Sometimes, the yelling stops long enough that we remember there are actually people involved in abortions.
And not just the ones who don’t get a say in the decision.
I read the other day a piece about the “safe and successful” “telemed” abortions getting “high marks” in Iowa. That’s an abortion where a doctor doesn’t even have to be present. The clinical efficiency with which the news story was written was jarringly chilling, as if it had been written in a eugenic cloud.
This was just one among many reasons to be delighted about a new law in Louisiana. It brings a little humanity to the debate and the reality of legal abortion in America (38 years later and counting). The law embraces the woman who finds herself considering an abortion. It meets her in her pregnancy challenge, walks her through her options, and reminds her, in the most practical of ways, that she has resources beyond the make-it-go-away one. It is written in the reality, too, that abortion isn’t a rewind button — what has happened and what will be done will have effects.
With Louisiana’s Signs of Hope Act, women can’t get an abortion without a gentle reminder about their options: Signs will be mandatory for abortion clinics, making clear to women that they do have options — and a website that helps facilitate them, highlighting the available resources. In other words: actual choice. The act is written in the reality, too, that for some women, who are being coerced in one way or another, a sign may be a real liberation. For all the abuse of the word in relation to the issue of abortion, here it is, codified, complete with a website.
The signs are straightforward enough. “Notice: Women’s Rights and Pregnancy Resources” is the headline. It then descends into bolds and bullet points.
Point 1: “You can’t be forced. It is unlawful for anyone to make you have an abortion against your will.”
Point 2: “You and the father. The father must provide child support, even if he offered to pay for an abortion.”
Point 3: “You and adoption. The law allows adoptive parents to pay costs of prenatal care, childbirth, and newborn care.”
Point 4: “You are not alone. Many agencies are willing to help you carry your child to term, and to assist after your child’s birth.”
The sign features a website address for abortion alternatives, which is easily accessible on a smart phone.
Informed-consent laws that require pamphlets about options be available to women at abortion clinics exist in approximately 25 states. But this Cajun twist is a whole new world, reaching women in need in a culture that claims to respect choice, giving them what they need to know they are not alone if they want to rise to the occasion of motherhood, one way or another. New Orleanian Dorinda Bordlee recalls that the inspirational name, “Signs of Hope,” originated when a woman who counsels post-abortive women “testified that the signs in abortion clinics would be ‘signs of hope’ to women who often feel hopeless and coerced due to a perceived lack of alternatives.” Bordlee, who drafted the legislation with fellow Bioethics Defense Fund lawyer Nikolas Nikas, calls the Signs law “cutting-edge technology in the service of women and their unborn children” and a “love letter to women and their unborn children.”
But are the signs nothing but pro-life propaganda? Bordlee denies the charge. The signs “educate and inform women of concrete resources that they can consider with their intellect,” Bordlee says. “The thousands of affidavits of post-abortive women gathered by the Operation Outcry outreach confirm that women are often vulnerable to abortion coercion or pressure based on the very fact that they are in an emotional state based on their perceived lack of available resources or options. These signs clear the fog with objective information.”
Bordlee adds, “As much as that may irritate the owners of abortion clinics, the simple fact is that ever since the 1992 decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that ‘a State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus.’”
Despite the fact that the Signs of Hope Bill, which will be implemented in the Pelican State in November and requires abortion clinics’ websites to post a link to this Department of Health and Hospitals alternatives website, may sway some women from having abortions, the bill passed with pro-choice support. You can imagine some of the opponents (a Planned Parenthood rep called the signs mandate “condescending” and “offensive”), but it’s hard to argue with informed consent in a matter of life and death, even if nascent. Bordlee presents it as flowing from a “holistic feminism,” a reintegration of “the best interests of women, children, and families based on the understanding that we are at our best when we reach out to help one another.
She adds, “It never ceases to amaze me when abortion advocates take the patronizing attitude that we should hide information from women because of their fragile emotional state. Women are strong and intelligent. Each of us deserves the dignity of full information.”
In that spirit, Bordlee and the BDF hope to use the Cajun model for a nationwide effort, helping pro-life groups with similar legislation. If statehouses don’t bite, she won’t be discouraged, “Even if a state does not have a Signs of Hope law, individuals that counsel in front of clinics and elsewhere can just as easily have postcards or flyers to hand to women so that they can access the information on their smart phones.”
It’s an alternative, too, to many of the soundbites and rallies, complete with familiar rhetoric that people, especially those desperate for help, might simply tune out. It’s a sign that a revolution of love may just be what the doctor ordered.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.