Pro Life Groups Once Again Take Credit for Work of Birth Control, Sex Ed

Illustration for article titled Pro Life Groups Once Again Take Credit for Work of Birth Control, Sex Ed

A new report from the Associated Press found that abortion rates have dropped by 21 percent since 2010, and anti-abortion groups are once again taking the credit. And, as ever, they had nothing to do with it. The opposite, actually.

As our Stassa Edwards noted Saturday, the decline has been seen in states with both strict anti-abortion laws as well as more liberal states with fewer restrictions. (The only increases were seen in Michigan and Louisiana, which both have strict anti-abortion laws.) Anti-abortion folks are choosing to just hear the first part of that statement; in a Chicago Tribune story about the falling abortion rate in Illinois, Emily Zender, the executive director of Illinois Right to Life, told the paper, “This is the most pro-life generation we’ve seen in history.” That led to an exultant tweet from anti-abortion group Live Action:


The “pro-life generation” claim is very common, even when the facts, er, don’t quite match up: take this recent story from LifeNews, which claims a new Gallup poll shows that Americans want abortion to be illegal in “most or all” circumstances. And then take a look at the Gallup poll itself, which found that, no, only 19 percent actually want it to be illegal in all circumstances, while 36 percent think it should be illegal in “some” instances, and 50 percent describe themselves as pro-choice. There’s also broad consensus among Democrats and Republicans that abortion should be legal if a pregnant person’s life is at risk.

So what’s actually behind the falling abortion rate? The same things as always: declining rates of both teen pregnancy and unwanted pregnancies overall, and an increased use of “highly effective” contraception methods. As Slate’s Amanda Marcotte pointed out back in December, that was demonstrated in a 2014 study from the Guttmacher Institute; the authors found a “strong circumstantial case” that better birth control was leading to the precipitious abortion decline between 2008 and 2011. There’s also good evidence that abstinence-only sex ed leads to increased teenage birth rates, and that comprehensive sex ed has a way of keeping more people less pregnant.

And while the “pro-life generation” folks are busy taking credit for this very encouraging downward abortion trend, they’ve done literally everything in their power to block sex education and discourage young people from using birth control. Live Action has falsely claimed for years that hormonal birth control is an abortifacient, and Lila Rose, the group’s president, only mentions birth control when she’s claiming it’s deadly:


And only mentions sex education to suggest that it’s a plot conceived of by dastardly Planned Parenthood educators who want teenagers to flog each other Fifty Shades-style:


This is not a group to let a silly thing like facts slow them down; over at LifeNews today, Operation Rescue’s president Troy Newman called the AP report “great news,” adding, “It proves that Americans are rejecting abortions in favor of life in unprecedented numbers. There’s no doubt that we are winning and the abortion cartel is waning.”

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Speaking of pro-life groups, I got this in my email today in response to my email criticizing this group’s mailing of “dead fetus” covered postcards to private residences. Apologize for length. Omg. Glitterbomb.

Thank you for your email! We received your response to our #No2Trudeau Campaign and appreciate knowing what you think. Due to the high volume of emails and limited personnel and resources we are unable to respond to each message individually. Your message, however, was read in its entirety and we want to acknowledge receipt of it. Furthermore, given that your objection to the campaign is similar to other objections we hear, we offer this response in addition to the Postcard FAQ and Face the Children FAQ sections on our website:

For people who disagree with our pro-life perspective on abortion, it makes sense that they would object to seeing what abortion looks like. After all, it is harder to maintain a “pro-choice” position when the choice of abortion is defined in its brutal, bloody reality. Please understand that our perspective on abortion, namely that it kills a human being, is not based on feelings, but instead on facts. Our arguments for this are laid out here. More arguments are laid out in our online classroom.

There are others who agree with our pro-life perspective on abortion but object to our strategy. If you are one of these people, please know that we are running the campaign for these three reasons:

First, there are babies alive today because pregnant women considering abortion saw these images and changed their minds. Consider the wealth of testimonies of changed minds and saved lives that we routinely report in our newsletters.

Second, women who regret their abortions have been moved out of denial and have sought helpful counselling as a result of seeing graphic images. Consider this reflection from a post-abortive woman who partners with us, as well as this article: “How the Healed Help the Hurting.”

More broadly, the history of social reform is characterized by examples of graphic images being used to dramatize injustice and shock the conscience of the culture. Campaigns to end slavery, child labour, civil rights abuses, and other systematic oppression involved showing the public the humanity of the victim and the inhumanity of his victimization. See the lesson “Historical Social Reform” on our website, and also the “More Information” links on the same page.

We recognize the intense pain and suffering abortions have caused people. It is not our intention to further hurt those who are struggling with their past. We wish to help people avoid this pain to begin with, and to encourage the wounded to find healing. What we often point out is that there is a difference between triggers and trauma, and abortion, not the pictures, is the trauma (learn more here). For anyone who needs help healing from abortion, we recommend these websites: and

Additionally, we address the post-abortion journey on our website, and you will find a two-page essay about abortion and finding redemption here.

We also recognize that there are objections to our campaign related to the fact that children may see the images. Please see our response to that concern: “What About Children Seeing the Images?”

Finally, for those who find the imagery disgusting and appalling, know that we agree with you. We don’t like it either. But human rights abuses don’t end on their own—they end only when a society stands up and demands change. And our society will only stand up and demand change when it is convinced that an injustice exists. What better way to convince our visual culture that abortion is an injustice than to show them what abortion does. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.


On behalf of the CCBR Correspondence Team,


Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR)