Want to Cut the Abortion Rate Down Significantly?

It is often easy to forget in the ongoing debate over abortion that many of the women who actually end up getting them, don’t actually want them. In some cases, the abortion is sought out reluctantly, but willingly enough. In others, however, there is both subtle and overt coercion. Recognizing this ugly fact, however, may yet bring with it some good news for the pro-life movement.

In Minnesota there is a bi-partisan effort underway to pass legislation that would outlaw forced abortions in that state. The impact that this legislation may have on abortion rates would be truly impressive – a LifeNews.com article claims that studies show 64% of abortions involve coercion against the mother’s will. The bill’s objective would be simple:

The ban on coerced abortions would require abortion businesses to inform women before the abortion is done that no one can pressure them into having an abortion against their will.

To stop unwanted abortions from occurring, the bill would offer women help to remove themselves from dangerous situations where coercion exists and would establish civil and criminal penalties for anyone who forces a woman to abort.

In recent days, those of us who have argued steadfastly for the use of harsh language and images to convey the reality of abortions have come under fire from those who believe such techniques are ‘counterproductive’. Now is a good time for all of us to remember that there are many women who have abortion forced upon them, and many more who, while not quite forced, are pressured in many ways by parents and partners, and even employers, to have abortions.

Moreover, in theory this ought to be a bill that everyone on the political spectrum can support. Success in Minnesota would bode well for bi-partisan efforts in the future, perhaps transforming ‘abortion reduction’ rhetoric into a concrete reality.

In my view a campaign against forced abortion would be an excellent cause for the pro-life movement to prioritize valuable time and resources on. I would greatly prefer it to other legislative ideas being mulled around at this time, such as a bill that would ban sex-selective or even race-selective abortions, which I find both unenforceable and morally dubious. There can be no doubt, on the other hand, that forced abortion is or ought to be a serious crime, whether one is pro-choice or pro-life.

If implemented at the national level,  it may well cut the abortion rate down by a significant margin, assuming rigorous enforcement, and possibly in conjunction with the kind of financial support policies promoted by the Democrats for Life. With broad political support such a lofty goal could easily be achieved. A united front against forced abortion may well be the stepping stone to other goals that have proven elusive for the past 40 years. And it would force the partisans of ‘choice’ to put their money where their mouth is.

I’ve been looking for a concrete, focused cause to get behind, and this may well be it. I’ve also been looking for good news on the pro-life front, and I think this qualifies.

33 Responses to Want to Cut the Abortion Rate Down Significantly?

  1. M.Z. says:

    a LifeSite.com article claims that studies show 64% of abortions involve coercion against the mother’s will.

    This is why one should avoid citing Lifesite.

    There is a certain tendency within the prolife movement to be condescending to women. As President Bush put it in another context, there is the soft bigotry of low expectations.

  2. TomSVDP says:

    The workers who push an abortion get a commission like selling insurance. It was on Drew Mariani’s show on Relevant Radio. Sometimes, the workers can get a whole lot. That must be a part of the coercion. I bookmarked this posting. Good idea.

  3. Joe Hargrave says:


    Are you saying the statistic is inaccurate? I should update the post to show that lifesite.com got it from here:


    In any case, I am a little disappointed that you immediately jump to the conclusion that this is condescending to women. In the end, I would rather run the risk of being condescending than fail to confront the possibility of forced abortion. Even if 64% is a little high, I have no doubt that the true percentage is significant enough to warrant a serious political campaign.

  4. Joe Hargrave says:

    Pardon me, lifenews.com. That was a blunder on my part, amended in the original post now.

  5. Micha Elyi says:

    M.Z. is correct to be suspicious of your claimed statistic, Joe.

    I followed your mccl.org link and discovered claims such as “Murder is the leading cause of death among pregnant women.” That’s a red flag for fraud. Pregnant women are less, not more, likely to die from homicide than other women of reproductive age.

    Perhaps the people at mccl.org were unwitting dupes of the feminist advocacy types who spread that misleading claim about pregnant women all over the media. Perhaps the mccl.org people saw that statistic and so badly wanted to believe it was true that they considered it too good to check. It certainly fits into the condescending woman=victim ideology that many in the pro-life movement share with feminists. How was the inflated statistic fabricated? Women who weren’t pregnant were added to the numbers.

    Look closely at the probable source (one really ought to read the ingredients label before swallowing a media-hyped statistic, Joe) of mccl.org’s claim, one finds that the claims are not about the deaths of pregnant women but about pregnancy-related deaths. This number is adulterated with figures that include deaths of women during and for one year after pregnancy ends (and ends for any reason, including medical abortion).

    Feminists and their media wing (a.k.a. the mainstream media) touted that phoney claim everywhere they could. Face it, Joe, feminists (like others in the so-called “progressive” camp) lie, cheat and steal. The prudent person never, never, never accepts anything a feminist says as true until after having investigated the raw data upon which the feminist’s claim is based for oneself.

  6. Eric Brown says:

    “Feminists and their media wing (a.k.a. the mainstream media) touted that phoney claim everywhere they could. Face it, Joe, feminists (like others in the so-called “progressive” camp) lie, cheat and steal. The prudent person never, never, never accepts anything a feminist says as true until after having investigated the raw data upon which the feminist’s claim is based for oneself.”

    That is a very blanket statement. Moreover, you generalize all feminists into one camp and basically assert that each and every feminist holds to the same tenets. Certain self-identified “feminists” are pro-life and celebrate the different gifts of men and women. It is a relative term and many people apply it different.

    If anything, I am not sure if your close-minded view is at all Christ like. That would like me accusing all Republicans I disagree with as being neocons who can’t be trusted who “oppose progress” and “real science” and other such political rhetoric that divides people unnecessarily.

    A lack of cordial tone will not help achieve peace or prosperity. Perhaps you should consider this.

  7. Joe Hargrave says:

    How did this become an argument over the truthfulness of feminists?

    I am willing to accept the possibility that the number of truly coerced abortions is not as high as the study estimates – all other claims, as far as I am concerned, are not relevant here.

    The point is that regardless of the number, the legislation being proposed is sound, and will help the pro-life cause.

  8. Foxfier says:

    I followed your mccl.org link and discovered claims such as “Murder is the leading cause of death among pregnant women.” That’s a red flag for fraud. Pregnant women are less, not more, likely to die from homicide than other women of reproductive age.

    The statement “murder is the leading cause of death for pregnant women” does not contradict “non-pregnant women of X age are more likely to die from homicide.” One is absolute, the other is relative.

    As this news story mentions, there have been many studies that confirm this statement– to complicate matters, it seems that maternal deaths are under-reported by as much as 50%.

    I’d support a bill like this, especially if the penalties were dire enough to re-balance the risk involved in pressuring someone into an abortion.

    This blog specializes in maternal deaths from abortion, and the linked post is a long list of women who were pressured to abort their children, generally by their doctors. (She could really use some pro-life folks for her com boxes, too, if anyone has the time?)

  9. Mike Petrik says:

    As for the willingness of feminists to lie, does anybody else remember the Superbowl Sunday scam? The “rule of thumb”? Quite remarkable really. Sorry for being a bit off-topic here.

  10. Donald R. McClarey says:

    I support legislation banning coerced abortions. Additionally legislation should be enacted requiring abortionists to certify that an abortion is not coerced on penalty of being subject to a personal injury suit by the women who undergo a coerced abortion and decide to sue after the fact. A simple affidavit signed by the woman should not be sufficient under such legislation for an abortionist to escape possible liability, but rather the abortionist must take independent steps to ensure the abortion is not coerced. This would send the malpractice rates of abortionists crashing through the roof, and would also probably cause them to implement waiting periods and real, as opposed to phony, counseling to ensure that the abortion is not being coerced. It would probably also end underage abortions without parental involvement. Good post Joe! This idea has a lot of promise!

  11. Elaine Krewer says:

    Some years ago I heard the Eliot Institute’s David Reardon (who does extensive research into the aftereffects of abortion) say that around 70 percent of women who have abortions do so believing abortion is morally wrong, and that around 80 percent say they would have preferred to have had their baby had circumstances been different.

    Or to look at these stats differently, only 30 percent of aborting women have no moral qualms about their action, and only 20 percent truly did not want their baby and would have been determined to abort no matter what the circumstances.

    It appears to me that we may have a substantial percentage of women who are being persuaded to abort against their moral convictions and/or their own desires. How much of that is genuine “coercion”, of course, depends on how you define it.

    Personally, I would define a “coerced abortion” as one undertaken solely to avert a direct threat from another party of 1) bodily harm to oneself or others, 2) loss of home or livelihood, or 3) loss of custody of one’s other children.

    I suspect, however, that Life Site’s definition is much broader than that — they probably classify ANY instance of a parent, husband/boyfriend or female friend attempting to persuade a woman to abort as “coercion,” regardless of how strongly or frequently they do so, or whether any threat is expressed or implied.

    I cannot remember exactly where I read this — it may have been in a book of pro-life essays called “Rachel Weeping” — that the legalization of abortion on demand made it easier to coerce women into aborting, because women who really didn’t want to abort no longer had the “excuse” that it was illegal to back them up against pressure from others trying to persuade them that it was the “right” thing to do. In other words, to use a phrase that has been applied to another life issue, the right to abort could easily turn into a duty to abort.

  12. Matthew in Fairfax says:

    Following the link from MCCL.org over to the document at UnfairChoice.info, footnote 1 to the statement, “64% of women who aborted felt pressured by others” leads to this reference:

    VM Rue et. al., “Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women,” Medical Science Monitor 10(10): SR5-16, 2004.

    PriestsForLife.org says the study can be downloaded for free by going to this site, and Searching on Author Name = Rue:

    The text of H.F. 2228 has no additional information on this statistic.

  13. Elaine Krewer says:

    I would also have to include under the defintion of coerced abortion any abortion undertaken due to false or willfully incomplete medical advice or the deliberate withholding of requested information about alternatives — for example, a woman’s doctor insisting that her baby will be born deformed or that a pregnancy will endanger her life when he knows that is not necessarily the case.

  14. Joe Hargrave says:


    Thanks for that info. Can you also link the text of HF 2228? I wasn’t able to find it myself.

  15. largebill says:

    I believe Mark Twain once said “There are lies, there are damn lies and then there are statistics.”

  16. Matthew in Fairfax says:

    This link should work for text of H.F. 2228:

    As I understand it, the underlined portions are the proposed revision. There is also a comparable version in the Senate, S.F. 1989:

    I have not compared the two versions. If the links turn out to be temporary, simply follow the link at the bottom of the LifeNews article to the Minnesota Legislature and use the search function for the two bills.

  17. Blackadder says:

    Would a bill like this reduce the abortion rate by anywhere near 64%? Probably not; but the idea still has merit and, properly drafted, it’s an idea that pro-lifers should get behind. Good post Joe.

  18. Gerard E. says:

    Very promising idea. Would result in legal challenge over the definition of the term ‘coercive.’ But in this case, a use of the Saul Alinsky playbook- let your enemies define themselves. Would be a lovely way to define Planned Parenthood et al. In a war- and that for unborn babies is indeed one- no sense in using a cannon when a revolver will do the job. Not an all-encompassing solution to the slaughter of the innocent- there will be none. But valuable nonetheless. Let it happen, Cap’n.

  19. Dale Price says:

    Excellent post.

  20. Phillip says:

    The abstract only is available for free. It says 65% of American women who had an avortion experienced PTSD. No comment in the abstract on coercion. Perhaps it is in the body of the study. Though that costs $50 to buy.

  21. I strongly suspect that some of the eighty percent of women who would have prefered to keep their babies if circumstances had been different have problems that are not easily solved, even if they may in some sense constitute “coercion”.

    Example: A women is pregnant but not married, and want to have children but wants to be married first. Her boyfriend won’t marry her, even though she’s asked him to because of the pregnancy, so she’s seeking an abortion.

    There’s very little that anyone outside her circle of family and friends can do about that. I don’t see that he could successfully be prosecuted for “coercing” her to have an abortion, if his coercion went no farther than refusing to marry her at that time.

    However, I think it _would_ help at least some and would be a very good thing to pursue.

    Also, I like Donald’s point about liability. Give abortionists a major financial incentive to ask questions — whereas right now they have a major financian incentive to overlook coercion, statutory rape, etc. and book profits.

  22. Why did a law like this take so long to propose?

    Another problem I’ve wondered about is why pro-lifers haven’t worked with/through/against HMOs and insurance plans to create or expand exemptions for pro-life individuals and businesses who don’t want to fund elective abortions. Surely if the availability of abortion makes it harder for a woman or man to resist the pressures and desires to abort, privately funding it makes it even harder.

    A pro-life health plan option that does not fund elective abortions would also help those who know they could be tempted but want to strengthen themselves before any difficulties arise.

    (Also kudos to those pressing the accuracy of that 64 percent stat. Too many falsehoods floating around.)

  23. Foxfier says:

    HMO’s and insurance companies are already big targets of lawsuits; I can remember hearing about several Catholic backed insurance companies having to close down in states because they refused to pay for sterilization. (That was back when I was in high school, even.)

    Also kudos to those pressing the accuracy of that 64 percent stat. Too many falsehoods floating around.

    I don’t mind countering falsehoods so long as someone can show they’re false; shoot, even just saying “that doesn’t sound quite right” is good… thing is, so far, all anyone’s been able to show is that it’s not free to read the source study, and that the used definition of “involve coercion” is broader than they might agree with….

  24. Matt McDonald says:

    Joe this is a great idea, and is already a big part of the pro-life action in many areas. The proposal you sugges, along with others are an important part of chipping away at the evil of abortion.

    This is very similar in intent to the “informed consent” laws. Women are coerced not only by their family and spouses, but by misinformation. By forcing the abortionists to offer truthful information about fetal development, and ultrasound pictures the women are less likely to misled into committing an abortion.

  25. […] is something imposed upon no one in America by the state (though many abortions are indeed coerced, as I have pointed out elsewhere). Though legalized abortion itself was foisted upon Americans by a Supreme Court that went well […]

  26. lewiscrusade says:

    What is the better perspective on women, that they are so materialistic that they’d kill their own children or that they’re pressured into abortion by other factors?

  27. “I can remember hearing about several Catholic backed insurance companies having to close down in states because they refused to pay for sterilization.”

    Wow, I’d like to know more about that story.

    At the same time, wouldn’t it still be legal for a company to provide a generally “no abortion” health plan if it also provides a plan that covers elective abortions?

    This would create more administrative overhead of course, but it would improve pro-life options in the business sector and harness economic power for good effect.

    How many businesses are active in the pro-life movement? Some businesses hop on to environmentalism and other causes. While the controversy is greater concerning abortion, surely crisis pregnancy centers have a few corporate benefactors.

    Am I out of the loop, or are pro-lifers just bad at promoting their friends?

  28. Foxfier says:

    Wish I had more information, I just remember reading about it several computers ago.

    The idea of trying to prevent abortion support via talking to companies isn’t new:

    As for supporting pro-life businesses:

  29. Micha Elyi says:

    Kevin J Joneshttp://the-american-catholic.com/2009/06/10/want-to-cut-the-abortion-rate-down-significantly/#comment-13673 asked about the legality of offering a “no abortion” health plan. That’s a fine idea and Mr. Jones is right to wonder why it hasn’t been tried already. (Unmarried men would probably find “no pregnancy coverage” a money-saving option. I’d like to also see “no chiropractic” and “no acupuncture” as options but my state’s benevolent government forbids those much less controversial choices – for my own good, says the Nanny State.) Any health plan that offers a “no abortion” option would probably be shut down by our benevolent big government on, among other grounds, “inequality” between the sexes.

    Would “the better perspective on women,”Lewiscrusade wondered, be that their motive for abortion is “so materialistic that they’d kill their own children or that they’re pressured into abortion…?” To ask such a question is to risk implicitly swallowing a certain pro-abortion view – remember candidate Obama describing pregnancy as “punishment”? Alternatively, the question supposes that a pregnant woman has only two courses, the crude materialistic motives of the morally immature or no will of her own at all to resist “pressure,” is a very condescending view of women. We should simply reject the question entirely and preserve the “better perspective” for the other women who genuinely deserve it because they didn’t resort to bad reason A or bad reason B or whatever as an excuse to abort a baby.

    Yet because most people prefer not to attribute wicked behavior to any woman, the search for ways to excuse her or for a scapegoat to carry away her blameworthiness is popular. Thus, we’re treated to claims such as this one mentioned by Matthew in Fairfax, “64% of women who aborted felt pressured by others.” Well, I had done the prudent thing and read that study yesterday after M.Z. questioned its honesty. Guess what, “felt pressured” means whatever the female answering the survey chooses to make it mean. Her answer is next to meaningless. It’s a junk study very like the NOW/Koss survey that produced the very hyped claim that one in four women are raped in college. There is no college rape epidemic (sorry NOW, but reality is reality) and there is no coerced abortion epidemic (sorry Elliot Institute).

    I too would like to believe that in the total absence of any real or imagined pressure from others, no woman would solicit an abortion to kill the baby she conceived. But I know too much about womanhood to buy that. Suppose there is a law banning “coerced abortions” as Donald R. McClarey suggested. I forsee all sorts of mischief arising from such a law. The female has post-abortion regrets? Or her momma cries, “What happened to my grandchild?” and the female feels bad about upsetting her momma? Well, guess what, to escape the shame she now says she felt coerced and try to prove her wrong. Women have lied about being raped for even weaker face-saving motives and the falsely accused men have gone to prison.

    Perhaps most bad laws begin with those paving stones of the highway to hell, good intentions. In another of his comments, Matthew in Fairfax supplied links to legislation now proposed in Minnesota. I looked over the bills and noted the lists within them of what the legislators considered “evidence of coercion.” As I read them, the case of the Florida mother who marched her daughter to the abortuary at gunpoint mentioned as one of the “Extreme cases of coercion” at the mccl.org link Joe Hargrave supplied earlier kept coming to mind. No, the abort-at-gunpoint momma didn’t get sentenced to 20 years in prison for kidnaping, child endangerment, deadly threats, assault with a deadly weapon, gun crimes, and all the rest of the book that could have been thrown at her. No, abort-or-die momma didn’t get even 2 years in the slammer. She got 2 years probation. Until the existing laws are properly enforced, even against women, who commit genuine cases of coercing abortion, what’s going on now in Minnesota is legislative grandstanding. Let’s face it, should those bills become law the courts will see them as attempts to harass and strike those laws down just as they have struck down previous attempts to harass abortion-soliciting women and the abortionists they use.

    I regret that abortion on demand is legal in America and I can see how pro-life activists might let their concerns get ahead of their better judgment and start promoting claims that the average person is prone to misinterpret as something especially alarming. The “64% coerced” claim sounds startling and engages people’s natural inclination to rescue females but it’s not what it appears to be. The same goes for the “murder is the leading cause of pregnancy-related death” claim; it is startling and people who don’t question startling claims are gulled into imagining there’s an epidemic of murdered pregnant women. There isn’t. Nor are such deaths “underreported” (by an honest, in-context meaning of the term) as Foxfier fretted. The reason so few jurisdictions bother to make “murdered while pregnant” a separate reporting category for the death statistics they collect and aggregate is that it is so very, very rare. What’s next, an anti-euthanasia organization complaining that government agencies aren’t compiling “murdered while under chemotherapy” statistics and therefore such deaths are “underreported”? C’mon, let’s get real and insist that our fellow pro-life advocates steer clear of the temptation to spin incomplete and out-of-context facts in ways that obviously mislead the public.

    Bottom line, I very much doubt that this proposed Minnesota legislation will “cut the abortion rate down significantly” even if it is not struck down by the courts as harassing women who are exercising their (shamefully) court-given “right” to abortion on demand. Remember, that Florida woman who coerced a young woman to have an abortion at gunpoint got probation. There is nothing this proposed law really does that isn’t covered by other, existing laws. Women aren’t so helpless that they can’t pick up a phone and call the police if they are truly being “coerced” to do anything against their will. I agree with M.Z. that “there is a certain tendency within the prolife movement to be condescending to women” and, though saying so may seem uncordial to some, this Minnesota legislation is a manifestation of that tendency.

  30. Joe Hargrave says:

    That was quite a treatise.

    A few points.

    “I too would like to believe that in the total absence of any real or imagined pressure from others, no woman would solicit an abortion to kill the baby she conceived.”

    Who believes that? No one said “no woman”. A more accurate and honest description of our position would be that more women than we ordinarily imagine are coerced or pressured into getting an abortion they don’t want.

    Aside from that, I fail to understand your logic. You say that you agree with MZ that we are being ‘condescending to women’. But about the study cited, you say,

    “Guess what, “felt pressured” means whatever the female answering the survey chooses to make it mean. Her answer is next to meaningless.”

    First of all, the original article notes that 64% of women CLAIM to have been coerced, and perhaps I could have made that clearer in my post. Why is it meaningless?

    It can’t possibly be because of the handful of cases where women falsely report rape – and we certainly aren’t going to remove laws against rape because they are occasionally misused.

    No, a law against forced abortion would, I should hope, presume that each case would be investigated in the same way a rape claim is investigated.

    Now how is it not ‘condescending’ when you have 64% of women saying they feel coerced, and you say it is meaningless? Do you think 60% of them just want to make up false stories? 50%? Does your knowledge of “womanhood” tell you that all or most of these women are lying? If not, then can you really justify invoking the outlying exceptions to scuttle the proposed rule?

    Finally its just ridiculous to propose a sexist bias here. Plenty of people, men and women both, I say again, MEN AND WOMEN BOTH, are ignorant of their Constitution rights and are often victimized because of it. Instead of worrying about potentially offending someone because we don’t assume they are a legal expert, we ought to be striving to empower people with knowledge and protecting the vulnerable. Yes, I will wear the label of “condescender” if I must.

  31. Trent Ganger says:

    70% of all statistics are made up, everyone knows that.

  32. Tito Edwards says:


    There’s a good 50% chance that you’re wrong.

  33. Diane says:

    I deal with women who call for abortions and the sense that I get is that women make poor choices. I don’t sense many that are forced, although I’m sure a small percentage are.

    I know we have to be politically correct and try to focus on the emotional damage abortion does to women, but my feeling, from talking to these abortion-seekers, is that they continue to make bad choices (having sex outside of marriage, picking losers to be involved with, no sexual morality, looking for quick fixes, focus on self, absolutely no focus on the baby, etc).

    I have much less empathy for these women than before I became involved in this volunteer work.

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