Is it possible for abortion to become rare even while Roe v Wade blocks regulation or prohibition by the states? In the book Making Abortion Rare: A Healing Strategy for a Divided Nation, Dr. David Reardon answers "yes," and proceeds to lay out an innovative three-pronged strategy for dramatically curtailing abortion rates.
"Making Abortion Rare" can be ordered by calling 888-41-ACORN (888-412-2676). However, to give you a glimpse of the ideas and strategy outlined in the book, we are publishing here the author's introduction to the book and the concluding words or "summary" that appear at the end of each chapter.
I never intended to write this book. For the last twelve years my goal has been to educate the general public about how women are seriously injured and exploited by abortion. I have discovered, however, that I am instead spending most of my time trying to explain to pro-life activists exactly why post-abortion issues are so important. Indeed, it is my claim that post-abortion issues are the key to converting hearts -- the key to winning the battle for life.
It is my belief that every aspect of the pro-life movement will be transformed and energized by a better understanding of post-abortion issues. Everyone who works for the pro-life cause, crisis pregnancy counselors, public relations directors, fund raisers, political activists, direct action activists, pro-life politicians, doctors, lawyers, and lobbyists, and most of all, pastors and other religious leaders, can and should use this knowledge every day in order to be more effective. And not least of all, grassroots supporters must understand post-abortion issues because they are the ones who will most directly display to friends, relatives, and fellow workers the compassion which opens minds, converts hearts, fosters healing, and ultimately, saves both lives and souls.
To many this claim that post-abortion issues must become the center point of the pro-life movement will appear quite radical. But it is not my belief alone. Many of the people with whom I have worked in post-abortion ministry have expressed the same view. We also agree that while post-abortion issues have become increasingly important to the pro-life movement during the last ten years, post-abortion issues are still misunderstood and treated as a distant relative to the "main" pro-life cause. They have yet to become as central to the pro-life strategy as they must be if we are ever to become a pro-life society.
So it is that I have finally realized that for the last twelve years I have been placing the cart before the horse. Before I spend any more time in trying to awaken the public to a truth it doesn't know, I must first convince pro-lifers about the pivotal importance of a truth they already know: abortion hurts women.
The attainment of every pro-life goal hinges on this truth. If we ignore it, we are faced with an uphill battle against the cultural currents of our society and our goal of protecting the unborn will never be achieved. On the other hand, if we use this truth as the pivot point for all of our other arguments, the currents of our society will automatically work to our advantage. We will be engaged in a downhill effort, where the dynamics of human nature and these same cultural trends which now block our efforts will supply the irresistible gravity that assures us of reaching our goal with only a modest effort.
This book is not about fighting harder in defense of human life; it is about fighting smarter. It is about removing the plank from our own eyes before we tend to the wounded eyesight of our neighbors. This book is about fundamentally redefining the abortion debate, redrawing the lines of battle to reemphasize our commitment to being both pro-woman and pro-life. Most of all, it is about developing a comprehensive strategy which integrates post-abortion issues into political campaigns, legislative initiatives, litigation efforts, public relations efforts, and Christian ministry. This holistic approach creates a powerful synergy in which each field of activity adds impetus to the whole, effectively multiplying our resources rather than consuming them. In this approach, all things work together for the defense of human dignity and for the glory of God.
By now many readers are prepared to accuse me of shameless exaggeration. But I beg you to give me the benefit of the doubt and the chance to show you how all that I have claimed here is true. Indeed, I beg leave to claim even more: the downfall of the abortion industry has already begun. By God's providence, everything described herein has already commenced, but how soon the process is completed depends on how quickly we pro-lifers accept our duty to reshape not only the hearts of others, but our own hearts as well.
Is this promise of a quick and easy victory just more hyperbole? No. Remember how Communist Russia and the Eastern Block disintegrated and fell apart with startling speed? The same thing is beginning to happen with the abortion industry. What is now a trickle will soon become a deluge. Soon the abortion industry will find that it can no longer hide the fact that the only way to kill an unborn child is by maiming and traumatizing the child's mother, not to mention the father, grandparents, siblings, and society as a whole.
Thousands of grieving mothers and fathers are already beginning to speak out and organize in revolt against their "benefactors." With the right kind of assistance, millions more will join them in expressing their outrage, demanding reform, and filing law suits. The dangers of abortion will become so well known that even if it were to remain legal, no physician will dare risk the liability of performing one. Abortionists will become uninsurable.
The end is certain. It won't be the moral arguments that topple the abortion industry. It will be women's rights. Ironic, isn't it? But this time it will be the authentic rights of women which transform our nation. Specifically, the right to know about abortion's risks; the right to be screened for predisposing risk factors; the right to be offered safer alternatives; and the right to sue abortionists and hurt the only thing they care about -- their bank accounts.
This strategy is already moving forward. There are hundreds of individuals already working in this direction and achieving tremendous strides. But our ultimate success will come far sooner when the pro-life movement, in general, better understands the dynamics of the post-abortion movement and becomes more active in supporting it.
Exposing the Lies Behind Abortion on Demand
Abortion in the United States, and throughout the world, has been legalized because of two basic lies. The first lie is that abortion only destroys a "bunch of cells," not a human being, much less a baby.
During the last two decades the pro-life movement has concentrated its efforts on dispelling this first lie. Millions of dollars have been spent on advertising campaigns, books, brochures, and films such as the powerful Silent Scream, to educate the public about the humanity of the unborn child.
The result is that nearly 80 percent of the public will now admit that abortion involves the destruction of a human life, even though many in this group still believe abortion should be legal. In fact, studies show that at least 70 percent of aborting women entering abortion clinics believe that what they are doing is morally wrong or, at least, "deviant" behavior. These women are seeking abortions not because they believe it is the right thing to do, but because, given whatever pressures, they feel it is the only thing they can do. Indeed, one of the big lies hidden behind the "freedom of choice" argument is that most aborting women feel they have no choice. They are choosing abortion not in accordance with their own conscience, but against their own conscience.
Clearly the vast majority of the public understands that abortion involves the taking of a human life. So, in large part, abortion advocates have now abandoned the first lie in favor of a much repeated claim: "The needs and rights of a woman are more important than those of a fetus."
There is an important lesson we should learn from this. While efforts to educate the public about the unborn's humanity may help to motivate pro-lifers, such efforts will have no effect on those who support abortion. This ambivalent majority may admit that abortion is wrong, but they believe it must be tolerated as an "evil necessity" -- with an emphasis on necessity. These people have hardened their hearts to the unborn "fetus." It may be human, they admit, but it is a less important human than the woman. End of argument. Nothing we can say on behalf of the unborn will sway them from this position. Their concern is focused totally on the woman.
Therefore, the only way to reach them is for us, too, to focus on the woman. We must change the abortion debate so that we are arguing with our opponents on their own turf, on the issue of defending the interests of women.
To do this we must begin to concentrate our efforts on exposing the second lie behind legal abortion. That lie, which is the key to legalized abortion, says: "Abortion is safe."
The truth is the exact opposite. Abortion is inherently unsafe. Well over a hundred significant physical and psychological complications have been linked to abortion. This list of complications is quite diverse. One cross-sectional sample would include increased rates of breast cancer, sterility, substance abuse, and sexual dysfunctions. An equally interesting cross-section, which parallels the first, would be increased rates of liver cancer, ectopic pregnancies, suicide attempts, and broken relationships.
The psychological effects of abortion can be particularly devastating, literally crippling a woman's ability to function in normal relationships, with family or friends, and even at work. The frequency and severity of abortion related complications have led some critics of abortion, including myself, to conclude that the phrase "safe abortion" is an oxymoron.
Yet most people have little or no awareness of the pervasiveness of abortion related complications. It is the widespread belief that "legal" means "safe" which is seducing the middle majority of Americans. Even though they are uncomfortable with the fact that unborn children are being killed, they tolerate abortion because they believe the lie that: "At least women are being helped."
But once this lie is exposed, the middle majority's thoughts will dramatically change. At that point the middle majority will begin to ask themselves: "If abortion is causing women so much suffering, what are we doing this for?!" It is then that their moral ambivalence about abortion will swing the scales against the abortion industry. It is then that we will be able to protect both women and their unborn children.
Reading this Book
Because this book involves an intertwining of theoretical and practical issues, moral and strategic issues, and legal and medical issues, there is no perfect way in which this material can be organized. Thus, a subject touched upon in one chapter may reemerge as a major theme in a later chapter. At other times, I will appear to assume that the reader is already familiar with a topic which will not actually be discussed in depth until much later. In this I trust that readers will read the subsequent chapters which will clarify the point.
To accommodate readers who like to skip about and browse, I have tried to make each chapter somewhat self-sufficient, which in some cases results in a bit of redundancy. In fact, since many will already be familiar with some of the ground I am covering, I encourage readers to skip around, and even over entire chapters.
After all, my goal is not that you learn everything which I present in this book, because it simply doesn't cover everything you need to know in this field. Instead, my goal is really to see you totally convinced of the unbeatable power of post-abortion issues in winning the abortion debate. It is that which will motivate you to learn more. Once you are convinced, this book will show where to find the knowledge you need and how to put it to effective use.
To assist both browsers and linear readers in understanding my organization, the following is a brief outline of the chapters:
In Chapter One, I will examine the moral appropriateness of the woman centered pro-woman/pro-life strategy as compared to the traditional pro-life approach which emphasizes the sacredness of human life. I will attempt to show that this approach is not only moral, but is morally demanded of us, a theme which we will return to in Chapters Ten through Twelve.
Chapter Two turns to the practical matter of assessing this strategy's likelihood for success in the square of public opinion. We will look at the attitudes of the middle majority of Americans, those who believe abortion is the killing of a human life yet favor keeping it legal. This examination will help us to explain why post-abortion issues are the key to the hearts of this ambivalent majority.
Chapter Three continues with a look at the political aspects of this strategy. While most politicians avoid the abortion controversy for fear of alienating voters, candidates who adopt the pro-woman/pro-life stance are empowered with the key for aggressively building common ground with the ambivalent middle majority. Instead of fearing a negative reaction at the polls, they can be assured of gaining the support of voters even in pro-choice districts. Best of all, this political strategy uses post-abortion issues to expose the anti-choice and anti-woman beliefs of pro-abortion candidates in a way which is sure to weaken their support among pro-choice voters.
After these preliminaries, we then turn to the three major fronts of our pro-woman/pro-life strategy: legal issues, healing issues, and research and education issues. It is notable that each of these fronts is independently capable of bringing an end to abortion on demand, but together they are an unstoppable combination. Indeed, the latter two prongs of our attack, post-abortion healing and education, are the most important part of our strategy and they cannot be obstructed by politicians or the courts. But since it is the legal issues surrounding abortion which most dominate the public discussion, especially among pro-lifers, our strategic analysis will begin with these.
Chapter Four examines how the Supreme Court's decisions, beginning with Roe v. Wade, have actually shaped the law in a way which can be used to our advantage. Indeed, it is a splendid irony that the same Roe decision which spawned the modern abortion industry also provides the precedent for sustaining the pro-woman laws which will eventually smother it.
Chapters Five through Eight examine how to get maximum leverage out of the Supreme Court's pro-woman decisions. We will look at how the abortion industry routinely violates the rights of women and ignores the standards of medical practice required by the Supreme Court and the common standards of medicine. These are the issues for which abortionists can and should be held liable in civil suits, and here readers will discover how abortion is always bad medicine and therefore always a good opportunity for malpractice attorneys.
Chapter Nine describes important legislative initiatives which can facilitate the right of women to recover damages for abortion related injuries. In addition to its practical impact, the process of passing this legislation will help to advance our goal of educating the public, the legislatures, and the courts.
The second major front of our strategy, and the most important, is the task of promoting post-abortion healing for the women, men, and families who have been traumatized by abortion. This aspect doesn't require changing laws so much as changing ourselves.
Chapters Ten, Eleven, and Twelve examine why we must seek to create a society which is conducive to post-abortion healing and how we must expand our understanding of these issues to succeed at this task. These chapters underscore my firmly held belief that we have a moral obligation to promote post-abortion healing. Until we commit ourselves to it, we, the Church, will not have learned the lesson of compassion which we are meant to learn from this great holocaust.
The third front of our strategy is post-abortion research and education. By completing more research into post-abortion sequelae we will increase the liability for performing dangerous abortions, and by making the public more aware of post-abortion injuries we advance all aspects of our strategy.
Chapter Thirteen describes how and why research and public education initiatives relating to post-abortion issues can be most effectively coordinated and funded. Specific research concepts are outlined in Appendix D.
In Chapter Fourteen we will look at why this three-pronged pro-woman/pro-life offensive is more dynamic and self-energizing than the traditional pro-life strategy. We will also defend our claim that this approach is a more efficient use of our resources.
In Chapter Fifteen, we will return to a discussion of the political aspects of our pro-woman/pro-life initiative in light of all the information covered since Chapter Three. Here we will look especially at ways for translating the opinions of the middle majority into concrete gains for both women and the unborn.
Finally, in Chapter Sixteen, we will look at the critical role that post-abortion issues will continue to play even after Roe is overturned and a Human Life Amendment is in place.
The Strategy Behind this Book
This book is not intended to document post-abortion injuries. As a companion to this book, readers should refer to my previous book, Aborted Women: Silent No More (Loyola University Press and Crossway Books, 1987) which is a comprehensive treatment of the negative effects of abortion on women. Additional resources are listed at the end of the book.
It is also assumed that readers who are not familiar with post-abortion issues will at least accept as a premise that the physical, psychological, and spiritual consequences of abortion are serious and lasting for many, and probably most, of the women who undergo abortion. If this premise is true, then the strategy described herein cannot fail. If it is false, then the pro-abortionists will win the day. But I assure you, women are hurt by abortion, in far greater numbers than most people can imagine.
A related assumption is that readers will understand the immense pressures which compel the majority of women who seek abortion. For most women, abortion is a marginal choice. It is an ambivalent and irresolute choice initially made without an accurate understanding of risks and alternatives.
Consider the following research findings:This data, combined with more than a thousand case study reports, demonstrates that the decision to abort is often tentative, or even undertaken solely to please others. Indeed, it is our belief that the majority of women seeking abortions, if guaranteed a free and informed choice would decide that childbirth is clearly their healthiest choice.
Approximately 40 percent of women who experienced post-abortion problems were still hoping to discover some alternative to abortion when going for counseling at the abortion clinic; and More than 80 percent say they would have carried to term under better circumstances or with the support of loved ones. Between 30 and 60 percent of all women having abortions have a positive desire to carry the pregnancy to term and keep their babies; Approximately 70 percent have a negative moral view of abortion and are choosing against their consciences because of outside pressures; More than 75 percent would not have sought an illegal abortion - presumably out of a concern for safety; and More than 60% report having felt "forced" to have the abortion by others or circumstances.(1)
These are important facts which must be incorporated into pro-life thinking. All too often pro-lifers have tended to characterize aborting women as selfish and immoral. A far more accurate generalization would be to portray aborting women as confused and driven by despair. This insight is a vital one to our pro-woman/pro-life strategy.
I should also point out that the emphasis on women in this book is not intended to ignore the negative effects on men, siblings, and parents. By its very nature, abortion injures everyone it touches. Nonetheless, next to the unborn, abortion is probably most injurious to the women who actually experience this invasive violation of their persons.
In addition, as a practical matter in our attempt to influence public opinion, abortion is seen as a "woman's issue" and so the impact on women has more political weight than its impact on men. Furthermore, because so many men see it is a "woman's issue," post-abortion healing for women is a prerequisite for increasing awareness of the need for post-abortion healing of other third parties, such as post-aborted fathers, siblings, and grandparents.
Another distinction which I believe should be made at the outset has to do with our specific goal. Pro-abortionists will attempt to criticize our pro-woman strategy as merely a smear campaign intended to frighten women away from "necessary" abortions and an attempt to encourage "harassment" suits. We must not lend credence to this assertion by making the claim that our goal is to shut down the abortion industry.
Instead, we must always emphasize that our goal is simply to help and protect women. We may predict that our efforts will lead to the demise of the abortion industry, but that is not our direct goal -- it is merely a byproduct of our legitimate concern to protect women's rights. Indeed, it is our belief that if women's rights are truly respected the abortion industry will shut down for lack of demand. Furthermore, if we are right in our belief that abortion is inherently dangerous, it will also be shut down for lack of physicians who are willing to hurt their patients, which is a violation of their Hippocratic oath to "first, do no harm."
Another way of describing our position is this: we believe that the only reason there are so many abortions is because abortion profiteers are exploiting women who are either (1) being denied the truth about risks and alternatives, or (2) are being coerced into unwanted abortions by other people. If we are wrong, then our pro-woman/pro-life initiative will have no effect on the abortion industry. If we are right, then it is their own medical incompetence which will lead to their demise.
Our immediate goal, then, is simply to ensure that whenever an abortion is performed, it is done as safely as possible and with proper respect for the freedom of women, a goal which everyone should be able to agree upon. While we predict that abortion will never be safe, and therefore abortionists will always be faced with liability risks which will make abortion very rare, we are challenging pro-abortionists to prove us wrong by accepting proper liability for protecting the health of the women whom they claim to serve. Will they voluntarily accept this challenge? Not very likely. But in refusing proper liability for their mistakes they will expose themselves as being more concerned about abortion industry profits than women's rights.
While this issue of proper legal liability for abortions will generate the most controversy, in the long run it is not the most important aspect of our proposal. Post-abortion healing and education are far more important to achieving our ultimate goal. This is because the political goal of making abortion illegal has always been a truncated vision. Our real desire has always been to create a culture where abortion is not just illegal, but is unthinkable.
In such a culture, the physical, psychological, and spiritual dangers of abortion will be common knowledge. In such a culture, commitment, compassion, and a sense of duty to aid and protect both the mother and the child will be universal. In practice, this ambition may never be fully realized, but it is the one toward which we should always strive. It is toward that goal that this book is directed.
Excerpted from Making Abortion Rare (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books.) Copyright 1996, David C. Reardon, Ph.D.
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1. David C. Reardon, Aborted Women - Silent No More, (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987) 11-21. See also, Mary K. Zimmerman, Passage Through Abortion (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1977) 62-70.
2. O.E. Worcester, M.D. "From A Woman Physician: An Open Letter to Dr. W.W. Parker." JAMA
1894; 22:599 reprinted in "JAMA 100 Years Ago," JAMA 271(15) April 20, 1994.
3. Roe, 166. Women are free to request abortions and women are the parties who are intended to benefit from this procedure, but as a medical procedure the right to abortion is a medical privilege of physicians. "The [Roe v. Wade] decision vindicates the right of the physician to administer medical treatment according to his professional judgment up to the points where important state interests provide compelling justifications for intervention." Roe, 165-166.
4. "[A] woman has at least an equal right to choose to carry her fetus to term as to choose to abort it."
Maher v. Roe, 432 U.S. 464 472, n.7.
5. "If the pregnant girl elects to carry her child to term, the medical decisions to be made entail few --
perhaps none -- of the potentially grave emotional and psychological consequences of the decision to abort." H.L. v. Matheson, 412-413.
6. For a complete discussion of a woman's right to full disclosure under Roe and subsequent rulings,
see Chapter Eight.