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

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

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

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

Pro-choice critics of the policy, labeling it the “global gag rule,” argue that restricting funds from family planning organizations in Africa harms women by making access to contraception and clinical abortions difficult or impossible. In fact, these critics point to a few studies that seem to confirm this (one in 2011, one in 2018, and the latest in 2019). The 2019 study, published in Lancet Global Health by Brooks et al., is more comprehensive than the previous studies and analyzes data from three administrations (Clinton, W. Bush, and Obama). They analyze data on abortion and modern contraceptive use in 26 African countries and label some “high exposure” (hereafter HE) if they are most dependent on US foreign aid, and therefore more affected by the Mexico City policy, and others “low exposure” (hereafter LE) if they are least affected. The authors explain:

Our paper finds a substantial increase in abortions across sub-Saharan Africa among women affected by the US Mexico City Policy. This increase is mirrored by a corresponding decline in the use of modern contraception and increase in pregnancies under the policy. This pattern of more frequent abortions and lower contraceptive use was also reversed after the policy was rescinded.

Based on this summary, one might conclude that Brooks et al found that when the Mexico City policy is in place, abortions rise and contraception use decreases, and once the policy is reversed, abortions decrease and contraception use increases, especially in HE countries. And yet this relationship is not what the study found. As the authors explain in the supplemental material (Figure S4):

(Click to enlarge)

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

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

This lack of correlation is obscured in the main paper, because the authors focus on differences between abortion rates among HE and LE countries. Here is how they put it:

Our regression estimates show that relative to women in low-exposure countries, women living in high-exposure countries used less modern contraception, had more pregnancies, and had more abortions when the policy was in place compared with when the policy was rescinded…when US support for international family planning organisations was conditioned on the policy, coverage of modern contraception fell and the proportion of women reporting pregnancy and abortions increased, in relative terms, among women in countries more reliant on US funding.

Now it is true that abortion rates of HE countries were more similar to the LE countries under Obama then they were under Bush, but Brooks et al don’t mention that this is because rates for both groups sharply increased after plateauing at lower levels during the Bush years. There also was a larger gap in contraception use between LE and HE countries under Bush, but this gap narrowed years before Obama reversed the Mexico City policy.

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

Brooks et al use data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), a nationally representative household survey. These surveys track reported abortions and live births, with spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) and induced abortions categorized together. Here’s how the authors differentiated between the two:

A termination was classified as induced if it occurred following contraceptive failure, if the terminated pregnancy was unwanted… or if the woman was under age 26 years and was not married or in a union. Terminations were not classified as induced if they occurred in the third trimester, if the woman indicated that contraception had been discontinued to allow for pregnancy, or if the woman was married or in a union with no children.

As the basis for their algorithm, the authors cite this study conducted in Turkey in 1996 using DHS data from the country. Brooks et al note their own limitations with the DHS:

Abortions are often under-reported in survey data, and the DHS is no exception.

Even if abortions did go up during the Mexico City Policy and down without it (not the case), given all the uncertainties and missing data, it would be hard to draw any sweeping conclusions from these surveys. Similarly, pro-lifers should be cautious about assuming Obama’s reversal of the policy caused the apparent abortion rate jump under his administration; the jump could reflect more accurate reporting, or the abortion rates may not be reliable to begin with.

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

A Supreme Court abortion decision is expected any day. Here’s what you need to know.

The U.S. Supreme Court traditionally releases its major opinions in the month of June. We have already seen blockbuster rulings on LGBT employment discrimination and DACA. Next up: June Medical Services v. Russo, which will determine the fate of a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice.

Image via the Katrina Jackson for
Senate District 34 facebook page

The common-sense, bipartisan law was spearheaded by then-state representative (now state senator) Katrina Jackson (pictured), a Democrat. It is not a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. Instead, it seeks to harness the power of existing medical institutions to identify and stop abortionists who are especially dangerous to women. As pro-choice author William Saletan noted years ago in his chilling Back Alley series, the medical community knows full well who these shoddy abortionists are and quietly declines to work with them — but historically, they have refused to speak up for political reasons. Admitting privileges requirements make these “open secrets” truly open, and force the abortion lobby to live up to the “safe” part of its empty motto.

Side note: Any news coverage of this case that fails to mention Kevin Work is sham journalism. He’s exactly the type of abortionist that Louisiana’s law is meant to address. Read more about him here
Louisiana’s law is similar to the Texas law that the Supreme Court tragically struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, although the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals noted some differences when it upheld Louisiana’s law in 2018. Pro-life advocates were horrified by Hellerstedt, which prioritized abortion access and industry profits over women’s safety. Hellerstedt was a 5-3 decision, when the Court had only eight Justices due to the death of Justice Scalia. (The three in the minority were Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito.) Since then, pro-abortion Justice Kennedy has retired, and Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — widely believed to support the right to life — have joined the Court. 
Here are the possible outcomes to watch for in Russo, from worst to best:
  • The Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana’s law. This would mean that at least one of the Justices believed to be an anti-abortion vote is not, and that pro-life groups have received little in return for their decades of putting up with the Republican Party. If this happens, expect absolute chaos to ensue.
  • The Supreme Court upholds Louisiana’s law without overturning Hellerstedt. This would essentially ratify the Fifth Circuit’s approach. Lower courts would be instructed to consider other states’ admitting privileges laws on a case-by-case basis, depending on such factors as the number of abortionists in the state and what criteria the state’s hospitals use to grant or deny admitting privileges. 
  • The Supreme Court upholds Louisiana’s law, recognizes its past mistake, and reverses Hellerstedt. This would be a victory for women’s health and babies’ lives.
  • The Supreme Court finds that the plaintiffs lack standing. This is a long shot, so don’t get your hopes up, but a decision on the basis of standing would be huge. The legal concept of standing means that a person can’t sue merely because they dislike a law; they have to have a certain level of direct involvement. To give an obvious example, the plaintiffs in the LGBT employment discrimination cases decided earlier this month were, not surprisingly, LGBT people whose employers discriminated against them. In Russo, the plaintiffs are arguing that Louisiana’s law unduly burdens women’s right to an abortion — but the plaintiffs in Russo aren’t women, much less pregnant mothers seeking abortions and facing legal burdens. The Russo plaintiffs are abortion companies whose hired abortionists don’t have admitting privileges. Although many past cases have involved abortion companies legally standing in for abortion-seeking mothers (e.g. Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Hellerstedt), allowing that type of substitute standing in a safety regulations case creates a serious conflict of interest. Women’s desire to obtain the best possible care and avoid quacks like Kevin Work is directly at odds with abortion vendors’ desire to cut costs. If the Supreme Court finally expresses some long-overdue skepticism at the idea that abortion businesses represent women’s interests, our legal system could finally escape, or at least reduce, the influence of abortion industry money.
Dr. Michael New of the Charlotte Lozier Institute puts it best:

A Supreme Court abortion decision is expected any day. Here’s what you need to know.

The U.S. Supreme Court traditionally releases its major opinions in the month of June. We have already seen blockbuster rulings on LGBT employment discrimination and DACA. Next up: June Medical Services v. Russo, which will determine the fate of a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice.

Image via the Katrina Jackson for
Senate District 34 facebook page

The common-sense, bipartisan law was spearheaded by then-state representative (now state senator) Katrina Jackson (pictured), a Democrat. It is not a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. Instead, it seeks to harness the power of existing medical institutions to identify and stop abortionists who are especially dangerous to women. As pro-choice author William Saletan noted years ago in his chilling Back Alley series, the medical community knows full well who these shoddy abortionists are and quietly declines to work with them — but historically, they have refused to speak up for political reasons. Admitting privileges requirements make these “open secrets” truly open, and force the abortion lobby to live up to the “safe” part of its empty motto.

Side note: Any news coverage of this case that fails to mention Kevin Work is sham journalism. He’s exactly the type of abortionist that Louisiana’s law is meant to address. Read more about him here
Louisiana’s law is similar to the Texas law that the Supreme Court tragically struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, although the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals noted some differences when it upheld Louisiana’s law in 2018. Pro-life advocates were horrified by Hellerstedt, which prioritized abortion access and industry profits over women’s safety. Hellerstedt was a 5-3 decision, when the Court had only eight Justices due to the death of Justice Scalia. (The three in the minority were Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito.) Since then, pro-abortion Justice Kennedy has retired, and Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — widely believed to support the right to life — have joined the Court. 
Here are the possible outcomes to watch for in Russo, from worst to best:
  • The Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana’s law. This would mean that at least one of the Justices believed to be an anti-abortion vote is not, and that pro-life groups have received little in return for their decades of putting up with the Republican Party. If this happens, expect absolute chaos to ensue.
  • The Supreme Court upholds Louisiana’s law without overturning Hellerstedt. This would essentially ratify the Fifth Circuit’s approach. Lower courts would be instructed to consider other states’ admitting privileges laws on a case-by-case basis, depending on such factors as the number of abortionists in the state and what criteria the state’s hospitals use to grant or deny admitting privileges. 
  • The Supreme Court upholds Louisiana’s law, recognizes its past mistake, and reverses Hellerstedt. This would be a victory for women’s health and babies’ lives.
  • The Supreme Court finds that the plaintiffs lack standing. This is a long shot, so don’t get your hopes up, but a decision on the basis of standing would be huge. The legal concept of standing means that a person can’t sue merely because they dislike a law; they have to have a certain level of direct involvement. To give an obvious example, the plaintiffs in the LGBT employment discrimination cases decided earlier this month were, not surprisingly, LGBT people whose employers discriminated against them. In Russo, the plaintiffs are arguing that Louisiana’s law unduly burdens women’s right to an abortion — but the plaintiffs in Russo aren’t women, much less pregnant mothers seeking abortions and facing legal burdens. The Russo plaintiffs are abortion companies whose hired abortionists don’t have admitting privileges. Although many past cases have involved abortion companies legally standing in for abortion-seeking mothers (e.g. Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Hellerstedt), allowing that type of substitute standing in a safety regulations case creates a serious conflict of interest. Women’s desire to obtain the best possible care and avoid quacks like Kevin Work is directly at odds with abortion vendors’ desire to cut costs. If the Supreme Court finally expresses some long-overdue skepticism at the idea that abortion businesses represent women’s interests, our legal system could finally escape, or at least reduce, the influence of abortion industry money.
Dr. Michael New of the Charlotte Lozier Institute puts it best:

Sources for “Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths”

Today Oregon Right to Life is hosting the “Together We Advocate” Conference, the largest pro-life conference in the Pacific northwest. Monica Snyder, SPL co-leader, will be giving a slightly updated version of her presentation “Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths,” including where those myths come from and the research that undermines the myths’ claims. Here are the sources used to create the presentation.

Myth #1:
We don’t know when human life begins.
Articles:
Biology
and embryology textbooks and relevant quotes:
  • Scott Gilbert,
    Developmental Biology, 11
    th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer
    Associates, 2016: “Fertilization accomplishes two separate ends: sex (the
    combining of genes derived from two parents) and reproduction (the
    generation of a new organism).”
  • T.W. Sadler,
    Langman’s Medical Embryology, 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott
    Williams & Wilkins, 2006:”Development begins with fertilization,
    the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete,
    the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.”
  • Erich
    Blechschmidt, Brian Freeman, The Ontogenetic Basis of Human Anatomy: The
    Biodynamic Approach to Development from Conception to Adulthood, North
    Atlantic Books, June 2004: “We talk of human development not because
    a jumble of cells, which is perhaps initially atypical, gradually turns
    more and more into a human, but rather because the human being develops
    from a uniquely human cell. There is no state in human development prior
    to which one could claim that a being exists with not-yet-human
    individuality. On the basis of anatomical studies, we know today that no
    developmental phase exists that constitutes a transition from the
    not-yet-human to the human.” & “In short, a fertilized egg
    (conceptus) is already a human being.”
  • Keith L. Moore,
    The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition.
    Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003: “Human development begins at
    fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm
    (spermatozoon development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to
    form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent
    cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” And
    “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an
    embryo).”
  • Scott Gilbert,
    Developmental Biology, 6th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates,
    2001:“When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult.
    But the dog is a “dog” from the moment of fertilization of a dog egg by a
    dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore,
    the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from
    fertilization through death.”
  • Ronan R.
    O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology & Teratology, 3rd
    Edition, New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001: “Although life is a continuous
    process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary
    circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when
    the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the
    oocyte.”
  • Ida G. Dox, B.
    John Melloni, Gilbert Eisner, The HarperCollins Illustrated Medical
    Dictionary, 2001: “An Embryo is an organism in the earliest stages of
    development.”
  • Human
    Embryology, William J Larsen, 3rd Edition, 2001: “In this text, we begin
    our description of the developing human with the formation and
    differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will
    unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new
    individual.”
  • William J.
    Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology. New York: Churchill Livingstone,
    1998: “Human embryos begin development following the fusion of
    definitive male and female gametes during fertilization… This moment of
    zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic
    development.”
  • Bruce M.
    Carlson, Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York:
    McGraw-Hill, 1996: “Almost all higher animals start their lives from
    a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization
    represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the
    individual.”
  • Keith L. Moore
    and T.V.N. Persaud. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth
    Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993:
    “Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr.
    zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The
    common expression ‘fertilized ovum’ refers to the zygote.”
  • Clark Edward
    Corliss, Patten’s Human Embryology: Elements of Clinical Development. New
    York: McGraw Hill, 1976. “It is the penetration of the ovum by a
    spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to
    the union that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization
    and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.”
  • E.L. Potter and
    J.M. Craig, Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant, 3rd edition. Chicago:
    Year Book Medical Publishers, 1975: “Every time a sperm cell and ovum
    unite a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live
    unless its death is brought about by some specific condition.”
  • J.P. Greenhill
    and E.A. Friedman, Biological Principles and Modern Practice of
    Obstetrics. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1974: “The term conception
    refers to the union of the male and female pronuclear elements of
    procreation from which a new living being develops. It is synonymous with
    the terms fecundation, impregnation, and fertilization.”
  • Leslie Brainerd
    Arey, Developmental Anatomy, 7
    th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders,
    1974: “The formation, maturation and meeting of a male and female sex cell
    are all preliminary to their actual union into a combined cell, or zygote,
    which definitely marks the beginning of a new individual. The penetration
    of the ovum by the spermatozoon, and the coming together and pooling of
    their respective nuclei, constitutes the process of fertilization.”

Biologists’ Consensus on ‘When Life Begins’,” Steven Andrew Jacobs, Social Science Research Network, July 25 2018

Relevant
Secular Pro-Life posts:
Myth #2:
Most or all late-term abortions are medically necessary.
Articles:
Polls:
Data:
Interviews of late-term
abortion doctors:
Relevant
Secular Pro-Life posts:
· 
Myth #3:
Abortion restrictions don’t stop abortions.
Articles:
Data
(Worldwide):
Data
(National):
American
studies:
Relevant
Secular Pro-Life posts:

Sources for “Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths”

Today Oregon Right to Life is hosting the “Together We Advocate” Conference, the largest pro-life conference in the Pacific northwest. Monica Snyder, SPL co-leader, will be giving a slightly updated version of her presentation “Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths,” including where those myths come from and the research that undermines the myths’ claims. Here are the sources used to create the presentation.

Myth #1:
We don’t know when human life begins.
Articles:
Biology
and embryology textbooks and relevant quotes:
  • Scott Gilbert,
    Developmental Biology, 11
    th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer
    Associates, 2016: “Fertilization accomplishes two separate ends: sex (the
    combining of genes derived from two parents) and reproduction (the
    generation of a new organism).”
  • T.W. Sadler,
    Langman’s Medical Embryology, 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott
    Williams & Wilkins, 2006:”Development begins with fertilization,
    the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete,
    the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.”
  • Erich
    Blechschmidt, Brian Freeman, The Ontogenetic Basis of Human Anatomy: The
    Biodynamic Approach to Development from Conception to Adulthood, North
    Atlantic Books, June 2004: “We talk of human development not because
    a jumble of cells, which is perhaps initially atypical, gradually turns
    more and more into a human, but rather because the human being develops
    from a uniquely human cell. There is no state in human development prior
    to which one could claim that a being exists with not-yet-human
    individuality. On the basis of anatomical studies, we know today that no
    developmental phase exists that constitutes a transition from the
    not-yet-human to the human.” & “In short, a fertilized egg
    (conceptus) is already a human being.”
  • Keith L. Moore,
    The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition.
    Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003: “Human development begins at
    fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm
    (spermatozoon development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to
    form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent
    cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” And
    “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an
    embryo).”
  • Scott Gilbert,
    Developmental Biology, 6th Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates,
    2001:“When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult.
    But the dog is a “dog” from the moment of fertilization of a dog egg by a
    dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore,
    the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from
    fertilization through death.”
  • Ronan R.
    O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology & Teratology, 3rd
    Edition, New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001: “Although life is a continuous
    process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary
    circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when
    the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the
    oocyte.”
  • Ida G. Dox, B.
    John Melloni, Gilbert Eisner, The HarperCollins Illustrated Medical
    Dictionary, 2001: “An Embryo is an organism in the earliest stages of
    development.”
  • Human
    Embryology, William J Larsen, 3rd Edition, 2001: “In this text, we begin
    our description of the developing human with the formation and
    differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will
    unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new
    individual.”
  • William J.
    Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology. New York: Churchill Livingstone,
    1998: “Human embryos begin development following the fusion of
    definitive male and female gametes during fertilization… This moment of
    zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic
    development.”
  • Bruce M.
    Carlson, Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York:
    McGraw-Hill, 1996: “Almost all higher animals start their lives from
    a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization
    represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the
    individual.”
  • Keith L. Moore
    and T.V.N. Persaud. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth
    Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993:
    “Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr.
    zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The
    common expression ‘fertilized ovum’ refers to the zygote.”
  • Clark Edward
    Corliss, Patten’s Human Embryology: Elements of Clinical Development. New
    York: McGraw Hill, 1976. “It is the penetration of the ovum by a
    spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to
    the union that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization
    and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.”
  • E.L. Potter and
    J.M. Craig, Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant, 3rd edition. Chicago:
    Year Book Medical Publishers, 1975: “Every time a sperm cell and ovum
    unite a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live
    unless its death is brought about by some specific condition.”
  • J.P. Greenhill
    and E.A. Friedman, Biological Principles and Modern Practice of
    Obstetrics. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1974: “The term conception
    refers to the union of the male and female pronuclear elements of
    procreation from which a new living being develops. It is synonymous with
    the terms fecundation, impregnation, and fertilization.”
  • Leslie Brainerd
    Arey, Developmental Anatomy, 7
    th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders,
    1974: “The formation, maturation and meeting of a male and female sex cell
    are all preliminary to their actual union into a combined cell, or zygote,
    which definitely marks the beginning of a new individual. The penetration
    of the ovum by the spermatozoon, and the coming together and pooling of
    their respective nuclei, constitutes the process of fertilization.”

Biologists’ Consensus on ‘When Life Begins’,” Steven Andrew Jacobs, Social Science Research Network, July 25 2018

Relevant
Secular Pro-Life posts:
Myth #2:
Most or all late-term abortions are medically necessary.
Articles:
Polls:
Data:
Interviews of late-term
abortion doctors:
Relevant
Secular Pro-Life posts:
· 
Myth #3:
Abortion restrictions don’t stop abortions.
Articles:
Data
(Worldwide):
Data
(National):
American
studies:
Relevant
Secular Pro-Life posts:

Recent headlines roundup: abortion pill reversal, billboards, pro-life Democrats, “cryptic” pregnancies

Abortion will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now  Vox, 4/4/19. Didn’t expect an article like this from Vox.

Kansas lawmakers OK mandating notice on abortion ‘reversal’ News Tribune, 4/7/19. Notice they never say research led by “an abortion-rights doctor” or even “a pro-choice doctor” when the situation is reversed. They just say “doctor” and leave out implications of political bias.

They base their arguments on a 2018 study led by an anti-abortion doctor and medical school professor in California and note progesterone has been used for decades to prevent miscarriages.

With ‘Unplanned,’ Abortion Opponents Turn Toward Hollywood New York Times, 4/8/19. Decent summary. We tip our hats to all the people who worked hard to get this film out there.

Molly Livingstone, a social media marketer in Dallas, organized about 170 people from her church to attend an early screening of the movie. It so struck her, she said, that she was moved to volunteer for an anti-abortion pregnancy center.

New billboard: “Welcome to Illinois, where you can get a safe, legal abortion” CNY Central, 4/8/19. Hope Clinic of Illinois put up this billboard on the border between Illinois and Missouri as commentary on Missouri’s more restrictive abortion laws. According to Guttmacher, Illinois’ abortion rate is 87% higher than Missouri’s (Illinois has 15 abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44 while Missouri has 8).

Is our political divide, at heart, really all about abortion? Yahoo News, 4/9/19. It’s frustrating when your primary social circles don’t share your pro-life views. I’m glad we at least have online communities to help the pro-life “non-traditionals” (secularists, LGBT, Democrats, liberals, feminists, etc etc) coalesce.

A 2008 study in the journal Political Research Quarterly found that while [political] defections were uncommon, when all else was equal, a “pro-life” Democrat was more than twice as likely to switch parties than the average. A “pro-choice” Republican, over time, was three times as likely to re-identify as a Democrat, the researchers found. “[I]t is difficult to think of many other issues that would rival [abortion] in the capacity to influence partisanship,” they wrote.

Louisiana Introduced A “Heartbeat” Abortion Ban That’s Sponsored By A Democrat Bustle, 4/9/19. Always happy to see Democrats take pro-life action. If you’re in Louisiana consider dropping Senator John Milkovich a thank you note: milkovichj@legis.la.gov

The White House Is Hosting a Screening of the Gory Anti-Abortion Film Gosnell Slate, 4/9/19. For those of you who saw Gosnell, did you consider it “gory”?

The Women Who Gave Birth Without Knowing They Were Pregnant Vice, 4/10/19. These stories about “cryptic pregnancies” (pregnancies that are wholly undetected until either very late or when the woman actually goes into labor) are really bizarre. This quote caught my eye:

All three women are surprised at how well they’ve taken to parenting, shushing cries, mopping up dribbling mouths and tending to bumps while I interviewed them, despite never wanting to have children and using birth control to actively stop that from happening. They all say that things definitely would have been different if they’d had a detectable pregnancy. “I would have had an abortion to be fair,” Beth says. “But I couldn’t imagine that at all now.

Fresno State Students for Life club helps save unborn baby from abortion The College Fix, 4/12/19. Three good stories wrapped into one: (1) a college student chooses life and (2) in the process becomes a pro-life advocate, and (3) a pro-choice professor’s aggression toward’s the Fresno State Students for Life ironically leads to the group’s expansion and renewed commitment. Oh, also the professor paid $17,000 in a settlement over the incident, so there’s that.

Recent headlines roundup: abortion pill reversal, billboards, pro-life Democrats, “cryptic” pregnancies

Abortion will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now  Vox, 4/4/19. Didn’t expect an article like this from Vox.

Kansas lawmakers OK mandating notice on abortion ‘reversal’ News Tribune, 4/7/19. Notice they never say research led by “an abortion-rights doctor” or even “a pro-choice doctor” when the situation is reversed. They just say “doctor” and leave out implications of political bias.

They base their arguments on a 2018 study led by an anti-abortion doctor and medical school professor in California and note progesterone has been used for decades to prevent miscarriages.

With ‘Unplanned,’ Abortion Opponents Turn Toward Hollywood New York Times, 4/8/19. Decent summary. We tip our hats to all the people who worked hard to get this film out there.

Molly Livingstone, a social media marketer in Dallas, organized about 170 people from her church to attend an early screening of the movie. It so struck her, she said, that she was moved to volunteer for an anti-abortion pregnancy center.

New billboard: “Welcome to Illinois, where you can get a safe, legal abortion” CNY Central, 4/8/19. Hope Clinic of Illinois put up this billboard on the border between Illinois and Missouri as commentary on Missouri’s more restrictive abortion laws. According to Guttmacher, Illinois’ abortion rate is 87% higher than Missouri’s (Illinois has 15 abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44 while Missouri has 8).

Is our political divide, at heart, really all about abortion? Yahoo News, 4/9/19. It’s frustrating when your primary social circles don’t share your pro-life views. I’m glad we at least have online communities to help the pro-life “non-traditionals” (secularists, LGBT, Democrats, liberals, feminists, etc etc) coalesce.

A 2008 study in the journal Political Research Quarterly found that while [political] defections were uncommon, when all else was equal, a “pro-life” Democrat was more than twice as likely to switch parties than the average. A “pro-choice” Republican, over time, was three times as likely to re-identify as a Democrat, the researchers found. “[I]t is difficult to think of many other issues that would rival [abortion] in the capacity to influence partisanship,” they wrote.

Louisiana Introduced A “Heartbeat” Abortion Ban That’s Sponsored By A Democrat Bustle, 4/9/19. Always happy to see Democrats take pro-life action. If you’re in Louisiana consider dropping Senator John Milkovich a thank you note: milkovichj@legis.la.gov

The White House Is Hosting a Screening of the Gory Anti-Abortion Film Gosnell Slate, 4/9/19. For those of you who saw Gosnell, did you consider it “gory”?

The Women Who Gave Birth Without Knowing They Were Pregnant Vice, 4/10/19. These stories about “cryptic pregnancies” (pregnancies that are wholly undetected until either very late or when the woman actually goes into labor) are really bizarre. This quote caught my eye:

All three women are surprised at how well they’ve taken to parenting, shushing cries, mopping up dribbling mouths and tending to bumps while I interviewed them, despite never wanting to have children and using birth control to actively stop that from happening. They all say that things definitely would have been different if they’d had a detectable pregnancy. “I would have had an abortion to be fair,” Beth says. “But I couldn’t imagine that at all now.

Fresno State Students for Life club helps save unborn baby from abortion The College Fix, 4/12/19. Three good stories wrapped into one: (1) a college student chooses life and (2) in the process becomes a pro-life advocate, and (3) a pro-choice professor’s aggression toward’s the Fresno State Students for Life ironically leads to the group’s expansion and renewed commitment. Oh, also the professor paid $17,000 in a settlement over the incident, so there’s that.

How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Pro-Life Laws

Pro-lifers are often puzzled at the notion that someone could believe that abortion is morally wrong or bad, perhaps even seriously morally wrong or bad, and yet also believe that abortion should not be criminalized. Along similar lines, pro-lifers are often puzzled by the notion that someone could desire that abortion be rare, and yet also hold that abortion should be legal. It’s one thing to think that abortion is morally acceptable or neutral, and so should be legal on that basis. But it’s another thing altogether to think that abortion is (seriously?) morally problematic, and yet also that it should be legal. How can these beliefs fit together?

Perhaps the most common way to reconcile these two beliefs is to argue that abortion restrictions don’t work. Instead of lowering the rate of abortion, they simply replace safe, legal abortions with unsafe, back-alley-style abortions. If we assume that laws can only be justified by the net value of their consequences—in particular, by whether they lower the rate of the problematic activity without too many countervailing costs—then abortion laws that make abortion less safe without lowering the rate of abortion will not be justified. If all of these assumptions hold true, I think one can consistently hold that abortion is morally wrong or bad (and thus hope that abortion rates go down for that reason), and yet also hold that abortion should not be criminalized.

Indeed, it is safe to say that this is the moderate pro-choicer’s most popular gambit.

The assumption that laws can only be justified on instrumental grounds is bound to be controversial. Some might hold that we have an obligation to prohibit certain evils whenever we can, even if, somehow, prohibiting such evils does not reduce the rate at which those evils occur, and even if there are additional costs attached to doing so. Of course, the only way that successfully prohibiting an evil wouldn’t reduce the rate at which that evil occurs is if the very act of prohibiting it causes more of it to occur. And it is very hard to see why this would be the case when it comes to laws that restrict abortion. At any rate, the point is that some people accept justifications for laws that are rooted in something besides their utility.

For the sake of argument, I will grant the assumption that laws can only be justified by the net value of their consequences. More specifically, I will grant that abortion restrictions are justified only if they reduce the target behavior enough to offset any harms that are likely to result from enacting those restrictions. Indeed, for my part, I’m inclined to accept such a view of how laws are justified.

But is it true that abortion restrictions don’t work? Rather than trying to answer this question in this post, I want to explore the more fundamental question of what it would take in principle to show that abortion laws don’t lower the rate of abortion. It might not be as easy as you think. Much of what passes for good reasoning on the question of the effectiveness of abortion laws is anything but.

By my lights, there are two basic ways to evaluate the efficacy of a law: by careful empirical reasoning based on correlative data on abortion laws and abortion rates, and by an accurate assessment of the psychology of incentives of human behavior. In this post, I will discuss the former.

Note that the question before us is whether abortion restrictions lower abortion rates, not whether they eliminate abortion altogether. This is important, because almost no one thinks that laws are justified only if they eliminate the target behavior altogether. Stealing still happens, despite it being illegal, and no one thinks that this constitutes a sufficient reason to overturn laws against stealing. Exactly how much a law must reduce the target behavior in order to be justified, especially if there are costs attached, is an interesting question, but it is beyond the scope of this post.

Since the question is whether abortion restrictions lower the abortion rate, it will not do simply to show that abortion still happens in places where it is illegal. This tells us nothing about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of abortion laws. This is so even if abortion is relatively common in regions where it is illegal. This is because, for all we know, the abortion rate could be higher were those laws not in place. All such facts would show is that abortion restrictions don’t eliminate abortion in those regions.

Further, it will not do to simply point out that regions with more liberal abortion laws have similar (or lower) rates of abortion than regions with stricter abortion laws. These are mere correlations, and more is required to justify the dreaded leap from correlation to causation. More specifically, making that leap at this stage completely ignores the possibility of confounding factors. If there are other factors present in regions with stricter or looser restrictions that are likely to have an impact on the rates of abortion, those must be taken into account when evaluating the impact that abortion restrictions have on abortion rates. This can be done either by applying what we already know about the effects of such factors on abortion rates and adjusting accordingly, or by finding regions that are already comparable with respect to those factors.

If, for example, regions with stricter abortion laws tend to have higher poverty rates than regions with looser abortion laws, and economic pressures are a plausible motivating reason why many women seek abortions, then one must adjust for the likely impact of the confounding factor of poverty when interpreting the relevant correlations. It may turn out that economic pressures are sufficient to bring the rates of abortion in regions with tighter restrictions in line with the rates of abortion in wealthier regions that have fewer or no restrictions. But it would not follow that the relevant abortion restrictions make no difference in the rate of abortion. In order to show this, the effects of poverty and wealth on the rates of abortion, as well as every other potentially confounding factor, would first have to be screened off. Then, if the rates of abortion are comparable, it will have been shown that the relevant restrictions make no difference on the rate of abortion.

The same principles of good causal reasoning apply when we compare rates of abortion across time in the same region. In this case, you have to be sure to account for possible changes in potentially confounding factors. For example, if there is rapid economic decline around the same time that more restrictive abortion laws are enacted, and the abortion rate stays the same after the restrictions are enacted, one should not conclude that the relevant laws are having no effect. Again, one would first have to control for changes in the rate of poverty, as well as every other potentially confounding factor, before one can conclude that the relevant laws are not making abortion less common than it otherwise would be without those laws.

This leads us right to the moral of the story. What we want to know is whether the abortion rate would be higher were it not for the restrictions in question. Unless and until the moderate pro-choicer makes good on this counterfactual claim, there is no reason to believe that abortion restrictions don’t lower abortion rates.

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

How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Pro-Life Laws

Pro-lifers are often puzzled at the notion that someone could believe that abortion is morally wrong or bad, perhaps even seriously morally wrong or bad, and yet also believe that abortion should not be criminalized. Along similar lines, pro-lifers are often puzzled by the notion that someone could desire that abortion be rare, and yet also hold that abortion should be legal. It’s one thing to think that abortion is morally acceptable or neutral, and so should be legal on that basis. But it’s another thing altogether to think that abortion is (seriously?) morally problematic, and yet also that it should be legal. How can these beliefs fit together?

Perhaps the most common way to reconcile these two beliefs is to argue that abortion restrictions don’t work. Instead of lowering the rate of abortion, they simply replace safe, legal abortions with unsafe, back-alley-style abortions. If we assume that laws can only be justified by the net value of their consequences—in particular, by whether they lower the rate of the problematic activity without too many countervailing costs—then abortion laws that make abortion less safe without lowering the rate of abortion will not be justified. If all of these assumptions hold true, I think one can consistently hold that abortion is morally wrong or bad (and thus hope that abortion rates go down for that reason), and yet also hold that abortion should not be criminalized.

Indeed, it is safe to say that this is the moderate pro-choicer’s most popular gambit.

The assumption that laws can only be justified on instrumental grounds is bound to be controversial. Some might hold that we have an obligation to prohibit certain evils whenever we can, even if, somehow, prohibiting such evils does not reduce the rate at which those evils occur, and even if there are additional costs attached to doing so. Of course, the only way that successfully prohibiting an evil wouldn’t reduce the rate at which that evil occurs is if the very act of prohibiting it causes more of it to occur. And it is very hard to see why this would be the case when it comes to laws that restrict abortion. At any rate, the point is that some people accept justifications for laws that are rooted in something besides their utility.

For the sake of argument, I will grant the assumption that laws can only be justified by the net value of their consequences. More specifically, I will grant that abortion restrictions are justified only if they reduce the target behavior enough to offset any harms that are likely to result from enacting those restrictions. Indeed, for my part, I’m inclined to accept such a view of how laws are justified.

But is it true that abortion restrictions don’t work? Rather than trying to answer this question in this post, I want to explore the more fundamental question of what it would take in principle to show that abortion laws don’t lower the rate of abortion. It might not be as easy as you think. Much of what passes for good reasoning on the question of the effectiveness of abortion laws is anything but.

By my lights, there are two basic ways to evaluate the efficacy of a law: by careful empirical reasoning based on correlative data on abortion laws and abortion rates, and by an accurate assessment of the psychology of incentives of human behavior. In this post, I will discuss the former.

Note that the question before us is whether abortion restrictions lower abortion rates, not whether they eliminate abortion altogether. This is important, because almost no one thinks that laws are justified only if they eliminate the target behavior altogether. Stealing still happens, despite it being illegal, and no one thinks that this constitutes a sufficient reason to overturn laws against stealing. Exactly how much a law must reduce the target behavior in order to be justified, especially if there are costs attached, is an interesting question, but it is beyond the scope of this post.

Since the question is whether abortion restrictions lower the abortion rate, it will not do simply to show that abortion still happens in places where it is illegal. This tells us nothing about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of abortion laws. This is so even if abortion is relatively common in regions where it is illegal. This is because, for all we know, the abortion rate could be higher were those laws not in place. All such facts would show is that abortion restrictions don’t eliminate abortion in those regions.

Further, it will not do to simply point out that regions with more liberal abortion laws have similar (or lower) rates of abortion than regions with stricter abortion laws. These are mere correlations, and more is required to justify the dreaded leap from correlation to causation. More specifically, making that leap at this stage completely ignores the possibility of confounding factors. If there are other factors present in regions with stricter or looser restrictions that are likely to have an impact on the rates of abortion, those must be taken into account when evaluating the impact that abortion restrictions have on abortion rates. This can be done either by applying what we already know about the effects of such factors on abortion rates and adjusting accordingly, or by finding regions that are already comparable with respect to those factors.

If, for example, regions with stricter abortion laws tend to have higher poverty rates than regions with looser abortion laws, and economic pressures are a plausible motivating reason why many women seek abortions, then one must adjust for the likely impact of the confounding factor of poverty when interpreting the relevant correlations. It may turn out that economic pressures are sufficient to bring the rates of abortion in regions with tighter restrictions in line with the rates of abortion in wealthier regions that have fewer or no restrictions. But it would not follow that the relevant abortion restrictions make no difference in the rate of abortion. In order to show this, the effects of poverty and wealth on the rates of abortion, as well as every other potentially confounding factor, would first have to be screened off. Then, if the rates of abortion are comparable, it will have been shown that the relevant restrictions make no difference on the rate of abortion.

The same principles of good causal reasoning apply when we compare rates of abortion across time in the same region. In this case, you have to be sure to account for possible changes in potentially confounding factors. For example, if there is rapid economic decline around the same time that more restrictive abortion laws are enacted, and the abortion rate stays the same after the restrictions are enacted, one should not conclude that the relevant laws are having no effect. Again, one would first have to control for changes in the rate of poverty, as well as every other potentially confounding factor, before one can conclude that the relevant laws are not making abortion less common than it otherwise would be without those laws.

This leads us right to the moral of the story. What we want to know is whether the abortion rate would be higher were it not for the restrictions in question. Unless and until the moderate pro-choicer makes good on this counterfactual claim, there is no reason to believe that abortion restrictions don’t lower abortion rates.

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

Male abuser gets abortion pills online; vendor shows no remorse


Mother Jones has an article in its April/May issue entitled “She Started Selling Abortion Pills Online. Then the Feds Showed Up.”

Quick pause for alternate headlines that more accurately capture the tone of the piece:
  • She Broke The Law. But It Was An Abortion Law, So It Shouldn’t Have Counted.
  • Evil Police Fail to Recognize That Brave Abortion Provider is Above the Law. 
  • Abortion Access Uber Alles 
Anyway, moving on. The article is about Ursula Wing, who sold abortion drugs out of her apartment and advertised in the comments section of a blog. This is, unsurprisingly, illegal. As stated in the article, abortion drugs “may be distributed only in a clinical setting by a certified provider” per FDA regulations. 
Ms. Wing did it anyway, because “she needed money to pay legal fees during a protracted custody dispute with her former partner.” She didn’t see herself as an activist at first, although she was an abortion supporter and had herself terminated the life of one of her children with drugs purchased over the internet before becoming a vendor.
She sold abortion drugs to over 2,000 customers before finally getting caught. And how was she caught? Glad you asked:

An attorney told her that the FDA learned about her business when a Wisconsin man named Jeffrey Smith was arrested in February 2018 for allegedly slipping mifepristone into the drink of a woman who was pregnant with their child. Smith had twice ordered packages from Wing’s site, according to police documents. He has pleaded not guilty to attempted first-degree homicide of an unborn child. Wing is still waiting to be indicted.

If Ms. Wing were actually “pro-choice,” actually a feminist, actually cared at all about women, you’d think she would be horrified that her product was used to end a wanted pregnancy against a woman’s will. You’d expect, at the very least, some discussion of how online abortion vendors might verify that their customers are actually pregnant. (Kind of like those FDA-certified people verify in a “clinical setting.” Gosh, might there be a reason for that requirement?)
But no, of course not.

Among people advocating or providing access to self-managed abortion, there is some tension between those who aim to serve women in need without drawing attention and those who want to stir things up. Wing has found herself unexpectedly in the latter group. She was glad to go on quietly undermining the law, providing pills to customers who came across her website. Now, against her own attorney’s advice, she’s speaking out. “I want some copycats,” she says. “There’s not enough people doing this.”

She wants copycats. She wants more women put at risk. She thinks she’s a hero
I hope Ms. Wing is indicted as an accessory to homicide, and soon, before anyone else gets hurt.
P.S.—In October 2017, the ACLU sued the FDA to get rid of the abortion drug restrictions. If the ACLU is successful, abortion will become even more “accessible” to abusive men. The lawsuit is ongoing.