By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. ,NRL Director of Education & Research
Despite the current occupant in the White House and the dominance of abortion sympathizers in the U.S. Senate, 2013 was a year of some notable successes for the pro-life movement.
Cruel and callous practices of the abortion industry were exposed, several clinics were closed, and media popularity campaigns notwithstanding, significant regulations and important pieces of pro-life legislation were passed. Confirmation of a considerable drop in the number of abortions arrived courtesy of the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
This hardly passed by unnoticed by the abortion industry. Losing customers, losing public support, and losing significant legislative battles, the industry fought back with media campaigns of its own. It created new celebrities, developed new marketing strategies, published slanted studies, and made some significant adjustments to its business model.
Though it wasn’t until May that Kermit Gosnell was officially convicted on three counts of first-degree murder, news of the barbarity that went on at his Philadelphia abortion clinic had already gradually seeped out. While media coverage before and after the trial was underwhelming, the public learned something about what goes on in the abortion industry. Not just filthy, appalling clinic conditions tolerated by local and state authorities (not to mention industry groups that were supposed to uphold basic health and treatment standards) but also of the general callous disregard one of the nation’s preeminent abortionists had for the welfare of his patients—mother and child.
This, from the industry that promoted itself as the sympathetic guardians of women’s health care?
The industry tried to pass Gosnell off as one “rogue” operator, but stories surfaced of other abortionists accused of similar gruesome practices. Spokespeople for Planned Parenthood acted appalled, but neglected to tell people that more than thirty of its own clinics advertise and perform second-trimester abortions. While at least a dozen more of its clinics do abortions on babies at twenty weeks or older–and some of these offer to help women find abortionists willing to abort them after 24 weeks!
Addressing widespread public concerns on late abortions, National Right to Life has been able to help ten states pass laws preventing the abortion of babies known to be capable of feeling pain. Publicity centered around Texas, where the abortion lobby and their media allies made a celebrity out of Wendy Davis, a previously unknown female state Senator who filibustered against basic clinic safety measures and fought to keep late abortions legal.
Polls from Gallup and other respectable pollsters showed a public increasingly uncomfortable with the practice of abortion on demand. This demonstrates that the more one knows about the lies and practices of the abortion industry and about the humanity of the unborn child, the less popular the abortion “solution” becomes.
The raw numbers bear this out.
Though national figures are a few years behind (because of a lag in processing state data), a report from the CDC that came out in November appeared to confirm what seemed like impossibly good news–that there had been a substantial drop in the number of abortions in recent years.
While CDC’s figures are always a couple years old, miss a few states, and typically undercount, they nevertheless do show significant reductions in its last two reports. The number of abortions dropped 4.6% from 2008 to 2009 and then dropped again by 3.1% from 2009 to 2010.
Estimates from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, which does its own direct surveys of abortion clinics and are thus thought to be more accurate, are not out yet. However if the percentages of decline CDC found were applied to Guttmacher’s most recent figure, abortions for the United States would now be just over 1.1 million a year, rather than the 1.2 million as Guttmacher said they recorded as recently as 2008. To get an idea of how far we’ve come, consider that 1.6 million unborn babies died in 1990.
Abortion rates (the number of abortions per thousand women of reproductive age) and ratios (the ratio of abortions to live births) these last few years are also at their lowest since the earliest days of Roe. What this means is that more women are choosing life.
Though they profess to be committed to making abortion not only safe and legal but “rare,” anyone thinking the abortion industry would simply roll over while losing hundreds of thousands of customers is naive.
The abortion establishment fought back not only in the legislature, as they did in Texas, but also in the press, the academy, and in the marketplace.
The press made a hero out of Davis. The Dallas Morning News touted her as a nominee for “Texan of the Year.” The state press and major media outlets outside Texas pushed her to run for governor even though her filibuster “win” lasted only until pro-life Gov. Rick Perry called another special session.
Abortion’s supporters also sought to tie the closing of clinics to the new women-protective legislation in Texas. However the connection was tenuous in that the provisions that required improvements aren’t scheduled to take effect until 2014.
Though the law did spotlight some of the poor practices and conditions present at some of the state’s aging clinics, in many cases what was happening in Texas was what was going on across the nation. Old decrepit facilities were closed; small unprofitable family planning clinics that performed few, if any abortions were shuttered; abortionists retired, either appalled by or tired of the unending stream of abortion; a switch to chemical abortions which require less space and staff; or the consolidation of several small-time operations into one giant central abortion mega-clinic.
The latter is especially important. Planned Parenthood has opened up more than a dozen giant mega-centers in just the last five years. These huge facilities boast shiny new buildings with designer interiors, private parking and entrances, appealing to a wealthier clientele while still offering access to those arriving on public transportation.
It is no accident that recent data shows that Planned Parenthood has been increasing the number of abortions it performs while the overall number of abortions in America, thankfully, have been declining.
There are other things the abortion lobby has done to try to shore up the industry. The shift to chemical abortions enables the industry to expand into areas where there weren’t sufficient facilities or personnel to perform surgical abortions. This allows “underserved” populations to be still another revenue stream for Planned Parenthood.
This was taken to its extreme in Iowa, where the super Planned Parenthood of the Heartland affiliate instituted its webcam abortion system. This eliminates the presence of the abortionist altogether, instead relying on a computer hookup which allowed a pregnant woman in some remote location to electronically interact with an abortionist back in Des Moines. A review of some medical records, a couple of questions, and the abortionist merely clicks a button to release a drawer at her location containing the abortifacient pills. The woman is given a hotline number to call if she has problems.
This year the Iowa Board of Medicine threw up a stop sign to the practice because of its deviation from sound medical practice and the enormous potential for problems. Not surprisingly, the industry has taken the rule change to court. Other states are already employing or considering similar systems to expand the number of non-surgical abortions.
The industry is seeking to expand in other ways. The report on a pilot program by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) purported to show that non-physicians could perform first trimester surgical abortions just as well as non-physicians (though this was not what the data actually demonstrated). With this to hang its hat on, the California legislature passed a bill authorizing nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and others to perform such abortions.
It was not the only time that researchers for UCSF sought to influence abortion policy with a well timed study. A “Turnaway” study (discussed earlier this year in a multi-part series in NRL News Today) tried to paint a dire picture of the lives of women “denied” abortions. (They were denied because they showed up pregnant with unborn babies past the gestational limits clinics had established.) But in fact, when asked a year later, many of those women in the study were happy they did not abort.
A new UCSF study of the reasons women abort (using many of the same clients as the study above) broke little new ground. It showed once again that few women abort for what might be termed “health reasons.” A closer reading is that women abort not because they want to exercise their “right to choose,” but because they feel like they have little, or no, choice in the matter.
The UCSF team’s most recent article tried to cast doubt on the effectiveness of parental involvement statutes. Here the argument was that when they are told, mothers often push their daughters to abort. But there were significant limitations to the study, making it likely that this particular group of women was already more abortion minded than others
All these – the publicity campaigns, the legislative efforts, the building of new mega-clinics, the promotion of chemical abortion, the strategic studies to “recast” abortion – can easily be seen as dramatic efforts of a flailing industry desperate to rebrand its product. But no amount of publicity, no shiny buildings or new improved packaging, no study will change the reality of what abortion is, though – the deliberate and unnecessary destruction of innocent human life.
This is not the last card the abortion industry has to play, however. Groups like Planned Parenthood are banking on ObamaCare to funnel them whole new populations of customers, and they have committed heavily to promoting the program. More customers means more money and more money means more expansion and more people being exposed to Planned Parenthood’s products and propaganda. And that, ultimately, means more abortion.
This year, we’ve begun to see some of the fruits of our labors, and we can expect to see more positive results in the years to come. But we’ve also seen that the opposition won’t be going away anytime soon and that they’ll grasp at any and every opportunity to expand the killing business.
We’ve made progress, but there’s a long way still to go.