Monica Snyder, the Executive Director of Secular Pro-Life, recently appeared on the Spillover podcast, hosted by Alex Clark. Watch the video or read the transcript below. Many thanks to our volunteer transcriber, Anna Rawerts. Want to join her? Learn more about becoming a Secular Pro-Life volunteer.
Alex: I love having guests on the show to talk about abortion. We’ve had abortion survivors, expert apologists, a former Planned Parenthood director, and more. My guest today is an expert on debating abortion, but what’s unique about her in particular is that she’s a pro-life atheist.
She is the executive director of Secular Pro-Life and has a bachelor’s in chemical biology and Masters in forensic science. Basically, she’s a genius on this topic.
At 28 weeks pregnant, she went undercover to a late-term Abortion Center in Washington D.C. I talked to her about that emotional experience and I also ask her some tough questions like: are the majority of late-term abortions medical emergencies? Do women who are turned away from getting an abortion and have their child wish that they would have aborted years later? How can you argue that abortion is immoral if you don’t believe that an authority on morality exists? Like her, because she doesn’t believe in God. Plus, will there be a surplus of unwanted children if we ban abortion?
Her specialty is in biological facts and peer-reviewed research related to the abortion debate, so if you love an intellectually challenging episode, this is your jam. Also, I’m just going to tell you: you will want to listen to this, like, three or four times and write stuff down. It is an honor to have Monica Snyder on The Spillover.
Secular Pro-Life is ran by three atheist women, including yourself. Why should an atheist or agnostic be pro-life?
Monica: Well, atheist and agnostics already care a lot about human rights in general. You can find plenty of atheists and agnostics who participate in issues to do with immigration, or they’ll say, trans rights or human rights, and even in the abortion debate itself. Pro-choice atheists and agnostics, they consider bodily rights a human right. They consider women’s equality human rights. They already care a lot about human rights. We are asking them to consider who they think deserve human rights and why. So, the secular abortion debate isn’t about why should people care about human rights, it’s about who are you counting as part of the human family and what are your criteria.
Alex: What is your personal story on how you became pro-life, Monica?
Monica: I’ve always been pro-life, yeah. I was raised Catholic. My parents weren’t activists per se, but they were very passionate about it.
I de-converted from Catholicism in late high school, and then I was agnostic for several years, and then eventually an atheist. And I won’t drag you through all this sort of details, but my positions changed on a lot of things when I left Catholicism. Particularly on things to do with sexuality, to do with gender, all sorts of things.
But, with the abortion issue–I can’t–it’s so transparently ending human lives. I can’t–I can’t let it go.
Alex: Now, one thing that I was surprised to learn, just being more involved in the pro-life movement is, I would say I was one of those people that thought, oh the stereotype of someone that is pro-life: It’s Conservative Christian men and women.
But, the reality is, the more I’ve learned is: oh my gosh, no. There’s people on the left, there’s people on the right. Where are most of the people politically in your organization? More on the left or right?
Monica: Our organization very carefully tries to be nonpartisan. And through basically a happy coincidence, the women who run it come from each stripe. So, I consider myself a political conservative. Our board president, Kelsey Hazzard, is a political moderate. And our board vice president, Terrisa Bukovinac, is a political liberal.
And we are all friends. And we’ve been friends for years. And because we have that friendship and that rapport, it really helps us try to keep the content as non-partisan as possible. If it was just me, it would be harder for me to see Terrisa’s side, or see a more left–I wouldn’t realize that the content I was putting out might have a certain flavor.
But because we interact and I keep in mind her perspective, I really try to keep it just–because our whole thing is that we want everybody to be pro-life. To be frank, we don’t really care what your religious beliefs are or what your political views are. We want everyone, if you are a human being, we want you to oppose abortion. And so we try to build coalitions across religious lines and also across political lines. This is our issue. If you are with us on this, we are on the same team.
Alex: So here’s what I get confused on: If the whole purpose is trying to get everybody to be pro-life, does that mean that you’re encouraging people to just be single issue voters? So, even if they–they consider themselves to be a registered Democrat or a liberal, are you telling them just when you vote, keep in mind abortion and that’s it?
Monica: We keep it broader than that. So, obviously I would love it if everyone always voted exactly the same way I do. However, if you aren’t going to vote the same way I do, there are still many things you can do to oppose abortion.
And–so, for example, we get a lot of pushback in particular when we talk about pro-life Democrats. because the Democratic party is obviously very extreme on this issue. And they’ll say, ‘How could anyone be pro-life and vote Democrat?’
But, they’re comparing a potential Democrat who is personally pro-life and maybe does other work–social support, other things–to try to help women not feel like they need abortions and maybe they still vote Democrat.
I would point out a lot of pro-life Democrats don’t vote Democrat. A lot of them abstain, a lot of them vote third party. Doesn’t mean they’re going to vote Republican, but it does play into their decision making. But, even for the ones who do vote Democrat, the options are not actually: you can be pro-life and vote Democrat, or you can be pro-life and vote Republican. In real life, for a lot of people, the options are: you can be pro-life and vote Democrat or you can be pro-choice and vote Democrat.
And so, what I try to tell my more conservative audience and my more conservative friends and family is, ‘Yes, of course we want everyone to vote the way we want to vote. But, we don’t want to alienate people who can do inroads in other ways.’
When you have pro-life people who really disagree with you on other issues, instead of thinking of them as people who totally are different from you, think of them as ambassadors. And pro-life Democrats are so important, because they are running with family, friends, co-workers who are very much in this Democratic space, who aren’t going to listen to, necessarily, a really conservative person. And they can come to them and say, ‘Listen, you know, maybe we vote the same way because of the other issues, but I’m really not comfortable with this and here are my reasons. And did you know this fact? And did you know that fact?’ And they’re coming from a place of rapport.
So, yes, we would like people to vote certain ways. We don’t get specific on SPL about that, but even if you’re not going to vote the same way I do, if you’re willing to do anything to help me convince hearts and minds that this is a problem, we are on the same team. And I’m happy to have your help in that regard. That’s how we see it.
Alex: So believing that human life begins at fertilization isn’t a religious argument.
Monica: No–I–no. So, for quick background, I did study chemical biology in undergrad, and then forensics and master’s program and I do take a particular interest in the biological aspects of this and I really want people to understand that the biological fact is that as human organisms, the first stage of our life cycle is the zygote.
You go from two gametes undergoing meiosis, to a zygote undergoing mitosis. It’s a paradigm shift in biology and you do not have to take any particular position on abortion to recognize that fact. That doesn’t necessarily mean you oppose abortion. You could be like, ‘Yes this is a zygote and I still don’t care,’ but it’s the–it’s the first step to the conversation.
Now really, the question is: when do you have a morally valuable human being? When do you have a person that deserves rights? And that is a very complicated question, but I reject completely the idea that it is only a religious question.
The pro-choice side acts as if their position–often not named or specified–is some sort of neutral position and any deviation from it must be explained. That’s not true at all–
Alex: That’s a fallacy. That being pro-choice is somehow neutral.
Monica: No it’s not neutral. They–I think a lot of people think that there’s–there’s pro-abortion and there’s anti-abortion, and the neutrality is pro-choice. But, it’s not the case.
Every position on abortion, pro-life or pro-choice, requires some sort of underlying philosophical view about what makes humans valuable and why we should care. Every single position requires something like that, even if you’ve never really thought about it. And so, some of us will argue, ‘Well, as soon as you have a human organism, you have something of value.’ and we can have different debates about why or why not. And some will say, ‘Well no, not as soon as you have an organism. It’s only when they are viable.’ That’s a very popular one. Some will say, ‘It’s only when they are born.’
And we can agree or disagree about those, but those are all premises based on certain philosophical and ethical views. And if “religious” just means pushing your moral views and wanting to see your ethical premises enshrined into law, then everybody in this debate is religious. That is such a broad definition of religion, it’s useless.
And so when pro–one of my pet peeves is that only pro-life atheists are asked to explain how their view isn’t religious. And pro-choice atheists never are, so when you argue, for example, and there are people, especially Americans, who will argue that you don’t have a valuable person until birth, I would like you to have to justify that as much as I have to justify that it’s valuable from the very beginning.
I’m not mad that you want me to justify it. I should justify it. This is an ethical debate. But, not just me, okay. Everybody needs to explain where they’re coming from and not just assume, ‘My position is just the default and I don’t have to explain anything.’ Yeah, you do.
Alex: Okay, so this is the funniest thing to me, when I was looking into you and watching a bunch of interviews with you and stuff. The Christian pro-lifers demand that you explain how you know what right or wrong is if you don’t believe in God. But, the pro-choice people say that you are–this cracked me up–subconsciously pushing some sort of secret religious belief that you don’t even know that you have. So the–so the only explanation that you’re pro-life is because you are secretly a Christian. You just haven’t admitted it.
Monica: Yes I wish I could get those two tropes that you just described to fight with each other, because I find both of those things so irritating and not very–how would I prove that I’m really an atheist. I’ve asked, ‘Do you want to get like CC television in my house? So you can watch me continue to not pray and not go to church?’ Like, how would I prove that?
Alex: So, what is your answer to both of those sides? What is your answer to the pro-lifers who say, ‘Well I don’t understand how can you say abortion is bad if you don’t have belief in God to know what’s morally right or wrong?’
Monica: That is a complicated–okay, what’s the short version? It depends on why they’re asking. Some people are asking because they want to know how they should answer that when people bring it to them. And so, there’s one answer for that, which is essentially: I say if–if you are a pro-life Christian, and you are talking to a secular pro-choice person, and they say, ‘Well, why should we care about human rights at all?’ When they ask me that, I say, “Well, why do you?’ That’s what I say.
It’s basically like, well, ‘No, you.’ And they will have only a couple different answers. Some of it will be, ‘Well I don’t.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t actually believe you. You’re bothering to argue with me, you care enough to argue with me. You care about bodily rights. Right? Is that a human right? I know you care. Explain to me why.’ And some of them have just never really thought about how to articulate it.
Now, others will say, ‘Well I care because of XYZ reason. You know, I care because I care about the human mind is so important.’ [sic] And that’s good. Because once they start giving you an answer, you start to dig into that. ‘Okay. Well, when does that apply? And why? How does that have to do with fetal development?’
And you’re moving from: “do human rights matter” to fetal personhood. Which fetal personhood is the crux of everything. And then some of them will say, ‘Well, I asked you first. Well, I asked you first. Well–and you could say, if you’re a probably a Christian, you could say, ‘Well, personally, I believe it because of’ whatever you want to say–we are made in the image of God–something like that. And they’re trying to get you to say that so they can say, ‘Don’t push a religion.’ And you’re like, ‘Okay, then why do you?’
Bring it back around. Don’t let them act like you’re the only one who has to explain anything. So, if a pro-life Christian has asked me that because they want to know what to say, that’s broadly my answer.
If they’re asking me because they want to know what I think, then usually what I say is that’s outside the scope of our mission and I’m not really interested in talking about it. Because secular pro-life starts with the premise that you care about human rights and asks you to apply them consistently. We do not ask you to explain why you care about human rights. And I will emphasize again: people only ask pro-life atheists.
It’s the same thing with veganism, by the way. Nobody asks pro-choice atheists why they aren’t vegan. They only ask pro-life atheists that. It doesn’t make any sense. Pro-choice atheists are coming from largely the same place except for on this issue. But only pro-life atheists have to explain that. So, there’s an asymmetry there.
But, if you really want me to just answer the question–which I don’t like doing. Basically, and I’m not trying to speak for all atheists, I think that we are evolved with certain very strong instincts. I reject completely the characterization that it’s no different than ice cream preferences. I have four children and my desire to protect them is primal. And I think that makes sense. And then the thinking, rational part of my brain that separates us from primates or other animals thinks that we should apply that consistently–and I don’t feel the need to justify it further than that. And if you don’t–not you personally–if someone doesn’t see why we should protect children, that’s a different problem than the abortion debate.
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Alex: Do you feel like sometimes it you can’t even have conversations with other people in the pro-life movement? Just because the whole time they’re just trying to like convert you?
Monica: No, it’s actually not the majority of the situations. Most of the Christians who interact with secular pro-life are the kind of Christians who want to have this shared basis of understanding. They want to be effective in mixed audiences, and so they come to us for that reason. So, for the most part we don’t have this problem super often, but it is a persistent minority. And it definitely happens way more often with in-person events than online and most of our work is online, so it’s not constant. But it is–it happens enough that we have to develop ready answers for it.
Alex: Of course. Yeah, I would imagine. So you can articulate a pro-life stance without religion but is it possible to debate abortion only with biology and not using philosophy?
Alex: Should we be doing one uh or the other or both?
Monica: No, so I’m very big on understanding the biology and using the facts of biology. Incorporating that into your discussion, but it’s scientism to think that you can only use biology and not philosophy. You–you start with the biological facts and you layer the philosophy on top of that. The biological facts are very important, because if you have those wrong, everything else is going to go awry from there.
Alex: So tell us. Tell us what that is for someone that’s never ever heard a pro-life argument.
Monica: So, I would say the biological facts that come up definitely most often in this debate is: the first stage of the human organism’s life cycle is the zygote. You could say that’s a–that’s a biological way of saying life begins at conception. It’s also important to understand different facts of fetal development. They don’t necessarily determine personhood, but for a lot of people, they have really bought–almost as like cultural osmosis–the clump of cells narrative. It is pervasive.
And it is important. Twice a year, secular pro-life asks people if you used to be pro-choice and now you’re pro-life tell us why. And there are certain recurrent themes. And there is a persistent theme of people saying, ‘I believed the clump of cells narrative. I thought it was a blob of cells.’
Alex: And I’m sure you saw that viral–it’s like a petri dish and it does just look like–I don’t even know, know what–skin cells.
Monica: Okay okay and that’s not right. The Guardian article–that’s what you’re talking about?
Monica: That is an atrociously dishonest article. There is room for ethical debate about the biological facts. So, for example there’s the issue of embryonic hearts. Is it a heart? Is it a heartbeat? And so on and so forth. And I’d say it’s not a lot of room, but you could reasonably say, ‘Oh at blah blah days, it’s more of a tube and then a week later it’s more of chambers,’ and you could talk about if you care about that or not. There’s room to discuss that.
The Guardian article that said this is what a pregnancy looks like. It’s literally whitewashed abortion tissue.
Alex: Explain what that means.
Monica: It means that they took the resultant tissues after abortions, rinsed them of all blood, and then took photographs of them and said this is what a pregnancy looks like. And now, not to be too graphic, but in the process of even earlier abortion depending on how it goes, you have suction aspiration–whatever. You could easily destroy the embryo beyond recognition.
It could very easily look like just a blob of bloody pulp. And in their case, it didn’t even look like that, because they rinsed all the blood off. There are a lot of people who think they actually removed the embryos before they took the pictures. But, being more generous, let’s say they just had pulverized embryos and whitewashed tissue and they said–I would find it forgivable if it had been titled: “This is what a whitewashed abortion looks like”–but it was titled: “This is what a pregnancy looks like,”
And if you read the article, they have a point where the interviewer asks the doctor, ‘Well, we see these images of, you know, highly detailed embryonic development. If we zoomed in on a microscope, would we see something like that here?’ And if you read the answer, she doesn’t answer. Do you know why she doesn’t answer?
Monica: Because the answer is: yes. If you zoomed in on a microscope, you would definitely see a familiar, human-looking entity just like you see in embryology textbooks. They actually called, in that article, they said that people have been sort of fooled by these photos from anti-choicers. I get that it’s not correct, but I get why they would say that, and textbooks–they called textbooks propaganda and they interviewed abortion providers instead.
And then they show these pictures of whitewashed abortion tissue–you–and so, this is what a pregnancy looks like. In fact, we have an article on our blog that’s just screencaps of pro-choice women who have experienced miscarriage directly saying, ‘Hey, I’m pro-choice and this article is so dishonest. I had a miscarriage and I could see my baby’s arms.’ Or they might not say “baby,” they might say, ‘I could see the embryos–you know–eyes and all these things and it does not help reproductive rights for you to lie to and gaslight everybody.’
Now, I’m not saying it never looks like a bloody mess. It does sometimes. Sometimes, it does. Sometimes, it doesn’t. That’s not the point. The point is they presented the entire article as if this is all there is to it. They refuse to answer the question about the microscope. They suggested textbooks are propaganda. I could not find a better example of how much the pro-choice side benefits from biological misinformation.
Alex: Well, and speaking of biological misinformation on the pro-choice side, that’s also like when they use terms like gray matter instead of brains.
Monica: Yep. Or–or a small flicker of pulsing cardiac cells instead of a heart. That–that the euphemisms are ridiculous. And they’ll try to–they’ll try to have it both ways. They’ll try to say, ‘It doesn’t matter if there’s a heart or not because that doesn’t define personhood. And, also, there’s no heart.’
We know it does matter. If it didn’t matter, you wouldn’t need to lie about it.
Alex: Yep. So, the philosophy combining with biology.
Monica: Yes, so the biological factor you need to be aware of, I would especially make sure you can talk about–what it, what fertilization means. An important point pro-lifers need to understand is, we often say, ‘Oh, there’s unique DNA at conception,’ and so I think a lot of people– well-meaning people–on the pro-choice side think that all we care about is unique DNA. And so they’ll say, ‘Well, my human skin cell has unique DNA. You know, cancer tumors could have that DNA.’ The thing is it’s not actually about the DNA.
The unique DNA signifies that this organism is a different organism from the mother. But, what matters is that you have an individual human organism. That’s what matters. Skin cells are not organisms, sperm are not organisms, eggs are not organisms, cancer tumors are not human organisms, bacteria are organisms, but not human.
It’s the individual human organism that matters. And that begins with the zygote. And this statement is not controversial outside of the abortion debate.
Alex: So, we need to stop saying, like, ‘It has unique DNA.’ We need to say, ‘It is a unique human–
Monica: I would say individual–individual human organisms life cycle begins with the zygote. I would even say “zygote” instead of “conception.” I would just say “zygote” because that is what we’re talking about. And I’m not saying–when you’re having these conversations, you say–I’m not saying you have to care about that. You could not care about zygotes at all. A lot of people don’t. But, to say that there’s nothing to see here. To say, ‘Well, sperm are alive.Technically our life began before’–no it didn’t. That’s just you not understanding what an organism is. You don’t have to care. But, if you’re going to build your position, build it on correct facts. It’s the same thing with embryonic hearts. It’s the same thing with other myths. Not even specific to biology.
Now, you do, you absolutely need the philosophy, because the next question is, ‘Why should I care about that?’ That’s the philosophy, but you can’t talk about whether you should care or not until you’re talking about the same thing in the first place.
Alex: Well, one reason that I love following you and people like Josh Braum is because I am fascinated by the studies and research you guys do into what pro-lifers do wrong in debates versus what we get right. So, besides the DNA thing that we need to stop saying–that we need to say something else, um, what other things do pro-lifers tend to say a lot when we’re trying to argue for life that is really messing up the mark?
Monica: That’s a great question. So, there’s different categories. There could be things you’re saying that might not be factually accurate. I think the broader category is the way in which you say things, which Josh talks a lot about. There’s a lot of ways you can be easier to hear, and one thing I talk about sometimes–and maybe I should talk about more–is: get familiar with what vocabulary you’re using.
There–we actually–I actually collected, for my own use, a list of vocabulary words that almost exclusively pro-life people say, and a list of ones that almost exclusively pro-choice people say. And you don’t have to change what vocabulary you use, but you want to be aware if you’re trying to get the content of a specific idea to someone who’s going to be resistant to you, I believe it’s better to try to use vernacular they’re comfortable with so you can skip all these debates about: ‘Is it a fetus? Is it a baby?’ You could skip that, but also you don’t want to actually be sending out red flags to them. ‘Wow we are on different teams. We’re on different teams,’
Alex: Okay. So, what are some of those terms that would would tell a pro-choicer, ‘Ahh! She’s–is not on my team, I can’t listen.’
Monica: I’d never say abortionist. I say abortion provider. I never say chemical abortion. I say–I said medication abortion for a while, although I also, like many pro-lifers, I feel like that’s too kind. So now, I just say abortion pills.
Monica: But, you try to, like that–I almost always say fetus. I will say child if I am talking about–if they’re asking what the pro-life perspective is, I will say child. Because that’s our perspective. And if we’re talking about miscarriage, I will often say child and I feel very inflexible about that. But, for most other contexts, I will almost always say embryo or fetus, because it doesn’t change any of my arguments.
It is an embryo. The embryo is valuable. And I also think that the more that we use this sort of indisputable language, nobody can argue–the word embryo is correct, technically speaking. You can’t argue with that. I think the more our side uses that–there’s this language creep where we sort of reclaim that, so the other side will try very hard to control the language, because they say the language is stigmatizing. The language is not stigmatizing. The concrete, real-life concepts that we are discussing are stigmatizing.
Monica: And so before, it was, ‘Don’t say–don’t say baby, say fetus.’ I’ve started to see now ‘Don’t say fetus, say embryo, because fetus implies too much development,’ and for me that’s a victory, because we’ve reclaimed fetus.
Alex: Okay, and should we also be saying pro-choice or pro-abortion?
Monica: I like to make a delineation. Pro-abortion is a real thing, but it’s not the same thing as pro-choice. And if we call everybody pro-abortion, then I can’t emphasize to you when it’s more extreme and more alarming.
So, for example right now–I don’t know how much you have seen this case in the UK with Carla Foster–but in the UK, a woman just got sentenced to 14 months in jail because she took abortion pills at 33 weeks. Which most people around the entire world find to be really horrifying. And there are a lot of activists in the UK who are calling that, ‘Oh, it was a personal health care decision. Oh, it was a private medical decision,’ That’s pro-abortion.
I would call them pro-abortion. This was a 33-week, fully viable baby girl. There was no medical emergency, and most people, including the vast majority of people who call themselves pro-choice, are not okay with this. But, if we call them all pro-abortion, how do I delineate between this frankly insane standard of defending an eight-month elective abortion versus, like a lot of my friends who are pretty comfortable in the first trimester, and then they’re not so sure? Like, how do I delineate that?
So, if you want to call everybody pro-abortion, I’m not going to go to ground over it, but I prefer–I prefer to make a distinction on our side, strategically. And when I’m talking to other people, I try to just use reflective language. So, if they call themselves pro-choice, I call them pro-choice. If they call themselves an abortion rights activist, I call them an abortion rights activist. Because I’m trying to not get distracted by this language. And you’ve experienced it yourself when you’re talking to someone and they’re using really vitriolic or aggressive language about our side while making their points, you have to spend all this time minusing out the emotional energy that they’re bringing up in you by saying that and getting to: what is their point? It’s distracting.
Alex: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Talk about the Turnaway Study and why this is such a crucial piece of information.
Monica: So, the Turnaway Study is extremely well-known for a couple of its findings, which are that–this Turnaway Study found that 99% of women who got abortions five years later, said they did not regret it. And they also found that women who were denied abortions had worse economic outcomes–at least for the first few years.
And everybody has heard about these findings. The pro-life response to that has largely been to criticize the Turnaway Study and parts of its methodology, and other issues with it. And I’m not stating one way or the other about that in this case. What bothers me is that the Turnaway Study also found that, of the women who gave birth when they were denied abortion, 96% of them said they no longer wish they aborted. And the study that they published about this specifically cited bonding to their child as a major reason for this retrospective positive evaluation.
I cannot emphasize to you enough how important this is. When you conduct an experiment, you have to have a control group so you–you want to see what happens if I do this to this subject. And in order to really evaluate it, you have to have what’s called a control group. So you have–you know, ‘What happens if I burn these cookies?’ and the control group is: these properly baked cookies, or whatever.
In the Turnaway Study, the test group was the women who got abortions and the control group was the women who were denied abortions. So, if you’re going to evaluate how women feel about regret, then you need to talk about both. That’s how scientific research is conducted, and yet the Turnaway Study will talk ad nauseam–forever–about how all the women who got abortions didn’t regret it, and then conveniently never speak about the control group who also ended up not regretting that they didn’t get abortions.
I want to be super clear, I’m not saying: women don’t regret being denied abortion, so we should ban abortion. That’s not my point. We should ban abortion because it kills valuable human beings, but it is very important to understand that the women who were–and these are not women who just kind of thought about, ‘Maybe I’ll get an abortion,’ these are women who physically showed up at clinics to get an abortion that day, and they were denied. Usually because they were over the gestational limit for the clinic, and they ended up saying they no longer wish they’d aborted.
And so, the Turnaway Study is perfectly happy–the researchers of the Turnaway Study are perfectly happy to talk about adverse economic outcomes and all these things, and then they purport themselves as evidence-based, as advocating for women, as trying to let you know how it affects women when they can’t get an abortion. And they have the audacity to not mention how the women who had these children and love these children feel about it.
It is outrageous. It’s paternalism, so if I am poverty stricken or have a terrible relationship or other really stressful factors and I go to an abortion clinic and I’m–I want to get an abortion and they don’t let me and that’s very scary and I’m having a hard time and then later on, I have my child. I bond to my child. I love my child and they ask me, ‘Well, knowing everything you know now, you know, do you still wish you got an abortion?’ I say, ‘No,’ it’s basically like them responding, ‘Okay, but did you know that your credit score could be better?’ Are you kidding me?
You’re trying to tell–you are deciding, when you only tell the public about some of the outcomes and not others, You are deciding for everyone else what is and isn’t important and how they should evaluate these major life-changing situations. If I’m a woman considering an abortion and I want to know: how does it affect women when they get abortions–or not–even assuming everything the Turnaway Study says is accurate–even assuming that–it is not informed consent to say, ‘Well, all the women who got abortions didn’t regret it and the women who couldn’t had worse economic outcomes and that’s all I have to tell you.’
That’s not informed consent. You should also let let them know that the women who gave birth after being denied abortion almost universally said they did not regret it. And it’s also important to know, and this is important for the pro-life movement, also, there were still some women–4% of women five years later–said they still wish they got an abortion.
Alex: How do you explain that?
Monica: I was just going to say. They talked about some of the factors. One of the factors was if they placed for adoption, they were way more likely to still wish they’d gotten an abortion.
Alex: Because it was more painful?
Monica: I don’t know. I would suspect they didn’t get a chance to bond with that child or adoption can be very traumatic. And for them, maybe it wasn’t worth it.
Also, women who had a lot of social support: way less likely to say–that that should be axiomatic. It’s not surprising to us at all. And it also begs the question: How many of these women going to get an abortion would just be happier if we gave them better social support so they didn’t feel like they needed to?
That’s an important question. It doesn’t speak to the legality of abortion, but it’s something that both sides should care about.
Alex: And what is the largest demographic of women that’s–that are getting abortions?
Monica: Uh, by what metric?
Alex: I mean race, socioeconomic status, are they married, unmarried, age…
Monica: So, I don’t know what overall the largest plurality–but I do know that only one in seven abortions are to married women. It’s definitely more women in, like, their early 20s. I do think white women are the largest demographic, but not proportionate to the population. And non-religious women are also over-represented.
So, there’s lots of different ways you could break it down.
Alex: Viability is the least plausible definition of personhood.
Monica: I mean it depends on who you ask. I think it’s ridiculous.
Alex: Explain that .
Monica: So, viability is largely a matter of technology. When Roe v Wade was decided, viability was thought to be between 24 and 28 weeks. Now you have this group called 22 weeks matters [TwentyTwo Matters] talking about how if you offer help to children born at 22 weeks, a lot of them can survive. The better our technology gets, the further back you’re going to push it.
Hypothetically in a Sci-Fi future, if we got artificial wounds to work, viability would be any time you want. If it’s just defined as being able to survive outside of a woman’s uterus.
Alex: So you’re saying that the pro-choice side is making a mistake when they–when they put everything on viability. It’s when a–when a baby is viable–that’s when we should care–because it could change.
Monica: It’s a–it’s a crazy definition for personhood. It might be a reasonable discussion if what you care about is bodily rights. And you’re saying rights are sacrosanct and a woman doesn’t have to carry a pregnancy if she doesn’t want to. Because, then you’re saying, ‘Well, once they’re viable, she doesn’t have to, and the child doesn’t have to die.’
It might be reasonable for that, but that’s not what they say. They say, ‘They’re not a person until they’re viable.’ That doesn’t make any sense. So, someone–someone who lives in a state that doesn’t have as good of children’s hospitals, they’re not a person. But, if their mom flew to a state with better hospitals, then they would be. It doesn’t make any sense.
It has to be something intrinsic. It can’t be based on external factors.
Alex: For the very first time, I heard something that just blew my mind from a pro-choicer. A pro-choicer said to me, “Women who are pregnant have fewer rights than a corpse.” What is that?
Monica: It’s based on the incorrect understanding that even after you die, people can’t take your organs to save other people’s lives. And yet they think that pregnancy is basically taking the woman’s organs to keep someone else alive.
Alex: Why is it not the same?
Monica: Well, it’s not the same for a bunch of reasons. But, the first reason I wanted to point out is you can decide, ‘I don’t want to donate my organs when I die,’ and if after you die, your family wants to, they still can. So, it’s not the same right away, because corpses don’t have as much rights as people think, first of all.
But, it’s also not the same because, we–it ignores entirely the other entity in this situation. It ignores how they got to be in the situation. It acts as if–it acts as if we are forcing women to become pregnant and then incubate these children, and that’s not what’s happening at all.
Alex: So, we’re–so we’re not forcing women to–to give birth.
Monica: We’re not forcing women to become pregnant. And so, when–the bodily rights argument sounds very compelling to most people because, generally speaking, you know we don’t force people to give their kidneys to anybody. We don’t even force people to donate blood, and that’s not that hard. So, why should we force women to have to use their uterus? That sounds very intuitive. I don’t blame people for finding that very persuasive.
But, if you–if you make, like a kidney donation situation actually analogous to pregnancy, it starts to sound really ridiculous. So, we’ve talked about this many times. So, if you have a situation where you are taking a discretionary action–could be whatever you want–you don’t have to do it, you want to do it–and you know that if you do, there is an unlikely, but possible chance–I’m going to take some action. There’s an unlikely, but a possible chance that if I do, you will have a fatal kidney disease. I know that in advance. It probably won’t happen–it’s like, very unlikely. I could even take precautions so that it’s even less likely. It’s, like a one-out-of-a-thousand chance that if I push this button, you will get a fatal kidney disease.
And so, I’m like, it probably won’t happen. It’s probably fine. You have no choice in the matter. And so, I push the button. You get a fatal kidney disease. And I knew in advance that if that happened, literally the only way for you to survive is for me to donate one of my kidneys–temporarily, in this thought experiment–and I know that in advance. And I say, probably won’t happen. I push the button, you get a fatal kidney disease, and I’m like that sucks for you. But, I don’t have to do anything about it because it’s my body.
Some people might say, ‘Yeah, legally that is the answer,’ but even then they usually say, ‘But, that’s terrible and immoral at minimum.’ So, when they talk about “my body, my choice” in this very affirmative “there’s no ethical quandary here,” really what they’re saying is: the fetus isn’t a person.
Because, when we make these analogies having to do with real people, everyone gets a lot less comfortable. And that’s just people in general, not babies.
Monica: So, it gets worse when you start–an easier thought experiment I found, instead of this weird “what if I have a button and you have a kidney disease,” which is confusing. I’ve started to say, ‘Well, what if you existed throughout most of human history when your infant could only survive if they were breastfed. And you were in some kind of situation where there are no wet nurses. It’s just you. Does your infant have a right to use your body against your will? Or should you legally be allowed to let your infant starve, because no one can use your body against your will?
I’m not saying you would do it, I think hardly anybody would, but should you have the right to do it?
Alex: Yeah. Should you have the right?
Monica: And usually the response is, ‘Well, fetuses aren’t babies.’ I’m like, okay so bodily rights do depend on if the fetus is a person. That’s what I’m saying. Because as soon as you use an analogy that involves an actual person, especially a child, people get a lot less comfortable.
Alex: You’re saying that as pro-lifers, there is a way to guide the conversation.
Monica: Yes. Yes, actually so, the breastfed infant is a pretty good one. For most people, you don’t have to go that far. They’ll say, ‘It’s her body, it’s her choice, no one can use your body against your will,’ and then you say, ‘So, do you think abortion should be legal at any stage for any reason?’ And there are people who do think that, but most people don’t. And so, most people will concede some kind of limitation. ‘Well, not after viability. Well, not in the third trimester.’
Okay, so you already recognize at least some circumstance–and for you, it’s the third trimester–where the fetus does have a right to use her body. So what we disagree on is when that is, not if it exists. Almost nobody thinks bodily rights are sacrosanct. And you can see this in all polling of Americans–any polls about abortion that ask about timing of pregnancy find that the vast majority of Americans think it should be at least illegal at least in the third trimester. And the whole world is like this.
Almost every country in the world has gestational limits on abortion, so it’s–we take it to a level they’re not comfortable with, where we say, ‘It should apply the whole time.’ That’s fine, that’s what we need to talk about. But the idea of “my body, my choice, end of story,” no it’s not–for almost nobody is it the end of the story.
Alex: Are most or all late term abortions medical emergencies?
Monica: Absolutely not. That is not true at all. So, first of all, I have started to move away from the phrase “late-term” abortion, because the narrative now is that our side made it up to confuse people. And–
Alex: What? We made it up?
Monica: Yeah, they’re saying we made it up. They’re saying a full-term pregnancy is 40 to 41 weeks, so late term implies after 41 weeks.
Monica: And we say—yes. And so they say we say late-term abortion to imply post birth abortion.
Alex: So, you’re going to say what? Third trimester?
Monica: I say the weeks that I mean.
Monica: So, usually I’ll say, 21 weeks or later. Because, until recently, that’s what late-term abortion usually meant. If I’m talking about viability, I’ll say 24 weeks or later. I can talk about third trimester: I’ll say 27 weeks or later. I’ll just say exactly the weeks I mean, so we cannot possibly have any more debates about what I’m talking about.
So, late-term abortion usually meant the second half of pregnancy–21 weeks or later–and there’s not a ton of data on this, but what data we do have suggests that it’s not just that some late-term abortions are not for medical emergencies. It’s that most of them aren’t.
So, the State of Arizona collects pretty good Public Health Data on abortions, and if you review the reports, I think I reviewed the reports from 2012 to 2020–that was the last one that was published when I did this–they will talk about abortions by gestational age, and they will talk about how many were cited for fetal health reasons and how many were cited for maternal health reasons. And if you go through all the math and everything: at 21 weeks or later, 79% of them were not for fetal or maternal health reasons.
So, a lot of them were–it was like 20%–20–what is that 21%? I’m not saying it never happens, it does happen. But, most of them still weren’t. And that was in a state where I think it was illegal after 22 weeks or 24 weeks or something. Uh, the bottom line is that there’s a lot of research to show that women get abortions even very later in pregnancy when there is no fetal anomaly and no maternal emergency. It’s more because they didn’t have the resources to get one earlier. They didn’t know they were pregnant sooner. They had a change in circumstances, like an upsetting financial situation, or something wrong with the partner, or whatever. There’s a whole bunch of reasons. It’s not just, they casually wake up at eight months and decide they want to get an abortion, but it’s also not all these dire medical emergencies.
And this is important for people to understand, because Americans cannot stand elective late-term abortion. And it’s one of the most pervasive myths that they believe: that nobody is getting an abortion later in pregnancy unless it’s for a terrible medical emergency. And–and this is important for them to understand, because the arguments we used–not we–the arguments that pro-choice people use to defend abortion often apply just as much later as they do earlier.
And so, you need to think about if you are embraced like, the “my body, my choice”–if you are embracing this argument, are you comfortable with the logical conclusions of that argument? Are you comfortable with the idea of abortion even after viability? Even after the child would very likely survive if you put the child in a NICU instead?
I’ve gotten a new one, now–a new myth.
Monica: That’s been–I was astounded when it first started. Where I’ll talk about all the evidence that women are getting abortions and it’s not for a medical emergency, and people will say, ‘Well, an abortion after viability is just birth. It’s just labor induction with the intent and the result of live birth. And then they transfer the child to a NICU.’ That’s what they are telling me now.
Absolutely untrue. Abortion involves inducing fetal demise, so that you have a stillbirth. But, people would rather believe that women are going to hospitals at seven months pregnant because they can’t handle this pregnancy, and then just inducing labor, and putting the child somewhere safe and alive.
Monica: No. That’s not what’s happening. But, people would rather believe anything–
Alex: But also, if there was a medical–true medical emergency, an ectopic pregnancy or something like that, then is an abortion even necessary? Aren’t you just saying we need to go ahead and have early labor and and hopefully that child survives, but it may not?
Monica: So, a couple clarifications. Ectopic pregnancy, specifically, it’ll never get that far. An ectopic pregnancy is very early, it’s implanted in the fallopian tube or somewhere else, and you will need to do a procedure that will end the child’s life, because the mother’s life is literally in danger. But, for other medical emergencies, like, um, uh, early rupture of membranes is a–is a common one–and this is a really tricky one, because if it happens after viability, they will–they will induce labor or maybe do a C-section with a live child, and try to save the child while also protecting the mother. And that is not considered an abortion after viability. But, the tricky thing is before viability. Do you call that an abortion or not? This is a huge miscommunication–-
Alex: That’s my whole thing is people say, ‘Well, then, see we need to have abortion legal for those instances.’
Monica: So, a big part of the problem with that conversation is a lot of people on our side are saying, ‘That should be legal, but that’s not an abortion.’ And a lot of people on their side are saying, ‘It is an abortion, you want to outlaw it.’
And–and frankly it’s very frustrating because I don’t know anybody on either side who thinks that the woman should just have to sit until she goes septic and then at the last minute they try to save her life.
Nobody wants that.
Alex: Well that’s what they’re lying and saying. Is that in states where Roe v Wade was overturned now, that there are women who have been left to die who are coming to seek, you know, treatment for their miscarriage.
Monica: Okay, so yeah, there’s a bunch of different things there. So there–the laws against abortion–-if you have a miscarriage, if you have a missed miscarriage, which means that the child has already died but your body did not pass, which can be dangerous, then you will need procedures or medications that are identical to women who seek them for abortion. But, it’s not the same legally at all, because abortion, legally, is about a procedure that ends a life. It’s not about removing the remains of an already dead child.
So, that is totally untrue. The tricky thing is, if you have a threatened miscarriage and that is when the child has not died, but you have complications that are making the woman’s life genuinely in danger or severe bodily impairment, and I will say in defense of our pro-choice side there have been cases where women have not been getting the medical treatment they ought to and they blame the pro-life laws. Now the problem is, our side, the people who pass the laws, the people interpreting the laws, the–the pro-life doctors talking about this, they’re like, ‘That is not what those laws say, nor was it ever our intention, and this is ridiculous.’
I would highly recommend reading Dr Ingrid Skop, s-k-o-p, she is a pro-life doctor who has written very powerfully about this, she–she has been pro-life her entire practice, for decades. And she has herself performed these procedures for women who have rupture of membranes before viability and she’s pro-life, and she’s like, that’s not what we’re talking about. That’s a life-threatening situation.
Alex: So, really, it’s not the legislation it’s that if that is happening it is the medical staff or personnel interpreting the laws wrong.
Monica: It’s either bad faith interpretation, or I think a lot of times, it’s kind of like a C.Y.A. thing. They’re just–they’re they’re worried about liability and so they’re interpreting these laws to a level of conservatism nobody reasonably expects. There has never been, before Roe v Wade,
during Roe v Wade, or since Roe v Wade has been overturned, there has not been a single instance documented of a medical professional being prosecuted for performing what may or may not be considered an abortion if the woman’s life is threatened. Nobody wants that. Nobody on either side wants that.
But now, the pro-choice side, especially abortion rights activists, are claiming that these laws are too confusing and unprecedented we don’t know what they mean and so doctors are too scared to do what they need to do and women are not getting the care that they need and the debate isn’t whether that’s happening–it has happened. The debate is why is that happening. Is
that reasonable at all?
Because a lot of these laws are written with–that the doctors if there’s a medical emergency, they can use reasonable medical judgment. And if all the doctors pro-choice and pro-life all agree that it’s reasonable medical judgment to perform this procedure in this situation, then clearly it’s within the law. And so you have AAPLOG which is the pro-life OBGYNs and you have ACOG which is the pro-abortion OBGYNs and they’re all agreeing that this is appropriate treatment. What’s the problem?
Everybody agrees, and they’re still saying, ‘Well, the laws are confusing and doctors are scared so they’re not providing this care.’
Alex: When you were 28 weeks pregnant, you went undercover at a late-term abortion clinic.
Alex: What did you discover?
Monica: So, yes, I went in thinking that I would just get some undercover footage and I would try not to act too angry about it, because I knew I was going to be in a facility where people are– this was –this was a clinic in Washington DC.
Washington DC has no gestational limits on abortion and they will perform abortions very late. 28 weeks is third trimester, so I went in thinking I would be very irritated and I would try to just play it cool, get the footage I needed, and get out. And it was actually so much more harrowing than I expected.
It was really strange. Obviously, I knew when I went in, I was pregnant with my daughter Ruby. And obviously, I knew that I’m not getting an abortion. And I’ve actually been surprised–I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Were you afraid they’d hold you down and give you an abortion?’ No, that never even crossed my mind. I–I genuinely believe that the nurses working there want to help women.
I think they believe they’re helping women. Also, just, I’m very, like, tall and aggressive. And I just do–I just wasn’t worried about it. Never crossed my mind. So, you’d think that I would feel, you know, this is just something I have to get through and then I have to leave. But, it was strange. While I was there–I’ve done all this research on late-term abortion, as I was just telling you. I argue with people about it all the time. I spend way more time than the average person thinking about late-term abortion. And despite all of that, and despite knowing I would leave in a couple hours, I, like, couldn’t make my mind really understand that this is a real thing that happens.
So, I’m sitting in this waiting room, knowing that one doorway away is where they really do induce fetal demise of these very late-term children. And I’m telling myself, you know, rationally you’re fine. Ruby is fine. You know, you’re just gonna do this and leave in a couple hours. You’re fine. But, what I didn’t anticipate before I went was what about everyone else?
There were–there were several other women in the waiting room and I’m not going to pretend they were all there out of coercion. I’m sure some of them wanted to be there or wanted’s too strong of a word, but I’m sure–I’m sure some of them felt confident that this was the decision for them.
I don’t think all of them did. Some of them were crying, some of them seemed sick.
Alex: Did they look very visibly pregnant?
Monica: Some did. Some didn’t.
Alex: What did you hear people talking about? Or was there no talking in the waiting room?
Monica: Mostly it was pretty quiet. I did–there was one woman who felt very ill, so if you don’t already know, the procedure for an abortion that late is one or two days of dilation and then the last day is the extraction day–
Alex: And-and explain the extraction–what that means.
Monica: So extraction, means that they remove the fetus. And they many–I shouldn’t say many. There’s not that many clinics who’ll do it this late. There are some. Most of them will inject a feticide into the heart or amniotic fluid to make sure that the fetus is dead before they start the extraction process.
This particular clinic does not.
Alex: So what does that mean?
Monica: Instead, they will transect the umbilical cord, wait until they believe that the fetus has passed away, and then do the extraction.
Alex: I mean, you can be super detailed.
Monica: So, it means that they will–they will transect the umbilical cord. The fetus will die because there’s no oxygen exchange. It’s basically like suffocation. And then they will remove the fetus. They’ll do it intact if they can, but it often doesn’t work out that way, and it is in pieces.
If you’ve–have you seen anything about Justice for the Five out of Washington DC?
Monica: This is the same clinic.
Alex: That’s the one you went to?
Monica: Yes, although when I went, none of that–we didn’t know about any of that yet.
Monica: Yeah, but it is the same clinic. And so–so what I did not anticipate is while I was in that waiting room for a couple hours, I didn’t realize how emotional I would be. Because there’s these women there with me and I’m not really going to do this and I’m gonna leave and they’re not. And–and I will tell you to this day, I don’t know if I made the right decision. Because there was a part of me that wanted to just turn to them and say, ‘Are you okay? Why are you here?’
Alex:You feel guilt that you didn’t try to strike up a conversation?
Monica: Yeah, because, I mean if someone’s there because of a fatal fetal anomaly, that’s one thing. But if someone’s there–I am friends with some of the people who do the pink rose rescues and all those things and there’s been at least one instance, I believe it was with that same clinic, where they went in and there was a woman there because she couldn’t pay rent. And so, they’re like we can help you with that. And she left and they helped her pay her rent, and she didn’t go through with it. That’s gone–a third trimester or a post viability trimester–post viability abortion– even if you don’t care at all about the child, which is harsh–it’s so unlikely that’s not going to traumatize somebody.
Like we talk about how women don’t regret abortions and how there’s no mental health repercussions, but even in that context, we’re usually talking about very early, you know. And knowing that there have been situations where someone is about to do something like that that’s probably going to it’s–it’s going to kill their child and it’s probably going to traumatize them and sometimes it’s just a matter of rent.
So, yes, there was a part of me that was sitting there thinking, ‘I don’t know if what I’m doing is the morally correct choice.’ Not in the sense of being undercover. I don’t care. But, in the sense of ‘will the good that comes from this footage I’m taking outweigh the fact that I’m not even trying to help these women get out of here?’
And I’ve never been a sidewalk counselor and I’ve never done Rose Rescues or anything like that. And I’m not saying it’s for everybody, but being there with them in that moment really gave me perspective on why some people feel so devoted to those venues.
Alex: Do you feel like you made the right decision today?
Monica: I have no idea. I mean, we put the footage out and a lot of people who are already pro-life were really aghast by it. Which is fine.
Alex: What was some of the stuff that shocked people in the footage?
Monica: So I did it for Live Action and they posted it on YouTube. So, at that time, it was mostly pro-life comments and they–so one of the big things from my clinic visit that was very unusual is they told me that I needed to take Xanax before I could talk to the doctor.
Monica: Yes. So–so really what happened is I go in with the nurse I do all this paperwork whatever and she’s going to give me an antibiotic, um, some mild pain meds and Xanax before we start the procedure and I said, ‘Well, I still have questions for the doctor I’d like to talk about.’ ‘You–you could talk to him, we have to take these meds.’
I say, ‘Well, does Xanax affect your clarity of thinking?’ ‘No, it shouldn’t.’ Totally not true. I–totally not true. It’s very common side effects of Xanax. The whole point of Xanax is that it affects you psychologically so you’re relaxed.
Alex: I am shocked by this.
Monica: So were the people I was doing this for. They’ve never seen anything like this. And so I said, ‘Well, I’m–I would–I don’t mind waiting at the clinic longer if it means that I can speak to the doctor first.’ And they–and they wouldn’t do it. So, then I said, ‘Well, I changed my mind,’ and I left. And I’m not gonna–how far am I gonna take this? I’m not going to take Xanax, you know? So, we actually actually filed a complaint with the DC Medical Board about this, which we’ve never heard anything about ever again, no shock, but, um, but so that was what people were shocked by.
When they–a lot of people are already aware, you know late-term abortion happens. They were surprised it was 28 Weeks. Live Action has had people do things like this before, but they were usually not that far along. Uh, it was $11,400 that–
Alex: Wait a minute. Just to have this conversation? Or if you were to theoretically go through with it?
Monica: So, when I called the clinic to make an appointment, I told them how far along I was. They confirmed that the day of my appointment, I would be 28 weeks and one day, and then they very politely let me know I would need comfortable clothing, I would need a ride home, and I would need $11,400.
Alex: Okay, can I just say that the fact that everybody says oh late term abortions you know are such an anomaly or women really need access to abortion because they’re not going to be able to afford to live or they’re living in poverty whatever–who is a–who can afford an $11,000 over $11,000 abortion?
Monica: Very few people. Very few people can. So, a few important clarifications. If you’re at 22 weeks, it’ll be like five or six hundred or seven hundred dollars. It goes up a lot very quickly as you go further along. And there are abortion funds that help people pay for this. There are literally people all over the country that will donate to abortion funds to help women get abortions in a variety of circumstances.
Alex:I mean that is a car.
Monica: Yeah, for me it is, for sure. Now to be clear, when I said I changed my mind, they refunded me. They did. They weren’t just like, oh too bad, too late, you know. Uh, I’m not saying they kept it. I’m just saying people were shocked by how much it was. People were shocked by the Xanax. People were shocked by how far along I was. That was when Live Action post–posted on YouTube and it was mostly seen by pro-lifers.
Now, I had an unexpected, but I suppose fortuitous outcome. I–secular life is on TikTok. I made a TikTok about this situation and at the time that I made it, in my mind I was thinking that the people watching it would be the people who follow our TikTok account. They know who I am and they get the context I did it in. In green screen, the background showed the Live Action YouTube video it says undercover footage at a DC clinic or whatever it says undercover footage and in the video I said I was recording undercover.
I was not trying to trick people with this TikTok, but if you’re on TikTok, a lot of people watch literally the first three seconds before they decide this is a three minute TikTok, so it’s an eternity. And I did not realize, by the way, that I filmed it and if you ever watch it you’ll see what I mean, I didn’t realize until it was too late that the way that I filmed it, if you don’t watch the whole thing, it just sounds like I got a 28 week abortion for real.
Alex: Oh, no.
Monica: So, it easily became our most viral TikTok. Easily. And it actually, I didn’t–I didn’t mislead people on purpose. I made a follow-up TikTok to say, ‘Hey, didn’t mean to mislead you. This is what happened,’ and nobody saw that one. So I–it was our most viral TikTok and it went exactly to the people I wanted to go to, which is basically nominally pro-choice people who aren’t aware that this exists.
And–and it got almost 500,000 views, which is far and away more than anything we’ve done. And it was comment after comment after comment after comment just saying I’m pro-choice and this is way too far. I’m pro-choice and this is murder. I’m pro-choice and this is too messed up. So, it really hit home to let people know this is a thing that exists. Get them thinking about what are my limits for this debate. And–and get them realizing that you have to think about both sides. you know. You’ve got this bell curve of the abortion debate and we’re saying conception and some people are saying birth. Where are you?
And I feel like the media produces stories that make everyone think very carefully about the parameters of the pro-life side. You know, what about what about 14 year olds? What about women with fatal fetal anomalies? What about all these hard situations? That’s fine. But then, they never talk about the parameters of the pro-choice side. Like elective third trimester abortion, or things like that. Or coercion. Or all those things. They only talk about the hard cases for us. And I want people to have to think about both sides.
Alex: There’s an Indiana abortionist who provided an abortion to a ten-year-old rape victim.
Alex: The idea of someone that young carrying a pregnancy to term is what a lot of people cannot wrap their head around when it comes to pro-lifers.
Alex: What should the pro-life reaction be to a case like this?
Monica: So, the first and foremost reaction you should have is to make sure they understand that you care about this. It’s awful for a 10 year old to be pregnant. We should all care about this very easily. They want to know your humanity. They want to know that you’re not just skipping straight to your political talking points. You understand that the laws we are debating have very real life repercussions for people one way or the other, that’s the first thing. I would also emphasize that it is presumptuous, I think, to say that if she has to give birth it will traumatize her, but if she gets an abortion it won’t.
The assumption seems to be abortion is not a big deal and is obviously the correct solution. But, we have stories of girls who gave birth at age 12, 13, 14 and they say they don’t wish they had aborted. And we also have stories of people who were born to girls at age 12, 13, to 14 who are glad to be alive.
So, I want to emphasize that there are a lot of real human aspects to this all around, and not just only in the way they are framing it. That’s the first thing. But, what they really want to know is if you think it should be illegal for her to abort. Let’s say the 10 year old really wants to and–and can make that kind of decision. Should it be illegal?
And I will say Secular Pro-Life, specifically, we refrain from taking a position on the rape exception. Which gets us no friends on any side. We have leadership and we have followers on both sides of this, where there’s a lot of people who say it doesn’t matter how the child was conceived, they are still a valuable human child. They shouldn’t be punished for the circumstances of their conception and abortion is killing them. And our whole thing is that these are valuable children and we should take care of them. Which I don’t think any pro-lifers disagree with.
But, then there are others who say, ‘Well, now you don’t have the argument that you consented to this risk.’ You don’t have–you have a much more drastic cost if you’re asking people–children to go through this. It becomes a lot more complicated, and so–
Alex: People think is it–people want to know is it even physically possible for a child like that to give birth?
Monica: I mean it’s possible it’s–it’s there’s–there’s not a way that this isn’t going to be traumatic, basically. So
Alex: And likely–is it fair to say that likely at that age, the–the child wouldn’t even be able to go to term anyway?
Monica: I don’t–I don’t know. Because if you are able to get pregnant, then what does it imply about how far developed you are in the first place? So, I–I can’t answer that. And I–I don’t begrudge anybody feeling conflicted about this.
Another thing I want pro-lifers to understand, and not everyone agrees with me on this, but when we are thinking about who is and isn’t really pro-life and who is and isn’t on our side, I think it is a categorical–categorical mistake to suggest that people who agree with us about elective abortion and people who think there’s a lot of problems here and people who are willing to work with us, but they think there should be a rape exception–I think it’s a categorical mistake to say, ‘Well you’re not really pro-life.’
Because they’re a heck of a lot closer to our position than to abortion on demand, for me. In fact, I did a student presentation in Minnesota just a couple months ago and during the Q and A, someone asked me a similar question. And I talked about this and I gave this kind of answer. And I said, ‘You know, we don’t have to agree on literally everything. We don’t have to agree on the rape exception. We don’t have to agree on fatal fetal anomaly. There’s lots of very strong opinions about what that means. Is that involuntary euthanasia? And what about children with disabilities? We can not agree on those and still work together on the 95% plus of abortions that are done for physically healthy fetuses, carried by physically healthy adult women, from consensual sex. We can still work on that.’
And after I said that–after the session was over, a woman came up to me to tell me that before my presentation she considered herself pro-choice–
Monica: –and then now she’s not so sure. Because she thought that, because she thinks there
should be a rape exception,
Alex: That she can’t be pro-life.
Monica: Exactly. And so, without saying you have to agree on all these I–I think that there is plenty of common ground. I also another thing I always want to bring up when we talk about rape is that society is so ubiquitously assumes that if a woman is raped, she will want an abortion. That–there is research to suggest that if a woman chooses to carry, they think she was lying about being raped. Because they are so sure that nobody would ever do that. And it’s very dehumanizing to her–
Alex: That’s disgusting.
Monica:–it’s dehumanizing to her children. One of my hugest pet peeves is when the other side says phrases like “rape baby,” or worse “rapist’s spawn.” You’re describing a child. And not just the theoretical child in the womb that you think we should be allowed to abort.
You’re also describing people walking around who can hear you. People have complicated lives and you’re taking their lives and describing them as the justification for not existing. Please find a–find a better way to convey your idea.
So there are lots of areas of common ground, and we refrain from taking a hard line on the legality of it. We are open to both arguments which tend–tends to make both pro-life and pro-choice people really mad. But. that that is our that is our lack of position.
Alex: So many women in my audience getting off birth control recently or debating on if they should some of them are pro-life and they’re wondering, ‘Well, is my birth control that I happen to be using an abortifacient?’ How do you know if yours is or isn’t?
Monica: So, to be blunt, it’s really difficult to know absolutely for sure. And there is conflicting evidence. There are conflicting studies especially about the pill, and all these things. So–so there are some pro-life people who say, ‘Well, if we can’t say with 100% absolute certainty then don’t even mess with it.’
And if that’s how you feel, I respect that. But, I will say that I don’t think it’s unreasonable for pro-life people who see this conflicting evidence to say this isn’t the same debate. And this isn’t sure enough to be compared to abortion.
Alex: I would agree with that.
Monica: And in fact I–I think I think the odds of whether this is happening matter. Because you can–you can just as easily say, if it’s very scant odds–and I don’t know what the odds are–but, let’s say that you–the pill has (I’m completely making this up) let’s say the pill has a 1% chance of causing failure to implant.
Let’s say there’s a similar rate for if you smoke, or if you are really overweight. There’s other things. Like, at what point are you going to call those things abortifacient? Don’t get me wrong, we should be respectful of life even very early in the womb, and we shouldn’t–we shouldn’t take actions that will definitely cause a death. And we should avoid, to the extent that is reasonable, actions that might do that.
But, at a certain point, you are reaching the limits of knowledge and you’re starting to weigh those limits against other considerations. So, for example, if you have people who are having procreative sex and don’t want children, personally I would much rather them be using contraception than not. Given those odds. So, it’s very similar to what we were just talking about with the rape exception, fatal fetal anomaly. When people ask Secular Pro-Life our stance on contraception, we are pro-contraception in the sense that if you’re going to be having sex and you don’t want to get pregnant, please be safe.
And we respect anybody who doesn’t want to mess with contraception they think could cause an abortion. And if there was definitive evidence, we would understand why people want to stay away from that. But, we also think that’s kind of getting to a tangent compared to the actual abortion debate.
Alex: If someone has taken Plan B, is that the same as an abortion?
Monica: No. So, Plan B is basically a much stronger dose of the same hormone used in the pill. And so, the mechanism of action is supposed to be the same. So, if the pill can cause failure to implant, so can plan B. If the pill doesn’t, Plan B shouldn’t either. So, it all kind of hinges on the same debate. But, Plan B–this is so important to understand–Plan B is not an abortion pill.
Abortion pills are two kinds: there’s mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone, you take and it blocks progesterone. It basically makes it so that the embryo can no longer access nutrients and oxygen. And misoprostol will cause contractions and expel the embryo and whatever else. That’s not Plan B.
Plan B is is a big dose of the hormone to try to stop ovulation. And so, a lot–not just some–a lot of pro-lifers believe that Plan B is abortifacient and–and they want to avoid it. I get that and–and that’s fine, but it is not the same thing as the abortion pills. In fact, the other side sometimes causes the abortion pills Plan C for that reason.
Monica: So with the abortion pills–Plan B will work up to implantation, maybe. Certainly up to blocking ovulation. And then the controversy is: does it work before implantation? But, once you have implantation, Plan B doesn’t do anything. Abortion pills will work at least up until 10 weeks and actually there’s some research to suggest a lot longer than that. It’s not the same thing and we’ve got to get really clear on what we’re talking about when we talk about regulating abortion pills versus contraception versus whatever.
Alex: Post-Roe, a lot of pro-lifers are seeing abortion rates fall in their states. They’re celebrating, but are abortion rates really going down post-Roe, or are these women just using the abortion pill?
Monica: The rates are definitely going down. They’re probably not going down as much as the initial numbers suggest, because a lot of times the numbers will say, ‘Well, in this state we had this many fewer abortions, but then in the neighboring state they had more, right? So, there’s some mitigating factor there.
There are also women who are getting the abortion pill illegally and using it. We know that’s true, but we also know that the abortion rates are actually going down. People say, ‘Well, how can you possibly measure that? You can’t measure illegal abortions. You can measure fertility rates. And not just post-Roe, but even well before that.
This is one of the topics we talked about many times on Secular Pro-Life. There is plenty of research to show that when you change abortion regulations to make them stricter, at least initially you see higher fertility rates. And the reverse is also true when you loosen abortion restrictions. At least initially, you see lower fertility rates. They also could do prospective research where they’ll take a specific group of women who are considering getting an abortion and they’ll follow them and see who gave–who gave birth and who got abortions.
And so you don’t have to wonder, ‘Did they get an abortion?’ If they gave birth, they didn’t get an abortion. And you can ask them, ‘Well, what played into your decision? How did you end up giving birth?’ and some of them will cite, ‘Well, policy.” They won’t say the word policy, but they’ll say I couldn’t because of this restriction, because of that.
In fact, you’re starting to see articles like this. I think it was–I’m sorry I’m not going to remember the publication–but there’s a–recently a publication where they did an in-depth interview of a woman who was not able to get an abortion because she found out she was pregnant very shortly after Dobbs. And now she has this newborn child and they were talking all about how it made her life more difficult economically. This goes right back to the Turnaway Study, by the way. Everywhere in that article, I was looking to see if they asked her how she felt about the fact that she had this child now. And they never directly asked her that.
You don’t think that matters? But, they hinted at it. They talked about how she and her fiance, once they realized she couldn’t get an abortion they decided they were going to view this child as a blessing. And they described a part in the story where, as he’s–as she, excuse me, the reporter is interviewing her, she has her little newborn baby and every time she moves him, she covers his face and kisses. They never say, ‘Do you still wish you got an abortion?’
Monica: Because they know what the answer will be. And so they don’t. New York Times actually did–they did this whole thing. Similar kind of story where this woman wanted to get an abortion in Texas and then Dobbs happened and she couldn’t. And her life was so much harder and they sort of begrudgingly admitted that this pro-life group helped her with like rent for two years. And they sort of, like, mentioned that later and at the very end of this very long article they mentioned that she says she doesn’t wish she got an abortion. But, it was like, buried at the end.
Alex: At the very end.
Monica: Yes.But, my point is that we know that abortion laws do decrease abortion rates. We know that for sure. There’s been tons of research to show that, since way before Dobbs. And even now, if you–if you watch, you can see the other side sort of indirectly admitting it when they do these stories. In fact, the myth that the–that abortion laws make no difference in abortion rates, I’ve noticed that that has decreased tremendously since Dobbs.
Alex: Really I was–I was also going to ask you, um, are we seeing women go to more dangerous lengths now to get abortions post-Roe?
Monica: Uh, not that I am aware of. But it’s very different than the pre-Roe days. So, they talk about back alley abortions, and there’s evidence to show they greatly exaggerated that to begin with, but now with–with abortion pills, that’s going to be the new back alley abortion. I mean there’s already–
Alex: Because–because I want to stress this–these women are getting these abortion pills a lot of times from, like, over the border and stuff. They’re not regulated.
Monica: Well, here’s the controversy. Sometimes, they’re just getting them from other states. The state will ship it to the clinic closest as possible to their side of the state line, and then have someone come pick it up for them. So, it’s not even necessarily from–but, yes, there are also international groups that are sending these pills from overseas.
And there have been some studies. It’s almost like secret shopper abortion pill people that have looked at it to see how–do these have the ingredients they say they do? Are they getting to people on time when they say they will? And so there are dangers to it, especially if women don’t know how far along they are. Especially if they don’t know that they have an ectopic pregnancy.
But, here’s the great irony. The abortion rights side is trying to make this just the general rule. Not just an illegal thing. So, there are people–so first they argued for telemedicine abortion which means that you don’t have to see a woman in person. You don’t have to give her an exam.
Alex: You can do a zoom call and say, ‘I want an abortion.’
Monica: You don’t have to physically confirm gestational age. You don’t have to confirm that it’s not an ectopic pregnancy. You can just take this history, and then based on statistics say, ‘This is probably fine,’ and maybe it’s a Zoom call, maybe it’s just an audio call. You don’t know if anyone else is in the room. You don’t know if she’s being coerced, like, all these things.
And they do it in the name of access. And there are major abortion rights proponents that are arguing that we should be moving to make these pills available over the counter. So, no–no exam at all. You don’t even have to be pregnant. And so that introduces not only all the problems I just mentioned, but also how are you going–you get pregnant, your boyfriend doesn’t want to, and you want to carry the pregnancy. And then how are you going to know the difference between you miscarrying versus “he crushed up some pills and put them in your drink”?
I mean this isn’t hypothetical. This has already happened. It’s happened with partners, and not wanting their women to carry the pregnancies. It’s happened with parents and, like, their teenage children. The idea that–so we talk about back alley abortions, we talk about women doing this more dangerous–but, the irony is that there are a lot of abortion rights activists arguing to make this more common.
They’re–they’re trying to claim both that women will go to dangerous lengths, and then also claim that actually it’s totally fine because research shows this is safe and effective. Safe and effective, safe and effective. You’ll hear that ad nauseam. This is safe and effective.
They’ll try to claim that medication abortion is safer than Tylenol. A ludicrous–on its face–
Alex: Lol [dryly]
Monica: –it’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely absurd. And they will claim that with a straight face.
[Ad break for Garnuu feminine care products]
Alex: One of the most interesting thought experiments that the pro-choice side likes to ask us about is the IVF thought experiment.
Monica: I knew you were gonna say that. I’m like waiting for you to say that.
Alex: So, the burning IVF thought experiment. Pro-choicers will say, ‘If you’re pro-life, what would you do if you were in a burning IVF clinic and you see a two-year-old there and you see a pile of embryos? What do you save?
Monica: Okay, so there are a bunch of ways you can respond to this I–I think one of the easiest fastest ones to say, ‘Okay. Counter question: Okay, you go into this burning room and you see your two-year-old daughter and like three five-year-olds. Who do you save?’
And whoever you save, it means the other one isn’t a valuable human being, right? No! Does this sound stupid to you?
Alex: It’s who you have a personal connection to.
Monica: Or forget personal. How about this–how about this. You can take the personal connection out of it. You go into a burning building and there’s a five-year-old and ten 95 year olds. Who do you save? And if you save the five year old, does that mean 95 year olds aren’t people? No. Does that sound dumb? Yes. Yes, it does, okay.
And then you can also point out regardless of what counter argument you use, some people like to do: okay, you go into a burning building and there is a 25 year old woman and then there’s another 25 year old woman who’s pregnant. Who do you save? And what does that mean? So you can do all those counter arguments if you want, but regardless of which you choose, you could say either way this does not describe almost any abortions.
Because abortion is not a triage situation where someone’s going to die and you have to pick who. In the vast majority of cases, abortion is of a healthy fetus carried by a healthy woman. It’s not: there’s a burning building, you have to save someone. It’s: there’s a child in that building I don’t want to be responsible for, so I’m going to set it on fire. That’s what it actually is.
Alex: Also, it’s not considering all the other variables of, like, well which person is closer to a door or a window?
Alex: You know what I mean? There’s all these other things–if this was a real situation on who you’re going to decide to save if–if, uh, you know if your embryo that you are about ready to implant is right next to you, and there’s a two-year-old on the other side of the building that’s on fire. Well, you’re probably not going to make it to them.
Monica: Yeah, there’s all kinds of factors, but even if you hold everything else equal, the two main things are: your gut instinct does not reflect who is a valuable human being–and throughout all of human history we’ve seen many examples of that–and secondly it doesn’t have much to do with abortion, because abortion–I get the strong impression that the average American whether they’re nominally pro-choice or nominally pro-life, most of them aren’t obsessed with this issue like I am and they don’t know that much about it. And I think a lot of people, when they think of abortion access, they mostly just–
I really would love if there was a poll that asked people, ‘What proportion of abortions are for fatal fetal anomaly? What proportion are for rape?’ I think they think it’s, like, half or more. They have no idea that this doesn’t describe almost any of the situations, and that’s why they think the burning IVF lab–that’s in part where they think the burning IVF lab is relevant. Because they think that abortion is this horrible triage situation, where you have to pick who’s going to live.
That’s almost never what’s happening.
Alex: Will banning abortion lead to a surplus of unwanted children?
Monica: No. It won’t. I have, like, five points about this, okay?
Alex: Go for them.
Monica: First of all, the Turnaway Study found that women who gave birth after being denied an abortion, the vast majority of them raise those children themselves. Women who can’t get abortions, for the most part, raise their children themselves. They don’t just–they don’t just automatically decide they don’t want to. You need to understand, and this goes for pro-life and pro-choice people: an unwanted pregnancy is not the same thing as an unloved child.
There’s very different factors to this. It is a mistake to think that those are the same thing. So, first of all the Turnaway Study found that the vast majority of women who couldn’t get an abortion raise their children themselves. Secondly, of the woman who decided to place for adoption, newborn adoption is not the same as foster care. There is a huge waiting list.
Alex: This is my number one pet peeve–number one pet peeve.
Monica: Yes–newborn adoption–there is, I-I think it’s something like 30 couples for every one newborn infant waiting to be adopted, okay. Third point. Let’s say we were talking about foster care, which we’re not, but let’s say we were. Most of the children in foster care are not eligible for adoption, because their parents want them.
Alex: Yes, that’s the thing. Kids in foster care are there because their parents fell short or there was some abuse going on or something like that. And the state is always trying to reunify the parent with the child.
Monica: Yes, and there are a lot of foster families taking care of them, that if it should be the case that the bio parents don’t manage to work it out, they want to adopt those kids.
I’m not saying foster care is a walk in the park, but I’m saying the idea that there’s just 400,000 children who nobody cares about?
Alex: Yeah, that’s not true.
Monica: You may as well just say, ‘I don’t know anything about foster care.’ Okay. Also important to know when we talk about abortion restrictions decreasing abortion, everyone is debating whether or not it will prevent a pregnant person from getting an abortion or not. But, that’s not the only way that abortion restrictions decrease abortion. There’s an indirect way.
There’s significant evidence to show that when abortion restrictions are put in place and we don’t mess with contraception–so there are–so there are some countries historically that have banned abortion and contraception all at the same time–this is not that. There is–the appetite for banning abortion in the United States is completely unlike any appetite for–for banning contraception. Contraception is very popular. People support it.
In that context, where you’re trying to regulate abortion and you aren’t going after contraception there’s research to show that abortion regulations are associated with lower unintended pregnancy. Because, when you make abortion less accessible–not everybody–but, a subset of the population makes more cautious sexual decisions. Because they know they don’t have abortion as a backup plan.
I am not saying that these are people who are like, ‘I’ll do whatever I want and if I need to get 8 abortions as birth control, I don’t care!’ That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that when people are forward thinking about risky situations, in the back of their mind, they’re thinking I’m not going to get pregnant. I will avoid getting pregnant, but if I did get pregnant, at least I know this is an option. And when you take that option away, some people are more cautious.
And this is not speculation. There is research to show that when the average distance is further to an abortion provider, more women use the pill. There’s research to show that when you limit taxpayer funding on abortion, more women use the pill. There’s research to show that women in pro-life states are more likely to use highly effective contraception than women in pro-choice states.
Unless you’re trying to argue that suddenly pro-lifers are way more into contraception than pro-choicers, it seems like there’s another factor there. There’s also–when Texas passed the heartbeat law in September 2021, there was this flurry of stories about men in Texas getting vasectomies. You saw the same thing after Roe v Wade. All of a sudden, everybody was interested in vasectomies. Which I have a–a special–that’s a special pet peeve, okay.
I have no problem with vasectomies. If you know you don’t want kids and you want to have procreative sex, I think it’s a responsible thing to do. You could have done it the whole time.
There was one story I read where this married couple who already had children, they knew they didn’t want any more kids and her last pregnancy had been very difficult for her and they thought it would be dangerous if she had kids again, totally respect it. Completely makes sense. So, you could have gotten a vasectomy right then. And you waited until–he waited until–I can’t remember. It was the Texas heartbeat law or Dobbs, and he said, ‘Well, now we know this is the situation, I got to be really safe.’
Alex: Oh, brother.
Monica: What do you mean? You mean that her–her last pregnancy was super dangerous to her, so you figure she can always just get an abortion? The financial, emotional, physical repercussions of that are not a problem compared to the minimally invasive vasectomy? Look, I’m glad you got a vasectomy, but can we not write these, like, white knight stories? You know what I’m saying.
What are you talking about?
But, that’s a tangent, I’m sorry. The point is that you see these upticks in vasectomies. Planned Parenthood, there was a there was one out of Texas where the Planned Parenthood has seen a lot more people that are wanting highly effective birth control. They’re reacting to their options and they’re being more cautious. Okay Cupid, I think it was Okay Cupid, did like a survey after Dobbs. And one of the things they found is that–and this is a dating app, right–and they found that people were saying they were a lot more likely to use condoms. They were more hesitant about having sex. They were more concerned about avoiding pregnancy. So, it’s not just speculation on my part.
Abortion restrictions decrease abortions, because people who are pregnant are less likely to abort, but they also decrease abortions because there’s less unintended pregnancies to begin with. And that also plays Into the unwanted children thing. Because people–pro-life and pro-choice people–have asked me like, ‘Oh, if there’s 800,000 abortions a year and we ban all abortion, now you’re gonna have 800,000 people going to the foster care.’
No! In, like, five different ways. And one of them is that you can’t assume that however many abortions you had last year is how many children you’re going to have next year. Because a lot of those pregnancies just aren’t going to happen in the first place
Alex: Right. Right. How do you structure an argument with someone who is completely resistant to hearing another side?
Monica: Um, I don’t. The–the so–
Alex: So don’t try to force an argument. Your advice is don’t try to force the debate with somebody who’s not interested. Let them ask you. If they’re asking, ‘Why do you believe this?’ Then have the conversation.
Monica: Yeah, and I’ll answer it. And I’ll, so, I need to contextualize this. Josh Brahm does a lot of work in person, you know. They do college campus outreach, they do a lot of–and they give a lot of advice to people about how to talk to people in person about this.
But, we do a lot of stuff online. It’s a different dynamic. And so when I have someone–if someone comes to me–ask me questions, I will answer them. But, if they’re being ridiculously vitriolic and aggressive and not listening to anything I’m saying, I might do a quick quip here and there and then I’m gonna peace out.
I’m a big believer in what I call the hit and run comment. Which is–it is better to say something than nothing, but don’t waste too much of your time. So, if someone, they give you a diatribe: Here’s eight pro-choice arguments that you just are exhausted with, that are so ridiculous. It’s okay just pick one thing, give your one little comment back. ‘I don’t think this is true for these reasons, here’s a source.’ And then go do something else. You–you don’t have infinite time and energy.
If you find someone who seems like they’re more open–even if they’re mad. They can be mad. Mad is fine.
Monica: It’s ridiculous that you need to avoid–but, if they’re mad, but they–if you could find–if you could find any common ground to emphasize, do it. Any common ground, okay. If they say anything, you’re gonna be like, ‘I totally agree with that part, but not this. Because…’ Just to show your reading, that you’re listening.
On TikTok, which is–which is too restrictive to have, like, written conversations. The comment threads are too annoying. So instead, what I’ll do is if someone comments anything I agree with, even if everything else they said was incorrect, I’ll just write that. And be, like, ‘Oh, I’m happy to have common ground.’ Leave it.
Because, in that case what I’m trying to do is–obviously I’m not trying to convince them of anything. I’m trying to build a setup for the next pro-life person that maybe there’s room for this conversation. So it’s not always–it’s not always about getting your facts in and making them agree with you. A lot of times it’s not about that. A lot of times it’s not useful.
Alex: A personal curiosity that I have. Do pro-choicers know the history of Planned Parenthood being rooted in eugenics, or do they know and they just pretend that they don’t?
Monica: So, I think most Americans don’t know anything about that. I think most Americans don’t want to talk about this issue and know very, very little about it. Not even the basics. They don’t know how many abortions happen a year, or what the reasons, or the gestational age, or fetal development. Nothing.
Activists, pro-choice activists, I think a lot of them are aware of at least our accusations and some of them agree with us. In fact, there’s been, on rare occasion, articles from pro-choice people saying, you know, ‘Yes, Margaret Sanger was hugely problematic and this is why we should shun that legacy,’ or, ‘And this is why we don’t have to care.’
But, they acknowledge it. So, of the activists, yes. I think–I think they know and they just think it’s kind of a sideshow.
Alex: The Christian perspective is that things will get worse before they get better. And that things won’t get better until Christ returns.Which isn’t to say that the fight isn’t worth fighting for or that it’s apathy or–or anything like that. It’s rather just an expectation. So, my question for you as–as we end here is, what is your secular perspective on the future of this fight?
Monica: I–ever since Dobbs, I feel differently. So I felt very, very cynical. Maybe not that cynical, but pretty cynical. Pretty cynical. Before this, the way I feel about abortion–I’m not going to concern myself with whether we’re winning or losing, because I’m going to keep fighting it either way.
So for example, there was a case that went to the Supreme Court about admitting privileges. I think out of Texas, and the Supreme Court voted against it. But, Roberts voted with them and then two years later, there was almost an identical case from Louisiana, and then Roberts voted against it. We could have had it, and we couldn’t get it because he switched.
I felt very disillusioned that day. Because you just voted “yes” two years ago, and now you’re voting “no”? And we’re not even asking you to ban abortion. We’re just asking you to have hospital admitting privilege. We can’t even get that? We’re never gonna get anywhere with this. You know what? I don’t care. I don’t care. I’m just gonna keep doing this anyway. Whatever happens, happens.
That was in, like, 2019. I never thought–and I–I want to emphasize this very carefully, okay. I thought Roe v Wade would be the law of the land until I died. I never thought we would get rid of it. And so, we’re just gonna be, you know, screaming into the wind. If that’s what I have to do, that’s what I’m going to do. And then, all of a sudden, historically speaking, like whiplash. All of a sudden, it’s gone. It’s gone. And now, we have–I think it’s 13 state have banned from conception. And a few more have done heartbeat.
And the fight’s not over, by any stretch. They’re going to try to take that–that ground back, we’re going to try to get ground other places. The fight won’t be over in my lifetime. I don’t think that it will. But, we are already further ahead right now than I thought we would get. Ever. So, I actually feel a lot more optimistic than I used to feel. And I want to emphasize, though, I appreciate the Christian perspective, at minimum, because I think it prepares people to keep working at it regardless of what’s happening in the short term–and those are the kind of people we need, this is gonna go on for a very long time.
And we need people that are really committed. And it’s not just for the United States. I didn’t realize this until Dobbs either, so increasingly Secular Pro-Life has had people from all around the world connect with us. And I did not realize, I–just like the typical American, like, I’m just thinking about our country, right. I did not realize how many pro-life movements around the world are looking to us.
So, broadly speaking, Eastern Europe is looking to us to try to figure out–actually all of Europe, but Eastern Europe is looking to try to figure out how to even get ground. Because this isn’t really a debate in Europe. Not really, and they’re trying to figure out how to get people to debate this. And Latin and South America, generally speaking, they’re trying to hold the line as a lot of the pro-choice movements down there are copying our pro-choice movement and others. And–and they’re all coming to us. And–and for–when Roe v Wade was overturned, obviously it was a big deal for us. I’m not exagger–I wept with joy, or relief–something. I wept. I was very emotional about it, but I didn’t realize how many people around the world, how many pro-life people around the world look to us in relief.
Because in their countries, people are saying, ‘All the first world countries have liberal abortion laws, and all the first world–look at the United States. Look at Canada,’ and now they could say ‘Well, look at the United States. The debate is not over. The debate is actually heating up.’
Monica: It’s not a foregone conclusion that all forward-thinking secular democracies have to be okay with killing children in the womb. And so we don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion either. I am filled with hope, and I am very ready to keep arguing about it.
Alex: You’re, like, one of–uh, one of the funniest people that I’ve had on. Not necessarily because of the content, but because I think you’re the only guest who I’ve had on that can talk as fast as I can.
Monica: Hopefully–you know, on YouTube, you can slow the speed.
Alex: Yes. And on podcasts.
Monica: You could do 0.5 speed if it’s too much.
Alex: And captions, and all of that.
Alex: Secular Pro-Life is on TikTok and Instagram and your website, I mean, you will list out like all these questions that I asked you today. It’ll have the questions, and then how to answer them with all the studies and all the stats.
Monica: SecularPro-Life.org/index. The abortion debate index.
Alex: And is this, like, a student-focused organization? Or everybody? Or what–how do you join and get involved in–?
Monica: Our roots, it was. We used to do a lot of campus stuff. It’s expanded since then, partly because the people running it got older. But, no you can join if you go to SecularPro-Life.org and I think under the menu it says “get involved” and there’s a volunteer survey. So, if you want to get involved with us, you can fill out that survey. Tell us what are your interests, tell us where you’re coming from.
And we just hired, a month ago, a volunteer coordinator. So, hopefully we’ll get back to you in a reasonably good time frame.
Alex: Monica, thank you so much for coming on The Spillover.
Monica: Thank you for having me.
[End of interview]
Alex: [conclusion] I love listening to Monica explain things. And I know that most of you are Christians, but for those that aren’t, I thought you would appreciate this guest. And I also think even if you are a Christian, her answers on how to answer some tougher pro-choice beliefs are really game-changers and will help equip us to have these conversations.
It’s not hard to scroll through The Spillover and find other episodes I’ve done on abortion, like I said in the intro. Some are personal stories that will have you on the edge of your seat, some are more abortion-apologetic-based ones, like this one.
The most similar to this episode is my interview with Josh Brahm from the Equal Rights Institute in season one. So, he specializes in studying what the most persuasive pro-life arguments are, so I asked him to answer all the top pro-choice beliefs.
Next Thursday at 9pm Pacific in Midnight Eastern, The Spillover is back with a true crime episode. It has been a while since we’ve done one of these. And it is just in time for the holiday and extra time that you might have in the car, on the plane, while traveling. You will have one of the most intense interviews that I’ve ever done. A man who was abused and tortured so severely ages three to seven years old, that I’ll have to give–I already know, one of my lengthiest listener discretion is advised warnings on the show yet.
The happy ending is that he overcame and is now a Christian and that’s like as much as I can say without giving it totally away. But, it all led to him having an incredible testimony that you will remember forever.
If you want to make sure that that downloads to your phone, so you don’t miss it. Make sure you are actually subscribed or following The Spillover on whatever podcast app you listen to. Also leave your five star review this week as well, even if all it says is “I would still love this podcast if I were a worm.” If you want to watch these interviews, subscribe to the Poplitics YouTube channel. I’m Alex Clark, and this is The Spillover.
Love you! Mean it! Bye! [Music]
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