Responding to reports that more financially troubled women are seeking abortions, pro-life leaders have criticized the "pseudo-compassion" which presents abortion as an answer to personal economic turmoil. Emphasizing that abortion signals that women’s needs are not being met, they called for more help for pregnant mothers, pregnancy centers and fathers.
Recent press coverage has reported that women may be seeking abortions because of the economic crisis, while affected men may be seeking more vasectomies.
According to Planned Parenthood of Illinois CEO Steve Trombley, the state’s abortion clinics performed a record number of abortions in January. Trombley, speaking to the Associated Press, declined to give exact numbers but claimed many abortion-seeking women were motivated by economic worries.
Stephani Poggi of the National Network of Abortion Funds, which helps poor women pay for abortions, claimed calls to the network’s national help line have nearly quadrupled from their rate a year ago.
Brooke Holycross, 25, of Port Orange, Florida was offered financial assistance for an abortion but changed her mind after seeing a sonogram of her 15-week-old unborn child. She already has three daughters and her common-law husband was laid off.
"We're in a spot where we're scared," she told the Associated Press. "Babies are expensive... I'm just praying to God I did the right thing."
On Tuesday several pro-life leaders discussed how to reduce the number of abortions in a meeting with Josh Dubois, former evangelical pastor and current executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Attending the meeting were representatives from Care Net, a U.S. network of 1,160 pregnancy centers which help women find alternatives to abortion. Kristen Hansen, spokeswoman for Care Net, told CNSNews.com that nine out of ten women who go to the pregnancy centers decide to carry their pregnancy to term.
She reported that the network’s centers altogether have 30,000 volunteers and help provide pregnancy tests, baby clothes, maternity clothes, diapers and tests for diseases. They show women how to obtain health care and also teach paternity classes, childbirth classes and classes on saving money.
Concerned Women for America (CWA) President Wendy Wright also attended the meeting.
"So far, I think this administration has really only been hearing from groups like Planned Parenthood, which profits from a higher number of abortions," Wright said before the meeting. "So, of course, the kinds of policies and programs they’re going to promote would be ones that would not reduce the number of abortions. They just don’t have an incentive for reducing abortion."
Speaking to CNA on Wednesday, Wright said the meeting with DuBois was "very cordial." She said the main aim of the meeting was "to meet one another and to find out a bit more about the goals of his office and to provide information that he may not have heard otherwise."
One topic of discussion concerned the lack of evidence for the claim that federal funding of family planning reduces the number of or need for abortions.
She reported that that Care Net’s presentation featured "real life stories" of how the organization has helped mothers and fathers who are facing unexpected pregnancies.
Noting that the mandates of the Faith-Based Office include reducing the need for abortion and promoting fatherhood, Wright told CNA, "Pregnancy resource centers are doing a terrific job at both."
Speaking of Dubois, she told CNA "it didn’t seem like he or his staff were aware of the wonderful things pregnancy resource centers were doing."
"There are three times more pregnancy resource centers than there are abortion clinics but most people are not aware of them," she claimed, expressing hope that the meeting with the Obama administration officials will bring attention to the pregnancy centers.
"We need to make sure that people in our communities are aware of them, and make sure pregnancy centers have the resources they need to help clients.
The Associated Press had reported that Mid and South Michigan Planned Parenthood CEO Lori Lameriland saw a "receptivity" among legislators to hear the group’s prevention policies.
"Folks who wouldn't have opened the doors to a Planned Parenthood representative are now willing to talk to us," Lameriland had said.
Wright warned of other proposals from Planned Parenthood, telling CNA the organization "is kind of on a rampage to introduce legislation that would restrict or penalize pregnancy centers. People need to be aware of this tactic and ready to defend pregnancy centers against these kinds of bills."
In the past, Wright reported, the state of Oregon had proposed a "terrible bill" that among other restrictions would have set up a toll-free phone number for people to call with anonymous complaints against pregnancy centers.
"The bill was written by Planned Parenthood," she charged. "Planned Parenthood is actively trying to eliminate their competition. They’re not interested in reducing the number of abortions. They’re not shy about trying to eliminate alternatives for women."
Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life of America (FFLA), said the economy has caused "desperation" among some pregnant women, driven to abortion by their lack of financial resources and emotional support.
The lack of a job or the loss of health care can significantly affect a family, she explained, saying that it is "incumbent" upon the pro-life community to "connect" women with resources that can meet their needs.
Serrin said it is "truly disturbing" that the reports discussing economically imperiled women seeking an abortion present abortion advocates and providers who talk about "how the women needed abortions."
"They’re undermining women’s rights and they’re undermining women’s needs," she charged, saying abortion advocates should instead help women "address the primary problems" driving them.
"They’re not doing that," she charged. "To say to a woman who can’t pay her energy bill or her housing bill, ‘We’re going to give you an empty womb,’ that’s unacceptable."
An upcoming issue of FFLA’s magazine American Feminist will feature a piece titled "Raising kids cheap," Foster said. It will help explain options that "won’t cost a fortune" to help the mother and father envision having their child.
It also aims to help people see that "you don’t need to have everything perfect and planned in order to have a child," she told CNA. The piece will teach "creativity" in feeding a family, discuss how to deal with energy bills, and how to secure help from those who can provide it.
"Our vision of wealth and what women are capable of has been radically changing over the past 36 years since abortion was legalized," Serrin explained, saying that the number of necessities has been "inflated" as have expectations of a "perfect life."
CNA also asked Wright and Foster how journalists, politicians and others could be made aware of the work that pregnancy centers do.
"It’d be terrific if local officials and politicians did a tour of their local pregnancy center. That could bring attention to their work," Wright suggested.
Foster said people could e-mail their friends and family in an ongoing way to inform others of resources and support.
She also added that they should respond to economic difficulties with personal stories about "how they made it" through difficult economic times.