Forty Years After Roe: Have the Tables Finally Turned?

March 2013

Throughout this passing winter season there lingers in the air a certain triumphalism on the part of progressives whose presidential candidate stomped all over both his Republican opponent and advocates of traditional marriage and the sanctity of life. It isn’t a stretch to say that President Barack Obama smacked around the U.S. Catholic bishops and suffered no negative ramifications — on the contrary, he was rewarded. Since the President’s campaign focused inordinately on abortion and contraception, you’d think the purveyors of these would be resting on their laurels. After all, if ever Planned Parenthood could open its own office in the White House, it’d be now. It is instructive to note, however, that in the run up to the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, not only did the topic of abortion receive more mainstream media coverage than in other Januaries of recent memory, but the stories weren’t always the typical puff pieces for the pro-abortion movement.

Even The New York Times ran a story about how pregnancy centers are gaining influence in the pro-life arena and are “growing in numbers and gaining state financing and support” (Jan. 4). The article walks a fine line between reporting and spying on the enemy, but it can’t conceal a certain level of awe at the work of pregnancy-center volunteers. More importantly, the article accurately describes the centers, which are “largely run by conservative Christians,” as locus points of compassion in the whole pro-life versus pro-choice framework. Notice the article’s uncommon deployment of facts: The pro-life centers “usually offer free [pregnancy] tests and ultrasounds, services that clinics like Planned Parenthood charge for. They offer advice about baby-rearing or adoption, ask if women are being pressured to abort, and give technical descriptions of abortion and fetal development.” Compare this with its description of a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic: “Clients receive nonreligious ‘options counseling’ from volunteers, staff or a licensed counselor who had an abortion.” Planned Parenthood is said to “distribute information,” but according to Katie Wolfe, the clinic’s health educator, “We’re our patients’ medical provider, not their emotional support.” So much for bleeding hearts.

The Times piece does cover the usual pro-choice talking points. It repeats abortion advocates’ claims that some pregnancy centers’ approaches are “deceptive or manipulative.” Medical and “other experts” are said to accuse pro-lifers of dispensing “scientifically flawed information, exaggerating abortion’s risks.” Dishonesty in advertising is hinted at, and the un-named pregnancy center “mobile units” strategically parked near Planned Parenthood clinics are portrayed as suspicious. But the article also ventures into taboo territory for journalists, as it gives voice to Heartbeat International’s Urban Initiative website, which exposes the racism and eugenics that have underlain Planned Parenthood from the beginning. The Times quotes a sermon by “John Piper, a minister: ‘O that the murderous effect of abortion in the Black and Latino communities, destroying tens of thousands at the hands of white abortionists, would explode with the same reprehensible reputation as lynching.’”

Pregnancy centers now number about 2,500, compared with about 1,800 abortion providers. Jeanneane Maxon, vice president of Americans United for Life, estimates that “the centers see about a million clients annually, with another million attending abstinence and other programs.” Thirteen states now provide some direct financing to pregnancy centers, and 27 supply them with the proceeds from citizen purchases of “Choose Life” license plates. Texas now requires abortion clinics to provide clients with names of centers at least 24 hours before performing an abortion, and Planned Parenthood (PP) is battling South Dakota over a law that “requires pregnancy center visits before abortions.” Perhaps the Times article is just keeping up with the times. It ends with the vignette of an abortion-minded client who changed her mind: “Care Net let her stay in a house [which a pro-lifer] owns, found her a job, negotiated debt payment plans, offered Bible study and other classes.” The grateful young mother described the center’s workers as a second family. No reader could find such selfless, compassionate, holistic care described more plainly.


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New Oxford Notes: March 2013

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