare” only for the birth risks but not for the early-term abortions which are far more rare. One might also complain that risk of death between 8-16 weeks is not given even though this is a pretty common gestational age to obtain an abortion. However, complaining that they did not explicitly compare the rates rings pretty hollow when they clearly provided rates for both abortion and childbirth.

4. BREAST CANCER RISK

Lastly:

Unchanged in the latest version is language saying giving birth, rather than having an abortion, makes women “less likely to develop breast cancer in the future.”

“Research indicates that having an abortion will not provide you this increased protection against breast cancer,” it reads. But the American Cancer Society refutes that on its website, saying “scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer.”

You may notice that these two quotes are not mutually exclusive. In fact both are true. Here is what the pamphlet says about breast cancer in its entirety:

Your pregnancy history affects your chances of getting breast cancer. If you give birth to your baby, you are less likely to develop breast cancer in the future. Research indicates that having an abortion will not provide you this increased protection against breast cancer. In addition, doctors and scientists are actively studying the complex biology of breast cancer to understand whether abortion may affect the risk of breast cancer. If you have a family history of breast cancer or breast disease, ask your doctor how your pregnancy will affect your risk of breast cancer.

Giving birth lowers your chance of breast cancer, so of course if you choose to not give birth you will miss out on that protective effect. That’s all completely true. And that’s how they phrased it. So the quote from the ACS is refuting something nobody claimed. Good job, guys.

Overall this is not a very credible list of complaints. And these are just the ones credible enough to mention in news articles. The pamphlet gives valid and useful information which women would not otherwise receive — certainly not in its entirety since a doctor’s visit is a mere 15-20 minutes. Pamphlets are a great way to close this knowledge gap, especially for patients who don’t have the resources, time, and discerning ability to go find it all themselves. As a pro-lifer I fully support keeping women informed on all these topics, and do not seek to hide or manipulate information. You would think this would be a great common-ground principle to share with pro-choicers, as their name implies. But this pamphlet backlash is a prime example of the fact that it is not.

If you want to submit comments in support of the revisions, you can do so via email to WRTK@dshs.state.tx.us. Today is the deadline. Additional information is available here.

Abortion, Sterilization, and Regret: A Double Standard

A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post ran an article about the obstacles encountered by young women interested in permanent surgical sterilization (e.g. tubal ligation):

The first time Bri Seeley told her doctor she wanted to be sterilized, she was 24 years old. … Motherhood, she knew deep in her bones, was not for her.

But the naturopath whom Seeley saw for her annual exam told her that because of her age, she was not a good candidate for permanent sterilization. The following year, Seeley asked again — and was rebuffed again. Next year, the same thing.

“Every single year she would say to me, ‘You will never find a doctor to do that for you,'” said Seeley, who is now 31 and lives in Los Angeles, and who has blogged for The Huffington Post about her experience. Though her desire for the procedure only grew, she said, the anger she felt after her initial rejection gradually gave way to a kind of numbed resignation.

The issue is that doctors are concerned that women, and particularly younger women who have never given birth, will regret being sterilized:

A major area of focus for ACOG, and the OB-GYNs it seeks to counsel, is the question of regret. A comprehensive 2008 review looking at sterilization in the United States found that patient regret is the most common lasting complication of sterilization, and one that disproportionately affects women: Up to 26 percent of female patients say later that they regret the procedure, according to statistics cited in the study, compared to less than 5 percent of men who have a vasectomy. And age, the researchers concluded, is the top predictor of regret. Women who were under 30 when they were sterilized were twice as likely as their older counterparts to say they had later misgivings.

As one ob/gyn put it, “In some ways, it’s very difficult to see a 22-year old make a decision for the 35-year-old she will be someday and not have major concerns that she might regret that decision.”

Naturally, as I read this, my mind immediately went to the topic of post-abortion regret. Abortion, obviously, is also permanent. A 2008 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that abortion is associated with an 81% increased risk of mental health problems. And I realize that this is a matter of intense ideologically-driven debate, but even if you disagree with the meta-analysis and refuse to accept that abortion is associated with mental illness, it is absolutely, at minimum, associated with regret. (Witness the explosion of women-led support programs that have emerged in the vacuum of official silence/reluctance/opposition.) If regret is a “complication” of sterilization, there is no defensible reason not to treat it as a complication of abortion as well.

Where is the concern from physicians that the 22-year-old obtaining an abortion is “making a decision for the 35-year-old she will be someday”—the woman wondering about the child who would have been on the cusp of his or her teen years?

If a childfree young woman wants a tubal ligation, and she has been fully informed of the one-in-four chance that she may later regret it (along with the obvious risks attendant to surgery), she should be able to obtain a tubal ligation. In addition to helping the majority of patients, a policy of open access to sterilization would also have the happy side effect of preventing unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Conversely, ob/gyns and women’s health advocates should not be so cavalier about the chances that a woman will one day say that she regrets her abortion. (Often, as with sterilization, the regret won’t come until years later, which is why I’m thoroughly unimpressed by research emphasizing that relief is the most common immediate reaction to an abortion.)

I don’t wish to diminish the experiences of women who regret their tubal ligations. But they at least have options: some tubal ligations can be surgically reversed, sterilized women can become mothers through adoption, and one of the women quoted in the HuffPo piece was a stepmom. In contrast, there is nothing that can replace the unique daughter or son lost in an abortion.

The medical community has this completely ass-backwards.

Abortion, Sterilization, and Regret: A Double Standard

A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post ran an article about the obstacles encountered by young women interested in permanent surgical sterilization (e.g. tubal ligation):

The first time Bri Seeley told her doctor she wanted to be sterilized, she was 24 years old. … Motherhood, she knew deep in her bones, was not for her.

But the naturopath whom Seeley saw for her annual exam told her that because of her age, she was not a good candidate for permanent sterilization. The following year, Seeley asked again — and was rebuffed again. Next year, the same thing.

“Every single year she would say to me, ‘You will never find a doctor to do that for you,'” said Seeley, who is now 31 and lives in Los Angeles, and who has blogged for The Huffington Post about her experience. Though her desire for the procedure only grew, she said, the anger she felt after her initial rejection gradually gave way to a kind of numbed resignation.

The issue is that doctors are concerned that women, and particularly younger women who have never given birth, will regret being sterilized:

A major area of focus for ACOG, and the OB-GYNs it seeks to counsel, is the question of regret. A comprehensive 2008 review looking at sterilization in the United States found that patient regret is the most common lasting complication of sterilization, and one that disproportionately affects women: Up to 26 percent of female patients say later that they regret the procedure, according to statistics cited in the study, compared to less than 5 percent of men who have a vasectomy. And age, the researchers concluded, is the top predictor of regret. Women who were under 30 when they were sterilized were twice as likely as their older counterparts to say they had later misgivings.

As one ob/gyn put it, “In some ways, it’s very difficult to see a 22-year old make a decision for the 35-year-old she will be someday and not have major concerns that she might regret that decision.”

Naturally, as I read this, my mind immediately went to the topic of post-abortion regret. Abortion, obviously, is also permanent. A 2008 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that abortion is associated with an 81% increased risk of mental health problems. And I realize that this is a matter of intense ideologically-driven debate, but even if you disagree with the meta-analysis and refuse to accept that abortion is associated with mental illness, it is absolutely, at minimum, associated with regret. (Witness the explosion of women-led support programs that have emerged in the vacuum of official silence/reluctance/opposition.) If regret is a “complication” of sterilization, there is no defensible reason not to treat it as a complication of abortion as well.

Where is the concern from physicians that the 22-year-old obtaining an abortion is “making a decision for the 35-year-old she will be someday”—the woman wondering about the child who would have been on the cusp of his or her teen years?

If a childfree young woman wants a tubal ligation, and she has been fully informed of the one-in-four chance that she may later regret it (along with the obvious risks attendant to surgery), she should be able to obtain a tubal ligation. In addition to helping the majority of patients, a policy of open access to sterilization would also have the happy side effect of preventing unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Conversely, ob/gyns and women’s health advocates should not be so cavalier about the chances that a woman will one day say that she regrets her abortion. (Often, as with sterilization, the regret won’t come until years later, which is why I’m thoroughly unimpressed by research emphasizing that relief is the most common immediate reaction to an abortion.)

I don’t wish to diminish the experiences of women who regret their tubal ligations. But they at least have options: some tubal ligations can be surgically reversed, sterilized women can become mothers through adoption, and one of the women quoted in the HuffPo piece was a stepmom. In contrast, there is nothing that can replace the unique daughter or son lost in an abortion.

The medical community has this completely ass-backwards.

Is pregnancy options counseling becoming obsolete?

The other day, I had an interesting private twitter conversation with well-known abortion advocate and author Robin Marty.

Marty was promoting a local project that plans to call itself a “pregnancy center,” but that will refer for abortions. The idea is that it will treat abortion, adoption, and parenting as equally valid options and offer support for all three. I wondered aloud to Marty if this was a pro-choice acknowledgment that Planned Parenthood can no longer be feasibly marketed in such a fashion, given that its prenatal services have diminished rapidly over the last few years. We wound up on a different question: do women actually go to Planned Parenthood, or to pregnancy centers, in order to explore their options? Or do women generally make their decisions in advance, and go to Planned Parenthood if they want an abortion and to a pregnancy center if they’ve chosen life?

Marty’s position (edited slightly to reflect how she’d write if not limited to 140 characters):

A person goes into a pregnancy center when she’s already made the choice to carry to term. We’ve hit a point where there is so much information out there, most people think they know what they want before they walk through any door, in my opinion.

I wasn’t sure if I agreed or not, so I promised her I’d explore the topic in a blog post. Here you go, Robin.

According to Planned Parenthood’s annual reports, nine out of ten pregnant women who go to Planned Parenthood get an abortion. But this doesn’t tell us much, because it’s a chicken-or-the-egg problem. Has PP dropped its non-abortion services because people don’t want them anymore? Or do most pregnant PP clients have abortions because PP is increasingly abortion-focused in its offerings and counseling? Hard to say.

We’ve all heard stories about women who change their minds on the sidewalk at the last minute. Heck, Chicago-area pro-lifers even developed a protocol for women who change their minds mid-abortion. But these are just anecdotes; we don’t know how common it is, and I haven’t made any attempt here to separate Planned Parenthoods from places that are obviously abortion businesses and make no pretense otherwise.

Conversely, though, I’m fairly confident that many women going to pregnancy resource centers have not made up their minds. (If they had, the abortion industry and its allies wouldn’t be so obsessed with “warning” people that pro-life pregnancy centers and clinics don’t do abortions.) Most pregnancy resource centers offer free pregnancy tests, a service for which PP and other abortion centers charge; no doubt people do use those free tests, or else the PRCs would stop offering them.1 (After all, PRCs are on a much tighter budget than Planned Parenthood.) Along the same lines, the increasing use of ultrasound technology at PRCs is driven in large part by their ability to change minds on abortion.2 Sonogram machines are expensive, so again, I doubt PRCs would make that investment if they didn’t think women were coming in who might be impacted by it. If the choices were being made ahead of time, we would expect PRCs to focus exclusively on offering maternity and baby supplies, parenting classes, etc.

That said, there is something to Marty’s point about there being a lot of information out there, and particularly on the internet. Look at Online for Life, which reaches abortion-minded women through internet marketing, connects them with local pro-life resources, and is able to follow their journeys through pregnancy and birth. And Secular Pro-Life’s own AbortionSafety.com project aims to inform women about malpractice lawsuits and health code violations long before they make an appointment at a shoddy abortion facility.

So yes, the trend is real, even if we haven’t yet reached the point where all or most women choose life or abortion before seeking a provider. And this trend isn’t surprising to me, either. I think that it’s impossible for a counselor to be truly objective about a woman’s options, because you just can’t avoid the moral issues surrounding abortion. People with no opinion on abortion are unlikely to care enough to become pregnancy options counselors anyway (and even if they did, how long would they remain ambivalent?).3 Women in crisis pregnancies who are truly undecided about what to do probably realize this, and may respond by “self-counseling,” i.e. consulting their friends and/or the internet. It seems that we pro-lifers and our loyal opposition are in a race to be the first voice she hears.

1. According to a joint report by several national PRC umbrella groups, American PRCs provided 730,000 pregnancy tests in 2010. 
2. According to that same report, American PRCs performed 230,000 ultrasounds in 2010. I should note that sonograms are not solely used when an abortion-minded woman comes to a PRC; they are also used as a backup to pregnancy tests where there is some doubt as to whether or not the client is pregnant, and to detect ectopic pregnancies. And of course, they are used routinely at those centers that offer full-service prenatal care on site. Most PRCs, though, don’t have the budget for on-site prenatal care and instead have referral arrangements with supportive community physicians.
3. The purportedly neutral project Marty was promoting is staunchly pro-choice. Its fundraising page states: “It is time to demonstrate that anti-abortion organizations do not have a monopoly on supporting parents and people who are continuing their pregnancies.” I found that a fascinating departure from the usual slander that those meanie anti-choicers never actually do anything to support born people.

Is pregnancy options counseling becoming obsolete?

The other day, I had an interesting private twitter conversation with well-known abortion advocate and author Robin Marty.

Marty was promoting a local project that plans to call itself a “pregnancy center,” but that will refer for abortions. The idea is that it will treat abortion, adoption, and parenting as equally valid options and offer support for all three. I wondered aloud to Marty if this was a pro-choice acknowledgment that Planned Parenthood can no longer be feasibly marketed in such a fashion, given that its prenatal services have diminished rapidly over the last few years. We wound up on a different question: do women actually go to Planned Parenthood, or to pregnancy centers, in order to explore their options? Or do women generally make their decisions in advance, and go to Planned Parenthood if they want an abortion and to a pregnancy center if they’ve chosen life?

Marty’s position (edited slightly to reflect how she’d write if not limited to 140 characters):

A person goes into a pregnancy center when she’s already made the choice to carry to term. We’ve hit a point where there is so much information out there, most people think they know what they want before they walk through any door, in my opinion.

I wasn’t sure if I agreed or not, so I promised her I’d explore the topic in a blog post. Here you go, Robin.

According to Planned Parenthood’s annual reports, nine out of ten pregnant women who go to Planned Parenthood get an abortion. But this doesn’t tell us much, because it’s a chicken-or-the-egg problem. Has PP dropped its non-abortion services because people don’t want them anymore? Or do most pregnant PP clients have abortions because PP is increasingly abortion-focused in its offerings and counseling? Hard to say.

We’ve all heard stories about women who change their minds on the sidewalk at the last minute. Heck, Chicago-area pro-lifers even developed a protocol for women who change their minds mid-abortion. But these are just anecdotes; we don’t know how common it is, and I haven’t made any attempt here to separate Planned Parenthoods from places that are obviously abortion businesses and make no pretense otherwise.

Conversely, though, I’m fairly confident that many women going to pregnancy resource centers have not made up their minds. (If they had, the abortion industry and its allies wouldn’t be so obsessed with “warning” people that pro-life pregnancy centers and clinics don’t do abortions.) Most pregnancy resource centers offer free pregnancy tests, a service for which PP and other abortion centers charge; no doubt people do use those free tests, or else the PRCs would stop offering them.1 (After all, PRCs are on a much tighter budget than Planned Parenthood.) Along the same lines, the increasing use of ultrasound technology at PRCs is driven in large part by their ability to change minds on abortion.2 Sonogram machines are expensive, so again, I doubt PRCs would make that investment if they didn’t think women were coming in who might be impacted by it. If the choices were being made ahead of time, we would expect PRCs to focus exclusively on offering maternity and baby supplies, parenting classes, etc.

That said, there is something to Marty’s point about there being a lot of information out there, and particularly on the internet. Look at Online for Life, which reaches abortion-minded women through internet marketing, connects them with local pro-life resources, and is able to follow their journeys through pregnancy and birth. And Secular Pro-Life’s own AbortionSafety.com project aims to inform women about malpractice lawsuits and health code violations long before they make an appointment at a shoddy abortion facility.

So yes, the trend is real, even if we haven’t yet reached the point where all or most women choose life or abortion before seeking a provider. And this trend isn’t surprising to me, either. I think that it’s impossible for a counselor to be truly objective about a woman’s options, because you just can’t avoid the moral issues surrounding abortion. People with no opinion on abortion are unlikely to care enough to become pregnancy options counselors anyway (and even if they did, how long would they remain ambivalent?).3 Women in crisis pregnancies who are truly undecided about what to do probably realize this, and may respond by “self-counseling,” i.e. consulting their friends and/or the internet. It seems that we pro-lifers and our loyal opposition are in a race to be the first voice she hears.

1. According to a joint report by several national PRC umbrella groups, American PRCs provided 730,000 pregnancy tests in 2010. 
2. According to that same report, American PRCs performed 230,000 ultrasounds in 2010. I should note that sonograms are not solely used when an abortion-minded woman comes to a PRC; they are also used as a backup to pregnancy tests where there is some doubt as to whether or not the client is pregnant, and to detect ectopic pregnancies. And of course, they are used routinely at those centers that offer full-service prenatal care on site. Most PRCs, though, don’t have the budget for on-site prenatal care and instead have referral arrangements with supportive community physicians.
3. The purportedly neutral project Marty was promoting is staunchly pro-choice. Its fundraising page states: “It is time to demonstrate that anti-abortion organizations do not have a monopoly on supporting parents and people who are continuing their pregnancies.” I found that a fascinating departure from the usual slander that those meanie anti-choicers never actually do anything to support born people.