(This is an adaptation of the talk given by Co-Founder Chris Humphrey at the Fall 2021 Banquet, "They're Here Because You Care.")
Most Americans don’t care about abortion. That may anger us, or sadden us, but, as they say, “It is what it is.” In Allegheny County, however, thousands of babies are here because donors to Vision for Life care.
That care comes at the right time. Abortion is THE human rights issue of our age. In all of human history, more human beings have been killed before birth than after. Most of these have been killed in the last 50 years. In America, however, we are winning on abortion. Since the mid-1980s, abortion numbers have been falling at a consistent rate. The ratios of abortions to births are actually lower in the last few years than they were in 1973 – the year of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
If you are a regular reader of our blog, or have read a few pages on our website, you will know that the biggest driver of this decline has been pregnancy help! Ratios of abortions to births are “inversely related” to pregnancy help centers: as pregnancy help center numbers rise, abortion ratios fall, from the mid-1980s to today.
We considered four other possible explanations as the main reason for the decline in abortion ratios: contraception (including abortifacients), restrictive state laws, fewer abortion centers, and public opinion becoming more pro-life because of activism and education. See the series of six videos, and texts with data, on our website, for why none of these explains the decline.
Early on, we realized that trying to change public opinion in general was a mistake: we don’t have the resources. The question then was, “If pregnancy help is the reason we’re winning, what can we do with what we have, to make the impact of the centers even bigger?” A Charlotte Lozier Institute study confirmed what we thought: most young women had no knowledge of the centers. Advertising could change that. And it does! Advertising pregnancy help is the most cost-effective thing we can do to reduce abortions in big cities in America now.
Our banquet theme was “They’re here because you care!” Who are the “they”? Our pregnancy medical center colleagues could tell you moving stories of individuals. I want to answer the question, “How many are there?”
We estimate that roughly 9,600 fewer abortions were performed in Allegheny County, from 2012 to 2019, because of our advertising. Incidentally, the abortionists would have lost much more than 4 million dollars. (This is David versus Goliath, and we get to play the good role.)
Recently I looked more closely at the birth numbers in Allegheny County. The birth numbers seemed a little low, in my analysis, and I realized that I hadn’t taken into consideration miscarriage, or those women, like students, leaving to have their babies at home. That 9,600 number is still important: a woman who miscarried might be relieved, or grieve, or a bit of both, but she would not have an abortion on her conscience.
Here are the birth numbers from 1995 to 2019.
As you can see, we started to advertise in 2011. You can see the trend until 2011: birth numbers were falling. Then, they went up. Overall, they were elevated between 2011 and 2019. We knew that pregnancy help was the reason abortion was in decline. We were reaching tens of thousands of women every month with ads for the centers. I can’t think of anything of sufficient scale to have that effect on birth numbers, except our advertising.
What would have happened if we didn’t advertise?
The orange line above shows what would have happened if Allegheny County had the annual percentage changes in birth numbers of Philadelphia County, another urban county, using 2010 as the base year. The gap between the actual numbers and the projected numbers is 8,200 lives.
Say, for the sake of argument, that the social conservatism of Western PA and the smaller size of Pittsburgh would affect those percentage changes here, making them less negative. So we revise the number of babies born because of advertising downward to 7,000.
Still, 7,000 or so babies born in Allegheny County, who would not have been born without advertising: That’s about 368 kindergarten classes.
That’s who is here because you care because donors care.
The total cost in advertising to bring a child to birth would still be under $60.
The success of our advertising confirms that it is pregnancy help that is driving down abortion numbers. Advertising simply amplifies the effects of pregnancy help.
We’ve learned a lot in 10 years. Do you know what we don’t know? We don’t know, “If we put more money towards advertising, would we drive the abortion numbers even lower?” How deep could we go? We don’t know.
We have widened our work – to Philadelphia. Now, I was been warned by two friends separately that Pittsburghers want to support what’s local – their city, their neighborhood. I understand that. Charity begins at home. But it’s not meant to stop at home. So if you’re not keen on supporting work outside your neighborhood, I appeal to you on the basis of your faith. Our God is a missionary God. As the Creed says, “I believe in one God . . . and in one Lord Jesus Christ . . . Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.”
Consider that St. Peter was a Jew. He found it hard to believe that God wanted to save Gentiles through the Messiah who came to the Jews first – so God gave him a vision. Remember? He was praying, and he had a vision of a sheet dropped down from heaven, on which there were unclean animals. A voice said, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” Peter replied that he had never eaten anything that was common or unclean. The voice said, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common.”
This wasn’t just about food. The God of the universe was showing St. Peter He was saving not just the Jews, but Gentiles – that is, the world.
Our God is a missionary God. In terms of abortion, Philadelphia is a mission field. Forty percent of Pennsylvania’s 30,000 annual abortions are performed in one county: Philadelphia County.
Brooke Nearman, the Executive Director of pro-life pregnancy medical center AlphaCare in Philadelphia wrote in September, "Our recent partnership with Vision for Life has dramatically increased our opportunity to reach more women -- including many considering abortion. In one month, contacts from abortion-minded women jumped 184%. As of July 2021, we have had more requests for abortions [i.e., abortion information] than we had for the whole of 2020."
As we see increasing success there, we expect that local people there will take up a bigger part of the cost of advertising. We will also continue to work with our partners here in Pittsburgh to see that their services continue to be advertised widely. Before Philadelphia can “man the oars,” we need the help of Pittsburghers there.
Imagine if every big city in America had an organization that just advertised pregnancy medical centers like Choices and Women’s Choice Network. Many, many more lives would be saved.
We are winning in America. With your help as a donor to Vision for Life, we can win faster.
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.