In my last blog post, I showed how Facebook often rejects our ads for pregnancy medical centers, and then, on appeal, reverses its decision. That has been true for Pittsburgh for years, and also for Cleveland, and it used to be true for Philadelphia, but no longer.
July 10, Facebook “restricted” our advertising. At first I was told that it would be resolved in 24 hours. Then it was 48. I was told that the “internal team” was conducting an investigation. At the end of August, I was informed that Facebook needed to establish my identity. Why did it take them more than 6 weeks to get around to asking me for credentials? Why did Facebook – Pittsburgh have no problem with my identity, or Facebook – Cleveland? I had already sent Facebook - Philadelphia photos of my driver’s license (both sides). So I did it again, and started the online identity questionnaire. The questionnaire abruptly stopped and I was informed that I had to get a notarized statement confirming my identity. Uh huh.
"Losing the file"
I am familiar with bureaucracies, having worked for the Canadian federal government, and having had to deal with large corporations for one reason or another over the years. This delay is what is known in the business as “losing the file.” Facebook itself is not pro-abortion, officially: there are pages for the abortion pill, but there are many pro-life pages. And of course, Facebook in Pittsburgh and in Cleveland happily lets our ads run. (Currently we’re running ads for abortion-pill reversal.) You could say that Facebook is “pro-choice.” It doesn’t seem to be difficult, however, for a Facebook employee, or for several employees together, to curtail pro-life activity unofficially, to “lose the file” and prevent advertising that saves lives.
That’s not pro-choice: that’s pro-abortion.
In our current environment, where women can get an abortion for any reason up until 24 weeks (Pennsylvania), it is pregnancy help centers that are truly “pro-choice.” Women who come to the centers commonly complain that they have “no choice but abortion.” The centers present women with alternatives: they give factual information on abortion, but they also give women information on adoption and on what is involved in keeping their babies. Plus, of course, they give practical help and moral support if a woman chooses to carry her baby to term. The general public, polls show, loves pregnancy help.
These Facebook employees don’t want women to have alternatives: they don’t care what might be driving women to seek an abortion. They don’t want any solution to the women’s problems but abortion. Why would that be? A personal involvement in abortion, and a guilty conscience expressing itself in hostility? Perhaps. An ideological or anti-religious opposition to pregnancy help, and the Christians who are involved in this ministry? Maybe. An unthinking acceptance of others’ pro-abortion propaganda, and a desire to frustrate those working for “fake clinics”? Who knows?
google is succumbing, too
Google won’t run ads for the Abortion Pill Rescue Network (see Abortion Pill Reversal - Home). Abortion-pill reversal works: over 3,000 women have had their babies with no harm to the children. The reversal protocol is pretty simple: a woman calls the Abortion Pill Reversal number (1-877-558-0333) after she has taken the first abortion pill, but before she has taken the second. She is connected with a physician, who sends a prescription for progesterone to a pharmacy near her. She fills the prescription, and follows the instructions for taking it. She goes as soon as she can to the closest pregnancy medical center, where she gets an ultrasound to establish fetal viability. In an early study, abortion-pill reversal was successful over 64% of the time.
Progesterone is not an untested drug.
Progesterone is used commonly to prevent miscarriage. Some people at Heartbeat International, an association of pregnancy help centers, have worn T-shirts that say, “It’s just progesterone.” Ideological hostility would have you believe otherwise.
At a recent meeting of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians-Gynecologists, Joy Stockbauer noted, participants discussed “the utter denial by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that abortion pill reversal is safe and successful. ACOG is not neutral on abortion pill reversal – it actively fights against informing women about this safe and natural treatment that could allow them to change their minds after beginning a chemical abortion.” Google is quite happy to accept the conclusion of the pro-abortion organization over the mounting evidence in its favor.
Half of the abortions in America today involve the abortion pill, and that proportion is likely to increase as it is less expensive than a surgical abortion, and abortion-pill providers can get around state laws to sell them. Ads for abortion-pill reversal are likely more effective than any other kind, as they tell any woman thinking about abortion that she’s not alone, that other women have had doubts, too, that people are ready to help her face her unexpected pregnancy, and that, if she has made the mistake of taking that first pill, she might be able to keep her pregnancy.
Those abortion-pill dangers are real.
When women search for terms like abortion pill, Google won’t show pregnancy medical centers in the search results. Planned Parenthood and its peers don’t really provide options; they have been shown to push women towards abortion, maximizing their anxiety about having a child and minimizing the dangers of the abortion pill. (Those dangers are real, e.g., “Chemical abortion is consistently and progressively associated with more postabortion E[mergency] R[oom] visit morbidity than surgical abortion. There is also a distinct trend of a growing number of women miscoded as receiving treatment for spontaneous abortion in the ER following a chemical abortion,” from a study cited on the Charlotte Lozier Institutes’ page on abortion-pill dangers, Public Health Threat: New York Data Shows Significant Increase in Risky Abortion Method - Charlotte Lozier Institute).
It is becoming challenging to advertise in this environment. It is definitely counter-cultural. It is still possible. While Google is deliberately limiting pregnancy help results in its “organic” search results, it still accepts paid advertising, “Google Ads,” and we are running those in all three cities. Facebook’s censorship of ads seems to be selective, depending on our area. Our friends at Lamar Advertising have been advertising Vision for Life in Pittsburgh, and billboards, especially the electronic kind, may become a bigger part of our work.
We’re in the right on this issue, and so any challenge is worth taking on. We will continue to reach out to women, to offer what’s best for them and their babies.
Is It Time to Pivot to Older Abortion Patients?
If you read my blog article on the trends in the ages of abortion patients, you’ll know that 63% of abortion patients in the U.S. in 2019 were 25 or older. That wasn’t the case in 1973, when only 35% of abortion patients were over 24. Pregnancy help has reached the younger women and changed the proportions. Yet most pregnancy help centers are still pursuing the scared teenager (now only 9% of abortion patients), or the woman in her early 20s (28% of abortion patients). I think it’s because the women in pregnancy help find it easy to fall into a motherly role with younger women, and younger women are often willing to have a mother-figure help them decide what’s best for them.
Fewer than 1 in 10 abortion patients is a teenager.
Many women say that their pregnancy is “mis-timed”: they’re too young, or they’re not ready financially or relationally to have children. Sometimes older women will say it’s mis-timed, too, if they think that they will have a child or children later. Women will say that a pregnancy is “unwanted,” period, if they don’t want any children. Sixty percent of abortion patients in Pennsylvania have already had at least one child. These are often women who feel they can’t handle any more children, for financial reasons or because of problems in their relationships with their partners. Forty-seven percent of abortion patients in Pennsylvania have had one or more abortions already.
Marketers are not addressing 63% of would-be abortion patients
From what I have seen, our friends in pro-life marketing (in no particular order: Choose Life Marketing, Cornerstone Marketing Strategies, ALIGNN, Stories Marketing, Lilianna Grace Media, among others) are marketing their services to the inexperienced in the 15–24-year-old group, facing their first unexpected pregnancies. Their social media ads are not addressing the 63% of would-be abortion patients who are older, and who may already be mothers, or may have had abortions.
From the start, our Facebook/Instagram ads have been realistic, even gritty, presenting the challenges facing women with an unexpected pregnancy, and the offer of information, help, and hope from the pregnancy medical centers. (I think that’s part of the reason Facebook has rejected the ads at first, and then accepted them. Thirty-two percent of Facebook’s and Instagram’s users are 25–35 years old, their biggest age groups.) In some of our two-minute stories, the woman is already a mother, or her boyfriend is abusive or controlling, or her last abortion didn’t do anything for her, either. Realism may not make friends for us instantly, but some women immediately recognize honesty, and some, I’m persuaded, will look back and see that we told them the truth, while others like Planned Parenthood simply flattered them to seduce them. So with our direct, realistic social media ads, we’ve taken the long view, while telling women where they can get help right away, if they want it.
Time for some "A-B testing" with the older audience
Our pro-life marketing friends need to start A-B testing with ads aimed at older women. (A-B advertising tests run similar ads with different messaging or creative content, colors, ethnic actors, etc., to discover which are most effective.) As half of abortions are chemical now, they also need to advertise Heartbeat International’s Abortion Pill Rescue Network.
If we can reach older women as successfully as we have the younger ones, we’ll bring down the abortion numbers even 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.