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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The first pro-abortion Republican enters the 2016 presidential race

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By Ben Johnson

EXETER, NH, May 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The large and expanding field of would-be Republican presidential candidates grew by one today, as George Pataki became the first GOP presidential hopeful this election season to openly support abortion-on-demand.

The 69-year-old long-shot candidate also has a history of supporting homosexual legislative causes.

In the weeks leading up to his formal announcement, George Pataki took out TV ads asking Republicans to refrain from talking about abortion and gay “marriage,” branding them “distractions.”

“In 12 years [as governor], I don’t think I talked about that issue twice,” he once said of abortion.

On same-sex “marriage,” he says, “I think, leave it to the states. I don’t think it’s a role in Washington.”

However, Pataki has a long history of enacting the homosexual political agenda as governor of New York from 1994-2006. He signed a “hate crimes” law that added the words “gay” and “lesbian” to New York state law for the first time.

He signed the Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination Act (SONDA), which prohibits business owners from “discriminating” against homosexuals in housing or hiring, with an exemption only for religious institutions.

He also added sexual orientation to state civil rights laws, alongside such immutable characteristics as race and sex, in an apparent quid pro quo for a gay activist group's endorsement in his last run for governor. The New York Times reported that, under pressure from Pataki, then then-Senate Majority Leader “shifted his position on the bill as part of what is tacitly acknowledged, even by Senator [Joseph] Bruno's senior aides, to have been a deal to win an endorsement for Governor Pataki from the state's largest gay rights group, the Empire State Pride Agenda.”

After the LGBT activist group endorsed Pataki in 2002, citing a long list of his service to the homosexual political cause, Pataki personally lobbied senators for the bill's passage, then signed it into law that December.

Coupled with his stance on gun control, environmentalism, and other issues, he stands well to the left of the Republican mainstream.

The three-term governor of New York, who belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, took his own advice by largely avoiding social issues today. The closest he came was his vow, “I'd repeal oppressive laws like ObamaCare and end Common Core.”

He added that he would “fire every current IRS employee abusing government power to discriminate on the basis of politics or religion. That is not America!”

Otherwise, Pataki's announcement speech hewed to stand pat Republican issues like reducing taxes, shrinking the number of federal employees, increasing military spending, and supporting entrepreneurship.

He began by thanking his supporters, in English and Spanish.

Smiling, his head pivoting between twin teleprompters, he said, “Let me tell you some of the things I'd do right away to get oppressive government off the backs of Americans.”

He would institute a lifetime ban on congressmen acting as lobbyists after they leave office. “If you ever served one day in Congress, you will never be a lobbyist,” he said. He favors forcing Congress to live under the laws it passes, so there will be “no special rules for the powerful.”

He cited his history of cutting taxes, reducing welfare rolls, and leaving his state with billions of dollars in surplus. “That's what our policies can do,” he said. “I know we can do the same thing for the United States.”

In recent weeks, he has called for a more interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East. Today, he reminded his audience that he was governor of New York in 9/11. “I will not fear the lesson of September 11,” he said. “To protect us, first we must protect the border,” he said – an unexpected phrase, as Pataki supports amnesty for the at least 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.

“We will stand with our ally, Israel, a democracy on the front lines of terror and barbarism,” he said.

Like former Sen. Rick Santorum, who announced he is running for president yesterday, Pataki agreed that “if necessary, American forces will be used to actually defeat and destroy ISIS on the ground – although he promised not to become “the world's policeman.”

Some of his campaign promises drew skepticism, such as seeking to develop self-driving cars and to cure Alzheimer's disease and cancer within the next decade.

The speech's venue was chosen deliberately by Pataki, who considered entering the presidential race in 2000, 2008, and 2012. The town of Exeter, New Hampshire, claims to be the founding place of the Republican Party. (Ripon, Wisconsin, makes a similar claim.)

More importantly, the first-in-the-nation primary skews more libertarian on social issues than evangelical-dominated Iowa and South Carolina, so Pataki has essentially staked his candidacy on doing well in New Hampshire. Fellow pro-abortion Republican Rudy Giuliani made a similar bet in 2008, banking on a good showing among transplanted New Yorkers in the Florida primary. He left the race after finishing a distant third.

Short of a stunning upset in the Granite State, Pataki has little chance of breaking through the pack this year. A Fox News poll ranks him dead last among 16 announced and potential candidates. Holly Bailey of Yahoo! News said, “George Pataki would never say this, but you do have to wonder if he's sort of, maybe, gaming for vice president.”

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Pataki is not the first “pro-choice” Republican to run for president.  Giuliani (who supported partial birth abortion) and Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (another potential 2016 candidate, who supports abortion during the first trimester) ran in 2008. Twelve years earlier, both California Gov. Pete Wilson and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter supported abortion-on-demand. Arlen Specter later left the party and became a Democrat.

In 1988, General Alexander Haig opposed a human life amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So did Texas Gov. John Connally in 1980.

George H.W. Bush supported abortion and voted for Planned Parenthood funding early in his career but changed his position by the time he ran for president the second time, in 1988.

President Gerald Ford was the last Republican nominee to proclaim himself “pro-choice.” 

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Ireland ‘defied God’ by voting for gay ‘marriage’: Cardinal Burke

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OXFORD, May 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Cardinal Raymond Burke lamented how formerly Catholic Ireland has gone further than the pagans in the pre-Christian days of old and “defied God” by calling homosexual behavior “marriage” in the referendum last week.

“I mean, this is a defiance of God. It’s just incredible. Pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviours, they never dared to say this was marriage,” he told the Newman Society, Oxford University’s Catholic organization, in an address Wednesday about the intellectual heritage of Pope Benedict XVI. The Tablet, Britain’s liberal Catholic newspaper, reported his remarks.

On Friday, 1.2 million Irish people voted to amend the country’s constitution to say: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” A little over 734,000 people voted against the proposal. 

Burke said that he could not understand “any nation redefining marriage.”

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The cardinal also emphasized the important role that parents play in protecting their children in a culture increasingly hostile to God’s laws. “The culture is thoroughly corrupted, if I may say so, and the children are being exposed to this, especially through the internet,” he said. One practical piece of advice that he offered families was to put computers in public areas to prevent children from “imbib[ing] this poison that’s out there.”

During the same Oxford visit, but during a homily at a Mass the day before, Burke called marriage between a man and woman a “fundamental truth” that has been “ignored, defied, and violated.”

Burke warned during the homily of the dangers of “various ideological currents” and of “human deception and trickery which strives to lead us into error.”

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Why young Christians can’t grasp our arguments against gay ‘marriage’

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By John Stonestreet

May 28, 2015 (BreakPoint.org) -- For five years, Dr. Abigail Rine has been teaching a course on gender theory at George Fox University, an evangelical school in the Quaker tradition.

At the beginning of the semester, she tells her students that “they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.”

Writing at FirstThings.com recently, she related how five years ago it was easy to find readings that challenged and even offended the evangelical college students “considering the secular bent of contemporary gender studies.”

But today, things are different. “Students now,” she says, “arrive in my class thoroughly versed in the language and categories of identity politics; they are reticent to disagree with anything for fear of seeming intolerant—except, of course, what they perceive to be intolerant.”

And what do they find “intolerant”? Well, in her class, an essay entitled “What is Marriage?” by Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan Anderson, which was the beginning of the book “What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense.”

In their article, Girgis, George, and Anderson defend what they call the conjugal view of marriage. “Marriage,” they write, “is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other … that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together.” They defend this view against what they call the “revisionist view” of marriage, which redefines marriage to include, among other things, same-sex couples.

“My students hate it,” Dr. Rine wrote. They “lambast the article.” “They also,” she adds, “seem unable to fully understand the argument.” And again, these are evangelical students at an evangelical school.

The only argument for conjugal marriage they’ve ever encountered has been the wooden proof-texting from the Bible. And besides, wrote Rine, “What the article names as a ‘revisionist’ idea of marriage—marriage as an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people—does not seem ‘new’ to my students at all, because this is the view of marriage they were raised with, albeit with a scriptural, heterosexual gloss.”

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As Rine points out “the redefinition of marriage began decades ago” when “the link between sexuality and procreation was severed in our cultural imagination.”

And if marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction,” then it seems mean-spirited to Rine’s students to argue that marriage by its very nature excludes same-sex couples.

And where do students get the idea that marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction”? Well, everywhere—television, church, school, their homes, in youth groups.

Rine writes, “As I consider my own upbringing and the various ‘sex talks’ I encountered in evangelical church settings over the past twenty years, I realize that the view of marital sex presented there was primarily revisionist.”

In other words, once you say, “I do,” you get “the gift” of sex which is presented as “a ‘gift’ largely due to its [erotic], unitive properties, rather than its intrinsic capacity to create life.” Even in the Church, children have become an optional add-on to married life rather than its primary purpose.

What can we do to win back our children, our churches, and the culture? In our recent book “Same Sex Marriage,” Sean McDowell and I lay out a game plan. We offer strategies for the short-term and the long-term, with the ultimate goal: re-shaping the cultural imagination towards what God intended marriage to be, starting with the church. Come to BreakPoint.org to pick up your copy.

As Chuck Colson once said in a BreakPoint commentary about marriage, “We Christians are very good at saying ‘No.’ But we’ve got to get better at saying ‘Yes’: showing how God’s plan for humanity is a blessing. That His ways, including faithful, life-giving marriage between one man and one woman, lead to human flourishing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Reprinted with permission from Break Point.

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