Will Abortion Numbers Never Stop Falling?
What is the future of abortion in the U.S.? The good news is that abortion numbers are continuing downwards, and so far they have not leveled out. About half of the abortions in Pennsylvania are “repeat” abortions; these are women who have had at least one abortion before. First-time abortions, however, have been falling faster than repeat abortions, which means that the abortion business is in a death-spiral: fewer first-time abortions means even fewer repeat abortions in the years ahead. There’s still much to be done in Pittsburgh, however: there were 6,140 abortions performed in Allegheny County in 2017, and 3,120 County residents had abortions.
More Reliance on Chemical Abortion
What will abortion look like in the years ahead? It seems that chemical abortion (so-called “medical” abortion) will replace most early abortions (up to 70 days after the last menstrual period). These are already almost 40 percent of abortions in Pennsylvania, and over 60 percent in Pittsburgh. There’s no sign that the proportions won’t increase. In a chemical abortion, a woman goes to the abortion center and is given a pill (mifepristone, RU486), which robs her unborn child of progesterone over the following few days. The removal of progesterone breaks down the connection between the placenta and the uterus, and the child dies. Forty-eight hours after the mifepristone pill, at home, she takes a second pill, misoprostol, which causes her to go into labor and deliver the amniotic sac and the dead child. Even Planned Parenthood admits that the process is painful. Oftentimes the woman is alone when she expels “the products of conception.”
The next stage, already being promoted by some, is what they call “self-managed” abortion: that is, the woman gets the abortion pill not at the abortion center, but by other means, perhaps by mail through a purchase on the Internet. (We subsidize advertising for Alpha-Omega Centers in Slippery Rock and New Castle, and the Executive Director, Sarah Bowen, has a great website for anyone thinking about an at-home abortion.) How will “self-managed” abortions fit in with changes to the laws? If we look ahead and see the fall of Roe v. Wade, we will then see most of the middle of the country and most of the South pass state laws that largely outlaw abortion, including abortion pills. The Northeast and the West Coast and some others (Illinois, for example) will keep abortion legal, and the fight to protect the unborn legally will become a state-to-state fight.
Abortion pill suppliers, however, will still be able to mail their product anywhere in the U.S. from other states or from outside the U.S. Even if advertising the pills becomes difficult, and the abortion “supply chain” complicated, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to restrict the suppliers. Some women will not get abortions in states where the law is changed simply because it’s illegal, but many will. The current Governor of California has signed a bill mandating free access to abortion pills for students of public universities, which will go into effect in 2023. Pro-abortion states like New York will probably subsidize the cost of the pills for their residents, and for anyone else who comes looking for an abortion.
What this means in practice is that reaching pregnant women on the “demand” side of the equation will become even more important. We know that abortion can be hard on women emotionally, psychologically and spiritually: regret is common. (For a summary examination of the effects of abortion on mental health and the controversy about them, see David Reardon’s piece, “The abortion and mental health controversy: A comprehensive literature review of common ground agreements, disagreements, actionable recommendations, and research opportunities.”) This regret is instantaneous with some women who have taken the first pill: there are stories of women trying to force themselves to vomit up the pill, even in the car after leaving the abortion center. This points to the deep ambivalence many women have towards abortion, so that, a week after their abortions in one study, the vast majority could say that they were “happy” and “relieved,” while a third of the women (which must have included women who were “happy”) said that they had “feelings of regret.” That’s one week later.
What if someone invented a pill that a regretful woman could take, a pill that could reverse the mifepristone? Well, they have. In fact, it is simply progesterone, which doctors currently give women who are at risk of miscarrying. The progesterone reverses the effect of mifepristone, and in about 66 percent of the cases so far, the women deliver their babies, all perfectly healthy. (About 900 children have been born through abortion pill reversal.) Heartbeat International, an international network of pregnancy help, has taken over and expanded a national network of 700 physicians and pregnancy help centers that offer this “abortion pill reversal.” (I am on the Board of Heartbeat.) In November, the four centers of the Women’s Choice Network in Pittsburgh will become part of Heartbeat’s new Abortion Pill Rescue Network. Is abortion-reversal safe? Well, the actuaries of at least one insurance company think so: Women’s Choice Network’s medical insurance premium did not go up after they added their new abortion pill rescue procedure to the policy.
“Buyer’s Remorse,” Regret, and Advertising
There is a challenge advertising to women who have had abortions. Many of them, as the psychologists would say, have “unresolved anger issues.” Many are deeply angry with “pro-lifers,” partly because they think of us as self-righteous, judgmental and interfering, but partly because, as the pastoral theologian would say, anger can be one way the unrepentant mind and heart handle a serious sin. Strident pro-life people are a great target, and these public pro-lifers, as they say, “get to live rent-free in the heads” of our wounded neighbors. So any advertising we do has to take the half of abortion patients who have had repeat abortions into consideration, and the fact that some are hostile to what we are doing, while some have lasting regret.
The Abortion Pill Rescue Network gives us as advertisers a great opportunity. Ads directed to women who have taken the first pill could make the number of abortion pill reversals skyrocket. Not only that, but the ads would influence women seeking surgical abortions, as they reinforce doubts the women may already have. The key theme I have in mind is regret. We all know regrets, big and small, some instantaneous, some delayed. We want to say that we have an idea of what might be going through a woman’s mind as she thinks about a second abortion.
We currently have an ad running on Facebook that does this. (You can see it on Youtube at https://youtu.be/fTwSWh6x58g. Our actress is walking toward the camera, looking downwards, obviously deep in thought. The voice-over: “What was I thinking? I didn’t really want my last abortion, either. (Looks up at camera. Voice-over:) What did it do for me? Really?” Cut to the next scene: she is sitting, looking away, with a friend in the friend’s apartment. Friend: “You know, I’ve heard that you can reverse the abortion pill. . . .” Friend searches on her phone. “Yes: ‘It may not be too late to save your pregnancy.’” Woman (turning to friend, a note of hope in her voice): “Really?” Friend: “Your don't really want this [abortion], do you?” Our actress shakes her head. Cut to Abortion Pill Rescue Network screen. The voice-over: “Don’t wait. Call the Abortion Pill Rescue Network now.” Next screen: "Over 900 healthy babies have been born following abortion pill reversal." Final second-and-a-half: woman bringing her head up, then beaming into the camera lens. The button on the Facebook ad is set to “Call Now,” a clickable link to the Abortion Pill Rescue Network number, 877-558-0333.
If 60 percent of the 6,000 abortions in Allegheny County are chemical, that's 300 a month. From November 1st, when we started running the ad, to November 8 at 11 a.m., Facebook tells that we have had 8 calls on the Abortion Pill Rescue Network hotline. These may curiosity calls, but they may also be part of that 300, that is, women who have immediately regretted their action. Two women saved our ad on Facebook, perhaps to show somebody else. We are not advertising to the 300 alone, of course. Our ad is reaching women who know little about abortion, and hope they never have to know. If they are ever shocked that they became pregnant, they may recall that there were people out there ready to help them deal with their situations in a healthy way.
The key thing is that we advertise the possibility of reversing a chemical abortion. Locally, hundreds of women could be reached with the message, and their babies saved. Nationally, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, could find that admitting their regrets to themselves, and/or acting on their “buyer’s remorse,” could be the start of their way back to wholeness.
The numbers of abortions are falling. They’ll fall faster if we advertise. Your support makes this possible. Now. In Pittsburgh. Please donate today!
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 45 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.
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