Richard M. Doerflinger

Guttmacher report shows us that pro-life laws work

Richard M. Doerflinger
By Richard Doerflinger
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February 17, 2014 (The Public Discourse) - On an issue associated with tragedy and mourning, there was good news this month. A new study finds that in 2011, the US abortion rate—the number of abortions per 1000 women of reproductive age—reached its lowest point since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973. Abortions dropped to just over a million a year, from a high of 1.6 million in 1990.

And yes, see how jaded we have become. Only a million innocent lives destroyed each year? Still, things could be far worse, and they have been.

The study was published by the Guttmacher Institute, described by the Washington Post as a “pro-abortion-rights think tank.” Guttmacher is a former research affiliate of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the nation. Because it is trusted by abortion providers and gets its information directly from them, Guttmacher’s abortion data are often more complete than those gathered by the federal government from state health departments. But the group also has an ideological agenda. So as we welcome its data, we need to be cautious of its “spin.”

That spin is in full gear. Based on little evidence, the authors dismiss the possibility that the decline in abortion could be due largely to the passage of pro-life state laws. (Even here, though, they make exceptions—conceding that abortion rates may be reduced by bans on public abortion funding, and by laws requiring women seeking an abortion to make two visits to a clinic separated by a 24-hour waiting period.) They also say the 13 percent drop in abortions from 2008 to 2011 is probably not due to a further decline in abortion providers, because their numbers are almost unchanged. Instead, they attribute the decline to wider use of contraception, and especially to increased use of “LARCs” (long-acting reversible contraceptives) like the IUD and hormonal implants. These, say Guttmacher, are less prone than other contraceptives to “user error.”

There is good reason to question each of these judgments. Before turning to pro-life laws and the decline in abortion providers, let’s explore the “wider use of contraceptives” theory.

It is worth noting at the outset that the LARCs welcomed by Guttmacher suppress fertility for three to ten years and can be removed only with the help of a doctor, regardless of whether the woman changes her mind. Rather than saying that they have less “user error,” it would be more accurate to say they are less subject to user “freedom of choice.” But to Guttmacher, it seems, any choice to consider having a baby is “error.”

The “reproductive rights” movement’s turn away from “choice” and toward semi-permanent sterilization of women merits a discussion of its own. But there are good reasons to doubt that the abortion decline is largely due to contraception of any kind.

First, numerous studies suggest that contraceptive programs don’t substantially reduce unintended pregnancies or abortions. “Reproductive rights” advocates are aware of these findings. That is why, in their frustration, they are increasingly pushing semi-permanent methods that are less subject to what some call “user motivation.” A few years ago, Princeton researchers who advocate wider use of “emergency contraception” (EC) analyzed twenty-three different studies of programs to boost use of EC. All but one study showed increased use of the drugs.  “However,” they said, “no study found an effect on pregnancy or abortion rates.”

Second, it has long been known that women using contraception may reduce the likelihood of pregnancy, but the likelihood increases that any pregnancy that does occur will be ended by abortion. Statisticians call this an increase in the “abortion ratio,” the number of abortions per hundred pregnancies (excluding miscarriages). It is easy to understand why the abortion ratio may increase in such situations. If I’ve already acted to make sure the sexual act does not lead to procreation, and then the instrument for achieving that goal failed, I may see myself as having a right to fix that problem. The Supreme Court said as much in its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision of 1992: many Americans have organized their lives in reliance on “the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”

Thus, if wider or more consistent use of contraception were the chief reason for the abortion decline, we would see a reduction in total pregnancies (that is, a reduction in the sum total of abortions plus births), but not as much of a reduction in abortions. Births would decline more than abortions do. Yet between 2008 and 2011, the opposite happened: Births declined by only 9 percent, while abortions declined by about one-and-a-half times as much (13 percent). Not only the abortion rate, but also the abortion ratio, has dropped to its lowest level in at least two decades. Four out of five women who do become pregnant are letting their babies live. That can’t be due to contraception.

Third, the decline in abortions since 2000 has been led by a sharp decline among teens aged 15 to 17, somewhat offset by higher rates among women in their 20s and 30s. An earlier Guttmacher study noted that in 2008, the likelihood of abortion among these teens had dropped to being a little over half the likelihood for all women of reproductive age. And during much of this same period, family planning advocates were lamenting a decline in adolescents’ use of “reproductive health services” such as family planning.

Fourth, Guttmacher speculates that people may have used contraception more consistently between 2008 and 2011 because the pressures of a sluggish economy made them less willing to procreate. Yet in their earlier study of 2008 abortion data, cited above, the same Guttmacher researchers suggested the opposite: The sluggish economy under Bush was constraining access to contraception and leading people to have more abortions, stalling the steady decline in abortion rates from 2000 to 2005. Are we to believe that a Bush recession produces abortions while an Obama recession produces contraception? This theory seems a bit desperate. Generally abortion rates are higher, not lower, among women in poverty.

Finally, what about the shift in methods of contraception, from more easily reversible measures to LARCs such as the IUD? There is indeed a study claiming that among those using contraception, the percentage using LARCs increased from 2.4 percent in 2002 to 8.5 percent in 2009. This single-digit change is even less significant than it looks, as it was accompanied by a 2 percent decrease in surgical sterilization, the most effective method of all. And this was not a change from “unprotected” sex to use of contraception, but a marginal change in effectiveness rates among those already using some method. (Here I will pass over the “reproductive health” industry’s penchant for encouraging women to replace condom use with methods that expose them to a higher risk of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, another topic deserving its own discussion.) To say this trend is responsible for the lion’s share of a 13 percent abortion decline nationwide seems implausible, especially when we look at differences by state, discussed below. To say it’s responsible for the decline in the abortion ratio would be ridiculous.

Are there other ways to explain the abortion decline?

Let’s look at the supply side, the number of abortion providers. Guttmacher says there is only a small decline here: In 2011 there were 4 percent fewer providers overall (counting hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices), and only 1 percent fewer clinics doing abortions. So how can this be responsible for a 13 percent reduction in abortions? It is at this point that Guttmacher’s “spin” overwhelms its reporting.

The study admits that the blanket term “clinics” covers two different kinds of facility: multi-purpose clinics that chiefly provide family planning or broader health services (30 percent of providers, responsible for 31 percent of the abortions); and specialized “abortion clinics” (19 percent of providers, but responsible for a whopping 63 percent of the abortions). In most cases, each abortion clinic performs between one thousand and five thousand (yes, that’s five thousand) abortions a year. Closing even one such clinic could have a significant impact.

Did the number of dedicated abortion clinics decline, and if so by what percentage? This figure cannot be found in Guttmacher’s tables. But one table reports there were 329 such clinics in 2011; and the study’s text mentions that “in 2008 there were 49 more abortion clinics.” We can do the math ourselves. If there were forty-nine more in 2008, there were forty-nine fewer in 2011, so the number of abortion clinics dropped from 378 to 329, which is a decline of … 13%. If anything, the significance of this figure—which is identical to the percentage drop in abortions themselves—is underscored by Guttmacher’s apparent effort to hide it.

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In turn, what led so many abortion clinics to close? Guttmacher provides part of the answer. It laments the “disruption of services” produced by a law in Louisiana that made it easier to close such clinics (contributing to a 19 percent decline in the state’s abortion rate), and the 24-hour waiting period enacted by Missouri in 2009 (helping to give it a 17 percent decline from 2008 to 2010). More generally, it complains about “burdensome” laws regulating abortion clinics, many of which have been passed since 2011 and so can be expected to play a greater role in future abortion numbers.

Guttmacher’s spin doctors call these “TRAP” laws (“targeted regulation of abortion providers”), even when they only bring abortion clinics into line with standards already governing other clinics doing ambulatory surgery. For years, the abortion industry has been dragging these laws into court, claiming they place an “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion and will make clinics close entirely. Taking into account that these claims may be exaggerated or overheated to win a legal victory, does Guttmacher now want to claim that its allies have been lying in court? If not, it seems pro-life laws really do have an impact on the abortion “supply.”

Also suggestive are differences by state. Guttmacher mentions six states where the decline in abortion rates from 2008 to 2011 was much sharper than the national average of 13 percent. There’s one fluke here: Delaware. The state had a 28 percent decline, but it previously had the very highest abortion rate in the nation, and still has a much higher rate than average. The other five already had low abortion rates, and these sharply declined further: Kansas (a 35 percent decline), South Dakota (30 percent), the above-cited Missouri (21 percent), Utah (21 percent) and Oklahoma (20 percent).

In 2010, the year before the abortion decline was measured, all these states ranked in the top half of the country for having laws protecting life, according to the annual scorecard by Americans United for Life. Oklahoma was second in the country, and South Dakota was sixth. Utah comes in just under the wire at twenty-fifth, but AUL says that is because it does not have laws against cloning, embryo research or assisted suicide. In general, these are socially “conservative” states on matters of family and sexuality. They are hardly the states most likely to be pushing LARCs on their population; in fact, some of them have worked to reduce or eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Rather, their pro-life laws help reduce the abortion rate and abortion ratio, as other research has shown.

The states where the abortion rate increased from 2008 to 2011, or decreased much less than the national average, are Alaska, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Wyoming. All of these were ranked by AUL as being in the bottom half of the country in terms of pro-life laws. Maryland has a “Freedom of Choice Act” establishing a statewide “right” to abortion that is more extreme than Roe; Montana’s supreme court has found a similar expansive right in the state constitution and has legalized abortions performed by non-physicians; Alaska’s similar state supreme court ruling has forced the state to fund abortions and invalidated conscience protection for hospitals that do not wish to perform abortions. The states showing little or no decline in abortions were among the states with the most pro-abortion legal policies.

To be sure, the abortion decline is probably based on more than particular pro-life laws as such. After all, the governors and legislators making those laws were elected by the state’s voters, who wanted pro-life lawmakers. The laws are made possible by a culture and public attitude against abortion, which can also influence women’s attitudes and behavior directly. Sentiment against abortion, and acceptance of the “pro-life” label, has been growing nationwide (especially among young people), though surely more in some states than others. The national debate in the late 1990s on the grisly partial-birth abortion technique, the revelations about criminally dangerous abortionists like Kermit Gosnell, and the greater visibility of the unborn child due to advances like 4-D ultrasound have no doubt all played a role.

And that sentiment can be found in the medical profession itself, a trend that may scare the abortion industry most of all. The pro-abortion American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists could not have been happy a few years ago, when its own journal reported that only 14 percent of ob/gyns ever perform abortions. Those who do perform them have long complained that their morale is low, that their medical colleagues look down on them, and that when they retire there may be no one willing to replace them. Some abortion practitioners have even publicly admitted that abortion is an act of violence, hoping that their candor will free them to persuade their colleagues that it is necessary violence.

Maybe this is all pretty simple after all: if you want fewer abortions, oppose abortion; if you want lots of abortions, promote abortion. And maybe more Americans are learning what abortion is: a violent act against life, a grief for women, a corruption of medicine, and an embarrassment to a civilized society. Education to further advance that understanding should be accompanied by positive steps to help women at risk of abortion, and to help health-care professionals and policymakers address these women’s real needs.

In short, pro-life Americans should rejoice at the good news, and redouble their efforts to help pregnant women and their unborn children. Notwithstanding the spin doctors of the abortion industry, we are seeing some light at the end of that long dark tunnel.

Reprinted with permission from The Public Discourse

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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