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

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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Pope Francis attacks ‘fundamentalist’ Catholics, dismisses condom ban as unimportant

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By John-Henry Westen

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- On the plane returning from his journey to Africa today Pope Francis made his clearest remarks in condemnation of ‘fundamentalist’ Catholics.

"Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions," Francis said, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent, Joshua McElwee, and similarly by other journalists on the plane.  "We Catholics have some -- and not some, many -- who believe in the absolute truth and go ahead dirtying the other with calumny, with disinformation, and doing evil."

"They do evil," said the pope. "I say this because it is my church."

"We have to combat it," he said. "Religious fundamentalism is not religious, because it lacks God. It is idolatry, like the idolatry of money."

Turning to Islam, the pope spoke of his friendship with a Muslim, adding, “You cannot cancel out a religion because there are some groups, or many groups in a certain point of history, of fundamentalists.”

"Like everything, there are religious people with values and those without," he said. "But how many wars … have Christians made? The sacking of Rome was not done by Muslims, eh?"

STORY: Vatican’s liturgy chief contradicts Pope Francis on Communion for non-Catholics

On the same flight a journalist asked about the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS and if it was time for the Church to change its position.

The pope acknowledged that condoms are one method of prevention, saying that the Church was faced with a perplexity of whether to follow the fifth commandment (Thou shalt not kill) “or that sexual relations are open to life.” 

He dismissed this however as ‘not the problem’ and said it reminded him of the question asked Jesus, “Tell me, teacher, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Is it obligatory to heal?’

Catholic News Agency carries the fullest rendition of the pope’s quotes on the matter, relating his words thus:

“Let’s not talk about if one can use this type of patch or that for a small wound, the serious wound is social injustice, environmental injustice,” Pope Francis continued. “I don’t like to go down to reflections on such case studies when people die due to a lack of water, hunger, environment...when all are cured, when there aren’t these illnesses, tragedies, that man makes, whether for social injustice or to earn more money – I think of the trafficking of arms – when these problems are no longer there, I think we can ask the question ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’”

 “Because, if the trafficking of arms continues, wars are the biggest cause of mortality...I would say not to think about whether it’s lawful or not to heal on the Sabbath, I would say to humanity: ‘make justice,’ and when all are cured, when there is no more injustice, we can talk about the Sabbath.”

While in Africa the pope used very strong language to promote the climate change agreement at the Paris climate summit that started today. He said it would be a “catastrophe” if it did not achieve acceptance in Paris in the coming days and added that the decision came down to the choice “either to improve or to destroy the environment.”

Speaking at the United Nations center in Nairobi on November 26, Pope Francis said, “In a few days an important meeting on climate change will be held in Paris, where the international community as such will once again confront these issues. It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects.”

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Ben Carson on Colorado shooting: pro-lifers need to ‘tone down’ ‘hateful rhetoric’

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By Ben Johnson

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - After a string of verbal gaffes and controversies over the depth of his pro-life convictions, Dr. Ben Carson has implied that the pro-life movement needs to "tone down" its "hateful rhetoric" and "become more mature."

The doctor was asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" about abortion supporters' claims that pro-life speech led to Robert Lewis Dear's shooting inside a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

"There is no question that hateful rhetoric, no matter which side it comes from, Right or Left, is something that is detrimental to our society," Dr. Carson said. "This has been a big problem."

"No question the hateful rhetoric exacerbates the situation," Carson affirmed.

Lamenting that social discourse had become less civil, he said modern political "rhetoric is extremely immature, divisive, and is not helpful."

“I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion," Dr. Carson said.

Pro-life leaders were quick to rebut his charges that they engage in extreme or immature rhetoric. (See related story.)

After briefly leading rival Donald Trump in a series of national polls, Carson's presidential hopes have crumpled amidst a series of misstatements and retractions that have led national commentators to question whether the political novice is ready to be president of the United States. Last Sunday, talk show host Rush Limbaugh told Fox News that Ben Carson is "probably not" fully "equipped to be president."

The statement apparently condemning pro-life rhetoric comes after Carson, a famed neurosurgeon, told a Florida reporter that attempts to save the life of Terri Schiavo were "much ado about nothing."

Dr. Carson told LifeSiteNews exclusively that his remarks had been taken out of context by a Tampa Bay Times reporter. The reporter later posted the full transcript of his question, and Dr. Carson's answer to provide context.

Full transcript of the "Face the Nation" segment:

Dickerson: OK. I would like to ask you about a domestic political event or what some people see has a political element to it, and that's the shooting at a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado Springs.

Some abortion rights supporters have said that the rhetoric has led to that kind of violence. What's your view on that?

Carson: There is no question that hateful rhetoric, no matter which side it comes from, Right or Left, is something that is detrimental to our society.

This has been a big problem. Our strength in this country has traditionally been in our unity. And we are allowing all kinds of circumstances to divide us and make us hateful toward each other. And the rhetoric is extremely immature, divisive, and is not helpful.

When you have outside forces, global Islamic radical jihadists who want to destroy us, why would we be doing that to ourselves? We, at some point, have got to become more mature. No question the hateful rhetoric exacerbates the situation, and we should be doing all we can to engage an intelligence, civil discussion about our differences.

That's how we solve problems. We don't ever solve them with hateful rhetoric.

Dickerson: Should abortion rights -- excuse me -- should those who oppose abortion rights tone down their rhetoric?

Carson: I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion.

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Robert Lewis Dear
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The Planned Parenthood shooter: not who you think he is

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By John Jalsevac
Robert Dear's shanty in North Carolina where he spent part of his time.

November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Planned Parenthood, and supporters of abortion rights, have pointed to Friday's shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility as evidence that the pro-life movement is responsible for encouraging violence through its "hateful rhetoric." Planned Parenthood of Rocky Mountains has declared that the shooter himself "was motivated by opposition to Planned Parenthood and access to abortion," although police have not officially released any information about his motives.

Meanwhile, the picture emerging of the man who allegedly opened fire at a Planned Parenthood facility Friday is one of a deeply disturbed recluse with little known interest in and no history of active involvement in the abortion debate, a long spate of run-ins with the law and a pattern of bizarre behavior that left some of those who encountered him fearful for their safety, and many convinced that he wasn't in his right mind.

On Saturday morning Colorado Springs police identified Robert Lewis Dear, 57, of North Carolina, as the suspect in the shooting that left three dead, and another nine injured. Dear allegedly began shooting outside the Planned Parenthood facility just before noon, Mountain Time, Friday, before retreating into the facility for a five hour stand-off with police.

Planned Parenthood has confirmed that none of its staff were injured in the shooting. Both of the civilians killed were reportedly accompanying friends to appointments.

The New York Daily News reports that an online dating profile that appears to have been posted by Dear in the early 2000s has Dear asking for "discreet" sadomasochistic sex, as well as pot-smoking companions. Other posts on Cannabis.com by someone with a username associated with Dear, include what the Daily News describes as "paranoid Biblical rants."

Heavy.com reports that Dear was arrested and charged in 2002 on "animal cruelty," eavesdropping and "peeping tom" charges. He was acquitted of the animal cruelty charges after a bench trial, while the latter charges were dismissed.

The animal cruelty charge was apparently related to an incident in which Dear allegedly shot a neighbor's dog in the leg with a pellet gun.

USA Today reports that a 2004 police report shows Dear threatened to "do bodily harm" to a neighbor.

He also has numerous previous convictions for various traffic violations. These include seat belt violations, driver’s license violations, operating a vehicle in an unsafe mechanical condition and driving a non-registered vehicle.

ABC reports that Dear spent some of his time living in a cabin in the woods in North Carolina, without running water or electricity. Neighbors say he was a quiet man who seemed "off." They said that when he did speak, he tended to ramble on a disconnected series of topics.

One neighbor, James Russell, said that two topics they never heard Dear speak about were religion and abortion. Russell also said that Dear tended to avoid eye contact. "Nothing with him was very cognitive," said Russell about Dear.

RELATED: Police officer killed at Planned Parenthood was pro-life, Christian pastor

James Howie, who lived close to one of Dear's remote properties in North Carolina, told USA Today that Dear once asked him to do some foundation work on his shack. After accompanying Dear to the job site, Howie declined the job. "I was just glad to get home," he said about the experience, adding that in his view Dear seemed crazy, although not dangerous.

Another neighbor told the Washington Post that Dear "was the kind of person you had to watch out for. He was a very weird individual. It's hard to explain, but he had a weird look in his eye most of the time."

Another neighbor told the Post, "He complained about everything. He said he worked with the government, and everybody was out to get him, and he knew the secrets of the USA. He said, 'Nobody touch me, because I've got enough information to put the whole U.S. of A in danger.' It was very crazy."

Another neighbor said that she and her family "kept out of his way." "He wouldn't really speak to anybody, he wouldn't wave," Mallory Nicoletti, 29, told the Citizen-Times.

John Hood, another neighbor, told NBCNews that Dear rarely spoke with him, but when he did, it was to offer bizarre advice. On one occasion, said Hood, Dear urged him to get a metal roof installed on his house, so the US government couldn't spy on him. Hood also said he erected a fence between their properties, because Dear had a habit of skinny dipping. 

RELATED: This one shot from the latest PP sting video might be the most disturbing thing you see all year

Those living in the North Carolina community where Dear had his shack said they were frustrated by the fact that Dear would leave for days at a time, leaving behind two dogs with no food or water, who would start to get aggressive.

“We’re not isolationists,” one resident said. “You know how whenever someone goes crazy, the neighbors say he was so quiet and normal. That wasn’t the case here. He was weird. Everyone kept an eye on him.”

"He was really tightly wound," said another resident. "You could see that from the stress on his face, from the way he acted.”

Still another went even further, telling the Post, "He was just always saying, ‘I know the U.S. is trying to kill everybody’ and do this and do that. He [said he] was an undercover [agent]. Just craziness. Just pure, right-out craziness all the time.

“I’m kind of glad he’s put away now."

The Gateway Pundit also reports that, bizarrely, Dear was registered to vote as a woman, although it is unclear whether this is simply a clerical error or has any deeper significance. His party was listed as "unaffiliated."

One anonymous source, reportedly with the police, told the Washington Post that in a confusing rant following his arrest Dear did make mention of "baby body parts," suggesting some connection with the recent series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood staffers harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted babies.

However, the source added that this was but one topic among many mentioned by Dear in a speech that left investigators unclear as to his specific motivation.

Planned Parenthood has issued a statement saying that based upon eyewitnesses they believe Dear "was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion." 

Dear's ex-wife, Pamela Ross, told the New York Times he was a Bible-believing Christian, and that he opposed abortion, but that it "was never really a topic of conversation" in their house.

RELATED: Planned Parenthood shooting suspect surrenders, is in custody: police

Ross and Dear divorced in 2000. The picture that Ross paints of her ex-husband as a physically healthy man who lifted weights, took good care of himself, enjoyed listening to U2 and riding motorcycles, clashes markedly with the accounts of those who lived near him in the years since their parting. 

Ross said she was shocked at the man she saw on TV following his arrest this weekend.

“Something must have happened to him when he moved away, that’s all I know," she said. “Me and our whole family are extremely devastated and heartbroken by the victims of these families, and we have no words that can ever comfort them other than to say we’re sorry for what he did.”

However, Ross admits that she did call police on Dear in 1997, after a case of domestic violence. She didn't press charges at the time.

Dear reportedly brought several "items" with him into the Planned Parenthood facility, which police had said they were concerned could be explosives. Early Saturday morning police tweeted that those items have been "secured" and are "no longer a threat."

Subsequent reports have suggested those items were propane tanks that Dear may have been trying to shoot in order to cause an explosion.

After a five-hour standoff with police, during which Dear repeatedly exchanged gunfire with them, police were able to establish voice contact with the suspect by shouting. At that point they were able to convince him to surrender.

While some reports have indicated that the shooting actually began outside a nearby Chase Bank, and may have been related to a robbery, Springfield police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley said at a press conference Friday evening that the shooting appears to have begun at the Planned Parenthood. 

While Dear's motive is still unknown, pro-life groups have issued statements condemning the violence, and urging caution in jumping to conclusions.

"Information is very sketchy about the currently active shooting situation in Colorado Springs," said Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. "The Planned Parenthood was the address given in the initial call to the police, but we still do not know what connection, if any, the shooting has to do with Planned Parenthood or abortion."

"As leaders in the pro-life movement, we call for calm and pray for a peaceful resolution of this situation."

Troy Newman of Operation Rescue and Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, also issued statements.

"Operation Rescue unequivocally deplores and denounces all violence at abortion clinics and has a long history of working through peaceful channels to advocate on behalf of women and their babies," said Newman. "We express deep concern for everyone involved and are praying for the safety of those at the Planned Parenthood office and for law enforcement personnel. We pray this tragic situation can be quickly resolved without further injury to anyone."

"Although we don't know the reasons for the shooting near the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs today, the pro-life movement is praying for the safety of all involved and as a movement we have always unequivocally condemned all forms of violence at abortion clinics. We must continually as a nation stand against violence on all levels," said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, based in Washington, D.C.


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