I listened to my colleague, Family Research Council’s Jeanne Monahan, defend the pro-life position with great wit, poise, and charity on National Public Radio this week. The myriad new pro-life state laws were the occasion for the debate, and Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights was among the guests.
Two arguments made by the sloganeering Ms. Northup are worth noting, as they had the ring of favorite new sound-bites that I suspect we’ll hear again.
The first is the “sneaky pro-lifers who get abortions” claim. Early in the debate, Ms. Northup made the claim, with a tone suggesting she had a real zinger, that “many of our clients who are abortion providers will have protestors outside their clinics who will come to them one day and ask for abortion services.” Gotcha! It’s meant to shut down the debate. I have heard this one before. Of course no names are ever given, no public demonstrations of women holding signs that read: “I used to be pro-life until I had an abortion!” If it were true that “many” abortionists have witnessed pro-life protestors who later come in for abortions then certainly they’d be able to cough up a couple for the cameras. But no, it’s just a silly debate gimmick, and they should be called out on it whenever they try it.
On our side, we have real flesh-and-blood converts, women who give their names and their stories to anyone who will listen, about how abortion was not an act of empowerment but the result of abandonment, betrayal, and desperation, and how it has negatively affected their lives. We have Norma McCorvey, the original Jane Roe, who began her conversion to the pro-life side while working inside an abortion clinic and trying to avoid the freezer in the back where they stored the baby body parts. We have Abby Johnson, who ran a Planned Parenthood clinic for many years and who is bravely taking on America’s abortion giant.
Next was Northup’s new canned answer to the great “problem” of the growing pro-life sentiment in America, what Gallup calls the “new normal.” This “new normal” was first noted in Gallup’s May 2009 poll when the number of people identifying as “pro-life” outpaced “pro-choice” by a striking margin of 51 percent to 42 percent. It’s no outlier. The “old normal” was a 20-point advantage for “pro-choice,” the typical spread being about 56 percent to 33 percent in Gallup’s annual polls in the mid-90s, and the gap has been steadily closing ever since. Its most recent poll still shows “pro-life” up by a two-point margin. Other national opinion surveys have also noted the trending “pro-life” views of Americans.
When the discussion turned to public opinion, Northup had her answer: “The opinion that matters is one that women make when they’re facing an unintended pregnancy . . . and one in three American women make the decision that for them termination of pregnancy is the right decision. And so that’s the opinion that matters.” The host asked for her source, and Northup cited Guttmacher, the research institute started by Planned Parenthood.
That statistic is exceedingly suspect, given that nearly half of all abortions in the United States are done on women who have already had at least one, a far less-referenced Guttmacher finding. One in five women walking through abortion providers’ doors will be aborting a baby for the third time. So the “one in three” I do not buy.
Nor does the logic hold. One in three have abortions, therefore . . . what? That makes abortion good? Necessary? That’s false induction. All we can really say about the staggering number of abortions in America (1.2 million annually, again Guttmacher) is that it is staggering.
I agree with Serrin Foster of Feminists for Life who says that abortion is a reflection that society has failed to meet the needs of women. Abortions aren’t done for health reasons today — 92 percent are done on healthy women to abort healthy babies, also a Guttmacher statistic (though “babies” is, of course, my term). No, women resort to abortion for other reasons that might be described as social and financial.
It’s time to ask whether the U.S. approach — an “absolute right to abortion” where “any abortion can be justified” as described by David Savage of the L.A. Times — is truly in the best interest of women. State legislators across the country are doing just that. Abortion centers may see shrinking profit margins if women are given more information and a chance to see their babies before an abortion, but women clearly stand to gain from these measures. Whose needs are served when a young woman turns to abortion to avoid disappointing her parents or because of pressure from a boyfriend? No Planned Parenthood “counselor” will be sensitive to these concerns; they are abortion mills, and should not receive a dime of taxpayer money.
It’s a tough time to be an abortion-industry defender. The state battles that Northup and her peers are fighting are just a foretaste of what will come, one day, when Roe v. Wade is finally corrected.
— Cathy Ruse, J.D., is senior fellow for legal studies at the Family Research Council.