Annie’s story: unintended pregnancy threatened her athletic scholarship — and her pro-choice views

[Today’s guest post is by Annie Gasway, who converted from being pro-choice to pro-life because of her experiences with unintended pregnancy.]

In January 2000, I was 21. I was on a half-ride athletic scholarship (track and cross country) at a Division I university. I was not only Team Captain but also the number one runner. I had everything going for me (and therefore everything to lose). I knew that, so I took precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

But during indoor track season I could run a mile in just above 5 minutes, which was my time for mile repeats just a few months prior. It didn’t make sense. My coach sent me to get tested for anemia, which is how I learned I wasn’t anemic, but I was pregnant. 10 weeks pregnant.

At this point in my life, I was vocally pro-choice. I had friends and rivals who had procured abortions so their athletic careers weren’t hindered by surprise pregnancies. Now it was my turn to consider my options. Instead of returning to my (then) fiancé’s apartment, I drove to a park, sat in my car, and cried. Now that I had to face abortion head on, I couldn’t continue my comfortable lie that a fetus was just a “clump of cells.” I knew there was a tiny human growing within me. Abortion would mean ending my child’s life. I knew this as an objective, undeniable, scientific fact. Another scientific fact: I could not remain competitive at the Division I level much longer. I was in the middle of a moral dilemma, and it quickly dawned on me that I may not really have much of a choice at all.

My Division I coach had full power over my future. He could pull my scholarship at any time for any reason. [Editor’s note: Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against pregnant athletes. When we asked Annie about this factor, she explained that their required student athlete course did not mention that information, and she wasn’t aware of that protection at the time she was pregnant.] I knew most coaches pulled scholarships for any “injury” that would take an athlete out of competition for an entire season. Even though the athlete could “redshirt” (sit out) and get the season back later, coaches usually had walk-ons who were talented enough to score points now. Coaches could free up money to give to a “healthy” athlete. As I weighed my options I realized that my rivals who had abortions may not have wanted them. I knew I couldn’t finish my degree without my scholarship. I figured without a degree I didn’t have much of a future. If my friends and rivals’ situations were like mine, and if their coaches threatened to take their scholarships if they chose to stay pregnant, they didn’t have the luxury of choice—the choice was made for them by men with power over their lives. This thought terrified me.

I went back to my fiancé’s apartment and told him. He was also on an athletic scholarship for track. I begged him to go with me to tell our coach; even he was terrified to reveal our pregnancy, but I had to find out if I could keep my baby and my scholarship. I wasn’t going to kill another human on an assumption that I might lose a scholarship.

Turns out I was lucky. My coach didn’t give me an ultimatum; I redshirted my outdoor season, came back the following year, and provisionally qualified for NCAA Nationals in steeplechase [3.000 meter race], my very first race back. I got to keep my scholarship, earn my degree, and have my baby.

Cooper and Annie

This experience made me pro-life. I realized that abortion is weaponized against women. Those in authority—those with the purse strings—can treat pregnancy as an illness and abortion as its cure. I realized women with wanted pregnancies may be manipulated into ending them, and as long as abortion is available “on demand” it will be used to control and manipulate women.

This problem trickles into accommodating difficult pregnancies as well. During my second pregnancy I required strict bedrest. I was teaching full-time, and when I asked my principal for paid leave, he said, “We consider what you are asking for to be ‘maternity leave,’ which we deem a personal choice, and so we do not compensate for it. Now, if you had cancer or something and required extended leave you could take it from the leave pool.” He knew I had just been released from the hospital with a prescription for strict bedrest, but since staying pregnant was my “personal choice” my employer saw no obligation to support me. At that point I was the primary breadwinner for our family because my husband was finishing his degree. We ended up going deeply into debt to pay our bills so we could have our second child. “My body my choice” isn’t true. Even if there is a choice, it is often not made by the woman.

There is a manufactured choice between poverty and motherhood, and abortion on demand makes it so, enabling society to treat pregnancy as a chosen “disease.” Women often aren’t making the choice they want to make. They are making a “Sophie’s choice” based on circumstance forced on them by those who have power over their destiny. It’s pretty easy to put a woman in that position when the people pushing it aren’t the ones who pay the price for it (and in fact will benefit from it). If women lack support for their pregnancies, the solution should be to create that support, not push them to end their pregnancies. I am pro-life because I am pro-woman.

Annie’s story: unintended pregnancy threatened her athletic scholarship — and her pro-choice views

[Today’s guest post is by Annie Gasway, who converted from being pro-choice to pro-life because of her experiences with unintended pregnancy.]

In January 2000, I was 21. I was on a half-ride athletic scholarship (track and cross country) at a Division I university. I was not only Team Captain but also the number one runner. I had everything going for me (and therefore everything to lose). I knew that, so I took precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

But during indoor track season I could run a mile in just above 5 minutes, which was my time for mile repeats just a few months prior. It didn’t make sense. My coach sent me to get tested for anemia, which is how I learned I wasn’t anemic, but I was pregnant. 10 weeks pregnant.

At this point in my life, I was vocally pro-choice. I had friends and rivals who had procured abortions so their athletic careers weren’t hindered by surprise pregnancies. Now it was my turn to consider my options. Instead of returning to my (then) fiancé’s apartment, I drove to a park, sat in my car, and cried. Now that I had to face abortion head on, I couldn’t continue my comfortable lie that a fetus was just a “clump of cells.” I knew there was a tiny human growing within me. Abortion would mean ending my child’s life. I knew this as an objective, undeniable, scientific fact. Another scientific fact: I could not remain competitive at the Division I level much longer. I was in the middle of a moral dilemma, and it quickly dawned on me that I may not really have much of a choice at all.

My Division I coach had full power over my future. He could pull my scholarship at any time for any reason. [Editor’s note: Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against pregnant athletes. When we asked Annie about this factor, she explained that their required student athlete course did not mention that information, and she wasn’t aware of that protection at the time she was pregnant.] I knew most coaches pulled scholarships for any “injury” that would take an athlete out of competition for an entire season. Even though the athlete could “redshirt” (sit out) and get the season back later, coaches usually had walk-ons who were talented enough to score points now. Coaches could free up money to give to a “healthy” athlete. As I weighed my options I realized that my rivals who had abortions may not have wanted them. I knew I couldn’t finish my degree without my scholarship. I figured without a degree I didn’t have much of a future. If my friends and rivals’ situations were like mine, and if their coaches threatened to take their scholarships if they chose to stay pregnant, they didn’t have the luxury of choice—the choice was made for them by men with power over their lives. This thought terrified me.

I went back to my fiancé’s apartment and told him. He was also on an athletic scholarship for track. I begged him to go with me to tell our coach; even he was terrified to reveal our pregnancy, but I had to find out if I could keep my baby and my scholarship. I wasn’t going to kill another human on an assumption that I might lose a scholarship.

Turns out I was lucky. My coach didn’t give me an ultimatum; I redshirted my outdoor season, came back the following year, and provisionally qualified for NCAA Nationals in steeplechase [3.000 meter race], my very first race back. I got to keep my scholarship, earn my degree, and have my baby.

Cooper and Annie

This experience made me pro-life. I realized that abortion is weaponized against women. Those in authority—those with the purse strings—can treat pregnancy as an illness and abortion as its cure. I realized women with wanted pregnancies may be manipulated into ending them, and as long as abortion is available “on demand” it will be used to control and manipulate women.

This problem trickles into accommodating difficult pregnancies as well. During my second pregnancy I required strict bedrest. I was teaching full-time, and when I asked my principal for paid leave, he said, “We consider what you are asking for to be ‘maternity leave,’ which we deem a personal choice, and so we do not compensate for it. Now, if you had cancer or something and required extended leave you could take it from the leave pool.” He knew I had just been released from the hospital with a prescription for strict bedrest, but since staying pregnant was my “personal choice” my employer saw no obligation to support me. At that point I was the primary breadwinner for our family because my husband was finishing his degree. We ended up going deeply into debt to pay our bills so we could have our second child. “My body my choice” isn’t true. Even if there is a choice, it is often not made by the woman.

There is a manufactured choice between poverty and motherhood, and abortion on demand makes it so, enabling society to treat pregnancy as a chosen “disease.” Women often aren’t making the choice they want to make. They are making a “Sophie’s choice” based on circumstance forced on them by those who have power over their destiny. It’s pretty easy to put a woman in that position when the people pushing it aren’t the ones who pay the price for it (and in fact will benefit from it). If women lack support for their pregnancies, the solution should be to create that support, not push them to end their pregnancies. I am pro-life because I am pro-woman.

Pro-choice states have just as many unintended pregnancies, and far more abortions

If you’re into a lot of graphs and number crunching, read on. If you’re not, here’s the bottom line: compared to pro-life states, pro-choice states have more insurance coverage of contraception yet have roughly the same rates of unintended pregnancies and much higher rates of abortion.

In early 2015 the Washington Post published the article “States that are more opposed to abortion rights have fewer abortions — but not fewer unintended pregnancies.” Author Aaron Blake notes:

In fact, some of the states that oppose abortion the most also have some of the highest rates of unintended pregnancies — particularly in the South. And on average, the states that favor abortion rights the most have slightly lower levels of unintended pregnancies.

Blake elaborates:

Mississippi, for instance, is the state that opposes abortion rights the most, according to Pew, with 64 percent generally opposing the procedure. It is also the state with the most unintended pregnancies, at 62 percent of all pregnancies, according to Guttmacher. After accounting for fetal loss, about two-thirds of those unintended pregnancies were brought to term.

By contrast, Massachusetts is one of the most pro-abortion-rights states, with just 28 percent of people opposing the procedure. But it’s also on the low end as far as the percentage of unintended pregnancies (44 percent). Far fewer — 43 percent — of those pregnancies were brought to term.

In both his article’s title and text Blake seems to imply a correlation between anti-abortion attitude and higher proportions of unintended pregnancies. This implication seems plausible because Blake focuses on only two data points among all 50 (51 if you count the District of Columbia). In fact if you plot the two states Blake highlights–Mississippi and Massachusetts–you get this graph:

So anti-abortion views mean more unintended pregnancies. The irony!

And yet the only time Blake addresses trends across the whole country, he admits:

On average in the 10 states that oppose abortion the most, 51 percent of pregnancies are unintended. In the top 10 states that most favor abortion rights, it’s 50 percent. From here on I refer to states that oppose abortion as “pro-life states” and states that favor abortion rights as “pro-choice states.”

In other words, the two groups hardly differ at all. Out of curiosity I dug up the numbers used to measure unintended pregnancy (from Guttmacher) and abortion opposition (from Pew Research Center). (I found slightly different data than the numbers Blake cites. I suspect we’re drawing from Pew Research data sets in different years.) Instead of comparing only the 10 most pro-life states to the 10 most pro-choice states, I looked at all 50 states (and DC). Here’s what it looks like when you don’t cherry pick:

I guess reality was too boring for WaPo.

So when you look at the whole data set (instead of only Mississippi compared to Massachusetts, or only the top 10 pro-life states compared to the top 10 pro-choice ones), there appears to be no relationship at all between views on abortion and unintended pregnancy.

Note the above graphs look at the proportion of pregnancies that were unintended, not the proportion of women with unintended pregnancies (called the “unintended pregnancy rate”). However I checked that data too (it’s available in the same Guttmacher link above), and when you compare abortion sentiment to unintended pregnancy rate, the result is basically the same, with an R^2 of 0.0011.

I found this lack of correlation interesting. Pro-choicers often claim the best way to decrease abortion is not through outlawing abortion but through better access to contraception. If that theory is true, I would expect the states most open to abortion to also have lower unintended pregnancy rates, because (1) pro-choice states are more left-leaning, (2) left-leaning states are more likely to support better access to contraception, and (3) better access to contraception is supposed to decrease unintended pregnancies and thus abortion rates.

And yet the above graphic suggests that pro-choice states have no lower unintended pregnancy rates than pro-life states. Why is that? A few possibilities jump to mind:

  1. Pro-choice states don’t necessarily have better access to contraception than pro-life states.
  2. Pro-choice states do have better access to contraception, but that doesn’t actually decrease unintended pregnancy rates (and thus abortion rates).
  3. Pro-choice states have better access to contraception, and better access does decrease unintended pregnancy rates, but some other factor in those states increases unintended pregnancy rates, thus cancelling the contraception effect.

I decided to dig a bit more. I used the same Guttmacher and Pew Research data linked above for unintended pregnancy info and state attitudes about abortion. To measure state access to contraception I used data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which outlines which states require coverage of prescription contraception, related outpatient services, and no cost contraception coverage. I also looked at data collected by the National Women’s Law Center regarding which states have contraceptive equity laws (i.e. laws that require insurance plans to cover a full range of contraceptives for women). I assigned each state a contraception score by giving 1 point for each law or coverage requirement, with a maximum of 4 points.

Pro-choice states have more contraception access requirements.

States with zero contraception coverage requirements had an average of 49% of their populations say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. States with 2 or 3 contraception coverage requirements had 41% and 38% say abortion should generally be illegal. And states with all 4 contraception coverage requirements had only 32% of their populations say abortion should be illegal all or most of the time.

States with more contraception access requirements don’t see lower unintended pregnancy rates.

I then averaged the unintended pregnancy rates for states based on their contraception score and it looked like this:

(There were no states with a score of 1. Every state that had contraception access requirements in place had two or more such requirements.)

The states with the most contraception coverage requirements had the lowest unintended pregnancy rate at 44 per 1,000 women age 15-44. The states with zero contraception coverage requirements had the next lowest rate at 45.95. The states in between—with 2 or 3 contraception coverage requirements—had higher unintended pregnancy rates at 50.25 and 49.08 respectively. In other words, there’s no obvious relationship between states’ contraception coverage requirements and their unintended pregnancy rates.

States with no contraception access requirements have lower abortion rates.

Since I already had the data handy, I also compared state contraception access requirements to abortion rates:


The states with zero contraception coverage requirements had the lowest abortion rates at 9.68 abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44. States with 2, 3, and 4 contraception coverage requirements had rates of 14.58, 15.14, and 14.00, respectively.

This result could imply that contraception access actually increases abortion rates, and many pro-lifers try to make that claim. Their theory is that whenever you have a desirable but risky action (sex), the more you lower the risk, the more often people will take that action. If people think the risk is lowered more than is actually the case (e.g. if the contraception they’re using or the way they’re using it isn’t as effective as they think), then they may be actually increasing their risk exposure by taking a risky action more often without proportionally decreasing the risk in each instance. This theory is plausible because states with more contraception access requirements do not have lower unintended pregnancy rates. Perhaps these populations lower the risk of a given instance of sex by using contraception, but increase their overall risk exposure by having sex more often without using contraception consistently or correctly.

Pro-choice states have higher abortion rates.

Alternatively, perhaps the high contraceptive states have higher abortion rates simply because they are more pro-choice states. Given roughly equal unintended pregnancy rates, we’d expect the populations that support abortion to have higher abortion rates, and the data bears that out.

This trend may be due to social influences. It’s possible that women experiencing unintended pregnancies in more pro-life states experience more pressure not to abort, more encouragement and support to carry their pregnancies, or both, and that women in more pro-choice states experience the opposite. It’s hard to measure how much social pressures influence these decisions.

Either way, though, there’s little doubt that legal restrictions also influence women’s choices. To measure state-by-state legal restrictions, I again turned to Guttmacher. I assigned each state points based on whether they had the following restrictions in place and, if so, to what degree. The potential restrictions include:

  1. Whether the abortion must be performed by a licensed physician
  2. Whether and when the abortion must be performed at a hospital
  3. Whether and when a second physician must be present
  4. Whether and when abortion is prohibited (except life or health of the mother)
  5. Whether partial birth abortion is banned
  6. Whether public funding can be used for most abortions or very few abortions
  7. Whether private insurance has to cover abortions
  8. Whether individuals can refuse to participate in abortions
  9. Whether and when institutions can refuse to participate in abortions
  10. Whether there is mandated counseling regarding either an abortion breast cancer link, fetal pain, negative psychological effects, or any combination of those factors
  11. Whether and how long mandatory waiting must be
  12. Whether parents have to be notified or have to consent to their kids’ abortions

States with more legal restrictions garnered more points with a maximum possible 12 points. Unsurprisingly, there was an inverse correlation between the number of abortion restrictions and the proportion of unintended pregnancies aborted.


Contraception is not a panacea for abortion.

Pro-choice people repeatedly claim that if we truly care about lowering abortion rates we should support pro-choice policies and politicians who promote contraception access. As I’ve written about previously, this theory isn’t backed by the evidence. There’s some research to suggest contraception access—especially access to long acting reversible contraception—can help, but so far, the evidence I’ve found continues to show that the abortion rate decreases more when there are more abortion restrictions than it does when there is more access to contraception.

Secular Pro-Life supports contraception as non-violent healthcare for women, but it is only one tool in the abortion prevention toolbox. It is not a substitute for laws that recognize the rights of human beings in the womb.

Related Articles:
More evidence that abortion restrictions decrease abortion rates.
Link collection: Evidence that pro-life laws mean fewer unplanned pregnancies.

Pro-choice states have just as many unintended pregnancies, and far more abortions

If you’re into a lot of graphs and number crunching, read on. If you’re not, here’s the bottom line: compared to pro-life states, pro-choice states have more insurance coverage of contraception yet have roughly the same rates of unintended pregnancies and much higher rates of abortion.

In early 2015 the Washington Post published the article “States that are more opposed to abortion rights have fewer abortions — but not fewer unintended pregnancies.” Author Aaron Blake notes:

In fact, some of the states that oppose abortion the most also have some of the highest rates of unintended pregnancies — particularly in the South. And on average, the states that favor abortion rights the most have slightly lower levels of unintended pregnancies.

Blake elaborates:

Mississippi, for instance, is the state that opposes abortion rights the most, according to Pew, with 64 percent generally opposing the procedure. It is also the state with the most unintended pregnancies, at 62 percent of all pregnancies, according to Guttmacher. After accounting for fetal loss, about two-thirds of those unintended pregnancies were brought to term.

By contrast, Massachusetts is one of the most pro-abortion-rights states, with just 28 percent of people opposing the procedure. But it’s also on the low end as far as the percentage of unintended pregnancies (44 percent). Far fewer — 43 percent — of those pregnancies were brought to term.

In both his article’s title and text Blake seems to imply a correlation between anti-abortion attitude and higher proportions of unintended pregnancies. This implication seems plausible because Blake focuses on only two data points among all 50 (51 if you count the District of Columbia). In fact if you plot the two states Blake highlights–Mississippi and Massachusetts–you get this graph:

So anti-abortion views mean more unintended pregnancies. The irony!

And yet the only time Blake addresses trends across the whole country, he admits:

On average in the 10 states that oppose abortion the most, 51 percent of pregnancies are unintended. In the top 10 states that most favor abortion rights, it’s 50 percent. From here on I refer to states that oppose abortion as “pro-life states” and states that favor abortion rights as “pro-choice states.”

In other words, the two groups hardly differ at all. Out of curiosity I dug up the numbers used to measure unintended pregnancy (from Guttmacher) and abortion opposition (from Pew Research Center). (I found slightly different data than the numbers Blake cites. I suspect we’re drawing from Pew Research data sets in different years.) Instead of comparing only the 10 most pro-life states to the 10 most pro-choice states, I looked at all 50 states (and DC). Here’s what it looks like when you don’t cherry pick:

I guess reality was too boring for WaPo.

So when you look at the whole data set (instead of only Mississippi compared to Massachusetts, or only the top 10 pro-life states compared to the top 10 pro-choice ones), there appears to be no relationship at all between views on abortion and unintended pregnancy.

Note the above graphs look at the proportion of pregnancies that were unintended, not the proportion of women with unintended pregnancies (called the “unintended pregnancy rate”). However I checked that data too (it’s available in the same Guttmacher link above), and when you compare abortion sentiment to unintended pregnancy rate, the result is basically the same, with an R^2 of 0.0011.

I found this lack of correlation interesting. Pro-choicers often claim the best way to decrease abortion is not through outlawing abortion but through better access to contraception. If that theory is true, I would expect the states most open to abortion to also have lower unintended pregnancy rates, because (1) pro-choice states are more left-leaning, (2) left-leaning states are more likely to support better access to contraception, and (3) better access to contraception is supposed to decrease unintended pregnancies and thus abortion rates.

And yet the above graphic suggests that pro-choice states have no lower unintended pregnancy rates than pro-life states. Why is that? A few possibilities jump to mind:

  1. Pro-choice states don’t necessarily have better access to contraception than pro-life states.
  2. Pro-choice states do have better access to contraception, but that doesn’t actually decrease unintended pregnancy rates (and thus abortion rates).
  3. Pro-choice states have better access to contraception, and better access does decrease unintended pregnancy rates, but some other factor in those states increases unintended pregnancy rates, thus cancelling the contraception effect.

I decided to dig a bit more. I used the same Guttmacher and Pew Research data linked above for unintended pregnancy info and state attitudes about abortion. To measure state access to contraception I used data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which outlines which states require coverage of prescription contraception, related outpatient services, and no cost contraception coverage. I also looked at data collected by the National Women’s Law Center regarding which states have contraceptive equity laws (i.e. laws that require insurance plans to cover a full range of contraceptives for women). I assigned each state a contraception score by giving 1 point for each law or coverage requirement, with a maximum of 4 points.

Pro-choice states have more contraception access requirements.

States with zero contraception coverage requirements had an average of 49% of their populations say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. States with 2 or 3 contraception coverage requirements had 41% and 38% say abortion should generally be illegal. And states with all 4 contraception coverage requirements had only 32% of their populations say abortion should be illegal all or most of the time.

States with more contraception access requirements don’t see lower unintended pregnancy rates.

I then averaged the unintended pregnancy rates for states based on their contraception score and it looked like this:

(There were no states with a score of 1. Every state that had contraception access requirements in place had two or more such requirements.)

The states with the most contraception coverage requirements had the lowest unintended pregnancy rate at 44 per 1,000 women age 15-44. The states with zero contraception coverage requirements had the next lowest rate at 45.95. The states in between—with 2 or 3 contraception coverage requirements—had higher unintended pregnancy rates at 50.25 and 49.08 respectively. In other words, there’s no obvious relationship between states’ contraception coverage requirements and their unintended pregnancy rates.

States with no contraception access requirements have lower abortion rates.

Since I already had the data handy, I also compared state contraception access requirements to abortion rates:


The states with zero contraception coverage requirements had the lowest abortion rates at 9.68 abortions per 1,000 women age 15-44. States with 2, 3, and 4 contraception coverage requirements had rates of 14.58, 15.14, and 14.00, respectively.

This result could imply that contraception access actually increases abortion rates, and many pro-lifers try to make that claim. Their theory is that whenever you have a desirable but risky action (sex), the more you lower the risk, the more often people will take that action. If people think the risk is lowered more than is actually the case (e.g. if the contraception they’re using or the way they’re using it isn’t as effective as they think), then they may be actually increasing their risk exposure by taking a risky action more often without proportionally decreasing the risk in each instance. This theory is plausible because states with more contraception access requirements do not have lower unintended pregnancy rates. Perhaps these populations lower the risk of a given instance of sex by using contraception, but increase their overall risk exposure by having sex more often without using contraception consistently or correctly.

Pro-choice states have higher abortion rates.

Alternatively, perhaps the high contraceptive states have higher abortion rates simply because they are more pro-choice states. Given roughly equal unintended pregnancy rates, we’d expect the populations that support abortion to have higher abortion rates, and the data bears that out.

This trend may be due to social influences. It’s possible that women experiencing unintended pregnancies in more pro-life states experience more pressure not to abort, more encouragement and support to carry their pregnancies, or both, and that women in more pro-choice states experience the opposite. It’s hard to measure how much social pressures influence these decisions.

Either way, though, there’s little doubt that legal restrictions also influence women’s choices. To measure state-by-state legal restrictions, I again turned to Guttmacher. I assigned each state points based on whether they had the following restrictions in place and, if so, to what degree. The potential restrictions include:

  1. Whether the abortion must be performed by a licensed physician
  2. Whether and when the abortion must be performed at a hospital
  3. Whether and when a second physician must be present
  4. Whether and when abortion is prohibited (except life or health of the mother)
  5. Whether partial birth abortion is banned
  6. Whether public funding can be used for most abortions or very few abortions
  7. Whether private insurance has to cover abortions
  8. Whether individuals can refuse to participate in abortions
  9. Whether and when institutions can refuse to participate in abortions
  10. Whether there is mandated counseling regarding either an abortion breast cancer link, fetal pain, negative psychological effects, or any combination of those factors
  11. Whether and how long mandatory waiting must be
  12. Whether parents have to be notified or have to consent to their kids’ abortions

States with more legal restrictions garnered more points with a maximum possible 12 points. Unsurprisingly, there was an inverse correlation between the number of abortion restrictions and the proportion of unintended pregnancies aborted.


Contraception is not a panacea for abortion.

Pro-choice people repeatedly claim that if we truly care about lowering abortion rates we should support pro-choice policies and politicians who promote contraception access. As I’ve written about previously, this theory isn’t backed by the evidence. There’s some research to suggest contraception access—especially access to long acting reversible contraception—can help, but so far, the evidence I’ve found continues to show that the abortion rate decreases more when there are more abortion restrictions than it does when there is more access to contraception.

Secular Pro-Life supports contraception as non-violent healthcare for women, but it is only one tool in the abortion prevention toolbox. It is not a substitute for laws that recognize the rights of human beings in the womb.

Related Articles:
More evidence that abortion restrictions decrease abortion rates.
Link collection: Evidence that pro-life laws mean fewer unplanned pregnancies.

Link collection: Evidence that pro-life laws mean fewer unplanned pregnancies.

Pro-life laws decrease abortion in two ways. The direct and more obvious way is by decreasing the number of pregnant women who get abortions. A wide body of research (part 1, part 2) demonstrates that when abortion is restricted abortion rates go down and birth rates go up.

But pro-life laws also decrease abortion in an indirect way: by decreasing unintended pregnancies. The idea is that people perceive abortion as an insurance policy. As Donahue & Levitt explain:

The decline in births is far less than the number of abortions, suggesting that the number of conceptions increased substantially—an example of insurance leading to moral hazard. The insurance that abortion provides against unwanted pregnancy induces more sexual conduct or diminished protections against pregnancy in a way that substantially increases the number of pregnancies.

If people know that in the event of unplanned pregnancy they can always get abortions, they’re more likely to engage in risky sex.

There’s quite a lot of research to suggest this is true. Liberalized abortion policy has been associated with increased STD rates, decreased use of effective contraception, and the aforementioned increase in unintended pregnancies. Below, in chronological order, are studies that found these and other similar results.

***

“An analysis of 12 years of state-level data indicate that restrictions are associated with a reduction in abortions and either no change or a reduction in births, implying fewer pregnancies.” The Effect of Medicaid Abortion Funding Restrictions on Abortions, Pregnancies, and Births, Journal of Health Economics, October 1996

“In particular, the results suggest that residents in counties with longer travel distances to the nearest abortion provider have lower abortion rates and lower pregnancy rates.” The impact of provider availability on abortion demand, Contemporary Economic Policy, April 1996

“We find that countries which changed from very restrictive to liberal abortion laws experienced a large reduction in births, highlighting the insurance value. Changes from modest restrictions to abortion available upon request, however, led to no such change in births despite large increases in abortions, indicating that pregnancies rose as well.” Abortion as Insurance, National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2002

“We find that gonorrhea and syphilis incidences are significantly and positively correlated with abortion legalization. Further, we find a divergence in STD rates among early legalizing states and late legalizing states starting in 1970 and a subsequent convergence after the Roe v. Wade decision, indicating that the relation between STDs and abortion is causal.” The effect of abortion legalization on sexual behavior: evidence from sexually transmitted diseases. The Journal of Legal Studies, June 2003

“Parental involvement laws resulted in fewer abortions for minors resulting from fewer pregnancies; there is no statistically significant impact on births. The reduction in pregnancy seems to be attributable to increased use of contraception rather than a reduction in sexual activity.” Parental involvement laws and fertility behavior. Journal of Health Economics, September 2003

“Legalization itself is found to reduce the number of unwanted births. Beyond that, imposing moderate abortion restrictions do not appear to significantly increase unwanted births; abortions and pregnancies decline instead.” Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility, Society, May 2004

“First, the availability of abortion providers has the expected effect of reducing the supply of infants relinquished, particularly relative to the demand for abortion. Second, abortion law has an unexpected negative effect. This suggests that as abortion laws become more restrictive the total number of unwanted births may decrease.” The supply of infants relinquished for adoption: Did access to abortion make a difference? Economic Inquiry, July 2007

“Our results indicate that the enactment of parental involvement laws significantly reduces risky sexual activity among teenage girls.” Abortion Access and Risky Sex Among Teens: Parental Involvement Laws and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 2008

“Taken together the empirical results are consistent with the hypothesis that women’s sexual behavior is influenced by the direct and indirect cost of obtaining an abortion.” Abortion costs, sexual behavior, and pregnancy rates, The Social Science Jounral, March 2008

“We find restrictions on abortion availability (through abortion legislation mandating parental consent or notification) induce women to utilize birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies, while pro-choice sentiments in the legislature may have the opposite effect.” Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws Matter? International Journal of Business and Social Science, September 2011

“A state’s antiabortion attitudes, which likely contribute to the enactment of restrictive abortion laws in a state, are a major factor in inducing greater use of highly effective contraceptive methods by adult women at-risk of an unintended pregnancy.” Restrictive abortion laws, antiabortion attitudes and women’s contraceptive use, Social Science Research, January 2012

“While county‐level access to emergency contraception was unrelated to trends in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and abortions before access changed, access afterwards led to a statistically significant increase in STD rates (gonorrhea rates), both overall and for females. We do not find, however, an impact of pharmacy access on abortion or birth rates.” The effects of increased access to emergency contraception on sexually transmitted disease and abortion rates, Economic Inquiry, December 2012 (Note: This study was not examining abortion policy as related to pregnancy. It is a similar study examining how the availability of emergency conctraception was associated with increases in STDs. Like with abortion, emergency contraception may decrease the perceived risk of sex and so increase the instances of less protected sex.)


“Fewer abortion providers increase the likelihood of women using the pill.” Utilization of oral contraception: The impact of direct and indirect restrictions on access to abortion, The Social Science Journal, March 2014

“We find that providing individuals with over‐the‐counter access to EBC leads to increase STD rates and has no effect on abortion rates.” Access to Emergency Contraception and its Impact on Fertility and Sexual Behavior, Health Economics, February 2015 (Note: Like the Economic Inquiry study above, this study is not examining abortion policy and pregnancy, but it demonstrates a similar phenomenon wherein people make riskier sexual decisions when they have an ‘insurance’ policy available such as emergency contraception.),

“Our findings reveal that restrictions on abortion funding have a significant and positive impact on a woman’s decision to use the pill.” The Role of Restrictive Abortion Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use, Clinics in Mother and Child Health, October 2015

“Similarly, women in states characterized by high abortion hostility (i.e., states with four or more types of restrictive policies in place) were more likely to use highly effective [contraceptive] methods than were women in states with less hostility.” State Abortion Context and U.S. Women’s Contraceptive Choices, 1995–2010, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, June 2015

“We find evidence to suggest that [Parental Involvement] laws are associated with an increase in the probability that sexually active minor teen females use birth control.” The effect of parental involvement laws on teen birth control use. Journal of Health Economics, January 2016

Further reading: This article from The Cut illustrates the thought process that can connect unplanned pregnancy rates and abortion availability. In this case, the woman is clearly educated about reproduction and she has knowledge of and access to contraception, but she is not as careful as she may otherwise have been partly because she knows she can get an abortion if need be.

I knew that the time I was sloppy with protection right before ovulation would put me at risk for getting pregnant. I’m the kind of woman who learns about fertility for fun, who genuinely enjoys reading about cervical fluid, egg freezing, and progesterone spikes. Which is why I knew I should have taken Plan B after that slipup and was hard on myself when I didn’t. But I also knew that if an unplanned pregnancy did occur, I’d have options in New York City.

Link collection: Evidence that pro-life laws mean fewer unplanned pregnancies.

Pro-life laws decrease abortion in two ways. The direct and more obvious way is by decreasing the number of pregnant women who get abortions. A wide body of research (part 1, part 2) demonstrates that when abortion is restricted abortion rates go down and birth rates go up.

But pro-life laws also decrease abortion in an indirect way: by decreasing unintended pregnancies. The idea is that people perceive abortion as an insurance policy. As Donahue & Levitt explain:

The decline in births is far less than the number of abortions, suggesting that the number of conceptions increased substantially—an example of insurance leading to moral hazard. The insurance that abortion provides against unwanted pregnancy induces more sexual conduct or diminished protections against pregnancy in a way that substantially increases the number of pregnancies.

If people know that in the event of unplanned pregnancy they can always get abortions, they’re more likely to engage in risky sex.

There’s quite a lot of research to suggest this is true. Liberalized abortion policy has been associated with increased STD rates, decreased use of effective contraception, and the aforementioned increase in unintended pregnancies. Below, in chronological order, are studies that found these and other similar results.

***

“An analysis of 12 years of state-level data indicate that restrictions are associated with a reduction in abortions and either no change or a reduction in births, implying fewer pregnancies.” The Effect of Medicaid Abortion Funding Restrictions on Abortions, Pregnancies, and Births, Journal of Health Economics, October 1996

“In particular, the results suggest that residents in counties with longer travel distances to the nearest abortion provider have lower abortion rates and lower pregnancy rates.” The impact of provider availability on abortion demand, Contemporary Economic Policy, April 1996

“We find that countries which changed from very restrictive to liberal abortion laws experienced a large reduction in births, highlighting the insurance value. Changes from modest restrictions to abortion available upon request, however, led to no such change in births despite large increases in abortions, indicating that pregnancies rose as well.” Abortion as Insurance, National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2002

“We find that gonorrhea and syphilis incidences are significantly and positively correlated with abortion legalization. Further, we find a divergence in STD rates among early legalizing states and late legalizing states starting in 1970 and a subsequent convergence after the Roe v. Wade decision, indicating that the relation between STDs and abortion is causal.” The effect of abortion legalization on sexual behavior: evidence from sexually transmitted diseases. The Journal of Legal Studies, June 2003

“Parental involvement laws resulted in fewer abortions for minors resulting from fewer pregnancies; there is no statistically significant impact on births. The reduction in pregnancy seems to be attributable to increased use of contraception rather than a reduction in sexual activity.” Parental involvement laws and fertility behavior. Journal of Health Economics, September 2003

“Legalization itself is found to reduce the number of unwanted births. Beyond that, imposing moderate abortion restrictions do not appear to significantly increase unwanted births; abortions and pregnancies decline instead.” Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility, Society, May 2004

“First, the availability of abortion providers has the expected effect of reducing the supply of infants relinquished, particularly relative to the demand for abortion. Second, abortion law has an unexpected negative effect. This suggests that as abortion laws become more restrictive the total number of unwanted births may decrease.” The supply of infants relinquished for adoption: Did access to abortion make a difference? Economic Inquiry, July 2007

“Our results indicate that the enactment of parental involvement laws significantly reduces risky sexual activity among teenage girls.” Abortion Access and Risky Sex Among Teens: Parental Involvement Laws and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 2008

“Taken together the empirical results are consistent with the hypothesis that women’s sexual behavior is influenced by the direct and indirect cost of obtaining an abortion.” Abortion costs, sexual behavior, and pregnancy rates, The Social Science Jounral, March 2008

“We find restrictions on abortion availability (through abortion legislation mandating parental consent or notification) induce women to utilize birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies, while pro-choice sentiments in the legislature may have the opposite effect.” Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws Matter? International Journal of Business and Social Science, September 2011

“A state’s antiabortion attitudes, which likely contribute to the enactment of restrictive abortion laws in a state, are a major factor in inducing greater use of highly effective contraceptive methods by adult women at-risk of an unintended pregnancy.” Restrictive abortion laws, antiabortion attitudes and women’s contraceptive use, Social Science Research, January 2012

“While county‐level access to emergency contraception was unrelated to trends in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and abortions before access changed, access afterwards led to a statistically significant increase in STD rates (gonorrhea rates), both overall and for females. We do not find, however, an impact of pharmacy access on abortion or birth rates.” The effects of increased access to emergency contraception on sexually transmitted disease and abortion rates, Economic Inquiry, December 2012 (Note: This study was not examining abortion policy as related to pregnancy. It is a similar study examining how the availability of emergency conctraception was associated with increases in STDs. Like with abortion, emergency contraception may decrease the perceived risk of sex and so increase the instances of less protected sex.)


“Fewer abortion providers increase the likelihood of women using the pill.” Utilization of oral contraception: The impact of direct and indirect restrictions on access to abortion, The Social Science Journal, March 2014

“We find that providing individuals with over‐the‐counter access to EBC leads to increase STD rates and has no effect on abortion rates.” Access to Emergency Contraception and its Impact on Fertility and Sexual Behavior, Health Economics, February 2015 (Note: Like the Economic Inquiry study above, this study is not examining abortion policy and pregnancy, but it demonstrates a similar phenomenon wherein people make riskier sexual decisions when they have an ‘insurance’ policy available such as emergency contraception.),

“Our findings reveal that restrictions on abortion funding have a significant and positive impact on a woman’s decision to use the pill.” The Role of Restrictive Abortion Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use, Clinics in Mother and Child Health, October 2015

“Similarly, women in states characterized by high abortion hostility (i.e., states with four or more types of restrictive policies in place) were more likely to use highly effective [contraceptive] methods than were women in states with less hostility.” State Abortion Context and U.S. Women’s Contraceptive Choices, 1995–2010, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, June 2015

“We find evidence to suggest that [Parental Involvement] laws are associated with an increase in the probability that sexually active minor teen females use birth control.” The effect of parental involvement laws on teen birth control use. Journal of Health Economics, January 2016

Further reading: This article from The Cut illustrates the thought process that can connect unplanned pregnancy rates and abortion availability. In this case, the woman is clearly educated about reproduction and she has knowledge of and access to contraception, but she is not as careful as she may otherwise have been partly because she knows she can get an abortion if need be.

I knew that the time I was sloppy with protection right before ovulation would put me at risk for getting pregnant. I’m the kind of woman who learns about fertility for fun, who genuinely enjoys reading about cervical fluid, egg freezing, and progesterone spikes. Which is why I knew I should have taken Plan B after that slipup and was hard on myself when I didn’t. But I also knew that if an unplanned pregnancy did occur, I’d have options in New York City.

Pro-life laws prevent abortion primarily by preventing unplanned pregnancy.

Today’s guest post is by Conner Alford.

Women and their partners are generally forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior.

Within
our society’s broader debate on abortion, two particular pro-choice arguments
have occupied a great deal of attention among political activists and leaders
alike. The first and stronger of these arguments postulates that legal
restrictions make abortion more dangerous but that they do not make it any less
common. The underlying logic here is that pro-life policies simply replace safe,
legal terminations with an equal number of dangerous, illegal and self-induced
or ‘back-alley’ abortions (AGI 1999, 2009). In other words, if a woman is
pregnant and does not want to be, she will not consider the legality of her
actions or the risks to her own health when deciding whether or not to abort.
Any woman willing to get a safe, legal abortion is also willing to get an
unsafe, illegal one. When the former is harder to obtain, she will trade it in
for the latter. When the latter is no longer necessary because laws have been
liberalized, she will trade it for the former. This is the argument articulated
by the Alan Guttmacher Institute[1] (AGI) and its affiliated researchers
(Tietze 1973; Juarez et al 2005; Sedgh et al 2007b; Singh et al 2010).
The
second argument makes a somewhat contradictory claim. According to this
narrative, pro-life policies do in fact mitigate abortions. However, they only
do so by replacing those abortions with unwanted births. Women trade abortions
for babies. As a result, the story goes, these undesired offspring either wind
up in state custody or eventually wash out to become criminals (Levitt and
Donahue 2001). Either way, the conclusion that we are supposed to draw is that
pro-life policies are generally ill-advised. However, both of these arguments
are deeply inconsistent with the empirical record and based on a fundamental
misconception about the primary way in which abortion laws actually work and
operate.
First,
studies have shown that while legal restrictions on abortion do reduce the rate
at which it occurs, they do not necessarily
result in an increase in the birth rate (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et
al. 1997). Second, the claim that pro-life policies simply lead to an increase
in maternal deaths by driving pregnant women to seek unsafe abortions is
directly challenged by the empirical record. The lowest maternal mortality
rates (MMR) in Europe, for example, occur in Poland, Malta and Ireland—all of
which have extremely restrictive policies (Mundial 2010; Hogan et al. 2010).
Further, a plethora of systematic analyses examining countries from around the
world continuously challenge the idea that legal restrictions on abortion
increase MMRs or hospitalizations.[2]  This, then, undermines a key assumption in the
AGI narrative about illegal abortions. Third, it is important to note that
within the academic community the debate is, generally speaking, no longer
about whether legal restrictions
reduce abortions so much as how they
manage to do so. That pro-life policies mitigate abortion is a point that has
been repeatedly illustrated by literally dozens of independent, peer-reviewed
studies over the course of several decades.[3]
There
has, however, been some disagreement about the exact causal mechanism
responsible for this relationship. Herein we find the chief problem with the
two perspectives introduced at the beginning of this essay. Not only are their
key assertions inconsistent with the empirical record, their entire arguments
are fundamentally oblivious to recent academic insights on how abortion laws
actually operate. Traditionally, scholars have tended to assume that such
policies function to minimize abortions by acting on the posterior “…decision
of a woman who is pregnant not to have the child” (Medoff 1988, p. 354). In
other words, the law was presumed to affect a woman’s behavior only after she had already become
pregnant. The AGI and other pro-choice advocates have adopted this outdated
presupposition.
Since
the mid 1990s, however, the academic understanding has evolved in light of new
evidence. A substantial number of independent, peer reviewed studies have
consistently shown that legal restrictions on abortion work primarily by reducing the rate at which
unplanned pregnancies occur in the first place (Kane and Staiger
1996) and only secondarily by
influencing the behaviors of women who are already pregnant (Levine 2004a)! In
other words, pro-life policies address both the symptom and the cause! To be
more specific, research has shown that women and their partners are generally
forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior. They do not wait
until after a pregnancy has already occurred before deciding whether they
should take steps to preempt parenthood. As a result, pro-life policies actually
help to reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate by incentivizing couples to take
additional precautions prior to a
potential pregnancy rather than waiting to obtain an abortion after the
pregnancy has already occurred. Conversely, the opposite is also true. When
abortion is readily accessible, this very availability reduces the incentive to
avoid becoming pregnant by offering a sort of ‘insurance policy,’ should you or
your partner happen to do so. For example, studies have persistently shown that
more permissive policies are causally connected to an increase in unprotected
sex whereas more restrictive policies lead to an increase in contraceptive
usage (Levine 2004b; Medoff 2008a, b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011, 2014, 2015).
There is also some evidence to indicate that legally restricting abortion leads
to a change in the overall amount of sexual activity (Alford 2016).
Of
course, many readers are likely to find this logic somewhat counterintuitive or
even offensive. Despite this, it has been overwhelmingly
supported by the empirical record (Kane and Staiger 1996; Levine et al. 1996;
Levine 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004; Levine and Staiger 2004; McNabb 2007; Medoff 2008a,
b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011). It also helps to explain the previously puzzling
findings of several studies which suggested 
that abortion laws were able to reduce the number of abortions without
an increase in births (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et al. 1997) or harming
maternal health outcomes (see footnote 3). Furthermore, it is consistent with
previous findings that the legalization of abortion is associated with an
increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases whereas pro-life
policies have the opposite impact (Kick and Stratmann 2003; Klick and Neelsen
2012). Studies examining the impact of abortion policies on the number of
infants available for adoption have, similarly, supported the hypothesis (Gennetian
1999; Bitler and Zavodny 2002; Medoff 2008b).
In
conclusion then, it is important to understand that the primary interaction between pro-life policies and individual
fertility decisions happens before a
potential pregnancy. Men and women are generally rational, free and forward-thinking when it comes to their sex lives. They consider the risks and
potential costs of an unwanted pregnancy before making decisions about whether
to engage in sexual activity or to utilize contraception. When those costs are
subverted by liberalized abortion laws, this provides a sort of ‘insurance
policy,’ which encourages uninhibited sexual activity. When those costs are
reinforced by pro-life policies, however, the opposite occurs. Contraceptive
usage goes up and unplanned pregnancies go down. As a result, legal limitations
on abortion are capable of reducing abortion rates without actually impacting
the overall number of births. Where pro-life policies do lead to an increase in
births, this change is secondary and relatively modest as compared to the
decline in unplanned pregnancy. As a result of this, restrictions on abortion are
also able to operate without a concomitant risk of unsafe abortions. After all,
you cannot illegally terminate a pregnancy that never occurred. This helps to
explain why there does not seem to be any positive relationship between
legalized abortion and maternal health outcomes.[4] The arguments introduced
at the opening of this essay must, therefore, be dismissed in light of new
academic evidence and empirical data. The science simply does not support them.
It does, however, indicate that pro-life laws do not merely address abortion as a symptom but that they attack the
underlying cause of abortion—unplanned pregnancy—at its source.
 
Bibliography
Alan Guttmacher
Institute (AGI). 1999. “Sharing Responsibility: Women, Society & Abortion
Worldwide.” New York.
__________. 2009.
Abortion
Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress
.” New York.
Alford, Conner.
2016. “The Economics of Abortion: A Comparative Analysis of Mexico and the
United States.” Proquest
Dissertations
. Available at: https://search.proquest.com/openview/5e138d6c2e46744301e5f1706efbfa4c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
Bitler, Marianne
and Madeline. Zavodny. 2002. “Did Abortion Legalization Reduce the Number
of Unwanted Children? Evidence from Adoptions.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 34(1) 25-33.
Donohue III, John
J and Steven D. Levitt. “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime.” The Quarterly
Journal of Economics
. 116(2): 379-420.
Felkey, Amanda J.
and Lybecker, Kristina M. 2011. “Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws
Matter?” International Journal of
Business and Social Science
. 2(16): 1-12.
_____. 2014.
“Utilization of Oral Contraception: The Impact of Direct and Indirect
Restrictions on Access to Abortion.” The
Social Science Journal
.  51: 44-56.
 _____. 2015. “The Role of Restrictive Abortion
Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use.” Clinics in Mother and Child Health. 12(4):
1-10.
Gennetian, Lisa A.
1999.  “The Supply of Infants
relinquished for Adoption: Did Access to Abortion Make a Difference?” Economic Inquiry. 37(3): 412-431.
Gober, Patricia.
1994. “Why Abortion Rates Vary: A Geographical Examination of the Supply
of and Demand for Abortion Services in the United States in 1988.” Annals of the Association of American
Geographers
. 84: 230-250.
Guldi, Melanie.
2008. “Fertility Effects of Abortion and Birth Control Pill Access for
Minors.” Demography. 45(4):
817-827.
Haas-Wilson,
Deborah. 1993.”The Economic Impact of State Restrictions on Abortion:
Parental Consent and Notification Laws and Medicaid Funding Restrictions.”
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
12(3): 498-511.
Hansen, Susan B.
1980. “State Implementation of Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion Rates since
Roe v. Wade.” The Journal of Politics.
42: pp. 372-395.
Hogan MC, Foreman
KJ, Naghavi M, Ahn SY, Wang M, et al. 2010. “Maternal mortality for 181
countries, 1980-2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium
Development Goal 5.” Lancet
375(9726): 1609–1623.
Kane, Thomas J.
and Douglas Staiger. 1996. “Teen Motherhood and Abortion Access.” The
Quarterly Journal of Economics.
111(2): 467-506
Koch, Elard Miguel
Bravo, Sebastián Gatica, Juan F. Stecher, Paula Aracena, Sergio Valenzuela,
IvonneAhlers. 2012A. “Sobrestimacióndel Aborto Inducido en Colombia y otros Países
Latino Americanos. [Overestimation of induced abortion in Colombia and other
Latin American countries].” Ginecol
Obstet Mex
. 80(5): 360-372.
Koch, Elard, John
Thorp, Miguel Bravo, Sebastian Gatica, Camila X. Romero, Hernan Aguilera,
IvonneAhlers. 2012b. “Women’s Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities,
Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957
to 2007.” PLoS One. 7(5): 1-16.
Koch, Elard,
Calhoun, Paula. Aracena, Sebastian Gatica, and Miguel Bravo. 2014.
“Women’s education level, contraceptive use and maternal mortality
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128(4): 384-7.
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Monique Chireau, Fernando Pliego, Joseph Stanford, Sebastián Haddad, Byron
Calhoun, Paula Aracena, Miguel Bravo, SebastiánGatica, and John Thorp. 2015.
“Abortion legislation, maternal healthcare, fertility, female literacy,
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. 15: 555-578.
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 _____. 2003. “Parental Involvement Laws and
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. 22(5): 861–878
_____. 2004a.
“Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility.” Society, 41(4): 79-85.
_____. 2004b. Sex
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 Levine, Phillip B. and Douglas Staiger. 2004.
“Abortion Policy and Fertility Outcomes: The Eastern European
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Social Science Journal
. 45: 156-172
. _____. 2008b.
“The Effect of Abortion Costs on Adoption.”
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. 35(3): 188-201.
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New, Michael.
2004. “Analyzing the Effects of State Legislation on the Incidence of
Abortion During the 1990s.”
_____. 2007.
“Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among
Minors.”
_____. 2011.
“Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post Casey
Era”. State Politics & Policy
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. 11: pp. 28-47.
_____. 2014.
“Analyzing the Impact of U.S. Antiabortion Legislation in the Post-Casey Era A
Reassessment.” State Politics &
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. 11: pp. 28-47.
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12, 120-130.


[1] The AGI is a pro-choice lobbying
organization and the semi-official research division of Planned Parenthood. Its
statement of purpose is to promote the liberalization of worldwide abortion
laws.
[2] Similarly, in South and Central
America, Koch et al (2014) finds no relationship between the restrictiveness of
state policies on abortion in Mexico and maternal mortality, while a time
series analysis of Chile failed to show any relationship between historical
changes in abortion policy and either maternal mortality or abortion related
hospitalizations (Koch et al. 2012a). Systematic analyses in Eastern Europe and
studies examining the impact of legalized abortion in Mexico City also
undermine the AGI narrative (Levine and Staiger 2004; Klick and Neelsen 2012; Koch
et al 2012b).
[3] Hansen 1980; Medoff 1988, 2008a,
2008b; Haas-Wilson 1993; Gober 1994; New 2004, 2007, 2011a, b; Guildi 2008;
Koch et al. 2012a, b, 2014…the list goes on. 
[4] 
In fact, some research indicates the opposite: that more liberal
abortion laws may actually lead to an increase in maternal mortality and
morbidity (Alford 2016). Although these findings have yet to be fully explained,
one possibility is that women who obtain abortions are able to become pregnant
again more quickly and/or are more likely to return to former levels of sexual
activity. As a result, this leads to an increase in the overall number of
pregnancies a woman experiences and therefore her overall risk of experiencing
a potentially life threatening complication. This may also help to explain why
countries with more restrictive abortion policies in both Latin America and
Europe tend to have maternal mortality rates that are lower than the regional average
(see above) and why the abortion mortality ratio decrease by almost 96%
subsequent to an abortion ban in Chile (Koch 2013).

Pro-life laws prevent abortion primarily by preventing unplanned pregnancy.

Today’s guest post is by Conner Alford.

Women and their partners are generally forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior.

Within
our society’s broader debate on abortion, two particular pro-choice arguments
have occupied a great deal of attention among political activists and leaders
alike. The first and stronger of these arguments postulates that legal
restrictions make abortion more dangerous but that they do not make it any less
common. The underlying logic here is that pro-life policies simply replace safe,
legal terminations with an equal number of dangerous, illegal and self-induced
or ‘back-alley’ abortions (AGI 1999, 2009). In other words, if a woman is
pregnant and does not want to be, she will not consider the legality of her
actions or the risks to her own health when deciding whether or not to abort.
Any woman willing to get a safe, legal abortion is also willing to get an
unsafe, illegal one. When the former is harder to obtain, she will trade it in
for the latter. When the latter is no longer necessary because laws have been
liberalized, she will trade it for the former. This is the argument articulated
by the Alan Guttmacher Institute[1] (AGI) and its affiliated researchers
(Tietze 1973; Juarez et al 2005; Sedgh et al 2007b; Singh et al 2010).
The
second argument makes a somewhat contradictory claim. According to this
narrative, pro-life policies do in fact mitigate abortions. However, they only
do so by replacing those abortions with unwanted births. Women trade abortions
for babies. As a result, the story goes, these undesired offspring either wind
up in state custody or eventually wash out to become criminals (Levitt and
Donahue 2001). Either way, the conclusion that we are supposed to draw is that
pro-life policies are generally ill-advised. However, both of these arguments
are deeply inconsistent with the empirical record and based on a fundamental
misconception about the primary way in which abortion laws actually work and
operate.
First,
studies have shown that while legal restrictions on abortion do reduce the rate
at which it occurs, they do not necessarily
result in an increase in the birth rate (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et
al. 1997). Second, the claim that pro-life policies simply lead to an increase
in maternal deaths by driving pregnant women to seek unsafe abortions is
directly challenged by the empirical record. The lowest maternal mortality
rates (MMR) in Europe, for example, occur in Poland, Malta and Ireland—all of
which have extremely restrictive policies (Mundial 2010; Hogan et al. 2010).
Further, a plethora of systematic analyses examining countries from around the
world continuously challenge the idea that legal restrictions on abortion
increase MMRs or hospitalizations.[2]  This, then, undermines a key assumption in the
AGI narrative about illegal abortions. Third, it is important to note that
within the academic community the debate is, generally speaking, no longer
about whether legal restrictions
reduce abortions so much as how they
manage to do so. That pro-life policies mitigate abortion is a point that has
been repeatedly illustrated by literally dozens of independent, peer-reviewed
studies over the course of several decades.[3]
There
has, however, been some disagreement about the exact causal mechanism
responsible for this relationship. Herein we find the chief problem with the
two perspectives introduced at the beginning of this essay. Not only are their
key assertions inconsistent with the empirical record, their entire arguments
are fundamentally oblivious to recent academic insights on how abortion laws
actually operate. Traditionally, scholars have tended to assume that such
policies function to minimize abortions by acting on the posterior “…decision
of a woman who is pregnant not to have the child” (Medoff 1988, p. 354). In
other words, the law was presumed to affect a woman’s behavior only after she had already become
pregnant. The AGI and other pro-choice advocates have adopted this outdated
presupposition.
Since
the mid 1990s, however, the academic understanding has evolved in light of new
evidence. A substantial number of independent, peer reviewed studies have
consistently shown that legal restrictions on abortion work primarily by reducing the rate at which
unplanned pregnancies occur in the first place (Kane and Staiger
1996) and only secondarily by
influencing the behaviors of women who are already pregnant (Levine 2004a)! In
other words, pro-life policies address both the symptom and the cause! To be
more specific, research has shown that women and their partners are generally
forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior. They do not wait
until after a pregnancy has already occurred before deciding whether they
should take steps to preempt parenthood. As a result, pro-life policies actually
help to reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate by incentivizing couples to take
additional precautions prior to a
potential pregnancy rather than waiting to obtain an abortion after the
pregnancy has already occurred. Conversely, the opposite is also true. When
abortion is readily accessible, this very availability reduces the incentive to
avoid becoming pregnant by offering a sort of ‘insurance policy,’ should you or
your partner happen to do so. For example, studies have persistently shown that
more permissive policies are causally connected to an increase in unprotected
sex whereas more restrictive policies lead to an increase in contraceptive
usage (Levine 2004b; Medoff 2008a, b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011, 2014, 2015).
There is also some evidence to indicate that legally restricting abortion leads
to a change in the overall amount of sexual activity (Alford 2016).
Of
course, many readers are likely to find this logic somewhat counterintuitive or
even offensive. Despite this, it has been overwhelmingly
supported by the empirical record (Kane and Staiger 1996; Levine et al. 1996;
Levine 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004; Levine and Staiger 2004; McNabb 2007; Medoff 2008a,
b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011). It also helps to explain the previously puzzling
findings of several studies which suggested 
that abortion laws were able to reduce the number of abortions without
an increase in births (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et al. 1997) or harming
maternal health outcomes (see footnote 3). Furthermore, it is consistent with
previous findings that the legalization of abortion is associated with an
increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases whereas pro-life
policies have the opposite impact (Kick and Stratmann 2003; Klick and Neelsen
2012). Studies examining the impact of abortion policies on the number of
infants available for adoption have, similarly, supported the hypothesis (Gennetian
1999; Bitler and Zavodny 2002; Medoff 2008b).
In
conclusion then, it is important to understand that the primary interaction between pro-life policies and individual
fertility decisions happens before a
potential pregnancy. Men and women are generally rational, free and forward-thinking when it comes to their sex lives. They consider the risks and
potential costs of an unwanted pregnancy before making decisions about whether
to engage in sexual activity or to utilize contraception. When those costs are
subverted by liberalized abortion laws, this provides a sort of ‘insurance
policy,’ which encourages uninhibited sexual activity. When those costs are
reinforced by pro-life policies, however, the opposite occurs. Contraceptive
usage goes up and unplanned pregnancies go down. As a result, legal limitations
on abortion are capable of reducing abortion rates without actually impacting
the overall number of births. Where pro-life policies do lead to an increase in
births, this change is secondary and relatively modest as compared to the
decline in unplanned pregnancy. As a result of this, restrictions on abortion are
also able to operate without a concomitant risk of unsafe abortions. After all,
you cannot illegally terminate a pregnancy that never occurred. This helps to
explain why there does not seem to be any positive relationship between
legalized abortion and maternal health outcomes.[4] The arguments introduced
at the opening of this essay must, therefore, be dismissed in light of new
academic evidence and empirical data. The science simply does not support them.
It does, however, indicate that pro-life laws do not merely address abortion as a symptom but that they attack the
underlying cause of abortion—unplanned pregnancy—at its source.
 
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__________. 2009.
Abortion
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.  51: 44-56.
 _____. 2015. “The Role of Restrictive Abortion
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Gennetian, Lisa A.
1999.  “The Supply of Infants
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Gober, Patricia.
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Guldi, Melanie.
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Haas-Wilson,
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Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
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Hansen, Susan B.
1980. “State Implementation of Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion Rates since
Roe v. Wade.” The Journal of Politics.
42: pp. 372-395.
Hogan MC, Foreman
KJ, Naghavi M, Ahn SY, Wang M, et al. 2010. “Maternal mortality for 181
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Development Goal 5.” Lancet
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Kane, Thomas J.
and Douglas Staiger. 1996. “Teen Motherhood and Abortion Access.” The
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Koch, Elard Miguel
Bravo, Sebastián Gatica, Juan F. Stecher, Paula Aracena, Sergio Valenzuela,
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Latin American countries].” Ginecol
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Koch, Elard, John
Thorp, Miguel Bravo, Sebastian Gatica, Camila X. Romero, Hernan Aguilera,
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 _____. 2003. “Parental Involvement Laws and
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. _____. 2008b.
“The Effect of Abortion Costs on Adoption.”
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Abortion During the 1990s.”
_____. 2007.
“Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among
Minors.”
_____. 2011.
“Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post Casey
Era”. State Politics & Policy
Quarterly
. 11: pp. 28-47.
_____. 2014.
“Analyzing the Impact of U.S. Antiabortion Legislation in the Post-Casey Era A
Reassessment.” State Politics &
Policy Quarterly
. 11: pp. 28-47.
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12, 120-130.


[1] The AGI is a pro-choice lobbying
organization and the semi-official research division of Planned Parenthood. Its
statement of purpose is to promote the liberalization of worldwide abortion
laws.
[2] Similarly, in South and Central
America, Koch et al (2014) finds no relationship between the restrictiveness of
state policies on abortion in Mexico and maternal mortality, while a time
series analysis of Chile failed to show any relationship between historical
changes in abortion policy and either maternal mortality or abortion related
hospitalizations (Koch et al. 2012a). Systematic analyses in Eastern Europe and
studies examining the impact of legalized abortion in Mexico City also
undermine the AGI narrative (Levine and Staiger 2004; Klick and Neelsen 2012; Koch
et al 2012b).
[3] Hansen 1980; Medoff 1988, 2008a,
2008b; Haas-Wilson 1993; Gober 1994; New 2004, 2007, 2011a, b; Guildi 2008;
Koch et al. 2012a, b, 2014…the list goes on. 
[4] 
In fact, some research indicates the opposite: that more liberal
abortion laws may actually lead to an increase in maternal mortality and
morbidity (Alford 2016). Although these findings have yet to be fully explained,
one possibility is that women who obtain abortions are able to become pregnant
again more quickly and/or are more likely to return to former levels of sexual
activity. As a result, this leads to an increase in the overall number of
pregnancies a woman experiences and therefore her overall risk of experiencing
a potentially life threatening complication. This may also help to explain why
countries with more restrictive abortion policies in both Latin America and
Europe tend to have maternal mortality rates that are lower than the regional average
(see above) and why the abortion mortality ratio decrease by almost 96%
subsequent to an abortion ban in Chile (Koch 2013).

7 things pro-lifers wish our pro-choice friends understood about us.

Recently my FB newsfeed delivered
me this gem: “5 Thing Pro-Choicers Wish Their
Anti-Choice Friends Understood
.”
To my disappointment, the article includes plenty of sarcasm, negative
assumptions, and (in my experience) incorrect stereotypes. It certainly doesn’t
come off as a conversation between friends, so maybe the title was just
tongue-in-cheek.
But I really do have pro-choice
friends. Family too. I get along with them well, for the most part. And I
appreciate when we have opportunities to explore each other’s perspectives in a
non-combative way. To that end, I wrote this article as if I were discussing
these issues with friends. I know there are plenty of people who feel more
comfortable with the cartoon villain versions of their ideological opponents…
Pictured: Pro-lifers?
…but if you recognize that life
is more shades of gray than black and white, this post is for you. (As Timothy Brahm said, “There are no Snidely Whiplashes…”)
*****
1.
We’re
so much more than a bunch of old straight religious
white Republican men.
I actually think that anyone who
is (a) intellectually honest and (b) paying enough attention probably already
realizes this, so I am going to go through these misconceptions kind of quickly
and move on to the less known issues.
1a.
We’re not all old.

The younger generations are traditionally more left-leaning, and as we increasingly enter
the political sphere the effects are obvious. But despite liberalizing trends
in national opinion on other issues (gay marriage, women in combat, drug legalization), there’s been no equivalent
swing to the pro-choice view on abortion. In fact, polls show that the youngest
generation is at
least as anti-abortion
, if not more so, than previous generations.  
See also:
1b.
We’re not all straight.

To be fair, this is something I seem to have to remind certain segments of the
pro-life movement about as much as my pro-choice friends. It’s more difficult
to find polling data on this, so instead I will point again to The Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and
Lesbians
. You
can also read more about the experiences of pro-life activists who are LGBT
here: “How does the pro-life movement
look to LGBT pro-lifers?

“Human rights start when human life begins.”

See also:
1c.
We’re not all religious.
a. Depending on polls, between
one sixth and one fifth of nonreligious Americans are anti-abortion. (See “Are you One of Six Million?”)
b. The non-religious pro-lifer
isn’t a “fake” secularist either. Atheist apologist Christopher Hitchens himself argued on behalf of the
unborn child.
c. The U.S. is becoming less
religious all the time; in particular, the youngest generation identifies less
with religion than generations before us. Yet national anti-abortion sentiment
remains largely unchanged—for every generation.
See also:
1d.
We’re not all white.

Polls show 51% of African Americans and 61%
of Hispanic Americans think abortion is morally wrong. And a range of 30% to 40%
of African Americans as well as 50% of Hispanic Americans think abortion should
generally be illegal. A multivariate analysis of answers about abortion from
the General Social Survey going back four decades found that black men and
women have consistently been less accepting of abortion than white men and
women.
Many people on both sides of the debate are aware of the
disproportionate rates of abortion for African American and Latino communities.
It’s important to recognize this disproportion isn’t something people of color
readily accept. Many people within these communities are anti-abortion.

 
See also:
1e.
We’re not all Republican.
  Nearly a third of Democrats and a fourth of
people who describe themselves as “liberal” also describe themselves as
“pro-life.”

Similarly, nearly a third of Democrats say abortion should generally be illegal.
Historically the pro-life
movement was actually quite progressive, and the Democratic Party was
more accepting of pro-lifers in its ranks. Unfortunately, now being pro-choice
seems to be a litmus test of a “true” Democrat. It makes sense to me that the
same groups who insist all pro-lifers are Republicans insist any
self-identifying pro-life Democrat isn’t a “real” Democrat, regardless of how
many leftist positions the person holds. But wishing the stereotype-defying
pro-lifers will disappear won’t make it so.


See Also:
1f.
We’re not all men.

Not even close, actually. Of all the demographic stereotypes pushed on the
pro-life movement, I think the gender narrative is the most strident and
possibly most dishonest.
Even if the ratios aren’t 1:1,
there are real correlations between being pro-life and right-wing or being
pro-life and religious. And given the strong correlation between being LGBT and
being a left-winger, there’s probably a real correlation between being pro-life
and straight. And while the data isn’t there to support the “old” and “white”
stereotypes, people don’t harp on those factors nearly as often as they repeat
the gender myth.
The “anti-choice war on women”
narrative is ubiquitous: out-of-touch, controlling, misogynistic men are the
driving force of the pro-life movement, and any woman who doesn’t hate herself
is pro-choice. By now the idea is conventional wisdom. It’s also total
nonsense.
According to Gallup, once you account for the margin
of error, women are just as likely as men to think abortion should be illegal
all or most of the time. Moreover, there are significantly more women who think
abortion should generally be illegal than there are those who think it should generally
be legal.
And this trend is reflected in
the makeup of the pro-life movement. Despite the endlessly echoed (and uncited)
claim that “77% of anti-abortion leaders are men,” much of our movement is led by women.
I think it’s possible for
intellectually honest people who just aren’t that involved in the abortion
debate to miss the pro-life secularists, LGBT people, and other non-traditional
pro-lifers. But a person would have to really not be paying attention to
genuinely believe the pro-life woman is an anomaly.

(Click to enlarge.)
See also:
*****
2. We’re not anti-woman. This accusation actually comes in two forms.
2a.
Anti-woman motivations.
The
first and more common form is that pro-lifers are against abortion because we don’t respect or like women.
That is, our misogyny motivates us to try to control women’s bodies, choices,
and lives.
I think this idea comes about largely
because many pro-choicers assume the fetus is not a morally relevant human
being, and, importantly, they further assume pro-lifers secretly or
subconsciously agree with this view. If that’s the case, our anti-abortion
efforts can’t truly be motivated by concern for human lives; there must be some
other, more sinister reason we’re making such a big deal about abortion. It
must be because we’re misogynists, and we talk about human rights only as a
cover for our disdain.
But this perspective doesn’t
explain why abortion views don’t divide along gender lines or why there are so
many female pro-life activists, including pro-life leaders (see point #1f). And
it definitely doesn’t explain the existence of feminist pro-lifers—by that I
mean people who share traditionally feminist goals outside of abortion on
demand. For example there are plenty of pro-lifers who care about fighting rape culture, decreasing gender stereotypes, increasing support for pregnant women (and parents and families in
general), and generally fighting prejudice based on gender, sexuality, and race. You can be for all of those
goals and also against abortion. I am.
And, most of the time, when I
develop friendships of some depth with people who are pro-choice, they
recognize my passion for gender issues and my embrace of the feminist label,
and they see that my anti-abortion stance is based on reasoning quite separate
from any anti-woman sentiment. This is one of the reasons I think it’s so good
for us to have friends who think differently than we do: friendship destroys
prejudice. We’ve seen this when it comes to race and sexuality, and I think it
can also be true for politics. Some of my pro-choice friends have told me they
think differently about pro-lifers just for having known me, and I feel the
same way about them.
I’m not pretending there’s no
such thing as a misogynist pro-lifer. Misogyny is a real problem, and I believe
some pro-lifers are misogynists because some people are misogynists (and a lot
of people are pro-life). But I don’t think the two views are as correlated as
our opposition likes to insist. In fact, I suspect the more you get to know
pro-lifers, the more you’ll see how much many of us care (see point #7) and the
less you’ll believe we all just hate women.

Meet Destiny.
2b.
Anti-woman effects.

The second form of the anti-woman accusation is sort of a fall back from the
first. When face-to-face with pro-lifers who clearly do care about women, some
pro-choicers will say that, while we may not have specifically anti-woman motivations, it doesn’t matter because
our goal of restricting abortion will have anti-woman effects.
First, this makes the
“anti-woman” accusation pretty misleading. We generally accuse people of being
“anti-[whatever group]” based on their motivations, not their effects.
Conflating motivation and effect is the tactic used to accuse pro-woman
policies of being “anti-man,” religious diversity policies of being
“anti-Christian,” or affirmative action policies of being “anti-white.” This
tactic ignores the positive, affirmative reasons people might hold a position
and insists such people, by definition, are “anti-[whatever group],” regardless
of their actual motivations or feelings on the subject. So I think this version
of the “anti-woman” accusation is pretty disingenuous.
Second, it’s not at all clear
that abortion restrictions are anti-woman while fully embracing abortion is
pro-woman. Many of us believe unrestricted abortion is the excuse society uses to not support pregnant and
parenting women and the excuse certain kinds of men
use

to guiltlessly skip out on unplanned fatherhood. “Choice” doesn’t have such a
nice connotation when it comes in the form of “well it was your choice to have
the baby, so you deal with it.” Feminists against abortion, including some of our country’s
most prominent feminist
foremothers
,
have long called attention to how abortion can exploit women.
Beyond that, abortion is so
heavily politicized that some don’t want to admit there’s any negative aspect or moral complexity to it, lest they give credence
to the pro-life view. But this means realities like fetal development or the link
between abortion and pre-term birth
are glossed over, leaving women
without information they may have wished they had. It means increasing insistence that there’s nothing to regret
or feel shame over, alienating and dismissing the
women

who do struggle with those feelings. It means downplaying how abortion is used
to cover up sex trafficking. It also means horrors like
Kermit Gosnell’s clinic—in which both a
woman and already-born children were killed
—can fester in the vacuum of any real oversight and, when they are discovered,
can go largely unnoticed in the vacuum of media coverage.
I’m not saying the average
pro-choice person is aware of or accepts all of these problems. I don’t think
that’s true. But I am saying that if being “anti-woman” is about effects, not
motivation, than our country’s relatively liberal embrace of abortion can be quite
anti-woman.
The “War on Women” rhetoric would
have you believe abortion is unquestionably at the heart of women’s liberation
and therefore anyone against abortion is against women. But in reality abortion’s
effects on women are more complicated than that—so much so that, even independent
of the question of fetal value, people who care about women can have compelling
reasons to come down on either side of the abortion debate.
See Also: 
*****
3.
We’re pro-contraception.
I can understand why people would
get the impression that if I am anti-abortion I must be anti-contraception.
There are plenty of pro-life organizations and leaders who are openly
anti-contraception, and if you aren’t very involved in a given political
movement, it’s easy to assume after a cursory glance that the most prominent activists
represent the majority of the movement.
But in this case you’d be mistaken.
Polls suggest a
minimum of 78% of pro-lifers find
contraception morally acceptable. And
it’s not just that we think it’s alright in theory; we think so in practice,
too.
Research suggests the strong majority (over 80%) of
sexually active American women use some form of artificial contraception. Note
that, if 
about half of American women are pro-life, this means the
majority of self-described sexually active pro-life women use artificial
contraception.
(Pro-choice author Will Saletan
over at Slate has a great post explaining why the data suggests
pro-lifers are not anti-contraception.)
Certainly SPL takes a
pro-contraception stance. If you’re interested, you can read more about why here.
See also:
*****
4. We like sex.
4a.
The “anti-sex” accusation stems mostly from our different views of fetal life,
not our different views of sex.
There are a lot of different
reasons people are pro-choice.  I think
most pro-choicers empathize with the very difficult position an unplanned
pregnancy can put a woman in, and many are concerned about protecting bodily
rights.
But it also seems some people
advocate for abortion primarily based on sex. That is, they think people ought
to be able to have sex lives unhindered by potential procreation. Such an
abortion advocate might describe this idea in terms of sexual liberation and
gender equality, but for many on our side of the fence, it doesn’t sound so
noble. For those of us who view the fetus as a morally relevant human being,
advocating fetal destruction in the name of sexual liberation sounds supremely…backwards.
 It sounds like valuing an active,
enjoyable sex life over not killing people.
But of course that’s not how most
abortion advocates see it. In my experience, most of the “sexual liberation”
pro-choicers don’t see the fetus as a human being, or at least not a morally
relevant one. So it’s not about advocating an active sex life over actual human
lives. It’s about valuing sexual freedom over nebulous, irrelevant “clumps of
cells.” If I thought that’s all abortion involved, I would feel similarly.
In other words, our views differ more
based on how we think of fetal life than how we think of sex.
It’s important for pro-lifers to
understand this, rather than hurl accusations of selfish, sexual promiscuity at
the other side. It’s likewise important for pro-choicers to see this, rather than
accuse us of simply hating sex. Saying people should make sexual decisions such
that they’re not in a position to want an abortion doesn’t mean we hate sex any
more than saying people shouldn’t drink and drive means we hate driving. Drive
as much as you like. But do so safely and, above all, please don’t kill anyone.
4b.
Different views of sex are still a factor, but not as big of one as people
think.
I think most of the anti-sex
accusation comes down to different views of fetal life, but not all of it. Religious
people are more likely than non-religious people to be pro-life, and plenty of
religious people are more likely to speak out against sex outside of marriage.
I think there’s a decent argument to be made that “anti-premarital-sex,” or the broader “anti-reckless-sex,” are not equivalent to “anti-sex.” Plenty of people
who think it’s better to wait until marriage have active, enjoyable sex lives
with their spouses and like sex quite a lot. But I think the more compelling
point is that most pro-lifers don’t actually wait until marriage to have sex.
How do I know this? First and
foremost, because the vast majority of people in general have
premarital sex, and pro-lifers are about half of the country. So there’s that
math. Besides that, the pro-life movement doesn’t fit the 1:1 correlation to
conservative Christians that so many people expect (see point #1). We like sex,
we have sex outside of marriage, we have sex using contraception (point #2), and
we still think it’s wrong to kill fetuses.
See also:
*****
5. We experience unplanned pregnancies too…
…but no, that doesn’t
automatically mean we turn pro-choice.
Some
pro-choicers seem to think we are only anti-abortion because we just don’t
understand how frightening and life-changing an unplanned pregnancy can be, and
that if we were to be put in that difficult position, we’d choose abortion too.
And,
interestingly, is isn’t just pro-choicers who make this assumption. Some
anti-contraception pro-lifers seem to think that anyone who has sex while using
contraception (which,
as shown in point #3, would include most pro-lifers) isn’t
“open to life” and thus will choose abortion if they accidentally procreate.
But it’s not the
case. According to the CDC, about 
37%
of births result from unplanned conceptions
. In 2012 there were about
3.9 million
 births, meaning over 1.4 million women carried
unplanned pregnancies to term. 
That’s not to say every self-described pro-life woman always
chooses life. It’s true, of course, that some pro-life women do
rescind their
views
and get an abortion. But it’s also true that plenty of women stand by their convictions, carrying out
crisis pregnancies
even when (from a pro-choice perspective) abortion may have
been much simpler. Insisting we’re all one unplanned pregnancy away from being
pro-choice not only implies none of us are sincere in our beliefs, but also
demeans or outright ignores the courage, sacrifice, and love with which so many
mothers have carried and birthed their unplanned children. In that sense,
frankly, I think it’s a pretty anti-woman thing to say.



Claudia and her “crisis pregnancy,” Taylor.

And meanwhile pointing out inconsistency isn’t as meaningful as
so many people suggest, mostly because it goes both ways. Just as some women
switch to the pro-choice side in the face of an intimidating pregnancy, some
women switch to the pro-life side
when
they experience a planned pregnancy
and come to a new understanding of
fetal development. 
And some women switch to the pro-life side because of their
experiences with abortion. Which brings me to my next point…
*****
6. Many of us are post-abortive…
…and converted to the pro-life
side for that very reason.
This is really an extension of
the previous point. Pro-choicers seem to think the pro-life movement is made up
of people with no experience: no relationship problems, health issues,
financial hardships, postponed education, complicated careers, and, above all,
crisis pregnancies. They seem to think someone would only be against abortion
if they were out of touch with life’s hardships and naively idealistic about
how people should handle crises.
But (again), pro-life people are
roughly half of the country. We span political views, ethnic groups, and
income brackets
(in
fact, we’re more likely than pro-choicers to be low-income). We’re not as
different from you as you might think. And that includes the fact that some of
us know exactly what it’s like to have to choose. And while many of us have
chosen life (point #5), not all of us have.
Now, just as pro-choicers shouldn’t
believe every pro-life woman would choose abortion if put in the position,
pro-lifers shouldn’t believe every woman who gets an abortion will end up
regretting it. It’s more of a mixed bag than
that
. Some women
don’t regret–not in the moment, not years later.
But some
do
. Some feel abortion
traumatized them
, and they can no longer accept abortion as a legal right. People
assume we’re pro-life because of a lack of experience, when in many cases it’s exactly our experiences that brought us here.
*****
7. We care about what happens to the child after birth.
7a.
But first, this accusation is nonsensical.
We’re against abortion because we
think it should generally be illegal to kill people. By “people” we mean
morally relevant human beings, which of course is how we see the fetus. We get
you don’t agree, and that’s really the crux of the debate.
But understand that, from our
perspective, saying we can’t be anti-abortion until we’ve solved problems like
child poverty or a messed up foster care system is as ridiculous to our ears as
if you said we can’t speak out against child abuse unless we are going to adopt
all abused children. Does anyone actually believe that? Would you argue people can’t
condemn child marriage unless they will personally pay off the child’s family
debts? People can’t say slaves should be freed unless they’re prepared to personally
house and employ all the newly emancipated? Suggesting people can’t call out
human rights violations unless they personally have the resources to absorb all
impact is just a terrible precedent.
7b.
Pro-life organizations do help born people.
Bad precedent aside, we do care about what happens after the
child is born.
There are a lot of pro-life projects
revolving around helping mothers and their children. Students for Life of
America encourages it’s 900+ campus groups to organize diaper drives and to pursue Pregnant on Campus initiatives, which connect pregnant
and parenting students with resources for healthcare, housing,
clothing and food assistance, child care, insurance, financial aid, and more. Feminists For Life has fought child exclusion
provisions in welfare reform, worked to get poor working pregnant women
prenatal care through SCHIP, and advocated for the Enhanced Child Support
Enforcement Act. And there are 1,000s of pregnancy resource centers across the country that provide
maternity and baby clothes, diapers, wipes, baby wash, strollers, bouncy seats,
infant toys, referrals (for housing, employment resources, and educational,
financial, and social assistance), parenting classes, even laptops, phones, and cars.
Pregnancy resource centers also
work to connect women with adoption services if that is what they need. And
plenty of pro-lifers have themselves adopted
children
in dire
situations
. Here’s a list of countless ways individual pro-life people have helped low-income single mothers.
7c.
Pro-life individuals help too, independent of their pro-life work.
When people ask “If you’re really pro-life, why don’t you care
about [X quality of life] issue?” they seem to assume that everyone who does care about and work on the issue
they’ve picked is pro-choice. But I’m not sure why they make that assumption.
Between September 2013 and September 2014, over 62 million people did volunteer work of some type (rock on, guys). As
far as I know, no one polled the volunteers about their views on abortion, but with
the country split on the issue it seems like quite a leap to assume few or none
of them are pro-life. Sometimes it seems like unless we assemble en masse with
picket signs that say “I’m anti-abortion but today I’m protesting this other
issue,” people will insist we don’t care about anything else.
And yet, for example, my very
anti-abortion grandmother volunteers every week packaging food and other
supplies for local low-income families. For a long while my pro-life brother
and I spent our volunteer time tutoring at the Boys and Girls Club. Before that
I did volunteer tutoring at a nearby state prison, and since then my brother
has offered free tutoring at his university. My anti-abortion dad offers
parolees jobs and training, and has attended some of their hearings as a
character witness. During the first year of her son’s life, my pro-life sister
pumped and froze her extra breast milk so she could donate it to a little girl
with spinal muscular atrophy. (Incidentally, for young mothers with no funds
for charity, donating breast milk is an excellent way to help other moms and
their babies. Learn more here.)
My pro-life mother spent years
taking care of an elderly woman she met who had no children and no local
family. My mom put a lot of her time into keeping the woman company, taking her
on outings, driving her to and from doctor’s appointments, and making sure she
was taking her medications all the way until the end. Then Mom took care of the
woman’s funeral arrangements and issues with her estate. When pro-choicers claim
pro-lifers only care about people until they’re born, I think of my family, and
then think how ridiculously false this accusation is.
And my family isn’t an anomaly in
the pro-life movement. I know pro-life activists who work for gay rights, children’s
rights, and animal rights. I have pro-life friends who conduct cultural
proficiency trainings to try to help diverse organizations understand the
cultural and racial differences among the people they work with. One of my
pro-life friends has based his career helping families, foster providers, and
agencies that work with children with behavior challenges or mental health
issues. I have two other pro-life friends who do long-distance running to raise
money for causes like fighting human trafficking.
I know these are all anecdotes.
If there were statistics on the type and extent of charity and volunteer work pro-life
people do, I’d happily give them to you. But absent that rather specific
research, I point to the Catholic Church—widely known for its
anti-abortion stance
—and
the massive amounts of charity work it does. Catholic Charities USA serves over
10 million people per year, providing food, shelter, education, financial planning, adoption assistance, services to refugees and
immigrants
, and
more. In 2015 alone they spent over $3.8 billion
on these projects. Pause and imagine the number of Catholics who donate their
money and time to make that happen.
That’s not to say that every
Catholic contributing to these causes is pro-life. There are plenty of pro-choice
Catholics
, and I
don’t believe pro-lifers have a monopoly on helping the underserved. But it is to say that it’s highly likely a
lot of the people involved in these various humanitarian efforts are also
anti-abortion, especially given the correlation between religiosity and a
pro-life perspective. You can see similar stats finding that Christians are twice as likely to adopt and 50% more likely to be foster parents as Americans on average.
See also:
*****

With a topic as highly polarized
as abortion, it’s easy to view our opponents as fools at best, evil at worst,
certainly deficient in various ways. And while there really will be fools and
even genuinely bad people out there (on both sides), I do believe the reality
is that most pro-lifers and pro-choicers aren’t quite as different as the
political narratives suggest. I mean, yes, we start with some fundamentally
different premises and those are worth debating. But most of the caricatures
are just that. And I’ve found within friendships even the more passionate people
from each side are able to see that.

[Published on 2/24/16.]

7 things pro-lifers wish our pro-choice friends understood about us.

Recently my FB newsfeed delivered
me this gem: “5 Thing Pro-Choicers Wish Their
Anti-Choice Friends Understood
.”
To my disappointment, the article includes plenty of sarcasm, negative
assumptions, and (in my experience) incorrect stereotypes. It certainly doesn’t
come off as a conversation between friends, so maybe the title was just
tongue-in-cheek.
But I really do have pro-choice
friends. Family too. I get along with them well, for the most part. And I
appreciate when we have opportunities to explore each other’s perspectives in a
non-combative way. To that end, I wrote this article as if I were discussing
these issues with friends. I know there are plenty of people who feel more
comfortable with the cartoon villain versions of their ideological opponents…
Pictured: Pro-lifers?
…but if you recognize that life
is more shades of gray than black and white, this post is for you. (As Timothy Brahm said, “There are no Snidely Whiplashes…”)
*****
1.
We’re
so much more than a bunch of old straight religious
white Republican men.
I actually think that anyone who
is (a) intellectually honest and (b) paying enough attention probably already
realizes this, so I am going to go through these misconceptions kind of quickly
and move on to the less known issues.
1a.
We’re not all old.

The younger generations are traditionally more left-leaning, and as we increasingly enter
the political sphere the effects are obvious. But despite liberalizing trends
in national opinion on other issues (gay marriage, women in combat, drug legalization), there’s been no equivalent
swing to the pro-choice view on abortion. In fact, polls show that the youngest
generation is at
least as anti-abortion
, if not more so, than previous generations.  
See also:
1b.
We’re not all straight.

To be fair, this is something I seem to have to remind certain segments of the
pro-life movement about as much as my pro-choice friends. It’s more difficult
to find polling data on this, so instead I will point again to The Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and
Lesbians
. You
can also read more about the experiences of pro-life activists who are LGBT
here: “How does the pro-life movement
look to LGBT pro-lifers?

“Human rights start when human life begins.”

See also:
1c.
We’re not all religious.
a. Depending on polls, between
one sixth and one fifth of nonreligious Americans are anti-abortion. (See “Are you One of Six Million?”)
b. The non-religious pro-lifer
isn’t a “fake” secularist either. Atheist apologist Christopher Hitchens himself argued on behalf of the
unborn child.
c. The U.S. is becoming less
religious all the time; in particular, the youngest generation identifies less
with religion than generations before us. Yet national anti-abortion sentiment
remains largely unchanged—for every generation.
See also:
1d.
We’re not all white.

Polls show 51% of African Americans and 61%
of Hispanic Americans think abortion is morally wrong. And a range of 30% to 40%
of African Americans as well as 50% of Hispanic Americans think abortion should
generally be illegal. A multivariate analysis of answers about abortion from
the General Social Survey going back four decades found that black men and
women have consistently been less accepting of abortion than white men and
women.
Many people on both sides of the debate are aware of the
disproportionate rates of abortion for African American and Latino communities.
It’s important to recognize this disproportion isn’t something people of color
readily accept. Many people within these communities are anti-abortion.

 
See also:
1e.
We’re not all Republican.
  Nearly a third of Democrats and a fourth of
people who describe themselves as “liberal” also describe themselves as
“pro-life.”

Similarly, nearly a third of Democrats say abortion should generally be illegal.
Historically the pro-life
movement was actually quite progressive, and the Democratic Party was
more accepting of pro-lifers in its ranks. Unfortunately, now being pro-choice
seems to be a litmus test of a “true” Democrat. It makes sense to me that the
same groups who insist all pro-lifers are Republicans insist any
self-identifying pro-life Democrat isn’t a “real” Democrat, regardless of how
many leftist positions the person holds. But wishing the stereotype-defying
pro-lifers will disappear won’t make it so.


See Also:
1f.
We’re not all men.

Not even close, actually. Of all the demographic stereotypes pushed on the
pro-life movement, I think the gender narrative is the most strident and
possibly most dishonest.
Even if the ratios aren’t 1:1,
there are real correlations between being pro-life and right-wing or being
pro-life and religious. And given the strong correlation between being LGBT and
being a left-winger, there’s probably a real correlation between being pro-life
and straight. And while the data isn’t there to support the “old” and “white”
stereotypes, people don’t harp on those factors nearly as often as they repeat
the gender myth.
The “anti-choice war on women”
narrative is ubiquitous: out-of-touch, controlling, misogynistic men are the
driving force of the pro-life movement, and any woman who doesn’t hate herself
is pro-choice. By now the idea is conventional wisdom. It’s also total
nonsense.
According to Gallup, once you account for the margin
of error, women are just as likely as men to think abortion should be illegal
all or most of the time. Moreover, there are significantly more women who think
abortion should generally be illegal than there are those who think it should generally
be legal.
And this trend is reflected in
the makeup of the pro-life movement. Despite the endlessly echoed (and uncited)
claim that “77% of anti-abortion leaders are men,” much of our movement is led by women.
I think it’s possible for
intellectually honest people who just aren’t that involved in the abortion
debate to miss the pro-life secularists, LGBT people, and other non-traditional
pro-lifers. But a person would have to really not be paying attention to
genuinely believe the pro-life woman is an anomaly.

(Click to enlarge.)
See also:
*****
2. We’re not anti-woman. This accusation actually comes in two forms.
2a.
Anti-woman motivations.
The
first and more common form is that pro-lifers are against abortion because we don’t respect or like women.
That is, our misogyny motivates us to try to control women’s bodies, choices,
and lives.
I think this idea comes about largely
because many pro-choicers assume the fetus is not a morally relevant human
being, and, importantly, they further assume pro-lifers secretly or
subconsciously agree with this view. If that’s the case, our anti-abortion
efforts can’t truly be motivated by concern for human lives; there must be some
other, more sinister reason we’re making such a big deal about abortion. It
must be because we’re misogynists, and we talk about human rights only as a
cover for our disdain.
But this perspective doesn’t
explain why abortion views don’t divide along gender lines or why there are so
many female pro-life activists, including pro-life leaders (see point #1f). And
it definitely doesn’t explain the existence of feminist pro-lifers—by that I
mean people who share traditionally feminist goals outside of abortion on
demand. For example there are plenty of pro-lifers who care about fighting rape culture, decreasing gender stereotypes, increasing support for pregnant women (and parents and families in
general), and generally fighting prejudice based on gender, sexuality, and race. You can be for all of those
goals and also against abortion. I am.
And, most of the time, when I
develop friendships of some depth with people who are pro-choice, they
recognize my passion for gender issues and my embrace of the feminist label,
and they see that my anti-abortion stance is based on reasoning quite separate
from any anti-woman sentiment. This is one of the reasons I think it’s so good
for us to have friends who think differently than we do: friendship destroys
prejudice. We’ve seen this when it comes to race and sexuality, and I think it
can also be true for politics. Some of my pro-choice friends have told me they
think differently about pro-lifers just for having known me, and I feel the
same way about them.
I’m not pretending there’s no
such thing as a misogynist pro-lifer. Misogyny is a real problem, and I believe
some pro-lifers are misogynists because some people are misogynists (and a lot
of people are pro-life). But I don’t think the two views are as correlated as
our opposition likes to insist. In fact, I suspect the more you get to know
pro-lifers, the more you’ll see how much many of us care (see point #7) and the
less you’ll believe we all just hate women.

Meet Destiny.
2b.
Anti-woman effects.

The second form of the anti-woman accusation is sort of a fall back from the
first. When face-to-face with pro-lifers who clearly do care about women, some
pro-choicers will say that, while we may not have specifically anti-woman motivations, it doesn’t matter because
our goal of restricting abortion will have anti-woman effects.
First, this makes the
“anti-woman” accusation pretty misleading. We generally accuse people of being
“anti-[whatever group]” based on their motivations, not their effects.
Conflating motivation and effect is the tactic used to accuse pro-woman
policies of being “anti-man,” religious diversity policies of being
“anti-Christian,” or affirmative action policies of being “anti-white.” This
tactic ignores the positive, affirmative reasons people might hold a position
and insists such people, by definition, are “anti-[whatever group],” regardless
of their actual motivations or feelings on the subject. So I think this version
of the “anti-woman” accusation is pretty disingenuous.
Second, it’s not at all clear
that abortion restrictions are anti-woman while fully embracing abortion is
pro-woman. Many of us believe unrestricted abortion is the excuse society uses to not support pregnant and
parenting women and the excuse certain kinds of men
use

to guiltlessly skip out on unplanned fatherhood. “Choice” doesn’t have such a
nice connotation when it comes in the form of “well it was your choice to have
the baby, so you deal with it.” Feminists against abortion, including some of our country’s
most prominent feminist
foremothers
,
have long called attention to how abortion can exploit women.
Beyond that, abortion is so
heavily politicized that some don’t want to admit there’s any negative aspect or moral complexity to it, lest they give credence
to the pro-life view. But this means realities like fetal development or the link
between abortion and pre-term birth
are glossed over, leaving women
without information they may have wished they had. It means increasing insistence that there’s nothing to regret
or feel shame over, alienating and dismissing the
women

who do struggle with those feelings. It means downplaying how abortion is used
to cover up sex trafficking. It also means horrors like
Kermit Gosnell’s clinic—in which both a
woman and already-born children were killed
—can fester in the vacuum of any real oversight and, when they are discovered,
can go largely unnoticed in the vacuum of media coverage.
I’m not saying the average
pro-choice person is aware of or accepts all of these problems. I don’t think
that’s true. But I am saying that if being “anti-woman” is about effects, not
motivation, than our country’s relatively liberal embrace of abortion can be quite
anti-woman.
The “War on Women” rhetoric would
have you believe abortion is unquestionably at the heart of women’s liberation
and therefore anyone against abortion is against women. But in reality abortion’s
effects on women are more complicated than that—so much so that, even independent
of the question of fetal value, people who care about women can have compelling
reasons to come down on either side of the abortion debate.
See Also: 
*****
3.
We’re pro-contraception.
I can understand why people would
get the impression that if I am anti-abortion I must be anti-contraception.
There are plenty of pro-life organizations and leaders who are openly
anti-contraception, and if you aren’t very involved in a given political
movement, it’s easy to assume after a cursory glance that the most prominent activists
represent the majority of the movement.
But in this case you’d be mistaken.
Polls suggest a
minimum of 78% of pro-lifers find
contraception morally acceptable. And
it’s not just that we think it’s alright in theory; we think so in practice,
too.
Research suggests the strong majority (over 80%) of
sexually active American women use some form of artificial contraception. Note
that, if 
about half of American women are pro-life, this means the
majority of self-described sexually active pro-life women use artificial
contraception.
(Pro-choice author Will Saletan
over at Slate has a great post explaining why the data suggests
pro-lifers are not anti-contraception.)
Certainly SPL takes a
pro-contraception stance. If you’re interested, you can read more about why here.
See also:
*****
4. We like sex.
4a.
The “anti-sex” accusation stems mostly from our different views of fetal life,
not our different views of sex.
There are a lot of different
reasons people are pro-choice.  I think
most pro-choicers empathize with the very difficult position an unplanned
pregnancy can put a woman in, and many are concerned about protecting bodily
rights.
But it also seems some people
advocate for abortion primarily based on sex. That is, they think people ought
to be able to have sex lives unhindered by potential procreation. Such an
abortion advocate might describe this idea in terms of sexual liberation and
gender equality, but for many on our side of the fence, it doesn’t sound so
noble. For those of us who view the fetus as a morally relevant human being,
advocating fetal destruction in the name of sexual liberation sounds supremely…backwards.
 It sounds like valuing an active,
enjoyable sex life over not killing people.
But of course that’s not how most
abortion advocates see it. In my experience, most of the “sexual liberation”
pro-choicers don’t see the fetus as a human being, or at least not a morally
relevant one. So it’s not about advocating an active sex life over actual human
lives. It’s about valuing sexual freedom over nebulous, irrelevant “clumps of
cells.” If I thought that’s all abortion involved, I would feel similarly.
In other words, our views differ more
based on how we think of fetal life than how we think of sex.
It’s important for pro-lifers to
understand this, rather than hurl accusations of selfish, sexual promiscuity at
the other side. It’s likewise important for pro-choicers to see this, rather than
accuse us of simply hating sex. Saying people should make sexual decisions such
that they’re not in a position to want an abortion doesn’t mean we hate sex any
more than saying people shouldn’t drink and drive means we hate driving. Drive
as much as you like. But do so safely and, above all, please don’t kill anyone.
4b.
Different views of sex are still a factor, but not as big of one as people
think.
I think most of the anti-sex
accusation comes down to different views of fetal life, but not all of it. Religious
people are more likely than non-religious people to be pro-life, and plenty of
religious people are more likely to speak out against sex outside of marriage.
I think there’s a decent argument to be made that “anti-premarital-sex,” or the broader “anti-reckless-sex,” are not equivalent to “anti-sex.” Plenty of people
who think it’s better to wait until marriage have active, enjoyable sex lives
with their spouses and like sex quite a lot. But I think the more compelling
point is that most pro-lifers don’t actually wait until marriage to have sex.
How do I know this? First and
foremost, because the vast majority of people in general have
premarital sex, and pro-lifers are about half of the country. So there’s that
math. Besides that, the pro-life movement doesn’t fit the 1:1 correlation to
conservative Christians that so many people expect (see point #1). We like sex,
we have sex outside of marriage, we have sex using contraception (point #2), and
we still think it’s wrong to kill fetuses.
See also:
*****
5. We experience unplanned pregnancies too…
…but no, that doesn’t
automatically mean we turn pro-choice.
Some
pro-choicers seem to think we are only anti-abortion because we just don’t
understand how frightening and life-changing an unplanned pregnancy can be, and
that if we were to be put in that difficult position, we’d choose abortion too.
And,
interestingly, is isn’t just pro-choicers who make this assumption. Some
anti-contraception pro-lifers seem to think that anyone who has sex while using
contraception (which,
as shown in point #3, would include most pro-lifers) isn’t
“open to life” and thus will choose abortion if they accidentally procreate.
But it’s not the
case. According to the CDC, about 
37%
of births result from unplanned conceptions
. In 2012 there were about
3.9 million
 births, meaning over 1.4 million women carried
unplanned pregnancies to term. 
That’s not to say every self-described pro-life woman always
chooses life. It’s true, of course, that some pro-life women do
rescind their
views
and get an abortion. But it’s also true that plenty of women stand by their convictions, carrying out
crisis pregnancies
even when (from a pro-choice perspective) abortion may have
been much simpler. Insisting we’re all one unplanned pregnancy away from being
pro-choice not only implies none of us are sincere in our beliefs, but also
demeans or outright ignores the courage, sacrifice, and love with which so many
mothers have carried and birthed their unplanned children. In that sense,
frankly, I think it’s a pretty anti-woman thing to say.



Claudia and her “crisis pregnancy,” Taylor.

And meanwhile pointing out inconsistency isn’t as meaningful as
so many people suggest, mostly because it goes both ways. Just as some women
switch to the pro-choice side in the face of an intimidating pregnancy, some
women switch to the pro-life side
when
they experience a planned pregnancy
and come to a new understanding of
fetal development. 
And some women switch to the pro-life side because of their
experiences with abortion. Which brings me to my next point…
*****
6. Many of us are post-abortive…
…and converted to the pro-life
side for that very reason.
This is really an extension of
the previous point. Pro-choicers seem to think the pro-life movement is made up
of people with no experience: no relationship problems, health issues,
financial hardships, postponed education, complicated careers, and, above all,
crisis pregnancies. They seem to think someone would only be against abortion
if they were out of touch with life’s hardships and naively idealistic about
how people should handle crises.
But (again), pro-life people are
roughly half of the country. We span political views, ethnic groups, and
income brackets
(in
fact, we’re more likely than pro-choicers to be low-income). We’re not as
different from you as you might think. And that includes the fact that some of
us know exactly what it’s like to have to choose. And while many of us have
chosen life (point #5), not all of us have.
Now, just as pro-choicers shouldn’t
believe every pro-life woman would choose abortion if put in the position,
pro-lifers shouldn’t believe every woman who gets an abortion will end up
regretting it. It’s more of a mixed bag than
that
. Some women
don’t regret–not in the moment, not years later.
But some
do
. Some feel abortion
traumatized them
, and they can no longer accept abortion as a legal right. People
assume we’re pro-life because of a lack of experience, when in many cases it’s exactly our experiences that brought us here.
*****
7. We care about what happens to the child after birth.
7a.
But first, this accusation is nonsensical.
We’re against abortion because we
think it should generally be illegal to kill people. By “people” we mean
morally relevant human beings, which of course is how we see the fetus. We get
you don’t agree, and that’s really the crux of the debate.
But understand that, from our
perspective, saying we can’t be anti-abortion until we’ve solved problems like
child poverty or a messed up foster care system is as ridiculous to our ears as
if you said we can’t speak out against child abuse unless we are going to adopt
all abused children. Does anyone actually believe that? Would you argue people can’t
condemn child marriage unless they will personally pay off the child’s family
debts? People can’t say slaves should be freed unless they’re prepared to personally
house and employ all the newly emancipated? Suggesting people can’t call out
human rights violations unless they personally have the resources to absorb all
impact is just a terrible precedent.
7b.
Pro-life organizations do help born people.
Bad precedent aside, we do care about what happens after the
child is born.
There are a lot of pro-life projects
revolving around helping mothers and their children. Students for Life of
America encourages it’s 900+ campus groups to organize diaper drives and to pursue Pregnant on Campus initiatives, which connect pregnant
and parenting students with resources for healthcare, housing,
clothing and food assistance, child care, insurance, financial aid, and more. Feminists For Life has fought child exclusion
provisions in welfare reform, worked to get poor working pregnant women
prenatal care through SCHIP, and advocated for the Enhanced Child Support
Enforcement Act. And there are 1,000s of pregnancy resource centers across the country that provide
maternity and baby clothes, diapers, wipes, baby wash, strollers, bouncy seats,
infant toys, referrals (for housing, employment resources, and educational,
financial, and social assistance), parenting classes, even laptops, phones, and cars.
Pregnancy resource centers also
work to connect women with adoption services if that is what they need. And
plenty of pro-lifers have themselves adopted
children
in dire
situations
. Here’s a list of countless ways individual pro-life people have helped low-income single mothers.
7c.
Pro-life individuals help too, independent of their pro-life work.
When people ask “If you’re really pro-life, why don’t you care
about [X quality of life] issue?” they seem to assume that everyone who does care about and work on the issue
they’ve picked is pro-choice. But I’m not sure why they make that assumption.
Between September 2013 and September 2014, over 62 million people did volunteer work of some type (rock on, guys). As
far as I know, no one polled the volunteers about their views on abortion, but with
the country split on the issue it seems like quite a leap to assume few or none
of them are pro-life. Sometimes it seems like unless we assemble en masse with
picket signs that say “I’m anti-abortion but today I’m protesting this other
issue,” people will insist we don’t care about anything else.
And yet, for example, my very
anti-abortion grandmother volunteers every week packaging food and other
supplies for local low-income families. For a long while my pro-life brother
and I spent our volunteer time tutoring at the Boys and Girls Club. Before that
I did volunteer tutoring at a nearby state prison, and since then my brother
has offered free tutoring at his university. My anti-abortion dad offers
parolees jobs and training, and has attended some of their hearings as a
character witness. During the first year of her son’s life, my pro-life sister
pumped and froze her extra breast milk so she could donate it to a little girl
with spinal muscular atrophy. (Incidentally, for young mothers with no funds
for charity, donating breast milk is an excellent way to help other moms and
their babies. Learn more here.)
My pro-life mother spent years
taking care of an elderly woman she met who had no children and no local
family. My mom put a lot of her time into keeping the woman company, taking her
on outings, driving her to and from doctor’s appointments, and making sure she
was taking her medications all the way until the end. Then Mom took care of the
woman’s funeral arrangements and issues with her estate. When pro-choicers claim
pro-lifers only care about people until they’re born, I think of my family, and
then think how ridiculously false this accusation is.
And my family isn’t an anomaly in
the pro-life movement. I know pro-life activists who work for gay rights, children’s
rights, and animal rights. I have pro-life friends who conduct cultural
proficiency trainings to try to help diverse organizations understand the
cultural and racial differences among the people they work with. One of my
pro-life friends has based his career helping families, foster providers, and
agencies that work with children with behavior challenges or mental health
issues. I have two other pro-life friends who do long-distance running to raise
money for causes like fighting human trafficking.
I know these are all anecdotes.
If there were statistics on the type and extent of charity and volunteer work pro-life
people do, I’d happily give them to you. But absent that rather specific
research, I point to the Catholic Church—widely known for its
anti-abortion stance
—and
the massive amounts of charity work it does. Catholic Charities USA serves over
10 million people per year, providing food, shelter, education, financial planning, adoption assistance, services to refugees and
immigrants
, and
more. In 2015 alone they spent over $3.8 billion
on these projects. Pause and imagine the number of Catholics who donate their
money and time to make that happen.
That’s not to say that every
Catholic contributing to these causes is pro-life. There are plenty of pro-choice
Catholics
, and I
don’t believe pro-lifers have a monopoly on helping the underserved. But it is to say that it’s highly likely a
lot of the people involved in these various humanitarian efforts are also
anti-abortion, especially given the correlation between religiosity and a
pro-life perspective. You can see similar stats finding that Christians are twice as likely to adopt and 50% more likely to be foster parents as Americans on average.
See also:
*****

With a topic as highly polarized
as abortion, it’s easy to view our opponents as fools at best, evil at worst,
certainly deficient in various ways. And while there really will be fools and
even genuinely bad people out there (on both sides), I do believe the reality
is that most pro-lifers and pro-choicers aren’t quite as different as the
political narratives suggest. I mean, yes, we start with some fundamentally
different premises and those are worth debating. But most of the caricatures
are just that. And I’ve found within friendships even the more passionate people
from each side are able to see that.

[Published on 2/24/16.]