It's not the only "pro-life" organization, but it is a heavy hitter.
On Saturday, MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki featured three pro-choice and one pro-life advocate, the latter Charlene Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life. Although AUL is, as described by Wikipedia, a public interest law firm and advocacy group, Yoest (who holds a Ph.D. in Politics) appears not to be an attorney but a former adviser to Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign who was a vice-president in communications for the Family Research Council.
Yoest was likely an effective v.p. in communications, for the spin was as adroitly expressed as it was divorced from reality.
In the first (video below) of two segments, Yoest trotted out what has become a classic of pro-life mythology. She asked "Is she (the pregnant woman) being told of the ramifications of how abortion harms women, the data that is out there now, that is undisputable (sic) about how abortion harms women and the long term effects of abortion?"
Wikipedia lists as one form of propaganda "unstated assumption," the tactic which "forgoes explicitly communicating the propaganda's purpose and instead states ideas derived from it. This technique is used when a propaganda's main idea lacks credibility, and thus when mentioned directly will result in the audience recognizing its fallacy and nullifying the propaganda." Yoest will not tell us what these "ramifications" and "long term effects" of an abortion are. We are to assume there must be a horrible impact because she seems exorcised that this information is being withheld from women. Fortunately, this is not accurate because, as the American Cancer Society website notes
Breast cancer risk is increased for a short time after a full-term pregnancy (that is, a pregnancy that results in the birth of a living child).
Induced abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.
Spontaneous abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.
The level of scientific evidence for these findings was considered to be “well established” (the highest level).
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Gynecologic Practice also reviewed the available evidence in 2003 and again in 2009. ACOG published its most recent findings in June 2009. At that time, the Committee said, “Early studies of the relationship between prior induced abortion and breast cancer risk were methodologically flawed. More rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk.”
In 2004, the Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, based out of Oxford University in England, put together the results from 53 separate studies done in 16 different countries. These studies included about 83,000 women with breast cancer. After combining and reviewing the results from these studies, the researchers concluded that “the totality of worldwide epidemiological evidence indicates that pregnancies ending as either spontaneous or induced abortions do not have adverse effects on women’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.” These experts did not find that abortions (either induced or spontaneous) cause a higher breast cancer risk.
Time reported that a study by Danish researchers published in the winter of 2010-2011 and published in the New Journal Journal of Medicine found
The researchers relied on a national registry that tracks the medical histories of citizens, including the 365,550 teens and women who had an abortion or delivered their first child between 1995 and 2007. In the 12 years under consideration, 84,620 had an abortion and more than three times that — 280,930 women — had a baby.
Using the registry statistics, researchers were able to analyze the rate of mental-health visits before and after abortion and delivery. The women in the study did not have a history of psychiatric problems that merited a hospital stay. (More on Time.com: Why are Anorexics More Likely to Have Unplanned Pregnancies and Abortions?)
Interestingly, women who decided on abortion had more psychiatric disorders than women who gave birth; data shows they tend to come from lower-income households and have higher rates of accidental pregnancy.
Yet their rate of mental-health visits budged only slightly post-abortion: 1% had sought psychiatric help nine months before the abortion while 1.5% did so afterwards.
The research did not consider the psychological impact on women who terminate a pregnancy relatively late in their pregnancies, due to fetal anomalies, for example. It looked only at first-trimester abortions since abortion is illegal in Denmark after 12 weeks.
What did raise the rate of psychiatric problems? Babies. Within a year after first-time mothers gave birth, seven per 1,000 women were treated for mental-health issues, in comparison to four per 1,000 before baby.
Although postpartum depression was common, "The results of the Danish study — which were partially supported by grants from a foundation that backs abortion rights — corroborate a 2008 review by the American Psychological Association that found no link between mental-health problems and abortion."
But as Joshua Lang explains in The New York Times, most studies compare women who have had abortions with those who carried to term. Lang summarizes the recent work of Diana Greene Foster, a demographer and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC-San Francisco, who compared women who chose an abortion to those who sought, but were denied, one. We read
Foster saw that most abortion studies failed to acknowledge that women seeking abortions are likely to have mixed emotions — regret, anger, happiness, relief. They also often failed to separate the reaction to pregnancy from the reaction to the abortion. She has designed her study to do both, relying on a series of questions and periodic interviews, and initial results, to be published in the fall, show that the emotion that predominates right after an abortion is relief.
When she looked at more objective measures of mental health over time — rates of depression and anxiety — she also found no correlation between having an abortion and increased symptoms. In a working paper based on her study, Foster notes that “women’s depression and anxiety symptoms either remained steady or decreased over the two-year period after receiving an abortion,” and that in fact, “initial and subsequent levels of depressive symptoms were similar” between those who received an abortion and those who were turned away. Turnaways did, however, suffer from higher levels of anxiety, but six months out, there were no appreciable differences between the two groups.
Where the turnaways had more significant negative outcomes was in their physical health and economic stability. Because new mothers are eligible for government programs, Foster thought that they might have better health over time. But women in the turnaway group suffered more ill effects, including higher rates of hypertension and chronic pelvic pain (though Foster cannot say whether turnaways face greater risk from pregnancy than an average woman). Even “later abortions are significantly safer than childbirth,” she says, “and we see that through lower complications and low incidence of chronic conditions.” (In the National Right to Life’s five-part response to preliminary findings of Foster’s study, which were presented at the American Public Health Association conference last year, the group noted that the ill effects of abortion — future miscarriage, breast cancer, infertility — may become apparent only later. Reputable research does not support such claims.)
Economically, the results are even more striking. Adjusting for any previous differences between the two groups, women denied abortion were three times as likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years later. Having a child is expensive, and many mothers have trouble holding down a job while caring for an infant. Had the turnaways not had access to public assistance for women with newborns, Foster says, they would have experienced greater hardship.
During her appearance, Yoest did not emphasize the fetus, but instead posed as a defender of the pregnant woman. Perhaps that was due to the liberal nature of Kondracke's audience or of the panel, consisting of political strategist L. Joy Williams, the Guardian's Ana Marie Cox, and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. The three women did what they could to rebut Yoest's remarks and arguments, but, as will be shown in the next post (reviewing the second segment), they were coming fast and furious and are exposed as deceitful only when viewed in the light of facts. Such, however, is the tactic of pro-life activists, an impressively self-righteous lot.