Is pro-life pro-woman? Or is abortion necessary to empower women? Whether you identify pro-choice, pro-life or teetering in the middle, we can all agree on two things: 1) Women deserve world-class loving medical care and 2) Feminism is and must be, based upon intellect. That’s what feminist have fought so hard for – to be respected and treated as equally capable and intellectual as men.
To answer the question: is pro-life pro-woman?, we must examine how abortion affects women, what abortion is, and if abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood reflect feminism as our founding mothers defined it.
Does abortion hurt women?
If abortion is empowering to women, then it must not hurt women. Let’s look at what the science says:
The most comprehensive and largest study of the mental health risks associated with abortion,was published on September 1, 2011, in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry. The study was a meta-analysis that examined 22 other studies that had been published between 1995 and 2009. The study involved 877,181 women – 163,831 of whom had abortions.
Here’s what the study found:
Women who have had an abortion have an 81% higher risk of subsequent mental health problems compared to women who have not had an abortion.
Women who aborted have a 138% higher risk of mental health problems compared to women who have given birth.
Women who aborted have a 55% higher risk of mental health problems compared to women with an “unplanned” pregnancy who gave birth.
Women with a history of abortion have higher rates of anxiety (34% higher), depression (37%), alcohol use/misuse (110%), marijuana use (230%), and suicidal behavior (155%) compared to those who have not had abortions.
[Dr. Coleman’s meta-analysis excluded studies that were potentially biased or weak. The meta analysis only included studies that were published in peer reviewed journals, had at least 100 women participating, controlled for prior history of mental health or abuse (that could have skewed the results), and compared women to those who had not had abortions with those who had abortions.]
Further studies from all around the world confirm health risks for women who have abortions:
According to the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, documentation shows that since 1957, 58 out of 74 (78%) research studies conducted in 22 countries confirmed an increased risk of breast cancer following induced abortion. In one of the most recent meta-analysis studies conducted in China in February of 2014, a 44% increased risk of breast cancer was found after a woman had one induced abortion (a 76% increase following two induced abortions and an 89% increase following three induced abortions).
A recent study published in Bangladesh in 2013, found women were over 20 times more likely to get breast cancer if they had a history of induced abortion.
Read all the science on abortion and breast cancer here or read 10 facts about breast cancer here at the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
In Canada, a study reported that 25% of women who had had abortions visited a psychiatrist over a 5 year period, compared to 3% of women how had not had abortions.
A comprehensive and detailed study in Finland examined female medical history over their lifetime and uncovered that women who had abortions had a rate of suicide in the year following their abortions three times greater than all women of reproductive again – and six times greater than women who gave birth. The researchers gave two possible conclusions: either abortion poses a risk to mental health or there are common risk factors for both abortion and suicide.
As we examine these percentages, it is vital that we recall that for over 40 years, 1 – 1.6 million women have abortions in the United States every year. Taking the Canadian study for example, 25% of 1.3 million women who had abortions in one year… is 325,000 women suffering.
What post-abortion women we’ve counseled for 48 years tell us
For 48 years, Illinois Right to Life has offered counseling and support for women who have had abortions. Our experiences counseling women reflect those found in the studies above.
One woman who was pregnant as the result of rape told us, “I know this sounds terrible. I’d rather be raped again than to ever have to go through with another abortion.” She knew we could understand the horror associated with rape and wanted us to understand that abortion violated her even more than that.
Other women share with us that they use drugs, alcohol, and suicidal attempts to cover up the pain of abortion. They stayed in abusive relationships following the abortion because they wrongly thought they deserved it. One woman shared she cannot use the hand dryers in the women’s bathroom because the sound of the hand dryer is the same sound the machine made as it vacuumed out her child. Other women say it’s the song she heard in the waiting room or the smell of the abortion doctor’s perfume that triggers the nightmares.
Women share with us that they struggle to bond with children after the abortion or they struggle with fertility. We’ve dried the tears of women who pour out their hearts to us telling us about the pain of their abortion over the phone, after talks we give, in our communities, and at social events.
The pain and agony we have witnessed first hand along with the firm scientific studies, have brought us to the point where we would never recommend abortion as healthy or good for any woman.
What women tell the largest post-abortion healing ministry in the nation
The Catholic Church runs the nation’s largest post-abortion healing program called Project Rachel. The ministry is for Catholics, non-Catholic Christians, and those of no faith at all. Project Rachel connects those hurting from abortion with professional help that the individual requests such as: psychologist specially trained in abortion healing, drug and alcohol addiction counselors, support groups with other women and/or priests. Here’s the Catholic Church’s statement on the pain of abortion:
“The staff, priests, and counselors in Project Rachel, the Church’s post-abortion ministry are well aware of the mental health problems women experience following an abortion. The national Project Rachel ministry website, which lists offices to call for confidential help, receives countless letters from women and men expressing profound anguish, sometimes for decades after an abortion. Thousands of tragic personal stories are posted in chat rooms and on message boards like those at www.afterabortiortion.com”
The Archdiocese of Chicago has shared that they receive an average of five calls per day from women and men seeking healing from the pain of abortion.
You can hear for yourself what women are saying regarding their abortions here and here.
We cannot and will not state that all women who have abortions will feel the hurt and pain as laid out above. That would be scientifically incorrect and unfair to project how someone will feel. We can conclude with the support of significant rigorous scientific evidence and decades of experience that abortion causes profound pain to an extremely large number of women. The science shows women who choose life instead of abortion have dramatically reduced health risks associated with breast cancer, mental health, and more.
We do not advance women’s rights by hurting women. We do not advance feminism by telling women something that can cause profound pain and be detrimental to their health is “empowering” or “good.” That’s not women’s rights. That’s torture.
Is it a child?
No woman – pro-choice or pro-life – delights in the “killing of a child.” No woman feels empowerment or desires to “kill a child.” So, does abortion kill a child? Or is it a blob of tissue and/or just part of the woman’s body?
We spoke with Dr. Robert Lawler, an OB/GYN in Downers Grove, with 20 years of experience on the development of an unborn child. Dr. Lawler is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Here’s what he confirmed is how an unborn child develops in the womb:
Science says that at conception the hair color, eye color, and sex of the child has already been determined. The child’s DNA is completely unique from the mothers’ and will never again be repeated in the history of the world.
At what age does an unborn child’s heart begin beating? 21 days after conception (3 weeks.)
At what age can an unborn child hiccup in the womb? 16 weeks!
At what age can an unborn child feel the pain of being dismembered by the abortion? 20 weeks! Read more on the science behind the pain an unborn child feels at 20 weeks here.
At what age does an unborn child’s brain begin to develop… and at what age does it stop developing? The human brain begins developing at 4 weeks and stops developing at 25 years old!
At what age does an unborn child’s fingers and toes develop? 9 weeks!
Does science say when life begins?
Let’s turn to the leading scientific textbooks to find out when life begins. Check it out:
Keith L. Moore, a world-renowned embryologist and author of the best selling textbook: The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (10th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Sauders, 2016) states:
“Human development is a continuous process that begins when an oocyte from a female is fertilized by a sperm from a male,” (pg. 1).
“Human development begins at fertilization when a sperm fuses with an oocyte (the woman’s egg) to form a single cell, the zygote (the term for an egg that is fertilized by a sperm). This highly specialized, totipotent cell (capable of giving rise to any cell type) marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual” (pg. 12).
Let’s check a different scientific textbook:
“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization…is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte (female egg).”
– Human Embryology & Teratology (Ronan R. O’Rahilly and Fabiola Muller [3rd edition, New York: Wiley-Liss 2001], p. 8).
Let’s check another one:
“Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.”
– Langman’s Medical Embryology (T.W. Sadler, 11th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006, p. 13).
The list goes on. We’ll stop here with the textbooks solely because of redundancy.
National Geographic produced a television program entitled In the Womb in 2005 that showed the development of the unborn child. In the introduction of the program they sum up the scientific knowledge of the beginning of life:
“The two cells gradually and gracefully become one. This is the moment of conception when an individual’s unique set of DNA is created, a human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated.”
The question of when life begins was put to rest in 1981 (April 23 – 24) when a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing on the question of when human life begins. A group of internationally renowned geneticists and biologists testified that life begins at conception.
Here’s what the doctors had to say:
Dr. Micheline M. Mathews-Roth, Harvard Medical School, testified with references from over 20 embryology and other medical textbooks that human life begins at conception:
“It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”
The “Father of Modern Genetics,” Dr. Jerome Lejeune, told the lawmakers:
“To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion … it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”
Dr. Hymie Gordon, Professor of Medical Genetics and physician at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, affirmed this consensus:
“I think we can now also say that the question of the beginning of life – when life begins – is no longer a question for theological or philosophical dispute. It is an established scientific fact. Theologians and philosophers may go on to debate the meaning of life or the purpose of life, but it is an established fact that all life, including human life, begins at the moment of conception.”
Dr. McCarthy de Mere, medical doctor and law professor, University of Tennessee, testified:
“The exact moment of the beginning of personhood and of the human body is at the moment of conception.”
Dr. Alfred Bongiovanni, professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, concluded:
“I am no more prepared to say that these early stages represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty … is not a human being. … I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”
Dr. Landrum Shettles, sometimes called the “Father of In Vitro Fertilization,” notes:
“Conception confers life and makes that life one of a kind.”
The official Senate report reached this conclusion:
“Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being – a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless.”
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the largest abortion provider in America published a pamphlet in 1963 entitled Plan Your Children for Health and Happiness. The pamphlet stated,
“An abortion requires an operation. It kills the life of a baby after it has begun.”
Planned Parenthood has now changed its mind and rejects that life begins at conception.
Even the definition of “fetus” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary further explains the science behind when life begins:
Fetus / noun / fe ·tus / ˈfē-təs\: a human being or animal in the later stages
of development before it is born
In Latin, “fetus” means “offspring.”
It’s a woman’s body?
Now that we’ve established with science that it is a fact in the medical community that human physical life begins at conception, we can now address two important questions: Is it a child? And Is it a woman’s body and a woman’s choice?
Not only do all the scientific experts above soundly refute that an unborn child is merely a “blob of tissue,” but so does every textbook on the human person!
Better yet, you can see what a person looks like for yourself. Check out the development of a child here. (Google more! We’re getting redundant if we continue to list more places.)
Second, if it is in fact a woman’s body, then you would have to teach that when a woman is pregnant, she has two heads, two hearts beating, four arms, four eyes and twenty fingers!
To describe an abortion as merely removing a part of the woman’s body is scientifically incorrect. To remove a woman’s gallbladder is to remove a part of the woman. To remove the child is to stop the child from growing inside a woman’s womb – two very different concepts. Therefore, the arguments that it is a woman’s body or a blob of tissue are easily dispelled.
Science and experience show us that abortion hurts women and that an unborn child is in-fact a human person at conception. Therefore, an unborn child is guaranteed equal rights as all men and women. An unborn child’s rights do not exceed the mother’s rights, but are equal to the mother’s rights. This means, both the mother and the child have a right to life. This doesn’t detract from a woman’s rights.
What do the founders of the feminist movement say about abortion?
Perhaps one of the most well known feminist leaders, Dorothy Day, had an abortion herself. Feeling pressured from the father of the child, she reluctantly had the abortion.
Her next unplanned pregnancy, she instead chose life and said:
“I sat up in bed in the hospital and wrote an article for The New Masses about my child, wanting to share my joy with the world … a joy all women know no matter what their grief at poverty, unemployment, and class war…The account was reprinted all over the world in workers’ papers.”
Following the birth of her child, feeling empowered, Day went on to lead movements that opposed the death penalty, war, anti-black racism, anti-Semitism and abortion.
“We’re living in an age of genocide,” Day said. “Not only war, and the extermination of the Jews, but the whole program of abortion.”
Blackwell was the first woman on the British medical register and the first woman to receive a medical degree from an American medical school. She graduated at the top of her class and later opened her own private practice also serving as a professor of gynecology at the London School of Medicine for Women.
She wrote this about abortion in her diary:
“The gross perversion and destruction of motherhood by the abortionist filled me with indignation, and awakened active antagonism. That the honorable term “female physician” should be exclusively applied to those women who carried on this shocking trade seemed to me a horror. It was an utter degradation of what might and should become a noble position for women…I finally determined to do what I could do ‘to redeem the hells,’ and especially the one form of hell thus forced upon my notice.”
Susan B. Anthony
“Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so that their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them,” said Anthony.
Susan B Anthony is another of perhaps the most well-known feminist leaders in history. She brought about incredible change, challenged laws and ways of thinking, and continuously served poor women to make their lives better.
She called abortion “child murder” and “infanticide.” She wrote against abortion in the women’s paper she published while calling for us to instead address the root causes of abortion such as women’s oppression, poverty, abuse, and a lack of education. She encouraged family planning and refused to accept paid ads for her paper that advertised for abortion inducing drugs.
Alice Paul summarized her disdain for abortion in this statement:
“When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit,” Stanton wrote in 1873 in a letter to Julia Ward Howe.
Our heroic feminist leaders recognized that pregnancy and motherhood is a nearly unexplainable joy and power of the woman – not something to suppress, hide or terminate. They flaunted their pregnancies and challenged their communities to embrace their pregnancies. They delighted in the challenge to raise a family and soak in the joy of motherhood while also attending Ivy League schools or leading movements against war, sexual abuse, and women’s suffrage. They acknowledge that abortion was a side effect to a greater problem – not the fix to the problem. They committed their lives to solving the underlying problems that drove women to abortion: poverty, a lack of education or mis-education, abuse, and female oppression.
To read more about the 20+ feminist leaders’ advocacy against abortion visit: Feminists for Life here.
Is Planned Parenthood a leader in women’s rights?
Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the nation, calls itself a leader in women’s rights. Planned Parenthood, in their cute pink paint and flashy talking points, has launched themselves to the front of the conversation positioning themselves as a leader in the women’s rights movement.
But does Planned Parenthood speak for women or should women speak for themselves?
What happens when we set aside Planned Parenthood’s pink colored paintbrush and forget their flashy talking points? Let’s compare what we believe feminism means to what Planned Parenthood actually does:
We believe in allowing science to answer the question of when life begins and allowing intellect dictate the outcome. As shown above, it is undisputed in the medical community that life begins at conception.
When Cecile Richards, the CEO of Planned Parenthood was asked on national television when she believes life begins she had three answers:
- I don’t think that’s relevant to the issue.
- For me life began when my children were born.
- Each person should decide for themselves when life begins.
Women’s rights must be based up on intellect. Ms. Richards misled (or lied) to hundreds of thousands of women on when science says life begins. Her response ignored mountains of undisputed scientific data. But what Ms. Richards is also saying is that it doesn’t matter if it is a child, we should still kill her/him anyways. That idea is horrifying.
We believe women deserve to be presented with all the knowledge and facts to make informed decisions.
Planned Parenthood opposes every single informed consent law in the country. Informed consent laws would require Planned Parenthood to inform women of medically accurate information regarding their pregnancy to assist them in making the decision. Women considering abortions would be presented with medical facts about the procedure, the development of the child, and the risks before making her choice.
We believe sexual abusers should not be able to take the girl they are sexually abusing for a secret abortion.
Planned Parenthood opposes every parental involvement law in the country. These laws would require notification or consent from a (or both) parent of a girl before she receives an abortion. This protects girls from being sent back into the hands of their rapists for more sexual abuse. Illinois’ parental notice law reduced the number of abortions on teenage girls by 28.8% in the first year.
We believe in providing women with honest and medically accurate facts.
Planned Parenthood CEO, Cecile Richards was caught lying to women saying they provide life-saving mammograms. However, when asked unde oath if Planned Parenthood provided mammogram, Ms. Richards stated they do not. Watch here:
We believe that women deserve world-class medical facilities.
No Planned Parenthood in Illinois is licensed nor has received a health and sanitary inspection since 1999. In Illinois, tanning salons, Chicago Restaurants, and nursing homes are inspected an average of once ever year. Illinois abortion clinics are inspected an average of once every 9 years.
We believe all men and women are created equal.
Planned Parenthood is currently suing the state of Indiana for making it illegal to abort a child only because it is a girl and the parents wanted a boy. Planned Parenthood defends sex-selective abortion that targets pre-born girls.
We believe every human person is worthy of love and care.
When asked what Planned Parenthood would do if a child was born alive during an abortion and was breathing on the table, the Planned Parenthood representative told the Florida General Assembly they would leave it up to the mother and the doctor whether or not to strangle or suffocate the born child or provide medical care.
We believe women should be presented with clear facts and choices to make decisions for themselves.
92% women seeking pregnancy services from Planned Parenthood receive an abortion instead of an adoption referral or prenatal care. That’s not good counseling, that’s a good sales person.
We believe Planned Parenthood should focus its money on helping women.
If 41% of Planned Parenthood’s income comes from taxpayers, we believe that money should go towards helping women. Let’s look at how Planned Parenthood is spending money:
- Planned Parenthood has enough excess revenue for a $100 million endowment.
- Planned Parenthood gave $22 million to its political action and lobbying arm. $11.8 million was given to Democratic candidates. In the 2016 presidential election, Planned Parenthood has pledged to spend $20 million to elect Hilary Clinton. $67 million was spent on fundraising over the course of three years. $200,000 of Planned Parenthood’s money was sent to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a progressive political organization.
- $14,000 was spent on travel per day ($5.1 million in 2013), while $600,000 was spent on exorbitant parties in 2013.
- Planned Parenthood sent $32 million overseas to Africa and Latin America, and $3.4 million to Central America and the Caribbean.
Planned Parenthood isn’t the epitome of feminism it is feminism’s nemesis.
Do women need Planned Parenthood?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the leading risk factors that harm a women’s health are: heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Planned Parenthood provides no services to women to help with these leading causes of damage to women’s health.
Charted below are the services offered by federally qualified health centers compared to Planned Parenthood’s services. The information was taken from the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and compiled by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
|Healthcare Service Provided||Planned Parenthood||Federally Qualified Health Centers|
|Emergency First Responder Care||√|
|Diabetes and Glaucoma Screenings||√|
|Pediatric Eye, Ear, Dental Screenings||√|
|Cardiovascular Blood Tests||√|
|Bone Mass Measurement||√|
|Nurse on Staff||√|
|Manual Breast Exams||√||√|
According to Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ annual report, they served approximately 60,000 women in 2015. According to the Guttmacher Institute there are over 2.6 million women of childbearing age in Illinois (15-44). This means Planned Parenthood served 2.3% of women of childbearing age in Illinois. (Nationally, Planned Parenthood serves a mere 4.3% of all women of childbearing age.)
There are 17 Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in Illinois. There are 670 comprehensive care clinics that do not provide abortions that women can go to in Illinois. These comprehensive care clinics treat a woman’s entire body. Planned Parenthood only provides a few services for women’s sex organs.
Nationally, there are over 13,540 comprehensive care clinics that women can visit for complete women’s healthcare that can replace Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has roughly 700 clinics that will only provide services for a woman’s sex organs.
The 4.3% of women who visit Planned Parenthood would instead be visiting healthcare clinics that provide comprehensive care for her entire body allowing the healthcare professionals to provide higher quality care.
Women in unplanned pregnancies need love and resources. That’s why the pro-life movement has set up a nation-wide network of pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and doctor offices that are there to support women.
There are over 100 pregnancy resource centers right here in Illinois alone!
Is pro-life pro-woman?
If you believe Planned Parenthood’s idea of feminism then you believe women have to literally crush another person in order to succeed. That’s not empowerment.
Feminism means telling each other the truth. It means not only giving women options but empowering women to choose the option they want.
It’s telling women and men that no matter the obstacle, no matter how hard it appears now, you are stronger than you know. It’s about saying, I believe in you. I hear you. I’m here for you.
Pro-life tells women, you are beautiful, we’ll be there for you, we believe in you, and you can accomplish your dreams. You do not need to dismember your unborn child to be successful and happy.
Instead, let us work together to fight the facts that drive women to feel abortion is the only option. Factors like poverty, abuse, a lack of education, and oppression.
Laura Wolk a law school student at the University of Notre Dame penned the following conclusion:
“So this is my challenge to you…Critically question the dominant cultural narrative that being born a woman means being handicapped by a fertility problem that you must “rise up” against. Listen to that still, soft voice the next time she speaks to your innermost heart and entertain, even for a moment, the radical belief that, by virtue of your very creation, you are enough. Ask God to reveal your fundamental uniqueness and irreplaceability to you. Pray that He shows you what it means to be truly free and gives you the strength to pursue it with all your heart. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
 Coleman, PK, “Abortion and Mental Health: Quantitative Synthesis and Analysis of Research Published 1995-2009,” BJP 2011; 199:180-186).