Crisis Pregnancy Centers In Crisis

Recently, the 9th District upheld a California law that required crisis pregnancy centers to actually refer clients for abortions. This is a clear violation of both conscience and free speech principles long held dear by Americans. It’s hard to overstate how hateful and unnecessary this is considering that if you google California abortion clinics, it takes you to abortion.com and a list of… California abortion clinics.

The mantra for years has been "safe, legal and rare" and this is the latest example that the only critical aspect of that trinity is "legal". Abortion is more than a right to be reserved, it has become a muscle to be flexed. In a society that is sometimes loathe to legislate morality, California seems very comfortable legislating immorality. The pro-choice movement used to exist in the intellectually tenuous position of stating that abortion was a difficult choice, yet maintaining that the fetus wasn't a life. In recent years, they have cleaned up this intellectual inconsistency by either fully denying the humanity of the fetus or stating it doesn't matter when compared to the interests of the mother. They doubled down on the lie.

This new law represents an especially troubling double standard because it does nothing about the fact that Planned Parenthood refers one adoption for every 150 abortions, by their own numbers. Equal application of the law, while not a perfect solution, would at least ensure that every pregnant woman was presented with all of her options at every abortion clinic/crisis pregnancy center. In states such as California, the pro-life movement is at a point where they have to fight tooth and nail for even a libertarian standard of the law.

Additionally, a common trope is to claim that pro-life people are only interested in eliminating abortions, and not helping pregnant women or truly promoting life. There are 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. and they are funded by private and taxpayer money. While standards and practices vary, they often provide post- and pre-natal services to women. Their services run the gamut from pregnancy testing to STD testing to counseling to ultrasounds. Some clinics have services that cost money; in others, money never changes hands. The pro-choice movement wants to denigrate the pro-life movement as merely being "pro-birth", but it is making it harder for pro-lifers to aid women both before and after the birth. They handcuff the pro-lifers and then ask why they don't do more to help.

Crisis pregnancy centers have come under some criticism recently by pro-choice groups, which shouldn't be surprising, as Americans now only agree on loving "Stranger Things" and hating Alabama football. To show the depths of my commitment to writing this piece, I braved actually watching a 7-minute segment about the pregancy centers on the TBS late night show "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee". It's telling that a show not bound by journalistic standards still could come up with very little substance. Most of the claims revolved around the pregnancy centers not being up front about their bias against abortion and not having appropriate medical staff on hand. Considering that the name "Planned Parenthood" is nothing more than a euphemism and the quality of care at abortion clinics isn't exactly top notch, this is a bit like George Costanza making fun of Michael Landon's hairline.

I'm trying to put myself in the opposition's shoes here. I suppose one could argue that this new California law is comparable to the law that many states have regarding pre-abortion counseling, wait times and ultrasounds. They might claim that an abortion provider would be violating their conscience by doing anything that could compromise an abortion that they feels is in the woman's long-term best interest.

The problem with this viewpoint is that it isn't consistent with the "safe, legal and rare" argument. If education and awareness cause a sincere change of a woman's heart, why shouldn't we all be happy? The answer is that, less abortion is less money, so the clinics aren't happy.

The other problem with this is that not all rights-of-conscience claims deserve to be respected equally, if it all. We as a society need to order them according to what we think is better: giving the mother every chance to choose life or stacking the deck in favor of abortion and using pro-lifers as pawns in the process. The legal standards in this country have never been that any claim of conscience or religious freedom is automatically honored. People would simply hide vile actions behind the veil of religion. Things such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act merely give a framework for claiming religious protections. The original RFRA, signed by Bill Clinton, stated that “governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification”. So, ii would seem this applies here, as no one is unduly put out when those who dedicate their lives to fighting abortion don't need to make referrals for it.

This week, I had the misfortune of seeing probably the worst blog post I have seen in months. It was by a progressive Christian who basically said that white, conservative Christians who said they were pro-life really weren't. Then, as so often is the case, he pays lip service to his disdain for abortion while next placing other issues above it. His dismissal of pro-lifers as white and conservative ignores the reality that this is a group getting more diverse by the day, and a group where women are shouldering the burden. The most glaring weakness is it ignores the fact that that minorities are having a disproportionately large amounts of abortions. So, pro-lifers are only white conservatives who are concerned with white conservative stuff, yet are committed to a world with more minorities? For what? Just to "steal" from them and keep them poor?

It is a sad caricature. The only pro-life people that many pro-choice people encounter seem to be opportunistic, right-wing politicians and talk-radio hosts, so it's a lot easier to disregard their conscience when they doubt the conscience even exists in the first place. And that is from some fellow Christians. The rabidly pro-choice don't merely disregard our conscience, they want to destroy it.

For such people, my argument likely falls flat (if they were ever to even read this). About 20% of Americans exhibit a degree of dogmatism and emotionalism about the sanctity of abortion that they would mock if applied to religion. The tapes of Planned Parenthood's admissions of malfeasance are dismissed as edited lies. In any other situation, a trail of money leading to baby parts would lead to a serious reckoning, but instead, they attempt to indict the messenger. Our society lionizes victimhood, but fails the most vulnerable when it comes to abortion. Feminism is championed, but no effort is made to look at which gender bares the real cost of this practice.  No amount of clever (or not-so-clever) rhetoric will do the job. But, just because I can't convince my 8-year old nephew that Batman is cooler than Superman doesn't mean it isn't true.

And, because the argument for abortion falls flat, the argument for protecting free speech falls flat. Many Americans only care about these Constitutional protections such as free speech when it serves their cause. I would argue this is a particular problem among secularists and progressives, but 2016 has definitely shown us that tribalism happens on all sides of the aisle. "I don't argee with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" used to be a trite and self-evident way to find some common ground, kind of like making fun of Westboro Baptist Church. But now, such a statement is an anathema to many young people. They don't recognize that the fact that they find speech dangerous is not a compelling reason to limit it. On the contrary, it's often the very reason why we need to protect it. And the fact, in this case, the fact that the dangerous speech is not referring someone for an abortion at a pro-life pregnancy center just takes the problem to an entirely new and sick level.

But, there is room for hope. Within those abortion hardliners lies the next great pro-life champion. Dr. Bernard Nathanson helped found NARAL and aborted his own child (without feeling any immediate remorse) before converting to Catholicism and, obviously, a pro-life position. Abby Johnson was a decorated Planned Parenthood worker before her conversion. Norma Jean McCorvey was a pro-choice trailblazer (and probably, a pawn) before becoming Catholic and committing her life to overturning Roe vs. Wade. The overwhelming majority of of people in the pro-life cause know that we would be nowhere without these people who once stood against us. And that there still exist a few in our cause who won't accept them back into the fold should be a stark reminder of the dangers of denying grace to others and how easily that denial can pervert even the noblest of causes.

But, back to the issue at hand: California. It’s clear, persecution is upon us. But it’s important to be honest and not overstate our case. Are mass beheadings likely? Clearly not. But, social isolation, fines and losing one’s livelihood certainly are possible (of course, these are minor things, until they happen to you). If a gun were put to our head, many of us would wisely chose Jesus over continuing to live. This is not to take anything away from martyrs, as death is a big deal, no matter how you slice it. Also, many martyrs died a long and painful death, yet remained faithful to the end, so it wasn't quick and easy trip to heaven for them. But, there is a certain clarity when the decision is that binary. My fear for myself and my children is that we won’t recognize the true stakes, and we will choose cowardice, thinking it to be prudence. Passing that test will now be a big part of what drives my prayers.

Doug Connolly