Strike this word from your abortion debate vocabulary

The word is “consequence.”

“Consequence” has two closely related meanings. First, it can be used to indicate a cause-and-effect relationship, synonymous with the word “result.” A consequence may be positive, negative, or neutral:

  • Monique studied hard over the weekend. As a consequence, she aced her final exam.
  • Joe smoked cigarettes for thirty years. As a consequence, he has an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
  • Allison decided to move across the country. As a consequence, she has notified her landlord that she will not renew her lease.
That’s all well and good, but “consequence” is so frequently used with a negative connotation that it has acquired a second meaning: “punishment.”
  • Son, you’re grounded for two weeks. Bad behavior has consequences.
  • It’s little wonder some victims of sexual assault decline to report the attack to police. Even when a report is made, rapists rarely face any consequences for their actions.
Now, compare the following two statements:
  • After a period of sexual abstinence, Maria and her husband decided that they wanted to conceive. They resumed having sexual intercourse, and as a consequence, Maria became pregnant.  
  • Anne had a one-night stand and her partner did not use a condom. As a consequence, Anne became pregnant.
Both statements make the exact same point: pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse. And in the context of the abortion debate, that fact is relevant to the legal allocation of risk. But while no one would think that I’m out to punish Maria, abortion supporters will leap over tall buildings to conclude that I’m out to punish Anne.
This is how we get President Obama’s infamous proclamation that he supports abortion because if his daughters were to “make a mistake, I don’t them punished with a baby.” The pro-life movement immediately cried foul at the notion that babies are punishments; babies are of course people, inside the womb and out, and the rewards of parenthood are many.

But when we use the word “consequence”—or, even more problematically, speak derisively about a desire for “consequence-free sex”—pro-choicers and fence-sitters come away with the impression that we agree with Obama about babies being punishments. Because many pro-lifers come from religious traditions that view premarital sex as sinful (and abortion activists love to exploit that fact), the odds of listeners automatically applying the negative connotation of “consequences” are very high.

When we’re trying to change minds to save lives, it doesn’t matter what you actually meant. It only matters what they hear. So stop saying “consequence.” There are plenty of neutral alternatives available, like “result,” “effect,” and “outcome.” It’s one small change that could have very positive consequences for the cause of life. 

Strike this word from your abortion debate vocabulary

The word is “consequence.”

“Consequence” has two closely related meanings. First, it can be used to indicate a cause-and-effect relationship, synonymous with the word “result.” A consequence may be positive, negative, or neutral:

  • Monique studied hard over the weekend. As a consequence, she aced her final exam.
  • Joe smoked cigarettes for thirty years. As a consequence, he has an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
  • Allison decided to move across the country. As a consequence, she has notified her landlord that she will not renew her lease.
That’s all well and good, but “consequence” is so frequently used with a negative connotation that it has acquired a second meaning: “punishment.”
  • Son, you’re grounded for two weeks. Bad behavior has consequences.
  • It’s little wonder some victims of sexual assault decline to report the attack to police. Even when a report is made, rapists rarely face any consequences for their actions.
Now, compare the following two statements:
  • After a period of sexual abstinence, Maria and her husband decided that they wanted to conceive. They resumed having sexual intercourse, and as a consequence, Maria became pregnant.  
  • Anne had a one-night stand and her partner did not use a condom. As a consequence, Anne became pregnant.
Both statements make the exact same point: pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse. And in the context of the abortion debate, that fact is relevant to the legal allocation of risk. But while no one would think that I’m out to punish Maria, abortion supporters will leap over tall buildings to conclude that I’m out to punish Anne.
This is how we get President Obama’s infamous proclamation that he supports abortion because if his daughters were to “make a mistake, I don’t them punished with a baby.” The pro-life movement immediately cried foul at the notion that babies are punishments; babies are of course people, inside the womb and out, and the rewards of parenthood are many.

But when we use the word “consequence”—or, even more problematically, speak derisively about a desire for “consequence-free sex”—pro-choicers and fence-sitters come away with the impression that we agree with Obama about babies being punishments. Because many pro-lifers come from religious traditions that view premarital sex as sinful (and abortion activists love to exploit that fact), the odds of listeners automatically applying the negative connotation of “consequences” are very high.

When we’re trying to change minds to save lives, it doesn’t matter what you actually meant. It only matters what they hear. So stop saying “consequence.” There are plenty of neutral alternatives available, like “result,” “effect,” and “outcome.” It’s one small change that could have very positive consequences for the cause of life. 

Behind Enemy Lines: Undercover at a NARAL training session

All over the country, student and activist pro-life groups
regularly meet to discuss the intimidating task of developing a sound messaging
program to effectively reach members of their communities. Which key words will
connect with women the most? How do we handle the most difficult questions with
the appropriate amount of care? Often overlooked in all this is that simultaneously,
as a foil to this work, abortion rights advocates are meeting in these very
same communities, discussing these very same issues of messaging. Just as
pro-lifers grapple with how to message about issues such as restricting
reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and abortion in the case of rape, conversely, abortion rights activists are laboring to present their views on
parental consent, late-term abortion, and public financing of abortions in the
most palatable terms to the general public. 
Out of a desire to better
understand our opponents’ viewpoints and be prepared for the types of messaging
young women at risk for abortion may be hearing, our Students for Life group
decided to secretly infiltrate a NARAL training session in California.
What we encountered there was a pro-choice movement that is both shrewd in its
marketing and emboldened in its goals.

Messaging Tactics                   
The messaging tactics seem to be emotionally aware and
politically savvy. The issue of abortion was highly shrouded in the language of
social justice. The “lived experiences of women” and “meeting women where they
are at” were highly emphasized. It seemed that the objective question of “the
morality of abortion” was countered with the subjective “lived experiences” of
women obtaining abortions—as if obtaining an abortion was a form of identity,
that could not be understood or questioned beyond the person experiencing it.
Euphemisms were also used abundantly. As the trainer noted, while many
Americans do not mind abortion being legal, a clear majority of Americans have
strong ethical qualms with abortion. As such, the word “choice” can lose its
power if many people view the choice as immoral. Therefore, incorporating more
universal terms such as “economic security” can be more effective. As pro-lifer
writer Jill Stanek has noted, “The pro-choice movement has been reduced to
euphemisms about euphemisms.”
In a moment of shocking honesty in a portion on
parental notification, the trainer noted that many parents do not feel that
their children should have rights to abortion, prioritizing their child’s
safety over their child’s personal privacy. She added that it’s important to
relay to the parents, that of course their
kid will come to them, but what about children who are more unfortunate and
don’t have anyone to trust? Never mind that they’re advocating for the right of
all children to circumvent their
parents; at least the parents they’re talking to feel good about their kids.
For someone willing to be so disingenuous with parents, she was strikingly
honest with us about these tactics.
Above: Pro-abortion signs with “access” messaging

Policy Goals

Another component that jumped out at us was how far the
conversation has shifted as the pro-choice has become more dissatisfied with
the status quo and more emboldened in their policy goals. Long gone are the
reverence for the trimester regime of Roe, the regulations provided for by
Casey, the consensus of Hyde and the cautious verbiage of the 90’s which sought
to make abortion “safe, legal and rare.” In their absence, “accessibility” has become the catch-all word. The NARAL spokeswoman made it
clear that this prioritization of accessibility is the main driver behind
2018’s SB 320 in California, and the 2016 Democratic party platform, explicitly
including the overturning of the Hyde Amendment. When directly asked about this
by one of our members, the spokeswoman said that assuming a Democratic victory in
2020, the overturning of Hyde will be a top legislative priority in 2021. She
also acknowledged that she never imagined a day when two national candidates
would both advocate overturning Hyde. How far we’ve come. It is clear to us,
that within the next 5 years it is highly likely that the battle over Hyde will
be the front lines in the abortion debate.
The Litmus Test
Being as the training was held at a county Democratic Party office, it was only natural that the infamous “litmus test”
question to arise. Ever since Tom Perez’s well-known snafu, Democrats have been
contentiously debating whether their big tent can tolerate the presence of
pro-lifers. It was here that the level of extremism was made evident. The NARAL
spokeswoman said that if they feel confident their candidate can maintain the Democrat
seat in question, then they would primary the only three Democrats that voted for the 20 week abortion ban. She also noted that NARAL endorsed Hillary over
Bernie. This is rather remarkable, given that they did not endorse Hillary in
2008; but Bernie, who has a 100 percent voting rating from NARAL and a 0 rating
from the National Right to Life, made the unpardonable sin of endorsing a
pro-life Democrat from Nebraska. Apparently it is not just pro-life Democrats who will not be tolerated by NARAL, but also stalwart pro-choicers who merely wish to
co-exist with pro-life Democrats.

Conclusion

Having discussed the abortion issue for over 10 years now, I felt
a strange connection with the people there. I could relate to their passion and
excitement about the issues being discussed. I myself have been in many similar
pro-life talks and have the same types of conversations they have with the
public week in and week out. It was interesting to think that these people have
devoted their lives to defending that which my moral intuition tells me is the
greatest moral wrong. In that moment, I realized perhaps they view me and my
friends as doing the same and being equally misguided. 
Although, I can say that the
evening did not end with moral ambiguity. As the training was wrapping up the
spokeswoman did a brief Q&A. Answering one question she tongue-in-cheek replied “We’re very live and let live here” and then belly-laughed saying, “Sorry,
I have a very dark sense of humor.” Dark indeed. 
At last: something we can agree
on.
[Today’s guest post is by Jeremy R.]

Behind Enemy Lines: Undercover at a NARAL training session

All over the country, student and activist pro-life groups
regularly meet to discuss the intimidating task of developing a sound messaging
program to effectively reach members of their communities. Which key words will
connect with women the most? How do we handle the most difficult questions with
the appropriate amount of care? Often overlooked in all this is that simultaneously,
as a foil to this work, abortion rights advocates are meeting in these very
same communities, discussing these very same issues of messaging. Just as
pro-lifers grapple with how to message about issues such as restricting
reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and abortion in the case of rape, conversely, abortion rights activists are laboring to present their views on
parental consent, late-term abortion, and public financing of abortions in the
most palatable terms to the general public. 
Out of a desire to better
understand our opponents’ viewpoints and be prepared for the types of messaging
young women at risk for abortion may be hearing, our Students for Life group
decided to secretly infiltrate a NARAL training session in California.
What we encountered there was a pro-choice movement that is both shrewd in its
marketing and emboldened in its goals.

Messaging Tactics                   
The messaging tactics seem to be emotionally aware and
politically savvy. The issue of abortion was highly shrouded in the language of
social justice. The “lived experiences of women” and “meeting women where they
are at” were highly emphasized. It seemed that the objective question of “the
morality of abortion” was countered with the subjective “lived experiences” of
women obtaining abortions—as if obtaining an abortion was a form of identity,
that could not be understood or questioned beyond the person experiencing it.
Euphemisms were also used abundantly. As the trainer noted, while many
Americans do not mind abortion being legal, a clear majority of Americans have
strong ethical qualms with abortion. As such, the word “choice” can lose its
power if many people view the choice as immoral. Therefore, incorporating more
universal terms such as “economic security” can be more effective. As pro-lifer
writer Jill Stanek has noted, “The pro-choice movement has been reduced to
euphemisms about euphemisms.”
In a moment of shocking honesty in a portion on
parental notification, the trainer noted that many parents do not feel that
their children should have rights to abortion, prioritizing their child’s
safety over their child’s personal privacy. She added that it’s important to
relay to the parents, that of course their
kid will come to them, but what about children who are more unfortunate and
don’t have anyone to trust? Never mind that they’re advocating for the right of
all children to circumvent their
parents; at least the parents they’re talking to feel good about their kids.
For someone willing to be so disingenuous with parents, she was strikingly
honest with us about these tactics.
Above: Pro-abortion signs with “access” messaging

Policy Goals

Another component that jumped out at us was how far the
conversation has shifted as the pro-choice has become more dissatisfied with
the status quo and more emboldened in their policy goals. Long gone are the
reverence for the trimester regime of Roe, the regulations provided for by
Casey, the consensus of Hyde and the cautious verbiage of the 90’s which sought
to make abortion “safe, legal and rare.” In their absence, “accessibility” has become the catch-all word. The NARAL spokeswoman made it
clear that this prioritization of accessibility is the main driver behind
2018’s SB 320 in California, and the 2016 Democratic party platform, explicitly
including the overturning of the Hyde Amendment. When directly asked about this
by one of our members, the spokeswoman said that assuming a Democratic victory in
2020, the overturning of Hyde will be a top legislative priority in 2021. She
also acknowledged that she never imagined a day when two national candidates
would both advocate overturning Hyde. How far we’ve come. It is clear to us,
that within the next 5 years it is highly likely that the battle over Hyde will
be the front lines in the abortion debate.
The Litmus Test
Being as the training was held at a county Democratic Party office, it was only natural that the infamous “litmus test”
question to arise. Ever since Tom Perez’s well-known snafu, Democrats have been
contentiously debating whether their big tent can tolerate the presence of
pro-lifers. It was here that the level of extremism was made evident. The NARAL
spokeswoman said that if they feel confident their candidate can maintain the Democrat
seat in question, then they would primary the only three Democrats that voted for the 20 week abortion ban. She also noted that NARAL endorsed Hillary over
Bernie. This is rather remarkable, given that they did not endorse Hillary in
2008; but Bernie, who has a 100 percent voting rating from NARAL and a 0 rating
from the National Right to Life, made the unpardonable sin of endorsing a
pro-life Democrat from Nebraska. Apparently it is not just pro-life Democrats who will not be tolerated by NARAL, but also stalwart pro-choicers who merely wish to
co-exist with pro-life Democrats.

Conclusion

Having discussed the abortion issue for over 10 years now, I felt
a strange connection with the people there. I could relate to their passion and
excitement about the issues being discussed. I myself have been in many similar
pro-life talks and have the same types of conversations they have with the
public week in and week out. It was interesting to think that these people have
devoted their lives to defending that which my moral intuition tells me is the
greatest moral wrong. In that moment, I realized perhaps they view me and my
friends as doing the same and being equally misguided. 
Although, I can say that the
evening did not end with moral ambiguity. As the training was wrapping up the
spokeswoman did a brief Q&A. Answering one question she tongue-in-cheek replied “We’re very live and let live here” and then belly-laughed saying, “Sorry,
I have a very dark sense of humor.” Dark indeed. 
At last: something we can agree
on.
[Today’s guest post is by Jeremy R.]

The word “fetus” is nothing to fear — or to censor


Correction: It now appears that the list of words was not a strict ban, and that the list came not from the Trump administration, but from within the CDC itself.

* * *

Last Friday, news broke that the Trump administration has instructed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) not to use the words “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus” in official government documents. This is a bizarre decree for a number of reasons, and I personally have thoughts about all seven banned words, but for purposes of this article I will limit my commentary to the last word: fetus.

The list of banned words is neither illegal nor unprecedented. The administration’s action does not violate the First Amendment, because the CDC is a government agency, and the government has the right to control its own speech. I’ll also acknowledge that it’s natural for editorial guidelines to change over time; to give what I hope is a non-controversial example, there are good reasons the word “Negro” no longer appears in official documents.
But a ban on the word “fetus” makes little sense.
Let’s start by clarifying the definition. If you’re active in the abortion debate, you’ve likely heard that “fetus” comes from the Latin for “offspring” or “little one.” That etymology is correct, but in modern English, “fetus” is not synonymous with “preborn child.” Rather, “fetus” is an age designation: it specifically refers to preborn children eight weeks and older. Those younger than eight weeks are called embryos. 
Why is “fetus” banned, while “embryo” is not? Your guess is as good as mine.
The distinction is medically significant. By eight weeks, all major organ systems are in place. As a result, a fetus and an embryo may have differing reactions to alcohol, stress, environmental pollutants, and the like. Certain medical interventions, like in utero surgery to correct spina bifida, can only be performed on older fetuses, not on embryos. Also, an embryo is more vulnerable to miscarriage than a fetus is. 
Note that the preceding sentence contains two banned words. That’s absurd! While I’m confident that the CDC will find some workaround (e.g. “a human in the womb after 8 weeks, hereinafter referred to as an 8+”), the language ban creates a completely unnecessary obstacle to research in prenatal health. 
The counterargument is that “fetus” is a dehumanizing word, and we should take the opportunity to discourage use of dehumanizing language. I agree with the principle, but disagree that “fetus” is inherently dehumanizing. It is not dehumanizing for a scientific researcher to refer to a “neonate” when most of us would say “newborn,” or to a “gravida” when most of us would say “pregnant mother,” or to an “adolescent” when most of us would say “teenager.” So why should “fetus” be any different?
True, abortion advocates frequently misuse the word: “It’s not a baby, it’s just a fetus!” But their ignorance is their problem, and the pro-life movement would be foolish to respond by abandoning useful scientific language. 
Science is on our side. The word “fetus” is nothing to fear — or to censor.

The word “fetus” is nothing to fear — or to censor


Correction: It now appears that the list of words was not a strict ban, and that the list came not from the Trump administration, but from within the CDC itself.

* * *

Last Friday, news broke that the Trump administration has instructed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) not to use the words “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus” in official government documents. This is a bizarre decree for a number of reasons, and I personally have thoughts about all seven banned words, but for purposes of this article I will limit my commentary to the last word: fetus.

The list of banned words is neither illegal nor unprecedented. The administration’s action does not violate the First Amendment, because the CDC is a government agency, and the government has the right to control its own speech. I’ll also acknowledge that it’s natural for editorial guidelines to change over time; to give what I hope is a non-controversial example, there are good reasons the word “Negro” no longer appears in official documents.
But a ban on the word “fetus” makes little sense.
Let’s start by clarifying the definition. If you’re active in the abortion debate, you’ve likely heard that “fetus” comes from the Latin for “offspring” or “little one.” That etymology is correct, but in modern English, “fetus” is not synonymous with “preborn child.” Rather, “fetus” is an age designation: it specifically refers to preborn children eight weeks and older. Those younger than eight weeks are called embryos. 
Why is “fetus” banned, while “embryo” is not? Your guess is as good as mine.
The distinction is medically significant. By eight weeks, all major organ systems are in place. As a result, a fetus and an embryo may have differing reactions to alcohol, stress, environmental pollutants, and the like. Certain medical interventions, like in utero surgery to correct spina bifida, can only be performed on older fetuses, not on embryos. Also, an embryo is more vulnerable to miscarriage than a fetus is. 
Note that the preceding sentence contains two banned words. That’s absurd! While I’m confident that the CDC will find some workaround (e.g. “a human in the womb after 8 weeks, hereinafter referred to as an 8+”), the language ban creates a completely unnecessary obstacle to research in prenatal health. 
The counterargument is that “fetus” is a dehumanizing word, and we should take the opportunity to discourage use of dehumanizing language. I agree with the principle, but disagree that “fetus” is inherently dehumanizing. It is not dehumanizing for a scientific researcher to refer to a “neonate” when most of us would say “newborn,” or to a “gravida” when most of us would say “pregnant mother,” or to an “adolescent” when most of us would say “teenager.” So why should “fetus” be any different?
True, abortion advocates frequently misuse the word: “It’s not a baby, it’s just a fetus!” But their ignorance is their problem, and the pro-life movement would be foolish to respond by abandoning useful scientific language. 
Science is on our side. The word “fetus” is nothing to fear — or to censor.

Explainer: Planned Parenthood Defunding Votes

The AHCA, which included a Planned Parenthood defunding provision, tanked. Last week, a Planned Parenthood defunding measure passed the Senate and awaits the President’s signature. Now, pro-life organizations are demanding another Planned Parenthood defunding vote. If you’re not intimately familiar with these battles, your understandable reaction must be what on earth is going on?? Today’s blog post is for you.

The first thing to understand is that taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is doled out via multiple government sources. These include Medicaid (which funds health care for the poor) and Title X (which is a grant program for contraception). In both cases, pro-life groups want the funds to be redirected from Planned Parenthood to community health centers. This is not an argument about the amount to be spent, but about where to spend it.
AHCA battle: The American Health Care Act, President Trump’s measure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, included a provision to redirect Planned Parenthood funding to community health centers. That was one of the few provisions that was certain. Negotiations between the White House and various Congressional factions caused the remainder of the bill to change day-to-day. Maternity coverage was threatened at one point, which caused many pro-lifers consternation. Although eventually an amendment designated a pot of funding for maternity care, that couldn’t save the AHCA, which was plagued with way more problems than I’m qualified to explain. No wonder only 17% of the American public supported it. Planned Parenthood tried to take credit for the AHCA tanking, but that seems unlikely in light of the…
Title X/HHS “parting gift” battle: States have some control over the distribution of Title X grant money, and over the last few years, many have decided to prioritize grants to their own health departments, community health centers, etc. rather than Planned Parenthood. Naturally Planned Parenthood responded with lawsuits (quite the sense of entitlement!), with the legal outcomes varying by jurisdiction.

Toward the very end of the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a rule that was widely derided as a parting gift to Planned Parenthood. In essence, it required an outcome in Planned Parenthood’s favor for all of those lawsuits. The negative implications of the rule were numerous, and we outlined them in our official comment while the rule was still pending. Unfortunately, the rule was adopted. But because it was so new, Congress had the opportunity to reverse it under the Congressional Review Act. That’s what the Senate did last week, in legislation spearheaded by Sen. Joni Earnst. Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

Last week’s vote to revoke the HHS parting gift basically puts everyone in the position they were in last September with respect to Title X. Still, it’s a significant pro-life victory. It’s also a very strong indication that we have the Senate votes to stop other taxpayer sources of Planned Parenthood funding, which brings me to…

What’s next: On Friday, a coalition of 77 pro-life organizations (including Secular Pro-Life), led by the Susan B. Anthony List, sent a letter to members of Congress that states in part:

It is time for Congress to re-direct funds away from Planned Parenthood. Instead, fund
community health centers, which outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities by at least 20 to one
and offer a full range of primary health care, unlike Planned Parenthood.

You have a clear path to accomplish this goal. Pass a reconciliation bill that cuts off the
largest funding streams for Planned Parenthood. Reconciliation language to do this already
cleared procedural hurdles in the last Congress. Moreover, Congress has the votes to get it done
now, and President Trump has promised his signature. Now it’s time to act on this opportunity.

The grassroots we represent expect you to stop funding this abortion giant. For years
promises have been made, and the time has come to deliver. We urge you to pass a
reconciliation bill that redirects Planned Parenthood funds to community health centers before
the April recess. There are no excuses for inaction.

Reconciliation is a process available for budget-related bills that bypasses the Senate filibuster. (The AHCA vote, had it been attempted, would have been via reconciliation.) With a filibuster, 60 votes are needed to advance legislation. But without the filibuster, only a majority is needed — and the Title X vote just demonstrated that we have a Senate majority in favor of redirecting Planned Parenthood funding to community health centers. 

The pro-life movement is aiming high. We want to defund Planned Parenthood at every level. Not just Title X. Not just in pro-life states. Not dependent on what happens to Obamacare. We’re talking about every possible federal funding stream, redirected to the community health centers that deserve it. And we want it before Congress leaves for April recess, which in practical terms means this week.

Planned Parenthood’s days of cruising on the taxpayer dime while killing helpless preborn children may soon be over.

Explainer: Planned Parenthood Defunding Votes

The AHCA, which included a Planned Parenthood defunding provision, tanked. Last week, a Planned Parenthood defunding measure passed the Senate and awaits the President’s signature. Now, pro-life organizations are demanding another Planned Parenthood defunding vote. If you’re not intimately familiar with these battles, your understandable reaction must be what on earth is going on?? Today’s blog post is for you.

The first thing to understand is that taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is doled out via multiple government sources. These include Medicaid (which funds health care for the poor) and Title X (which is a grant program for contraception). In both cases, pro-life groups want the funds to be redirected from Planned Parenthood to community health centers. This is not an argument about the amount to be spent, but about where to spend it.
AHCA battle: The American Health Care Act, President Trump’s measure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, included a provision to redirect Planned Parenthood funding to community health centers. That was one of the few provisions that was certain. Negotiations between the White House and various Congressional factions caused the remainder of the bill to change day-to-day. Maternity coverage was threatened at one point, which caused many pro-lifers consternation. Although eventually an amendment designated a pot of funding for maternity care, that couldn’t save the AHCA, which was plagued with way more problems than I’m qualified to explain. No wonder only 17% of the American public supported it. Planned Parenthood tried to take credit for the AHCA tanking, but that seems unlikely in light of the…
Title X/HHS “parting gift” battle: States have some control over the distribution of Title X grant money, and over the last few years, many have decided to prioritize grants to their own health departments, community health centers, etc. rather than Planned Parenthood. Naturally Planned Parenthood responded with lawsuits (quite the sense of entitlement!), with the legal outcomes varying by jurisdiction.

Toward the very end of the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a rule that was widely derided as a parting gift to Planned Parenthood. In essence, it required an outcome in Planned Parenthood’s favor for all of those lawsuits. The negative implications of the rule were numerous, and we outlined them in our official comment while the rule was still pending. Unfortunately, the rule was adopted. But because it was so new, Congress had the opportunity to reverse it under the Congressional Review Act. That’s what the Senate did last week, in legislation spearheaded by Sen. Joni Earnst. Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

Last week’s vote to revoke the HHS parting gift basically puts everyone in the position they were in last September with respect to Title X. Still, it’s a significant pro-life victory. It’s also a very strong indication that we have the Senate votes to stop other taxpayer sources of Planned Parenthood funding, which brings me to…

What’s next: On Friday, a coalition of 77 pro-life organizations (including Secular Pro-Life), led by the Susan B. Anthony List, sent a letter to members of Congress that states in part:

It is time for Congress to re-direct funds away from Planned Parenthood. Instead, fund
community health centers, which outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities by at least 20 to one
and offer a full range of primary health care, unlike Planned Parenthood.

You have a clear path to accomplish this goal. Pass a reconciliation bill that cuts off the
largest funding streams for Planned Parenthood. Reconciliation language to do this already
cleared procedural hurdles in the last Congress. Moreover, Congress has the votes to get it done
now, and President Trump has promised his signature. Now it’s time to act on this opportunity.

The grassroots we represent expect you to stop funding this abortion giant. For years
promises have been made, and the time has come to deliver. We urge you to pass a
reconciliation bill that redirects Planned Parenthood funds to community health centers before
the April recess. There are no excuses for inaction.

Reconciliation is a process available for budget-related bills that bypasses the Senate filibuster. (The AHCA vote, had it been attempted, would have been via reconciliation.) With a filibuster, 60 votes are needed to advance legislation. But without the filibuster, only a majority is needed — and the Title X vote just demonstrated that we have a Senate majority in favor of redirecting Planned Parenthood funding to community health centers. 

The pro-life movement is aiming high. We want to defund Planned Parenthood at every level. Not just Title X. Not just in pro-life states. Not dependent on what happens to Obamacare. We’re talking about every possible federal funding stream, redirected to the community health centers that deserve it. And we want it before Congress leaves for April recess, which in practical terms means this week.

Planned Parenthood’s days of cruising on the taxpayer dime while killing helpless preborn children may soon be over.

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.