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Measuring Success -- October 2014

The ratio of abortions to live births has been falling in Southwestern PA, from a number higher than that of the rest of the State, to below it. Furthermore, the rate of decline in Southwestern PA is sharper.

Abortion ratios in SW PA compared to rest of State

Not only that, but raw birth numbers went up in 2011, and only declined slightly in 2012, while the ratio of abortions to live births continued to drop.

Abortion Ratios and Births, SW PA and the Rest of PA

In the rest of PA, in contrast, the birth numbers have fallen.

Abortion Ratios and Births

The greatest decline in abortion ratios is happening in Allegheny County.

Abortion Ratios in Allegheny County, Surrounding State, PA

While a number of factors are likley at work here, we are confident that our advertising is driving abortion numbers down in Southwestern PA.

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Winning the battle using pro-life advertising

From remarks by the Executive Director at the Fundraising Banquet, May 1, 2014, at the Allegheny Country Club

With abortion, the tide is turning. Everywhere we look, there are encouraging signs that abortion and abortionists are on the retreat and that pro-life activity and ways of thinking are gaining ground.

        From 2011 to 2013, state lawmakers passed an unprecedented 205 pro-life laws, which is a sign that a majority of people, closer to where the action is, wants to do something concrete to reduce abortions.

         Mississippi is close to becoming the first abortion-free state since 1973.

         The number of abortion facilities has declined from over 2,000 to under 700, and their profit margins have shrunk.

         Abortion numbers have been falling in almost all states by about 4 to 5 percent a year since 2008, and the abortion rate per 1,000 women is the lowest since 1973. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, however, says it’s not because of the new pro-life laws or a lack of access to abortion.[1]

         Polls show that close to half of the population describes themselves as “pro-life.”

         Young people who are going soft in their thinking on same-sex erotic relations are surprisingly becoming more pro-life.

         Fewer movies show abortion as a noble or necessary thing, and more of them show bringing the baby to birth as admirable.

         The rhetoric of the pro-abortion side is becoming increasingly unreal and hysterical.

         New and vigorous pro-life work has sprouted up everywhere: Live Action (Lila Rose), Students for Life, Operation Rescue, 40 Days for Life, and the new media ministries doing pro-life advertising: Virtue Media, Heroic Media and Online for Life, joining Vitae Caring Foundation.

         Pro-life pregnancy medical centers (the centers with sonogram or ultrasound machines) have proliferated across the country, like Pittsburgh’s Choices Pregnancy Services, Pregnancy Resource Center of the South Hills, and Women’s Choice Network.

We have good reason for hope, and with God’s help we can continue to drive the abortion numbers down.

It may be a surprise, but America has a fairly long history with abortion. Marvin Olasky in an article taken from his book, A Social History of Abortion in America (2009), points out that the abortion rate in America was much worse in 1860; if we had their rate, we would have 1.7 million abortions today, instead of just over a million a year ("Lessons from the Past: Pro-lifers in the 19th century overcame staggering abortion rates and saved lives; here's how they did it," in World Magazine, January 2009, http://www.worldmag.com/2009/01/lessons_from_the_past/page1).

The last half of the 19th century was very much like our last 40 years. Even the arguments on both sides were the same. There were differences, of course: the churches were more solidly “pro-life,” along with the New York Times. It is not true, as it is sometimes claimed, however, that the opposition to abortion was out of concern for the women’s health, and not for unborn children. In fact, it was both, as it is today. In the mid-1890s, the Times editor wrote: “The Evil of the Age . . . The enormous amount of medical malpractice [a euphemism for abortion] that exists and flourishes, almost unchecked, in the city of New York, is a theme for most serious consideration. Thousands of human beings are thus murdered before they have seen the light of this world” [reference]). Regret for abortions was also common, as in our day. Nineteenth-century feminist Elizabeth Evans described the effects of abortions on women who had them a decade or two before. “One woman, she reported, was ‘wild with regret at my folly in rejecting the (alas! only once-proffered) gift of offspring.’ Another woman described how her ‘thoughts were filled with imaginings as to what might have been the worth of that child’s individuality; and especially, after sufficient time had elapsed to have brought him to maturity, did I busy myself with picturing the responsible posts he might have filled’” (reference). From the 1860s to the 1910s, pro-life people drove the number of abortions down remarkably, where they stayed until the 1960s.

How did they do it? Well, it wasn’t by changing the laws alone. Passing anti-abortion legislation was important, as it drove abortionists underground; they could not practice openly, and were forced to advertize euphemistically or, for example, put their business cards under the doors of rooms in boarding houses. Changes in the law also had an educational effect: for those whose morality came from the laws, abortion became something one shouldn’t do. Oftentimes, however, even with changed laws, abortionists were not prosecuted and the law was ignored.

What worked? Olasky writes,

Overall, as pro-lifers compassionately aided women at risk, the abortion rate declined dramatically from 1860 to 1910 and stayed relatively low until the cultural revolution of the 1960s sent the numbers soaring again. Pro-life leaders during the 1860–1960 century of decrease understood that there never would be “total abolition of the practice.” Realizing that this is a fallen world, they appreciated the educational impact of anti-abortion laws but did not expect much in the way of enforcement: Instead, they concentrated on ways to provide women with compassionate alternatives to abortion. They were not laid low by a sense of failure when, despite their efforts, many unborn children died. They rejoiced that so many were saved (reference).

Helping women, it turned out, was the most effective way to reduce abortion numbers. The most obvious compassionate work of the churches and Christians was the creation of unwed mothers’ homes. For example, in New York City, unmarried pregnant women had at least 20 options for lodging, help, and training, including the Magdalene Benevolence Society, the House of Mercy, and the House of the Good Shepherd (with room for 1,042 women). “By 1895 Chicago had a dozen, including the Life and Hope Mission, the Rescue Mission, Beulah House, the Jewish Home for Girls, and Boynton Refuge Home. One refuge, the Home for the Friendless, cared for 1,291 women in 1893” (reference).

Think about the social presence of these homes – how visible they were in the community, physically and socially; a thousand women residing in one institution. (If you have seen the movie Philomena, you might think that such homes were filled with cruelty and heartlessness, but it is likely that many more, probably the vast majority, were run by dedicated and loving staff.) I bet that everybody within twenty blocks of such an institution knew it was there; and that many would have made use of their services, or would have had friends or relatives who did. These homes had such tremendous social presence.

Pregnancy medical centers are the unwed mothers’ homes of today. The care is non-judgmental, warm and honest. Women are free to make up their own minds. They can find the practical support they need, and the morale-boosting that everybody needs at a time of crisis. Nobody can criticize the pregnancy medical centers: no fair-minded person, even someone who doesn’t know what she thinks about abortion, can be opposed to a woman knowing about her unborn child when she is considering abortion.[2] The pregnancy medical centers, with their sonogram machines, gives a woman a chance to recognize that this child she carries is “bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh.”

The pregnancy medical center buildings, however, do not have the physical and social presence or prominence, that the unwed mothers’ homes used to have. They are offices in office buildings, not residences housing hundreds of women. People down the block may have no idea that they are there. When people think about abortion, they usually think of Planned Parenthood, which has centers very similar to pregnancy medical centers in size. Yet Planned Parenthood has a social prominence out of all proportion to its institutional footprint. A big part of that has been its public relations campaigns, partnerships, information distribution networks, and advertizing. We need to do the same thing for the pregnancy medical centers.

Advertising is a first step in enlarging the social presence of the pregnancy medical centers. I believe it is key to this fight today. When women think about abortion, we want them to think about the pregnancy medical centers first. How can we do this?  We need to get our advertising out in front of abortion-vulnerable women and their peers.

Vision for Life, a 501(c)(3) charity, started in 2010 with three Board members and an Executive Director: Marie Vaina, Jeff Steigerwalt, Natalie Cerino-Kovacic and Chris Humphrey. All involved are volunteers. Since then we have raised over $200,000 to commission national pro-life media ministries like Heroic Media and OnlineforLife to run ad campaigns in the Pittsburgh area. So an abortion-vulnerable or abortion-determined woman searches for “abortion Pittsburgh” on the Internet; our paid search results appear at the top of the list. She clicks on the result and goes to a dedicated Web page. She calls the number she finds there and connects with one of the Pittsburgh pro-life medical centers. She may discuss her situation and decide that she would like to have a sonogram to establish how far along she is. (Abortionists will sometimes do sonograms for the same purpose. They will even delay an abortion for a couple of weeks, as they want to make sure that they “get everything” when they perform the abortion.) When she comes in to the center, she has the option of having sonogram. When she sees her child on the screen, and even her child’s beating heart, in most cases she will choose life.

Last year (2013), our search results or Internet ads showed up on computer screens around Pittsburgh over a million times. We increased calls from abortion-determined women by 40% over the year before at one group of centers. Depending on finances, we also run TV ads. TV ads reach a wider audience than those who are actively searching for abortion; friends, young women who may become pregnant later, parents, boyfriends. You can view a sample here.

Besides the woman thinking about abortion or “shopping” for one, we have two other audiences: the general public, and women who have had abortions. A pro-abortion study found that 1 in 33 women who had abortions said one week later that it was the wrong decision. Two years later, another study found it was more than 1 in 4. TV is great for reaching these other audiences; as the name implies, TV broadcasts your message. With enough money, we can run TV ads.

We are expanding our work with the Alpha-Omega Centers in Slippery Rock and New Castle. There are about 10 colleges and universities within the catchment area for Alpha-Omega, and New Castle has an at-risk population like the inner city. Women from these areas have been coming down to Pittsburgh for abortions. Alpha-Omega reports that 70% of the women who call make and keep their appointments, which is outstanding. We are beginning in July a six-month trial run: $500 a month of Internet advertising, or $3,000 in total.

In this conflict, we who are engaged in pro-life advocacy and advertising have some handicaps. Abortion is a grim subject; most people don’t want to think about it. (I don’t like to think about it.) Also, we have to love our enemies, people who, filled with anger, will call us names and impute false motivations and untrue positions to us. Furthermore, unlike them, we can’t lie; we answer not just to other people, but to God, so we have to tell the truth to the best of our ability. Finally, the powers-that-be favor the other side with lots of money and social support.

But we have the truth and the right on our side. People can only repress the truth for so long. Our conflict is not with them, finally, but with the “spiritual forces of wickedness in high places,” as St. Paul says. And God is with us.

What can you do? Pray for us; pray for the people at the centers; pray for the women who see the search results and ads. And donate to our advertising work. As little as $17 of Internet advertising can generate one call to a pregnancy medical center.

Chris Humphrey, Ph.D.
Executive Director

[1] “Even the authors of the study, Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman, admitted that abortion rates are falling in almost all states, but they denied that the decline resulted from ‘new state abortion restrictions’ or from the ‘drop in the number of abortion providers during this period’” (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/3/zurita-abortion-on-the-wane/#ixzz2xwfczVmf)


[2] Attempts by some organizations and municipal governments to discredit pregnancy medical centers proceed from a pro-abortion ideology blind to the way these centers operate, the motivation of those involved, and so forth. These attempts also show, by implication, how effective these centers are.

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