Category: Pro-Choice Articles

The Gloucester Pregnancy Pact

Many people have now heard the story of the teenagers in Gloucester, MA who made a pact with one another to get pregnant and raise their children together. There’s a lot of judgment surrounding this situation and these girls, and people have been labeling them as stupid, incompetent, and a myriad of other things. One of the things I found most interested in the article I first read, published in Time Magazine, was that the girls felt they “had no other choice.”

For those not familiar with Gloucester, it’s a fishing town that has been hit hard by various economic situations in the past few years. To a teenager, looking around Gloucester at what they perceive to be their future, there don’t appear to be many options. They see other women marrying young, having children young, and not having a support network. I’m not saying it was a well informed decision to all get pregnant, but deciding together to get pregnant and form that support network was probably viewed by the girls as a way to secure help from friends and a network of support.

So, who is really at fault here? The girls hold responsibility for their actions, but who is at fault for not letting them know that there are other choices? Gloucester High has a sex ed program focused almost entirely on abstinence. These girls intentionally got pregnant, but the fact remains that they saw their other friends, family, and members of their community getting pregnant early and for many of them, it may not have been intentional.

Many people will say that a child is not the end of your education. However, for many, it can be. Raising a child is expensive. Going to college is expensive. The two are often, though not always, incompatible. Providing good, quality sex education that focuses on pregnancy prevention beyond abstinence can allow girls to take charge of their reproductive health, not get pregnant in or immediatly after high school, and perhaps see that there is more out there than motherhood.

If you’d like to read the Time Magazine article, click here.

Defining the Fetus

One of the most detrimental things to the pro-choice groups is the incessant need of the anti-choice groups to define, redefine, and define again when, exactly, life begins.  This happens on large and small scales all over the country, all the time, and it’s happening in Colorado right now on the state level.


Nigerian Abortions

When she discovered she was pregnant, Faith stole a few thousand naira – about $40 – from her mother to pay for a secret abortion.

Linked above is a great article from BBC News on the risky abortion practices happening in Nigeria.  I encourage everyone to take a look.

As one American blogger wrote, “If you change the national references, and use terms like “knitting needle” or “coat hanger” instead of “stick,” and add granny remedies with local materials instead of Alligator chillies, you’ll get an even clearer idea of what it was like here, before Roe v. Wade. This is the world we could return to if our courts give in to pressure and decide we are not equipped to make decisions about our bodies and futures.”

Abortion rate at lowest level since 1974

The rate of abortion has fallen to its lowest rate since 1974, according to this report, released yesterday.

However, also according to that report, 1 in 5 pregnancies still ends in abortion, meaning we need to do something to lower the rate of unintended pregnancies. We aren’t sure what the numbers mean yet, or why the rate is falling. Are people being more careful with their birth control? Is there greater access to contraception? Or is it that women are having a more difficult time finding abortion providers?

Amie Newman has a great blog post on this topic. Go check it out.

Fertilized Eggs are Not People


Law student, Kristi Burton, is trying to get the state of Colorado’s Constitution to recognize fertilized eggs as people. Similar efforts are being attempted in Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi and Oregon.

Not only is this yet another incremental attack on abortion rights, but it would have a major impact on other reproductive issues as well — including in-vitro fertilization and the use of birth control pills, IUDs and emergency contraception.

I do not know who they think they are fooling by calling a zygote a person. Here is a photo of a 1 day old fertilized egg.


Now imagine that there is a fire, and you can only save one thing. Would you save a petri dish that contains 10 fertilized eggs, or the person in the room? I think the answer is clear.

No Child Left Informed

By Concetta Erica Agro

“Eighty percent (80%) of the abstinence- only curricula…contain false, misleading or distorted information about reproductive health.”

“… Eleven of the thirteen curricula most commonly used by (federal) programs contain major errors and distortions of public health information.”

Those were some of the conclusions reached by a December 2004 Congressional report, conducted at the behest of the House of Representatives’ Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), which examined federally funded abstinence-only programs.

Congressman Waxman’s alarming findings brought to light the lack of oversight that federally funded abstinence-only programs receive.

The report highlights that, “the federal government does not review or approve the accuracy of the information presented in abstinence-only programs.” Applicants for these federally funded grants are simply required to submit a general outline or summary of the curriculum to be used.

The CostThe federal government has more than doubled its expenditures onthese programs in the last four years. Further, the requirement that states must match federal funds for abstinenceonly programs has caused many states to alter their spending practices. Dollars that were previously used to support comprehensive, medically accurate, sexuality education, which included but were not limited to abstinence education, have been rerouted to abstinence-only programs. This spending increase has multiplied the number of adolescents now receiving abstinence-only as their sole source of formalized education about contraception and sexual health. Abstinence-only education programs dictate not having sexual intercourse as the only way to reduce the risks of pregnancy, disease, and other possible consequences of sex. Federal requirements prohibit these programs from including any accurate information about contraception or about the prevention and detection of STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Contraceptives are only mentioned when trying to convince teens to avoid them. To achieve that end, these programs misrepresent the failure rate of contraceptives. The curricula never identify oral and anal sex as intercourse, nor do they address that these types of activity entail risk. Studies show these programs have no impact on actually preventing pregnancies or decreasing the risk of contracting an STI.

Egregious ErrorsThe most commonly used curricula cite the ineffectiveness of condoms to prevent transmission of HIV, STIs and pregnancy. The source of this misinformation is a scientifi c study that has been discredited by federal health offi cials and scientifi c consensus. Some of the curricula also contain blatant scientifi c errors. One curriculum labels sweat and tears as fl uids that transmit HIV, even though the scientifi c community dispelled this myth more than 10 years ago. They also present wrong or misleading information about the physical and psychological effects of legal abortion. They falsely state that sterility, premature birth leading to retardation, tubal and cervical pregnancies, and suicide are some of the possible effects of abortion.

The Silver Ring ThingSome curricula use religious teachings, which is in direct violation of federal funding rules. A component of many programs is abstinence or “virginity pledges.” Students vow, sometimes to God, not to have “sex.”

On May 16, 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took exception to such a curriculum by taking legal action against the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The ACLU charged that the HHS has illegally used tax dollars to fund an abstinence-only program, the Silver Ring Thing (SRT), that promotes Christianity. As part of the Bush administration’s expansion of abstinenceonly education, SRT has received more than one million dollars since 2003. The program consists of a three-hour presentation followed by secular and religious group meetings. The ACLU charges that students are encouraged to choose the religious groups and to sign up for Bible-based programs.

Guidelines for HHS abstinence-only funding clearly state that recipients affi liated with religious groups may receive funds; however, they are prohibited from using that money for religious purposes.

A major crisis is occurring because abstinence-only programs fail to define “sex” or advocate the use of condoms. These failings have caused a rapid rise in unprotected highrisk sexual behavior among virginity-pledgers. Pledgers who identifi ed themselves as virgins were six times more likely to have had oral sex; male pledgers were four times more likely to have had anal sex as their non-pledging counterparts. Pledgers have STI rates as high as non-pledgers. However, they are less likely to detect or seek medical treatment for their infections, increasing the danger of transmission.

Lubbock, TexasA community that highlights the severity of this problem is Lubbock County in Texas. In 1995, then-governor George W. Bush signed a law requiring Texas public schools to teach abstinence sex education. Texas became the third state with mandated abstinence sex education.

Prior to 1995, Lubbock had a high rate of teen pregnancies. In 1995 the community launched an abstinence-only offensive, complete with virginity pledges. Now, Lubbock County’s teen pregnancy rate is the highest in Texas by almost 10%. It also has the highest rate of STIs. As reported by UNESCO, Texas Teaches Abstinence, With Mixed Grades, “as rates for gonorrhea and chlamydia have fallen nationally, Lubbock County has confronted an epidemic.”

Much to their credit, it is the teenagers who are shining a light on the failures of their parents, educators and community leaders. A movie released this year titled The Education of Shelby Knox focuses on the true life story of a devout Christian teenager, Shelby Knox, who pledged abstinence until marriage but then became a strong and vocal advocate for comprehensive sex education. She is not alone in Lubbock. Other teens have given voice to the need to bring comprehensive sex education to the classroom through their work on the Lubbock Youth Commission.

Lubbock County is but one example of these federally funded programs being used as a vehicle for this administration to promote its extreme ideology. The actual cost of these programs will be measured over time by the fi nancial burden forced on society by the ramifi cations of abstinenceonly education.

Post-abortion stress syndrome is a fraud

Tabloid headlines read: “Women succumb at alarming rate to post-abortion stress syndrome,” “Dramatic increase in incidents of breast cancer,” “suicide among women who have abortions.” There is not one shred of scientific evidence to back up any of these claims. The articles are authored by well-recognized anti-choice leaders intent upon instilling fear through lies.

Post-abortion stress syndrome (PAS) is not an official syndrome or diagnosis recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, or any other mainstream authority. Even such noted anti-choice advocates as President Reagan’s Surgeon General C. Everett Koop determined that there was insufficient evidence of trauma related to abortion. Psychological problems were “minuscule from a public health perspective.” The American Psychological Association has concluded that terminating an unwanted pregnancy poses no hazard to women’s mental health and that the predominant sensation following the termination of an unwanted pregnancy is relief. The only groups subscribing to the existence of PAS are the dozens of anti-choice organizations that have sprung up to produce literature about this fictitious ailment. They also manipulate statistics to fabricate relationships between breast cancer or suicide and abortion but cannot provide documentation.

This PAS approach is a direct assault on the choice movement. Since legal abortion is a safe surgical procedure David C. Reardon, director of the anti-choice Elliot Institute, and his allies have invented mental pain as a repercussion of abortion. Reardon trumpets a forceful anti-choice message: “Abortion hurts women.” He explains, “By demanding legal protection for women forced into unwanted abortions and greater rights for women to sue for post-abortion trauma, we force our opponents to side with us or to be exposed as defending the abortion industry at the expense of women.”

Organizations such as SafeHaven, Healing Hearts Ministries and Victims of Choice prey upon the emotions of women at a vulnerable time. Many of these organizations are actually crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs)*. They offer no medical assistance whatsoever. While claiming to offer compassionate care, these organizations impose a three-step process on their victims to alleviate the “psychological damage” from abortions. To be forgiven for the abortion, women must open their hearts to Jesus Christ, speak out against abortion and, whenever possible, lobby for anti-choice legislation. Final absolution is the promised outcome if the woman sues the abortion provider for malpractice. With frightened women doing their dirty work, these organizations believe they can put abortion providers out of business by making it too risky and too costly to continue functioning. Crisis Pregnancy Centers work to scare women out of terminating pregnancies.

*Why Crisis Pregnancy Centers are Legal but Unethical

Abortion, A Historical Perspective

George Santayana tells us, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Since many anti-choice zealots (and indeed, unfortunately, all too many pro-choice individuals as well) labor under the mistaken impression that the controversy surrounding abortion is a unique byproduct of the technological age, a brief review of the history of abortion in antiquity may prove enlightening.

To be sure, the earliest expression of women’s control over reproduction was not so much abortion as infanticide. Recent excavations at the site of the ancient Middle-Eastern city of Ashkelon, for example, revealed dozens of newborn infant skeletons found in a sewer behind a brothel. That this find is mute testimony to ancient women’s having made difficult and painful choices is clear. That these choices were the product of a terrible economic and societal necessity can also readily be inferred.

In ancient Greece, infanticide committed by exposing unwanted newborns to the elements was a common method of birth control, though history teaches that the choice here was seldom that of the woman. By way of example, in a papyrus fragment recovered from a trash heap in post-Alexandrian Egypt, a well-to-do Greek merchant wrote to his wife while he was away on business, “If the child you are carrying turns out to be a son, call him Hephaestion; if it is a girl, expose it.” Early Greek commentators on the society of the ancient city-state of Sparta also report that all newborn infants were required to spend their first night out of doors. Undoubtedly, this must have resulted in the deaths of countless children, while the intent of the practice was obviously to restrict access to the limited resources of the community to those physically capable of survival in what was then an incredibly harsh world.

While we may well consider these ancient customs barbarous from our modern perspective, they were evidence of the exercise of deliberate reproductive choice. One of the unintended consequences of civilization was a drop in infant mortality rates that could (and in antiquity, often did) result in disastrous overpopulation and resultant mass starvation. This primitive but societally sanctioned custom of infanticide was thus nothing less than the exercise of a perceived right (and indeed, necessity) of conscious reproductive planning.

Ancient Rome carried on this practice of infanticide, though the “choice” here was exercised almost exclusively by men. Under the rigorously patriarchal society of the Roman Republic, the paterfamilias had the unfettered power of life and death over all members of his household. During this period, in addition to infanticide, a crude form of “abortion on demand” was utilized whereby men frequently threw pregnant slave women or concubines down flights of stairs in order to induce abortions.

Paradoxically, the world of ancient Greece, which accepted infanticide without much apparent reservation, provided a philosophical foundation and framework for defining the inception of human life. The philosopher Aristotle developed a rough “trimester” system of analyzing the development of the human fetus: he saw the first third of the human gestation period as one in which the fetus was essentially a parasitic organism that fed off the woman’s body. In the middle third of development, the fetus was likened to an animal: alive and sentient, but without intellect or soul. Only in the final third stage of development did Aristotle see the fetus as being imbued with what the Greeks called the psyche, best translated as “spirit.” This Aristotelian trimester system lives on to this very day, forming the core of the Supreme Court’s analysis in Roe v Wade.

If we fast-forward to 1968, we can read in Pope Paul’s encyclical Humanae Vitae an implicit and sudden rejection of the Aristotelian model, which had existed and had been accepted virtually unchanged for over two millennia. While this encyclical was aimed at clarifying the Church’s position on the (relatively) recent innovation of artificial contraception, it explicitly referred also to abortion. Since the Pope found doctrinally unacceptable the notion of human choice and action interfering with the biological mechanism of conception, his logic mandated a similar condemnation of abortion. Having started with the premise that contraception (other than through the so-called “rhythm method,” later cynically appropriately dubbed “Vatican Roulette”) violated natural and hence ecclesiastical law, then a fortiori all forms of abortion, regardless of the circumstances, also violated church precepts.

Unfortunately, Humanae Vitae resulted in the unceremonious sweeping away of centuries of accepted philosophical thought. If human life is not seen to begin until some latter part of fetal development, as in the Aristotelian model, then a woman’s decision to use contraception or to choose an abortion prior to the third trimester cannot be linked to the destruction of life. But the Pope’s goal in the encyclical was to deter women from exercising conscious control over their reproductive systems: if Western philosophy needed to be rewritten to achieve that end, then so be it.

So what can women of today learn from this historical lesson? First, that conscious and deliberate choice over reproduction has been a part of human history as far back as archaeologists can delve; next, that the philosophical underpinnings of modern reproductive rights are far older than the repressive and retrograde religious dogma of the late twentieth century; and finally that only the methods of choice, and not the goals, aspirations or desires of civilized women, are the true recent innovations.

Child Custody Protection Act: Misguided, Dangerous to Teens

By Rep. Nita M. Lowey

As the summer comes to an end, Congress continues to misread the concerns of American families. Instead of focusing on ways to bring parents, teachers, and neighbors together to improve the lives of our children, the anti-choice House of Representatives has chosen to advance divisive bills like the so-called Child Custody Protection Act. That bill, first considered by Congress in 1998, would prohibit anyone including a step-parent, grandparent, or religious counselor from accompanying a young woman across state lines for an abortion.

This is a dangerous, misguided bill that isolates our daughters and puts them at grave risk ­ that is why the President has promised to veto it. Under this legislation, young women who feel they cannot turn to their parents when facing an unintended pregnancy will be forced to fend for themselves without help from any responsible adult. Some will seek dangerous back-alley abortions close to home. Others will travel to unfamiliar places seeking abortions by themselves.

Thankfully, most young women more than 75 percent of minors under age 16 already involve their parents in the decision to seek an abortion. That’s the good news. And as a mother and a grandmother, I hope as we all hope that every child can go to her parents for advice and support.

But not every child is so lucky. Not every child has loving parents. Some have parents who are abusive or simply absent. And some have parents who are deeply uncomfortable discussing issues of responsible sexuality with their children. I believe that those young women who cannot go to their parents should be encouraged to involve another responsible adult a grandmother, an aunt, a rabbi or minister in what is always a difficult decision.

Already, more than half of all young women who do not involve a parent in the decision to terminate a pregnancy choose to involve another adult, including 15 percent who involve another adult relative. That’s a good thing. We should encourage the involvement of responsible adults in this decision be it a stepparent, aunt or uncle, religious minister or counselor not criminalize that involvement.

I am now the proud grandmother of five, and I believe grandparents should be able to help their grandchildren without getting thrown in jail. As much as we might wish otherwise, it is unrealistic to expect that family communication and open and honest parentchild relationships can be legislated. When a young woman cannot turn to her parents, she should certainly be able to turn to her grandmother or a favorite aunt for help.

I believe that the Child Custody Protection Act and other misguided bills send the worst possible message to our young people ­ They say: “Don’t tell anyone. No one can help you. You are on your own.” As a result, young women will be forced to travel out-of-state by themselves, or remain in-state and obtain an illegal abortion.

Parental consent laws don’t protect our daughters but they can kill them. They don’t bring families together but they can tear them apart. My focus has been to do more to bring families together, and to keep our young people safe. I firmly believe that we should make abortion less necessary for teenagers, not more dangerous and difficult. We need to teach teenagers to be responsible if they’re sexually active, and encourage abstinence. And we need a realistic and comprehensive approach to keeping teenagers safe and healthy. These are goals all of us parents and grandparents, neighbors and friends can work toward together.

The Federal “Child Custody Protection Act” Doesn’t Protect Children

by Neil McCarthy

Anti-choice extremism got even nastier when the US House of Representatives passed the so-called Child Custody Protection Act. The Act, which was supported by Westchester Rep. Sue Kelly (R-Katonah), would make it a federal crime to take a minor to another state for an abortion in order to avoid the minor’s own state’s parental notification law.

Seldom is the idiocy and bitter hypocrisy of anti-choice extremism so transparent. The Act has nothing to do with child custody or parents’ rights. To the contrary, the Act is one of many efforts to block the safe exercise of a constitutional right. Should this bill become law, a minor who won’t talk to her parents and is afraid of talking to a judge cannot even count on the assistance of adult friends or relatives she can trust. “Child Custody Protection Act?” How about “Assisting Teens to Suicide Act”? At least that name would more accurately describe what is going on here.

The Act is also bad law. Although that never stops congressional right-wingers, most of whom as lawyers should know better, let me try anyway. Under the Constitution, states are required to give full faith and credit to the laws of other states. This entails at least two principles. First, states cannot govern the actions of those outside their borders. For example, New York cannot make it a New York crime to commit a New Jersey burglary. Second, however, states must respect the laws of sister states and facilitate their enforcement. Although New York can’t make it a New York crime to commit a New Jersey burglary, New York is obligated to return the burglar to New Jersey if caught in New York.

The Act makes hash of these principles by criminalizing what is legal conduct in the non-notification state. That state allows minors to consent to their own abortions, and doing so without parental notification is legal in that state. The notification state, however, is reaching over its border to govern and criminalize acts which are perfectly legal where they take place.

Extremists typically think the ends justify the means and rarely consider other consequences of their acts. In this case, however, the right wing should think again lest their own ox be gored. In fact, were I in Congress, and were the so-called Child Custody Protection Act the law, I would propose the following corresponding laws.

  • The Job Protection Act, making it a crime for a business to leave a union state for a right-to-work state, in order to flee unionization of the company’s work force.
  • The Revenue Protection Act, making it a crime for anyone to move from one state to another to avoid taxation in the “high” or “higher” tax state.
  • The Environmental Protection Act, making it a crime to transport recyclable items from a state that requires recycling to one that doesn’t for the purpose of avoiding recycling. (The Bring That Bottle Back Act would do wonders for the Jersey shore.)
  • The Auto Safety Act, making it a crime to travel 70 mph on I-95 in North Carolina (where that’s the legal limit) to make up time lost because of New Jersey’s 60 mph limit. (This Act would have the benefit of lowering traffic fatalities on those spring break trips college kids take to Florida, so I would have called it the Child Custody Protection Act if that name hadn’t been taken.)

Neil McCarthy is an attorney who ran for Congress in northern Westchester in 1992 and 1994.