Michael New of the Charlotte Lozier Institute and I are engaged in a discussion (here and here) on what has brought down abortion ratios from their heights in the early 1980s to 18.8 per hundred live births, a figure lower than that of 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade. Pace Michael, I am not “downplaying” the role of education and legislative reform in this: my intention is to kindle interest in what I think is driving down those rates, the proliferation of pregnancy help centers, and to encourage their support. Education and legislative reform have their place, and are no doubt making a contribution where they are found, but I am saying that we have no strong evidence that either are driving this decline. When we advertise pregnancy help, as we have done in Pittsburgh, we see the ratios fall farther – which inclines one to think that the key role of these centers has been overlooked in our focus on changing the laws.
We Can Handle the Facts – And Their Absence
We need to be honest and realistic in assessing what is happening with abortion numbers. The decline of abortion ratios cited in my first Federalist article is gradual and continuous – the slight peaks and troughs are the “noise” of a steady “signal.” Is there a key factor, or a few key factors, that are continuous in operation from the beginning? In my first article I suggested that we may be seeing an ongoing psycho-social shift in the minds of generations of young, pregnant women regarding pregnancy, childbirth and abortion. This might be a shift which we cannot gauge, but whose effect is that fewer and fewer of them are seeking abortions. One factor in this shift might be personal knowledge of post-abortive women, a knowledge that disinclines a pregnant woman from following the path of someone she knows or hears about. This might have been a factor from the early 1970s on, so it can’t be discounted as not present throughout the period of this decline. Would it have increasing effects on abortion ratios, relative to their decline, however? That seems unlikely, but we simply don’t know. And so it goes with much of our speculation.
Public Opinion Has Not Shifted in Our Favor
Inasmuch as we do know about public opinion, we cannot say the same. Michael New claims that “Gallup data clearly indicates that since the mid-1990s, there has been both a long-term and durable increase in the percentage of Americans who identify as ‘pro-life.’” One of those new converts to the cause, of course, would be the President of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Leana Wen, who recently said that “being pro-choice is . . . being pro-family, . . . being pro-life.” It is somewhat encouraging to know that more people like to think of themselves as pro-life, but most of this can be dismissed as shallow self-regard: see the relatively level lines in the graph of the Gallup poll responses to the question, “Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances or illegal in all circumstances?" There is simply no real trend here. (This criticism applies to New’s confidence in the educational impact of abortion regulations as well: there’s no evidence of an effect on public opinion. It is true that the laws have a measurable, punctiliar impact on abortion ratios. So in Pennsylvania, the abortion ratio dropped 12.3 percent the year after the Abortion Control Act was finally implemented in 1993. The laws, however, do not explain the continuing drop in abortion ratios, or the fact that abortion ratios had already fallen by over 27 percent from 1981 to 1993.)
What of his claim that the General Social Survey found “long-term gains in pro-life sentiment”? The opposite claim could be made, as one analyst found that “more people” in the 2014 GSS survey “support legal abortion for any reason, no matter why a woman wants it. About 35 percent held that view in the 1970s – but the number has risen to 45 percent in 2014.” What of his claim that young adults were the demographic most sympathetic toward legal abortion until 2000, when they became the most opposed? A close examination of these figures from the General Social Survey show that the change is very slight, and can’t be compared to the 48 percent reduction in abortions per 100 live births (1984–2015). In a Quinnipiac poll of 2017, the 18 to 35 age group was more in favor of abortion as legal in all cases than any other demographic group, by 3 percentage points.
It is becoming common to observe that we really don’t have a solid grasp of what Americans think about abortion, nor of any trends. Pro-life education is important – how many of us would be pro-life without it? – but not because we can see that it’s changing public opinion as a whole. A local pregnancy medical center director told me that they still commonly hear women say, as they look at their unborn children on the ultrasound screen, “I had no idea.”
Can We Change Things without Changing Public Opinion?
So why does public opinion matter, and why do we want to change it? It may be that we can’t help ourselves: if we were silent, we feel, “the very stones would cry out.” Perhaps we think that, if only the majority of those we know could see the moral horror that is abortion, they would not have abortions, and we could change the laws and “end abortion”? (This is what we really want, but we need to come back to earth here: we won’t “end abortion,” or “abolish abortion” as such, any more than we could end bank robbery, drunk driving, or spousal abuse, simply with laws. Similarly, instead of talking about “a culture of life,” it’s time that we ask, Where have people actually created this “culture”? Perhaps we can contribute to it.)
What if we can reduce abortion numbers without changing the public mind on abortion? What if we can so reduce abortion numbers – reduce the demand for abortion – that it becomes politically much easier to criminalize the work of abortionists and protect unborn children? (This, we can assume, would have a big impact on abortion numbers, though our success, again, would lack the eschatological completeness of the slogans.) A shift of attention to making pregnancy help better known would be a strategic move, not a denial of the importance of laws.
Public Ambivalence Gives Us an In
Do the polls give us a clue as to why pregnancy help might be the reason for those dropping ratios? The American Enterprise Institute survey I cited in the earlier article points out that, over the years, “substantial numbers of people tell the pollsters that abortion is an act of murder. They also say that the decision to have an abortion should be a personal choice.” Similarly, people (and not just politicians) will say that they are personally pro-life, but that they can’t impose their morality on others. Ramesh Ponnuru observed somewhere that whoever is perceived as imposing on the other side in the struggle over abortion, loses. We saw this in Pennsylvania with former Governor Tom Corbett, whose proposed bill requiring that a woman be offered the opportunity to see her unborn child on the ultrasound screen before her abortion was widely criticized for imposing on the woman, and withdrawn. We have seen it recently on the other side, as the courts have rejected laws that would have required pregnancy help centers to advertise abortion services as well.
Pregnancy help involves no such imposition: it is assumed that women at all times have a choice, and that many will choose life when they have the right information and support. Americans like pregnancy help. A 2014 national poll commissioned by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that 92 percent of women (many of whom would be “pro-choice”) said that pregnancy help centers were “very necessary” (70 percent) or “fairly necessary” (22 percent) in their communities. This positive view of pregnancy help was confirmed for us by a young actress who helps us with advertising local pregnancy medical centers in Pittsburgh. S.K. is “pro-choice”: personally “pro-life,” but not willing to judge anyone else, she tells us. Nonetheless, she now knows that these centers are “the way to go” for abortion-vulnerable women.
If we’re looking for that actualized “culture of life” we hear about, we find it in these centers. In 2003, the national pregnancy helpline OptionLine took 35,000 calls from women in need. Like the number of pregnancy help centers themselves over the years, the calls have increased: in 2018, Heartbeat International reports, that number was over 400,000. Over one million visited OptionLine’s website last year.
Vision for Life – Pittsburgh, the non-profit of which I am the Executive Director, began advertising to abortion-minded women in late 2010. In the next few years, abortion ratios for residents of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, fell sharply, and stood at roughly the same level before dipping again in 2017, the last year for which we have statistics, to 241 per 1,000 live births. From 2010 to 2017, abortion ratios declined 23.7 percent.
Is There a Statistician in the House?
We don’t know for certain that the increase in pregnancy help centers lies behind the drop in abortion ratios, but if advertising local centers can have this kind of effect, it seems likely.
Michael New observes that this is a “rich area for future academic and policy research.” I would welcome the Charlotte Lozier Institute’s work on it. If they were to decline, however, perhaps others, or even a lone sociologist or statistician, would take on the task. I have the data on the increase in the number of centers, but I lack the competence with statistics for a proper assessment.
We continue to need public education, academic debate, legal engagement, lobbying, and even protest, whether these demonstrably affect abortion numbers or not. If it can be shown, however, that pregnancy help is driving abortion ratios lower, then we should direct greater resources to the increase of the number of these centers, and to making all of the centers better known in their communities through advertising. Statistics and broad trends are dry matters, but with them, and God’s help, we may be able to deliver many more mothers and babies from the scourge of abortion.
Michael new misses the big question: is pregnancy help the chief reason abortion ratios are falling?Read Now
(I have offered the following article, a response to an article in National Review by Michael J. New of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, to National Review on January 24.)
Michael New’s January 19th article in National Review Online, “The Best Metrics of Pro-Life Progress,” rightly notes that abortion numbers are falling, which is encouraging for all of us who want to see the end of legal abortion in America. Before we celebrate, however, we should perhaps reconsider the best metric of success. If you measure the rates of abortion for every 1,000 women aged 14 to 44, as he does, the numbers drop significantly – more than 50 percent fewer in 2014 than in 1980. The problem with this, however, is that it does not take into account declining fertility in America. Raw birth numbers have been dropping for decades; one would expect abortion rates to fall as well. It’s more helpful, from a pro-life point of view, to know what proportion of all pregnant women choose abortion from year to year (excluding those who miscarry). If the ratios of abortions to live births go down, we know that more women are not seeking abortions, and we can look for possible reasons.
And go down those ratios have. From the peak of 36.4 per 100 live births in 1984 they have fallen steadily to 18.8 in 2015, a drop of 48 percent (CDC data). The decline is profound and continuous. This rules out some explanations from the start. Dr. New rightly dispatches Planned Parenthood’s claim that increased use of contraception, and the right kind of contraception, is largely responsible for fewer unintended pregnancies, and thus for the decline in abortion numbers: rates of unintended pregnancy over the years don’t back it up. His claim, however, that abortion numbers have fallen because of protective laws or changed hearts and minds needs closer examination. Academic research, he says, “shows that a variety of pro-life laws, including public-funding limits, parental-involvement laws, and properly designed informed-consent laws all reduce the incidence of abortion.” The question is, By how much? When we tally the reduction in abortion ratios that one would expect to see for these measures (which he has documented in his research), we get a total reduction in abortion ratios of 4.7 per 100 live births. The total reduction in abortion ratios from 1984 to 2015 was 17.6, however. (And this comparison assumes that these laws were all passed at some point in all of the CDC’s reporting states, which is not the case.) These laws save lives, and would save more lives if they were passed everywhere, but they are not driving the continuing drop in abortion ratios.
His second reason for the decline, changed hearts and minds, is intriguing, because it must be true in some sense, as women decide whether to abort or carry to term. If there is such a change, however, it is not reflected in public opinion polls. For years now, many have heralded polls ostensibly showing that the younger generation is more pro-life, or that more people consider themselves “pro-life.” Yet researchers from the American Enterprise Institute, who conduct an annual survey of previous polls on abortion, still report that there has been no significant shift in public opinion since the early 1970s. About 20 to 30 percent of the population are pro-choice, the same proportion are pro-life, and about half are in the middle. In May 2016, 29 percent of respondents to a Gallup poll said abortion should be legal in all circumstances, 50 percent said it should be legal in some circumstances, and 19 percent thought it should be illegal in all circumstances. “Substantial numbers of people tell the pollsters that abortion is an act of murder. They also say that the decision to have an abortion should be a personal choice.” (People may want to think of themselves as “pro-life,” but we can believe that there has been a true shift when a majority says that abortionists should go to jail.)
Perhaps, however, women who find themselves pregnant, and didn’t intend to be, are changing how they think of abortion and childbirth. There is ongoing discussion about “intention” among the technocrats who push “family planning” to women at risk of unintended pregnancy. They are challenged by the discovery that not all women plan these things or want to plan them. A woman who is taking some precautions not to become pregnant can actually be happy to find out that she is, especially if she is supported by her partner or those around her. (Those who focus on intention and planning seek to translate a woman’s imagined unhappiness with a future possible pregnancy into a plan for her fertility, that is, to make her over in their own image.) It may be that we are seeing the effects of fairly large-scale, social-psychological changes relating to pregnancy, abortion and childbirth, that we simply cannot discern.
In any case, Dr. New ends his list with “taking care of the material needs of pregnant women.” Here he is really on to something. In fact, the number of new pregnancy help centers has grown continuously while abortion ratios have declined. Heartbeat International, one umbrella organization for such centers, counted 23 new centers opening in 1973; by 2017 over 1,720 new centers had opened. (This is a partial count, as there are currently over 2,750 such centers. Some offer emotional, moral, spiritual, and practical help, some also provide limited obstetrical ultrasounds, and a smaller number are maternity homes.) The biggest one-year increase in centers recorded by Heartbeat was in 1985, the year after abortion ratios reached their peak, according to the CDC.
In a 1992 book, Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, Marvin Olasky suggested that abortion rates in the latter half of the 19th Century (almost double ours, incidentally) declined largely because of Christian philanthropy, especially maternity homes. It is quite likely that we are seeing the same thing today with pregnancy help centers.
The key role of the centers has been confirmed here in Pittsburgh, where Vision for Life has been running modest ad campaigns for local centers since late 2010. Abortion ratios from 2000 to 2010 averaged 32.6 per 100 live births in Allegheny County. From 2011 to 2017, the last year for which we have the numbers, the average was 26.2, a 20 percent decrease. (Of course, abortion ratios are falling everywhere. The difference, however, between the two periods for all other Pennsylvania counties was only 7 percent.) The effect of advertising is not surprising: a Charlotte Lozier Institute study in 2014 found that 54 percent of women either did not know if there were centers in their communities, or thought that there weren’t any. When women know about the centers, more of them choose not to abort.
We can’t prove (yet) that pregnancy help is the main thing driving the drop in abortion numbers in the U.S., but it is certainly the chief candidate for study. One thing we can assume: increased advertising for local centers will bring those declining numbers down further.
Chris Humphrey, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Vision for Life - Pittsburgh
Good News again this year!
There’s good news in the most recent Pennsylvania Abortion Report for 2017. Abortion numbers for the State have fallen again: 2.8% fewer than the year before (from 30,881 to 30,011). (All statistics come for the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health’s annual Abortion Reports. The interpretation is ours.)
Abortions to Pennsylvania residents only (as opposed to all abortions, including those performed on women from out of state) fell a little further – by 3.4% (from 29,214 to 28,234). In the ten years from 2008, when abortions reached their peak, to 2017, abortion numbers for residents have fallen 24.1% in PA.
Allegheny county gets mixed reviews
But The Abortion Ratio For Residents has fallen
What’s really important, however, are abortion ratios, that is, the number of abortions per 1,000 live births. Why? Because pregnancy rates are falling anyway. From 2008 to 2017, births in Pennsylvania went down 11,310, or about 8%. In this case, the question becomes, “Are abortion numbers going down relative to declining birth numbers?” This is the abortion ratio. If the number of abortions per 1,000 live births is lower from year to year, then we know that fewer women who were pregnant chose abortion each year.
Abortion numbers and ratios for Allegheny County residents went down 24% since we began advertising in 2011.
What else do we learn from the PA report?
Black women had 43% of abortions performed in PA, something that should exercise the hearts and minds of anyone who cares about the black community. As they are about 13% of the population, they are over-represented by two times in the abortion statistics. If black lives matter, then this has to change. Black pastors need to step up, and reassure women that God can and will forgive sexual sin -- the child is His good, natural gift -- and that He gives us sexual boundaries because He loves us.
88% of women who aborted in Pennsylvania in 2017 were unmarried. We know apart from the Report that women who cohabit are most at risk of abortion.
Over 61% of women who aborted had one or more previous live births. In other words, moms with one child or more were more likely than women with no children to have an abortion. It’s very likely that finances and the state of their relationships played a big part in these decisions.
When we put this together, we get the following picture: a woman (in many cases black), between the ages of 20 to 24, cohabiting, with one or more children. We know from other research that, as a group, the women most likely to abort when they discover that they have an unintended pregnancy are those in households with 200 to 300 times the federal poverty level. Though very poor women abort, too, more often it is those for whom pregnancy has complicated their lives: the boyfriend is threatening to leave, or he has lost his job; she can’t give up her job without losing their accommodation; and so forth. The problem is not one that can be solved simply with money. These women, and all women thinking about abortion, need to hear from the people at the pregnancy medical centers that they can make it, that they don’t have to abort, that God will provide and that they can trust in Him. She already has a child within her; killing him or her is no solution.
Repeat abortions (a woman’s second, third, fourth or more) accounted for over 47% of the total abortions to residents.
The best news here, however, is that first-time abortions in PA are in sharper decline than repeat abortions. From 2008 to 2017, first-time abortions declined 25%. Repeat abortions declined 20%.
What does this mean? With fewer first-time abortions each year, there will be even fewer repeat abortions in future, if the trends hold, which they should. This means that Big Abortion is facing a slow demise. When the number of clients showing up for abortions drops below a certain threshold, profitability is gone, and the abortionist has to shut down. That’s the future!
Many pro-life organizations make much of the evil of abortion, and there is no question that it is evil. But outrage and anger accomplish little, and there is much to encourage us: abortion numbers are falling, and they'll continue to fall. Advertising pregnancy help centers help them to fall faster, and that's our goal for the year ahead. We need to get the word out across America. We want to see more moms and babies saved from abortion in Allegheny County, in Pennsylvania, and in the U.S. May God help us as we do our best.
Abortion numbers are falling everywhere across the country, including Pennsylvania. What impact is our pro-life advertising in Allegheny County having on those numbers?
In previous calculations of how many lives have been saved since Vision for Life - Pittsburgh began advertising in 2011, I have used the actual Allegheny County numbers for the year before, instead of the projected ones if there had been no advertising (using the percentage reduction of the rest of the State.)
If I have lost you already, don’t give up.* The bottom line is, I estimate the total number of lives saved from 2011 to 2016 to be over 3,500!
Now, this is a general number, and hardly precise. And, “correlation is not causation.” Still, the gap between the two lines strongly suggests that advertising is making the difference, and reaching the abortion vulnerable.
Birth numbers in the rest of PA declined 2.6% from 2010 to 2016, but increased in Allegheny County by 2.6% (a difference of 5.2%).
Thank God that, through our efforts and those of the pregnancy medical centers, so many more women are choosing life for their babies!
Feel free to share this encouraging news!
* Here’s how I calculated the figures. We have actual, annual abortion numbers for all the counties, including Allegheny. What I needed were the projected numbers of abortions if Allegheny County’s reduction in abortions were the average of all the other counties’. So, for example, in 2012 there were 6,909 abortions, which was 11.6% fewer than 2011’s 7,820. The reduction in abortion numbers for all the other counties, however, was only 1.4%. If we used abortion numbers from the year before we advertised, 2010, as the baseline for all subsequent calculations, the expected number of abortions in 2012 in Allegheny County would have been 7,587 (1.4% fewer than the projected 2011 number, which was 7,697). So the difference between the projected 2012 figure of 7,587, and the actual number, 6,909, was 678. Here’s a chart showing the difference between actual and projected abortion numbers for the years 2011 to 2016.
Now some of the differences between projected and actual numbers may be due to other factors peculiar to Allegheny County, and some of the difference may be normal statistical variance between any one county and the rest (though it would vary up as well as down over the years). Say we’re out by 500, or even 800, for some reason -- this still leaves us with a very high number.
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 – email@example.com; 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
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.