Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D, NRL-ETF Director of Education & Research

Women have abortions because they feel trapped and hopeless, study finds

Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D, NRL-ETF Director of Education & Research
By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D, NRL-ETF Director of Education & Research
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October 9, 2013 (NRLC) - The reasons women have abortions are not simple and thus can be difficult to study and/or categorize. That’s one reason why the two most recent previous studies on abortion reasons, from the Guttmacher Institute, date from 2005 and 1988.

Now, though, the same team from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) that brought us the “Turnaway” study, has used the same data set to lay out the reasons the nearly one thousand women in their study had abortions. While their data set included more women with advanced pregnancies and reasons did not always fit into clear categories, the results are revealing nonetheless.

The article, “Understanding why women seek abortions in the U.S.,” was published in the July 5, 2013, edition of BMC Women’s Health and can be freely accessed.

As noted above the authors, M. Antonia Biggs, Heather Gould, and Diana Greene Foster, all participated in the “Turnaway” study. They are part of the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIR) project at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the notorious abortion research center from the west coast.

Biggs and her fellow researchers began the “Turnaway” study in 2008. They were specifically looking to contrast the consequences of those who received abortions versus those who were “denied” abortions. Women were “denied” either because available abortionists were not trained or facilities were not equipped to handle those women presenting at those particular gestations, or because state law, for some reason, prohibited abortions at a particular stage.

We discussed this study in a five-part series National Right to Life News Today ran back in January. (Part Five, with links to four previous articles, can be found here.)

The UCSF team took data from the same set of 956 women, 273 who received first trimester abortions, 452 who obtained abortions just under the gestational limits, and 231 who sought but did not receive abortions. They asked them two open ended questions: the first about why they sought an abortion, and, second, what their main was reason behind the request. (Two women out of the 956 in the study did not answer questions on the reasons for their abortions.)

The findings are both illuminating and ambiguous. Women rarely gave a single reason and often gave additional, maybe even different reasons when pressed as to their main reason. Researchers attempted to gather these into basic themes or categories, but some of these were harder to categorize than others.

For example, one 19 year old gave the following list: “I already have one baby, money wise, my relationship with the father of my first baby, relationship with my mom, school.” Another woman, 27 years old, said “My relationship is newer and we wanted to wait. I don’t have a job, I have some debt, I want to finish school and I honestly am not in the physical shape that would want to be to start out a pregnancy.”

These cover the gamut–financial, relationship, school, and, in the way that some count it, even maternal health.

Essentially, the study authors decided just to identify certain general themes and then count every time a woman gave a response in this category. The authors seem to have abandoned the effort to identify a woman’s primary reason for abortion, as that data is not listed anywhere. Thus the best one can do with this data is to simply see how often women offered a particular rationale.

Researchers found 40% of these women mentioning something financial, 36% in some way discussing the bad “timing” of the pregnancy, 31% raising a partner issue, 29% speaking of “other children,” 20% talking of the child somehow interfering with future opportunities.

Less than 20% mentioned something about not being emotionally or mentally prepared (19%), health related reasons (12%), wanting a better life than she could provide (12%), not being independent or mature enough (7%), influence of family or friends, and not wanting to have a baby or to place a baby up for adoption (4%). [1]

These do not add to 100%, of course, because women tended to give more than one reason. And some other important qualifications need to be made to give a proper analysis

Looking more carefully at the data

These responses reflect a women’s self-reported subjective assessment, not some independent analysis of her situation. As such, it is a good guide to her perceptions (or at least to her beliefs about what others will consider an acceptable justification). But they do not necessarily tell us the facts about her circumstances.

For example, though we know from demographic data reported by the authors that 45% of women participating in the survey were receiving public assistance and that a considerable portion (40%) were not able to indicate that they had “enough money in the past month to meet basic needs,” we do not know what these women’s precise income was or what mix of public and private resources were available in their communities.

Would they have arrived at the same conclusion if someone had sat down with them, looked at the sort of resources available to them, and given them the sort of budget planning advice and assistance that is available at many local pregnancy care centers?

Finances are an issue for many a young couple starting out, and it is common to wonder or even worry as to exactly how one can “afford” a baby. Some circumstances are admittedly more dire than others, but it is remarkable how that year after year, decade after decade, century after century, people, some with larger families, find ways to give birth to all their children and care for them.

How much these women were aware of or considered taking advantage of these resources is unknown [2]

Twelve percent is a higher figure than we are accustomed to seeing citing “health” reasons, but a few caveats are needed here as well. To start with, this study group includes more women with advanced pregnancies than would be found in a general sample of aborting women. This could mean a slightly higher likelihood of physical issues (though researchers specifically excluded any women seeking abortions for “fetal anomaly” from their sample and concluded, in contrast to some other previous studies, that gestational age was not a factor here). But a bigger issue, again, is that these are subjective reports of concerns about possible health problems with the mother or the unborn child, not medical determinations of any particular risk.

Data and interviews bear this out. Almost half of the 12% reported were attributed to concerns that the woman had about the impact of her own tobacco, alcohol, or drug use on the health of her child or on her ability to care for the child. One woman said, “because I had been doing drinking and the medication I’m on for bipolar is known to cause birth defects and we decided it’s akin to child abuse if you know you’re bringing your child into the world with a higher risk for things.” There is no indication that this mother or any of the other patients giving these answers had medical tests showing any problem with the child, or were told by a doctor that having a child posed any threat to the mother’s health.

Other issues like “timing” are amorphous and hard to analyze. About 34 points of the 36% raising this issue said they simply weren’t “ready,” that it wasn’t the “right time.” Discussions involving timing often bled into other more tangible issues related to finances, school, or work schedules. Sometimes this was simply expressed in terms of emotional stress. Two percent expressed concerns about being “too old.”

Women often mentioned concerns about already born children when talking about timing or finances and nearly one in three (29%) mentioned this concern about other children overall. Though the sample here in this study is somewhat different in composition, the percentage of women reporting already having or caring for at least one child (62%) is similar to national figures on abortion patients having previously given birth obtained by Guttmacher and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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How much would change if partners were supportive and encouraging and women felt they would have help raising another child (women said 8% of partners were “not supportive,” 6% of partners did not want baby, 3% were abusive). No indication, again, of whether women knew of or had access to other support in their wider communities.

Demographic correlations

One thing useful that the study does is to match reasons with demographics. Perhaps not surprisingly, younger women seeking abortion were more likely to report concerns about immaturity, a lack of independence, or the child interfering with future plans. Younger women also more frequently mentioned the influence of family or friends either in pressuring to have an abortion or as people from whom they trying to keep their pregnancies secret by aborting.

African American women were more likely to report problems with their partner but less likely to report being emotionally or mentally unprepared to raise a child at the time. Women who were separated, divorced, or widowed were more also likely to report partner issues.

Women who were employed were half as likely to report a health related reason, while those who had a history of depression or an anxiety diagnosis were more than three times more likely to mention health.

It is not clear why, but women with more than a high school education were more likely to express concerns about not being financially prepared and to want to abort because they said they desired a better life for the child than the mother felt she could provide.

Some women (4%) simply admitted they wanted abortions because they didn’t want a baby or didn’t want any children and/or wouldn’t consider adoption. More than two thirds (68%) of the women saying this had never born a child. A handful of women sought abortions because of legal issues they were going through (3 women) or because of fear of giving birth (2 women).

Some of what we learned

Though it is not brought out in any detailed analysis here, it is worth noting that despite what appears to be a general resolve to abort among women in the study, data on the same women in the turnaway study show that, even as little as one week later, more than a third of the women (35%) were no longer convinced that abortion was the outcome they wanted. How many more shared that view once the child was born is not addressed here or in that earlier paper.

Identifying one single approach that will address every woman’s concerns and change her mind is difficult, given the multiplicity of the reasons and rationales given by women for seeking abortion. Some will be benefited by being connected to better support systems, while others need practical economic assistance. Anything making men more responsible for the children they father will go a long way towards helping many of these women care for their children.

Yet abortion’s legality and the implied social sanction that comes with it is clearly a major part of the cultural machinery that forces these cruel choices on women, that lets men off the hook, that leaves women to care for households of children all alone, and that makes society less accommodating to the demands of motherhood. Collectively such factors may conspire to force many of these women to consider an option that goes totally against their nurturing natures and pit the needs of one or more of their children against another.

If we believe the survey, most of the women seeking to abort here did so, not because they were triumphantly exercising their “power to choose,” but because they felt like–given the circumstances–they had no other realistic choice. Abortion forces on them a cruel, violent, destructive option that does little to solve their basic social or economic problems, problems, which may, in part, themselves be a consequence of Roe’s forced cultural transformation.

Those women would find better options and more respect for their rights and responsibilities as women and mothers with abortion off the table.

[1] No mention is made or percentages given for abortions related to rape, incest, or any type of sexual assault. This could perhaps mean that occurrences were so few as to merit no specific mention or that these were excluded from the study for some reason not given.

[2] Although we do know those citing financial reasons included 0.6% who cited lack of insurance or inability to obtain government assistance as a factor in their decision to seek abortion, while, alternatively, another 0.4% sought abortions because they did not want to rely on government assistance.

Reprinted with permisssion from NRLC


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary
By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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