Does aborting a girl bother you? Then aborting a child with a disability should too.

A gym teacher of mine once promised to “separate the men from the boys.” While I’m sure that would provoke a lawsuit today, the abortion industry is still separating the girls…

…from their arms, legs, and torsos.

By 16 weeks, a child’s sex is usually visible on an ultrasound, and for too many girls, that’s a death sentence. A cultural preference for sons fuels sex-selective abortion, and not just in far off places: the Canadian Medical Association Journal described Canada as “a haven” for those seeking to abort their daughters.

Planned Parenthood offers a haven of its own.

In 2012, pregnant volunteers from the group Live Action brought hidden cameras to multiple Planned Parenthood facilities. On each visit, the investigator said she wanted an abortion if it turned out she was carrying a girl. As the resulting footage shows, staff were happy to help.

While some nations have tried to curb gender-selective abortion, Planned Parenthood doesn’t want the United States following suit: when Arizona made sex- and race-selective abortions a felony, the organization wasn’t happy. Most Americans feel differently.

A 2012 poll conducted by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that 77% of Americans (including 80% of women) thought it should be illegal to abort “when the fact that the developing baby is a girl is the sole reason for seeking an abortion.” In fact, even some abortion advocates draw the line at gendercide.

By contrast, there isn’t nearly as much opposition to abortion in cases of disability. That’s curious when you look at the reasoning.

Last year, a Quebec mother sought an abortion at 35 weeks after doctors determined her son was small and had skeletal abnormalities. According to her lawyer, she “didn’t want her child to suffer the consequences of being physically different.” If social stigma is enough to justify abortion, then those pushing sex-selection have a good case. After all, there are a lot of cultures where women enjoy far fewer rights than men.

Others will argue that abortion is more humane than letting a child with disabilities suffer, but it’s not clear why that rationale shouldn’t apply to girls too. In some parts of the world, anti-female violence is rife. It can include honor killings, forced marriages, and genital mutilation—often done without anesthesia. One of my best friends has a disability, and her daily life involves far less suffering than that.

And then there’s financial strains a special needs child can bring. Well, girls are frequently aborted in India because the dowries they require can wipe out a family’s finances. And unlike with disabled children in America, there’s no public assistance to offset that cost.

If these reasons don’t justifying killing girls, then they don’t justify killing other children either; you can demand that our laws reflect that. Something else you can do? Tell Congress you want Planned Parenthood’s half billion dollars in annual taxpayer funding sent to federally qualified health centers and community health centers instead. They’re more accessible and offer services Planned Parenthood won’t.


Ana Carolina Caceres is a Brazilian journalist who was born with microcephaly. When some cited her condition as a reason for Brazil relax its abortion laws, Caceres pushed back, saything that “those who have abortions are not giving their children a chance to succeed.” Whether it’s because of their sex or their disability, a chance to live isn’t something children should be denied.

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

Does aborting a girl bother you? Then aborting a child with a disability should too.

A gym teacher of mine once promised to “separate the men from the boys.” While I’m sure that would provoke a lawsuit today, the abortion industry is still separating the girls…

…from their arms, legs, and torsos.

By 16 weeks, a child’s sex is usually visible on an ultrasound, and for too many girls, that’s a death sentence. A cultural preference for sons fuels sex-selective abortion, and not just in far off places: the Canadian Medical Association Journal described Canada as “a haven” for those seeking to abort their daughters.

Planned Parenthood offers a haven of its own.

In 2012, pregnant volunteers from the group Live Action brought hidden cameras to multiple Planned Parenthood facilities. On each visit, the investigator said she wanted an abortion if it turned out she was carrying a girl. As the resulting footage shows, staff were happy to help.

While some nations have tried to curb gender-selective abortion, Planned Parenthood doesn’t want the United States following suit: when Arizona made sex- and race-selective abortions a felony, the organization wasn’t happy. Most Americans feel differently.

A 2012 poll conducted by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that 77% of Americans (including 80% of women) thought it should be illegal to abort “when the fact that the developing baby is a girl is the sole reason for seeking an abortion.” In fact, even some abortion advocates draw the line at gendercide.

By contrast, there isn’t nearly as much opposition to abortion in cases of disability. That’s curious when you look at the reasoning.

Last year, a Quebec mother sought an abortion at 35 weeks after doctors determined her son was small and had skeletal abnormalities. According to her lawyer, she “didn’t want her child to suffer the consequences of being physically different.” If social stigma is enough to justify abortion, then those pushing sex-selection have a good case. After all, there are a lot of cultures where women enjoy far fewer rights than men.

Others will argue that abortion is more humane than letting a child with disabilities suffer, but it’s not clear why that rationale shouldn’t apply to girls too. In some parts of the world, anti-female violence is rife. It can include honor killings, forced marriages, and genital mutilation—often done without anesthesia. One of my best friends has a disability, and her daily life involves far less suffering than that.

And then there’s financial strains a special needs child can bring. Well, girls are frequently aborted in India because the dowries they require can wipe out a family’s finances. And unlike with disabled children in America, there’s no public assistance to offset that cost.

If these reasons don’t justifying killing girls, then they don’t justify killing other children either; you can demand that our laws reflect that. Something else you can do? Tell Congress you want Planned Parenthood’s half billion dollars in annual taxpayer funding sent to federally qualified health centers and community health centers instead. They’re more accessible and offer services Planned Parenthood won’t.


Ana Carolina Caceres is a Brazilian journalist who was born with microcephaly. When some cited her condition as a reason for Brazil relax its abortion laws, Caceres pushed back, saything that “those who have abortions are not giving their children a chance to succeed.” Whether it’s because of their sex or their disability, a chance to live isn’t something children should be denied.

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

35 Years of the One-Child Policy

A Chinese mother recovers from surgery with her forcibly aborted baby by her side.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of China’s infamous one-child policy.

It is difficult for me, as an American, to wrap my head around the scale of this human rights disaster. Indeed, it’s sometimes painful for me to look the abortion crisis of my own country straight in the eye. But we cannot turn away from the brutality and tragedy of the one-child policy. We owe it to the people of China to acknowledge their pain. And sadly, we must push back against our own leaders, like Joe Biden, for their cowardly acquiescence to China’s slaughter of her own people.

In the United States, we lament the fact that boyfriends and fathers frequently coerce women into having abortions, using financial threats, emotional blackmail, and physical violence.
In China, women who are pregnant with a forbidden child are kidnapped by government agents, who then forcibly abort the children, even in the third trimester.

In the United States, we mourn the loss of approximately one million lives each year.
In China, there are over thirteen million abortions per year.

In the United States, sex-selective abortion is a pro-life concern in some regions, but in general, boys and girls are about equally likely to be victims of abortion.
In China, the one-child policy, combined with a strong traditional preference for sons, has led to the systematic destruction of preborn daughters so that today there are millions of “missing” women. Gendercide, in turn, exacerbates sex trafficking.

In the United States, pro-life advocates face censorship.
In China, pro-life advocates face arrest, beatings, and worse.

You can visit Women’s Rights Without Frontiers to learn more about China’s barbaric one-child policy.

Americans United for Life had an event planned in Washington, D.C. to mark this tragic anniversary, but it had to be postponed for security reasons related to the Pope’s visit to the city. We will let you know when it is rescheduled.

35 Years of the One-Child Policy

A Chinese mother recovers from surgery with her forcibly aborted baby by her side.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of China’s infamous one-child policy.

It is difficult for me, as an American, to wrap my head around the scale of this human rights disaster. Indeed, it’s sometimes painful for me to look the abortion crisis of my own country straight in the eye. But we cannot turn away from the brutality and tragedy of the one-child policy. We owe it to the people of China to acknowledge their pain. And sadly, we must push back against our own leaders, like Joe Biden, for their cowardly acquiescence to China’s slaughter of her own people.

In the United States, we lament the fact that boyfriends and fathers frequently coerce women into having abortions, using financial threats, emotional blackmail, and physical violence.
In China, women who are pregnant with a forbidden child are kidnapped by government agents, who then forcibly abort the children, even in the third trimester.

In the United States, we mourn the loss of approximately one million lives each year.
In China, there are over thirteen million abortions per year.

In the United States, sex-selective abortion is a pro-life concern in some regions, but in general, boys and girls are about equally likely to be victims of abortion.
In China, the one-child policy, combined with a strong traditional preference for sons, has led to the systematic destruction of preborn daughters so that today there are millions of “missing” women. Gendercide, in turn, exacerbates sex trafficking.

In the United States, pro-life advocates face censorship.
In China, pro-life advocates face arrest, beatings, and worse.

You can visit Women’s Rights Without Frontiers to learn more about China’s barbaric one-child policy.

Americans United for Life had an event planned in Washington, D.C. to mark this tragic anniversary, but it had to be postponed for security reasons related to the Pope’s visit to the city. We will let you know when it is rescheduled.

Important news from across the pond

For those of us in the United States, November 4th is election day. Of particular concern to pro-lifers, the November 4th election will determine control of the Senate, which approves Supreme Court nominees. Given the age of some of our current Justices, both pro- and anti-abortion, there’s no telling what could happen between now and the beginning of the next presidential administration.

But November 4th is a significant day for pro-lifers in the U.K. as well. On that day, a bill on sex-selective abortion will be introduced to Parliament.

According to Stop Gendercide, the bill is needed to address significant ambiguity in the law:

Recently, it has emerged that the terms of the Abortion Act have been so
widely interpreted that they may even permit an abortion on ground of fetal
sex.

The three biggest institutions representing those who regulate and perform
the majority of abortions in the UK all disagree on sex-selective abortion.
The Government argues that ‘abortion on the grounds of gender alone is
illegal’
. However, the British Medical Association disagrees, arguing
that there are sometimes mental health grounds for a sex-selective
abortion. The British Pregnancy Advisory (BPAS) disagrees with both the
Government’s and BMA’s interpretations of the law. In their literature, still
available on their website, they pose the question ‘Is abortion for reasons
of fetal sex illegal under the Abortion Act?’
 They answer ‘No. The law is
silent on the matter’
.

The bill is designed to “remove all doubt” that sex-selective abortion is illegal.

The U.K. has a well-documented sex-selective abortion problem. A recent undercover investigation by the Telegraph found that abortion for sex selection was available “with no questions asked,” and that abortion business staff “were prepared to falsify paperwork to arrange the procedures.” (What I would give to have similar media-led investigations in the United States. Instead, the mainstream media is so stubbornly supportive of abortion that the pro-life movement has to conduct those investigations itself; hence the existence of Live Action.)

If you live in the U.K., Stop Gendercide encourages you to write to your MP in support of the bill. And they encourage everyone, around the world, to support the campaign on social media.

Important news from across the pond

For those of us in the United States, November 4th is election day. Of particular concern to pro-lifers, the November 4th election will determine control of the Senate, which approves Supreme Court nominees. Given the age of some of our current Justices, both pro- and anti-abortion, there’s no telling what could happen between now and the beginning of the next presidential administration.

But November 4th is a significant day for pro-lifers in the U.K. as well. On that day, a bill on sex-selective abortion will be introduced to Parliament.

According to Stop Gendercide, the bill is needed to address significant ambiguity in the law:

Recently, it has emerged that the terms of the Abortion Act have been so
widely interpreted that they may even permit an abortion on ground of fetal
sex.

The three biggest institutions representing those who regulate and perform
the majority of abortions in the UK all disagree on sex-selective abortion.
The Government argues that ‘abortion on the grounds of gender alone is
illegal’
. However, the British Medical Association disagrees, arguing
that there are sometimes mental health grounds for a sex-selective
abortion. The British Pregnancy Advisory (BPAS) disagrees with both the
Government’s and BMA’s interpretations of the law. In their literature, still
available on their website, they pose the question ‘Is abortion for reasons
of fetal sex illegal under the Abortion Act?’
 They answer ‘No. The law is
silent on the matter’
.

The bill is designed to “remove all doubt” that sex-selective abortion is illegal.

The U.K. has a well-documented sex-selective abortion problem. A recent undercover investigation by the Telegraph found that abortion for sex selection was available “with no questions asked,” and that abortion business staff “were prepared to falsify paperwork to arrange the procedures.” (What I would give to have similar media-led investigations in the United States. Instead, the mainstream media is so stubbornly supportive of abortion that the pro-life movement has to conduct those investigations itself; hence the existence of Live Action.)

If you live in the U.K., Stop Gendercide encourages you to write to your MP in support of the bill. And they encourage everyone, around the world, to support the campaign on social media.

The feminist movement cannot afford to ignore pro-life concerns

Emma Watson at the United Nations, via CBS News

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

Emma Watson. Who doesn’t love her? Emma Watson seems to be strong lady who has carried herself with poise and grace even whilst being in the spotlight. I love her acting, applaud her drive to get her university degree, and truly respect her quest to make a difference in this world by serving as the U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador. Needless to say, she has certainly always been at the top of my “celebrity girl crush” list! So when I started listening to her HeForShe speech at the U.N. headquarters, I was very excited and was nodding enthusiastically (watch/read the transcript here). But when she said the line, “…I should be able to make decisions about my own body,” my heart and excitement plummeted.

Now, in theory, that line could have many innocuous meanings. Decisions about one’s body might include, for instance, the decision to abstain from sex until you feel you are readya serious international concern, given the startling number of child marriages. It might also refer to decisions about contraception, confidential mental health treatment, and even what clothing to wear. But in practice, “decisions about my body” is coded language for the dismemberment of unborn children.

Assuming she is referring to the legal right to abortion, I’m going to also assume that she does not realize that over 200 million girls are missing in the world due to legal abortion and infanticide, a phenomenon explored in depth in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky. I’m not here to lecture you all on how I feel about the legality of abortion, but I firmly believe that gender equality can only be reached if we address what is occurring worldwide: prenatal sex-selection and female infanticide. Gender equality begins at conception, but on this, Ms. Watson not only has missed the mark, but has ignored what the anti-abortion feminists have been fighting for for years.

As Emma points out later in her speech, “…not all women have received the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been.” However, this statement doesn’t necessarily only cover inequalities in wages, education, and general respect for women. This especially rings true in countries such as China and India, whose regional birth sex ratios can reach discrepancies of ~120+ male births for every 100 female births. This skewed ratio of male to female births is not just seen in countries such as India and China where in some parts cultural traditions have made it preferable to have male children; it is seen in the US and the UK as well. Sex-selective abortion is currently illegal in the United Kingdom, where Emma calls home. Despite its illegality, studies have discovered a skewed birth sex ratio among the second children of some immigrant families in the UK. It is currently estimated that between 1,400 and 4,700 girls are missing from the UK.

On the other end, sex-selective abortion is legal in the majority of the states in the US, where a woman can get an abortion on-demand and for any reason. Unfortunately, prenatal gender discrimination is evident in the US. Forms of gender preference were shown in a 2011 Gallup poll where 40% of Americans reported that they would prefer a boy if only allowed one child, in contrast to the 28% who would prefer a girl, statistics that are shockingly similar to those found in 1941. This opens the door wide to sex-selective abortions that are still legal in 42 states. Also in the US, parents are allowed to choose embryos by sex through in vitro fertilization, an option that 40% of Americans believe is appropriate. This suggests once again that gender preference is a serious issue that ought to be addressed as IVF technology advances and abortion remains on-demand.

Now that being said, do I think that making sex-selective abortion and IVF sex selection illegal is (by itself) going to fix this issue? No, it’s much more complex than that, as shown by attempts to restrict sex-selective abortions in India. But after listening to Emma’s speech, I was left wondering why the “hard questions” like sex-selective abortion and female infanticide are frequently left out of feminist discussions. While her efforts are indeed commendable, discussions on the gender wage gap and gender stereotypes tend to be much more palatable than discussing why being a girl can mean a death sentence. Most of all, I want to see more “nontraditional” feministsnamely men and pro-lifersstep up, get involved, and talk about these uncomfortable issues and to push the boundaries of what it means to be a feminist. Using Emma’s words, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

At the end of the speech, Emma invites men to participate in the fight for female equality. But in her comment alluding to abortion rights, she has perhaps inadvertently excluded anti-abortion feminists from this “HeForShe” discussion for gender equality, exactly the opposite of what she claims her goal is: a united front. My fellow anti-abortion feminists and I desire the same things that Emma Watson states in her address. We fight for maternity leave, we fight to close the wage gap, we volunteer our time at domestic abuse shelters and pregnancy centers, and we spread awareness about gender discrimination across the world and close to home. We want females to have the same rights as males; but first, we have to let them be born.

The feminist movement cannot afford to ignore pro-life concerns

Emma Watson at the United Nations, via CBS News

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

Emma Watson. Who doesn’t love her? Emma Watson seems to be strong lady who has carried herself with poise and grace even whilst being in the spotlight. I love her acting, applaud her drive to get her university degree, and truly respect her quest to make a difference in this world by serving as the U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador. Needless to say, she has certainly always been at the top of my “celebrity girl crush” list! So when I started listening to her HeForShe speech at the U.N. headquarters, I was very excited and was nodding enthusiastically (watch/read the transcript here). But when she said the line, “…I should be able to make decisions about my own body,” my heart and excitement plummeted.

Now, in theory, that line could have many innocuous meanings. Decisions about one’s body might include, for instance, the decision to abstain from sex until you feel you are readya serious international concern, given the startling number of child marriages. It might also refer to decisions about contraception, confidential mental health treatment, and even what clothing to wear. But in practice, “decisions about my body” is coded language for the dismemberment of unborn children.

Assuming she is referring to the legal right to abortion, I’m going to also assume that she does not realize that over 200 million girls are missing in the world due to legal abortion and infanticide, a phenomenon explored in depth in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky. I’m not here to lecture you all on how I feel about the legality of abortion, but I firmly believe that gender equality can only be reached if we address what is occurring worldwide: prenatal sex-selection and female infanticide. Gender equality begins at conception, but on this, Ms. Watson not only has missed the mark, but has ignored what the anti-abortion feminists have been fighting for for years.

As Emma points out later in her speech, “…not all women have received the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been.” However, this statement doesn’t necessarily only cover inequalities in wages, education, and general respect for women. This especially rings true in countries such as China and India, whose regional birth sex ratios can reach discrepancies of ~120+ male births for every 100 female births. This skewed ratio of male to female births is not just seen in countries such as India and China where in some parts cultural traditions have made it preferable to have male children; it is seen in the US and the UK as well. Sex-selective abortion is currently illegal in the United Kingdom, where Emma calls home. Despite its illegality, studies have discovered a skewed birth sex ratio among the second children of some immigrant families in the UK. It is currently estimated that between 1,400 and 4,700 girls are missing from the UK.

On the other end, sex-selective abortion is legal in the majority of the states in the US, where a woman can get an abortion on-demand and for any reason. Unfortunately, prenatal gender discrimination is evident in the US. Forms of gender preference were shown in a 2011 Gallup poll where 40% of Americans reported that they would prefer a boy if only allowed one child, in contrast to the 28% who would prefer a girl, statistics that are shockingly similar to those found in 1941. This opens the door wide to sex-selective abortions that are still legal in 42 states. Also in the US, parents are allowed to choose embryos by sex through in vitro fertilization, an option that 40% of Americans believe is appropriate. This suggests once again that gender preference is a serious issue that ought to be addressed as IVF technology advances and abortion remains on-demand.

Now that being said, do I think that making sex-selective abortion and IVF sex selection illegal is (by itself) going to fix this issue? No, it’s much more complex than that, as shown by attempts to restrict sex-selective abortions in India. But after listening to Emma’s speech, I was left wondering why the “hard questions” like sex-selective abortion and female infanticide are frequently left out of feminist discussions. While her efforts are indeed commendable, discussions on the gender wage gap and gender stereotypes tend to be much more palatable than discussing why being a girl can mean a death sentence. Most of all, I want to see more “nontraditional” feministsnamely men and pro-lifersstep up, get involved, and talk about these uncomfortable issues and to push the boundaries of what it means to be a feminist. Using Emma’s words, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

At the end of the speech, Emma invites men to participate in the fight for female equality. But in her comment alluding to abortion rights, she has perhaps inadvertently excluded anti-abortion feminists from this “HeForShe” discussion for gender equality, exactly the opposite of what she claims her goal is: a united front. My fellow anti-abortion feminists and I desire the same things that Emma Watson states in her address. We fight for maternity leave, we fight to close the wage gap, we volunteer our time at domestic abuse shelters and pregnancy centers, and we spread awareness about gender discrimination across the world and close to home. We want females to have the same rights as males; but first, we have to let them be born.

A Simple Way to Seek Common Ground

[Today’s guest post is by K. M. Misener.]

Far too many abortion debates are framed in the most simple, black and white terms: “Are you for abortion or against it?” However, there are many shades of gray between the two extremes of an absolute ban on abortion from the moment of fertilization vs. abortion on demand up until birth for any reason. For that reason, I have started to make a very simple request to abortion advocates in discussions: Please spell out for me exactly when you believe abortion should be legal, and when it should not be legal.

While that may seem like a very basic starting point, I think simply making sure we clearly understand where exactly our opponent stands can make discussion far more productive than if we just try to debate the issue in a general way.

We have plenty of real-world examples of situations where abortion has been restricted while not being outright banned. In many European countries, abortion is restricted after the first trimester, while in the United States, abortion advocacy groups fight hard against late-term abortion bans. Some readers may be too young to remember the long and difficult fight in America to ban intact dilation and extraction abortion (a.k.a. Partial Birth Abortion or PBA), but I remember that fight well. Once the partial birth abortion ban finally was upheld by the Supreme Court, abortion advocates quietly let their defense of PBA drop after a while. Despite dire predictions at the time that banning partial birth abortion would “undoubtedly harm the future reproductive health of some American women,” nowadays you generally do not see people arguing that partial birth abortions need to make a comeback. The partial birth abortion ban shows the value of looking at abortion in terms of a spectrum, rather than pure black and white. Even many people who might have considered themselves pro-choice recognized partial birth abortion as too extreme to justify or defend.

We know from Gallup polling that even though a bit less than half of Americans identify as pro-choice, only about 26% of responders believe that abortion should be “Legal in all circumstances.” There are many scenarios that frequently make even pro-choice people uncomfortable:

  • Abortion for so-called “convenience” or “birth control” reasons. 
  • Sex selection abortion (aborting a female fetus for being female, as is commonly practiced in some cultures). 
  • Late term abortions that are clearly for elective reasons.
  • The same woman having multiple abortions. It has been my experience that most abortion advocates are not aware that about half of women who have abortions have already had a previous abortion 

Since many pro-choice people tend to bring up rape and incest when debating pro-lifers (even though rape and incest only account for about 1% of abortions), I think it is completely valid for us to try to understand their stances on situations such as the above cases.

I am reminded of a quote that is very popular among atheists with respect to monotheistic religious adherents:
“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Similarly, I say to those who oppose abortion in at least some cases:

“I contend we are both against abortion. I just oppose abortion in more situations than you do. When you consider why you oppose these abortions, then perhaps you will understand that I am not your enemy simply because I draw the line in more cases or a bit earlier in pregnancy than you do.”

We are used to thinking of abortion as a polarized, black and white issue. But I believe in many, many cases our disagreement is actually just about where to draw the line and matters of degree.

Now, what about abortion advocates who truly do believe abortion is a valid choice right up until the moment of birth? Finding out that someone takes that stance offers a great opportunity to discuss with that person what rational basis there is to abort a third trimester fetus yet protect the life of a newborn infant. Starting at the point where you can both agree that there is a life worth protecting
and working backwards from there may be more productive than trying to convince someone who does not see even a third trimester fetus as a “person” that a newly formed zygote deserves to live.

In the effort to change minds and reach people, I think it is very helpful to try to find some form of common ground and use that as a foundation to build on. We need to look for opportunities to meet people at whatever point they are at along the spectrum of abortion beliefs.

A Simple Way to Seek Common Ground

[Today’s guest post is by K. M. Misener.]

Far too many abortion debates are framed in the most simple, black and white terms: “Are you for abortion or against it?” However, there are many shades of gray between the two extremes of an absolute ban on abortion from the moment of fertilization vs. abortion on demand up until birth for any reason. For that reason, I have started to make a very simple request to abortion advocates in discussions: Please spell out for me exactly when you believe abortion should be legal, and when it should not be legal.

While that may seem like a very basic starting point, I think simply making sure we clearly understand where exactly our opponent stands can make discussion far more productive than if we just try to debate the issue in a general way.

We have plenty of real-world examples of situations where abortion has been restricted while not being outright banned. In many European countries, abortion is restricted after the first trimester, while in the United States, abortion advocacy groups fight hard against late-term abortion bans. Some readers may be too young to remember the long and difficult fight in America to ban intact dilation and extraction abortion (a.k.a. Partial Birth Abortion or PBA), but I remember that fight well. Once the partial birth abortion ban finally was upheld by the Supreme Court, abortion advocates quietly let their defense of PBA drop after a while. Despite dire predictions at the time that banning partial birth abortion would “undoubtedly harm the future reproductive health of some American women,” nowadays you generally do not see people arguing that partial birth abortions need to make a comeback. The partial birth abortion ban shows the value of looking at abortion in terms of a spectrum, rather than pure black and white. Even many people who might have considered themselves pro-choice recognized partial birth abortion as too extreme to justify or defend.

We know from Gallup polling that even though a bit less than half of Americans identify as pro-choice, only about 26% of responders believe that abortion should be “Legal in all circumstances.” There are many scenarios that frequently make even pro-choice people uncomfortable:

  • Abortion for so-called “convenience” or “birth control” reasons. 
  • Sex selection abortion (aborting a female fetus for being female, as is commonly practiced in some cultures). 
  • Late term abortions that are clearly for elective reasons.
  • The same woman having multiple abortions. It has been my experience that most abortion advocates are not aware that about half of women who have abortions have already had a previous abortion 

Since many pro-choice people tend to bring up rape and incest when debating pro-lifers (even though rape and incest only account for about 1% of abortions), I think it is completely valid for us to try to understand their stances on situations such as the above cases.

I am reminded of a quote that is very popular among atheists with respect to monotheistic religious adherents:
“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Similarly, I say to those who oppose abortion in at least some cases:

“I contend we are both against abortion. I just oppose abortion in more situations than you do. When you consider why you oppose these abortions, then perhaps you will understand that I am not your enemy simply because I draw the line in more cases or a bit earlier in pregnancy than you do.”

We are used to thinking of abortion as a polarized, black and white issue. But I believe in many, many cases our disagreement is actually just about where to draw the line and matters of degree.

Now, what about abortion advocates who truly do believe abortion is a valid choice right up until the moment of birth? Finding out that someone takes that stance offers a great opportunity to discuss with that person what rational basis there is to abort a third trimester fetus yet protect the life of a newborn infant. Starting at the point where you can both agree that there is a life worth protecting
and working backwards from there may be more productive than trying to convince someone who does not see even a third trimester fetus as a “person” that a newly formed zygote deserves to live.

In the effort to change minds and reach people, I think it is very helpful to try to find some form of common ground and use that as a foundation to build on. We need to look for opportunities to meet people at whatever point they are at along the spectrum of abortion beliefs.