No, it's not contraception or state restrictions
Those who promote abortion would have you believe that it is state restrictions that have reduced the number of abortion facilities, and in other ways make it hard for women to get abortions -- "lack of access," in their terminology.
A look at the abortion numbers in Pennsylvania over the years, and the timing of the increase in the number of pregnancy help centers, refutes this. It is clear that, as pregnancy help centers increased, abortion numbers went down. Nothing else explains the drop. There was no sudden increase in the use of contraceptives, or of the most effective "long-acting, reversible contraceptives" (LARC). Women's opinions on abortion didn't change. The number of abortion centers didn't suddenly decrease in those first eight years, when abortion numbers began to fall sharply. And state restrictions, which were finally implemented in May 1994, may have had a statistically significant effect in the first year or two, but it would have been a one-time effect on the numbers. The decline preceded that, and continued years after.
This confirms what we find when we look at the national numbers: as pregnancy help increased, abortion numbers fell, and nothing else explained it. (See my article.)
What's the practical significance of this? If we apportion our pro-life dollars according to effectiveness, we should be giving a large share to pregnancy help. And as Vision for Life demonstrates, we should putting a good part of that money towards advertising: it costs less to increase the "reach" of a center into its community by advertising, than by creating a new center in a community already served by one.
You can see our video, which makes the case for Pennsylvania, here.
One young woman's take on our ad
“This is awful.” So wrote a young woman who saw our ad for AlphaCare or The Hope Pregnancy Center in Philadelphia. The ad itself is one of our most daring, in terms of social media censorship, and, frankly, I was surprised that it was accepted by Facebook/Instagram for the four centers we advertise.
A young model asks a female photographer if she should have an abortion, and the photographer tells her that she herself had had an abortion, and that it was the worst decision of her life. You can see the ad here.
Why was the ad “awful”? Because it systematically refuted the claims of those on the pro-abortion side. At first, our photographer (actress Katie Breckenridge, whom we’ll call “Joan”) says she seemed fine, but then she began to have nightmares. This is in fact what some who have had abortions say: they have had horrible dreams afterwards, among other consequences.
How large is this number? We don’t know. The “Turnaway Study,” on which claims are made that the vast majority of women don’t regret their abortion, is flawed from the start by selection bias: 72% of women who had an abortion would not participate. The 38% who participated in the beginning were the least likely to have regrets. The fall-off of participants over the years was high, too, which leaves unanswered the question of long-term consequences. Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac fame, wrote not too long ago about her abortion, saying that if she hadn't had it, she would have been kept back from accomplishing all she did. She even named her deceased child, "Sara," and wrote a song about her. One wonders if there isn't some doubt in her mind that lead her to justify her abortion publicly.
There’s nothing new here. Marvin Olasky’s Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America presents many stories from women who regretted their abortions in the late-19th Century. An abortionist in New York said that about 10% of her clients have so adverse an immediate emotional/psychological reaction that she offers them mental health help. We know that about a third of abortion patients say they have feelings of regret or sadness a week after the abortion, along with feelings of happiness and relief. Relief fades. Regret? Not so much.
For those who like the science, here are the results of a 2010 Canadian study that looked at the mental health consequences of abortion (Can J Psychiatry. 2010;55(4):239–247):
"After adjusting for sociodemographics, abortion was associated with an increased likelihood of several mental disorders — mood disorders (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] ranging from 1.75 to 1.91), anxiety disorders (AOR ranging from 1.87 to 1.91), substance use disorders (AOR ranging from 3.14 to 4.99), as well as suicidal ideation and suicide attempts (AOR ranging from 1.97 to 2.18). Adjusting for violence weakened some of these associations. For all disorders examined, less than one-half of women reported that their mental disorder had begun after the first abortion. Population attributable fractions ranged from 5.8% (suicidal ideation) to 24.7% (drug abuse)."
A Swedish study published in 1996, looking at the medical history of suicide victims, found that “the suicide rate after an abortion was three times the general suicide rate and six times that associated with birth.”
You can read the stories of regret from women who aborted there children here.
So “Joan” is completely believable. I based her responses to her young friend on what I have read of post-abortion trauma. So Joan also says that she got irrationally angry when she saw moms with kids.
What is Joan’s advice? Talk to people, and not just those who “want to make money off of you” – Planned Parenthood and the like. Talk to “Matthias,” the girl’s boyfriend/husband. We know that involving the partner in the discussion will help a woman make a decision she won’t regret. The girl says that “Matthias” would probably want her to keep the baby. Joan says that this is good: for most guys, she says, “whatever you decide,” is enough. In fact, women need to know that they’re not alone, that the partner will step up, will offer not just neutrality, but support, no matter what. Men (and boys) need to be men, no matter the current social climate.
Taking up the idea of a recent college fad, Joan says, “You need a safe space.” “Where’s this?” she is asked. It’s a pregnancy medical center, she responds, and then lists all the services. “There’s no judgment and there’s no pressure.”
So what’s so “awful” about all this? It is the realism. Our ads are deliberately realistic and honest. Having a baby when you’re alone, or under pressure from your partner or your financial situation is hard, and our ads admit this. Planned Parenthood’s ads show happy, confident, self-assured young women. That’s the show; that’s how women want to see themselves. They also advertise and get something like 500,000 search results a month from women searching for “depression and pregnancy.” That’s the reality. We do ads that tell the truth, with no easy falsehoods. The truth is, doing the right thing may not be easy, but it is the right thing. Pregnancy medical centers help women learn the truth, and get the help they need to do what is right.
I looked up the Facebook page of the young woman who called our ad “awful.” I wasn’t surprised by what I saw.
One of the great things about what we do is that our adversaries can't complain that we're denying women a choice. That's why I occasionally suggest to anyone who will listen that we can appeal to "pro-choice" people on that ground: we help women to feel free to do what they really want. Not all women make the choice we would like, of course: about 15-20% leave the pregnancy medical center without saying that they will carry their babies to term. (That, too, is reality -- unfortunately.)
This young woman was "woke" beyond measure, it appeared. Her comment doesn't trouble me. My hope is that she will grow up, and that she will see how foolish it is to deny reality, to promote abortion as a solution. It may take time for minds like hers to change, but we have time: we are playing a long game. We want these young women and men to remember us, if and when they truly wake up, as the truth-tellers, the people who didn't lie to them to make them feel good.
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 seventeen grandchildren. He lives and works in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh.