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October 13, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Every four years, there are people who declare that they are pro-life but plan to vote for a political party dedicated to preserving the so-called right to kill children in the womb. It is always jarring to hear it, because it is difficult to understand how someone who believes that abortion kills a human being would also state that they are planning to vote for a party that sees abortion as a fundamental plank in their platform. This year, for example, the group “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden” is claiming to be … well, both “pro-life” and “for Biden.” Biden, of course, is “for abortion.”

To justify this, some pro-lifers voting for pro-abortion candidates will claim that the abortion rate goes down under Democrat presidents. This argument is thrown out so often it has become something of a trope, and this election year is no different. I’ve seen the argument making the rounds on social media, and I’ve seen it used by pro-life people who really badly want to believe that a vote for Joe Biden can be morally neutralized by this alleged fact. As you might imagine, it isn’t true. At least, not in the way that those using it intend.

Listen to this full interview here:

To debunk this assertion, I turned to pro-life researcher Dr. Michael New, a visiting assistant professor of Political Science and Social Research at the Catholic University of America, as well as an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute and a fellow with the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton. He has a Ph.D in political science and a Master’s degree in statistics from Stanford, and has served as a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard-MIT data center and as a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts. He is one of America’s foremost experts on abortion rates. Here’s what he had to say.

Where does the claim that the abortion rate goes down under Democrat presidents originate?

There are several online memes which claim that there have been considerably larger abortion rate declines during Democratic Presidential administrations than during Republican Presidential administrations. It is interesting, as pro-lifers have made gains in the court of public opinion, some of our opponents have changed their strategy. They do not like to argue that pro-lifers are wrong, they instead they have changed their approach and instead argue that pro-life policies are ineffective. Here are some other examples from recent elections.

In 2004, there was an article written by Glen Harold Stassen which claimed (using preliminary data) that abortions were going up in the early years of the George W. Bush administration. However, more complete data showed abortion rates continued to decline during George W. Bush's Presidency.

In 2008, Catholic in Alliance for the Common Good published a study which purportedly showed that welfare and other social programs were a more effective strategy for reducing the abortion rate than enacting pro-life laws. However, their study contained methodological errors. When the errors were corrected, welfare spending had inconsistent impact on the incidence of abortion across time.

In 2012, Stephen Schneck of the Catholic University of America claimed that Mitt Romney's proposed cuts to Medicaid would increase the abortion rate, but provided no actual data or research to support that argument.

In 2016, Rachel Held Evans wrote a widely circulated column encouraging pro-life voters to support Hillary Clinton. She claimed that pro-life laws are not effective at reducing the abortion rate — even though there is plenty of evidence that the incidence of abortion is sensitive to its legal status.  Evans also claimed that more spending on social programs would reduce the abortion rate – but failed to provide any evidence or research to support that argument.

Finally, she also said that efforts to make contraception more available would reduce the abortion rate. However, research shows that few sexually active women forgo contraception because of the high cost or lack of availability. Finally, many efforts to increase the contraceptive use are either ineffective at best or counterproductive at worst.

Overall, these memes are misleading. They do not mention the fact that the U.S. abortion rate increased under Democratic President Jimmy Carter. These memes often do not mention that California quit reporting abortion data to the CDC in 1997. This exaggerates the abortion rate decline that took place during the Clinton administration. Some memes use the overall number of abortions instead of the abortion rate. This is misleading because it allows them to report an increase in the number of abortions that took place during the Reagan administration. However, the abortion rate actually decreased during the Reagan years — the reported rise in the number of abortions is due to the fact there was an increase in the population of women of childbearing age between 1981 and 1989.

Is there any truth to this claim?

It is true in the sense that since 1980, there has been a long-term, durable decline the U.S. abortion rate that has persisted through both Republican and Democratic Presidential administrations.

In percentage terms, there have been somewhat larger percentage declines in the abortion rate during Democratic Presidential administrations than during Republican Presidential administrations. However, it is by no means clear that these declines are due to any policy change enacted or legislated by these Democratic Presidents. It should also be noted that policy changes at the state level likely have a larger impact on the incidence of abortion than policy changes at the federal level. Furthermore, in both 1994 (during the Clinton administration) and in 2010 (during the Obama administration), Republicans made significant gains in many state legislatures.  This led to an increase in the number of state level pro-life laws, many of which were upheld by judges appointed by Republican Presidents.

Do robust social policies (such as in Hungary and Israel) have an impact on the abortion rate?

The research on the impact of social policies on the abortion rate is mixed. However, the Hungarian government should be lauded for their efforts to reduce the incidence of abortion in Hungary. They have invested money in educational efforts encouraging women to carry pregnancies to term. They have increased the maternity benefit and the child care allowance. They have also offered free or reduced cost services for children. Between 2010 and 2019 the abortion rate in Hungary fell by over 35 percent. There was also a study in the journal “Labour Economics” which showed that increased maternity leave benefits reduced the probability of abortion in Romania.

These sorts of policies are not a substitute for enacting pro-life laws. Pro-lifers want to see a world where all unborn children are protected in law and welcomed into life. However, the policies that have been enacted in Hungary and Romania certainly merit attention from pro-lifers.

What, in your view, is actually bringing the abortion rate down?

An important reason for the decline in the U.S. abortion rate is because a higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term. According to data from the Guttmacher Institute, 54 percent of unintended pregnancies were aborted in 1981. In 2011 (the most recent year for which we have data), only 42 percent of unintended pregnancies resulted in an abortion.

I often present this statistic to pro-life audiences because it nicely demonstrates that the efforts of pro-life activists have been effective at reducing the abortion rate. If more unintended pregnancies are being carried to term that means that 1) hearts and minds are being changed, 2) there are more resources available to assist pregnant women or 3) protective pro-life laws are now in place.
All of this nicely shows that pro-life educational, service, and legislative efforts have all been effective.

Is it true that the most recent data shows a slight uptick in the abortion rate?

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PETITION UPDATE (7/9/2021)

Father James Altman was informed late last week that he has been removed as pastor of St. James the Less parish, and that his priestly faculties have been suspended indefinitely.

Please Click Here to WATCH LifeSite's exclusive interview with Fr. Altman, and Click Here to READ more about this turn of events.

As Bishop William J. Callahan’s decree explains, this means he is forbidden from celebrating “The Holy Eucharist” with any members of the faithful present, except for his elderly parents. He is also “no longer allowed to preach,” administer baptism, or assist at marriages.

Altman said that he wasn’t issued restrictions from hearing Confessions or Anointing of the Sick.

The decree also states that he is to continue to live within the Diocese of LaCrosse, where he has been instructed to meet with the Vicar for Clergy at least once a month, and has been “invited to begin” a month-long “spiritual retreat” to help him to “spiritually heal” and “address the issues that caused the issuance of this decree.”

The order states it is in effect as long as “cause” is present, but it does not specify what the cause is. Callahan said he asked Altman to resign on May 23 for being “divisive and ineffective.”

Altman first triggered backlash from his bishop when his video “You cannot be a Catholic and a Democrat. Period” went viral last year. Altman shared that in response to this, his office “got the most vile, despicable phone calls, letters” and “some terrible, really foul messages.”

Callahan criticized Altman at the time for his “manner and tone,” to which Altman countered, “what about the manner and tone of the 10,000 babies that are chopped up last Saturday?”

“What I would hope would always come through no matter what people think about my manner and tone, is that they would recognize that what’s coming through there is God’s love,” Altman told LifeSiteNews. “A love that I recognize because He’s loved me, and I didn’t deserve that.”

“If I seem angry at times, it has nothing to do with me, it has to do with the people. And I asked the question recently, how can they love? If you love, how can you not feed your children?”

In late April, Altman chided the U.S. bishops for needlessly shutting churches and denying the faithful sacraments during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the hierarchy showed “an abundance of cowardice.”

In his interview with LifeSite, Altman alluded to the fact that some don’t like seeing him “upset.”

“I’m thinking well, if you’re denying my child food, the Bread of Life – [Bishop Fulton J. Sheen] said, if you can’t get angry about stuff like that then you can’t love either. Because greater love has greater anger towards those things that are contrary to the salvation of eternal souls, which is the only thing that matters in the end,” said Altman.

"I don’t care what they do to me, honestly, in the end… what troubles me is the interference with the feeding of God’s children, which is through word and through the sacrament. Both of which were denied to people over the past 15 months."

Please continue to SIGN and SHARE this petition, and to continue to contact the Diocese of LaCrosse's Chancery Office, to politely voice your opposition to the removal of Fr. Altman from his parish. The Chancery's phone number is: 608-788-7700.

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PETITION UPDATE (5/24/2021) -

Father James Altman, the Wisconsin priest whose video message last fall "You can’t be a Catholic and a Democrat" went viral and who has fearlessly admonished the U.S. bishops for shutting churches and denying the faithful Sacraments during the COVID-19 crisis, announced on Pentecost Sunday that his bishop has asked him to resign for being "divisive and ineffective."

Please CLICK HERE to READ LifeSiteNews' latest article related to Fr. Altman's ongoing persecution, just to continue shepherding his flock.

Bishop William P. Callahan began threatening the outspoken priest with "canonical penalties" in September, even as public support for the priest surged among rank-and-file Catholics around the country and the world.

And now, a group called 'Faithful America' is proudly boasting responsibility for taking down Fr. Altman, but Faithful America are not even a Catholic organization!

Thankfully, Fr. Altman says he is working with a canon lawyer to resolve this matter.

WATCH Fr. Altman's Sunday sermon in which he announces the bishop's decision to ask for his resignation.

"In response my canon lawyer asked for clarification – asked for the justification and a chance to review what was in my file that suggested I was so divisive and ineffective,” explained Altman. “And I say all this only because, I'm no expert on canon law, but understand only that while we are contesting bishop's request — and we are — he could in theory appoint a parish administrator whilst I remain a pastor without duties until the appeal goes through Rome, which could take up to a year or more."

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, offered his support for Altman via Twitter.

Please continue to SIGN and SHARE this petition with your like-minded family and friends.

And, after signing and sharing, please take a minute to contact the LaCrosse Diocese to politely voice your support for Fr. Altman, and against leftist pressure groups like 'Faithful America.' Please ask Bishop Callahan to prayerfully reconsider his decision and allow Fr. Altman to remain as pastor of St. James the Less parish.

The phone number for the diocese office is: 608.788.7700

Thank you!

PETITION UPDATE (9/15/2020) -

Just this past weekend a prayer vigil was held outside the Cathedral in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on behalf of Fr. James Altman, the priest facing Church penalties for saying that you cannot be a Catholic and a Democrat in 2020.

Hundreds of faithful Catholics turn out to pray for Fr. Altman. Though Fr. Altman did use strong language to warn his flock against spiritual perils, what he said about the Democratic Party's platform is true!

Motivated by a deep sense of justice, supporters gathered at the Cathedral to pray for the priest, and for Bishop Callahan to stand by his priest rather than punish him.

"Fr. Altman is a rare breed. He’s a modern-day St. John the Baptist," declared one woman who attended the prayer vigil. "He’s really changed my life and so many others he’s had that impact on. We need more priests who are true shepherds."

Fr. Richard Heilman, who is the founder of the U.S. Grace Force and who was also present to help lead people in prayer during the vigil, had this to say about Fr. Altman: "Bottom line: he loves, loves, loves his flock. And so, like a good shepherd, if he sees the wolves invading, he sounds the warning alarm."

Please consider SIGNING this petition if you have not already signed. And, please SHARE this petition and video with your family, friends and colleagues. Thank you!

If after signing and sharing you wish to make an even greater impact, we encourage you to contact the Diocese of LaCrosse's Chancery Offices to politely let them know that you support Fr. Altman and want to see him continue in his essential ministry.

Diocese of LaCrosse's Chancery Office phone number: 608-788-7700.

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ORIGINAL PETITION TEXT:

Father James Altman, pastor of St. James the Less parish in the Wisconsin Diocese of LaCrosse, has been threatened with canonical punishment by his Bishop, Most Rev. William Patrick Callahan.

Fr. Altman's alleged "offense"?

Stating what every faithful Catholic knows to be true in 2020: "You cannot be a Catholic and a Democrat."

Please SIGN this petition which will go to Bishop Callahan and ask him to stop any canonical proceedings against Fr. Altman.

In a strongly-worded YouTube video, designed to shepherd the faithful out of harm's way (supporting the Democratic Party's evil platform), Fr. Altman states the following:

"Here's a memo to clueless, baptized Catholics out there: You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period. Their party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches. So, just quit pretending that you're Catholic and vote Democrat. Repent of your support of that party and its platform, or face the fires of Hell..."

Strong stuff to be sure, but Fr. Altman was taking his cue from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (whom he quotes) – the Church has a "duty and obligation" to speak up when politicians act in an immoral way.

In other words, a pastor must give strong warnings, at times, to guide souls away from grave danger, even when the dangers come from politicians or a political party.

When your house is burning down...or, more appropriately, when someone is attempting to burn your house down, it's time to dispense with the niceties of politically correct language.

And, as Fr. Altman suggests, the Democratic Party's evil platform which promotes the desecration of God's plan for humanity is, in effect, trying to burn down our house (i.e., the Church).

Not only do the Democrats openly advocate for abortion (i.e., killing innocent human beings), but they also promote the destruction of the natural family and the desecration of human nature in support of the homosexual and transgender agendas.

Remember the following:

  • The Obama-Biden Administration attempted to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to participate in the provision of abortion-inducing drugs and contraception and threatened schools with the loss of federal funding if they wouldn’t let boys in girls’ bathrooms and vice versa.
  • Democratic Senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono grilled a judge, who is a Knight of Columbus, on his membership in the Knights, absurdly suggesting that membership in the Catholic mens' fraternal organization should disqualify someone from sitting on the bench.
  • And, in 2017, the DNC Chairman said that pro-lifers were not welcome in the party.

No faithful Catholic should even think about voting for such a platform. And, the bishops should be on the frontlines, speaking this truth to power.

Thankfully, the Bishop of Tyler, Texas, Most Rev. Joseph Strickland, has come out in support of Fr. Altman's statement, tweeting:

"As the Bishop of Tyler I endorse Fr. Altman’s statement in this video. My shame is that it has taken me so long. Thank you Fr Altman for your COURAGE. If you love Jesus & His Church & this nation...please HEED THIS MESSAGE.”

With this petition, we now ask that Fr. Altman's own bishop, Most. Rev. Callahan, likewise support his priest and stop any canonical proceedings against him.

Devoid of united leadership from the Hierarchy, individual priests must do their best to inform the laity of the mortal dangers on full view in the Democrats' platform.

And, threatening to silence priests for strongly speaking the truth only plays into the hand of those who actually hate what the Church stands for...and who will, if elected, most likely seek to injure, or even eradicate, the Church.

The bishops should know that the legacy of the Democratic Party being the party of the small man and of the Catholic immigrant is now over.

The Democratic Party of today is the party of radical individualism, not the common good. And, rabid support for abortion and the homosexual agenda are practically obligatory.

As such, the Democratic Party is not a friend of the Church and any priest or bishop who thinks otherwise is being deceived, or allowing himself to be deceived or bullied.

This is not just an abstraction! This is a serious threat to Christianity and their party's platform needs to be met with strong opposition.

Thank you for SIGNING this petition to the bishop of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Bishop Callahan, asking him to support Fr. Altman rather than bringing any canonical proceedings against him.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

'Bishop threatens ‘canonical penalties’ for priest whose viral video warned Catholics can’t be Democrats': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/bishop-threatens-canonical-penalties-for-fr-altman

YouTube Video - 'Fr. James Altman: You cannot be Catholic & a Democrat. Period.': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-7eoTN2vNM

Statement regarding Fr. James Altman from Bishop Callahan: https://diolc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Statement-Father-James-Altman-090920.pdf

'Bishop Strickland echoes priest: ‘You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat’': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/bishop-strickland-echoes-priest-you-cannot-be-catholic-and-be-a-democrat

**Photo Credit: Screen capture from Fr. James Altman's YouTube video on Alpha News MN

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A recent analysis published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that abortions in the United States increased by 1.78 percent between 2017 and 2018. This is partly due to an increase in chemical abortions.  There is some preliminary data from Florida which may indicate that the incidence of abortion may be increasing this year.

There are also anecdotal reports from abortion facilities and abortion funds which indicate that the incidence of abortion has increased during the pandemic.

These reported increases in the incidence of abortion certainly do not undo the impressive, long-term progress that pro-lifers have made reducing the abortion rate. However, as always, pro-lifers should continue to be vigilant.

Jonathon’s new podcast, The Van Maren Show, is dedicated to telling the stories of the pro-life and pro-family movement. In his latest episode, he interviews Marjorie Dannenfelser from the Susan B. Anthony List who tells Van Maren that this election is crucial for the pro-life movement. Dannenfelser warns listeners that if the Democrats win, it will have a generational impact, as the left will fight to take away the core principles of our nation's founding.

You can subscribe here and listen to the episode below: 

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.

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