Pennsylvania's abortion numbers have been going down for years, and that's encouraging: fewer women doing harm to themselves (at least morally and spiritually) and fewer unborn children killed. The news is even better, however. PA started to record repeat abortions in 2008: the number of previous abortions a woman had when we she went for the current one: none, 1, 2, 3, and 4 or more. The results are below.
Note that first abortion numbers are going down faster than repeat abortion numbers. The reduction of first abortions from 2008 to 2016 was 23%; the reduction for repeat abortions was less than 18%. What does that mean? If it continues, it's the death spiral for the abortion business: as the number of women having their first abortion declines, the pool of those who might have their second, third, fourth, and so on, will get smaller still. If it were any other big business, they would see the handwriting on the wall. Fewer women are trusting that abortion is going to solve their problems, and there's no reason to think the trend will stop.
(Incidentally, it's not contraceptives that is reducing abortion demand; see my previous blog post on the possible explanations.)
Want to "stop abortion"?
Here’s an example. The text above the photo reads, “Pregnancy testing, ultrasound, STD testing -- all free. Get the help you need. Caring, confidential. There’s a center near you. Call today! Share for your friends.” Neighborhoods and phone numbers follow. Unique phone numbers through Heroic Media let us track call totals. This ad cost us $350. The ad appeared on 15,773 screens; 496 people clicked on the photo; 104 liked the ad; 28 liked the page; 2 made comments; 13 shared the ad post; and 8 made calls to a pregnancy medical center.
For each month in 2015, on average we spent $321 on “Pittsburgh Choices” ads, reached 28,948 screens at least 3 times in the month, and got 209 post “likes,” 16 “shares,” 46 page “likes, and 12 phone calls to pregnancy medical centers. The cost per call was $26. In the two years following, the costs of Facebook advertising went up, and the cost-per-call as well.
- Amount spent: White model – $298; Black model – $313
- “Actions”: White model – 622; Black model – 795 a month
- Post “likes”: White model – 138; Black model – 201
- Post “shares”: White model – 10; Black model – 18
- Page “likes”: White model – 32; Black model – 47
- Phone calls: White model – 6.8; Black model – 9.9
We moved from boosting posts to doing advertising through Facebook’s ad portal (“Manage Ads”). We began doing “carousel” ads on Facebook (several photos in sequence, which let us tell a story, for example, about going to a center, and getting the information and help needed), and eventually shifted to video.
We also changed our slogan to “Friends tell friends.” The ads are directed not to the woman facing an unintended pregnancy, but to her friends. About 40% of center clients are referred by friends. Facebook is a great venue for digitizing those referrals. Of course, women who have unintended pregnancies will see the ads, as will women who have had abortions. The implied audience, however, is invited to help other anxious women, something that most people are happy to do. Low-key, gentle, woman-centered, positive ads work.
There is currently a campaign by pro-choice activists to label pregnancy help centers “fake clinics.” Most women will not have heard of it, or of the “exposefakeclinics” website. While we can ignore the attacks and the false claims, it doesn’t hurt to encourage women to trust the centers by having the medical director appear in an ad (either a photo or a video). For this reason we ran an ad on Facebook in April 2018 for Choices Pregnancy Services featuring Dr. Rocco Adams, the Medical Director (https://youtu.be/3JaJAKzO-qI).
In 2016–17 we expanded the work that Women’s Choice Network had begun with the advertising agency Ad America. Brad Mandel of Ad America does “local search” optimization, or “Google Places” optimization, a comprehensive management of centers’ web presence so that the centers shows up when women search on Google for abortion in their area.
The success of advertising in Pittsburgh has been demonstrated by repeated campaigns of harassment and deception by pro-choice activists over the past couple of years. In the most recent campaign, in March and April of 2018, activists have been phoning Women’s Choice Network to ask to speak to the doctor (who is not on site, and has no reason to be), and have given many one-star reviews on Google Places (without having visited the centers), claiming that they are not “full-service women’s health centers” because they don’t perform abortions. The extent of this opposition reflects their realization that they are losing the public relations battle: people think pregnancy help is a good thing, and more and more women are choosing life.
Recommendations for those in pregnancy help centers
If possible, create a separate organization to advertise for your center, an organization with its own fundraising and budget. No matter what goes on with your expenses and fundraising, you want the advertising to continue, but it will be hard for your Board not to cut advertising if there’s any kind of financial squeeze. I’m convinced that, if your numbers go up, your supporters will rise to the challenge, if you present it clearly. People like helping women in need.
Ideally, find someone willing to lead this new group, and someone with church connections outside of the ones your organization has. You want to reach new donors. E.g., if your center is supported mostly by evangelicals, seek out Roman Catholic (or Orthodox) who are prominent in their pro-life commitments. You want people who don’t want just to make a statement, but to make a difference. They’re not always the same people. Let them create a new 501(c)(3), and collaborate with them on your advertising. Again, I’m happy to advise.
Whether you do your own advertising, or a separate groups does it, find ways to measure your results. We use state statistics on abortion and births. Use your center’s statistics, too. Donors and everyone else will be encouraged if you can show you are making a difference. Be transparent, even if you don’t see success.
We need to fear not failure, because you can always learn from failure, but the lack of initiative, the fear of failure. There are always nay-sayers who can see why something won’t work. Try things out over several months, and follow results closely. This is a long, slow battle.
Contact information and an ad resource
- Chris Humphrey – firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-418-6349
2. Joerg Dreweke, “New Clarity for the U.S. Abortion Debate: A Steep Drop in Unintended Pregnancy Is Driving Recent Abortion Declines,” Guttmacher Policy Review, Guttmacher Institute. Available online March 18, 2018, www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2016/03/new-clarity-us-abortion-debate-steep-drop-unintended-pregnancy-driving-recent-abortion, accessed April 17, 2018.
3. For a close examination of the question of the effect of contraception on unintended pregnancy and abortion rates, see the fact sheet, “Greater Access to Contraception Does Not Reduce Abortions,” on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/contraception/fact-sheets/greater-access-to-contraception-does-not-reduce-abortions.cfm, accessed May 21, 2018.
4. From Table 1 in William D. Mosher, Ph.D.; Jo Jones, Ph.D.; and Joyce C. Abma, Ph.D., “Intended and Unintended Births in the United States: 1982–2010,” National Health Statistics Reports, 55, July 24, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr055.pdf, accessed March 2018.
5. Joerg Dreweke, op. cit.
6. “The likelihood of failure for any method use declined from 14.9% to 10.3% during this period [from 1995 to 2006–2010]” (Guttmacher Institute, “Failure Rates for the Most Common Contraceptive Methods Have Improved,” February 24, 2017, www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2017/failure-rates-most-common-contraceptive-methods-have-improved, accessed April 18, 2018).
7. The abortion ratios declined from 23.4 per 100 births to 21.0 (CDC), or from 28.5 to 26.8 (Guttmacher/CDC, author’s calculation – see footnote 1, above), from 2008 to 2012.
8. William D. Mosher, Ph.D., and Jo Jones, Ph.D., “Use of Contraception in the United States: 1982–2008,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_029.pdf, p. 15.
9. Jo Jones, Ph.D.; William Mosher, Ph.D.; and Kimberly Daniels, Ph.D., “Current Contraceptive Use in the United States, 2006–2010, and Changes in Patterns of Use Since 1995,” National Health Statistics Reports, No. 60, October 18, 2012, www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr060.pdf, p. 11. A more recent, short-term study found that “the rate of unintended pregnancy among women and girls 15 to 44 years of age declined by 18%, from 54 per 1000 in 2008 to 45 per 1000 in 2011,” and that “the percentage of unintended pregnancies that ended in abortion remained stable during the period studied (40% in 2008 and 42% in 2011)” (Lawrence B. Finer, Ph.D., and Mia R. Zolna, M.P.H., “Declines in Unintended Pregnancy in the United States, 2008–2011,” New England Journal of Medicine, March 3, 2016, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1506575, accessed April 18, 2018). Even if their assessment is correct, and that is debatable, the time-frame is very short; abortion ratios were declining for decades before this period.
10. The annual numbers of openings of new pregnancy help centers were provided to the author by Jor-El Godsey, President of Heartbeat International, in March of 2018. The figures were aggregated in 2014. The author is responsible for the chart above. The graph does not indicate the number of centers in existence, as some proportion, perhaps 1 in 20, may have closed each year. The growth is impressive, in any case.
11. “Attitudes About Abortion,” compiled by Karlyn Bowman and Heather Sims, AEI Public Opinion Studies, January 2017, www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/ABORTION.pdf, accessed April 19, 2018.
12. Ibid., p. 3.
13. Charlotte Lozier Institute, May 23, 2018, https://lozierinstitute.org/how-the-legal-status-of-abortion-impacts-abortion-rates/, accessed June 12, 2018.
14. “Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era,” State Politics and Policy Quarterly, 2011, 11(1), p. 37, http://www.lifetechconference.org/slides/2012/New_2012_Handout_2.pdf, accessed June 12, 2018.
15. “Using Natural Experiments to Analyze the Impact of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion,” Catholic Social Science Review, 2009, 14: pp. 339–362, https://www.heritage.org/marriage-and-family/report/using-natural-experiments-analyze-the-impact-state-legislation-the; accessed June 12, 2018.
17. Using figures from the CDC Abortion Surveillance reports for those years.
18. New, “Using Natural Experiments to Analyze the Impact of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion."
19. Jones and Jerman, op. cit. The qualifier, “no strong evidence,” invites the query, “How strong is the evidence?”
20. See the chart from the Guttmacher Institute, in the text below, for the years 2011 to 2014.
21. Brenda Zurita, “Abortion on the wane: Pro-life laws, abstinence education making a difference,” Washington Times, February 3, 2014, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/3/zurita-abortion-on-the-wane, accessed April 17, 2018.
22. Jones and Jerman, op. cit., p. 17.
23. Ibid., pp. 22–23.
25. Jones and Jerman, op. cit., pp. 24.
26. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
27. Charlotte Lozier Institute, 2014.
Later this month (April 2018) I hope to do a video with a Medical Director from Women's Choice, not to address the false and malicious claims of the pro-abortion crowd, but just to reassure women that they get trustworthy information on pregnancy and abortion, from people who want to help them. Dr. Rocco Adams, whom I have known personally for years, is the Medical Director for Choices Pregnancy Services, in Coraopolis (but with mobile units travelling throughout our area). He speaks to women in this month's Facebook ad, assuring them that they and their friends can trust the people at Choices.
As you may know, Planned Parenthood is now pushing the argument that their contraceptive work has actually reduced unintended pregnancies in the very short term (2008-2011, and onward), and so has reduced the number of abortions. (They may offer rewards to employees who generate more abortions, but they know what sells in the political sphere.)
To make their case, they have to run down what many fine people -- like those at #ChoicesPregnancyServices and #WomensChoiceNetwork -- are doing in the pregnancy help centers. So, one Guttmacher piece says, "Antiabortion activists routinely fail to acknowledge that abortion declines can result from fewer unintended pregnancies, and instead pretend that any decline in the number of abortions is the result of women opting, or being compelled, to give birth rather than have an abortion. These activists often seize on declines in the abortion ratio—the proportion of all pregnancies ending in abortion—to showcase the supposed impact of their efforts."
The problem for Planned Parenthood is that the decline in abortion ratios is long-term, and can't be explained by changes in contraceptive media or rates of contraceptive usage. The conclusion of the most recent annual report on abortion from the CDC does not put much stock in the notion that Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives -- LARCs -- can be credited with the recent decline in abortion ratios. A big increase in the use of the relatively effective LARCs, if there were one, might make PP's case statistically for the recent past -- but the increase would be short-term, while the decline in abortion ratios precedes it by decades.
While, for example, “between 2002 and 2006–2008, the percentage of women who had ever used emergency contraception rose from 4% to 10% (5.2 million)" and "the percentage who had ever used the contraceptive patch rose from 1% to 10% (5.3 million),” (1) “changes in contraceptive method choice and use have not decreased the overall proportion of pregnancies that are unintended between 1995 and 2008 . . ." (2). If unintended pregnancies remained more or less stable, while the ratios of abortions to live births went down, then more women whose pregnancies were unintended must have been choosing life.
Through it all, the ratios went down. Here's the updated graph showing the long-term and short-term pictures.
First, the good news. Here's a chart that shows that the annual numbers of abortions in PA are falling. We thank God! Further, the ratios of abortions to live births continues to fall. What does this mean? The proportion of pregnancies that are "intended" (or, perhaps, welcomed, would be the better adjective) is relatively stable, we are told. Women who abort come almost entirely from the "unintended" category. If the proportion of women who have unintended pregnancies has not changed significantly over the years, then more women with unintended pregnancies are choosing life.
What about Pittsburgh and Allegheny County? Here we see that abortion numbers, having dropped from 2008 to 2013, seem to have hit a "floor."
On the other hand, in 2017 we employed Ad America to improve how Women's Choice Network and Choices Pregnancy Services appeared in Google search results for queries like "abortion pill." This was wildly successful: Women's Choice Network in particular saw numbers increase 45 percent, and had to appeal for more support (successfully, I might add). We will keep doing what we can to put Choices and Women's Choice Network in front of women considering abortion. We will wait with anticipation to see if this work will have had an effect on 2017's numbers.
If abortion ratios are only staying low in Allegheny County, birth numbers are not declining significantly, which may not the case in Philadelphia. (Philly is so big, and the swing of its numbers, up and down, so dramatic, that it's hard to know if one is seeing a trend or statistical "noise.")
In any case, "the fields are white unto harvest" outside of Allegheny County, too. We have begun advertising work with Alpha-Omega in Slippery Rock and New Castle. There are many schools and colleges in their area, and we look forward to seeing the results. There are other centers outside Pittsburgh, too, that are similarly situated. We look forward to breaking new ground, and, with God's help, reducing abortion numbers and ratios in Southwestern PA in the year ahead.
Chris Humphrey, Executive Director
Vision for Life - Pittsburgh
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I jumped in the Monongahela River on January 1st to raise funds for Vision for Life - Pittsburgh. Check it out!
Ads for Choices Pregnancy Services and Women's Choice Network running on Facebook
Personally, as a photographer, I much prefer the still image, but as an advertiser, I see the value in video. It's also a lot of fun getting a team together and going out and shooting. The work afterwards in post-processing takes a lot of time -- more than one expects. Telling a story, however, is an enjoyable, creative challenge. Here's a sample, the version for Women's Choice Network.
We have enough raw footage for another two months, and it takes about a week to prepare one 45-second video. The ads are directed to the friends of abortion-vulnerable women in Allegheny County and parts of Beaver County, reasoning that increasing knowledge of the existence of the centers among the 18-28 demographic increases the likelihood that women will tell their friends that the centers exist, if and when they learn of friends' pregnancies. And of course pregnant women thinking about abortion will see it, too.
The ads went up on Monday, December 4, and have been seen by about 4,900 women. 77 of them have clicked on the links to the center's websites, and 95 have watched at least half the video. This is a pretty response, I think, for the two days the ads have been up. We'll see at the end of the month what the totals are.
We are told that it's poor women. In Fact, the most at-risk group are The wealthiest, and then those at 200-300% of the Federal Poverty levels.
Of those not trying to become pregnant, the wealthy conceived less frequently, but if they conceived, they aborted much more frequently.
What do we make of this? For one thing, the number of the poorest women who conceived unintentionally was higher than those who had more income: 9% of all women who were not trying to have a child, compared to the 3% of all women who were at 400% of the FPL.
What is truly surprising is the group in the middle: those who had income at 200 to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. They were 6% of those who got pregnant (and had not intended to), so they were right between the poorest and the richest, so no surprise there. However, they had 16% of the abortions. Again, this would be no surprise, except that the next group, those at 300 to 400% of the FPL, only had 8% of the abortions. Of this latter group, 82% carried to term -- a higher percentage than any other group. Of the 200-to-300% group, however, only 46% carried to term.
Of those at 300 to 400% of the FPL, 82% carried to term -- a higher percentage than any other group.
What does this tell us? For one thing, generally speaking, it is not poverty that leads women to abort. The group that resorts to abortion is not poor. So any sentimentality about grinding poverty is off-base, and any attempt to "solve" the problem of abortion by throwing money at it is not going to help.
We don't know how many from this group are coming to pregnancy help centers. If they are, then staff at these centers have their work cut out for them. The commonest problem may be one of morale. Those in this group will not starve if another child is born, but they may have to make sacrifices that they find overwhelming. Their work and family arrangements may have to change in ways that they find drastic. (We know that about 60% of abortion patients have one child or more already.) They may feel that they will be falling behind financially with another child. Issues of morale are best addressed by the truths of faith: staff at the centers can remind these women that God cares for them, for their families, for their situations. It is true, and it may be crucial.
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7).
God knows our future, and He has it in His hands. Our material situation may change, but the gift of another child, understood properly, is so much more significant to our lives than any material or social challenge we may face.
The numbers began to drop last Spring, however, and I was looking at possible reasons why. The most obvious reason was that every young woman on Facebook had seen the ads -- "Don't choose alone" -- and the campaign was simply tired, faded. I read that videos and combined video/slideshow posts were actually much more successful in reaching and engaging viewers, so we have tried our hand at it. When I say "we," I mean a team of volunteers -- Carley Adams, Cassandra Adams, David Adams, David Bodin, Emily Bonessi, Katie Breckenridge, and myself. We have produced two videos. You can see the first video on YouTube.
We know that many women feel coerced or forced into abortion -- that they "have no choice." Ironically, it is Planned Parenthood and other abortion industry members that do their best to narrow choices down to abortion: they make money that way, and, no doubt for some counselors/sales people, it is part of justifying their own abortions, or their complicity in the killing. It is the pregnancy medical centers that truthfully describe all the options: raising a child oneself, placing a child for adoption, or aborting the child. Many women feel that they can't manage their situations with another child; often, it is not a matter of serious hardship, but of morale -- everyone around her is telling her to "get rid of it." A woman can be surprised to find out, for example, that she can continue to go to school and have a baby. "Coercion" can be subtle or unmistakable: the leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder. A woman's psychological state in a time of crisis is also a big factor in the question of coercion.
"Experts on crisis counseling have found that those who are in a state of crisis are increasingly vulnerable to outside influences and have less trust in their own opinions and abilities to make the right decision. Such 'heightened psychological accessibility'can lead to a situation where parents, counselors, or others in authority can have enormous influence over a woman’s decision. 'A relatively minor force, acting for a relatively short time, can switch the whole balance from one side or to the other—to the side of mental health or to the side of ill health.' Persons in crisis 'are less in touch with reality . . . and more vulnerable to change than they are in non-crisis periods.' They often experience feelings of tiredness, lethargy, hopelessness, inadequacy, confusion, anxiety, and disorganization. Thus, they are more likely to stand back and let other people make their decisions for them, instead of protecting themselves from decisions that may not be in their best interests.
"A person who is upset and trapped in a crisis wants to reestablish stability, and is therefore very susceptible to any influence from others who claim to be able to solve the crisis, especially those who have status or authority. Thus, with a minimal effort on the part of a mental health professional, family member, minister, or male partner, an enormous amount of leverage may be exerted upon a woman who is in a crisis situation. This can be a dangerous situation for a woman who doesn’t really want an abortion but has others around her who push for it.
. . .
"What women experience as 'pressure' to abort may involve indirect but significant pressure such as withholding love, approval and personal or practical support from the woman unless she agrees to an abortion. Or it may be overt, as in abuse or an outright threat to abandon or expel the woman from her home if she does not abort her child. In many cases, the pressure is applied intentionally by others. In other cases, the “pressure” is not intended, but simply perceived by the woman. For instance, if her boyfriend exhibits an unenthusiastic response to the news that she is pregnant, she may see this as his way of telling her that he will not help to support her or their child."
The videos we have made may resonate with a well-to-do, educated audience. This is not the group who are having most of the abortions: abortion patients are more often poor, and disproportionately black. They are more likely to feel explicitly pressured to have an abortion. We will be looking to see if we can't produce materials that appeal to this audience as well. It will be a challenge to find the right actors, and the right scripts, and to keep the material upbeat enough that it will encourage women to call the pregnancy medical centers, and get past the Facebook censors (who really just care that people enjoy Facebook). Pray for our success, please.
Chris Humphrey has been involved in pro-life activity of one kind or another since the late 1970s, when he first looked at the subject of abortion in seminary in Canada. He has an undergraduate degree in English (University of Toronto), and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in religious studies (McGill). He has had a varied career as a pastor, chaplain in a psychiatric hospital, editor of academic and instructional publications, semi-professional photographer, and home renovator. He is a husband of over 40 years to Edith (a Professor of New Testament), father to three girls, and grandfather to fourteen grandchildren. He lives and works in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh.